Make Room for Lisa
"Make Room for Lisa" is the sixteenth episode of The Simpsons' tenth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 28, 1999. In the episode, while visiting the Smithsonian expedition, Homer Simpson meets a businesswoman who convinces him to build a cell phone tower in the Simpsons house, making it take up Lisa's room. Lisa is forced to share Bart's room, but the stress of living in the same room as Bart gives her stomach aches. Homer and Lisa decide to visit a New Age store, where the owner convinces them to go on a spiritual journey by lying in a sensory deprivation tank for a prolonged amount of time.
"Make Room for Lisa" was written by Brian Scully and was the first full The Simpsons episode Matthew Nastuk directed, having received a co-director credit for "D'oh-in in the Wind", for which he directed one scene. The episode's subplot, which revolves around Marge listening in on phone calls using a baby monitor, was inspired by former showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, who also listened to private phone calls with a monitor. The episodes contains references to the American sitcom All in the Family, and advises children to be accepting of their parents. On its original broadcast, the episode was seen by approximately 7.6 million viewers, finishing in 52nd place in the ratings the week it aired. Following the home video release of The Simpsons - The Complete Tenth Season, "Make Room for Lisa" received mixed reviews from critics.
Homer participates in a KBBL-sponsored drinking contest at P.J. O'Harrigan's, an Irish pub, and wins the trophy and title of "Sir Drinks-A-Lot". Once sober, Marge reminds Homer of his promise to spend one Saturday a month with the children. Much to Homer's chagrin, Bart traded his turn to choose with Lisa for her dessert, and Lisa suggests that the family go to the traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit. Homer attempts to punish Bart for giving his turn to Lisa by forbidding him to have any dessert, but this backfires when Bart makes another deal to give his turn to Lisa in exchange for her dessert again, much to Homer's discomfort. They arrive at the exhibit, which is sponsored by a cell phone company called OmniTouch, has Abraham Lincoln's hat, Fonzie's jacket, Archie Bunker's chair, and the Bill of Rights, which is ruined when Homer reads it with chocolate-covered hands. In an attempt to lick it clean he licks off the section that forbids cruel and unusual punishment. Homer is unable to pay the $10,000 repair bill and so Omnitouch installs a cellular transmitter on the roof of his house, with the control equipment in Lisa's room. Lisa is moved in with Bart, but she is overwhelmed when Bart has made up rules and noises distract her from her homework.
When Lisa develops stomach aches, she visits Dr. Hibbert, who suggests says he could prescribe 'harsh Antacid' but says herbal tea could also work. Lisa wants the tea but Homer, scoffs at the tea and demands the antacids. While leaving the office Lisa has had enough and snaps at her father for belittling everything she believes in. When she sees she upset him she says that they are just too different and will eventually drift apart. To make things up to her Homer takes her to a local New Age store which introduces Homer and Lisa to water-filled sensory deprivation tanks, where they experience their own spiritual journey. On her journey, Lisa sees herself from Homer's perspective, reprimanding him for snoring during a ballet recital. Lisa realizes that despite his boorish personality, Homer loves Lisa enough to take her to events and places that he does not personally like just so she can be happy. Meanwhile, a pair of repo men start to clean out the store despite the lease not being up for months, taking the tank that Homer is in. Homer's "journey" becomes a real one, as his tank falls out of the back of the van. Mistaken by the Flanders' as a coffin, they bury him, only for the tank to fall through the soil and into a pipe where it is washed up onto the beach. Chief Wiggum finds it and returns it to the store. Lisa decides to go and do something they both enjoy: watching a demolition derby together.
Meanwhile, Maggie's baby monitor receives transmission from the cellular tower. Rather than report this to Omnitouch, Marge becomes obsessed with eavesdropping on private calls. Eventually Bart and Milhouse play a prank on Marge by making her think that an escaped convict was attempting to break into the house. Marge smashes the baby monitor on Milhouse's head when he opens the door, knocking him out, but when Marge scolds Bart for the prank, he rebukes that it was a fair punishment for eavesdropping, to which Marge reluctantly agrees.
