Busty Gets Krusted was an early, successful joke of mine, my cousin and brother thought it was very funny. The introduction of Sideshow Bob.
Patty and Selma’s slide show always stuck out to me, nobody did slides in my family or any amount of people removed. They’d just come over with a little envelope from the Kodak store. It was full of photos of wherever or whatever and I’d spend the next boring half hour having new and irrelevant second cousins pointed out to me. I only ever saw a slide machine once at primary school. It was in a store room, I turned it on and the bulb lit up real bright for a second before loudly popping and summoning the grumbly teacher’s aide who looked like transgender Chief Wiggum.
Without doing anything, she blamed another student and the rules forced him to just eat it cause you could only dob on someone if they’d actively had a hand in fucking you over. Honest and baffling teacher prejudice was something you just had to hack. It was weird, because this rule was never, ever so much as mentioned let alone outright elucidated so its strength and seeminly instinctive basis always interested me. The kid who got blamed was furious because this was the second time in a week he’d copped the blame for something I’d done, although the first one was deliberate mischief on my part just his protests fell on deaf, leathery ears. I’d written MR WAINWRIGHT FUCKS MY BUM at the end of his 300 word story we were typing up on the school’s Apple IIes, and pointed it out mere seconds before a teacher came by to look at it. His Goofy-esque leap to the keyboard half shoved the teacher and it was that, as well as his ignoring her squawked protests as he mashed the delete key, which got him in trouble that the obvious sabotage wouldn’t have.
I thought it was fucking hilarious and thinking about it now is making me smile.
Krusty Gets Busted is a chocolatey layer of interesting firsts smothering a chewy ballsack centre. It’s the first episode that has a focal point outside the family. It’s the first episode we see a Kelsey Grammer fuelled Sideshow Bob and his establishment as Bart’s longtime nemesis. And it’s the first episode that deviates significantly from the sitcom format, being that the narrative is essentially a whydunnit. Unlike the whodunnit, which eponymously bases the mystery around a known event with an unknown perpetrator, a whydunnit will let you know the who but base the episode’s tension on the explanation of why. This “why” being explained will usually be the pressure that makes the who confess.
It’s a why because the who, when it is asked at all, is a question for the characters and not the audience. Bart’s faith in him combined with the show’s format makes it a foregone conclusion with Bob’s second act soliloquy of villainous laughter making it clear to any stragglers. So “Krusty” has robbed the Kwik-E-Mart and only Bart, who never loses faith in his hero, can prove it was a setup.
I don’t do many things because I lack either the materials or inclination for the work that it would take to do them well, this episode’s writers should have adopted a similar philosophy. I’d not watched this episode much and my first return trip was grim because scarcely any of it really holds up or makes sense. Firstly, why the hot fuck is Bob wearing Krusty’s make up under a goddamn burglar mask?
Later canonical changes made Krusty’s makeup his actual face, the scarring result of one too many heart attacks, but this episode explicitly draws attention to the fact that his face is normal and the “Krusty” effect is makeup. So the assumption the reality is operating under is that everyone assumes Krusty would put on his stage makeup, put a mask on over that, and then go rob a convenience store. There’s also the matter of Homer and Apu treating a clown in a domino mask as perfectly normal until the gun is revealed. Apu I understand. Having worked late shifts, if someone comes in wearing a clown outfit at fuck-off o’clock in the morning, I am going to ignore the shit out of it and hope that somehow enforces a degree of sanity on our interaction as clerk and customer. Homer not even acknowledging it, though, is jarring.
The whole purpose of it is to alert the audience to who it is, as season one couldn’t really expect a level of character familiarity that seems normal 30 years later. Fine, but this raises the issue of an absurdity the characters interact with but don’t acknowledge. The duplicate Homer in the window is a perennial example as it’s completely absurd but effectively quarantined. A clown in a mask robbing a convenience store is like duplicate Homer walking past the family on the street and being seen by the family but otherwise ignored. It’s so obvious to the viewer that it can’t be seen by the world’s participants without acknowledgement or the rubber band reality loses some of the shape it is supposed to return to. This lacking setup sets the tone for an episode that would be fairly forgotten were it not the introduction of Sideshow Bob.
