703. Panic on the Streets of Springfield

Original airdate: April 18, 2021

The premise: Lisa becomes so obsessed with sardonic British pop artist Quilloughby that she personifies him as her imaginary friend, becoming even more of a judgy snob. Also Homer gets a truck, I guess.

The reaction: I’m still not sure if the writers realize how unlikable they’ve made Lisa in recent years. She might have had a slightly big head on her in the early years, but nowadays, her pretentiousness and condescending attitude really makes her come off bad, and this is basically an episode all about that. After rejecting every suggested track off of “Slapify” (“Let’s see if your algorithm can predict my tastes?” she chuckles), she finally lands on the morose artist Quilloughby, a British singer/vegan activist who hasn’t been seen in public for years. Inspired by his music, Lisa gets the school cafeteria to serve mushroom tacos (how she did this is unexplained), but is shocked that Lunchlady Doris added bacon into it. “Everyone at my school is a jerk! Why are they so mean?” she cries. Then she starts to see Quilloughby, who becomes her closest confidant, as they proceed to bond over their snarky displeasure in literally everything and everyone. It’s clear they’re having Lisa go through some teen angst (at age 8), and she’s supposed to be taking things too far and realizes that in the end, but her attitude isn’t grounded in anything as the audience can get behind, so she ends up coming off more annoying than sympathetic. The story culminates in Lisa going to an outdoor music festival where the real Quilloughby is appearing for the first time in decades. While there, her Quilloughby begins to get on her nerves with his never-ending negativity. Real Quilloughby takes the stage, now an out-of-shape middle-aged failure of a has-been who has renounced his veganism and antagonizes the crowd by spewing out bigotry. Ultimately the lesson, intoned by imaginary Quilloughby, is for Lisa to be more open-minded and not sneer at others with differing opinions. It’s almost like an admission by the writers at what they’ve turned Lisa into over the years, that she’s so stubborn and myopic in her worldview that she’s basically on her way to being an irrationally angry bigot who everybody hates. The comparison also feels shaky given that real Quilloughby is screaming about how migrants should die, whereas Lisa is just against eating meat. In the end, it’s yet another episode I don’t see the point in. There was no inciting incident to make Lisa feel so pissed, and her epiphany was basically all internal, but not at all interesting in the slightest, since it’s all painfully spelled out through dialogue, per usual. They try to put a sweet bow on things with Lisa and Marge having a sweet reconciliation, but so much of this episode is intensely sour that it feels pointless.

Three items of note:
– I was very confused by the episode title, and now I see it’s a reference to a Smiths song “Panic,” as in “Panic on the streets of London.” I guess that’s a well-known song, right? Quilloughby is seemingly based on Morrissey, who I’m not very familiar with, but it’s just strange since the majority of the episode titles are extremely obvious “parodies,” and this one sticks out as being less obvious than usual.
– The episode opens with Dr. Hibbert advising Homer about his health, in his first major appearance since Kevin Michael Richardson took over the character starting in “Wad Goals.” He ends up feeling like the weakest replacement voice yet to me only because Richardson’s voice is so familiar, him being very ubiquitous in the TV animation landscape. He’s doing his best to do a Hibbert imitation, but the timber of his voice is just so completely different than Harry Shearer’s that it just doesn’t feel right. But ultimately, none of the new voices will sound “right” because they’re different actors, so it’s inevitably going to be an adjustment. I really don’t want to talk about this new voices stuff anymore, but sometimes I have so little to talk about with specific episodes I just end up talking about it again. At this point, all the POC characters have been covered, with one glaring exception: Apu. Whether he gets a full episode reintroduction, a sneaky reappearance in one scene, or is just gone for good remains to be seen.
– Homer buys a truck after Dr. Hibbert tells him his testosterone levels are slightly low. This isn’t so much a B-plot as just some random stuff happening alongside the main story. Marge ends up exploding at Homer because he’s being so annoying about being a trucker guy (another heavy exercise on Julie Kavner’s vocal chords that made me feel sad.) The ending involves a riot at the music festival Lisa is at, and Homer’s truck finally coming in handy as he goes into all-terrain mode to save Lisa, but that turned out to just be him dreaming asleep at the wheel and Marge found Lisa and brought her back to the truck and she was fine. Whatever. I got bored even just writing that sentence.

23 thoughts on “703. Panic on the Streets of Springfield

  1. Hey Look, Lisa being open-minded… Took her 22 years to learn , but hey… Better late than never?

    1. Didn’t Lisa learn to be tolerant of others (or at least non-vegetarians) when she first became vegetarian? I seem to remember that, as the episode was actually enjoyable.

