"Flaming Moe's" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' third season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 21, 1991. In the episode, Homer tells Moe Szyslak of a secret alcoholic cocktail that includes cough medicine and fire that he calls "Flaming Homer". Moe steals the recipe from Homer, renames the drink the "Flaming Moe" and begins selling it at his tavern. The drink is a success and boosts business and patronage, but Homer is angry at Moe for his betrayal, and seeks revenge.
The episode was written by Robert Cohen and directed by Rich Moore, with assistance from Alan Smart. "Flaming Moe's" was the first episode of the show to feature Moe in a prominent role. The main plot of the episode in which Moe's Tavern becomes famous because of a drink is loosely based on the Los Angeles establishment Coconut Teaszer. The episode also parodies the television series Cheers, including the theme song "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", and a character named Collette is modeled after Shelley Long's character Diane Chambers. Catherine O'Hara originally recorded dialogue for the part of Colette, but the writers felt her voice did not fit the role and instead used a track recorded by regular Jo Ann Harris.
American rock band Aerosmith (Steven Tyler, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford) appears in the episode. They were the first band to make a guest appearance on the show. Their dialogue was recorded in Boston with Hank Azaria, the voice of Moe, who flew over to record his part with them and help them with their lines.
The episode has been well received by critics and has been included in best Simpsons episode lists by IGN, Entertainment Weekly, AskMen.com and AOL. In its original airing during the November sweeps period, the episode had a 14.4 Nielsen rating and finished the week ranked 29th.
After Bart and Lisa's slumber party fighting drives him to distraction at home one night, Homer visits Moe's Tavern, where he finds Moe is struggling financially as fewer people are drinking in bars nowadays and he ran out of Duff Beer after neglecting to pay his distributor. Homer tells him about a drink recipe that he accidentally invented one night, called the "Flaming Homer". He explains that after Patty and Selma made the Simpson family watch slides from their latest vacation, he was unable to find a beer. He decided to mix together drops of liquor from near-empty bottles and accidentally included a bottle of Krusty Brand non-narcotic cough syrup. When Patty dropped cigarette ash in the drink and set it on fire, Homer discovered that fire greatly enhanced the taste of the drink.
Moe tries making Homer's drink, and gives it to a customer, who loves it. When the customer asks what the drink is called, Homer starts to respond, but Moe butts in and calls it a "Flaming Moe". Word of mouth spreads, and Moe sees his business boom because of the drink. To help out with the extra customers, he hires a waitress named Colette. Moe's Tavern, renamed "Flaming Moe's", soon becomes one of the trendiest nightspots in Springfield and Aerosmith's new hangout. Homer becomes angry with Moe and vows never to return to the tavern. He subsequently becomes obsessed with Moe and his betrayal, even having a hallucination where he sees Moe's face everywhere.
A restaurant chain becomes interested in purchasing the recipe for the drink, of which they have managed to identify all but the secret ingredient (cough syrup). A representative offers Moe $1,000,000, but he refuses. Colette quickly discovers that Moe stole the recipe from Homer and not only makes him promise to sell the drink, but also apologize to Homer and give half of the money to him in compensation. Later, as Moe is about to accept the deal — and share half of the money with Homer — Homer, unhinged by resentment, arrives at the tavern. He gets his revenge on Moe by revealing to everyone in the bar that the secret ingredient is "nothing but plain, ordinary, over the-counter children's cough syrup!" The representative quickly retracts the offer and leaves.
Within one week, nearly all restaurants in Springfield are serving "Flaming Moes", and Moe's business has gone back to the way it was before. Homer stops in, and he and Moe reconcile. Moe gives Homer a "Flaming Homer" free of charge.
Al Jean said that the opening two minutes of the episode were inspired by his own childhood where "My sister would have sleepover parties and her friends would always try to kiss me and stuff."
The main plot of the episode, in which Moe's Tavern becomes famous because of a drink, is loosely based on the Los Angeles establishment Coconut Teaszer. According to IGN, "Flaming Moe's" was "one of the first [episodes] to really give Moe the spotlight." There was originally a joke in the episode in which a gay couple walked into "Flaming Moe's", assuming that it was a gay bar because of the name. Matt Groening feels that it was a good thing the joke was cut because he did not feel the writers should bring attention to the name.
Catherine O'Hara originally agreed to provide the voice of Collette the waitress, and went into the studio and recorded her part for the character. According to Mike Reiss, "Something about her did not animate correctly. The voice did not work for our purposes." Jo Ann Harris, a regular voice actor in the show, had recorded a temporary track using an impression of Shelley Long's character Diane Chambers from Cheers. The producers thought it fit the role better and used it instead of O'Hara, although O'Hara is still credited at the end of the episode. Sam Simon had previously written for Cheers, and contributed much of Collette's dialogue, as he was familiar with writing dialogue for Diane. Originally, there was more to the subplot featuring Moe and Colette, but it was cut because the writers felt it did not work. The third act opens with a parody of "Where Everybody Knows Your Name", the theme song from Cheers. The parody was written by Jeff Martin, and the sequence was designed by future Simpsons director Nancy Kruse.
