542. Diggs

Original airdate: March 9, 2014

The premise:
A socially ostracized Bart befriends Digby, a transfer student with a love for falconry, but over time, Bart learns his new friend might not be quite right.

The reaction: Yawwwwwn… it’s been a while since we’ve had a boring one. All episodes now are tepid and unengaging to me at this point, but this one was a good ol’ fashioned snooze fest, which is saying something when the show culminates in a child being locked in a mental institution. So, Bart is swayed by the words of a guest minister from Indonesia to donate some money, for some reason. He borrows a twenty off Homer, who then hounds him incessantly to pay him back. Bart gets so frazzled to pay his debt that he takes to eating things for money on the playground, resulting in him swallowing a frog full of formaldehyde, putting him in the hospital. They show Homer’s comeuppance being he has to pay a four thousand dollar medical bill, but it really doesn’t excuse how fucked up the whole scenario was. But none of that opening matters; after that, Bart’s bullies are thwarted by a falcon, and his trainer Digby, or Diggs. The preceding seven minutes truly were meaningless. Bart takes an interest in falconry, and the two become friends. Alright, so what happens next? The two are up in a tree, and Diggs says, “You wanna see something cool?” He then proceeds to dive and fall straight to the ground. Later, Diggs tells Bart that he was trying to fly, and then later Bart finds out he’s being sent away to a mental hospital. What’s all this about? There was no real build-up to this, like of Diggs’ obsession with birds to the point he wanted to be one, so none of this resonates. Also, does this boy have parents? Bart’s at the hospital by himself when Dr. Hibbert comes in with the psychiatric specialist to speak with him alone. Later, Bart encounters Diggs, who conveniently has a one-day pass from the crazy house (???), and they go to the falconry contest that had never been mentioned prior, so they can open all the cages and let the birds be free. Okay. And then he leaves to go back to being institutionalized as melancholy music plays. And that’s it. What the fuck was that all about? Is this a happy ending? This seemingly parent-less, possibly schizophrenic kid rides off into the sunset back to being locked in a psychiatric ward against his will. What am I supposed to feel? This whole scenario is pretty fucked up, but even more so that the episode doesn’t seem to even acknowledge it. I don’t know what that hell this episode was supposed to be, but I’m pretty sure the writers didn’t know either.

Three items of note:
– I’m pretty stunned that they didn’t even bother to come up with a terrible punny title. Did they just forget? I guess someone just wrote ‘Diggs’ as a placeholder and no one went back to change it.
– There’s a montage of Bart and Diggs with the falcon, and for some reason, all the shots aren’t stabilized, they’re wobbling like someone’s filming with a camera, and the color is washed out a little bit too. Maybe it’s a parody of something that uses the same music? I could look it up to see, but I don’t care to.
– At the dinner table, Bart mentions he has a printout of the hospital they sent Diggs to and shows his parents. They try to play him as hopelessly naive, but surely Bart can figure out what “Twisted Meadows Psychiatric Hospital” means. For some reason, Marge gets incredibly uncomfortable when Bart asks if he can visit his incarcerated friend (“If this is what I think it is, it’s not a place we should ever ever take a little boy.”) In addition to her apparently being a-OK about a kid being permanently sent to the nut house, it’s incredibly odd of Marge to not be reassuring to Bart, telling him that his friend is getting the help he needs, and he can go visit him. Instead, she’s so ridiculously callous about this house of horrors too horrible to even speak of, making Bart feel even worse about the whole situation.

One good line/moment:
– The couch gag was directed by Sylvain Chomet, the French animator behind The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist. It’s very beautiful and weird; I’d rather watch a whole episode animated like that.

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14 responses to “542. Diggs

  1. This one for a long while had the dubious distinction of being the lowest rated Simpsons episode ever, though I think it has since been dethroned by an episode last season.

    Easy to see why, as this was a completely boring episode aside from a fucked up opening act.

    • Aaron Grierson

      The lowest now is Season 28’s “The Caper Chase”, should you be interested.
      “Diggs”‘ ratings wasn’t helped by the fact that another episode – a Sideshow Bob one, to be precise – aired the same day (no episodes in February due to football coverage). That episode got over a million more than “Diggs”.

      • The Caper Chase, I thought, actually had a semi decent premise (increasing costs of college, immaturity/political atmosphere of campuses, “safe spaces”), but of course the writers didn’t do anything funny with it.

  2. That title is pretty stunning. I’m pretty sure “Diggs” is the only character in 600+ episode who has an episode named exclusively after him.

    • A few episodes later they had an episode called Luca$. They really got lazy with their titles that season. Weird.

      • Never understood the reasoning behind naming that episode “Luca$”. Is it an oh so timely reference to Ke$ha, or am I no longer hip or with “it”?

      • Oh, well according to imdb:

        “This episode’s title spoken phonetically is Luca-dollar, after the character’s nickname.”

        I guess that’s it.

    • Aaron Grierson

      Then they named an episode “Paths of Glory”, which is a “pun” on “Paths of Glory”, although it’s not a pun, IT’S THE EXACT SAME FUCKING TITLE!!!!
      Fuck Zombie Simpsons, I hope they die in a heap.
      Although I can only imagine the scenario:
      (FOX shoots dead Zombie Simpsons)
      Rupert Murdoch: Oh my God! You killed Zombie Simpsons!
      Peter Rice: They were zombies?

      • Believe it or not, ZS has now been renewed to its 30th season (so 2019-ish). I hope they finally give up the ghost then.

      • It was a pun, it was actually titled

        ‘Paths of Glory

        but press releases, etc missed out the apostrophe. Probably should have just called it Sociopaths of Glory.

  3. The name John Swartzwelder was written in Digby’s cast. So weird…

  4. Watching this HD episodes is like watching a still screenshot for 20 minutes. Characters are there on the screen. They say what they do and what they feel, so we understand what the episode is about. Then the episode ends. Credits.
    Next one.

  5. The Anonymous Nobody

    “And if God needs money, why doesn’t he just write another Bible? The first one sold pretty well.”

    That was a classic Homer line if I’ve ever heard one.

    I haven’t seen anything from this episode aside from the first act. It was actually pretty entertaining to me, probably because it reminded me of the Family Guy episode where Brian owes Stewie money. It wasn’t as funny as that one, but at least I wasn’t bored. The only thing I didn’t get is why Bart was so easily swayed to give money at church. It seemed really out of character for him to care so much. Is this still the same kid that pranked everyone by making them sing Iron Butterfly as a church hymn?

    I don’t know. Am I the only one who thought the first act was good?

  6. Not seen this episode, but is the eponymous title possibly a reference to the book/movie “Birdy” (about a mental patient, named Birdy, who has an affinity for birds and an obsession with trying to fly like them)? Probably not, but the synopsis does suggest that somebody in The Simpsons staff is familiar with that story in some form.

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