It’s time for a true confession: I don’t care too much for Lisa-centric episodes.
The reason is I watch The Simpsons for its sense of humor, and Lisa-centric episodes tend to be, well, less funny. Lisa is not, on her own, a particularly humorous character. She can be funny when dealing with the other members of the family, but her episodes tend to be more about emotional connections, often to Homer or occasionally Bart. It fits the character well, but it doesn’t make for particularly funny episodes. At least at this stage in the series, we haven’t gotten to Preachy Lisa yet, the one who acts like she knows better than everybody else.
But here’s the first Lisa-episode. And wouldn’t you know it, the ignored Simpson sibling doesn’t get a focus of her own until after Bart’s gotten two…
In fact, there’s a lot that strikes me as wrong with this episode. Two things leap out.
First, Lisa’s case of the blues appears to have no purpose or cause. That sounds like it could be a lot more serious than the show gives it credit, and the show does treat Lisa’s sadness as something serious. Lisa here doesn’t look like she needs a trip to a jazz club to hear some blues from Bleeding Gums Murphy. She needs a trip to a psychiatrist. She sounds like she has depression.
While it could be construed that Lisa’s problem is she’s too smart and sensitive for both her family and her town, I was really looking at a character who was just sad for no reason even she herself could articulate. She does seem to snap out of it when Marge takes her side at school against some idiot schoolmates and an uncreative band teacher (Mr. Largo, a character whose name I often forget), but really, Lisa might have a serious problem there.
But if Lisa is the ignored Simpson, as Marge speculates, the episode actually doubles down on that in a very meta way by giving Bart and Homer a subplot involving video game boxing. So, not only did Lisa have to wait this long to get an episode of her own, but she didn’t even get the whole episode devoted to her problem. Granted, there are far more laughs in Homer’s attempt to beat Bart at a video game, but if one of Lisa’s ongoing issues is she gets less attention than troublemaking Bart or infant Maggie, then sidetracking her first solo episode focus with the series’ first B-plot, well…
Well, at least Marge realized a thing or two about parenting more than her own mother.
And Maggie? She loves the TV most.