“Where are the dice?” – Lisa Simpson
“Daddy says dice are wicked.” – Todd Flanders
“We just move one space at a time. It’s less fun that way.” – Rod Flanders
Archive for July, 2011
“Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me!” – Clancy Bouvier
There was a lot of (content-deficient) news about Zombie Simpsons coming out of Comic-Con this week, a bit of which I’ve linked below. Long story short: it’s going to be just as dull as Season 22, which was just as dull as Season 21, which was just as dull as Season 20, and so forth. They released a promotional clip from the Halloween episode, but when I went to watch it on YouTube it said that it’d been taking down due to a copyright claim by FOX. Morons. In the realm of news not coming out of Comic-Con, FOX is changing its deal with Hulu to prevent all you internet freeloaders from seeing their shows for (almost) free. New episodes of Zombie Simpsons (and other shows) won’t be available at Hulu until a week after they originally air. It’s almost like they don’t want you watching their shows. Of course, we’ve also got some neat fan art, a writeup of a Simpsons trivia night I desperately want to attend, some word nerd love for “cromulent”, lots of Mike Reiss, and the usual smattering of excellent usage.
Can I Borrow an Answer? My Night of Simpsons Trivia – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this refreshing, full-bodied write-up of classic Simpsons trivia night in Brooklyn.
Simpsons’ Vet Mike Reiss Leads a Toonful Evening – Awesome recap of Mike Reiss’s appearance at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last week. I love this part:
For a writer not a comedian, Reiss timing was pitch-perfect on lines like, “I’m Jewish. I would never eat a ham sandwich in a synagogue on Yom Kippur – if anyone was watching.”
Oh, and the episode he brought with him was “Like Father, Like Clown”. No Zombie Simpsons.
The Simpsons’ Mike Reiss Talks About Unexpected Success and Superheroes’ Jewish Origins – A related interview with Reiss. I would submit this as a big part of the reason the quality of the show has fallen so dramatically:
How many seasons were you and Al the showrunners?
Part of season two, and then seasons three and four. It was a real burnout job. The job nearly killed me. I was working 100 hours a week, and we were working 51 weeks a year. The big change that’s happened over the years is that we started out with six writers, and then we went up to eight writers, and now we have 23 writers — and everybody’s really good at the show. But that’s allowed us to spread the workload around. Al’s been running the show single-handedly for eight or 10 years. And that would not have been possible in the old days.
Fox challenges cord-cutters by sticking TV shows behind paywall – Oh, this is rich. If you want to watch FOX shows on Hulu, you’ve either got to be a Hulu Plus subscriber or a subscriber to a cable/satellite package that lets you go through a convoluted login process. Why? Let FOX “president of affiliate sales” Mike Hopkins explain:
What caused Fox, and presumably others, to become gun-shy about putting ad-supported content online for free? "We’re concerned that cord-cutting is going to be a problem," Hopkins said.
The subscriber gravy train is leaking gravy, and their response is to make sure the doors are still locked. Shrewd. There are a lot of reasons watching television on-line sucks, but the luddite intransigence of the local affiliates (who have the networks by the balls for all kinds of arcane reasons) doesn’t get nearly the press it should.
[Brief note on Hulu Plus: I was staying with a friend last weekend and he’s got access to Hulu Plus through someone at work. Hulu Plus is awful. It’s hard to navigate, the commercials are relentless, and when things do come back or go to commercial the video skips. They may get some of those things sorted out in the future, but as of right now it’s not ready for primetime.]
“The Simpsons” [Film Roman] – Television Critics Association – Some bland quotes from Jean accompanied by some mildly interesting pictures of the current animation process.
Behind-the-scenes: The Simpsons – A small tour of the animation facility with some banal quotes from Jean and Mark Kirkland and the usual heavy emphasis on upcoming guest stars. Sadly, no pictures.
Lil Chase’s top 10 unwords – Oh yeah, “cromulent” is on here.
Is Homer Simpson Coaching The Baltimore Ravens? – This is just excellent usage:
Derrick Mason? I like your hustle.
That’s why it was so hard to cut you.
Unmotivated Socialites – This is the story of the beginning of a project wherein one member is skeptical:
DANIEL Oh, I'm so out right now. ALEX If you hear me out, Everything will be coming up Millhouse okay?
Tim Hortons USA Vs Tim Hortons Canada – It’s The Little Differences – The little differences between Tim Hortons north and south of the St. Lawrence with audio YouTube of Wiggum and the boys from “22 Short Films About Springfield”.
As gripping as ABC – Excellent usage:
IN AN EPISODE of “The Simpsons,” Steven Wright tells this joke: “I finally got around to reading the dictionary. Turns out the zebra did it.” Lisa, of course, has to explain the joke to Homer: “Dad, the zebra didn’t do it, it’s just a word at the end of the dictionary.”
But even Homer didn’t need Lisa to explain to him the underlying premise: Nobody reads the dictionary cover to cover.
The article’s about a novel written as a dictionary. What will they think of next?
Comic-Con 2011: Ronan Posts a Question to ‘The Simpsons’ panel – No Sideshow Bob in Season 23, that’s a relief.
Savouring the Journal: A Simpsons Synchronicity! – No sooner do you think about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, then they appear on The Simpsons in a foreign country.
“Expand my brain, learning juice!” -Homer Simpson – In a delightfully ironic twist, Freakoutville uses a quote from Season 17 to link to an awesome fan made drawing of Homer accompanied by an endorsement of us. Well played.
10 things we learned about ‘The Simpsons’ at Comic-Con – It’s a stretch to get to ten, but never underestimate the ass kissing/space filling abilities of Entertainment Weekly. They’ve been doing this a long time. On the actual news front, not much beyond the usual: more guest stars, more gimmicks, more Ozmodiar.
