630. Homer Is Where The Art Isn’t

(why does her boob look flattened in this shot?)
Original airdate:
March 18, 2018

The premise:
After a provocative work of art is stolen after being auctioned, ’70s P.I. pastiche Manacek is on the case, zeroing in on a number one suspect: newly won over art lover Homer Simpson.

The reaction: Who is the target audience of this show? I honestly don’t know what the numbers are at this point, but lately, whenever the show does an extended parody or obscure reference of something decades old, it feels so bizarre to me. This is taken to the hilt in this episode, a full blown parody of ’70s detective shows, with Bill Hader playing the smooth talking, womanizing, quick-comeback-having private dick Manacek. Now, I’m pushing thirty, and I have no familiarity with this source material outside of parodies like this, so I guess this episode is really shooting for the over fifty crowd or film buffs knowledgeable about whatever the hell this is supposed to be. Doing some research, this character is apparently a direct lift from the 1972 show Banacek, which I guess I shouldn’t be surprised it’s another shitty “parody” where they just change one letter of the actual name and call it a day. I understand Manacek as a character, but his schtick grows old real fast. The entire episode is framed as a mystery, with a cold open at the auction where we see Homer being dragged off by guards as he’s wailing over his beloved painting. Then we get a fake opening for Manacek as he talks with the auctioneer, then with the beautiful billionaire mogul who won the auction. I guess they expect the audience to be curious about what’s going on and where this is all going, but I was just left baffled. None of what happens is particularly interesting, and certainly isn’t funny. The meat of the story is finding out Homer’s backstory: chaperoning a field trip, Homer finds himself enraptured by a painting, Joan Miro’s surrealist painting The Poetess. That’s about it. Lisa helps him understand how abstract art can be representative of whatever the viewer wants, but ultimately, Homer just loves the painting just ’cause. There’s no deeper meaning to it, and the fact that there isn’t meaning and his love for the piece is inexplicable also isn’t the point. Appearing guilty, Homer goes on the run, but Manacek easily tracks him down and determines he’s not a viable suspect because he’s too stupid. Really diffuses the tension, doesn’t it? Ultimately, Lisa is revealed to be the true culprit, swapping the real painting for the one on her tote bag, finally pleased to have something to bond with her father with. So why not buy an art print? Why does it have to be the original? Whatever. I guess I appreciate them attempting to do something different, but this episode was so fucking boring. A bunch of new uninteresting characters having their own little story as the Simpsons just sort of stand around and watch it unfold. Riveting.

Three items of note:
– You can just tell the writers love this episode, and the source material they’re lampooning, but honestly, I just don’t get it. Maybe this is funny to people who really love those old shows. There’s a few bits here I don’t really get (in the opening, it takes him forever to walk into a building or drive up a driveway as his theme song plays. Is that a joke?) But his jokes basically boil down to having a witty rebuttal to things people say to him, and him trying to pick up Marge. That’s it. And Bill Hader does an alright job voicing him, but I wasn’t blown away by his performance or anything. I thought he was better as that Russian guy a bunch of seasons back.
– Discovering the art museum is set to close, Homer joins a group of protesters outside the building to attempt to save it. Mayor Quimby shows up to try and placate them, pointing out museum attendance was close to zero. So… who are all these people? When Quimby informs them they’re going to sell the artwork at auction, protester Sideshow Mel seems content with that explanation, swaying the mob to their next “cause.” Are they trying to make them like protesters for the sake of protesting? I really don’t understand. But Springfieldians gathering in mass to save an art museum just did not compute to me. Same with the billionaire lady’s gorgeous mansion, why is she in Springfield?
– By the end, Manacek has gathered everyone together, and I’m just waiting for this shit to be over already. “After careful consideration of facts and evidence observed only by me…” He then weaves a complicated and ridiculous farce of how the billionaire lady stole her own painting with twin guards, then that was all for naught because Burns created a duplicate neighboring auction house to steal the painting for himself. Now, is this absurd, impossible explanation the kind of thing those old 70s shows were famous for? Or are we supposed to laugh at how silly all of this is? Preposterous, convoluted explanations to mysteries that the hero detective solved purely by magic? What is this, Sherlock? [laugh track]

One good line/moment: Manacek cold cocking billionaire lady in the face after she pulls a gun on her was sudden and unexpected it got a surprise laugh out of me. Then he does the exact same thing to Burns a minute later, and the moment became not so special.


