Archive for January, 2011


Crazy Noises: Flaming Moe

Krusty Gets Kancelled8

“I’ve got to fire that agent.” – Elizabeth Taylor

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on  “addiction”).

Most of the discussion around here about “Flaming Moe”, including the one below, focuses on just how lame the A-plot was, and that’s entirely proper because it made up most of the episode and was, indeed, astonishingly lame. But the B-plot deserves to have some scorn heaped on it at well, if for no other reason than spending a hundred words or so criticizing it would give it more attention than its writers did, literally. Here’s the entirety of the dialogue for “Melody” (voiced by Alyson Hannigan of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “How I Met Your Mother” fame):

I can’t believe I’m playing video games with Bart Simpson.

I’ve sketched you so many times in my dream journal.

Can I do a hand stand against you?

You’re breaking up with me? Upside down? Raggedy Ann was so right about you.

That’s forty-two words in four lines. That’s not a guest part, that’s borderline insulting. (Granted, it’s more than Katy Perry got, but still.) Even minor, one off guest voices usually get a little more to do than show up, fawn over Bart Simpson, and then exit stage right never to be heard from again.

Back in the land of the A-plot, I’d like to point out an example of the kind of humor a smarter show than Zombie Simpsons might do when it comes time for a “gay” episode: Steakhouse or Gay Bar. It’s a very simple website, you are presented with the name of an establishment that is either a gay bar or a steakhouse, you then guess which kind of joint it is based on the name alone.

What’s so wonderful about “Steakhouse or Gay Bar?” is that in addition to being really funny, the results are very often a tossup. When you answer a question it tells you not only whether you were right or wrong, but what percentage of other people guessed the same way. So when I guess that the Grey Fox Pub is a steakhouse, I get a message that says:

Grey Fox Pub is a gay bar in Saint Louis, Missouri.

47.78% got that wrong, too.

Or when I guess that Tad’s is a gay bar I see:

Tad’s is a steak house in San Francisco, California.

53.38% got that wrong, too.

Most of the percentages you see aren’t too far from 50% one way or the other, which means that people really can’t tell from the name whether or not it’s a steakhouse or a gay bar. The gag is that the same veneer of macho masculinity can apply to radically different purposes (unless it’s a gay bar that happens to serve steaks), and it’s a much better joke than anything that was in “Flaming Moe”. It’s current, it’s subversive, it’s not a rehash of things that stopped being clever a decade ago. I don’t think you could construct an entire episode around the concept (and please, Zombie Simpsons, don’t try), but it’s not as if gay humor is frozen in time the way “Flaming Moe” seems to think it is.

[Note: We did have Dave this week, but he was forced to bail almost instantly.]


Charlie Sweatpants: Then let us begin.

  Any initial thoughts other than “I wanted this to end eighteen minutes before it did?”

Dave: Gay bashing and stereotypes are so 2009.

  That’s basically all I have to say about whatever the hell it was I watched.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget the hippie girl subplot.

  That also happened.

Mad Jon: Well, I think you covered it in your post with the help of some external comments, but I miss the gay-episodes that had something behind them. There wasn’t much of a statement other than “Pretending to be Gay for profit is a bad thing”

Also there were two guest voices, I only know who one of them were, and I couldn’t tell you what either of them were pitching.

Dave: Gents, I apologize

  I’m out again

Mad Jon: Bye Dave

Charlie Sweatpants: Bye Dave.

I think there were three, one of the guys from Kids in the Hall was there too.

Mad Jon: Oh man.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anyway, this is one of the rare instances where the guest voices weren’t playing themselves, but basically still had no character.

Mad Jon: Yeah, they were both excellent script readers, but not a whole lot of acting going on there.

Charlie Sweatpants: Willow from Buffy and that chick from SNL aren’t the world’s biggest stars, but they certainly deserved better than the six lines each of them got.

The third grade girl especially was hardly in the episode. Did that really require a guest voice?

Mad Jon: Well, Willow is now one of the major characters on “How I Met Your Mother” which I am ashamed to say I enjoy. If for nothing more than NPH.

Charlie Sweatpants: Doesn’t that reinforce my point? She deserved better.

Mad Jon: Yes, yes it does reinforce your point.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s also worth noting that the whole “square from the school falls in love with free spirited hippie” was done – as a b-plot and far better – back in Season 2 of South Park.

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, when Mr. Mackay starting taking acid.

  Was that Season 2? Man that was a long time ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was, but it also worked way better than this.

Mad Jon: Yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: Skinner just gets off the bus, and it’s like, “Oh, you’re back”. The whole thing was rushed to the point of incoherence. And that includes that montage.

Mad Jon: On a quick note, I liked how when Smithers went into Burns’ safe, there was a heart in a jar for a quick second.

Charlie Sweatpants: I noticed that too, it wasn’t bad.

What I didn’t like was the way Burns was senile.

Mad Jon: Which montage, the free spirited one or the one with the bar pictures that made it so I didn’t have to try to remember how many times Moe has changed the bar?

Charlie Sweatpants: The free spirit one.

