"Moaning Lisa" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 11, 1990. The episode was written by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, and was directed by Wes Archer. Ron Taylor guest stars in the episode as Bleeding Gums Murphy. The episode deals with Lisa's depression and her attempts to sublimate it by playing her saxophone. It received positive reviews from television critics.
|The Simpsons episode|
|Directed by||Wesley Archer|
|Written by||Al Jean|
|Showrunner(s)||James L. Brooks|
|Original air date||February 11, 1990|
|Chalkboard gag||"I will not instigate revolution"|
|Couch gag||The Simpsons pile on to the couch, Maggie pops up in the air and Marge catches her.|
Lisa wakes up one morning saddened. At school, she gets in trouble with her music teacher for improvising, and becomes reluctant to play dodgeball in gym. At home, Homer and Bart pummel each other at video boxing, but despite Homer's attempts, he is unable to defeat Bart. Homer and Marge try to cheer Lisa up, but she is consumed with existentialism and worry over all the suffering in the world. In her room, Lisa hears music coming from outside her window. She follows the music through town and meets Bleeding Gums Murphy, a soulful saxophonist playing the blues. Lisa learns about expressing herself through her music from him, only to be discovered and whisked away by Marge.
Homer goes to the arcade and enlists the help of an arcade boxing expert, while Marge takes Lisa to band practice. She tells Lisa to smile no matter how she feels inside, to suppress her emotions in order to be popular, and that happiness will follow. But when she sees Lisa hiding her true feelings and being taken advantage of by her classmates, Marge changes her tune and tells Lisa to be herself and her support helps Lisa to feel genuinely happy. When Homer returns home, he is about to defeat Bart in a rematch but Marge unplugs the game console to announce Lisa's recovery, while Bart declares his retirement as undefeated video boxing champ. Later, the Simpsons visit a jazz club to hear Bleeding Gums Murphy sing a blues number written by Lisa.
"Moaning Lisa" was the first episode of the series to focus on Lisa. The idea for it was suggested by The Simpsons producer James L. Brooks, who wanted to do an episode where Lisa was sad but she did not know why. The writers also felt that they had done several "jokey" episodes on the show and wanted to try something new that was "really emotional and sweet". The song Lisa sings in this episode later reappeared in expanded form on The Simpsons Sing the Blues CD.
Mr. Largo, Lisa's music teacher, was partly inspired by a music teacher Matt Groening had as a kid. The designs of the boxers in the video game Homer and Bart play were loosely based on Homer and Bart, and the referee in the game was based on a character from Matt Groening's Life in Hell comic strip. Bleeding Gums Murphy was loosely based on the famous blues musician Blind Lemon Jefferson. Ralph Wiggum, Bleeding Gums Murphy, and Jacqueline Bouvier (during Marge's childhood flashback) all make their first (going by production order rather than airdate) appearances on The Simpsons in this episode.
In its original American broadcast, "Moaning Lisa" finished 34th place in the weekly ratings for the week of February 5–11, 1990 with a Nielsen rating of 13.8. It was the highest rated show on the Fox Network that week. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said: "Certain scenes of this, the most syrupy of Simpsons episodes, sent viewers raised on the later seasons scurrying to the bathroom. Yes, the final moments may give you goosepimples, and are a world away from the anti-schmaltz normally associated with the series, but there is still much to recommend here. In fact, the Homer–Bart subplot is more successful than the main storyline; Homer's nightmare about their relationship is genuinely disturbing."
In a DVD review of the first season, David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 2.5/5 and added: "Lisa develops much of her future personality in this episode. The family dynamic is starting to fall into place, as is the relationship between Homer and Lisa." Colin Jacobson at DVD Movie Guide said in a review that "overall, this was a pretty drab episode" and added that "it had some moments, such as the videogame boxing matches between Homer and Bart, but Lisa lacked the strength at this point to carry an entire show."
The episode was released first on home video in the United Kingdom, as part of a VHS release titled The Simpsons Collection; the episode was paired with season one episode "Homer's Odyssey". It was released in the US on the VHS release The Best of The Simpsons, Vol. 2 (1997), paired with "Bart the General". In the United States, it was later re released in a collector's edition boxed set of the first three volumes of The Best of The Simpsons collections.
In the United Kingdom, it was re released as part of VHS boxed set of the complete first season, released in November 1999. The episode's début on the DVD format was as a part of The Simpsons season one DVD set, which was released on September 25, 2001. Groening, Reiss, Archer, and Jean participated in the DVD's audio commentary. A digital edition of the series' first season was published December 20, 2010 in the United States containing the episode, through Amazon Video and iTunes.
- Moaning Lisa BBC.co.uk. Retrieved on August 17, 2008
- "Moaning Lisa" The Simpsons.com. Retrieved on August 17, 2008
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Jean, Al (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Moaning Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Wilson, Stacey (2012-02-08). "'The Simpsons' at 500: Untold Stories". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2012-02-08.
- Groening, Matt (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Moaning Lisa" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- De Atley, Richard (February 16, 1990). "'Blind Faith' and 'Funniest Home Videos' are in Nielsen Top 10". St. Petersburg Times. p. 7D.
- Grelck, David B. (2001-09-25). "The Complete First Season". WDBGProductions. Archived from the original on 2009-02-02. Retrieved 2011-09-15.
- Jacobson, Colin. "The Simpsons: The Complete First Season (1990)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-08-29.
- "The Simpsons - Moaning Lisa (1989)". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
- The Best of The Simpsons, Vol. 1 - Bart the General/ Moaning Lisa. Amazon.com. ASIN 6304561857.
- The Best of The Simpsons, Boxed Set 1. Amazon.com. ASIN 6304561873.
- "The Simpsons - Season 1 Box Set [VHS]". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
- "The Simpsons - The Complete 1st Season". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Archived from the original on May 25, 2011. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
- "The Simpsons Season 1 - Amazon Video". Amazon.com. Retrieved April 21, 2011.