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.

28
Mar
10

The Zombies Have Spoken: The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed

“Be they Christian, Jew, or miscellaneous.” – Rev. Lovejoy
“Hindu.  There are seven hundred million of us.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
“Aw, that’s super.” – Rev. Lovejoy

It was pointed out to me today that there are some extra poignant comments on Simpsons Channel’s preview for tonight’s Zombie Simpsons episode. I would normally wait until after an episode has aired to poke fun, but I’m bored and I feel like being mean. So here goes:

“you are so stupid Jesus was spend most of his time in the holy land thtats why is called that damm ass” – Borusmat

Wait, are you calling Jesus stupid? Or are you saying that Jerusalem wasn’t holy before Jesus was born? ‘Cause Jesus was called you a stupid damm ass for saying that…

 “yea that’s what jesus would have wanted people calling people damm ass’s, you know not everyone on this planet is muslim, jew or christian.respect jesus by not swearing. and rome is the holy land for Catholics!!” – Tyrone McBlacklebee

Thanks for that tidbit. I’ll make sure to remind the Pope about Rome next time I’m in the Vatican. Also, usually when I inform people that not everyone is Muslim, Christian, or Jewish, I don’t follow up by telling them to give it up to Jesus. But that’s just me.

 “There are still a small amount of Christians in Israel and the Palestinian territories. About 2% of the Citizens of Israel, an uncertain percentage of Palestinians (1 – 8% ?), and an additional number of temporary guest workers (perhaps equivalent to 1 – 3% of Israel’s Population). Not to mention tourists and students who constantly come and go. So it is in no way inaccurate to show all three religious groups in the Jerusalem, although there are also Bahi, Druze, and Bedouin, although that might make it too complex for a cartoon!” – Daniel

Definitely not inaccurate. There is perhaps an equivalent of 1-8% room for error, and that doesn’t even include an additional unknown number of opinions from people who don’t puke up meaningless stats about religion on a thread about a shell of a cartoon. FYI at least 5-90% of Bedouins are Sunni Islam.

So there you have it. The only thing I hate more than a Zombie Simpsons fan is a Zombie Simpsons fan feigning knowledge of world religions, and using poor grammar to do so. Also, I’m putting the over/under on how many jokes are recycled from “Homer the Heretic” at 3.5.

28
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment2

“There’s something wrong with that kid.  She’s so moral.  Why can’t she be more like . . . well, not like Bart, but there’s gotta be a happy medium.” – Homer Simpson

27
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Separate Vocations4

“Bart Simpson on the side of law and order?  Has the world gone topsy-turvy?” – Principal Skinner
“That’s right, man.  I got my first taste of authority . . . and I liked it!” – Bart Simpson

Happy Birthday George Meyer!

26
Mar
10

Reading Digest: Excuses Edition

 Dog Eaten Homework

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Kyle Kesselring.

“You ate my homework?  I didn’t know dogs really did that.” – Bart Simpson

This week’s Reading Digest is shorter than most, but I have two and a half excuses.  The first is that for some reason the “Simpsons” tag on WordPress isn’t working correctly, and I often get several links from there.  The other one and a half excuses are the fact that we are sitting in between two talked about Zombie Simpsons episodes.  Last week they had two guest stars and one of them was playing Michelle Obama, this week Zombie Simpsons is going to Jerusalem.  Much like the whole “Marge in Playboy” thing, this has caused a flood shallow and uninteresting Simpsons commentary on-line.  When the signal to noise ratio gets this out of whack I have a hard time finding good stuff, and I’m much too lazy to plow through it all.  But we still have some usage (excellent and poor), a Zombie Simpsons fan who blunders right into a classic cliche, two links about Simpsons words, and two YouTubes of the same scene (one in German, one in Spanish). 

Enjoy.

DON’T BUY THIS!!!!! ~~"The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season" – A rather wonderful review from Canadian Amazon. 

