... and you might end up with something like Last Tap Dance In Springfield. At a time when the show seemed to be running itself to the ground with unlikeable characters and insane storylines, Last Tap Dance emerges as one of the more genuinely entertaining episodes of the era.
Let's put the bad out there first. To start, this is still no classic. While a lot of the most frustrating elements of the show are toned down here, the episode is neither consistently hilarious nor particularly touching. On top of this, we've still got the obligatory annoying moments to concern ourselves (Homer strangling Bart in different levels of clarity, perhaps his eyes crusting over as well).
This being said, that's nothing compared to a lot of the stuff that came out around this time. And while I wouldn't say the humour was amazing, it's clear the comic timing for the show was still intact if put it to the right use. The Shirley Temple-esque film and numerous bits with the present day Little Vicky give us some laughs.
Let's also not underestimating the impact some less extreme characterizations can have as well. Homer is closer to a bumbling father in the last two acts than a tangent-driven imbecile, and it certainly helps the episode maintain a needed level of groundedness. Lisa, to her credit, still had a level of sweetness to her character at this point of time, so it helps to have her prominence in the episode as well.
We've also got a subplot that, while nothing spectacular, certainly doesn't diminish the episode too far and provides a silliness to contrast the main story. Bart and Milhouse being alone in the mall was certain a good idea with interesting enough results.
I can't decide whether this or Days of Wine and D'oh'ses is the strongest episode of season 11, but on its own terms I'll give Last Tap Dance In Springfield a solid B (7.5).