Couch gag: The Simpsons are pawns in The Game of Life.
Director: Michael Polcino
John Oliver as Booth Wilkes John
Carl Kassell as himself
Peter Sagal as himself
Synopsis: Fearing Lisa will grow up without friends, Marge pays someone to befriend Lisa.
Discussion: The main point of the episode is lost between Homer’s behaviour at a party and wondering what happened to the charming new British neighbour.
The couch gag was a parody of The Game of Life, in which Homer and the Simpson family retrace their backstory as part of the game. I can only suppose this is intended for those unfortunate people who have accidentally tuned into this episode without ever having watched a prior Simpsons episode ever.
We begin with Bart watching Itchy and Scratchy on an ancient portable television. I admit, I laughed at ‘Catatouille’. I thought it was a real hark back to the golden days of the show-within-a-show and also because I love Disney, so any parody is going to be at lest mildly amusing. Skip to the adult party, where charming British host Booth Wilkes John (voiced by John Oliver) is hosting a murder mystery… until oaf Homer ruins the fun. Segue into Marge worrying about not having any friends, which obviously means Lisa is growing up without friends as well. Sure, Lisa’s friendships are short and fleeting, but she seems OK with this and even mentions in this ep that she’s better off without friends because it helps her focus.
In desperation, Marge pays someone to be Lisa’s friend. Because that’s what caring mothers on television do, with no chance of being discovered. The emotional heart of the ep is completely lost- I was hoping Lisa would go mental on her mother but all she did was feel guilty that she made her mother cry. Sure, seeing your mother cry is one of the worst feelings in the world, but still, Lisa going mental would be far better television.
In conclusion, this ep feels like it was patched together by 10 different people who couldn’t agree on what should be happening. One person runs out of ideas, so another is brought in until their 30 seconds of ideas is exhausted, then bring someone else in. Or else they had old scenes left over and decided to smoosh them together, kinda like smooshing ABBA songs into a musical. At least bring back Booth, who had so much potential!