49. Lisa the Greek

(originally aired January 23, 1992)
As I mentioned with “Lisa’s Pony,” Homer/Lisa episodes are always emotional and entertaining, not in an ROFL kind of way, but with subtler character behaviors and actions. Here we once again have Homer disregarding one of his child’s existences, but unlike Bart’s ambivalence in “Saturdays of Thunder,” Lisa is a girl who craves positive reinforcement. Marge recommends Lisa take an interest in something Homer likes, in an incredibly telling, somewhat sad but still funny line: “I pretend I’m interested in looking at power tools, going to those silly car-chase movies, and… some things I’ll tell you about when you’re older.” So Lisa decides to join her father watching football. In episodes like these, you need to push the bonds between characters far at the start so their reconciliation later on can be that much more effective, but seeing Homer force her daughter to the other end of the couch is not so much thoughtless and selfish as much as it is cruel. Homer’s assholery is best when it’s accidental, not overt, especially toward his daughter.

Needless to say, Homer and Lisa form a bond with watching the game, especially when Homer realizes that his daughter has a knack for picking the winning team, resulting in numerous winning bar bets with Moe. The scenes of the two together have a real bittersweet feel to them: we love to see them bonding, and Lisa finding passion toward the sport and her logical analyses towards her bets, but Homer’s actions are still completely self-centered. Lisa has happened to enter her father’s field of vision and Homer has figured how to make her an asset for his own doings. Even lavish dinners and gifts for his family, sweet as those moments may be, are peppered with a self-congratulatory aurora thrown by Homer. These suspicions are validated when Homer confirms he’s planning on blowing off their Daddy-Daughter Day once football season ends, crushing Lisa, leaving him with a bottomless pit he must figure out how to scramble out of.

The third act sets up a very bizarre climax, with Lisa racked with guilt over her actions, and seething with a quiet anger toward her father. She gives a very somber, yet serious proclamation toward Homer: her love for him all hinges on who wins the Super Bowl. Homer remains desperate for a more concrete answer, leaving him a twisted emotional wreck through the game. It’s almost like a weird psychological mind game Lisa is playing on her father, like she’s the puppet master behind professional football and she can change the outcomes based on her whims. Whether she’s trying to teach Homer a lesson, or just being melancholy in her musings, Lisa makes Homer realize her value to him, and the two reunite, of course. This is a pretty solid show, but I think it suffers having followed the much superior “Lisa’s Pony,” which put Homer in a bit more caring light.

Tidbits and Quotes
– There’s some absolutely fantastic bits of animation in the beginning: the opening to Inside Football Today does a great job mimicking early 90s-style computer animation, but with traditional means. And the sequence of Homer rapidly eating four different kinds of salty snack treats around him on the couch is spectacular.
– Smooth Jimmy Apollo may be my favorite one-off Phil Hartman character. Despite his indecisive nature (being right only 52% of the time will do that to a guy, I guess), he still exudes all the confidence and vigor you expect from Hartman. I love after his recommendation of Denver, and after Homer’s bet, thirteen seconds into the game, they’re down a touchdown.
– Always found it sweet that Marge is giving Maggie a bath in the sink, and funny that Bart walks in and drops his dishes in it.
– The giant lock and giant shoe are great props for the sports forecasters. My favorite bit in the whole show though is the Coach’s hotline, a fast-talking man on the commercial, but sloooow to enunciation on the phone. A bone-headed Homer complains, “Come on, don’t you realize this is costing me money?”
– There’s a sweet minor plot in the first act with Marge taking Bart out to buy new clothes, from the discount rack. When Bart claims he’ll get beat up wearing outfits such as those, Marge responds, “Well, anyone who beats you up for wearing a shirt isn’t your friend.” Missing the point entirely, but a sweet bit of motherly advice.
– Love the security guards catching a little girl wearing unpaid socks out of the store, rushing out of the control room with high-powered rifles.
– There’s some great bits in a montage of Sundays, with Lisa batting 100% (“I like the 49ers because they’re pure of heart, Seattle because they’ve got something to prove, and the Raiders because they always cheat.” Followed by an announcer calling, “And on an extreeeeeemely suspicious play, the Raiders win!”)
– The scene at the fancy restaurant is so sweet, where the family earnestly laugh at Homer and Bart’s hackneyed jokes.
– I love the talk box Homer gives Bart. I remember seeing commercials for those types of things, and it’s brought back excellently at the end of the second act, giving a minor break in the tension.
– Great dream sequence of an old drunken Lisa hawking jewelry for gambling chips. It’s horrifyingly wonderful.
– I thought we never saw Caesar and Uglion in any other episode, but here they are, passing over the big game for a Jerry Lewis comedy, of course.
– Brief appearance by Troy McClure plugging his new sitcom that will play after the game. When asked why he chose to do the project, he replies, “I fell in love with the script, Brent. And my recent trouble with the IRS sealed the deal!”
– Great bit with the “never tedious Super Bowl half-time show,” a bizarre display of men in giant alien heads dancing to “Rock Around the Clock.” Bart bemoans, “This sucks. Come on, snipers, where are you!” Also love the Duff Bowl. Upon hearing Duff Dry has won, Moe comments, “They wanted it more.”

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3 responses to “49. Lisa the Greek

  1. Lisa sighs. “Lisa, please, I can’t hear the announcer!.”

  2. Is the Duff Bowl supposed to be a real… beer commercial or something? I assumed it was Barney hallucinating.

  3. “Love the security guards catching a little girl wearing unpaid socks out of the store, rushing out of the control room with high-powered rifles.”

    Notice it’s the same generic girl character who swipes the Malibu Stacy Chinchilla Coat from Homer during the “clear-out” sequence. She’s a kleptomaniac! Also, she would later be the only girl to buy a Lisa Lionheart doll… maybe we are to assume she shoplifted that as well!

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