Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Simpson This Isn’t Your Life

17
Nov
10

Crazy Noises: Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life

Lisa's Sax4

“I’ll give you the address of a nice preschool.” – Dr. J. Loren Pryor

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on  “supposedly”).

There are about four different episodes I could’ve done a compare & contrast post when it comes to “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life”. For now I’ll content myself by pointing out how much better “Lisa’s Sax” is just in terms of allowing the viewer to follow the action without getting plot whiplash every three minutes. In “Lisa’s Sax”, Bart is having trouble at school; Marge and Homer go to talk to the school counselor about Bart. Toddler Lisa is sitting in her mother’s lap when the counselor notices her intelligence and recommends a good preschool. The family goes to the school where they find that they cannot afford it or get a scholarship. It’s very clean and simple and viewer friendly:

A (Bart has trouble in school) -> B (parent/counselor meeting) -> C (counselor sees how smart Lisa is) -> D (counselor recommends preschool) -> E (family checks out good preschool)

In “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life” it goes like this:

A (Lisa disappointed in school) -> L (a bus drives by) -> C (family shows up at a school) -> Y (Homer dives out of a window)

It all makes perfect sense if you happen to have suffered cranial trauma recently, otherwise, not so much. Dave was once again unable to join us this week. He did send this in:

“I didn’t bother watching this year’s ToH episode, which means it has been a relatively enjoyable few weeks devoid of Zombie Simpsons.  ‘Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life’ irrevocably ruined this peace.  It made me contemplate throwing my water bottle at my laptop on multiple occasions.  It was remarkably unfunny, trite, and poorly rehashed any number of plot points from episodes past.  Not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to send this piece of shit into production, but they did, and should be stoned as a result of their terrible decision.”

He, uh, didn’t like it.

Mad Jon: Opening shot?

Charlie Sweatpants: The Itchy & Scratchy thing?

Mad Jon: Ok. I was ok with it until it kept going.

One or two murders will cover it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, it got old pretty fast, plus it was another one that was completely unrelated to the rest of the episode.

Mad Jon: Yeah, most of the old ones tied in a bit, e.g. the one when Homer became an astronaut.

Charlie Sweatpants: When I think about things like the look of pained joy on Krusty’s face after the thresher hits Scratchy Jr. and his dad, I can’t help but wish they’d do things like that just every once in a while.

  Still, the very beginning was probably the high point of the episode.

Mad Jon: Also, every I&S used to end with Bart and Lisa laughing or something, they didn’t even bother to stick around for the end this time.

They used to be entertainment for the characters, not just those willing to watch FOX at 8pm on Sundays.

  And I agree, it was probably the high point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Because once Homer began refilling his gas tank for no reason, it was all downhill from there.

Mad Jon: I think it would have been a much better episode if Homer didn’t show up at all.

Although the only chuckle I had was at his line about picking a dead end and waiting for death.

Charlie Sweatpants: Enh. That didn’t rise to chuckle worthy for me. It’s not a bad concept, but like everything else it was just too ham handed to be fun.

Mad Jon: Fair enough

Charlie Sweatpants: The gas station thing just went on forever, and when it finally did end all we got out of it was that they got lost on the way home (for some reason) and that bizarre scene at Marge’s old house.

Mad Jon: We never did find out anything about the current home owner either, did we?

Charlie Sweatpants: Not really. She was just there, and had apparently left Marge’s old room intact for some reason.

It’s another one of those lazy storytelling devices where the writers are so pleased with themselves for thinking of something that hasn’t been beaten into the ground yet that they don’t bother to develop it at all.

The trip to Marge’s old house was about twenty seconds of content stretched over a minute and a half.

Mad Jon: Which is obviously a lesson they forgot the rest of the episode. That was like 4 old plot lines rehashed in one episode.

Charlie Sweatpants:  That’s the other problem.

The Bart-Nelson subplot felt like something Sam Simon would’ve burned the moment it came off his typewriter.

  It just keeps making less and less sense, right up until the end when they walk in together at four in the morning for one of the more random endings I can recall in a while.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that caught me pretty off-guard. If apple juice made you drunk I would have an extra decade or so of substance abuse under my belt.

