(originally aired May 8, 2005)
Beyond some psychopathic Homer characterization and its dull-as-dishwater premise, this is actually a pretty nice Homer-Lisa show. Its trappings are kind of odd, but I found I could forgive most of it as the core of the story was so sweet. Through an ultimately inconsequential opening, we learn Lisa has a pretty good singing voice, and when Krusty announces he’s holding a “Li’l Starmaker” competition, the family urges her to compete. She ends up high in the running, with Homer as her coach and song writer, which is logical considering his history with the BeSharps. The competition is clearly an American Idol knock-off, which they openly joke about, because the rule now is that if you steal an idea, just admit you did and it will be funny. The fact that it’s being held by the hacktacular Krusty saves it a bit though, even though I’m not sure why he’d hold a competition like this. Idol winner Fantasia Barrino guest stars as Lisa’s top competitor… except not really. Her fantastic rendition of the song Lisa sang earlier ends our first act, making it seem like she’d be a big part of the plot, except she’s not at all. She sings that song, then we don’t see her again until she’s eliminated from the top three.
Homer becomes a ruthless stage dad during Lisa’s tenure on the show, but there’s not much reason to it. He just straight out attacks people without engaging in a dialogue with them, culminating in him strangled Pimply Faced Teen in front of his family, threatening to kill him. He’s a ruthless sadistic maniac, but only made slightly less bothersome that his motivations in wanting to help Lisa are pure. The third act focuses on the rift created between the two of them. Homer has now agreed to coach Lisa’s competition Cameron, a petty, childish move from Jerkass Homer, but surprisingly we see glimpses of how broken Homer is. The scene where he sheepishly gives his daughter advice on stage while rehearsing with Cameron is unusually touching; his timidness there compared to his insane rage earlier is so stark, but for some reason it works for me. For the finale, Lisa sings a sentimental song for her father, then Homer reveals he’s sabotaged Cameron with a ballad insulting the audience, much to Lisa’s delight. Despite some weird elements, this has got to be the most emotional episode I’ve seen a good while. Two good episodes in a row? What is this madness?
Tidbits and Quotes
– Not a fan of how casually the Simpsons react and do nothing to Apu being robbed at gunpoint. Then they frequent Cletus’ vegetable stand right by the curb. I feel like if they were going that far, they should have went all out and had a gunshot and a body hitting the floor, while the family continues to do nothing. Then later we see Apu and Snake during Fantasia’s song, and he could have bandages on his abdomen and they hug. Also, Cletus and Brandine are so unfunny at this point. Every time they show up, I know what the joke is. He holds up that burlap sack, I knew there were going to be babies in it. In the “Snitch” show, during the Shelbyville musical with the bum Springfield caricature, Lisa comments that it makes Springfieldians look like hicks. Who do we pan to? Cletus and Brandine. It’s all become so obvious now.
– The winner of the competition gets animated into an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. Lisa dreams of what that would be like, and wouldn’t you know it, she complains about animal cruelty and promotes PETA! Again, these set-ups make it easy to predict jokes.
– The girl.. .what’s her name… who cares, Fantasia is supposed to be like ten, but she sounds like an adult. They couldn’t have raised the pitch up a little in post or something? It doesn’t matter, this all just smells of FOX cross-promotion anyway. But it’s nowhere near as egregious as later on when they actually do American Idol and have all the judges on, including Ryan fucking Seacrest. I’m happy to say I’ve never seen that episode. Very happy.
– It’s bothersome how insane Homer acts, but it’s one of those things where it’s so over-the-top and ridiculous, I don’t really hate it completely. Plus the jokes along with it are pretty good (“You don’t need to help me by humiliating people!” “Oh-ho-ho! You love sausage, but you hate to see it getting made!” “I don’t love sausage!” “Then would you like to see it getting made?”) Then later when everyone gets out of the car and hoofs it, Homer screams like a maniac, “Wait, come back! I’m calming down!!!” and drives off with the doors flapping open. Then we cut back to the house and the doors are still open. It’s bipolar Homer, but it still permeates as funny to me.
– Lisa’s song at the end is really touching, and then Cameron’s is wonderful as well, an incredibly pompous, fuck-you to the audience, “Privileged Boy” (“Then I’ll go to Yale, because I am a legacy! I’m better than you!”)