Today's classic episode of The Simpsons was all about awesomeness. It offered multiple profiles in awesomeness as it explored many of the wonders that make the world a magical place for eight-year-old boys as well as men and women in touch with their own inner eight-year-old boy. "Bart the Daredevil" was custom-made to delight everyone's inner eight-year-old.
"Bart The Daredevil" had it all: larger than life grapplers fighting dirty, a monster truck known as Truckasaurus that devours lesser vehicles and aquires their power, the world's greatest daredevil, a lion mixing it up with piranhas, sharks and electric eels and a dad who loves his son enough to do something incredibly stupid and dangerous just to teach him a lesson.
In the parlance of Zodiac Motherfucker, today's episode ran around owning motherfuckers. The testosterone-heavy adventures begin with a sequence where the actions of a pair of wrestlers, a "Professor" type (I imagine the only thing he teaches are punishment and how to deliver a proper knuckle sandwich) and a now-friendly Russian (oh, but the end of the Cold War played havoc with trusty old stereotypes of good and evil) are mirrored and echoed by the movements and actions of Bart and Lisa, who are watching the mayhem at home, and Homer and his pals, who are watching at Moe's.
When the evil Professor pulls out a wrench, the incredulous, incongruously tony and effete announcer inquires why on earth the referee would allow such blatantly illegal shenanigans, a question I found myself asking countless times as a pre-pubescent wrestling fan when, say, The Iron Sheik would hit his opponent over the head with a folding chair or spiked bat.
Bart's eyes are already aglow with rapt delight during the grappling but he turns positively ecstatic during a commercial for a Monster Truck Rally featuring the one and only Truckasaurus. "If you miss this you better be dead or in jail. And if you're in jail, break out!" yells the hilariously over-the-top announcer for the truck rally to end all truck rallies.
Bart and Homer have a date with a certain car-devouring vehicle/dinosaur hybrid but first they have to suffer through Lisa's recital. It's worth it, however, as the family skedaddles as soon as the recital ends and heads to the truck rally, where they unwittingly find themselves in the jaws of Truckasaurus and are rewarded with half a bottle of champagne for their discomfort.
Ah, but I haven't even gotten to the meat of the episode yet. The surprise guest at the Monster Truck Rally is Captain Lance Murdock, the world's greatest daredevil and an affectionate parody of Evel Knievel. He's on hand to jump over a tank containing all of the aformentioned beasties and, perhaps most dangerously, a single drop of his own blood.
Murdock doesn't quite succeed though he does narrowly avoid being devoured by an angry aquatic king of the jungle but he succeeds in inspiring Bart to launch a daredevil career of his own.
"Bart The Daredevil" is a nonstop delight. It whizzes along at a breakneck speed, driven by an irresistible combination of smartass irreverence and boyish enthusiasm. It's evident that the writers love wrestlers and monster truck rallies and the Evel Knievels of the world. Who doesn't? So while "Bart the Daredevil" has fun spoofing the macho aggression and hyperbole of the world of daredevils, it also understands their populist appeal.
But "Bart the Daredevil" isn't just about winning laughs; it's also a great Homer and Bart episode that illusrates why sports have brought fathers and sons together for generation upon generation. There's something disarmingly sweet and woefully misguided about Homer keeping Bart from attempting his big jump over the canyon by wrestling away the skateboard and attempting the leap himself to show Bart how much it hurts to watch a loved one risk life and limb for no discernible reason.
Yes, this tribute to All-American awesomeness is pretty damn awesome in its own right