“Diggs” presented a familiar formula for an episode of The Simpsons: a new character is introduced as a student at Springfield Elementary, and either Bart or Lisa (or occasionally another student) either befriends, be-enemies (can that be a word?), or falls in love with them. In this case it was the first situation, and the Simpson child in question was Bart.
After being uncharacteristically touched by a church missionary’s donation plea on behalf of a bratty Bart-like child, Bart borrowed $20 from Homer to put in the collection plate for the boy. Homer then immediately began hitting Bart up for the money, like an overzealous bookie.
After offering at school to eat anything for money, Bart accepted Jimbo’s challenge to consume a science class frog for the $20 needed to re-pay his debt to Homer. However, he then became an outcast, as the other kids didn’t want to hang around with the boy that ate the frog…even Milhouse! (Or is it Dweebler?)
Feeling lonely, Bart happened upon an odd boy named Diggs (voiced by Daniel Radcliffe, doing an American accent) who was head of the school’s Falconry club. When the boy became injured (and was subsequently committed to an insane asylum) after attempting to fly, Bart took over the duty of caring for Diggs’ falcon, Freedom.
However, the boy later received a “day pass” to compete in a Falconry contest, and with some help from Bart, ended up just letting all the falcons go. After Diggs returns to his padded pad, Milhouse and Bart (of course) made up.
In Case You Missed It:
1) The couch gag (courtesy of French animator Sylvain Chomet) was quite interesting, and exceptionally impressive. Props.
2) Homer humorously quipped in church: “If God needs money, why doesn’t he just write another Bible? The first one sold pretty well.”
3) The breakfast joint briefly shown was called “The Waffle Truth.”
4) Homer was shown at one point to apparently be aligned with Fat Tony and his crew.
5) Some of the things Bart ate or was asked to eat: gum, orthodontic wax, and something Otto gave him to make him “forget the other things.”
6) Apparently when there are no frogs, the kids in science classes at Springfield Elementary are made to dissect Muppets.
7) Why the H was Groundskeeper Willie briefly & randomly shown in the background to be bathing in a tub?
8) Santa’s Little Helper still can’t sit, and it’s hilarious. (Or maybe he can?)
9) After mistakenly thinking Bart was getting drunk somewhere, Homer later told him, “In just a few short years you’ll be getting your version of baked, on your version of pot, listening to your version of Journey.”
10) Speaking of pot, Homer was awfully forgetful in this episode: he forgot Bart owed him $20 after incessantly bugging him for it, and also forgot he had been desperately trying to get the dog to sit just moments before the dog actually did.
11) The Duff blimp told Freedom the Falcon: “I’m not your mother.”
12) Grandpa Simpson really likes Korean Girls.
13) Bart incredulously (and appropriately) said to Dr. Hibbert: “This hospital has another doctor?”
Although there was an abundance of little laughs (and a few larger ones) sprinkled liberally throughout the episode, they became a bit corny at the end, and the plot began to drag as it came to a close.
Introducing a new character (especially when it’s a temporary one) is a delicate tightrope walk when it comes to The Simpsons. Although they all serve different purposes necessary to the episode, they can sometimes hurt it in the end. Be it Samantha Stanky, Alex Whitney, Allison Taylor, or one of the many other one-time student characters, the screen time should be equally proportionate to how interesting they are. This was an instance where there was simply too much emphasis on Diggs, who wasn’t quite interesting enough to improve the episode in any way. His story was a bit too sad, his hobby seemed a bit too far-fetched to interest Bart (and probably the viewers), and, well, he was kind of creepy and unstable. (Also, as my partner in crime, Bela Z. Green, observed: “It would have been better if Daniel Radcliffe spoke in his normal British accent.”)
In the end, the story & Diggs character didn’t totally sink the episode, because they nevertheless served as a vehicle for the plethora of little gags listed above. This was a forgettable episode overall, but it still managed to grab some unexpected laughs, and will continue to in the future, from whomever happens to be watching it in syndication.