Mad Jon: Ah yes.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was b-plot time that could’ve been used far better.

Mad Jon: It was a bit of time before I realized that was the b-plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem with Burns in this episode is that they can’t decide what they want him to be. Is he fantastically cruel and evil? Or is he an incompetent buffoon? Just fucking pick one already, at least within a single scene is it too much to ask that he stay in character?

Mad Jon: That is a good point, Burns was always in a linear character, but that haven’t been able to properly use him in forever. But name a character with which that isn’t the case.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sad but true.

Mad Jon: Burns is evil, Burns wants to connect with the common man, whatever.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah. Also, is Smithers out to Burns now? There are a lot of Zombie Simpsons I haven’t seen, but it sure seemed like he didn’t care if Burns knew he was gay.

Mad Jon: I don’t know. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE else knows he is gay, and there have been like a hundred scenes where something really awkward happens, but it has never been directly addressed.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was a lot of those kind of grindingly unfunny improbabilities here. So we’re supposed to believe that this collection of the gayest gay men this side of the Castro can’t tell that Moe is straight?

Mad Jon: Also, hasn’t there always been a different gay bar across the street?

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess.

I kept waiting for them to mention the other gay bar again, but instead, fifteen minutes into the episode, they made up some crap about a parade and had Moe run for office.

  Did not see that one coming.

Mad Jon: I can’t believe Springfield is large enough to need a city council

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t believe Patty was standing there the whole time Moe was pretending to be gay and didn’t say shit.

Mad Jon: Or that any of the unbelievably large amount of woman Moe has harassed didn’t say anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: The list goes on.

I think someone left “Milk” on when they fell asleep and just filled in all the parts they missed with random minor characters.

Mad Jon: Except no one killed Moe in the end…

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, like I said, they fell asleep.

  Anything you liked here?

Mad Jon: The couch gag spoke to my memories of old, nice and simple and not over the top.

That was about the only thing that didn’t make me dislike the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I liked Moe’s line about a “horrible addiction compels you”.

Mad Jon: Also pretty good.

  There were a couple of lines, but they were so crowded by crap and boredom that they are hard to remember in correct context.

Charlie Sweatpants: Bingo. The dizzying array of plot twists made the whole thing seem even messier than it already was.

  Oh, and right on the heels of Fit Tony there was Comic Book Gay.

Mad Jon: Yeah, who likes comic books of a different kind.

  I swear to god I hate that Comic Book Guy for what he has done to Comic Book Guy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh. I’m just nervous that Sideshow Mel is going to have a cousin named Sideshow Sell who does infomercials.

Mad Jon: He has not so subtly gone down the road Homer did so long ago. Doesn’t really have a job anymore, unless it is pivotal for the ‘plot’. Is part of every major Springfield/Simpson family event, and he went from one line zingers that filled the space brilliantly to a conversationalist who still tries to use those one liners, only a lot lot more often.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s all true, but like my comment about Burns, what character can’t that be said about?

Mad Jon: Very true sir.

Charlie Sweatpants: Chalmers keeps showing up for no reason, I think you’re right, he sleeps at the school now.

Mad Jon: It just gets me that all of the sudden everyone is on this CBG bandwagon, like he is the new ‘it’ character, except he has been doing this for years.

Well at least this time Chalmers, who apparently has a first name now, was at least outside of Skinner’s office.

Charlie Sweatpants: But he is just there whenever they need him to be. I’m reminded of that episode last year when Hoover showed up on the playground to give Lisa her paper back, and then vanished.

  They’re replacing the school music teacher, there’s actually a reason for Chalmers to be there, but they don’t even bother.

Mad Jon: Maybe someone’s voice contract requires a certain amount of Chalmers time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nah, I think it’s just apathy.

Mad Jon: Also I would imagine introducing a new student to the class is the job of a principal.

But once again…

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here? Between the half formed romantic comedy b-plot and the strange twists and turns of the a-plot I think we’ve covered everything.

Mad Jon: No, I think we have devoted enough of our free time to this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s good. I don’t think I could take much more discussion of “Queer Eye for Springfield”.

Oh crap, that’ll be an episode title in about two seasons once no one remembers what “Queer Eye” originally was.

Mad Jon: That would be about right . . . Damn you Sweatpants!


Quote of the Day

Bart vs Australia4

“I can handle that.  I’m an expert at phony apologies.” – Bart Simpson
“Bart!” – Marge Simpson
“I’m sorry.” – Bart Simpson
“That’s better.” – Marge Simpson

Bart vs Australia5


Compare & Contrast: Gay Bars

“We work hard.  We play hard.” – Roscoe

In everything but similarity of title, “Homer’s Phobia” is the obvious choice for a comparison episode to “Flaming Moe”.  But rather than stacking up the plot structures, characters, and jokes and marveling at how greatly Season 8 towers over Season 22, I want to focus on one small aspect of these two episodes that I think goes a long way toward illustrating the point I was trying to make yesterday.  Specifically, it’s easy to see how much more tame and thoughtless Zombie Simpsons is when you compare their gay club, “The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen”, to “The Anvil” from The Simpsons.  The two clubs/bars/whatever are relatively small parts of their respective episodes, but in them we can see a much larger reflection of the comedy sensibilities behind The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.

