Ariel Ponywether has been a fan of The Simpsons since the first time Bart was ten.View all articles by Ariel Ponywether
Kredit Kookies: Chalkboard Gag: None. Couch Gag: Casa De Simpson’s living room is seen as a computer screen. Homer, Marge, Maggie, Bart and Lisa are drag-and-dropped onto the couch, and then they and the couch are dragged into a wastebasket, erasing them. A cursor clicks on which takes us to the EP credit.
We open on a star-studded evening. Rainer Wolfcastle and Maria walk a red carpet, followed by Boobarella and Arthur Crandall with Gabbo, who insults the paparazzi. We discover we’re at the thirty-eighth annual Springfield Showbiz Awards - a trophy so prestigious, an unidentified “distinguished actor” informs us, it won an award for excellence in the field of awards. Sideshow Mel, breaking in as our narrator, tells us we don’t need to hear the actor’s full speech – what will shock us will be the award’s recipient. We cut to the announcement of the winner – Lisa Simpson.
As Lisa rises and heads to the stage and we see several freeze-frames of audience members and Lisa herself reacting to the victory, Mel intones that this award could indeed change Lisa’s universe. He promises to tell us more – all- about Lisa.
We flash back in time and are taken to Krustylu Studios, where the four thousandth episode of the Krusty the Klown show is being filmed. As the Simpson and Wiggum clans, among others, take in the show, Drew Carey warms up the crowd with some barely-concealed venom, accusing Krusty of stealing his act among other nefarious deeds. Krusty looks on in his dressing room back grimly, being strapped into a girdle and primped for his appearence in general. Carey concludes his speech by saying Krusty should be blood tested frequently – “seriously. He’s a danger to your community” before introducing Krusty.
Krusty reflects on his early years, mentioning the Krustkateers, a group of young kids who wear krusty-style bald caps with little tufts of aqua-colored hair in the finest Mouseketeer tradition. A quick clip shows Krusty playing a guitar Roy-style in a haystack and viciously reprimanding one of the kids. Back in the present, all of Krusty’s first fleet of Krustkateers are introduced (“except for the successful ones”), including the bald Jesse, CJ the former sex-kitten, and Cubby - who demands reparation for having taken a fall for Krusty and done time in jail. Krusty then announces that he’s searching for a new Krustkateer. An excited Bart declares his intention to try out for the role.
An audition is held soon after at Krusty’s studio. Sherri and Terri twirl batons, Milhouse ties himself into knots as a contortionist, Ralph stuffs an entire pack of licorice sticks into his mouth, and Nelson’s talent is punching nerds in the back and causing them to groan in musical fashion.
Bart’s act is based on prop comedy, including a series of impressions. Though he’s clearly the most talented kid, Krusty picks only one of them, Nelson – mostly because he just finished up an assignation with Nelson’s mother in his dressing room.
Bart’s crushed and Lisa – who had come with Marge to watch him audition - rushes up to Krusty and insists he reconsider. She suggests he hire Nelson as his Kustkateer but skirt union rules and hire Bart as an intern. “Did you know the Discovery Channel doesn’t have a single paid employee?” Krusty considers this and agrees with her suggestion - instantly choosing Lisa to work for him instead.
A shocked Lisa soon finds herself catering to Krusty’s whims and is gradually beaten down by his endless requests and belittling attitude (“Go through my joke file and change all of the ‘Sophia Lorens’ to ‘Lindsay Lohans’!”). She witnesses Nelson being fired after Krusty mocks his ‘Flashacne’ routine, in which he dresses up like Jennifer Beals and reenacts her famous bucket-of-water-over-the-body dance routine from the famous '80's film. Sideshow Mel notices Lisa’s distress and takes her aside, telling her that the key to dealing with Krusty is to always be prepared to cater to his needs -- have a cigar at the ready, never directly look him in the eye, and pretend to know who Mitzi Gaynor is if he mentions her – he always does. Lisa follows Mel’s suggestions – when Krusty gets a piece of pastrami stuck in his teeth she flushes it out with her necklace. Krusty suddenly takes a shine to her.
Back at the Casa De Simpson, Bart is depressed over Nelson’s victory and Lisa’s job. After he rushes upstairs to his room, Homer and Marge try to figure out whose job it is to comfort Bart this time – Homer agrees to go to him, but Marge has earned herself the responsibility of take care of the “piercing and strange new feelings” talks. Homer goes upstairs to offers Bart comfort, eventually telling him he should rid himself of everything that reminds him of Krusty. Bart’s entire room is papered with Krusty-brand merchandise, so the two of them strip it and load up Bart’s red wagon, wheeling it down to the Android’s Dungeon.
