Posts Tagged ‘The Daughter Also Rises

15
Feb
12

Compare & Contrast: Lisa’s Romances

Lisa's Date with Density8

“Well, I guess this is it.” – Lisa Simpson
“You mean, like, goodbye?” – Nelson Muntz
“Let’s just call it, smell you later.” – Lisa Simpson

Around the edges of “Lisa’s Date with Density” you can see the problems that, given a few years, would swoop in and eat the show from the inside out.  The emotions are a bit contrived in places, Nelson’s not quite the bully we know, and the plot has to cheat a few times to wrap itself up.  But in Season 8 those things are peripheral, the core of the story and the episode fit in with the place we know as Springfield and the characters who inhabit it.  Just as importantly, while there’s no denying that Lisa and Nelson are acting a bit more adolescent and less kid like than they should, there’s still a recognizable childishness and humanity to them that makes the story work.

Lisa doesn’t, for example, develop her crush on Nelson because of some cliched contrivance.  He doesn’t save her from something; nor does she glimpse him in a candid moment of tenderness when he thought no one was looking.  She just laughs at him being him, in this case tormenting Groundskeeper Willie.  This is one of those things that just works in The Simpsons.  We in the audience get to laugh at Groundskeeper Willie; Nelson (in detention) and Lisa (in band practice) are being themselves (and so are the other kids with their “x likes y” refrains); and the main story moves along without resorting to nonsense.

Lisa's Date with Density6

“And that’s how Willie waters.”

By contrast, in “The Daughter Also Rises” Zombie Simpsons employs a “meet cute”, one of the more hacktacular ideas ever to come out of the entertainment industry.  (It’s a concept so durably overused that it has its own article on TV Tropes and Wikipedia.)  That they call it a “meet cute” isn’t a joke, it’s just them describing what’s happening.  Where’s the joke in Lisa gushing and her new beau throwing a fork in the air?  Or their stilted flirting as they instantly anticipate a love for the ages?  There isn’t one, the whole thing is dead-eyed, paint-by-numbers crap.  Hollywood is littered with writers and actors who can do this scene in their sleep, because it’s not just a trope, it’s an adult trope for adult performers and adult characters.

Things just get worse from there.  Lisa and Nick go through three goofy set pieces, each one the same kind of sly, fake-clever horseshit.  First they’re at an outdoor cafe, where this supposed kid is looking all charming and suave in a gray suit.  Then they’re in a montage where they hang out a balcony, on top of a climbing wall, and Moe’s (of all places) as they go through a few vaguely Hemingway type situations.  And finally, Nick shows up at the Simpson home with a bottle of wine before he charms both Marge and Maggie (we’ll get to the after-dinner fiasco in a second).  None of these scenes make any sense for them as kids, for them as characters, or for Springfield as a location.

RomanceBot

I think this kid’s dad is Andre from “Homer’s Triple Bypass”.

In Season 8, Lisa and Nelson go through a much more believable childhood flirtation.  Lisa likes Nelson despite herself, and Nelson eventually finds himself doing the same.  They don’t have that instant and nauseating sense of destiny that you get in formulaic romantic comedies.  Instead, we see them move through it believably, with Nelson initially just going with the flow while Lisa does the “getting to know you” stuff.  It’s funny because of what happens (the cat, “Nuke the Whales”, Milhouse getting brained), but it’s also genuinely plausible.  Nelson’s not exactly boyfriend material, and Lisa has a hard time seeing that her caring for him isn’t going to magically turn him into boyfriend material.  And none of it requires anyone to look right at the camera and say “meet cute” as a way to shrug their shoulders at mediocrity.

The endings work (or don’t) in similar ways.  After Nick (who I keep wanting to call Colin since he’s just as non-descript) comes over for dinner with his bottle of wine, impeccably tasteful suit, and robotically precise manners, he has nowhere to go as a character.  He’s confident, handsome, and oh so perfect, and all as (apparently) a little kid.  Which is why the next time we see him he’s a completely different person.

The Disappearing Colin

Left, At Lisa’s house (12:50); center, on screen but silent (16:40); right, next time he speaks (17:40).

After the scene in the family living room, he literally doesn’t say a word for two commercial breaks.  He does find himself in a senior shuttle with Lisa and Grampa, where – for the first time ever – he’s nervous and jerky.  What the hell happened?  It’s so out of the blue as to be disorienting.  The last thing he says at the Simpsons’ house is:

Nick: Mrs. Simpson, I’d like your permission to take your daughter to the Doritos Nutrition Fair at the school gym.

