Archive for October, 2011



18
Oct
11

“Blood Feud” Spews Truth from Every Orifice

Blood Feud8

“Perhaps there is no moral to this story.” – Lisa Simpson
“Exactly, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.” – Homer Simpson

About halfway through this commentary, Al Jean notes that the story of a mean letter to the boss had been previously done on The Honeymooners and was a kind of “sitcom staple”.  He was saying it sort of defensively, like he’d heard it as a criticism that the episode hadn’t been that original.  But parodying sitcom staples was a big part of what The Simpsons did, especially in Seasons 1 and 2.  It wasn’t just plots either, it was stereotypical scenes and moralizing and parenting that had been done to death by other shows but that The Simpsons both took apart and made funny.  (Of course, it doesn’t work when Zombie Simpsons rehashes stories that had already been done by The Simpsons.)  Incidentally, though I’ve never seen an episode of The Honeymooners, you can see “Letter to the Boss” on YouTube (Part I, Part II, Part III).  Alice, who’s working on Ralph’s underwear as the show begins, would later voice Beatrice Simmons in “Old Money”. 

Just three guys on this one, Groening, Jean and David Silverman.

0:30 – Interesting trivia: this is the first time Homer uses what the call the “fairy voice” and the first time Homer talks to his brain.

1:00 – Jean mentions that this particular episode was inspired by one of the producers on the show needing a blood transfusion, and they thought they could graft that onto Mr. Burns.

1:40 – The nuclear warning sign is back lit instead of animated like everything else, which explains that glow.

2:00 – Shearer had to cancel on the first reading at the last minute, Castellaneta stepped in and there weren’t any problems. That’s a nice little anecdote, but it does help demonstrate just how different the production process was back then.

2:40 – Praise for Shearer who can do multiple voices all in one take. So if there’s a scene with Burns and Smithers or Smithers and Hibbert, he can just read it all through in a single take.

3:40 – Laughing at the continuity head scratcher of Carl being Homer’s supervisor. Jean then expounds on how Homer’s job at the plant seems to mostly be him sleeping at his console.

4:30 – They do a lot of quick cuts to different Simpsons as the family quizzes Marge on their personal aspects, Silverman chirps up to say that quick cuts like that are fun to do because in this scene you never lose sight of who’s doing the talking.

5:00 – Jean talking about how at this point they had the design locked in pretty well. Most of the off model stuff had been knocked out.

5:20 – The scene where Homer tells Bart the awesomely dumb story of Hercules and the lion is lit very specifically to make it seem intimate as Homer tries to convince Bart that donating blood is the right thing to do.

6:35 – As the elevator guy waits to push the button with the blood, Groening mentions that they don’t slow the show down for much. Well, not in Season 2.

8:00 – Talking about how this is a very long Act 1. They considered ending the show with Burns feeling better, but that wouldn’t have really made sense.

9:20 – Here’s Homer’s “fairy voice” where he goes up a register or two to tell Marge she’s living in a world of make believe. Because of the way the show is made, when they bring things like this back, it’ll often be months after the first time. But when they do bring it back it shows up in a bunch of them.

9:45 – Silverman animated a lot of Homer’s dictating the letter to Bart himself.

10:00 – Mentioning that, among others, The Honeymooners had done a “write a letter to the boss” plot. Also, they had some trouble getting “elephant’s butt” in.

12:00 – Lots of small comments here about all the different ways the shots are constructed in this episode.

14:00 – Praise for the postal mural and Homer’s inability to know Burns’ first name.

Blood Feud7

Gotta love the mural.

14:40 – Pointing out the quill pen as another one of those old man quirks of Burns.

15:00 – Apparently Brad Bird suggested the camera move up to the top of Homer’s head when he talks with his brain.

16:10 – More interesting lighting as Burns and Smithers are backlit against the fireplace.

17:45 – When Burns yells “Judas!” at Smithers there’s a lightning effect which was white frames except for the outline of Burns.

18:30 – Jeans mentions that it was always nice to have a black and white television at Moe’s.

19:30 – The Barney belch was usually just recycled because Castellaneta couldn’t just keep belching.

20:10 – Silverman says he got compliments on the Olmec head from people who study pre-Columbian art, though they may have just been happy to have the word “Olmec” used on a television show.

21:00 – Talking about how they realized the show didn’t really have a point, so they thought they’d make a joke out of that at the end.

22:00 – And we end on Groening complaining that they used to let the credits roll unmolested, but now they often split them off to the side or something. 

18
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Joey Heatherton and Bob Hope

Image yoinked from IMDb.

“That photo was taken shortly before I was shot in the back, which was very strange because it was during a Bob Hope show.  I was trying to get Joey Heatherton to put on some pants for God’s sake!” – Seymour Skinner

17
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Homer Defined4

“Mr. Burns, people are calling this a meltdown.” – Kent Brockman
“Oh, ‘meltdown’, it’s one of those annoying buzzwords.  We prefer to call it an unrequested fission surplus.” – C.M. Burns

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Homer Defined”!  Original airdate 17 October 1991.