There, Comic Book Guy tries to lowball Bart, who tries to angle his way into getting an issue of Radioactive Man (specifically, “Radioactive Man versus Muhammad Ali,” then “Radioactive Man Versus Restless Leg Syndrome”). Bart shows off the exclusivity of his collection – he even owns a package of off-market Krusty brand baby wipes. They turn to leave, but CBG is now so desperate to take the entire stock that he offers Bart his coin collection kit, a bicentennial quarter, and his scrunchie – leading to him shaking out his Brek Girl quality hair, which bounces free in slow-motion. Homer changes his mind and takes the coin book after all.
Bart complains that his new hobby sucks. Homer: "Son, all hobbies suck. But if you keep at it, you might find at the end that you've managed to kill some precious time." We see Bart and Homer begin collecting coins through a music montage, during which they, among other things, stand at the bottom of a wishing well collecting whatever’s thrown down into it (to the displeasure of a leprechaun). Through such efforts they fill Bart’s entire book – except for one surprise fold, which reveals space for a rare penny. They look it up on the internet and discover the missing coin is the “Kissing Lincoln”, a rare double minting that produced a penny with two Lincoln heads facing each other (Homer: “The one on the left is really into it, but the one on the right is just experimenting…”). Bart and Homer scheme to find the rare coin to complete the collection.
Back at Krustylu, Lisa is the toast of the studio. She’s become so efficient and politically-attuned that Krusty even loves her reorganization of his dressing room (including the alphabetization of his book collection, which houses exactly two volumes). Krusty heads off to start a taping – he ends up getting stuck during a pirate skit when Mr. Teeney gets caught in traffic. Down a straight man, the act starts to flounder, and to save her boss Lisa jumps onstage and takes over Mr. Teeney’s part. Instead of playing the straight man, however, Lisa improvises, taking the jokes for herself and humiliating Krusty by squirting him with her seltzer bottle. The studio audience loves her, and Lisa is instantly swept away by ambition and love of the stage.
Krusty heads off to a retreat in Lake Tahoe, unconcerned about Lisa’s little turn in the spotlight. His agent soon shows up and warns him that she could ruin his career, stealing the whole show for herself. Krusty’s remains unphased, until he receives a call informing him about a secret rehearsal for the network – Lisa is auditioning for the execs using his act. Horrified, he rushes back to Springfield to find that Lisa won’t be getting her own show – she’s taking over his, and the entire staff has shifted loyalties to favor her, even Krusty’s agent.
Lisa is soon performing in The Lisa Show dressed as a clown, with Mel as her sideshow. She’s become a huge hit, and rapidly becomes as indifferent and callous toward the public as Krusty once was.
Meanwhile, Bart and Homer have been unsuccessful in their pursuit of the Kissing Lincoln. They wind up at a rare coin auction where Mister Burns is buying up everything on the bloc in the hope of winning himself a little joy. Nothing’s worked so far, but when the kissing Lincoln comes up he decides to try again. Homer’s feeble attempt at outbidding him only results in the coin raking in over a million dollars and landing in Mister Burns’ grasp.
After the auction, Burns sits in his limo and Homer approaches him. He pleads with his boss to give him the coin for Bart’s sake, but Burns is, predictably unmoved. Homer gives in, asking Burns if he has change for a nickel so he can buy Bart a gumball. Burns does indeed – accidentally giving Homer the Kissing Lincoln penny in his five-cent exchange. A jubilant Homer and Bart return home, where they put the Kissing Lincoln into Bart’s coin book and put it on his shelf, where they presume it will stay and never be looked at again. Mel then tells us that this was a true bonding experience for them, and then they got ready for the awards show, fighting (quick shot of Homer strangling Bart) and making up (a shot of Homer and Bart embracing and crying, exchanging apologies) on the way.
We return to the present, where Lisa is onstage accepting her award. Mel approaches her backstage in her dressing room – she tells him to “make it fast”. He takes her to a small room where a row of paintings depict former winners of the award she received that night – all of them went on to live mediocre lives, including one Melvin Van Horne. A shocked Lisa asks Mel how he ended up a sideshow, and he sobbingly confesses that fame wore down his principals – he compares his addiction to applause to “heroin or checking your email” – eventually one would do anything to get more.
