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

26
Sep
11

Welcome Back, Zombie Simpsons! (Now Please Go Away Forever.)

Chalkboard - The Falcon and the D’Ohman

“This celebration is a sham, and it’s all my fault.” – Hollis Hurlbut

If anyone out there was worried that Zombie Simpsons might have taken time over the summer to sharpen its rusty stories or tighten its blundering dialogue, last night’s clumsy splatter-fest should put their mind at ease.  I suppose we can give them points for consistency, but that’s about it.  In a mere twenty minutes they told a hopelessly stupid ten minute story and filled the enormous gaps around it with their favorite kinds of filler material.  There was a pointless celebrity cameo voicing himself.  There were untethered non-sequiturs of the flash-forward, flash-backward and dream scene variety.  And there were several “action” sequences so bereft of narrative or action that they had to slow the passage of time to drag them out long enough to get to the credits.  I know it was the season premier, but they were in mid-season form last night.  After all, nothing says “well written” like cutting to a previously unknown Ukrainian mob boss two thirds of the way through the episode.

As for that ten minute story itself, there actually was the germ of a decent episode somewhere in there.  Making fun of 24 isn’t exactly hard to do (though Zombie Simpsons did manage to blow it a few years ago), but taking Jack Bauer, the trigger happy scream prone lunatic, and having some fun with his uncomfortable retirement isn’t an inherently fucked idea.  The bad ass dude who has to deal with normal life isn’t the world’s most original premise (see: here and here), but it is a decent “fish out of water” setup. 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t at all what Zombie Simpsons did.  Instead of having some fun with Bauer-deals-with-retirement, they just had him still be Bauer, which is neither creative nor funny.  Worse, they spent a great deal of the episode with origin story type flashbacks that didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know, but did eat up a healthy chunk of screen time.  So instead of jokes or comedy we were treated to a lot of suspenseful music while cartoons pretended to fight one another. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are acceptably bad.  Last night’s punchless 24 rehash was viewed by a mere 7.91 million people.  That’s a slight improvement over the Season 22 premier (though both are well below the Season 21 premier), but last night had the advantage of a late national football game leading into it.  (Season 22 didn’t.)  Football hangover would also help explain why Zombie Simpsons managed to best Family Guy (7.26 million), which basically never happens.  So we’ve got an encouraging start to this year’s ratings disaster, with even an NFL boost still resulting in a lame number.  Next week FOX doesn’t have a late national game and it’ll be interesting to see if Family Guy pulls ahead like it usually does.  Assuming it does, Zombie Simpsons should be in for another record low season.

26
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Mr Lisa Goes to Washington6

“Who is that bookworm, Smithers?” – C.M. Burns
“Homer Simpson, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Simpson, eh?  How very strange, his job description clearly specifies an illiterate.” – C.M. Burns

Happy 20th anniversary to “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”!  Original airdate: 26 September 1991.

25
Sep
11

Sunday Preview: The Falcon and the D’Ohman

There are two crappy celebrity plots this week, so Dave had two images to properly splatter with blood:

zombiefalcon1

Most people don’t think of Kiefer Sutherland as the kind of comedic genius you have on over and over again.  Most people also don’t like Zombie Simpsons.

zombiefalcon2

And here’s the other guy for some reason.

From what I can tell, Homer gets kidnapped and Marge becomes a chef.  It’s gonna be a long season. 

25
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Fox Logo

Image shamelessly yoinked from here.

“It may be on a lousy channel, but the Simpsons are on TV.” – Homer Simpson

Turn on your television and turn off your brain, because Season 23 starts tonight.  Better yet, just leave the television off too. 

24
Sep
11

Bonus Quote of the Day

Bart's Inner Child6

“Oh hi!  I’m Troy McClure.  You might remember me from such self help videos as ‘Smoke Yourself Thin’ and ‘Get Confident, Stupid!’.  Well now I’m here to tell you about the only real path to mental health.  That’s right, it’s the Brad Goodman something or other.” – Troy McClure

Phil Hartman would’ve been 63 today.  Happy birthday.

24
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Itchy and Scratchy Land7

“Kids, you heard the cartoon rat.  If you haven’t already run to your parents begging to go, do it now.  You won’t be missing anything funny, I’ll just be sitting here reading this grown-ups newspaper.” – Krusty the Klown

Happy birthday Brad Bird!