16
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Bart the General5

“You mean I should fight dirty, Dad?” – Bart Simpson
“Unfortunately, son, we Simpsons sometimes have to bend the rules a little in order to hold our own.” – Homer Simpson
“Amen.” – Bart Simpson

15
Oct
11

Saturday Morning Cartoons

The Otto Show8

“Of course, it would be wrong to suggest that this sort of mayhem began with rock and roll.  After all, there were riots at the premiere of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’.  So, what’s the answer?  Ban all music?  In this reporter’s opinion, the answer, sadly, is ‘yes’.” – Kent Brockman

I absolutely love the above quote from Brockman.  It’s funny, but it’s also indicative of the kind of petty, know nothing authoritarianism that is inherent in so many of Springfield’s higher ups.  Whether he wants his television poll to be legally binding or he’s puffing himself up in preparation for what he assumes to be an invasion of space ants, Brockman’s defining characteristic is that he thinks of himself as important despite the fact that he’s a blow dried airhead who can’t pronounce “Kuala Lumpur”.  He’s a schmuck whose only real talents are good looks and a deep voice, but he thinks of himself as so much more.

So of course he wants to ban all music.  Half of his job is looking concerned about the stories he reads, this just fits into his thoughtless pattern.  It’s a great joke, not only because it’s a ridiculous overreaction, but also because it’s exactly the kind of thing an insecure bimbo like Brockman considers intelligent.  His thinking begins and ends with whether or not he can say something with an air of regretful authority.

15
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase3

“Daddy, these rubber pants are hot.” – Ralph Wiggum
“You wear ’em until you learn, son.” – Clancy Wiggum

14
Oct
11

Reading Digest: Question Mark in the Headline Edition

Lisa the Greek9

“Money comes and money goes, but what I have with my daughter can go on for eight more years!” – Homer Simpson

Since the renewal news dropped late on Friday evening last week, just about any time someone typed “the Simpsons” into the internet this week it was about there being two more years of Zombie Simpsons.  Those get tedious after a while, but there was a pleasant trend to it: articles asking if the show really should have been renewed or if it was maybe better to let it die.  Lots of them.  I’ve linked a few below, and in addition to that the renewal news also gave us one very informative industry insider piece, two interviews with Al Jean that I think he might have done in his sleep, and two YouTube heavy flashbacks to the dawn of FOX.  There’s some non-renewal stuff too, including vintage TV Guides, an awesome sculpture from banana artisans who work exclusively in the medium of banana, and the usual assortment of excellent usage and random stuff.

Enjoy.

The Lost Art of TV Guide Advertising, Vol. 8 of 265,890 – Many thanks to reader Eric for sending in Smooth Charlie’s Click of the Week, twenty-four pages of Simpsons ads (and an article) scanned from TV Guide in 1989-1991.  These are a great taste of what the atmosphere around the show was like in those years.  I’d particularly like to point to the ads for “Lisa’s Substitute” and “The War of the Simpsons”, which feature Bart despite the fact that he is anything but the main attraction in those episodes.  Remember, “Bartmania” was real, but the show itself was never Bart centered.

Marge Simpson in Banana – Someone carved Marge into a banana.  Yes.  Ten thousand times yes. 

Polone: Why the Simpsons Salary Standoff Was a Sign of the New Hollywood Economy – A deconstruction of the negotiations from a true Hollywood insider.  Of all the summation pieces I’ve read this week, this is far and away the best.  It’s also worth noting that he has slightly different numbers than the other ones that get bounced around, which doesn’t mean that his are closer to the truth, just that all public salary numbers for Zombie Simpsons are to be regarded as suspect, no matter how many times they are repeated. 

Flashback: The Simpsons Are Born — And So Is a Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy – A YouTube heavy retrospective on the birth of FOX and the birth of The Simpsons

Did a pop song bring ‘The Simpsons’ to life? – And here’s some very old video of Tracy Ullman pre-The Tracy Ullman Show, including on the Johnny Carson show in full pop star mode.

Top 10 Potential Simpsons Spin-Offs – Here’s a neat list of some potential spin-offs for once Zombie Simpsons finally does end. 

Like Father, Like Daughter – Reminisces about growing up with a movie and Simpsons obsessed father.  Aww. 

Harry Shearer discusses his comedy inspirations and why he doesn’t really go to movies anymore – Not much in here Simpsons-wise, but it’s an interesting read nonetheless. 

The Simpsons is a way of life – The author here was born in 1994 and can’t quite imagine a world without new Zombie Simpsons.  However, s/he puts up a bunch of screen grabs, one of which is from Season 11, one of which is from Season 10, and the rest of which are from single digit seasons.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the kids are always alright. 

Famous cartoon characters’ eyes – Neat poster of nothing but the eyes of cartoon characters; the Simpsons pair is easy to spot.  The animated cheat sheet is damn cool in its own right, it lists the Simpson eyes as belonging to Bart, but they could just as easily be Homer, Marge or anyone else.

Do we still care about the Simpsons? – Even when it gets renewed Zombie Simpsons gets no respect:

The recent salary disputes sound very much like hyenas fighting over a rotten corpse, rats leaving a sinking ship, like a cast trying to secure merchandising rights in anticipation of their show finally getting cancelled.

