The latest Simpsons short revolves around Lisa meeting Billie Eilish, and is creatively titled When Billie Met Lisa, and it bucks the trend of the last two Simpsons crossover shorts by being pretty decent, but I'm not especially sure why it exists. Scratch that, I know very well why it exists: it's an advert for Eilish's musical documentary Happier Than Ever, as well as potentially trying to appeal to younger Gen Z Eilish fans to get them to watch The Simpsons. But it all feels a little pointless, and a huge waste of what could have been a great episode for Billie Eilish.
The set up to the pair meeting is that the family are sick of hearing Lisa play the saxophone, chasing her out of the house – something of a tired set-up regarding Lisa by now. She ends up playing under a bridge, where her tune is heard by Eilish (and Finneas, who is there but might as well not be), who promptly hires her. Lisa, who famously hates pop music, for some reason bursts into tears of joy when Billie Eilish acknowledges her. There is a storyline where Lisa and Eilish, both weird and intelligent nerds, both musical prodigies, both raised as outsiders, feel like kindred spirits, but this is not it.
Away from the storyline, there are a few good Eilish gags crammed into the three-minute short, even though she doesn't appear until a minute in and the last 30 seconds are credits. Eilish first appears with her hair in the neon green and black of her When We Fall Asleep era, then in a later scene is the Happier Than Ever platinum blonde with the sign 'Today Billie's Hair Colour Is:' flashing up outside the arena. Look, it's a visual gag that works better when you see it rather than having it explained, okay? I promise you, as somebody who has seen every Simpsons episode and watched them flub a lot, this one lands.
We also see Eilish cough up spiders, a reference to her Heavy in a Crown video. It shows a good understanding of Eilish and makes jokes that manage to be funny and relevant without relying on basic, interchangeable gags or punching down. I don't think Lisa Goes Gaga is as bad as people say, but it doesn't really connect to Lady Gaga besides 'remember when she wore a meat dress? That!'. Ed Sheeran's guest spot, which was combined with an ill-advised La La Land parody, also flopped. The Simpsons has not had a hit from a musical guest star in a long while, but Eilish could have bucked that trend if given a full story and more screen time.
It could, of course, have backfired. Eilish does well in her appearance, but that might not have lasted over a full episode if the jokes ran out, even if the show is on its best hot streak in a decade. Gaga has been nominated for an acting Oscar (and was unlucky to miss out again in the most recent ceremony), and still gets a raw deal in her appearance. Eilish has far less acting experience and may have been similarly done dirty in a full length episode. Finneas, meanwhile, already feels like he's included here by accident, and delivers a stilted performance up against few lines. There's a reason the show didn't go with When Finneas Met Bart, after all.
It wouldn't feel such a waste if the short itself didn't feel so pointless. There's nothing to it besides being a strange advert for a documentary that launched months ago and was already extremely popular. It's an odd use of The Simpsons shorts, which had previously been grounds for animation exploration before they became a Disney crossover factory, and an odd waste of Eilish who is a big enough star and competent enough performer to have a whole episode built around her. Mostly it just leaves me confused.
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