Archive for September, 2011

30
Sep
11

Reading Digest: Deafening Silence Edition

Grade School Confidential5

“Willie hears ya.  Willie don’t care.” – Groundskeeper Willie

After the Season 22 finale, I wrote a post noting the vast difference between the marketing of the Flanders-Krabappel cliffhanger and the one for “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”.  Where once there was a national advertising campaign and genuine fan interest, now there were a couple of lame internet downloads and the sound of crickets.  I was curious to see how FOX would handle the inevitable Season 23 promotional stuff, however.  In theory, people cared about the fate of “Nedna”.  In practice, even the marketing department thought otherwise.

I watched a lot of football last Sunday, much of it on FOX.  Consequently I saw a lot of promos for “Animation Domination” in general and Zombie Simpsons in particular.  I’m not 100% sure “Nedna” wasn’t mentioned at all, but if it was mentioned it was only as an afterthought.  In general, they were plain old regular promos with a voiceover and a few clips.  (The one of Homer complaining about being in the middle seat was their runaway favorite.)  It’s hard to overstate the difference with “Who Shot Mr. Burns”, which was mentioned by FOX in every promo for Season 7 and around which they based a half hour special starring John Walsh from America’s Most Wanted.  One also suspects that this failed stunt isn’t going to show up in a future episode the way “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” did in the “138th Episode Spectacular”. 

One of our links this week is to someone else who noted the same glaring attention deficit.  In addition to that we’ve got lots of good video this week, an art festival in Australia, two best episode lists, a Simpsons studio tour, some excellent usage, and a huge Futurama fan who loves Simpsons and does a good job of explaining the two while agreeing with us. 

Enjoy.

The Simpsons Season 23 Starts Today, and I Heard a Preview – The two women who wrote that book about using Simpsons in the classroom took a tour of the studio and the writeup is Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week.  There are a few pictures, including one of a David Silverman drawing which may be the greatest studio tour memento in the history of studio tour mementos.  It should always be remembered that while Zombie Simpsons is terrible and beyond redemption, the people behind the show are pretty much universally praised as super nice and generally fantastic. 

Monorail! See Simpsons Songs Performed Live: Gothamist – I’ve mentioned this Simpsons song performance before, but now there’s a trailer:

All promotion is good promotion:

On Thursday, October 13, 3 Geeks and a Girl will be performing 69 songs from the beloved cartoon in 60 minutes for an actual live audience. They’re promising "all your favorites from Chimpan A to Chimpan Z."

Tickets for We Put The Spring In Springfield run $15 with a two drink minimum and are available here. And when they say all your favorites, they mean it. Expect everything from "Baby on Board," "Oh Streetcar!," "Monorail," "See My Vest," and the titular song.

If they were really feeling it they’d have a four drink minimum, but life can only imitate The Simpsons so much.  Also, check out who got quoted in the video:

August Endorsement

Cool.

The Simpsons opening in Minecraft – YouTube – This is great and was pretty much everywhere this week:

Wrenches with embedded LEDs make light of dimly lit fixit jobs – Excellent usage:

Homer Simpson’s advice when his brother Herb shows him the baby translator he has invented is that Herb "should have just taken an existing product and put a clock in it or something." These days the "or something" could easily be a light or, more specifically, an LED as their tiny size, low cost and low power needs has seen them wedged inside a plethora of devices

Homer actually doesn’t say “just”, but still. 

The Simpsons: Who Shot Nedna? – I don’t have much to add to this:

In short, “The Falcon and the D’ohman” was a disappointment after a summer of hype. But come to think of it, the hype itself was a bit of a disappointment. I actually went to thesimpsons.com and thought about voting before I realized that I just didn’t care. In contrast, I remember people discussing and trying to solve the Mr. Burns mystery. For the record, I thought it was the dog.

I still do, kind of.

Ten Best Simpsons Episodes – This is a fantastic list, no Zombie Simpsons and lots of YouTube.

Good Morning! This Horrifying Simpsons Cosplay Will Give You Nightmares – Feh.  The eyes are a little disturbing, but it’s not that bad. 

The 10 best Simpsons TV episodes – This one is from the Telegraph in the UK and, as per usual, contains nothing past Season 9.

Simpsons – Independent Thought Alarm – Just a couple of screen grabs with the subtitles turned on.  I love the look on Hoover’s face there. 