  2. This episode was okay. We were promised a musical, and all we got were two filler songs that just ended up being unremarkable, and forgettable. I agree that KMR does not sound good as Dr. Hibbert, and just takes you out of the episode because it’s clear he’s just doing an impersonation. Along with KMR, Grey Griffin sounds terrible as Martin Prince. Russi Taylor had such a delightfully sweet voice, which fit well with Martin, but Grey Griffin just seems like she’s trying to squeak Martin’s voice out of her, so it just comes off sounding horrible to the viewer. As for the plot, I thought it started off okay, but quickly went off the rails. The ending, where we met the real Quilloughby was just the point of no return. It’s clear Matt Selman was going for another one of his sweet endings which just doesn’t land. Also, Homer’s B-plot was forgettable and has been done better in other episodes. I’ve been drowning in the negative for too long, so let me tell you some positives. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers a delightly beautiful performance as Quilloughby, and you could tell he wasn’t just playing a version of himself, and actually put effort into the performance which clearly shows with the singing. Finally, I have to applaud the animation team who do an amazing job here. The movements of the characters, especially Quilloughby make me wonder why Family Guy couldn’t try to do the same thing with its bland character movements. On a side note, does anybody know what is going on with the no homer’s club website? I’ve been trying to go on there, but it says there is an error. Is there a remodel going on or has it been shut down?

    1. “but Grey Griffin just seems like she’s trying to squeak Martin’s voice out of her, so it just comes off sounding horrible to the viewer.”
      I thought it wasn’t as bad this time, though that could be because she was just singing. But at this point, why not just retire the characters? They’ve barely had much of a role beyond background parts as it is in recent seasons. I know for a fact I’m not thrilled to either see Apu come back with a new voice (bonus “points” if they just cave and have Hari Kondibolu do it, given he was the one who brought it up in the first place), or one of the main characters (at this rate, either Marge or Harry Shearer’s parts) get recast with new ones.

      As for the episode itself, it’s a load of nothing, Lisa shouldn’t have devolved into the whiny brat she’s been the past 20-someodd years in the first place. And the Homer truck plot is just “Homer does something stupid, but with a truck!” About the only thing that stood out to me was the animation, though given how AKOM’s work has proven to be far more effective at being fluid than the episodes by Rough Draft as of late, that’s not entirely shocking either.

  3. I have the stinking suspicion that the script of this episode was found in the Season 27 cutting room floor? Remember Season 27 and it’s over-abundance of episodes centered around Lisa Simpson being all-around awful? Good times. I’ll never forget that episode where she became friends with that homeless woman. What a classic that was.

    1. Season 27 would be a lot closer to when the whole thing of Morrissey’s racism was news. This also feels like The Simpsons jumping on a current event way too late. (And what 8 year old is listening to The Smiths anyway? That would be her grandparents music.)

    1. Bart discovers GG Allin and becomes a crust punk. Except that he’d be called GG Gallin or some stupid shit

      1. The show seriously missed out on having GWAR on while Dave Brockie was still alive

  4. It sure bothered me a lot that the door in Lisa’s room led to both her closet and the hallway. It’s a really weird animation continuity error I would have never expected in a modern episode.

  5. I guess this was the show’s way of trying to lure back old fans by doing an episode based around Smiths/Morrissey references. I imagine there’s probably a lot of overlap between Gen X old Simpsons fans and Smiths fans, so it makes sense.

    Not sure it worked. I like the Smiths, and I could not care less about watching this episode.

  6. I entirely believe they see this at having it be “relevant” by having it come out shortly after that whole controversy about Springsteen getting a DWI. Except they dropped the charges last month, and if their goal in this ep is to show that even idols can be regular people, that’s a ridiculous way to go about it. Springsteen is famous because he’s kept to his roots his entire career, and a simple DWI wasn’t really going to affect that- aside from that Jeep commercial being briefly discontinued, that is.

      1. If anyone still seriously gives a shit about what The Simpsons is saying about anything, well…you deserve to be offended.

  7. So… Does this show actually understand what Millennials are (or that Marge and Homer are probably older Millennials themselves by now thanks to the shows sliding timescale) ? Morrisey was very much a Generation-X figure and I don’t think he has much a fanbase aming thirtysomethings.

    1. Ehh, the Smiths are still a popular “sad boy/girl” go-to band. Maybe not the staple they once were, but still plausibly well-known.

      1. True, and I wouldn’t have even mentioned if the show itself didn’t try to create a link (“Millennial rock at Baby Boomer prices” “Stupid millennial traffic”). It’s just such an odd (non-) joke.

        What makes it all the weirder and maybe funnier is that the show had an actual Millennial superstar on the show more than twenty years ago – Britney Spears playing herself in ‘The Mansion Family’.

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