588. Gal of Constant Sorrow

Original airdate: February 21, 2016

The premise:
Bart lets a homeless woman sleep in his closet, and when Lisa finds out she has an incredible singing voice, she arranges an outdoor concert for her to perform.

The reaction: Are you ready for a very special episode? It’d be awful enough if this episode was a cloying and cliched tale of a poor ol’ homeless lady with a great voice that the kids help get on her feet, but the writing is just so goddamn poor that they can’t even do that. Bart accidentally destroys Hettie’s hobo cart, and lets her stay with him. Lisa finds out about it, but her tune changes when she hears her sing, and then she decides she wants to help her. But it’s not about helping to get her back on her feet, find her a job, give her any semblance of a life, it’s to help her put on a concert. I mean, I guess the implication is that once she gets “discovered,” everything will work out for her, but it’s not really framed that way. Through it all, Lisa feels incredibly self-serving, giddily taking ownership at her hand in arranging the concert and seeming pretty full of herself. In a sentimental moment between her and Hettie, she tells her, “You’re having a moment with someone who has so few moments.” You realize you’re talking to a literal homeless woman, right? Lisa’s got a pretty sweet life in comparison. I can’t tell if this is another instance of them using Lisa to make fun of liberals, like paying lip service to social causes but making it all about themselves, but it’s hard to tell, and also I hate when they do that, because Lisa’s a sweet little girl and I don’t like seeing her as a smug asshole. But here comes our twist: in a radio interview, Hettie reveals she’s a drug addict, and Lisa is crestfallen. Hettie ends up missing the concert, and when she finally shows up, Lisa is pissed. “I am never, ever going to forgive you!” Again, she’s speaking to a clearly mentally ill homeless woman with a drug problem. When she initially announced her addiction, you’d think Lisa would have been sympathetic and tried to help or something. Instead, she got upset because she’s made all of this about herself. Why do all these episodes make me hate Lisa? She used to be the most likable character, now for whatever reason, they think it’s funny to make her pretentious and annoying. Sigh.

Three items of note:
– The B-plot involves Homer proving to Marge he can be her handyman by fixing a broken tile, but ends up getting Snowball II lost inside the walls. At the very least, it provides some mild amusement as a break from the horribly boring and awful main story. But as Homer busts into the wall to crawl inside to get the cat, all I could think of was Sweet Dee having the same problem in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and how much funnier it was there.
– Hettie is voiced by Kate McKinnon, and chalk her name up on the giant list of incredibly talented comedians completely wasted in disposable, nothing roles on this show. Her singing voice is done by Natalie Maines; we hear pieces from four different songs in this show, and all of them are pretty terrible. Maines is a great singer, but the songs are just… nothing. They’re partly trying to be funny, I guess, because they’re about being homeless, but nothing that makes you laugh. They’re just annoying filler.
– How this show deals with plot progression is some of the worst I’ve seen yet. To start, Hettie offers to give Bart a dollar a day to live with him, so we get an extremely long montage of him walking into different places to use his newfound wealth set to rap music, like the 98-cent store, not-Yogurtland and the Try-n-Save. It’s over a minute of this, and the joke is played out in the first ten seconds. He’s looking cool on the little airplane machine for small children outside a department store, and Lisa overlooks him through one of those tower viewer binoculars. I don’t know why one of those is set up in a dirty suburb, but how else would Lisa be able to observe what’s happening? But I can almost stomach that, even though it annoyed me. As Lisa gets more invested in Hettie, Bart, apropos of nothing, is worried about her (“I’ve seen you like this before and it ends badly. She is gonna break your heart.”) Why would he say this? Is this them trying to be meta, like all episodes inevitably end with Lisa not succeeding and staying in the status quo? It’s not, this is the most transparent lead-in I’ve ever seen. So we get to the radio interview where Hettie says she loves heroin, and we see Bart and Lisa through the window in the other room, as Bart smugly holds up a sign reading “I WAS RIGHT.” Fuck you. First off, I thought she was worried about her getting hurt, now she’s rubbing it in her face? Second, he’s literally holding up a sign to the audience saying how he feels. We can figure it out by his expression, why the fuck did they need to do this? The dialogue is on the nose enough, with the interviewer asking Hettie about how she’s let down helpful friends and well wishers over the years (JUST LIKE LISA!!) When Hettie leaves the booth, as I mentioned earlier, Lisa asks her to tell her the truth (“Please reassure me, because I am frightened!” That’s a literal piece of dialogue.) So, so fucking terrible.

One good line/moment: As much as I hated the scene itself, I did like McKinnon’s performance as Hettie on the radio nonchalantly mentioning her rampant drug use. It’s more her cadence than the actual dialogue, so quoting it wouldn’t make a difference. It just reminds you that she’s a really gifted comic performer, one who is utterly underutilized here with a shit script.


7 responses to “588. Gal of Constant Sorrow

  1. The first episode I’ve never heard of…doesn’t seem like I missed much

  2. Very sorry I have to remember this episode. This was one that was happily forgotten until now.

  3. Ererrrrrrrrrrrr

    There was also a bit with Homer thinking that Marge doesn’t believe he knows how to fix stuff… because she says “handyman” as “handy man”. It goes on for a ridiculously long time, and serves as 1) another Marge insisting moment and 2) in a way, another Marge guilt tripping scene, so it’s triplely aggressive.

  4. Funny that the point of the next episode is Lisa being arrogant and smug…

  5. I remember this episode. It was meh. Nothing terrible, but nothing great either. In fact, I liked Hettie better when she was named Laurleen.

    Speaking of which, I started watching the series over yesterday from the beginning. I think I’m going to do 1 disc a week until I get through Trash of the Titans.

  6. I work with a bunch of people in a liberal bubble & trust me you’re giving them too much credit, nothing about Lisa’s smug self centeredness is intentional satire. They really are that clueless.

    The liberals of yesteryear were at least aware and open minded enough to lampoon from many sides. But these young writers of today are not self aware at all & totally plugged into the liberal hive mind. Y’know, exactly the type of people who should NOT be writing humorous material

  7. I watched this episode when it came out but I’d completely forgotten about it until now. I recall enjoying the final song though, of course it’s no Monorail Song or anything but I thought it was cute. Meh.

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