Dangerous Entertainment News – Monday, July 25 – Linking the above article:
Seriously, only EW would write a promotional article about a classic show that should have been cancelled about ten years ago. Keep up the hard-hitting analysis EW!
Amen on both counts.
“When are we going to get to my first word?” – Lisa Simpson
“Your what what?” – Homer Simpson
“My first word!” – Lisa Simpson
“Ah, you don’t want to hear that story. I know, I’ll tell you about the time I got locked in the bank vault with Mr. Mooney. It was another one of my harebrained schemes.” – Homer Simpson
“Dad!” – Lisa Simpson
“Wait a minute, that was The Lucy Show!” – Homer Simpson
I like to point out how they frequently ignore the episode during a lot of these Zombie Simpsons commentaries, but for the actual listener it’s maybe the best part. Toward the end of this one, Al Jean tells some stories about his time writing for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and it’s both funny and interesting. The episode flat lined well before he got off on this tangent, so nothing of value was lost.
Nine people on this one, including Carolyn Omine as the lone woman.
0:30 – During the introduction, Jean mentions that he wasn’t the show runner yet, but was lurking. This leads to some pointless banter between him and Scully.
1:40 – The original title here was “Smithers’ father’s apparent murder”.
2:40 – Mike Scully’s in a different room because he’s working on Parks & Recreation.
3:00 – Jean finally starts talking about the episode by helpfully informing us that the paper towel guy “Burly” is a parody of “Brawny”.
3:30 – Paul Newman called in his part over the phone from a movie he was working on.
4:10 – Long silence.
4:20 – Tragedy of tragedies, they changed the real “Brawny” logo a year after this. Meanwhile, Homer and Bart have broken into Flanders house for some reason.
5:10 – After much paper towel discussion, someone mentions that he’d lost the DVD they sent him of this episode so he tried to watch it on-line on some website, but a sex quiz came up after it started playing.
5:40 – Jean tries again to bring up the show, but instead of talking about what’s actually going on, which is boring, he opts to talk about how when they first did their flashbacks to the 1970s Brad Bird advised against it. He said they tie themselves in knots if the show ran ten years. Everyone laughs.
6:20 – Harry Shearer’s wife Judith Owen does the singing here, and they take a minute to plug her albums.
6:40 – This was the first time they’d used the Pimento Grove as a setting since the early seasons, so they had to update the look.
7:00 – Quick story about how Hank Azaria got to meet Jerry Lewis and it was the rare case where the celebrity lives up to your expectations.
7:20 – Now they’re talking about all the old characters who have portraits on the walls in the background.
7:30 – Jean recalls a time Mike Reiss got invited on stage by a hypnotist, and the guy leaned into Reiss and whisper yelled “Just do what I say!”. I can’t do Jean’s delivery credit, but he told it really well. Everyone on the commentary laughed and so did I.
8:30 – After a brief discussion of Smithers foreshadowing Act 3, there’s a pause before they pick up talking about the guy who drew a lot of this. He’s working in video games now.
9:00 – Homer’s just screaming now. Jean recalls that it got a big laugh at the table. I’ll bet it did.
9:15 – Points for consistency, they’re cracking up as Homer continues to scream.
9:40 – See above comment.
10:20 – After a long silence, Jean mentions that while he’s sure most people know this, the title is a play on The Wonder Years.
10:45 – After a quick flashback to Homer falling down the cliff in “Bart the Daredevil”, they mention that they kept the clip short because they didn’t want people to think it was about to turn into a clip show.
12:00 – Not much commenting going on other than the occasional desultory laugh.
12:20 – Jean enjoys the television absurdity of how everyone remembers flashbacks even though they’ve never remembered it in any other episode.
12:30 – They compliment a joke that’s coming up, and then nobody laughs at it when it happens. Weird.
13:30 – Long silence.
13:40 – Silence broken when someone asks if anyone had any good procrastinations when they were supposed to be writing this episode. No one responds and it’s back to silence.
14:10 – General discussion of who was the first one to come up with the idea of someone remembering things and then narrating over them.
14:30 – Finally talking about the episode again, flashback Homer just found a corpse and they’re recalling the debate over how gruesome to make it.
15:20 – Ian Maxtone-Graham’s dad writes books about ocean liners. That fact came up after a good thirty seconds of “huh?” type conversation.
16:10 – Talking about how they should bring “Mesmerino” back. Why would they do that?
16:20 – Someone asks Jean if he ever wrote a Carnac the Magnificent bit when he was writing for Johnny Carson. Jean recalls that the best one they ever wrote they sold to Alf: The answer is “St. Elsewhere” and the question is “What is the message on Mother Teresa’s answering machine?”. Another answer was “Red Square”, and the question was “What’s that spot on Gorbachev’s head?”, which they accidentally used twice and didn’t realize it.
17:05 – Still talking about Carson. This is far more interesting than the episode, which is now looking for a body. I would happily listen to Al Jean talk about The Tonight Show for at least an hour.
18:00 – Complimenting themselves for bringing back the ultra absorbent towels from the beginning to drain the water out of the basin to find the skeleton.
18:30 – A lot of compliments for the set here, from the shape of the skull that Bart apparently brought with them to the trap door under the bear in Burns’ office.
19:10 – Discussing the difficulty of getting mystery stories right, specifically mentioning “Who Shot Mr. Burns”, which seems to me to be the first mystery. Huh. Oh, and Burns is now conveniently showing them a movie in his office, but no one’s talking about that.
19:30 – Much laughter as they joke about how they were originally going to show this as security camera footage, but then didn’t. As usual, no one is talking about what’s going on in the episode.
20:30 – Here’s an interesting tidbit, they have three models for 1970s Burns that they use.
21:30 – Hank Azaria improvised a lot of the filler at the end, and was apparently very happy with it.