He’s still Mr. Smooth.  After he thanks Cletus, it’s this:

Nick: I don’t know, this water’s a little choppy.
Lisa: I thought you rode up the Zambezi without a guide.
Nick: Right.  Right.

After that he complains about her cold hands, that his lips are cold, and then just walks away because he’s suddenly sad.  This is supposed to be the same kid who confidently flirted with Lisa, took her lots of places, and aced the dreaded first meeting with her parents?   They could, of course, have shown us why this change came about.  They even had a chance to do it when he was sitting in the living room and Marge demanded that Lisa stop spending so much time with him.  That could’ve given him the jitters or something.  But, by longstanding Zombie Simpsons convention, he simply wasn’t in that scene even though he was sitting right there.  So not only do we get a kid who doesn’t make any sense when we first meet him, he manages to change into a completely different – but equally nonsensical – character before the end.

“Lisa’s Date with Density” doesn’t have anything remotely that clumsy.  On the contrary, Lisa and Nelson’s little relationship implodes when it becomes obvious to both of them that they aren’t right for each other.  Lisa can’t change Nelson completely and he’s not willing to change enough; so they part on good terms because that’s all there is to it.  It’s not the world’s most original idea, but it follows nicely both from who they are outside of this episode and how they act during this particular story.

Of course, I haven’t yet mentioned the elephant in the room, which is that in Season 8 it’s the first time we see Lisa really become involved with someone.  From all those Corys to the boy at the library to Langdon Alger, we know she develops the occasional childhood crush, but “Lisa’s Date with Density” was the first time we saw her go after someone.  It was also . . . drum roll please . . . her first kiss.

Lisa's Date with Density7

A moment with actual emotional relevance!  Careful, Zombie Simpsons might be allergic.

By Season 23, Lisa’s been through four or five relationships.  There was the time she fell in love with the environmentalist guy, there was the dude ranch thing, there was the movie, and I think I’m missing a couple.  So when she spouts hopelessly naive, romantic comedy gibberish like “The person you kiss under a mulberry tree is someone you’ll love for the rest of your life”, it falls even flatter than it otherwise would.  It’s a dumb statement to begin with, but it just doesn’t do coming from someone who used to be mature enough to let Ralph Wiggum down gently and have a successful breakup with Nelson Muntz.  “Smell you later”, on the other hand, is great.

14
Feb
12

Crazy Noises: The Daughter Also Rises

I Love Lisa9

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “homunculus”).

We give Zombie Simpsons a lot of grief for repeating jokes, but “The Daughter Also Rises” contained a impressively craven double dip on that count.  Not only did they rip off one Valentine’s Day episode for another, they repeated an Itchy & Scratchy segment almost shot for shot:

“I Love Lisa” (1993)

“The Daughter Also Rises” (2012)

MyBloodyValentine1 RosesAreRed1
MyBloodyValentine2 RosesAreRed2
MyBloodyValentine3 RosesAreRed3
MyBloodyValentine4 RosesAreRed4

Zombie Simpsons upped the gore and lost the humor in the process, but other than that they slavishly copied Season 4.  Now, maybe nineteen years is long enough that a segment can bear repeating, but if you’re going to do that, why not just rerun the old ones on Sundays at 8? 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Yes

Charlie Sweatpants: Where shall we begin?

Mad Jon: The top is as ‘good’ a place as any.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the couch gag certainly took a long time.

Mad Jon: Indeed. But what a way to celebrate 499 episodes.

By pointing out that next week is the 500th. 500 is a large number, especially for a show that died 15 years ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: The emphasis on milestones like that is just another indication of how the show now exists for the sake of existing. Like Fry, existing is basically all it does. When they were still putting out good episodes they blew through 100 with just that chalkboard gag about NOT celebrating meaningless milestones.

Mad Jon: Yeah well, it was pretty much par for couch gags in the last few years.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh certainly.

Mad Jon: Anyway, brushing past the 56" HDTV in the living room, it was nice of Kirk Van Houten to show up for a few minutes, I haven’t seen him since the last time he and Luanne got back together/got divorced.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was pretty bizarre. Though why Bart and Milhouse would be opening valentines together is also beyond me.

Mad Jon: And why Bart would have so many. But whatever. Don’t you usually open those in class on Valentines Day? Are we that old that things have changed so much?!?

The important thing is that the lopsided valentines haul led to them having a Myth Busters thing to work with or something.

Every time they went to do something, I could hear Moses from the Super Friends South Park narrating the scene in my head.

  Um, then they, uh get candy cigarettes from the vending machine…

  Can you hear it now?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good comparison. The randomness was in full swing, what was with Homer and Bart having fun together?

Mad Jon: I don’t know.

  That’s a question.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Myth Busters thing kinda pissed me off, because that’s a show they could’ve actually made fun of. The insane stuff they do, the "myths" that nobody’s ever heard of and even fewer actually believe. There’s a lot to work with there, but instead they had Bart and Milhouse become junior detectives, or something. I wasn’t really clear on it, and I don’t think they were either.

And what was with that Nick kid? Was he a kid? Because he sure didn’t act like one. For a while I thought he might be a hallucination, especially after that cafe scene and playing the song from Inception.

Mad Jon: I think he was the Irish boyfriend from the movie, and his card just came back up, so they gave him a different voice and called it a day.

Except this guy went from nondescript to apparently troubled 8 year old writer.

  I didn’t understand that until it was spelled out for me in the end.

And I didn’t think they could come up with a new way to kill as much time as they did with the peripheral vision montage, but man, they found a way!

Charlie Sweatpants: That was a little head spinning. When he started falling apart I thought they were maybe going for a "Lard of the Dance" type thing, with a kid who acts more grown up than he really is. But that was too much to expect. Instead they just let everything peter out.

Mad Jon: It was like every teenage relationship a real girl would have rolled up into ~6 minutes of dialog.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, it’s always weird to see the kids having these adult relationships.

Mad Jon: And I also suppose that I was supposed to think that Marge and Lisa were growing apart, but again, I didn’t really get it until Marge actually voiced that.

Charlie Sweatpants: And while I don’t much care about inter-episode continuity, Lisa was acting like this was her first romance (or something, it was pretty vague), like kissing this weirdly under-grown kid was the biggest event in her life. That’s both very unlike her, and something we’ve seen her do like three times already.

Mad Jon: Yep. I was actually surprised that Nelson wasn’t involved out of jealousy.

Charlie Sweatpants: He and everyone else was too busy apparently following Bart and Milhouse around. Then they got upset with Bart and Milhouse. And then they weren’t upset with them anymore.

That entire thing with Groundskeeper Willie was just agonizing.

Mad Jon: Even in a zombie episode, I can’t for the life of me believe that someone allowed the writers to have Bart say "I just figured out how to make school cool again!"

  Truly, no one cares anymore.

Charlie Sweatpants: They really don’t. How else can you explain that long ass thing with the salad dressing?

Marge wants to protect the salad dressing, fine. But then we go into twenty seconds of churning and bubbling why? Was the episode that short?

Mad Jon: I was also surprised how short her freakout was during the post-bubbling period.

Charlie Sweatpants: That whole scene didn’t make sense. Just physically, trying to place them was tough. Was Moe supposed to be sitting at the same table as whatshisface? Because they appeared to be in the same crack.

Mad Jon: I guess. That was actually more believable than the Kirk part in the beginning. Who, by the by, was sitting with Luanne at the table on the other side of Lisa and Marge.

  And what was the deal with the three twins? Was that a horror movie take off that I don’t recognize?

Charlie Sweatpants: No idea. It was just bizarre.

Mad Jon: Ok then. I thought I was just more out of the loop than normal.

Charlie Sweatpants: The same thing was true when the kid came over to the Simpsons house. He’s sitting there, and then Marge starts talking to Lisa like he’s not there.

And later, when Lisa meets Marge at the sewing store, huh? How did she get there?

  This was like watching blind monkeys play chess. Shit just kept sliding around.

Mad Jon: Were we supposed to know that they were going to meet there?

Charlie Sweatpants: No idea. But Marge’s little speech about "I don’t want you to spend so much time with this boy, if you do it’ll mean you’re a separate person from me" was particularly aggravating from that perspective. Not only do they spell things out, they don’t even do it well.

Mad Jon: Yeah, it went along real well with the rest of the ‘have the actors say what they feel’ theme that was this episode.

  That makes me feel angry!

Charlie Sweatpants: And don’t forget the little historical flashback. I think that one may have gotten edited in from the rag episode accidentally.

