Posts Tagged ‘Moe Goes From Rags To Riches

01
Feb
12

Compare & Contrast: Bart and Milhouse Fall Out

Bart's Friend Falls in Love7

“Whoa, I bet the 8-Ball didn’t see that one coming.” – Bart Simpson
Yeah.” – Milhouse van Houten

With so many years of backstory hanging over its head, Zombie Simpsons often resorts to the inane and bizarre to keep believable and long established relationships fresh.  Once upon a time, Moe was Homer’s bartender.  Sure, they knew each other a bit better than the average rag and coaster jockeys, but they never strayed too far from the recognizable baseline of bartender-customer.  Along the same line, Skinner and Chalmers used to be junior and senior in a dumb bureaucracy and Lenny and Carl used to be office buddies.  All of those have been trashed under a half-clever veneer of self knowing television tropes.  Homer and Moe are best buddies when they need to be; Skinner and Chalmers are attached at the hip, and Lenny and Carl are . . . whatever they are. 

In that same vein, Bart and Milhouse have gone from plausible boyhood friends to an overtly self-aware pair of co-dependent jokers.  When The Simpsons still cared about its audience and characters, Bart was the dominant half of a realistic friendship and Milhouse was the forgiving and easily awed sidekick.  That’s a pretty good basis for fiction, and it worked for a long time.  But even an archetype that durable can only hold out for so many hundred episodes before it becomes a stereotypical hack job.  At this point, their roles have gone beyond “well established” to “crap, how do we make this not a complete repeat?”, and that’s the real problem of their half told story in “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches”. 

Bart and Milhouse have fought before, many, many times.  Sometimes it was a minor part of the episode, like “Bart After Dark” or “A Milhouse Divided”; sometimes it was a major part of the episode, like “Homer Defined” or “Bart Sells His Soul”.  But for comparison to “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches”, nothing is closer than “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”. 

In both episodes, Milhouse gets pissed at Bart for taking him for granted.  And in both episodes, Milhouse eventually forgives Bart.  The difference is in how those things happen, both the falling out and the rapprochement.  In The Simpsons, Milhouse gets mad because of a serious betrayal; in Zombie Simpsons, Milhouse snaps with no warning for no real reason.  On the other end, Milhouse in The Simpsons sees his beef with Bart resolved; Milhouse in Zombie Simpsons goes with the flow because he knows just as well as the audience that things have to get back to normal. 

So Let's Dance

Sadly, this is what passes for normal these days.

In “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches”, the opening scene is a town meeting at Moe’s that becomes a dance party.  (Of course it does.)  In the course of said meeting, we see the two of them dancing together to Lionel Richie, and the following exchange happens:

Bart: That’s even sadder than being friends with Milhouse.
Milhouse: You know something, Bart, I’m getting tired of things like that.
Bart: Tired of what?  I dump on you and you take it, that’s how friendship works.
Milhouse: Not anymore.  Friendship over.

This comes from precisely nowhere.  And while you might be tempted to forgive Zombie Simpsons this narrative shortcut because we already know Milhouse resents Bart in general, don’t forget that Bart has said plenty of worse things to Milhouse over the years with no reaction whatsoever.  Based on what we know of the two of them, this sudden eruption of pique is entirely out of character.  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t give us even a single line where we see Milhouse steaming up before he’s at full spurned-friend boil. 

Mild Annoyance

I’m asking for white hot rage and you’re giving me a hissy fit!

By contrast, in “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”, Milhouse snapping comes with an entire episode’s worth of buildup and occurs even quicker.  Instead of a tired, verbose and unexpected exchange, The Simpsons has Milhouse lose it with a single, exposition free word:

Bart: Listen, Milhouse, I got a confession to make.  I’m the one who narced on your kissing.
Milhouse: What?!

Not only is this shorter and funnier, but it fulfills the prime commandment of screenwriting, “show, don’t tell”.  In Zombie Simpsons, Milhouse tells us why he’s mad, even though Zombie Simpsons is taking for granted that we already know the reason.  Here, no explanation is needed because we’ve seen the two characters build up to this over the course of the entire episode.  Milhouse’s anger, and his subsequent death grapple with Bart, shows us how pissed off he really is. 

Bart's Friend Falls in Love8

Hallelujah, they’ve done it again!

Things get even more embarrassing for Zombie Simpsons as the two move from their confrontation to their inevitable reconciliation.  In “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”, the reconciliation happens quickly; The Simpsons had no illusions about pretending that Bart and Milhouse would end up something other than friends.  The tension during their fight – the deliberately overwrought horn music, Bart contemplating smashing his best friend with scissors, a broken bottle, and a brick – is all comedy.  The scissors?  Sure.  But there’s no reason for there to be shattered glass and masonry in Milhouse’s room other than as a gag.  The show doesn’t even pretend to imply that Bart’s actually going to use them, so when he finally settles on the Magic 8-Ball as his weapon, it fits.  It’s physically plausible and plot relevant (the 8-Ball having predicted their falling out back in Act 1). 

