01
Sep
11

They’ll Never Stop “The Simpsons” (But Someone Really Should)

From Nightmare to Reality

- By Matt Mackinnon

Everyone is aware of the vast difference in quality between the first ten seasons of The Simpsons and the ten seasons of Zombie Simpsons that followed. But you don’t have to reach as far back as Season 5 to find huge dips in the quality of the show. No. In fact, you can see a huge drop off in the quality of the show within Zombie Simpsons itself. In fact, it might be time to divide Zombie Simpsons into two different categories. A zombie divided against itself, cannot stand! (That’s a George Costanza reference . . . anyhoo.)

In “Gump Roast” (Season 13), The Simpsons was already in full swing Zombie mode. But little did we know just how bad it was going to get in the years to come. So bad in fact, that one particular recent episode makes “Gump Roast” look like it was part of the golden era. At the end of “Gump Roast”, there is a song called “You’ll never stop the Simpsons”, a parody of the Billy Joel song “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Despite this being an episode of Zombie Simpsons, the song parody was good — very, very good. Van Johnson good.

Near the end of the song they list a bunch of gag stories that could be coming in years to come, such as Marge becomes a robot, Moe gets a cell phone, and Bart owns a bear. This was back when Zombie Simpsons was still hip enough to have a sense of humor about itself and would occasionally poke fun at the fact that they had perhaps stayed on the air one or two years too many. One joke in particular stands out like a cockroach on a wedding cake.

It features Grampa, Patty and Selma involved in a “crazy wedding”. At the time this was clearly meant to be a jab at the series’ many attempts to find Selma a man. And that eventually, if the show stayed on the air long enough, they would run out of potential husbands for her and would be forced to pair her up with Grampa. The very idea of Grampa, Homer’s father, being romantically involved with Selma, Marge’s sister, was considered “crazy”.

Well, fast forward five short seasons to Season 18′s “Rome-Old and Juli-eh”, and you’ll find that, lo and behold, Grampa and Selma are romantically involved. I didn’t see this episode when it first aired, but I happened to catch it recently and instantly thought of that Billy Joel parody. (So I am fully aware that I may not be the first to pick up on this.) At first I thought, there’s no way the writers could have forgotten that they made fun of this very premise just a few short seasons ago. This had to be an inside joke aimed at fans who nit-pick everything to death. But it wasn’t.

There is nothing in the episode that points in that direction. They could have had any character use the phrase “crazy wedding” and we would have all instantly known what they were going for. But there was nothing like that. So what was originally considered a crazy throw away gag in a parody song became, a few seasons later, a full episode. Which means in the years to come we can all look forward to Marge becoming a robot and Bart getting a bear. Wait. Scratch that. In fact, they actually did that episode recently. Just replace bear with cow.

I’m sure I’m not the first to notice the Selma-Grampa goof. So I’m sorry if this is not the most original article. But have no fear, we’ll have essays like this for years.


31 Responses to “They’ll Never Stop “The Simpsons” (But Someone Really Should)”


  1. 1 lennyburnham
    1 September 2011 at 4:14 pm

    That’s such a perfect episode to pinpoint. When I happened to see “Rome-Old and Julie-Eh” I had known that the series had been going downhill since season 9, but I was still totally shocked at just how bad it had gotten. I do love the Billy Joel parody. Nice post.

  2. 3 Wrinkledlion X
    1 September 2011 at 4:18 pm

    The Billy Joel parody really stands out from the episode it’s in, given that it’s actually funny. And really, really bitter.

  3. 4 Derp
    1 September 2011 at 4:40 pm

    Moe gets a cellphone? What about Bart in Lost Verizon?

    • 1 September 2011 at 10:25 pm

      You’re right. I forgot about that one. They just switched Moe with Bart. Perhaps Moe will own a Bear next season just to balance things out. He does have a tendency to keep wild animals hidden in the back of Moe’s Tavern, such as the killer whale in The Springfield Files.