10 responses to “630. Homer Is Where The Art Isn’t

  1. I’m so confused as to why this episode exists. An homage to early 1970s detective shows…who in 2018 was asking for that? Usually the issue the Simpsons have had is that they parody something pop culture has already forgotten about…but at least that stuff was relevant when they started production!

    It also makes me wonder who they think is mostly watching. Most older fans of the show have completely given up. And even if they didn’t, they likely weren’t clamoring for this.

    And young kids are going to have no idea what this is supposed to be. Remember, the babies born in 2000 are about to go to college. That is how long ago the 70s was. Any reference to anything 70s-related (with a few exceptions) is going to go RIGHT over the kids’ heads.

    To be fair, at least they did some actual satire and deconstruction, pointing out how a suave, womanizing character who always has a comeback ready would be seen as obnoxious, off-putting, and sex-addicted as opposed to charming and irresistible.

    Now, again, all of this COULD have worked as a stand-alone parody in another show. American Dad has done a good parody of 70s detective shows, and they do it a lot better and less tediously. And maybe in an earlier season of the Simpsons, this could have worked. But that’s actually something I’ve noticed about modern Simpsons…even in parts of Zombie Simpsons (seasons 11-17), you could tell that the creators and writers were still having a good time making it, and that even if it didn’t really have anything poignant to say, they still had fun and it still felt like the show had a reason to exist.

    I don’t get that vibe AT ALL in the most recent episodes (mostly anything post-movie, but REALLY noticed it from season 26 until now). Most of the time, it feels like the writers would rather be writing for ANY other show, and just shoehorn in the Simpsons into whatever story THEY want to write.

    And this is a big problem. You can’t make the show about the Simpsons family because every possible story about them has been done multiple times. And you can’t make a show about anybody else because the show is supposed to be ABOUT them! They’re the title characters!

    Usually most shows don’t have this issue because when they feel they’ve run out of ideas and get sick of it…they end the show. Often they end it BEFORE they reach that point.

    • Yeah, it really just seems like they have a master list of every television show from the last five decades and are just going through and “parodying” (and I’m using that term loosely). This will give them material for years to come!

  2. I swear, the writers to The Simpsons are chained to desks and have been told they can’t go home until the show is done. Thus, they are just writing random crap in hopes it is going to bomb poorly enough for Fox to can the show and let them finally go home to their families.

    I don’t even know how to describe this episode because I didn’t get it. It was The Serfsons all over again. Just a random ass episodes where they forgot to have Troy McClure come up on the screen to say, “Remember those spin-offs we talked about back in Season 8? Well here is a look at another one that was given a full length episode.”

    I thought the opening bit of the show was the couch gag, but it just kept going. It wasn’t funny, it didn’t make sense, and it didn’t feel like The Simpsons. Maybe they should do some type of intro to inform the audience that it is not going to be a typical episode, but rather a, “What if?” story?

    As a Godzilla fan, Comic Book Guy’s sign got kind of a chuckle out of me.

  3. One good line/moment: Manacek cold cocking billionaire lady in the face after she pulls a gun on her was sudden and unexpected it got a surprise laugh out of me. Then he does the exact same thing to Burns a minute later, and the moment became not so special.

    I have never heard the expression “cold cocking” before (and no way in hell am I googling it), so in my mind, what you described here is probably much, much more shocking and offensive than what likely happened.