‘The Simpsons’: Their greatest gift to us? ‘Yoink.’ – In defense of “Yoink” as the best Simpsons contribution to the English language.  The real treat here is the comments section, which breaks out into a rash of quotes.  It goes for nine pages and I didn’t bother with them all, but there are, as you’d expect, very little Zombie Simpsons. 

Cartoons that still run after 10+ years – I never knew the color yellow was so powerful. 

‘The Simpsons’ is Still Awesome – I really should start cataloging these:

For the record, even when everyone else stopped watching "The Simpsons" I stuck with it. Admittedly some of the years out of the past decade have not been its finest, but if you were once a "Simpsons" fan and quit, you should really pick it back up.

This has occurred to me over the course of the current season, and specifically during a moment from the episode "Postcards From the Wedge."

Zombie Simpsons fan (“I stuck with it”) saying that it’s getting better.  How surprising. 

22 Theme Songs In 7 Minutes – This has been making the rounds recently.  It’s all teevee-theme songs.  I almost stopped it right away because it started with “Two and a Half Men”.  I saw seven seconds of that show once, almost killed me.  Anyway, the Simpsons part starts right after that but is only about seven bars long and bleeds almost immediately into “The OC”.  Feh.

Links for Wednesday – The word “Waterloo” has been getting thrown around a lot in political circles here in America this week.  This man had the proper response:

* And Jim DeMint gets Waterlooed. Hasn’t happened to a nicer guy since Mr. Burns. (Sorry, German and Spanish only!)

I cannot resist embedding such excellent YouTube:

 

I now have Abba stuck in my head.  It was worth it. 

The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down: Why I can’t get enough of those celebrity sex scandals – I consciously avoid celebrity news, but this is excellent usage:

Just because they once pretended in a movie, like Homer Simpson said, to be on “a bus that had to SPEED around a city, keeping its SPEED over fifty, and if its SPEED dropped, it would explode! I think it was called, ‘The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down’”;

Don’t worry – Poor quotation here:

“Don’t worry son. You could wake up dead tomorrow.” – Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons”

The actual quote is:

“Don’t let Krusty’s death get you down, boy.  People die all the time, just like that.  Why, you could wake up dead tomorrow.” – Homer Simpson

The Simpsons like you’ve never seen them before: gambling, doing drugs and soliciting prostitutes – A bar in Shanghai has public service announcements (No Prostitution) with Simpsons characters.  Click this, it’s too fun to miss (via).

D’oh! – Simpsons grunt has global clout – This list is not cromulent – literally.

Cinematical Late Night: Little Brother, Miley Cyrus, Asian Film Awards & The Simpsons – And finally, I get to end with someone who agrees with us.  This is a catchall post most of which has nothing to do with the show; but in the course of mentioning the kiss montage from last week’s episode we get this:

I haven’t been watching The Simpsons with any regularity for some time now because, well, The Simpsons hasn’t been all that good for some time now.

Damn straight. 

26
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Corporal Punishment

 Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Wesley Fryer.

“My mother’s inside, Mrs. Simpson.  Please go right on it.” – Laura Powers
“Oh, you speak so politely to adults.” – Marge Simpson
“My upbringing was painfully strict, ma’am.” – Laura Powers
“That’s sweet.” – Marge Simpson

25
Mar
10

Compare & Contrast: Absent Teachers

There were a lot of recycled ideas, gags, and scenes in “Stealing First Base”.  Besides the narrative repetition of Bart getting another girlfriend and Lisa feeling unloved, there were a few specific things as well.  The most direct of these came near the beginning, when Bart walked into class to see chaos in Mrs. Krabappel’s absence.  Of course, this is extremely similar to the opening of Season 2’s “Lisa’s Substitute”.

In “Stealing First Base” the opening chaos in the classroom runs for twenty seconds before we have any dialogue.  It includes Nelson spitting in books, Lewis putting a firecracker in the pencil sharpener, and the school snake puking up a mouse who enjoys stealing lines from space ants.  Skinner finally arrives and spends the next twenty seconds telling (not showing) why Krabappel isn’t there and then expositing another fourth grade into existence.

By contrast, in “Lisa’s Substitute” we move immediately to dialogue, with the kids speculating that Ms. Hoover drank drain cleaner or fell down a well.  Less than ten seconds in, Hoover and Skinner appear, with Hoover crying.  That prompts Lisa to say, “My god, she’s been dumped again.”  (That one single line, just six words, tells us volumes about both Hoover and Lisa.)  The episode then moves immediately to Skinner’s detailed description of the horrors of Lyme disease, while a terrified Hoover looks on.  The entire episode set up is shot through with jokes, we are shown what’s going on instead of told, and there’s no need for improbable plot leaps.

Both of those sequences take forty seconds.  But when placed within the larger context of their respective episodes, the one from Zombie Simpsons looks even worse by comparison.  Not counting the opening or the credits, “Stealing First Base” clocks in at 19m:5s, “Lisa’s Substitute” clocks in at 21m:13s.  In “Stealing First Base” we don’t even get inside the school for more than a minute (on account of a GPS scene* that is never referenced for the rest of the episode).  On the other hand, “Lisa’s Substitute” starts at the school immediately.  The very first shot is of the classroom clock showing 9:15, so we know Hoover is late.  Add all that up and “Lisa’s Substitute” has three and a half minutes more screen time left to play with after the initial set up.  So not only is Zombie Simpsons shorter, but it has to drag its feet right from the opening just to fill its abbreviated time.

Brilliant Writing

Zombie Simpsons, clearly still a “writer’s” program.

What we can see here, in simple terms of screen time, is the way Zombie Simpsons has to huff and puff to fill its quota.  And while it’s not exactly news that Zombie Simpsons is shorter, if you subtract out the more than two minutes “Stealing First Base” spent on dialogue free montages you get an episode that’s almost 20% smaller than “Lisa’s Substitute”.  (Not only is this food terrible, but such small portions!)  I’ve said this before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again: this is not the same show as The Simpsons.  It’s not even close to the same show.  If you took the “Stealing First Base” script to a network as a pilot, it would never get made.  This is low quality television masquerading as a long-lived classic, nothing more, nothing less.

*Lest you think I’m being overly harsh about the GPS thing, consider that “Marge vs. the Monorail” opens with Homer doing his own version of the “Flintstones” opening.  That too ends with a car crash is never referenced again, but it takes half as long, involves a genuine parody, and is never played for action/suspense, only humor. 

25
Mar
10

March 23rd was a special day in Simpsons history

Image "borrowed" from the lovable Boing Boing.

David Silverman shared an interesting, obscure piece of Simpsons history with Boing Boing a couple days ago:

23 years ago today on March 23rd, 1987, we had a meeting with Matt Groening. And then Wes Archer, Bill Kopp, and I started animating the very first Simpsons short for The Tracey Ullman Show, in a studio on 729 N. Seward Street. We all thought it was pretty funny.

It was pretty funny David. You had a good run that has long overstayed its welcome. Our brief PSA to you is this, and simply this: Do your part to salvage the show’s legacy by helping end Zombie Simpsons. Yes, you can.

25
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Homer's Night Out1

“If you get hungry in the middle of the night, there’s an open beer in the fridge.” – Barney Gumble

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Homer’s Night Out”!  Original airdate 25 March 1990.

24
Mar
10

Zombie Simpsons Ruins Another List

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1a

Zombie Simpsons has cheaply cashed in on the success of its preeminent forerunner in many, many, ways.  One of the most prominent is by cramming musical guests into episodes with little to no purpose and few, if any, jokes.  This list, which purports to be the top ten musical guests, contains only 60% real Simpsons.  The White Stripes, Lionel Ritchie, Metallica and Green Day all make the cut from Zombie Simpsons (or the movie), but none of the following from actual good episodes do:

  • Tito Puente (Who Shot Mr. Burns 1 & 2)
  • Cypress Hill (Homerpalooza)
  • Peter Frampton (Homerpalooza)
  • Tony Bennett (Dancin’ Homer)
  • Aerosmith (Flaming Moe’s)
  • Sting (Radio Bart)
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers (Krusty Gets Kancelled)
  • Bette Midler (Krusty Gets Kancelled)
  • Linda Ronstadt (Mr. Plow)
  • Barry White (Whacking Day)

How you want to order these guests is debatable, and whether or not you like the music they perform is up to you.  But The Simpsons had far more than ten excellent musical guests whose appearances fit snugly into the episode and were always hilarious.  It seems a shame to not include them on account of Zombie Simpsons. 

24
Mar
10

Crazy Noises: Stealing First Base

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2b

“Now, let’s discuss the, um, moe-tive” – Chief Wiggum

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 “gripe”).

Sometimes a Zombie Simpsons episode is so sloppy and meandering, so devoid of humor, that it’s nigh impossible to have a coherent discussion of it.  We started off talking about the montages, but there’s so many little things in this episode that just flat out suck that we ended up jumping around randomly, just like the episode did.  And I’m sure we didn’t get to everything.  The B-plot was three scenes, the finale of which was a helicopter landing at the school and three minutes of exposition.  The A-plot dropped its reason for existing halfway through.  The opening scene has literally nothing to do with the rest of the episode.  Homer just gets into a little adventure driving the kids to school, it’s never referenced again and has no bearing on what happens once they get to school.  And what few stabs at humor were contained within were, to put it mildly, clumsy.  I could go on, but we did that last night. 

Mad Jon: Ok then

  Shall we?

Dave: Only if we start with the first of several pointless montages

Mad Jon: Fair enough

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that was about the worst of it.

Mad Jon: Was it Charlie who was pissing on the Itchy and Scratchy episode from last week?

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh yeah.

Mad Jon: Should have kept your mouth shut

  Look what wrath you brought on us this week

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d hesitate to call this “worse” since the last one was already approaching absolute zero, but this was awful.

Mad Jon: Hesitate not fair gentleman

Dave: Quite.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fine, you saw an artsy movie from the late eighties, I’m impressed. Did it really need to go on for, wait, let me check . . .

Mad Jon: We’ll wait here

Dave: I enjoy the “Qatsi” trilogy, but recognize that it’s fair game for a ton of ridicule. The I&S bit did none of that

Charlie Sweatpants: One minute and ten seconds, give or take. Wow.

That’s more than 5% of the episode.

  I’m not familiar enough with all of Zombie Simpsons, but that’s got to be up there for all time champion montage time waster.

Mad Jon: I&S is not for that kind of parody. I&S is supposed to be the 15-20 seconds of pure violent humor that reminds me that I am still not completely desensitized

Charlie Sweatpants: Which one next, the kiss montage or the skateboarding montage?

Mad Jon: The Kiss one

Dave: Skateboarding

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon got there first, kiss it is.

Mad Jon: Hooray for us

Once again I forgot the sarcasm emoticon

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s already been discussed in the comments, but the Alien/Critic one was terrible either way you slice it. The rest were just dumb. I mean, they did “Ghost”! If ever a movie was crying out to be parodied it was that one, but they just put it in straight.

Mad Jon: Good point

Dave: Parody takes effort, remember?

  It’s much easier to copy verbatim.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was what, like ten? And only two of them were even attempts at humor.

That’s just pathetic, especially when you consider the enormous number of famous movie kisses over the years.

Mad Jon: On the bright side the Lady and the Tramp one made me think of the parody Family Guy did with Michael Vick. That was the only time I laughed the entire 22 min.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think I remember that.

By the way, the kissing montage clocks in at about 45 seconds.

Dave: So close to 2 minutes of a 23 minute episode?

  Wasted on two montages?

Charlie Sweatpants: And we haven’t even gotten to the skateboard one.

And the episode is only 20:33 on WinAmp.

Dave: Sorry, 20 minutes.

  Yep.

Charlie Sweatpants: Before we move on, I would like to reiterate my point from earlier: this was a massively wasted comedy opportunity.

