“Oh my god, it’s my old boyfriend, Artie Ziff.” – Marge Simpson
“Hello Marge, have you heard? I’m stinking rich. Jealous?” – Artie Ziff
“I’ll bet you’d trade it all for one night with my wife.” – Homer Simpson
“I would.” – Artie Ziff
“Homer!” – Marge Simpson
The crazy Act 3 plot swerve was one of the things that finally convinced me to give up on the show ever being good again. Once you get into the double digit seasons, crazier and crazier things began happening at the end of episodes. What had been a bizarre, albeit short and at least slightly self-referential, party ending in Season 8 became fighting rhinos and capturing the Loch Ness Monster in Season 10. By Season 12, the episodes are ending on remote island prisons or with naval ships attacking New York.
Here in Season 13 things got even more untethered. There’s the one that ends with Homer as an international smuggler, the one that turns into a Christmas episode with no warning, and the one that ends with Homer and Smithers using the corpse of Mr. Burns as a marionette. Other than being utterly bizarre, the one thing those endings have in common is that they all came straight out of left field and had little to no connection to what was going on in the episode before they happened.
“Half-Decent Proposal” does much the same. Just when you think it’s a tale about Marge risking a weekend with her old boyfriend, and with only about three minutes to go, Homer runs away to work on an oil derrick which promptly catches fire, prompting him (and Lenny, who’s also there for some reason) to need to be rescued by helicopter. As an audience member, you’re left scratching your head because it’s jarring as hell and the show never used to do that.
Nine people on this one, including Castellaneta, James Lipton, and lone female Lauren MacMullan, who directed this one.
1:20 – The concept of Marge going off with Artie originated with James L. Brooks.
2:00 – The snoring thing came about because one of the writers was keeping his girlfriend up with his snoring.
2:20 – MacMullan is in another room, and hasn’t seen this in forever, but seems to recall that this one ran very long. Apparently we were spared a section in Las Vegas.
3:30 – More banter with MacMullan. She drew one of the act storyboards for this one.
4:40 – MacMullan recalls that Jean wanted a lot of close ups during the Sex and the City bit. Jean then wins the unintentional irony award by saying, “The way the show was, you’d just try to milk the laugh ridiculously.” Pot, this is kettle; kettle, I’d like you to meet pot.
5:05 – General laughter at their own laziness, their word, at calling their HBO parody BHO.
5:40 – A guy Selman went to college with liked this episode. Now you know.
6:30 – Long bit from MacMullan about how many unusual shots there are in this episode (Marge’s flashback and panning over all the computer wires).
7:15 – Castellaneta isn’t sure if he’s mentioned this before, but Artie Ziff was the only character he ever designed. He was doodling on his script, and drew a guy from high school, and David Silverman was there while they were recording and liked it.
8:00 – When Castellaneta finishes, someone jokes about that being “actual useful information” on a DVD commentary. That was nice.
8:05 – Jean, trying to keep the useful information coming, says that “Sam”, presumably Sam Simon, named Ziff. But Jean wasn’t sure if it was someone he knew or if he just liked it because the initials were AZ.
8:45 – According to Jean, in real life people think Lovitz is short and bald, but in fact he’s neither.
9:30 – Jean makes a decent point that there’s nothing wrong with them parodying a movie that, at the time, was already eight years old.
10:30 – Movie trivia tip, MacMullan directed many of the Alaska scenes, including the Disney style foreplay scene, for which they brought in some old Disney animators.
11:00 – That leads to a discussion of how animators always seem to live a long time.
12:05 – Jean: “I always like in this, and in the movie, that they don’t realize the consequences ’til right after they make the deal.” That certainly helps explain why storytelling isn’t much of concern any more.
13:30 – Things have kinda slowed down now that we’re at the fake prom. There’s some chuckling.
14:40 – Still not much going on. Someone’s making note of how odd it is when Marge wears lipstick on account of none of the characters really have lips. Also, the characters are wearing clothes.
15:25 – Artie Ziff is break dancing and everyone is still wearing 70s clothes.
16:00 – At one point, Homer was going to fly to Silicon Valley in the wheel well of a jet because someone had done that on the news.
16:30 – The writers really love Baron von Kissalot.
16:50 – Ah, now that we’ve reached the latest bizarre turn, it’s time to start asking MacMullan random questions about Pixar (where she works).
17:20 – Someone’s jokingly ragging on Up for not making sense.
17:55 – Well, at least someone mentioned that this is the episode that turned Lenny and Carl into . . . whatever the hell it is they are now. Jean notes that this made “the internet” angry. I’m going to go with “confused”, but that’s just me.
18:30 – Laughing about an explosion that didn’t make it into the final episode.
19:20 – Chuckling at the idea of “friends with privileges”.
19:40 – A mixture of stunned silence and nervous laughter as ants catch fire. There was a debate about whether or not the ants could talk.
20:30 – They’re still talking about talking ants. On screen there’s the world’s slowest helicopter rescue and some kind of emotional closure, and wow, I had forgotten what a giant mess this one is.
20:55 – “That’s where we lost the internet’s sympathy.” No, it was a while ago.
21:30 – Lipton (I think), apropos of nothing, asks the assembled company how many episodes are about Marge’s “nether regions”. That was . . . odd.
21:55 – Lipton (again, I think): “Do you think Marge is sexy? I do.” Again, kinda odd.
22:05 – Every thanks Lipton and MacMullan and we can get out of here.