Charlie Sweatpants: And let’s not forget that it all got started when Bart went kite-boarding in the playground for some reason.

Mad Jon: Is Kite-boarding a current fad or something?

  Although I must say last time I was in Miami for business I watched some guys do that and it looked pretty freakin’ sweet.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think so, but they had that “Sonny & Cher” kite, and that was too good not to use again.

Mad Jon: Definitely not as good as the Ringo Starr portrait.

  “Gear.”

  I’m going to watch that episode tonight.

Charlie Sweatpants: That will make you feel better.

  Before you get to that though, we have to discuss the A-plot.

Mad Jon: Oh, I’m not going anywhere yet.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know I ranted about this in that post about how awful Marge was, but what was the point of this story?

Did it have a point?

  Or even a climax?

  A conflict of any kind?

Mad Jon: I think maybe the climax/resolution was supposed to happen at the end when Lisa realized her mother led some sort of good life, but then she had that look in her eyes that in a soap opera would mean an evil twin would show up next episode.

  But that only covers the “Separate Vocations” plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, then there’s the “Lisa’s Pony” part, except without the humanity, and the “Lisa’s Sax” part, except without any kind of resolution.

  I don’t know, maybe I’m asking too much of an episode that had its main point of contention literally drive by on the side of a bus 2/3 of the way through.

Mad Jon: Most assuredly.

It was even harder to watch as apparently Lisa, IQ 156, thinks that to have a full life means you must eliminate all forms of everything, but then falls back on that when it goes well for her.

  Weak.

  Bill Gates would have let his mom do the laundry.

Charlie Sweatpants: That part also felt like some kind of bizarre flight of fancy.

Mad Jon: I was waiting for her to eliminate 2 of 5 senses.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, you lost me there.

Mad Jon: Well, soon she would have decided that smelling things was a distraction, and comfortable clothes? That will only get you into Brown, say goodbye to Harvard.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, it makes sense now.

But that’s part of the problem isn’t it? Ditching the activities that make her such an overachiever is the opposite of what Lisa would do.

  And that’s before we got to the school, which supposedly had everything.

Mad Jon: If anyone should know that the variety of activities Lisa has makes her the person she is, it would be Lisa. Also I think that was a plot line for an episode 4 or 5 season ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: That would not surprise me. But this is another example of them ratcheting back and forth between concepts with no regard for what just happened.

One moment Lisa demands only to study, the next she’s off at a school that has other things going on.

Mad Jon: Like imagination, which may be the single most time sucking activity in which I engage daily.

Charlie Sweatpants: But we also know they have a pool because . . . well, you know.

Mad Jon: Oh, I know.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though, for my money, the three story plunge into the pool actually made more sense than Willie’s floor waxer thing. Admittedly, they are both so close to absolute zero on the humor scale that it’s hard to tell.

Mad Jon: Oh, I have to say that the Willy thing was more obviously insane. What, you couldn’t fit Homer into enough jerk-ass scenes? You had to drag the cleaning staff into this?

Don’t worry, I will also scream it out.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, they long ago gave up on having the supporting characters appearances make sense. I think Chalmers lives at the school now.

Mad Jon: Well, at least they disposed of the subtle hatred/co-dependency that made the Skinner- Chalmers relationship entertaining.

  I know it happened a while ago, but until then it was like waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though apparently Skinner has been principal since Marge was in second grade, so, you know. That’s kinda odd too.

Mad Jon: Especially since they are basically the same age.

  Was he in nom in the mid-late 60’s?

  And also like 22?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the Skinner as Vietnam vet thing has kinda backfired on them over the years.

  He’d need to be in his sixties now.

Mad Jon: Which is too bad, as it is one of the funnier long running jokes.

I think I get hard each time I see the shades fall on his slumped reminiscence.

  Whoops, that was the beer talking.

Charlie Sweatpants: It happens. Skinner’s flashbacks are another one of those pieces of humor they long ago forgot how to use.

Anything else?