Mad Jon: That one had a bit of a scene from that Angelina Jolie movie “Wanted”. Which, btw, some schmuck decided would be a good idea to make a sequel of.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which one?

Mad Jon: The skateboard montage

Charlie Sweatpants: So that was from something?

Mad Jon: The beginning was.

But I don’t know about the rest.

Charlie Sweatpants: I did a quick scan of the No Homers thread on this episode but nobody mentioned that it was from something. On the advice of several people I have not bothered to see “Wanted”.

Mad Jon: You are a smart man.

Dave: Did that have something to do with the montage?

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon seems to think so.

Which part?

  Wait, lemme guess, sliding under the picnic table?

Mad Jon: Look, I think this doesn’t merit this level of discussion. All we are really doing right now is reminding me that I paid 8 bucks to see “Wanted” with a girl I was already sleeping with.

Charlie Sweatpants: You paid to see it? Oh, sorry. I figured you at least waited until it was on DVD or something. That is kind of embarrassing.

Mad Jon: I rest my case

Dave: Seriously embarrassing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Depending on how you want to count, the skateboard thing goes on for between thirty and forty seconds.

(Thirty if it’s just the music, forty if you start from when the joke-free skateboarding starts.)

Mad Jon: I don’t think we should provide any benefit of doubt

Dave: Let’s say 40 and round it up to a minute.

  Because it felt at least that long.

Charlie Sweatpants: This brings me to another gripe about this episode though, because there’s a skateboarding girl who goes to Bart’s school and he’s never met her before?

  They used to put some care into introducing new students.

Dave: This isn’t then.

Charlie Sweatpants: Alison Taylor skipped a grade. Samantha Stanky moved to Springfield from Phoenix. Jessica Lovejoy was expelled from boarding school.

  Girlfriend #8 was across the hall the whole time.

Mad Jon: Good point, now they are just like “whoops, how about another class of 4thies”

Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the subject of nonsensical school stuff, the opening needs to be dragged out back and shot.

The GPS thing was a complete waste of time that had nothing to do with the rest of the episode.

Dave: People should trust their GPSs, har har

Charlie Sweatpants: The GPS thing is classic Zombie Simpsons, because you can see the writers’ desperation right on the screen. Hey, we haven’t “done” GPS yet. But we can’t think of a way to work it into the rest of the episode, so we’ll just stick it here because we need to fill some time.

You can tell it has nothing to do with the rest of the episode because not ten minutes later Homer is shown working on a car, and it has nothing to do with the opening minute of the episode when he wrecked the car.

  It’s not even the same car.

Dave: But you didn’t enjoy the wonderful, contemporary humor therein?

Mad Jon: No, I didn’t

Also, the bit with Nelson’s blind friend. I still don’t like Nelson with feelings, it always reminds me of the scenes from that one episode where he thinks all the plant life is his father.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wait, what?

If I have seen that I’ve blocked it out.

Mad Jon: It was a running gag the entire last 2 thirds of the episode

Dave: I’m sure someone at No Homers found it brilliant though. So does that mean it worked?

Charlie Sweatpants: Ralph laughed when the flag on the mailbox was up. That doesn’t mean the mailbox was “working”.

Mad Jon: I occasionally look at No Homers and some of those people are ok. But for the most part I would listen to my dog’s suggestion to start shitting on the floor before I would take their advice on The Simpsons.

Oops, said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet again.

Dave: I recognize that there are a few level-headed folks at NH – but they’re way outnumbered by the nutjobs.

Charlie Sweatpants: And while we’re talking about the opening, I’d also like to point out that the whole “chaos in the classroom” scene made less sense and had fewer joke than the ones when Skinner got fired.

  Oh, and they had the mouse fly out of the snake and cry “Freedom”. Where have I seen something similar?

Mad Jon: Why wasn’t Krabappel there again?

Charlie Sweatpants: Something about a cult. Might as well have given her Lyme disease and just been done with it.

Mad Jon: Did you forget the emoticon again?

Charlie Sweatpants: Forget? No. I thought it was pretty obvious what I was going for.

