04
Dec
17

Behind Us Forever: Mr. Lisa’s Opus

♫”Disco Duck and Fleetwood Mac…” – Homer Simpson
“Coming out of my 8-track…” – Marge Simpson
“Michael Jackson still was black!
Those were the days!”♫ – Homer & Marge Simpson

Zombie Simpsons has a longstanding pattern of running the few good jokes they come up with into the ground. Occasionally they will also get positive reviews (from less forgiving outlets than this one) for more non-traditional episodes (the Lego one comes to mind). This week these two long standing traits collided into the jumbled mess that is “Mr. Lisa’s Opus”.

Back in Season 23, they did “Holidays of Future Passed” where they flashed forward to a time when Bart and Lisa had become parents. It allowed them to break out of the maddeningly familiar confines of present day Springfield and garnered some praise. They tried something similar in Season 27 with “Barthood”, which starts with Bart as a small child and progresses into his adulthood. It didn’t get as much attention, but when you’ve got 22 episodes to make per season, any gimmick is worth trying a third time, and so we now have the Lisa version of “Barthood”.

Confusingly, the episode starts with a flashback, then flashes forward to the future, then retells itself chronologically from the flashback, except for another flashback that breaks that up. If that sounds unnecessary and complicated, that’s because it is. I was reminded of the “Move Star” episode of Archer where Cyril tells Mallory, “You can’t have a flashback with a flash forward in it, that’s bad writing.” Indeed, it is.

– We begin with Homer expositing a flashback (labeled “7 years ago…”) by telling us that baby Lisa saying things makes her smart then expositing his own daydream with a dancing Einstein.

– And we flash forward from that to Lisa typing on a hologram (and a subtitle informing us it’s now “17 years later…”). She’s narrating a Harvard admissions letter, which leads to an incredible triple-repeat exposition within another flashback:

Flashback Future Lisa: I was born with one great advantage, a family that never made anything easy, never more than on my seventh birthday.
Flashback Future Lisa Flasback: It’s my birthday! Seven years old! I’ll wear my favorite blue dress. [dress disintegrates] I’ll wear red, just for today. It’s my birthday!

Was it her birthday? I missed it.

– I should also note that there was a stretch of a joke in there that did kinda have a decent punchline. In the flashforward, Bart is 20 and Homer is strangling him, which leads to Bart admitting he didn’t vote, which leads to Homer chastising him for enabling fascism, which leads to an offscreen “must stop President Kid Rock”.

– In the past, Marge gives Maggie a pacifier for the first time, which leads to an extended (and I mean *extended*) sequence where Marge can’t pull it out. Yay for dialog free filler! (Also, everyone has apparently forgotten Lisa’s birthday.)

– There’s a scene where Principal Skinner hallucinates about his mother. It took some time.

– Homer figures out that it’s Lisa’s birthday, and for some reason they put candles in a bowl of cheerios. Weird.

– Now we’re flashing back forward to eighteen-year-old essay writing Lisa, and it’s apparently also her birthday. Then Luigi walks up from out of nowhere along with a kid from the flashback.

– After the commercial, Bart comes in and Leon Kompowski is there to add some intentionally crappy extra verses to the birthday song. They even brought back Kipp Lenon, the guy who did Michael Jackson’s singing in “Stark Raving Dad”. Lisa eventually checks her watch out of boredom. I check and notice we’re only 1/3 through. Ugh.

– Next, flash forward Lisa flashes back again, this time to her 14th birthday. 14-year-old Lisa gets off the school bus holding a tower of presents because sure, why not? Ralph pokes his head out of a curiously missing window, exposits for a while (he’s still in second grade) and manages to end with this episode’s second and final half decent joke, “I’m growing a mustache under my long nose”. Get it, cuz he’s in puberty? It’s not great, but I’ll take what I can get.

– With no room for her stack of presents, Lisa goes to put them in Marge’s closet and discovers a packed suitcase and a letter to Homer. For reasons unknown, the letter begins talking to Lisa, begging her to read it. She does, and finds out that Marge is going to leave Homer through the power of flashback-flashforward-flashback^2-exposition.

– The next two scenes are in the kitchen and then at dinner where we continue to learn that Marge is going to leave Homer. Inside of that is Lisa fantasizing about attending Harvard, though for some reason her dream boyfriend is a dick and then the buildings fall down.

– At Moe’s, Moe has robot spider legs. Yeah, yeah, that’ll eat up some time.

– Okay, stick with me here, Homer exposits at Moe’s, then Lisa shows up and they exposit some more about Marge leaving him, then Homer calls Ned, who is his stand-by AA sponsor, and then Ned and Homer have an intervention at Moe’s. There is screaming.

– Inside of that mess is Homer having a devil fantasy where Satan appears to joke that a Flaming Moe is the “most overpriced thing at Universal Studios”. That joke reached so far it thew its back out.

– Lisa gets into Harvard, we go to commercial, and then it comes back with a subtitle reading “10 years from now”. We then see them pulling up to Harvard to move Lisa in, so this is now after she wrote her essay, which was where we were flashing back from. Ugh. [Futurama Donbot Voice: “From the context it is clear what you mean.”]

– Zombie Simpsons believes you would like to see older Homer spazzing out like Grampa.

