"Pygmoelian" is the sixteenth episode of the eleventh season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 27, 2000. In the episode, after getting his face censored out on the Duff Beer calendar for not being photogenic, Moe Szyslak gets plastic surgery and becomes the star of a popular soap opera.
After being tricked into evacuating the house by Homer, who had set off the fire alarm early in the morning, the family goes to a festival sponsored by Duff Beer. While there, they see Moe Szyslak enter a "Beer-tender" competition. Moe wins the contest during the "Toss Your Drunk" challenge and gets his photo taken for a calendar, only to have it censored out with stickers. Realizing this is because of how ugly he is, Lenny and Carl suggest that Moe gets plastic surgery. He agrees, but is reluctant while there. After his surgery, Moe has a very handsome face. Vindicated, he confronts old adversaries, including the producers of a soap opera, It Never Ends, complaining that he never got the part of the character Dr. Tad Winslow because of his ugliness. Incidentally, the actor who plays Dr. Tad Winslow demands he get a raise in his salary, but is fired by the producers. Instead, they make Moe the new Dr. Tad Winslow.
Meanwhile, while Moe is acting, Bart and Lisa discover that Maggie's Duff Days elephant balloon has blown away in the wind. They go after it until it ends up in a gay Republican coalition's office, and they deem the pink elephant from the balloon as their new mascot. They then give Lisa a bumper sticker telling her to vote for "A Gay President in 2084", to which they say "we're realistic" when Lisa appears puzzled.
The soap opera goes well (with a scene of him in bed with Queen Cleopatra (a reference to the antagonist of Anne Rice's novel The Mummy), until Moe learns from top-secret future plot lines that his character will be killed off in a skydiving accident as a result from a coma (a color mixture) shortly after being forced to by Countessa. On the air, Homer and Moe reveal the future plots such as Gabriella's baby shower being invaded by terrorists, Sister Bernadette starting a softball team, and Prof. Galloway's stepsister planning to dominate International Perfume and Wine (all "with sexy results"). The producer angrily tells Moe that his character was only supposed to die in a dream - a reference to the Dream Season of Dallas -, and then she fires him. Moe retorts that "with a mug like mine, I can get a part on any soap in Springfield". However, as he walks off the set, a set piece falls on his face, turning it back to his original one. In a deus ex machina, things go back to normal, and Moe returns to his tavern, but the episode gets cut short when Moe wonders why the accident on the set of It Never Ends turned his handsome face back to his normal face instead of an entirely new one.
Production and themes
In a 2007 article, Slant critic Ed Gonzales noted that the episode "largely concerns Moe getting plastic surgery but also features Bart and Lisa chasing a pink elephant around town and straight into a meeting for gay Republicans—a seemingly arbitrary bit of nonsense that connects succinctly with the theme of identity in which a person changes their face only to realize the efficiency of their old one."
The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 27, 2000. On October 7, 2008, it was released on DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Eleventh Season. Staff members Mike Scully, George Meyer, Larry Doyle, Matt Selman, Carolyn Omine, and Mark Kirkland participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode. Deleted scenes from the episode were also included on the box set.
Reception of the episode from critics has been generally positive. Ed Gonzales of Slant called it a "great episode." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented that the episode "peaks early, as the scenes at 'Duff Days' provide the most amusement." He added that "It’s nice to see a focus on Moe for once, but the tale itself fails to really ignite. Though not a poor episode, it’s pretty flat after the opening." In 2009, writers for IGN listed a line by Moe from this episode among their top eight favorite Moe quotes. The line was "Yeah, hey, I've got a gift. As a child, I was bitten by the acting bug. Then it burrowed under my skin and laid eggs in my heart. Now those eggs are hatching and I... the feeling is indescribable." Homer responds to this by saying "I know what you mean. Our dog had that." The IGN writers commented that "We've never heard anyone describe their life's passion as a parasitic infestation, and we hope we never have to. The cherry on top of this little nugget of Moe goodness is Homer's nonchalant reaction. He's probably used to Moe's strange, gross remarks by now."
In his review of the eleventh season of The Simpsons, Den of Geek critic Mark Oakley wrote that the "cobbled-together feel to the series stops it from reaching the heights of a few years before." Oakley blamed this on lazy writing, and added that "Proof of this comes when, on more than once occasion, the scripts include get-out clauses for the ridiculous storylines being churned out." He gave "Pygmoelian" as an example, commenting: "Moe has cosmetic surgery. However, at the show’s end his more familiar face is suddenly returned to him following an accident and the fact that this happens without horrendously disfiguring him is pondered upon by Moe himself as the credits roll. Playing this card once might be funny, but after three or four times it’s just plain lazy."
- "Simpsons - Pygmoelian". Yahoo!. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- Weinman, Jamie (2009-07-07). "Republic of (Larry) Doyle, Or Boiled In Doyle". Mclean's. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- Gonzales, Ed (2007-07-27). "The Simpsons Movie". Slant. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- "The Simpsons Episode: 'Pygmoelian'". TV Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
- Jacobson, Colin (2008-11-19). "The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season (1999)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Jane, Ian (2008-11-01). "The Simpsons - The Complete Eleventh Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Schedeen, Jesse (2009-11-19). "Line-O-Rama: The Simpsons' Moe Szyslak". IGN. Retrieved 2011-10-12.
- Oakley, Mark (2008-09-28). "The Simpsons Series Eleven DVD review". Den of Geek (Dennis Publishing). Retrieved 2012-08-10.
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