Compare & Contrast: Moe Pulls a Gun

The Homer They Fall8

“Hey, there’s something wrong with this guy, he’s not falling down!” – Kearney Sr.

“What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting” was such a shambles of a story that trying to compare the whole thing to another episode would be futile.  Finding just a few coherent seconds is hard enough.  But there was one moment that lines up perfectly: Moe pulling his shotgun on people threatening Homer.  Moe did almost the exact same thing in “The Homer They Fall”, only there it was quicker, funnier and made more sense for all involved.

To start, compare why Homer is there in each case.  In “The Homer They Fall”, he’s trying to squeal about Bart getting his belt stolen to the parents of the bullies who stole it.  Moe’s is a pretty natural place for that, especially once we see the parents in question (who presumably wouldn’t be hanging out at the next PTA meeting).  In “What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting”, Homer is at Moe’s with Bart, and both of them sit there looking like regulars (with Bart having a chocolate milk).  Is there any reason for them to be at Moe’s?  Well, no, there isn’t.  They were just fighting because Homer caught Bart selling his voodoo fertility services and then they’re at Moe’s.

Is Homer taking Bart to Moe’s to have heart-to-heart talks now?  That could be funny, but Zombie Simpsons doesn’t even try, it just has them say expository things that they could say anywhere:

Homer: What is your problem, boy?
Bart: Maybe when I’ve got a Dad who shows up in the morning with no shirt on and rocks on his face it sets, I don’t know, a low bar?

They make a bar nuts joke and then the gangsters show up, and that’s the scene.  What’s really incredible about this is that the heavily exposited subtext here is about Homer being a bad father, but instead of Bart pointing out that taking a 10-year-old to a bar is bad fathering, they have him recite something we already saw earlier in the episode.  It didn’t need to be Moe’s, it just was because Homer and Bart needed to get kidnapped someplace, damn it, and they didn’t care about anything else.

Along similar lines, consider the two groups of men who get threatened by Moe.  In “The Homer They Fall”, it’s three guys who are the beaten down and broken fathers of Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney.  They each look like their sons and the scene is a quick way of moving to the story about Homer becoming a boxer.  So we see Homer taking the grown-up version of the beating we just saw Bart take because Homer is no better at dealing with bullies than his son.  The guys are exactly the kind of fathers you’d expect, and the show lets us know without disrupting the dialogue:

Jimbo Sr.: That’s for telling me how to raise my lousy kid.
Dolph Sr.: And this is for the crummy life I’ve had to live.

The Homer They Fall7

Quick and funny one off characters, what a concept.

So while it’s just a quick throwaway scene to get the plot moving, we get three characters with a reason to be there, a reason to beat Homer, and a couple of good lines.

By contrast, in “What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting”, Legs and Louie just show up brandishing guns.  Why?  Well, because Fat Tony decided to act like a moron and kidnap Bart and Homer so that he can, that very night, perform a voodoo ritual to get a horse pregnant.  In addition to not making even the driest lick of sense, there’d been no intimation of any of that right up until drawn guns appear next to Bart and Homer’s heads.  A completely unexpected and massive plot swerve like that would be jarring if it weren’t so common.

Finally, we come to Moe himself.  Right after Kearney Sr. laments their inability to knock him down, we hear Moe pump his trusty shotgun and say:

“Fun’s over fellas!  If you’re gonna beat up my friend in my bar, there’s a two drink minimum.”

It’s a typically well crafted Simpsons line.  It fits in with who these characters are and what they’re doing, and it’s got a nice little punchline at the end.  The elder bullies back out cautiously, and we’re ready to move on with the plot.

Now contrast that smooth, short interaction with the hacktacular sitcom banter in Zombie Simpsons.  Legs and Louie grab Homer and Bart, and then this happens:

Moe: Not so fast!  Nobody comes into my bar and kidnaps two paying customers.