Mad Jon: Was their love really as forbidden as the myth would have me believe? We had barely just been told that Marge was jealous of Nick, and all of the sudden Claire Danes has to kill herself.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. There was nothing standing in their way . . . truly a story for the ages.

Mad Jon: And it ended with Nick channeling his inner Niles Crane.

Charlie Sweatpants: And Marge letting a supposed eight-year-old row a boat back to land by himself.

Mad Jon: And then he disappears from the island and Marge and Lisa share water shoes while Homer SINKS A FAN BOAT.

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess the fan boat was there the whole time, but maybe not.

Mad Jon: Probably maybe not. Who knows.

Well, I don’t really have anything else positive or negative to add. Although I am sure I could come up with something if you want me to suffer further.

Charlie Sweatpants: No. I don’t think there’s much here. It was a confusing mess of an episode from start to finish. The Itchy and Scratchy thing was basically a gorier, less funny and longer remake of the one from "I Love Lisa".

It was kinda about Valentine’s Day, but not really.

Mad Jon: I guess it was, but not. Or what you said.

Charlie Sweatpants: They had about four or five potential themes but each one got dropped in succession.

Mad Jon: I miss Love Day.

Charlie Sweatpants: The guest star was wasted on a weird homunculus of a kid. And their parody of Myth Busters was called Myth Crackers.

Mad Jon: There was a guest star?

  Who the hell was it?

Charlie Sweatpants: That was Michael Cera.

Mad Jon: Well fuck a duck.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, it didn’t really sound like him, or anyone else for that matter.

13
Feb
12

Strange Twists and Collapsing Ratings

Chalkboard - The Daughter Also Rises

“I’ve had one of my unpredictable changes of heart.” – C.M. Burns

About three quarters of the way through “The Daughter Also Rises”, the episode took a weird turn.  Lisa went to ask Grampa for advice, which led, without any setup whatsoever, to her, Grampa and “Nick” being chased by the police, which in turn lead to her and “Nick” rowing a boat out to an island.  No reason is given for why things went from relatively sunny and untroubled to dire and suspenseful.  They just did. 

Similarly, “Nick” went from being suave and charming and generally very Colin-from-the-movie to a whiny weirdo.  We didn’t see what changed his mind or why he might suddenly have become skittish around Lisa.  One moment he was charming everyone in the Simpsons’ living room, and in the next scene he was a wet blanket.  Pretty much the same thing happened with Bart and Milhouse’s B-plot, one minute it was going one direction, and the next minute it was going the other way. 

What makes these weird plot turns so frustrating is that, sometime last summer, a group of professional writers sat around a table at Zombie Simpsons HQ.  They read aloud a story about Lisa getting a boyfriend, which for some reason turns into a chase, which is only resolved when Marge puts on giant water shoes.  Not one of those trained, experienced professionals asked why the chase happened, or why it suddenly became so dire, or whether or not Marge should care.  It’s malpractice. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and last night’s terrible excuse for an episode is the new champion of low ratings.  Just 4.33 million people were confused by that ending.  That shatters the previous record of 5.00 million set by Season 22’s “The Great Simpsina”.  Even better, we’re only four episodes in to the typically lower rated post-New Year’s part of the season, and three of those episodes are in the bottom five all time:

  Season-Episode Airdate Viewers (in millions) Title
1 23-13 12-Feb-12 4.33 The Daughter Also Rises
2 22-18 10-Apr-11 5.00 The Great Simpsina
3 23-10 8-Jan-12 5.11 Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson
4 21-11 31-Jan-10 5.11 Million Dollar Maybe
5 23-12 29-Jan-12 5.12 Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

Season 23 is now a mortal lock to be the least watched season in the history of the show.  The only question is how low it can go. 

12
Feb
12

Sunday Preview: The Daughter Also Rises

zombiedaughter1

As always, credit to Dave.

Football season is over; and Zombie Simpsons must grind itself to a conclusion:

Marge & Lisa’s mother-daughter Valentine’s Day plans take a turn when Lisa meets Nick, an intellectual romantic who shares the same passion for culture, history and literature. Lisa and Nick fall head over heels for each other in a fairytale romance and make a secret getaway to Mulberry Island to profess their eternal love.  Meanwhile, Bart & Milhouse are inspired by the hosts of “MythCrackers” to “crack” Springfield Elementary’s own legends.

Enjoy Hallmark Day, everyone.  It’s just another target Zombie Simpsons can’t hit.




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