368. My Fair Laddy

(originally aired February 26, 2006)
Previously in “The President Wore Pearls,” the show tried to tackle an Evita parody, but came up short because they weren’t mindful of their characters, just shoving them in this situation to match the musical even when it didn’t make sense. This is another musical parody, and it works a thousand times better because the borrowed story and songs still work within the context of the show and its cast. Taking off of My Fair Lady, Lisa attempts to turn slovenly drunkard Willie into a proper gentleman as her entry into the science fair. Well… that aspect doesn’t entirely make sense, but it doesn’t really matter. When Willie’s shack is destroyed, he stays the night at the Simpsons, and he resolves that he would like to better his lot in life. With some effort, Lisa completely transforms Willie to be completely refined, eventually becoming maitre ‘d at the Gilded Truffle. But like everyone in Springfield, he finds that where he was the happiest was right back where he started, so Willie gives up his proper trimmings for his life in festering squalor.

As I said before, this parody works because it fits the characters: Lisa was shoehorned into the role of Eva Peron, but Willie as Eliza Doolittle makes more sense. The songs are also quite good, and all serve to move the story along. The first one kicks the plot off, then another during Willie’s teachings, then another when he’s completely reformed, and then a final one as he is forlorn for the life he once had. They’re all riffs on songs from My Fair Lady, which helps to make them more memorable, but I definitely think they stand out on their own. Also great is Castellaneta as Willie, giving a heartfelt performance as Willie proper, and also proper Willie, altering his voice to sound more dignified, but still maintaining the character. There are a fair amount of bits that don’t work, and a mostly uninteresting B-plot about Homer’s pants, but this is a pretty good episode, with great music and ultimately a great character study. After “Pearls” and so many other examples, I thought the show had forgotten how to properly do parody, but I guess I was wrong. Though I’m sure it won’t take long to be proven right once again.

Tidbits and Quotes
– We haven’t seen Mrs. Pommelhorst, the gym teacher that often. She dates all the way back to “The PTA Disbands,” unseen but mentioned by the girl stuck on the handlebars (“Hellloo! Mrs. Pommelhorst! I’d like to get down now!”) She was in “Little Girl in the Big Ten,” and I’m sure a couple other ones. But here we start with the big joke: this masculine, tough woman is going to get a sex change and be Mr. Pommelhorst! Hilarious, right? It just feels too obvious.
– Bombardment, bombardment, bombardment… boy, that dodgeball schtick grew old instantly, and it’s the only joke for the first four minutes of the show. And it just feels cruel to a point too, this grown man viciously pummeling children in the face with dodgeballs. They then attempt a Full Metal Jacket parody with Bart brandishing an evil grin holding the iced ball with the teacher screaming, “What is your major malfunction!” That ball could easily have killed him, but I guess I can overlook it since Bart probably isn’t smart enough to have thought that through.
– I like the false start to the first song, showing Willie’s low expectations for life (“All I want is a place somewhere…” [beat] “And?” “That’s it.”)
– Nice flashback of Willie’s father yelling and screaming at him minutes after he’d exited the wound. The reveal was pretty obvious, but it was still funny (“Would you like to cut the cord?” “Let him cut it himself! It’s time he learned life ain’t one big party!”) Baby Willie with his shaggy unibrow is pretty adorable too.
– The bullies enact their own parody of Around the World in Eighty Days. For some reason. Chalk them up as characters the writers have absolutely no clue how to write for anymore.
– “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” has become “What flows from the nose should not get on my clothes.” Willie swinging Bart and Lisa around by their nostrils is a wonderfully gross sequence, and Lisa singing her next line all nasally is pretty great.
– I actually felt for Willie in the episode. The final number “The Shack Where I Lived” leading up until the end I thought were very sweet. The shack is rebuilt with one final touch, a “Home Sweet Home” picture frame Lisa put up. Willie appears touched, but when Lisa leaves, he rips it down in disgust (“I liked it the way it was!”) A sweet ending with an amusing capper to end the episode? I’m shocked how competent most of this show is.