Art for Bart’s sake – If you happen to be in or around Newcastle, Australia this sounds pretty cool:

Bart Simpson will make an appearance at the weekend’s This Is Not Art Festival, with 20 artists paying tribute to the cartoon character and the rest of his whacky Simpsons family in an exhibition at ARThive Newcastle.

The exhibition is called This Is Not Bart (especially if Matt Groening happens to ask).

‘‘We thought it would be dumb/funny to have a group art show called This Is Not Bart on the This Is Not Art weekend. So that’s what we’re doing,’’ ARThive director Grant Hunter said.

It runs through October 22nd and any pictures e-mailed in will be gladly published.  If the mug shot Krusty at the link is anything to go by, there should be some neat stuff. 

I Love That Episode of The Simpsons! Oh Wait-You Were Talking About Real-Life Immigration Policy – This gets excellent usage points for bringing up “Homer and Apu”, but loses some for also mentioning something from Season 20.  Though it should be pointed out that even in Forbes most of the reference is to Season 7 and Season 20 only merits a perfunctory mention (via @dailysimpsons).

Into Darkness: Remembering Poet, Musician, and Community Activist David Blair – YouTube of a slam poem about Carl and the rest of the power plant’s reaction to someone spray painting an “N” on his locker.  This is so much better than the weird Lenny and Carl of Zombie Simpsons.

Simpsons Stylized | Absurdly Nerdly – I’ve linked at least some of these before, but I didn’t recognize the Lenny and Carl one, which I think goes nicely with the poem above.

Lisa Simpson by ~iloveegir on deviantART – Fan drawing of Lisa on what looks like a wall. 

The Simpsons Drinking Game – This is a good idea with way too many rules.  In my experience drinking games need to be at least kinda simple, for obvious reasons.

Premieres: Terra Nova, Gossip Girl and More. – In addition to being quoted in YouTube promotional videos, our old friend Lenny gives Zombie Simpsons 2.14 out of 10. 

A Complete List of Queer Girl Inclusive Shows (And Why I Hate All of Them) – Lenny killing it again:

The Simpsons: Patty Bouvier gets to sit in the background being a lesbian.

Why I Hate It: With almost every attempt this show makes at a joke these days, I just feel kind of confused and embarrassed for them. The storytelling makes no sense; this is the only show besides Glee that manages to regularly have continuity errors within a single scene.

"Simpsons" Writer Pens New Play for Connecticut Rep – Connecticut native Mike Reiss wrote a play about Connecticut called “I’m Connecticut” which you can see at the University of Connecticut campus from December 1 – 10.  Connecticut. 

Playboy Club…In 10 Words – I nitpick because I care (1 of 2): “Thinking too much gives you wrinkles.”

Andy Rooney…In 10 Words – I nitpick because I care (2 of 2): “Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them.  ‘Give me five bees for a quarter’, you’d say.”

411mania.com: Movies – Ten Deep 09.29.11: Top Ten Astronauts – Homer checks in at #6 here, but it seems a tad unfair to include Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell and Ed Harris as John Glenn since they were, you know, real astronauts. 

Good news, everyone! Toronto has Futurama trivia – And finally, one of the original participants in Classic Simpsons Trivia is now setting up a Futurama trivia night.  Interviewer and interviewee heartily agree with us:

AVC: In a way, Futurama seems a lot less universal than The Simpsons, which basically shaped the attitudes of post-Gen X kids growing up in the ’90s. But there are loads of people, like you, who prefer it to The Simpsons. What is it about Futurama that you connect to?

JM: I will start by saying that I do think that seasons three to seven of The Simpsons are the best things created by anyone ever. But that’s more of a technical judgment. Futurama is more the show of my heart. It’s my show. From cover to cover, there’s nothing about it that I don’t like, where The Simpsons has kind of petered off. The last 10 years have not been that great, in my opinion.

AVC: Yeah. No good at all.

JM: Right, at least the last 10 years. There’s still nothing funnier than classic Simpsons under the sun.

Amen.

30
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Realty Bites5

“These prestigious wrought iron security gates are bullet proof, bomb proof, and battering ram resistant.  Now-” – Chief Wiggum
“Then what happened to Johnny D?” – Principal Skinner
“He forgot to lock them.” – Chief Wiggum

29
Sep
11

Compare & Contrast: Mob Boss Endings

Homie the Clown9

“I am-a confused.” – Don Vittorio DiMaggio

Given its manic-depressive pacing and weird four-segment structure, it’s not always easy to tell when Zombie Simpsons is moving from one act to another.  It has a tendency to meander and stutter step its way through what can only generously be called a story, tossing off things that may or may not be jokes along the way.  For example, take what was supposed to be the second act of “The Falcon and the D’Ohman”.