American rock band Aerosmith were the first band to make a guest appearance on the show. The writers had heard that the band had wanted to appear in an episode, so they wrote the guest spot for them. According to Al Jean, they later found out that part of the reason why Aerosmith agreed to appear was the drink being called the "Flaming Moe". The band was recorded in Boston, and Hank Azaria, the voice of Moe, flew over to record his part with them and help them with their lines. In the original script, Moe tempted the band to play by offering them free beer, but the band members asked that the joke be changed. The writers changed the line to "free pickled eggs." The band is shown sitting at a table with a bearded man, who is modeled after their A&R man John Kalodner. One of the stipulations from the band was to include him in the episode. Kalodner also received a "special thanks to" credit at the end of the episode. Aerosmith's song "Young Lust" from the album Pump plays over the end credits. According to Al Jean, the band recorded a special shortened version of the song just for the episode.
The episode was directed by Rich Moore and Alan Smart. Moore's daughter was born during the production of the episode, and he missed several weeks of layout, which Smart oversaw. When Sam Simon was asked if the premise of the episode was inspired by the tumultuous relationship between himself and Matt Groening, Simon acknowledged, "That may be true."
The basic premise of the episode is similar to the film Cocktail. Several references are made to the sitcom Cheers. Collette the waitress is a parody of Cheers character Diane Chambers, and the "theme sequence" for Flaming Moe's, is a direct parody of the famous Cheers theme. Barney Gumble is given a Norm Peterson entrance. Aerosmith sings "Walk This Way" in Moe's Tavern and "Young Lust" during the closing credits. When Homer reveals the secret of the "Flaming Moe", the scene has many parallels to The Phantom of the Opera including Homer standing high up in the roof, covering half of his face. The scene in which Professor Frink analyzes a "Flaming Moe" is an homage to The Nutty Professor. The scene where Bart runs away from Lisa and her friends makes reference to the Alfred Hitchcock film North by Northwest. Lionel Hutz says that a drink can not be copyrighted, citing the "Frank Wallbanger case of '78". This refers to the Harvey Wallbanger cocktail. Near the end of the episode, several bars with names similar to "Flaming Moe's" can be seen. This parodies Ray's Pizza in New York City where dozens of individual establishments have similar names.
In its original airing on the Fox Network during November sweeps, the episode had a 14.4 Nielsen rating and was viewed in approximately 13.26 million homes. It finished the week ranked 29th, up from the season's average rank of 32nd. It finished second in its timeslot behind The Cosby Show, which finished 17th with a 15.9 rating. It was the highest rated show on Fox that week.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "Possibly the best Simpsons episode, with a constant stream of gags, inspired animation (in particular the sequence when Homer begins to see and hear Moe everywhere, from Maggie's gurgles to the leaves on the trees), and a superb plot that twists about in every direction but the one you might expect." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote "From Lisa’s slumber party at the opening through the Cheers spoof at Moe’s, this episode’s another real winner. Homer gets some of his all-time best lines, including a great run where he mocks Marge’s attempts to have him accept his fate. We even find a great twist on Bart’s prank phone calls when he asks for “Hugh Jass”. All in all, “Flaming” provides a terrific show." Nate Meyers of Digitally Obsessed gave the episode 5/5, calling it "another great chapter in the history of The Simpsons, with tons of laughs throughout." Todd VanDerWerff of Slant Magazine called it "a very funny episode" and highlighted the plot's focus on Moe as "an example of the show gradually expanding its supporting townspeople into characters in their own right," as "Moe was just an angry bartender before this episode. After this one, he's the sad man who sometimes tastes success but always lets it slip away because of his inability to do the right thing until it's too late." VanDerWerff also interpreted the episode as a metaphor for Simon's relationship with fellow The Simpsons' developers Groening and James L. Brooks and Simon's belief that he was not receiving enough credit for The Simpsons.
In 2006, IGN named "Flaming Moe's" the best episode of the third season. They wrote, "This episode has tons of standout moments, from the appearance by Aerosmith (the first time a musical act of that caliber appeared as themselves on the series); a funny payoff for all of Bart's prank calls to Moe's, when a man named Hugh Jass actually does turn out to be a customer; a deftly done Cheers parody at the height of Moe's success; and Homer turning into a Phantom of the Opera type lunatic." In Entertainment Weekly's 2003 list of the top 25 The Simpsons episodes ever, it was placed sixteenth. In 2003, Rich Weir of AskMen.com placed the episode in second on his list of his ten favorite episodes of the show. He wrote, "As one of the early episodes that helped solidify the show's sharp wit and satirical ability, "Flaming Moe's" has everything a classic Simpsons episode should have: gut-busting humor, nifty parody, and some superstar cameos to seal the deal. [...] highlights include a performance by Aerosmith (in a guest-starring role), Bart actually apologizing to Moe for one of his infamous prank calls, and a memorable spoof of Cheers' theme song." In 2003, executive producer Al Jean listed the episode as one of his favorites. Niel Harvey of The Roanoke Times called "Flaming Moe's" a "classic bit of Simpsonia." AOL placed the episode sixth on their list of the top 25 Simpsons episodes. In 2006, the members of Aerosmith were collectively named the 24th best Simpsons guest stars by IGN.
The song "Flaming Moe's", which parodies "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" from Cheers, was well received. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly named the song the "Best Theme Song Parody" of 1991. It was later included in the 1997 album Songs in the Key of Springfield, a compilation of songs from the first seven seasons of the show.
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