|"Bart Gets Hit by a Car"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2|
|Directed by||Mark Kirkland|
|Written by||John Swartzwelder|
|Original air date||January 10, 1991|
|Chalkboard gag||"I will not sell school property".|
|Couch gag||Homer bumps everybody off the couch.|
"Bart Gets Hit by a Car" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 10, 1991. In the episode, Bart is hit by Mr. Burns' car. Prompted by ambulance-chasing lawyer Lionel Hutz and quack doctor Nick Riviera, the Simpsons sue Burns, seeking extensive damages for Bart's injuries. Hutz and Dr. Nick exaggerate Bart's injuries to earn the jury's sympathy at the trial. Marge wants Homer to accept Burns' proposed settlement instead of asking Bart to lie on the witness stand.
"Bart Gets Hit by a Car" was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Mark Kirkland. The episode's plot was based on Billy Wilder's 1966 film The Fortune Cookie. Much of the ending of the show was pitched by executive producer James L. Brooks, who felt the episode needed a more emotional ending. The episode includes the debuts of three recurring characters, Lionel Hutz, Dr. Nick and the Blue-Haired Lawyer. The Devil also appears on the show for the first time. Recurring guest star Phil Hartman makes his first appearance as Hutz. The show's then-script supervisor Doris Grau also voices a character in the show for the first time.
In its original broadcast, "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" received a Nielsen rating of 14.5, finishing the week ranked 32nd. The episode received generally positive reviews.
While crossing the road on his skateboard, Bart is struck by Mr. Burns' car. After having an out-of-body experience, Bart wakes up in a hospital room surrounded by his family and attorney Lionel Hutz, who suggests that the Simpsons sue Burns. Homer is reluctant to sue his boss and Marge protests that Bart's injuries are minor. To avoid a lawsuit, Burns offers Homer $100, which he rejects because it fails to cover Bart's medical bills.
Homer visits Hutz, who promises him a cash settlement of $1 million, of which Hutz gets 50%. Hutz takes Bart to see Dr. Nick Riviera, a quack doctor who claims that Bart has extensive injuries. Marge is quickly suspicious of Riviera's medical qualifications. She decries him as a fake and reminds Homer that Dr. Hibbert has been their family's physician for years and that his prognosis shows Bart is fine. At the trial, Hutz encourages Bart to exaggerate his condition on the witness stand; Marge and Lisa demand that he tell the truth. On the stand, Bart and Burns tell outrageous versions of the accident that portray them in a favorable light to impress the jury. The civil jury are more accepting of Bart's story, but Marge and Lisa are furious because they know it was just Hutz' attempt to curry the jury's favor.
Burns denounces his lawyers' incompetence and demands that they bring Homer to his mansion at once. Burns offers Marge and Homer a $500,000 settlement and leaves the room to allow them to consider his offer. While spying on them in the next room, Burns has a panic attack when he hears Homer abrasively refusing the money. Marge pleads with Homer to accept the money and drop the lawsuit. Homer demands to know why she wants him to settle and she admitted she has grown concerned over his behavior. That Marge would've been much happier settling the case with Burns than let it get messy. Homer claims that waiting for the fill $1 million is the right thing to do because he knows Burns will lose the case anyway and refuses to settle. Burns hears Marge admit she dislikes Homer's greed, the shifty lawyers and phony doctors. Burns returns to the room and hastily withdraws his offer.
At the trial, Burns' lawyer calls Marge to the witness stand. When he demands she tell the court the extent of Bart's injuries and her opinion on Dr. Riviera, Marge pleads the fifth by stating her mother's advice by not talking beneath someone that she has nothing nice to say to them. Annoyed, Burns' lawyer asks her again and reminds her that she's under oath. Dejected, Marge denounces the doctor as a charlatan and a quack. She describes how limited Bart's injuries really are and also goes into details the stress she went through with Homer's lawsuit: a value worth $5 that she would've paid Bart to take out the trash if he was able to. Marge's testimony destroys Hutz's case and the Simpsons get nothing.
That night, Homer is depressed about losing the money and leaves to drown his sorrows at Moe's Tavern, where Marge follows him. Moe claims that rich people are not happy, but Homer thinks the money would have allowed him to buy things for his family. Marge asks Homer to forgive her for testifying truthfully. He says he is unsure if he still loves her and admits he is angry at her for ruining their chance at a better life. Marge encourages him to look at her and decide how he feels. Homer looks into her eyes and realizes he loves her as much as ever.
The episode's plot was based on Billy Wilder's 1966 film The Fortune Cookie, in which Walter Matthau plays a dishonest lawyer who convinces Jack Lemmon's character to fake an injury for a large cash settlement. While working on the court room scenes, director Mark Kirkland watched To Kill a Mockingbird and The Verdict to get ideas for different angles he could use. Although the episode was written by John Swartzwelder, a lot of the ending was pitched by executive producer James L. Brooks. Brooks felt that the episode needed a more emotional ending, so some shots were reworked so voice-overs could be added.
The episode includes the debuts of three recurring characters, Lionel Hutz, Dr. Nick Riviera and the Blue-Haired Lawyer. Lionel Hutz was designed by Mark Kirkland, who gave him an evil design, but was asked to make him more "bland looking". He gave him a powder blue suit to make him stand out more. Phil Hartman, who voiced Hutz, also guest stars for the first time. He would later become one of the most frequently appearing guest stars, with Hutz and Troy McClure (who was introduced later in the second season) being his most well-known characters.
Dr. Nick Riviera is voiced by Hank Azaria, who used a "bad Ricky Ricardo" impression. The animators modeled Dr. Nick after then-supervising director Gábor Csupó, because they mistakenly believed that Azaria was impersonating him. The Blue-Haired Lawyer, who does not have a proper name, was based on Roy Cohn, who became famous as Senator Joseph McCarthy's lawyer. His voice, provided by Dan Castellaneta, was also an impression of Cohn. The Devil is also shown for the first time, and he was designed by Mark Kirkland, who originally tried to give him a scary design, but the writers asked him to use a more comedic look.
The show's then-script supervisor Doris Grau also appears in the show for the first time. She was used because of her unique voice, and appears as a minor character in this episode, but would later become known for voicing Lunchlady Doris.
The Devil says "Please allow me to introduce myself", a reference to The Rolling Stones song "Sympathy for the Devil". In addition, when Bart wakes up from his out-of-body experience, he says, "I did go away, Mom! I was miles and miles and miles away, writhing in agony in the pits of Hell! And you were there! And you and you and you," a reference to the 1939 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy awakens from her slumber. The design of Hell in the episode references Hieronymus Bosch's triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, particularly the Hell panel.
In its original broadcast, "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" finished 32nd in ratings for the week of January 7–13, 1991, with a Nielsen rating of 14.5 and was viewed in approximately 13.5 million homes, down from show's season average rank of 28th. It was the highest rated program on Fox that week. The episode finished second in its timeslot to The Cosby Show, which aired at the same time on NBC, which had a Nielsen rating of 17.8.
The episode's reference to The Wizard Of Oz was named the fourth greatest film reference in the history of the show by Nathan Ditum of Total Film. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, praised "Bart Gets Hit by a Car" as "an interesting episode in that we begin to see the very dark side of Burns that will develop later, although Smithers is still just a toady. A good introduction for Lionel Hutz and a nice look at Hell, Heaven and the original Snowball".
Doug Pratt, a DVD reviewer and Rolling Stone contributor, concurred, stating that the episode led to "inspired looks at Heaven, Hell, and ambulance-chasing lawyers". DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson lauded the episode for "provid[ing] a lot of great moments, especially in court when we heard the differing viewpoints of the accident offered by Bart and Mr. Burns. 'Car' worked well and was consistently amusing and lively."  Dawn Taylor of The DVD Journal thought the best line was Bart's testimony: "It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was playing in my wholesome childlike way, little realizing that I was about to be struck down by the Luxury Car of Death."
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