Archive for May, 2011



19
May
11

Quote of the Day

Fugu Preparation

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user oliptang.

“If in fact you’ve consumed the venom of the blowfish, and from what the chef has told me it’s quite probable, you have twenty-four hours to live.” – Dr. Hibbert
“Twenty-four hours?” – Homer Simpson
“Well, twenty-two, I’m sorry I kept you waiting so long.” – Dr. Hibbert

18
May
11

Crazy Noises: 500 Keys

“What’s that weird key for?” – Bart Simpson
“That’s Daddy’s magic key.  It opens every door in town.” – Ralph Wiggum

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 (gag inducingly enough, not on “Pooter”).

You could throw darts at the storyboards for this episode and pick out a scene that didn’t make sense, so it almost seems cruel to pick on one in particular.  However, there is one that stands out.  Generally speaking, even if what Zombie Simpsons is doing doesn’t make any sense, they’re usually competent enough to clearly convey what’s happening.  When Bart, standing by the school, tossed away the key to the city, it didn’t make any sense for it to land in the presumably rural yard of Cletus, but you knew what was happening. Similarly, the meandering, city spanning path of “The Pooter Toot Express” had no regard for anything but the cheapest grope at a laugh, but when it moved along on screen you could see where it was headed and anticipate that it was going to escape once again.

The same bargain basement level of competence cannot be attributed to the scene with the floating mannequins.  Observe:

Floating Without Problem

Homer and Lisa talking with each other and floating easily with the mannequins.

At first, Homer and Lisa float pleasantly; they even manage a conversation.  But that’s instantly followed by the two of them, for no reason either on screen or implied, panicking and slipping under the surface.  One second they’re holding on just fine, the next they’re not:

Unprompted Panic and Drowning

Plenty of floatation aids usually help people float, on Zombie Simpsons though . . .

Once they’ve gone under, things get even more confusing.  They’re supposed to be trapped under the water, as though they had fallen through ice or something.  But there’s a shitload of open water all around them:

Go Two Feet In Any Direction!

If they were supposed to be hiding from someone this might make sense.

They could swim left or right or forward or backward just a few inches and get their heads above water.  Their hands are on some of the only places where the mannequins are.  Just looking at it is baffling.  It’s equally glaring from above:

How Can Anyone Be Trapped Under This

There’s open water everywhere! 

The disconnect between what the story is trying to do and what the animation is displaying is so great that I was honestly befuddled while watching it.  I kept expecting something else to change the situation.  As discussed below, I know why this happened, they wanted a reason to have their C-plot knock over that tree.  But it was executed so sloppily that the gulf between what they were showing and what was supposed to be happening was genuinely disorienting.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anyway, I’m ready to go if you guys are.

Mad Jon: I guess we should start at the beginning, with the Scorpio appearance.

Charlie Sweatpants: Is it worth discussing? I was surprised that it was Brooks doing the voice.

Mad Jon: No I guess it isn’t. But it was pretty early in the episode for me to be so outraged. That usually takes an entire act.

Dave: Heh.

Charlie Sweatpants: C’mon man, you’ve got to pace yourself. I didn’t think it was outrage worthy, but even if I did, you must conserve your precious hatred for the actual episode.

Mad Jon: I am probably making too big a deal about the Scorpio thing, but c’mon, he was possibly the greatest TV villain in decades, and that is what they’re using him for now?

Charlie Sweatpants: Enh.

Mad Jon: Fine.

Charlie Sweatpants: If there’s one thing I don’t hate about the new opening it’s that they’ve given themselves places to insert new stuff. It’s cheap, but it’s something.

Mad Jon: Moving on.

Dave: Mercifully the couch gag was super short. Dare I say almost clever?

Mad Jon: I am ok with clever.

Charlie Sweatpants: As for the couch gag, best one in a while, both for being kind of clever and for being mercifully short.

Mad Jon: I agree on both counts.

Dave: As do I.

Mad Jon: Well, score one for the couch gag.

Charlie Sweatpants: Let’s move on to the one other thing I did enjoy, the cake store.

Mad Jon: Ok, I didn’t mind that scene, what did you enjoy about it?

Charlie Sweatpants: Honestly, there’s not much to complain about, the store had a good title "I Don’t", a good premise, and the reasons for the wedding cancellations were quick.

Mad Jon: I really did like the title, and the premise was a pretty classic Springfield-type store.

  Of course, having purchased the cake, one must drive a dare-devil route home.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, there was no way it could last.

Mad Jon: I was thinking about that. I can definitely see Homer taking that kind of short cut, but Homer would have been just as anxious about the ride as the other passengers, and also the cake spilling wouldn’t even be part of the scene . . . but that would be a drive home on the Simpsons, not Zombie Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: I said my piece on this in Compare & Contrast, it was really a total waste of a scene. Just filler from start to finish.

Mad Jon: Yes yes.

Charlie Sweatpants: And after that they introduced the keys, and from there on out it was a lame repeat of Trilogy of Error.

Everybody’s doing different things, at the same time, and they interact in weird ways! Except that while Trilogy of Error at least was impressive from a plotting point of view (if not a joke point of view), this was just crappy.

Mad Jon: A more naive Jon would have had some promise when they dug out the keys, it seemed like it was leading up to flashback episode, but then it lead to what could either be three plots, or three sub-plots, depending on which drama student you ask.

  Was the Trilogy of Error the one with the grammar robot?

Dave: Indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, and Homer getting his thumb cut off, and Bart running around town. Weird, weird episode.

Here, this is the only reason I remember it so well.

Mad Jon: Yeah, didn’t really care for it. But you are right, the plotting was pretty intertwined and at least the characters were reacting to the situation more than Marge just aimlessly following a Pooter-Toot into coincidental situations until it leads to a dead tree-day saving hand of God scene.

Charlie Sweatpants: Guh.

The fact that she couldn’t catch it over and over was really aggravating. The "hate crime" joke was okay, but I had to put up with an awful lot to get to it, and it was so out of the blue that it didn’t fit anyway.

Mad Jon: I did like the "wind-up hate crime". But that was all. The Wiggum scene may have been the worst part. It. Just. Wouldn’t. End.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the tree was equally stupid, but at least it wasn’t nearly as long.

  Man’s pants fall down. Audience laugh.

Mad Jon: So, based on our discussion last week I have a question…

Charlie Sweatpants: Shoot.

[Editor’s note: Dave had to leave at this point, so he’s blameless for the rest of this.]

