Archive for September, 2009

30
Sep
09

Synergy Jumps the Gun

New Comic Books

“All these new superheroes suck.  None of them can hold a candle to Radioactive Man.” – Bart Simpson

We’ve seen a pretty hefty increase in traffic around here since Season 20 finally went off the air, so I’m going to explain just what these “synergy” posts are all about.  IGN is a wholly owned subsidiary of FOX that publishes “reviews” of each new Zombie Simpsons episode, usually on the Monday after it’s broadcast.  (They published early this week because they got an advance copy from their paymasters and wanted to add whatever little they could to the promotional momentum.)  To call the reviews glowing would be an understatement, they are almost universally raves.  And when there are criticisms they are of a Smithers-esque variety, as you’ll see below.  (Example from this week: “Instead of bringing in something fresh and new, the writing partners deliver something familiar: a solid, funny, good old episode of The Simpsons.”)  I don’t begrudge the people behind these reviews their sycophancy, everybody’s gotta eat, after all.  But that doesn’t mean I have to let this synergistic propaganda pollute the internet unchallenged.  Below you will find a version of the review that has had all the FOX-IGN synergy edited out of it.

Enjoy.

September 25, 2009Advance Review: The Simpsons opens Season 21 with an episode written by the duo that brought you Superbad, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Word got out some time ago that the pair would be writing an episode of the series Zombie Simpsons, and when I first read this I was quite excited apathetic. Certainly I doubted they would be able to bring a fresh voice to the two-decade old series Zombie Simpsons. Now that their episode has arrived, does “Homer the Whopper” live up to these expectations? Not exactly Yes. Instead of bringing in something fresh and new, the writing partners deliver something familiar: a solid, funny, good old episode of The Simpsons a typically boring Zombie Simpsons episode.

“Homer the Whopper” feels like an episode from Season 18 or 10 20, which makes complete sense, as most of it was probably written by the staff. Rogen and Goldberg are self-proclaimed fans of the series, so it’s no surprise that they would take their cues from the stronger eras of the show one is made to wonder why they’d want to be involved with it now. The majority of the episode pokes some serious fun lifeless, Entourage-style “fun” at the entertainment industry at large and more specifically the film industry. But things start with a comic book referencing geek fest, because – once again – actual satire would be too much to ask. The first act, in fact, is the strongest portion of the episode and if it could be graded alone it would likely be very close to a ten is nothing more that a citation of a bunch of different comic book titles without a hint of comedy or humor.

It starts with Bart and Milhouse taunting Comic Book Guy on his home turf and discovering his secret comic book “Everyman., because Zombie Simpsons isn’t above jacking an idea from an eight year old episode of Family Guy, ignoring what it’s about, and then using it anyway. We’re taken inside the pages of “Everyman” and learn that this mild mannered citizen has the ability to absorb the powers of every superhero whose comic book he touches. Thankfully Unfortunately, the episode plays on this set up with actual superheroes and not some generic ones satirical, possibly even funny, ones created for the show. This gives the means that there are no jokes, just an added winks to fans of the genre. When Comic Book Guy learns that Bart and Milhouse really liked the comic, he decides to self-publish and the character becomes a hit. The episode really uses this situation to great comedic effect kill a lot of screen time. In place of actual comedy or humor There there are a number of comic book, sci-fi and general geek references, from jokes about superhero products (look for a blind man couldn’t miss the Hulk hands) to summer franchise blockbusters. There are attempted sight gags galore, which I don’t want to give away few of which are actually funny, so keep your eyes peeled and your TiVo remotes at the ready and fast forward as much as you like. One in particular to watch for is the The giant movie posters outside of Ginormous Studios can be easily skipped.

The success of the comic leads to a movie deal, and through an interesting a typically brainless course of events, Homer is chosen for the role of Everyman. From here, the episode falters a bit continues to meander aimlessly as the focus shifts from the geek world to Homer’s struggle to get into and stay in shape for the hero role. Writer Rogen also guest voices Homer’s Hollywood trainer. This portion of the episode is clearly inspired by Rogen’s personal experience as he has shaped up to star in the latest version of The Green Hornet, if you care, which I don’t. Unfortunately, these are the weaker moments of the episode are on par with the rest of it. This is likely due to the fact that we’ve seen Homer struggle with his weight countless times, and Rogen’s trainer, though funny much of the time, will likely never be remembered as a classic guest role is a one dimensional Hollywood in-joke that no one east of Pasadena cares about. But they They are still unable to find a few new angles with the weight jokes, so it’s not a complete loss.

