(originally aired March 26, 1995)
As with all cartoons, the Simpsons don’t age. And it’s perfect that way. If studio executives could place its sitcom actors in a time-stasis field to prevent them from getting older, don’t you think they’d do it? The status quo can be retained forever. But then that raises the question: what does the future hold for our characters? On one hand it’d be interesting to see, but on the other, perhaps things are best left to our imagination; based on what we see now, we can all posit what will happen to our characters years down the road. It’s a tricky tight rope that “Lisa’s Wedding” must traverse, but ultimately it manages to depict a believable Simpsons future that shows a lot more than it tells, gives us glimpses of a latter-day Springfield and allowing us many opportunities to fill in the blanks for ourselves. On top of that (and having a lot of laughs of course), it ends up becoming one of the most emotional episodes of the entire series. It set the bar pretty high for anyone foolish enough to do another future episode down the road (oh God… more on that train wreck later down the road…)
The first problem is how do we segue into the future story? Attending the local Renaissance Fair, Lisa chases an escaped bunny (Esquilax) into the deep dark woods and encounters a mysterious fortune teller, who spins a tale of her future true love. I think it works very well, almost reminiscent of Alice chasing the White Rabbit into another reality. Future Lisa has an antagonistic meet-cute with proper Brit Hugh Parkfield, a learned, distinguished gentleman with a love of the environment and Jim Carrey movies. He works perfectly as the sort of high-class man Lisa would have an affection toward, and as a great foil to the Simpson family, who remain as low-rent as ever. A balder, more bloated Homer is still working the same console, a more grizzled Bart is working in construction, and teenage Maggie is apparently quite the talker and singer (though, brilliantly, she’s always cut off from speaking.) Other glimpses we get at other characters range from logical (Otto owning a cab company, with a downtrodden Quimby as chauffeur) to the hilarious bizarre (Martin as Phantom of the Elementary School,) and the setting of the future is a blend of fantasy Jetsons stuff with flying cars, and logical progressions like going digital, with picture phones and digital clocks (the blinking display of Big Ben proves that human incompetence will still exist with every progressing technology.)
Hugh comes to Springfield to meet the Simpsons, and Lisa is terrified of how he’ll react to them. Of course what’s great here is that the Simpsons are not overly wacky or over-the-top, they’re still genuine characters; Homer takes Hugh out to Moe’s and bestows onto him a family tradition: kitschy pig cuff links. Later at the wedding we see Homer give perhaps his most coherent and impassioned speech on how proud he is of Lisa, which like all great emotional Simpsons moments is beautiful and humorous at the same time, it’s got to be in the top 3 emotional moments of the series. The cuff links appear to be the deal breaker; Homer found them on Hugh’s night stand, and while I think later day Homer would stupidly think he forgot them and make a huge scene, Homer reacts with strangely great humility (“Guess they weren’t his cup of tea.”) Lisa confronts Hugh about it, and he admits that he really wants nothing to do with her family, leading to a great back-and-forth where Lisa admits that despite their foibles, she still loves her family, and can’t be with someone who doesn’t feel the same. This leads to our final bit after the story, where Lisa is glad to run back into her father at the fair and hear about his boorish exploits. There’s really just so much to love about this episode. It’s a wonderful and satisfying representation of a potential future for our characters; still not much further from where they were, but happy all the same. Despite her intellect and ambition, Lisa knows she’s still a Simpson, and what that means. I could go on, but then I’d be babbling. God, I love this episode. We’ve had two future episodes since then, one horrendous, one average, but really, what episode could beat this one? None of them. That’s the answer.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Great bit on the misleading cards: the “Death” card is positive, meaning transition and change, but God help you if you get the “Happy Squirrel.”
– Pigeon holing one’s self in the past as this show has is fine, since I view the show as having a floating timeline, but not so good for doing it in the future. But to be fair, I don’t think any of the writers could have possibly imagined this show would still be running in 2010.
– I like how for the most part, the future gags are really more posits of what the future could actually hold, from the hologram tree in remembrance of actual plant life, digital clocks replacing analog, as mentioned, Jim Carrey films being labeled as classics (which kind of has happened), and the Rolling Stones still being on tour (true, except for the wheelchair part.)
– I like how Hugh describes himself and Lisa as “utterly humorless” in their humanitarian efforts. Oh, and great name of their dormitory, “Dr. and Mrs. Dre Hall.”
– I love the scene at Parkfield Manor where Lisa worriedly ponders how to respond to what may or may not be Mr. Parkfield’s dry British wit. She lands on a quieted nervous laugh (hilariously done by Smith), to which Parkfield responds, “Oh, it’s good to hear a boisterous American laugh!”
