Compare & Contrast: Lisa Learns a Sport

Lisa the Greek6

“Let’s see . . . football . . . football, homoeroticism in, oddball Canadian rules, Phyllis George and.” – Lisa Simpson 

There are obviously a lot of ways “MoneyBART” fails miserably in comparison to “Homer at the Bat”, which it consciously aped.  But there is a different Season 3 masterpiece to which it is pathetic and terrible in comparison: “Lisa the Greek”.  In both episodes, Lisa needs to study a sport she doesn’t know about.  In “MoneyBART”, everything about this, from how much she knows at first, to how she goes about it, to what she reads for research is nonsensical, slow, and nearly joke free.  “Lisa the Greek” is the opposite. 

What is this “based-ball” of which you speak?

When Bart complains that Lisa knows nothing about baseball, she reads off a list of old managers she thinks were women.  This is one of those painfully bad jokes that doesn’t make any sense, is embarrassingly obvious, and still takes forever.  How the hell did she make that list without discovering that the names on it are men?  Is Lisa Homer-level clueless now?  After they come back from commercial, Zombie Lisa demonstrates further un-Lisa-like ignorance by saying that “free safety” and “point guard” are baseball positions.  Again, this is both way out of character for her (she isn’t one to confidently state something she isn’t sure of) and excruciatingly obvious and slow (it was so funny the first time they did it twice!).  The scene ends when she promises to do some research, except if she hadn’t already done research where the hell did she get that list of managers?  It shouldn’t be asking too much that the plot makes sense within a single scene. 

By contrast, in “Lisa the Greek” Lisa already knows the basics of football, telling Homer that Denver just fumbled and following the game without any needless, time sucking, out of character stupidity on her part. 

I need to learn about a sport, where do I go first?

In “MoneyBART”, Zombie Lisa needs to learn the basics of baseball.  Instead of going on-line where she would find everything she needs,  she goes to Moe’s.  Again, this is completely out of character as Lisa would know better than to think that her idiotic father and his drinking buddies are the best source of knowledge available.  This leads to some pointless banter and the discovery that Lisa is not the only nerd who has wandered into the bar.  With no prompting from her whatsoever, Frink and the nerds bombard her research material.  As commenter sVybDy pointed out:

She never even explained to them what she was doing there or why she was interested in baseball. Are they omniscient?

This is one of the classic hallmarks of crappy fictional writing: the characters know things they shouldn’t.  If I walked up to some guys with laptops talking baseball, I may strike up a conversation.  But they don’t know that I’m there to research baseball unless I tell them, which Zombie Lisa doesn’t do.  This isn’t even Fiction 101, this is Fiction for Dummies 101: your characters don’t know everything you know. 

To sum up, Lisa goes to a place she wouldn’t normally go because it shouldn’t have the information she wants, but it does have the information she wants because the writers are extremely sloppy and lazy.  In “Lisa the Greek”, Lisa goes to the library where the show makes a quick joke about libraries and librarians before cramming in a bunch of jokes about football at a rate Zombie Simpsons would consider wasteful. 

What books should I read?

While at the library in “Lisa the Greek”, Lisa reads off a list of football subjects from the card catalog.  It’s one of those extremely dense list of jokes that The Simpsons was always so good at.  Not a lot of people ever looked at a card catalog and thought they could use it to make people laugh. 

Baseball Books1 In “MoneyBART”, as in “Postcards from the Wedge” last year, the show has ample opportunities to make the kind of quick book jokes that “Lisa the Greek” did.  It doesn’t.  When Zombie Lisa is conversing with the surprisingly plot aware nerds, they start handing her books.  (Presumably they have an infinite supply under the table.)  Of the five books whose titles can be read, one of them is a joke, “Schrodinger’s Bat”.  It isn’t much of a joke, just another one of their bad puns, but I’m trying to be generous here. 

This rather lifeless trend continues later in the episode.  Here’s Zombie Lisa during one of the games she’s managing:

Baseball Books2

In that shot there are eight book titles that are fully visible.  The only joke is the same “Schrodinger’s Bat” from the first scene.  The rest of the fully visible titles are either real books (“Moneyball”, “Historical Baseball Abstract”), joke-less terms (“Stats”, “Just Physics”, “Equations”), or equations, only one of which is a real Futurama-esque math reference.  (You may also wish to note the blue book with the number “4” on the spine, it appears that someone forgot to color it in.)  Here’s yet another book shot, this one from the montage:

Baseball Books3

Here we have more joke free book titles, including those scintillating “Stats” and “Equations” books from earlier.  If you’re scoring at home, that means that in three different shots with a total of eighteen book titles, Zombie Simpsons came up with one pun. 

Lazy, poorly written, and nonsensical even within a single scene, Zombie Simpsons once again fails to stack up. 