Mad Jon: Excellent.

Charlie Sweatpants: So what have we missed?

There was the awful Skinner/Willie kissing thing, that ate some clock. Lisa’s bizarre freakout. The pointless Angela Basset cameo, oh, and the pre-kissing montage thing where Skinner tried to stop Girlfriend #8 for some reason.

  Jebus there wasn’t a damn thing in this episode that made any sense.

Mad Jon: Oh god, I forgot about the kissing. That just kept going.

Dave: So true. But we can’t reasonably rip on everything.

Charlie Sweatpants: So you’re saying they’ve overwhelmed us with crappiness?

Mad Jon: It’s possible

Dave: Sure why not

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I still want to bitch about the skit thing. I don’t think the length and stupidity of the kissing thing should let the rest of that scene off the hook.

Mad Jon: Bitch away

Charlie Sweatpants: There was Chalmers stupid exposition, the whole Homer strangling Skinner thing, and then there was Martin and Wendell dragging Homer off, which also sucked.

  Oh, and Chalmers sounded kinda like himself again, unlike last week when he sounded nothing like himself. Just bizarre.

Mad Jon: How bizarre indeed.

Dave: For some reason that just reminded me that Nelson was a complete fuck in this episode

Nelson, the estrogen-charged defender of the weak

Charlie Sweatpants: But he’s more sympathetic this way!

Mad Jon: Yeah, that sucked indeed as well

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t you want all the characters to be nice? Why doesn’t Nelson share his pie, and then they would both have pie?

Mad Jon: Good reference.

Dave: No, Nelson’s better this way, you’re right.

  How dare I question any change in his character.

  This is who he should’ve always been.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah Dave, if you don’t like it, why are you watching?

Dave: I’m such a negative Nancy, ripping on others’ hard work

Mad Jon: It is pretty stupid that you would do that. Especially now that there are so many period references like iPods, GPSs and Josh Groban to make the show so much more watchable. Especially compared to season 17–18.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s just sad that it’s not obvious to you that having a pointless guest character literally helicopter into the episode and then back out of it is just like teh classic Simpons!!!11!!!!1

Dave: Head hung in shame

  I’ll go now

Charlie Sweatpants: Can I go too? Recalling the various horrors of this episode is making me nauseous.

Dave: I’ll be in bed with a bottle of amaretto

Charlie Sweatpants: Well used.

24
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

Life on the Fast Lane2

“Hey, what’ll I tell the boss?” – Power Plant Guy
“Tell him I’m going to the back seat of my car, with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!” – Homer Simpson

Happy (belated . . . again, ach I’m bad a this) 20th Anniversary to “Life on the Fast Lane”!  (Original airdate 18 March 1990) 

23
Mar
10

Synergy Feasts on Crumbs

Girly Edition3

When it comes to “reviewing” Zombie Simpsons, IGN basically has two tools at its disposal: low standards and positive spin.  This week’s sycophantic drivel is heavy on the latter.  These aren’t recycled ideas that have been done much better in the past, they’re “variations of themes”.  Sarah Silverman’s character (hereafter referred to as “Girlfriend #8”) isn’t a one dimensional character who exists only to kiss and longboard, she’s a “female version of Bart”.  Skinner and Willy kissing for hours isn’t wholly unnecessary filler, it “was probably funnier on paper”.  It can’t be easy to suck stale crumbs off the floor and call them delicious, but IGN’s (still) on the job. 

As always, I’ve edited out all the synergy. 

March 22, 2010 – I have a soft spot particular dislike for episodes of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons that center around the elementary school in some way. Of all the locations in Springfield, it’s the elementary school that has the highest concentration of great supporting characters should’ve changed the least. The nuclear power plant is a close second, but the variety of characters at the school edges them out in terms of sheer wasted comedy opportunities. And the kids are definitely more fun resistant to character drift than the gang at Moe’s Tavern. So when "Stealing First Base" established that it was going to be school-centric, it already had a lot going for itmassively aggravating” written all over it. And overall, it didn’t disappoint.