22:10 – As the credits roll, they’re discussing an alternate ending that didn’t make it where Homer kept screaming.
22:30 – And we close with Homer screaming over the 20th Century FOX logo. They laugh.
“We’re not coming down until our jobs are reinstated and you acknowledge and celebrate our love.” – Principal Skinner
“No one would like to celebrate your love more than I, but I am a public servant and not permitted to use my own judgment in any way.” – Superintendent Chalmers
“Dear God, not again!” – Dave from the National Fatherhood Institute
Toward the end of this commentary, right after Martin slaps Bart to get him to pay attention, Jean comments on how much violence there is in this one. He laughs as he recalls that it might have been a reaction to how stressed out everyone was while they were doing this. I can’t comment on that, but he’s right that there are a lot of violent images in here (Nelson whipping Bart as they race, Martin crashing and getting set on fire, even the unfortunate shark attack). The difference is that none of it is drawn out or gratuitous. The things Jean notes as violent wouldn’t even rate as such past Season 10 or so, even the shark attack. It lasts less than two seconds, is completely bloodless, and is funny not just for being violent, but also for being completely absurd (made even better by the cry of “not again!”).
Six guys on this one.
0:30 – This one premiered before the first televised showing of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video, and included the second part where he smashed up a car, which caused a lot of controversy. On the plus side, the episode got great ratings.
2:20 – They were trying to come up with a name for a fake detergent, and the first eight or so they came up with were already real detergents before they got to Spiffy.
2:45 – When they were first designing Dr. Nick, they’d heard Azaria’s voice and thought he was doing an impression of Gabor Csupo, so they did a caricature of him. Azaria was actually doing Ricky Ricardo.
3:30 – Vlada from The Critic was also designed after Csupo.
3:45 – Ken Levine (who’s on the commentary) and his writing partner David Isaacs (who isn’t) worked on a show with Mary Tyler Moore for a year, so they thought the Mary Tyler Moore haircuts on Patty & Selma were hilarious. Jean cracks that Levine said “worked with Mary Tyler Moore” the same way other people say “I served in Vietnam for two years”. It was funny.
4:30 – They had a censor battle over Bart welding in horribly unsafe ways. Their reply was that it was hard for kids to get access to welding equipment so they wouldn’t really do it. I guess that worked.
4:50 – They only had one report of a kid ever getting hurt imitating the Simpsons. He was trying to skateboard down some stairs, but they were skeptical of the story.
5:40 – Discussing the avalanche of cliches they parodied in the scene where McBain’s black partner gets shot right before retirement.
6:00 – Someone, I think it’s Reiss but it’s hard to tell, was thrilled that they used the “Mendoza!” line on MST3K like a year after this.
6:20 – Jean thinks the fatherhood test was a real thing Sam Simon found.
7:20 – Reiss jokes that the years he and Jean were running the show were the years when people on the show were always watching TV.
7:30 – Jean discussing how they used that TV watching to do cutaways, which they did a ton of on The Critic, and which now has become the hallmark of Family Guy. Then Groening says what he thought was “great” about The Critic was that they got to do all the parodies they wanted to do.
8:10 – Jean’s discussing how making the family the center of the show makes it really tough for other shows to make relatable characters without being compared to The Simpsons. This brings up King of the Hill, which Reiss (again, I think) cracks has “Homer with glasses”, which leads to Groening kinda laughing and Reiss replying “Yes, I said it.” Ha.
8:40 – Jean recalls the irony of editing this episode at three in the morning instead of being home with his kid.
9:10 – They think “Ronny Beck” was a friend of David Isaacs.
9:50 – Jean describes the fatherhood institute guy’s voice as Harry Shearer doing Casey Kasem/Mason Adams.
10:20 – Laughing about Cosby’s dislike for the show.
11:00 – The design of the soapbox derby racer was based on some real life failures.
11:15 – Jim Reardon jokes that bad carpentry is a theme of his life.
11:20 – The Cosby book quotes are actually from the book.
12:00 – The censors also didn’t like Homer putting the welding torch in the gasoline.
12:40 – Laughing about Homer’s inability to construct a decent racer.
13:00 – Discussing the scandal that rocked soap box derby racing when one kid had a magnet in his car, which I assume is this.
13:30 – Talking about how the idea for this one came from the throwaway line in “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” when Bart describes building a soap box derby racer after the cartoons become lame and nonviolent.
14:00 – Joking that they did three father/child type plots in a row and nobody noticed or cared.
14:30 – The censors had no complaints about Martin being on fire, but they did get a lot of complaints, especially from Jean’s mother.
15:30 – Mentioning how the lettering on the shirts (“Team Simpson”) would probably be printed now instead of looking miserable and hand drawn, which leads to the usual discussion of how animating has changed thanks to computers. Nobody mentions that if Bart and Homer had nicely printed shirts it wouldn’t work as well. The fact that the shirts are just as crappy looking at the racer is what makes them funny.
16:40 – Laughing (for the second time) at the Honor Roller and the neat little sound it makes when it goes by.
17:00 – Russi Taylor does Martin, as well as Minnie Mouse, which lead to a digression about her husband who does Mickey but is actually a great big biker looking guy.
17:50 – The derby announcers, and their love of superlatives and exaggerated historical significance, come from Olympic announcers who do the same thing.
18:35 – Laughing at Homer blowing off Flanders.
19:10 – Laughing at their love of gratuitous violence here when Martin just slaps Bart.
19:25 – As usual Groening remains unimpressed at the crowd scene.
19:50 – Groening was told by someone at 20/20 that Ted Kennedy hates Quimby. Groening then gets in his little disclaimer that he supports Kennedy and donates to him, but that he does have a funny voice. (Of course, this was recorded before Kennedy died.)
20:50 – Laughing at the unexpected smallness of Ronny Beck and another strange character in the crowd.
