521. Hardly Kirk-ing

Original airdate: February 17, 2013

The premise:
After some horseplay with Bart leaves Milhouse mostly bald, leaving him looking just like Kirk, the two boys reap the benefits of being able to do adult things for once.

The reaction: With an abridged opening title, this episode barely creaks in at eighteen minutes, and it really feels like a chore getting there. With such a simple story with no real driving forward momentum, it’s just like a bunch of isolated gags that don’t really feel like they’re going anywhere. The episode gets its mileage out of the worn concept of a kid trying to act like an adult, with a bald Milhouse and what appears to be a magical tie that, when pulled up against his throat tight enough, makes him sound exactly like his father. Then it just becomes a bunch of skits; they rent a truck, they buy the bullies booze and porno mags, they go to Moe’s, and they bully Homer on Skype, who for some reason goes along with whatever the normally passive pushover “Kirk” says. This then leads to the boys helping Lisa go to a trendy new jazz club with Milhouse as their surrogate adult. But even with an actual story twelve minutes in, it feels a little aimless. Bart and Milhouse get into a fight at the bus station, with the latter shedding his adult disguise, in a confrontation that goes nowhere. Then, to get more money, they attend a condo sales presentation, comedic ground that feels well trodden at this point (I felt South Park salted the Earth with their Aspen timeshare story in an episode over ten years before this). Also there, we get an incredibly uncomfortable sequence of the presentation woman getting hot and bothered by Milhouse, and going to hook up with him in the closet, while Bart and Lisa, his “kids,” are there too. But then Homer and Marge find the kids, Kirk and Milhouse have a moment, and then it just ends. It felt like the underwhelming ending of “Guardian,” where the writers just throw up their hands and abandon the episode. The show just keeps barreling on through the years, but episodes like this makes me wonder if the writers really care about what they’re doing.

Three items of note:
– The opening features Marge tearing her children away from watching educational videos, after finding out studies showing that they don’t actually work, and may actually harm your kids more than help. This over-belabored setup feels like one of the writers had just read that article and decided to put it in an episode. It’s just so drawn out (“Wait a minute, didn’t Bart and I both watch this thing when we were little? Well the obvious question is, why did I turn out so… academically superior, while Bart…”) We get it. We all get it. This later works its way into the main story as Bart, Lisa and Milhouse go after their cash settlement for damages from the company. There’s also a sort-of B-story featuring Homer using his newly honed activity book skills of finding out-of-place objects in the real world, which I’ll admit was pretty cute.
– I noticed it in “Guardian, and it happened again here, Luann Van Houten’s voice sounded slightly tinny, like it was recorded one room over or something. Did they have Maggie Roswell on a bad ISDN connection or something?
– Seriously, that ending with that horndog woman was really kind of disturbing. After a show full of Milhouse saying and doing naive childlike things in adult situations, this felt like the ultimate cliche capper to it: kids don’t know what innuendo is! Plus, they kind of already did this, in the episode way back where Bart and Milhouse find Homer’s old censored Playdudes. But it all felt gross. And there’s no reaction from the woman when it’s revealed she was just about to fuck a ten-year-old. It felt like a bad and lazy version of what we’d later see with Vincent Adultman in BoJack Horseman. That show openly acknowledges the absurdity of the character, but also swings around to treating him seriously, so you’re never quite sure if he’s actually three kids in a coat or not. It crafted some really smart and funny sequences from this set-up, material this episode doesn’t even come close to whatsoever.

One good line/moment: The Homer finding out-of-place stuff I mentioned earlier was kind of enjoyable. I also like the sign gag for the book store (The Land of Forevermore: Closing in Three Weeks).

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3 responses to “521. Hardly Kirk-ing

  1. Speaking of similarities, “The Changing of the Guardian” and this episode ends with Homer strangling Bart and makes it seem like it’s something loving.

  2. I remember this one just having wasted potential. I expected something like “Bart on the Road” out of this, but it was just soooo lazy.

  3. Kaiju no Kami

    Good god I rememeber this episode in full and it was pretty awful.

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