23
Sep
11

Reading Digest: Fictional Fiction Edition

Mr Lisa Goes to Washington7

“We now return to Troy McClure and Dolores Montenegro in ‘Preacher with a Shovel’.” – TV Announcer
“But irrigation can save your people, Chief Smiling Bear!” – White Man

This week we’ve got a couple of links elaborating on the many fake books, movies and products that cropped up on The Simpsons.  Before we get to those, however, that stupid quote from a News Corp executive about a “Simpsons channel” I mentioned last week spun itself to new levels of internet fame this week and needs to be knocked down.  If you don’t care, skip to the second set of dashes:

—–

The story: News Corp’s Chief Operating Officer, a man with a moustache more often seen on guys who tie damsels to railroad tracks, made an offhand comment at a media conference in Beverly Hills two weeks ago.  A Los Angeles Times blog reported that he said they were having a lot of meetings about how to make as much money as possible off the Simpsons franchise, and that one of the ideas they were kicking around was a channel that was all Simpsons.  It wasn’t an announcement, it wasn’t a plan, it wasn’t even a trial balloon.  It was just one of the things they’d mentioned and it wouldn’t be possible for years due to syndication rules and the show would have to stop broadcasting new episodes first but there’s no plans to do that. 

In other words, News Corp and FOX are about as close to launching a “Simpsons channel” as they are to landing James Murdoch on Mars.  The idea was floated along with a bunch of others as ways to get the Simpsons-related money spigot to gush just a little bit harder.  There was no real news, there wasn’t even a rumor. 

Then a site called Slice of SciFi picked it up (Could We See An All “Simpsons” Channel?), and from there it went to /Film last Friday (Fox Considering an All-‘Simpsons’ TV Channel).  That sent it all over the place, from humble little blogs to big, established sites like Cinema Blend (Could The Simpsons Be Getting Their Own Channel?) and the A.V. Club (Fox considering TV channel that plays nothing but The Simpsons).  Now, I understand the need for sites like /Film, the A.V. Club, and Cinema Blend to write things like this up.  They pay their bills with pageviews and a story like this, easy to write and with an eminently clickable headline, is basically free money for them.  I also understand that I see more of these stories than most people and that my perspective is the furthest thing from common.  At the same time, useless repetition like this is one of the constant aggravations and real weaknesses of on-line media. 

All of these stories eventually get around to noting that even if this ever does happen it won’t be for a very long time.  In the meantime they troll for comments, put question marks in their headlines (always a bad sign if you’re looking for actual information), and add their own spin as they rewrite the same non-story over and over again.  The result is that people become misinformed about how serious this is through nothing more than repetition.  I’m not saying don’t write a few hundred words and goose your traffic stats.  By all means, do that.  But please, while you’re doing that drop the sensational speculation and point out just how little there is to the story. 

—–

Okay, my street corner harangue is over.  If you skipped all that, the short version is that rumors on the internet are annoying and misleading and can easily be made less so without anyone having to stop being a traffic whore.  As for the actual links, in addition to the fictional stuff from the show we’ve got an awesome tribute to Phil Hartman, a great movie trailer mashup, crappy merchandise, excellent usage, and donuts.  Oh, the donuts.

Enjoy.

He Had Hart, Man: The 11 Best Phil Hartman Characters – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this awesome list that comes with plenty of YouTube.  Three of them are Simpsons characters.

Visiting Huell Howser’s donut at Stan’s Donuts – A visit to a Westwood, California donut shop with plenty of food porn images of awesome donuts, including the famous Homer donut with pink frosting and sprinkles:

By the way, they also have a donut named after The Simpsons. Why? Apparently, they were the official donut makers for Fox when the movie came out and they were sending donuts to various people to promote the film.

Invisible Library Catalog Entry #1: How to Cook Humans – There are a lot of Simpsons titles in the invisible library, don’t forget “Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?”.   

Fictional Movies I Want to See Most – Instead of an invisible library for fictional books, this is about the invisible multiplex for fictional movies.  Either way The Simpsons is well represented. 

Translating the Simpsons: A Case Study – An extensive examination of the subtleties of translating the show into German. 

The Simpsons – Apollo 13 Trailer (via) – I put this up on Twitter on Tuesday, but it works too well not to post:

Letters of Note: With great respect, Marge Simpson – The fake letter the show wrote to then First Lady Barbara Bush in 1990.  This has made the rounds on-line before, but it was going around again this week so I thought I’d post it. 

