Back in July I declared Season 7’s “Lisa the Vegetarian” the winner over Season 16’s “The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star” despite never having seen the latter episode.
I promised to revisit Round 46 as soon as the Season 16 DVD box set would come my way, though. And it did, on Christmas! So…
“The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star” (Season 16 / May 15, 2005)
Written by Matt Warburton
Directed by Michael Polcino
Showrunner: Al Jean
Okay, so I hated the opening set piece (the school is holding some medieval fair for some reason?) and not just because it was basically just a setup for cheap, rat-based gross-out humor, but also because it reminded me that, at this point in the series, the characters on screen might look like the ones I love and remember from the show’s golden years, but they’re not behaving like them. When Matthew Pury wrote about “Lisa’s Substitue” for his tournament, he noted how Lisa used to be vulnerable and shy, but lost those qualities as time went on. In this episode, Lisa revels in being named Queen of the Fair (or something like that) not because it fits her character but simply because it gives Bart something to play off of. Sherry or Terry would have worked just as well, and actually made more sense.
Anyway, the episode got better after the main plot kicked in. Liam Neeson and Tress MacNeille are fun, and there are some nice jokes to be had at the expense of religion – easy target, I know, but still.
Sadly, though, there are too many moments that, I suspect, wouldn’t have made it into the final draft of a pre-Al-Jean-as-sole-showrunner-episode. I’ve said it about Season 15, I’ve said it about Season 17, and now I’ll say it about Season 16: restraint and focus are long gone. Too bad.
Verdict: “The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star” is a decent enough episode with some regrettable flaws. “Lisa the Vegetarian” still wins Round 46.