In “Flaming Moe”, the only thing about “The League of Extra-Horny Gentlemen” that’s even trying to be funny is the name of the place.  Other than that it’s just a yellow approximation of a trendy gay club.  The bouncer’s keen on tall, statuesque guys who wear revealing clothes and look like they do a lot of sit-ups.  Homely, ill clad Smithers is unwelcome.  Later, we get a quick peek inside and see another tall sit-up enthusiast, this time dressed as a shirtless fireman.  There’s nothing at all creative about any of this, it’s the standard Hollywood version of what a gay club looks like.  You could see the exact same thing in an episode of Sex in the City or Entourage or just about any movie where straight characters accidentally stumble into a gay bar.

Generic Gay Bar LineEven with Safe Mode on, you’d see more creativity by searching Google Images for “Gay Bars”. 

Of course, “The Anvil” is also filled with tight clothes and big muscles, but it’s not some forgettable, anonymous club.  Nor is it just another bar with a line out front and a selective bouncer.  It, the entire thing, is the joke, because “The Anvil” is built into a working steel mill that is staffed entirely with flaming, hunky gay guys.  The mere existence of the bar is a gag, and its hard working, hard playing clientele are the icing on the cake.

Homer's Phobia3 Nothing like this has ever existed . . . but it should.  Do you think they’d make you work a shift to get in?

Both bars traffic in well known stereotypes, the difference is in how they use them.  “Flaming Moe” expects the audience to guffaw upon recognizing the stereotype: ‘That is so what gay bars are really like, I saw one on How I Met Your Mother!’.  “Homer’s Phobia”, on the other hand, takes the stereotype of the gay club and puts it in the last place the audience would ever expect it to be.  It’s the kind of deep seated silliness that The Simpsons was always really good at, like making the head of the Kwik-E-Mart a mountain dwelling swami or having the highly sophisticated machine that scores the Career Aptitude Normalizing Test be operated by a rocking chair bound hayseed who calls it “Emma” and hits it with a broom.

Zombie Simpsons has a gay bar that’s exactly like every gay bar you’ve ever seen on television, just with a cute name.  The Simpsons has a gay bar that’s nothing like anything anyone’s ever done before or since.  One is reductive, the other is creative, and it’s just another way Zombie Simpsons falls hopelessly short of the real thing. 


Quote of the Day

The Way We Was5

“Senator Mendoza is one of the most respected citizens in this state, McBain, and yet you ran his limo off a cliff, broke the necks of three of his bodyguards, and drove a bus through his front door!” – Captain
“But captain, I have proof that he’s head of an international drug cartel!” – McBain
“I don’t want to hear it, McBain!” – Captain


A Flapping Dickey of Outdated Gay Jokes

Principal Charming3

It goes almost without saying that American culture has changed in a lot of ways since the Simpsons family came on stage in the late 80s.  In addition to the usual twists and turns of taste in everything from music and clothing to movies and cars you would expect over any two decade stretch, the last twenty plus years have also seen an enormous expansion in the civic space afforded to gay and lesbian Americans.  People who were seen as so culturally toxic that even referring to them on television was all but forbidden in 1989 have become commonplace in 2011.  That remarkable transformation hasn’t been without its ups and downs, but it has inarguably altered the way certain topics are presented and discussed in the genteel world of network television.  Too bad nobody told Zombie Simpsons.

And it is here that I will quote Harvey Fierstein, Springfield Hero, who was referring to an episode that aired eight seasons ago when he said:

Jim Brooks and Matt Groening and those writers have always added that extra something beneath the surface, and it just wasn’t there.  Basically, Homer just had a lot of fun hanging out with gay men, and drinking in bars, and dancing at discos, and all that, and there was nothing – there was no commentary there.  Every restaurant had a silly gay name.  They gym had a silly gay name.  They were all double entendres, obviously.  And I said, “Anybody could do this.  You’re the fucking Simpsons.  Do something we have never seen before.”

Basic plot elements aside, everything Fierstein said applies to “Flaming Moe”.  The episode is little more than a series of non-sequiturs used to parade tired, shop worn cliches across the screen.  None of them are insightful or contain any kind of layered meaning, they’re just there for the cheapest possible laugh requiring the least possible thought.  Making all of this even more pathetic than it otherwise would be, this was a show that was, once upon time those two decades ago, really ahead of the curve on this kind of humor.  They hinted at Smithers being gay way back in Season 1, when television’s idea of homosexual began and ended with guys like Paul Lynde and Liberace.  Zombie Simpsons was out of date eight years ago, circa Season 22 things have only gotten worse. 

The numbers are in and, as expected, they are bad.  With no football lead in to protect it, last night’s recitation from Random House’s 1999 classic “Queers for Dummies” was scoffed at by a mere 6.47 million viewers.  That is the lowest number of the season so far, and hopefully presages further bottom feeding for the rest of the year. 


