– By Lenny Burnham
Yesterday I planned and executed a Lisa-centric Classic Simpsons marathon. I thought I’d make a handy guide of what discs you’ll need if you want to replicate this marathon and throw in a few notes and observations from the discussion that came up while we were watching.
Moaning Lisa (Disc One)
- This episode caused an argument between my roommate and I. She just doesn’t like season one, even though this episode has Lisa saying she’s wailing for the homeless, poor farmers and sick miners and Mr. Largo telling her that none of those unpleasant people will be at the recital and Bleeding Gums telling her that she plays pretty well for someone with no real problems and that the blues is about making other people feel worse and making a few bucks while you’re at it. I know Dan Castellaneta sounds weird and half the people have the wrong hair and skin color, but come on.
- I was a pretty depressed third grader and I listened to Lisa’s blues song a lot, with a level of seriousness that I probably should be ashamed of now, but I’m not.
- It’s incredibly sad that Marge doesn’t really know how to comfort Lisa, even though we see that Marge was an unhappy child as well. It’s nice to see a comedy really go there.
Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment (Disc Three)
- This marathon was partially inspired by Lisa being a relatively underrated character when compared to Homer and Bart, so I was happy to report that the commentary on this episode states that they added Lisa’s name to the title because episodes with her name in the title are always popular. Looking at this list of episodes, I can see why.
Lisa’s Substitute (Disc Four)
- My friend Sara has a theory that Holly Holiday from Glee is a direct rip off of the Dustin Hoffman character in this. A zany substitute who dresses up in historical costumes and tries to teach the kids to love themselves? I see it.
- This episode and “Moaning Lisa” are both very funny while being about a depressed child who will probably not feel any better for a long time. That might be one of the strongest aspects of Classic Simpsons.
- I use the phrase “Semitic good looks” a lot. It comes up.
Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington (Disc One)
- This episode has a nice handful of good jokes with a feminist bent, but my favorite is definitely Homer and Marge’s respective responses to the “Ms.-Haps” cartoon. The title alone is such a great satire of just how blatantly sexist the media can be. Then we get Homer and Marge’s respective responses. Homer says, “Ain’t it the truth.” Marge responds by saying it’s not the truth, it’s just a sexist stereotype. Homer immediately busts out the “it’s just entertainment” excuse. He insists that cartoons don’t have any deeper meaning despite the fact that he’d said “ain’t it the truth” just a second before, perfectly demonstrating the faultiness of people insisting “it’s just entertainment” when something perpetuates terrible stereotypes. Classic Simpsons: the show that will have a brilliant moment of insight and then show an ass crack. They were firing on all cylinders.
- Lisa Sees Dead People #1: The Thomas Jefferson statue comes to life and talks to her. She isn’t taken aback.
- I love how encouraging Bart is in this episode. It took someone who doesn’t care at all about authority or politeness to give Lisa the total support she deserves. (“Cesspool! Cesspool!”)
Lisa’s Pony (Disco Two)
- I love that Bleeding Gums Murphy loves Bart’s comedy routine. That man is so nurturing of the Simpsons kids’ talents.
Lisa the Greek (Disc Three)
- I made an apartment for my Barbie in a shoebox, but I can’t remember whether I got the idea from this episode.
- This episode says that gambling is illegal in 48 states. They were slightly off: It’s actually illegal in 2 states. [I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they were probably talking specifically about sports betting, but they do just say “gambling.”]
Separate Vocations (Disc Three)
- I love that this episode shows what an effective badass Lisa would be if she were a badass. Stealing the Teacher’s Editions was a fantastic prank. The teachers should be lucky that Bart is the hellraiser and not Lisa because Bart and Krabappel can spar back and forth, but Lisa would eventually just destroy her teacher.
Lisa the Beauty Queen (Disc One)
- Props to Lisa for being on the ball enough to see the danger of Amber’s scepter acting as a lightning rod when no one else was worried about it.
I Love Lisa (Disc 3)
- Excellent use of the “Monster Mash.”
- “I’m not gay, but I’ll learn.”
- I’m proud of Lisa for finding the “Let’s Bee Friends” card—it expressed exactly what she wanted to say and had the kind of pun Ralph loves. I imagine she was searching Hallmark for at least ninety minutes.
Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy (Disc 3)
- It’s hard to talk about this episode in a concise manner because there’s so much to say about it. For now I’ll leave it at the fact that calling this episode “timeless” feels wrong because I think the ultimate goal of this episode is to aim for a better world where the satire around talking Malibu Stacy won’t feel timeless.
- We were sort of disappointed that season 5 only had one Lisa-centered episode, but they did really hit it out of the park with “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy.” I assume that after that one, everyone was afraid to pitch Lisa ideas since they didn’t want to follow that.
Lisa’s Rival (Disc 1)
- My roommate and I both strongly believe that Homer’s sugar rant and that plot in general are the highest forms of comedy that mankind has ever achieved. We are consistently baffled when we watch this episode with people who aren’t brought to tears by the power of the sugar b-plot.
Lisa on Ice (Disc 2)
- “I hope you understand I’m too tense to pretend I like you”
Lisa’s Wedding (Disc 3)
- They were really on the ball predicting Lisa’s outfit. She’s clearly wearing skinny jeans and an American Apparel sweater.
- I never realized it before, but this episode referenced Lisa growing up to be a vegetarian and came out before “Lisa the Vegetarian.” The writers really understand their characters.
‘Round Springfield (Disc 4)
- Lisa Sees Dead People #2: Bleeding Gums Murphy communicates to Lisa through the clouds, not to mention Mufasa, Darth Vader and the CNN guy. She isn’t taken aback.
Lisa the Vegetarian (Disc 1)
- I think the Independent Thought Alarm sequence is Simpsons at its best. The idea of an elementary school with an Independent Thought Alarm is already so powerful and then they perfectly build on it by having Skinner say that the children are overstimulated and instructing Willy to take the colored chalk out of the classrooms.
Lisa the Iconoclast (Disc 3)
- Lisa Sees Dead People #3: George Washington visits Lisa. Naturally.
Summer of 4 Ft. 2 (Disc 4)
- It seems like Lisa is really dismissive of the two girls on the yearbook. They like her, so shouldn’t that be enough? The theory we came up with is that those two girls are so close with each other that it’s impossible for Lisa to get in on that friendship.
- During one of the touching Lisa/Erin scenes, I mentioned that this episode is borderline romantic. I mean, Lisa and Erin really grow fond of each other over the course of the episode. My friends who weren’t distracted by being a huge lesbian reminded me that when you’re a kid, friendships tend to get so close they seem romantic because you’re very quickly like, “I’ve never felt this way before!”
Well, that’s the marathon. I will give Season 8 a little credit by mentioning that there are episodes in Season 8 that I consider to be well worth watching. Sadly, “My Sister, My Sitter” and “The War of Lisa Simpson” are not among them.