“Homer the Whopper” starts incredibly strong poorly and then settles in for a familiar, painfully unfunny ride. Some Most of the ideas might are not exactly be new (certainly we’ve seen our share of comic book jokes and movie star aping in episodes like “Radioactive Man” and “Beyond Blunderdome“), but Goldberg and Rogen do add freshness a few new duds to the proceedings. This is a fun way to kick off the anniversary season, too bad it happened at all.

30
Sep
09

Spurlock Update: Music & Tired Notions

As part of his Simpsons special our old friend Morgan Spurlock has apparently been contacting different musical groups to perform the theme.  From metro.co.uk:

Oscar-nominated director Morgan Spurlock has recruited a cult UK jazz act to work on his new film – by recording the theme to The Simpsons.

Mercury Prize-nominated group Portico Quartet, currently touring village halls in Somerset, were asked to record the tune for Spurlock’s film, to mark the cartoon’s 20th anniversary.

The band, who made a living by busking after leaving college, are among a number of musicians to provide music for the film

Apparently we’re going to get a number of different versions of the theme song James L. Brooks supposedly once called the music lemmings jump off cliffs to.  I wonder if Spurlock’s been stalking YouTube for different renditions?  At any rate Portico Quartet (MySpace, Facebook) seems to have a nice sound:

It’ll be fun to hear their version.  By the way, according to the link those things that look like upside down woks and sound like steel drums are called “hangs”.

On a less encouraging note, there’s an interview with Spurlock up at nola.com (that’s New Orleans).   It’s mostly just background stuff and there isn’t anything new about the special in it, but there is this rather unfortunate passage at the end:

And don’t bother trying to convince Spurlock that “The Simpsons” has slipped much from its earlier glory-days hysterical heights – a criticism that those involved with the series have been hearing since approximately season III.

“The consistency of this show over 20 years is amazing,” Spurlock said. “People like to say, ‘Aw, it’s gone downhill.’ The worst ‘Simpsons’ episode is better than half the crap on television. That’s a fact.”

Balls.  He’s employing one of the most tired and worthless of all Zombie Simpsons defenses: it’s still better than most TV!  To which the only logical response is, so what?  Watching paint dry is better than half of what’s on television.  Oh well, hopefully the bearded guy from the Isotopes game gave him a good talking to.

Mercury Prize-nominated group Portico Quartet, currently touring village halls in Somerset, were asked to record the tune for Spurlock’s film, to mark the cartoon’s 20th anniversary.
The band, who made a living by busking after leaving college, are among a number of musicians to provide music for the film
30
Sep
09

Quote of the Day

“Lisa, what nineteenth century figure was nicknamed ‘Old Hickory?'” – Ms. Hoover
“I don’t know. You?” – Lisa Simpson
“Lisa, if you’d bothered to do the assignment, you’d know the answer is… ‘The Battle of New Orleans.’ I mean, ‘Andrew Jackson.'” – Ms. Hoover
“Well, you’re earning your eighteen grand a year.” – Lisa Simpson

29
Sep
09

Crazy Noises: Homer the Whopper

Radioactive Man1

So where can we shoot this picture?  We need a city that has a nuclear reactor and a gorge and can guarantee us the full cooperation of city officials.” – Movie Executive #2
“I’ll check Variety.” – Female Movie Executive
“Wow, look at that ad!  Alright this place must be hot, they don’t need a big ad or even correct spelling.” – Movie Executive #2
“I agree with that logic.” – Movie Executive #1

In our continuing mission to bring you only the finest in low class, low brow, and low tech internet Simpsons commentary we’re bringing back our “Crazy Noises” series and applying it to Season 21.  Because doing a podcast smacks of effort we’re still using this “chatroom” thing that all the middle schoolers and undercover cops seem to think is so cool.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “Rogen”).

Dave: I’m afraid my remarks will be brief tonightNot only did I not finish the episode

I’m on a work-related conference call right now

Charlie Sweatpants: That sucks.

Dave: Tell me about it.

Charlie Sweatpants: About the conference call, I envy you not finishing the episode.

So, what part of Homer the Whopper broke you to the point you could no longer continue?

Dave: Shortly after the scene with Comic Book Guy as Hollywood-stereotype

I gave it 10, 15 minutes and fuck all happened

Charlie Sweatpants: You may need to narrow that down.

Mad Jon: You mean the party?

Dave: Baby Prius

Yes, the party

Charlie Sweatpants: Ah.