Quote of the Day

I Married Marge5

“Wow, what an ending!  Who’d have thought Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father?” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday James Earl Jones!


Quote of the Day

The Telltale Head6

“Lisa, Bart, what did you two learn in Sunday school today?” – Marge Simpson
“The answers to deep, theological questions.” – Lisa Simpson
“Yeah, among other things, apes can’t get into heaven.” – Bart Simpson
“What?  Those cute little monkeys?  That’s terrible, who told you that?” – Homer Simpson
“Our teacher.” – Bart Simpson
“I can understand how they wouldn’t let in those wild, jungle apes, but what about those really smart ones who live among us, who roller skate and smoke cigars?” – Homer Simpson


Just Because

I Love Lisa6

“I asked for no broth!  Away with you, lest my cane find your backside!” – Ralph Wiggum
“Mmm, yes.” – Rex


Crazy Noises: Moms I’d Like to Forget

Marge Be Not Proud1

“That must be the happiest kid in the world.” – Bart Simpson

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on  “chandelier”).

There’s something unbelievably tepid about most Zombie Simpsons episodes, and “Moms I’d Like to Forget” shares that nervous attitude. It just seems more comfortable neutrally reflecting the world with yellow skin and bad overbites instead of actually making fun of something or someone. Consider that nasty, spoiled kid and his checked out mom in “Marge Be Not Proud” (which is not exactly my favorite episode). The kid in the toy store is really an asshole, and his mom not only doesn’t seem to care, but she looks plenty selfish and narcissistic herself, the kind of parent so self involved that she’s basically indifferent to her own kids. It is a brutal caricature and it extends even to the kids’ names, “Gavin” and “Kaitlin” being the kind of trendy monikers (at least, twenty years ago) bestowed by parents who care more about how their kids reflect on them than about the kids themselves.

None of that is evident anywhere in the other families in “Moms I’d Like to Forget”. Neither the husbands, the wives or the kids stand out, nor are any of them held up for ridicule. There’s no over competitive fathers who push their kids too hard, there’s no backstabbing mother who destroys her friends with gossip, there’s no rotten kid who takes things too far or deliberately fucks with his parents. Instead they’re just bland background characters, recognizable as modern Americans only cosmetically. There are a lot of stereotypes they could have made fun of here.

[Note: Dave couldn’t make it this week.  In fact, this whole week has been something of a clusterfuck.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we begin?

Mad Jon: Sounds good.

Charlie Sweatpants: The opening, with Bart having a long dream sequence which was then followed by an action sequence, a little over the top, yes?

Mad Jon: Yeah, I thought the dream sequence would end with him getting hit in the head by the dodge ball with which he imagined he would secure victory. Imagine my surprise when the 30 second clip was followed by a 30 second action sequence that didn’t really accomplish anything other than an age war.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole thing was an exercise in time killing. Something that could’ve been done in about thirty seconds was stretched out to a good two minutes.

The sports cliche bit at the end of it didn’t help. Har har, making fun of sports cliches. Someone must’ve caught “Bull Durham” on cable recently.

Mad Jon: I know it was a setup for a ‘plot’, but, like I believe you mentioned, it was a plot that I couldn’t figure out.

Charlie Sweatpants: They’ve had nonsensical plots before, but this was really meandering.

Mad Jon: In fact, I watched that episode yesterday after work, a mere 26 hours ago, and like a dream I am losing the details by the second.

Charlie Sweatpants: They treated the scars like they were a Scooby-Doo mystery, and then the explanation had literally nothing to do with the rest of the episode.

Okay, they got the scars from the sandwich swords, but that had nothing to do with why the moms broke up with Marge. Even the four boys running over to Comic book guy was just random happenstance, it wasn’t precipitated by anything.

Mad Jon: Did we even get anyone’s name?

Charlie Sweatpants: Nope.

Mad Jon: Why on earth would Bart have such ennui hanging out with those particular boys? This is a kid who was happy to wear a kitchen pot on his head and run full speed at his 260lb father.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why was he holding a bunch of remotes in his mouth . . . alone . . . at night . . . in bed?

Mad Jon: Yeah, about that. I don’t know.

Alone in the dark with 8ish remotes in his mouth.

Good thing Lisa is so curious.

Charlie Sweatpants: I got conned into doing a lot of stupid shit by older kids when I was young, but they usually want to see you humiliate yourself.

Mad Jon: But most of the stuff they all did together, that was like the only thing where they where trying to get him to be the chump.

Charlie Sweatpants: That too. As per Zombie Simpsons standards, all comedy opportunities must be wasted and all story points must be non-sense.

But that just led to Comic Book Guy’s awful, awful store scene and even longer flashback.

Mad Jon: That was pretty bad.

Charlie Sweatpants: The first time it was on-screen the idea of a super villain named the Communist Block, with a red square hammer & sickle on his head was kind of funny. After they left it on the screen forever, it became less so.

Mad Jon: It’s been like 10 years and I still can’t get past the writers using auxiliary characters for major plot turns.