Drawing Tips (via) – We’ve linked this guy’s Simpsons art before, but here are some wonderfully batshit tips for drawing the Simpsons.  It’s a Facebook link, but don’t be alarmed, you don’t need to be logged in to view it. 

Did It Get Less Funny, Or Did I Get More Mature? – It got less funny.  I have no idea whether or not you got more mature. 

Homer Hamburger Pillow – That’s kinda creepy.  Why is his mouth wider than his head?

Lisa Simpson – Fan made drawing of Lisa.

Voice of Homer Simpson, Dan Castellaneta, sells Palisades home – Hank Azaria bought Dan Castellaneta’s house for $5,500,000.  

Best. Simpsons Clips. Ever. – Via @dailysimpsons comes this Wired list of people’s favorite clips.  There are a couple of token Zombie Simpsons entries at the end, though even that doesn’t speak well for them.  Both are from Season 22, one is the Banksy opening, the other is the Koyaanisqatsi Itchy & Scratchy.  Basically, no one likes anything the Simpsons themselves created past Season 9. 

The end is nigh… – The final installment of the Simpsons comics that were drawn when the author was ten-years-old.

4′ Authentic Bart Simpson Stuffed Toy – Click through for the two larger images to really see how crappy this thing looks. 

The 2011 Emmys…In 10 Words – Note to self: continue never watching awards shows. 

Spurlock’s newest is good, not the "greatest" – Excellent usage in a review of Morgan Spurlock’s latest real movie:

So no one has to necessarily pay attention to any advertising.  It’s like Lisa Simpson and Paul Anka sang in an episode of The Simpsons Tree House of Horror:  "Just dont’ look".

The Best Show on Television – This post makes the case for Parks and Recreation as the current champion.  Along the way, he lists some of his favorite shows and agrees with us:

1996 – 2002: The Simpsons (I hung on about two seasons too long.)

Yeah, I’d say two years is about right.

The Ten Greatest ‘Simpsons’ Characters Who Appear in Only One Episode – As usual, there’s not a hint of Zombie Simpsons here.  (Thanks to Andreas for the tip.) 

Tattoo WIN (?) – Yes, win.  It’s a tattoo of Homer wearing David Bowie makeup. 

Review: “The Simpsons Movie” – This is more positive than I am toward the movie, but does acknowledge that the show has declined. 

New Simpsons Sucks! – And finally, I get to end the best way possible, with someone who doesn’t mince words stating the obvious:

Why isn’t the Simpsons funny anymore? Who’s behind this!? The Simpsons used to be deviously clever, it never tried to hard to make jokes, and a lot of the jokes blew right past me as a kid, but made me fall over as an adult.

He’s even got compare and contrast YouTube clips.  The hitchhiker in “Bart on the Road” always cracks me up.  Oh, and don’t miss the link to classic clips at the bottom. 

23
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

King Size Homer6

“I must protest!  You’re abusing a program intended to help the unfortunate.” – Lisa Simpson
“I’m not saying it isn’t sleazy, honey.” – Homer Simpson

22
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

PBS Logo

Image yoinked from Wikipedia.

“What are you going to spend your money on, kids?” – Marge Simpson
“There’s a special on tacos down at the taco mat, hundred tacos for a hundred dollars.  I’m gonna get that.” – Bart Simpson
“I’m going to contribute my money to the corporation for public broadcasting.” – Lisa Simpson
“Tacos?  Public broadcasting?  I won’t have you kids throwing your money away like that.” – Marge Simpson

21
Sep
11

Crazy Noises: Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo

Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo2

“Don’t ask me, I don’t know anything.  I’m product of American education system.  I also build poor quality cars and inferior style electronics.” – Americatown Waiter

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 “Garabedian”).

Today’s episode is 1023, “30 Minutes Over Tokyo”, otherwise known as “The Simpsons are going to Japan!”.  It’s the last episode in Season 10 and brings this summer’s Crazy Noises series to a close. 

Mad Jon: You want to get on this thing?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes, let us finish Season 10.

I may be feeling a bit more grandiose than usual because this is the last episode and Zombie Simpsons is starting again on Sunday, but this one seems like a good representation of the entire season. Nothing makes sense, but there are enough good lines that it isn’t terrible.