21:30 – Everyone cracking up at Homer and Bart celebrating Bart being a bad winner.
22:20 – And we close on them jokingly complaining that they didn’t win any awards for this episode.
- By Gran2
The plethora of Season 22 guest stars filled me with rage. This show is bad enough already without Danica Patrick, Paul Rudd or Mark ‘Facebook’ Zuckerberg turning up to dig it even closer to Earth’s core. I dreaded hearing Al Jean rattle off next season’s list at Comic-Con (spoilers: It included Michael Cera).
The point is: guest stars suck now. The really obscure ones suck because you have no idea who they are, or why they are there (pretty much every guest star from seasons 11 and 12 falls into to this category, or maybe that’s because I’m British). But the really famous ones suck as well.
Whoever they are, whether they’re a sportsperson, a singer or even a professional actor their acting is always so awful, reading the awkward dialogue that normal people would never actually say, and appearing to have been recorded on their first take. They have no reason to be there, yet they either have the episode built around them rather than a plot, or they appear for one line only. But all get to enjoy their own little ego-massage courtesy of Lisa ("Look, it’s J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books. You’ve turned a generation of kids onto reading!"). They just throw them on because guest stars represent one of the very few times this show ever gets any press attention anymore. It was the only thing they discussed at Comic-Con last year. It’s literally all they have to say.
Guest stars didn’t used to suck. They used to be great. They belonged in the episode; they had a purpose to the story or, you know, voiced a character. Whether as themselves or as a character they felt like they belonged in Springfield, just as the episodes they were in belonged on television.
Their appearance first and foremost made sense: they were both relevant to the plot and their presence in Springfield wasn’t ridiculous. It makes sense for Springfield to have celebrities visiting. It’s home to Krusty the Clown, one of the most famous entertainers of all time. Why wouldn’t he be friends with Bette Middler and Johnny Carson? There’s a clear difference between that and people like James Caan just suddenly appearing there. Guest stars appear to present an award for outstanding achievement in the field of excellence or to open a monorail and when they were there, they were funny ("A solar eclipse. The cosmic ballet goes on"). And they didn’t just then vanish. Most of them appeared in more than one scene, so actually have some kind of character progression. Guest stars rarely, if ever, actually were the focus of the plot as themselves. Instead, their most substantial parts were when they were playing characters. Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, John Waters, Danny DeVito, Dustin Hoffman. All excellent performances and playing excellent characters.
The philosophy of guest parts has clearly changed since the good old days. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein picked most of their guest stars because they had unique voices which actually led to good characters. The fact that R. Lee Ermey and Lawrence Tierney were going to be appearing was never really going to draw viewers but they did a damn site more memorable job than big stars like Seth Rogen or Sacha Baron Cohen. Furthermore, they actually dropped guest stars if they didn’t fit. Collette the waitress from "Flaming Moe’s" was supposed to be voiced by Catherine O’Hara. She actually recorded the part but they replaced her with Jo Ann Harris because, in the words of Mike Reiss on the DVD commentary "Something about her did not animate correctly. The voice did not work for our purposes." And it wasn’t just her. Maggie Roswell was selected over Julie Andrews to voice Shary Bobbins due to her great reading, likewise Hank Azaria over William H. Macy for Frank Grimes. Hell, Bill and Josh said in their NoHomers chat that they wanted Robert DeNiro to guest star; in the end he didn’t, because they couldn’t find a good enough part for him. Nowadays they’d just shove him in.
Now to stop me rambling on, here are three clear examples of why guest stars used to be great. Robert Goulet. The baseballers in "Homer at the Bat". And the Ramones.
Robert Goulet’s appearance in "$pringfield" is a perfect guest spot. He doesn’t dominate the show, it makes sense he’s there (he’s flown in after being hired for a gig at Burns’ Casino) and he’s funny. But above all, they make fun of him.
Goulet: You from the casino?
Bart: I’m from a casino.
Goulet: Good enough, let’s go.
Goulet: Are you sure this is the casino? I think I should call my manager.
Nelson: Your manager says for you to shut up!
Goulet: Vera said that?
In six lines, they make Goulet seem unprofessional and then they tell him to shut up. Perfect.
The baseballers in "Homer at the Bat" are also a perfect example of good guest stars. Along with "Krusty Gets Kancelled" this episode shows that lots of guest stars in one episode doesn’t have to suck. Again, their presence makes sense. Why wouldn’t an evil old billionaire cheat in order to win a bet? But what really made them great was their performances, which are all much better than, for example, John C Reilly’s. Let’s just emphasise that: a bunch of professional baseballers give a better, more emotive and more believable performance than an Academy Award-nominated actor. Now, as said, I’m British, and have absolutely no interest or knowledge of baseball whatsoever, but that doesn’t affect my love for this episode. When these nine players die I won’t remember them for however many points they got (if that’s what you get in baseball?) I’ll remember because they were great in this episode. Particular praise to Don Mattingly, Mike Scioscia and Darryl Strawberry.
And finally, a comparison between old and new guest stars, with very similar parts, which have vastly different results. First, the good one. The Ramones appearance in "Rosebud" is brief, but outstanding.
Smithers: Here are several fine young men who I’m sure are gonna go far. Ladies and gentlemen, the Ramones!
Burns: Ah, these minstrels will soothe my jangled nerves.
Ramone 1: I’d just like to say this gig sucks!
Ramone 2: Hey, up yours, Springfield.
Ramone 1: One, two, three, four!
Happy Birthday to you! (Happy Birthday!)
Happy Birthday to you! (Happy Birthday!)
Happy Birthday, Burnsey,
Happy Birthday to you!
Ramone 3: Go to hell, you old bastard.
Ramone 4: Hey, I think they liked us!
Burns: Have the Rolling Stones killed.