Mad Jon: Do you consider the following to be more fan service or just extreme laziness: Rod and Todd admonish Flanders with a Jesus is crying joke – Mystery wrapped in a riddle in the basement of a lousy school – Bart wandering around town with keys to everything.?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think it’s laziness masquerading as fan service.

They’ve got keys to do anything, so they can have Bart open a mail box and have someone reference blood feud.

  They have Flanders make up a really stupid lie so they can reference "Homer Loves Flanders".

Half the people writing this show grew up with it, they know a lot of the stories, and I could see getting your head locked into those and just smearing whatever came to mind on the page.

Mad Jon: Oh, I am sure there is more, but I was only un-lazy enough to write down those three examples while watching the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Skinner not having a secretary was kinda the same thing.

Mad Jon: Yes yes. Also I ‘enjoyed’ that Chalmers mentioned he oversees 14 schools.

Sorry for the digression.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, it’s part of what makes this so dumb. It’s mostly fan service leavened with a few flashbacks.

Mad Jon: Ok, you lost me, what is the "this" that is so dumb?

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, take the "Jesus cries blood" thing.

Mad Jon: Ok

Charlie Sweatpants: First of all, that’s not a saying, not the way "Lies make baby Jesus cry" is. Second of all, it wasn’t actually a lie. Third the setup was stupid. Fourth, Flanders had no motive for doing it. Fifth, the stupid train escaped into a hole in the fence that just so happened to be there.

Mad Jon: Oh, I saw "so dumb" and my ego assumed you were referencing me.

Charlie Sweatpants: The original, when Flanders promises a trip to Grandma’s works on all of those counts. This one doesn’t. They thought having Flanders kinda lie to his kids and them mention Jesus is what made it funny, they completely missed everything else.

Mad Jon: I am obviously in complete agreement. This is why I asked my question. It seems like someone could defend fan service, but I am pretty sure they just happened to be reusing whatever jokes they land on when they flip through old episodes.

Charlie Sweatpants: The entire Duff Blimp thing was like that. Hey, what if Homer finally does get to ride the blimp?

Mad Jon: I was just about to mention that we have, up to this point, not mentioned the blimp incident. Frankly that was a lot of what I hate about Zombie Simpsons wrapped up into one (or three or four since it just kept popping up until it was other-plot necessary) dirty little package(s).

  I may actually be more disgruntled than before, and I’ve kind of been in a plateau for most of this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: It just kept going. He’s in the blimp, he can fly the blimp, he can’t fly the blimp, he can outrun the police, he’s there just in time to pick up his kids, Lisa falls out of the blimp, Homer falls out of the blimp. It was almost too hyperactive to be nonsensical.

Mad Jon: Once I saw the hole in the blimp bottom (?) I knew that man was getting stuck.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was not hard to see coming. And I think the thing on the blimp is called a gondola.

Mad Jon: The hole?

Charlie Sweatpants: No the carriage that had the hole in it.

  I guess the hole would be a hatch.

Mad Jon: Ah, that makes a bit more sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: But either way you could tell instantly that Homer was gonna get stuck.

Mad Jon: I think I actually sighed.

Then Bart got to use a fire extinguisher!

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole last act was wretched. Why the hell did they get trapped under the mannequins? They were floating comfortably and then all of a sudden they were swamped. I actually wasn’t sure what they were trying to do.

Mad Jon: Yeah I thought there was some kind of trapped under the ice deal, but nah, I just think they needed a reason for Marge and the Pooter to show up.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but still. What the fuck?

Mad Jon: Good thing Marge and Maggie were leisurely strolling after Marge’s anniversary present.

  Also Homer started manically bawling . . . Got to throw that in there.

Otherwise he wouldn’t have met his episode crying quota.

Charlie Sweatpants: Can’t have that.

  Also, Otto’s voice? It’s not even close to being close. I’ve heard people do a better Otto.

Mad Jon: That was pretty unnerving.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think Shearer gives a shit about the show these days, but that was really jarring.

Mad Jon: Or the ole’ larynx just can’t do it anymore.

Charlie Sweatpants: Either way, yikes.

Mad Jon: Yep.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else? Between things that went on too long, quarter-assed fan service, and shit that never should’ve been put on screen in the first place, I haven’t got much left.

Mad Jon: Nah, I don’t have anything else relevant to add. We didn’t really cover Lisa’s key-related plot, but I’m not really inclined to. Unless it is due to my dislike of non-prorated rental services. Scoundrels….

Charlie Sweatpants: Seeing as how these were prorated plots with prorated endings, that was at least ironic.

18
May
11

Quote of the Day

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2d

“Dozens of people are gunned down each day in Springfield, but until now none of them was important.” – Kent Brockman

17
May
11

Compare & Contrast: Shortcuts & How Not to Ruin Jokes

“Alright, we’re here.  Let us never speak of the shortcut again.” – Homer Simpson

Of all the digressions and clock killing asides that make up “500 Keys”, the one that’s most out of place has to be the not quite Wages of Fear/Sorcerer drive back from the cake store (which made a lot more sense and was vastly funnier in “Mr. Plow”).  This episode had four simultaneous plots going on, three of which managed to roughly collide near the end, and yet this wasn’t involved in any of them.  It didn’t even have anything to do with the cake that was itself only barely related to the rest of this episode.

Why Couldn't You Just Stop Here

Zombie Simpsons and decent jokes: a history of not leaving well enough alone.

Like so much of Zombie Simpsons, the entire scene is an exercise is making less out of more instead of the other way around.  Having sent Homer, the kids, and his cake down a road marked “Suicidal Moron Pass” could’ve been enough.  You could’ve cut right from them heading up some mountain trail to them pulling into the driveway with cake splattered all over the interior of the car.  Or you could go the other way, have the cake in pristine condition and a joke about how that was easier than expected.  Either way it wouldn’t have altered the rest of the episode, as the survival of the cake, which was made to be important during the scene, is completely irrelevant to everything that follows.  The last we ever see of the cake is a few bits of it on Maggie when she walks into the kitchen.

Instead we’re treated to cliffs, vertical driving and lots of suspense.  The least random thing that happens is when some goats fling rocks at them for no reason.  It was pure filler from start to finish, and the goats weren’t even given subtitles to lighten things up.  As it happens, in “Itchy & Scratchy Land” way back in Season 6, The Simpsons found itself with a similar situation.  So, despite Homer’s admonishment, let us speak of . . . the shortcut.

