Wednesday Morning Cartoons

Summer of 4 Ft 2(12)

“And, so, as Abraham Lincoln sat in Ford’s Theater that night, John Wilkes Booth entered, drew his gun, and- . . . well, that’s it.  Have a nice summer everyone.” – Miss Hoover
“But what happened in Ford’s Theater?” – Kid
“Was President Lincoln okay?” – Ralph Wiggum
“He was fine . . . go home, Ralph.” – Miss Hoover

This episode is a Fourth of July favorite for a lot of reasons, but there is a certain bittersweet feeling to it.  This is the show near it’s end; so while it’s great, you know it doesn’t have much time left.  Take, for example, Skinner wanting Bart to sign his yearbook.  The whole joke here is that Bart is popular and Lisa isn’t. 

However, I can’t help but see this scene as a precursor to Homer’s “Would you like to see my Grammy award?” scene with Grimes in “Homer’s Enemy”.  Bart being popular, Skinner being in awe of him, these are serious character developments.  They work here as one-time-use developments because the only full-on Skinner episode left before the smoking rubble that is “The Principal and the Pauper” is “Grade School Confidential”, where Skinner falls in love for the second time.  At this point, through one hundred and fifty-three (153!) episodes, Skinner has been completely used as a plausible human being, so why not have him do something out of character like beg Bart for a personalized greeting? 

This is the show still on that amazing plateau of quality that starts with “Bart Gets and F”.  Who else could have come up with a “porno magazine” called American Breast Enthusiast?  But the terrible plummet is right around the corner, and you can’t help but see that in scenes like Skinner lying to Bart over something as trivial as a yearbook signature.  This story doesn’t have a happy ending.

[Note: This would’ve been up in the actual morning, but Comcast is as technically incompetent as they are ethically repugnant.  All together now: Fuck Comcast.] 

22 Responses to “Wednesday Morning Cartoons”

  1. 1 Kevin
    4 July 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Bittersweet definitely describes it well. I remember watching this episode for the first time very well. I did like it, and I still do, but it had started becoming very clear that the show had declined. The jokes were still hilarious, but the episodes weren’t PACKED with them like they used to be. And they started taking shortcuts with the storylines, like in”Marge Be Not Proud” (which I obviously don’t need to go into detail on), and “Much Apu About Nothing” which was the first time it felt like they were just taking some current issue and tacking an episode on it. Or “22 Short Films About Springfield,” which was a great episode but they obviously made it by cannibalizing things they had written earlier.

    This particular is kind of a harbinger of how the characters would start going in directions that felt weird. I think the character developments in classic Simpsons always added to the characters without ruining any of the jokes that had come before. But in season 8 they started to have character developments that took away from the humor of earlier jokes–like Hurricane Neddy, and much more so in The Principal and the Pauper. Actually the relationship between Skinner and Ned kinda does too.

    But Lisa’s story here felt a little off, too. One of the reasons I had always liked Lisa is because she was this outcast, but at the same time she had a fierce determination to be herself and not conform to everyone else. Ever since that scene in “Moaining Lisa” with her mom in the car–that was such a defining moment that made both characters so likeable. But this episode has her basically just tacking on late 90s fads, AND IT WORKS FOR HER. So while I kind of liked seeing Lisa enjoy herself, at the same time I felt like this was not the Lisa Simpson I’d been watching through the years… and of course, it would get worse.

    • 2 Kevin
      4 July 2012 at 5:51 pm

      “Actually the relationship between Skinner and Ned kinda does too.”

      Oops, somehow I confused “Ned” and “Edna” when I was typing. I did have Hurricane Neddy on my mind as I wrote it, and now that I look they do use almost the same letters. But yeah, that should read “Skinner and Edna.”

      • 3 Stan
        5 July 2012 at 12:12 pm

        Don’t give em ideas man! We now might see Skinner and Ned together in the next season!

    • 4 Mr. Snrub
      5 July 2012 at 11:56 am

      This episode fits perfectly with Lisa’s character. Sure, sometimes she feels proud to be different and unique, but it makes perfect sense for her to sometimes feel like she’d rather be someone else. I can completely relate to that, flipping between both feelings in the past. It hardly reeks of trying to force her character in to a story that doesn’t fit her.

