The Simpsons Bart of Darkness

Voices: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell, Russi Taylor.

Voices: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden, Maggie Roswell, Russi Taylor.

Rolling into its sixth season in high gear, “The Simpsons” continues as the best justification of Fox’s relative permissiveness. It’s also arguably the funniest series on the air.

Springfield is in the middle of a heat wave, with Bart (voice of Nancy Cartwright) and Lisa (Yeardley Smith) badgering their father Homer (Dan Castellaneta) into purchasing a swimming pool fromPool Sharks (“Where the buyer is our chum”). Suddenly, the kids’ popularity soars.

But an accident sends Bart to bed with a broken leg, and the episode turns into an homage to “Rear Window,” with Bart in the Jimmy Stewart role and perpetual do-gooder Ned Flanders (Harry Shearer) as the Raymond Burr surrogate. Parents will have to explain the references to their kids, but the story stands on its own.

Typically, the show is packed with other adult-oriented and rather arcane cultural touchstones, notably a “Krusty the Klown” flashback to 1961, when the greasepaint-faced children’s idol (Castellaneta again) is seen in black and white, chain smoking and interviewing labor boss George Meaney.

Mad magazine and the Fox network are also on the receiving end of brief, on-target japes.

For the kids, there’s a new episode of the ultra-violent “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoon. How much they’ll relate to most of the rest that goes on is anybody’s guess.

Tech credits are good — limited animation actually works in this case — and sound effects and mixing are top-notch.

And to think that “The Flintstones” was once regarded as hip, primetime animation.

The Simpsons Bart of Darkness

(Sun. (4), 8-8:30 p.m., Fox)

Production: Animated; produced by Gracie Films in association with 20th Television. Executive producers, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon, David Mirkin; co-executive producer, Jace Richdale; supervising producers, Harold Kimmel, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein; producers, Jonathan Collier, Mike Scully, David Sacks, John Swartzwelder, Joseph A. Boucher, Richard Raynis, David Silverman, Richard Sakai; co-producer, Greg Daniels; consulting producers, Al Jean, Mike Reiss; animation executive producer, Phil Roman; animation producers, Bill Schultz, Mike Wolf; animation co-producer, Ken Tsumura; director, Jim Reardon; script, Dan McGrath; created by Groening.

Crew: Editors, Mark McJimsey, Don Barrozo; sound, Ronny Cox; music, Alf Clausen; theme, Danny Elfman.

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