19 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Lisa Learns a Sport”

  1. 12 October 2010 at 7:25 pm

    The problem is the current writing staff believes the fans already know “everything” about the characters, so taking the time to build the character up with the essential details to fit into the plot would somehow bore the audience. (Example: Lisa’s the smart one, so only ‘smart’ people carry around laptops and talk in statistics and come across as athoratative jerks.)

  2. 2 Cassidy
    12 October 2010 at 7:42 pm

    Since when are equations themselves used as *book titles*? Maybe as part of a title but by themselves? Sheesh. Talk about lazy.

  3. 3 Derp
    12 October 2010 at 8:25 pm

    “She never even explained to them what she was doing there or why she was interested in baseball. Are they omniscient?”
    That really grated with me. I assumed it missed something but obviously I was giving the writers too much credit.

  4. 4 Stan
    12 October 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Not to mention they decided to throw in yet another parody of “The Matrix” for some reason. Even something from 2008 is too complicated for them, why bother, let’s go with 2003 jokes, right?

  5. 5 Izzy
    12 October 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Also… Sandy Alomar was never a manager. Maybe this was a joke, but I’m not so sure.

  6. 6 Mr. Incognito (AKA Landry H.)
    12 October 2010 at 9:24 pm

    The one thing I noticed here is that, from that other episode from last year, the “animators” didn’t even manage to turn some of those titles (or equations) upside down.

    That uncolored book just shows how lazy the “animators” are. Really? Computers should, in theory, make things simpler and quicker to do, and yet “someone” couldn’t even do that!

    Your breakdown of this episode once again leads me to believe that promoting HD, Guest stars, etc. is a cheap gimmick designed to trick viewers into watching a spray-painted turd (and they don’t even care to at least cover the entire thing, either).

    • 12 October 2010 at 9:51 pm

      For the last time, HD isn’t a gimmick! They only converted to that format because the changing animation industry had forced them to do so! If they were able to simply use cel-animation they would have if not for the fact that animators who used cels were becoming rare and expensive, hence the turn to digital coloring and then to HD.

      • 12 October 2010 at 10:41 pm

        I don’t being in HD is a gimmick since all the network does is add pixels, but because the coloring became incredibly bright (while the animation itself took a back seat)and the lines were sterily perfect, the HD Simpsons screamed ‘gimmick.’

  7. 9 Mr. Incognito (AKA Landry H.)
    13 October 2010 at 1:05 am

    Sorry for the misunderstanding; I feel the need to correct myself.

    What I meant to say was that HD in and of itself isn’t a gimmick, but the fact the Zombie Simpsons uses it to

    (1.) Completely re-do their opening, and

    (2.) Sound abroad that this is a great way to insert more sight gags into the show’s background

    makes it a gimmick, when applied to Zombie Simpsons.

    Anyone who reads this site is tell you that (2.) is a blatant lie, when all we get is some blank, gray/off-white/muted blue wall with hardly anything on it, and (almost) stiff background characters.

    Add to that the fact that the animators can’t even color a portion of a book in, nor do they take the time to do something minimal such as flip the text on a book or two upside-down, nor do something somewhat creative and/or funny with every title; they (and those who write for the show) just don’t care.

  8. 10 Stan
    13 October 2010 at 12:28 pm

    So… will there be a crazy noises issue discussing MoneyBART any time soon? Just wondering.

  9. 13 October 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Throw me off the bridge and call me a troll if you like, but as Zombie Simpsons goes, this episode wasn’t heart rippingly terrible. I would even go so far as to say this is probably my favourite episode in at least two seasons.

    Yes I hated the sickeningly sweet ending between Bart and Lisa, but I thought the dinner table scene was well structured and funny. I laughed out loud a good two or three times. This is an improvement.

    I think your reviews would be better with more light and shade. If you truly hate every episode, it seems masochistic that you’re even watching.

    • 13 Stan
      13 October 2010 at 8:08 pm

      I wouldn’t say the point here is to ‘hate’ Zombie Simpsons. Authors of this blog seem to make very good points about why exactly the show fails. Moreover, they do it by comparing some old, well forgotten scenes with recent ones.

      When you’re basing your judgment on “I liked this” and “I didn’t hate that”, you either don’t seem to care what to watch and simply evaluate it on a basis of how much fuck you gave about this or that scene, or aren’t a hardcore Simpsons fan who likes ’em more early 90s-like than the rest.

    • 13 October 2010 at 8:36 pm

      “Hating” every episode means the blog maintainers are strictly on a vendetta to condemn every new episode before they air. Hell, they could ‘hate’ every new episode without taking any time to watch them. On the contrary, this blog is set up to, in great detail, explain why the current show fails 99% of the time, be it run on jokes, worthless guest stars, or whatever.

