“Little Girl in the Big Ten” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1c

“It was naive of you to think I would mistake this town’s most prominent one-hundred-four year old man for one of my elementary school students.” – Principal Skinner

This is yet another of those Season 13 episodes that epitomizes the vapid hyperactivity of Zombie Simpsons. After becoming an accomplished gymnast in the span of about thirty seconds, Lisa accidentally befriends some college students who think she’s one of them. Yes, this is a massively stupid teevee trope (especially when it’s used seriously like this); no, the writers do not care.

Don’t worry though, worse things are coming. You see, Bart gets stuck in a plastic bubble and Milhouse and friends expose Lisa as a little kid to her college friends (just because) and right at the end Skinner has some kind of ceremony that has nothing to do with anything which Bart and Lisa (for some reason) crash and ruin. Got all that? Of course, the point of all that nonsensical motion is to give the writers something – anything – to crack jokes about. As per usual, it mostly doesn’t work.

Six guys on this one, including poet Robert Pinsky coming in remotely. Pinsky, you’ll no doubt be surprised to learn, shows up in this episode in a meaningless cameo as himself.

0:25 – Jean asks Pinsky how being a voice on the show changed his life. As usual, the answer is that it helps when he’s talking to kids.

1:15 – The above is still going on.

1:45 – Now they’re asking Pinsky what it’s like to be Poet Laureate of the US. Pinsky politely demurs as the other guys crack intern and bailout jokes.

2:30 – Trying to remember how they got Pinsky on. He had written something about the show which prompted them to ask him.

3:30 – Jean’s giving credit to Vitti and MacMullan who wrote and directed, respectively. MacMullan did the Itchy & Scratchy thing Lisa sees in her college class. Meanwhile, the show is displaying a Krusty sweatshop in China.

5:00 – Ian Maxton-Graham selected the Pinsky poem they use in this episode. Onscreen, Lisa has just become an accomplished gymnast in the span of about thirty seconds.

5:20 – Pinsky is talking about his poem.

6:00 – Poem discussion still going on, meanwhile, Lisa is pretending to be twenty.

6:45 – See above. Except now it’s about regional tics in the Pacific Northwest.

7:35 – Jean breaks in to mention the direction of Homer singing as Lisa exchanges Scooby Doo level exposition with the other gymnast girls.

8:05 – Still complimenting Lauren MacMullan and how she went to “Simpson Director Heaven, also known as Pixar”.

8:35 – Asked what other cartoons he watches, Pinsky thinks “the South Park guys are brilliant.”

9:20 – Here’s another telling example of lazy Zombie Simpsons editing. When Lisa gets to campus she compliments the outdoor study groups and kiosks and it feels like the usual “Rule of 3” joke set up. Except that there is no third thing, there is no punchline. On the commentary they note that and laugh at their own crappy editing.

9:40 – Here’s a tiny piece of trivia for you. Pinsky flew out of Boston on American Airlines Flight 11 on 10 September 2001 to do this voice.

10:30 – This prompts Jean to tell the more famous Seth MacFarlane story.

10:50 – Pinsky is doing his cameo now, and notes that his hair has only one streak of gray.

11:20 – Continuing the 2001 story, Pinsky got stranded in Los Angeles and the Simpsons people were very nice to him until planes started flying again.

12:00 – That prompts Jean to recall that in those bizarre days after the attacks people thought satire had died. Jean, to his credit, always thought that was stupid, and it was.

13:00 – Heartwarming tales of getting back to work and laughing on September 13th are still going on. In the episode Bart is inside a plastic bubble and is fighting the bullies by ricocheting himself off a wall.

13:40 – Someone finally cracks a joke about how after Lincoln was assassinated no one ever laughed at “Our American Cousin” again.

14:00 – Pinsky recalls that during his recording session he felt very humbled by being around that many funny voices. This leads to a generic Jean monologue praising the voice cast.

14:50 – Someone, sounds like Selman, is now telling a story about watching this Itchy & Scratchy (where Scratchy gets fed to a cow and digested four times) at an AFI event next to Nicole Kidman. He didn’t think she liked it.

15:40 – Onscreen Lisa is in a college lecture, and that leads to some low grade stories about when they visit colleges to talk about animation or the like.

16:15 – More praise for MacMullan’s directing.

16:40 – Boredom is setting in, so Selman asks what Pinsky has been up to in the last ten years. Pinsky happily takes the opportunity to plug a recent poetry anthology.

17:10 – Someone then asks about a book he wrote about small towns. Here’s that one.

17:30 – Boredom having completely set in, Jean asks Pinsky if he ever hangs out with other Poet Laureates. He does.

17:55 – Gammill cracks a joke, it’s not worth explaining, but he at least seems to be aware that this is boring. I like Gammill.

18:20 – Still discussing other poets.

18:40 – The line, “That’s not a sunset, that’s a bird on fire” was originally a plane on fire. You get three guesses as to why they changed it, but you really should only need one.

19:40 – Not a whole lot of commenting going on here.

20:05 – And we’re back to asking Pinsky random questions. Now he’s talking about the time he was on The Colbert Report.

20:25 – They’re slightly proud of themselves for “dovetailing” together the A and B plots.

21:00 – More praise for MacMullan’s animating as we fade to black for the credits.

21:30 – Pinsky asks if guest voices usually think their episodes are particularly funny. Jean replies that they don’t know because they very rarely speak to the voices after the fact.

4 Responses to ““Little Girl in the Big Ten” Makes Baby Jesus Cry”

  1. 1 D.N.
    2 November 2010 at 6:12 pm

    After reading this piece, I’ve realised that the only bit from this episode I actually remember is the Krusty sweatshop, and even then, I had no idea as to which episode that bit hailed from. I think I have a vague recollection of Bart in the bubble, but generally I seem to have all but purged this episode from my memory.

  2. 2 Mike Russo
    3 November 2010 at 11:21 am

    Is this the episode where Ralph says, “It’s Lisa! And she’s winning us back!” What an awful episode.

    • 3 Charlie Sweatpants
      3 November 2010 at 1:00 pm

      Yes it is. This was back when they thought acknowledging how painfully bad their plots were was enough to excuse having painfully bad plots.

  3. 4 Zartok-35
    17 August 2012 at 4:09 am

    This episode does an excellent job grounding two really strange ideas. I guess Lisa becoming an accomplished gymnist in such a short time is a gyp, but I never gave a shit about that. I always through there was a sort of time passes thing happening there.

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