Season 10 seems to generally not make sense, and whether or not there are good, quotable lines is usually the difference between whether or not it’s a watchable episode.

Mad Jon: Oh sure. That has been a clear marker this summer.

I enjoy repeatable bits. And frankly I am ok with this episode as well.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. This episode has a lame story, jumps around for no reason, features pointless suspense . . . and yet I don’t hate it because there are a lot of damn funny scenes.

Mad Jon: There are parts that, as you have aptly described, just don’t make sense, but there are funny things in this version of "The Simpsons are going to ____". Which I believe was in the dialogue.

Charlie Sweatpants: All destination episodes (The Simpsons are going to _____) exist on a scale from "Bart vs. Australia" to "Simpson Safari". This one is closer to the latter than the former, but not by much.

Mad Jon: Middle of the road-ish. Agreed.

  We are about 1 year away from them going to Delaware anyway…

Charlie Sweatpants: I get that nasty "mention all the landmarks" feel when Lisa counts off places from the hotel room, and this one definitely suffers when it cuts from one stereotypical thing to another (e.g. sumo wrestling -> Japan jail -> square watermelon), but there’s enough local humor to salvage it.

I’m not sure how much of that is George Takei nailing every line and how much of it is the fact that the writing hadn’t gone completely to seed yet, but there it is.

Mad Jon: Takei was a very bright lamp here.

The material for the end was pretty decent too, so I guess it’s a bit of both. I most certainly liked this one better at the end than I did at the beginning.

Charlie Sweatpants: Me too. The beginning isn’t without its charms, but this whole thing is an excuse for Japan jokes, and those don’t get going until they get to the toilet.

Mad Jon: I like the toilet.

Charlie Sweatpants: Man, do I love the toilet.

Mad Jon: I am also a fan of Chuck Garabedian.

  I was especially happy that he was a one off character.

And that although some of the bits during his part wore on, he as a character didn’t

Charlie Sweatpants: Garabedian’s good, but his seminar fails because those Zombie habits of cramming in every possible character are already happening. Burns is at this thing why?

Mad Jon: I agree with that. Burns and the unending Monopoly guy were not so good. Although I guess they didn’t get filthy rich writing a bunch of checks.

Charlie Sweatpants: I kinda like Mr. Moneybags. There was just no fucking reason for Burns to be there.

Mad Jon: Fair enough, I feel that part could have done better with Monopoly guy just nodding or something, instead of talking a bunch and getting in the car.

  But that’s just me.

Charlie Sweatpants: I kinda liked that, "Pure Baltic Avenue" is funny. I could’ve done without the penny under Homer’s skin though.

Mad Jon: Ugh

Charlie Sweatpants: But that’s a matter of taste, the point is that they were reaching for wackiness in the kind of seminar in which they didn’t used to need it.

That didn’t happen with Brad Goodman or Lyle Lanley, or even the Trapezoid guy. It’s a huckster seminar, you shouldn’t need crap like that.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

Charlie Sweatpants: My favorite Garabedian moment is when he goes through their garbage. That wouldn’t have worked for the earlier flimflam men, but at this point "You fat cats didn’t finish your plankton!" is the kind of quick gag that keeps this episode from becoming tedious.

Of course, for it to work they had to go to the 33 cent store, which is maybe the best individual scene in the entire episode.

Mad Jon: Ha, yeah that’s funny.

Charlie Sweatpants: Everything from having Skittle-brau and Cool Ranch Soda (which would sell in real life, by the way) to the "Mexican Council of Food" is great.

Though the pre-Japan parts aren’t without their problems. The cyber-cafe is dumb pretty much from start to finish, as is the scene at the airport. Homer stealing from Ned is pretty weak too.

Mad Jon: I hate the Cyber-cafe and the Homer and Ned scene makes me feel anxious.

Charlie Sweatpants: I could see anxious, but the bigger problem for me is the sheer stupid of it. It’s kind of a funny idea, but it feels like taking the concept of Homer stealing/"borrowing" from Ned to an extreme that makes it less funny than when he was just collecting power sanders and TV trays.

Though I suppose that’s another thing you could chalk up to just generally being Season 10. They’re both repeating and stretching a lot of concepts this season.

Mad Jon: That sounds about right.

I dunno. Again, even with the poorer parts, I like this episode more than I hate it. Much of that has to do with Chuck and the Japanese game show host, but for Season 10 I don’t think I need to look much further than those.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, I agree. But even the game show has almost as many problems as it does jokes. There’s a volcano full of needless suspense at the end, and Homer gets hit by lighting enough times to make me think I’m watching Itchy & Scratchy. It’s mostly made up for by lines like "He seems okay, but he is being burned internally." But only mostly.

Mad Jon: Can’t really argue with you on that.

Charlie Sweatpants: The entire time they’re in Japan they’re jumping from one unrelated set piece to another ("Simpson Safari"), but what makes it okay is that the jokes when they get there are good ("Bart vs. Australia"). Americatown is funny, the battling seizure robots are funny, even some of the jokes at the completely dumb seafood factory are good.

The problem is the hyperactive way they leap from one to another. Emperor Clobbersaurus and a dumpster full of "Sumo Thongs" make me laugh, that Homer is sitting ringside and just climbs up to grapple only to be congratulated by the emperor doesn’t.

  This entire episode is those kinds of ups and downs.

Mad Jon: Again, I have no arguments with your description.

I think I would still put this one somewhere in the upper half of Season 10 episodes.

  It scares me to think of how much I would beg to watch this one instead of all but one of season 11

Charlie Sweatpants: I might go all the way to three or four in Season 11, but it’s been awhile since I took a close look.

Mad Jon: I am almost certain I wrote something exactly to that effect about a year ago.

  Again, ugh.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a 2012 problem, so don’t worry about it right now.

Mad Jon: You always know what to say to cheer me up.

Charlie Sweatpants: In the meantime, I think we’re in basic agreement on this one. Any final Season 10 thoughts?

Mad Jon: I can honestly say that there were more good lines in this season than I remembered there being before we started watching them this summer. So that’s a plus. On the downside the plots were almost all as terrible as I thought they would be, minus a few.

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t really disagree with any part of that.

Mad Jon: I can also honestly say that the Season 10 discs that have enjoyed their time out of the closet probably are about to go right back in.

  Well I guess there isn’t any probably about that…

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, there just isn’t much that’s attention grabbing here. Like Mackey said the other day, there was probably a better Futurama on when most of these were broadcast.

Mad Jon: That was an excellent and valid point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I guess that about wraps it up for Season 10. Does Season 23 count as Godzilla related turbulence, or is it just seizure robots?

Mad Jon: If we survive we can figure that out in the spring.

21
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

New Kid on the Block6

“Good luck on your trumped up lawsuit, Dad.” – Lisa Simpson
“Thanks.  That means a lot to me.” – Homer Simpson

20
Sep
11

Crazy Noises: They Saved Lisa’s Brain

They Saved Lisa's Brain4

“Do I detect a note of sarcasm?” – Lindsey Naegle
“Are you kidding me?  This baby is off the charts!” – Professor Frink
“Ooh, a sarcasm detector, that’s a real useful invention!” – Comic Book Guy

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 (happily not on “Plopwell”).

Today’s episode is 1022 “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”.  Yesterday was 1021 “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love”.  This week we’ve also got a special guest, our old friend Bob Mackey.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Mensa one, on the other hand, is one of my favorites in Season 10. It’s not without its flaws, none of them are, but this one I do watch with some regularity.

Bob Mackey: I agree it’s much better.

  There are a few rough spots, though. I’m not sure about the whole gross-out contest thing.

Mad Jon: ‘Lisa learns a lesson’ episodes have been giving me second thoughts by this point, but I liked how they handled this one.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was okay with the gross out contest for the first two minutes or so, but it definitely goes on too long. Though I’m always up for the "Planet of the Apes" type music for a riot.

Both the contest and the B-plot are stretched, but they’re stretched between an actually coherent plot, which I appreciate. Especially just having sat through "Monty Can’t Buy Me Love".

Bob Mackey: The B-plot seems like it was intended to completely clash with the tone of the Lisa story, just in case anyone was bored.

Mad Jon: For a Homer does something crazy plot, I was just fine with it.

  It wasn’t that funny, and he was a little obliviously jerky, but I can live with that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Judging by the ending, I don’t think they had quite enough A-story, so they plugged this in.

