“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?
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.
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.
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.