  4. 7 Anonymous
    1 September 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Makes me wonder how many times a very specific plot has been repeated, e.g. Grampa marries a Bouvier, Marge befriends a prisoner, etc.

    (It’s also not the first episode spawned from a throwaway joke. See Artie Ziff’s return in Half-Decent Proposal…or better yet, don’t.)

  5. 8 Cassidy
    1 September 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Wow. Maybe someone should start a checklist based on the song, listing each plot point targeted in the song that UberZombie Simpons has actually regurgitated into an actual episode. Sounds like two of them are already checked off!

  6. 1 September 2011 at 5:50 pm

    I still think the series finale should just be Marge revealing she’s a robot, as a final “fuck you” to any fans still suffering… errr, watching.

  7. 10 Thrillho
    1 September 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Speaking of, in the Season 13 episode “Blame it on Lisa,” the family notes that they’ve now been to every continent except Antarctica, prompting Homer to say “The Simpsons are going to Antarctica…next year!” 10 years later, it turns out they are going to Antarctica next season.

    This is the state of the show, people. When they aren’t rehashing old plotlines, they’re making new ones based off of old throwaway jokes.

  8. 12 Stan
    1 September 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Well, I think that “Flaming Moe” alone pinpoints their plot ideology of today. “We look for any clue: cheap pun, catchphrase or even cutaway joke, and make them into full episodes”. That’s what today’s show stands on. And let’s not forget that the characters are now so out of epoch they cannot even be “refreshed”, like they do in some shows. This sitcom’s like a car with no breaks – if it stops driving it will crash. And it will keep going as long as it drives on merch instead of humor.

  9. 1 September 2011 at 10:30 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone. “Thank you for coming. I’ll see you in hell” ~Apu

  10. 14 RCreed
    2 September 2011 at 3:40 am

    Rubbercat did a post on this topic recently, which I found pretty entertaining.

    http://rubbercat.net/simpsons/news/2011/07/the-simpsons-are-going-to-antarctica-2.html

  11. 15 Bea Simmons' rotting corpse
    2 September 2011 at 4:52 am

    An upcoming episode is titled “Them, Robot”. Please, let it be “Marge becomes a robot”!

  12. 17 ANONYMOUS
    2 September 2011 at 10:08 am

    [long rant]
    The thing about ZOMBIE SIMPSONS — at least at the beginning — is there were still funny moments, and definitely great lines. While the plots were usually nonsensical, the characterization often off, and the pacing mundane… there was still usually a good minute or two of decent Simpsons-esque humor to be had. After a certain point, there is pretty much nothing. I think I’m easier on Zombie than some people — for example, I thought the muppet part in that otherwise-horrible Christmas episode was an interesting idea, and I also LOVED the Eternal Moonshine of the Spotless Mind bit that parodies the “takes a picture of self for 6 months and puts it on Youtube” thing — but you’re right: just as the Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons can be broken into distinct parts, Zombie Simpsons and SUPER FUCKING AWFUL ZOMBIE Simpsons can be broken into distinct parts as well…

    …In general, I’m not fond of the information-overload / everyone-knows-everything-about-everyone Twitter culture / people blabbing on their cell phones and texting 24-7 / Tivo / shitty game consoles where you kill a bunch of shiny things / etc world we live in (yeah, irony of ironies, I’m using my laptop hooked up to DSL to post this on a blog — I’m not saying I don’t like, and find useful, many aspects of new technology, I’m saying… well, read the rest of my rant). I think one of my problems with newer Simpsons is how obsessed they are with all this technology, how these are essentially old characters that are now thrust into this new world, and they aren’t really ready for it either. Bart whipping out a cellphone feels soullless, unfunny, and kinda silly — it’s not far off from a lot of kids his age I’ve seen with phones, as if a 10-year-old needs a cellphone! — it might be indicative of the culture at large, but culture at large is kind of a cynical wasteland anyway, where no one wants to go out and have fun because they’re busy WoWing it up.