If “The Simpsons” were cancelled, would anybody care? – This one was written before the deal but says basically the same thing:

Fox would be fine if they cancelled The Simpsons. The network won’t fall to fourth place, the Sunday night lineup wont tank in the ratings, and the world wont end.

If The Simpsons were to be cancelled by Fox at the end of the season, would it be a big deal?

We lose Simpsons? That unpossible! Is it, though? – Our third question mark headline worked in a comparison to the declining fortunes of Terminator franchise.  Nice.   

Should The Simpsons Call It Quits? – Et tu, IGN?  

Simpsons Might Be Ending – This one doesn’t have a question mark in the title, but it boils down to the same thing:

When I would talk about the old episodes, they wouldn’t know them. They thought the show was great because they didn’t know the show when it truly was great. So for these reasons and more, I sadly decided that I should stop watching.

Last Man Standing…In 10 Words – I can’t help but nitpick, he actually says “Oh no, I’ve killed Wilson!”.  The rest is dead on, and someone should tell Tim Allen that it isn’t 1992 anymore.  Come to think of it, he had a promo during Monday Night Football this week that made fun of fantasy football, so someone should probably start by telling him it’s not 2004.   

HS Day 7: Three Things To Get You In The Halloween Spirit – Agreed:

I’m probably not telling you anything new, but The Simpsons’ Halloween specials are amazing.  Well, the first 10 or so anyways.

iPhone 4S, The Malibu Stacy Doll Of The Apple World – Comparing iPhones to new hats, and it comes with foreign language shaky cam YouTube of the end of “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy”.

The Funniest Fictional Commercials – Lots of YouTube here for some famous fake television commercials, including two from The Simpsons and a smattering of others from shows like 30 Rock and Arrested Development

The Simpsons are Saved – This is a blog by a guy who does local news in Connecticut.  It contains this nice indirect Zombie Simpsons criticism:

Honestly, I didn’t even know the show was still on until news of a possible cancellation starting making headlines.  Back in the day I watched it religiously, and then lost interest.

But what you really want to click through for is the picture of him and two other people from a television station in Rockford, Illinois dressing up as Homer, Marge and Bart for Halloween 1989. 

Frisco Flea Markets – Scroll to the bottom for a picture of a well used looking Bart skateboard. 

I Am So Smart! I Am So Smart! S.M.R.T. – Celebrating a return to college with YouTube of Homer burning his diploma.  Well done.

Proof of Ned Flanders’ Association With Whores – Apparently Truman Capote once used the name “Neddie Flanders” in a book.  Great catch. 

Buy The Simpsons Homer Talking Wall Clock Black Friday – This rather annoying looking clock easily earns its Krusty Brand Seal of Approval, but I especially like the text, which was hilariously translated by computer:

CC Hoo! Homer Simpson Talking Wall hodinyVypočujte Homer the hour, every hour All I can say about Homer Simpson says! Watches, Woo hoo! Woo hoo fact, the local cultural icon, which is responsible for the addition of D’oh! Oxford English for an hour slovník.Každú decorating color analog clock expired with one of the 13 immortal Homerisms, including: First time, maybe someone tell me sir, nothing, “You have a scene.”

COMME des GARÇONS PLAY x Matt Groening Tee Shirt Runs – A few non-Simpsons Groening t-shirts. 

"The Simpsons" renewal: Exec producer Al Jean speaks – Not much in the way of news here.

The Simpsons Executive Producer Al Jean on How the Show Was Saved – Same as above.  If the show ever does end, Jean could make a ton of money on the lecture circuit teaching PR people, pro athletes, coaches and politicians how to creatively answer the same questions over and over again.  He’s really good at it. 

The Evolution of a footballing philosophy – Close:

Noted philosopher Marge Simpson once said “we can’t afford to shop at a store which has a philosophy”. Philosophy is nice, but, like everything, subject to the dreaded Cost/Benefit analysis.

Marge actually says, “We can’t afford to shop at any store that has a philosophy”, but that’s close enough to still be excellent usage.

Marge Simpson in Chanel – Speaking of “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield”, here’s Marge in Chanel right next to pictures of real Chanel. 

How will we speak The Simpsons when there’s no more The Simpsons? – And finally, thanks to readers Adam and Eric I get to end with someone who agrees directly with us, including a link and everything.  A.V. Club Toronto has picked up the term Zombie Simpsons:

The Simpsons blog Dead Homer Society has coined the term “Zombie Simpsons” to describe the general tenor of post-season 12 episodes. It’s a nice catchall, which reflects the show’s protracted decomposition.

Got that right.  Join the conspiracy. 

14
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

The Day the Violence Died5

“I don’t need any more money.  I’m not greedy.  As long as I’ve got my health and my millions of dollars and my gold house and my rocket car, I don’t need anything else.” – Chester J. Lampwick

13
Oct
11

Destroying Zombie Simpsons to Save It

The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase4

“We’re like this all the time.” – Marge Simpson

In response to the renewal news, Split Sider published a list of six ways to improve Zombie Simpsons.  They’re willing to acknowledge that the show is a shadow of itself, but they’re still operating under the illusion that it is capable of getting better.  It isn’t.  Moreover, of the six suggestions they offer, only two of them could result in any real changes, and those would both basically end the show. 

