Episode 2 - Loan-a-Lisa
23 February 2012
Synopsis: Grandpa decides to give the family their inheritance early and presents them with fifty dollars each. Lisa decides to give hers to charity and is surprised to discover that Nelson is one of the people asking for help to get out of poverty. She donates to him and he begins a bicycle business. Marge wants to buy a nice handbag with her money but discovers too late that it is worth five hundred rather than fifty dollars. She manages to return it for a full refund but the lesson is lost on Homer who begins buying and returning huge numbers of items.
The Good: Nelson's character has had lots of tweaks over the years but the basic structure is the same. He is a bully because of his broken home and underneath are some good qualities. Lisa brings those qualities to the surface but it all backfires because of his lack of education. So he goes back to normal but is nice enough to thank her.
The Bad: The jokes throughout were counterproductive or stupid. There is no reality in Skinner going to work for Nelson, it undercuts all humour. Ditto Chief Wiggum blowing Lou's cover at a restaurant just to satisfy his hunger.
When the jokes tried to be a part of the plot they undermined the reality too. Why or indeed how would Nelson have ever submitted his video? Why would Homer bother to buy a hot tub when he can't use it? Why would Marge ever let Homer buy all these items?
I've never been a fan of Itchy and Scratchy but the opening cartoon just seemed mean spirited with no attempt to be funny. Similarly jokes about Grandpa becoming too decrepit to play cards are more sad than funny.
The gag where Homer is caught by Chris Hansen was another modern example of where the writers go wrong. Hansen is catching Homer in the act of returning items and so Homer runs scared. But he instantly returns pointing out that he needs to sign a release to allow this to be broadcast on TV. In fact he returns again to ask when it will be airing. There is a good joke in there about how the desire for spurious reality show fame will push people to sign releases even though they will look bad when the show airs. But the way this was written has no reality to it. It shouldn't be that difficult to find a plausible way to tap into Homer's stupidity rather than have him keep returning in a manner which renders the whole thing unbelievable.
Something occurred to me during this episode, as yet another reason for the decline in the show overall. No plot ever seems to exist before the episode begins anymore. For example, Lisa could have been searching for charities to support before she got the money. Or indeed Nelson could have been involved in the story before she saw his video. Those little touches were common place once and made stories seem more organic.
Best Joke: Homer showing off all his new possessions to Lenny and Carl. He welcomes them through his door and quickly instructs them "don't wipe your feet!" as of course the door mat has to be returned unused. A nice demonstration of the futility of his bragging.
The Bottom Line: Terrible jokes, average stories.
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