Rate & Review: "The Star of the Backstage" (QABF17)

How would you rate this episode?


  • Total voters
    44

Arctan

I'll be in my room.
Joined
May 18, 2021
Messages
221
Location
America
Now it sits at 4.6 and third worst place on the IMDB listing.

One of the most overhated episodes of all time (and extremely divisive when looking at the user reviews, either being very good or pretty bad with rarely anything inbetween). Interestingly, the industry reviews are on the positive side with no one really saying it is awful nor bad.
Yeah, It's fine to hate on Lisa goes gaga, But the producers on this one tried to make an interesting episode.
 

Hilda Fanboy

Newbie
Joined
Nov 9, 2020
Messages
24
No, this is not "one of the worst episodes ever". Bad, yes, but I can think of several worse than this from the past year. It managed to make me laugh twice, and that seems to be an achievement recently.
 

Frankbags

Pin Pal
Joined
Oct 23, 2017
Messages
454
It's such a bland episode to come back to.. I think they managed to give just enough space to the guest star instead of shoving her in our face for the whole show.. I'm not sure I would rate is as the worst episode but to come back to a new season with something so bland, I can understand why people rated it so poorly.
 

CousinMerl

the waiting game sucks
Joined
Oct 24, 2006
Messages
8,661
Location
Spittle County
Yeah, It's fine to hate on Lisa goes gaga, But the producers on this one tried to make an interesting episode.
Which is why I find it especially overhated. Even though it understandably didn't reach out to everyone and I see why some rated it as a weak episode, it still felt like they put a lot of effort in to make interesting and something special (and I feel it has a lot of life and soul to it, even if it didn't work for some) yet it became that despised and that just feels, well, wrong.

The show has of late had so many missteps (looking at all those Jean misfires last season, such as 'Manger Things', 'Burger Kings' & 'Yokel Hero' (I'd say all of those are qualified as some of the worst), but this one that actually had energy and enthusiasm (despite it not being enough to part of the audience) and feeling like it wasn't some lazy quota-filler? No. Just no.
 
Last edited:

Bohdan

Stonecutter
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
2,631
Location
Ukraine
That's the first time I see the episode in English just after its premiere and estimate it. So, good luck!:)

The episode plot wasn't I had prepared to. I mean: great songs, good start (but the funeral isn't the best choice for premice place), good ending (really sweet ending), good times-jokes (I don't care about continuity). But…

It's not about guest starts (both Sara and Kristen and even Elizabeth Kiernan Averick's little role in the end) worked well. The main problem, luckily, just in such "impossibility" of everytime singing and a bit of "messed up" connection of the songs/non-songs scene. However, I don't blame Rob Oliver - the animation as always amazing.

I won't write my traditional "ranks criteria" - I'll do this, when I'll watch the episode in my native language dub (namely in a year) with new ability to change my vote if necessary.

Just write - 4/5. The best season premiere (by first feelings) in 4 years, but The Serfsons (other Oliver/Selman season premiere) was a way better.
 

CousinMerl

the waiting game sucks
Joined
Oct 24, 2006
Messages
8,661
Location
Spittle County
The best season premiere (by first feelings) in 4 years, but The Serfsons (other Oliver/Selman season premiere) was a way better.

I remember 'The Serfsons' wasn't well met on the NHC, but that one I too consider one of the better season starters of the later seasons. Similarily to this one, it felt like something new and different, creative & well animated (so definitely a good Selman & Rob Oliver collaboration with a nice, if flawed, script by Brian Kelley), yet it was not a very popular episode, got called something of a gimmicky disappointment a lot and it recieved mostly lower ratings (3/5s and 2/5s). Definitely seeing a resemblance here.
 
Joined
Dec 27, 2012
Messages
1,351
Location
In the corner
Third worst? Now that's harsh. I know some people get turned off by musicals but there's so many more options deserving of that hate.
The songs weren't exactly stuck in my head but they were sung well enough so it's not like it has that excuse either. Does IMDB just hate one of the guest stars or something?
 

