"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Simpsons: Little Orphan Millie

After a lot of Homer and Marge-centric episodes (I don't count 'Treehouse of Horror' stories because they take place outside of The Simpsons continuity. Don't laugh!) I finally get one focusing on the Simpson kids and their friends. In this case the spotlight is on one Milhouse Van Houten. This is not the first time Milhouse has been featured in an episode. In fact, he's probably the only other kid on The Simpsons that has had more than one show focus on him. Remember the 'Radioactive Man' episode waaayyyy back in the seventh season?

This is most likely due to his friendship with Bart. Because they have been so closely linked since the very first episodes of the series Milhouse has been given a richer backstory than, say, Martin.I know about his unrequited love for Lisa, his affair with Samantha Stanky, and the break-up (and subsequent get-together) of his parents.Actually, the pending nuptials of Kirk and Luann were part of the plot for this episode.

For the most part the episode was entertaining and fairly free of over-the-top sight gags (save for the plane that supposedly brought in Milhouse's uncle. The thing looked like it came out of a quaint Dutch village). This is the pattern that this series has taken since season 19 began. I don't see a problem with it since 1) There have been plenty of seasons where the gags have overshadowed the story; and 2) Family Guy has picked up slack on the gags anyway.

Unlike the first few episodes the show was back to the format of major 'A' story and very minor 'B' story. It threw me at first, though, as the scenes where Homer didn't know Marge's eye color were what were seemingly driving the episode. But, that soon took a back seat to Milhouse, who went from being a 10-year-old baby to an unemotional tween who sees nothing but the rough edges of the world around him.

Will this be a permanent change for Milhouse? Doubtful, considering the fact that he found out that his parents were actually alive by the end of the episode. And, would I want Milhouse to grow up anyway? The young Mr. Van Houten is the perfect sidekick to Bartholomew J. Simpson as he goes along with about anything Bart says. It would be weird if Milhouse suddenly became the cool one while Bart was reduced to second banana.

Heck, it felt weird to Bart in this episode as he felt his coolness slipping away and feeding into Milhouse's James Dean mystique. For someone who has been so sure of himself year after year Bart is actually full of insecurities. There have been plenty of times where Bart has worried that the personality he built was slipping away due to another person or situation coming down the path. Think back to Milhouse's relationship with Samantha. Didn't Bart tell her parents that she and his best friend were snogging?

Wow, I did a ton of psychoanalyzing here! Let me touch on some of the other things that happened in this week's episode:

Kirk and Luann. Hm, for a couple who are so much in love (again) they seem to have some underlying issues (There I go psychoanalyzing again). Luann got a bit pissy when she thought Kirk told Milhouse to say those things about him being a pawn in their relationship. Then, Kirk's first draft of the wedding vows was particularly full of venom.

Bart's observation that Kirk and Luann could be brother and sister, or half-brother and half-sister, because they look so much alike.

Homer sticks his head into a bee-hive, runs into a patch of blueberries, then rolls himself up into the green picnic blanket to look like Marge. You know what, other than Marge's accusations that Homer was mocking him no one else thought it was all that unusual.

After nearly two decades Lisa finally sees Milhouse in a different light, just like the rest of the girls at her school.

Homer's little musical number about Marge. Just before this scene aired I was thinking that there hasn't been a good musical number on The Simpsons this season. I thought the song was cute and wish it had gone on a bit longer.

The whole feud between the Danish Van Houtens and the Dutch Van Houtens. I wonder, do all Dane males resemble Harrison Ford from the Indiana Jones movie series?

This episode was the second without a guest voice ('Treehouse of Horror' was the first one) and I found it refreshing. I'd rather watch an episode that doesn't feature a guest voice that the writers have to work in some way. Whenever they do that it seems the move the focus onto the voice actor and detract from the story itself.

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