Dave: I seem to remember something about David Bowie too

It all blurs together

Mad Jon: I had to hold back tears when the kid came into the board room. Mainly because he was exactly the same kid who wanted Bonestorm in Marge Be Not Proud.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they needed to do a weight loss montage and couldn’t decide on which cliche they wanted to employ.

Why did that bother you so much?

Mad Jon: Well, that was a pretty pivotal moment in my Simpsons saga.

Dave: I don’t think bothered is the right word, I was incredibly bored.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, that whole scene was just pointless clock killing. Literally. It was a throwaway that they ended by going to a flashback of the actual purchase of the comic book movie rights.

Dave: I’m sure there was some type of resolution to Homer’s weight problem but I just didn’t care

Mad Jon: But it was a kick in the nuts because this season opens with the same throwaway kid that was in the episode we have pretty much decided was the end of the series as we knew it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Speaking of the comic book, it was called Everyman, right? In one of the old Family Guys, when Brian is in Hollywood, he gets pissed off because another guy sold a script with a hero called John Everyman.

Mad Jon: That’s right

Dave: Whoops.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was meant as something unbelievably stupid that no production company in its right mind would ever use. And yet there’s Zombie Simpsons, running with it for 22 minutes that you’ll never get back.

Dave: That’s kind of it right there, Charlie. I wasn’t interested in wasting my time

Mad Jon: There weren’t any jokes. I can’t even think of one thing that was meant to do something other than fill time.

I can’t even put my finger on what bored me the most because it was all vanilla ice cream, only without taste, sugar, or fat.

Dave: That’s a disservice to vanilla.

Mad Jon: I know I know.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think if I added up all the 5 second “action” sequences for movie filming, comic book scenes and the like I’d get at least half an act.

Mad Jon: I also can’t believe Seth Rogen as a health nut. Every movie he is in he’s a fat pothead. I like that. I don’t like skinny Hollywood trainer. Not at all.

And the non-montage. what the hell was that?

One month later?

It was almost as bad as the stripper pole workout.

Dave: Excuse me?

Mad Jon: This was all after you turned your back in disgust

Charlie Sweatpants: As part of his training Homer spent a good 20 seconds of screen time on a stripper pole.

Dave: Dear god.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s a workout, you see.

Dave: I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was a perfect Zombie Simpsons “gag” though: Hey, I got an idea, let’s have Homer on a stripper pole! He’s never done that before!

Mad Jon: But he has been in erotic pictures…

Dave: I’m going maul you. Rawr

Charlie Sweatpants: Question.

Dave: Shoot.

Mad Jon: Shoot

Damn it too slow.

Charlie Sweatpants: Seth Rogen wrote this, according to Jon it was his lifelong dream to write one of these, has he never seen “Radioactive Man” or did he have it on loop in the background while he wrote? I feel like it’s got to be one of the two.

Mad Jon: I dunno. Technically, the AP said it was his dream, he said it was the Holy Grail of writing.

I’ve only seen one interview with Seth Rogen, and during it he said he starting smoking pot in High School, perhaps the Radioactive Man episode just slipped his mind, you know, for more than a decade.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, but this was ridiculous: comic book movie comes to Springfield, local resident chosen as star, local resident unable to complete picture, crappy editing leads to lousy movie, I could go on.

Mad Jon: Yep, pretty much the exact same plot with different characters and a disturbing lack of Mickey Rooney.

Also no Wiggum or Quimby to extort the Hollywood Execs.

Dave: Ah, the puffy director’s pants tax.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nope, just a bunch of “hey aren’t movies stupid” scenes.

Mad Jon: I wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to the article I read today about Rogen writing this, but I think I remember him mentioning the fact that this episode makes a statement about the movie industry.

Dave: Wait this episode had a point?

Charlie Sweatpants: No. But its creators might think it did.

Mad Jon: Here it is: “We wanted to comment on how Hollywood generally ruins these movies. The whole joke is Homer is cast to play a guy who’s an everyman and they try to make him into this physically fit guy,” Rogen said.

Dave: Well that’s the pot calling the kettle black.

Charlie Sweatpants: In terms of sheer, outright boringness, which was worse the imagined comic at the beginning or the movie sequences at the end?

Dave: I vote the former, only because I didn’t watch the latter.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was pretty bad.

Mad Jon: At least the beginning didn’t have the obligatory ‘Homer Crying’ scene.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but we got plenty of bipolar Homer throughout.

