This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 29 Episode 17
The Simpsons season 29 is turning out to be quite musical, as episode 16 blows through “Lisa Gets the Blues.” It begins with an innovative turn on the very opening theme and incorporates the couch gag into the arc. It’s not that lumber jacks are funny, but the band’s chops cut through the treacle.
Music is a fire in your belly that comes out of your mouth, and Dewey Largo, Springfield Elementary School’s music teacher and band leader, wants to smother it in Lisa before she sticks her instrument in front of it again. Largo is drawing on a variation of the Homer Simpson philosophy, “You tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is never try.” He wants to Lisa to know she is doomed to disappointment in the world of music because there are a million Mama Yos for every Yoyo Ma. No matter how good you are, someone is going to be better, give up now.
To be fair, Largo is only following the school’s curriculum, which includes breaking any spirit trying to escape from an eternal dystopian present, grammar school. In order to save the kids from a future built on false hope, it is best not to have any hope at all. Oh, and don’t vote. That only leads to cooties. Principal Skinner overhears the dissonant disillusionment and proclaims Largo is crushing it as always.
Bart also gets crushed before the first commercial. He gets in a pretty good prank using Jimbo’s head as a canvass, and is punished by having to put on the theater department’s Little Orphan Annie outfit and sing “Tomorrow” to a lunchroom filled with kids. It scores the gang some free snacks, but leaves a bitter taste in Bart’s wide open mouth. The only consolation I can think of is he didn’t get to the “I just stick out my chin and grin, and say” line because I think I saw Lunch Lady Doris readying an entire tray of last week’s vegetables, Lisa’s lunch for a week, to throw at the boy. I know I would. Instead, Bart gets his eyes “Annied,” which means they white out the pupils in his animated eyes.
It doesn’t look like these are easy fixes, although everything’s an easy fix in a half-hour cartoon sitcome, as Lisa self-diagnosis herself with the yips and the family learns that their family vacation centers around Eunice Bouvier’s 102nd birthday. It’s not the birthday that’s the problem, it’s the location. To get an idea of how inauspicious this destination is, Homer readies himself by reading the book “If you must go to Gainesville.” Even the desperate Hell’s Kitchen gang the Rogues from the movie The Warriors can’t make that work. Luckily, the plane is diverted New Orleans, the solution to all life’s problems.
It is a well-known complement to say an actor can make someone cry by reading a phone book. Dan Castellaneta proves he can make us laugh by reading a menu. He mixes Po boys, muffalatas, blackened catfish, rice and beans into a comic gumbo. The aria is not just funny. It is intimate. It is emotionally raw. It could have gone sexual if Lisa wasn’t in the room. And don’t look at me like that, Homer’s gotten sexual with food before. Food also saved him from having an affair, but only because he remained faithful to favorite snacks.
That whole thing with Millhouse and Maggie is pretty creepy and I’m really glad she ripped off his head. After 645 episodes and four billboards, it looks like we’re finally getting a glimpse in the psychopathological path of the youngest member of the season. And we might be seeing the traumatic trigger that solidifies the spree of violence that goes back to the shooting of C. Montgomery Burns. Bart goes to a magic store and solves his problems by turning up the heat on a voodoo doll. It’s about time Bart started putting his dark talents to work in occult workings. Lisa’s been doing it for years.
Lisa goes to the statue of Louis Armstrong for advice. He says listen to your father, who just wants to go to a bar, which dispenses the cause of and solution to all his problems. We know from the beginning that Lisa’s going to kiss the reed, but it is a surprise to learn “Bleeding Gums” Murphy’s first name. The Simpsons usually trash the cities they romp on, but are very respectful to New Orleans. It is nowhere near the home of pirates, drunks, whores, and tacky overpriced souvenir stores it was described in “A Streetcar Named Marge.” No one get conned by trick questioning preteens, and there isn’t a levee in sight, something close to the heart of Loyola University’s artist in residence Harry Shearer.
That respect costs laughs on “Lisa Gets the Blues.” While it’s not fair to compare the episode to the classic “Streetcar” episode, we can hope. Yes, the gags worked, but not enough to send us to Upchuck Mangione’s Vomitorium, and there some classic sequences, but The Simpsons is still just coming up short of classic classics.
The episode was dedicated to the actor R. Lee Ermey, who played Colonel Leslie Hapablap in the episodes “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” and “Waiting for Duffman.”
“Lisa Gets the Blues” was written by David Silverman and Brian Kelley, and directed by Bob Anderson.
The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest star Trombone Shorty as Trombonist
Chalkboard: I will not bet with Bart on the Final Four.