Itchy and Scratchy Land6

North, south, nuts to that!

The shortcut is the last of several traveling gags in “Itchy & Scratchy Land”.  The nice thing about these little vignettes (Five Corners, the fruits & vegetables) is that they make sense within the story without ever distracting from it.  Together they serve to illustrate how long the trip is while giving the show an opportunity to poke fun at the little absurdities of American road trips.  And while it’s true that not every one is strictly necessary, they’re quick enough that they never feel excessive or cheap.  That’s especially true of the shortcut, which Homer enthusiastically bumbles into with a couple of joke rich lines.   Itchy and Scratchy Land5

This is the very next shot after they drive off down that long, dusty road.

Homer’s shortcut is such a disaster that it doesn’t even last for a full musical cue.  The jaunty, enthusiastic horn music can’t get in more than a few notes before saddening to accompany the image above.  That one shot contains more wacky adventures than Zombie Simpsons could’ve crammed into something four times as long as “Suicidal Moron Pass”.  The evidence is right there on the car, which is not only trailing a homecoming banner and has a pedestrian crossing sign wrapped around the bumper, but also appears to have been struck by a missile.  And that’s only the half of it.  They were in a dire enough situation that they had to use a wagon wheel as a replacement part, Lisa’s door is missing, and Jebus only knows what happened to the roof or the windshield.

Crucially, the audience is trusted to infer all of this information in just a few seconds of screen time.  There isn’t even the need for an over the top punchline.  The whole scene is shockingly funny enough that Homer’s downplaying of the “let us never speak” line as a chicken flees Marge’s hair is the only thing that can make it better.

What The Simpsons knew, and Zombie Simpsons has all but forgotten, is that in the right circumstances outrageous things are funnier when they are alluded to rather than jammed in your face.  It’s much more abrupt to have the missile sticking out of the hood, Homer clearly not having bothered to remove it, rather than some elaborate sound effects laden set piece where it crashed into the car.  In the same way, it could’ve been funny to take a wedding cake over a mountain pass, but not the way they did it.  Not even close.

17
May
11

Quote of the Day

The Boy Who Knew Too Much4

“That’s my nephew, displaying the Quimby wit that’s won the public’s heart.  Happy birthday, Freddie, and may all your disgraces be private.” – Mayor Quimby

16
May
11

Even Their Apologies Suck

Via springfieldx2 on Twitter I see that Zombie Simpsons made a halfhearted stab at apologizing to Kristen Schaal for misspelling her name last week.  Schaal herself even posted a screen grab of it:

Schaal Apology

At first I thought that was nice of them but, as with everything Zombie Simpsons, they have to make it more complicated than it otherwise should be.  After thinking about it for a second, it dawned on me that I probably would remember seeing that, and I didn’t.  Indeed, the version I saw didn’t have that on the chalkboard at all.  As of this writing, neither does the copy on Hulu.com:

No Apology

I’m not sure where the other screen grab came from, though there’s a DirecTV logo in the watermark, but it wasn’t the one I saw, and it isn’t the one currently up on Hulu.  Zombie Simpsons: good intentions, wretched implementation.

16
May
11

Blimps and Flashbacks Everywhere!

Chalkboard - 500 Keys

“Hey, can I drive?” – Barney Gumble
“Well, I can’t see the harm.” – Duff Blimp Pilot

There is one thing I completely enjoyed about “500 Keys”, the closing credits.  Not just because it meant the episode was over, but for that violin rendition of the theme song.  It was nicely done and will make a decent addition to the ever expanding catalog of different versions of the Simpsons theme. 

There were a couple of other things I didn’t completely loathe, but as is typical of such things, the episode promptly ran most of them into the ground.  Skinner telling his mother that it was his birthday not their anniversary comes to mind, but then it dragged on.  A quick joke about a “key party” was funny and made sense before getting stretched past the breaking point with a flashback.  The cake store at the beginning was one of the better scenes they’ve done all season.  Unfortunately, whatever little smile it put on my face was wiped out by the completely unnecessary and unbelievably stupid drive home.  That’s one of those things that’s so obviously filler it’s genuinely hard to imagine anyone who isn’t heavily sedated laughing at it. 

Overall, the tiny sparks of life were crushed beneath the huge number of Family Guy style flashbacks and asides, pointless danger and suspense (why were the mannequins drowning them?), and a mystery that was as dull as it was long.  The keys of the title served to give them a paper thin excuse to take a bunch of random sketches and throw them all together, and they ran with it, all the way up to the blimp.  And we mustn’t forget the blimp, which Homer can learn to fly, forget to fly, and then learn to fly again all within the span of a single scene. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are bad, but not as bad as I was hoping.  An even 6.00 million viewers wondered what was up with Otto’s voice last night.  That’s lower than all but a handful of episodes this season, but it’s a bit higher than last week.  If next week’s season finale comes in at 5.57 million viewers or less, Season 22 will displace Season 20 as the lowest watched ever.  Slightly higher than that will tie it with Season 20. 

16
May
11

Quote of the Day

Boy Scoutz 'N the Hood4

“You guys get to play with knives?  Oh cool, a spork.” – Bart Simpson
“Don’t hurt me!” – Nasally Kid

15
May
11

Sunday Preview: 500 Keys

zombie500keys

Two more episodes to go this year.  Hold your nose because they aren’t going to get any better:

When the Simpsons discover a collection of keys to every door in Springfield, Lisa stumbles upon an eerie hidden classroom beneath Springfield Elementary School. When she shares her discovery with Principal Skinner, the secret room mysteriously disappears and he takes the only key away. A determined Lisa uses her detective skills to lead her back to the room to solve an old school mystery.

I do so enjoy the mystery episodes, all those opportunities for fake tension and string music.  On the plus side we do have a properly bloodied promo image.

15
May
11

Quote of the Day

Closed Door, Open Window

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user masterplaan. 

“I’m sorry for all the trouble I’ve caused you, Krusty.  But, you know, my mom says god never closes a door without opening a window.” – Bart Simpson
“No offense, kid, but your mom’s a dingbat.” – Krusty the Klown

14
May
11

Treehouse of Horror VI Script

Treehouse of Horror VI3

“Astronomers from Tacoma to Vladivostok have just reported an ionic disturbance in the vicinity of the Van Allen Belt.  Scientists are recommending that all necessary precautions be taken.” – Radio Announcer

Five years ago, a better than average copy of William Shakespeare’s First Folio was sold at auction in Britain for £2.8 million.  Part of what made it so attractive to the sort of people who are rich and bored enough to covet such items is the fact that, despite being printed in 1623, it contained notes from fans of the period:

Annotations are written throughout in brown ink and include prompts such as “wit”, “love”, or “simile”.