Smithers: Sir, those aren’t —
Burns: Do as I say!
They are there for a clear, logical reason: to play for Burns’ birthday party. And every single line in that scene builds on the previous one to make it one of the most hilarious scenes ever.
And now Coldplay, from season 21’s craptacular "Million Dollar Maybe":
Chris Martin: [sings Viva la Vida]
Bart: Wait, I have to go to the bathroom.
Martin: So, where are you from Homer?
[They start again]
Martin: Yes Homer.
Homer: Do you think you could use someone like me in your band?
Martin: Yeah come on up, you can play the tambourine.
Homer: I said someone like me, I didn’t say me.
[They sing again]
They are there because Homer paid them, because he won the lottery, for some reason. It’s sterile, humourless and they couldn’t even be bothered to write parts for the other band members.
In conclusion, mono means one, and rail means rail. Guest stars are yet another example of something that used to be great, but is now terrible. And that concludes our intensive three-week course. Good day and I apologise for wasting your time.
“Homer Simpson here.” – Homer Simpson
“Homer, it’s your stockbroker. Your stock in the power plant just went up for the first time in ten years.” – Stockbroker
“I own stock?” – Homer Simpson
“Yes, all the employees got some in exchange for waiving certain Constitutional rights.” – Stockbroker
[Edit 13 September 2011: Just noticed I had an extra "s" in the first line. Fixed.]
“So, Homer, please feel free to tell us anything. There’s no judgment here.” – Rev. Lovejoy
“The other day I was so desperate for a beer I snuck into the football stadium and ate the dirt under the bleachers.” – Homer Simpson
“I cast thee out!” – Rev. Lovejoy
“Who are you?” – Homer Simpson
“Homer, I’m your guardian angel. I’ve assumed the form of someone you would recognize and revere, Sir Isaac Newton.” – Guardian Angel
“Sir Isa Who-ton?” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, very well.” – Guardian Angel
“Colonel Klink! Did you ever get my letters?” – Homer Simpson
Anyone reading this site has probably had the experience of watching The Simpsons and realizing that something (a scene, a joke, or just a quick image) is a parody while not quite knowing what’s being referenced. Sometimes, even if you do know the source, you don’t know it well enough to understand it completely. There are a lot of ways to look these sorts of things up nowadays, and the episode capsules on SNPP and elsewhere are often informative. But can’t someone else do it? Yes, someone else can.
The Springfield Historical Society is a new Simpsons blog that takes old references from the show and explains them using all the video and image tools that weren’t available back when people were swapping text over 1200 baud modems on Usenet. For example, take The Love-Matic Grampa segment from “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase”, sure you know it’s based on bad television concepts of yore, but here you can watch YouTube of My Mother the Car, a mid-60s sitcom starring one of the lesser Van Dykes. His wife sends him out to buy a station wagon and he comes back with an old jalopy inhabited by the spirit of his dead mother. Hilarity ensues (they made thirty episodes of this).
Here’s one I’d never noticed before, in “The Way We Was”, teenage Marge stares plaintively into a mirror. Despite the fact that I’ve seen the Norman Rockwell painting on which it’s based, I never put two and two together. Here they’re right next to each other. New posts go up Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and there are already articles on topics ranging from Morganna the Kissing Bandit and Sheriff Lobo to Billy Beer and the execrable Studs. The whole thing is highly recommended.
Image (which I couldn’t embiggen) shamelessly yoinked from here.
“Oh please, Lisa, everyone’s already figured that out.” – Marge Simpson
The indisputably big news this week was the appearance of the fabulous Murdoch boys in front of the British Parliament. With the elder Murdoch alternately nodding off and generally seeming disconnected (or doing a very good impression thereof) while the younger one frequently leapt to answer questions whether they were directed at him or not, the entire world started making jokes about Burns and Smithers. Both became trending topics on Twitter, and the comparison was mentioned in everything from newspapers to Wednesday’s The Daily Show. So there are a lot of links about that this week, some better than others. There’s also a ton of other good stuff, far more than usual: fan made art, musical links, a recap of what the Springfield soccer riot would’ve really looked like to a soccer fan in 1997, the first reading of a play I very much want to see, and some fantastic network television history.
The Passion of Bart Simpson – Smooth Charlie’s Click of the Week is an update on that play I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. It’s set in a post apocalyptic world where Simpsons stories are handed down as folklore, specifically “Cape Feare”. Thanks Andreas!
Murdoch – I guess we should get started with the Murdoch links. Here’s what Rupert looks like with horns added electronically by Channel 6, as well as both Murdochs with their Springfield doppelgangers superimposed over them.
Life imitates art… sound familiar? – A satirical letter pushing the bounds of the Murdoch/Burns Murdoch/Smithers thing. You Brits and your dry humor.
Murdoch looks to ‘stronger’ future as web looks to Simpsons – The Australians can get in on the fun too:
Rupert Murdoch was compared to Mr Burns, the villain in The Simpsons, his son James was described as Mr Burns’s sidekick Smithers and Mrs Brooks as Sideshow Bob.
Both Burns and Smithers were among the top trending words on the social networking site.
"So we had Mr Burns and Smithers, then Krusty threw a pie and Now Sideshow Bob’s in the seat," wrote one user, while another added: "It is astonishing quite how much they look/sound like Mr Burns & Smithers. Is this some kind of spoof or satire".
With James Murdoch Indisposed, What Now for the Muppet Mansion? – James Murdoch (you know, Smithers) may have purchased Jim Henson’s old townhouse in Manhattan, which prompted this piece of excellent usage:
(We’re quickly reminded of News Corp. employee Homer Simpson’s description of what a Muppet is for son Bart: “Well, it’s not quite a mop, it’s not quite a puppet, but man… [brief laughter] … So to answer your question, I don’t know.”)
