Posts Tagged ‘Lisa’s First Word


Compare & Contrast: Flashback History

“Aw, it’s a boy, and what a boy!” – Homer Simpson
“Uh, that’s the umbilical cord.  It’s a girl.” – Dr. Hibbert

Continuing on yesterday’s theme of the astonishingly excellent episode that aired on Sunday, this week’s Compare & Contrast is highly abnormal.  Instead of highlighting how Zombie Simpsons takes ideas that have already been done and manages to make them worse in every possible way, this week’s post gets to stack up two episodes that take equal care with their stories, characters and jokes.  Because while the concepts here are similar, nothing is repeated and everything ties together.

Unlike more recent flashback episodes, “Lisa’s First Word” never resorted to the rampant retconning of Season 19’s “That 90s Show” or the bizarre multi-time frame plots of Season 20’s “Dangerous Curves”.  Instead, like “And Maggie Makes Three” before it, it told a simple story about kids changing Marge and Homer’s life, and told it well. 

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They’re being funny, but they’re also trusting the audience to remember this.

In the very first flashback scene we see a young (and not yet bald) Homer greeted after a day at the power plant by toddler Bart.  Their first interaction, a mere two minutes into the episode, sets up a theme that will continue throughout: the flat refusal of Homer’s kids to call him “Daddy”.  Bart does it here, and again when they arrive at their new home; and Lisa pulls the same stunt at the end.  What’s so great about it is that none of these occasions are treated the least bit seriously.  At the opening we see Bart, still in diapers, deliberately taunt Homer.  In the middle Bart tells Homer that their new home “sucks”; Homer asks him not to use that word, but to call him “Daddy”.  At the end, Lisa successfully pronounces “David Hasselhoff”, but is utterly bewildered by her father’s request that he be called anything but “Homer”.  Each one builds on the others, Homer’s mounting frustration definitely included, which makes the finale, when Maggie does call him “Daddy”, both sweet and funny.  Sweet because it happened, funny because Homer wasn’t there to hear it. 

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Homer closed the door seconds too soon, and an episode’s worth of buildup pays off.

The other theme of the episode is Bart’s increasingly hostile attitude toward his new sibling.  After initially thinking the baby might be useful for such things as deflecting blame and stunt ramps, Bart quickly realizes that a second child means less attention for him.  Once again, this is established early and gradually.  After Bart’s unrealistic expectations about using the baby to sop up spills, he loses the apartment he called home, his mother has less patience for his usual antics, and he’s forced from his reassuring crib into the hilariously nightmarish clown bed.  No one incident is invoked as a clumsy turning point as in so many Zombie Simpsons episodes, instead a number of indignities accumulate to make Bart hate Lisa. 

But Bart’s feelings toward his new sister never cross the line into genuine malice or danger.  Even when he’s got the scissors out, the show never implies that he’s about to actually hurt her.  Quite the opposite, in another of the brilliant little plot folds, Lisa takes Bart’s antics toward her as play (note her pleased giggle when he puts her in the mailbox).  That affection is what ultimately resolves the flashback plot, which in turn sets up the resolution for the overarching plot of Maggie’s first word.  It’s a story within a story, and both are seamless and smooth, which means none of the humor ever feels out of place or out of left field. 

Compare that to the similarly life changing events of “And Maggie Makes Three” and you’ll see the same type of nested, mutually reinforcing stories at work.  That episode opens with some enforced family time leading to questions about why there are no pictures of Maggie in the photo album.  The purpose of the flashback is to explain the lack of pictures, but that concept is quickly subsumed (though never forgotten) in the larger tale of how Maggie came to be. 

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Note Maggie’s pained and disappointed expression as she looks at Homer.  It’s there for a reason.

As the flashback opens, we see Homer emerging from the events of “I Married Marge” (well, after his awesome Die Hard fantasy).  In that episode, he had to put the welfare of his wife and child ahead of his own.  No more eating cookie dough for dinner for him.  By the events of “And Maggie Makes Three”, Homer’s years of “mind numbing, back breaking labor” have let him claw his way out of debt, which allows him to, for a brief moment, put his own happiness once more in the forefront of his life.  Along the way, the theme of Homer ignoring Maggie (i.e. having no pictures of her) is constantly reinforced, both within the flashback (Homer’s near pathological inability to understand that Marge is pregnant), and back in the present (Homer nearly sitting on her). 