Mad Jon: Yep. More from Rogen: “It’s odd to see yourself looking cool when you’re someone like me,” Rogen said, laughing. “It’s just not something I’m used to.”

Charlie Sweatpants: In terms of them making him fit, I thought it was an informative contrast with “King of the Hill”. That was Season 9 so it was already on the down slope, but in that one when they made Homer fit he was still fat, he just had some muscles. In this one he had no fat left on him.

Mad Jon: I wonder what he was looking at.

Yeah he was definitely a washboard, and did they make a penis joke in that scene?

Charlie Sweatpants: They used to care a little bit about keeping things just a little bit sane, now all bets are off.

Dave: My favorite solution to Homer’s weight problem was in King-Size Homer: liposuction, via Burn’s cash pile

It was honest and true to both characters.

Mad Jon: Then they only lipoed him back to 239 and feelin’ fine

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m partial to the rice cake with all the toppings.

Only 25 calories.

Dave: As an aside, can we splatter more fake blood on our images? I’m rather partial to that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Knock yourself out.

Mad Jon: Yeah why not,

Dave: Score.

Mad Jon: I am really tired of Comic Book Guy.

Really really tired.

Charlie Sweatpants: He’s not someone you can hang a whole episode off.

Mad Jon: I am pretty sure he drops the “Worst __ ever!” line in almost every episode too

Dave: Of course. That’s how you know it’s him.

Mad Jon: That was ok a few times a season, usually as the only line he had.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, it’s become a catchphrase and if there’s one thing Zombie Simpsons knows how to do it is ride a pop culture reference into the fucking ground.

Also, was his whole review supposed to be the end of the story or something? It’s just another example of the lousy story telling, but for a plot ending decision it didn’t have much oomph.

Also, what happened to Homer?

He just sort of trailed off there at the end.

Mad Jon: “It was completely surreal. I was just in shock afterward. I felt like I had gone skydiving or survived an earthquake,” Rogen said.

This is kinda how I felt about this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was more bored, and glad the football game was starting.

Dave: Moreso than other Zombie Simpsons episodes though?

Mad Jon: Except I didn’t have a parachute and I’m allergic to earthquakes.

No, what pissed me off the most is that I still enjoy Seth Rogen’s 30 minutes of standup in each 2.5 hour movie he is in.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, I guess not more that other Zombie Simpsons in general, but Comic Book Guy’s plot almost felt like a B plot and then it was the main ending. It was just weird. Like I said, shitty story telling.

Dave: I’ve got a parachute you can borrow. Well, actually, it’s more of a dirty sheet, but y’know…

Mad Jon: And now I will never, ever be able to watch them and feel the same way.

Charlie Sweatpants: Enh, he jumped the shark for me when he raped Anna Faris.

Mad Jon: What is with the Jump the Shark reference. Everyone in my world has been saying that for weeks now..

Charlie Sweatpants: ?

Mad Jon: It’s the post election “thrown under the bus”

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s been around for almost a decade now, hasn’t it?

Mad Jon: Yeah, but I have heard it more times in the last month than in the rest of my life combined.

Charlie Sweatpants: Huh.

Well, how about this: Seth Rogen lost the handle when he raped Anna Faris.

Better?

Mad Jon: Fine whatever, I didn’t see that movie anyway.

Charlie Sweatpants: You aren’t missing much.

Mad Jon: That’s what I heard

Charlie Sweatpants: Anyway, the point I was going to make is that Rogen’s a funny guy, but nobody can make Zombie Simpsons funny.

It’s been chewed up and spit out so many times there just isn’t anything left in it.

Mad Jon: I have to wonder, he’s already rich, he’s already famous, he must know the ratings have been spiraling down for years, why get in now?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe he’s one of those people who doesn’t think the show has slipped too much.

Mad Jon: The Few, The Proud, The Zombies.

Charlie Sweatpants: Besides, I’d been avoiding the promo stuff for this one pretty much completely, I had no idea this was the Seth Rogen episode until after it was over. It wasn’t like it had an unmistakable air of “Rogen” about it.

It just meandered around for awhile and then ended.

There was one thing I thought was funny though. In Comic Book Guy’s store there was a poster for “Swatchmen”.

That’s kinda clever.

Dave: Missed that.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s it though. For 22 minutes that isn’t much of an accomplishment.

Mad Jon: I guess, that was during the part that Bart and Milhouse, the two largest customers in the store, try to piss of Comic Book Guy by asking if Spiderman was a comic before it was a movie.