      Also season 7 is the best season. It is The Simpsons, perfected. (……………………………………………………….in my opinion)

      • 5 Stan
        5 July 2012 at 12:14 pm

        Still, it was shown tons better in Separation Vocations (which is Season 3 if my memory doesn’t fail), which is both shorter on development, and features a side story with Bart and the police. In fact, thinking of the “Lisa wants to be someone/something else” arc bring quite a handful of episodes to mind.

  2. 6 Anonymous
    5 July 2012 at 12:32 am

    This is one of those episodes that had jokes that I didn’t appreciate as a kid (Homer’s purchases and Marge’s reaction) and a lot of good material, but overall, I don’t like it. It’s one of the classic episodes I don’t like to catch.

    It’s probably more personal bias than anything, based on how Bart is treated. Of course, it’s hard looking back now when Bart has been the school celebrity/town famous person for a decade now. Perhaps more? Either way, I do miss the old Skinner.

    • 7 Anonymous
      5 July 2012 at 5:04 pm

      This has always felt like a Season 8 episode to me. That made it feel amazing to me as a kid and… not so much anymore.

  3. 8 lennyburnham
    5 July 2012 at 10:03 am

    Totally agree. Loved this episode and all Lisa episodes as a kid, but now I’m more aware of how much her story plays into the everything’ll-be-fine-if-I-just-get-a-makeover trope that really damages girls. It’s executed wonderfully, but it’s still just the best possible version of a terrible idea.

  4. 9 Mr. Snrub
    5 July 2012 at 11:48 am

    I love that joke. And this episode is quite possibly my favourite and I genuinely don’t understand how it’s some indicator of worse things to come. It’s not. It’s nearly the perfect Simpsons episode.

  5. 5 July 2012 at 12:00 pm

    One of my all-time favorites. Really, I can’t see this as a harbinger of the decline at all – it’s just so genuine and perfect. Hell, as far as I’m concerned, all of Season 7 is spectacular.

    • 11 Stan
      5 July 2012 at 12:26 pm

      Really, why would Skinner want Bart’s signature. I mean sure, teachers and kids can write in each other’s books once in a while, particularly if they haven’t got a better thing to do… but Skinner, to whom Bart is a low-grade no-good-nick? Might as well be willing for Martin’s signature instead.

      I clearly see the distinction on this one when you take the Skinner who finds fun in astronomy and is too self-confident to have a flying balloon insult him around town, and the Skinner who comes up with an excuse for Bart to sign his yearbook for some reason. Sure, it’s still in his character, but the means are not justified.

      • 12 Mr. Snrub
        5 July 2012 at 4:46 pm

        that’s why it’s funny.

        • 13 Stan
          6 July 2012 at 12:33 am

          I think it’s just random, not funny. It can be worth a chuckle here and there, but as soon as you get into random humor, you certainly lose whatever was genuine about a good joke.

      • 14 Zartok-35
        6 July 2012 at 3:24 am

        The scene with Seymour is such a small part of the show, too small, to damage the entire episode, which is actually good.

        • 15 Stan
          6 July 2012 at 10:28 am

          Alright, then why would Milhouse go to a family vacation? Sure, him and Bart are best buddies, but it’s nothing more than a joke device and contrast to Lisa’s solitude.

          • 16 Charlie Sweatpants
            6 July 2012 at 2:50 pm

            Disagree. I don’t know how common it was, but I went along on family vacations with friends of mine a couple of times when I was a kid. When you’re in a cottage in the middle of no where, a second 10-year-old boy is a good way to keep the first one busy.

  6. 17 Chris
    5 July 2012 at 3:31 pm

    The funniest part of this episode is what’s written underneath Lisa’s picture in the yearbook. I can’t remember what it all says exactly, but I paused it one time and it’s pretty good. I think one of them is “sister to popular student.” Remember, these are supposed to be her accomplishments.

    I will defend this episode to my dying day. I think this is a great episode all the way around, it’s very in-character in that Bart and Lisa are children and act as such, and it is packed with jokes. I already mentioned the freeze-frame joke of her yearbook write-up, but there’s also the part where Homer blows up the sink, and then in the next scene you have Marge cleaning it up in the background. Everything that ever made this show great is very much still alive in this episode, up to and including that level of attention to detail. The part where she passes her yearbook around a circle and no one signs it is hilarious cruel and yet completely realistic. I also love Milhouse mimicking the various sprinklers, and the store name Tee Jay’s Zay Mart. One of my ten favorite episodes; claiming this episode was in any way a harbinger of things to come seems ridiculous to me.

