OTH: The Simpsons- "Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment"/ “Principal Charming”

These will be brief, but I do have some things to say

Season 2, Episode 13

Aired February 7, 1991

Directed by Rich Moore

Written by Steve Pepoon

We hit the show’s second consecutive Emmy winner for Outstanding Animated Program. I'll be honest though, checking out its competition this year, I would have voted for the Tiny Toon Adventures pilot. I think the show still holds up, and it has an excellent debut. Or maybe I would have picked another Simpsons episode, at least (“Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” would have been an excellent choice, for instance).

Not that I don’t like “Homer and Lisa vs the 8th Commandment”, mind you. It’s a lot of fun, and I have plenty of nice things to say about it. For me, my main problem is that I prefer my Simpsons episodes to be a little less preachy.

Maybe preachy isn’t the right word, mind you. The show is still a little too ironic to fully embrace such obvious morals. But it does clearly side with Lisa, who knows that her father is in the wrong for stealing cable, and even though she becomes overly doting, it doesn’t let up on him.

Although personally, I’m just happy to see Lisa be front and center this week, or at least sharing screentime with Homer. She hasn’t had her own episode since last season’s “Moaning Lisa’, which was easily an early highlight. By now, she’s increasingly having her character defined as more than just the moody middle child, as she’s become a clever, insightful character all her own. Lisa is closer to Marge’s child for sure, sharing her mother’s heart and intelligence.

Although Homer himself is plenty rich in compassion, something he shares with Lisa. Thus far we’ve seen how he’s daddy’s little girl, and I do love their time together, even when they’re on opposite ends like this week. The nice thing is how neither character is angry or vindictive towards each other. Lisa just wants to save her father’s soul, and Homer just wants free cable. They come together well at the end, into a nice enough conclusion.

We don’t see as much of Marge and Bart this episode. That’s fine, personally. The former played a big role in Lisa’s previous solo episode, so it’s fine that this time she’s pushed back so Homer can have time with his daughter. And I’m okay with Bart being pushed to the side so the rest of the family can have their time, and he does have a notable subplot where he finds an adult channel. This is pretty basic stuff, children his age discovering sex and wanting to explore it, while his parents obviously aren’t happy. If anything, this should be the deciding factor that they shouldn’t keep cable, but Homer’s too stubborn for that.

I’m keeping my thoughts a bit brief, but this is a good episode. Maybe not the best the show can offer, but it’s nice to spend time with Lisa and Homer. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait too long for more episodes of hers.

Season 2, Episode 14

Aired February 14, 1991

Directed by Mark Kirkland

Written by David M. Stern

I give this episode credit for focusing so heavily on characters who aren’t a part of the core family. That’s been a rarity thus far, at least if it doesn’t involve Mr. Burns, who doesn’t even appear this week.

We haven’t seen all that much of Principal Skinner thus far, just his reactions to Bart’s deviance. He has every right to be frustrated, even furious with the kid’s actions, but we don’t know too much about him beyond being a bit of a stick in the mud. “Principal Charming” does attempt to show he has some human tendencies in him, but it never goes too far. Honestly, that’s fine, some people are just wired to be drab. At least Seymour seems to own it.

This also gives us the most time we’ve had with Patty and Selma so far. It’s funny, I think you could argue that Homer’s perception of the two being so unpleasant is just a trait he has, but it does seem like they’re not the most charming pair of women, themselves.

Or at least Patty, who we’ve seen is mighty agoraphobic, and could spend the rest of her life by her sister’s side. Selma, meanwhile, is a more open person, and needs her own life, her own man. This episode we see that Selma is more open, more loving than her sister. Patty’s introvert tendencies inspires her the cynic she is, while Selma’s love not being reciprocated makes her the same way. Patty lives off her apathy, while Selma dreads it.

So of course Patty is the one who Skinner falls for, not Selma. They’re a fun enough mismatch, but I’ll admit that at the same time, neither character becomes fleshed out enough to make the story fully land. Which is unfortunate, because the change of pace is beyond welcome.

Maybe it’s because his presence has been toned down over the past few episodes, but I did enjoy Bart’s material this episode a little more. It is fun to see him wreck hell with little repercussions, just as I’m sure it’s fun for him. That does make for a welcome change of pace.

“Principal Charming” is a cute enough episode, and I like how it helps to expand the cast a little. But this is hardly the best the series can do.

Stray Observations:

  • So if you haven’t heard, Substack is under hot water, and for good reason. I’ve been weighing out my options, and while I’m not hot about the site’s policies and preferences, I think that for now, I will focus my writing on here, until I have a little more free time to find a new outlet. Stay tuned.

  • Chalkboard gag wars- “I will not make flatulant noises in class” vs “I will not belch the national anthem”. So… what flatulant noises did Bart make? Were they from his mouth? His body? So curious.

  • Couch gag wars- the family walking like Egyptians vs the couch folding out. They’re both fine!

  • That first title is a doozy. I like that the show is willing to find room for both Homer and Lisa, but it honestly should’ve been just “Lisa vs the 8th Commandment”.

  • Isn’t it funny how things have changed? Cable TV being an expensive privilege hasn’t really changed all that much, but so many homes would pick it up over a decade or so’s point that this episode may seem ridiculous to some. And now we’re in the age of streaming, where cable seems like a relic of the past; making the concept here even more archaic. Maybe this could be done today about sharing Netflix passwords?

  • Yeardley Smith’s delivery on “Thou shall not STEAL!” is perfect.

  • The Bout to Knock the Other Guy Out, that’s a great title for a boxing match.

  • … why does the powerplant have a communal shower?

  • “If I may speak freely, sir?” “Permission granted.” “Sir, you’re quite wealthy.” “Thank you, Smithers. Your candor is appreciated.”

  • The second episode has plenty of notable film references, and they mostly work (I do think the callback to Vertigo early on is a little forced. Honestly, so is the Gone with the Wind reference near the end. Maybe I’m not so positive on the references this week…), but I’ll admit that I was pleasantly surprised with the Terminator nod in Homer’s manscouting. Maybe I just wasn’t expecting that from this show before the second film came out, but it’s a good choice.

  • Between both of these episodes, I think we’ll have to talk about Apu some point soon. Not this week, though!

  • What’s Homer doing at Moe’s on a school/work day?

  • I’ve stopped doing ratings for Bart’s prank calls to Moe’s, because they’ll never get that great of a score from me. Also, Homer Sexual is a cheap shot.

  • Hey, if you’re a first-time viewer, here’s a question- what do you think Patty’s sexuality is?

  • New character column- Phil Hartman’s back! He voices the shady cable installer, but he is primarily of note this week for Troy McClure, a washed up actor who’ll show up frequently. Drederick Tatum, the boxer who is partly inspired by Mike Tyson, will also appear again in the series. In the second episode, we’re introduced to two fan favorite characters, Hans Moleman and Groundskeeper Willie. Ah yeah. I see it’s considered that we also meet the squeaky voiced teen this week, but I’m not sure about that- I think we just hear his voice for the first time.