TV history was made this weekend, as The Simpsons premiered its groundbreaking thirtieth season on Fox. It's likely that not everyone watching could be considered a superfan, so many likely missed how the episode provided a winking reference to a longtime fan theory concerning the long-hidden "Dead Bart" episode. It wasn't so much an on screen gag, though, but rather the title itself. Here's how showrunner Al Jean put it.
The title is 'Bart's Not Dead,' and I guess it's a slight allusion to the dead Bart rumor that was untrue in Season 1. He's definitely not dead --- he's very much alive and lying to his mother.
The Simpsons has always had a lot of fun in having conversations with its fans through the show's humor (and we're still waiting on a real answer for how many times Homer has actually seen someone say goodbye to a shoe). And here, Al Jean and the creative team went with a send up of the "Dead Bart" creepypasta entry, which is perhaps the most bizarre Simpsons fan theory out there, in that it's not so much about the characters or the canon, but rather an alleged "lost episode" that was immediately shelved after animation due to its horrific imagery and subject matter. (Insert joke here about how that should have happened with any number of episodes over the past 15 years.)
Per the patently conspiratorial materials offering background on this story, the episode "Dead Bart" was written by Matt Groening during production on Season 1, at a point when the co-creator was supposedly acting very withdrawn and angry. The episode, whose production code was said to have been given to another Season 1 installment, had a plot that started off with the Simpson family taking a doomed plane ride. Not long into the flight, Bart gets sucked out of a window. It's then stated that a near-realistic image of Bart's corpse was shown, in the vein of Ren & Stimpy's more grotesque animation. (Or this Homer recreation.)
Things stayed dark and depressing from there, with the family visiting the grave, along with lots of weird visuals. Perhaps even more infamous than Bart's death shot are the alleged last moments that depict the tombstones and death dates for every Simpsons guest star, present and future. It somehow sounds darker than even the Six Feet Under spoof.
Granted, the episode "Bart's Not Dead" doesn't do a whole lot to directly contest the validity of the lost episode fan theories, although I guess it does involve Bart presenting a scenario that isn't real, and then someone bringing that scenario to a visual format. In the episode, Bart ends up in the hospital, and tells his parents that he met Jesus while unconscious, which sparks a faith-based movie adaptation. Not exactly the same, but we're pretty sure Bart would be capable of mashing together episode footage to create the video below, which stands alone as "proof" of the "Dead Bart" installment.
As it has happened with most Simpsons fan theories that stretch believability to its breaking point, Al Jean debunked this "Dead Bart" episode ridiculousness some years back. So it has kept good company with other crazy Simpsons ideas, such as Homer having been in a coma for the past 30 years, or that Springfield actually exists on another plane of reality.
The Simpsons Season 30 is here, and fans can find it airing on Fox every Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. ET. For those who need other shows that may or may not have ridiculous fan theories attached to them, head to our fall TV premiere schedule.