BlitzPhoenix98

FAST 'N BULBOUS! That's right, the mascara snake!
Joined
Jun 29, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Serbia
Christ almighty, 4.6? Come on, this is nowhere near the worst episode ever. iMDB users are really being dumb.
 

Captain_Smiley

Moe is their leader.
Joined
Feb 1, 2005
Messages
715
Weird. Here they are teenagers in the late '90s and Marge complaining about how she couldn't go to college and earlier we had an episode that was the mid-90s with Marge in college. Sliding timescales is confusing.
 

Brad Lascelle

A Fixture in Online Simpsons Fandom Since '93
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2008
Messages
4,785
Location
Kitchener, ON
Third worst? Now that's harsh. I know some people get turned off by musicals but there's so many more options deserving of that hate.
The songs weren't exactly stuck in my head but they were sung well enough so it's not like it has that excuse either. Does IMDB just hate one of the guest stars or something?

Now tied for 2nd worst of all-time... and still dropping.

Perhaps if they vote down every episode this season they'll get what they've always wanted... the end of the series. That's how this performative outrage thing works, right?
 

Nitsy

Downsizing My Derriere
Joined
May 27, 2014
Messages
5,024
Weird. Here they are teenagers in the late '90s and Marge complaining about how she couldn't go to college and earlier we had an episode that was the mid-90s with Marge in college. Sliding timescales is confusing.

Makes me wonder if eventually they will just claim that Marge and Homer both graduated from college. At the time they were originally supposed to have come of age, it was much more common for people of Homer and Marge’s socioeconomic status to have not gone to college; now as their past keeps being pushed forward into the future, I wonder if that bit of history will seem increasingly outdated.
 

CousinMerl

the waiting game sucks
Joined
Oct 24, 2006
Messages
8,661
Location
Spittle County
I can't believe some are still caring about about the loose timeline and all its retcons at this point. Things like this almost has to happen when a show has been running for this long so why are people still making a fuss? Just let it go and run with it, I'd say.

And as for people downvoting the episode, by now it feels like they are doing it just since they are fed up with modern 'Simpsons'. It doesn't feel like there's any other logical explanation to this one episode get so kicked to the curb.
 

BlitzPhoenix98

FAST 'N BULBOUS! That's right, the mascara snake!
Joined
Jun 29, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Serbia
4.5 now... seriously, this is just crossing the line. No way in hell is this worse than The Boys of Bummer or Lisa Goes Gaga.
 

John95

Stonecutter
Joined
Apr 29, 2017
Messages
2,053
Location
Mauston, WI
While not the biggest flaw with the show these days, the constantly changing floating timeline can still be a problem in episodes like this as: 1. As pointed out already, they did that Y2K THoH segment. 2. This episode depicting Marge & Homer as teens in 1999 is airing in the same year that depicted Homer as a teen in the early 90s six months earlier and 3. The impression I got from that interview linked is that they only did it just to troll the audience.
 

Arctan

I'll be in my room.
Joined
May 18, 2021
Messages
221
Location
America
Do explain.
It isn't that horrible. Lisa goes gaga was clearly just made to make money, And to have a cameo. The animators, actors, and writers all put effort into the episode. It was an attempt at something different, to try new things. Its better to try something new and fail, than to either never try, or just make an episode to make more money.
 

BlitzPhoenix98

FAST 'N BULBOUS! That's right, the mascara snake!
Joined
Jun 29, 2021
Messages
180
Location
Serbia
Yeah, because Homer would be treated as if he was born in the early 1980s, which is not true. And Bart would be born in 2011. Again, floating timeline.
 

Brad Lascelle

A Fixture in Online Simpsons Fandom Since '93
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2008
Messages
4,785
Location
Kitchener, ON
Is it the year 2021? Yes
Does the show presently take place in the year 2021? Yes
Is Homer still portrayed as being 40 years old in the current show? Yes
Hence, Homer was indeed born in the early 1980s.

That is a true statement today.
It will not be true in 5 years when he will be born in the mid-1980s. Or 10 years when he will be born in the early 1990s.
But it is true as of right this second.
 

