Original airdate: November 20, 2011
The premise: Lisa is shocked to find her favorite YA book series was actually a collaborative writing effort to rake in as much money from kids as possible through calculated market research. While she is determined to write a novel all on her own, Homer and Bart decide to form their own team to get in on this seemingly easy money scheme.
The reaction: This was a very strange one. Similar to last episode, the show tries to be topical way too late in tackling the YA fantasy novel trend. We had a Twilight “parody” in the last Halloween episode, and that was too late too (South Park once again beats this show to the punch, with their vampire episode airing a month after the first Twilight hit theaters). But the show isn’t really about skewering tropes of this type of fiction. Sure, it seems to be about that, with the whole conceit of the show being that these books are carefully crafted and manufactured to hit as many buttons with young readers as possible, but the story doesn’t really go much further than just say what the tropes are and leave it at that. When the group gets together to brainstorm their story, the sequence is just like someone reading TV Tropes, but not actually doing any commentary on it. Speaking of the group, Homer and Bart band together a team to write their book in the show’s tribute to the Ocean’s movies, the third of which released in theaters four years prior to this episode. I guess they thought it was really funny when Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright did their cool back-and-forth repartee like from the movies, but in the world of the show, it’s just confusing. Oh boy, they keep referring to a botched job in Kansas City! That’s a reference I understand! They do it like three times, but in-universe, what the fuck does that even mean? The two of them talk about the specifics of the “job” as if they’re seasoned professionals. Are they play-acting? Whatever. The ending involves them breaking into the publisher’s office to save their book; when we get to a montage of them all effortless sneaking in, thwarting guards and such, and they use that Ocean’s music for the tenth time, I just shook my head. I feel like an asshole complaining about the same stuff over and over again, but this shit isn’t The Simpsons. The absurd but relatable experiences of a normal American family have been replaced with ridiculous and nonsensical farces like this. What’s the point of this episode? What are we supposed to gain, other than the writers like those Ocean’s movies? I haven’t a clue.
Three items of note:
– Lisa’s role in this story is very frustrating. The plot kicks off when she discovers the author of the Harry Po… Angelica Button books is a fake, they just used her likeness and made up a story for a fake author to help sell the book. I guess I’m really not sure what this whole conspiracy operation is supposed to be a commentary on. Like, J.K. Rowling was living in poverty and submitted her books to publishers hundreds of times before it got accepted, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the book’s success. I just don’t get why Lisa is so upset about how supposedly this ruins the integrity of “real” authors. And then she just decides to write her own story, for no real reason. Then it becomes what feels like an inside joke from the writers on how Lisa continuously procrastinates and thinks highly of herself for being a writer, despite doing nothing. She ultimately comes across as annoying. By the end when she double-crosses the team, and then double-double-crosses them, I really didn’t care either way.
– Neil Gaiman guest stars in a pretty prominent role, working as the team’s errand boy, for some reason. Something I always love when they give a role to a celebrity who’s not super well-known to the public, a character will just list their credits. Here, it’s done twice: Moe rattles off three of his biggest books, and then we see a standee of him in the book store with nine or so of his books on the rack. As bizarre and dumb as his role was, he was really the one good part of this; some of his lines were kind of amusing, and you could tell he was pretty tickled to be doing this.
– The team succeeds in their heist and they get a million dollars. A million dollars. But in the end, they’re devastated that the publisher rewrote their book to be more commercial. We get a long minute of them expressing their disappointment, and then, in case it wasn’t clear enough, Neil Gaiman spells everything out in case you didn’t get it. This show is just endless tell, not show. It’s like the Robot Devil quote (“You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!”) And in the end, they never stick it to the publisher. The real book gets released and is a big hit, so the publisher rakes in the dough either way. So what was the point?
One good line/moment: Definitely Neil Gaiman trying to do an American accent (“Cheeseburgers! French fries! I’m all over that, pal!”)