When we come back from the first commercial break, Jack Bauer is having dinner with the Simpsons at their dining room table.  This leads to the extended training flashback, which leads to the Taiwanese CGI retelling of what we already saw in the first segment, which leads to another flashback of Bauer beating people up (in this case, his old boss).  That leads to Homer’s flash-forward and Homer inviting Bauer to come and stay with them.  Huh?  He started the segment at the Simpsons home, and it ends with him being invited back, which means when we come back from the second commercial break the first shot is of Bauer back in the same location he was at after the first break.

Nor is the third segment any more coherent.  It ends with Homer being kidnapped by a Ukrainian mob boss we had not seen until one minute prior.  The fourth segment/third act is basically an extended action sequence (though they did work in two more flashbacks) to tie up a conflict that had been introduced less than a minute before the second act ended.  Again: huh?

Overweight Plot Device

Hello.  We’re two thirds through this, who the hell are you?

This isn’t Zombie Simpsons rejecting conventional storytelling wholesale to do something completely different.  It isn’t even subverting or playing around with the standard three act formula.  They have a regular old three act story, they just execute it really poorly.  The result is a hot mess of flashbacks and a supposedly main conflict that gets introduced about six seconds before the third act begins.

As it happens, a vengeful mob boss had kidnapped Homer once before.  Like “The Falcon and the D’Ohman”, Homer gets tossed in the back of a car so the episode can get resolved.  Unlike “The Falcon and the D’Ohman”, the kidnapping was set up right from the first scene of the episode and was integral to its conclusion.

In Season 6’s “Homie the Clown”, the story begins with Krusty having money problems.  Not only that, but Fat Tony and his crew appear just over a minute into the episode precisely because Krusty is deeply in hock to them.  Krusty’s debt – introduced right there in Act 1 – drives the entire thing.  It’s what forces him to open the clown college, which is what allows Homer to become a clown, which is why the mob mistakes Homer for Krusty at the end of Act 2.

So when “Homie the Clown” gets to its final segment there’s no mystery as to who the bad guys are.  Even better, they’ve managed to weave in a classic mistaken identity plot, so Homer has a legitimate reason to be there for the final confrontation between Krusty and the mobsters.  Everything ties together and nothing gets unexpectedly thrown at the audience.

Homie the Clown8

He’s so nice he even introduces himself.

The same careful construction (Season 6) and lack thereof (Season 23) can be seen in the final scenes as well.  In “Homie the Clown”, we meet the kindly “old Italian stereotype” who is Fat Tony’s boss, and he demands that Homer execute Krusty’s stunt of riding a little bicycle through a loop.  While we haven’t seen the mob boss before, we had already seen the mobsters, so it’s not surprising.  Better, the bicycle-loop trick was established at the beginning of the episode AND we had already seen Homer fail at it repeatedly in the second act.  So when Homer has to do the trick, the brief moments of suspense have been lead into by the entire story up to that point.

That confrontation takes place in the mob hangout we’d seen in previous episodes, but the one in “The Falcon and the D’Ohman” happens at an ice rink.  Why?  Who knows?  No reason is given.  Furthermore, Homer is frozen into the ice and very disposable mob henchmen are skating around him.  No reason is given for any of this either.  The mob boss, whom we barely know, has no connection whatsoever to ice skating, it’s just a random place that allows Jack Bauer to kill an absolute shitload of dudes.

Bond Villains Have Less Disposable Henchmen Than This

As someone who was raised on violent television I’m not prone to complaining about on-screen body counts unless they’re too low.  But I’m pretty sure Bauer kills more people on-screen in this one scene than happened in all of Seasons 1-9, maybe even including the Halloween episodes.

In the midst of all this, a bunch of costumed mascot people show up.  This makes no sense and, once again, there’s nothing in the episode to explain it.  They just thought it would be funny to set one of the mascots on fire.  It finally, mercifully ends when Homer disarms the mob boss by tickling him . . . at which point Bauer straight up murders the unarmed man.  This is many things, but you’d be hard pressed to call it funny.