Before we get to that, however, we should first note that nothing like this is ever going to happen.  Zombie Simpsons has been stuck in a creative rut for for a decade and change, but the rut pays the bills and then some.  If the recent contract extension is proof of anything it’s that the show, as flat, lifeless and fan displeasing as it is, remains profitable.  But even if we set aside the practical and business considerations and focus exclusively on the creative side, the changes are doomed to fail.  Here are the six suggestions:

1. Less Bart-Centric Episodes

2. Get Rid of the Fourth Act

3. Age the Show

4. No More “THE SIMPSONS ARE GOING TO…”

5. Unconventional, High Concept Episodes

6. A Season-Long Arc

I’ll agree that #2 is just a bad way to run a television show, but Zombie Simpsons sucked long before the addition of the third commercial break, so I don’t think that one is going to help much.  Three of them, #1, #4, and #5, are all variations on a theme.  The fifth one is a call for more of a certain kind of episode, the other two are calls for less of other kinds.  These seem unlikely to help much for the same reason dropping the fourth act wouldn’t help: Zombie Simpsons has long been terrible across all of these kinds of episodes.  Even if they did drop the annual travel episode in favor of more flashback/flashforward type episodes, it wouldn’t make much difference. 

The two interesting suggestions are #3 and #6.  Unfortunately, doing either one of them would mark a permanent break with The Simpsons, which is the last thing a show staggering along on nostalgia wants to do.  First, consider #6, having a season long plot arc.  Here’s the explanation:

Even after 10 years of supposedly subpar episodes, The Simpsons will still go down as the greatest comedy, possibly show, of all-time. There’s nothing the writers can do to hurt the show’s legacy, so why not do something extreme? For instance, why not have a season-long arc? Do the high concept episodes in season 24, and have season 25 be focused on a single topic. Maybe Mr. Burns can die and the Germans come back to take over the plant and fire everyone, and all of the episodes could be about Homer looking for a job? That’s not the greatest idea in the world, I’ll admit, but a season-long arc would require viewers to tune in every week and solve the inconsistency problems many fans and critics have complained about for years.

Zombie Simpsons can’t sustain a plot across twenty minutes, much less twenty episodes.  A season long plot would have to make sense across weeks and weeks of episodes.  Zombie Simpsons has a hard time making sense within individual scenes.  Far more devastatingly, it would require change and progress from the characters.  Bart and Lisa would have to grow up a little, Homer and Marge would have to go through some kind of crisis, even the supporting characters would be expected to find themselves in at least somewhat changed circumstances.  All of that would leave the show looking nothing like The Simpsons, and looking like The Simpsons is the only thing that keeps Zombie Simpsons going. 

Making Bart and Lisa older, as suggested in #3 “Age the Show”, would also damage the resemblance to The Simpsons.  Beyond that, moving the characters forward a few years wouldn’t change things much, if at all.  Here’s the full text:

Next season, have Bart and Lisa inexplicably graduate from second and fourth grade, and have them in fifth and seventh, respectively. Why so far in advance? Because Miss Hoover and Mrs. Krabappel have both gone as far (if not further) as their characters will allow, and they’ve become tired and boring. (They’re, of course, not the only ones on the show, but they’re a necessary reduction.) There’s a HUGE difference between being in elementary and middle school (I still shudder thinking about it), and this would allow a whole new setting for the writers to create, something the new guys haven’t been able to do for years. Skinner can "graduate," too, in a Mr. Fenny from Boy Meets World-like situation.

I’ll agree that the worlds of seventh and fifth grade are a lot different than those of fourth and second, but Zombie Simpsons came untethered from grade school reality a long time ago.  Bart being in the fourth grade hasn’t stopped them from giving him a new girlfriend every other season.  Lisa being in the second grade didn’t keep her from entering a movie at the Sundance Film Festival or protect her from more adolescent problems like that time she got an eating disorder.  And if you’re dropping Hoover and Krabappel, why are you keeping Skinner?  He’s just as played out as they are. 

Instituting a season long plot arc would sever whatever connection remains between Zombie Simpsons and The Simpsons, but merely tinkering with the formula by pushing ahead a couple of years wouldn’t change the worn out format they’re stuck with.  It’s a catch-22, if they changed the show enough to make it genuinely fresh, it wouldn’t be anything like The Simpsons, but if they just tinkered with things, it wouldn’t change things enough to make a difference. 

This (plus the profitability of the rut) is why any ideas to revitalize the show are dead on arrival.  Whether you’re talking about shifting it forward in time, season long plot arcs, going spin-off showcase style and concentrating on other characters, all of them have one thing in common: they abandon the essential Homer, Marge and their small kids setup.  Zombie Simpsons can be about them as they are, or it can be about something else and drop everything from The Simpsons except the setting.  It can’t be both.