As the story progresses, the coming of his third child spoils Homer’s brief “waking coma” reverie, and he’s initially unhappy.  He still does what he has to do, including going back to Mr. Burns, literally on his hands and knees, but he doesn’t like it.  Just as with Bart’s resentment of Lisa, however, Homer’s resentment of the yet to be born Maggie is played entirely for laughs.  There’s the way he cracks pathetically less than ten seconds after vowing to bear his burdens alone.  Then there’s his resigned attitude towards the birth of “another mouth”, which evaporates the instant he lays eyes on his new daughter.  Even in that moment, as “awwwww” worthy as any in the history of television, sentiment is never allowed to dominate the proceedings.  Homer’s wildly inaccurate first impression of the umbilical cord sees to that. 

But having wrapped up the flashback plot, the story still hasn’t resolved the first issue: the missing pictures of Maggie.  And there, just as in “Lisa’s First Word”, the two stories come together right as the credits roll.  There are no pictures of Maggie because the circumstances of her birth, and Mr. Burns’ “special demotivational plaque”, mean that those pictures are always needed at the power plant, the place Homer crawled back for a girl that, at the time, he had never seen. 

And Maggie Makes Three5

When the job’s done right, there’s no need for schlock sentiment, the real kind will appear on its own.


Still Got the Magic

Chalkboard - Lisa's First Word

“It’s back to the basics, classic Itchy & Scratchy!” – Bart Simpson
“We should thank our lucky stars they’re still putting out a program of this caliber after so many years.” – Lisa Simpson

From time to time, people ask us what we would do if Zombie Simpsons ever broadcast a good episode.  Would we kick it just because it’s Zombie Simpsons, or are we open minded enough to say that, yeah, even here in 2011 the show can still be good?  Well, I’m here to tell you that last night’s episode on FOX was outstanding from end to end, with a great story, fantastic writing, and more quotable lines than we usually see in a whole season of Zombie Simpsons.  Let it never be said that we at the Dead Homer Society doesn’t know quality television when we see it. 

“Lisa’s First Word” was another flashback episode, in this case to the events surrounding Lisa’s birth during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  As you’d expect, there were a lot of jokes at the expense of the 80s and 80s culture, but it never felt like a “destination” episode where they go someplace and just make a string of unrelated gags about it.  Instead we got delightfully silly period pieces, such as having the immigrant kids’ stickball game be played in a video arcade instead of the street, and quick, knowing laughs at everything from David Hasselhoff and Carl Lewis to Walter Mondale, Cyndi Lauper and M*A*S*H. 

The story itself was just as great.  Seeing how Lisa was born, how Homer met Flanders, and even how the Simpson family came to live on Evergreen Terrace is the kind of elegant, revealing and downright funny fan service that has been so sorely lacking in recent years.  After Flanders introduces himself in a very Flanders-esque way (“The handle’s Flanders, but my friends call me Ned”), Homer dislikes him immediately without any overwrought histrionics or cliched backstory (“Hi, Flanders”).  And when Homer has to ask Grampa for a loan to buy a house, the show never lets the bittersweet emotion of a family transitioning from one generation to another overwhelm the fun.  Not only did Grampa win the house “on a crooked 50s game show”, but the touching moment when Homer invites Grampa to share their new home is used as the setup for a punchline about how quickly and callously Homer sent his father to the dreary Springfield Retirement Castle.  The whole thing was fantastic from start to finish.   