Zombie Simpsons lacks anything even remotely resembling that kind of subtlety and relevance.  Since they dove into their dead end conflict in the very first scene, they have no story to tell.  All they’re left with is a few disconnected set pieces: Bart at Milhouse’s window, Bart breaking in to Milhouse’s room, Bart outside Milhouse’s front door.  There’s nothing to these scenes except for Bart and Milhouse exchanging hackneyed, knowing banter like the predicable sitcom characters they’ve become. 

Instead of giving us a fun reason for the two of them to be angry at one another and then resolving the unavoidable quickly, Zombie Simpsons creates a problem for Bart and Milhouse out of nothing and then expects the audience to care as they wrap it up with one glacial dead end after another.  The Simpsons knew not to pretend that things weren’t going back to normal.  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t (or doesn’t care), so they stretch out the worst part and are left with nothing to show for it but nonsense like Milhouse swallowing rocks, Bart falling to pieces overnight and reading a sappy poem Lisa wrote, and Drederick Tatum appearing from nowhere.  They said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet. 

31
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

Randomly Determined

Image shamelessly yoinked from here as a result of search for “randomly determined”.

“I’ll get the dictionary.” – Hugh Parkfield
“Why?” – Lisa Simpson
“You’ll see when you get there, the word ‘stochastic’.” – Hugh Parkfield
“Pertaining to a process involving a randomly determined sequence of observations!” – Lisa Simpson

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “Michelangelo”).

This episode is such a patchwork of unrelated elements that it’s difficult to discern a structure or theme. Oh sure, there’s the rag, but the rag seems to move between kinda, sorta real history like Michelangelo and Vikings to fanciful tales like One Thousand and One Nights. (Speaking of which, and not that this episode needed more beheadings, but in the original tale the previous wives all get killed. Nice to know that’s where they draw the line.) Things made just as little sense back in Springfield, particularly when you remember that Milhouse produced Drederick Tatum from nowhere to punch Bart in the arm. I know things don’t tend to make sense these days, but this did seem like an especially “Fuck you, audience” effort on their part.

Charlie Sweatpants: Since I imagine you are very busy, want to get right to it?

Dave: Please let’s. Anagrams of "Jeremy Irons" are funnier than whatever the fuck it was that happened last night.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m at a loss for where to start with this episode. The A-plot wasn’t so much a plot as an excuse for whatever dumb historical situations they could come up with, and the B-plot was so undercooked and nonsensical that they would’ve been vastly better off just dropping it.

Dave: In two words: just terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shit sandwich.

Dave: Santorum rag.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

The structure of the whole thing was a contradictory mess. If the rag was in the "real world" of Springfield, how did a Homer look alike climb Mount Everest, break down that wall, etc.? If the rag wasn’t in the real world, then what the hell was all that stuff with Bart and Milhouse doing happening at the same time?

You can do a weird, historical sketch show, you can do a show about Bart and Milhouse having a fight. I don’t think you can do both at the same time, especially when the two stories have nothing to do with each other. If the rag had made and lost friends over the years, or if it had seen friendships wax and wane, okay then maybe there’s a connection or a theme. But there was nothing like that.

Dave: Stop it with that incessant logic of yours. You’re making too much sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: You don’t need a lot of logic to be confused by this, just a short term memory that lasts more than about ninety seconds.

More than once it cuts from the Bart-Milhouse thing back to the rag on the bar.

Which of course sends us back to Persia or Europe or whatever.

Dave: Everest. France. Whatever is right

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, what was with the back-to-back executions? Was that supposed to be the same time and place, or different?

Dave: I think the former? Who knows. It was tedious either way.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even back in Springfield it was tedious. Marge stole Moe’s rag, which he apparently sleeps with, and didn’t tell him . . . except that she must have told him because he ended up at the Simpson house.

Dave: Question. Why does Moe sleep at the bar?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know. Has he been doing that for a long time? Back in Season 6 and Season 9 he had a house.

Dave: That’s what I remember, too. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

It was convenient for whatever sinister purpose the writers needed to advance the shred of plot they had.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though you’d think he’d lock the bar before he went to cot. Oops, there I go thinking again.

Dave: Definitely thinking too hard, that rag needed to be stolen.

Charlie Sweatpants: Moe’s panic at losing the rag was out of deep left field.

Dave: Yup.

Charlie Sweatpants: Here’s a head scratcher though, was it more or less out of nowhere than the ending with Santa’s Little Helper and Maggie?

Dave: More?

Why did Wiggum show up?

It was just nonsense end to end.

Charlie Sweatpants: I assume because that teargas joke killed at the table read.

Why were some of the historical scenes made up of Simpsons characters and others not? The monks weren’t regulars, but Homer was. The pope was a regular but Michelangelo wasn’t. It was all very strange.

Dave: Wasn’t Michelangelo one of the gays?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe? Of course, I wouldn’t have had time to notice all of that if there’d been some, you know, jokes. But those were few and far between.

Dave: i.e., regular by Zombie Simpsons standards

There were jokes?

Do tell.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I guess it counts as a joke when medieval Wiggum got hit in the crotch and then went over to do cave paintings, because that’s what they did in medieval times (<– may not be true).

