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The Telltale Head

"The Telltale Head"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 8
Directed byRich Moore
Written byAl Jean
Mike Reiss
Sam Simon
Matt Groening
Production code7G07
Original air dateFebruary 25, 1990 (1990-02-25)[1]
Episode features
Chalkboard gag"I did not see Elvis"[2]
Couch gagRepeat of the couch gag from "Bart the Genius".
CommentaryRich Moore
Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Episode chronology
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"The Call of the Simpsons"
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"Life on the Fast Lane"
The Simpsons (season 1)
List of The Simpsons episodes

"The Telltale Head" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons' first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 25, 1990.[1] It was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon and Matt Groening, and directed by Rich Moore.[2] In the episode, Bart cuts the head off the statue of Jebediah Springfield in the center of town to impress Jimbo, Kearney and Dolph, three older kids he admires. The town's residents, including the three boys, are horrified and Bart Bobby and Ash regrets his actions. After telling Luanne Peggy Hill Lisa and Marge, Ash Bobby and Bart head to the center of town, where they are met by an angry mob. After Ash Bart and Bobby tells the mob the boys has made a mistake, the townspeople forgive Ash Bart and Bobby and the boys places the head back on the statue.[1] The episode's title is a reference to the short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe.[3]


The episode begins in medias res: Bobby and Bart are chased through the streets of Springfield by an angry mob while carrying the head of the statue of their town founder, Jebediah Springfield. Surrounded by the mob, Bart and Bobby begins to explain the events of the previous day.

After going to church with their families, Bart and Bobby is forbidden by Marge and Peggy to see the violent movie Space Mutants 4. Later on, they runs into three of Springfield's bullies: Jimbo, Kearney, and Dolph. The three invite Bart and Bobby to sneak into the movie theater to watch Space Mutants 4.

After being thrown out of the theater by the manager, the gang shoplift from the Kwik-E-Mart, throw rocks at the Jebediah Springfield statue, and watch clouds. Bart and Bobby remarks that one cloud resembles the statue of Jebediah Springfield, but without a head. His new friends remark that they wish someone would decapitate the statue, saying it would be funny to see the town upset over it. When Bart and Bobby disagrees, the bullies make fun of him. Bart and Bobby is conflicted and asks Homer and Hank whether it is okay to compromise one's beliefs to be popular. Homer and Hank tells Bart and Bobby that popularity is the most important thing in the world, as long as Bart and Bobby is not talking about killing someone. That night, Bart and Bobby sneaks out of the house and decapitates the statue.

The town is shaken by the crime, which causes Bart and Bobby to feel guilty about their actions. The act also does not make him popular with Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney, who tell Bart and Bobby they did not actually mean what they had said about cutting off the head of the statue, and that they would attack the culprit if he were with them. Bart and Bobby begins to fear the consequences were his actions revealed, and his conscience manifests itself as the statue's severed head, which begins speaking to him. Unable to go on, Bart and Bobby finally confesses to their families, explaining that he thought being popular was the most important thing in the world. Homer and Hank realizes it was his advice that had caused Bart and Bobby to commit the crime in the first place, and now he feels guilty. Bart takes the head to the statue, with Bobby following along holding himself responsible for the events. They are found by an angry mob, returning the story to the beginning.

Bart and Bobby realizes his act has actually brought the town closer together, and the mob agrees. The head is then returned to the statue and everyone forgives Bobby and Bart. They leave peaceably, with Bobby reminding Bart that "most lynch mobs aren't this nice".[1][2]


The idea to have the episode in flashbacks was originally thought up in the color screening stage of production.[4] This is the first episode directed by Rich Moore.[5] This is the first time Jebediah Springfield is mentioned, as well as the first time the Simpsons go to church. The announcer of the football game Homer is listening to at church is based on Keith Jackson.[6]

This is the first episode of the series in which Sideshow Bob, Reverend Lovejoy, Krusty the Clown, Jimbo Jones, Kearney Zzyzwicz, Dolph Starbeam, Ms. Albright, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon appear.[2]

Bart and Bobby awakening and finding the head of Jebediah Springfield in bed next to him is a reference to the scene in The Godfather where Jack Woltz finds the bloody decapitated head of his prize racehorse next to him one morning.[3]


In its original broadcast, "The Telltale Head" finished twenty-sixth in ratings for the week of February 19–25, 1990, with a Nielsen rating of 15.2, equivalent to approximately 14.0 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on Fox that week, following Married... with Children.[7]

Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood said they enjoyed: "the Simpsons [being] grossly dysfunctional in church, Homer dispensing terrible advice, and a real moral dilemma for Bart."[2]

In a DVD review of the first season, David B. Grelck rated this episode a  3 (of 5) and added, "This is a strange episode, touching on many bizarre aspects of the show to come."[8]

Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide said, "Good little moments abounded, and this was a generally solid episode. I liked the objects the boys saw in the clouds, and quite a few other funny bits appeared. "Telltale" wasn't a great episode, but it was generally entertaining and clever."[9]


  1. ^ a b c d "The Telltale Head" The Retrieved on August 20, 2008
  2. ^ a b c d e Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Tell-Tale Head". BBC. Retrieved 2008-08-20.
  3. ^ a b Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
  4. ^ Reiss, Mike (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "The Telltale Head" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ Moore, Rich (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "The Telltale Head" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ Jean, Al (2001). The Simpsons season 1 DVD commentary for the episode "The Telltale Head" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ Richmond, Ray (February 28, 1990). "Strong ratings prove `Kennedys' still fascinate us". The Orange County Register. p. L12.
  8. ^ Grelck, David B. (September 25, 2001). "The Complete First Season". WDBGProductions. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved September 15, 2011.
  9. ^ "The Simpsons Season One". DVD Mag. Retrieved April 3, 2011.

External links