Archive for March, 2010

31
Mar
10

Zombie Simpsons Gets (Unintentionally) Meta

Bart Gets Famous3

“I’m sorry, I’m really not comfortable with this, Ethan.” – Bumblebee Man
“What’s the matter, love?” – Ethan the Director
“It’s just, it’s, it’s the same old tired gags, isn’t it?  I mean, let’s give the audience some credit.” – Bumblebee Man
“How about a giant mousetrap?” – Ethan the Director
“I love it!” – Bumblebee Man

Programming note: Not that anyone is frantically hitting the refresh button in anticipation of three slightly tipsy guys blathering about why Zombie Simpsons sucks, but this week’s Crazy Noises post has been delayed by a schedule conflict.*  It should go up on Friday.

The opening scene of “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed” saw Flanders conducting a Bible study group.  Improbably, Jimbo was there.  (Was no other kid available?  Jimbo once said “thanks” when told he was the worst kid in school, even Nelson would’ve made more sense.)  In order to keep Jimbo’s attention, Flanders had to drop tech terms into his Bible spiel.  This is not a bad comedy idea, transparent pandering to youth with mostly nonsensical references to technology is a fairly common thing, especially among Christian outreach types.  But Zombie Simpsons managed to screw it up instantly. 

First, they had Jimbo clumsily exposit the idea.  It’s generally bad if you have to explain a joke, but it’s even worse if you explain it before you’ve even made it.  Then, with their concept established, they jammed all of their punchlines into the next line of dialogue.  As Jimbo gets up, Flanders screeches “Mouse pad, double click, Skype, Skype!”  Jimbo sits back down on the second “Skype” (yes, they repeated one of the terms, they couldn’t even come up with four).  But then Flanders goes on speaking without using a single pandering tech term.  Jimbo doesn’t move and the concept is dropped for the rest of the episode. 

They went through all that heavy handed set up all so they could drop three tech terms, none of them particularly relevant or recent (is Skype cutting edge these days?).  Instead of letting that concept play out over the course of the scene, or even calling back to it later in the episode, they forget it ever happened.  They even dragged Jimbo to Israel, though he never gets another line of dialogue. 

This is comedy malpractice, and it amply demonstrates how short the writers’ attention spans have become.  The number of times quick and funny concepts are recalled in The Simpsons is beyond counting.  There’s the NASA guy almost hitting James Taylor with his blackjack in “Deep Space Homer”, the “Bad Cops” theme song playing in the hospital waiting room in “Homer’s Triple Bypass”, the comet puncturing the helium balloon at the end of “Bart’s Comet” (and the a Chihuahua being there for size comparison), etcetera.  But in Zombie Simpsons, the writers don’t trust the audience (or themselves, apparently) to remember something that happened just minutes earlier.  Jimbo’s attention span at the beginning of this episode is capacious by comparison. 

I don’t think Zombie Simpsons was trying to make a point about how lame it and its fans are, but they did.  Bravo.  Er, I mean, Friendster! 

*At least, I was told it’s a schedule conflict.  It’s certainly possible that Mad Jon is, at this very moment, strung out on coffee and Listerine and headed to Hollywood in the heavily armed Deathmobile.  He probably wouldn’t tell me about that kind of thing beforehand, and it would be irresponsible not to speculate. 

31
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

The Otto Show3

“Alcohol increases your ability to drive . . . false?  Oh, man.” – Otto

30
Mar
10

Synergy Doesn’t Learn From Its Mistakes

Disappointment

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user iotae.

“You gotta give her up.” – Lisa Simpson
“No, no, wait, hear my plan: put up with her for seven more years.  Then we’ll get married, once the first baby comes along she’s bound to settle down and start treating me right.  After all, I deserve it.” – Bart Simpson

This week’s edition of IGN’s “corporate fanboy” writing was a mixed bag of praise and criticism.  (It still scored a 7.3, of course.)  The most direct criticism is of Sacha Baron Cohen and the way this episode didn’t live up to IGN’s expectations.  Apparently, every time a comedian of some recent popularity is announced as a guest voice, IGN pees itself in anticipation: Seth Rogen is a genius!  This is going to be a GREAT episode!  Ricky Gervais made The Office!  His episode is gonna be hilarious!  And yet every time this happens, Zombie Simpsons drops the ball and IGN is left disappointed.  (And never mind that they gave Rogen’s episode an 8.6 when it came out, some time for reflection has apparently taken the shine off of it.)  The natural response to repeated disappointment is to stop getting your hopes up, but when the one who’s constantly disappointing you is the same one who’s signing your paychecks that may not be an option. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

March 29, 2010 – I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a pretty funny guy. When I heard he’d be doing a guest voice on The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, I was excited indifferent. I thought that would be a fantastic match he’d be wasted just like every other celebrity on the show in the last decade or so. Of course, I thought the same thing when I heard Ricky Gervais was going to guest star. And Jack Black. And Seth Rogen. Unfortunately Exactly as I expected, none of those episodes lived up to what I thought the combination of guest actor and series would be were any good. None of those episodes were outright failures, but the The name recognition had raised my expectations nothing to do with the crappiness of the episode. The same goes for "Greatest Story Ever D’ohed." My preconceived notions were let down by what was still a fairly decent episode were confirmed, guest stars are irrelevant, this show just sucks.

The opening act was my favorite the least stupid segment of this half hour. Looking back, I think this was due to the fact that it didn’t involve exotic locales and swanky guest stars, though, it still sucked. It was just your standard (and funny) Jerkass Homer-annoys-Ned neighborly in stupid, unfunny ways affair. While Ned was trying to entertain his bible study group, Homer and the kids were within view enjoying a slip-and-slide in their backyard. It’s these bits that I continue to enjoy because they are were once at the heart of what The Simpsons is was: a family sitcom. Now, they’re just further proof that the show has run out of ideas, So the bits with Homer at home frustrating his do-good neighbor will always be enjoyable, so long as the even these jokes can’t remain funny. And the bits were quite enjoyable in "Greatest Story."

The best last moment in the opening came after Ned had decided to make an effort a plot conceit to save Homer and bring him some redemption in the eyes of his savior. Ned invited the suddenly grass-skirt-wearing Homer and his family to join him on a trip to The Holy Land for some reason. The exaggerated response was classic Homer could’ve been funny: "Hmm, let me think. Take my family to a war zone, on a bus filled with religious lame-o’s, in a country with no pork, in a desert with no casinos. Ooh, where do I sign up?!" Marge’s entry to the scene was also quite funny nearly pointless: "Homer, I can hear you sarcasm from inside the house. And the dishwasher is on." After committing to the trip despite it being expensive and a terrible idea, the act ended after pointlessly increased groaning from Jerkass Homer, with Lisa saying of her father my favorite line from the episode: "The man hates pants."

The middle of the episode didn’t entirely do it for me was where this descended from ordinary mediocrity. It’s become fairly standard to have at least one episode per season take the Simpson clan to some far off land, whether it is Australia, Brazil, London or Africa. [Ed Note: All of those episodes are at least six years old, even IGN can’t be bothered to remember much of Zombie Simpsons.]  These episodes can be hit or miss, with installments from later seasons being more often on the miss side. "Greatest Story" had a few good gags while did its missing in Israel, but and nothing stunningly hilarious funny happened. For a time, Anything that could be called storytelling was forgotten to fit in as many funny and not-so-funny dull references to where they were as they could.

I was underwhelmed with Sacha Baron Cohen’s voice work as the groups tour guide. He was like a sped up Borat and was actually a bit difficult to understand at times. The few jokes that did get through were only okay hyperactive and less than clever, like the repetitive "Shut your face." Also standing out as ineffective was Bart’s fight with the tour guide’s daughter, played by singer Yael Naim. Instead of being humorous, it seemed to just be an excuse to include the Israeli combat style of Krav Maga mention things that aren’t funny and have no relevance. Things got a bit funnier even duller once Homer found himself lost in the desert for some reason and had a vision of VeggieTales characters telling him he was the chosen one. Homer’s final speech to try and unite all the faiths made no sense, though who’s going to listen to Homer Simpson? it did push the episode over the finish line.