Experts said the comments offered a unique insight into contemporary views of Shakespeare because many of today’s famous passages had been overlooked.

Instead, lines such as “Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, / That the rude sea grew ciuil at her song” (Midsummer Night’s Dream, II. 3) are pointed out.

It wouldn’t have been nearly as valuable without those annotations.  The text of the plays survive in innumerable copies, nobody needs another one.  But the notes that may have seemed extraneous at the time are, four centuries later, what distinguishes this copy from all the others.

In a marginally similar, if vastly more contemporary, vein, “Treehouse of Horror VI” exists in more places than can be counted.  Between television stations, DVD collections, dusty VHS cassettes, retail outlets, some vault at FOX, and the ever changing swarm of people and hardware that sustains BitTorrent, a pristine copy of the completed work seems unlikely to be a valuable find four hundred years from now.  On the other hand, the original script, complete with things that were never filmed or aired, is a relative rarity.

Fifteen years ago, John Swartzwelder, Steve Tompkins, and David S/X Cohen wrote that script; and somewhere a paper copy of it sits on a library shelf.  Thanks to the intrepid efforts of commenter Shane, who found it on that shelf and then sat down and typed out the whole thing*, it won’t rest there in obscurity.  Instead, all twenty-seven pages of it are here, on the internet, for your leisurely perusal.

I’ve copied the full text after the jump, or you can download a PDF copy (which does a much better job of preserving the original formatting).  For the moment I’ll resist posting my thoughts on what was left in and what got cut.  This is The Simpsons raw, and if you’re reading this site (and you’re not some dickhead FOX lawyer), you don’t need me to tell you what to think about it.

*From his original e-mail: “I didn’t properly transcribe the math symbols in Homer(3) because I’m lazy.”  Not a problem.

Continue reading ‘Treehouse of Horror VI Script’

14
May
11

Quote of the Day

When Flanders Failed3

“Marge, TV gives so much and asks so little.  It’s a boy’s best friend.” – Homer Simpson
“That’s the problem.  Even as we speak, millions of children are staring at the TV instead of getting some much needed exercise.  Those children’s parents should be ashamed of themselves.” – Marge Simpson

13
May
11

Reading Digest: Bart vs. The Space Mutants Edition

The Telltale Head7

“Oh, cool man, Space Mutants 4, drop me off, drop me off!” – Bart Simpson
“No way Jose.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge, they’re only space mutants.” – Homer Simpson
“I know what those movies are like, killing innocent people, eating human flesh.  You just get a lot of bad ideas.” – Marge Simpson

Two links this week to the original Simpsons video game, “Bart vs. The Space Mutants”.  It came out during Season 2, which is why the “Space Mutants” of the title are the ones from “The Telltale Head”, not Kang and Kodos.  If you’re under the age of twenty-five or so you may never have played this, behold what we thought was cool in 1991:

I can assure you that the video makes that first level look a hell of a lot easier than it really was.  We’ve also got a couple of fan made pieces, sweet political satire from Kosovo, old Simpsons trading cards, and an autograph hound. 

Enjoy.

Bart vs The Space Mutants – A review of the first Simpsons video game includes this neat little piece of trivia:

One of the developers recently revealed in an issue of Retro Gamer that when they sent the finished version off to Matt Groening to approve, it came back with a note saying that everything was fine apart from “Bart’s blink being off center”. The developers weren’t sure what this meant so shipped it regardless. It wasn’t until later that they realized what Matt meant – during the animated intro Bart’s eyelids met in the middle when he blinks, instead of going all the way down.

Totally Rad Gravity – Speaking of Bart vs. the Space Mutants, check out this cover image of Nintendo Power from 1991.

Hutz Law – It needs a tagline, but the look on his face as he stares out the window in this fan made image is awesome. 

Sweet Sweet Simpsons – Sadly the entire thing isn’t edible, but still.

Kosovo’s ‘The Pimpsons’ | PRI’s The World – An artist in Kosovo has created a Simpsons parody to make fun of the U.S. Ambassador and other political figures.  The ambassador is Comic Book Guy, heh.  There’s also a silent YouTube video here that has a good example at the end.  (A bit more here.)

Girl on Girl on TV: Week of May 1. – From our friend lennyburnham comes some excellent and enjoyable snark on “The Real Housewives of Fat Tony”:

Fat Tony caught Homer talking about how hot Selma was and how ugly Patty was (which, by the way, missed the point of his relationship with those two. Sure, he talks about how ugly they are, but that was never the point. The point is that he hates them because they’re horrible to him. The idea that he would immediately like Selma if she got a nicer body and continue hating Patty is vile), so he made Homer draw a portrait of Patty and Patty sat there and let her brother-in-law try to draw pictures of her. I am too confused to be mad.

I know the feeling.  Think of Jebediah and the anger will come.  Bonus:

Although, in general, The Simpsons certainly agrees with most sit-coms that gay dudes are super-funny and gay chicks are not. Maybe the underrepresentation of lesbians on the show is just because most of the lesbian population of Springfield died tragically in that lesbian bar with no fire exits.

Ha.

Simpsons Video of the Week: Feelin’ Fine. –  More lennyburnham, this time with YouTube of Homer without beer and TV, and this utopian dream:

I want to live in a world where all advertisements are just old Simpsons clips with the company logo thrown in unobtrusively.

If you ever find it, try to break out of your bliss for a moment and contact the rest of us here on Earth, because I would also like to live there.

Collecting Autographs – Cast of The Simpson’s – The Big Six voice cast members as seen and encountered by an autograph collector. 

A Look into One of My Non-Sports Trading Card Albums – Scroll to the bottom for a very high resolution image of some first series Simpsons cards.  Cashing in at its finest.

Classic Simpsons: Kamp Krusty – A short review along with a list of some of the great quotes and moments.

Bart Simpson, Hieroglyphics Join Hip-Hop Chess Federation – Cartwright will be in San Jose, California tomorrow for the Spring Classic or the Hip-Hop Chess Federation, which:

is an organization dedicated to teaching life strategy skills via chess, martial arts and hip-hop.

Okay, but don’t teach them the touch of death. 

Homer Simpson: Total Badass Picture – Sweet fan made drawing of Homer, as the title says, being a total badass. 