Bohdan

Stonecutter
Joined
Aug 15, 2019
Messages
2,631
Location
Ukraine
Is it the year 2021? Yes
Does the show presently take place in the year 2021? Yes
Is Homer still portrayed as being 40 years old in the current show? Yes
Hence, Homer was indeed born in the early 1980s.

That is a true statement today.
It will not be true in 5 years when he will be born in the mid-1980s. Or 10 years when he will be born in the early 1990s.
But it is true as of right this second.
Always agree with similar statements. Perhaps sometimes these floating in continuity Selman used in his eps (starting with 90 Show), or in case, where Jean (as showrunner) lack of ideas seem really bad.

But with time comes, earlier or sooner The Simpsons franshise will grow over own period. For example, they don't associate just wirh 1990th only - they're always up to date, to said.

And in such cases, refuse some "locked past" is just need to have ability to feel the real feelings (good or bad - as you want) from the episode itself.
 

Brad Lascelle

A Fixture in Online Simpsons Fandom Since '93
Staff member
Joined
Mar 9, 2008
Messages
4,785
Location
Kitchener, ON
When it comes to floating timeline logic, I always hold true to the notion that the context of the storylines and the essence of the exchanges that occurred will always hold true irrespective of WHEN the episodes took place. Marge picking up Homer after spurning his prom invitation will always be a thing that happens whether it takes place in the 1970s or 1990s or sometime in the 2000s down the road. Moving the timeline doesn't invalidate the things of importance that took place in those episodes even if their placement in time shifts.

It's funny that I've never had an issue with grasping this yet I do run into challenges with an episode like The Dad Who Knew Too Little that I revisited earlier today after TheRealJims latest video.

My issue with this episode is that it ignores all of the relationship breakthroughs Homer made with Lisa throughout the Classic era to make him completely oblivious to her interests so much so that he resorted to hiring a private detective to discover things about her that he should have already known. That episode would be so much easier to digest if I could wipe my memory clean of events that took place in all of the Homer-Lisa episodes that preceded it... OR if it had been a flashback episode set earlier in the past... OR if it had actually come out in Season 2 instead of Season 14.

Of course, doing any of those things would make it so they couldn't make their McNuggets joke. Because Lisa wouldn't be a vegetarian yet and thus would not be outraged. Although perhaps she could be outraged that he thought her favourite food was McNuggets and not bacon. Man, she sure did love bacon. Her first love after the fried shrimp the aliens served her in Hungry are the Damned.
 
Last edited:

GlitterCat

can still boogaloo
Joined
Oct 7, 2017
Messages
682
You'd think by now Marge would just buy veggie bacon and let Homer think it was really a pork product while Lisa of course knew the truth.
 

Nitsy

Downsizing My Derriere
Joined
May 27, 2014
Messages
5,024
My issue with this episode is that it makes Homer oblivious of all of the relationship breakthroughs he made with Lisa throughout the Classic era to make him completely oblivious to her interests so much so that he resorted to hiring a private detective to discover things about her that he should have already known.

That seems to be a major issue (among many) fans have with "On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister", that Lisa seems to not recall anything that Bart has done for her and he's done quite a lot throughout the run of the show by that point. In either case, I don't consider floating timeline "continuity" issues to be real issues; it's something I like talking about and it can be interesting to speculate on how the timeline and flashbacks might change over time, but I'm not going to dock any points from an episode because "wtf Marge and Homer are millennials now" (let's not even try to figure out how Grampa can possibly still be a WWII veteran). I really am not bothered by the necessity of a changing timeline. However, as you pointed out, I do think it's hard to take certain plot points seriously if they seem to directly contradict character development we've seen in past episodes (Homer somehow knows nothing about Lisa, Lisa somehow thinks Bart has never done anything nice for her, etc.)
 

