Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Brush With Greatness” is the Marge episode I want more of.

2.18 Brush With Greatness

Marge rediscovers her love of painting, and is commissioned to paint a portrait of Mr. Burns.

I love when Bart and Lisa work as team against a common enemy: Adults. Their ploy to terrorize Homer into taking them to Mt. Splashmore is hilarious, and a nice little satire on marketing that’s directed at kids and, by extension, parents’ wallets.

Lisa crying as a ploy to get to the front of the line his great. I love her moments where she’s a total jackass.

Ohhh Homer clogging up the waterslide. I can relate. I had chronically dry skin as a kid, and once clogged up a waterside because I was going too slowly. I had to clutch the edge at an open spot, hang off the side, and allow people to catch up to me and pass. It was terrible, and I resented being taken there despite my protestations.

My swan moment was when puberty caused the other boys to get acne and me to have oilier, and thus perfectly smooth skin.

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This episode inspired the level of Virtual Bart (SNES) that gave me fits, FITS I tells ye.

Ringo Starr’s appearance marks a trend in The Simpsons of famous people appearing on the show as themselves. I’ve never seen another show make this work the way The Simpsons does, and I think it’s because the writers are brave enough to use celebrities sparingly (like Ringo, McCartney, and George Harrison), or, if a lot, laterally (see: Michael Jackson’s appearance in “Stark Raving Dad”).

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The Simpsons goes for earnest & charming in all three Beatles appearances, and each one works perfectly.

I like that the writers give Marge an artistic outlet/passion; my beef is that they never acknowledge it in later episodes, or at least have her go from pursuit to pursuit. I want Marge to have a Moe’s Tavern equivalent; something outside of the home to serve as bedrock to whatever hi-jinx she gets up to. In “Three Men and a Comic Book” we very briefly see her in a hair salon speaking with friends. I want that sense of community to carry over for her.

Without that, she can be too nebulous a character, existing to play straight man to Homer and be given the odd storyline like taking up painting or becoming a cop, which is forgotten about the week after. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great as standalone episodes, I just wonder sometimes if the writers’ mothers ever left their houses.

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You can see Marge’s attraction to vulnerability expressed in her art.

Marge’s interactions with Burns are very funny, though I like her interaction with Smithers even more, as she tries to pick his brain as to why he’d let Burns treat him the way he does. Marge, like Lisa, isn’t afraid to ask why others are treating someone poorly or putting up with abuse themselves. Marge is a little different from Lisa, though, in that she’ll present it more as an appeal to emotion than intellect.

Jon Lovitz is great as Marge’s art teacher, who praises every painter, including a guy painting a stairwell. In Elizabethan times people thought of personalities as being divided by the four humours: Melancholy, Phlegmatic, Sanguine, and Choleric. Lovitz is pure Sanguine, for what it’s worth.

I also love the self-referential nods at basic animation, with Marge’s subjects appearing as a series of geometrical shapes. And the end with Marge presenting Burns as frail and vulnerable is very nice.

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Weirdly, her attraction to Homer makes more sense than ever.

I can think of a handful of season two episodes I like better than this one, but it’s still a very good Marge/Burns episode.

Best moment: The reveal of Burns’ portrait.

Best Quote: “He’s bad, but he’ll die.” -Ms. Hoover.

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