Mad Jon: No, I think a few commenters got it right, it wasn’t as terrible as most of the latest episodes. It was still pretty terrible, and literally had to recycle 4 or 5 plot themes just to make it to 22 minutes. It just wasn’t quite as terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not sure if I can even go that far. The fact that it had a few decent ideas that it failed to develop doesn’t mean all that much in the grand scheme of things.

  It still whirled around, killing time and making no sense, and had its characters act loopy for no reason.

Just because they didn’t go to Switzerland or have Homer get a new job doesn’t mean squat.

Mad Jon: I agree with all of your points.

  All I was trying to say is that I didn’t have to try quite as hard to make it thorough the episode without shutting off the TV or gouging out my eyeballs.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’d make a good slogan for a show with such low standards: Now with Less Urge to Shut Off the TV!

Mad Jon: And also I can’t imagine spending any more time defending my assessment of “not quite as terrible as lately” is even remotely worth it.

My time may be better spent rubbing my index finger over my uvula.

16
Nov
10

Compare & Contrast: Marge & Lisa At Breakfast

Separate Vocations6

“Lisa, there are a lot of people in world who like to tell you what you can’t do.  But they don’t always know what they’re talking about.” – Marge Simpson

In both “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life” and “Separate Vocations”, Lisa becomes afraid that, despite all her ambition, talent and drive, she’s going to end up like her mother.  The two setups are as close to identical as can be expected given that they were broadcast nineteen seasons apart.  But they take radically different directions once Marge learns of Lisa’s fears.  In The Simpsons, Marge reacts like a loving parent, albeit somewhat naive and misguided; in Zombie Simpsons, Marge reacts like a butthurt child herself. 

The differences are immediately apparent in the scenes where Marge finds out how Lisa feels.  In “Separate Vocations”, the family is sitting at the dinner table.  Marge gives a defensive but understandable “It’s not that bad” when Lisa expresses her contempt for Marge’s lot in life.  It’s one line, and the very next thing out of Marge’s mouth is her desire to help Lisa realize her dream of becoming a jazz musician.  Both things, Marge’s (extremely) mild disappointment and her immediate recovery into being a supportive parent work into the larger scene, which sees both Bart and Lisa’s plot lines advanced as well as both Marge and Homer realize that their kids want to be nothing like them.  And, it goes almost without saying, the dialogue is rife with jokes, including Homer’s inability to join the army or the police and Lisa’s wonderfully elaborate musician fantasy. 

In order to reveal the exact same information, that Lisa doesn’t want to become Marge, Zombie Simpsons has a scene with Marge and Homer in which that is the only topic of conversation.  Marge immediately reacts like a spoiled kid, and most of the scene is her (very out of character) wallowing in self pity while Homer acts manic to try and distract her.  No other plot points are advanced (or even mentioned), and it takes longer too. 

Following those scenes, Zombie Marge and regular Marge follow radically different paths.  But they both end up at the breakfast table with Lisa, and here the massive differences between the two become crystal clear.  In “Separate Vocations”, Marge tries to reassure Lisa that homemaking provides plenty of opportunities for creativity.  (This is after Marge’s plan to show Lisa that she can be a jazz musician hilariously backfires with the immortal line, “You’ve inherited a finger condition known as ‘Stubbiness’.”)  Here’s the dialogue:Smiley Breakfast

Marge: This morning, I turned bacon, eggs and toast into a nice smiley face for Bart and Homer.  

Lisa: What’s the point, they’ll never notice.

Marge: Oh, well you’d be surprised.

Homer and Bart immediately appear to demolish Marge’s carefully constructed breakfast without so much as a thank you, though Homer does manage a satisfied belch.  Just as with the outing to the music store, Marge acts perfectly in character, and the comedy comes from the utter failure of her earnest attempts. 

In Zombie Simpsons, Marge also cooks breakfast.  Only this time, she’s not trying to reassure or encourage her daughter.  She’s attacking her daughter in a way that’s petty, venomous, passive-aggressive, and very un-Marge:Frowny Breakfast

Lisa: Mom, is something wrong?

Marge: Would it be so bad to turn out like me?