Homer was actually addressing Lisa, but the quote is spot on so that’s definitely excellent usage.
Celebrity reaction on Twitter to Rupert Murdoch and son James select committee evidence – More snarky Burns/Smithers commentary about Tuesday’s appearance of Murdochs pere et fils.
“The Simpsons” defense – It’s probably not a good sign when the only example of News Corp editorial non-interference a Wall Street Journal editor can come up with is the Simpsons.
New Sarah Palin documentary ‘The Undefeated’ bashed by critics – That’s it for the Murdochs, but there is another famous right winger who didn’t have the best week:
In the Simpsons’ episode “A Star is Burns,” famed billionaire Charles Montgomery Burns wanted to improve his personal image and wanted members of the general public to admire him. He decided to produce a film, directed by Senor Spielbergo, which put him in a positive light. The Springfield film festival crowd was not impressed and booed the picture.
This led to Burns asking Mr. Smithers, if they were booing him. Smither replied, “No, sir, they’re saying boo-urns, boo-urns.”
That’s not quite excellent usage, Smithers doesn’t have a “sir” in that sentence, but it’s damn close.
I Heard It Once… – Just on pure Season 8 love, someone took the time to transcribe all of Ned’s epic meltdown from “Hurricane Neddy”.
What Went Wrong? The Springfield Soccer Riots in Retrospect – The riot from “The Cartridge Family” as if it really happened as written by someone who actually knows about soccer. This was a great little read.
popurrí VI – Among other random pictures, there is one of a Homer Simpson vagina. If you are reading this somewhere you can get fired from, you might not want to click.
SDCC 2011 Exclusive #97: Hallmark Cards Comic Book Guy – The Simpsons Ornament – The Krusty Brand Seal of Approval appears to have broken the meta barrier for Comic-Con merchandise. This is a little Comic Book Guy figurine that says “Worst. Con. Ever.” on the front, yet can only be bought there. If I say something snarky and mean about this I’m only contributing, so let’s just move on.
D’oh! Songs To Listen To In A Power Plant – Links to a ton of songs that are from the Simpsons or at least in some way related.
How to Beat the Heat – I could definitely have used a Jacuzzi Suit this week.
Review: HORRIBLE BOSSES – Another Moderately Funny Studio Comedy – Excellent usage:
In a classic Halloween episode of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson’s boss, Mr Burns, is depicted as a vampire. Homer is encouraged by his family to drive a stake through his heart. “Kill my boss?” he cries. “Do I dare live out the American dream?”
26. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment – Our friend Mike Amato is still going through Season 2, but he’s added a few audio commentaries with friends of his. It’s illuminating to hear the crosstalk of Simpsons fans extemporaneously discussing things.
If Bart Simpson Was Tank – Fan made sketch of a hyper-muscled Bart.
The Simpsons and “The Raven” – A little literary fan appreciation for the first “Treehouse of Horror”.
Yeardley Smith, La La Anthony, Marylouise Burke and More on Tap For Love, Loss and What I Wore – Smith will be briefly taking on an Off-Broadway role from early August through early September.
Cairo Graffiti -For Whom Exactly? – Revolutionary graffiti in Cairo, including a rather bloody looking Homer.
Deere With Growth Traction – John Deere is apparently having a very good year:
“We see John Deere has come out with this year’s line of roto-tillers. Surprise, surprise, they’re green. I say it’s time to send John Deere a Dear John.”
(That’s one of my favorite lines from The Simpsons.)
While the farm equipment critic for The Springfield Shopper may be growing tired of Deere & Company‘s (DE – Analyst Report) famous green machines, the rest of the world can’t seem to get enough of them.
HANK AZARIA TALKS ‘THE SIMPSONS,’ GIVES HIS TAKE ON DUFFMAN AND BUMBLEEBEE MAN – A typically news-less interview with Azaria as he promotes the upcoming Smurfs catastrophe. He does mention that doing Zombie Simpsons is “routine at this point”, which probably wasn’t intended as a dig at the show, but which I choose to interpret as a dig at the show.
Our Latest ‘Find Me Friday’ Photo Contest Winner – There’s a patriotic and pear shaped Bart Simpson outside a Jamaican grocery in Philadelphia. Nice picture.
Voters to Congress: Can’t someone else do it? – This is pretty good usage:
What those numbers most remind us — pop-culture obsessives that we are — of is an episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer runs for sanitation commissioner on the slogan: “Can’t someone else do it?”
In essence, Homer promises he will solve everyone’s trash problems — up to and including shoving down garbage in peoples’ cans with his own two hands. (Wouldn’t that be great?)
Homer’s wild promises win him the job but he is unable to deliver on any of his major pledges and is summarily run out of office (and publicly flogged).
The quote is right, but Homer didn’t get flogged, just fired.
Fall TV Campaign’s Flashback – 1990 – Four YouTube videos of the fall promo spots for all four networks. I’ve posted the FOX one before, but these are all nice time capsules of what network TV was like back at the dawn of The Simpsons. In the FOX video you can see very young versions of Christina Applegate, Johnny Depp, and Jim Carrey; the ABC one has MacGyver, Neil Patrick Harris when he was still a doctor, and a baby Olsen twin. I watched all four videos, and all I can say is that this is what the 80s thought the 90s were going to look like. Fantastic post.
“Drinking will help us plan.” – Moe
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 “chandelier”).
Today’s episode is 1014, “I’m With Cupid”. Yesterday was 1013, “Homer to the Max”.
Charlie Sweatpants: This episode is like a poor man’s version of "Homer to the Max", it starts out okay and makes increasingly little sense. Unfortunately, the good jokes are fewer and farther between.
Mad Jon: Yep. Not a real fan of this one. They used the same crutches, only a lot more often.