13
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Bart's Girlfriend6

“Have you noticed any change in Bart?” – Marge Simpson
“New glasses?” – Homer Simpson
“No.  He looks like something might be disturbing him.” – Marge Simpson
“Probably misses his old glasses.” – Homer Simpson

12
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Special Holiday Meal

“Where do you want these beef hearts?” – U.S. Surplus Delivery Guy
“On the floor.” – Lunchlady Doris
“It doesn’t look very clean.” – U.S. Surplus Delivery Guy
“Just do your job, heart boy.” – Lunchlady Doris

Doris Grau would’ve been 87 today.  Happy Birthday.

11
Oct
11

Compare & Contrast: Social Relations Among Male Juveniles

The Telltale Head9

“You don’t need an introduction, you’re the worst kid in school.” – Bart Simpson
“Thanks.” – Jimbo Jones

Among the many, many things that made The Simpsons great that Zombie Simpsons has lost and/or squandered is any sense of relating to the characters or even simple reality.  For all of its energy and outlandish plots, on The Simpsons you always knew that the people involved were reacting in a way that real people might react.  The characters had character, and they stayed within those bounds.  Homer gets involved in outrageous situations, but he’s still a bungling amateur.  Even when Marge was in a desperate flight from the law, she turned the car to get her friend to safety, not to deliberately drive into the Grand Chasm.  Lisa may have all the traits of a political crusader in her opposition to anti-immigrant Proposition 24, but she’s still a little girl who wants her mother to buy her licorice.

On Zombie Simpsons the characterizations that kept The Simpsons grounded are routinely ignored, and characters frequently fly off the handle or simply sit there like inert lumps.  The last thing they do is act human.  In “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” this is particularly apparent in the kids.  It’s one thing for Bart and many of the school’s other troublemakers to be suddenly enraptured by Theodore Roosevelt, it’s a bit of a stretch for some of them, but getting instantly obsessed with something is an inherently kid thing to do.

What isn’t an inherently kid thing to do is to conquer the school, and what’s an even less kid thing to do is to have Bart, the smallest and weakest of the boys, become their unquestioned leader.  Jimbo and his two sidekicks, Dolph and Kearney, were introduced way back in Season 1 as older kids who would never look up to Bart Simpson in a million years.  On the contrary, Bart looks up to them, admiringly describing Jimbo as “the worst kid in school” when they first meet in “The Telltale Head”.

The Telltale Head10

Bart copies Jimbo, not the other way around.

The entire plot of that episode revolves around Bart trying to fit in with an older crowd, just as real boys have done since time immemorial.  To younger kids, slightly older ones are more familiar and less confusing than the towering adults, yet still clearly cool, more capable, and worth emulating.  So when Bart’s initial joy at being included in Jimbo’s gang turns to bitter embarrassment when he’s dismissed for acting too childlike, he tries to redeem himself by doing something he explicitly heard Jimbo say would be cool.

His desire to fit in with the older kids, something to which anyone who has ever been a kid can relate, drives the entire plot.  Bart makes a kid’s mistake in thinking that Jimbo and company would be impressed with him, and then makes a second kid’s mistake in actually taking the head.  So not only is Bart too childish to hang out with the older kids, he’s also too young to understand that Jimbo and company were just shooting the shit when they talked about decapitating the statue.  The entire episode displays an intimate knowledge of the reality of childhood even as it goes through its fictional story.

The Telltale Head11

That was just cloud talk, man.

By contrast, “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” displays no such knowledge.  Following its story requires you to set aside pretty much everything you know or remember about being a kid.  Zombie Simpsons is so set on having Bart become a Teddy Roosevelt wannabe that it forgets that those other kids around him are supposed to be kids as well.  So you have Jimbo:

1. Sitting with rapt attention in Bart’s treehouse as Bart runs their new club.

Jimbo the Treehouse Meeting Attendee

Remember when Jimbo picked up Laura for their date?  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t.

2. Standing quietly in the back while Bart negotiates with Principal Skinner:

Jimbo the Background Prop

Jimbo once beat up Bart to take his specialty belt.  Apparently, he cares less about hats and glasses.

3. Unquestioningly taking orders to get the students into the gym while Bart plots his next move:

Jimbo the Dutiful Subordinate

Maybe Bart finally learned the Touch of Death?

4.  Fearfully coming to get Bart so Bart can deal with the police:

Jimbo the Panicky Sidekick

It used to take a knife wielding maniac to make him scared.

5.  Obediently standing by while Chalmers talks to Bart:

Jimbo the Background Prop (Take 2)

Pretty lame for a kid who’s been kicked out of all four Space Mutants movies.

This is Jimbo and the other bullies as props instead of characters.  They don’t have any humanity and they certainly don’t act like actual kids.  All Zombie Simpsons can think for them to do is stand there and watch Bart.

It’s not like the episode has to be all about them (it is Bart’s last name that’s in the title of the show after all), but The Simpsons knew how to have Bart interact with the other kids.  Zombie Simpsons just stands them up like cardboard cutouts.  The Simpsons also recognized the fact that Jimbo Jones was unassailably higher in the pecking order than Bart.  With its atrophied storytelling skills and monomaniacal focus on what’s happening right now, Zombie Simpsons doesn’t care in the least about that kind of context or humor.

