Original airdate: December 15, 2013
The premise: When Springfield is overrun by tourists seeking the only town in America having a white Christmas, Marge looks to make some extra cash for the holidays by renting out the house. Meanwhile, Lisa attempts to buck the crass commercialism of the season by getting gifts from the heart.
The reaction: Another one of those episodes with no real plot or conflict; it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens. A flurry of out-of-towners causes all the local stores to inflate their prices, which worries Marge. But opening her house up to paying tourists will give her the dough to have a merry Christmas. That’s her motivation for doing it. Does we see her do anything with the money? Nope. Not at all. The house guests, none of whom are characterized whatsoever, are just a bunch of nags. She ends up having a minor blowup at them, then she apologizes before they all leave. And that’s it. Midway through the show, that story kinda gets nudged aside as we see Lovejoy perform a stirring Christmas sermon, inspiring Lisa to buy gifts for her family that actually mean something. Or something. What eight-year-old goes out by herself to buy presents? So she gets Bart the book Treasure Island, which he is incensed by (“You’re smart! Why would you give me a book?”) Giving Homer a bunch of radish seeds and Maggie a kit to wean her off her pacifier, Lisa’s plan is not so much to reject commercialism, but to just buy gifts to try to help her family be who she wants them to be. But in the specific case of her brother, why in the world would she think that Bart would react any differently? The conclusion to this story is that Lisa gets Bart a tablet instead, which you can use to read book, as well as play with stupid apps. Which of these do you think Bart will spend 99.9% of his time? I’d say this feels like a bunch of Christmas skits, but it really doesn’t. It’s so hard to tell nowadays when a plot starts, where it’s going, or even when it’s over. Nothing feels like it means anything. Merry Christmas everyone!
Three items of note:
– That Lovejoy scene is just horrible. He stresses out about writing the perfect sermon to wow the out-of-towners, has a stroke of inspiration, and then we go to his big performance. At this point, I thought this was going to turn into a show about him, but I guess it didn’t. Instead, he just delivers a very generic speech about the season being about love and generosity, with repeated cuts to the crowd murmuring and shouting what they’re feeling (“You’re losing us!” “Wow! What a showman!”) There’s no reason the crowd should have that big of a reaction. It’s like watching a show featuring a stand-up comic, and everyone’s laughing, but you have no idea what the fuck they’re cackling at.
– They give a joke to Marge where she gets irrationally agitated when people get to the second verse and they get too religious-y for her. They even end the episode on it; her family and the house guests are having a good time singing as she blocks it out with blender noises. I get the joke they’re going for, but it seems very weird coming out of Marge.
– There’s a sequence where a kid’s playing a video game that ends with a homicidal snowman slashing away at a rack of Christmas videos. Each time he cuts, two or three videos fly at the screen, hold for two seconds, and then go away. This happens ten times. Ten. What an insane exercise in excess. I’m sure some of those were kind of amusing, but they went by so quickly, I couldn’t read any of them. I understand these are freeze-frame gags, but I should have enough time to read at least some of them. The best counterexample I could think of is whenever the family goes to the movies, we see the marquee; there might be eight titles listed, but it’s up long enough that you can read two or three, thus motivating you to pause to go back and read the others. With these tapes, they move in place and leave screen so quick, I just can’t register the jokes that quickly.
One good line/moment: We see a montage of out of state license plates over the end credits that are kind of amusing. The only thing this show seems to semi-consistently excel at are one-off sign gags.