    I’m not knocking anyone that enjoys any of the stuff I just mentioned, I just want to reiterate the point that the characters — who have never aged — just aren’t written for, and can’t be adapted for, the world we currently live in. Since the world itself feels a hell of a lot more soullless and depressing, it’s no wonder the show does as well. My love for the Simpsons probably COMPLETELY stopped around 9/11/01 — is that a coincedence, or does the show simply mirror the reality of the cultural vaccuum we live in? All these celebrity “Guest stars” are horrible, but that speaks of the broader problem at large: there aren’t many celebrities worth giving a shit about nowadays.

    Long story short: the Simpsons has always tried to keep up with current events to remain relevant, as have other shows (South Park is one particularly horrible example; episodes from last season feel dated already, references to things no one remembers or cares about). The problem is, there really isn’t much to say beyond how lifeless the technology-driven world in general feels. The show also started out as a “cult”-like show, not some mega-production; money has definitely gotten in the way. It’s all part of this information-overload mass-media circus thing. Zombie Simpsons sucks, but what show that’s on now is actually good? Think about the early 90′s, when Simpsons were at its peak, and we had truely subversive and interesting entertainment left and right. Ren and Stimpy, for example — that show wouldn’t even be able to be made nowadays.

    Ultimately, I think good humor should be just about timeless. Note the comedy of, oh, Bill Hicks, which is probably even more relevant today than it was in his day. Older Simpsons episodes made pop culture references that almost always made sense; you may not remember the talk shows and soap operas and sticoms they often lampooned (and did REAL parodies of, not just references to), but you still got the joke. Nowadays, the Simpsons has BECOME part of the cultural wasteland, and its humor often relies on premises that will be dated by this time next year. Part of it is the writer’s fault, but I think a lot of it is just a reflection of the world we live in. In short, everything is controlled by money anyway — why be “creative” when creativity, potentially, will alienate the dullards; why not just go the Family Guy/South Park route of “let’s make fun of DEXTER AND BLOGZZ AND FACEBOOK!!!! LAWL!”

    I do think this show will be on forever, and what’s weird to think about is… what if the show eventually becomes like Futurama? What if the Futurama future actually happens, and the Simpsons are suddenly transplanted in flying cars and robots and so on? It would feel totally out of place. These are 1987 (Tracey Ullman shorts) who haven’t aged but exist in 2011. While many aspects of life and being human and emotions in general will always be around, culture will keep getting worse and worse, and definitely the Simpsons will feel more and more out of step with current trends.

    …………..

    One final note, though. Not really praise, but it’s still pretty cool, and I haven’t seen anyone bring this up. Did anyone notice David Mamet was in the last season of the Simpsons? And then, Ricky Jay (who is in every Mamet-directed film except, like, 2, and is my favorite magician ever) was in an episode? That was cool. Also, it showed Mamet writing Glengarry Glenn Ross briefly, and Gil is based off of a character in that movie. Anyway, I HIGHLY reccomend everyone watches HOUSE OF GAMES, HOMICIDE, and other Mamet films, and definitely check out some of Ricky Jay’s stuff on youtube. I am not totally sure why they were on the Simpsons, but it was one of the few times where I felt like they weren’t pandering to society at large. Fact is, Jay and Mamet both could’ve been on the shown 20 years ago. I wonder whose idea it was to put them into the newer episodes. Anyway…

    • 18 Thrillho
      2 September 2011 at 10:44 am

      This. A thousand times this.