"Make Room for Lisa" was written by Brian Scully and was the first full episode Matthew Nastuk directed for The Simpsons. Nastuk had previously received a credit for "D'oh-in In the Wind", which he directed one scene for. "Make Room for Lisa" was also the second episode about Homer and Lisa that Scully wrote for the series, the first one being "Lost Our Lisa" from season 9. "Make Room for Lisa" was first broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on February 28, 1999. When writing the episode, the Simpsons writing staff debated what to do with Lisa after her room had been rebuilt. Brian Scully eventually pitched that Lisa and Bart would have to share a room together, as it would, according to staff writer Matt Selman, comment on the feeling of having to share a room with a sibling, and how it would "incredibly suck." The writers then wrote the episode around that plot point.
Near the beginning of the episode, Homer takes part in, and wins, KBBL's drinking contest. In the next scene, Homer is seen fallen out of his car, and waken up by Marge. The scene was inspired by Scully's brother Mike Scully, who, during a date, saw his date's father "drunk and passed out" on her lawn, in the same pose as Homer in the scene. The episode's subplot revolves around Marge, who listens to phone calls by picking up their frequencies with a baby monitor. The storyline was based on former Simpsons showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein, who also used to pick up listen to other people's phone calls through airwave signals. At one point in the episode, Marge overhears a conversation between Moe Szyslak and Lenny Leonard. Originally, the conversation would be between two women, but the writers thought it would be "too cliche" to show women gossiping, and changed it to Moe and Lenny instead. While inside the isolation tank, Homer gets bored and starts singing "Witch Doctor" by Armenian-American singer David Seville. According to Mike Scully, the Simpsons staff had to pay the song's record company $100 000 for the rights to use the tune in the episode. The episode features a "prototype" of what would become the recurring character Lindsey Naegle, who is voiced by American actress Tress MacNeille.
Themes and cultural references
Throughout the series, Homer and Lisa's relationship is problematic, as Homer often struggles to understand Lisa, who in many ways is a little girl but who is also smarter than him. Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay analyzed "Make Room for Lisa" in their book The Simpsons in the classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield. They wrote that in the episode, Homer and Lisa's relationship is badly damaged after Homer allows Lisa's room to be turned into a cell phone tower. When the two enter sensory-deprivation tanks, Lisa has several hallucinations, including one in which she becomes Homer. This experience shows Lisa how she appears from Homer's point of view, and makes her realize that her treatment of Homer is hurtful, as he often participates in activities with her that he does not enjoy. The episode ends with Homer and Lisa watching a demolition derby, which Lisa enjoys because she is spending time with Homer. The episode advises children to be accepting of their parents, who "do the best [they] can" to raise them.
The American sitcom All in the Family has provided much influence for the comedy in The Simpsons, as John Alberti writes in his book Leaving Springfield: the Simpsons and the possibility of oppositional culture. He wrote that the series influence on The Simpsons is "acknowledged quite openly in the program itself," and used a scene in "Make Room for Lisa" as an example. The scene shows Homer, Bart and Lisa visiting the Smithsonian Exhibition, where a jacket worn by Fonzie, a character from another 70's series, Happy Days, receives more attention from visitors than the Bill of Rights. It does however catch the attention of Homer, who picks it up and reads it while sitting in a wing chair owned by Archie Bunker, a character from All in the Family. Homer is accosted by two security guards, who assault him using, according to Alberti, "the kind of language we have learned to accept from the erstwhile occupant of that chair [Bunker]." Homer and the two guards have the following exchange:
|“||SECURITY OFFICER #1: Get out of Archie Bunker's chair. Now!
HOMER: Relax! I'm just boning up on the old Constitution.
SECURITY OFFICER #2: Oh! You're going to regret that, Pinko! [Raises his billy club to strike Homer] [Homer cowers, holding the Bill of Rights in front of his face]
SECURITY OFFICER #1: I'm so sick of people hiding behind the Bill of Rights!