TomTom gets driving directions from Homer Simpson – Now here’s some ad copy I can get behind, even if it is in at a website called Practical Motorhome:

The 20-year old TV series may be a shadow of its former self, but now you can relive the hilarious heyday of The Simpsons by installing Homer Simpson’s voice on the TomTom sat-nav iPhone app.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Divorce…In 10 Words – Maria, my mighty heart is breaking.

Committed: Why Free Comic Book Day? – Excellent usage:

My dad’s favorite parenting quote comes from the Simpsons. He’s always saying “Just because I don’t care, doesn’t mean I don’t understand.” which he finds hysterical and (more worryingly) true. Today I realized that I feel the opposite way about Free Comic Book Day. I care about it, I like it, I appreciate it… but I don’t really understand it.

Play that funky music (PaD#87) – A list of five bands that never existed that you’d want to see, including The Be Sharps.  (Also, Geek Ergo Sum is a great blog name.)

M Is for the Murders That She Ordered: TV’s Best and Worst Moms – Marge makes the good list, and Mom from Futurama makes the bad.

“Trying is the first step towards failure.” -Homer Simpson – Freakoutville puts up one of the all time classics.

“I’ll keep it short and sweet — Family. Religion. Friendship. These are the three demons you must slay if you wish to succeed in business.” -Mr. Burns (The Simpsons) – And another, because I missed it last week.

Say It Loud – Homer’s three simple words for getting out of a relationship.

Ted Nugent is Running for President… on The Simspons – (Misspelling in the original.  Radio station websites are the worst.)  Here’s something to not look forward to in Season 23:

The episode, titled “Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson,” will have Ted Nugent seeking Homer‘s endorsement as a Republican candidate for President of the United States. At the same time, Homer has become a populist TV pundit with his own show, “Gut Check with Homer Simpson.”

Nice to see Zombie Simpsons getting on the Glenn Beck bandwagon right about the time the real Beck will be getting thrown off television.  Bravo.

Do not take the last doughnut – Donuts on various television shows, including two Simpsons YouTube videos, Homer in hell and when Snake crashed into Wiggum.

Snot – I never noticed this, but it is funny:

On a completely related note, I think I’m going to let Simpsons creator Matt Groening handle my investment portfolio from now on. Why? Well, the Simpsons aired an episode (The Last Temptation of Krust) in early 1998 which most people will most likely remember as the Canyonero episode. What does that have to do with my portfolio? Well, they managed to predict in a 22-minute episode the fate of a similar vehicle (both of which were of inferior craftsmanship – at least they keep our kids safe) that the folks of GM were somehow unable to recognize in several years. In fact, in the same year that episode aired, GM purchased the rights to market the Hummer to the general public.

It was a couple of years later that Ford came out with the Excursion, as Canyonero a vehicle as ever there was.  It was actually too big to fit into a standard size garage.

May The Marketing Force Be With You: The Extraordinary Advertisement Possibilities On YouTube – I’ve never heard this:

The first time I came into contact with the term ‘procrastination’ was when I was in 8th grade. My English teacher was a fervid The Simpsons addict and she explained to us the meaning of the word ‘procrastination’ and told us that The Simpson’s moody Jewish Clown Herschel Shmoikel Pinchas Yerucham Krustofski’s stage name ‘Krusty the Clown’ was an allusion to the term procrastination.

I guess it’s possible, but I don’t see it.

The Simpsons: Hope as we may decline was inevitable. – And finally, I get to end the way I like to, with someone who agrees with us:

And let’s get real about this, how many times can you re-write this family’s history?!? I know flashback shows are easy to write, even for animation, but it kind of comes off like we know the Simpsons history better than the writing room…when exactly will the room wise up and realize that the Simpsons did it?

They know, they just don’t care.

13
May
11

Quote of the Day

Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily3

“This is so relaxing.  Homey, this was a wonderful idea.” – Marge Simpson
“Yeah.  If that mafia guy weren’t staring at us, I’d take off my towel.” – Homer Simpson
“Oh don’t mind me, look, I do it first.” – Mafia Guy

12
May
11

Crazy Noises: Homer Scissorhands

A Milhouse Divided5

“Homer, what are you doing?” – Marge Simpson
“I wanted to surprise you with a kinky summer ’do. How many husbands would do that for their wives?” – Homer Simpson
“None, they’d have more sense than that.” – Marge 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 (surprisingly enough, not on “Esquilax”).

Matthew brought this up in comments on Tuesday, but the idea of Homer as a hairdresser is really scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas and/or jobs he hasn’t had yet. There’s the whole “instant professional” thing, but even setting that aside, we’ve already seen Homer attempt – and fail at – cutting women’s hair, and in a salon no less.

I try not to care about inter-episode continuity, I really do. After all, this is a comedy where each episode is its own self contained story. It’s not like 30 Rock or Arrested Development where there are subplots and overarching stories that unfold over many weeks. There you need things to make sense from one episode to the next, here you don’t. And it’s just not fair to expect the writers to labor under years of accumulated personal developments and backstories when the show was never designed to evolve like that. But when Zombie Simpsons does shit like this, when they show Homer wildly succeed at things we’ve already seen him spectacularly botch, they do make it hard. 

Just for good measure:

The Front11

Mad Jon: Well, are you guys ready to get this going?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, let’s do it.

As we seem to like to start with the couch gag recently, was that some kind of record?

  For length, I mean.

Mad Jon: It may have been. It was quite over the top. Also there wasn’t a TV in the exhibit for them to watch. So all that for nothing.

Dave: It sure felt that way.

Mad Jon: I wasn’t even sure if it was a new one or not.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think it was new, I kept being surprised when they found new ways to stretch it out.

Mad Jon: I wasn’t going to be surprised either way

Dave: It was also humorless and not really all that clever. That they kept it going was quite a feat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Someone’s been the museum recently.

Mad Jon: Or broken into one. Maybe those t-shirts aren’t selling like they used to.

Charlie Sweatpants: Always possible.

Speaking of going on too long, I thought the idea of Milhouse not knowing that Nemo’s mom died at the beginning was kinda clever. Half a minute later I was less impressed.

Mad Jon: I’ve never actually seen that movie, so I had to think about it for a second. Having assumed that his Mom was sheltering him, it was actually kind of clever. But then it forced Milhouse to fall in Love with Lisa or something, so….

  …that happened again.

Does having a guest star voice someone in a recurring theme make it a new plot?

