Original airdate: April 10, 2011
The premise: Lisa stumbles upon the home of the Great Raymondo, an old jaded magician who begrudgingly agrees to teach her his old tricks. Becoming a magic natural, Lisa learns the secret behind Raymondo’s greatest illusion, only to accidentally reveal it to competitor Cregg Demon, a Criss Angel type.
The reaction: Oh boy, another “Simpson becomes an instant expert” episode. So much of this episode is just Lisa, or other magicians, performing tricks expertly with no mistakes. Where’s the entertainment in that? Lisa goes from doing a coin trick to causing Bart to cough up a giant pair of gardening shears in the same scene, I guess she’s just so smart that she becomes a seasoned professional in less than 24 hours. There’s no tension, no real investment to be had in any of this. Raymondo teaches Lisa his greatest trick, and then the next scene, she does it effortlessly. When Cregg Demon (terrible name) ends up stealing it, like, who cares? Upon performing it, he ends up sabotaged by a cavalcade of other magicians who hate him, which are basically just tick marks for the total guest voice tally at this point: Ricky Jay, David Copperfield, and returning guests Penn & Teller. The joke here is Teller speaking, but the show already did that joke, and much better, before (“I’m gonna kill you!” “He’ll do it! I’m not the first Teller!”) So Demon is drowning in the giant milk can for at least two minutes when four grown men try to attack and kill a little girl before Raymondo thwarts them and ultimately saves Demon. The episode ends with Lisa performing the magic show, and she of course does every trick flawlessly. What fun. There’s also a runner involving Raymondo’s old assistant/lover who’s dead, and the actual ending is him inhaling enough ether that she appears before him and the two dance. Like, what is this? The episode has these moments that are some trite and cliche, and they’re playing 100% straight. Earlier, before revealing his secret trick, Raymondo laments he never had children, but he’s glad he’s found a surrogate in Lisa. It’s such melodramatic schmaltz, and again, with no satire or subversion. The show is perfectly fine just going through these trodden motions and calling it a day. What a snooze fest.
Three items of note:
– I was shocked to find there were no theme song at all at the beginning, a first for this series. “Life on the Fast Lane” and “Sideshow Bob Roberts” went from the logo to the start of the show, but this one just started at the first scene. This is especially surprising given how much useless padding are in these episodes that they couldn’t cut this one to time. But come to find out, it takes three and a half minutes to get Lisa to Raymondo’s house. The opening involves the Simpsons ending up picking too many peaches, and then having to eat nothing but peaches. Certainly we can’t cut this absolutely spellbinding plot from the show. This is born from Homer not realizing that he had to pay for all the fruit they picked. So, why not just leave it there? There’s also padding within the padding with Jack McBrayer as a good ol’ Southern boy singing a song about peaches, that goes on forever and is not funny at all. I love McBrayer, and they just completely wasted him.
– The episode is seemingly gearing up toward Lisa being told the secret behind the milk can escape trick, Raymondo’s greatest feat. So then when she learns it, she decides to make a grand debut of it at… the Springfield Elementary playground. And then she performs it flawlessly. They’re doing the cliche “child meets old person expert, learns stuff” premise, but there’s no intrigue whatsoever because Lisa is shown to be an expert immediately. What’s the point of this story?
– The guest star roll call (a literal roll call, as Lisa names each magician as they appear) is pretty much at its laziest here. Each celebrity gets their isolated lines, all of which are feeble little softball jokes done at their expense. There’s not even any reason for them to be there at all; Cregg Demon could have botched the magic trick himself and gotten himself stuck, the conflict would have been exactly the same then. Maybe the writers all recently went to the Magic Castle in Hollywood and thought they should write a magic episode so they can meet all these people. Keep raising that guest star count!
One good line/moment: I enjoyed Martin Landau as Raymondo, but scanning back through the episode, I’m hard pressed to name any line I thought was particularly funny. Maybe I was just waiting the whole time for him to start screaming about Boris Karloff being a limey cocksucker like he did in Ed Wood.