“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.
September 25, 2009 – Advance 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.