Archive for June, 2011

30
Jun
11

Ten Scary Simpsons Moments

- By Andreas

“Cool, she’ll be a freak!” – Bart

To have an annual Halloween episode is one thing. To freely cram shocking, ghoulish imagery into otherwise normal episodes of a family sitcom is another. But then, The Simpsons’ writers and animators never had much interest in following formulas or obeying TV conventions, preferring to meld their own savagely satirical experiments with an emotionally naturalistic representation of family life. This, and the fluid nature of its animation, meant that the show could veer from mundane reality to nightmarish fantasy in the blink of an eye.

Here, then, are ten of the most WTF-inspiring, pants-wetting moments from Simpsons continuity. They’re all bizarre, deeply terrifying digressions, but each one still adds depth to its episode. I give you the crème de la crème of The Simpsons’ out-of-nowhere scares…

10) “The Day the Violence Died”

thedaytheviolencedied2
This episode’s ending introduces Lester and Eliza, doppelgängers for Bart and Lisa who save the day, ominously pass by the Simpson house, and are never seen again. They’re drawn roughly in the same style as the Tracey Ullman shorts, but their appearance isn’t nostalgic so much as an eerie, never-resolved non sequitur. As Bart says, “There’s something unsettling about that.”

9) “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer”

elviajemisteriosodenuestrojomer2
Homer’s visit to the land of the Space Coyote—a blocky, stylized version of the American Southwest—is probably the series’ most effectively sustained foray into the surreal. Most of his hallucination, however, is more psychedelically beautiful than it is scary. The exception is when Homer spots a faceless statue of Marge which, as he begs it to talk to him, blows away in the wind. It’s a disturbing visual metaphor for the failure to communicate.

8) “Lisa’s First Word”

lisasfirstword3
When Homer’s shoddy woodworking skills meet the automatically scary concept of “clown,” it’s no surprise that this monstrosity is the result. It’s such a dead-on evocation of how frightening the world is to a child and how oblivious parents can be, all summed up in one meme-generating sentence: “Can’t sleep… clown’ll eat me…”

7) “Itchy & Scratchy Land”

itchyandscratchyland2
Countless I&S episodes and their respective mutilations could’ve fit in this slot, but for some reason I find this excerpt from Scratchtasia to be the worst of all. When an army of microscopic Itchies hack Scratchy up from the inside, this grotesque diversion transcends its Fantasia-parodying roots and sends shivers up my spine. Eww!

6) “The Old Man and the Lisa”

theoldmanandthelisa1
On the whole, this is one of season 8’s weaker episodes, and its interplay between Lisa and Mr. Burns lacks any real subversive bite. Still, the finale is gross and traumatizing enough to compensate for all of that, as Burns perverts Lisa’s ecofriendly idealism into a plant that “recycles” all sea life into a repulsive slurry. His scheme is so vile and implausibly evil that it’s impossible to watch without a severe cringe.

5) “New Kid on the Block”

newkidontheblock2
Yeah, it’s just a quick cutaway to literalize Bart’s heartbreak, but it’s also scary in its own right between the narrowed palette of red, black, and blue and the malice in Laura’s voice as she says “You won’t be needing this!” It viscerally captures the power of preteen angst with, in effect, a very short and vivid horror movie. The heart sliding down the wall and into the trash bin is the perfect final touch.

4) “Selma’s Choice”

selmaschoice3
Nothing good can come of little kids visiting a beer-themed amusement park and, sure enough, Bart badgers Lisa into drinking the mysterious, hallucinogenic “water” of Duff Gardens. As Lisa descends into a hellish trip, her aunt transforms into something out of Ralph Steadman’s worst nightmares, complete with a monster growing from her shoulder. The finishing touch? The pale, naked Lisa shouting, “I am the lizard queen!” before being heavily medicated.

3) “Brother from the Same Planet”

brotherfromthesameplanet3
This episode’s whole opening sequence is a brutal glimpse into the emotional dynamics of abandonment and irresponsible parenting, as Homer forgets to pick Bart up from soccer practice. Homer lies in the bathtub, dreaming about finding his son’s skeleton, while Bart waits in the rain, seething with rage. Eventually Homer goes to retrieve his son, but by then he’s so intensely furious that he imagines his father melting amidst plumes of hellfire.