The Jimbo who would’ve beaten Bart to a pulp for cutting off the head of the Jebediah Springfield statue isn’t the same character as the Jimbo who eagerly takes orders from Bart.  The same goes for Dolph, Nelson and Kearney.  These are the kids who tossed rocks at Bart just after telling them he was their only hope in Utility Basement B.  These are the kids who chased Bart out of the school when they found out he was doing ballet.  These are the kids who were the ruthless guards at Kamp Krusty.

Zombie Simpsons is fundamentally narrower and shallower than its predecessor because it has a different set of priorities.  It doesn’t care about its side characters, it doesn’t care about its setting, it just cares about winding up Bart and setting him loose to do zany things.  That inattention and apathy to the kinds of things The Simpsons treated with exquisite care is a big reason why Zombie Simpsons has such a disconcerting air of unreality to it, even in episodes like “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts” where it stays relatively grounded in Springfield.

11
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons2

“Can I ask you about your dot?” – Lisa Simpson
“What would you like to know?” – Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilon
“What’s the deal with that dot?” – Lisa Simpson
“Yeah, can you see out of it?  Does it change colors when you’re ticked off?” – Bart Simpson
“You tell me.” – Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilon
“Nothing yet.” – Bart Simpson

10
Oct
11

Australian Simpsons Art Exhibition

moe by foxall

Image by Mike Foxall, taken from here.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned in Reading Digest that there was a show of Simpsons related artwork in Newcastle, Australia running through October 22nd.  Reader Adam (many thanks!) was nice enough to send in not only a link to their page, but also to a gallery of photographs from the opening night.  The pictures aren’t all high resolution, but there is more than enough to give you a good sense of what’s there.  I was particularly taken by the Monty Burns Dress Up item:

Burns Outfit Art

See my vest! 

Unfortunately, I can’t make out the name in the lower right there, but it’s #25 is the gallery here.  (Facebook will pester you to log in, but you don’t need to.)  In some of the other photos you can see people putting the different outfits on him.  The best part is that everything is there: the grizzly bear underwear, the hat that twas his cat, and the red robin suits that come one breast or two.  It even has tiny genitalia! 

Other highlights include the Scarface poster with Fat Tony (#16), the highly stylized shooting of Mr. Burns (#35), and The Neon Claws of Gamblore (#46).  There’s a list of contributing artists here, but I didn’t see anything that put names to works.  If anyone has better attribution for any of these I’ll gladly put it up along with links.  Thanks to Adam for the tip, and a bravo to all you Australian artists out there. 

10
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Bart the Murderer12

“That Simpson boy is looking at a hundred and eighty years.” – Mr. Smithers
“Thank God we live in a country so hysterical over crime that a ten-year-old child can be tried as an adult.” – C.M. Burns

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Bart the Murderer”!  Original airdate: 10 October 1991. 

09
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Hurricane Neddy6

“I’m sure your insurance will cover the house.” – Marge Simpson
“Uh, well, no.  Neddy doesn’t believe in insurance.  He considers it a form of gambling.” – Maude Flanders

08
Oct
11

The End of Zombie Simpsons: The Reset Button Has Been Pushed

The Curse of the Flying Hellfish3

“Hey, listen!  Now, my story begins in nineteen-dickety-two.  We had to say ‘dickety’ ’cause the Kaiser had stolen our word ‘twenty’.  I chased that rascal to get it back, but gave up after dickety-six miles.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

After all of this week’s twisting and ill sourced hoopla, the end came during the media dead time of Friday evening.  Zombie Simpsons may only occasionally be capable of a decent joke, but there is an undeniable humor to that. 

As for the deal itself, the true numbers haven’t been released, and in all likelihood they never will be.  The last deal resulted in the $400,000 per episode/$8,000,000 per season salary that has been in almost every story about the negotiations this week, but that number was never really confirmed.  As far as I know, the six voice actors themselves were forbidden as part of the contract from discussing the actual total, which means their salary number was only ever leaked, never verifiably reported.  We can expect something similar here.  Some number about this extension will eventually be repeated enough to seem credible, but all dollar signs should be regarded as questionable when it comes to FOX. 

What we do know about the deal (thanks – again – to @rubbrcatsimp) is that it will bring the episode total to 559, which is a smooth 44 more than the 515 of the previous deal.  That means it’s not just two more “seasons”, it’s two more full, 22 episode production runs, presumably designated Q-ABF and R-ABF. 

This is essentially Scenario #4 from my post about the future of the show back in August.  FOX has ordered two complete sets of episodes, which means that the overhang between the production runs and the broadcast seasons will persist.  A full Season 25 is now guaranteed to happen, but they will also have enough episodes to get Season 26 started in the fall of 2014. 

So the reset button has been pushed and the timer starts again.  Under the current deal, the deadline is roughly October 2013 for when they have to decide if they want to produce a series finale.  Despite what you may read elsewhere, there is absolutely nothing in this deal to indicate that Season 25 will be the last season.  I’m going to repeat that with bold and italics because, given the “one more season only” horseshit that flew around all week, it is certain to be the most overlooked aspect of this story.  There is nothing in this deal to indicate that Season 25 will be the last one.  As a number, “25” is mathematically nice and psychologically pleasing, but those concerns don’t matter in the least during contract negotiations that involve seven or eight digits.  Season 26 is all but assured by this contract. 

