222. Mom and Pop Art

(originally aired April 11, 1999)
Homer gets another job. And acts like an arrogant, selfish insane wild man. And nobody seems to have a problem with it. Standard procedure this season. By all accounts I should hold this episode in more contempt than I do. But as I’ve said in the past, humor can absolve many a sin, and this episode has a fair amount of laughs, the most perhaps of any episode this season. Part of it may have to do with having gone through four years of art school, and this show treads upon very familiar territory in mocking pretentious and snobby art types. While the episode handles it pretty sloppily, I do like the core idea of it, that a buffoon like Homer could be praised for his unintentional masterpiece. A spectacularly failed attempt to build a barbeque ends up in the hands (or rather the hood of the car) of esteemed art dealer Astrid, who heralds Homer as the hottest new name in outsider art. Homer embraces this new title, while in the meantime Marge becomes jealous of her husband’s fame given her past artistic talents.

So as I said, all the stuff involving the art world really worked with me: the Eurotrash snobs, the visit to the art gallery, and various discussions of famous artists, like Claes Oldenburg (“He must be a hundred feet tall!”) and Christo (“Killer umbrellas! Of course!”) I also kinda like the back half of the show where Homer’s attempts to recreate his work is treated with mockery. It’s the same kind of work as before, and therefore it’s not interesting. A “piece” like his first one took raw emotional effort, whereas these new ones were calculated to emulate the original. It’s like he went commercial and sold out. But I think maybe now I’m bringing in too much art theory into this. And even though the ending is absolutely, positively stupid in every single logical way, part of me still likes the idea of Homer taking the idea from a William Turner painting to create the grand canals of Springfield. How it could possibly happen and why all the townspeople are seemingly not infuriated by this, I still enjoy the ending.

Alright, enough praise. Despite my kind words, Homer is as big of a raging ass in this episode as he’s been the rest of the season. Forcing Lisa to lay down the cement for his grill, answering the door with a shotgun, then placing it in Maggie’s crib, Homer is still a maniac, in more respects than one. You’ve got the scene where he sketches Lenny and Carl nude, which I don’t know what to make of. The joke is that he’s gay, I guess? Or something? He grows incredibly pompous of his new success, and when his fame runs dry, he demands people fear his wrath, for some reason. Also really stupid is the runner about Marge being jealous. Not only does Homer need to spell it out for the audience (“It’s like Marge’s dream come true… for me! Isn’t that great, Marge? For me!”), it doesn’t really go anywhere. They could have had Marge reinvigorate her past passion, but have her paintings be mocked for being trite, and then Homer come to her defense, or something. But no, Marge is upset, but then in the third act takes her husband to the museum to inspire his art. And then they kiss at the end. Again, it’s like all the other characters just become accessories to Homer’s madness, in whatever capacity the scene calls for. This episode basically has the same share of problems as most of this season, but God help me did I still like it. Its consistent jokes and sharp jabs at the art community save this one.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Like the beginning with showing Homer’s abandoned home projects, painting the garage (with painted note “Start here tomorrow 7/17/95,”) and the snake in the family piano.
– Mom & Pop Hardware is a great set piece right off the bat with “A Subsidiary of Global Dynamics, Inc.” mocking how gigantic corporations try to mimic a humble old-fashioned operation. Homer originally goes there to do some handiwork (“I’m planning some expert home repairs and I need a pair of bolt cutters, or wire cutters, or something to get the lock off my toolbox.”) He then comes across a video advertising an amazing do-it-yourself barbeque pit, albeit with some disclaimers (“Lighthearted apron not included. Snapping fingers may not make food appear.”) When he fails spectacularly, he brings it back later, and notes with a flashlight that he does have the box and receipt, just in many tiny pieces amidst the monstrosity of concrete and grill parts. Also great is Squeaky Voiced Teen as “Pop” trying to score with teen harlot “Mom,” which seems to have gone smoothly when Homer returns later.
– The Homer barbeque freakout is just way way too big. Though I do love the line, “Why must I fail at every attempt at masonry!” I saw a great Internet pic taking the scene of Homer looking at the perfect grill on the box against his disastrous attempt, comparing it to the writers looking at old classic episodes and looking at theirs (“Why doesn’t mine look like that?!”) Seems pretty apt to me.
– Man, I hate hate hate Homer answering the door with a shotgun. Then Marge later comments, when she and the kids are hiding behind the house, “Is everything okay? I got worried when I didn’t hear any shots.” So this is a regular thing, that Homer apparently kills people who come to the door to sue him? And Homer can also spew out an average settlement from his many lawsuits against him. This show is officially a cartoon. And I mean that in terms of an absurd exaggeration of characters who are vaguely human, whereas before the show was a cartoon of an exaggeration of actual people.
– Don’t like how Homer knows who Jasper Johns is as he name drops him, but I do like that they made him into a kleptomaniac for some reason (“You squeal on me, I’ll kill you!”) Kind of like how they made Stephen Jay Gould an asshole.
– I love the bit with Burns before he buys Homer’s sculpture (“Years ago I blew the chance to buy Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ for a song! Luckily, that song was ‘White Christmas,’ and by hanging onto it I made billions.”)
– Love the Eurotrash (“We are a drift in a sea of decadent luxury and meaningless sex.”) My favorite line in the whole show is after the big letdown of Homer’s follow-up pieces (“You’ve gone from hip to boring. Why don’t you call us when you get to kitsch!”) Followed by a strained laugh. Hilarious.
– Even though the scene of them in bed has plenty I hate, like somehow Homer’s recently announced show is in Art in America, and him being a selfish dick to his wife, I do like Homer’s compliments of his wife’s art (“Your paintings look like the things they look like.”) It’s basically every non-art person’s reaction to art, their gauge on if it’s good or not depends how realistic it is.
– I like all three of Homer’s latest pieces, topped with his “thing de resistance,” “Attempted Birdhouse One,” complete with a squawking bird inside. No one offers a bid, save Moe (“I’ll give you two bucks for the bird if it’s still alive.”) Cut to the sculpture, with no bird.
– Homer’s trip to the museum to be inspired only served to discourage him, which is a sentiment I’ve shared; seeing others work is inspiring, but also is a bit intimidating if it’s work that’s really good. I’ve found myself quoting him in those situations (“These guys are geniuses. I could never think of something like soup or a pencil.”) I also love his art nightmare (“Soup’s on, fat boy!” “Andy, no!”)
– The flood ending is fucking stupid, but without it, we’d have never gotten that classic Milhouse line from him wearing flood pants (“Hey, they’re working! My feet are soaked, but my cuffs are bone dry! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!”)

And look at that! I’m officially at the half way point! Holy crap, I can’t believe I’ve got another 222 episodes left… Well, thanks to everyone who’s read this long, or those who are just checking in, but we’ve still got a long road ahead of us. But we’ll get through it. Together. Like a big happy Simpsons family.

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10 responses to “222. Mom and Pop Art

  1. if I had to pick one episode to defend the Scully era, it’d be this one. I mean, it pretty much has all the Scully episode, but it also manages to be hilarious. That’s what sucks most about the new ones…the same poor characterization and over-wackiness, but not the laughs to back it up.

    Also….”Le Grille? What the hell is that?!” never fails to crack me up.

    • Love “Le Grille…” And, even though the anger is misplaced, I still laugh at “Stupid Lisa!”

      I can’t really enjoy this one much, perhaps because I’m not an “art person,” but I do see how it can be used to defend the Scully years, insomuch as that is possible.

  2. Oh, I meant to say “all the problems of a Scully episode”.

  3. Half way point? Are you not going through right to the end, then? (well, if the damn show EVER ends…)

    • I’m only doing the show up until I stopped watching, which is at the beginning of season 21. At that point the reviews will probably be a series of angry grunts and gurgling noises so it’s probably best to stop there.

      • probably for the best, yeah. though will that include whatever episode had the banksy couch gag? i remember that being the first episode i’d watched in yeeeaaaars, and the intro completely blew me away. it gave me hope that the episode wouldn’t be absolute garbage…. which of course it was.

      • No, that was after. I don’t count those to the show’s credit though. Same thing with John K and Bill Plympton’s couch gags; they’re neat and interesting on their own, but those creators made them, not the show staff.

  4. Bart: Are you sure this is art and not vandalism?
    Homer: That’s for the courts to decide, son.

  5. – While I agree that the grill freak-out was a bit much, I’m usually too busy laughing my ass off to care. It honestly sits in my top 10 funniest moments in the show. The scream Homer gives at the end is just fantastic.
    – I also like this episode, especially all the swipes at the modern art community. While I wouldn’t say I’ve “studied” art, I did take quite a few classes, including art history. It’s enough to know that the modern art attitude bugs the hell out of me and it’s one of the main reasons I never really pursued studying it any further.
    – Homer insulting Matt Groening’s art flowed by getting hit with a giant pencil eraser was a cute bit. Kinda reminds me of “Duck Amok” from Looney Tunes.

  6. Meh. Not a fan of This one. The concept has been done elsewhere and funnier. Not terrible, which I guess is something…

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