I did like the comic book cover.

Overall, however, nothing really bothered me as much as the dads hanging out.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, the agony.

Adding: Oh, the wasted comedy.

Mad Jon: Homer didn’t even have a chance to ruin anything. Were we supposed to assume that he had alienated those other men 7 years ago?

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess.

Homer forced to hang out with three guys who don’t like him, how do you not do anything with that?

“Everything you say is asinine” was the closest they came to a joke, and it wasn’t close enough.

If I wanted to see middle aged men whine, I’m sure there are a number of other programs I could be watching.

Mad Jon: I can think of 3 that star Ray Romano

Who was a guest star a few years back.

Not that it is important. Or even necessary to note.

Charlie Sweatpants: Meh.

Mad Jon: I know it’s a cartoon, but if the moms are getting together and the kids are coming along, why on earth did the dads go too? Shouldn’t they have been at a bar or game, or cheating on their spouses or something?

Charlie Sweatpants: That would’ve ruined the tightly written comedy of Homer making noises.

Mad Jon: Oh yes, how could I forget?

You know, I said that the fathers were my least favorite part, but I am torn between that and the ending, now that I think about it.

So because Bart and his friends burned their hands and ruined Cletus’s family’s dinner, the group no longer gets together?

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that.

Mad Jon: And a ball of fireworks will allow him to stop hanging out with fellow trouble makers?

Charlie Sweatpants: It was never made clear.

Mad Jon: It was frustrating. I don’t like watching Zombie Simpsons, but even more so I don’t like watching them, waiting for the plot to start, and then having them end with no explanation. It’s quite aggravating.

Charlie Sweatpants: It is. But what else is new?

On another topic, I’d like to nominate this episode for the most noticeably aging voices in a while.

Mad Jon: Resolution seconded.

Charlie Sweatpants: Chalmers, Willie, Krabappel, even Marge, they’re really struggling.

Mad Jon: I noticed Willie readily, and Marge doesn’t surprise me either.

Charlie Sweatpants: That scene where she comes home drunk? Kavner just sounded like she was whispering. I love Kavner, and I get that she has to make her voice even raspier to do Marge, but on anything but a flat monotone it becomes really noticeable, and even that has gotten deeper.

Mad Jon: Well, it’s only going to get worse as we go on I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: No doubt.

Any final thoughts?

Mad Jon: Meh, maybe they are setting us up for a Chalmers and Skinner spin-off. Being that he still hasn’t left Skinner’s office in like 2 seasons.

Charlie Sweatpants: He does seem to have taken up residence.

Mad Jon: I really miss the surprise visits.

But that’s all I got.

Charlie Sweatpants: All I’ve got is the two things I kinda liked that nevertheless took too long: the couch gag, and Skinner’s old west piano playing.

The couch gag took too long, but it on the subway reading a paper that says “Ottoman Empire Collapses” was funny. It just didn’t need to take that long.

Mad Jon: I agree with the couch gag, it was a little long, but the idea was both cute and relatively original.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ditto Skinner’s old west piano thing. That could’ve ended quickly, instead they had to make it painfully obvious with the wooden chandelier.

Mad Jon: Yep, but I appreciate the effort.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I’m done. Please say that you are too.

Mad Jon: It’s ok Charlie, I’m done.


Quote of the Day

El Viaje Misterioso De Nuestro Jomer6

“Where’s Homer?” – Bart Simpson
“Your father decided he’d rather come home in a taxi . . . or a police car.” – Marge Simpson

[Edited to correct the copy-editing, which is, in general, terrible here.]


Reading Digest: Dueling Videos Edition

“Son, you shouldn’t watch that other channel, it’s only for mommies and daddies who love each other very much.” – Homer Simpson

There were two Simpsons YouTube videos this week that garnered quite a bit of attention.  Taken together, they make for a rather funny statement on the current status of the show.  The first was a clip The Simpsons made back when The Cosby Show finally went off the air.  The second is a porn parody of the show slathered in yellow makeup.  I’d say that’s about where we are.  There’s also some excellent usage and the usual assortment of Simpsons ephemera.  As always, feel free to put anything Simpsons related you found on-line this week in the comments, self promotional links encouraged.    


Long-Lost Simpsons Clip Resurfaces – I vaguely remember this:













There’s some background at the link to, long story short:

Yes, Golden Age Simpsons managed to burn the current incarnation of the show from years in the past. The ownage levels are off the charts.

Are you friggin excrementing me? Safe for work Trailer for… SIMPSONS – THE XXX PARODY??? – Via Bill Oakley’s Twitter feed, followed swiftly by everyone else on the internet, it’s the trailer for the Simpsons porn parody:













I don’t think I could actually jerk off to that, but I gotta admit, some of the voices aren’t bad.  Marge isn’t even close, obviously, but both the guy playing Homer and the one playing Flanders do pretty good impressions.  The off screen Barney is decent as well, and it gets points for remembering that Cookie Kwan is number one on the west side.