The conclusion to a stupid setup need not be terrible but, again, the writers highlight things that make the resolution screamingly stupid. It’s a Chekhov’s Gun without a trigger, yes you can see it earlier in the episode but its firing is more confusing than a satisfying resolution. Some mysteries end with concrete proof of guilt but a lot, for dramatic reasons, have the protagonist orate a crushing weight of circumstantial evidence that makes the guilty party crack. This is the method the story uses but the writers left out the key element of any evidence whatsoever let alone enough to force a confession. Later episodes went to the trouble to have Bart and Lisa catch Bob in the act, making his guilt beyond question. Here, Bart has nothing but the fact that Bob and the criminal in the Kwik-E-Mart footage have big feet, and this is enough to make him confess on the air. The later Sideshow Bob Roberts did a far better job of having Lisa goad Bob into believably snapping at doubts of his genius. Nothing like that happens here. Bob handles Bart’s questions regarding the microwave and magazine calmly and convincingly, so him finally snapping when Bart emphasises foot size is a mystery resolution that makes Scooby-Doo look like Law and Order.
The show knows this. There’s a blink and you’ll miss it line in the end where Bart says of Krusty that, “he’s got little feet, like all good-hearted people” which is a stunningly lazy acknowledgement and cover. It reminds me of one of the more garbage Doctor Who resolutions, and that show fields some stiff competition, where a gold arrow had to be shot into a ship to crash it. It wasn’t for any of the better reasons you are thinking of. Like maybe there was a forcefield that could only be penetrated by gold. Or maybe gold would cause a short circuit in that kind of alien technology. Or maybe any number of acceptable reasons for a sci-fi show, but no, it was just too much gold. Not by weight, mind, stop trying to make it make sense, it was just too much gold. The wrap up to Krusty Gets Busted’s core mystery is like that, a narrative development so garbage your mind will instinctively fix it. Had they simply had Bob get more flustered in the face of the other clues or really anything else at all, it would have worked. Instead the episode, like Bob, gives up for no visible reason.
All of this would be more tolerable had the episode been funny. Later episodes, around season 10, are a dynamic mix of the terribly structured and still hilariously funny. But Krusty Gets Busted didn’t do anything to make me laugh. I tuned out twice trying to watch it, even when I blocked out other distractions I found myself staring at the ceiling and imagining how I’d be better at using the Speed Force than Barry Allen. I mean, how the fuck does he ever get punched? I can understand blindsided, maybe, but he can’t ever lose a face to face engagement with anything not faster than him without it being retarded. It would be like losing a fight to a snowman. Ah, see, I’m doing it again.
The thing about the problems of this episode is how easily avoidable they are. It’s not like this is an attempt at a complex, serious time travel plot with a few loose threads, Krusty’s makeup and Bob’s unflappability are all things that could have been dealt with internally with little to no extra effort. Without that level of craftsmanship it’s an historical marker and nothing else.
Yours in cowardly diving into a chip display, Gabriel.
Jokes, lines, and stray thoughts.
Oh yeah, Kent Brockman makes his appearance in this episode.
That Bart would be heartbroken over Krusty committing a robbery is a hard sell. He’s a wannabe thug with only glimpses of conscience and we’ve seen him idolise worse anti-social behaviour. That this disappoints him is not entirely out of character but demonstrative of that awkward balance the writers had to manage between Bart: America’s Bad Boy and Bart the 10 year old. Pursuant to my frequent points about the importance of core reality, shit like character irregularity fucks up future plot and characterisation. You can’t make a story about a character loving outright destructive delinquency when they’ve had their world shattered over a robbed Kwik-E-Mart. The rubber band can stretch but it has to have a shape it returns to, otherwise you’ve just got goo.