The premise: In researching the Simpson family tree, Lisa uncovers the diary of a young 19th century girl who wrote of her attempts to free a slave belonging to Mr. Burns’ ancestor. She continues to dig deeper and deeper to find the full story, hoping to find at least one Simpson in history of noble character.
The reaction: This show has forgotten to make jokes in the past, but here, it seems like they weren’t even trying to do comedy, but craft this historical mystery instead. Too bad none of it is interesting or entertaining. And none of it really makes much sense. The episode is about Lisa hoping there will be redemption for her 1860s counterpart, then when she’s discredited by an out-of-character antagonistic Milhouse, she’s gone from the episode. Then all of a sudden it’s 1860s Marge who saves the day, moving with the slave Virgil to Canada. So is 1860s Homer not in the Simpson blood line at all? And did 1860s Marge just up and abandon her daughter, the girl we were supposed to care about the whole show? And did they eventually move back to Springfield after leaving? Who gives a shit. This felt like an extended version of those three-story episodes, except with zero attempts at humor.
Three items of note:
– “The motto of the Simpsons is quit while you’re ahead!” Do the writers include lines like this on purpose?
– It really is stunning how little comedy there was attempted here. I mean, were they so proud of themselves and this historical “drama” they cooked up that they felt it would be worth playing it straight? The scene of 1860s Burns talking down to Lisa to set her straight felt so scathing, with no snarky capper or anything. I think they were really trying to be serious here… but why? WHY?
– Homer randomly forbids Lisa to read on in the diary, and Grampa out of nowhere provides all the necessary information about our story’s conclusion. Why is this? Never explained. Oh, except for a quick off-the-cuff line about Abe being a racist. Funny!
One good line/scene: Once again, a sign gag (Celebrating Black History Month. Coming Soon: March).