– Then Lisa meets what will turn out to be her first roommate, who exposits all of her and Lisa’s feelings simultaneously:

Lisa: So, you play and instrument?
Roommate: Bari-sax.
Lisa: Are you any good?
Roommate: I played at Kenny G’s funeral.
Lisa’s Brain: Ooh, she’s pretty impressive.
Lisa: Uh, any childhood heartbreak?
Roommate: My parents forgot my birthday three times.
Lisa’s Brain: She beats me at everything! I don’t belong here! Roommate: While you were feeling inferior, I took the top bunk.

– Later, Bart shows up and briefly makes out with a Harvard girl to piss off her dad. I know this because he told us exactly that. Then Bart encourages Lisa and we cut to a second roommate scene where Lisa gets another roommate who exposits all the same things as the first girl except that she’s feeling vulnerable like Lisa so they decide to become friends. (Also, there’s a weird lesbian joke at the end that goes nowhere.)

– Now we get a flashback montage that goes in reverse back to Lisa’s baby scene from the beginning.

– Then we end on another All in the Family style song like the one from “Lisa’s Sax”. It goes on for a looong time and includes Homer making dial up modem noises.

Anyway, the ratings are in and I’m running out of ways to say that they’re exactly as they have been. With a football lead-in, last night a mere 4.31 million people got confused by nested flashbacks.


14 Responses to “Behind Us Forever: Mr. Lisa’s Opus”


  1. 1 Anonymous
    5 December 2017 at 10:41 am

    Well, this sounds like a complete and utter clusterfuck.

    Ralph pokes his head out of a curiously missing window, exposits for a while (he’s still in second grade) and manages to end with this episode’s second and final half decent joke, “I’m growing a mustache under my long nose”. Get it, cuz he’s in puberty? It’s not great, but I’ll take what I can get.

    You are far more generous than I.

    After the commercial, Bart comes in and Leon Kompowski is there to add some intentionally crappy extra verses to the birthday song. They even brought back Kipp Lenon, the guy who did Michael Jackson’s singing in “Stark Raving Dad”. Lisa eventually checks her watch out of boredom. I check and notice we’re only 1/3 through. Ugh.

    Inside of that mess is Homer having a devil fantasy where Satan appears to joke that a Flaming Moe is the “most overpriced thing at Universal Studios”. That joke reached so far it thew its back out.

    They need to stop fucking doing this. When they remind people of their better episodes and jokes, they’re only shooting themselves in the foot by pointing out there are better episodes to be watched than their crap, all with coherent storytelling too. And it just shits on their own legacy when they do this. Not only is Zombie Simpsons crap on it’s own, it threatens to actively destroy what good it once had.

  2. 4 Anonymous
    5 December 2017 at 6:02 pm

    The Flaming Moe they sell at Universal Studios is six or seven dollars. It’s non alcoholic and has no cough syrup in it. It’s just a small cup of orange soda with dry ice in it, held in place in a separate compartment on the bottom of the cup. I’m inclined to believe it is the most overpriced thing there but the line still wasn’t funny.

    • 5 Mike Russo
      5 December 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Why the fuck is it ORANGE soda?

      • 6 Anonymous
        6 December 2017 at 10:42 am

        They also have some other non-alcoholic specialty drinks that are really overpriced too. I remember one was called a “Mr. Teeny.” I suppose they want to have some things for kids since they can’t have the real-life Duff beer.

      • 6 December 2017 at 10:03 pm

        I presume because they can’t actually light it on fire.

        Really, the Flaming Moe is not the sort of thing that can or should be replicated in a family-friendly theme park. I don’t know why they bothered.

        • 8 Lucille Bryant
          9 December 2017 at 10:37 am

          I wonder if anyone actually tried to replicate that drink in real life. I know we have Sizurp (a.k.a what Li’l Wayne keeps almost dying from), but not a Sizurp that you can light on fire and create because your sister-in-law’s hairy legs during a vacation slideshow.

          • 9 December 2017 at 10:23 pm

            One of the Cracked columnists did an article a few years ago where he tried to recreate famous fictional drinks, the Flaming Moe included. Apparently it’s terrible.

  3. 5 December 2017 at 10:25 pm

    I hate that “Holidays of Future Passed” is really highly rated on IMDB by virtue of exceeding expectations for a ZS ep (that is, it’s watchable).

    • 11 Bleeding Gums Murphy
      8 December 2017 at 10:42 am

      I wouldn’t even go as far as saying “it’s watchable”. The most post-S13 episode would be “Eternal Moonshine of the Simpsons Mind” because it mostly avoids the typical ZS problems (there isn’t a lot of screaming or childish Jerkass Homer, for example), even if it still sucks. “Holidays of Future Passed” is not that far from “Future Drama”, and yet no one cares about the latter.

      • 12 Lucille Bryant
        9 December 2017 at 10:35 am

        Oh, I liked Eternal Moonshine of The Simpsons Mind, even if it was kind of dull. Fun fact about it: it was written to be the final episode in case FOX decided to cancel it (since the episode came on around the time of the 2007-2008 Writers’ Guild strike, and a lot of scripted shows were either getting canceled or being put on hiatus until it was over).

  4. 14 F.S.
    5 December 2017 at 11:54 pm

    This episode was weird. The story (if there was one) kinda went nowhere. There is no real ending to it, yet there is still a time filler to end the episode! And it is sad that now there are reusing their old stuff in such an underwhelming way (Lisa is your birthday).


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