Warning: Spoilers for The Simpsons season 34, episode 21.
While The Simpsons season 34 brought some laughs out of Krusty’s encounter with Fat Tony, viewers of a particular vintage would likely recognize major portions of this episode’s plot. After thirty-five years on the air and over 700 episodes, it makes sense that The Simpsons repeats itself occasionally. In 2000, The Simpsons season 11, episode 13, “Saddlesore Galactica,” even featured a self-deprecating joke about the show recycling the story of the family gaining a pet horse. That said, “Saddlesore Galactica” became one of the most hated episodes of The Simpsons, so story repetition is still subject to harsh criticism.
Despite this, The Simpsons season 34 replicated one Golden Age outing plot almost verbatim. While an earlier episode in season 34 repeated season 33’s weirdest cameo trick, this was easier for The Simpsons to hide. However, in The Simpsons season 34, episode 21, “Clown V. Board of Education,” the series could not keep the source of the outing’s inspiration a secret. Any viewers familiar with The Simpsons season 6 would likely notice that this 2023 outing borrowed significant chunks of its story from a classic episode penned by the legendary John Swartzwelder 28 years ago.
The Simpsons Season 34 Revisited Homie The Clown
In The Simpsons season 6, episode 15, “Homie The Clown,” Homer learns how to clown from Krusty but soon ends up in trouble with the local gangster Fat Tony. In “Clown V. Board of Education,” the same thing happens again, only this time it is Bart who attends Krusty’s clowning school. While The Simpsons season 34 addressed COVID-19 in a more topical recent outing, “Clown V. Board of Education” was content to revisit the premise of a Simpson family member saving Krusty from Fat Tony’s mob by showing off the clowning skills that he taught them.
This conceit was a little too specific for viewers to miss the comparison between the two episodes, even if there were some superficial differences between “Homie The Clown” and “Clown V. Board of Education.” For example, not only was Bart the one who learned clowning from Krusty this time, but the shakedown from Fat Tony was also aimed at Krusty himself (whereas Fat Tony mistook Homer for Krusty in “Homie The Clown” and threatened him instead). However, the conclusions of both episodes were still fairly similar, as both saw Krusty team up with the Simpson family to stand up against the mob.
The Simpsons Season 34 Borrowed From Another Classic
To be fair to The Simpsons season 34’s episodes, the show has produced some original stories in this outing. However, the borrowing of “Clown V. Board of Education” feels egregious because the episode also takes another plot point from a separate, second classic episode. In The Simpsons season 11, episode 9, “Grift of the Magi,” Bart’s principal is threatened by Fat Tony and is forced to shut down his school. In “Clown V. Board of Education,” the same thing happens, albeit to a different principal. As such, The Simpsons season 34 ended up borrowing from two classic episodes at the same time.