It’s difficult easy to keep your expectations in check when you hear about an upcoming guest star, and that likely affected my perception of this episode they’re all the same. But that it is what it is – Zombie Simpsons. Perhaps subsequent viewings, if I felt like torturing myself, will would let me find me enjoying this more more specific ways this one sucked, but for now, "Greatest Story Ever D’ohed" was just this side of good par for the course for boring travel episodes with forgettable guest appearances.

30
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

DMV

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Robert S. Donovan.

“Some days, we don’t let the line move, at all.” – Patty Bouvier
“We call those ‘weekdays’.” – Selma Bouvier

29
Mar
10

Tourism Brochures Are Funnier Than This

Chalkboard - The Greatest Story Ever D'ohed

“Oh, not my Paris backdrop!  How am I gonna make fun of the Frogs?” – Krusty the Klown

At some point the “destination” episodes of Zombie Simpsons became little more than excuses to have Homer and Bart act out in front of famous landmarks or generic “travel” backdrops.  Why yes, Bart brought his skateboard to the Wailing Wall (and got into a pointless chase/fight sequence); why yes, Homer took a nap in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; and they both goofed around in David’s Tomb.  Did they make it to the Dead Sea and the Dome of the Rock?  You know they did! 

It was nice of them to bring along the Hibberts and the Lovejoys and various other stock characters to do little more than listen to a disjointed, hyperactive Sacha Baron Cohen stand up routine.  And, as per usual, individual scenes make little to no sense.  Homer’s video camera vanishes from one shot to another; the church security guards don’t stop a guy from taking a nap on the alter, but appear the instant the show wants to push Flanders over the edge.  Need a camel?  Why it’s right there!  They might as well have had a giant pencil draw it in for Homer, a la Loony Tunes. 

I was slightly worried there might be a decent number this week, Cohen is a big star and anything with the word “Jerusalem” near it gets people buzzing a little, but nope.  The numbers on this creaking hack job are in, and they’re almost identical to last week’s: 5.70 million people waited this one out.  That number is good for fifth worst all time, narrowly keeping “Stealing First Base” in fourth place with 5.69 million. 

Every episode to ever score under six million viewers has come in either Season 20 or 21.  Just two years ago, at the same point in Season 19, Zombie Simpsons was routinely scoring over 7 million viewers.  Thanks to the 20th anniversary hoopla and Spurlock’s thing, Season 21 probably won’t be the least watched season ever.  But the numbers are clearly down, and they show no signs of long term recovery or even of being able to maintain these low levels.  L’Chaim!

29
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Carole Mallory Normal Mailer

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

“Pop quiz, hotshot.  I’m supposed to be doing my homework, but you find me upstairs reading a Playdude.  What do you do?  What do you do?” – Bart Simpson
“I make you read every article in that magazine, including Norman Mailer’s latest claptrap about his waning libido.” – Shary Bobbins

28
Mar
10

Sunday Preview: “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed”

We’re less than sixty minutes away from “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed,” wherein the family Simpson goes to… another faraway place. Hilarity – or groaning, more likely – ensues. Simpsons Channel graciously provides the lowdown for us:

The Simpsons vacation in the Holy Land, where Homer is convinced that he is the Messiah — and gets in trouble with the Muslims, the Jews, and the Christians, who all band together, despite their religious differences, to teach Homer a lesson. Sacha Baron Cohen guest stars as Jacob, an eccentric tour guide who shows the the Wailing Wall.

Homer with a delusional god-complex is exactly what we’ve come to expect from a show that no longer celebrates subtlety. My guess is we’re in for twenty-some minutes of jerkass Homer, but it’ll be funny because he’s not in Springfield, derp. Fuck anything trenchant, just give us toilet humor, montages galore, and embarrassing pop culture references whose humor end at the reference itself. It’s what we crave.




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