283. Tales From the Public Domain

(originally aired March 17, 2002)
Whelp, here’s another three-story episode. Hands down it’s my favorite of the three so far, and I’d even say I really liked the episode, despite my usually blaze feeling about these types of shows. Most of the jokes hit their marks and each story had an interesting twist to me, either by their casting or a mild subversion to the classic tale. Homer uncovers a long overdue library book of classic stories for children, and decides now is as good a time as any to read to his kids. First is Homer’s Odyssey, starring… Homer. I like it right off the bat, since I love the original story. Brave soldier Odysseus must get back to his beloved wife after the Trojan War, but must traverse through a number of dangerous islands and frightening creatures. I’d have been fine if this were the entire episode, since the story is so rich with set pieces. They condensed it well enough with just having them visit Circe, so they did the best they could with the six minutes they had. A funny, clever segment based on one of my favorite stories, a very good start, I’d say.

Next is probably my favorite of the three, with Lisa as Joan of Arc, leading the French army to victory during the Hundred Year Way. There’s a real silliness to all of it, with the handling of God, the ridiculous tactics of the army before Joan shows up, the unfazed attitude of the British army, but then you also have some choice brutal moments like King Milhouse having court jester Krusty boiled in oil (“What, so no 10:30 show?”) The best part comes at the end where God is summoned into court to testify for Lisa, but then Brit Willie speaks up saying that the Almighty told him to lead the English to victory. Caught in his own web, God gets flustered and leaves. I just love that idea; in all wars, each side believes they have God on their side and they’re on the righteous path, so maybe it’s like God doesn’t want to play favorites, but here he actually gets caught. Last is the story of Hamlet, starring Bart as he plans to avenge the death of his father by offing his killer, his uncle Claudius (Moe) who has taken the throne and married his mother. Moe is truly the star of this one, a completely lecherous despicable man, who doesn’t even try to hide his sleaziness. Especially at the end when he dummy proofs his final battle with Hamlet by painting poison on everything in the room. It’s all just so silly. Usually I can’t think of much to say about these shows, but this is definitely the funniest episode this season. Maybe these three-story shows have potential after all…

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer inexplicably has photos in the living room of O.J. Simpson and his rental minivan. Kind of bizarre.
– Flanders as the King of Troy is great, coy and not wanting to offend (“We hope you don’t have a horse!” “Well… I don’t have one from you.”) Then we get the great line: “Now throughout history, when people get wood, they’ll think of Trojans!” This works as a good dirty joke, similar to Kent Brockman’s “golden showers” line, where the character is unaware of the double meaning of his saying. It gets stepped on a little bit with cutting back to Homer giggling, almost poking the audience in case they missed it, but I do like how childish Homer is about it.
– Captain McAllister as Poseideon is basically perfect (“Yarrr, I’ll send him far! …off course.”)
– Nice drunken chit chat on the boat (“Greece is the word!” “Is it vase (vey-se) or vase (vah-se)?” “You gonna be asking that the whole trip?”)
– Discus Stu hitting on Bart is also an acceptable dirty joke, since we all know how Ancient Greeks felt about their little boys…
– The River Styx bit seems like a bit of an easy joke, but I still laughed. The best is a skeleton in the background taking off its shirt, flashing its non existent chest on some poor schmuck’s shoulders.
– Wonderful bit with Helen of Troy, played by Agnes Skinner, who’s doing Phyllis Diller (“This is the face that launched a thousand ships… the other way!”)
– More easy jokes, but hey, they still work (“God wants you to lead the French army to what?” “Victory.” “Victory? We’re French! We don’t even have a word for it!”)
– I’m all for an episode with a little girl repeatedly stabbing soldiers. And Lisa’s war helmet customized to the spikes on her head is just adorable.
– Great line from Lisa (“Let us kill the English! Their concept of individual rights could undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!”) Basically undercuts the entire story, but that’s what makes it great.
– God appears on the witness stand… somehow, then Willie calls him a “two-timing spot of light.” Then when he leaves, his angelic music runs backwards and the ceiling hatch shuts behind him. I don’t know if I’ve laughed harder at a beam of light leaving a building.
– Bart tries to perform a soliloquy, but Moe ends up hearing him and decides to do one of his own (“Note to self: kill that kid.”)
– The “poison” in this episode being a unidentified green substance is great, especially at the end when Moe’s just painting it on everything, including Rosencrantz (Carl) and Guildenstern (Lenny). When Moe’s representative in the ring Ralph stabs himself with his first shot (“Boy, did I bet on the wrong horse,”) he tries to fall back on the poison (“You sure you don’t want a nice piece of fish, or to finger the drapes a little?”)
– There’s only one thing I hate about this episode: the ending. What… in… God’s name was that. They must have had nothing for the longest time, and then eventually slapped that on there. But it makes absolutely no sense, why would Homer gets Ghostbusters out of that story? It had Homer’s ghost going through the wall like Slimer, but that’s such a small joke in the episode, and wouldn’t have come through in the actual story he was reading. There are plenty of ways this episode could have ended, and I’m sure a room full of writers could have come up with something…¬†anything besides whatever the fuck this ending was. But a good episode with a bad thirty-second ending is a lot better than the reverse.

8 thoughts on “283. Tales From the Public Domain

  1. I’m with you on that ending. I was enjoying this one up until that happened, at which point I just kinda went “Ehh…” It happens again in the next three-story episode, “Margical History Tour” – nothing else to say, so they just have Homer make a random movie reference and then they play a song. Bah.

    Count me in as another viewer who laughed it up at God’s hasty exit. I also rather enjoyed the “screw the audience” joke of it looking like Hans Moleman is God…and then he just lowers the hatch in the ceiling.

  2. I was beginning to wonder if you would have a good review for anything this season. I’m glad you found it now before you experience the pain known as “Blame it on Lisa.”

    1. I liked “Half Decent Proposal” too. But the rest of the season looks pretty dim; the only episode I’m looking forward to is “I Am Furious Yellow.” But maybe another will surprise me, we’ll see.

  3. yeah, I do enjoy this one a lot as well. Willie calling God a “Two-timing spot of light” always makes me laugh, and as an avid Hamlet fan I love everything about the third segment, especially “Rosencarl’ and “Guildenlenny”. The first segment is good, I really love Quimby/Zeus, McAllister/Poseidon and Barney/Dionysus. They just work so well.

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