Muston Scarecrow Festival – Check out these Simpsons scarecrows from Britain.  Homer, Bart and Lisa look pretty good, Marge kinda looks like her chest is pregnant.  Still, that’s cool, damn hell ass cool (via rubbrcatsimp on Twitter). 

Two Films That Subtly Changed Some of My Attitudes About Movies and Life – I was entertained by Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but this is both excellent usage and pretty true:

How do we know Scott is worthy of our attention? Because every other character in the movie talks about and/or reacts to Scott all the time. It’s like the scene in The Simpsons‘ "The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show" where Homer gives the show’s producers a list of ways to make viewers love the Poochie character, once of which is "Whenever Poochie’s not onscreen, the other characters should be asking, ‘Where’s Poochie?’"

Homer actually puts an “all” in front of “the other”, but other than that it’s spot on. 

Homer Simpson YouTube Background – Are you a YouTube member?  Here’s a Homer background. 

Ophiuchus…In 10 Words – Homer’s horoscope, and his wailing reaction to it, always cracks me up.

The Simpsons Porn Parody…In 10 Words – A twofer, this one being about everyone’s favorite Simpsons topic this week.  Though Flanders calls him “Homey”, not “Homer”, but that’s nitpicking. 

Teachable TV – Nice little write up of Denise Du Vernay, one of the co-authors of that Simpsons in the classroom book. 

all over again, repeating – Perfectly quoting from “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” about what sort of sounds like a break up is excellent usage. 

Trailer: The Green Hornet – A discussion of why The Green Hornet is likely to suck, with excellent Skinner usage at the end:

Prove me wrong, kids.  Prove me wrong.

Review: TRON Legacy – More excellent usage from the same website as the above:

Allow me to start my review by embracing my inner-geek; in the seventh season “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons, Homer finds himself catapulted into a new dimension where he becomes rendered in 3D.  When asked by his family what his new surroundings are like he responds, “Did anyone see the movie TRON?” Everyone quickly answers in the negative.  Well, I wish I didn’t see TRON: Legacy.

Serendipitous Relevance and American Lit – A teacher uses pop culture to remind his students that everything from rap music to movies is influenced by older literature.  But what, may I ask, is wrong with Season 2?:

Now if only I could find a more recent reference for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea than a second season episode of The Simpsons…

For the record, I didn’t understand “A little ketchup for your buns, Papa?” until many years after I saw it.   

Droid Streamer Pro – So Long Productivity, Nice Knowing You – Streaming some Season 5 episodes on a 3G connection. 

Crossfade: My favorite bands that appear on The Simpsons – This list gets a little Zombie Simpsons towards the end, but then it finishes with YouTube of The Ramones at Burns’ birthday party.

So it Begins: Top 10 TV Show Intros – Simpsons only checks in at #8.  Despite writing, “Though no one actually watches this show anymore, it at one time was beloved” it uses the HD Zombie Simpsons opening.  That aside, there is some decent teevee nostalgia YouTube here.

They’re everywhere III – A blog called “11:23” with a clip from “Brother from the Same Planet” showing the clock at . . . well, you get the idea. 

Episode 23-Star Wars, Alan Moore and Stuff – A comic book podcast where they discuss, among other things, Neil Gaiman’s upcoming guest spot (thanks to Andreas for e-mailing about that) on Zombie Simpsons and how the show now has more bad episodes than good.  The Simpsons part starts around 8:15 and last about three minutes. 

Homer Simpson’s Top 10 Inventory Management Tips – Part 2 – This is the second half of that list I linked last week.  Once again the quotes look good at a glance, with one exception: Forfty

Why on The Simpsons "The Good Book" read by Larry King end with Malachi and not Revelation? – I probably shouldn’t expect much more from a website called “Your Celeb Questions”, but this is pretty funny:

The episode "One Fish Two Fish Blowfish Bluefish" Homer eats Fugu at a Japanese Sushi restaurant and is given 24 hours to live. He finishes his last day listening to "The Good Book" on tape, read by Larry King and it ends with Malachi. "The End" said Larry King. No, that’s not the end, Larry. You have 27 more books to go.
The Simpsons are Christians they are not Jews so why didn’t it end with Revelation?
Some Jew Larry King is.

The commenters at least seem sane. 


Quote of the Day

Winter Pumpkin

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user mike@bensalem.

“This year I invested in pumpkins.  They’ve been going up the whole month of October, and I got a feeling they’re gonna peak right around January.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish5

“Dad, we’ve never been too close, have we?” – Homer Simpson
“Not to my knowledge.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson


Quote of the Day

You Only Move Twice5

“You have any sugar around here?” – Homer Simpson
“Sugar?  Sure . . . here you go.  Sorry it’s not in packages.  Want some cream?” – Hank Scorpio
“Ah, no.” – Homer Simpson


Compare & Contrast: Marge and Other Women

“Pleased to meet you.  You look like such a happy bunch . . . of people.” – Marge Simpson

In film criticism there is a concept known as the “Bechdel Test”, which is a kind of quick and dirty measurement of whether or not a movie has any female characters that rise above the level of tokenism or decoration.  There are a few variations, but the basic concept is that there needs to be at least one conversation between two named, female characters that isn’t about a male.  I was thinking about this during one of the many scenes where Marge and the three other moms sit and exposit at each other, and it dawned on me that of the four of them, only Marge actually had a name.  Oh sure, Marge mentions “Anita’s family” when talking to Homer, but we have no idea which one is Anita; the name is never used when any of them are actually on screen.  Maybe they’re all named Anita.

