Original airdate: October 10, 2010
The premise: Attempting to bolster her extracurricular resume, Lisa becomes the manager of Bart’s little league team, despite knowing nothing about baseball. However, when she latches onto the statistics and probabilities linked to the sport, she leads the team in an incredible winning streak.
The reaction: Wow, three Lisa shows in a row? We start with a recent Yale graduate returning to Springfield Elementary to admonish Lisa, an eight-year-old child, for not having more extracurricular activities. It’s the same thing as Declan Desmond in that astronomy episode. It skirts close to a point about more and more pressure being put on children and their parents to load up earlier and earlier to impress colleges, but it barely comes close to that point. The episode is all about Lisa delving into the science behind the game, utilizing probability to determine the outcome of plays, which is an incredibly interesting concept, but as usual with this show, it isn’t really delved into, it’s just briefly explained, and then we jump into a montage of them winning every game as Lisa cracks open book after book. A rift is created when Lisa becomes a hardass stickler to her system and kicks Bart off the team for disobeying her play, despite him hitting a home run. In a pitch during the final game, Lisa pleads Bart to return, who disobeys her demands again as Bart attempt to run all the bases, and ends up losing the game. But the crowd was swept up in the excitement of the moment, swaying Lisa as well. It’s all so… boring. Everything about the ending is so stretched and laboriously spelled out, I guess because there’s barely any material here to begin with. The last two episodes featured Lisa stories that felt extremely rushed because of the presence of a B-story, but here with one plot taking sole focus, the story still feels so thin.
Three items of note:
– There are very few things I’m aware of about all these episodes I’m about to endure; the only stuff I remember is anything that made some modicum of news. In this case, it’s the couch gag conceived by Banksy, where we see the hellish working mines where nondescript Asian children are painting Simpsons cells and making Simpsons merchandise. It’s pretty dull and boring, which would be okay if it actually was communicating a point that the show itself hadn’t already done twenty years ago. Remember Kent Brockman reporting on the production of the Itchy & Scratchy movie? Yeah, me too. Hell, The Critic already made this exact joke twenty years ago too, and it was quicker, more scathing, and funnier.
– In the middle of the episode during Bart and Lisa’s feud, we find Homer and Marge picking sides in their argument. They’ve barely been present in the episode, and I thought this would develop to something, but it pretty much different. We also get a bizarre bit where we cut back and forth between the two glaring at each other down the dining room table: Marge mad, Homer mad, Marge mad, Homer asleep, Marge mad, Homer mad. Like, we don’t see him wake up or anything, she doesn’t get more angry at him passing out at her. It felt like weird padding.
– This episode is full of watered down bits from previous episodes. Lisa’s initial indigence about not being accepted as the new coach because she’s a girl rings of her attempt to join the football team in “Bart Star.” In that episode, her character was on the precipice of the indignant liberal mouthpiece she would eventually become, but it’s clear her intention was to shake up the “system” rather than play the game, but when she finds that not only is coach Ned Flanders is open to her joining, but she’s not the only girl player, she sheepishly leaves. Here, Lisa’s smugness is only deflated when she realizes the names of past female baseball managers are actually of men, a belabored joke that takes two times too long to tell. We also get Bart and Lisa doing the coach signaling thing, which is nowhere near as hilarious or memorable as Burns from “Homer at the Bat.” Speaking of, we get the return of Mike Scioscia as a guest, creating a greatest example of the stark difference in how the show treats celebrities. Nineteen years prior, Scioscia’s undying work ethic got him laid in a hospital bed with radiation poisoning. Here, he gives Bart a pep talk on a roller coaster while showing off his World Series rings. Which sounds funnier to you?
One good line/moment: Any time we’re on the baseball field, the announcer is always Harry Shearer doing his Vin Scully voice, and while of course the quality of writing has gone down, there are still a few good lines in there from him (“Bart Simpson on deck, his bat’s just hungering for a Homer, like Chronos for his children. Speaking of ‘Homer,’ Bart’s father’s name is, you guessed it, not on my fact’s sheet.”)