Original airdate: May 17, 2015
The premise: Lisa convinces Principal Skinner to turn the school into an analog Waldorf school, where students receive a practical, hands-on education. This new direction puts Groundskeeper Willie in higher regard, who is made captain of the mathletes team.
The reaction: I’m not familiar with this philosophy of Waldorf education, so as such, the episode spends about a third of its running time having characters explain what it is and talk about it over and over. After Springfield fails miserably at a mathlete competition, the college nerds from “Homer Goes to College,” now rich app developers and feeling bad for their alumni, agree to pay for Springfield Elementary to go fully digital. Also some of them are dressed like steampunks for some reason, and in one scene, their clothes change between shots. Overuse of devices causes a power surge, leaving the school in even worse shape then normal, and Lisa is inspired by Groundskeeper Willie’s special gardening tool to push the school to embrace a new proactive style of teaching. It’s all very arbitrary, and as usual nowadays, we’re halfway through the show when this “plot” is kicking in. As I said, the show continues on as characters just reiterate the same thing over and over, that kids are learning by example instead of books. With the episode going nowhere fast, Lisa runs in to announce that Willie is now the coach of the math team. I’m not quite sure why she’s excited about all of this; Willie is none too bright, especially academically, surely Lisa wouldn’t be psyched about him in charge. Especially when he randomly makes Bart the team captain for throwing an egg at Chalmers’ car at a perfect angle? Or something? Cut to the rematch with Waverly Hills Elementary, where Bart is stunned that he actually has to do math. Then why make him the captain if you’re going to do nothing with that story point? But look at me talking like there’s actually a structure to this. We end with Willie in a Harry Potter wizard hat and staff for no reason whatsoever and Bart solves the final question because of course he does and they win. What an exciting finale, huh? Each season that goes by, I just can’t believe this show can sink any lower, but here we are. It’s almost fascinating to see. It’s also very aggravating. Why did I continue this blog again?
Three items of note:
– We get a quick ChamSkin Productions card at the end of Springfield Elementary’s video, a reference to the season 19 episode “Any Given Sundance.” I remember it also popping up in an episode a season or two ago. Is this fan service too? Does anyone have fond remembrances of the shitty sub-plot where Skinner and Chalmers tried to be indie movie phonies for no reason?
– The shows feel so fragmentedly written in little ways sometimes. We open with a marquee for the math tournament, with the joke “Good Seats Will Always Be Available.” Pretty alright joke. But as we see at the beginning and at the end, there’s a pretty decent sized crowd in attendance, enough to do another joke with a whole hoard of people holding up letter cards to spell long words. And the tournaments are treated with such severity and seriousness as well, and I don’t fully understand why.
– These stupid “fourth act” tags are so disposable and unnecessary. I guess it’s not necessarily the writers’ fault since it’s how FOX decided to restructure commercial breaks, but it’s so awkward. And because the show was still short, we get a thirty-second bit of the family playing in a jug band, complete with a title card reading “The Simpsons Post Show Jug Band Fills The Time.” The one time the classic era show ended up short, we got the wonderful time filler “Everybody Loves Ned Flanders,” a segment that was funny, actually parodied something, and had a catchy jingle to boot. This transparent, self-admittedly empty filler is just more proof of how little they seem to give a shit about making a good show.
One good line/moment: A new guest couch gag, wherein the Simpsons are horrifically killed by a renegade Rick and Morty. Rick sends his grandson to an alien photocopier to reproduce our favorite family while he fucks around the house in a drunken stupor. As much as it rings as yet another example of the show glomming onto what’s pop culturally relevant for attention, it’s still a fun segment. (“You know how many characters there are on The Simpsons, Morty? There’s like a billion characters! They did an episode where George Bush was their neighbor!”)