The Book Job
Director: Bob Anderson
Neil Gaiman as himself
Andy Garcia as TweenLit publishing boss
Synopsis: After Lisa uncovers a conspiracy in which popular novels are written by a consortium of writers, Homer gets the idea to become rich by forming his own writing team.
Discussion: Despite the severely depressing premise, this episode was actually pretty good. I liked the parody of Ocean’s Eleven et al and it seemed to carry a decent pace even though the conclusion was predictable from the very start.
There’s also some truth behind the premise: ghostwriting is a huge business and some of your favourite authors aren’t really writing your favourite novels. For example, the famous Nancy Drew novels were written by Carolyn Keene, only “Carolyn Keene” turns out to be a bunch of ghostwriters using that name and paid off to lose all rights to their books and remain anonymous. Virginia Andrews died in 1986 and the estate hired a ghostwriter to complete her last novels, which were released under her name. More recently, there are truckloads of novels spewed out by publishing houses in the wake of other popular novels; how many vampire-themed teen romances popped up in the months after Twilight became a hit?
Right, onto the episode. The ep begins with a rather amusing homage to Walking With Dinosaurs in which Lisa discovers her favourite author is only an actress hired to appear on the cover of novels with appropriate sob story. Even though the viewer is reminded of JK Rowling, I’m sure Ms Rowling actually wrote the Harry Potter novels and this is in no way an attack on her character.
The format of the episode follows that of crime films such as The Italian Job and the Ocean’s trilogy, with title cards to announce what the team is doing and using the same music that typifies the genre. In this case, it provides a break with the narrative and allows to the viewer to somewhat piece together the story as opposed to having the characters specifically lead the viewer through the narrative (something which has been increasingly annoying of late). Having said that, it’s still quite simplistically styled and doesn’t carry any depth as these crime films do. It’s dumbing it down, which doesn’t have to be necessary even with the twenty minute time constraint. It’s just lazy storytelling.
Overall, the narrative flaws are mostly forgiven because the episode is enjoyable anyway.