08
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Two Dozen and One Greyhounds8

“Alright, who broke my vase?” – Marge Simpson
“Who took all my test papers off the refrigerator and tore them up?” – Lisa Simpson
“Who spread garbage all over Flanders’ yard before I got a chance to?” – Homer Simpson
“Oh please, this is senseless destruction with none of my usual social commentary.” – Bart Simpson

07
Oct
11

Zombies Never Die

“Chapter Eight, let’s talk zombies.  If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie.  You must walk the Earth feeding on the brains of the living until the spell is broken.” – Bart Simpson

It’s official, Zombie Simpsons lives to bore another day.  James L. Brooks just tweeted it (via):

Death, Taxes and Zombie Simpsons

That’ll take it through Season 25, or at least the spring of 2014.  Neither side is likely to release any detailed figures but, as with every other time they’ve gone through this goofy public fit, mutual financial benefit won the day.  I’ll do a more informative update when there’s some actual hard information.  Until then I would just like to point out the irony that this site, which wants to see the show taken off the air, was one of the few all week that never thought it was going to happen.  Oh well. 

07
Oct
11

Reading Digest: Rumor Control Edition (Updated)

Bart Gets an Elephant5

“After breakfast, me and Milhouse are going down to the ravine.  We got a tip from a six-year-old that there’s a dead Martian down there.” – Bart Simpson

Before we get to this week’s links, let me take you on a brief tour of a rumor.  Yesterday afternoon, Springfield Springfield tweeted:

‘The Simpsons’ likely to end after current season, confirms Fox executive

The tweet contained a link to this story from New York Daily News titled “‘The Simpsons’ likely to end after current season, confirms Fox executive: report”.  The keyword here is “confirms”, which is used right in the second paragraph as well as in the title:

A Fox executive confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday that even if the actors who voice the animated series took a pay cut, it still wouldn’t make it profitable — so the current 23rd season will likely be the last.

Following the link to the Reuters story reveals “Another ‘Simpsons’ Season Would Likely Be Last, Executive Says (Exclusive)”.  This is what happens when you do Ctrl-F for the word “confirm” at that story:

Lack of Confirmation

So, there really hasn’t been any confirmation at all.  Nor, for that matter, was it an “exclusive”.  While the story linked from the New York Daily News is indeed at reuters.com, it’s not an actual Reuters story.  In fact, it’s a rewrite of the same original report at The Wrap.  The story is even bylined “By Tim Molloy at TheWrap”.  The Wrap and Reuters must have some kind of content sharing agreement, but no FOX executive ever spoke with Reuters.  There’s no “exclusive” and there certainly isn’t any cause to use the word “confirm”. 

However, since the content sharing agreement apparently doesn’t require a link back to the original story (which I discussed yesterday), it certainly looks like a second report from Reuters confirming the original story.  It isn’t.  It’s the original story published in two places. 

So what happened is: a story originally at entertainment site The Wrap gets published.  A few hours later, the exact same guy changes a few words and publishes it on Reuters.  The New York Daily News picks that up as confirmation, which then gets sent as confirmation to Springfield Springfield’s twitter followers.  Not a single new piece of information hit the internet, it’s just one report echoing around as fast as fiber optic cable can carry it (which is really fast).  This single, unconfirmed report spawned more news stories and blog posts than I could ever hope to link, all saying that the show likely had only one season left.  

However, late yesterday, right about the time the New York Daily News was getting confused, there was an actual new story published at The Wrap, “‘Simpsons’ Deadline for Voice Actors Looms”.  It contains this direct refutation of the original quote:

The person familiar with the actors’ position dismissed the idea that Fox wants no more than one more season as "pure spin" and a negotiating tactic. The person said the offer now on the table for the actors would include a guarantee of two more seasons and the option of a third.

This is just one more anonymous quote in a week that’s seen far too many of them, but the report that Season 24 won’t be the last is at least as credible as the one that Season 24 will be the last.  It probably won’t go flying around the internet like the other one, but that has nothing to do with whichever of them turns out to have been correct.

Ultimately, that a whole bunch of people were temporarily misinformed about this isn’t that big of a deal.  The show is either going to get cancelled (still very unlikely) or it’s going to keep going (ugh).  All the blog posts and goofy stories by theoretically respectable news outlets won’t matter in the least to the outcome.  But it’s a little disturbing that a single unconfirmed rumor that was childishly easy to track down – all I had to do was read and follow links – could get people that confused that fast. 

Due to cancellation fever, there are fewer links than usual this week.  On the plus side, several of those links are from people who heard the talk of the show ending and thought it should’ve done so long ago.  There’s also the return of awesome Simpsons embroidery, a couple of mentions of Homer’s parenting advice, productivity enhancing camping hammocks, and cake pops.  Mmmm, cake pops. 

Enjoy.