In addition to this being a repeat, it’s a much weaker repeat.  Why?   Well, for starters, there’s no punchline.  There isn’t even a setup for a punchline.  There’s part of a setup for a punchline, which Homer then completes:

Homer:  Aw, thanks Moe! . . . I, uh, must have left my wallet at home.
Moe: Take ’em!  Take ’em!  Fill their pockets with corn and toss ’em to the pigs!
Louie: Don’t tell us our business.

That’s an awfully long way to go for a joke that was done better seventeen seasons ago.  On top of that, the whole thing is drained of whatever life it might’ve had by the sheer weirdness of what’s going on.  Remember, we hadn’t seen Legs and Louie until just a few seconds before (as per usual, they just appeared out of nowhere) and we have no idea why they’re there.  The preceding scene was Bart doing voodoo for people and the next one is them getting threatened by Fat Tony in a stable.  The sheer randomness of it not only saps the scene and the jokes of any punch, but it makes it basically impossible to mentally engage with the show since nothing you’re seeing matters much for what comes next or even what’s going on right now.

When the bully dads were beating up Homer, we knew what was at stake and why and Moe acted like you’d expect Moe to act.  When Legs and Louie beamed in from wherever they were, nobody needs to be there and all anyone does is repeat worn set ups and banter like bored comedy writers.

19 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Moe Pulls a Gun”

  1. 1 May 2014 at 2:30 pm

    I remember when they first revealed Flanders to be fit & muscular under his sweater. Do you think that was a sign of ZS to come? How about in the game, ‘Hit & Run’, when they had Bart refer to CBG as ‘Jabba the Fat’, a much lazier line obviously crafted by comedy writers, rather than the obvious, albeit much funnier, throwaway nickname, ‘Jabba the Butt’?

    • 2 Jack
      2 May 2014 at 2:16 pm

      A lot of people like to point to the, err, wackier moments in the classic series and suggest that they were a precursor to the Zombie Simpsons to come (e.g. the people who believe Homer’s Enemy or When Flanders Failed was the true origin of Jerkass Homer), but the problem with The Simpsons nowadays isn’t the inclusion of things like this; it’s the execution. Weirdness on its own – like Flanders turning out to be ripped – isn’t what Zombie Simpsons is. Weirdness purely for the sake of weirdness is the issue.

      If they had waited until now to reveal Flanders’ super-muscular form, he would probably be 3 times as big, and characters would have to directly explain multiple times why this was surprising, as well as outright stating that Homer must feel jealous.

      Also, Hit & Run came out just before Season 15, so it’s not like the show itself had better writing than “Jabba the Fat” at the time.

      • 2 May 2014 at 2:51 pm

        May I point out that ‘ripped Flanders’ didn’t become a recurring gag until that skiing episode (‘stupid sexy Flanders!’), whereas in ‘Streetcar named Marge’ it was more of a one-off joke? One ep was classic simpsons, other was ZS.

        • 4 Jack
          2 May 2014 at 3:17 pm

          Well, obviously, but it seems we hugely disagree about when ‘Zombie Simpsons’ started. The reason the word “Zombie” is used – as far as I understand – is to signify that the life, soul and identity of the show has gone entirely. Season 8 is perhaps a bit worse than 7, and perhaps that isn’t good enough for you, but to suggest that it’s so bad that it’s unrecognizable as The Simpsons? That’s just crazy talk. Mountain of Madness is easily in the classic era as far as I’m concerned.

        • 5 Jack
          3 May 2014 at 8:27 am

          Oh, man, I just realised I got my ‘snow’ episodes totally mixed up. I sincerely apologise. ‘Stupid sexy Flanders’ is Zombie Simpsons after all. You were right.

      • 7 Rob K.
        4 May 2014 at 11:23 am

        Great points Jack and I was wondering about the origins of ZS for a while now as well, though Stan did tell me once.

  2. 8 jordan
    1 May 2014 at 7:21 pm

    Not even! That was still clever as hell. Always will be.

    You know… when they re-used the ‘not an island a peninsula’ joke for the second time, THAT was the defining moment when I decided the Simpsons had now become crud. There is nothing lazier than reusing jokes (as if they think no-one would notice) and moreover THE EXACT SAME DIALOGUE as well.
    At least this bar joke here has maybe a hidden chuckle somewhere in there, by accident. But still… just terrible.

