(originally aired February 17, 2002)
If you’re going to do an episode featuring a one-off romance, you need two important things: your love interest to be a distinct and interesting character, and for the relationship to have some kind of deeper purpose. Jessica Lovejoy was the devious daughter of the minister, the bad girl Bart was head over heels over, until he realized she was maybe too hardcore even for him. A prototypical Ralph was this sweet, naive, somewhat dim kid who attached himself to Lisa, while she had to figure out how to let him down gently. These stories not only feature entertaining characters and situations, but also because they involve kids, they are believable grade school stories. This episode is the first of many future “Bart-gets-a-celebrity-voiced-girlfriend” shows, and like the others, it features none of those three things. At least I can say this episode isn’t as bad as the others this season; nothing here genuinely infuriated me, I was more bored than anything.
So the girl here is Greta, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, daughter of Rainier Wolfcastle. Right there you’d think there would be some interesting connection between father and daughter, or that it play into the story, but no. Greta has no real discernible characteristics other than she’s sweet. That’s it. She’s just a sweet girl who’s head over heels with Bart. The plot, I guess, is that Bart is too naive to notice that this girl is falling for him, and when Lisa alerts him to this fact, he decides he has to break up with her. Then he’s shocked to find she’s then dating Milhouse, and realizes he may have made a huge mistake. Now moving on to my next point, that the writers seem to have forgotten that Bart is ten years old. When he talks about letting Greta go and that he may have lost “the one,” it just feels so, so strange. When you’re a kid, you don’t think of relationships like that; your “girlfriend” is just this girl you hang out with and occasionally you kiss. I guess the joke is supposed to be they’re treating it more seriously, but it just doesn’t feel right at all. Later iterations of those show would involve Bart and a pregnant girl, an arranged marriage, and other stories better suited for a teenager than a kid.
When Bart finds out Greta is going with Milhouse to Canada on her father’s new film shoot, he is destined to go after her to win her back. So, the Simpsons are going to Canada! Just like that. Here’s what drives me nuts, when the show covers a stupid bullshit plot turn with a stupid bullshit joke. The family has no reason to pick up and rush to Canada so Bart can get his stupid girlfriend back. Maybe he could have conned Homer into driving him there; that I would buy. But not Marge and Lisa, there’s no way that this could work. So here’s the dialogue with Bart and Marge: (“This is for love, Dad. Someday, you’ll feel what I feel.” “It’s only fair. We went to Europe when Lisa lost her balloon.”) Brilliant. That’s how they hand-wave it. Again, if the writers could care less if this shit makes sense, then why should I? So we get a quick Canada montage, Bart and Milhouse fight, Greta breaks up with both of them, then the boys join the Canadian basketball team. Another crappy episode in the can. This episode’s greatest sin is being the predecessor to the aforementioned future Bart-girlfriend episodes, but on the whole it’s just very bland and inoffensive. Which is exactly what I want to think of what I think Simpsons.
Tidbits and Quotes
– More lazy, lazy writing. We start off with Homer being chased by a helicopter; he’s stolen the Olympic torch because he’s sick of his favorite shows getting pre-empted. Not a terrible conceit, but it still makes no sense. So after killing a minute and a half, we get this from Homer: “I’m bored. ……hey, a fair!” It’s as if he’s the writers, jumping from set piece to set piece, never focusing on one thing.
– At the Springfield prep school, we get more of characters just appearing in places they don’t belong. What’s Lenny and Carl doing there? And Flanders? And with him, we get another motherfucking joke where Homer moans loudly at the idea of the less fortunate getting money. Why do the writers think this is so goddamn funny?
– Rather than listen to Lisa’s request the school apply for a bond issue (which makes total sense for an eight-year-old to know), Skinner opts to just take off with as much stuff as he can swipe from the prep school (“Principal Skinner, you’re just stealing.” “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America.”) OHHHH!! SICK BURN! SO EDGEEEEEEEEE!!
– Wolfgang Puck is at the prep school too. That’s it. Another worthless celebrity cameo out of the way…
– I like Homer’s adivce Bart gives about women (“Don’t give them nicknames like ‘Jumbo’ or ‘Boxcar,’ and always get receipts. Makes you look like a business guy.”)
– Though I feel they didn’t do nearly enough with him, Rainier’s got some great lines here (“Bart, your little tie makes me smile.” “Laughing time is over.” “Remember when I said I’d eat you last? I lied.”) Instead of developing his relationship with Greta and the boy she likes, we get a scene where Homer carts him to the bar with his new “best friend,” which has nothing to do with the main story and does nothing but kill time.
– Skinner tries out stand-up comedy at Floppy’s. This whole scene is awful. First, Krusty is the emcee. Why is Krusty, a world-renown celebrity, hosting open-mike night at a shitty dive? It’s not like he gives any jokes, he just plays off Captain McAllister and introduces Skinner. It could have been anyone. But it’s just more cramming in familiar faces for the audience. Second, Skinner is doing bad comedy, except it’s not funny to us. It’s not like Krusty bombing in “Last Temptation of Krust,” it’s just Skinner being pathetic and sad. But I guess the writers though it was a hoot, because we cut back to him on stage again at the very end. I guess they were trying to do a Seinfeld thing. Whatever.
– I kind of like the montage of Bart stalking Greta and Milhouse. The two lovebirds get caricatured on the boardwalk, and Bart gets caricatured creepily staring at them from behind a trash can.
– This is a really small moment, but it just really bugged me. On set of Rainier’s movie, he picks up an actor and impales him through another actor. This is all one take, it’s not like we’re seeing his done with dummy actors or visual effects. This is just him shoving one person right through another guy’s gut. It’s almost like they forgot they were in the context of a movie shoot, and just wrote a scene from an actual McBain movie, and figured fuck it, it works fine. I dunno.