SECURITY OFFICER #2: Look! He got chocolate on it!
HOMER: I didn't mean to! Look! [Homer licks the chocolate off; unfortunately, some of the ink comes off as well]
SECURITY OFFICER #1: Mn-hn. You just licked off the part that forbids cruel and unusual punishment.
SECURITY OFFICER #2 [pounding brass knuckles into his palm]: Heh heh heh. Beautiful.
Alberti opines that, rather than denying All in the Family's influence on The Simpsons, the series writers "mockingly embrace[s] it" by having Homer visually likened to Bunker as he sits on his chair. Alberti also noted that one of the security officer's use of the word "pinko", a term used for a person who is regarded as sympathetic towards communism, is "ironic" as it was used by Bunker, whose chair Homer is sitting in. When the other officer complaints about citizens "hiding behind the Bill of Rights," Homer shields himself from the officers blows with the actual manuscript, making the officer's previous statement literal.
In its original American broadcast on February 28, 1999, "Make Room for Lisa" received a 7.6 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, translating to approximately 7.6 million viewers. The episode finished in 52nd place in the ratings for the week of February 22–28, 1999, tied with a new episode of the CBS documentary and news program 48 Hours. On August 7, 2007, the episode was released as part of The Simpsons - The Complete Tenth Season DVD box set. Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Ron Hauge, Matt Selman and Mike B. Anderson participated in the DVD's audio commentary of the episode.
Following its home video release, "Make Room for Lisa" received mixed reviews from critics. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide described the episode as having "two distinct halves, although the second far outweighs the first." They added that Homer's adventure in the sensory deprivation tank was "inspired," in its "almost Keystone Kop humour as he gets from point A to point B and so on, finally getting back to point A none the wiser." They concluded their review by calling the episode "classic." Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide gave the episode a mixed review, and described its main plot as "feeling a bit stale." He felt that there were already several episodes dedicated to Homer and Lisa's problematic relationship, and that "Make Room for Lisa" "doesn't do much to expand that theme." However, he described the episode's subplot as "interesting," and wrote "Marge's fascination with intercepted cell phone calls amuses." He concluded his review by describing the episode as "pretty average." DVD Town's James Plath gave the episode a mixed review as well, calling it "okay." Digital Entertainment News' Jake MacNeill described it as a "retread" of earlier episodes, and considered it to be one of the season's worst episodes.
- Scully, Mike. (2007). Commentary for "Make Room for Lisa", in The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark. (2007). Commentary for "D'oh-in in the Wind", in The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Selman, Matt. (2007). Commentary for "Make Room for Lisa", in The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike. (2007). Commentary for "All Deleted Scenes", in The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Waltonen 2010, pp. 224–225
- Alberti 2004, pp. 86–87
- Alberti 2004, p. 87
- Alberti 2004, pp. 87–88
- Rocky Mountain News (March 4, 1999). "NBC IN TOP THREE SLOTS IN NIELSEN TV RATINGS". John Temple. p. 12D.
- "The Simpsons - The Complete 10th Season". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
- Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood. "Make Room for Lisa". BBC. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
- Jacobson, Colin (August 20, 2007). "The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season (1998)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
- Plath, James (August 17, 2007). "Simpsons, The: The Complete 10th Season (DVD)". DVD Town. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
- MacNeill, Jake (September 25, 2007). "The Simpsons: Season 10". Digital Entertainment News. Retrieved May 30, 2011.
- Waltonen, Karma; Denise Du Vernay (2010). The Simpsons in the classroom: embiggening the learning experience with the wisdom of Springfield. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4490-8.
- Alberti, John (2004). Leaving Springfield: the Simpsons and the possibility of oppositional culture. McFarland. ISBN 0-8143-2849-0.
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- "Make Room for Lisa" The Simpsons.com
- "Make Room for Lisa" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
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