Wile E. the Brain

Scientific progress goes "boink"
Joined
Jul 4, 2018
Messages
1,234
Location
France
I also think what makes such plot points hard to take seriously is the lack of coherence with what we know about those characters and their relationships, regardless of the famous floating timeline. It's a part of what makes On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister that hard to swallow. You want to ignore the nice things Bart has done to Lisa during the previous 300 and something episodes, fine. But with what we know about both of them, it's just impossible to buy that Bart has never done more than a couple of nice things to Lisa during her 8 years of existence. It goes beyond ignoring character development, it's kinda ignoring their basic personality.
 

Szyslak100

Stonecutter
Joined
Jul 7, 2017
Messages
1,658
Location
Argentina
It’s hard to start to talk about a musical episode if I don’t predefine my perception of this polarizing genre that gathers around the most destructive haters and the most passionate lovers. I have had a bias against them for many years. I despised them with passion, no matter how well-produced and greatly executed they were. As I stated above, watching them in a non-English version is just torturous because the dubbing manager must unfailingly choose if they keep the songs in their original language sacrificing de comprehension of the story, or if they dub them sacrificing their quality. It’s a lose-lose situation that you can accept once in a while but becomes intolerable when it takes a full episode…

...Fortunately, The Star of Backstage came at an adequate moment for me because I am now a tad bit more familiarized with English. In fact, this was the first episode I watched without subtitles so I was open-minded and quite expectant. It was the first time I lived the complete experience of a musical, feeling the music and understanding the plot both at the same time and for the first time (I say it because I have rewatched in English episodes like The President Wore Pearls, but I already knew what happened there). And the question is… What do I think of musicals after this experience?


Well, it would be stupid to generalize the feelings I could get on the genre only for what this episode transmits. But at least this time I ended up with confusing emotions. Let’s start with the positives, which thankfully predominated here. The first thing to stand out is that I genuinely loved the choreographies. I feel many musical moments in this series are visually frustrating because they are filled with slapstick humor and silly jokes (check out last year’s Yokel Hero as an example of all that is wrong with them). This time, the writers left behind humor at the time of creating the storyboard of the episode, and they put their efforts into making this episode as believable and stunning as possible, trusting the potential the songs and the story had by itself with no necessity of filling this with jokes. Also, Rob Oliver and his team were outstanding in designing the movements and animating the performances. The second thing that makes me feel more comfortable was the fact that, most of the time, the characters had a reason to sing. It has annoyed me historically when characters start to sing for no reason an improvised song (comes to mind that confusing parody of Another Day of Sun at the beginning of Haw-Haw Land). Here, they provide reasons why there is a big load of music… rehearsals, Musical Theaters, imaginations, a song that Sasha could've to write about herself... Another thing I liked is that the songs emerged organically and were important to the narrative. There are quite a few times in other episodes where musicals are there just for decorative purposes and are absolutely expendable. Here, the tracks are attached to a story that needed them to be developed, something that helped me to keep paying attention when the songs arrived. And a fourth and last thing to mention: I am glad that the writers decided to push to the limit the artistic aspect of the episode, becoming the one with the most original songs and with the most singing moments by a wide margin. I probably wouldn’t be as surprised if it was a talked episode with a few musical moments, but it was the exact opposite of it, and that makes it special for this show’s repertory.