It did give us "Light is not your friend", which always gets me. The photographer in general is underused, but her constant grimaces to make me smile.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

Bob Mackey: I do like the first shot of Bart peering in the window in complete shock.

Charlie Sweatpants: And Homer saying "But I was gonna score" only to get shot down by Marge with a very blase "No you weren’t" works as well.

  The first Bart shot is a decent shock laugh, though that’s where it feels stretched. I mean all that really happens is that the photographer comes over twice.

Bob Mackey: They did pick a good group for MENSA though.

Charlie Sweatpants: Still, for a B-plot in episode number 225, things could’ve been a lot worse.

Mad Jon: Agreed on both of your points.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed. The Mensa gang works, especially how you can tell they already know and slightly dislike each other.

Like how they argue behind the door before Lisa gets there, or how Naegle yells at Comic Book Guy for unsubtly staring at her chest.

Mad Jon: It is a pretty tight knit group for a town large enough to have 13 stores that start with ‘Le Sex’

I also like the gazebo reservation form scene.

  "How many gazebos do you she-males need?!"

Bob Mackey: Didn’t Quimby just flee in terror at the mention of those reservation forms?

Charlie Sweatpants: The fact that Wiggum mistakes their Renaissance costumes like that is exactly the kind of unintentionally horrible thing he would say.

Quimby jumps ship because he can’t see that it’s about the gazebo reservation thing. He runs just on one line about deserving that lottery money.

It’s not the world’s must subtle turn, but it’s quick and it moves.

Mad Jon: Yes, it does get out of its own way. Which is better than it dragging on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Most of the A-plot is like that. It’s not a brilliant satire or anything, but it doesn’t linger over anything too long.

Bob Mackey: Yeah, every scene moves the story somewhere.

Charlie Sweatpants: It gets out of the way of the many truly inspired lines, which goes a long way in my book. In addition to “Light is not your friend”, there’s the “traditional Santa Claus”, “that’s too clever, you’re one of them”, the sarcasm detector, Grandma Plopwell, and the “municipal fortress of vengeance”.

In theory, Homer and Marge are in the crowd that threatens to crush Lisa in the gazebo, and there’s no real reason for Stephen Hawking to have to save her, but they don’t dwell on it. There’s no shot of Marge screaming over the horns of suspense.

Mad Jon: The end was very "It started falling over, then it fell over"

Charlie Sweatpants: I can overlook things like that for a quick Willie/Scottie joke about not having the power.

Bob Mackey: Was this hawking part pre-Futurama?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, this episode was pre-Futurama.

Mad Jon: oh sure.

  Although it did have the doughnut shaped universe.

Bob Mackey: Okay, they seemed to use him in the very same way.

Charlie Sweatpants: No wait, I stand corrected, this one premiered two months after Futurama started.

The Hawking one wasn’t until the next year, though.

  (Oh, epguides.com, how would I get along without you?)

Bob Mackey: I don’t really hate this one, but I bet there was a much, much better Futurama airing that night.

Charlie Sweatpants: Apparently "A Big Piece of Garbage" aired two days later.

  FOX never did give that show an actual time slot. Bastards.

Anyway, Hawking is good here. His whole presence is a bit gratuitous ("Stephen Hawking!" for the entrance isn’t my favorite), but most of his lines work well.

Bob Mackey: Larry Flint is right! is a good line.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, I’d forgotten about that one.

Anything else here? I always find there’s less to talk about when the episode is better.

Mad Jon: True that. I don’t have anything else to add really.

Bob Mackey: Uh I wrote a paper about this episode in grad school?

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

Bob Mackey: The whole episode is an allegory about academia, and that’s all I’ll say.

Charlie Sweatpants: I could defend that for maybe five pages, beyond that it’d get thin.

Bob Mackey: This paper has an asking price of $50.00, by the way.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

And with that well placed plug, I guess that’s it. Bob, thanks again for joining us.

Mad Jon: Thanks Bob

Bob Mackey: Not a problem, we should do this more often.

Charlie Sweatpants: There’s a whole season of Zombie Simpsons coming up. Believe me, you’re always welcome to share the torment.

Mad Jon: Agreed

Bob Mackey: Excellent.

20
Sep
11

Quote of the Day

Lisa's Rival8

“That sounds like Gabriel’s trumpet.  You know what that means, kids.” – Ned Flanders
“Yay!  Judgment Day!” – Rod & Todd Flanders




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