(originally aired November 16, 2003)
This show has had its fair share of memorable tunes, but only one episode I could categorically call a musical, “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh!-cious.” Along with “Pearls,” they’re both musical parodies, with their stories and general melodies lifted and modified. The great difference here is contextual adaption. This episode tries to tackle “Evita,” with Lisa subbing for Eva Peron and their rises and falls from positions of power. Now, I have not seen “Evita,” but I know the generalities of the story, that she was a spiritual leader in Argentina, beloved by the people, but scorned by people of government for coming from the lower classes. Lisa, meanwhile, is a social outcast, with little to no friends; what people are going to adore her? She wins the election for student body president via musical number, then next scene Skinner worries about how the students of the school will follow her every word. What? No one has ever given two shits about Lisa in that school, now all of a sudden she’s their savior. It just doesn’t gel well.
Anyway, Skinner is pissed because he’s got an evil scheme brewed up that he feels Lisa will interfere with, so the entire faculty dissuades her with getting her a flashy object and distract her with exclusive privileges like all-access to the study hall. Ultimately, she ends up signing and approving the removal of gym, music and art classes from the school without even knowing it, and when news of this gets out, she’s cut down a peg with her people. The entire faculty, the little of it we have at this school, is shown here, from Lunchlady Doris to Otto, all helping transform Lisa and assist Skinner. But why do these characters care? We’ve seen the entire faculty is as eager for the bell to ring as the students, they don’t want to be there at all. Without those extracurriculars, maybe it means they can get bigger paychecks? It’s just so sporadic, Krabappel is thrilled to get Nelson’s answer key to the real estate license exam (“My ticket to freedom!”) then later she’s helping Skinner with his plot. Next, there was no need for Lisa to sign the agreement of course, it was all just to discredit her in the eyes of the students. But what a backhanded and horrible thing for Skinner and the others to do, to vilify their top student, an innocent little eight-year-old, who barely has any friends to begin with? It really casts a dark shadow over Skinner, a character who has never been completely unfavorable before.
Outraged at her betrayal, Lisa calls for a student strike, one that escalates until the move is made to transfer her to another school, forcing her to leave her people behind. She’s supposedly devastated, but walks off the bus with a smile at Springfield Magnet School, a high-minded, intellectual institution. But then Homer drives up and says she can’t go, as he doesn’t feel like taking the forty-five minute trip to get there. It’s as abrupt as an ending as you can fucking get, and the “Evita” parody just screeches to a halt. Protesting her father about staying at Magnet, she cries, “But this is my dream!” Lisa never cared about her fellow students, she just wanted to go to a better school. That’s why this episode doesn’t work, because the parody doesn’t fit. “D’oh-cious” involved Mary Poppins coming in to make the Simpsons model citizens, and failing. There’s no bit of Homer being Dick Van Dyke and learning to be a better father, since that doesn’t fit; in the end, they acknowledge status quo is God, and they’re happy just as things are. Here, they crammed in the “Evita” stuff even though it didn’t fit the characters. Lisa is never popular and Skinner is not an pure-blood antagonist. It just doesn’t work.
Tidbits and Quotes
– It’s casino night at Springfield Elementary, which of course means another gag about Marge’s gambling. I fucking hate when they do this. In “$pringfield,” the fact that Marge becomes a gambling addict is not presented as funny, it’s everything around it that is. It was treated with a real severity, an uncomfortable issue with an open-ended non-solution. Now it’s just treated as a goof, where Marge going crazy on betting and splashing a drink in Ralph’s face is presented as comedy, instead of just being horrifying.
– Homer’s repeated D’ohs as the wheel spins is rather annoying. In fact, this whole episode he’s basically a humungous moron, prancing around the house with a tutu, making figures on two sets of stamps “make out,” musing about never having married a businessman… the Scully seasons had Jerkass Homer, now we have Braindead Homer.
– I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen Lunchlady Doris since her last appearance after Doris Grau’s death. Thankfully, they kept her silent, until a few seasons later she’d randomly appear with Tress MacNeille attempting her voice. Aside the fact that it’s kind of disrespectful to break her silence, I just think of how completely unnecessary it was. How difficult is it to design a new cafeteria worker? It’s not like she’s a major character, make a new disgruntled employee, have Hank or Tress do a voice and be done with it. Instead they stepped all over poor, poor Doris. But that’s not this episode.
– I do like the Lisa vs. Nelson conceit, that it’s all just a big popularity contest, because that’s exactly how school elections are. And to some extent, general elections. Zing!
– Superintendent Chalmers appears to reside at the school in this show. He’s always there, glued to Skinner’s side. Doesn’t he have other schools to attend to? Also they’re really abusing the “Skinner!!” gag at this point.
– Skinner tricks Lisa into signing his orders, but then she returns wanting to read what she signed. Skinner shuts the door on her. Lisa returns again to complain, then Skinner shuts and locks the door. Lisa opens the door with the skeleton key he gave her and he groans. Scene over. So, wouldn’t Lisa have gotten to read the form and be outraged at that point? At least end your scene properly, guys.
– Why in the holy mother of fuck does Bart care about gym, music and art being cut from the school? And how does he know that Skinner is using Lisa? He’s been absent almost this entire episode, he just kind of shows up and gets a few lines in some songs.
– Willie ripping the art room off the school building is as bad as Homer stealing Flanders’ guest room, but at least he’s hauling it off on a tracker here. With the kiln still running.
– The kids inexplicably have signs made at the protest that just started, Homer and Marge randomly appear at the school, the police show up on the drop of a dime ready to beat children, Michael Moore appears for a worthless cameo… the only thing in the third act I like is the title of Kent Brockman’s news segment “Alphabet Coup.” But the rest sucks. But at least it matches the rest of the episode.