Next Week on Bauer Texas Ranger . .

Nothing says comedy like smoldering corpses.

To top things off, since that scene had nothing to do with the rest of the story all that violence couldn’t even resolve the plot.  Remember that the original reason Bauer was living with the Simpsons and calling Homer his friend was because he got fired and had nowhere else to go.  This didn’t address that at all.  It doesn’t end until Marge tells Bauer, literally as an afterthought as he’s walking out the door, that as a sadistic government employee he can work at the DMV.  She knew this about him from the time he sat down to dinner with them right after the first commercial break, but didn’t say anything until after Zombie Simpsons had slaked its considerable thirst for blood.

Where The Simpsons built meticulously to and ending of silly absurdity (clown trick or die!) for comedy’s sake, Zombie Simpsons flopped down a dull action sequence that was only tenuously connected to the rest of the episode.  Don Vittorio DiMaggio was a self described stereotypical mob boss who was willing to kill Krusty and Homer over $48, but was too much of a comedy fan to pull the trigger.  “Victor” was a guy we hardly met whose name we only learned in a flashback right before Bauer killed his wife, and who ended up being stabbed in the throat.  (Though even that wasn’t the end, the episode had one more pointless flashback in it.)  One of these guys had a funny part in a funny story, the other was a lifeless prop in something else.

29
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

New Kid on the Block7

“Hey, sometimes a guy just likes his skin to look its yellowest.” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday Gabor Csupo!

[Edited to remove redundant word.  Whoops.]

28
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Clue Board

Image shamelessly yoinked from here.

“Yes, Krusty?” – Bart Simpson
“Bart, I need to get your fingerprints on a candlestick.  Meet me in the conservatory chop chop.  Don’t worry, everything’s gonna be all right.” – Krusty the Klown

27
Sep
11

Crazy Noises: The Falcon and the D’Ohman

Whacking Day6

“And why is a cafeteria worker posing as a nurse?” – Superintendent Chalmers
“I get two paychecks this way.” – Lunchlady Doris
“D’oh.” – Superintendent Chalmers

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (embarrassingly so on “hepcat”).

I’m in no position to be a sanctimonious scold over this because I never met either Phil Hartman or Doris Grau, but there is something inherently off putting about the way his characters were permanently retired while Lunchlady Doris keeps popping up.  I understand that he was much younger, a vastly bigger star, and that his death was enormously more shocking.  But Lunchlady Doris was inextricably linked to Doris Grau just as Hartman’s characters were to him, and it seems more than a tad callous for Zombie Simpsons to have a poor facsimile of her inimitable voice say things this disposable:

We can’t keep serving the same thing every day.  These kids have mashed potatoes coming out of their ears.

Sometimes shows have to replace actors because, hey, death happens, but you ought to have a better reason than something that extraneous. 

Grau made Lunchlady Doris what she was, so much so that even the non-speaking parts were imbued with her trademark indifference.  When Lisa asks her if she remembers when she lost her passion for her work, Lunchlady Doris doesn’t say anything as she presses the Independent Thought Alarm, but you can practically hear that raspy voice anyway.  Like it or not, that died when Grau did, and Zombie Simpsons would’ve been better to leave it alone. 

[Dave’s back this week, and just in time too because Mad Jon couldn’t make it.]

Charlie Sweatpants: You ready to go?

Dave: Let’s.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not sure where to start with this one, but neither were they.

  They had not one, not two, but three non-relevant openings.

Dave: It was really a lousy pastiche of all the things that are reprehensible about the direction the show has taken.

Charlie Sweatpants: First there was Comic Book Guy talking into the camera, then there was Homer’s weird musical intro, then there was Marge’s celebrity dream. It almost felt like they were reluctant to start the episode.

Dave: But one of them was semi-interactive and fourth wall-breaking!!

  In all seriousness they were terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: To be fair, they ended the episode in much the same way. I’m pretty numb to Zombie Simpsons weird changes in direction, but I didn’t see North Korean Musical coming.

Dave: That can’t be construed as a good thing.

  It was just a thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess when you’ve already done it so many times what’s one more fade to white? But, wow, that was unexpected. Did someone eat bad noodles and watch Team America?

They’re making it harder and harder to resist the Family Guy comparison, at least a quarter of this episode is either a dream, a flashback or a flash-forward.

