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Public editor: D'oh! Tripped up by The Simpsons

The Simpsons. 1989.

Twentieth Century Fox

Every day on Page 2 of The Globe and Mail, readers find the Moment in Time feature, which hark back to an event that happened on that particular day. Today's Moment in Time is from Jan. 14, 1990, and ran with the headline: The Simpsons debuts as a full-length series.

It is a great idea and a fun topic, but any time you write about The Simpsons, you had better have your facts nailed down. I tell reporters that on any subject you write about, there are going to be people who know it much better than you do. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than about The Simpsons, with its legions of fans.

Here is what the Moment in Time said: The family is gathered around the Scrabble board in the opening scene. The letters O-X-I-D-I-Z-E are laid out on Homer's tile rack. "How can anyone make a word out of these lousy letters?" he says. Titled "Bart the Genius," the episode is based on a classic plot twist: Springfield Elementary reprobate Bart switches IQ tests with keener classmate Milhouse and scores high enough to be transferred to a school for gifted children. But Bart soon flounders, and has to fess up. "Why you little!!!" Homer yells, as he chases him through the house at the close. Twenty-four seasons later, the animation is much smoother, Bart is still a rascal, Homer still blows up occasionally – although he has mellowed – and Marge, Lisa and Maggie remain the brains in the household. They're still the most loving and real sitcom family on TV.

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Okay, did you spot the errors?

We know of two, thanks to those great fans and readers:

1. It was not the debut episode (as per the headline). Several sources (such as this and this) point out that the short was the second episode of season 1, which was aired Jan. 14, 1990.

2. Bart doesn't switch his IQ test with his friend Milhouse, he switches papers with Martin Prince, who is the smart boy in the class. The test shows an IQ of 216 for Bart, really Martin, and Bart is moved to a gifted school, where not surprisingly he becomes the one mocked.

We will correct these two errors, but all you Simpsons' fans, if you see anything else, please let me know.

You can comment below or e-mail me on this or any other issue at

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About the Author
Public Editor

Sylvia Stead has been a reporter and editor at the Globe since 1975, after graduating from the University of Western Ontario in Journalism with a minor in Political Science. She won the Board of Governors Award there in 1974. As a reporter, Sylvia covered courts, education and Queen's Park. More


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