Poor Lisa Simpson: her life is a recurring dream. The latest episode of The Simpsons dedicates a slim third of its time to a story headed by the increasingly unloved middle Simpsons child, but there’s not a shred of originality in it.
The narrative – one of three equally-weighted stories – trots through a trio of plotlines we’ve seen on countless occasions – Lisa falls for a weirdly sophisticated, clean-cut new boy; Lisa deals with loss of position or power; Lisa rekindles love of music – within its six minutes total runtime. Even the barrel scrapings are running thin.
Increasingly, as The Simpsons teases open the valve that occasionally lets the modern world in, Lisa is only being used as the voice of wokeness (sample line from this week: “I’m glad that my brother isn’t bowed by gender stereotypes, or heteronormative thinking”). It serves to present new challenges for star badboys Homer and Bart to overcome, and acts as a handy bit of real-world butt-covering for the writers, who can cite Lisa’s reality checks if and when they’re accused of transgressing contemporary morality. But what does it do for Lisa?
A huge disservice, that’s what. Lisa’s dramas navigating a world of shifting morality would be interesting; Lisa being cheated out of first chair Saxophone feels like a deja vu of a deja vu. If The Simpsons is serious about moving with the times, then it’s time Lisa and Marge, the two underwritten characters in the family, got the good material.
As the episode title suggests, this one is a three-header with Lisa, Bart and Comic Book Guy each suffering a form of a “dream denied”.
Lisa is thrilled to meet new boy Blake (Ben Platt, singer/actor/Broadway star), a blue-eyed, saxophone-playing vegan; less thrilled when he aims to take First Chair from her.
Comic Book Guy finds a way to get to ‘Comicalooza’ in San Diego, where he hopes to ask the perfect panel question and be instantly hired by Marvel – owned, like The Simpsons now, by Disney. Imagine his horror when the only offer he gets is from rival DC.
Bart gets work as a voice-over artist for a new animation, but is crestfallen when it turns out his character is a Princess.
What was good
The Comicalooza scenes are fun, crammed with sight gags and in-jokes for the unrepentantly geeky (hi!). It’s always nice to see Comic Book Guy happy for a fleeting moment, as he is on arriving at the comic convention, where he marvels: “Every man a Batman! Every woman a Harley Quinn!”
What wasn’t good
The total lack of originality. Take, for example, Bart getting into doing voice overs. Homer already did that, playing Poochie in season eight’s brilliant ‘The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show’. The writers clearly haven’t forgotten because there’s a Poochie toy for sale at the comic book store.
Plot hole of the week
While the episode asks us to pretend that Bart is new to the acting world, his own IMDb page would be formidable: he’s appeared in music videos (in superior season 12 episode ‘New Kids on the Blecch’), commercials (remember Baby Stink Breath from season 14?), he auditioned for the Radioactive Man film and starred in his own award-winning short Angry Dad: The Movie to name a handful.
Cameo of the week: Paul Rudd
The venerable yet ageless Ant Man is guest star at Comicalooza, where he’s less-than-thrilled to be collared by Comic Book Guy. “I hate my approachable, everyman looks,” he says.
Easter egg of the week
Yep, that’s Simpsons creator Matt Groening strolling past Comic Book Guy on his way to Comicapalooza. While he’s hardly in the ranks of Stan Lee, Groening has nonetheless popped up in the show more than 20 times over its three-decade run. Keep your eyes peeled also for cosplayed – or possibly real – Kang and Kodoses, plus Morbo from Groening’s Futurama.
Bonus pop culture parodies and references
It’s Comicalooza: heroes of the MCU, Star Wars, Minecraft, the DCEU and plenty more get their moment of glory. The pen of lost Robins (including a Nightwing – nice touch) is particularly good.
Eye on Springfield
- Writer: Danielle Weisberg
- Guest stars: Ben Platt as Blake, Paul Rudd as himself, Dawnn Lewis as cabin crew
- Couch gag: The couch has prepared a romantic dinner, but the family are late…
- Blackboard message: n/a
- Is it as good as the old ones? Comic Book Guy might declare it “worst triptych ever”.
- Like this episode? Try this one: Season 19’s ‘Husbands And Knives’, in which Comic Book Guy’s world is turned upside down when cool nerd Milo (Jack Black) opens a rival store. The episode does deep fan service with guest appearances from left-field comics giants Alan Moore, Art Spiegelman, and Dan Clowes.