“Ladies and gentlemen, the ten-year old who's brave and bold, when he's not in class, he's risking his ass, the world's greatest daredevil, Bart Simpson!”
―Announcer in Bart's dream
Bart the Daredevil is the eighth episode of Season 2. This episode is one of Matt Groening's favorite episodes and it is often considered among the series' best by television critics.
Bart attempts to follow in the footsteps of his hero, a daredevil named Captain Lance Murdock. As part of becoming a daredevil himself, Bart does increasingly dangerous stunts leading to his final stunt: jumping the Springfield Gorge on his skateboard.
While watching TV, Homer and Bart see a commercial for the monster truck rally featuring Truck-o-Saurus, a giant robotic dinosaur. However, there is conflict in that it is held on Saturday night, the same as Lisa's musical recital. Bart and Homer reluctantly attend the recital as it takes place earlier than the monster truck rally. However, they arrive late and take a wrong turn right into the arena, where Truck-o-Saurus smashes the family car. The owner of Truck-o-Saurus compensates the Simpsons for the damage, and the family then takes their seats in the audience.
The rally's grand finale features a death-defying stunt by "the world's greatest daredevil", Lance Murdock. Despite the fact that the act leaves Murdock badly hurt and hospital-bound, Bart is enamored and dreams of becoming a daredevil. When he tells his father of his ambition, Homer dismisses it as "kids say the dumbest crap".
Bart quickly injures himself during his first skateboard stunt. At the hospital, Dr. Hibbert shows Bart a ward full of children who have been hurt from attempting stunts. Nonetheless, Bart is persistent and continues, once again attempting to jump the car and making it successfully. Bart then expands his daredevil acts by jumping over a swimming pool, some animals, and Homer on his hammock. On a class trip to Springfield Gorge, Bart announces that on the coming Saturday he will jump over the gorge. Lisa talks Bart into visiting the hospital to see Murdock, hoping that the daredevil will talk him out of the dangerous stunt. Unexpectedly, however, Murdock supports Bart's plan. In hopes to deter him, Lisa tells the family.
Even after a punishment, several orders, and a "heart-to-heart talk" with Homer, Bart still goes to the gorge and tries to jump it but he is stopped at the last second by Homer. Homer angrily resolves to jump the gorge himself to show Bart what it is like to see a family member needlessly risking his life for no reason. Bart, not wanting to see his father injured, recants his wish to jump the gorge. However, Homer finds himself on Bart's skateboard rolling down the ramp toward the jump. Homer becomes airborne, and it looks for a few seconds he's actually going to make the jump but, in fact, he doesn't even come close and plummets. He is placed into an ambulance by a helicopter, which ultimately rams into a tree, sending Homer down the gorge again, and is eventually taken to the hospital in the same room as Lance Murdock, where he says, "You think you've got guts? Try raising my kids!"
Behind the Laughter
Matt Groening said in an interview that this episode was his favorite Simpsons episode. This would likely explain why footage of this episode is that which is most often used for the series clip shows. The scene of Homer plummeting down Springfield Gorge has become one of the most used Simpsons clips ever; it was featured in the 1993 episode "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" and referenced in "Treehouse of Horror XIII" to the point in an episode far down the line, many seasons later, Homer is about to flash back on the moment, only to be interrupted by Lisa, who says, "Everyone's sick of that memory."
Which episode was this?
This episode was once again referenced in The Simpsons Movie. There is a scene where Bart and Homer jump over Springfield Gorge on a motorcycle and when they land on the other side, the ambulance from this episode can be seen (still stuck against the tree) in the background. It also ranked #18 in the "TV's Funniest Moments" special by the Museum of Television and Radio. In the episode, the footage of Homer falling down the cliff shows him falling down on the skateboard, bouncing off the cliff and finally landing at the bottom, where the skateboard lands on his head. After being loaded into the ambulance, it crashes into a tree, and the gurney rolls out, and Homer goes down the cliff again. However, when the clip is shown in So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show, additional footage is seen of Homer bouncing down the cliff once again, and after he lands at the bottom, the gurney lands on his head. The episode is once again referenced in an episode of Family Guy, where Homer and Peter fight in Kang and Kodos's spaceship, which ends up rolling down the gorge. Peter yells that they are going to make it, but Homer tells him "Trust me. We're not." and the spaceship falls down the canyon.