Dave: Well right, the obnoxious and incessant pop culture references that are tangential to the "plot" don’t help their cause.

  Taiwanese CGI. Okay cool, but that was at least 6 months ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: Are you referring to the training flashback? Because that was awful.

The CGI thing was easily the best part of the episode, but even it a) went on too long, and b) isn’t nearly as topical as they want it to be.

Dave: Yeah, the flashback was bad. And the Taiwanese CGI wasn’t all that hot either.

It wasn’t topical because the show is painfully late to the party that started online weeks ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: Both struck me as promising to start, but I’ve learned not to get my hopes up for jokes like that because they pretty much always drag out.

For the CGI thing, the kind of people who are going to get that joke are the same people who are already kinda blase about it. When they try to be hip and cool like that they just end up showing their age worse than ever. South Park was on restorestephenbaldwin.com like two days after it hit on-line.

The insane Taiwan news reports are funny, but just copying one doesn’t make you clever.

Dave: Right. The show just isn’t on the right production cycle to pull these kinds of stunts off.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

The training sequence was more traditionally their style. It was going well right up to the pike man or so, I think he was third, then it just became an excuse to reference as many things as possible.

Dave: Yep. Just a few beats too long.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say more than a few. When the guys from "The Warriors" came out I knew they were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Even outside of the many dream sequences, there was still a ton of that pointless action they seem to like so much. Why did Bauer’s fight with Snake take a minute and a half?

Dave: I mean, why not? We’re looking for an answer that doesn’t exist.

  It’s just the pace and MO of the show now.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know. All summer I kept seeing things in Season 10 that were like Zombie Simpsons, but in doing so I managed to forget (or block out) how truly awful the real thing is.

Say what you will about the Loch Ness Monster ending, and I have, but even that makes more sense than a shootout with ice skating gangsters and Homer frozen into a hockey rink.

Dave: Indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then the mascots and other ice dancers showed up.

I don’t think television scripts are supposed to be based on free association like that.

Anything else here particularly jump out at you as unusually bad?

Dave: Nah. I mean, we had a repeat guest star and a random guest star in a show that more or less stitched together random pop culture errata but ignored what made its predecessor so successful in the first place – the family and the faintest semblance that it was all somehow grounded in reality.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good summation. I thought the desperation to get in on hepcat internet humor was probably the most desperate ploy. Ooh, auto-tune humor. Take that 2008!

Dave: Seriously. What will they think of next?

Charlie Sweatpants: There were two things I liked that weren’t subsequently spoiled by them dragging them through the mud. One was the closed sidewalk sign that said "Pay Sidewalk Coming". I don’t think that made it all the way to funny, but it’s definitely clever.

The second was Homer’s description of a terrorist fist bump as "the warmth of human contact with a manly whiff of violence". That one is funny. It wasn’t worth twenty minutes of my time, but it was funny.

Dave: Agree on the second point, lukewarm about the first.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sorry, I was trying to be lukewarm on the first. I just didn’t think it sucked the way the rest of this did.

Dave: Fair enough.

  Oh, one quick thought.

  You’ve talked about this in the past, but I couldn’t help but notice how flat the show looks these days in HD.

Utterly flat and devoid of character.

Charlie Sweatpants: No disagreement here.

Dave: It is not an animated show that benefits from HD, like Archer or Futurama.

  Or hell, even South Park, which is flat to begin with.

Charlie Sweatpants: I agree, though this is an instance where I’m inclined to give them a little slack. These characters and layouts were never designed with HD in mind.

I can and do blame them for the repetitive stories, the boring plots and all of the other ways the writing has fallen apart. But while the animation has definitely gotten stiffer, they are really limited with what they can do with modern animation while still keeping the overall look of the show.

Dave: Who knew you could be benevolent with Zombie Simpsons?

  I learned something tonight.

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t say it doesn’t suck.

  It does.

  I just said that in this one, narrow area the fact that it sucks isn’t due to apathy or laziness.

Okay, anything else?

Dave: Nada. I can’t believe we’re on Season 23 and have 22 more of these to go.

  I just made myself sad.

Charlie Sweatpants: Look on the bright side, maybe it’ll only be a 20 or 21 episode season.

27
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Marge in Chains7

“Next case, the National Council of Churches versus Lionel Hutz.” – Bailiff
“Oh, right, that thing.” – Lionel Hutz




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