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are eye-poppingly awesome.  “Lisa’s First Word” was watched by 15.5 million U.S. households, making it the most watched episode in six years, since that one that came on right after the Super Bowl.  Curiously, this excellent new episode is not available yet on 

There’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to return consistently to this stratospheric level of quality.  And the description of next week’s episode, in which Marge becomes obsessed with peaches, Lisa becomes a magician’s assistant, and a number of famous people guest voice themselves, isn’t encouraging.  But if they can routinely put on something as beautifully animated (the spaghetti slurping scene was gorgeously drawn), fast paced (they covered a ton of topics in just twenty-two minutes), and laugh ’til you cry funny (“I think his name is Mother Shabubu now”) as they did last night, then we’ll have no choice but close up shop on this here blog because there will no longer be any need for it.  Here’s hoping. 


Quote of the Day

Lisa's First Word5

“It’s not easy to juggle a pregnant wife and a troubled child, but somehow I managed to fit in eight hours of teevee a day.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

♫ When the working day is done / Girls just wanna have fun / That’s all we really want ♫ – Homer Simpson


Crazy Noises: Boy Meets Curl

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“Ohhh doctor!  We are seconds away from the 100M Butterfly and with the East German, heh heh, women, shaving their backs 9,000 miles away, the Americans are heavy favorites.” – Not Keith Jackson

In our continuing mission to bring you only the finest in low class, low brow, and low tech internet Simpsons commentary we’re bringing back our “Crazy Noises” series and applying it to Season 21.  Because doing a podcast smacks of effort we’re still using this “chatroom” thing that all the middle schoolers and undercover cops seem to think is so cool.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “patriotism ”).

One of the nice things about actually posting these chats is that, unlike Dave and Mad Jon, if there’s something I forget to complain about I can rectify my omission by complaining about it now.  And when we did this chat I forgot to complain about the “opening ceremony” thing.  It goes on for a full minute and has, wait for it, two jokes.  It takes Costas fifteen seconds just to set up the one note Ivan Reitman gag which then drags on for another twenty seconds.  You could’ve kept all the jokes and gotten the whole opening ceremony scene down to ten seconds just by getting rid of the Costas exposition and not milking the “who you gonna call” thing.  But then you’d be fifty seconds further away from a “whole” episode.  They’re so transparently desperate to fill time that they might as well just give up and install a laughtrack.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we commence with the curling?

Mad Jon: Ok

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll start by going out on a limb and saying that I hated this fucking episode.

Mad Jon: That may have been the worst episode I have seen in a long time. I would have to go back and check but I don’t think I say that too often. I think I usually say "That episode sucks" or something.

Dave: It was undoubtedly and unrepentantly stupid, a massive waste of 23 minutes of my life.

Charlie Sweatpants: The thing that really bothered me is that this is the kind of episode that they can sometimes scrape up to almost Season 12 standards. They’ve got a fresh topic to mock, they have the family go somewhere, there’s lots of new things.

Dave: It’s the copout setup, right?

Mad Jon: I think that has been a theme for the last few episodes.

Charlie Sweatpants: And yet, all they came up with was a bunch of montages, several curling scenes that were identical and two subplots so sparse that can’t even be called "B".

Mad Jon: But still, curling is terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Curling is like any other niche sport, it’s laughable to everyone who doesn’t love it. The same is true of NASCAR, ballroom dancing, and consensual sodomy.

Dave: It’s hard to mock something that no one cares about, and they didn’t even do a good job of it. It could’ve been any other sport really.

Mad Jon: I think that the only thing I thought was almost funny was when homer said "There’s a winter Olympics?"

Charlie Sweatpants: The montage, or what Homer said?

Dave: Are you guys getting my messages?

Mad Jon: Because that’s how I feel. I have tried to get into the winter Olympics. But each time I do I turn the TV on and see ski jump or curling round robin or sprint biathlon, and I lose any patriotism that may have been there.

Charlie Sweatpants: I got "It’s hard to mock something that no one cares about, and they didn’t even do a good job of it. It could’ve been any other sport really."

But I kind of ignored it. Don’t take it personally.

Mad Jon: And the montage was what I meant, with Santa on the diving board. It was bit of visual humor.

Dave: I won’t. I just got a red nastygram saying the group didn’t receive my chat.

Charlie Sweatpants: I hate it when that happens.