Dave: And it’s wrapped with a bow again, so you know everything is A-OK.
Charlie Sweatpants: The ending is easily the worst part. Somewhere, at some moment, someone said, "Homer should fight the skywriting pilot while the plane is flying".
Sadly, no one objected.
Mad Jon: Fantastic Dan and his canister of sarin.
Charlie Sweatpants: That the canister of sarin is Peace Corps surplus is damn funny, more so because it’s not lingered over, but that scene mostly sucks.
Mad Jon: Yeah, I kind of felt funny when Elton John goes into the dog carrier and chews his way out.
Charlie Sweatpants: Feh. Elton John has one good joke, "It’s that damn chandelier again!", and then just sits around like a moron.
Mad Jon: Exactly my point. I wasn’t feeling funny ha-ha, I was feeling funny-anxious.
Charlie Sweatpants: Also, I believe this one does contain an "It’s Celebrity X!", which I always dislike.
Mad Jon: I also liked the chandelier thing, but that could have been anybody for sure.
Charlie Sweatpants: Again, there are quite a few good jokes here. I like that Homer would buy Marge a Valentines Day card that says "To a heck of a Blacksmith!" (which is awesome), but that he already got it for her. I like that it’s the peak hour for stoned teenagers looking at shiny things, I like that Homer thinks the Kama Sutra stole their idea, but these are all throwaway jokes, literally in the case of the Kama Sutra, which comes flying out the window just so they can make that joke.
Mad Jon: Also "Ten dollars a pill", and pickles in the sheets. But these are also throwaways. Not that I have anything against throwaways, but that is all this episode has.
Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.
Mad Jon: And why is Moe part of the Angry Guy Club?
Charlie Sweatpants: No idea. Why is Flanders in there with him?
Mad Jon: Well I imagine that they need a few extra recognizable faces.
Flanders? He sang the "If you think I’m cuddly…" song in a heart costume. And Moe? I don’t have anything there.
Charlie Sweatpants: That raises an issue that wasn’t much of a problem before Season 10, but clearly is in 10 and after, the way the world of Springfield keeps expanding, but the cast keeps shrinking.
Here they cram together Hibbert and Wiggum and Homer just because, and meanwhile they tool all over town to a big airport, a harbor, and a Tiffany’s, and that’s all before Homer gets into the plane.
This is one of those episodes where Springfield stops even remotely feeling like a real place and begins to feel like a theme park.
Mad Jon: Where you can fall from a plane with roses.
Charlie Sweatpants: With ease.
There are a couple of scenes here and there that are very good, I’m particularly fond of Marge and Manjula’s conversation about how ashamed they are of their respective houses, but but but . . . they’d be so much better if they worked into anything that could be called a coherent whole.
I know I’m repeating myself, but that’s pretty much what both of these episodes are about. There’s enough verve left in the show to make you crack a smile reliably, but it’s not the kind of television you rewatch.
Mad Jon: Agreed, the plot is slowly becoming second place to the quick jokes. That works ok until you run out of these jokes in a season or two and have to start repeating them, or simply rely on Homer banging his head against the wall. This drop off is not far away.
Charlie Sweatpants: Other than mentioning that I enjoy Homer’s fairy tale rendition of drinking at Moe’s, I haven’t got much else to say here.
Mad Jon: Oh yeah at the beginning. The ending of this one really weighs on me.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not quite the same level of insanity as Hercules and the Lion from "Blood Feud", but it’s a good moment in Homer’s bad fathering.
Dave: I’m just enjoying reading you two rip this apart. It’s like you’re in my head.
Mad Jon: Well I am glad to have helped better your evening.
Charlie Sweatpants: Are the voices in your head telling you anything else Dave?
Hopefully not, "burn it all, kill Jon and Charlie", is all I’m asking.
Dave: Nope. All good here.
Charlie Sweatpants: Whew.
Mad Jon: Excellent, I live to see another day.
Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else about the episode?
Mad Jon: Nah, we’ve covered it, it is just another well intentioned project that looks like it had to be rushed to finish in the last few days. Even though I am sure they took their time choreographing the entire fall from Fantastic Dan’s plane.
Don’t read too much into the well intentioned part. I was merely trying to relate this to dozens of science projects from middle school with which I barely eked out a ‘C’.
But meant to do well on in the beginning.
I’m going to stop rambling now.
Charlie Sweatpants: So will I.
“Kids, there’s three ways to do things: the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way!” – Max Power
“Isn’t that the wrong way?” – Bart Simpson
“Yeah, but faster!” – Max Power
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 “Rockefeller”).
Today’s episode is 1013, “Homer to the Max”. Tomorrow will be 1014, “I’m With Cupid”.
Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?
Dave: Let’s do it.
Mad Jon: Ready
Charlie Sweatpants: So, Max Power . . .
I think this one could’ve been a highlight of the late seasons if it’d had a decent B-plot, but there just isn’t enough here in one story and it feels really stretched and thin.
Mad Jon: That’s a good observation, there really isn’t enough for just the Max Power bit, but in order to wrap the tall order of going from popular due to his name to joining Springfield’s elite, they really had to rush the end.
Charlie Sweatpants: The end is one of those Zombie Simpsons specials where they paint themselves into a corner so they have no choice but to basically go nuclear in the last two minutes.
Charlie Sweatpants: They’re at that nice little party and then – wham – it’s chained to trees with no warning, no foreshadowing, nothing.
Dave: That seems essentially correct. Gotta tie up the loose ends somehow… especially with the level of escalation in this episode.
Mad Jon: There were some funny parts, I enjoyed the scene with the producers, also when he changes his name, and Clinton made me chuckle as well.
Charlie Sweatpants: There are quite a few funny parts, and the Clinton stuff, both his complaining that Quebec has the bomb and that he hangs out in a tool shed were funny, but that final scene always annoys me.
