This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 30 Episode 20
The Simpsons, season 30, Episode 20, “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh” won’t win any awards, but recognizes the blue-haired Simpson as Marge. It’s Opening Day in Springfield, and the Isotopes are already out of the playoffs. Director Llewellyn Sinclair (Jon Lovitz) is putting Oklahoma on at the community theater and he is looking for hayseeds. There will be no yokels in his version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic backwoods classic. Local yokel Cletus can play anyone in the trailer trash spectrum. A regular Benedict Cabbagepatch, the character proves how inclusive theater can be. Although, as we never see him again, he also proves how exclusive it usually is.
Sinclair is one of Lovitz’s many arrogant, self-absorbed characters on The Simpsons, along with Artie Ziff and the critic Jay Sherman, who could ostensibly review a Sinclair production. He wouldn’t get a great grade. Sinclair goes to great lengths to get fair performances, and isn’t above playing his actors against each other. It’s all fun and games until Lenny almost loses an eye, and a coveted part that doesn’t involve hiding in the back end of a horse costume. This is what happens when you warn an actor not to make something into a big song and dance during a musical theater rehearsal.
Like most of the great plays of history, Sinclair has a tragic flaw which is perfect for comedy. He is never happy with anything. The performances are always wrong, dialects are sloppy, and the set is a major disappointment. The director asked for “undulating golden corn as high as your eye.” Otto, the Springfield Elementary School bus driver whose jacket smells like a Lollapalooza show, designed the sets and got confused as to what or who was supposed to be high.
The title refers to the character Marge is playing in the local production: a girl who can’t say no. This is something Sinclair has to remind her several times until her final no. The cast and crew have enough of the tyrannical director and nominate the Simpson matriarch to helm the show. Marge really is beloved. The whole town knows she gets Homer to the church on time, overlooks all major character flaws, and is enough of an enabler to gets things done. Everyone feels better when Marge is in charge. Her first act of authority is disarming Chief Wiggum, who wonderfully becomes very childlike when his gun is taken away.
Marge isn’t interested in re-interpreting Oklahoma, she wants something more modern. Lisa suggests they steal the idea of Hamilton from Lin-Manuel Miranda and substitute Alexander Hamilton with Jebediah Springfield. His story has it all. He killed a bear, founded a town and died of a beaver bite. John Lithgow plays the bear. It is heartwarming that Lisa takes all Bart’s taunts as inspiration for her play. She admits he is her muse. The playwright and director also get into an amusing F. Scott Fitzgerald quote duel, but it turns out much better than Hamilton’s denouement with Aaron Burr.
The opening title sequence is done as a My Three Sons takeoff called “My Three Kids.” Besides the usual gang of creator Matt Groening and the perennial executives, the fictional series stars Groundskeeper Willie as Angry Uncle Angus, whose catch phrase is “everyone get out of my kitchen.” Willie shows up to audition for the production prepared to play Macbeth. Told by Marge they’re not doing that play, he says it’s the only part worth playing besides Macduff. This makes me wonder why Duffman never auditions.
Live theater is the only thing getting ratings on TV and Krusty the Clown is always interested in new ways to make money. After dinner at The Penny Loafer, a restaurant which is missing its big penny, he takes the plunge and signs on as producer of Lisa’s Jebediah play in spite of new untested director. It is the “first time I signed something didn’t lose custody of something,” he says. Show business is based on risks and comic books, he explains, but his real motivation is being found in a “Where are they now?” article below Judd Nelson. “I’ll tell you where Judd Nelson is,” Krusty bemoans, “he’s on my show tonight.”
The secondary plot involves Homer, Maggie, and all the dads in Springfield who want to “wiggle like the worm” at the new “Daddy and Me Class” at the Springfield Kid Kennel, hosted by a Chloe, a sexy young movement instructor. Ogling toddler teachers is a little out of character for Homer. In the very first season, he only got photographed with belly dancer Princess Kashmir by chance, and he was more interested in the Rusty Barnacle’s seafood buffet. It takes Homer a while to get the attraction of the exercise class. At first he is lured by remote possibilities of booze, free donuts, booze, a baby fight club, or booze, but he is soon captivated.
Chloe inspires all manner of nursery rhyme fetish for Homer. At one point he imagines himself as Humpty Dumpty and neither the king’s horses, nor Marge can stop the “poor little eggy” from eating himself. Chloe understands in the fantasia, just like she knows you’re supposed to kill four and twenty blackbirds before you put them in a pie. Marge, of course, would know this too. Sideshow Mel might know it, but we can’t be sure because he didn’t know all those pies to the groin might have cracked his own egg-scramblers.
We know Sinclair will never be happy, and especially displeased, if there’s a show in town without his name on the marquis, and he does not disappoint. He brews up Shakespeare’s The Tempest in his teapot and offers a plumb part to Marge’s star, Sideshow Mel. It is very unprofessional to quit a show that late in preproduction. The dramatic twist would be a twist in the heart for an actor of Sideshow Mel’s stature. He commits totally to his parts. He’s kept that bone in his hair for 30 years now. This is the part which will take him out of second banana roles straight to banana roles.
The one thing besides Bruce Willis which no director can control: the weather. Krusty senses disaster and believes he should cancel the opening night simulcast. But the show must goes on. This is a phrase Krusty isn’t familiar with. He also mistakes “break a leg” for a cruel and unnecessary salutation. We already know Krusty hasn’t really kept up date with the latest movements in entertainment. He consistently tries to exploit trends long after they have died. But he is also blissfully ignorant of old style show biz. Zip up Krusty’s pacemaker scar and beneath it beats the heart of a production executive, a very broken executive torn apart by bad ratings, reviews and grosses. If only it were a baboon heart he’d get more laughs.
In spite of the deluge the “Jebediah” play is a hit. The songs are not quite as inspired as the ones from “A Streetcar Named Marge,” or the Planet of the Apes musical in the middle of “A Fish Called Selma,” but it is a valiant effort. “Before the tire fire a man named Jebediah made Springfield a new frontier” the play begins. Lisa’s liberal hand is well at work in Jebediah’s final regrets, ignoring women’s rights, not doing more for non-whites, and the bear he killed gave his life so Jebediah could get fame. The breakout star of the show is Professor Frink. After bemoaning how there is only one Bill Nye in a generation, he surprises everyone with a beautiful Gomer Pyle singing voice.
“I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh” doesn’t quite do for Marge what the past few episodes have done for Lisa, although she does get a new voice in theater award. The theatrical sendup at the center is well-done, the lyrics and music make for a very good spoof but not a great one. While it is out of character for Homer to be infatuated by a pretty instructor, at least the show didn’t find another excuse to put the couple’s relationship in peril, like it did for the dad who divorced his wife so Chloe wouldn’t have to teach those classes anymore. Marge’s enabler-ship skips those rocks and Homer winds up being very supportive. But once again, things work out too well for the Simpson family.
“I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh” was directed by Michael Polcino, and written by Jeff Martin and Jenna Martin.
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 Comic Book Guy, Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum, Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest voices: John Lithgow as himself and Josh Groban as Professor Frink’s singing voice.
The Simpsons‘ “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh” aired Sunday, April 8, at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.
Bart’s Chalkboard: I will not write “audit please” on Homer’s tax return.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.