    • 18 Kevin
      5 July 2012 at 4:47 pm

      It is a very funny episode. And I’m not even saying it’s out of character for Lisa to want to be something else, but there’s something about the way it plays out that never sat well with me. The fact that she becomes this generic “cool kid,” but then at the end she’s just going to go back to Springfield like nothing ever happened–feels kind of “TV-ish” to me. It is a very good episode (and I would say the same of all Season 7 episodes), but I remember thinking it wasn’t quite as great as the earlier seasons. They still have much more in common with the classic-era episodes than with Zombie Simpsons, but the ways in which Season 7 episodes are slightly inferior became much worse in later seasons. The best scenes in Season 7 are as good as the best moments in seasons 4 and 5, but they were becoming less frequent, and weren’t doing quite as great a job of bringing them together to make a whole.

      A lot of people don’t see those differences, and I can understand it. Because we’re talking about the best show on TV when it is slightly off from its peak. The differences are small and totally insignificant when taken on their own. But the problems get bigger in later years.

      • 19 D.N.
        5 July 2012 at 7:19 pm

        Bits and pieces of this episode are good, but overall, it’s never been one of my favourites – as Lisa-feeling-sad episodes go, it was always doomed to come off as inferior to “Moaning Lisa” and “Separate Vocations.” And didn’t this one stunt-cast Christina Ricci as one of the cool kids? I know it wasn’t the first time the show got a clearly too-old female celebrity to play a peer of Lisa or Bart (xref: Winona Ryder, Meryl Streep), but it still points the way for how massively over-used that kind of casting was used, whenever the show introduces a friend or rival for Lisa, or a love-interest for Bart.

  7. 20 Anonymous
    5 July 2012 at 8:10 pm

    I remember when I first watched this episode that I was really disgusted by Bart’s cruelty to the point that I thought it uncharacteristically cruel, excessive even for Bart. (Then would eventually come “My Sister, My Sitter”, which crossed that line unmistakably.) Years later, watching this episode again, I actually found myself thinking that Bart had a point. Lisa doesn’t just try to make herself over, she *specifically* builds up her popularity by slagging on her brother. Really, she kind of deserved what happened to her.

    It’s an OK episode but hardly “perfect”. But there are other Season 7 episodes that far more clearly mark the pending decline of the show, e.g. “Homerpalooza” (another episode in which Lisa is suddenly and incongruously preoccupied with being cool) and “Lisa the Vegetarian” (a chilling foretaste of the day when Lisa would become an even shriller exponent of trendy doctrines.)

    • 21 Kevin Irmiter
      6 July 2012 at 1:37 am

      “Lisa the Vegetarian” is a great episode. Lisa does get preachy, but unlike in later episodes the show has her learn that this is wrong. This is a key difference because it makes sure that it doesn’t feel like Lisa is preaching on behalf of the show. That little bit makes all the difference in the world. It also helps that the episode is so damned funny, one of the funniest of the season I would say.

      “Homerpalooza”–you know, I always lump that episode in with season 8, because it feels like one of the later episodes where they’re jamming the characters into situations they don’t fit, and bringing on guest stars just to bring them rather having a really funny idea. It didn’t seem like Lisa was trying to be cool, though–she was just telling Homer that he WASN’T cool. It did seem a little weird her being at Lollapalooza, though.

  8. 22 Mr. Incognito
    11 July 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Not among my favorites, at least in a Top-10 sort of way. I echo the sentiment that the part I like least is Bart’s treatment and his ensuing jealousy. Skinner’s wanting Bart to sign his book would’ve been fine with all DHS readers had The Simpsons ended the way it should have–after about 10 season, give or take a few.

    However, when Lisa is exposed for who she really is, it’s done in a somewhat subverted manner in that the local kids accept her for who she is. Maybe it’s just a tad bit lazy, but compare that to many of these hacky “disguise” movies, where the person is exposed, rejected, and then has to win back those they’re trying to fool. The Ringer also does a pretty good subversion of the disguise theme IMO, where Steve’s fellow Special Olympics bunkmates catch on to his “Jeffy” act well before any reveal, yet they keep him around to beat Jimmy.

    That said, I’ll catch it any day of the week in syndication with the crapshoot that is Simpsons syndication–you never know what episode or season you’re gonna get. I also still enjoy watching it from time to time on DVD, as well–everyone is still themselves, and even Bart’s out-of-character moments are minor when compared to Zombie Simpsons.

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