Folks, we have a thoroughly weird episode to talk about today. Season 23 had a weird start, so I was a little worried that things were going to be getting a little rough again. But then yesterday’s episode gave me some hope. And today’s episode confirmed that the folks behind the Simpsons still have some great ideas. Because this episode is ridiculous, and I loved it. Who wouldn’t love a heist story about writing a children’s book?
The episode starts off with the family heading to a local stadium to check out some insane live show where fake dinosaurs stomp around. I feel like this is a reference to something that actually happened, but it’s super weird, and ends up scaring a whole bunch of children who flee for their lives when the obviously fake dinosaurs show up. But the Simpsons don’t get scared, so they get to stay around and watch the whole show, until the dinosaurs are killed.
The family then begin to leave, debating the lesson of the weird thing that they just witnessed, such as Lisa thinking it was an environmental message, and Bart thinking that you need to live life to the fullest, because an asteroid could destroy everything at any time. Great! After this though they end up finding their way to the gift shop, where a fight begins. Because Bart, Lisa, and Maggie cannot agree on the size of the toy that they should all get, leading to Homer yelling about it all.
But that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that while the family is fighting each other, Lisa notices one of the dinosaurs walking by without their mask. And Lisa recognizes the woman. The woman sees that Lisa has recognized her though, and runs off through the stadium. Lisa chases her, and eventually corners her in her dressing room. Turns out this woman is the author of the Angelica Button novels, Lisa’s favorite books.
Well, not quite. Turns out she’s not the author. She’s an actor that the publishing company hired to pretend to be the author, because there was no author. The Angelica Button books were written by a committee with a focus group, and is churned out by English majors. It’s a commodity, not a work of art. And Lisa is crushed. She freaks out that everything she knew was a lie, and when the family get home she decides to start burning all of her Angelica Button books and merchandise.
Homer stops her though, and tries to figure out what’s going on. Lisa begins to explain the whole situation to Homer, and he becomes fascinated. Not by his daughter’s anguish, but they the idea of raking in money from young-adult literature. So Homer decides he needs to write a novel aimed at kids. Which of course means that he’s going to need to assemble a perfect crew to help him pull it off. That’s right, Homer’s about to write a book while staging it like a heist.
His first stop is to find Bart at an arcade, and he convinces him to help him out with the project. Bart and Homer act like they’ve been working together on cons for years, and Homer drags Bart in for one last job. They then go convince Skinner to join up, because he knows what kids today are into. Next they get Patty, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of fantasy and fictional languages. Moe joins up next because he actually has had experiencing writing weird children books. And finally they get Professor Frink, who has a computer.
The Crew then begins working on their novel, until Lisa quickly finds out about it. And she’s horrified. She thinks this type of writing is monstrous, and decides that she’s going to write her own novel at the same time that they’re writing theirs. Unfortunately Lisa succumbs to something basically everyone who has ever tried writing a novel has. She gets easily distracted, and ends up spending a lot of time playing online Boggle and organizing her CDs.
Meanwhile, the Crew get to work on their novel. They decide that the best way to get this series to be a success is to rip off every other successful young adult series. Which means they need to make it about a poor orphan who is accepted to a magical school where he finds out he’s a vampire. Until they realize that there’s way too many youth-lit books about vampires, and decide they need to pick a different magical creature.
But when a group of children are terrified of Moe because they think he’s a troll, they find their creature. They then create a world of trolls, who go to a school under the Brooklyn Bridge where they can have magic and highschool drama. And with this idea hammered down, they get to work. Until Neil Gaiman shows up to try and steal their idea. But they convince him to work with them, and he just becomes a gopher for them.
While all of this is going on Lisa is still trying to write her novel, but she seems utterly incapable of coming up with a good idea. She just sits around trying to brainstorm while drinking way too much coffee. Meanwhile, this weird method of writing a novel is working out great, and the Crew have fully plotted out The Troll Twins of Underbridge Academy. And, after taking shift writing different aspects of the novel they finally have something ready for submission.
The Crew then head off to a publisher, and get a meeting with Andy Garcia, who reads their manuscript. And he loves it. He instantly buy the Troll Twins for million dollars. They just need to find an inspirational story and a fake author to complete the package. So they head over to a literary convention going on in the building, and run into Lisa, who is still sad that she can’t write a novel. So they convince her to become the fake author of the books, create a backstory where she’s a preteen prodigy who was raised in a circus. And with this most important part of literature taken care of, the deal is signed and the ball starts rolling.
However, they maybe should have gotten a better deal, because one day as the Crew is partying at Moe’s and trying to convince Lisa that she didn’t do something shameful by agreeing to this farce, they get an advanced copy of the book. And it’s been completely changed. It’s now all about vampires, and they took out all of the interesting ideas that the Crew came up with. Which actually starts to bum them out, even though they were all in this for the money.
Neil Gaiman explains that what they’re feeling is pride of authorship, and because the publisher has screwed with it they’re not going to be happy unless the fight back. Which means that it’s time for an actual heist. So the Crew gets together and head to the publisher’s building, on the night that they’re going to begin printing all of the books. They end up infiltrating the building, and slowly make their way up to the upper levels of the building.
Eventually they make it to the Central Computer, where their manuscript is located. Unfortunately the publisher is waiting there for them. Because it turns out that Lisa has sold them out. She doesn’t care what the novel is like, she just wants her name on it. Lisa then mocks the Crew, while secretly switching out a thumb drive with the Troll Twins manuscript on it, making it so that the publisher actually prints the real book. Yep, it was a double cross! So the Troll Twins of Underbridge Academy is actually released, the terrible vampire book that it was almost replaced with it is gone, and everyone loves it. The Crew then celebrates their successful heist. Until they realize that Neil Gaiman screwed them over, and put his name on it. But they got the money, so whatever.
This episode is a goddamn hoot. I love stories about heists, and I love stories about novels and the process of writing. So of course this episode was going to hit me in the right place. I was never much of a fan of the “youth-lit” novels from my generation, including Harry Potter, and was to old when the recent boom of Twilight and Hunger Games rip-offs took over the youth literature scene. So I don’t really know how much truth there is to this episode, but I one hundred percent believe that most of those books are actually written by a committee. That just makes sense. But seeing Homer and the Crew accidentally come to love the book they’ve created, and then get depressed that it’s been changed was a really fun journey. Plus, as someone who has spent most of their life unsuccessfully trying to write novels it’s great to see Lisa struggling and failing to get something coherent across. It’s very relatable. Add in a weird heist vibe and some direct Ocean’s 11 references and we get a thoroughly fun little episode.
Take Away: Writing stories is much harder than it seems, and taking pride in your authorship is key to succeeding.
“The Book Job” was written by Dan Vebber and directed by Bob Anderson, 2011.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons