Archive for February, 2010

28
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge3

“I don’t believe this.  ‘I will never watch your show, buy any of your products, or brake if I see you crossing the street.’  Wow that’s cold.  ‘Dear sleaze merchant’, aw come on, that hurts. . . . Gentlemen, the screwballs have spoken.” – Roger Meyers Jr.

Happy Birthday to Alex Rocco! 

(Note: He’s a Feb 29th guy, so no actual birthday for him until 2012.  But birthday wishes nonetheless.) 

27
Feb
10

These Are Not YouTube Clips, The Story Matters

Our friend Stephen Frizzle, he of the blog post from last weekend that pointed out how much longer and thinner the jokes are in Zombie Simpsons, has written an excellent post exposing the shoddy “stories” that Zombie Simpsons pretends are plots.  To make his point he does something simple and revelatory, he simply counts how long it takes episodes to get to their main plots.  In the early seasons it’s a couple of minutes, by Season 16 it’s half the episode. 

He also brings up a few of the early episodes to point out how even when the main plot didn’t get started right away that it was still leading into it.  Specifically he cites “Whacking Day” where the first act is Bart getting kicked out of school.  The thing with “Whacking Day” is that the title actually refers to the B-plot.  Whacking Day itself, and Homer’s participation in it, are a secondary plot that ties in with the main one: Bart getting kicked out of and then readmitted to Springfield Elementary. 

Compare that to that awful “Thursday’s With Abie” plot where the entire first act is them going to Sea World where Grandpa happens to meet the Scooby Doo Villain.  But Grandpa could’ve met him anywhere: a park, a train station, at the retirement home.  It wouldn’t have mattered because their meeting had nothing to do with the setting in which it occurred.  In “Whacking Day” Bart getting expelled in the first act sets up the rest of the episode, in “Thursday’s With Abie” Grandpa meeting the Scooby Doo Villain is the only part of the first act that matters to the rest and it takes, what, ten seconds?  Everything else is filler. 

Or compare the conclusion of “Whacking Day” to last week’s dreadful “The Color Yellow”.  “Whacking Day” ends with Skinner and Willie racing to Springfield Elementary to get Jimbo and company out of the basement.  By that time even the audience has forgotten all about them down there, but the show took the time to wrap it all up and it did so hilariously.  “The Color Yellow” had 1860-Marge abandon her child and simply ignored 1860-Lisa and hoped no one would notice. 

But wait, there’s more!  In the second half of his post Frizzle conducts an experiment on No Homers that all Zombie Simpson defenders should have to read.  He started a thread where each poster had to describe a Simpsons episode with five words.  They began with “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” and went from there:

I started off with “1. Christmas. Simpsons get a dog”.

People followed with “27. Principal Skinner Dates Patty Bouvier”, “55. Country singer falls for Homer”, “117. Bart unintentionally discovers a comet” and “175. Marge Becomes The Listen Lady” to name but a few. It’s proof though; the best episodes can be described in one sentence.

Things started to get a bit difficult after Season 10, though. 311. Homer thinks Marge hates him”, “348. Homer Buys a Mobile Home” (surely that’s Call of the Simpsons?), and “355. Homer gets a new neighbour” (Not George Bush?) are just three out of a number of unworthy attempts.

Exactly.  So many Zombie Simpsons episodes either have a repeated story or have no story whatsoever that they just blur together into an indistinct lump.  Read the whole thing

27
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

Team Homer2

“Well, I’ve got to hand it to you Seymour.  These drab student coverings have created the perfect distraction free environment, thus preparing the children for permanent positions in tomorrow’s mills and processing facilities.” – Superintendent Chalmers

26
Feb
10

Reading Digest: High Horse Edition

I laugh at you pitiful, low-life commoners

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user FaceMePLS.

“Get to work!  I want to see my face in that horse’s ass!” – Cadet Leader

I tend to think of myself as a pretty cheerful guy.  It’s certainly possible that I’m actually a bitter, resentful individual, though I genuinely don’t think so.  However, this week’s links lend some credence to the bitter/resentful argument.  This week I make fun of not one, but two Zombie Simpsons writers, look down my nose at Lost, strenuously object to a passing mention of Simpsons on a blog I linked to last Sunday, and publicly shame someone for plagiarizing.  On the happier side of the ledger we’ve got some excellent usage, several short and enjoyable video clips, and a great fan art link.  So it’s not all me being a sourpuss. 

Enjoy. 

Pilot season: First look at ABC’s 2010 comedy pilots – Remember Dana Gould, the bitter Zombie Simpsons writer who couldn’t form a coherent sentence?  He wrote a pilot, and if he’s really lucky it might get canceled after a few episodes next season:

"The Simpsons" scribe Dana Gould has written an untitled multi-camera comedy he will star in. He plays a high school guidance counselor and father of two who is caught between his conservative upbringing and his progressive wife’s ideals. One plus: Brian Dennehy plays his father.

Obviously I object to him being called a Simpsons “scribe” when he never wrote a damn thing before Season 12, but the more interesting thing here is the utter banality of the premise.  Ohhh, a high school guidance counselor with a liberal wife and a right wing dad, it’s Political Mismatch Comedy #644!  And think of how topical they can be!  I hope it has all the wit and sparkle of Murphy Brown

Retro Review: War of the Simpsons – Someone else is reviewing old Simpsons episodes too.  It’s an epidemic! 

First Time. – Sigh.  This seems to happen every few months; I come across some new blog that’s talking about a Simpsons episode or something similar and just by reading it I can tell: it’s been plagiarized from Wikipedia.  I hate doing this because I’m 100% in favor of people going on line to express themselves and all that technovangelist jazz, yet I can’t very well let plagiarizing Wikipedia slide, can I? 

In this case we have a new blog called “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Sam”.  Here’s the earnest introductory post that makes the second post all the sadder:

Hi Blogosphere.

My name is XXXXXXXXXX and this is a blog for philosophy Units 1 & 2

My main goal is to post about “Metaphysics regarding Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”

(If you want to see the name you can just click over to the site.  I’ve left it out here in case s/he either deletes this blog or, hopefully, elects to see the error of his/her ways and continue without plagiarizing Wikipedia.  In either case I don’t want our archives shaming him/her for Google to see forever.) 

Here’s the opening of the second post:

I was first introduced to “Eternal Sunshine” via The Simpsons parody, “Eternal Moonshine Of The Simpson Mind”

I found the episode to be thoroughly entertaining, despite it’s deviation from normal Simpson protocol.

The plot (of the episode) is as follows:

From there on out it’s virtually word for word from the Wikipedia article about that Zombie Simpsons episode.  There’s no link, no indication that it’s anything other than the author’s work.  Wikipedia:

During winter, Homer wakes up in a pile of snow and does not remember the events of the previous day, commenting that he must have drunk heavily the night before. Homer goes home and finds his family absent. Santa’s Little Helper attacks him. Homer travels to Moe’s, where Moe informs him that he was there the previous night and wanted to forget an unpleasant memory.

Blog post:

During winter, Homer wakes up in a pile of snow and does not remember the events of the previous day, commenting that he must have drunk heavily the night before. Homer goes home and finds his family absent. Santa’s Little Helper attacks him. Homer travels to Moe’s, where Moe informs him that he was there the previous night and wanted to forget an unpleasant memory.

In the next sentence Wikipedia describes the various alcohols that are in the shot (Jager, gin, Absolut) while the blog omits them, which makes me think this was written either by a high school student or by someone at a Jebus college that frowns on booze.  In any case the copy and paste goes on from there for four paragraphs.  Where something does get left out it’s glaringly ham handed.  Wikipedia:

When Moe offers the Forget-Me-Shot (Which Moe spat in), Homer predicts exactly what is going to happen

Blog post:

Moe then offers Homer the Forget-Me-Shot.   Homer predicts exactly what is going to happen

Notice the extra spaces where “(Which Moe spat in)” has been cut out.  This is plagiarism. 

And if you’re reading this, author of this post, please don’t get discouraged.  You fucked up, it happens.  Keep going (it’s not a bad project idea), just don’t do this again. 

ART – Misc Stuff – On a vastly more pleasant topic, here’s some really cool fan art.  You’re going to have to click your mouse twice to see what I’m linking here (and I know that’s a lot to ask), but it’s worth it.  First you’ve got to click the link, then you’ll see two images, click the one on the right (it’s in color).  There’re fan made drawings of Homer & Marge, the kids, Burns & Smithers, Lenny & Carl and Sideshow Bob and they’re really well done.  (There’s also some Futurama stuff.)

LOST Provides a Catchphrase to Replace “A Wizard Did It” – This is patently absurd.  There was another plot twist on Lost recently and somebody thinks that it will replace “A wizard did it” as the catchall for lazy storytelling.  I think not.  Lost has more plot twists than it does characters, in a year nobody’s going to remember this one. 

LOST SEASON 6, EPISODE 5 RECAP: Clairey Monsters – This says it contains spoilers if you give a shit about Lost, but I think I can quote the Simpsons part without spoiling anything:

Jacob instructs him to write a novel’s worth of instructions on his arm — I couldn’t think of how to shoehorn-in the Simpsons joke “I am tired of these jokes about my giant hand. The first such incident occurred in 1956 when…” so I just wrote this sentence

That’s perfectly quoted, excellent usage. 

Bart Simpson Monkey – Bali – A real life tale of a monkey trying to eat someone’s shorts. 

Wallflower Words: Koan (n.) – Want to explain an obscure word?  Let The Simpsons do it for you.  The quote is very slightly off but this is still powerfully excellent usage. 

The Simpsons: Accident In Class – This is just a Hulu clip of Homer’s encounter with the proton accelerator in “Homer Goes to College”. 

Cheaters Everywhere – This is a list of people who cheated on their spouse and/or girl/boyfriend on television or in movies.  There’s a Simpsons part that is further proof that Zombie Simpsons sucks ass:

Homer and Marge have had some ups and downs in their relationship.  Some mentions of cheating are fun, like Homer taking a ham (dressed up like a woman) to a hotel room to eat it.  He was on a diet.  Don’t judge.  But others, like Marge being wooed by someone who definitely looks better on paper than Homer or Apu cheating on his wife and getting kicked out of the house, are too much to bear.  Read the episode summaries before watching.  If there are any doubts, catch the episode by yourself on Hulu.

Marge being “wooed” in this case doesn’t sound like Jacques, I’ve never heard of the ham thing, and there was an episode where Apu got thrown out of the house?  Glad I haven’t seen that one. 

Beloved Mosi Tatupu left indelible imprint – Mosi Tatupu was an NFL player who died this week.  He also had a very quick mention in “Treehouse of Horror III” and at least one obituary noted it. 

Best of The Simpsons Season Four Quotes – A bunch of quotes from Season 4. 

Recapturing Greatness – This is from the same No Pun Intended blog that’s reviewing the occasional Simpsons classic.  In this post (by a different guy than the one who writes the Simpsons reviews) we learn that Will Arnett (a/k/a Gob Bluth) may star in a pilot for FOX produced by some other Arrested Development alums.  His character is “a right Beverly Hills jackass”.  Sounds good, right? 

The point of the post is that it’s hard to, as the title says, recapture greatness and that we might not want to get our hopes up.  This was all well and good until I got near the end.  In discussing how in different contexts people go from fantastically funny to utterly boring he drops this piece of dumb:

The writers of the early episodes of The Simpsons are often the same as the writers of the later episodes of The Simpsons.

Other than Al Jean (and to a lesser extent Mike Reiss) when was the last time you recall seeing someone from the good years with their name on the credits?  The epically prolific John Swartzwelder slowed way, way down before he finally called it quits, Jon Vitti stopped in 1995 and only worked on the bad seasons a handful of times, Bill Oakley, Jay Kogen, David M. Stern, Greg Daniels, David S/X. Cohen all left either before things went to hell or as they were going to hell, never to return.  I could go on; I could also list the numerous current writers that have no credits from the early years (paging Dana Gould), but I think I’ve proved my point.  So no, the writers of Zombie Simpsons are not “often the same” as from The Simpsons

On the (H1) wagon – No discussion of the demise of the Hummer is complete without The Simpsons and the Canyonero. 

Why Not Professor Frink… – It’s a defense of nerdiness as it relates to image projection.  But forget all that because there’s YouTube of Frink teaching kindergarten in “The PTA Disbands”!

“Hello My Name Is Mr Snrub…” – More YouTube!  (Also, this blog is called “All My Friends are Dead Because I Shot Them”.  Cool.) 

Nuclear association learns from Homer – Joel H. Cohen (first listed credit: Season 13) gave a talk to a bunch of nuclear industry people in Canada.  According to the story he was very funny and charming.  However, he also apparently did this:

He [Cohen] had real advice for the audience, like the lesson learned from the episode in which Homer gets so fat he goes on disability leave from the nuclear plant and, presumably, sits around the house being miserable — a prospect that didn’t thrill the writing team. "Then somebody says, ‘what if he loves it? What if he enjoys being fat and is loving every minute of it?’ And you could feel the energy spread across the room, because that is a much more creative, much more fun, more exciting way to go."

Shenanigans!  I call Shenanigans!  That episode is from Season 7, Cohen didn’t start working on the show until six years later.  This is second hand information, so there are some plausible explanations (maybe he was an intern during Season 7, maybe he was relating a story someone else told him), but as the story is written he’s presenting it like he was there. 

(Note: Some of the text at that link repeats, but I think the whole story is there.)

20 Years of The Simpsons – This guy was laughing at a top ten episode list we’ve mentioned before.  It’s a very good list because it has nothing past Season 7.  Though he gets confused in places (Homer’s fat guy dress is from a different episode than the the subliminal weight loss tapes) he outrights praises the show without ever once mentioning Zombie Simpsons or citing any Zombie Simpson episodes.  Well done.

26
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

“Do you have ‘Go, Dog, Go’?” – Ralph Wiggum
(scoffs) “That’s in juvenile.  This is young adult.” – Boy in Library

“Well-read and just a little wild.  Oh, if only someone could tame him.” – Lisa Simpson

25
Feb
10

Bart Bucks

Lisa's Pony6

This afternoon boing boing had a link to a page with a bunch of drawings people have done on currency.  There’s George Washington with an iPod, Andrew Jackson as King Leonidas, and Queen Elizabeth as the Wicked Witch of the West.  There’s also el Barto:

El Barto by ChukD

Clicking on the source link at that page took me to Flickr user ChukD.  He’s got quite a few of these including an actual Bart Buck:

Bart Buck by ChukD

He’s got a bunch on there, with characters from Goofy to Batman to Dr. Zoidberg.  Check it out. 

25
Feb
10

Crazy Noises: The Color Yellow

Lisa's Sax1

“Oh, I know this story.  The year is nineteen-aught-six, the President is the divine Miss Sarah Bernhardt, and all over America people were doing a dance called the Funky Grandpa!” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

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 (surprisingly enough not on “Eudora Welty”).

This episode has a ton of problems when considered just on its own.  There was the dropping of its main character, the bizarre backstory that eliminated a guy who looks like Homer from the family tree, a thirty second chase scene that is also dropped, numerous interruptions for pointless clock killing, and all that exposition.  But if you take a second to think about it in the larger context of the show the ending gets even stupider and more out of place.  “The Color Yellow” ends with Grandpa telling a story that, contrary to almost every other story he’s ever told, turns out to be true and make sense – and then the family believes him.  And this woeful excuse for a conclusion came all of four episodes after “Thursdays with Abie,” an episode completely predicated on the idea that Abe’s stories are nonsense.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get started? I’ve got a date with Eudora Welty.

Mad Jon: Nice

Dave: Yep let’s go

I’m reliving the nightmare as we chat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, thoughts on the Magical Slavery Tour?

Dave: Bland, bland, bland.

Mad Jon: That was pretty boring. It wasn’t as bad as last week’s travesty but still bad.

And very boring. I really don’t like the history episodes.

Dave: Charlie and I sat in silence for virtually all of it. It’s like we were being punished.

Mad Jon: That makes three of us.

Charlie Sweatpants: If I had been really caught up in the characters or what they were doing I might not have been bored, but I didn’t care and so I was.

Dave: I don’t think there was a chance of that ever happening.

Mad Jon: I chuckled at the joke about Homer making less than his white co-workers, but that was because I was surprised he still had a job in this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ah, but that was followed up by him chugging a bottle of wine because even after all that exposition they were still five seconds short.

Mad Jon: Did you notice the chugging sound continued as the credits rolled?

Charlie Sweatpants: No.

Dave: Nope.

Mad Jon: And I wasn’t defending it, I just tend to chuckle at slightly racist humor.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem I have with that whole we’re 1/64th black thing is that it seems like that was the original premise of this and everything else was them working backwards to try and justify it.

How do we get them to have a black ancestor?

I know, 1860-Marge saves a slave!

Great! Does anyone know how to get us there? (crickets)

Mad Jon: That doesn’t surprise me

Charlie Sweatpants: But even the whole 1860-Lisa thing was thin, they had to keep padding it with things like the putting the book in the vent, the endless waltz scene, and the fact that every time someone did something they said they were going to do it three times beforehand.

Dave: You forgot about the library bit, but point well taken

Charlie Sweatpants: Were there two or three library bits? They kind of blur together.

Dave: They’re indistinct, certainly

I didn’t bother to keep count

Charlie Sweatpants: Lisa looking at the card catalog in “Lisa the Greek” had more jokes than all of them (however many there were) put together, of that much I’m certain.

Mad Jon: She used a laptop to give the presentation, but asks the librarian for info on her family.

Charlie Sweatpants: The laptop bit was amongst the worst, I’ve seen plenty of bland Power Point presentations in my life, why did I have to see that one?

Mad Jon: I gave one of those today.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shame on you.

Dave: Congratulations?

Mad Jon: Whatever keeps those paychecks rolling in.

Dave: I have no room to point fingers, actually.

Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the topic of wasted humor opportunities, why was Homer playing cards with Patty and Selma? And on top of that, why did one of them throw a card for him to choke on? Are you telling me that they couldn’t think of a single thing for Selma to say to Homer that was funnier than him choking on a playing card?

Mad Jon: And why was only one of them smoking?

That never happens.

Dave: Selma has a kid?

Charlie, they couldn’t. There, I said it.

Mad Jon: Still?

Dave: I don’t think the kid has been seen lately, but yeah

Charlie Sweatpants: Whether or not she has a kid, she should still be able to insult Homer.

Mad Jon: And smoke.

Dave: Of course.

I wasn’t defending her inaction, just tossing out a possibility

Charlie Sweatpants: Sadly Dave I think you’re right, they couldn’t think of a single insult that was better than the card choking. If it weren’t for this episode’s other multitude of problems that would be a damning indictment.

Mad Jon: Did Grandpa’s voice seem different to you guys?

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t notice anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Dave: I’m listening to it now, I can’t pick up anything noticeably different

Mad Jon: I thought it did. I sounded like someone was doing an impression of Grandpa.

Charlie Sweatpants: Was there anything specific Jon?

Mad Jon: There was one scene in particular, but I am not planning on going back to look for it right now.

Charlie Sweatpants: We’ll just assume you’re right then. I mean, the number of voices that sound off can only go up.

Dave: Ageing is a bitch.

Also, the Flint, MI joke wasn’t as good as the one in “Bart Gets A Job”

Charlie Sweatpants: Not even close.

Mad Jon: Thirded

Charlie Sweatpants: On an even more trivial note, did anyone notice 1860-Lisa’s costume when she went to meet Virgil in the barn? (Let’s not talk about that time killing owl.)

Dave: What was up with the costume?

Charlie Sweatpants: 1860-Lisa snuck away from the ball, and then in the next scene, separated only by about a half second dissolve, she’s wearing a red riding hood cloak.

I know there have been animation goofs going back to forever, but these should’ve been right next to each other on the storyboard. There was nothing else going on, no other characters in the scene, and one shot immediately followed the other. It just reeks of laziness.

Mad Jon: Once again, I am not surprised by this revelation.

Dave: The writers were probably doing blow.

Charlie Sweatpants: I almost blocked it out since it was followed by that useless chase scene that, much like 1860-Lisa, had no ending and was simply dropped once it was inconvenient.

Mad Jon: Also, the only Burns Ancestry I will recognize is his grandfather who owned the atom smashing plant.

Bah, flimshaw

Charlie Sweatpants: Was that the same guy with the limo in “Rosebud”? I always kinda figured it was.

“Twisted loveless billionaire”, oh how I miss the real Burns.

Mad Jon: Works for me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else we need to discuss here?

Mad Jon: Not in regards to this episode, no.

Dave: No sir.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good, because Eudora’s waiting. Maybe I can convince her to stay in and watch “Rosebud”.

25
Feb
10

Bonus Quote of the Day

The Telltale Head4“The ventriloquist goes to heaven, but the dummy doesn’t.” – Sunday School Teacher
“Oh oh oh, me!” – Bart Simpson
“Bart.” – Sunday School Teacher
“What about a robot with a human brain?” – Bart Simpson
“I don’t know!  All these questions, is a little blind faith too much to ask?” – Sunday School Teacher

Happy 20th Anniversary to “The Telltale Head”! 

25
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer4

“Ohh, look at that adorable spice rack!  Eight spices?  Some must be doubles, Or-ah-gah-no?  What the hell?” – Marge Simpson

24
Feb
10

Crowd-Sourcing eBay Merchandise

Grandpa Wanted Poster Yesterday I came across a wanted poster for Grandpa Simpson for sale on eBay.  As is my custom when I find eBay Simpsons stuff that doesn’t totally suck I linked to it on our pathetic Twitter feed.  I thought most of the text was too small to read (image at right), but then Ryan W. Mead (sometime commenter, Twitter follower, and all around good guy) came through in a series of tweets with the text.  He has better eyes than I do, a better monitor than I do, or both.  Bravo.  Full text is below (it’s pretty amusing):

Abraham Simpson

Height: 5’8 (believes himself to be 6’2).

Age: Unknown (to him).

Weight: 175 (believes himself to weigh 180).

Occupation: burden, annoyance (believes himself to be valuable member of society).

Possible whereabouts: the retirement home, the 1940s.

Possible Accomplices: Jasper.

Possible imaginary accomplices: General Patton, Billy the Kid, Mae West, Jasper’s beard.

Possible motives:  1. May have confused Mr. Burns with a German solider, may have confused his own gun with a surrender flag.

2. Anger at Mr. Burns for causing old age home to collapse, destroying friend’s girly magazines.

3. Angry confusion.

4. Anger at being the butt of cruel and unfair jokes just because of his advanced age.

5. Just because he’s a stupid old fool.

WARNING: Suspect may believe that he is armed and dangerous.

Thanks Ryan! 

(Incidentally, the same seller has some similar items, including a black and white Simpsons Halloween drawing, an old image from Disney’s Pinocchio, and wanted posters for Krusty, Willie, Lisa and Smithers.  $10.00 per may be a bit much, no bids yet.) 

24
Feb
10

Synergy Wasn’t All That

Brush with Greatness3

“Alright family, I want the truth.  Don’t pull any punches.  Am I just a little bit overweight? . . . Well, am I?” – Homer Simpson
“Forgive us Dad, but it takes time to properly sugarcoat a response.” – Lisa Simpson

This was one of those rare weeks where the Zombie Simpsons episode was so bereft of humor, or even just attempts at humor, that even wholly owned News Corporation subsidiary IGN couldn’t gin up too much praise.  It concludes by saying:

“The Color Yellow” just wasn’t all that worth it.”

Of course the numerical score is still a 6.4, but that’s because IGN sucks at math.  Speaking of “wasn’t all that”, it’s IGN’s Faint Praise Phrase of the Week.  Instead of just coming out and saying that it wasn’t funny IGN used a lot of wobbly kneed qualifiers of which “wasn’t all that” was the favorite.  Fortunately, all you’ve got to do is drop the “all that” and a quivering synergy sentence becomes a nice, clean statement, though it may not be one the higher ups would find pleasing. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

February 22, 2010 – You know something? If a television series stays on the air for two decades, eventually you’ll get around to a jumbled and ham fisted storyline involving slavery. It’s just a fact. And so we have Sunday night’s The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, where we were taken back to the 1860s to learn about the history of the Simpson family tree though the use of cliffhanger flashbacks. Though the episode contained this sensitive subject matter, they avoided the kind of shock humor other animated series are known for. Unfortunately, the episode also seemed to be avoiding avoided the laughs. Putting more effort into the roundabout telling of the story would’ve been a good idea, but even so "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that funny.

It began with Miss Hoover randomly assigning her class the project of researching their family tree. Lisa was hoping to find something noble in her family’s history, but only came across thieves, killers and alcoholics, any one of which would’ve been more fun than this. Looking through heirlooms in the attic, Lisa uncovered the diary of Eliza Simpson dating from the 1860s. Lisa thought she found her noble spark, until Eliza wrote of being happy that "tomorrow I get my first slave cliffhanger flashback." This line, and the accompanying gasps from the Simpson family, ended the first act. Except for Groundskeeper Willie’s battle with a tree stump, the majority of Everything in this opening was a dud.

The edgiest line of the episode came in the early moments of the next act. Learning that an ancestor might have owned a slave, Homer quipped, "For once, the Simpsons were in management." This was as shocking as the episode really got, and it was worth it for an unexpected laugh tame and boring and not the least bit funny. From there, the episode eased the slavery issue by revealing Eliza and her family were a stop on the Underground Railroad Flashback Cliffhanger Express. Learning that the Underground Railroad had no trains and wasn’t underground, Bart stated it should have been called "The Above Ground Normal Road." And it was uninspired jokes likes this that peppered the episode.

The majority of the focus, and the only really interesting thing to watch in the episode, was the pieced together way the story of what happened with Eliza and her slave were revealed. First it was the diary, but that only revealed so much before the pages turned to cliffhanger dust. Next there was an out of place cliffhanger footnote in Eliza’s mother Mabel’s cookbook, and then Milhouse read from his relative’s cliffhanger journal showing another side of the story. This was a clever time consuming way to reveal the story, but more funny any jokes would have been a better way. There were a few standout truly pointless bits, but none were enough to lift the episode’s ranking out of place in Zombie Simpsons. Colonel Burns demanding that the waltz change its time signature was funny took at least thirty seconds, as were did the riffs repetitions on the Simpson motto, "Quit while you’re ahead." Learning that Marge had stopped watching Carrie just as she was named prom queen was great a stretch even by Zombie Simpson standards.

But the episode as a whole just felt was flat and boring. I guess it’s difficult to find the humor in slavery, even for The Simpsons and it’s well beyond the capabilities of Zombie Simpsons. The big  way out of place twist ending was revealing that the rescued slave and Mabel Simpson started a life together in Canada, and that the rest of the Simpson clan were descendants of the pair. This made our favorite animated family one sixty-fourth black. Bart: "So that’s why I’m so cool." Lisa: "That’s why my jazz is so smooth." Homer: "And that’s why I earn less than my white co-workers." Will this historical fact ever come up again in future seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons? Most likely no. So it makes you wonder, "Why bother?" The episode wasn’t all that funny, the storyline not that shocking was hopeless beyond repair, and the reveal of the Simpsons having African-American roots will likely never be referenced again. "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that worth it.

24
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

Phone Bill Endorphins

“Burkina Faso?  Disputed Zone?  Who called all these weird places?” – Homer Simpson
“Quiet, it might be you, I can’t remember.” – Homer’s Brain
“No, I’m gonna ask Marge.” – Homer Simpson
“No, no!  Why embarrass us both?  Just write a check and I’ll release some more endorphins.” – Homer’s Brain

23
Feb
10

An Unmitigated Crime Against Storytelling

“What happened to Mindy?” – Bart Simpson
“Yes, what did happen to her?” – Marge Simpson
“Enh, she hit the bottle pretty hard and lost her job.” – Homer Simpson
“Hm, good.” – Marge Simpson

I am not a big fan of Season 12’s “Trilogy of Error”.  (In case you’ve blocked it out that’s the one where Lisa invents the robot, Homer gets his thumb cut off and three different stories all unfold at once.)  But I do recognize that it took a lot of skill to weave three stories together like that.  Getting all those little elements to drop into place couldn’t have been easy.  So while I think those things were largely out of place in a Simpsons episode (where suspense and dramatic tension should never be the primary goal) I can at least see that some care went into creating it. 

Then we have this week’s “The Color Yellow”, which incorporates the worst parts of “Trilogy of Error” while not even pretending to care about its story.  Just look at the ending.  Lisa spent the entire episode obsessing over her 1860-self and her efforts to help free a slave, Virgil.  But then 1860-Marge is the one who actually helps Virgil get to freedom wherein she marries him and settles down.  Except that to do so she abandons the kid she already has.  This is awful in at least three ways. 

First of all, she abandons her child.  Regardless of any other considerations it’s tough to have sympathy for a character who walks away from her kid without a second glance.  This is compounded by the fact that the ending is played as sweet and happy. 

Secondly, in terms of continuity within this episode this makes no sense whatsoever.  (Standard disclaimer: I don’t care much about backstory continuity between episodes, but it would be nice if the story within a single episode made just a lick or two of sense.)  So Lisa isn’t actually descended from 1860-Lisa?  And none of them are related in the least to 1860-Homer?  Did the family move away from Springfield and then move back?  Even this wouldn’t be so bad if the episode hadn’t spent all of its time being so relentlessly serious about how important its story was, but it did.  The whole premise here is local family history and then the ending completely undermines that. 

Have You Seen Me? Finally, and most atrociously, in terms of competent storytelling this goes beyond indifference, disregards camp, and sets up shop in the most hacktacular place imaginable.  We spend the bulk of the episode with Lisa see-sawing back and forth over whether or not 1860-Lisa managed to actually help Virgil.  But 1860-Lisa vanishes three quarters of the way through, never to be seen, heard from, or even mentioned again.  Up until the last commercial break she’s the central character of the story and then – poof – she’s gone. 

This is especially damning when you consider how much screen time this episode wasted on useless filler.  The attic scene, the whole diary in the vent thing, the completely unnecessary error messages on Lisa’s laptop when she’s trying to give her presentation, all of those things take time that could’ve been spent giving the story a real ending.  (The computer errors were especially wasteful seeing as how they were just “update” messages with nary a joke to be seen.)  “Trilogy of Error” may have wasted a lot of time doing things that weren’t funny for the sake of its overwrought narrative, but at least it had a narrative.  “The Color Yellow” wasted time on things that weren’t funny just because. 

23
Feb
10

You Forgot Someone (updated)

Lovitz Characters

“Marge, I would appreciate it if you didn’t tell anybody about my busy hands.  Not so much for myself, but I am so respected it would damage the town to hear it.” – Artie Ziff

Today a website called “The Top 13” (they make – you guessed it – Top 13 lists) ranked the top thirteen guest voices on the Simpsons.  The best part about it is that there is nary a trace of Zombie Simpsons.  Indeed, this is from the intro:

But as the show has changed over time, in our view the quality of the guest appearances has fallen off – now you are more likely to see an ill-fitting celebrity cameo than one that helps drive a funny plot.

So we know that their hearts are in the right place, and the list itself is very well constructed.  There are even video clips for each guest voice.  However, I have a couple of problems with it.  Let’s look at the top 3:

1.  Phil Hartman
2.  Kelsey Grammer
3.  Joe Mantegna

This is minor, but I’d like to offer a brief definitional objection.  The top three all made numerous and great contributions to the show but they’re not really guest voices, are they?  With the exception of Albert Brooks (#4) nobody else on the entire list was in more than two episodes, but Hartman, Grammer and Mantegna were practically cast members.  Grammer you could at least make a case for being a guest voice since he starred in all the episodes in which he appeared, but Hartman and Mantegna routinely showed up for little more than single lines.  I love what they did, but if we’re counting them as “guest voices” don’t we also have to count Marcia Wallace, Doris Grau and several others who showed up routinely as the same characters? 

The main problem I have with this list is the massive, inexplicable, glow-in-the-dark omission of Jon Lovitz.  That’s right, there’s no Aristotle Amadopolis, no Sinclair siblings, no Professor Lombardo or Artie Ziff.  Darryl Strawberry and Johnny Cash make the cut for being tiny parts (albeit awesome ones) of single episodes but a guy who helped carry multiple episodes doesn’t rate?  For shame. 

Where you want to put Lovitz on the list can be debated, but not having him, especially when you’ve got three more slots than is typical to fill, is just bizarre.  If it’s an omission, just a slip of the mind, that’s understandable.  But even if you really hated Jon Lovitz for some reason doesn’t his prevalence in the early years at least demand a mention?  The name “Lovitz” doesn’t even appear anywhere on the page and it’s a gaping hole. 

Finally, and this is more of a judgment call, but the complete lack of any XX chromosomes on here is a little glaring.  Especially down near the bottom where you’ve got guys like Tito Puente and Barry White playing themselves.  I love both of those appearances and both of those guys did fantastic jobs.  However, when you mention in the opening that you’re not keen on celebrity cameos it seems a little hypocritical to list them while ignoring the fantastic work done by, say, Christina Ricci in “Summer of 4 ft. 2”, Winona Ryder in “Lisa’s Rival”, Sara Gilbert in “New Kid on the Block”, Michelle Pfeiffer for “The Last Temptation of Homer” . . . and I could go on.  It’s also worth pointing out that all of those women had larger parts in their respective episodes than most of the voices near the bottom of the list.  Just sayin’.

Update at 4:36 EST: In addition to the comment from Jason below we had a brief conversation on Twitter.  It turns out they did think of Lovitz.  Here’s the exchange (remember it’s Twitter so read up from the bottom):

Top13 Twitter Exchange

23
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

King Size Homer2

“According to Daddy’s will, I inherit the entire plantation.” – Leggy Heiress

“I’ll see to it you don’t get apricot one.” – Strapping Heir

22
Feb
10

Bad, But Not Bad Enough

Chalkboard - The Color Yellow

The numbers are in and last night’s flashback laden series of plot twists was watched by 6.08 million people.  That’s not a good number, it’s the third lowest all season and it’s below what Zombie Simpsons was averaging last winter.  But it’s above what Season 21 needs to keep its average viewership above the dismal 7.07 million viewers for Season 20.  As usual Family Guy pulled in slightly more (despite being a rerun) than Zombie Simpsons and both Family Guy spinoffs did slightly worse. 

Depending on how many episodes are left (there’ve been 13, Zombie Simpsons seasons typically have 20-22) the show would need to average between 5.00 and 5.50 million viewers to be worse than Season 20.  (Obviously the more episodes remaining the higher the average can be.)  We’ll see what happens, but that doesn’t seem too probable.  There’d need to be lots of episodes with numbers in the all time low range of “Million Dollar Maybe” to get us there. 

22
Feb
10

Quote of the Day

♫ I’m stuck here ’til I can steal a car! ♫ – Bart Simpson

21
Feb
10

There’s No Mystery, Zombie Simpsons Sucks

For tonight Zombie Simpsons seems to have completely forgotten that it’s nominally a comedy program, instead it decided to be a mystery show.  Unfortunately it wasn’t even a good mystery show, with lazy “revelations” coming up like clockwork before each commercial break.  Despite the excess of plot twists there was more stalling and exposition than usual. 

Take, for example, Lisa’s trip to the attic at the beginning.  She got stuck with the attic door, Bart then took up a lot of time helping her.  Nothing funny was going on, but it did eat some clock.  Once she made it too the attic they took up more time by having her walk very slowly past stuff from old episodes.  The whole episode was like that, just phenomenally boring. 

Here’s hoping for a terrible ratings number. 

21
Feb
10

Sunday E-mail Part 2

A blog called “No Pun Intended” has been, amongst other things, watching and reviewing Simpsons episodes from the before time, the long long ago.  I’ve linked to a couple of them in Reading Digest but they deserves a little bit more attention than that (and they sent us an e-mail).  Here they are discussing “Mr. Plow”, “Life on the Fast Lane”, and “Lisa the Iconoclast”.  Tim, the guy who writes these, has a very keen bead on things.  There’s too much for me to quote, but this response to a reader comment ably demonstrates that he is on the side of the righteous:

Yeah, I consider The Simpsons canon as nothing really past the 12th season, so I don’t really “count” those later episodes.

Yes, yes, a thousand times Yes

There are certainly a few things I don’t agree with.  For example he argues for Jacques as the best Albert Brooks guest voice whereas I have no favorite.  Picking a “best” out of Cowboy Bob, Jacques, Brad Goodman and Hank Scorpio is like asking whether you prefer joy, bliss or happiness.  But I digress.  The point is, they’re an enjoyably thoughtful read. 

(Notice: E-mail submissions are always welcome!  If you’ve created (or just come across) something Simpsons related on the internet, we want to know about it.  Links don’t cost anything and we’re happy to send whatever small amount of traffic we can to any good natured Simpsons content.) 

21
Feb
10

Sunday E-mail Part 1

Last weekend we got an e-mail from a guy who is watching all the episodes of Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.  Unlike amateur publicity whore Glen Stott he’s not calling radio shows and bragging about something he hasn’t done yet, he’s simply doing it.  (He’s also spreading it out over six weeks instead of stupidly trying to do it in one marathon session.)  His Tumblr post about it is titled with admirable succinctness “Why The Simpsons Are Rubbish Now”.  In it he specifically compares “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” to some trash from Season 16 (the whole thing is worth a look).  The results are what you’d expect:

The show doesn’t reward viewers anymore. They give stale plots, montages with tediously-linked soundtracks and obvious jokes that they’ll rub in your face for nine seconds. And that’s why the show isn’t as good as it used to be anymore.

Preach it brother, preach it. 

(Notice:  I’m going to repeat this part in Part 2, but it’s important so I think it’s okay to do so.  If you’ve written something about The Simpsons that you think might interest us, if you’ve drawn Maggie in a cool way, or even if you’ve just found something on-line that relates to Simpsons some how, let us know.  That e-mail link in the upper right isn’t just for show and URL submissions are always welcome.) 

Feb 27: Updated to correct a changed URL on the linked blog post.  All’s well now and the link works once again. 




E-Mail

deadhomersociety (at) gmail

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Twitter Updates

Useful Legal Tidbit

Even though it’s obvious to anyone with a functional frontal lobe and a shred of morality, we feel the need to include this disclaimer. This website (which openly advocates for the cancellation of a beloved television series) is in no way, shape or form affiliated with the FOX Network, the News Corporation, subsidiaries thereof, or any of Rupert Murdoch’s wives or children. “The Simpsons” is (unfortunately) the intellectual property of FOX. We and our crack team of one (1) lawyer believe that everything on this site falls under the definition of Fair Use and is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. No revenue is generated from this endeavor; we’re here because we love “The Simpsons”. And besides, you can’t like, own a potato, man, it’s one of Mother Earth’s creatures.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 389 other followers