(originally aired October 15, 1992)
Homer is a man of pure heart, but of horrible judgement. A fair share of Homer/Lisa episodes are interesting in seeing Homer’s attempts to feebly understand her daughter’s troubles, a girl who operates at a much higher emotional frequency than himself. Here, an unflattering caricature makes Lisa conscious about her image, and Homer’s solution is to enter her daughter into a beauty pageant. Marge rightfully points out that that’s the worst possible thing he could have done, and he’s looking at Lisa with a father’s eyes. Homer retorts, “Well if I could gouge out somebody else’s eyes and shove them into my my sockets I would; but to me, she’s beautiful!” He knows he’ll win and she’ll be in better spirits again, so much so that he pays the pageant entry fee by selling his ticket to ride on the Duff blimp. When the chips are down, Homer is continuously known to sacrifice what means most to him for the happiness of his family, and hearing this, Lisa agrees to do the pageant for her father.
In this day and age that we have many past pageant scandals and shit on TV like Toddlers & Tiaras, a show has a lot more ammo to use to mock, but here, the only real parody element to the pageant is Amber Dempsey, cutie pie extraordinaire with eyelash augmentation only legal in Paraguay. Her vacuous sweetheart persona completely wins over the judges, and despite Lisa’s crazy dance number and use of petroleum jelly (however much Homer didn’t eat), she still wins first prize. They couldn’t end the episode like this, however; as hinted at the pageant, runner up takes the crown if something were to befall the winner. So what happens? Amber gets struck by lightning, her royal scepter being actual metal rather than plastic. It’s so overtly grim, but hilariously so; the darker side of me almost wishes she had actually been killed, but we get a good joke from Dr. Hibbert that Amber has already won the Little Miss Intensive Care pageant. And we also get an amazing quick scene where Lisa is being sworn in a la Lyndon Johnson after the Kennedy assassination, complete with Marge dressed like Jackie O. So crazy.
The third act revolves around Lisa realizing the hardships of her duties; with the pageant being sponsored by Laramie Cigarettes, she is now their new spokesperson of sorts (honcho Jack Larson explains the situation: “It’s been an unlucky year for Laramie. A lot of the people who smoke our product have been… well, dying. And we need young smokers to take their place.”) Of course, this is something Lisa can’t stand for, so she attempts to use her menial power for good, until those higher up manage to find a loophole to strip her of her title. We end back with Homer and Lisa, in a really sweet wrap-up where Lisa tells her father that he did well entering her into the pageant (“The point is you wanted me to feel better about myself, and I do.”) This show has just the right level of sweetness as a Homer/Lisa show should have, and plenty of great gags, from a slightly hung over Krusty hosting the pageant to a slightly effeminate Bart helping her sister out.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The school carnival is your classic Simpsons intro set piece with plenty of gags: Skinner throwing down the Disney lawyers (“Copyright expired,”) Bart’s three-card Monty booth disappearing in smoke, Willie’s call for haggis, the “Guess Your Weight & Age” booth operator’s shock toward Homer, and ride operator Otto propelling an empty ride capsule into the school, bursting it into flames. Again, the darker side of me wishes there had been kids on it.
– I like how Homer’s fantasy of riding on the Duff Blimp starts out sort of normal, with the pilot pointing out crop irrigation. Like that’s a good joke, you think it’s going to be a crazy dream, but it’s not. Then they fly over the Super Bowl and fans hold up cards that form Homer’s face. Hilarious bait-and-switch on a bait-and-switch.
– The pageant commercial is great, with the aged footage of Krusty’s seal-of-approval (“I heartily endorse this event or product”) and the little girl winner (“I’m as happy as a smoker taking that first puff in the morning!”) Homer enthusiastically says, “That could be Lisa!”
– Homer singing the Blimpy Boy song is funny, but him mournfully singing it after he gave up his blimp ticket is even funnier.
– We see Marge’s first celebrity crush, here of Jack Nicholaus, with her fantasy of him reaching down to retrieve his ball from the hole.
– I like the runner of Homer teaching Bart how sweet-talking women on their appearance will do wonders for you, including some stuff he’ll tell him when he’s older (we see it’s suckering a wife into doing yard work). Marge and Lisa are immediately susceptible to such suckery. Bart asks his father if he knows anything else about women; Homer responds, “No, that’s it.”
– Krusty as pageant host is hilarious: he shows up not even knowing what the hell he’s hosting (“What is this, the Republican fundraiser?”) The best part is following a long rendition of MacArthur Park by Apu’s niece, a truly out-of-sorts Krusty groans, “Woah, that just kept going, huh?” Also, the amazing song he sings at the end: “L the losers in her wake, I the income she will make, T is for her tooth-filled mouth, T is for her tooth-filled mouth…”
– Great bit with Barney on the blimp. He asks if he can drive, the pilot, naturally, can’t see the harm. Barney immediately puts it into a nose dive and crashes it, bursting into flames. A reporting Kent Brockman is stunned. “Oh, the humanity! …..anyway…”
– Nice appearance by Bob Hope (“I want to show you what you’re fighting for, if there was a war on.”) with the troops quite upset that they got stuck with Little Miss Springfield.
– I feel bad for the guy in the Menthol Moose costume. He never did anything, but Lisa kicks down the giant cigarette box, crushing him.
– Great scene with the nerds at the football game, hearing that sports funding takes away funds from education and the arts, angrily chase after the football players. Cut to a newspaper sub-headline: “Nerds pummeled in football melee.”
– The loophole to oust Lisa from her crown is really engenious. Kent Brockman reports: “The father of the deposed beauty queen, Homer Simpson, filled out the pageant application incorrectly. In the area under ‘do not write in this space’ he wrote ‘OK’.” I also love Kent’s anger over the mismatched goat footage: “Call the weekend guy, I don’t care!”