Lisa the Greek
"Lisa the Greek" is the fourteenth episode of The Simpsons' third season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 23, 1992. In the episode, Homer begins to bond with his daughter, Lisa, after learning her unique and convenient ability to pick winning football teams, but, secretly, uses her ability to help him gamble. When Lisa finds out Homer's secret, she refuses to speak to her father until he fully understands her. "Lisa the Greek" was written by Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky, and directed by Rich Moore.
The episode was designed to satirize the Simpsons staff members' "love affair with gambling, particularly on football." "Lisa the Greek" references both the Super Bowl and the National Football League (NFL). It aired only a few days before Super Bowl XXVI, and correctly predicted that the Washington Redskins would win the game. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 14.2, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
Lisa complains to Marge that Homer never pays any attention to her or gets involved with her interests. Marge suggests that Lisa take an interest in something her father does, so she decides to join Homer on the couch while he is watching football on television. After being ripped off by betting advice hotlines, a desperate Homer turns to Lisa to pick a winner. She picks the Miami Dolphins, prompting Homer to call Moe's Tavern to place his $50 bet. In the end, the Dolphins win, and Homer and Lisa celebrate.
Meanwhile, Marge suggests that she and Bart have a Mother-Son day shopping for new clothes since Lisa is spending time with Homer. Bart claims he doesn't need new clothing, but it's seriously undermined when she sees how damaged his clothes are. At the mall, Marge's excessive mothering embarrasses him more when she buys clothes from the clearance rack and ignoring his disgust by making him try out the clothes she picked for him. Bart remains hiding in the car, while the bullies taunt him to come out and Marge takes no notice of it, believing the bullies to be his friends.
Lisa becomes adept at choosing winners of football games, and Homer declares every Sunday during football season Daddy-Daughter Day. Lisa remains perfect in her picks for eight weeks, earning her father more and more money as the Super Bowl approaches. With his new money, Homer starts buying expensive presents for the family and treating them to fine dining. When Lisa asks Homer if they can go hiking the Sunday following the Super Bowl, he tells her that he is instead going bowling with Barney and that Daddy-Daughter Days are over until next football season. Lisa realizes that all Homer really wanted was to exploit her prognostic abilities to help him gamble. She dreams that she grows up to become a chain-smoking, thrice-divorced, casino-hopper. Completely heartbroken, Lisa gives away all the toys Homer bought for her. At night, Marge berates Homer for using Lisa's gift for his own purposes.
Homer realizes he needs to make amends with Lisa, but she is too hurt to even talk with him. Homer briefly cheers her up by inviting her to watch the Super Bowl together, but shows that he still only wants to win a bet. Heartbroken, she agrees to tell Homer who she thinks the winner will be, but she fears that she may be so distraught that she subconsciously wants Homer to lose his bet, leading her to a cryptic prediction: if she still loves Homer, Washington will win; if she does not, Buffalo. Homer bets with Washington, while the others go with Buffalo. As a nervous Homer watches the game at Moe's Tavern, Washington scores at the last second to win the game. Homer becomes happy at this blessing and Bart tells Lisa that she still loves Homer, with which she agrees. Homer cancels his bowling date with Barney and—on the Sunday after the Super Bowl—makes good on his promise to go hiking with Lisa despite not being in good shape.
The episode was written by Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky, and directed by Rich Moore. According to show runner Al Jean, it was designed to satirize the staff members' "love affair with gambling, particularly on football." Kogen, Wolodarsky, Jean, George Meyer, Sam Simon, and James L. Brooks were all frequent gamblers. Many of the staff members were also football fans, particularly Kogen and Wolodarsky. In "Lisa the Greek", the writers wanted to further develop Lisa's character, and so they decided to make it about Lisa's relationship with her father.
Kogen commented that Lisa and Marge episodes "tend to be the better episodes", because they are more thought-out and have more emotional depth to them. However, they are harder to write than other episodes because they are "less jokey." The writers therefore made the decision to replace Marge's role with Homer, who tends to be funnier than Marge. Jean commented that because he has a daughter, Homer–Lisa episodes are easier for him to write and he "always want[s] to work on them." Moore said they are his favorite episodes to direct, because "the two most opposite characters in the cast finding some kind of common ground [...] That was always interesting." In one scene, Homer makes Lisa sit on the end of the sofa so that she will not interrupt the game. Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa, recalls that many people at the table-read thought Homer was "too harsh" in the scene, but it ended up being included in the episode anyway.