Not that I care about the episode continuity, but c’mon, try and think of a way to start an episode. At least try.

Charlie Sweatpants: You know, I’d forgotten that. But you’re right, that was really dumb.

Mad Jon: “If that is your real name, which it is not, Bart Simpson.”

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s a good example of the fact that you can keep the characters from aging on screen, but you can’t keep the world from aging around them.

Mad Jon: Well as a consolation, there will probably be only one, maybe two more episodes in the next two guaranteed seasons where the plot revolves around a comic book becoming a movie.

Or of homer becoming a movie star.

Charlie Sweatpants: You never know.

Mad Jon: A man can dream.

Charlie Sweatpants: Any final thoughts here. Talking about this episode has brought up some painful memories from last night and I need to go spend some time in the angry dome.

Mad Jon: I got nothing, this episode was just fucking boring.

Charlie Sweatpants: Amen to that.

Dave?

Dave: Sounds like I didn’t miss much

Glad tuned out when I did.

Charlie Sweatpants: Smart man.

29
Sep
09

Quote of the Day

“Oh, you’re the bee’s knees baby. I missed you bad.” – Abraham Simpson
“Were you talking to me, Grampa?” – Marge Simpson
“Umm… yes?” – Abraham Simpson
“Eww…” – Marge Simpson

28
Sep
09

Poor Seth

Seth Rogan Writes Zombie Simpsons

“Your life long dream was to run out on the field during a baseball game, and you did it last year.  Remember?” – Marge Simpson

Last night I came across something in a news feed.  I had already known that Seth Rogen was the writer of last Sunday’s Zombie Simpsons, but I didn’t know that it was some sort of attempt at self-actualization.   AP Television writer Lynn Elber, stating this was a dream of Rogen’s, quotes him as saying “As a writer it always just seemed like the Holy Grail…. …I can die a happy man now.”

I hate to have to tell you this Seth, because I’ve really enjoyed your film career of being the exact same character in like 5 or 6 different movies, but that wasn’t an episode of The Simpsons.  It has been, and will continue to be, impossible to write an episode of The Simpsons, as The Simpsons basically went extinct a little more than a decade ago. What you have done, Sir, is further the cause of the Zombie Uprising.

So there you go, life-long goal still unattained and now the undead are feasting upon the brains of the living.  Don’t feel bad though, most people’s goals go unfulfilled, although we usually don’t end up raising the dead…  But anyway, if I were you Seth Rogen, I would just give up on trying to write an episode of The Simpsons, all of the other writers did.

Updated because we apparently don’t know how to spell Seth Rogen’s last name.

28
Sep
09

Zombie Simpsons Rocked by Family Guy Spinoff

Ahh, the sweet cleansing feeling of numbers.  Zombie Simpsons scored the lowest season premier in its history last night, inflicting itself upon a mere 8.21 million people.  The Cleveland Show, premiering directly afterwards, increased the ratings by more than a million people (to 9.42).  (Family Guy itself checked in at 10.17 million.)  There are at least a million Americans out there who’ve become so turned off by Zombie Simpsons that they didn’t even watch it while waiting for the latest from Seth MacFarlane.  Excellent.

For historical comparison sake, here are the last five season premiers of Zombie Simpsons:

Season 16 (Treehouse of Horror XV) – 7 Nov 04 – 11.2 Million Viewers
Season 17 (The Bonfire of the Manatees) – 11 Sep 05 – 9.6 Million Viewers
Season 18 (The Mook, the Chef, the Wife, and Her Homer) – 10 Sep 06 – 11.5 Million Viewers
Season 19 (He Loves to Fly and He D’Ohs) – 23 Sep 09 – 9.43 Million Viewers
Season 20 (Sex, Pies and Idiot Scrapes) – 28 Sep 09 – 9.43 Million Viewers

It’s not the world’s most consistent downward trend, but it’s definitely moving in the right direction.  Plus, Zombie Simpsons tends to start relatively strong in the fall and then peter out after New Year’s.  (I like to think that its crappiness wears the audience down.)  For example, last year the eight episodes broadcast before New Year’s averaged 8.66 million viewers; the twelve broadcast after New Year’s averaged only 6.17 million viewers.  So a start of only 8.21 is encouraging, to say the least.

Of course, this is all pointless.  The first time ratings are all but meaningless and we all know where the real money is made.  But it is fun and I do like to see Zombie Simpsons humiliated.

As always, all numbers from the indispensable TV by the Numbers.




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