380. Jazzy and the Pussycats

(originally aired September 17, 2006)
There’s an odd thing with these new episodes that our characters can succeed or become proficient at something very quickly if the story dictates it. In minutes, Homer can write and release a hit song, Lisa can arrange an entire newsroom to print a town-wide newspaper, and in this show, Bart becomes a complete natural at drumming almost instantaneously. I remember the days of “The Otto Show” where Bart dreamed of being a rock star and got himself a guitar, but gave up when he realized it would be too much work, very kid-like behavior. Here, the drum set is offered to him as a kind of therapy, and he just absentmindedly goes and starts playing it without saying a thing. The premise is basically a rehash of “Smart and Smarter,” where a Simpson sibling usurps an unusually catty and petty Lisa from her wheelhouse. It’s actually very similar, in that like Maggie, Bart goes through the whole show completely ignorant about anything regarding jazz or his sister’s reactions or feelings. The excuse with Maggie is that she’s an infant, but with Bart, I have absolutely no clue what’s wrong with him this show.

The entire first half of the episode is just a dump truck of “fuck you” unloading on a tortured Lisa, which is so much fun to watch. To counteract her sadness, or out of her new blaze attitude, or some other third reason, Lisa takes to adopting unwanted animals, hiding them away in the attic. This leads to Bart getting his arm bitten by a tiger, and he is unable to play anymore. By the third act, I have no fucking clue what to be feeling or why. Should I feel bad that Bart lost his drumming ability? I wasn’t sure why he liked it in the first place, and the episode was never really about him. Lisa doesn’t go back to playing the sax, now she’s wrapped up in trying to get these animals good homes, which I also don’t care about due to how random that story element was. In the end, a benefit concert is held for Bart to get some operation, but he instead vows to use the money to open a wildlife preserve in Lisa’s honor. Did they honestly raise tens of thousands of dollars? Who gave that money? Oh I don’t give a shit, this episode is garbage.

Tidbits and Quotes
– We open with the funeral of Amber, Homer’s Vegas wife, and my only solace is that now hopefully they will never bring her up again. Also makes total sense that they’re holding it in Springfield, a town she visited once where she knew no one. It’s there we get our Bart “prank,” involving paddle balls shooting about the church, lodging down people’s throats before they’re Heimliched out and shot into another person’s throat. It’s handled as clumsily as it sounds.
– Marge labeling every part of the drum as a “joke” is just like Otto rattling off the different radio stations from last episode, just serving to kill time. Also just as egregious is the endless list of comedy jazz names Krusty lists later on. Imagine all the time in the writer’s room it took to come up with all those names… all those hours they’ll never get back. Ever.
– The White Stripes parody, and their guest spot, is somewhat enjoyable, I guess. It’s more of them just taking the idea from the clever music video and not really adding anything to it, but the Stripes chasing down Bart and falling victim to their own gimmick was kind of amusing.
– Homer turns on a white noise machine, which he mentions he bought Marge when her father died, I believe the first time they’ve ever mentioned whether Mr. Bouvier was dead or not. Outside of “The Way We Was” and “Fear of Flying,” we’ve heard and seen nothing of him; I’m surprised the show’s run this long and they’ve never further addressed anything about him.
– Cocky Lisa is not adorable, it’s just annoying, asserting to her brother that he’ll never be as good as her. It’s like when she shrewdly insisted to her amnesia-ridden mother that she was her favorite child.
– Fate repeatedly slapping Lisa in the face is further compounded by Bart not even seeming conscious of what he’s doing or what’s going on; he can’t even pronounce “jazz” and he’s the talk of the town. I guess that’s the gag, but is he some kind of idiot savant retard or something? That’s not Bart.
– “My arm! It hurts where the tiger’s biting it!” I know I must have said it before, but this time I’m serious, this is the worst line of dialogue in this history of the series. And it’s our act break joke. I remember when I first watched it, I was floored, I could not believe what I had just heard. Read it back. Then read it again. That’s supposed to be a joke. I’m flabbergasted.


23 responses to “380. Jazzy and the Pussycats

  1. We open with the funeral of Amber, Homer’s Vegas wife, and my only solace is that now hopefully they will never bring her up again. Also makes total sense that they’re holding it in Springfield, a town she visited once where she knew no one.


    • I’m sure to Al Jean this was a “knowing nod to longtime fans” or something. Al is definitely one of the most confusing people in the world. With Mike, he ran some amazing years — he also wrote some great episodes. In general, he doesn’t annoy me. He seems smart enough, too — but his run as “showrunner” is a trainwreck beyond belief. Meh.

      • Agreed on the showrunner part esp that he’s running (with James L. Brooks) another poll for the couch gag to be used in the season finale (that noone gives a monkeys about.

      • The thing is, the same could be applied to Scully, who wrote the likes of Lisa On Ice back in the classic years, while being responsible for churning out “Homer VS Dignity” and so durin’ his period as showrunner.

        That they stayed TOO DAMN LONG in a position that used to be renewed every 2 years is telling of the decadence too.

        Al Jean’s modern showrunning has lasted more than the classic era. MORE THAN THE CLASSIC ERA. Let that sink in.

  2. I actually remember getting pretty excited about hearing that the White Stripes would be doing a guest spot. I remember Meg saying that she would only do it if the episode weren’t centered around Lisa, but I guess they didn’t tell her that that’s what this episode was.

    I was pretty disappointed to see that they only got one line each, but it did lead to maybe the only funny thing in this show: the usually quiet Meg saying “Let’s kick his ass!”

    • I think Meg did more stuff in this episode than in her entire career, if you ask me.

