Summer of 4 Ft. 2
"Summer of 4 Ft. 2" is the twenty-fifth and last episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 19, 1996. In the episode, the Simpson family goes to Ned Flanders family's beach house. Hanging around with a new set of children, Lisa becomes popular, while Bart is left out. Bart tries to sabotage his sister's newfound acceptance, but fails.
The episode was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Mark Kirkland. The episode guest stars Christina Ricci, who recorded her lines over the phone instead of going into the studio. The Simpson family's rented beach house is based on the then-show runner Josh Weinstein's parents' house in New Hampshire. The episode features cultural references to Pippi Longstocking, The New Yorker character Eustace Tilley, and Alice and The Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from fans and television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 8.8, and was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.
Lisa finds out on the last day of school how unpopular she is when nobody cares enough to sign her yearbook, while Bart makes people feel grateful that he signs theirs. Meanwhile, Ned Flanders offers the Simpson family the use of his beach house in Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport over the summer, though Homer makes Ned work on his faulty septic tank before he agrees. Marge likes the idea and suggests that Bart should bring Milhouse and that Lisa should bring a friend too. However, Lisa has no friends to bring and decides to change her image as a result, deliberately leaving behind her un-stylish wardrobe. After reaching the beach house, Lisa lies to Marge that she forgot to pack, so they go shopping for new clothes. Lisa buys a new set of clothes that she believes will make her look "cool", and goes to look for some likeminded people her own age. Marge, now feeling left out, decides to focus her parenting on Maggie, who looks worried. Homer, in the meantime, buys a large firework to celebrate Independence Day, only for it to backfire due to a fast-burning fuse; he initially throws it in the fridge, but changes his mind when he remembers the beer inside and instead chucks it in the dishwasher, causing it to rupture a pipe.
When Lisa succeeds in making friends with a group of local children (in particular a girl named Erin), Bart becomes jealous and complains that they should be his friends. He tries to steal her new friends from her with a skateboarding display, but they find his effort pathetic and shun him, which Bart blames on Milhouse. Lisa is then spending more time with her new friends, to the point where they hold a beach party to celebrate the 4th of July. Bart then decides to take revenge by showing her friends the yearbook and all of Lisa's deeply nerdy real pastimes. As her new friends stare in shock at Lisa's nerdy hobbies, Lisa runs off in tears.
The next morning, Lisa is furious with Bart for exposing her true self. She is about to pour maple syrup in Bart's eyes when Marge tells them about a carnival happening later that evening. They all go, but Bart and Lisa continue to bicker and fight, right up to when they ride the bumper cars and Bart rams Lisa's car out of the arena. Feeling dejected, Lisa decides to leave, concluding that she was probably never meant to have friends, and Bart feels guilty for hurting Lisa. When Lisa returns to the beach house, she finds her friends in the act of seemingly vandalizing the Simpsons' car. Thinking it's some sort of cruel prank, she simply tells them to finish it and leave, but it's then revealed they were actually decorating the car with sea shells in her honor, at which point they tell her they don't care that she's smart because she's a good person and they learned stuff from her. Lisa is thrilled, but Homer shows up and screams in horror at how his car got messed up. Before leaving Bart presents Lisa with her yearbook, which now has wonderful messages from her new friends and even Milhouse. He reveals he felt guilty for hurting her, so he explained his behavior to her new friends and asked them to sign her yearbook. Lisa forgives Bart, while Marge tells Homer that the kids should've cleaned out the shells before gluing them to the car, as the Simpsons are followed by seagulls trying to eat the mollusks inside.
The episode was written by Dan Greaney, and directed by Mark Kirkland. It was Greaney's second episode on The Simpsons. The staff of the show wanted to do a summer episode because there was "so much stuff" about summer vacations that they felt had to be covered in an episode. David Silverman, one of the show's animators, particularly likes the episode because he thinks it captures the feel of being on summer vacation.
The area in which the Flanders family's beach house is located in is based on the Cape Cod peninsula. Many of the writers of The Simpsons spent time on Cape Cod so they decided to model the new locations on it. The animators looked at Cape Cod photographs to get inspiration for the episode, and one of the show's background designers, Lance Wilder, grew up in that area. The beach house is based on the then-show runner Josh Weinstein's parents' house in New Hampshire, to which the writers had paid visit many times. They played several board games when they were there, which gave them the idea to have to the Simpson family play the Mystery Date board game in the episode. Silverman said that the episode was difficult to animate and direct because it had so many new and detailed backgrounds and completely different locations.
American actress Christina Ricci guest starred in the episode as Erin, one of Lisa's new friends. Ricci was not able to come to the recording studio, so she recorded all of her lines over the phone. Weinstein, who was a fan of Ricci, thought she did a nice performance in the episode.
The episode's title is a parody of the 1971 film Summer of '42. Lisa has a daydream in which the following fictional characters appear: Pippi Longstocking, The New Yorker character Eustace Tilley, and Alice and The Hatter from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Milhouse compares Lisa's new appearance to the character Blossom from the American television series Blossom. TeeJay's ZayMart is a spoof of defunct retailer Zayre and parent company T.J. Maxx. Homer replicates a scene from the 1973 film American Graffiti when he buys some embarrassing products at the store in order to get some illegal fireworks. The Mystery Date board game that the family is forced to play is an actual Milton Bradley Company board game from the 1960s. Weinstein recalled playing it as a child and claim it to be "a very disappointing game to play as a little boy" because of the female target audience. The ending music of American Graffiti, "All Summer Long" by The Beach Boys, is also played at the end of the episode.
In its original American broadcast, "Summer of 4 Ft. 2" finished forty-second (tied with Melrose Place and Married... with Children) in the ratings for the week of May 13 to May 19, 1996, with a Nielsen rating of 8.8. The episode was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week (tied with Melrose Place and Married... With Children), following The X-Files.
Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from fans and television critics. 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: "This episode will strike a chord with anyone that's ever tried to fit in with the crowd [...] Lisa gets to show the many facets of her character, and there's a superb slapstick sequence as Homer tries to dispose of a firework." Dave Foster of DVD Times praised the episode and said: "The episode is quite simply my favourite Lisa episode regardless of season. From calm to cool and fiercely aggressive, we've rarely seen Lisa so enticing as we do here, and the episode's many elements including the side stories for the other family members culminate in one of the finest this season has to offer." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson enjoyed the episode and said that he likes how it addresses Bart's resentment of Lisa's popularity. "Granted, it makes [Bart] a little too mean, but it's entertaining," he added. Jacobson went on to say: "Marge gets the best moment again, as I love watching her non-violent approach to the bumper cars." Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict considered the best parts of the episode to be the scenes that feature Milhouse, particularly his yearbook message to Lisa and the scene with the Mystery Date board game. She concluded her review by giving the episode a grade of A.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Weinstein, Josh (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Summer of 4 Ft. 2" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Summer of 4 Ft. 2" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Greaney, Dan (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Summer of 4 Ft. 2" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Summer of 4 Ft. 2". BBC. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
- "NBC Keeps Its Lock On No. 1 Spot". Sun-Sentinel. May 23, 1996. p. 4E. Retrieved on December 8, 2008.
- Foster, Dave (2006-02-25). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Times. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Jacobson, Colin (2006-01-05). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Malkowski, Judge (2006-01-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
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- "Summer of 4 Ft. 2" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive