327. The Ziff Who Came to Dinner

(originally aired March 14, 2004)
“Half-Decent Proposal” wasn’t exactly brilliant, but it brought back an old character in a interesting way and made a somewhat believable and entertaining show out of it. This one drags him back for a third outing, and is the complete opposite, making for a stupid, aimless episode completely void of any sense or emotional content. The first act exemplifies all of this, where Homer takes the kids to the movies, and impulsively buys tickets to a terrifying horror movie. He sits there with a mindless grin as Bart and Lisa are visibly scared, and continue to be clearly traumatized throughout the night. Marge acknowledges what Homer did, but doesn’t seem to care whatsoever, as the two are about to have sex before the kids burst in the room claiming they hear weird noises from the attic. Who’s up there? Artie Ziff, of course, who’s somehow been living there for quite some time, sucking the moisture from the rafters. It’s not a very good sign when you’re repeating plot elements from a Treehouse of Horror episode, and even worse when they’re even more preposterous and unrealistic.

So whatever, Artie’s back, a victim of the dotcom bubble burst, choosing to live with the Simpsons since Marge is the closest thing Artie ever had to a true love. In Artie’s many years out on his own, of all the people he’s met and ingratiated himself with to become a CEO, there’s no one else he could have fallen back on? It’s a risk you run when you have characters show up again and again to make them somewhat make sense, but here it’s like Artie’s life revolves around the Simpsons for some reason. They agree to let Artie stay, or rather everyone but Marge agrees, and she just murmurs. Why would Marge allow this? Oh right, because she’s a continually bulldozed-over doormat who randomly puts up with her husband’s insane bullshit week in and week out. Making the episode about Marge feeling uncomfortable around Artie and Artie trying to convince her he’s not so bad may have been a bit interesting, but this episode is not concerned about that at all. It’s all bonehead Homer all the time, as he wins 98% of the shares of Artie’s company in a poker game, and ends up under fire from the SEC as the largest shareholder for ZiffCorp’s fraudulent business practices.

The only Marge/Artie stuff we get is when Marge accuses Artie for being self-centered, which seems like a fairly soft blow given that he’s letting Homer take the fall. Also she apparently waited until his sentencing before throwing Artie out of the house, which was nice of her. Meanwhile Homer has been such a complete imbecilic jerk this entire show that I don’t even feel bad that he’s in prison, musing that when he gets out, Bart will be too old for him to choke anymore. Salvation comes when Patty and Selma run into Artie and are bowled over to find he’s responsible for putting Homer away, leading to a vigorous fuck session between Selma and Artie. Then afterwards Artie turns himself in, having a change of heart for absolutely no reason. If he’s made this connection with Selma, why wouldn’t he just want to stay with her? We’ve seen he’s a bit of a dick, why not? Or he realizes how despondent Marge has become and decides to do the right thing for her sake. But Marge only exists for Artie to make inappropriate remarks to, and bears nothing coming close to a human emotion in this episode. None of the characters do. This show is like a humorless sterile vacuum that sucks the life from everyone, and tragically, Jon Lovitz is the next one to fall. Not even him singing or all the “achem”s in the world can save this shit script.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Speaking of shit scripts, this one was written by Dan Castellaneta and wife Deb Lacusta, which is especially weird considering this is the most assholey we’ve seen Homer in a long while. You’d think the guy who voices Homer would have a better understanding of his character.
– We open with a static shot of the movie theater marquee, giving us ample time to read all of the terrible joke movie titles. Watching back to “Colonel Homer,” the same shot is done in half the time, along with an additional joke of Homer commenting, “Oooh, they all look good!” instead of just a music cue here. Sad, sad times.
– There seems to be this belief that the viewer hates to read, as we get multiple instances of written sight gags being read out loud, from the religious movie pamphlet to the Newsweek headline. Even after the long hold on the movie titles, Homer runs off a couple more of them to Raphael at the box office.
– There seems to be no real reason why Rod and Todd are with them at the movies. I guess it was just an excuse for the “What Would Jesus View?” bit, which admittedly isn’t bad.
– Homer is a flaming asshole during the movie (“Relax, stupid!”) Purposefully freaking out the Flanders kids for no discernible reason, then ignoring the frightened pleas of his daughter. Stand-up guy! In place of Marge being upset with Homer about all this, we have a joke instead (“You took little children to The Re-deadening? Homer, this is a rare lapse in judgement for you!”)
– Topical as ever, the writers pull off a Blair Witch parody a mere… six years after the movie came out. It’s material we’ve seen ripped on a thousand other places, and these guys have nothing new to add.
– I know I shouldn’t even bother asking, but they never explain exactly how Artie got into the attic, and no one even inquires about it. The second act opens with Marge asking, “Why are you living in our attic?” instead of “How the fuck did you get in our house, I’m calling the cops.”
– In his flashback to the happenin’ 90s, Artie hot tubs with Newt Gingrich, Janeane Garofalo and Scotty Pippen. Because they were all big in the nineties!
– Having all of Lovitz’s other characters appear at Moe’s is kind of inspired. I guess. Just a little. I’d probably be more amused if I didn’t hate everything else in the episode so much.
– The only thing I like in this show is how underhanded and squirrely Artie is for letting Homer take the fall. He could have seen it as getting Homer out of the picture to pursue Marge, but eventually decided to do the right thing for the sake of the woman he loved. They kind of already did that in “Proposal” though, but it makes a hell of a lot more sense than this stupid ending.
– Krusty appears on the board of congressmen who ream out Homer, the only other time I can recall we see him in public office.
– Homer is in full fledged intolerable asshole mode this whole show, but particularly in act three, from exasperating the Blue-Haired Lawyer (“You, sir, are a moron!” “A Mormon? But I’m from Earth!”) to thinking that Artie is Bart after being released from prison.
– The show ends with Artie squirting out the cigarettes of all of his fellow inmates, but he didn’t seem to have much of an issue with Selma smoking, did he? Oh, who gives a shit… clearly the writers don’t, so why should I?

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5 responses to “327. The Ziff Who Came to Dinner

  1. I liked the horror movie theme music, which seemed very Suspiria-ish. I liked all of Jon Lovitz’s characters at Moe’s. That’s about it.

  2. Every time I start wishing the show would bring back forgotten characters like Roger Myers or Unkie Herb, I remember this episode and I feel grateful to the writers for leaving some of them in the classic era where they belong.

  3. Yeah, this episode was quite bad. In fact, I think the next episode also has the family going to the movies in the opening to see their version of Star Wars.

  4. I remember thinking “Did we really need a third Artie Ziff episode?” The answer is no, we didn’t. Whatever. Aside from the joke with all of Lovitz’s other characters at Moe’s, I remember nothing from this episode. Apparently, I’m not missing much.

  5. The only real laugh this episode got from me was by Maggie.
    “Daddy’s not on fire!”
    Waahhhhh
    “Okay, fine he is.”
    *excited clapping*

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