The premise: Seemingly innocent journalist Marshall Goldman takes an interest in Grampa’s rambling stories about his life, and it isn’t long before his tales become popular local literature. This leads to Homer getting jealous of this mysterious stranger, only to find his intentions may actually be of a sinister nature. Also there’s a B-plot about Bart and some frigging stuffed lamb.
The reaction: One of Grampa’s hallmarks were his long rambling nonsense stories, I’m kinda shocked it took until episode 450 for them to try to make a full episode of it. But where before we got wonderful ridiculous moments of Abe as a cabaret singer performing for Hitler or his recently immigrated family filling the head of the Statue of Liberty with garbage, the tales here are decidedly less interesting. This episode plays this once hysterical character quirk much more seriously, and none of what the characters say or do makes me feel like it deserves to be. This is another show where it feels like nothing is happening, because you never get a sense of who is enjoying reading Grampa’s stories or why, and how many people know about the publications? So when things completely switch gears when we see Goldman is planning to kill Abe to get a Pulitzer Prize, it’s so out of left field that even if it was trying it couldn’t make me care about the “dramatic” climax.
Three items of note:
– I couldn’t have less to say about the B-story. Krabappel gives out a stuffed lamb for kids to take care during the weekend? That seems too juvenile for fourth graders, yet they all go apeshit. Then by the end, we get more out-of-character Bart where he randomly becomes remorseful about losing the doll. That stupid lamb ain’t no Mr. Honey Bunny.
– I feel like this episode could have worked had they laid more emphasis on how Homer and the family took Grampa’s ramblings for granted. When you’re taking something that’s been used as a joke for decades, you have to do a bit more extra leg work to make it stick here when you’re playing it serious. They have, oh, two quick lines about it, before we move onto dynamite material like Homer screaming at himself in the mirror and breaking it, or that endless bit at the beginning of Marge looking through all her camera photos. Twenty seconds never felt so long.
– We don’t know a goddamn thing about Marshall Goldman, who I guess is a main character in this episode. The reveal of his plans is so bizarre since absolutely nothing felt like it was leading up to that. And even that could have been excusable if they had developed his “aww shucks” innocent persona and then contrasted it with a short monologue about him being a selfish greedy crazy person. Instead, they just flip the cartoonishly evil dial for the duration of the show. Also, Abe breaks a bottle on his head and he doesn’t even flinch. What is he, a fucking cyborg? But never mind, he get incapacitated by a bunch of hat boxes that fall on him. Okay.
One good line/moment: Had to dig deep for this one. Uncovering Goldman’s evil plot, Homer spots a mock up poster for the film version of Abe’s series of stories. Subbing for Grampa is a Jim Henson Creature Shop creation; the drawing of the stuffed Abe in a wheelchair with a wall-eyed expression made me smile.