This brief fantasy goes straight into the deep end of unmitigated horror. I don’t think any other episode (Treehouse of Horror included) has a single image as disturbing as Homer’s flesh bubbling and his eyes turning back into his head as he leans in to say, “How ’bout a hug?” The image draws us into the depths of Bart’s resentment, motivating the rest of the episode while chilling us to the bone.

2) “My Sister, My Sitter”

mysistermysitter4
This is the rare Simpsons episode whose main goal is to inspire fear rather than laughter. It’s still very funny, but as it approaches its climax beneath the harsh Squidport lights, any comedy is overwhelmed by the raw terror of Lisa’s waking nightmare. It’s a precocious child’s worst-case scenario: saddled with a small responsibility, she (through Bart’s ADHD-exacerbated behavior) has lost control and is wandering down the highway—her unconscious brother in a wheelbarrow and her baby sister in a cat carrier.

And somehow, with every turn, this worst case grows even worse. When the hazy, mud-soaked Lisa gazes up at the judgmental townspeople, it paralyzes me with vicarious anxiety. Every childhood has at least one or two events this bad, and “My Sister, My Sitter” is a painful reminder of how easily they can come about.

1) “Bart Sells His Soul”

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I’ve written extensively about this episode over at Pussy Goes Grrr; suffice it to say that Bart’s dark night of the soul, as he scrambles through downtown Springfield in spiritual peril, is easily among the series’ scariest moments. It’s hard enough to see Bart quivering in fear throughout the episode, but when he begs a terrified Ralph for “a soul… any soul—yours!” it crosses over into another territory altogether.

It becomes deep, dark, and disturbing. It’s stomach-churning horror that organically emerges from the show’s perceptive vision of childhood. That organic quality is exactly why The Simpsons contained such great, spellbinding moments of horror. If you look hard enough into the minds and souls of its inhabitants, Springfield can be a very scary place.

30
Jun
11

Quote of the Day

Convenience Store

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Eric Kilby.

“Selma, this wedding is spinning out of control.  Can we really afford it?  I’ve already run through eight of the ten dollars they gave me when I left prison.” – Sideshow Bob
“Hey, relax, I told you, I got money.  I bought stock in a mace company just before society crumbled.” – Selma Bouvier

29
Jun
11

Crazy Noises: Homer Simpson in “Kidney Trouble”

Homer Simpson in Kidney Trouble1

“Aren’t you going to give him the last rites?” – Marge Simpson
“That’s Catholic, Marge.  You might as well ask me to do a voodoo dance.” – Reverend Lovejoy

For the third summer in a row, we at the Dead Homer Society are looking to satisfy your off-season longing for substandard commentary on substandard Simpsons.  This summer we’ll be looking at Season 10.  Why Season 10?  Because we’ve already done Seasons 8 and 9 and we can’t put it off any longer.  Prior to Season 10, we watched as the show started falling over, this is when it fell over.  And while the dust wouldn’t settle completely for another season or so, there is no bigger gap in quality than the one between Season 9 and Season 10.  Since we prefer things to remain just as they were in 1995, we’re sticking with this chatroom thing instead of some newer means of communication that we all know just isn’t as good.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “prostitutes”).

Today’s episode is 1008, “Homer Simpson in: Kidney Trouble”.  Yesterday was 1007, “Lisa Gets an A”.

Charlie Sweatpants: I find this episode wretched in almost every way imaginable.

Mad Jon: I don’t have much good to say about Kidney Trouble.

  In a general season 10 theme, however, I liked the bloodbath gulch sign.

  The signs are still pretty funny in this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: I may be partially biased because I distinctly remember watching this one the first time and despairing for the future of the show, but it’s bad regardless.

Jon: yes to both.

Mad Jon: But that, and the sumo babies tv ad on the tv guide are the only things I liked.

Dave: Yep. I characterize this one as hard to watch.

Charlie Sweatpants: Except that the animatronic jokes just keeps freaking going, and none of them are as clever as the ones in Selma’s Choice or Radio Bart.

  Ooh, a leg flew off, a butt flew off! Ha ha.

Mad Jon: I wasn’t saying I liked the theme park, just the sign.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh. See, I didn’t hate the theme park, just the robot jokes.

Dave: Then Grampa makes a joke about the butt, lulz

  Er, pinches, whatever. It still sucks

Charlie Sweatpants: I like the pathetic tour guide, and the lame gun fight, and the fact that Marge is minorly scandalized by the open prostitution of the olden days.

