Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E18 – Brush with Greatness

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We’ve just reached a pretty momentous occasion everyone. The first really big guest star. I feel like I usually heard the creators on the commentaries say that it was Dustin Hoffman or Michael Jackson that really proved they were a legitimate show that could nab big guest stars, but I feel like if you nail a living Beatle, that’s a pretty big deal. So lets get into a really great, wacky episode. And it’s a Marge episode that’s not about the family being terrible.

We start off with the kids watching Krusty’s show, which is taking place at the Mount Splashmore waterpark for the summer. Do kids show still do this? I remember as a kid there would be weird things on Nikelodeon in the summer, where people would be like at summer vacation, trying to convince kids to go there. And that’s exactly what Krusty is doing. He shows them how awesome Mt. Spashmore is, then teaches them the proper way to beg to their parents. And since Bart and Lisa are great students, they immediately start hounding Homer to take them. After what appears to be days of synchronized “can we go to Mt. Splashmore?!” Homer finally relents, and the family heads off. I love Homer’s ridiculous farmers tan he shows off. They get to the water park, and immediately start being terrible. Bart and Lisa make their way to the most popular attraction, a giant waterslide, and when met with the huge line, Lisa starts crying for her mommy so that people get out of the way, and they get to cut. We then learn where the kids got it from, when Homer shows up and cuts the line as well, but instead of coming up with a clever excuse like the kids, he just yells about being the line inspector, and pushes everyone aside. The kids have a blast on the slide, but when Homer tries, he’s too fat, and gets stuck in the middle. The park keeps sending down kids, and they all gets clogged with Homer, and it ends up requiring people to dismantle the ride to get him down, which leads to yet another time Homer is made a laughing-stock on the news.

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Homer gets super depressed that he’s fat, which I know all too well, and vows to go on diets. I love the weird joke that their scale is broken, and vacillates wildly between possible weights until finally settling on the real one. He then announces that “as god as my witness, I’ll always be hungry again!” He then heads up to their creepy attic with Bart to get his fitness equipment. While up there they find a secret stash of painting Marge made in high school, all of Ringo Starr. The family starts to discuss Marge’s lost passion for painting as Homer is being depressed about his new diet, which seems to rely heavily on rice cakes, the worst food mankind has ever created. I love that when Homer learns he’s able to use toppings, he essentially makes one of those crazy sandwiches Dagwood makes in the Blondie comics, just with rice cakes as the bread, thinking that makes it healthy. We learn that Marge had a passion for painting in high school, but was told by a teacher that she was no good, since she only painted Ringo. So she mailed Ringo one of the portraits, and when she never heard back, she stopped painting forever.

Lisa encourages her to take a class at the Adult Learning Annex, and so she heads off to enroll. I love that Apu is there to learn how to make a movie called “Hands of My Jerky, Turkey.” Anyway, Marge finds out that in order to take the painting class, she needs to get the approval of the art professor, Lombardo. Marge is initially nervous, but then it turns out that professor Lombardo loves everything, especially the painting that the janitor does, and he lets her into the class. I love Professor Lombardo. All of Jon Lovitz’s characters in the show are amazing, and I’m really sad this one didn’t catch on, because he was hilarious. He starts teaching Marge, and she starts painting more and more as Homer is working out. She ends up being put in an art contest after Lombardo loves a painting of Homer passed out on the couch in his underwear, and it ends up winning the contest.

Meanwhile, Mr. Burns is desperately needing a portrait of himself painting because he apparently donated a whole wing to the museum, and he’s not having luck finding a painter he could boss around. So he ends up hearing about Marge’s recent win, and since she’s the wife of an employee, he decides she’ll be a suitable artist. I absolutely love the interaction Burns and Smithers have when Burns realizes his good fortune of having an artist dropped into his lap: “Somebody up there likes me Smithers.” “Somebody down here likes you too sir.” “Shut up!” Oh Mr. Burns, you’re the worst. They show up at the Simpsons house, and pretty much tell Marge she has to paint him. So she starts working, but is having a problem, because Mr. Burns is terrible, and she’s unable to find any inner beauty in him to bring out. He takes over the house, running it like a despot, even stealing Homer’s comics page from the newspaper. “Oh Ziggy, will you ever win?” Things reach a fever pitch when Marge accidental walks in on Burns naked getting out of the shower, because he apparently showered in the Simpsons house. This episode really established how crazy Mr. Burns and Smithers relationship is, and it’s great to have Marge be the outsider who can realize how messed up it is.

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While Marge is starting to feel depressed about the situation, we cut to England, where it turns out Ringo is finally getting around to responding to all his old fan mail. He’s apparently been reading all the only letters that were sent to him in the 60’s, and is responding to each and every letter. He then comes across Marge’s old portrait, and loves it. Back in Springfield we see Homer excited that he’s lost twenty pounds, but then Mr. Burns makes fun of him, leading Homer to try and quit his diet. Marge has had enough at this point, and tells Mr. Burns to leave, that she’ll have the painting ready without his modeling. She’s ready to quit the painting, when she gets the letter back from Ringo, who tells her what a great artist she is, and that he hung the painting up in his library. With that jolt of encouragement, Marge starts to finish the painting of Burns, and gets a flash of inspiration on the source of his inner beauty. Then for the second time this season we see someone getting ready to unveil something without looking at it, as Mr. Burns prepares to show off the portrait at the dedication to the new wing of the museum. And it turns out to be a painting of Mr. Burns nude, like Marge saw him in the shower. She explains that she wanted to portray his vulnerability and frailty. And then it turns out everyone loves it, especially Burns who finds it oddly moving. He approves, and the episode ends with the amazing joke of Burns thanking Marge for not making fun of his genitalia, and her confiding to Homer that she thought she had.

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This was a fun episode, and I love that it was a Marge episode that didn’t rely on her being treated badly by the family. When the creators want to show some depth to Marge’s character, they usually rely on her role in the family, and it was nice to show an interest that had nothing to do with them. She wasn’t even suppressing her talents because of the family, it was a high school trauma. Like always, Mr. Burns is amazing, and it was fun to see him interacting with Marge for a change, and the reveal that the only way to properly paint him was having him be naked is tremendous.

Take Away: Don’t let other people tell you that you aren’t good at something creative. If you have creativity in you, you should let it out. And everyone has inner beauty, it’s just sometimes you can only tell when they’re naked.

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“Brush with Greatness” was written by Brian K Roberts and directed by Jim Reardon.

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