Talking about comic books, TV shows, movies, sports, and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Retro Review: Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington

Or the One Where: The Simpsons go to Washington DC.

The Setup: After receiving a free copy of Reading Digest magazine, Homer becomes obsessed with it, culminating in Lisa entering an essay contest sponsored by the magazine and winning a trip for the family to DC.

Notable Notes: This is the first "The Simpsons are going to ___!" episode, a subset of episodes that, in over twenty years, has grown quite large and has been openly mocked by the show itself.

This was also the first episode in which "The Simpsons" used Dolby Digital Surround Sound.

At one point, Lisa corrects Congressman Arnold's assertion that there are quite a few female senators, saying there are actually just two. She is correct; at the time the episode aired, Nancy Landon Kassebaum of Kansas and Barbara Mikulski of Maryland were the only female senators.

In the wake of the episode's depiction of a corrupt Senator taking a bribe from a lobbyist for the timber industry, the show came under fire from a pro-timber group in Oregon, saying "Rather than approach this issue with genuine concern for Mother Earth, you took an easy shot at hard-working people whose only crime is to have been born in a timber town."

Matt Groening responded at one point, saying, "So now a few lumber companies have joined the nuclear power industry, right-wing preachers and high-ranking Republicans in attacking The Simpsons. We must be doing something right. I must point out The Simpsons is a cartoon show—not 60 Minutes. Later in the show, the same lobbyist proposed drilling for oil in Teddy Roosevelt's head at Mount Rushmore. Please don't tell the oil companies about this."

Favorite Lines:
Homer: Who would have guessed reading and writing would pay off!

Homer: Ooh, I love your magazine. My favorite section is `How to increase your word power'. That thing is really, really.. really.... good.

Jerry: In comes our logging company to thin out the clutter. It's all part of nature's, you know, cycle.  
Congressman Arnold: Well, Jerry, you're a whale of a lobbyist, and I'd like to give you a logging permit, I would. But this isn't like burying toxic waste. People are going to notice those trees are gone.

Lisa: Mr. Jefferson, my name is Lisa Simpson, and I have a problem.
Thomas Jefferson: I know your problem. The Lincoln Memorial was too crowded.
Lisa: Sorry, sir. It's just...
Jefferson: No one ever comes to see me. I don't blame them. I never did anything important. Just the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, the dumbwaiter...
Lisa: Uh, maybe I should be going. I've caught you at a bad time...
Jefferson: Wait! Please don't go. I get so lonely...

Trong: When my family arrived in this country four months ago, we spoke no English and had no money in our pockets. Today, we own a nationwide chain of wheel-balancing centers. Where else but in America, or possibly Canada, could our family find such opportunity?

Teebore's Take: "The Simpsons" dive back into political satire (now on a national scale) with one of the show's best Lisa episodes, one which establishes her idealism and sense of social responsibility with a hilarious and knowing look at the corruption of Washington that, sadly, hasn't really dated at all. This has always been one of my favorite episodes (helped, in part, by the fact that it was another ep I never got recorded on VHS and thus enjoyed immensely whenever it re-aired), crammed full of great stuff, from Homer's uncharacteristic obsession with Reading Digest to Bart's very characteristic antics while traveling (messing with passengers on the airplane, pushing all the buttons in the Watergate Hotel elevator before exiting, setting up an early morning wake-up call for Homer) to Lisa's passionate and fervent idealism managing to transform Washington DC, for just a moment. This episode also has a ton of great visual gags, like the protestors outside the White House, or the artist depictions of Springfield Forest, or the "fat cats" in Washington getting portrayed as literal fat cats.


One of the strongest Lisa outings and the first (and one of the best) of many Simpsons vacation episodes.


  1. Haha! VHS recordings!

    Also Groening FTW with those lumber jerks. For reals

  2. Also Groening FTW with those lumber jerks.

    Yeah, they kinda made a mountain out of a molehill with that one. The episode was clearly going after (inasmuch as any 22 min. comedic television show can "go after" anything) corrupt government officials and lobbyists, not the timber industry. It's not like they even came close to saying "everyone who works for a lumber company is a Mother Earth raping monster!", which seems to be what this particular lumber coalition heard, apparently.

  3. Haha! VHS recordings!

    Also, yeah, I used to have quite the collection of Simpsons tapes, over twenty, each numbered and with a notecard taped on the side listing the episodes on each tape. I still remember certain episodes as being on "tape #X".

  4. ha! now that's pretty nerdy

    of course, i can't think of the Pound Puppies movie without thinking Popples movie because that's how they were on our VHS bootleg copies

  5. @Anne: There are definitely movies/TV shows that I still associate with old VHS recordings.

    I still get excited whenever I see the last five minutes of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, because we had it on tape when I was a kid but it cut out before the got in the Great Glass Elevator.

  6. That thing is really, really.. really.... good.

    Ha! I miss the old Simpsons!

    Pound Puppies and the less popular Pound Kitties(?)! Pound Furries? Wait...scratch that last one.
    Poppels! I had the Punk Poppel!

  7. @JoanHa! I miss the old Simpsons!

    Yeah, now we're definitely in the batch of episodes that people think of when they mention the "old Simpsons".

    Poppels! I had the Punk Poppel!

    Poppels are one of the few 80s children's fads that I somehow managed to miss, I think.

  8. I had a soccer ball Poppel....and loved it.

    Oh, and Joan, the proper name was "Pound Purries". Get it, they're they purr!

  9. ha! I associate a ton of shows with vhs because I still use em!! Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

  10. Hey, is that Joan?!

    HI JOAN!! *waving frantically* LOOK WHAT I CAN DO LOOK WHAT I CAN DO!!

  11. @Dr.Bitz - Ha - yes! Pound Purries! Do you remember the Pound Puppies cartoon? The tough lead dog...Sport? Patches? Douglas?
    I still love poppels! Soccer Ball Poppel - lucky! I also still sometimes buy My Little Ponies...I can't help it and I have a secret, shameful love for unicorns, so if I find a unicorn one - it's over. And a unicorn one with rainbow hair! Man!
    Sorry about that. Speaking of random 80's cartoons - do you recall the name of the one that featured weird animal hybrids? There was a lion/bumble bee and like an elephant/butterfly?

    Suddenly I am very afraid there never was any such show...

    @Palindrome! Look at you - no hands! :D I have been keeping up on your blog but I feel I have nothing of value to say (even more than usual) about writer's stuff! I didn't even know what a WIP was until like a couple weeks ago. But I am interested (even if I'm not entirely sure what's going with Teebore and his Burning Eye Man* comics)and I do stalk, er, continuously stop by, I mean, I still check up on you :D

    *Kidding! His name is Scott and he is Cyclops and he is kinda a wiener but Teebore promises he gets better. Also, his name should be Orbo.

  12. I'm sorry. Blogging about writing is me being lazy but I've had some food posts and there's a good one coming up Monday. I don't even care if you just say hi! I miss you!

  13. @Joan: Speaking of random 80's cartoons - do you recall the name of the one that featured weird animal hybrids? There was a lion/bumble bee and like an elephant/butterfly?

    Suddenly I am very afraid there never was any such show...

    Have no fear, this an actual memory and not an insane hallucination (this time...).

    The cartoon was the Wuzzles. It strikes me as something intended to capitalize on the success of Care Bears and Gummi Bears. The lion/bee hybrid was Bumblelion, I believe.

    like with Teebore and his Burning Eye Man* comics

    Thanks Joan, I needed that laugh. Also, you're right; Cyclops' name really should be Orbo.


Comment. Please. Love it? Hate it? Are mildly indifferent to it? Let us know!