"Lisa the Greek" references both the Super Bowl and the National Football League (NFL). The episode aired only a few days before Super Bowl XXVI, and correctly predicted that the Washington Redskins would win the game. When a repeat of the episode re-aired the following year only days before Super Bowl XXVII, the staff redubbed the episode to mention the Dallas Cowboys instead of the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys won, making the episode accurate once again. It has continued to be accurate in later years when it has been redubbed (the last redubbing came on the week before Super Bowl XXIX to reflect an all-California Super Bowl, with the San Francisco 49ers in place of the Redskins and the San Diego Chargers in place of the Buffalo Bills), and Jean commented that he would always bet against Lisa's predictions, causing him to think "Why didn't I take Lisa's advice?" when he lost. As Lisa studies football at the Springfield library, she goes through the card catalog and finds an entry on Phyllis George, an American sportscaster. The title of the episode is a reference to the American bookie and sports commentator Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder. The Duff Bowl advertisement that airs during the Super Bowl halftime show is a reference to the Bud Bowl advertisements for Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser family of beers.
In addition to the football references, the episode parodies the 1979 film Apocalypse Now. Homer tells Moe, who keeps his wallet in his shoe, "I used to hate the smell of your sweaty feet. Now it's the smell of victory," a play on a line from the film. In a commercial for his new television show, celebrity Troy McClure says that he plays "Jack Handle, a retired cop who shares an apartment with a retired criminal. We're the original Odd Couple!", referencing the television show The Odd Couple. With his gambling winnings Homer buys Marge a bottle of perfume by Meryl Streep. The perfume is called Versatility and the bottle is shaped like an Academy Award. The Globe and Mail's Liam Lacey commented on the similarities between the 2009 film Imagine That and this episode in a review of the film. He said the "message in each case is about the dangerous confusion of love and money. Naturally there's a turning point [...] where the child begins to wonder whether her father really loves her or just her profitable talent."
In its original American broadcast, "Lisa the Greek" finished 27th in the ratings for the week of January 18–24, 1992, with a Nielsen rating of 14.2, equivalent to approximately 13 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week. Lisa's voice actor, Yeardley Smith, received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992 for her performance in the episode. "Lisa the Greek" is one of The Simpsons cast member Dan Castellaneta's favorite episodes along with "Lisa's Substitute" from season two.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. John Carman of the San Francisco Chronicle called it his favorite episode of the show. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote that "it's nice to see [Homer] and Lisa getting along so well for once." Nate Meyers of Digitally Obsessed gave the episode a 5/5 rating and commented that "any football fan will love this episode, but the reason why it is so good is the relationship between Homer and Lisa. The two truly are a father and daughter to one another, causing both laughter and touching emotion in the audience." Bill Gibron of DVD Verdict said "Lisa the Greek" is "a chance for Homer and Lisa to bond under less than ideal, but always amusing, circumstances. Oddly, for a show relying on actual events like the Super Bowl to guide its plotline, it doesn't have [a] retread feeling.
DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson, however, did not think the episode developed Lisa's and Homer's relationship, but it "tosses in some good pokes at the NFL and the culture that surrounds the sport." Jacobson added that although the episode "echoes the neglectful father theme seen not long ago in 'Lisa's Pony', the show doesn't feel like just a retread. [...] It's not a classic, but it remains an above average program." The San Jose Mercury News's Daniel Brown said NFL gambling "seems to be a crew-wide addiction, which is why 'Lisa the Greek' is filled with sophisticated gags about point spreads and bookies." The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named it seventh best episode of the show with a sports theme.
- Jean, Al (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Greek" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Wolodarsky, Wallace (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Greek" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kogen, Jay (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Greek" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Moore, Rich (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Greek" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Yeardley, Smith (2003). The Simpsons season 3 DVD commentary for the episode "Lisa the Greek" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Lisa the Greek". BBC. Retrieved 2009-07-07.
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- Brown, Daniel (July 22, 2007). "Eat My Sports - A Retrospective". San Jose Mercury News. p. 1C.
- "Sports and The Simpsons". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. November 26, 2002. p. C–2.
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