Lifetime of Simpsons

S29 E17 – Lisa Gets the Blues

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Hey everyone, are you in the mood for a really dull vacation episode that spends a shocking amount of its runtime just listing restaurants in New Orleans? Well too bad, because that’s what we’ve got to discuss today. Well, after getting to see one of the old Tracy Ullman-era shorts before the episode, since it was aired thirty years ago. It’s about Homer and the kids going to the aquarium where shenanigans ensue. It’s fun!

The episode actually beings in a strange way, spilling out of the opening scene and following Lisa as she leaves her music class after her sax solo. The rest of the opening doesn’t occur, and we see Lisa happily leave the school, glowing in her love of jazz and saxophones. Which is hte perfect time for Mr. Largo to follow her out and crush her dreams.

Mr. Largo stops her and tells her that he wants to give her some important advice. She should give up on her saxophone and her dreams of jazz-fame. Lisa is pretty shocked by this advice, and Largo doubles down, explaining that she’s good, but so are plenty of other people, and she’s doomed to failure. Lisa is pretty horrified by this statement, and things aren’t helped when Principal Skinner wanders over, gets filled in on the situation, and agrees with Largo. They tells her that so few people ever turn truly great, so there’s no sense in ever trying. Fun!

We then set up and incredibly  shaky B-Plot that really could have been excised from the episode without losing much of anything at all. It begins with Bart making an incredibly stupid decision, and pranking Jimbo while he naps during recess. Bart’s then immediately caught by Dolph and Kearney, who wake up Jimbo and decide to get revenge on Bart. They grab him, drag him to the theater department, and force him to dress up as Little Orphan Annie before making him to come into the cafeteria and sing “tomorrow” while everyone laughs at him. But, revenge will be his. Kind of.

That afternoon Lisa comes home and begins to tell Marge all about the truly horrible day that shes had at school, lamenting the idea that her musical career is completely untenable. But, Marge tries her best to give Lisa a pep talk, telling her that she shouldn’t care about what other people think, and just lead her life.

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Unfortunately, this doesn’t really do much to bolster Lisa’s fears, and when she tries to play her saxophone to prove Largo and Skinner wrong, she finds something horrible. She can’t seem to play anymore. She tries, but she’s just too nervous. So, she runs back up to her room and starts surfing the web, trying to find what’s wrong. And, after searching a list of mental disorders, she eventually learns about the Yips, and realizes that that’s what’s happened to her.

Lisa becomes incredibly depressed about her Yips, and she sure isn’t going to get anything to distract her from that stress, because Marge just keeps bringing her music up, all through dinner. Marge also informs them that a great aunt of hers, Eunice, is apparently about to turn 100 years old, and Marge wants the whole family to fly out to Gainesville, Florida to celebrate with her, even specifically saying that Lisa will play her sax and cheer Eunice up.

The family then pile onto a depressing plane, and get ready to fly to Gainesville, literally none of them excited about this proposition. And, because he’s so bored and cranky, Homer decides to incite a passenger riot on the plane. Things quickly get out of hand though, to the point where the plane has to land at the nearest airport, which happens to be New Orleans. And, for some reason, the Simpsons decide that means they should just stay in new Orleans and have a vacation instead of going to Gainesville. Suck it great aunt Eunice!

The Simpsons then begin wandering the streets of New Orleans, taking in the sights and sounds of the vibrant city. And, almost immediately, they begin running into all the jazz. Marge tries to encourage Lisa, but Lisa remains depressed, saying that all the jazz is just making her realize that everyone is better than her. So, Marge decides that she’s struck out, and tells Homer that it’s up to him to cheer up Lisa, and that she’ll take care of Bart and Maggie.

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Homer and Lisa then begin walking about New Orleans by themselves, while Homer tries to cheer her up. But, first he needs to gorge himself on all the fabulous food the town has to offer. Which takes the form of a shockingly long sequence where Homer eats food all over town, seemingly referencing real restaurants to the point where this whole episode feels like it was paid advertising for the culinary culture of New Orleans. It’s really weird.

While all of this is going on, Bart is bored in the city, and finally finds something that interests him when he finds a voodoo shack. He heads in and is taught about the procedure before buying three voodoo dolls that he turns into Jimbo, Dolph, and Kearney. Bart then calls up Milhouse to see if what he does to the dolls affects the bullies, to no effect. However, the bullies notice Milhouse watching them, and ask him what’s going on. And, when he tells them about Bart’s vooodoo they get so scared that thye end up hurting themselves, which I guess means Bart won? Who know, that’s all there is to this half-baked run-time competing story.

Lisa meanwhile has grown bored with watching her father eat as much food as humanly possible, and ends up wandering up to a statue of Louis Armstrong. She speaks to the statue, and it ends up coming to life for a chat. Armstrong tells her to follow her dreams, and that if she wants to be a great jazz musician she will. He also tells her that heaven has great reefer. Cool.

Homer then takes Lisa to a bar on Bourbon Street, because he’s a great dad, and the two end up running into someone who recognizes her. It’s Bleeding Gums Murphy’s nephew! He works in this club, and he recognizes Lisa after Bleeding Gums told him she was the most talented young performer he’d ever seen. And that little boost of confidence is all Lisa needs, and she ends up defeating her Yips and playing with Murphy’s band, deciding that she has a real future in music.

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I don’t know, compared to the last few episodes there’s not really anything terribly wrong about this episode, it’s just kind of dull. As I’ve said, ad nauseum, I’m not very fond of vacation episodes, since they typically just become the Simpsons wandering around and making jokes about their surroundings. But a new type of vacation episode seems to be coming from the episode, characterized by this and the Boston episode, which basically just feel like advertisements for American cities. There’s really not much to this episode other than the Simpsons explaining why New Orleans is a great city, while specifically name-checking a slew of real restaurants and meals you can get there. It just feels weird. The actual plot of the episode, Lisa being worried that a middle-class white kid might not make it as a seasoned jazz professional, is fine I guess, but it just kind of gets tossed away by the end. She’s magically fixed by some confidence from Bleeding Gums, which is something that we’ve seen before. I guess it’s nice to refute the idea that there’s no point in trying to be creative since there’s always the chance people will be better than you, but other than that there’s just not enough to this episode to keep it engaging. But, it’s not actively offensive or terrible like the last few episode, so it’s a step up!

 

“Lisa Gets the Blues” was written by David Silverman and Brian Kelley and directed by Bob Anderson, 2018.

 

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