The premise: When Llewellyn Sinclair is pushed out of directing the latest production at the Springfield Playhouse, Marge takes up the directors chair, putting on a Hamilton inspired musical about Jebediah Springfield, written by Lisa.
The reaction: Twenty-six years after “A Streetcar Named Marge,” one of the greatest episodes of the show, Jeff Martin (and his wife) have written this episode, not exactly a sequel, more like what would have happened if “Streetcar” were pitched and written today, made all the more depressing that it’s the exact same writer behind it. We start with the latest appearance of Llewellyn Sinclair, overbearingly directing his cast through their upcoming performance of Oklahoma! Eventually, the Springfield players get fed up and force him out, leaving Marge to fill the vacuum as director for some reason, leading her to direct a brand new musical written by her eight-year-old daughter, and later signs a contract with Krusty to air the musical live nationwide. So, yeah, “Streetcar” featured our favorite Springfield denizens as plucky small town folk thinking it’d be fun to act in a musical, willing to put up with an irrational, heated director to have a bit of excitement in their lives on the big stage. Marge herself was one such starry eyed optimist, thinking acting in the play would be an exciting escape from her mind-numbing home life. As usual, the situation itself was very normal and believable, surrounded by absurdist elements (the Streetcar play itself, which we’ll get to…) Marge’s journey in this episode is hard to pin down. She’s initially nervous about being a first-time director, which is mentioned again and again. This implies she’ll direct more, and that this is some kind of passion of her’s (???) As usual with Simpson-becomes-instant-success stories, we never see them doing any actual work. After her first day, Krusty finds Sideshow Mel rehearsing his lines, and decides to just buy Marge’s play outright, so we immediately cut to the negotiation, with Marge sitting with shades and a purple power suit smiling vacuously. The play itself is a Jebediah Springfield biopic musical in the style of Hamilton which is not only written by Lisa, but rewritten on the spot live when the venue floods. The songs suck and aren’t funny. We hear barely two songs from the musical, compared to snippets of five we get of “Streetcar,” but I don’t even feel I should bother cross-referencing these two because it’s not even fair. Making a musical out of A Streetcar Named Desire is one of the cleverest, more ingeniously executed ideas the show had ever done; the concept itself was a great joke, and the songs were all absolutely stellar, humorously written and performed. Speaking of, it was a joke in itself hearing the likes of Wiggum, Apu and Marge singing these songs, these goofy cartoon voices giving earnest performances. Here, the gag is that Professor Frink has Josh Groban’s singing voice, so it’s just a talented singer doing these songs perfectly… so boring. The episode ends with Krusty telling Marge the live show got huge ratings, and her winning an award. Who gives a shit? Really, what does it matter that the show was a hit? I don’t even know why Marge cared about to begin with. “Streetcar,” of course, was never really about the show, but Marge feeling unappreciated by her husband, and Homer realizing that in the end and expressing it to her. As ridiculous and insane as the show got in the classic years, it always came down to the believable emotions and internal struggles of our favorite family. In episodes like these, I don’t know what I’m supposed to relate to.
Three items of note:
– There’s a subplot (I use the term charitably) where Homer stumbles upon an incredibly popular Daddy-And-Me class, filled with horny fathers who only go to ogle the hot, young instructor. Homer initially is naive about what’s going on, but quickly he becomes just as openly pervy as everyone else, spending the rest of the show fantasizing about the instructor, one of which is interrupted by Marge in bed, who thinks he’s such a great father for going to those classes. In the end, the classes are cancelled when the instructor makes her choice of which father she wants to fuck, and then that’s it. Do I even need to further discuss how fucked this all is? Remember when I tried to defend “Bart vs. Itchy & Scratchy” for being somewhat progressive in its gender politics? Never mind, I guess. Instead of making Homer completely oblivious to obvious outside temptation, like “Colonel Homer,” or making the instructor not a total dumb dumb bimbo, the show just plays it out like Homer’s Kevin James from King of Queens or something. The icing on the shit sundae is they have a “sweet” cap on the story where Homer realizes Maggie liked hanging out with him for all the classes. How nice. And Homer’s favorite part was undressing the twenty-something piece of ass with his eyes and dreaming about her when in bed with his wife. C o o l.
– After he’s outsed, Llwellyn Sinclair appears a few times throughout, first begging Marge to let him back into her production, and then later to poach her star player Sideshow Mel for his own new show. But it really doesn’t mean anything, since all we saw of Mel was one scene where we learn he’s the lead, and then one quick bit of him rehearsing in his dressing room at Krustylu Studios. Llwellyn comes to gloat at the Simpson house where Marge is getting ready for what I assumed was one of their earlier production meetings, but then she admits the show is in three days and they have no understudy. In this episode about the production of a musical, we barely fucking see any of the production at all, unlike “Streetcar,” of course, where it was the primary focus, amongst other things, because the show could effectively multitask back then. Here, it’s a miracle when the show manages to have one complete plot with a beginning, middle and end that make sense.
– I knew it was only a matter of time, but it finally happened: we get a scene where Bart does the flossing dance. I feel like that gif is going to get isolated and rile some people up online… that is if anyone actually gives enough of a shit to actually watch this trash and actually make it. It may pop up somewhere… but honestly, who cares. It only stood out more to be because I just saw Shazam! which has Zachary Levi flossing and that was actually charming in context. Ehhh, fuck this show, go see Shazam!, it’s not spectacular, but it’s a fun, sweet movie that bucks a lot of superhero movie conventions, although it’s not without its tired, overdone tropey elements, the villain in particular.
One good line/moment: Over the end credits, we get a snippet of a music video by Okilly Dokillys, a real-life no-foolin’ metal band who all dress up like Ned Flanders and perform songs that mostly comprise of Simpsons quotes. It’s one of those things that it’s so absolutely absurd on every level that it’s amazing already, but their music is actually really well done, even if metalcore music isn’t really my cup of tea. Similar to using that 16-bit fan made couch gag a couple years ago, this felt like the show “officially” ordaining a fan work, but actually in showing such a fan work that really felt fresh, original and creative, just kind of stands in contrast with the tired, hollowed out husk of the show itself. At least this time they put it at the end instead of the beginning. Here’s the music video if you haven’t seen it.