      Now I don’t hate the White Stripes, but it’s always been clear that Jack was the brains of the operation (an impression that gets reinforced with each new project of his) while Meg was pretty much a living drum machine. Just getting this out of the way.

  3. I’m not big on this episode, but I don’t think it is anywhere near the train wreck you are making it out to be. I think it is pretty pointless though to have the White Stripes guest star just for a drum chase of a song that was already recorded.

  4. While I mostly agree with you that most people don’t just become proficient at a skill/talent at a blink of an eye, I think in general you are either born a drummer or you’re not. Yes, you can LEARN “drumming” but most people who “have it” basically just do have a natural sense of swing and rhythm and feel and indeed can just pick up and play without much work. You can say that about anything, I’m sure (as youtube videos of 3 year olds playing Ygnwie solos will atest to), but with I know some of the laziest, least creative, least conventionally “talented” people in the world, that can rock a drum solo naturally. On the other hand, I know people who can do just about anything musically ASIDE from playing drums. I’m sure Bart spends a lot of time beating on his desk out of boredom to annoy to the teacher so it wouldn’t surprise me he’d have honed his rhythmic skills by now. Lisa was shown to be a natural at the sax, instantly “getting” it and it wasn’t a big deal (maybe because the episode….s were so good), never thought much of it here either. As for Homer writing a hit song, he has been known to break out in song somewhat spontaneously and randomly before and seems to have some natural songwriting talent, but that’s kinda disputable overall I guess.

    I will say, Bart being interested in JAZZ drumming — or jazz in general — completely goes against his character, but, eh.

    In general, I don’t care for the White Stripes but the video for that song is pretty genius, isn’t it? So I didn’t mind a “parody” of it here, though they certainly don’t fit in with the theme of a jazz-drumming episode. Meg actually might be the worst example OF a drummer to use for an episode like this, though… she’s kinda cute.

    I, too, am surprised by the sporadic mention/appearances of Marge’s family aside from the Sisters Bouvier. Her mom appears very little after a certain point (I can remember 2 appearances at the top of my head after “Lady Bouvier’s Lover”), her brother is only mentioned in passing, and her dad might as well not exist. I’ve always felt like the Bouviers were kind of reclusive loners and had a weird mystique to them so maybe it fits. But eh.

    • This might have been asked before but are you planning on reviewing the simpsons 20th annivery 3D on ice special? It might seem pointless to review a documentary but it’s probably the most entertaining Simpsons thing to appear in the zombie years.

      • That explanation is all well and good, except the episode never bothers to address Bart’s inexplicably proficient drumming whatsoever. No one expresses any surprise when Bart sits down and is suddenly a drumming prodigy, and through the whole first part of the show, Bart is mostly mute as he becomes a jazz sensation. He seems to have no interest or knowledge in anything he’s doing; it’s just plain bizarre.

        Yeah, there’d be no point in reviewing the documentary, but I do remember enjoying it. Maybe I’ll watch it at the very end just so I can end this disaster on a high note.

      • Yeah, it is bizarre, but a montage of him failing to drum properly, or practicing his chops, would be pretty boring. The episode’s still pretty boring but I guess it’s safe to assume he honed his skills at some point… I think?

        And yeah I’ve watched the doc 4 times. It holds up pretty well. I don’t like Morgan Spurlock much and most of the info is nothing new but it was paced and edited tightly and cleverly enough that it’s a must for any Simpsons fan. Good way to kill 42 minutes.

    • I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that Julie Kavner found it quite difficult vocally to do Marge’s mother’s voice after a certain point, so the writers haven’t used her much since then. I can’t find a source for this online, though.
      If there’s one character these days in Zombie Simpsons who sounds least like they used to, it’s Marge. She’s getting so hoarse. Poor Julie – it sounds painful for her!

  5. Where are you guys getting the documentary from? It has never been released on video.

  6. “My arm! It hurts where the tiger’s biting it!”

    I think they were trying to channel “Bad bees! Bad! Ow! OWWWW! They’re defending themselves somehow!”

    Obviously a complete failure on all counts

  7. hmm, or maybe: “the bee bit my bottom, now my bottom’s big”

    Homer doesn’t have the best of luck with bees.

  8. My brain! This episode’s killing it!

  9. It’s not really an original gag, but I did like the bit where Homer tries to drown out Bart’s drumming with even more noise, and then shouting to Marge to sleep tight.

    But really, this part of the plot was done -decades- earlier in “I Love Lucy” when little Ricky was learning to play the drums and banged out a simple rhythm day and night, to the point where Lucy and Ricky were doing daily motions to the beat of the drums.

  10. actually it kinda makes sense for her to be buried in Springfield

    wasn’t she married to Grandpa?

    oh wait, fuck that storyline and everything else with the vegas wives

  11. And Bart’s “not smoking reefer?”


    man, fuck this shit

  12. Kaiju no Kami

    Just like the last episode, I don’t agree with a lot of what you said. It’s not perfect, but I find myself laughing a lot during it. I have no idea what this White Stripes video you are talking about is, but I liked the animation in the scene with them.

    I actually had no problem with Bart just knowing how to drum. It needed to happen for the plot to work. I see nothing wrong with that. Sure, he might have given up on the guitar, but that required him to learn how to play it. The drums just requires him to smack sticks against circles. We’ve seen him beat his pencil against a desk before, so it isn’t too hard to believe he could do drums.

    Now I do agree with how selfish Lisa was and the whole animal plot. That was just dumb. I also don’t see why they needed to use the Reservoir Dogs opening for it. Still, I get a laugh out of the scene when she ended up collecting a blind man’s dog.

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