      However, no matter how slim a chance, if the current Simpsons produced an episode that wasn’t pointless filler, had genuine wit, and a coherent plot, I’d be it would actually garner some sincere praise. But don’t give a mediocre episode an “A” on the basis it wasn’t shit terrible–That’s what the No Homer’s Club is for.

      • 15 Charlie Sweatpants
        13 October 2010 at 9:07 pm

        “However, no matter how slim a chance, if the current Simpsons produced an episode that wasn’t pointless filler, had genuine wit, and a coherent plot, I’d be it would actually garner some sincere praise.”

        That’s pretty much it. We just got done doing tomorrow’s Crazy Noises and I compared this one to a travel episode on account of they had a bunch of fresh material to make fun of and that let them have a couple of okay jokes. The problem is that a couple of okay jokes is an extremely low bar, and even then it’s one that Zombie Simpsons almost always fails to clear.

        The show can, every once and a while, barf up a decent line or two. We’re not immune to saying so. The Norwegian’s line about joy being just a shadow pain casts and Not Steve Jobs’ thing about Apple headquarters being deep beneath the sea spring to mind. What Zombie Simpsons never does is make those kind of biting, incisive and memorable jokes with any consistency (or within anything that could be called a story). Even the laziest, most formulaic, and hacktacular shows/movies/whatever can have a funny line or two, that doesn’t make the whole thing good or remotely praiseworthy.

        That an episode like this, which has a list of problems a mile long, is the best they can do is just another reason to cancel it as soon as possible.

        • 15 October 2010 at 11:17 am

          @Stan, I would have explained more why I enjoyed the episode, but I couldn’t be bothered. It’s called a comment not a review. Of course I preferred its Golden Age, but that is why the creators of this blog call it Zombie Simpsons. It’s very much a new show with old characters, a post-Seth McFarlane world.

          @Jake, I momentarily enjoyed the episode, in parts. That does not mean I would have given it an A. On the basis of Zombie Simpsons I’d have given it a B. On the basis of the series as a whole, it would be a D.

          This is what I believe makes The Simpsons depressing: if it was absolutely terrible, like The Cleveland Show, nobody would watch it. But occasionally I see a good joke, a great scene, a glimmer from the old that is immediately followed by a pointless guest star, lazy writing, and so on.

          Feel free to send me a link to another ep to prove me wrong, but it just seems like you are purposefully searching for the consistent negative, rather than objectively watching the episode as it stands for itself. Someone didn’t colour a book in for a few frames? That’s a technical (if lazy) issue. That’s all.

  10. 17 AV8R
    13 October 2010 at 9:02 pm

    So please explain to me why you waste your time trying to figure out a silly cartoon that isnt supposed to be a top notch tv show? Why not sit back,relax and laugh at the stupid jokes?

    • 13 October 2010 at 10:03 pm

      You may or may not remember, there was a time when the show was A LOT more than just a ‘silly cartoon.’ It was the holy grail of what a satrical, yet mainstream, animated sitcom could be and it was a ‘top notch tv show.’ Furthermore, I’m not sure if what you wrote was meant to praise or be a put down because if the show always had ‘stupid jokes’ the show would’ve ended up another victim of Fox cancelling it after 5 episodes.

      Or, because of Seth McFarlane, ever cartoon on TV is about topping each other with ‘in yo face!’ random humor?

    • 19 Stan
      13 October 2010 at 11:36 pm

      It’s exactly the kind of attitude that sickens me. “Why bother watching something good if all I’m in for tonight is a comfy big couch, my bag of potato chips, and the beloved Homer getting hurt in a ways no human being possibly can”. Cuz they’re all good, right?

      You may have a point when you’re talking about a couple-seasons old show that has outlived its ideas about five years ago and all it does not is to “runaway gag” pop in random humor to survive. Well, yes, that happens, shows do get old and run out of ideas. And yes, you may do as Family Guy, if viewers are batshit insane watching this anyway, because they know when Peter comes out some funny shit is about to happen. And it does.

      The Simpsons has never been such a show. If it wouls’ve poised itself as such back in the 1990s, that wouldn’t have mattered. But it was a very organized, punch-in-the-stomach and funny set of ideas that originated alongside either hackeneyed, or just boring shows of the late 80s that nobody cared about. And, what’s most amazing, it made straight fun of those other shows in a way that was both painless and unprovocative.

      Therefore when you say “just sit back, [smoke pot] and laugh at the stupid jokes”, no, I cannot do that with the Simpsons, because I can’t just scratch out 20 years of their history from my head and act like nothing has happened. Unless not as long as they would still keep it on air with same title and same characters. And they won’t change it. And so they can just cancel it. And they don’t. And that’s why there is this blog.

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