One thing that left me doubtful is that Bart and Lisa didn’t have their moments. And I said I am doubtful because, on the one hand, I wish Nancy and Yeardley would sing some verses. But, on the other hand, the fact that there are characters who are not singers helped to sustain the realism I claim for musicals. So, yeah, after further reflection I am happy they didn’t sing. So, I have one single problem with this episode: it was hard for me to pay attention to it. As I said above, it was easier for me because the songs were related to the story and I at least had that incentive to be focused. But still, somehow I was enthusiastic and excited when it started and I found myself distracted someplace around the second act. And I don’t know if it was a problem of mine caused by an unconscious resentment and enmity I still have with this kind of episode or if it actually lacked substance and was not lucid enough to catch me. That’s the only thing that could be a con, but my final verdict in this analysis of musicals reduced to a single Simpsons episode is that I can enjoy them. I enjoyed it! And color me impressed by that, I thought that was impossible. Putting a bit more focus on the episode, but still analyzing its musical facet, a very positive aspect was the top-notch acting of the stars of the episode. The guest stars have both beautiful voices. Kristen Bell was gorgeous as Marge. The writers found a straightforward solution to the fact that Julie Kavner can not sing even though I’d find it better if Marge's euphonious Disney's voice was played as a joke for a unique song and not for the entire episode. I mean, wouldn't it be better if she would sing only the introductory song? Otherwise, it was distracting for moments. But it’s not entirely a complaint because listening to Bell was a pleasure, just as much as Sara Chase, who has a delightful voice as well. And what to say about The Simpsons’ cast? We already know how talented Azaria, Shearer, Roswell, and Castellaneta are. My only big inconvenience about it was Dr. Hibbert's voice but what else can I say about that ridiculous decision of recasting characters I haven’t said already?


But definitely, the best this episode has to offer was its songs. What a great repertory it had. I am going to take time to make a breakdown of the songs we got here from the "worst" to best. Skip this paragraph if you don't care. Seventh place for Never Try. Not much to say, it was just a little filling. Sixth goes for 5-4-3-2-0-0-0. I thought the Y2K play was underdeveloped. I wish they would elaborate it a bit more because I thought it had potential for a funny satire (despite The Simpsons already did it in season eleven). Sasha Is a Massive Success goes fifth. It was a decent introduction for Sasha but the song by itself wasn't appealing because it seemed to be the typical Broadway song. I'd say there's a tie for fourth and third place. Fraudway Baby was a great one to reach the conflict and with no doubt a truly great payback for Marge against Sasha, counting also with nice animation featuring Marge as a witch, while A Delicate Approach was sweet, featuring Homer as a supportive husband, and presenting a different style than the rest of songs here, smoother and funnier for sure. The Star of Backstage, the first one we heard and the one that gave the title to the episode, gets the second place. It was quite elegant and vibrant. The lyrics were great to present the role of Marge and the crew, delivering the line "places everybody" that Marge would repeat with her real voice in one of the biggest laughs I got here. But the best one here, by far, is Remember the Times. I adored this one. The song is catchy thanks to those magic guitar chords and the continuous interruptions Marge does. It perfectly sells the chemistry between the stars of the crew. The lyrics are meaningful for them and watching them together hugging each other, sharing anecdotes, and bringing back memories was believable. It’s a bit nostalgic and I loved watching the characters in their teenage version (especially Homer). And it’s important for the plot because here Marge discovers she is not part of the group and it’s revealed how they brought her parents to bankruptcy. I don’t have a ranking of songs but this one would be high on my list.


So, yeah. It was a very entertaining musical because the writers, animators, compositors, and artists did a dedicated and devoted task to put it together. But what if it wasn't a musical? What are the merits and sins of this piece of work as a Simpsons episode? Well, the story was kinda original. Interesting Marge-centric stories are always welcomed and this one was refreshing. Marge as a stage manager is perfect for the character: it fits with her obsession for order and organization, it avoids her singing, and it involves her smartly in the story. I actually liked the little reboot of her and it's always nice to get a scene with Jacqueline again. I thought it was a problem that Sasha is supposed to be a victim after all the mean things she has done to Marge: She was responsible for a big problem for the Bouviers, she tries to separate her from the group, it's implied that she sends mean-spirited messages about her in the cast's chat, and feels better than Marge after the success of the play. I must say that the ending of Marge's act finding two guys who admire her to bond with was touching, and the crew planning a party at Marge's house again delivers a great ending with a giggle and sentiment. Homer had a great role as well, accompanying Marge for moments but hanging out with the guys who ignored her. The moment when he says he will be the enemy of the kids because they made him replace Lenny was hilarious. Lastly, one of the trademarks of Matt Selman's episodes is the examination of chemistries of characters that have never interacted between them. Who would ever say there was such a friendship between Homer, Kirk, Helen, Smithers, Hibbert, and Barney, right? It was believable and tender for moments. When Helen hugs Smithers from behind I felt like we have seen a lot of them together. Oh, and Barney getting a night with Sasha was unexpected, eh. Moe's reaction was funny.


