246. Last Tap Dance in Springfield

(originally aired May 7, 2000)
Another episode where I find myself with not much to say… not so bad in the way that it’s totally bland and not impacting in the slightest, just that I don’t have any specific commentary to dole out. Inspired by a ridiculous (and very amusing) Latin dance film, Lisa decides she wants to take up dancing, but ultimately takes up tap under the tuteledge of famed child actor Little Vicki. Vicki is a pretty good character, playing off of Shirley Temple basically, with a sort of bitter, spiteful streak to her. Like most great adults in Springfield, she isn’t shy or hesitant about belittling young children. She works for what she is, and gets her fair share of laughs (“Turn that frown upside down! …that’s a smile, not an upside down frown. Work on that too!”) There are a couple other isolated moments of greatness, coming from the likes of Chief Wiggum and Professor Frink, but they seem to be few and far between.

This isn’t really a bad episode, but there’s definitely not much here. It feels empty; Lisa wants to pursue dancing like she saw in the film, but ends up in tap basically as a result of a joke. So when she’s no good at it, there’s no real desire for her to continue since she didn’t want to do it in the first place. That’s why they needed to shoehorn the completely out-of-left-field notion that she didn’t want to let her parents down by giving up, when they shower her with praise and call her their “Broadway baby” apropos of nothing. They should have either bore that in earlier in the show, or gave her another reason not to quit. I could be mistaken, but a later episode had Lisa take up ballet when her mother failed at it, so it had an angle of Marge living through her child. I’m sure it was awful, but even that makes more sense than this does.

And now for our big dumb ending. We can’t even have a simple Lisa show without resulting in an over-the-top climax. Professor Frink notices Lisa’ plight and figures he can help; he places a sensor into Lisa’s shoes that will move in reaction to sound, thus she will be able to tap in time with the rest of her class. Now, this… doesn’t make sense. Let’s say that it could work that if Lisa manages to control her own upper body while her feet move of their own accord. But it just becomes more and more of a stretch when she starts doing splits, slides and back flips when Little Vicki tries to outdo her in the performance, then starts going absolutely mental when the audience applauds wildly. This ending just feels way too out of place in what should have been a smaller, more intimate show. So yeah, it’s a pretty average episode slightly tarnished by a ludicrous ending. Oh, there’s also that B-plot of Bart and Milhouse in the mall, but I got nothing to say on that. Amusing at parts, but wholly disposable. You’re telling me there’s not one camera in that whole mall that wouldn’t have picked up the kids’ antics? Only in Springfield…

Tidbits and Quotes
– I really like the Cyborganizer (“I can streamline any procedure, except this thing you call love,”) and Homer’s bemoaning of how the network retooled it so that he’s a single father.
– Homer getting eye surgery is just another excuse to give Castellaneta’s vocal chords a work out. And to have a truly disgusting shot of his eyes crusting over. [shudder]
– Odd that this season we’ve had the only other two characters Yeardley Smith has played, and since her voice is so distinct, they’re both parallels of Lisa. Here, it’s Lisabella, the mousy librarian turned sexy dance star in Tango De La Muerte. It’s full of lots of great bits and lines (“There is just one dance that will beat them: the Tango de la Muerte.” “Only one man was crazy enough to dance that dance, and he is dead! “My twin brother, Freduardo. But where he died, I shall live… in his apartment.”)
– Great sign gag with the Little Vicki dance school, as the motorized pinky into the cheek continues to bore into the metal sign.
– Vicki’s “tappa-tappa-tappa” schtick starts to grow a bit thin, but it’s saved by this line (“Back when I was your age, I had forty three movies under my belt, and I had to do it without tappa-tappa-tappa! I would’ve killed for tappa-tappa-tappa!”)
– For some reason, Allison and Alex Whitney are in the dance class. More of them just shoving characters wherever they like.
– Now, Bart and Milhouse skip out going to camp to hide out at the mall. Then later the mall owner mentions that it’s President’s Day weekend. …okay. Couldn’t they have made it Memorial Day weekend? That would make it a bit closer.
– It’s silly and obvious, but I love the bit with Wiggum and the ACME anvil (“Gosh, that cheese looks good. Think I could grab it before that anvil hits?” “I don’t know, Chief. It’s a million to one.” “I like those odds!”)
– The mall story really has no end. They bring in a mountain lion for some reason to catch a rat, then Bart and Milhouse dissuade it with some yarn. A string hangs from the lion’s mouth, and Lou assumes it’s the rat’s tail, and that’s the end. …okay?
– Love the violent nature of “dimpling” and how cheerful Vicki is about enforcing it on children (“Now this may hurt a lot! What am I saying, ‘may’?”)
– Me and my friends have quoted “Why walk when we can dance!” many times over, it’s just a wonderfully dumb line for this dumb play. Homer is enthralled though (“Where’s Lisa?” “Shhh! This plot is hard enough to follow as it is.”)
– Homer’s been pretty absent here after the eye surgery thing, so we gotta cram in some Jerkass-ness at the end. First in him trampling over Frink’s attempts to cheer Lisa up, then we close on more Homer screaming after he grabs Frink’s weasel weapon. …that sounded unintentionally sexual, I apologize.

