634. King Leer

Original airdate: April 15, 2018

The premise:
Moe encounters his estranged father, and after making amends, he inherits one of his stores from the family mattress business. However, this leads to an all out war between Moe and his brother and sisters’ stores.

The reaction: This is one of those episodes that goes right through you; I watched it, it ended, and it had virtually no effect on me whatsoever. We find out about Moe’s family and their mattress empire, but when li’l Moe chickened out of sabotaging their business rival, his dad excommunicated him. For whatever reason, Marge is incredibly invested in mending this relationship, forcing the family together for dinner, then later urging Moe to get his father involving to make peace between the warring siblings. This all builds to her eventually feeling comfortable enough to give Moe a friendly hug after he refuses his father’s evil orders to taint his siblings’ mattresses. So, poor sad Moe, him getting a new lease on life, Marge inexplicably tolerating Moe… we’ve seen this episode template many times before and I don’t feel like complaining about any of that stuff again. Moe’s father and sister are voiced by Ray Liotta and Debi Mazar, both from Goodfellas, and they dress and act very Italian… but isn’t Syslak Russian? There’s the joke in “Flaming Moe’s” where Moe bullshits about the recipe coming down from his czar ancestors, but it certainly sounds more Russian than Italian. This is also a Matt Selman produced episode, which I guess explains the seriousness of the ending of Moe looking down at his father and siblings and seeing them younger in a happier time. There’s a subsection of diehard fans who still watch this garbage (I guess I would fall into that category now… how shameful) who applaud the Selman shows specifically, and while for the most part they do have slightly better story structure and a clear intent on exploring characters and having an emotional climax, they always fall utterly short because the writing is as poor as ever. I could care less about Moe’s character turn, but it’s our triumphant happy ending and Marge couldn’t be prouder of the little gargoyle. “Moe, you’re a good man!” she croaks. I’m all for marching characterization forward, but I still can’t get behind these two. You can make Moe as cloying and emotionally damaged as you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that he and his establishment have kept Homer away from his wife and children for many, many years. Hell, a few minutes into this episode, we see Homer kiss Marge as she walks in the door right before he bolts out to waste his night away from her at the bar. Marge harboring a quiet resentment toward Moe makes a hell of a lot more sense than her trying to be his life coach as we’ve seen in multiple episodes. But I’ve already made this point before, several times. I can’t help being repetitive when this show is rehashing the same stuff over and over. It’s like it’s their job. Their job. Being repetitive is their job.

Three items of note:
– The opening features Bart being forced to sign up for school band, and after finding out Homer is ultimately financially responsible for his loaned violin, he begins torturing his father, using and abusing the instrument over what looks like a whole week. It made me think, were there any instances in the classic years of Bart fucking with Homer over a long period of time? Usually they were just one-off pranks or jabs, always coming off as precocious childish behavior. Even something as extreme as him busting a chair over Homer’s head in the tub is motivated, where he was trying to test his father’s might against Milhouse’s moms’ new American Gladiators beau. But here, Bart tortures his father for multiple days for no real reason other than to just be a dick, and it comes off as kind of unpleasant. Even in last week’s episode, Bart messed with Homer’s head in order to get to the not-Minecraft convention, there was a reason to it. Here, Bart’s only mission is to make his dad suffer. Funny? Also, at his breaking point, Homer imagines the violin taunting him by rubbing its fingers together (“You see this? I’m playing the world’s smallest violin!”) Wouldn’t the line be better if he said “the world’s smallest me”? Come on, it was right there.
– I’m still not sure what to make of Moe’s family. Moe refers to himself as the “white sheep” of the family, and the gag is that being in the mattress selling business is super evil (“They’re like mortgage brokers without the moral code.”) But the Syslaks don’t seem any more hateful and vindictive than Moe is. And the sister is introduced eating Chinese food with scissors, which I guess is a joke. I guess with this episode featuring Neutered Moe, his family being rude and cruel makes them comparatively bad looking, but I still remember the days of Moe threatening to shoot people and being generally violent and unpleasant, and I just don’t see much of a difference in character.
– Three separate times throughout this episode, characters use the term “reach around,” as in to make an effort to make amends (“It’s not too late to reach around and fix things with your father!”) But… they’ve heard what a reach around is, right? Surely I’m not the only one whose pure, innocent mind has been poisoned by sex terms they learned from the Internet. Was there no one in the writer’s room under 35 to point this out and suggest a quick re-write?

One good line/moment: Nuthin’.

11 responses to “634. King Leer

  1. Haven’t seen this episode, but episode, but every time I think about Bart breaking the chair over Homer’s head I crack up

  2. Moe’s one of the worst characters in the show now. I wish they’d stop doing so many episodes about him, but for whatever reason they love using him despite his bastardised characterisation.

  3. Sad-sack pathetic loser Moe is one of the worst casualties of Zombie Simpsons. I loved surly bartender with shady dealings that are never addressed head-on (the pandas, the whale, the citizenship test, etc.)

    Also, the writers haven’t known what to do with our how to write Bart in decades.

  4. Good point about Neutered Moe, just like all the Neutered characters in the show by now.
    But for some reason this reminded me of the last episode, and the writers defense of Apu’s supposed offensiveness as character: and come to think of it, how could they even thought to talk about the topic of offensiveness, -like they’re that kind of genius controversial show-, when years after years they totally destroyed and erased any kind of dark humor and malice from all the characters, desperately balancing the occasional (and by now totally cartoony, and therefore inoffensive) naughtiness with pathetic kindness and sensibility: just look at Bart, Moe, Mr Burns or Abe Simpson.

  5. I actually somewhat enjoyed this episode. No, it wasn’t great by any means, but I don’t think I laughed as much at an episode this season as I did with this one. It had a lot of tight jokes and I felt they made a good use of Ray Liotta that didn’t feel like they were ass kissing him. Also, being someone who has experienced bed bugs, there was a creepy sense at times.

    I do think the opening bit with Bart makes no sense though. Did they forget about the time he got into drums and joined a jazz band? Hell, did Bart forget about that or does this episode take place before that one? I guess it doesn’t matter as the writers clearly don’t.

    Nevertheless, this may be my favorite episode of the season (not that that is saying much, but still).

  6. My favorite joke has to be the one with Homer looking at drunk celebrities on his phone. Though that may be because I was expecting them to show us or to have him list them off, but no! They ended it nicely with “Haha! Look at number four!” without dragging anything on or explaining or showing anything more than they needed to! See, the HD era CAN tell jokes effectively when it wants to!

    Can’t say the same about the Uber joke, though. It had the perfect setup, with Homer saying, “I’ll use my smart phone to get home!” and then we see he was actually contacting Marge when we think he’s getting rideshare. But then, they ruin it by having Homer get in the car and say, “No mints? I should have gotten an Uber!” Way to explain the joke.

  7. Modern Simpsons episodes have the tendency to take an alright joke and add an extra beat that ruins it.

  8. The term reach-around isn’t new, dude.

  9. Dude, some people haven’t been poisoned by sex terms on the internet. Why do you want the writers of King Leer to be? “Reach around” does not have to be a sex joke! Just because you have been poisoned by that meaning doesn’t mean you need to poison all of us with it.

  10. “Boy Scoutz in the Hood” had Bart pranking Homer throughout most of the second act. I guess you could consider it a string of one-off pranks, but it was still torment over a period of days or weeks.

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