“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.