17 thoughts on “368. My Fair Laddy

  1. I remember liking this one but havent seen it repeated in years…… and I’m not going to download season 17 any time soon.

  2. This one was OK, but not great. The songs were the best parts. I also enjoyed Willie penciling “Boink slut” onto his calendar.

    I know this isn’t a popular thing to say on a Simpsons blog, but I found the My Fair Lady parody that Family Guy did to be stronger.

  3. This is it! This is the moment I stopped watching The Simpsons regularly! It’s not that this episode was particularly bad. In fact, as you said, it was decent compared to what came before it. But I distinctly remembered halfway through the episode that I just stopped caring. About the episode, about the characters, about the whole show. It’s a weird place to burn out and I was sure it would have arrived sooner, all things considered. But 16 and a half seasons were where I drew the line apparently.

    1. Same here. At this point I had already started not watching the show regularly, but when i watched this it looked to me like a fan-made episode. Not offensive, but boring and useless, and as you said, i didnt care about anything on the screen.

  4. I remember having a higher opinion of this one than the rest of Season 17, though pretty much everything I didn’t care for is the same stuff you didn’t care for either (I recall absolutely nothing about Homer’s blue pants subplot). There are a few jokes that I genuinely laughed out loud at – one that sticks out in my mind is Mr. Largo somehow having driven the tractor onto the school roof and going “How did I get up here?”

  5. “And it just feels cruel to a point too, this grown man viciously pummeling children in the face with dodgeballs”

    Apparently you missed out on the experience of having a sadistic gym teacher in elementary school. As someone who was subjected to bombardment regularly in my childhood, this bit worked for me.

  6. “We haven’t seen Mrs. Pommelhorst, the gym teacher that often. She dates all the way back to “The PTA Disbands,”.”
    Well Mike, if that is your real name, I believe that her first appearance was in “Moaning Lisa” back in season 1 when Lisa was to sad to play dodge ball.

    Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

  7. You really hope someone get’s fired for a simple blunder HMS? On the show or here? Mike is the only one that runs this blog, as far as I know btw.

    Also, good episode, and great review Mike.

  8. This episode pisses me off allot less than the rest of this season. There isn’t anything crazy or stupid here.

  9. I mentioned Sky 1’s random showing of episodes, I’m surprised to learn this was season 16, I thought it was earlier, but hay sinse 12 it’s been much of a muchness even though this one stands out for me, though probably more because I love the musical parodies.

    The only thing I didn’t like was the quick resolution really why more build up? Skip that stupid long bit with the blue pants commercial and Homer and have say a parody of Prof Higgens song after Eliza has run out on him.

  10. I liked parts of this episode, but then other parts were just so dumb. I really loved the Bombardment stuff at the beginning of the episode. It has become a staple saying of mine. However, they really did drag that bit on for too long, especially when he started doing it to Willy at the restaraunt. Now I’ve never seen Full Metal Jacket, so I can’t talk about the reference to it.

    As for the main story, I thought it was all right. It started out decent but then got dumb by the end. Again, I’ve never seen My Fair Lady, have no intention of doing so since Musicals aren’t really my thing, so I don’t get some of the song parodies. The whole snot on your clothes bit went over my head and sounded like just a lot of random nonsense. Like why would you pick snot on your clothes? Why not something people would actually say?

    Overall, if this episode had only been 10 minutes long, it would have been tolerable. As is, it’s annoying.

    1. Wouldn’t have expected it! A movies lover as you has not seen a masterpiece like Full Metal Jacket?! I am shocked and appalled.

      About this episode, totally agree.

  11. I watched this standalone on Disney+ because I’ve always loved Willie and I read that it was praised as the best episode of season 17. Relative to what I guess? Willie definitely warranted more attention over the years, but this just makes me think how much better a Willie episode would’ve been in season 8 or something. Obviously the writers of the show see him differently, but I’ve always felt he should’ve been an oblivious ladies’ man (this ep shows he just has to clean up a bit and women love him). Different episodes saw way less charismatic characters (Skinner and Edna, Comic Book Guy) get paired up with someone. I think Willie should’ve been given that, and his own episode much, much earlier in the show.

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