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A Milhouse Divided

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"A Milhouse Divided"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 159
Directed by Steven Dean Moore[1]
Written by Steve Tompkins[1]
Showrunner(s) Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Production code 4F04
Original air date December 1, 1996[2]
Couch gag The family sits down, but Bart is green. Homer fiddles with the TV and Bart changes to red. Homer then returns to the couch and smacks Bart behind the head, returning him to his normal yellow color.[1]
Commentary Matt Groening
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Steve Tompkins
Steven Dean Moore
Seasons

"A Milhouse Divided" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 1, 1996.[2] In the episode, Milhouse's parents Kirk and Luann get a divorce, causing Homer to examine his own marriage. It was directed by Steven Dean Moore and is the only episode for which Steve Tompkins has sole writing credit.[1]

Plot[edit]

Marge throws a dinner party at the Simpson house. She invites the Flanders, the Lovejoys, the Hibberts, and the Van Houtens. All the guests are enjoying dinner except for the Van Houtens, who argue with each other as Milhouse plays in another room with Bart and the other children. Kirk and Luann get more quarrelsome as the party progresses and finally, despite Marge trying to divert the party away from the pair, the two get into a fight and Luann demands a divorce.

Kirk moves out of the Van Houten house and manages to keep a cheery attitude until he is fired from his job at the cracker factory. Luann quickly readjusts to single life with Milhouse and starts a new relationship with an American Gladiator. While at Moe's, Kirk mentions that he never saw the divorce coming and regrets not being more sensitive to Luann's needs. Homer cheers Kirk up by telling him that his marriage to Marge is solid, but Homer soon begins to fear that his marriage may end in divorce. Homer enlists the aid of Lisa to help him figure out how to save his marriage, but Lisa tells Homer that he is lucky to have Marge. He recalls his wedding reception, which was nothing more than Homer and Marge eating a whale cake at a roadside truck stop. Homer tries to perform selfless gestures for Marge, but they only serve to annoy her.

Deciding that Marge deserves a fresh start, Homer secretly files for a divorce. As Marge returns home later that night, Homer surprises her by hiding all their friends in the living room and declares that he wants to be remarried, this time with a perfect wedding. The two are remarried. Meanwhile, Kirk decides to try to get back together with Luann by singing her a song from his demo tape but is rejected.[2][3]

Production[edit]

"A Milhouse Divided" is the only episode for which Steve Tompkins has sole writing credit, although he had been a part of the writing staff for several years.[4] The writers wanted to do an episode that involved a couple getting divorced.[5] They had wanted to break the sitcom convention that characters who look like they will divorce get back together and have two characters remain divorced even after the episode. The Van Houtens were chosen because the writers felt that they were the most developed couple next to Marge and Homer and the Lovejoys.[6] The scene in the episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" where Milhouse is in a jet pretending to fire missiles at his parents is where they got the idea to have his parents' marriage be in trouble.[7]

Originally, the episode also focused on the divorce's effects on Milhouse and there was a subplot that involved Bart being jealous of Milhouse and wishing that Marge and Homer would also separate. Several scenes were written and animated for the episode, but ultimately they were cut because the script was very long.[6] The third act of the episode shifts the focus from the Van Houtens to Homer and Marge because the writers felt that tertiary characters could not carry an audience's interest for an entire episode.[4] Bill Oakley has said that he felt the episode would have failed had they stuck with the Van Houtens for the third act[5] and most of the other writers also felt that it was the right move.[8]

The idea for the dinner party came from Oakley, who had wanted to have a party similar to the one in "The War of the Simpsons".[5] For the second half of the episode, Luann was redesigned to look more youthful and was given a new outfit.[9] A big name singer was originally sought to sing "Can I Borrow a Feeling?" over the end credits. The writers wanted Sheryl Crow, but she declined and the concept was later dropped.[5]

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "A Milhouse Divided" finished tied for 50th in the weekly ratings for the week of November 25 – December 1, 1996, with a Nielsen rating of 8.3 and was viewed in 8 million homes. It was the fourth-highest-rated show on the Fox Network that week.[10]

Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, called it "More drama than comedy, and very honest in its dealings with the Van Houtens' divorce and its effects on Milhouse."[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "A Milhouse Divided". BBC.co.uk. Retrieved April 13, 2007. 
  2. ^ a b c "A Milhouse Divided". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. 
  4. ^ a b Tompkins, Steve (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "A Milhouse Divided" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ a b c d Oakley, Bill (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "A Milhouse Divided" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ a b Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "A Milhouse Divided" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  7. ^ Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "A Milhouse Divided" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  9. ^ Moore, Steven Dean (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "A Milhouse Divided" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  10. ^ Bauder, David (1996-12-06). "Thursday Night lineup takes day off, NBC still wins". The Florida Times-Union. p. D-2. 

External links[edit]