The premise: Lisa becomes so obsessed with sardonic British pop artist Quilloughby that she personifies him as her imaginary friend, becoming even more of a judgy snob. Also Homer gets a truck, I guess.
The reaction: I’m still not sure if the writers realize how unlikable they’ve made Lisa in recent years. She might have had a slightly big head on her in the early years, but nowadays, her pretentiousness and condescending attitude really makes her come off bad, and this is basically an episode all about that. After rejecting every suggested track off of “Slapify” (“Let’s see if your algorithm can predict my tastes?” she chuckles), she finally lands on the morose artist Quilloughby, a British singer/vegan activist who hasn’t been seen in public for years. Inspired by his music, Lisa gets the school cafeteria to serve mushroom tacos (how she did this is unexplained), but is shocked that Lunchlady Doris added bacon into it. “Everyone at my school is a jerk! Why are they so mean?” she cries. Then she starts to see Quilloughby, who becomes her closest confidant, as they proceed to bond over their snarky displeasure in literally everything and everyone. It’s clear they’re having Lisa go through some teen angst (at age 8), and she’s supposed to be taking things too far and realizes that in the end, but her attitude isn’t grounded in anything as the audience can get behind, so she ends up coming off more annoying than sympathetic. The story culminates in Lisa going to an outdoor music festival where the real Quilloughby is appearing for the first time in decades. While there, her Quilloughby begins to get on her nerves with his never-ending negativity. Real Quilloughby takes the stage, now an out-of-shape middle-aged failure of a has-been who has renounced his veganism and antagonizes the crowd by spewing out bigotry. Ultimately the lesson, intoned by imaginary Quilloughby, is for Lisa to be more open-minded and not sneer at others with differing opinions. It’s almost like an admission by the writers at what they’ve turned Lisa into over the years, that she’s so stubborn and myopic in her worldview that she’s basically on her way to being an irrationally angry bigot who everybody hates. The comparison also feels shaky given that real Quilloughby is screaming about how migrants should die, whereas Lisa is just against eating meat. In the end, it’s yet another episode I don’t see the point in. There was no inciting incident to make Lisa feel so pissed, and her epiphany was basically all internal, but not at all interesting in the slightest, since it’s all painfully spelled out through dialogue, per usual. They try to put a sweet bow on things with Lisa and Marge having a sweet reconciliation, but so much of this episode is intensely sour that it feels pointless.
Three items of note:
– I was very confused by the episode title, and now I see it’s a reference to a Smiths song “Panic,” as in “Panic on the streets of London.” I guess that’s a well-known song, right? Quilloughby is seemingly based on Morrissey, who I’m not very familiar with, but it’s just strange since the majority of the episode titles are extremely obvious “parodies,” and this one sticks out as being less obvious than usual.
– The episode opens with Dr. Hibbert advising Homer about his health, in his first major appearance since Kevin Michael Richardson took over the character starting in “Wad Goals.” He ends up feeling like the weakest replacement voice yet to me only because Richardson’s voice is so familiar, him being very ubiquitous in the TV animation landscape. He’s doing his best to do a Hibbert imitation, but the timber of his voice is just so completely different than Harry Shearer’s that it just doesn’t feel right. But ultimately, none of the new voices will sound “right” because they’re different actors, so it’s inevitably going to be an adjustment. I really don’t want to talk about this new voices stuff anymore, but sometimes I have so little to talk about with specific episodes I just end up talking about it again. At this point, all the POC characters have been covered, with one glaring exception: Apu. Whether he gets a full episode reintroduction, a sneaky reappearance in one scene, or is just gone for good remains to be seen.
– Homer buys a truck after Dr. Hibbert tells him his testosterone levels are slightly low. This isn’t so much a B-plot as just some random stuff happening alongside the main story. Marge ends up exploding at Homer because he’s being so annoying about being a trucker guy (another heavy exercise on Julie Kavner’s vocal chords that made me feel sad.) The ending involves a riot at the music festival Lisa is at, and Homer’s truck finally coming in handy as he goes into all-terrain mode to save Lisa, but that turned out to just be him dreaming asleep at the wheel and Marge found Lisa and brought her back to the truck and she was fine. Whatever. I got bored even just writing that sentence.