Original airdate: February 12, 2012
The premise: Lisa falls for a boy named Nick, who seems to share her cultural and intellectual interests, until for some reason, he doesn’t. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse pull their own Mythbusters-esques experiments on urban legends from the schoolyard.
The reaction: Is this season getting worse? These last few episodes have just been absolutely abysmal, and now we see they can’t even handle a simple childhood romance without bungling it. Lisa has a random run-in with a boy at a restaurant in a self-declarative “meet-cute,” but of course, just because you are self-acknowledging isn’t an excuse for hacky writing. Nick, who I don’t believe gets a name until about halfway through, looks and feels a lot like Colin from the movie, but with even less personality. He constantly makes reference to Hemingway, he wears suits, and speaks and acts like a faux-intellectual thirty-year-old man, so he’s the perfect complement to modern day Lisa: boring, pretentious, unfunny. There’s two major shit elements of this show to discuss, so let’s start with the Nick character. We don’t see a whole lot of him, but for the first two-thirds, he’s Mr. Suave, super cool and collected. But then, apropos of nothing, when Lisa takes him off to a romantic spot, he becomes nervous and unsure of himself. I complain a lot about things happening for no reason, but this has got to be the worst example yet. There is literally no explanation given for this change in personality. They could have easily played it off as this kid talking a big game, but the moment the girl takes any initiative, he becomes super shy. But it’s not even that; the goodbye line they give Nick makes no sense whatsoever (“Lisa, I’m sorry that God gave me this gift of lying to girls… for a little while. I’ll see yah.”) What the fuck does that mean? Whatever. Going from baffling to aggravating is Marge’s behavior in the episode. From moment one we see her incredibly uncomfortable with Lisa liking a boy, because in this show, she’s a co-dependent maniac who can’t let her children be happy. That’s not subtext, it’s just text (“I don’t want you to spend so much time with this boy! If you do, it’ll mean you’re a separate person from me!”) The end of the episode features Marge hellbent on ruining Lisa’s attempt of her first kiss, then when Nick inexplicably leaves, gives her daughter a limp-wristed apology. They then turn it into an incredibly unearned sweet ending; Lisa wanted her kiss under a mulberry tree, because it’s supposed to connect the two people for life, so Marge kisses her forehead. So Marge gets what she wants despite her misguided and hurtful behavior throughout the episode. It’s like “The Food Wife” where her jealousy nearly got Homer killed and she learned nothing. I feel like this, “D’oh-cial Network” and “Rags to Riches” are like a unholy trifecta, three shit episodes in a row.
Three items of note:
– I don’t have much to say about the B-plot. It’s literally just Bart and Milhouse watching Mythbusters on TV (with a different name, but still guest starring the two guys) and recreating it on the playground. I was trying to think, has an episode done something like this before, based a plot around the kids emulating a specific movie or TV show like this? It feels like crappy cross-promotion, because they certainly don’t do anything close to actually parodying Mythbusters at all.
– So many scenes I could bitch about, but there’s one that really stands out, one of the most torturous, laborious jokes in recent memory. We pan past Lard Lad Donuts and the Try-N-Save to this quaint looking French corner cafe. Lisa comments, “This place is great! If I cover my peripheral vision, I feel like I’m in France!” So, we already get the joke. We see all these commercial garbage establishments, and we also see the buildings behind Lisa are in slight disrepair, so we can see it’s a nice restaurant in a crappy, low-class area. But oh no, we can’t quit now, we could milk this for screen time. So we have a POV from Lisa where we see her hands covering the sides of her vision, so she’s staring right at Nick. We then pan left, back to center, right, back to center, left, center, right, center again, as we see violence and vagrancy going on on the side and alleyway of the restaurant. This whole thing is a very, very, very long twenty-five seconds, and wholly unnecessary given we got the joke before the bit even started. So, so fucking terrible.
– The impetus for Lisa to run away for her grand romantic gesture is weird. Inspired by her granddaughter’s love for whatever reason, Grampa tells her the old Greek tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, which Romeo & Juliet was partially based on, about two star-crossed lovers whose parents didn’t approve of their union. One odd note is we see two looming shadows over Lisa and Nick, but they’re of Homer and Flanders. First, it’s weird it’s not Marge, but through the episode, Lisa seems more concerned about Homer making her look foolish, and doesn’t really regard her mother’s horrible attitude much. Also, we never see Nick’s parents; he seemed to be at the restaurant at the beginning all by himself. Is he a pod person? It would make his behavior make a bit more sense. Also, the fantasy sequence depicts the two of them older, like pre-teen age, and seeing them make out at the end felt uncomfortable. Chalk this one up as another example of the writers wanting to write these characters older.
One good line/moment: I’m stretching hard here. I liked the beginning with Homer and Bart at the fun zone, playing games and enjoying each other’s company. I like seeing those two get along in a believable, father-son way.