After failing to come up with any new ideas for Simpsons episodes, the writers decided to call it quits and throw in the towel… then, as they gazed upon the towel they threw, suddenly became struck with inspiration and wrote a whole episode around it. At least, that’s how I imagine this rag episode came about.
I didn’t see it, but I read the Wikisimpsons article about it, which is chock full of insane plot details like “Moe is part yeti,” “Moe has a magical talking bar rag from the Middle Ages voiced by Jeremy Irons,” “Milhouse’s mom chokes on a rock and refuses the Heimlich maneuver,” and “Moe is part yeti.”
Here’s a sample of the response from people who actually did see it:
.@rubbrcatsimp Last night The Simpsons aired an episode about Moe's rag. It was the story of his rag. I am not joke. The rag could talk.
— bhlaab (@bhlaab) January 30, 2012
Hayden Childs, AV Club:
This episode, which tells the story of Moe’s dishrag, has such an unconventional premise that it might well have been a surrealist masterpiece. Instead it is the most conventional type of story possible for The Simpsons, being mainly an excuse to drop the cast into various moments of history and capping it all with a treacly message about the power of friendship and the love of dogs.
Matt Garvey, alt.tv.simpsons:
Well that was remarkable from start to finish… for being ridiculous. I enjoy a good high concept, and I appreciate the “unlikely tale of an object” angle… but this episode just didn’t know what to do with itself. […] But the real problem is that it just wasn’t all that funny (or touching) – full of obvious gags, you know? It could have been a lot better without much effort.
No, no, The Simpsons isn't out of ideas; they've always wanted to do an episode about a rag but never had the chance.
— Joe Schmitt (@joeschmitt) January 30, 2012
Charlie Sweatpants, Dead Homer Society:
This episode is such a patchwork of unrelated elements that it’s difficult to discern a structure or theme. Oh sure, there’s the rag, but the rag seems to move between kinda, sorta real history like Michelangelo and Vikings to fanciful tales like One Thousand and One Nights[…] Things made just as little sense back in Springfield, particularly when you remember that Milhouse produced Drederick Tatum from nowhere to punch Bart in the arm. I know things don’t tend to make sense these days, but this did seem like an especially “Fuck you, audience” effort on their part.
FUN GAME: Take any statement regarding Terri Schiavo and substitute any instance of her name with “The Simpsons”
— whisman (@robwhisman) February 2, 2012
Jonah Flynn (former webmaster of The Springfield Shopper), nerdgroupies that sums up the whole thing:
the next time you watch lisa saying goodbye to mr. bergstrom on the subway platform, or homer gazing at the stars reflecting on his life without a mother, remember that at those very moments horse jockey gnomes and sentient medieval bar rags were plotting their revenge on springfield
That really puts salt in the wound, doesn’t it?