The reaction: Fucking hell, another one of these? We’ve had four Lisa shows over the past five, the first two featuring her being self-righteous and smug, and the latter two being a raging, uncompromising bitch toward her own mother. The writers remember Lisa is supposed to be a sympathetic character, right? The rift occurs when Lisa overhears Marge gab on and on about how much she hates jazz, and she feels hurt over all the times her mother had encouraged her and told her the contrary. We see Homer and Marge bond over their mutual hatred, so between this and Bart ragging on jazz to her sister in select jokes over the past decade or so, it seems the entire family is against Lisa and the musical genre. It just feels weirdly negative of Marge to be so blunt about something she knows Lisa loves so much. So for once, Lisa is actually upset about something for a reason, and Marge arranges a girls trip to hopefully mend fences. In their hotel room, we seem to get a repeat of the last scene from “Pay Pal” where Marge starts crying that she hurt Lisa, and Lisa has an inner monologue explaining what she’s feeling, except this time, she chooses to stay pissy. It’s really hard to pin down exactly what the emotional arc is for this story. After Marge takes her to a terrible musical, Lisa concludes (via inner monologue again) that her taste is terrible and that she’ll have to mother herself from now on. Since when did their mother-daughter bond depend on shared cultural interests? She later gives an interminably long monologue to our helpful guest star toward the end, where she eventually talks herself into forgiving Marge by the time she finishes talking. She mentions how her mom always sees the good in everything and everyone, and that hardly anyone likes jazz, so I guess that’s okay and she hugs Marge. Then we get a musical number from Lisa with a bunch of Broadway references in the background and we wrap this one up. I once again ask, what’s our takeaway? Lisa gets mad that Marge doesn’t like jazz, but then she gets over it, because nobody likes jazz. Okay? I just don’t get it.
Three items of note:
– The B-plot seems to speak to my thoughts about how antiquated elements of this show still live on, as Bart finds that no one is falling for his pranks anymore. Classic stuff like the dollar on a string, the spring-loaded peanut brittle, and that thing where you pour salt in the napkin dispenser (?) What kid in the year 2016 with a smartphone is going to be pulling shit like this? This stuff seems even too softball for 90s Bart; the closest I can think back is when he and Milhouse ran wild in that joke shop in “Lost Our Lisa.” With Marge and Lisa gone, Bart takes to using Maggie in his pranks, and we get a bonding montage with them, set to that music they used in “Treehouse of Horror II” during Bart’s segment. I remember from the commentary that music is a riff on the music used in an old father-son anti-smoking commercial. “Treehouse” used it ironically, seeing as we were seeing all these gags with Bart bonding with his jack-in-the-box father. Meanwhile, this has got to be the third time I’ve heard them use this music over montages sincerely over the past decade-plus. As usual, the show is content to slum in the tired old tropes it used to savagely lampoon.
– Marge looks around Capitol City to find the perfect musical to take Lisa to. She glances over at three different marquees which show song clips from the musicals, and it’s the same joke each time, being musical adaptations of movies with an American Idol contestant in the cast. When she finally lands on Bad News Bears: The Musical, Lisa is weirdly offended (“Is there nothing so beautiful that they won’t keep exploiting until it’s worthless?”) Why would an eight-year-old girl have seen that movie, and why would the non-athletic Lisa even care about it if she had? But immediately after that line, we get the payoff to the joke, with “SIMPSONS SEASON 17 DVDS STILL ON SALE!!!” flashing on the screen. It’s just another example of this show’s self-awareness; as much as I’d like to think otherwise, it’s pretty clear the crew knows how subpar these shows are, and how little they seem to care.
– Andrew Rannells guest voices as the star of Bad News Bears: The Musical, and tags along with Marge and Lisa during their quick and easy emotional reconciliation. The joke with him is that he thinks he’s a bigger star than he is, but no one really cares (“It’s a tourist trap, celebrities don’t actually come in here.” “Until today, right?”) But I think Rannells is a little too unknown for that joke to work. I see he had a recurring role on Girls, but off-Broadway, I don’t think many people know who he is. To remind the audience, he gestures to a series of helpful signs: Andrew Rannells from The Book of Mormon (Not The Fat Guy). Meanwhile, “the fat guy” Josh Gad has been getting a lot of major film roles, and is arguably more well known. Maybe they could have had Rannells be bitter and jealous of Gad’s success, drop a Frozen reference or two… something.
One good line/moment: Despite having just complained about his role on the show, Rannells is very charming, and has a great voice for voice over. He also shoots Lisa down for her heartless bitching, and later digs her when she’s playing the sax (“Hey, that little turd can play!”)