The Old Man and the Lisa
"The Old Man and the Lisa" is the twenty-first episode of The Simpsons' eighth season, first aired by the Fox network on April 20, 1997. In the episode, Mr. Burns becomes bankrupt and asks Lisa to help him become rich again. On the condition that he will lose his evil manners she helps him, and the two start making money recycling cans. After a while Mr. Burns has made enough money to start his own recycling plant. However, his true colors are revealed when Mr. Burns shows that, inside the plant, he makes a multi-purpose edible compound made of squished sea life. He then sells the plant for US$120 million and offers Lisa 10% of his profits, but she declines.
The episode was directed by Mark Kirkland and written by John Swartzwelder. The writing staff had thought about an episode in which Mr. Burns would lose his money and would have to interact with the outside world. In DVD commentary the writers explained that while Mr. Burns tried to change he "couldn't help being himself". Professional wrestler Bret Hart made a cameo as himself, animated in his pink wrestling outfit, and he would later move on to do voice work for the animated series Jacob Two-Two. "The Old Man and the Lisa" contains cultural references to the television series That Girl and the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It was positively received by critics and won the Environmental Media Award for "TV Episodic Comedy".
Mr. Burns speaks with the Springfield Elementary School "Junior Achievers Club" and after a conversation with Lisa, he realizes that he does not have nearly as much money as he thought he did. He decides to invest in the stock market to earn his money back. However, in doing so, he makes more questionable investments and becomes bankrupt. The bank forecloses on the plant and puts Lenny in charge, and sells Mr. Burns' house to pro wrestler Bret Hart.
Mr. Burns moves in with Smithers and, wanting to be of use, decides do Smithers' grocery shopping. However, he is unfamiliar with grocery stores and becomes confused by the ketchup and catsup, causing the grocer to send Burns to the Springfield Retirement Castle. While at the home, Mr. Burns meets Lisa again, and begs her to help re-build his empire. She eventually agrees on the condition that he drop his evil ways, and the two begin earning money through recycling.
Whilst at first he is confused at the practice Mr. Burns enthusiastically begins grabbing every can he can find, causing Lisa to believe that he has changed. Eventually, Burns earns so much money that he is able to open his own recycling plant. Burns gives Lisa its opening tour, showing her that it is environmentally sound and made of recycled materials. At first, Lisa is impressed, but then Burns shows her "the best part". He has taken a cue from a demonstration Lisa had given him earlier, and attached millions of six-pack holders together into a net which he uses to catch tons of sea life, in order to make "Li'l Lisa's Patented Animal Slurry", a multi-purpose edible compound. Lisa is horrified, proclaiming Burns not only still evil, but even more evil when he tries to be good, and begins running through the streets, helplessly trying to get the seemingly indoctrinated citizens to stop the recycling program she herself started.
Mr. Burns later visits Lisa and tells her that he sold the recycling plant for US$120 million to a fish stick company, and that he has decided to give her, being his advisor, a 10% share of the profits. Lisa refuses the money and rips up the check. This causes Homer to have four simultaneous heart attacks. While in the hospital, Lisa apologizes to Homer for not accepting the money. He tells her that he understands what she did, but says that the $12,000 would have been a big financial help. Lisa replies that 10% of $120 million is actually $12 million. The hospital's public address system announces a code blue, signifying that Homer has entered cardiac arrest.
The episode was based on a story idea pitched by David X. Cohen, although it was written by John Swartzwelder, who had written many of the Simpsons episodes that have environmental themes. This habit led to him being called the "conscience of the staff" despite being a "self declared anti-environmentalist." It was because of this that he was given such episodes, because the staff felt that he would give them just the right amount of sarcasm. In the original script for the episode, he described the recycling center as "a couple of hippies surrounded by garbage". Two alternate original titles for the episode were Cohen's "Lisa and Burns" and Swartzwelder's "Burns Goes Broke".
The writers had wanted an episode where Burns becomes bankrupt and shows what Burns would be like as a person in the real world. The idea with the recycling plant was that Burns did not have any sort of evil plan, he just could not help being himself. Burns really was trying to change and this was reflected in the end when he tried to give Lisa her share of the profits, with Lisa refusing. Burns was drawn without his trademark scowl for this episode. The staff joked about this being a suitable series finale, due to the episode ending with Homer suffering from another heart attack after Lisa tells Homer what 10% of Burns' $120,000,000 check really is.
Professional wrestler Bret Hart guest starred in the episode as himself, and he was very insistent that he be shown wearing his pink wrestling outfit. He explained that "It's so cool to be part of a show that makes people laugh really, really hard." The media, aware that the animated Hart would want to purchase Mr. Burns' home, mistakenly anticipated that "Bret offers to wrestle him [Mr. Burns] for the place." Later, Hart moved on to do voice work on the animated television series Jacob Two-Two. The press noted that at that time Hart was "no stranger to cartoon-land," having been "immortalized" by "The Old Man and the Lisa".
Burns's walk through the supermarket was based on a false rumor that George H. W. Bush visited a store and was confused by the scanner and, in the original draft for the episode, Burns met Bush while there. When bidding farewell to the hippie Mr. Burns says "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" a reference to Pink Floyd's song of the same name. The hippie responds by saying that Burns needs to stop living in the past. The voice of the hippie is based on Dennis Hopper's character in Apocalypse Now. "Achy Breaky Heart", a song by Billy Ray Cyrus, is played at the old folks' home. The scene where Mr. Burns chases Lisa through town is a spoof of the opening to the TV series That Girl. The scene where Lisa runs through the streets proclaiming recycling as evil spoofs the finale of Soylent Green. The title of the episode is a reference to the novel The Old Man and the Sea.
In its original broadcast, "The Old Man and the Lisa" finished 38th in ratings for the week of April 14–20, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 8.3, equivalent to approximately 8.1 million viewing households. It was tied along with King of the Hill as the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-files and Melrose Place.
"The Old Man and the Lisa" received the 1997 Environmental Media Award in the "TV Episodic Comedy" category. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, called it "An odd episode with a not-too-unexpected outcome. The best bits are undoubtedly Burns learning his way around a supermarket and Lisa's realisation of what Burns has been up to."
- "The Old Man and the Lisa". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-21.
- "The Old Man and the Lisa". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved 2007-04-13.
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Haig, Scott (2006-06-08). "The Mystery of the Double Cardiac Arrest". Time. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
- Martyn, Warren; Adrian Wood (2000). I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide. Virgin Books. ISBN 0-7535-0495-2.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ASIN 0060952520. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-06-095252-0, 978-0-06-095252-5. p. 236.
- Cohen, David X. (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Meyer, George (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cam Hutchinson, "Doran Johnson given brushoff again," Star-Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: April 19, 1997, pg. B.4.
- James Muretich, "Worth Watching," Calgary Herald, August 31, 1998, pg. B.8.
- Heath McCoy, "Former wrestler Bret Hart to play the Hooded Fang," National Post, August 28, 2003, pg. AL.5.
- Castellaneta, Dan (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Old Man and the Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (April 24, 1997). "NBC lands on top of a hill of reruns". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Harris, Dana (1997-11-04). "EMA honors for Home, Travolta". The Hollywood Reporter.
- Martinez, Judy (1997-09-30). "Environmental Media Award Nominations In; Home Improvement Singled Out". City News Service.
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- "The Old Man and the Lisa" at The Simpsons.com
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- "The Old Man and the Lisa" at TV.com