First, it does the "list the celebrities" thing, with Woody Harrelson, Ed Begley Jr., and Lorne Michaels. Then there’s Homer’s screaming overreactions to everything Trent Steele says.
Dave: I will freely admit to liking the Max Power song. It’s delightfully terrible.
Mad Jon: Well, the garden party scene is part of the rushed ending, but there are still funny bits.
Charlie Sweatpants: Again, there are funny bits, but this is the kind of thing that never would’ve happened even in Season 8.
Mad Jon: And yes, they do make a quite a point of listing all the celebrities.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not just the ending either. The stream of nonsense coming from all the producers is funny, but did Homer just walk to Hollywood? There’s no reason for him to be there. Hell, they could’ve showed the producers without even mentioning him. But they crammed him in so they could work in three – count ‘em three! – jokes where a guy falls into a cactus.
Mad Jon: Agreed, but I still like the producer scene. "Titanic Meets Frasier" always makes me laugh.
Charlie Sweatpants: I always chuckle at "but it scared the hell out of us". I’m pretty sure that’s Castellaneta and it gets me every time, but my point stands.
Mad Jon: Although I think maybe my favorite part is a quick visual joke. When Carl notices that Homer is mentioned in an article about local man having a famous name, the front page simply says "It’s War".
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that’s good. Though I’m obligated to point out it was originally on "The Critic".
Mad Jon: Fair enough.
Charlie Sweatpants: After Homer sits down and can’t remember Carl’s name though, that scene goes right to shit.
It’s mildly funny at first, but they keep it up.
Mad Jon: True enough.
Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not super enthusiastic about opening The MacFarlane Box here, but this is Homer at a Peter Griffin level of stupidity and knee jerk flights of fancy.
I do not like it.
Mad Jon: Me neither. I also do not want to spend a lot of time on this, but there was most assuredly a lot of similarities in this.
Charlie Sweatpants: The irony is that this is the episode that gave us Admiral Baby, and Marge saying "It’s hard to believe someone that young could’ve risen to the rank of admiral." I think of that all the time when Zombie Simpsons does something television-y stupid, like the end of this episode.
Again, there are quite a few good jokes in here, but they tend to be of the quick variety. That they use real blood in the dumb cop show and then flash a "Give Blood Today" is good, as is "By the Numbers" for the production studio.
There are some good Homer lines too, like casually telling Marge "They have acids that can burn that off" when she mentions the tattoo of his name on her "you know what". I’m also fond of Homer’s love of Thai food, and there’s the immortal exchange with Bart about doing things the right way, the wrong way and the Max power way.
Mad Jon: That is a line that can tie together generations.
Charlie Sweatpants: But these are diamonds in the rough, the story is so slipshod and herky jerky you can hardly follow it.
I mean, why does Homer briefly become an attic bound shut in? That whole scene just sits there like late addition filler, it has practically nothing to do with the rest of the episode.
Mad Jon: Agreed, I never even though about what you said earlier, about how Homer is in Hollywood all of the sudden. That stuff is pretty rampant in these later seasons. There is a lot of random scene jumping like that and the attic scene. They feel like they were late additions almost.
Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, I’m always hesitant to bring up Family Guy, but this episode has a certain feel to it.
Dave: The slapdash nature of it all does feel more than a little FG.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s got some funny spots, quite a few actually, but it’s too flimsy to be the show of old.
Mad Jon: It’s not a bad episode as long as you can ignore certain issues, which I usually can. Although I still haven’t seen this one in forever before I had to watch it yesterday.
So I guess that tells me something.
Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here, good or bad? I did like some of Homer and Marge’s other potential names, Hercules Rockefeller and Chesty LaRue in particular, and Hippie Strength mace is good, but, as with so much else I liked about this episode, those were all asides.
Mad Jon: I don’t really have anything new to add.
Charlie Sweatpants: Dave?
Mad Jon: Perhaps we should move on to Valentines Day then.
Charlie Sweatpants: And it’s not even that time of year.
Mad Jon: Which it really wasn’t for this episode either. Unless you live in the South or the West Coast.
Charlie Sweatpants: Huh?
Oh, another unusually warm Feb 14th?
I get it. I get jokes.
Mad Jon: And the children walked home without jackets.
“In light of these new facts, of which I now realize I was largely aware, I must take action.” – Mayor Quimby
Remember Dana Gould? He was one of the two Zombie Simpsons writers in Spurlock’s 20th anniversary special who took petulant, off topic swipes at people who say Zombie Simpsons sucks. His nonsensical quote, in full:
“The people who say ‘It was never as good as it was five years ago’, it’s like well, neither are you, that’s the problem.”
Set aside the fact that “never as good as it was” is self contradicting, we know what he means. More recently, he said pretty much the opposite. Asked about his favorite episode in an interview with the Denver Post website Reverb, he said:
My favorite all-around episode I think is the “Last Exit to Springfield,” the one with the monorail. That to me was the show’s early zenith where it just really cranked on all cylinders. My favorite of my own was called “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” where they flew to China to adopt a baby for Marge’s sister Selma, and based on my own experience adopting our daughter.
Yes, “Last Exit to Springfield” is not the one with the monorail, but I’d chalk that up to a brain fart or a slip of the tongue. On more substantive matters, he specifically and deliberately refers to the show’s “early zenith”, when it “cranked on all cylinders”. That sounds an awful lot like an admission that the later years of the show are inferior to the early ones, doesn’t it? He may not think Zombie Simpsons is as bad as I do, but he clearly thinks it’s not as good as The Simpsons. I don’t know whether he’s had a change of heart since he talked to Spurlock or if he was just being less guarded and more honest in a more obscure forum, but there’s no mistaking what he’s saying: The Simpsons peaked and then went downhill. Thanks, Dana.