    • 9 Stan
      1 May 2014 at 7:56 pm

      They’ve reused “Working hard or hardly working?” joke so many times that even if your boss was telling it you’d stop laughing by now.

  3. 10 Stan
    1 May 2014 at 8:03 pm

    It’s just not the same show anymore, and there’s no point in thinking the opposite. Same characters, BUT completely different behavior akin to regular quick forgettables of sitcoms. Like I always openly invoke, it’s the problem with society (yeah yeah, I’ve heard ’em all). But it may also be the problem with the writing cast. They hire anybody just yet, porn actors go write movie scripts and earn cash.

    The plot with Tony and the horse really is horseshit stupid. Out of nowhere, they just up and produce that. Huh. Okay, next time please stick to movie parodies, at least you can’t fuck up anything written by REAL script writers can you?

    • 11 Bartist
      2 May 2014 at 2:11 am

      “At least you can’t fuck up anything written by REAL script writers can you?”

      Woah of course they can.

      • 12 Stan
        2 May 2014 at 2:28 am

        Should I mention at this point that I like my hair long, my coffee black, and my commentaries sarcastic?

    • 13 jordan
      4 May 2014 at 6:59 pm

      Somewhat of the desirable nature of the earlier episodes was that it WAS like a sitcom, or a cartoon sitcom. In that, you could really on certain characters for their recurring traits. You knew what to expect. As soon as you lose that dependability, and they start changing them up to suit crummy story writing, shows’ a goner.

  4. 14 Joe H
    2 May 2014 at 12:35 am

    I agree that the Moe bit in this week’s episode was the only “highlight” in that Moe actually seemed to resemble his old self instead of the love-starved loser the show loves making him into. Yeah, the writing still paled in comparison to the classic era writing (talk about stringing out a joke), but at least they were trying to bring back a bit of the old Moe.

    I also thought it was weird that Moe actually tried to hold up mafia men. It’s one thing to threaten mere roughnecks and thugs, but even the old Moe wouldn’t mess with Fat Tony. Then again, nothing has to make any sense in the new world of Zombie Simpsons.

    Yeah, the “Bart mad at Homer” aspect just makes no sense. What does Homer being a bad father have anything to do with him hating art class and getting talked into practicing voodoo and then somehow impregnating people with it. Hell, any competent parent WOULD try to put a stop to this sort of bizarre behavior or at least get involved somehow. And Homer being a drunken fool? At this point it barely registers in the wacky Homer scale to be worth any callback let alone indignation. Yeah the schoolkids saw him, but not one mentioned it or showed any surprise at all.

    • 15 Jack
      2 May 2014 at 2:20 pm

      I want to live in a parallel universe where ‘Moe Baby Blues’ ended Moe’s suicidally depressed period and returned him to the Moe we know and love.

  5. 2 May 2014 at 10:00 am

    It’s an extremely quick thing, but I always liked that Moe pulls a gun on the bullies’ fathers not out of malice, but to defend Homer. They spend so much time together as bartender and customer that they’ve come to regard each other as friends, and even though that speaks volumes about Homer’s alcoholism, it’s still sort of sweet…in a weird backwards way that only The Simpsons could make work.

    • 17 Stan
      2 May 2014 at 11:13 am

      I dunno, to me Moe is a pretty lousy friend. In that ep where Homer is idiot enough to accept wasting his car for insurance fraud, Moe doesn’t even think about getting him out of jail. In this particular scene, I’d rather see Moe trying to pull some profit from a fight in his bar. A ‘true’ friend would’ve called the cops. But I totally agree that it wouldn’t be as fun =)

      • 2 May 2014 at 11:11 pm

        Oh, of course Moe’s a lousy friend. But for someone as bitter and hateful as him, that’s about the closest he comes to genuine selfless behavior. Like I said, it’s twisted, yet it still feels genuine for these characters.

    • 19 ecco6t9
      4 May 2014 at 2:01 am

      Friends but Moe will still sell ya out for $12. (If Barney is correct with Beer being two bucks a glass).

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