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The Telltale Head

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"The Telltale Head"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 8
Directed by Rich Moore
Written by Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Sam Simon
Matt Groening
Production code 7G07
Original air date February 25, 1990[1]
Chalkboard gag "I did not see Elvis"[2]
Couch gag Repeat of the couch gag from "Bart the Genius".
Commentary Rich Moore
Al Jean
Mike Reiss

"The Telltale Head" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons' first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 25, 1990.[1] It was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon and Matt Groening, and directed by Rich Moore.[2] In the episode, Bart cuts the head off the statue of Jebediah Springfield in the center of town to impress Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph, three older kids he admires. The town's residents, including the three boys, are horrified and Bart regrets his actions. After telling his family, Homer and Bart head to the center of town, where they are met by an angry mob. After Bart tells the mob he has made a mistake, the townspeople forgive Bart and he places the head back on the statue.[1] The episode's title is a reference to the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.[3]


The episode begins in medias res: Homer and Bart are chased through the streets of Springfield by an angry mob while carrying the head of the statue of their town founder, Jebediah Springfield. Surrounded by the mob, Bart begins to relate the events of the previous day.

Bart suffers through a boring morning at church and is forbidden by Marge to see the violent new Space Mutants movie. After church, he runs into a local gang Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney. The three invite Bart to sneak into the Space Mutants movie with them.

After being thrown out of the movie by the manager, the gang shoplifts from the Kwik-E-Mart, throw rocks at the Jebediah Springfield statue, and watch clouds. Bart remarks that one cloud resembles Jebediah Springfield, but without a head. His new friends remark that they wish someone would decapitate the statue, saying it would be funny to see the town so upset. When Bart disagrees, the bullies make fun of him which upsets Bart. Bart is conflicted and asks Homer whether it is okay to compromise your beliefs to be popular. Homer tells Bart that popularity is the most important thing in the world, as long as Bart is not talking about killing someone. That night, Bart sneaks out of the house and decapitates the statue.

The town is shaken by the crime, which causes Bart to feel guilty about his actions. Adding to his guilt is when Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney are upset as well, telling Bart that if they met the person responsible, they would attack him critically, as they did not actually mean what they said about the statue before. Bart begins to fear of the consequences he would face if his actions are to be revealed, and his conscience manifests itself as the statue's severed head, which begins speaking to him. Unable to go on, Bart finally confesses his crime to his family, explaining that he thought that being popular was the most important thing in the world that Homer told him. It was then Homer realized that he inspired Bart of his popularity advice that caused him to commit the crime in the first place, and feels extremely guilty of doing so. It was then Bart decided to return the head back where it belongs, and Homer follows along, holding himself responsible for the events. They are found by the angry mob, returning the story to the beginning. Bart tells the mob that his act has actually brought the town closer together, to which the mob agrees. The head is returned to the statue and everyone forgives Homer and Bart for their actions. Homer and Bart then leave peacefully, with the former reminding the latter that "not all lynch mobs are this nice."[1][2]


The idea to have the episode in flashbacks was originally thought up in the color screening stage of production.[4] This is the first episode directed by Rich Moore.[5] This is the first time Jebediah Springfield is mentioned, as well as the first time the Simpsons go to church. The announcer of the football game Homer is listening to at church is based on Keith Jackson.[6]

This is the first episode of the series in which Sideshow Bob, Reverend Timothy Lovejoy, Krusty the Clown, Jimbo Jones, Kearney Zzyzwicz, Dolph Starbeam, Ms. Albright, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon appear.[2]

Bart awakening and finding the head of Jebediah Springfield in bed next to him is a reference to the scene in The Godfather where Jack Woltz finds the head of his prize racehorse next to him one morning.[3]


In its original broadcast, "The Telltale Head" finished twenty-sixth in ratings for the week of February 19–25, 1990, with a Nielsen rating of 15.2, equivalent to approximately 14.0 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Married... with Children.[7] Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood said they enjoyed: "the Simpsons [being] grossly dysfunctional in church, Homer dispensing terrible advice, and a real moral dilemma for Bart."[2] In a DVD review of the first season, David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 3/5 and added, "This is a strange episode, touching on many bizarre aspects of the show to come."[8] Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide said, "Good little moments abounded, and this was a generally solid episode. I liked the objects the boys saw in the clouds, and quite a few other funny bits appeared. “Telltale” wasn’t a great episode, but it was generally entertaining and clever."[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Telltale Head" The Retrieved on August 20, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Tell-Tale Head". BBC. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  3. ^ a b Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. .
  4. ^ Reiss, Mike (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "The Telltale Head" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ Moore, Rich (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "The Telltale Head" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ Jean, Al (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "The Telltale Head" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  7. ^ Richmond, Ray (February 28, 1990). "Strong ratings prove `Kennedys' still fascinate us". The Orange County Register. p. L12. 
  8. ^ Grelck, David B. (2001-09-25). "The Complete First Season". WDBGProductions. Archived from the original on 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2011-09-15. 
  9. ^ "The Simpsons Season One". DVD Mag. Retrieved 2011-04-03. 

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