– Classic bit where Hugh’s electronic, overly verbose proposal sign malfunctions, leading to Plan B: someone shoves a cow from behind a bush with a “Marry Me” sign.
– Haven’t even mentioned the future character designs, which are really fabulous. Lisa with her frilled, pointed hair, Marge with slightly grayer blue hair, Bart sporting a beard line like his father, and Homer who is stouter and even balder, with only one hair on his head and the one wrapping around thinning. Teenage Maggie is a great design too. I also love Nancy Cartwright’s older Bart voice, something she seemed to have forgotten about in the next future episode.
– I do like Marge’s fake-out (“If only your father were still with us… but he left for work a few minutes ago“) and her forgetting she’s on a picture phone.
– At the plant, we see Lenny and Carl in management positions, and Milhouse now being Homer’s supervisor. This gives us a great scene of his past romantic failure with Lisa and his taking it out on Homer (“I think I’ll write your performance evaluation now, Simpson!”) I like how when he leaves, Homer tints his fingers with a big grin, hopeful of how it will turn out, none the wiser.
– I like how well Homer takes being court ordered from planning Lisa’s wedding (“Well, these seem to be in order. I’ll be out back in the hammock.”)
– Great look at the future of school systems, again not far off from the reality, overcrowded (triple decker desks) and corporate sponsored curriculum (“If you have three Pepsis and drink one, how much more refreshed are you? You, the redhead in the Chicago school system?” “Pepsi?” “Partial credit!”)
– The British flag catching fire by accident is a great act break, but come on, what’s a bug zapper doing that high up a tree?
– The adapted Simpson house is fantastic, with Homer’s shoddy building additions (“If the building inspector comes by, it’s not a room, it’s a window box.”) Hugh quickly becomes victim of shoddy workmanship as he falls through the floor (“Fortunately, the compost heap broke my fall. Be a dear: run a bath.”)
– Bart describes his station in life (“Hugh, there’s more to my life than just the wrecking ball: I also crush cars into cubes. And on the side, I promote local tough man contests. Basically, I’m getting out all my aggression ’till I go to law school.”) I also love how he’s wearing a wife beater, and his punked out Krusty tattoo, which is such a wonderful, telling small detail.
– Marge and Lisa giggling on how Milhouse doesn’t count and Lisa can wear white is a delightfully dirty joke, but shockingly, only the second dirtiest joke regarding white dress virginity in a cartoon (that crown goes to The Critic: young debutante Margo agrees to wear white-white… except for the gloves.)
– I like the moment with Bart and Lisa at the wedding, which starts out sweet, and quickly deflates (“We had one in his honor. …I had one in his honor. …I went to a strip club.”)
– Great scene where Hugh prepares for the worst when Homer meets his parents. Homer attempts to cut through the awkwardness (“You know what’s great about you English? Octopussy. Man, I must have seen that movie… twice!”) Hugh concedes that’s probably the best he could have hoped for.
– Slight oops having Maude Flanders at the wedding. Maybe she was… umm… yeah, I got nothing. Also suspect why Mrs. Krabappel, Smithers and Burns and others are at Lisa’s wedding, but I don’t care much since it’s fun to see them and what they’re up to in the future.
– I’ll reprint Homer’s speech since it’s amazing (“Little Lisa, Lisa Simpson. You know, I always felt you were the best thing my name ever got attached to. Since the time you learned to pin your own diapers, you’ve been smarter than me. I just want you to know I’ve always been proud of you. You’re my greatest accomplishment and you did it all yourself. You helped me understand my own wife better and taught me to be a better person, but you’re also my daughter, and I don’t think anybody could have had a better daughter than-” “Dad, you’re babbling.” “See? You’re still helping me.”)
– I like how Hugh’s admissions to Lisa, and attempts to smooth things over just digs him in a deeper and deeper hole (“I’ve attempted to enjoy your family on a personal level, on an ironic level, as a novelty, as camp, as kitsch, as cautionary example… nothing works.”) Lisa asks if she’ll never see her family again, Hugh responds, “Possibly your mother will come when the children are born.”
– Lovejoy remains quite petty when the wedding is called off (“This is very sad news, and it never would have happened if the wedding had been inside the church with God instead of out here in the cheap showiness of nature.”)
– Great outro to the fortune teller; when Lisa questions the story, being set up that it would be about her true love, the teller responds, “Oh, you’ll have a true love, but I specialize in foretelling the relationships where you get jerked around.” Maniacal laugh, puff of smoke… then she’s still there. Lisa backs away slowly from the crazy person and back to the fair. And great Renaissance ending theme music.