Dave: No, I don’t think that counts.

Charlie Sweatpants: That depends on how you count.

Mad Jon: Please explain

Because I am pretty certain that the Milhouse loves Lisa, yet Lisa may actually like Milhouse, but maybe not because you have to embrace life because Nemo’s mom died, was the B-plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t entirely follow you, but it’s still more thought than the show put into it.

Mad Jon: And the plot was based on the recurring theme of Milhouse’s love for Lisa

But whatever, I just watched the episode like an hour ago, so it may be my anger speaking. But even with the Kristen Schaal guest voice-love interest twist, I feel like that was the least original B-plot in a while. And that’s poor, even for this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m pretty sure this whole episode was fan service. The Lisa-Milhouse kiss was the exact kind of thing long running shows do to gin up fan interest once they’ve run out of things to say. I cite every NBC comedy ever.

Mad Jon: Touche Salesman.

Charlie Sweatpants: The A-plot was the same thing. At first I wasn’t sure if they had Homer using gardening shears to cut hair at the beginning on purpose, but after the rest of the episode, including Martin playing the lute, it was definitely a call back.

Mad Jon: That would explain a couple other things too, such as "Everything’s coming up Milhouse"

Charlie Sweatpants: Guh.

Dave: Right. That stuck out like a sore thumb.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought I was numb to this show. I really did.

Mad Jon: That was the best line of season 10, so its not that I really care that much.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d need some time to ponder if I agree completely with that, but it’s definitely up there.

Mad Jon: Yes, well, that would be a colossal waste of time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Summer’s almost here, remember. Season 10 is very much on your horizon.

Dave: Oh boy!

  Kidding.

Charlie Sweatpants: I got it. The sarcasm sensor on my desktop spiked.

Mad Jon: Which is why we don’t need to worry about it right now. We’ll be there soon enough

Charlie Sweatpants: Good point.

There were two other gluttonous time wasters here, the first being Milhouse’s song and the other being Wiggum’s, I don’t know, whale song? What was that?

Mad Jon: Oh god, the thirty seconds of Azaria making the most annoying sound in the world?

This is the same man who makes me piss my pants when I think of the scene in "Lisa’s Wedding" when Wiggum explains the beasts of lore.

  Yeah, Esquilax!

Charlie Sweatpants: A horse with the head of a rabbit, and the body (perfect beat pause) of a rabbit.

  Gets me every time.

Mad Jon: Also I am too lazy to look up what a Theremin is? Can you please explain it to me?

Charlie Sweatpants: No, but Wikipedia can: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theremin

Mad Jon: Ah, Thank you.

It is similar to what I thought it might be.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was another one of this episode’s jokes that I didn’t hate until it was burned into my ear drums and retinas by going on far longer than it had any right to.

Mad Jon: I liked the beginning of the scene in the bar when Homer complains that he has to listen to people complaining, and Moe smiles. That was funny. And very short.

  The Moe part, not the rest.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed, and then it went on too long, just every other damn thing in this episode.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

Dave: It seems that this episode had a greater number of almost okay moments.

Mad Jon: That were all stretched out as long as the couch gag.

Dave: Relative to the rest of the trash this season. That still doesn’t make it good.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, no it does not.

Mad Jon: As per usual, I get the feeling that they found a couple of things and then just kept molding them in front of our faces as if to say "You still laughing? How about now?"

Charlie Sweatpants: It had three or four things that I didn’t hate straight away, but then they ran those things into the ground. And when you combine that with shit like magic eagles, Homer running through the streets crying and chopping things, and Milhouse’s song, well it does not for an entertaining half hour of television make.

  Also, what Jon just said.

Mad Jon: It is a recurring theme in the last few seasons.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh yeah, and in their lust for nostalgia they brought back Lunchlady Doris in a completely meaningless scene that could’ve been done by anyone. They weren’t even in the fucking school!

They would never pull shit like that with Hutz or McClure, and the double standard of that always pisses me off.

Mad Jon: She gets two paychecks this way. Sometimes I wonder if there are some guys out there who have a blog that rags on our blog for complaining about the same things each week….

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I’ve only got two things left. First, I don’t think they replaced Azaria, but whoa did Captain McAllister sound off.

Mad Jon: I didn’t really notice, but he was coming out of a bee store or something, and not a boat or a seafood restaurant, so I wasn’t listening.

Charlie Sweatpants: Probably for the best. The second thing was just funny, though not intentionally. Did you notice Chalmers in the school, just standing there as Milhouse and Taffy walked by? He didn’t say anything this time, but I think they’re incapable of having a school scene without him.

Mad Jon: Maybe it’s in his contract or something.

  Chalmers finally has tenure

Dave: Whatever the reason, I liked him more as an infrequent character.

Charlie Sweatpants: Didn’t everyone?

Dave: Sure. As a regular, he’s tedious.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes, he is.

Mad Jon: Well, this has been a point of emphasis for us this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jebus, don’t say that. We sound like referees.

Dave: Aren’t we?

Charlie Sweatpants: No.

Mad Jon: Hmmm, I meant it in a partisan commentator type style, but I guess I see your point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, Chalmers and Captain McAllister were the last things I had. Anything else here?

Dave: Nada from me. Jon?

Mad Jon: I have nothing else even remotely constructive to add.

But thanks for asking.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well aren’t you the happiest man in town.

Mad Jon: I will be as soon as we are done thinking about this episode.

12
May
11

The Michael Bay Ethos of Zombie Simpsons

“There were script problems from day one.” – Homer Simpson
“It didn’t seem like anybody even read the script.” – Bart Simpson
“That was the problem.” – Homer Simpson

Two years ago, Michael Bay released Transformers 2, a movie that, even by his skewed standards, was vapid, nonsensical and incoherent.  At 20% (which seems very generous), it is his lowest rating as a director on Rotten Tomatoes.  It made an enormous amount of money, but was so widely pilloried as among the worst movies ever made that Bay himself publicly stated that the third one would be better.  In other words, Transformers 2 was so reprehensibly bad that even Michael Bay, a man who often protests (a bit too much) that he doesn’t care what critics think, admitted it sucks.