Marge and the AnitasFrom left to right: Marge, Anita?, Anita?, Anita?.

None of the husbands or the kids had names either, but they weren’t the focus of what was supposed to be the main story, and they did get at least some individual attention.  The fifth grade kid introduced the episode, and the sandy haired husband rode Homer’s case far more than the other two.  It wasn’t much, but you could get a slight feel for who they were supposed to be.

Not so with the three women whose interactions with Marge were ostensibly the central plot.  We never see the Anitas do anything other than gab with Marge.  We don’t know what they do, we never see only one of them interact with Marge (or anyone else).  They just show up on screen like some kind of inseparable three headed creature with one collective mind.  They have no individual personality whatsoever.

Compare that to the rich women at Springfield Glen Country Club.  For starters, they have names!  And not just any names, elaborately pronounced rich people names that require delicate tonal inflection, precise vowel control, and extra syllables.

Marge and the Rich WomenFrom left to right: Su-san, Gillian, Patri-cia, Eliza-beth, Robert-a, Marge, and Evelyn.

A Rich Woman Named Evelyn More important than the fact that they passed the Bechdel Test with flying colors, they actually have character.  We start by meeting Evelyn, who remembers Marge from high school even though they “ran with different crowds”.  Evelyn herself isn’t all that special in her crowd, but she is the one who introduces Marge to the world of elegance and respectability.  Thus, Evelyn has a motivation – a word Zombie Simpsons is very uncomfortable with – to see Marge succeed in the group, because if Marge fails by being too boorish or unsophisticated, Evelyn also fails for misjudging her.  We even see the payoff for this when she lays it on thick with Marge, “And I just know you’ll have a lovely new outfit!”.  That’s what’s known as an iron fist in a velvet glove, on the outside she’s all sweetness and encouragement, but Marge gets the real message loud and clear: if you want to be one of us, you can’t keep wearing the same thing.  Not only does this show us who Evelyn is, it has the added effect of driving the plot.  Evelyn’s warning sends Marge scurrying, first back to her sewing machine, then to her sisters’ place, then on a return trip to the outlet mall in hopes of another miracle.

A Rich Woman Named Susan Then there’s Su-san, the acid tongued queen of the country club (who is never without a drink).  We know right away that she’s important; she’s introduced last, and then immediately gets in the biting line, “That’s the trouble with first impressions, you only get to make one.”  Both Marge and the audience understand instantly that she can see right through that stylish Chanel suit to the beat up car in the parking lot and all the poverty Marge is trying so desperately to hide.  We understand, or at least we think we understand, her motivations (there’s that word again) without any further explanation: she is keen to keep the hoi polloi out of her rarified world.

There you have it, in just two scenes, at the gas station and then at the country club, we’ve established two named characters who will spend the rest of the episode interacting with Marge in ways that actually affect her actions and move main story forward.  Nor are they just sitting around the whole time, they play cards and croquet; they throw Marge a membership party. 

And then, of course, there are the respective endings.  In “Moms I’d Like to Forget”, Zombie Simpsons just decides to up and end things with Marge suddenly getting defensive about her family.  While this is something we’ve seen Marge do in previous episodes, it’s not something Marge had talked about or expressed at all in this story.  The closest we get to any kind of motivation for her outburst is one line of voiceover exposition (“but they were a bad influence on you”) way back when Marge was first describing them to Bart in the bathroom.  Subsequently, the audience sees the other kids getting Bart to do things he ordinarily might not do, but Marge never sees any of that.  Bart doesn’t describe it to her when they’re talking in the garage, we don’t even see her disappointment in the influence of the other boys during Comic Book Guy’s two minute flashback.  This is, once again, Fiction 101: your characters do not know everything that you know.

Far worse, though, is that Marge gives up on being friends with these women instantly.  She never tries to please or placate them, she never tries to show them that it is their sons, not hers, who are the real troublemakers.  In “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield”, Marge finally realizes that she will never be one of the blue bloods.  But she doesn’t just up and do it with no prompting, she has to go through all those awkward interactions at the club, she has to get angry at her family for being themselves, in desperation she even blows their savings on that retail Chanel dress.  All of her actions are what give the ending its meaning, which makes the comedic payoff of Su-san and Evelyn actually accepting her (“I hope she didn’t take my attempt to destroy her too seriously”) and offering her membership all the better.