Dave: Go on.

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of those. Like the fact that the tapestry was made in medieval France, but then found its way to Persia where they’d never heard of Christians.

I’ll admit that’s nitpicky, but damn it, if you’re going to do an episode where a rag travels through historical times, shouldn’t you maybe put a tiny bit of effort into your history?

Dave: You’d think so. But then again, you’re thinking.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know, bad habit.

But I didn’t need to think too hard to wonder why Homer was walking up the wall and onto the ceiling at the beginning.

Dave: Oh right, the dance off.

I’d nearly forgotten.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I didn’t need to think to know it made no sense for Lisa to be standing right behind Bart as he read the thing she supposedly wrote to Milhouse.

Dave: Don’t forget, Maggie was there too.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I didn’t need to be thinking to wonder why Bart was on the mountain filling balloons with oxygen while Comic Book Guy floated by.

Dave: I don’t remember that. Probably a good thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely. I don’t think there was a single scene here that made sense, even just considered on its own. Burns falls off a giant cliff and then everyone decides to beat him with sticks. Why?

Dave: Because, ha ha, the French are cowards?

Look, ripping on the French is fun. But what transpired wasn’t even close to being funny.

This from a show that has a wonderfully rich history of doing just that.

Charlie Sweatpants: But like most of this episode, that stuff is all in the past.

Dave: Indeed. What a waste of my time, Jeremy Irons, electricity, and so on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else catch your eye here?

Dave: Nope. To quote the rag, "I’m in hell."

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the rag was kind of a pain in the ass wasn’t it/he?

But it’s okay because after all that it was happy with the dog. Or something.

30
Jan
12

Sensitive Moe Was the Least of Our Problems

Chalkboard - Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

“The Flaming Moe dates back to my forefathers who were bartenders to the Tsar.” – Moe  

Whatever else may be said about it, and we’ll likely be saying a lot this week, “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches” is further evidence of why there’s no hope whatsoever for Zombie Simpsons ever getting any better.  It had a Halloween episode level of weirdness, gore, and insane things (Moe is apparently a yeti, for example), but still couldn’t manage to squeeze out anything satirical or intelligent despite not having any rules to play by.  It had a celebrity playing someone other than himself, but didn’t have him do much of anything and didn’t give him any meaningful lines.  It had a B-plot in which Bart and Milhouse could have been just regular kids, but instead had them acting in that same weird, knowing, painfully self aware manner that Lenny and Carl do nowadays.  They gave themselves a completely blank canvas with no restrictions on story, character, believability, setting, or even time, and still fell back on things like Homer’s head being used to break down a stone wall, people beating Burns’ corpse with sticks, and multiple beheadings.  Oh, and there was a talking sponge.  This is the show now.

The magical narration tapestry/rag/respected character actor was theoretically the common element, but it didn’t have anything to do with about half the things that happened.  No explanation was given for how it got from place to place, it was hardly involved in a number of those sketches, and the entire thing with Nelson and his many wives didn’t involve it in any way.  The rag may speak in the dignified tones  of Jeremy’s Iron, but it didn’t have anything to say other than to complain.  The entire “history already written on the tapestry” thing was dropped completely midway through the episode, as was the curse of the sheep or whatever that origin thing was.  Confusingly, some segments had regular Springfield characters (Homer ended up as a peasant, a Viking, and a mountain climber) while others seemed to involve just random dudes. 

Making the entire thing even more bizarre was the way the Bart-Milhouse story apparently happened while the rag was narrating.  It wrapped up at the same time that Moe got the rag back from Marge, which means that Bart freaked out about Milhouse (and had Lisa write him a poem or whatever) all in a single night.  If that’s the case, then why did the two plots have nothing to do with one another?  It’s one thing to abandon Springfield for an episode of historical sketches, but to keep yanking us back there every few minutes for some more creepy passive aggressive conversation between Bart and Milhouse just made it even more sloppy and scatterbrained than it already was. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are lower and grimier than the floor at Moe’s.  Last night’s incoherent history essay was yawned through by a mere 5.12 million people.  That’s just a hair above three weeks ago and is good for fourth place on the all time lowest rated list.  Season 23 remains on track to be the least watched ever by a fair margin. 

29
Jan
12

Sunday Preview: Moe Goes From Rags To Riches

zombierags

Image improved by Dave.

There’s new Zombie Simpsons tonight, and it’s a doozy.  Simpsons Channel:

After Moe is heckled for not having any real companions, Moe’s best friend and beloved bar rag narrates his incredible thousand-year journey to Springfield. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the bar rag was loomed into a beautiful and ornate medieval tapestry and traveled around the globe through the hands of royalty before finding himself found himself at Moe’s Tavern. When the bar rag goes missing, Moe realizes that he has more friends than he thought. Meanwhile, Bart begs Milhouse for forgiveness after the two friends get into a tiff.

Yeesh, a bunch of sensitive Moe plus Bart and Milhouse getting into a fight.  The best thing I can say about that is that at least the B-plot is something they haven’t repeated recently.  And maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the rag kinda look like it’s flipping the bird? 




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