When the movie came out, the pop culture segments of the internet were rife with parodies, criticisms, and every form of snark imaginable.  Of those, my absolute favorite was this piece by Rob Bricken at Topless Robot.  Driven to the scalpel edge of insanity by the film, Bricken came back by splitting his mind in two and talking himself down.  The entire thing is hilarious, and near the very end is something that popped into my head while watching “Homer Scissorhands”:

If you had to pick a single scene that exemplifies Michael Bay’s utter disdain for story and continuity, what would it be?
When five Decepticons sink to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve Megatron’s corpse. A submarine tracks five "subjects" going down, and when they get there, one of the Decepticons is killed to give parts to Megatron. 5 -1 +1 = 5, right? No, because the sub somehow tracks "six" subjects coming up. Not only is this very basic math, this is the simplest of script errors. It could not possibly have been more than one page apart in the script. And yet  Michael Bay either didn’t care to notice or didn’t give a fuck. "Math? Math is for pussies. My movies are about shit blowing up, man."

You see that attitude in Zombie Simpsons a lot, all you have to do is replace “shit blowing up” with “Homer screaming” or “guest voices”.  But rarely do you see two examples in a single episode where just the tiniest script change could’ve made things make sense, and was neglected anyway.  The first, when Milhouse and Taffy see Bart and Lisa in the hall, is more immediately glaring; but the second, when the Wiggums confront Homer outside his shop, is even worse because it could’ve been fixed by changing just a single word.

In the second of Taffy’s three scenes, she and Milhouse walk up to Bart and Lisa in the hall.  She’s standing right there as Milhouse tells Lisa to lift with her legs not her back:

Four People in a Hallway

I do not possess any advanced mathematical degrees, but I can count to four.

Taffy gazes adoringly at Milhouse, telling him that he knows a lot, and then the scene goes from trite to wretched.  The camera pans left, taking Taffy out of frame and putting Bart into it:

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Now there’s three, but Lisa is still there.  She didn’t leave or anything.

Note that Taffy is still standing right next to Milhouse and looking directly at him.  Bart and Milhouse now proceed to have private conversation as though she weren’t there:

Um, She's Right There

See the red curve at right?  See the little brown bumps inside it?  She can hear you.

Despite the fact that both Lisa and Taffy are still there, Bart and Milhouse commiserate as though no one else is around, because for Zombie Simpsons out of sight is out of mind.  Though they managed to screw even that up since Taffy is so close to them that her hair is still in frame.  But this isn’t a directorial goof that left a few brown pixels in a shot, this is, like Bay’s poor math, either outright contempt or laziness that amounts to the same thing.  Two characters can’t have a private conversation when two other characters are literally inches away from them.

Nor would it have been at all difficult to fix.  Taffy doesn’t have a singe line after this exchange, so if they didn’t feel like writing parting dialogue they could’ve just sent her down the hall and had Milhouse catch up to her.  Correcting this would’ve required about five seconds of screen time and a script change that hardly rises to the level of minor, but it wasn’t done. 

Then there’s Chief Wiggum’s confrontation with Homer.  Wiggum demands Homer do his wife’s hair for the policeman’s ball “tonight”.  That’s the word he uses, “tonight”.  The next scene is when Lenny visits Homer at his very full salon:

Full Salon (Day 1)

That looks like at least an afternoon’s worth of work, doesn’t it?

The next time we see Homer, look what time it is:

After Work (Day 1)

Nighttime!

The stars are out, Marge is in her bathrobe, Homer is back from work.  When we return from commercial, Lisa is stalking the B-plot, and look what time it is now:

Dusk (Day 2)

Daytime!

Once Milhouse rides the magical eagle, we finally get to the Policeman’s ball.  Hey look, the stars are out again:

Policeman's Ball (Day 2)

To be fair, “Thin Blue Line-Dance” is one of the better signs all season.

The episode went day (salon) – night (home) – day (mountain) – night (ball); that’s two days over a ton of screen time.  It’s certainly not “tonight”.  The really telling part is that this could’ve been fixed at any time right up to broadcast.  All they had to do was swap the audio so Wiggum said something like “Friday”, which has the same number of syllables, in place of “tonight”.  Such a change wouldn’t have had any effect on the rest of the episode, but it would’ve made things make more sense. 

This is, obviously, a very minor point, but so are the six Decepticons rising from the ocean floor.  If someone had taken the time to correct the number, it would not have changed the fact that Transformers 2 was unwatchably bad.  In the same way, had someone fixed Wiggum’s dialogue or bothered to get Lisa and Taffy out of the scene in the hallway, “Homer Scissorhands” would still be wretched.  But the obvious oversights, on both the big and little screens, point to an inescapable commonality between Zombie Simpsons and Michael Bay: sharing an “utter disdain for story and continuity”.

12
May
11

Quote of the Day

Homer the Vigilante4

“So, Mr. Malloy, it seems that the cat has been caught by the very person that was trying to catch him.” – Homer Simpson
“How ironic.” – Principal Skinner

11
May
11

Quote of the Day

Lisa the Vegetarian4

“C’mon Jimmy, let’s take a peek at the killing floor.  Don’t let the name throw you, Jimmy, it’s not really a floor.  It’s more of a steel grating that allows material to sluice through so it can be collected and exported.” – Troy McClure

10
May
11

Compare & Contrast: Lisa’s Rivals

“What do you guys, like, do for fun?” – Alex Whitney
“Well, you’ll definitely want to get yourself a good doll.  The new Malibu Stacy has an achievable chest.” – Lisa Simpson

Back in December, I pointed out that in the Katy Perry Incident, surely one of the low points of the entire decade plus debacle that is Zombie Simpsons, Perry herself was given nothing to do.  She showed up, looked nice, and talked about her boyfriend.  In total, she was given twenty-seven words of dialogue.  A few episodes later, the same benign neglect fell upon Alyson Hannigan, who showed up to play a girl who had a crush on Bart.  All of her lines were about him, for a grand total of forty-two words.

To give you an idea of just how small those parts are, the preceding paragraph is ninety-three words.  Continuing the tradition of tacitly insulting their female guest stars, this week Zombie Simpsons brought us Kristen Schaal in the thankless and miniscule role of the girl who falls for Milhouse, then breaks up with him and exits stage right, never having uttered even a single punchline.  Her character, “Taffy”, is so thinly conceived and her story so flat that she’s only in three scenes.  Here’s everything she says in the entire episode:

Scene 1:

I thought that was beautiful.

Yeah.  It was romantic and it rhymed.

I’m Taffy.

It’s a date.

Scene 2:

You know so much about body mechanics.

Scene 3:

Here, my love.

Anything for my silly-Milli.

Not her again.

