At the start of The Simpsons episode A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again, I had the sinking feeling this would be an enjoyable-yet-forgettable episode. Little did I know that by the end of it, this would not only be one of the highlights of the 23rd season, but also would contain one of the best final acts of any episode from the entire series!
It begins with Bart going through something viewers can relate to: the feeling that life is passing you by, that you’re simply going through the motions. Anhedonia, I believe, is the clinical term for it, and with some people, it can develop into something serious. Luckily, Bart has a family that rarely let anything turn serious.
To help bart out of this funk, the family pitches in to take a cruise. Once aboard, the episode is mostly fun and games, with Lisa befriending an international set of young geniuses, Homer and Marge canoodling, and Bart enjoys every minute of it, until he realizes the trip is near its end.
I can easily recall moments from adolescence like this: you’re leaving Disneyland and realizing you’re going back to a place where cartoon characters don’t sign autographs and the only rides you’ll take involve traffic. Bart, who’s worlds smarter than anyone gives him credit for, devises a way to make the cruise last longer.
As I mentioned earlier, the final act is amazing. I don’t know if I’ve been so moved by a piece of animation since Pixar’s Up.
The Simpsons has a knack for adding touching conclusions to otherwise hilarious episodes. The best example of this I can think of would have to be Maggie Makes Three. In terms of storytelling, The Simpsons simply can’t be matched, and that’s what makes it the best cartoon on prime-time (and still the best thing on TV in my opinion).
While the 23rd season might be over, you can catch old episodes of The Simpsons on Hulu.
If you’re looking for something to read, check out my novel A Rapturous Occasion, a comedy of errors about the end of the world.
What was your opinion of The Simpsons: A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again?