Mad Jon: Agreed. But it was kind of draggy-ony. I did chuckle at the last "Lots of prostitutes in there!"

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. But once they leave the theme park . . . it’s all downhill.

The scene in the car is painful, especially since Marge is sitting right there while Homer is basically torturing his father.

  Then the utter the word "kidney" and things go from downhill to freefall.

Dave: How many times does Homer bail on Grampa?

  It was like the rake gag, but terrible.

Mad Jon: Three I believe.

Charlie Sweatpants: And far more drawn out.

Pretty much every scene after he agrees to donate a kidney is a rehash of the same thing: Homer being either afraid or ashamed.

Mad Jon: Yeah, it was hard to watch, I had the same anxious feeling I get when they do an episode where someone learns a tough lesson.

Charlie Sweatpants: And just as glacially.

Pretty much everything from him escaping the hospital for the first time is Homer being guiltily expository in a very television-y way.

Throw in the stupid plot twists (becoming a sailor for about two minutes, washing up next to the father and son) and all the repeated jokes, and it just gets more and more unwatchable.

Mad Jon: I was surprised he could even run that fast!

This episode always reminded me a tad of the episode where Homer has to find his soul mate, but you know, not so good.

Charlie Sweatpants: He can do whatever they want. At this point he’s more of a cartoon character than Bugs or Mickey. They have personalities, Homer acts out in a different direction depending on the episode or scene.

Dave: And that’s why the show basically turned into shit. It became a cartoon.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it started aping its own past gags.

The "doctors carry less than $5" sign is almost identical to the one about the archbishop in Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2, Homer balking at signing the waver had been done better in Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes, and then there’s all the robot stuff.

  There are few things that undermine an episode more than when many of its best parts had been done better years before.

Mad Jon: Most of this episode was boring to watch, and other than a few lines here and there, the rest was just bad. I now remember why I haven’t watched this one in forever and a day.

Dave: Don’t plan to revisit this one anytime soon. Once in as many years was too much

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much, there are so very many pointless exchanges that don’t do anything more than shove the already stupid and obvious plot one or two more inches down the road.

This one is best forgotten.

29
Jun
11

Quote of the Day

Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious3

“Boy for sale!  Boy for sale!” – Principal Skinner
“Is this legal, man?” – Jimbo
“Only here, and in Mississippi.” – Principal Skinner

28
Jun
11

Crazy Noises: Lisa Gets an “A”

Lisa Gets an A1

“I know a liquor store where we can cash this right now!” – Principal Skinner

For the third summer in a row, we at the Dead Homer Society are looking to satisfy your off-season longing for substandard commentary on substandard Simpsons.  This summer we’ll be looking at Season 10.  Why Season 10?  Because we’ve already done Seasons 8 and 9 and we can’t put it off any longer.  Prior to Season 10, we watched as the show started falling over, this is when it fell over.  And while the dust wouldn’t settle completely for another season or so, there is no bigger gap in quality than the one between Season 9 and Season 10.  Since we prefer things to remain just as they were in 1995, we’re sticking with this chatroom thing instead of some newer means of communication that we all know just isn’t as good.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “tetherball”).

Today’s episode is 1007, “Lisa Gets an A”, Tomorrow will be 1008, “Homer Simpson in: Kidney Trouble”.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, let’s get going before Jon drops again.

I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this, despite its many flaws.

Mad Jon: Are we starting with "Lisa gets an A?"

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes.

Mad Jon: Ah

Charlie Sweatpants: The other one I hate, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Mad Jon: I think I agree with you

Dave: This is the less shitty of the two.

Mad Jon: I feel it starts poorly, but gets better.

Charlie Sweatpants: The scene in the grocery store isn’t the best.

They run the toothpick joke into the ground and there’s far too much Jerkass Homer, but I do have a soft spot for Gavin and his terrible mother.

Mad Jon: Meh, he reminds me of the one bad episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: True, but I always thought he was one of the bright spots.

Dave: He is brief and fleeting. Which is good.

Mad Jon: Also the church scene is along the same lines as far as jokes running too long.

Dave: There was a real opportunity there to run a gag for 2.5 minutes.

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely, Lovejoy’s "May we burn in painful and foul smelling fire forever and ever" is funny, and then it continues.

This entire episode suffers from what can be modestly described as poor pacing.