As he breaks down further, Lisa realizes she has to save herself from such a fate and get out of show business; she rushes back onstage. Telling the audience there’s someone she forgot to thank; she calls Krusty to the stage and begins feeding him straight lines. He forgives her, and begins telling jokes to the retreating audience. Having won back the public, he’s soon back on top again and Everything Is The Way It Was Once More.
Concluding his narration, Mel says that he considers Lisa very lucky to have kept what truly mattered – her dignity. We then see Mel in a fire hydrant costume, performing a skit in which Krusty – as an infatuated Saint Bernard - licks and tries to lift his leg on him. Mel begs Krusty to let him go home – his wife’s in labor ‘as we speak’ – but Krusty tells him he can go after they’ve gotten a few takes in. He chases Mel around the center ring and we bid the Simpsons goodbye for the season.
Red Dress Press: A just plain fun parody of the motion picture classic All About Eve, this episode felt a tad reminiscent of “Bart Gets Famous”, but definitely avoided being a full retread. Sideshow Mel’s narration and his general moral presence in Lisa’s world added something fresh to the picture – we’ve never really gotten an episode centered on Mel’s point of view, and he proved to be a likable, sympathetic center to the piece, balancing out Krusty’s characteristic oblivious selfishness and Lisa’s desperate pursuit of praise.
Lisa proved an interesting choice as the lead – after episodes in which both Bart and Homer have experienced fame as Krusty’s replacement (and an episode in which Homer became Krusty’s double, not to mention a full Simpsons Comic in which Marge becomes a sideshow), Lisa is both the least-likely and most likely Simpson to end up becoming a clown. Contrasted with her natural seriousness is her desire for attention and praise, (remember when she begged for someone, anyone, to grade her when Springfield Elementary’s teachers went on strike?) so I don’t find her trying to become a clown against her canonical portrayal.
This season has spent a lot of time exploring Lisa’s dark side, from throwaway gags about her avarice to full storylines about her fear of failure and imperfection. The show’s doing a decent job of redirecting her characterization from recent years, where she’s become perhaps overly-serious without any leavening from her earlier-displayed bratty and childlike sides. It is somewhat surprising, however, that she takes such joy in stealing Krusty’s material. An odd twist of character for someone who’s been portrayed as a girl who relishes her own artistic side.
Krusty’s characterization was also excellent in this episode, every bit his usual fame-grubbing, joke-stealing, addiction-filled self.
The Bart/Homer coin collecting subplot was fun, with Homer enthusiastically help Bart fill his time, eventually coming to care just a tad about his kid finishing the task. Burns’ appearance in the plot was fitting and well thought-out, as was the final twist that landed the Kissing Lincoln in the Simpson’s grasp. Homer was surprisingly clever in this instance, a refreshing change of pace.
My complaints are small ones – the leprechaun’s appearance felt unnecessary in a non-fantasy episode, but it lasted a quarter of a second and at least fit in nicely with the wishing well theme. And the “A Simpson Becomes Enmeshed With Krusty’s Show and Nearly Takes It Over” theme can be, I think, officially laid to rest with this episode, unless TPTB would like to have Maggie slap on the greasepaint next.
Comparisons to Bart Gets Famous are inevitable, but there are some solid differences between the two episodes – Bart stumbles about fame in the former, Lisa deliberately enters the fame game in the later; Bart shies away from his flash-in-the-pan notoriety and eventually the shallowness of fame, Lisa glories in the attention gained through an act created by someone else. The morals differ; Bart discovers a shallow fame can be a humiliating and worthless sort of fame, and that being a fleeting flash in the pan can be tough; Lisa learns that winning an award isn’t a guarantee of future happiness, and that getting out of showbusiness with your dignity intact is a necessity.
Did it Fail at Masonry?: A good solid episode, definitely worth rewatching and/or recording. It’s not superior to Bart Gets Famous, but it’s definitely worth your while. No fast-forwarding necessary.
What The Screwballs Think: This episode drew a 6.11 in the ratings, not quite a new series low but dangerously close. A lot of speculation has surfaced that this is all due to the writer’s strike, but I’m starting to wonder about that. I’d be more inclined to believe it had the show undergone a real hiatus in fresh eps airing, but the longest break between fresh episodes has been a total of two weeks, and such gaps between episodes, especially in the corridor between November and February sweeps, is common. So it’s really an interesting situation to ponder.
Springfield Shopper: This marks the show’s nineteenth season finale, which means no new episodes until September at least. However, throughout the summer check back here every Sunday for reviews of episodes from season nineteen that aired before my tenure as a recapper began!
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