Nerve gas is not a toy
Couch gag: The family’s sizes are reversed, so Maggie is the biggest and Homer is the smallest.
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Ron Taylor as Bleeding Gums Murphy
Steve Allen as Steve Allen
Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz
Synopsis: Bart eats a metal Krusty-O and needs to have his appendix removed. While visiting him in hospital, Lisa meets an old friend, Bleeding Gums Murphy.
Discussion: Here is Australia, this was known as one of the Lost Episodes of The Simpsons. No idea why, but it was left out of the original airing of season 6 and seen a couple of years later, if memory serves. Anyone else remember this?
Anyhoo, I like this episode. We first met Bleeding Gums Murphy in ‘Moaning Lisa‘ way back in season 1. His influence over her is still strong and she is miserable when he dies. He’s the first person to die in the Simpsons universe- others have died (such as Marge’s great aunt), however they had not been seen on-screen previously. It’s implied that Bleeding Gums and Dr Hibbert are brothers, and it was implied in an earlier episode that Bleeding Gums had another brother, a lawyer if I’m not mistaken. Bleeding Gums and Lisa play Jazzman together in his hospital bed and also afterwards when he appears in the sky while the nearby jazz station is playing his record.
It’s a sweet episode. Homer does nothing to help Lisa understand death, Bart is sympathetic and even spends his Krusty-O compensation on buying Bleeding Gums’ record for a mourning Lisa. I’m a sucker for the musical numbers and I love Jazzman as sung by Lisa. It’s exactly the sort of send-off Bleeding Gums would want and still keeps the uplifting spirit of the show.
I will not instigate revolution
Couch gag: The family sit down, Maggie is squeezed out and caught by Marge.
Director: Wesley Archer
First appearance of:
Mr Largo, Lisa’s music teacher (although he has appeared in the opening sequence)
Bleeding Gums Murphy
Mrs Bouvier, Marge’s mother
Synopsis: Lisa is depressed by the world’s troubles and channels those emotions into her saxophone. She meets a jazz musician named Bleeding Gums Murphy (go see your dentist, kids!) who coaches Lisa into playing the blues. Meanwhile, Bart and Homer are enthralled in playing video game boxing. Bart is the undefeated champion so Homer learns some tricks from a young kid at the arcade and is moments from winning his first bout with Bart when Marge pulls the plug to talk about Lisa.
This is probably my least favourite episode of the entire series. The episode lacks everything that makes the series great, although it serves an important narrative function in allowing Lisa to ‘learn’ the blues and meet a defining character in her short little life. The viewer is torn between Lisa’s plight for all the injustice in the world and the continuing hijinks between Homer and Bart (or Homer and Lisa for that matter). This was the writers’ first foray into darker subject matter, but it demonstrates Lisa’s empathy and awareness of the world around her.
Although I’ve spent much of my life deriding this “Lisa is sad” episode, I can now see the important function it plays within the series. Bleeding Gums Murphy was not to become a regular character, which is understandable, however this probably impacts on Lisa’s creative development; this short encounter is enough to instill in her a love of jazz and playing the blues which is carried over to a number of future episodes. In the discourse between “real life” and “television narrative”, Lisa is much more likely to hang around Bleeding Gums a great deal more and become a fully rounded person. In any case, Lisa ends the episode being content with the world even with all the injustice.