    • 2 September 2011 at 11:24 am

      I like what you touched on about how these are 1987 Tracey Ullman shorts who haven’t aged but exist in 2011. I’ve often felt one of the biggest problems is that the Simpsons characters now look totally out of place within their own world. You’ll occasionally see background characters who have human looking skin and are wearing clothes based on modern day fashion but the Simpson family themselves haven’t changed a bit. I never used to notice their crudely drawn hairstyles but now it sticks out like a sore thumb when you see other townspeople who look like normal human beings. The show has to constantly update the world the Simpsons live in so that it keeps up to date with modern times, but yet it can’t update the look of the Simpsons themselves. So every year that goes by they look more and more out of place in their own environment. I recall a recent episode where, for the first time ever, Bart and Lisa actually asked “what are we?” while looking at themselves in the mirror. They would have never said something like that when the show was in it’s prime because the characters didn’t look out of place amongst the rest of their crudely drawn world. But now with the advent of HDTV, computer animation, and incredibly detailed and lifelike background characters, Bart and Lisa look completely alien compared to the rest of their animated counterparts.

    • 22 Charlie Sweatpants
      3 September 2011 at 11:15 am

      Zombie Simpsons has never been clever enough to handle modern information technology well. Somewhere in Season 20, 21 or 22 is a scene where Homer misses the end of a hockey game because Marge changes the channel or something. He’s got a laptop open next to him (just because) and howls that he’ll never know the score as he slams down his fist and big sports websites flash on the screen. It’s not that DVRs and sports websites can’t be made fun of, it’s that Zombie Simpsons can’t do it.

      • 23 Patrick
        3 September 2011 at 11:35 am

        WAIT A SEC WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THEIR TIVO BOX ahhh anyway you mean if Marge said something like “these days you can just spend time with the kids and watch the game later or just find out about it afterwards without missing out” like how roseanne said to dan in roseanne about how you don’t need the game with the ‘pre-game, post-game and highlights at 11′ both happened 20 years apart but are still relevant in their own right.

  13. 24 Chris
    2 September 2011 at 2:29 pm

    I find it very odd anytime I see the Simpsons with cell phones and computers. Didn’t their TV just have rabbit ears on it? Didn’t they have to go to an outlet store to look at Sornys, Magnetboxes and Carnivales? They don’t fit their own universe.

    This is one of the myriad of reasons why TV shows shouldn’t last as long as the Simpsons have. Does anyone recall the Seinfeld episode “The Outing,” where Kramer gives Jerry a phone where he can hold on one line and talk on the other? It seems ridiculous nowadays for a landline phone to be considered a gift, with everyone having cell phones.

    I look back on some of the technology I had in 2003, and it may as well have been 1953. Landline phones, standard-def TVs, dial-up internet. We’ve come a long way just in that short time frame. Back when the Simpsons started, I think Beta was still around. Not only did Beta die off, but so did its competitor VHS. “VHS Village (formerly Beta Barn)” would now be “Blu-Ray Barn (formerly VHS Village formerly Beta Barn). The Simpsons fit in the 1990s. They barely fit into the 2000s. They do not fit at all into the 2010s.

  14. 2 September 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Actually, a nation divided against itself cannot stand is a quote from Abraham Lincoln, which was referenced in Seinfeld as a George divided against itself cannot stand, and then similarly referenced in your blog post. Any-hoo… just helping out some of the most sane people when it comes to The Simpsons. Carry-on.

  15. 29 Patrick
    3 September 2011 at 9:19 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lisa_Goes_Gaga :( but anyway about moe owning a cell phone and marge being a robot, last season bart (somehow managed to) prank text moe (i won’t even say what’s wrong with that scene since it should be obvious to all) and isn’t there a scene where homer imagines what marge would be as a robot (not sure what episode it’s from tho) and about chech and chong (somehow but no one ever noticed) being from springfield, there was an episode from season 13 where the town had to lie and say that springfield was home to the beatles (despite the whole be-sharps episode, go figure) and lastly there’s a bit from angry dad the movie where a guy going insane shouting ‘oh god make it stop’ can ironically be used on the show itself hmm :/ and finally the show should have just ended on the all-round number of 500 episodes (even if it’s LONG overdue).


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