The Simpsons, Season Three, Episode Ten, “Flaming Moe’s”

It’s probably a good sign we’re deep in Classic territory when multiple iconic moments from the show pop up in the one episode – here, we have “Oh, by the way, I was being sarcastic”, “It can be two things”, and “the secret ingredient is… LOVE?!”. Once again, it’s solid storytelling that props up these and many other jokes; this time, the story itself doesn’t shine as brightly, but I think that’s actually okay – The Simpsons isn’t heavy emotional episode after heavy emotional episode. It’s got dizzying highs, terrifying lows, and creamy middles; this is a creamy middle.

(For a quality show that does reach for heavy emotional beats every episode, I’d point to Community, and you notice that’s a) a very different show tonally and b) a cult phenomenon as opposed to The Simpsons seizing the zeitgeist)

The plot of the episode is actually really simple, even by Simpsons standards. Homer slips out to Moe’s one night as he usually does, and when Moe complains about being out of beer, Homer shows him a  he accidentally invented: a Flaming Homer, a concoction of various alcohol-like substances, plus children’s cough syrup, that is then set on fire – something both visually spectacular and apparently essential to the taste of the drink. Moe then immediately steals the drink and uses it to make a killing.

What accentuates it is the way that previous mythological elements of the series play into what happens; Homer has always escaped to both Moe’s in particular and alcohol in general, so it makes sense that he’d have made up a ridiculous cocktail. Moe’s tavern has always been a dank craphole with the same six regulars, so it makes sense that Moe would go out of his way to seize a moneymaker. Even on a minor level, the children’s cough syrup Homer uses is Krusty-brand. The show is purely episodic, but these bits of mythology are what make the show as a whole feel like a unified piece, and like we’re visiting a particular world over and over.

And the episode doesn’t just refashion old ideas, it brings new ones to the table in the form of Moe. This is the first one to bring Moe to the table as an active protagonist, and it reveals him as scuzzball with a weak but present conscience. When presented with the opportunity to make money from Homer’s drink, Moe snatches it up without a second thought, and Moe sucks up all the upsides of fame and fortune without even considering Homer. It’s only when his new girlfriend Colleen pesters him enough – and, when you think about it, the novelty of said fame and fortune wears off and he’s made enough to be comfortable – that he decides to sell the drink and split the profits with Homer.

Unfortunately, Homer’s envy and hurt feelings have been building up all episode. Again, this makes sense with what we know about him – Homer doesn’t have the greatest creative faculties in the world, so he’d feel rightfully proud of inventing something only to lose it, and having his sense of loyalty thrown back in his face would be sure to sting (and of course, Homer has been extremely happy the few times he’s been exposed to big money). And again, it leads us to somewhere new and fun – we’d expect him to get envious, we don’t expect him to literally see Moe’s face everywhere, or to go full Phantom Of The Opera in his dressing gown. Homer does not half-ass expressing emotion, and Dan Castellanetta can follow him wherever he goes.

Satirically speaking, this episode can pull in jokes about big business, which it’s always good at; Moe’s big moral quandary is selling out ‘his’ drink, and the big business rep we meet is delightfully slimy. I also think it’s a nice touch that, when Homer reveals the drink’s recipe, we see carbon-copy Flaming Moes everywhere. It’s both a joke on knock-offs, and laying the groundwork for the idea that Springfield is a fad-happy place.

Chalkboard Gag: Underwear should be worn on the inside.
Couch Gag: The thieves steal the couch, shoving the Simpsons if it in the process.

This episode was written by Robert Cohen and directed by Rich Moore and Alan Smart, with Smart filling in while Moore attended to the birth of his daughter.

The plot of the episode was loosely based on the Los Angeles club Coconut Teaszer. Many references to Cheers are made, including a parody of the opening theme, and the character of Colleen. As said, Homer parodies Phantom Of The Opera. Frink’s appearance parodies The Nutty Professor. The opening, in which Bart narrowly avoids Lisa and her slumber party, references North By Northwest.

Fun story: Apparently, there’s an Australian air conditioning contractor called Flaming MO’s.

I know I barely talked about that opening, but it’s pretty great, accurately capturing the feeling of them while staying true to the characters – I especially love Homer’s “Run for it boy!” as he understand’s Bart’s fear but has no interest in helping.

First Appearances: Aerosmith make this the first appearance of a band as themselves. Kent Brockman’s Eye On Springfield is first seen.
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