  4. Honestly the moments I preferred were Bart and friends playing on the exhibits while Homer stared at the painting. It was very well done, no dialogue at all, Bart acting like a kid, and no one describing anything.

    Also, thumbs up for saying the rich woman has a girlfriend and not making some dated lesbian joke about it.

    • I do have to agree with the Bart thing being done, but Homer would NOT just sit there and stare at a painting. It would have been a lot more sense had it been a special candy or something.

  5. Actually, I don’t get why Mike (or someone else) now has problems with parodies of old stuff. I mean, the old stuff is usually the most important part of pop culture. Why didn’t you complain about The Simpsons “Citizen Kane” parody? A kid from the 90s should have asked “A movie from the 40s? Who is the target audience of this show?” Don’t think so. That’s because the problem is not that they reference old stuff, the problem is the way they do it (ZS is rotten, we all know it).

    I wanted to point out the difference because I find terrifying the modern kids culture; they know nothing about the great past, in this case, the great art; I’m not saying they must be interested just ’cause: for example, when I was little I knew who Orson Welles was; and this thanks to the TV references. Thanks to the Simpsons I started to be interested in cinema characters they were parodying, and now I’m a 360° cinema lover. And I bet many passions started like that with kids. That’s why this is important. So, saying that a show should parodying only modern stuff -which most of the times means crap stuff forgotten in a year- is a dangerous statement, and totally against the nature of the Classic Simpsons, (which most of the times did not make plain parodies, but more of homage-parodies, like “Rosebud”).

    But I guess your point is: writers are not able to make subtle references, and they awkwardly confuse the viewer, like “What the fuck is this shit?”. In this case, I totally agree.

    • You make some good points, the fact that’s it’s old doesn’t mean it’s bad, and the execution matters. But the difference is that:
      1) Citizen Kane is one of the most iconic movies of all time, and that transcends generations. Even in the 90s, except for the most timeless and famous stuff, most parodies were of modern stuff. Sure, the Simpsons parodied old, less famous stuff in the classic era, but it was with the context that it was old, like a Troy McClure movie. They didn’t just have people from earlier decades show up into the world out of nowhere.
      2) A lot of parody is played out. Because of shows like the Simpsons, other shows started also doing parody in the 90s into the 00s, and then eventually, people had satirized pretty much all of pop culture. This is why Hanna Barbera parodies are dead…because people have already made literally every single joke you can possibly make about them. The reason most parody is of new stuff is that we already parodied the old stuff to death. And even parody in general is starting to lose steam. Society isn’t really looking for subversion and edginess anymore. This is another problem the Simpsons has…not only has been on long past its shelf life, it’s starting to be on after its genre’s shelf life.
      3) Rosebud was written in such a way that you didn’t have to watch Citizen Kane to get the jokes or enjoy the story. This basically took a character from a forgotten TV show and jammed him into the Simpsons world. Every time something happened, you felt like you were missing an inside joke. It actually felt more like fanfiction of another show where the main character meets the Simpsons.
      Most parody from the 70s-90s was written so that newcomers wouldn’t be lost. But somewhere around 2000, parody basically became “Hey, remember that?!” and it became necessary to have watched the source material to get the jokes…or even worse, the parody outright explains it to you in plain English (I’m looking at you, Seltzer and Friedberg).

      • Kaiju no Kami

        Let me put it this way.

        The Shinning is my favorite Treehouse of Horror segment of all time. It has been since the moment that skit first aired back in the 90s. I never watched The Shining until it was released on BD about 10 years ago. I never once felt lost for not having seen The Shining until then when I watched The Shinning.

        On the other hand, an episode from a few season’s ago had Marge making blue cupcakes to this one pop song and I didn’t get it. It wasn’t until I watched Breaking Bad that I understood the “joke” and now I find it hilarious. However, I shouldn’t have had to see the source material to find it funny, it should have been funny on its own regardless.

        This episode here doesn’t work because you need to have watched some episodes of Manachek for it to work.

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