The storylines, as can be the is often the case with The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons after so many episodes, were variations of recycled themes we’ve seen a number of times before. Bart was once again struck by love and the results were quite entertaining pretty much the same as they always are. Mrs. Krabappel’s absence forced Principal Skinner to combine the two fourth grade classes at Springfield Elementary into one class for some reason. The setting that we never saw again gave us a number of great throwaway lines from some of our class favorites characters that used to be funny, including Milhouse, Martin, the twins and Nelson. Nelson had the best only minor storyline in the episode after getting paired with a blind student in the other class. Throughout the episode, we returned to the duo and saw how Nelson was taking the kid under his bully wing acting out a particularly hackneyed after school special. And this is precisely why I so enjoy loathe these school-based episodes. There’s plenty to work with to fill the episode with extra laughs The reanimated corpses of characters I used to enjoy acting nothing like themselves pisses me off all over again.

Doubling up at the desk introduced Bart to Nikki Girlfriend #8. Essentially a female version of Bart few lines of dialogue that happened to skateboard, Nikki Girlfriend #8 was the closest thing Bart has gotten to finding true love since Greta Wolfcastle.  [Ed Note: I’ll take his word for that.]  Voiced by guest Sarah Silverman, Nikki Girlfriend #8 turned out to be a fun and memorable one dimensional and rather boring character. And since she’s theoretically a regular student, the possibility remains overwhelming likelihood that we may see will never hear her again someday makes her nonsensical introduction that much stupider. After Bart stole a kiss, urged on by a banana-eating Grampa Simpson, Nikki’s Girlfriend #8’s parents threatened a lawsuit for some reason and were granted an "affection-free environment" on school premises never heard from again. Unfortunately Predictably, this concept was not played up as much as I had hoped it would be at all. Out Because of it we did get suffer through a "skit, or sketch" defining what was inappropriate, but watching Groundskeeper Willie and Skinner kissing for longer than they should be was probably hopefully funnier on paper because in execution it was boring and long.

Regardless of the affection ban, Bart continued a relationship with Nikki Girlfriend #8, who’s only purpose was to showed Bart that women are entirely impossible to figure out. My favorite line of the episode One of the hacktacular lines that would’ve fit better in a low budget romantic comedy came when Nikki Girlfriend #8 told Bart he should know what she wants: "I want you to act the same way two days in a row!" I also loved the The montage of famous "kisses" that played as Nikki Girlfriend #8 was giving Bart CPR (for some reason) also dragged on far too long. The clips started as you might expect, with some of the most famous, passionate kisses in cinema, but then added the unexpected that didn’t take enough time. So they added in The standouts for me were the alien smooching Ellen Ripley something they stole from “The Critic” and Sammy Davis Jr. laying one on Archie Bunker.

Meanwhile, Lisa was going through her 100th crisis of "being smart ain’t all it’s cracked up to be." It started with her suddenly becoming popular after receiving a failing grade on a test for some reason. But once that situation was cleared up (Ralph: "I cheated wrong. I used the Lisa name, but the Ralph answers."), Lisa went right back to being an outcast. In a very roundabout way, This was supposed to have something to do with First Lady Michele Obama came coming to the elementary school to give Lisa some support and herald overachievers. Angela Bassett was good as the voice of Obama, but the whole thing felt odd massively out of place and very forced. Still it It did give the opportunity an excuse for Superintendent Chalmers to state, "He’s our Joe Biden," about Principal Skinner.

Again, any episode set in the elementary school will always be worth your time remind you of how bad this show has become. Although "Stealing First Base" fed us some old very stale ideas, and it did so with a lot of great bits drawn out time filler (the Itchy and Scratchy 3-D movie, The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and some very strong utterly pointless guest voices.

23
Mar
10

Quote of the Day

H Is To A Roman Numeral

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user dameetch.

“Class please, if you don’t learn Roman numerals you’ll never know the date certain motion pictures were copyrighted.” – Mrs. Krabappel




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