The Simpsons Episode Rankings | #241: “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” (Season 2, Episode 16) [7F14]
March 7, 1991
When Santa’s Little Helper chews up Homer’s $125 sneakers, he is placed in an obedience school, where he struggles mightily. When he destroys Marge’s quilt — a treasured family heirloom — and eats Homer’s giant cookie, Santa’s Little Helper must pass obedience school or he’ll be given away.
I suppose I should start by pointing out that when I sat down to re-watch the early episodes to rank them for this list, I realized when I got to “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” that a lot of what I was expecting to happen actually occurs in the season 3 episode “Dog of Death,” which is a much better episode. (Yeah, “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” is pretty forgettable.) “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” suffers from a thin plot, one that feels thinner than it actually is because Santa’s Little Helper is at the center of the story. Yes, I realize he is supposed to be, but the dog is not a relatable character in the sense that he can carry an episode all by himself. As a result, the episode is presented as Bart’s quest — Bart must get the dog through obedience school. Yet this is a problematic goal: one character must help another “character” — if you can call the dog that — succeed.
There are ways in which this can be done right, such as the season 7 episode “Much Apu About Nothing,” where Homer tries to get Apu citizenship status, but the setup is much different and Apu is an actual human being with the means to carry a story. Furthermore, the quest doesn’t result in any ultimate gain, since the family, at most, gets to keep the dog. In other words, the status quo antebellum is kept, which is vaguely unsatisfying. Considering The Simpsons sports a “drop-in” format, on paper this isn’t a problem, but unfortunately, no characters receive any further development of any particular note, which hurts. When we finally reach the episode’s conclusion, we feel happy that Santa’s Little Helper has learned to behave and that he will remain a permanent fixture in the Simpsons’ household, but there isn’t much else to savor from “Bart’s Dog Gets an F.” Long stretches go by without any laughs, and it’s one of the more forgettable early episodes.
Some decent lines in here, but still not up to the standard set by later seasons.
HOMER (answers phone): Hello? Hi, Lisa. What’s wrong? The mumps? Ooh, the kissing disease. (chuckles) My little girl is growing up.
TROY McCLURE: As an actor, my eyeballs need to look their whitest.
EMILY WINTHROP: Let me tell you the two most important words you will ever hear in your life: choke chain. You raise a dog the same way you would raise a child: with simple, authoritative commands.
SHOE SALESMAN: I’m sorry, sir. Our warranty doesn’t cover fire, theft, or acts of dog.
LISA: It depicts the two greatest musical influences in my life. On the left is Mr. Largo, my music teacher at school. He taught me that even the noblest concerto can be drained of its beauty and soul. And on the right is Bleeding Gums Murphy. He taught me that music is like a fire in your belly that comes out of your mouth, so you better stick an instrument in front of it.
BART: No way! You can’t give my dog away! I’ll set fire to my hair! I’ll rip up all my clothes! I’ll put sugar in the gas tank!
HOMER: Oh, Lisa. If they’re ever going to pull the plug on me, I want you in my corner, honey.
WINTHROP: Bart, perhaps I cling to the old ways like a well-chewed shoe, as the traditions I was weaned on are put to sleep or neutered one by one. But my time has not passed yet! The world does not need another college graduate who doesn’t know how to sit!
BART: No way! She’s faking! If Lisa stays home, I stay home.
LISA: If Bart stays home, I’m going to school.
BART: Fine. Then… (confused) Wait a minute. If Lisa goes to school, then I go to school, but then Lisa stays home, so I stay home, so Lisa goes to school…
MARGE: Lisa, don’t confuse your brother like that.
MARGE: Well, Lisa. Here it is — the Bouvier family quilt.
LISA (sniffs): Wow! Neat. It smells historic.
Marge points to a square of the quilt with a Yin-Yang on it.
MARGE: This one’s mine.
LISA: “Keep on Truckin'”? What does that mean?
MARGE: I didn’t know then, and I don’t know now.
Bart walks in.
BART: Here’s your stupid homework.
Lisa looks through the papers Bart hands her.
LISA: Ooh, phonics! Functions, vocabulary…remedial reading? Oh, do your own homework, Bart!
HOMER: Here’s your magazines. How many of these guys are named Corey?
LISA: Eight. Thanks, Dad.
Bart looks at Homer’s shoes.
BART: Whoa! Assassins!
HOMER: Yep. Read ’em and weep.
MARGE: Those are very elaborate sneakers.
BART: They better be, for 125 big ones.
MARGE: I thought we agreed to consult each other before any major purchases?
HOMER: Well, you bought all those smoke alarms, and we haven’t had a single fire.
Marge looks through the Yellow Pages.
MARGE: There seems to be a lot of good obedience schools here.
BART (muttering): Oh, school, right, yeah, that’s your answer for everything.
Winthrop uses the choke chain on Santa’s Little Helper.
MARTIN: How can we tell if we’re doing this maneuver effectively?
WINTHROP: The dog’s eyes will cross, and his tongue will protrude and change color ever so slightly.
BART: Is my dog dead, ma’am?
WINTRHOP (chuckling): You don’t know how often I’m asked that. “Choke chain” is a misnomer. Trust me — they are always breathing.
Santa’s Little Helper whimpers.
WINTHROP: There are two ways for a dog to relieve himself…one is like a faithful friend and partner for life. The other is like a hose without a fireman.
She looks down at Bart, who is scrubbing the floor.
WINTHROP: Which way do you think that was, Mr. Simpson?
BART: Like a hose…(mutters)…your wrinkled highness.
COOKIE STORE WOMAN: Would you like a free sample?
HOMER: The price is right. Mmm. Ooh. “Maca-ma-damia” nuts.
WOMAN: If you’d like to buy some, they’re only a dollar each.
HOMER: Oh, so that’s your little plan! Get us addicted, then jack up the price! …Well, you win.
MARGE: My quilt! Six generations, ruined!
HOMER: Now, Marge, honey, honey, honey. Come on. Come on, don’t get upset. It’s not the end of the world. We all loved that quilt, but you can’t get too attached to…
He sees his cookie note on the bed, surrounded by crumbs.
HOMER: NOOOO!! My cookie!!!! Ohh-ho-ho-ho! This is not happening! This is not happening!
Homer buries his face in his hands. He finally looks up.
HOMER: Everybody in the kitchen! We’re having a family meeting!
BART: We never had a family meeting before.
HOMER: We never had a problem with a family member we can give away before!
Odds and Ends
The magazine titles are absolutely priceless, as are the types of shoes at the shoe store. (I used to sell shoes during my college days, so I’m particularly drawn to this joke.)
Santa’s Little Helper’s Attributes, According to Homer’s Ad
- Free to loving home.
- World’s most brilliant dog.
- Says “I love you” on command.
- Homer: 5 times
- Bart: 1 time
Features of the Assassins
- Velcro straps
- Water pump in the tongue
- Built-in pedometer
- Reflective sidewalls
- Little vanity license plates
Magazines on the Newsstand
- Teen Dream
- Teen Scheme
- Teen Scream
- Teen Steam
- Teen Beam
- Teen Spleen
- Martin Sheen’s Teen Scene
- Non-Threatening Boys
Dog Owners at the Obedience School
- Martin: shar-pei
- Jacques: French poodle
Sections at the Shoe Store
- Bocce Ball
- Street Crime
- Night Life
“Bart’s Dog Gets an F” on Hulu