Lisa cheats out of desperation, feels guilty, tries to turn herself in, and has the school authorities be less scrupulous than she is I like all over.

Mad Jon: I am not understanding

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem arises in the way too many things get dragged out and in between that is improbable crap.

I get that Lisa would cheat, her dream of Harvard denied is classic her, I get that she would want to turn herself in, I further get that Chalmers and Skinner are far less honest than she is.

Mad Jon: I am with you so far…

Dave: As am I

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem is the way they have to keep patching holes they created themselves. Otto impersonating the comptroller, Bart just happening to be out of class to steer Lisa to Nelson, the whole "A+++" thing on a minor little test becoming super important.

The giant ceremony is the culmination of it, where they take something that doesn’t quite make sense, and turn it into a major plot point.

Mad Jon: Ok.

Dave: So it feels hollow to you then, despite some good gags and normal character trends?

Charlie Sweatpants: What I’m trying to get at is that they had a rational and relatively calm story to work with, and they turned it up to 11 for no real reason in a lot of places.

Mad Jon: I can see that. A lot of those types of transitions would have been unnoticeable a few years ago. Instead of trying to make a joke everywhere, and sometimes getting too crazy, they just would have kept going.

But that being said, there were plenty of good things at which to chuckle.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed. Like I said, I don’t hate this episode, I just think you can see their give-a-shit level falling in it. The little sequence where Chalmers shows Lisa how bad the school is, the cinderblock tetherball, the Oscar Meyer periodic table, and, of course, Super Nintendo Chalmers, are all great.

Mad Jon: Yep, it’s the little things. The employees must wash hands sign in Nelson’s stall, Captain McAllister asking for change at the last second, planning on taking the 250K check to a liquor store. All good.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. But there are plenty of dire portents of Zombie Simpsons in Gil just happening to be there. Ditto Willie and Nelson in the bathroom with their funny but lazy exposition.

It feels like they’ve stopped caring about the little things, figuring that the occasional brilliant line will make everyone forget them.

Dave: I routinely forget that this was the episode that gave us Super Nintendo Chalmers.

Which is, in fact, brilliant.

Charlie Sweatpants: Absolutely, the entire B-plot functions the same way (though I think it’s worse than the A). It has a couple of great moments, but to get there you have to overlook a ton of crap.

For example, at the very end when Homer says Pinchy’s in a place with no more pain, and then snapping his neck. That’s good, but the payoff wasn’t worth all that build up.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

There are a few scenes that point to the future of Zombie Simpsons, such as the salt in the fish tank.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was less than good.

Dave: No, to get to that we had to suffer through the fish tank, cartoon Pinchy, realistic Pinchy, and that whole stupid beach scene

Charlie Sweatpants: Homer calling Pinchy a mammal can’t make up for all of it. However, it does bring a quick smile to my face and I kinda like Captain McAllister’s little rant.

Mad Jon: Me too, especially when he ends it by asking for spare change.

Charlie Sweatpants: It suffers from the usual "Hey, there’s one of our characters!" problem that Zombie Simpsons has refined into a television war crime, but his speech is kinda funny.

Mad Jon: That’s going to keep happening.

Charlie Sweatpants: No shit.

I could list some of the other things I like about this one, Hoover spilling booze while grading papers, Bart not being able to differentiate between cheating and honest work, and the fact that the entire thing was over a "basic assistance grant" among them, but I don’t have much more to add in terms of description.

This episode isn’t spectacular, but it’s grounded enough and contains enough good things that I don’t hate it. In fact, I rather like it.

Mad Jon: It is one of the most watchable of this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: Dave, you good with that? If so, we can move on to the renal episode that can’t be expunged with a thousand bladder evacuations.

Dave: Yep, let’s be done.

Charlie Sweatpants: Alright then, let’s flip up the toilet seat.

28
Jun
11

Quote of the Day

Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song7

“Frankly, the Army isn’t quite as I remembered it.” – Sergeant Skinner
“Up yours, Sergeant!” – Soldier
“Actually, it’s exactly as I remembered it.” – Sergeant Skinner

27
Jun
11

Quote of the Day

Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming5

“Then where’s Sideshow Bob?” – Chief Wiggum
“He ran off.” – Minimum Security Convict
“Oh, great.  Well, if anyone asks, uh, I beat him to death.  Okay?” – Chief Wiggum
“Right.” – Lou




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