Mad Jon: I have had a couple of those tonight.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s 2010, you’d think a company as evil and powerful as Google would’ve figured out a chat concept that AOL mastered in about 1994.


Dave: They’ve had a rough week. But I digress.

Charlie Sweatpants: I kinda liked the Santa montage until they showed him trapped under the ice, not that that wasn’t kinda funny, but as soon as he broke though my first thought was "he’s gonna be trapped under the ice" and then when they did it I was massively disappointed.

Mad Jon: Yeah, but I knew it would end poorly and stopped paying attention 4.5 seconds in.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mentioned this in the recap post, but I did laugh at the Swedes, "Joy is but the shadow pain casts."

Mad Jon: Oh yea, I liked the Swedes. The first time at least.

Dave: Out of context that’s funny, yeah.

Mad Jon: I thought I was going to have to turn in my resignation after the Mrs. Skinner montage.

That was almost it.

Charlie Sweatpants: That whole pole vault thing? That was awful.

Dave: Angry, spiteful Agnes is funny. Regretful, bitter Agnes is not.

Mad Jon: Real terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: You’ve got it there Dave, when Agnes is sad we have to pity her and pity for old women is not something I enjoy. When she’s angry she’s funny.

Also, their goofy reconciliation at the end was nauseating.

Dave: Would you have it any other way?

Mad Jon: I now have another reason to wish for a meteorite to hit Bob Costas.

So I got that going for me too.

Charlie Sweatpants: He’s pretty small, the usually astronomical odds against that are even worse for him.

While we’re on Costas, I have a bone to pick.

Mad Jon: Go for it.

Charlie Sweatpants: When he talks about how Olympic coverage feeds on tragedy, that could’ve been great. But it wasn’t because it was exactly the kind of fake self deprecation that sports announcers actually do.

If they’d had him darkly muttering about how awesome it was that Marge was hurt it might’ve worked, but instead they just had him reciting the kind of pat, harmless crap that he does in real life.

I wasn’t surprised, they did the exact same thing when they had Mitch Albom on, but still. Targets this show once bit into it now gums for awhile and then lets go.

Mad Jon: Now why don’t you criticize the quartet on the deck of the Titanic.

Charlie Sweatpants: The violin player was half a beat behind the whole night!

Mad Jon: But in seriousness, I agree with what you just said.

Charlie Sweatpants: About the violin player?

Dave: About everything, I think.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sorry, I was going for Moe in Flanders’ bomb shelter there but I forgot you can’t hear me.

Mad Jon: I can’t think of a sports commenter other than Keith Jackson who I don’t want to not be alive any more.

And Dave was right.

Dave: People tell me that quite often.

Mad Jon: Well then you are a better man than I.

Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the topic of weak subplots, on a scale of one to incessant, broken smoke alarm how annoying was Lisa’s subplot?

Dave: Incessant with a touch of odiousness for good measure.

Charlie Sweatpants: Are we then agreed that Lisa’s subplot was so boring and pointless that we have nothing to say about it?

Dave: I think you were building to something, but otherwise agreed

Mad Jon: Yeah, that was pretty bad.

Pin addiction? Really? Couldn’t it have been some British Colombian delicacy or something?

Dave: Oh god, I just remembered the upside down dancing muzzle.

What did I do to deserve that?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, if ever there was cry in pain for needing fifteen extra seconds, that was it.

Dave: To whom was that supposed to appeal?

Charlie Sweatpants: Though Homer’s little speech about curling was awfully bad as well.

I think it was supposed to be from Henry V, but the only thing that tipped me off was the background music. What a blatant time eater.

Mad Jon: I was definitely a little more ashamed than normal while watching that bit.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though blatant time eater was more of a theme to this episode than curling.

Mad Jon: Touche salesman.

Dave: What’s the opposite of shame?

Mad Jon: Pride?

Dave: No, not that far from shame.

Mad Jon: Less shame?

Dave: Yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: The hallucination, the bobsled thing, the repetitive curling scenes, even the Three Stooges thing, everything was stretched, even by the standards of Zombie Simpsons. Those were pretty far from shame and pride. Indifference, I think, was quite close.