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11 responses to “246. Last Tap Dance in Springfield

  1. One great moment from this is Mexican Milhouse.

    “Que malo, once again I must sugar my own churro”

  2. Agreed. The Mexican Milhouse line is awesome.

    But the rest of this one is junk. I can’t stand the ending and Lil’ Vickie is just overdone. Too much Tress MacNeille here, which is a bad, bad thing. Her characters are all basically the same and so small doses work best.

  3. Eh, I guess they just left the mall eventually. Doesn’t need an ending maybe…?

    I actually thought the crusting-eye thing was about the only memorable part of this episode. Pretty crappy episode.

  4. – “For some reason, Allison and Alex Whitney are in the dance class. More of them just shoving characters wherever they like.”
    It could just be the writers (and/or Scully) trying to say “see, they do show up again!” Also, let’s not forget that Allison was named after two of Mike Scully’s daughters, so she HAS to show up.

  5. Rembrandt Q. Einstein

    – “For some reason, Allison and Alex Whitney are in the dance class. More of them just shoving characters wherever they like.”

    Well, Allison was shown as being better than Lisa at everything in the original episode that she appeared in, so that makes sense. Alex is more of a stretch, but not too much at all, so I don’t really get this complaint. It’s no “Mobsters at a Cheech & Chong show”.

  6. I know it seems like a Jerkass Homer moment, but I liked Homer pointing out that the shoes were in the “ON” position because it feels like a subversion of those kids movies where the kid who is bad at baseball finds the magic baseball glove or bat that makes him win, then loses it, then wins the big game because “it was inside him all along”.

    However, Futurama did it three years later and it inspired a meme.

  7. This is the best Season 11 episode. Cute, funny plots…And as for Lil Vicki? Lets just say I would Tappa Tappa Tappa…:)

  8. While I agree the stupid over the top ending is aa tarnish, there is just a lot I like with this one. Little vicky being wonderfully vial (and really it’s nice to see a character be vile rather than cartoony evil or super nice for a change), some great frink lines, and the hole parody of those dreadful 1940’s dance films, —- oh and “You are now carrying my child!” (the hole mexican dance film was hilarious).

    Even the broadway baby section wasn’t too much of a stretch for me, since I could just see it as total miscommunication, Marge and Homer hear Lisa’s tapping shoes and encourage her, which she read the wrong way and didn’t want to disappoint them.

    Had the ending been about Homer and marge encouraging Lisa whateverr in what she wants or doesn’t want to do, it could’ve been genuinely sweet, —- oh, and again, Homer actually is nice to Lisa! Sound the trumpets!

    Not the best definitely, but more a flawed gem than a total write off I’d say.

  9. “You cannot protect her forever, you stupid lady!”

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