The Simpsons writers are praised for many things, including the series’ stunning callbacks, which is surprising when they miss out on an obvious benefit, as they did with the “Board” setup from the season 6 episode “Itchy and Scratchy Earth.” The Simpsons, one of the longest-running television shows in history, introduced viewers to countless characters from the fictional city of Springfield, including the main characters of the series — the Simpsons family. The adventures of Homer, Marge, Maggie, Lisa and Bart Simpsons have been entertaining for 33 seasons, and it seems that their antics never become outdated.
One of the great aspects of The Simpsons is that now the writing team doesn’t stop coming up with jokes that pay off in other seasons. One such example is a dishwasher soap from Japan with a logo resembling Homer, named Mr. Sparkle. This concept first appeared in the 22nd episode of season 8, “We Believe in Marge”, where Homer discovers a detergent with what looks very much like his picture on the box. The same box appears in several instances of the series in later seasons, including in the opening credits of more modern episodes. This example helped The Simpsons stay fresh and match the jokes that are repeated throughout the series.
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Unfortunately for the writers, they didn’t seem to catch a big payoff that would be useful for Bart’s character. In season 6, episode 4, “Itchy and Scratchy Earth”, Bart searches for a souvenir with a personalized license plate with his name, but discovers that there is only a “Board” section, not “Bart”. In the episode, it seems that there are more Boards in the Simpsons universe, although he may be the only Bart. However, the scriptwriters missed a great opportunity next season when they could have named an alternate character Board rather than the name they came up with: Lester.
In what is without a doubt one of the Simpsons’ most entertaining and short-lived gags at the time, in the 18th episode of season 7, “The Day Violence Died,” Lisa and Bart meet bizarre versions of themselves in Eliza and Lester. The replacement siblings are drawn the same way Lisa and Bart first appeared at the beginning of the series, but with slightly different names. Eliza’s name is a reference to Lisa, but Lester and Bart have different names. This is where the writers could use the name Bort instead of Lester, which would be a fantastic payment for a souvenir joke from the previous season.
It’s unclear whether the script seems lazy for this episode, or whether the idea of calling Lester a Board isn’t peculiar enough. The Simpsons are often thought of as predicting the future and revisiting old jokes to make them new again. It seems that this return could have been stronger if the writers had returned to the funny joke they came up with in the previous season. Despite the fact that The Simpsons can often count on repeating jokes and maintaining a constant tone throughout the series, it was because of this failure that viewers could easily see a blind spot in the writers’ room.