You’re not over, you never were.  Milhouse, you’re a great guy, but we’re not gonna work out for one reason.

That wasn’t a great day for us, but it’s because you’ll always be in love with her.  He likes his apple pie warm and his a la mode cold.  Good luck.

That’s eighty-five words, and way over half of them come during the break up.  There’s nothing wrong with a good break up scene, they can be a lot of fun, but this particular break up is preceded by nothing.  As you can see above, there isn’t a single scene, nor even a single line of dialogue, where Milhouse shows himself to still be in love with Lisa.  He never mentions her in front of Taffy; he doesn’t even let out a swooning sigh when Lisa intrudes on them at the end.  If we take the episode at face value, counting only what it shows us, Taffy decides that Milhouse is still in love with Lisa because Lisa stalked them.  Huh?  Even the most formulaic romantic comedies give the spurned girlfriend role more characterization than that (they also usually spell the actress’s name right).

Too Lazy to Google

“Kristin” I could understand, but no one took the time to check “Schall”?  (Thanks to bhall87 in comments.)

It wasn’t always this way.  In its prime and past it, the show routinely had guest stars voicing actual female characters, both kids and adults.  They’re too numerous to list here, but I’d like to point out just two of them.  Like Taffy, they’re students at Springfield Elementary and Lisa is threatened by them; unlike Taffy, they’re more than a few dozen wasted words.  They’ve got plots, backgrounds, motivations and everything.  Most importantly, they get to be funny.

The first one is from Season 10’s “Lard of the Dance”, when Lisa Kudrow voiced “Alex”, the fashionable second grader who wows the other girls with how grown up she is.  For starters, let’s take a look at some of the dialogue.  Here’s what she says in just her first scene:

Your name’s Lisa?  Shut up, I love that name.

Oh, don’t be such a Phoebe.  It’s Pretension, by Calvin Klein.  Wanna try some?

Kay, so what’s the haps in Springfield?  What do you guys, like, do for fun?

Dolls, really?  Okay, what else you got?

You mean that game with the little rubber ball?

Isn’t that trophy case supposed to have trophies?

If you’re counting, that’s sixty-two words right there, which is almost as much as Schaal’s whole part and much more than Katy Perry or Alyson Hannigan got, all in one scene with many more to come.

Treating a Guest with Respect

She’s a pain in Lisa’s ass, but Alex Whitney is actually in this episode.

But the point isn’t to just count words and say “J’accuse!”.  It’s to note that not only are these Season 22 parts tiny bordering on nonexistent, they aren’t even developed enough to be called one dimensional.  “Lard of the Dance” isn’t exactly the show at the peak of its powers, but look at Alex’s dialogue from that first scene.  It’s got a couple of jokes in it, and it establishes Alex’s character as the new girl in town who isn’t happy with how unsophisticated Springfield Elementary is.

But who is Taffy?  All we ever find out about her is that she’s popular and in the fifth grade (not that we get to see any of that, it’s exposited by Lisa).  She never takes any actions or expresses interest in anything other than Milhouse.  Even her attraction to him, the reason she exists, is never explained or explored.  We don’t know if she’s got a thing for glasses or theremin playing, she’s just smitten right up until the moment she isn’t.

Giggling Is the Only Thing She Does

This is one of only two shots – not scenes, shots – where she’s alone.  The other is right after it.

It’s bad storytelling, but it also cripples her for comedy purposes.  She has no foibles to tweak, nor does she have any interests the show can satirize.  The closest thing she has to a joke in the entire episode is when she hands Milhouse an inhaler from a bandolier of them.  The ficus plant in “Bart of Darkness” has better jokes attached to it.

Going back further than Season 10 to (as the title of this post indicates) Season 6’s “Lisa’s Rival”, we find another well realized Springfield Elementary girl in Allison Taylor, voiced by Winona Ryder.  While I could do a word count of everything she says, there’d be no point.  She appears throughout the episode, and in a lot more than three short scenes.  Her description of her “Tell-Tale Heart” diorama alone is much longer and more descriptive than anything poor Taffy gets to say.

Lisa's Rival6

Look, a girl with interests and hobbies.  The show used to think this was worth screen time.

Far more important is who Allison is and what she does.  We know right away that she’s smart.  She gets the question about Columbus right, she plays the saxophone, and she nails “Genuine Class” as an anagram for “Alec Guinness”.  Moreover, there’s no mystery as to why Lisa is threatened by her.  Everything Lisa values about herself, Allison does better.

But creating a real character in Allison isn’t important for its own sake.  Because Allison bears an actual resemblance to a real person, one who wants things and does things as opposed to just standing there, she slides seamlessly into the overarching story about Lisa and Lisa’s insecurities.  When we see them in a scene together we know what each of them is thinking and trying to do.  For example, at the end of the episode, after Lisa has tried and failed to make peace with being second to Allison, the audience doesn’t need to be told both girls are trying to win the diorama competition, we already know.  That neither of them does win, Allison for being her usual overachieving self and Lisa for being, as the French say, “Bartesque”, makes the whole scene work in a very funny, very Simpsons way.

Both girls care deeply about winning the competition and have worked very hard to do so.  But the arbiters of victory, Skinner and Hoover, don’t care at all.  Skinner goes gaga for Star Wars characters and Hoover just wants to go to lunch.  Lisa and Allison both lose to Ralph, the dimwitted kid who tries to cheat off their tests, doesn’t know what the word “diorama” means, and is their polar opposite in every way.  Not only does it fit the story, but it puts a nice little twist on all the stress the girls put themselves through.

Lisa's Rival7

We have a winner!  Chewbacca and the little boy with the blank stare.

Neither Allison nor Alex are real people, but they’re recognizably human for reasons beyond colored lines on a screen and a familiar voice on the soundtrack.  Their personalities and their actions give a plausible reality to their dealings with Lisa, which in turns allows all three of them to be funny.  Taffy, like her predecessors in Season 22, has none of those things.  She is a prop far more than she is a character.  Since props don’t usually get much dialogue, in the eyes of Zombie Simpsons she doesn’t merit much of that either.

[Pop culture note: I didn’t remember until I was halfway through this that Winona Ryder was in Edward Scissorhands, for which Taffy’s sad episode was named.]

[Edited to fix typo.]

10
May
11

Quote of the Day

Whacking Day5

“Let’s hear it for our own Miss Springfield.” – Mayor Quimby
“Gentlemen, start your whacking.” – Miss Springfield

It’s May 10th, happy Whacking Day everybody!




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