We’ve been off to an interesting week here on Lifetime of Simpsons. We’ve had two episodes that have really been focused on the dynamics between the Simpsons siblings, which I feel has kind of fallen by the wayside. They’ve been pretty good episode, and a nice change of pace that I hope continues throughout the seasons to come. But not today. Today we have a silly-ass episode about Artie Ziff. Enjoy!
After running through that ridiculous couch gag where we go into space before entering the atoms of Homer, which was always a telltale sign that the episode was running short, we see Homer is taking Bart, Lisa, Rod, and Todd to a movie. He’s standing outside the giant theater, trying to find something to see as we learn that Ned is out taking old people to an ice cream parlor to celebrate Jasper’s birthday, and Homer has somehow been tricked into hanging out with Rod and Todd.
Unfortunately all of the movies at the theater are sold out, except for a horror movie called the Redeadening. Homer’s not sure if he should take all the kids to see that, until Lenny and Carl show up and convince him. Mainly because Lenny actually is an extra in the film, and he insists that the movie is suitable for children. Which it is not. The movie looks kind of like that movie the Others, except instead of ghosts it’s a doll that kill people and replaces their eyes with buttons.
And it turns out taking a group of children to a horrifying movie was not a good call. Rod and Todd are barely keeping it together in the theater, and Bart and Lisa are covering their eyes the whole time. So after a couple hours or terror everyone heads home, and the nightmares begin. Bart and Lisa are super jittery and scared, and that night they both stay up, jumping at every little noise. Which is bad, because there just so happens to be a whole lot of noises that night, most of which appear to be up in the attic.
At some time in the night they decide they’ve had enough though, and they decide to head up into the attic with a video-camera to make their own terrible found-footage horror movie. They wander around in the attic, terrified, and when they hear something making noises they just run away after referencing Blair Witch Project, which is like a five year old joke at this point. Whatever. They run downstairs and go find Homer and Marge, who are getting ready to have sex, and convince them to come up into the attic with them.
So the Simpsons get prepared and head up into their attic in the middle of the night, trying to find a monster. And almost immediately they find the cause of the disturbance, but it’s not a monster. It’s Artie Ziff, the creepy millionaire who has an unhealthy fixation on Marge. That’s always what you want to find in the middle of the night! Anyway, the family don’t seem properly terrified at the implication that he’s been living in their attic, and they allow him to explain what’s going on.
It turns out that despite the vast wealth we saw Artie possess last time we saw him have all vanished, primarily due to how he got it. Artie was apparently a dot com billionaire, and when the tech bubble popped, so did his wealth. All of his money is gone, and most of his possessions have been repossessed, so obviously he’s decided to come live in the attic of a woman he went on one date with in high school. You know, like a sane person?
But it turns out he’s in good company, because despite the thousands of red flags that this interaction has raised, the Simpsons decide that Ziff will be allowed to live with them. And for a while things seem pretty good. Lisa and Artie hang out, talking about Jonathan Franzen novels, Bart has ice cream with him before he tries to commit suicide, and Homer even takes him to Moe’s to drink with all the other Jon Lovitz characters.
However, when Artie is out gambling with Homer, Marge learns something about him. A special news report comes on about Artie, and reveals that he wasn’t being quite honest when he explained why he’s hiding out with them. Apparently Artie was running a Ponzi scheme, and is now wanted by the SEC, which is why he’s actually hiding. Marge freaks out, realizing that they’ve been taken advantage of, but she can’t do anything about it, because Homer is out gambling with Artie.
And things are not going well on that front either. Artie is terrible at poker, mainly because he has a massive tell, and he ends up owing Homer quite a bit of money. But because he doesn’t have any money, he instead gives Homer a majority of the shares of his corporation, making Homer the majority stockholder. Which is a great time for the SEC to raid Moe’s, and attempt to arrest Artie. But right as they’re about to, Homer says that he’s the majority stockholder, causing the SEC to arrest him instead.
Homer is then brought before a Senate committee, which includes Krusty which is weird because I assumed they’d forgotten that plot point already, and he does poorly. Homer isn’t able to explain his way out of the accusations, and he’s sent to prison for massive securities fraud, despite having absolutely nothing to do with it. Homer’s sentenced to 10 years in prison, and quickly start to crack when the family visits him.
And while all of this is going on, Artie is finally starting to feel a little guilty about what he’s done. He’s hanging out at Moe’s trying to drink his sorrows away when Patty and Selma show up to buy cigarettes. They chat with Artie for a bit, and when he admits that Homer’s in jail because of him, Selma decides that that means they need to have sex. So Artie is brought back to Selma’s apartment, they have sex, and Artie decides to do the right thing. So he admits what actually happened, gets Homer released, and gets ready to serve the 10 year sentence. At least as long as he does get shanked to death first. Which he almost certainly will.
I had a good time with his episode. I like Artie Ziff quite a bit, and while I’m not really certain he needed to come back, especially so soon after his last appearance, I enjoyed him in this episode. Mainly because they don’t hold back, and have him be as repugnant as possible. Artie is a financial conman who decides to hide out in the house of a woman that’s he’s obsessed with. That sounds like the premise of a horror movie, not a Simpson’s episode, but whatever, it worked. The idea of Artie framing Homer for securities fraud is an interesting one, although I feel like it may have worked even better if Artie was malicious about it, and intentionally did it to try and get Marge instead of just accidentally doing it, but it still made for an interesting story that made me laugh a couple of time, and that’s where the bar is now.
Take Away: It’s really easy to trick the Senate into misunderstanding your financial crimes.
“The Ziff Who Came to Dinner” was written by Deb Lacusta & Dan Castalanetta and directed by Nancy Kruse, 2004.