It’s time to admit it, guys, it was a good episode. Musicals have been present in this show since its earliest years and it’s healthy the writers still want to innovate, this time delivering a full musical experience. You might like this kind of episode, you might not. But it was objectively a success, because the writers achieved exactly what they were trying. I had some issues, but most of what I have written here were well-deserved compliments. One unexpected surprise to kick off a promising season.

4/5
 

CousinMerl

the waiting game sucks
Joined
Oct 24, 2006
Messages
8,661
Location
Spittle County
Great breakdown/review of the episode, @Szyslak100. Interesting to hear the opinions from someone who has been one of those musical-haters up until recently and that gave some intriguing viewpoints (and you also did a good breakdown of the songs and I mostly agree about them, which means I might not do one myself as I hinted to before, other than maybe just rank them all upfront).

I didn't mind that Bart & Lisa (Nancy & Yeardley) didn't have any songs or actual singing part's (other than a brief "It's mine!"x3) but it would have been nice if they could've worked in a short song for them somehow (maybe instead of Barney's half-song or even 'Never Try', which I almost called Marge "sad walking away song" since, well, that's what she did in that scene). Still, I think the funny 'A Delicate Approach' more that made it up for the lack of them having a song (which was sung for Marge as well as for them both).

Also, I wasn't bothered by Kristen Bell doing Marge's singing for the entire episode. It being a factor course took away the necessity for Julie Kavner to try and sing (unsuccessfully) but the story aspect of Marge always having had this fantasy Disney princess singing voice in her head was a fun one (maybe that's also what she was thinking in that one infamous scene in 'The 7 Beer Itch'?) and I liked it going on throughout and not just the first one. Maybe it wasn't wholly necessary, but I felt helped the story keep its magical tone.
 

Dark Homer

pineapple shoes
Staff member
Joined
Oct 18, 2001
Messages
10,696
Location
geohell
Mostly disappointing. The songs aren't particularly funny or memorable, they're overly long, and they simply lack that indefinable Simpsons touch. The story seemed rote, although I think the decision to never actually do a flashback is interesting. All this time I thought the joke was going to be that Marge imagines she has an amazing singing voice only to later realize she doesn't, reinforcing the idea that she has an overromanticized view of the past, which I thought was kinda clever. Instead she straight up says "I imagine I sing like a Disney princess." OK. I also thought doing a play about the Y2K bug was a funny idea, seems like a missed opportunity that we see so little of it.

This episode is clearly targeted to theater people which to me sorta feels like whenever Letterman would make some inside joke about a specific guy in the audience. One of my biggest gripes with a number of Selman's episodes is how pandering they feel: check it out, here's a bunch of indie comics superstars... keep an eye out and you just might catch a glimpse of your favorite podcaster... oh, you'd better believe we just listed a bunch of New Orleans restaurants... listen up, theater kids, here's a shout-out to Lin-Manuel Miranda and for some reason Bart and Lisa are familiar with Rent... that's right, we like the thing you like! I miss when the writers were either far removed from popular culture or actively disdainful of it.

Some things I enjoyed: the quick shot of Marge wordlessly waiting for the dial-up internet to load got a big laugh out of me. Kirk and Helen's 1999 designs are great. The dancing was fluid and graceful (as much as I dislike the sterility of modern Simpsons it's still better that the roboticness of Family Guy), and the staging when Marge reveals the truth about whatshername was sharp. I appreciated that there was actually an explanation for Homer being in the play, preserving the "rule" that he and Marge don't officially meet until "The Way We Was," although the episode seemingly forgets Marge did go to college in an episode Selman wrote...

What was distracting to me is that PEN15 also did an episode where one of the main characters becomes a phenomenal stagehand for a school play circa 2000 and clashes with her friends in the cast. It's hard to not think less of this episode when there is such a direct comparison.
 
Top