(originally aired April 19, 1998)
Sensationalist youth-oriented news and a gross abuse of the animal assistance program are on the docket this week, two plots that aren’t the absolute strongest, but have enough sense and gags to keep this an overall engaging outing. We start with the reappearance of Lindsay Naegle, who badgers Krusty into inserting educational content into his show, a ten-minute news program hosted by kids for kids. I remember around this time the FCC cracking down on networks to force them to broadcast children’s programming that had educational content, many of which found loopholes around it. I could bitch more about the asinine nature of this topic, but it’s neither here nor there for this episode. Many Springfield Elementary students are chosen to do the program, with Lisa ecstatic to be the head anchor. Unfortunately her spotlight is usurped by Bart, whose camera pleasing showboating is much better received than Lisa’s dry, straight-forward stories. He is made Lisa’s co-anchor, much to her chagrin.
The way the rest of the show gets going is a bit odd, where Bart overhears Lisa talking to Naegle about how she thinks he’s dumb. He’s pretty hurt by this comment, for some reason. Bart knows he’s not as smart as his sister, and moreover he doesn’t care, but here it’s enough to fuel him to want to one-up her. However, it does give us an illuminating view of Kent Brockman, who Bart goes to visit for advice on impacting news broadcasts. He informs the boy about human interest stories, “they tug at the heart, and fog the mind.” Soon enough Bart is reporting about a sad old man whose ducks at the park have left him, and old war veterans stitching flags out of old clothes, cheap, manufactured human emotion that are absolute crowd pleasers. All the reports are wonderfully smarmy, as is Bart’s new fake holier-than-thou attitude, which only drives Lisa even madder. Lisa gets revenge by sending Bart into the clutches of a homeless Willie, whose home was destroyed by Bart’s earlier shenanigans, but ends up saving her brother when she finds him truly in danger. It’s an easy, obvious end, especially the fake-out of their show being immediately cancelled after they agree to work together, but the Willie stuff was all set up, and it’s an all well and good ending.
Running alongside the A-story, Homer finds out about animal assistants for those who are disabled, and works the system so he can get a cute little monkey named Mojo. The animal proves to be no help whatsoever, and it isn’t long before man and monkey have stuffed themselves into a lazy food coma in the middle of the TV room floor. I’m not entirely sure why I like this subplot so much, since it’s really pretty dumb. Homer’s not so much of a jerk here as he is a big kid, enthralled and fascinated by this new creature he’s got. Meanwhile, Marge is mortified at first, then eventually just fed up with the whole situation. When we cut back to them from the kids news story, it usually involves Marge burying her head in her hands wondering where her life went so wrong. I like it for what it is, small silly breaks from the main story with crazy animal antics and just enough Homer buffoonery and Marge distress that it doesn’t feel too sad. An engorged, enfeebled Mojo is abandoned back on the doorstep from whence it came, giving perhaps its final words: “Pray for Mojo.” Pray indeed.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Krusty is adamant against the network cutting into his show (“There’s a monologue, those idiot puppets, Krusty’s nap time, the second monologue, Paul Harvey, Senor Papino, I tell ya, it’s the tightest three hours and ten minutes on TV!”) Naegle informs him they’re cutting those ten minutes, to which Krusty ponders, “Well, I guess we can trim the Hobo Parade to a lean twenty.” I would really love to see a full version of Krusty’s entire show.
– Willie is shocked to find his perfect pile of leaves destroyed (“Me pile! It’s been raped of its bonniness!”) Finding Bart to be the culprit, he confiscates his skateboard and holes himself in his shack. To drown out Bart’s pounding on his door, he turns on his old fashioned radio, then flips through three stations of virtually identical bagpipe music to the one he’s most satisfied with, then lays down to relax.
– Another horrible Simpsons product: Bubble-Crum, the gum with a cracker center (“It’s Crun-Chewy!”) But you know what, I’d love to try it.
– Homer goes to Animal Assistance (“As Felt in Braille Weekly”) to get himself a helper monkey. I love how the clerk uses the term “differently abled” rather than “disabled,” a load of politically correct jargon if I ever heard it. To get the animal, Homer uses his father as a front, who seems very appreciative, then he drives off with the monkey. Abe is none the wiser (“I can’t wait to eat that monkey!”)
– Lisa starts the program with hard-hitting news: the library’s budget being slashed by 3%. First on the chopping block? Periodicals. Devastating.
– I like that after Naegle spouts out a bunch of nonsense words like ‘zing’ and ‘zork,’ she doesn’t follow Lisa’s simple turn of phrase (“Bart’s not exactly the brightest penny in the fountain.” “In English, Lisa?”)
– Great bit where Bart struggles to read a newspaper, not being able to get through three words (“Supreme Court Reverses…”), loses his willpower and goes straight to the comics. First is Archie (“Hey Jughead, did you hear? The Supreme Court reversed…”)
– I like the small bits where the two plots kind of collide: Bart asks his mother if she thinks he’s dumb, who at the moment is preoccupied with the literal monkey business in her house (“Honey, I’d love to reassure you, but right now Mommy needs a Tetanus shot.”) And the second act break with Mojo mimicking Lisa’s laughter is great too.
– All the schmaltzy reports are pretty fantastic, perfectly worded and executed. The one on Joe Banks and his beloved ducks is probably the best, ending with a shot of the poor old man panning down to the soggy bread crumbs on the water to “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Then cut to Burns and Smithers watching it sitting in bean bags for some inexplicable reason, in the best scene of the whole show (“Smithers… you think maybe my power plant killed those ducks?” “There’s no ‘maybe’ about it, sir.” “…excellent.”
– Here we have the first appearance of the Crazy Cat Lady, who here is actually pretty funny. Lisa attempts to do a sympathetic story on her, but she proceeds to chase her away throwing cats like a maniac. Then she does one on a seemingly defunct train, which proceeds to pass right by upon broadcasting. It just keeps going and going and going and going, then we see the Cat Lady has followed Lisa and makes chase again. Somehow, for some reason someone thought they should bring the character back many seasons later, and then she became a regular. I have no idea why, since there’s not really much there to work with.
– I like Bart and Lisa’s back-and-forth on the air following one of Bart’s schmaltzy segments (“I just think our veterans deserve a little recognition.” “That’s what Veteran’s Day is for, Bart.” “But is that really enough to honor our brave soldiers?” “They also have Memorial Day.” “Oh, Lisa, maybe you’re right, maybe you’re wrong! The important thing is, veterans deserve a day to honor them!” “They have two!” “Well maybe they should have three. I’m Bart Simpson.”)
– Homer and Mojo passed out on the floor, and Mojo’s pathetic little happy dance is so disconcerting and hilarious at the same time. Speaking of disconcerting, great tail end of Milhouse’s broadcast (“So, by waking up a little early and having some extra sheets handy, no one’s the wiser. Tomorrow, ‘Destroying The Evidence.'”) And great callback when Bart broadcasts from the dump, amongst twisted metal and soiled mattresses. Cut to Milhouse, looking quite nervous.
– Ah, the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Choc-O-Bot Hour. A spot-on parody of rampant product synergy and commercials disguised as programming. But I would watch it. And now I want a Reese’s. Damn you, corporate America.