Episode 11 - Flaming Moe
9 May 2011
Synopsis: Smithers learns that he isn't in Mr Burns' will and the only way to get into it is to win his respect as a businessman. He decides to team up with Moe and change the bar into a haven for gay men who feel intimidated by the beautiful set. After becoming the centre of Springfield's gay community Moe keeps his true sexuality a secret in order to keep his new customers. Meanwhile Principal Skinner falls for the new music teacher and seeks out Bart's help to woo her.
The Good: Amongst the endless gay jokes only one stood out as pretty funny to me. Comic Book Guy's cousin Comic Book Gay (that's not it) is established as one of Moe's new clientele. Moe unwittingly reveals his ignorance about gay men by assuming that they are attracted to all other men. When he hears this Comic Book Gay points out in trademark style "Most insidious stereotype ever." A camp latino gentlemen behind him approves of this and says "You're cute, do you wanna go out later?" Comic Book Gay responds in deadpan "Whoever said that...yes." It was one of the few jokes which successfully played with the gay stereotype, the joke being that CBG would blindly say yes because he is so unattractive (as opposed to the simple irony of him going back on what he had just condemned).
The Bad: Oh what a deeply frustrating episode this was. Unlike the usual Simpsons mess, this plot had real potential. This was a golden opportunity to show us Moe and Smithers, too characters who have never had common cause, spending time together as a fun odd couple. Moe's motivation was easy, he wanted money and customers and then slowly that would turn into him becoming a valued member of the gay community. Meanwhile Smithers had his desire to impress Mr Burns and take his rightful place in his will.
That is all the episode needed. Homer could have popped up as a regular customer (as he did) to give us our Simpson family fix and all would have been good. In their brief interactions there was genuine potential for simple character development. When Smithers takes Moe into the stock room to confront him about his lies to the gay community Moe says "Phew! I thought it was an inventory issue, that's a big relief." Little interactions like that could have carried the comedy while the story focussed on the each man's journey.
Instead the Smithers story was all but forgotten. He whisked Mr Burns round the bar half way through the episode and we never heard whether he made it into the will which was a shame. The plot shifted heavily toward Moe and the lies about his sexuality. That might have been enjoyable if there was more focus on his emotions and less bad jokes about camp men, transvestites or Homer eating part of the bar because he thought it was pretzel. Moe has the potential to be a sympathetic character and this episode did a far less good job than "Flaming Moe's" (310), its namesake, of showing us his conscience or his desire to be loved.
Worse than all of that though was that fully half way through the episode an entirely redundant plot about Principal Skinner arrived. It was utter incompetence to allow a third story in like this. Why the writers were so afraid to take time over Moe and Smithers' time together I don't know. There was practically no value to the Skinner story. The new music teacher arrived and departed in a forgettable heartbeat. All she left in her wake were a series of jokes which destroyed the credibility of the episode with Skinner offering Bart illegal holidays in exchange for his help and Willie being made principal. It actually angered me that this story was shoehorned in. It was completely unnecessary and showed a stunning lack of understanding for what makes good television.
There was also room in a crowded episode for an implausible and pointless fight between the different shifts at the nuclear power point and a dumb shot of the top of Mr Burns skull falling off.
Best Joke: When they put their mind to it the writers can still catch something of what makes a character tick. While floundering to impress Miss Juniper, Skinner comes out with the claim that "I'm thinking of becoming an excellent cook!" Small ambitions for a small mind.
The Bottom Line: At no point did the writers think to show us Smithers and Moe bonding. Surely that would have occurred to anyone else putting this episode together? The incompetence of the current production team remains staggering.
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