The Simpsons are back and love is in the air!
Lisa is this weeks attraction as Nelson and new comer Brendan (voiced by Ed Sheeran) battle for her love.
The opening scene is a direct parody of the opening from La La Land (which is the inspiration for the episode). Its a great lively intro with lots of neat lines. My favourite being the cat lady and her singing cats who’ll apparently eat her when she dies. Aside from this however the episode is a bit sparse in the song department. Brendan sings twice which works and Nelson chimes in but they’re not very long.
We begin with Lisa taking the family to the STEM convention which Otto mistakes for weed. He then mistakes the DOPE convention which Dr. Hibbert indicates is ‘Dialogue on Paediatric Education’. There are lots of funny sight gags at STEM including: ‘The Math of Itchy and Scratchy’, ‘Meth-amtics’, ‘Dr. Nick’s 3 Minute Sex Change’, ‘Printable Soup’, and ‘Sheppardless Sheep’.
Lisa’s ears prick up at the sound of piano playing and we’re introduced to the cocky but handsome Brendan. His character capture’s Ryan Gosling’s prickly charm from La La Land, alternately encouraging Lisa’s artistic ambitions and patronizingly pushing her with tough love mansplaining. (You’re so cute when you’re wrong—Now channel that rage!)
This type of storyline has been done before: Lisa meets misunderstood intellectual equal then things go sour. However, the difference here is the inclusion of Nelson to create a love triangle. It’s different and interesting and we’ve seen this story work wonders before but here it falls just a bit flat. The courtship scenes are great but the story rushes to the end and the conclusion that Brendan has to move schools and that Nelson would rather work out all happen in the blink of an eye. There’s no middle ground for reflection. Lisa’s initial ‘Date with Density‘ saw her channelling her deeply inappropriate attraction to bad boy Nelson into a thoughtfully heartfelt portrayal of a smart girl discovering the pitfalls of romance. Here the story simply pushes the plot along and deprives Lisa of what would have been a good character piece.
The B story sees Bart take an interest in chemistry where he actually becomes dangerously good at it. These parts of the episode were actually quite funny. The problem with it though was two fold: it was completely disconnected from the main story and thus felt like a different episode and, more importantly, it touched on the ‘Marge losing faith in Bart’ theme which didn’t fit well into the episode. Perhaps that’s because that theme is a bit too heavy and the episode has already shown that its not looking to deal with ‘deeper’ content; preferring instead to rush those those themes in favour of laughs. The B story would have benefited from just letting Bart go crazy with his new found interest and getting more laughs that way. It may even be worth re-visiting this story with its own episode down the road.
The episode did provide some laughs though as in when we see Cletus and spider pig making meth. Then when the teachers drink is spiked with sulphuric acid, Superintendent Chalmers loses the tip of his tongue prompting him to yell ‘inner!’ The best lines though go Chief Wiggum when he calls Bart ‘Screwey Pasteur’ and when he explains to Lou that helping Homer up to Bart’s treehouse with the department cherry-picker is ‘fat man courtesy.’
So all in all the episode was a mixed bag. It had the laughs and had loads of potential but it was rushed and didn’t take the time to develop the story and its characters. Ed Sheeran was a great guest star as well who played his part perfectly and showed off his singing chops a few times.
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