[Programming note: Time spent sorting through rumors this week was time I didn’t spend doing a Compare & Contrast post for “Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts”.  It will be along, likely early next week.  There’s no new Zombie Simpsons this Sunday anyway.  There will be further updates on the Zombie Simpsons contract negotiations when actual new information comes along.  At this point, things are exactly where they’ve been all week: negotiating behind closed doors for a contract extension.]

[Update 12:06pm EDT: Harry Shearer released a statement this morning.  It basically just takes a dump on FOX and says they’re being a bunch of greedy bastards, which is true.  No news about progress or collapse of the talks.  Carry on.]

The 5 Best Songs on The Simpsons – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is six songs from the show.  While some people just make lists, others go to the time to find YouTube for each song, even if it means the dialogue is dubbed into a foreign language while the song is still in English.  The bilingualism causes some funny juxtapositions, especially on the Canyonero song. 

Greed may do ‘The Simpsons’ a favor – Five classic YouTube clips to celebrate the rumored end of the show. 

News:Charles Napier Dies Aged 75 – That’s a shame.  He did a couple of guest voices on Zombie Simpsons, but was most beloved by me for being the voice of Duke Phillips on The Critic.  A bit more here

Rick’s Cafe: The ten best Simpsons sports episodes ever – This list contains one episode from Season 11, everything else comes from before that.  Oddly enough, the only two images are from Zombie Simpsons episodes that aren’t on the list. 

Homer Simpson Model of Parenting – A list of some of Homer’s better parenting quotes.  I didn’t check them, and there are a few later season quotes, but on the whole this is a very cromulent list.  Bravo.

half-arsed over-gardening – Some excellent parental usage:

It feels a little small when she, when they give me that look. As Homer said in reply to Bart, “But I’m using my whole ass.”

Homer’s resigned sadness in that line is awesome. 

The best kind of tent is not a tent – Apparently they make hammocks you can use to go camping with now.  What an age to be alive.  There’s also Hank Scorpio YouTube here, you can probably guess which scene.

the simpsons embroidery project // 4 – Simpsons embroidery is back again.  This time we’ve got Homer riding the bomb and Thrillho.  Both are amazingly done, from the nicks in the “Do Not Ride The Bomb” sign to the wind in Thrillhouse’s hair.

Birthday with the Simpsons – Fan made Simpsons cake pops.  Oh man, those look good (and check out Marge’s hair!). 

Rebel With A Versatile Cause – Pretty much:

I love The Simpsons.  If I were in a conversation with a like-minded soul, and we just sat there throwing out quotes from the first 10-seasons or so, I genuinely cannot imagine what would happen to make me tire of the conversation. Dehydration, perhaps.

The Simpsons Top 10 Episodes of the First 10 Seasons (Re-post) – Exactly what it says, though I was a bit surprised to see “Viva Ned Flanders” in the #10 spot. 

Lisa Simpson, I’m amazed – Some vegan love for Lisa, along with bran flakes and tiny Simpsons toys.  Cool.

peeing with the door open is patriotic – If you have a bathroom you don’t share with anyone you can do whatever you want in it, including post YouTube of Homer whizzing with the door open. 

Boob – And finally, we get to end with three links to people who agree with us.  First up is this quick television roundup which includes this:

Simpsons-  I watch this almost completely out of nostalgia and some weird form of loyalty.  It hasn’t been great in over a decade and barely borders on good most of the time.  The premiere was so-so, and the online voting was so lame.  For those that don’t know, they ended the finale with an online poll.  They wanted the viewer to vote whether or not a couple should stay together.  Wow.  Hilarious.

My sarcasm detector just exploded.

Mmmm, opinions on Beliebers… – The author here is a teenager who isn’t keen on Justin Bieber or his fans.  After some excellent mockery of both, she brings down the hammer:

Tonight on Twitter, PURPLE MONKEY DISH WASHER was trending. For a second, I had some faith in my generation. I was so excited! People knew The Simpsons! Wow!

Haha, I was wrong.

Apparently, PURPLE MONKEY DISH WASHER is an inside joke within the Beliebers. They are clueless to its origin, and that makes me sick.

There’s a video of me at 4 months old watching The Simpsons. I’ve been raised with it. I have seen positively every episode, most twice. You do not mess with me and The Simpsons.

Something that drives me crazy about people today is that they’ve only ever seen the new episodes. I tell people all the time, you have to go back and watch the old ones! You fool! You have no idea what you’re missing!

Got that right.  Keep the faith, sister; their love of Bieber will fade, but love of The Simpsons lasts a lifetime. 

The “About Goddamn Time” Files – Simpsons might get cancelled – This guy hits a lot of the notes we always hit:

The characters that used to drive the show are all just caricatures of their former selves.  The writing is hackney.  They try to compensate with funny or topical (or both) situations, but the situations aren’t funny or particularly topical (and even if they were, there’s no way to gloss over how bad the writing and characters have become).

Got that right.  Plus there’s this:

Normally, I wouldn’t mind it going on forever.  If people somehow actually enjoy the new episodes, whatever, let them watch it.  My problem with the continued production of these terrible terrible terrible episodes is that they dilute the rerun pool.

That’s what I keep saying!  Welcome, friend.  Welcome. 




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