“Moms I’d Like to Forget” could’ve done something similar.  Marge could’ve seen that the other boys were a bad influence on Bart and ignored it at first because she was so happy to finally have a social life.  Once she could no longer deny it, she could’ve then tried to show the other moms what was really happening, and if they still rejected her or refused to believe her, she would’ve had a real reason to dump them again.  In short, she could’ve had a real story arc, like she did in “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield”.  Instead, we got an amorphous, three headed “Anita” with no personality, no character, and no motivation as a lifeless backdrop for Marge being happy and then abruptly deciding she wasn’t. 


Quote of the Day

Check Writing Machine

Image shamelessly stolen from

“How could you spend 4.6 million dollars in a month?” – Marge Simpson
“They let me sign checks with a stamp, Marge!  A stamp!” – Homer Simpson


Sit, Zombie Simpsons, Sit

“Oh, yes, sitting, the great leveler, from the mightiest pharaoh to the lowliest peasant, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?” – C.M. Burns

Despite watching it once and fast forwarding through it a second time, I’m still not sure what the main plot of “Moms I’d Like to Forget” was.  Most Simpsons episodes since the dawn of the show have had a main plot, sometimes accompanied by a second one that fills in the time or complements the main one in some way.  But “Moms I’d Like to Forget” didn’t seem to have an A-plot at all, at best it had two B-plots and a whole mess of extended filler sequences. 

Certainly the title would lead you to think that the story with Marge and the other mothers was the main plot, which is what I thought at first.  But when you take a second to think about it, the other three mothers are hardly on screen.  Not only do they not show up at all until almost halfway through the episode, but when they are on screen, literally all they do is sit there.  Here they are when we first see them:


And here they are the next time they’re on screen:


Here we can see a more advanced form of sitting, with a slight recline:


And now, in a flashback, thrill to their ability to sit without the aid of furniture:


Finally, we come to the denouement of this particular B-plot, sitting on a couch:


That is all five scenes in which we see the titular characters (not counting the picture Marge has of them – wait for it – sitting), and in not one instance does any one of them do anything.  The only time we see them standing is in a photo in Marge’s scrapbook (which she naturally keeps in the bathroom).  But when that photo dissolves into a flashback, why, look what they’re doing:


I have a hard time calling anything that static the main plot.  (The only on-screen movement the three of them engage in comes during that thoughtless porno setup at the end, and even then they remained seated.  Somewhere, Bryan Safi sheds a single tear.)  There isn’t even anything that could qualify as interesting dialog going on, which becomes painfully apparent during the fifth sit session when they try to wrap things up by having Marge say:

“I remember why I left this group seven years ago, and it’s why I’m leaving now.  Good day, ladies.”

That’s all well and good, except that Marge wasn’t the one who spent the rest of the episode trying to remember what happened.  That was Bart.  Marge knew what happened all along, but all that sitting apparently numbed the writers to the point that, when it came time to craft an ending, they couldn’t remember which of their two main characters was going through which story. 

There was more to the episode of course, including another resolution-less B-plot where Bart didn’t do much.  The rest of the screen time was filled with dream and fantasy sequences, flashbacks, and that teeth grindingly dull trip to Comic Book Guy’s House of Voice Over. 

The numbers are in, and, as expected, the NFL playoffs made for a whopper, with Zombie Simpsons being left on the televisions of 12.65 million viewers.  That’s easily the season high, and it’s the highest number (outside of last year’s 20th anniversary special) since Season 18, when “The Wife Aquatic” was also given a massive boost by an NFL playoff game.  Fortunately, next Sunday FOX has the early game and the football watching public will be tuned to CBS for the primetime lead in period. 


Quote of the Day

Bart Gets Hit By a Car6

“Excuse me Mr. Hutz, are you a shyster?” – Lisa Simpson
“How does a nice little girl like you know a big word like that?” – Lionel Hutz

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Bart Gets Hit By a Car”!  Original airdate 10 January 1991.


Sunday Preview: Moms I’d Like to Forget

Dave has neither power nor internet at his house at the moment, but it’s okay because there is no promo image this week that needs to be zombified in Photoshop.  Instead all we have is this from Simpsons Channel:

When Bart discovers that a fifth grader has a scar identical to one Bart has, Marge tells him about a club of mothers she was in once where they set playdates for their kids; when she tries to reform the club, things turn out better for Marge than they do for Bart.

The channel guide on my television isn’t any more informative:

Marge reconnects with a group of mom.

No, there is no “s” on the end of “mom”.  So it’s another pun title and other than that we don’t know much.  Given Zombie Simpsons affinity for wrenching plot twists, does anyone want to bet that the whole play group story line is either a) entirely in the first act or b) entirely in the final act?Unfortunately, FOX has the late playoff game this afternoon, and since it’s the one with Michal Vick the ratings are going to be huge and will likely bleed into Zombie Simpsons. 

Oh, and that Bob’s Burgers show premiers tonight as well.  Despite the involvement of funny people like H. Jon Benjamin and Kristen Schaal, it looks pretty bad.  I’ll probably give it a shot, but I don’t have much hope. 


Quote of the Day

Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner3

“Who are you and why are you ruining my retirement party?” – Mimi the Food Critic
“I’ll have you know I wandered off from the tour.” – Homer Simpson

Happy Birthday Al Jean! 


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