(originally aired March 4, 2007)
A musical episode… maybe? It’s a show that seems to be cut from similar cloth as “The President Wore Pearls,” in that it’s about self-righteous li’l Lisa fighting for an education related cause, and Skinner and Chalmers are inexplicably made villains who want to dissuade the hopes of the only student keeping their school accredited. The catalysts of the plot are Cletus’ children, who have been kept out of Springfield Elementary to prevent their grade point average from sinking to dire levels. Lisa is outraged, natch, and to get her off his back, Skinner suggests that she tutor them. I hesitate calling this show a musical because there’s not many songs, and half-way through the format’s fourth wall is shattered. Lisa shows the kids the wondrous culture scene Springfield apparently has, through song, a big music number that apparently happened in universe, as it wows Krusty enough to get them on his show. So these kids have musical talent, apparently, and Krusty exploits them as Cletus reaps in all the cash. Then Lisa gets Brandine back from Iraq and the episode’s over. I don’t get two shits about Cletus’ kids, so what’s to care about?
There’s an egregious B-story here too, where Bart ends up at an outside psychologist after another of his self-serving pranks. However, Dr. Swanson is surprisingly effective, getting Bart to lower his guard through video games and foul Mad Libs to get him to admit his problems. And of course they all involve what a shitty father Homer is. After the school-mandated sessions are up, he finds himself crest-fallen, completely miserable and depressed about not being in therapy anymore. It’s really kind of disturbing. Seeing this, Marge pays for one more session, where Bart finally expels his true feelings: his parents fight all the time because they had him at such a young age, so he pulls pranks and gets in trouble so they can yell at him instead of each other. There’s this truly sour air that hangs over a lot of these new episodes, caused by a multitude of reasons, but one big one is the current dysfunctional nature of the Simpson family. At one time they were a relatively close, loving family who had their squabbles, but always looked out for each other. Now, Homer and Marge’s marriage is held together by a thread due to his asshole nature, and Bart and Lisa are walking basket cases because of it. It makes for a fun viewing experience when you’re deeply concerned and worried for your characters’ well-beings, and the show treats it in as callous a manner as possible. Once more, another garbage episode to chuck on the pile…
Tidbits and Quotes
– We start the show with Marge dreaming about James Patterson, who I guess got to the recording studio too late to get into “Moe’N’a Lisa,” so they shoved him in here. It’s so lame, and only reminds me of the days of old with her dreams of Lee Majors and Jack Nicklaus.
– I actually enjoyed the first part of the show with Bart’s prank. It felt very in-character, and I like the art shift with the Dark Stanley story, all monochromatic and cross-hatched, as well as Alf Clausen’s string theme for it.
– Cletus’ kids’ names: Whitney, Jitney, Dubya, Incest, Crystal Meth, International Harvester, and Birthday. I guess, this is funny? Why do they think this is funny?
– The show’s Grand Theft Auto surrogate, Death Kill City, is on-the-nose, but nowhere near Mapple or Funtendo Zii levels. The end of the game footage was slightly amusing (“You have destroyed all human life on Earth. Level one complete!”)
– More great gags: on every bill in his wallet, Homer’s given the President’s heads eyelashes and lipstick, with a word balloon reading, “I am Gay.” And look, another gay slander! What’s the tally at now, nine?
– Here’s what aggravates me the most about this episode. Krusty exploits the kids on his show, making them perform a music number where they’re depicted as brainless hicks. So it’s meant to be Krusty is caricaturing and denigrating them for being yokels… except everything in their song feels like a joke the show would normally make involving Cletus and Brandine. Cut to Lisa watching on TV, outraged (“This show just perpetuates the stereotype that all yokels are hicks!”) Yeah, the line itself is sort of a gag, but the thrust of the episode is still about Lisa getting Krusty to stop mocking the kids. Meanwhile the episode ends with Cletus believing his wife was in Iraq stopping 9/11, and that she sold his make-shift body armor for cigarettes. And naturally, future episodes will depict the two as ignorant and slack-jawed as ever, making the “message” of this show, if I can even call it that, completely invalid.
– More celebrities are burned through: Meg Ryan is Dr. Swanson, in a basically nothing role that Pamela Hayden could have done just fine. Stephen Sondheim appears to have his name said out-loud and his ass kissed (“Complex harmonies… intricate lyrics… pithy observations on modern life…”), and Andy Dick and Peter Bogdanovich (who?!) appear to say one line. Way to give your guest stars meaningful parts, guys!