Lisa: Mom, I admire everything you do!

Marge: But it’s not good enough, is it?

Yikes.  And Lisa didn’t even do anything to Marge.  All Lisa did was mention to Homer that Marge’s grades declined when the two started dating.  Lisa never said anything to Homer about not wanting to become like Marge but, thanks to Zombie Simpsons’ inimitable contempt for storytelling, that doesn’t matter.  Marge lays into her daughter as though Lisa had deliberately and maliciously set out to personally insult her.

Nor does Marge redeem herself with her laundry scheme.  She goes right on laying the serious guilt trip on her daughter:

Lisa, honey, I insist, because it’s important to you that you don’t turn out like me. 

It works, and Lisa gives up the school so Marge’s feelings won’t be hurt any longer.  This is the diametric opposite of Marge’s behavior in “Separate Vocations”, when she goes out of her way to encourage and support Lisa. 

In a final bit of what is either sloppy editing or simple meanness (Zombie Simpsons often makes it hard to tell the difference), the last shot of Lisa is of her looking regretful about her decision as she hugs Marge.  This is different than a funny-sad ending where a comedy character loses or gets thwarted, this is just sad. 

The Simpsons kids have been embarrassed, stifled, or just plain let down by their parents many times, but not intentionally.  Even some of the most traumatic moments caused by Homer’s awful parenting, such as his failure in “Lisa’s Pony” (which this episode also apes more than a little bit), are accidental.  Here, Marge is intentionally harming her kid, and that isn’t so much funny as it is cruel and tragic. 

But let’s not end on a sad note.  Let’s remember that in “Separate Vocations”, not only does Marge support Lisa, but Lisa eventually regains her self confidence after Bart acts like more of a decent human being that Marge does in all of “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life”:

You got the brains and the talent to go as far as you want, and when you do, I’ll be right there to borrow money.

15
Nov
10

Marge Acts Like a Child, Until She Doesn’t, Then It Ends

Chalkboard - Lisa Simpson, This Isn't Your Life

“A homemaker?  I might as well be dead.” – Lisa Simpson
“Lisa, it’s not that bad.” – Marge Simpson

For all those who have ever wondered what would happen if Zombie Simpsons took “Lisa’s Sax”, “Separate Vocations”, and “Lisa’s Pony” and added in a hash of “Bart the General” as a B-plot, wonder no more.  It lasts about twenty-two minutes, moving glacially from one overwrought plot point to another, pausing occasionally for a bizarre aside that the writers think is clever.  In that last category, we have the interminable gas station scene at the beginning, Willie’s bizarre floor-waxer conniption fit, Bart’s kite-boarding montage, and Homer’s clock eating slow motion dive out of a window. 

To my surprise, there were a couple of decent ideas here.  But, as usual, they shied away from anything that could be called insightful.  Case in point, concealing from the consumer which toy they’re actually buying.  It’s a good concept, especially because the toy is supposed to be an apology from an oil company.  But instead of doing anything clever with it, they use it as an excuse for more of their usual crazy Homer antics, including having him spray himself with gasoline for some reason. 

The numbers are in, and while they are up from last week, they are also probably going to get revised down on account of football overrun.  Right now Zombie Simpsons is rocking a 8.97 million viewers, but that is almost certain to come down significantly once the final numbers are posted.  When the revised figure gets to TV By the Numbers, I’ll take another look.  Here’s hoping it plummets. 

14
Nov
10

Sunday Preview: “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life”

Tonight’s follow up to last week’s underwhelming Treehouse of Horror episode is “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life”.  We’ve got a dull, lifeless description from Simpsons Channel, which merits a dull, lifeless response:

Discovering that Marge was once a stellar A+ student whose grades plummeted after being distracted, Lisa fears that she will end up just like her mom unless she pledges to focus solely on academics in an encore episode. When Marge makes a secret deal allowing Lisa to attend her dream school, Lisa learns a lesson in family and altruism. Meanwhile, Bart puts Nelson in his place and unintentionally claims the title of “School Bully.”

Oh goodie.  No blood this week, I just don’t have it in me.




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