Mad Jon: I wish I could do my job drunk, you know, like a Zombie Simpson writer.

Charlie Sweatpants: That may be giving them too much credit. Maybe the rotisserie chicken place changed their spices.

Dave: Arsenic.

Mad Jon: "Ok guys, think of an Olympic sport to lampoon this winter. You know, like… Curling. Only more dynamic and interesting!"

"…Curling ok with you guys?"

Charlie Sweatpants: Uh-huh.

Okay, do we have anything else to say about this?

Mad Jon: I’m cashed.

Dave: Me too.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well then, I hereby declare us all gold medal winners.


Quote of the Day


“Who the hell are you?” – Bart Simpson
“My name’s Todd, will you be my friend?” – Todd Flanders


“You’re funny, hahaha!” – Todd Flanders


New Digs

"Just imagine what we can do with this place." - Marge Simpson

"Just imagine what we can do with this place." - Marge Simpson

Welcome to the new home of the Dead Homer Society.  We’ve traded in the many drawbacks and aggravations of Blogger for the (hopefully) fewer drawbacks and aggravations of WordPress.


Quote of the Day

“The American, Drederick Tatum, does a triumphant turkey trot over the supine Swede.  One’s thoughts turn to Alexander of Macedon’s victories at Granicus and Issus.” – Howard Cosell

Take this episode, please!

“It’ll be great to see the old gang again, Potsie, Ralph Malph, the Fonz.” – Homer Simpson
“That was ‘Happy Days’.” – Marge Simpson
“No, they weren’t all happy days, like the time Pinky Tuscadero crashed her motorcycle, or the night I lost all my money to those card sharks and my dad Tom Bosley had to get it back.” – Homer Simpson

The next new Zombie Simpsons episode is less than a week away. The buzz seems to revolve around the fact that it will be in HD, but I don’t care about that. I, like everyone else who is fortunate enough not to work for FOX, have not seen the episode yet, but I have read the summary and am confidant in saying that it will be as awful as anything else they’ve had the guts to air as of late. I am sure true Simpson’s fans will not argue with me on this. Since the preview says this will be a flashback to flashforward episode I will, in a two part series, describe the reasons for my hatred of Zombie Simpsons episodes involving flash-anything.

The first part will focus on the flashback aspect of this on-screen defecation. There are four main reasons I take issue with the episodes that have used flashbacks in the last, say, 10 years. (ugh)

1. Unnecessary auxiliary character involvement.
All of the Zombie Simpsons episodes that involve flashbacks contain characters that have no place in Homer’s life until adulthood. Lenny, Carl and Moe, I am looking at you. Get out of Homer’s past and stay out. Barney, you can stay.

2. Unnecessary Homer info.
In high school, as well as before and after that, Homer was a loser and a slacker. He has no business running for class president, having a future in any sort of job, or anything else requiring forethought and competence. If you think back to his foray into the debate team, you will remember he mooned for rebuttal. The fact that he had any idea of the concept of the word ‘rebuttal’ almost stretches too far. (Even though I wouldn’t change that scene for all the doughnuts in Springfield)

3. Unnecessary relationship drama.
In the episode “The Way We Was”, Homer and Marge had some drama as they were starting their love life. Fine. That was hilarious. There is no need to further test their relationship with childhood kisses and near breakups in other flashback episodes. If you want to do that crap, do it in present time like a real man would.

4. History.
Every flashback episode since season 6’s “And Maggie Makes Three” has been terrible. I don’t know how many there are as I am not willing to do the research and I am sure that I have repressed the memory of most of them. But I assume they are as terrible as the ones I have seen. That’s right “The Blunder Years”, “The Way We Weren’t” and “That 90’s Show” were all terrible and anyone who says otherwise is a communist. There I said it.

The list will probably not look much different in part two of this series, but I feel better as creating it has been something of a cathartic exercise.

Only because I didn’t mention it earlier, I would ask you all to watch “Lisa’s First Word” and enjoy proper flashback usage.


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