Lisa's Date with Density
"Lisa's Date with Density" is the seventh episode of the animated television series The Simpsons' eighth season, which originally aired December 15, 1996. It was written by Mike Scully, and directed by Susie Dietter. It sees Lisa develop a crush on Nelson Muntz, which eventually leads to Lisa and Nelson dating. It also was among the first episodes to feature Milhouse's crush on Lisa, an element of the series (along with Lisa's vegetarianism) to have spun off from "Lisa's Wedding".
At Springfield Elementary School, Superintendent Chalmers visits Principal Skinner to show off his newly purchased 1979 Honda Accord. However, he becomes distraught when he discovers the car's hood ornament missing. Principal Skinner orders a search of every student's locker, and it is discovered that Nelson Muntz is the culprit. As punishment, Nelson is forced to return all stolen items to their owners and help Groundskeeper Willie with his jobs around the school.
Lisa tries to let Nelson know how she feels about him by getting Milhouse to pass a love note to him in class. However, the plan backfires, with Nelson seriously injuring Milhouse (this is not seen, but Milhouse is seen being loaded into an ambulance), thinking the note came from him. Lisa admits that she wrote the letter and although Nelson seems indifferent about the matter he begins by visiting her house. Lisa is resolved to turn Nelson from a trouble maker into a sweet, sensitive young man. She changes his appearance by giving him new clothes and hairstyle. Later, Lisa and Nelson share their first kiss during their date at the Springfield Observatory.
However, the influence of Nelson's friends Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney proves to win out when they convince him to come along with them and throw rancid coleslaw at Principal Skinner's house. Skinner immediately phones the police, and the four flee. Nelson takes refuge with Lisa, proclaiming his innocence. Lisa believes him, until Nelson unwittingly lets the truth slip. Lisa realizes that Nelson is always going to be who he is and ends their relationship, much to the relief of an overjoyed Milhouse.
Meanwhile, Chief Wiggum arrests a scam artist for telemarketing fraud. Homer witnesses the arrest and sees the discarded autodialer in a nearby trash bin. Homer takes the autodialer home to use for tele-panhandling.
Homer ends up annoying all of Springfield with his "Happy Dude" scam, and soon enough Chief Wiggum catches him. Instead of confiscating the autodialer and taking Homer into custody, he shoots it then gives Homer a citation and asks him to bring the autodialer with him (although full of lead) to his court hearing, otherwise there would be no case and Homer would be let off the hook. In the closing credits, however, Homer has recorded a new message telling everyone he scammed he is sorry and that if they can forgive him to send more money.
The idea of Lisa dating Nelson had been around for a while, with several different versions being pitched. The writers wanted a "silly" Homer story to balance the episode out, and the idea of using the telemarketing scam for this had also been around for a while. By this time, the show had begun to have episodes revolving around secondary characters. This was the first episode to revolve around Nelson, and was done to partly explain why Nelson acts the way he does. The words to Nelson's song were contributed by Mike Scully's daughters. The scene in which Milhouse passes Lisa's note to Nelson was written by Bill Oakley, with the line "He can't hear you, we had to pack his ears with gauze" being George Meyer's line. There was a debate as to how injured Milhouse could look without it looking disturbing, and the drop of blood coming from his nose was decided to be enough. Milhouse liking Vaseline on toast was based on a child from Josh Weinstein's school days who everyday would get on to the bus with a piece of toast, which had Vaseline on it.
A majority of the story is a reference to the film Rebel Without a Cause. Lisa remarks Nelson is "like a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a vest," a reference to "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma"; this was Winston Churchill's opinion of Russia at the outbreak of the World War II.
In its original broadcast, "Lisa's Date with Density" finished 63rd in ratings for the week of December 9–15, 1996, with a Nielsen rating of 7.4, equivalent to approximately 7.2 million viewing households. It was the fifth-highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files, Melrose Place, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Party of Five.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "impressive" how "even after Nelson has beaten him [Milhouse] up for apparently making a pass, [Milhouse] will still do anything for uncaring Lisa." Josh Weinstein called it one of the most "real" episodes, commenting that every character in the episode, from Superintendent Chalmers to Lisa, acts like a real person throughout. The medic's line "He can't hear you, we had to pack his ears with gauze" is one of Matt Groening's favorites. Marge's line "When I first met your father, he was loud, crude and piggish. But I worked hard on him, and now he's a whole new person," is one of Susie Dietter's favorites, as it explains why Marge is still married to Homer despite his actions.
This is also one of several episodes that has been performed live by the cast in front of an audience.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Lisa's Date With Density". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-28.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 218. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- "Lisa's Date With Density". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa's Date with Density" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa's Date with Density" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa's Date with Density" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Bauder, David (December 19, 1996). "NBC rides tall again in ratings". Rocky Mountain News. p. 16D.
- Dietter, Susie (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa's Date with Density" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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