527. Whiskey Business

Original airdate: May 5, 2013

The premise:
A fresh new suit gives Moe a new lease on life after his latest botched suicide attempt, and things are looking up when a pair of venture capitalists express interest in his homemade whiskey. Meanwhile, Abe gets injured while babysitting Bart, leading the boy to take care of him in the basement. Also meanwhile, Lisa is disgusted to find Bleeding Gums Murphy’s image being used as a live performing hologram.

The reaction: Did they just cram three unfinished outlines together into one script? It felt like I was watching story scraps for the two “subplots.” The fun begins with Moe planning to end it all, hoisting himself into a noose. The show has been getting plenty of yucks out of Moe attempting to kill himself for years now, but this is the first time they’ve really tried to treat it seriously. They try to have their cake and eat it by including a bunch of jokes during it, but it just doesn’t work at all. They have “Suicide is Painless” as the hold music for the suicide hotline, which feels like a terrible version of that type of joke from the classic years (playing “Crazy” on hold with the mental asylum). I just don’t like clinically depressed Moe; the few times he’s been effective is when they manage to balance his sleaze with his vulnerabilities (“Moe Baby Blues”), it’s just plain boring seeing him just sad, or then later, just happy. Once he gets a fancy new suit and renovates the bar, our “story” finally begins, thirteen minutes in. Some young hotshot assholes come in and Moe serves them his homemade liquor which we’ve never heard of, and they want to turn Moe’s into a brand they can sell as an IPO. At this point, this plot is being intercut between the other two stories, so it’s kind of hard to keep focus. Moe’s suit is destroyed in an impossibly stupid fashion, and the end involves him showing up in his drab wear at the New York Stock Exchange, which ultimately tanks his stock prices. It felt like “Simpson and Delilah” where Homer loses his hair, and despite Karl’s brilliant ideas, no one will listen to the ramblings of a bald man. But in this instance, there’s a simpler solution: just buy a new suit. Plus, there was no indication that those two suits were won over by Moe’s winning personality, it was his whiskey they loved. So who cares? Just throw anything halfway presentable on and be done with it. The ending features a fake-out where Moe doesn’t kill himself in the end; he looks wistfully at the noose in his back office, calling, “Not today, old friend. But the holidays are just around the corner.” So this is our feel good ending? Moe’s safe for now, but what if he kills himself on Christmas? Stay tuned to find out in another hilarious suicidal episode!

Three items of note:
– As mentioned, the two subplots are pretty scarce. While Homer and Marge are away trying to cheer up Moe, Abe is in charge of the kids. Seeing the old man’s senility in action, Marge tells Bart he’s actually in charge of his grandfather. Bart builds a crazy ass water slide in the span of an afternoon, and Abe injures himself on it in an over-the-top fashion. This leaves Abe on a cot in the basement as Bart tends to his injuries. In the end, it’s revealed he was only faking his injuries because he wanted to spend time with Bart. Marge I guess never questioned why Abe was missing when she returned home, and she ate up Bart’s bullshit excuse why she hasn’t been able to reach his phone for days (“He told me he was gonna nap for most of the week.” “Oh, good! He needs his sleep!”) And that’s it. She also never went in the basement ever, despite that being where the washer and dryer are. Very straight-forward, saccharine and boring. The other “plot” is very different; Lisa is at the Jazz Hole seeing her eccentric music heroes, and is stunned to see a Bleeding Gums hologram performing, as well as being used as ad-space. Before I move on, a mute Janey also stands with Lisa, wearing a cool jacket. I guess they figured it would be weird that Lisa was there all by herself? But Janey is like her default best friend, but they don’t share a lot of the same interests, especially jazz. I don’t even remember the last time she spoke. But it’s another example of characters just being used as props. The second and last scene of this plot involves Lisa writing an angry letter to Gums’ record label, only for Sonny Rollins to appear in her living room telling her to stop. It’s revealed that he is also a hologram, the van outside projects some other offensive holograms of Princess Diana and Gandhi, and then that’s the end. The whole topic of exploiting celebrities after they’ve passed and “reanimating” them is kind of fascinating, but this plot is so short and so straight-forwardly dull that they can’t wring anything out of the concept beyond the most basic joke of having Gandhi breakdance. And it’s a shame to see them bring back such an iconic character as Bleeding Gums Murphy for a disposable C-story.
– Marge arrives at Moe’s furious that Homer has yet again been wasting hours of his life there, but then cools off when she finds out about Moe. Then it’s like she becomes his life coach, proposing the road trip, dressing up in a nice pants suit for some reason, and spends the episode speaking in cliches or exposition or both (“This trip is about turning your life around!” “Every time you wear it, you’ll know how much we love you!” “Look over there, Moe!”) When Moe comes to the door in his torn apart suit, Marge regales him with the story of Dumbo… and then proceeds to explain the whole plot, relating the magic feather and his suit to both being placebos. Why was this necessary? They literally spend over thirty seconds talking about and recapping the story. But moreover, there’s no reason Marge should be bending over backwards this much for Moe. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but Marge should hate him, the man whose business her husband wastes away in every night away from her and their children. That great line from “Lisa on Ice” says it all (“I hope you understand I’m too tense to pretend I like you.”) And it’s not even that her heart was softened after learning of Moe’s suicide attempt; as we saw from the bar rag episode, among others, Marge now considers Moe a close personal family friend. Makes no sense to me.
– I’ve been noticing a lot of reused plot threads and jokes in recent episodes. Along with “Delilah,” Moe’s devastation of his destroyed suit reminded me of “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield.” And individual jokes repeat too; messing with the hot and cold water was done in “Tennis the Menace,” and Moe talking to the crowd while his stock tanks was like an unclever version of a gag from Futurama‘s “Future Stock.”

One good line/moment: Another good sign gag, this time at the Jazz Hole (Closed-Caption Scat Translation Available).

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4 responses to “527. Whiskey Business

  1. I’ve seen what it can do to a family, so it’s no surprise I cringe every time a character (generally Kirk or Moe) graphically attempts suicide onscreen, but is this actually something normal people find funny? Or is it just supposed to be hilariously offensive along the lines of “Oh wow, I can’t believe how edgy and dark this show is.”

    • Aaron Grierson

      I don’t know if I’m even allowed to laugh, knowing I had a classmate who hanged herself, but I’m sure it was the writer’s attempt to be funny. Anything can be made funny. Unfortunately, the writers can’t make ANYTHING funny now except for sign gags.

  2. The next episode also has three plots (two fillers, of course).

  3. In addition to Simpson and Delilah and Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield, they seem to have also shamelessly yoinked plot elements from Flaming Moe, Homer the Moe, Mommie Beerest, The War of the Simpsons, and Treehouse of Horror XIX. They basically just plunked random episodes in a blender and pushed the mix button.

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