Archive for November, 2011

30
Nov
11

Crazy Noises: The Man In the Blue Flannel Pants

Fear of Flying7

“Sammy, you’re too old to go on a date with two twins on the same night you’re supposed marry Diane without Rebecca knowing.” – Carla
“Okay, Carla, I’ll make you a bet.  If this affects my Major League comeback I’ll sell the bar.” – Sam

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 (especially on “lingerie”).

The end of “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants” is so hoary and cliched I can just quote TV Tropes:

Character schedules dates with two different people at the same time. The character tries to keep both, going back and forth between the two dates without letting either know what’s going on. Hilarity allegedly ensues.

Can also apply to other scheduling conflicts, where the character tries to juggle an event that he’s responsible for attending, versus a more personal event that he really wants to attend.

You may recognize that from every crappy sitcom in the history of canned laughter.  Though most live action shows don’t feature the main character jumping overboard and swimming back and forth between two rafts. 

Beyond that there was one other scene I wanted to highlight for its particular stupid.  Between the time Homer fully becomes an accounts man and that boring as hell montage, there’s a brief scene at the Simpson home.  Homer returns from his new job to find Marge in a nightie holding a martini.

Honey, the Plot's Home

Flats?  June Cleaver and Betty Draper scoff at flats.

This is clearly supposed to be Marge’s 1950s teevee housewife routine.  On its own this could’ve kinda worked.  It’s dumb, sure, but you could put Marge through the same transformation that Homer goes through, hating her alienated life.  They don’t, of course.  The next time we see her she’s back to her normal self as if this never happened and no explanation is offered.  So it’s twofer, a wasted comedy opportunity that also doesn’t make sense. 

Compounding the problem, immediately after this, Bart and Lisa show up, ready to go to bed.  Marge doesn’t act at all like herself, she just dismisses them the same way Homer does.  That leads to Bart and Lisa imitating Marge in acting totally out of character.  Why on Earth would either of them want Bart to read a story to Lisa?  Is that supposed to help Lisa fall asleep, having her bullying brother sitting on her bed?  And why would Bart go through with it?  What does he care?  Again, no explanation is given, and when Lisa finally does get Bart reading, the story basically ends. 

Like Marge doing a Donna Stone impression, Lisa and Bart as book buddies could’ve, maybe, sorta kinda worked.  Again, it’s dumb, but there’s a story with at least a few jokes to tell there.  Instead we got an amputated B-plot while Marge went back to her old self after one brief, inexplicable scene.  Could someone please stop by the Zombie Simpsons office with some staples or paper clips?  I’m convinced these scripts are just loose pages that never get read in chronological order. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: I am

Charlie Sweatpants: Where to begin? The unconnected opening, or the mini-unconnected opening that opened the unconnected opening?

Bart and Milhouse’s little conversation/wedding cutaway was odd, but then it cut to a completely unrelated Krusty thing, which was itself basically unrelated to the rest of the episode.

Mad Jon: Yeah, the unconnected opening was probably my least favorite part. Followed by the mini-unconnected one. But that’s just me.

  It just kept re-running the same joke about Krusty not wanting to drink his own brand of vodka.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which didn’t show up again for the rest of the episode.

Someone noted in comments that Homer’s supposedly downing martinis left and right and they didn’t bring back the vodka that made up the first five minutes.

Mad Jon: They did use the joke enough for even a whole Zombie season, so maybe the writers got tired of it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Very possible. But that just leads us to Krusty picking Bart out of the crowd for no reason, which led to a fancy party at Marge and Homer’s for no other reason.

Mad Jon: I imagine that the reason was so they could have that mind-numbingly stupid karaoke scene that I guess led to Homer being a mad man. Which may be the worst scene I’ve seen in a long time. Why does Homer think that karaoke would save the party? Who knows. How did it actually work? Even better question.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole party was aggravatingly dumb. By my count, even before Burns showed up there was Kent Brockman, Krusty himself, Rainier Wolfcastle, the Rich Texan, Bumblebee Man, and Drederick fucking Tatum. Are any of these people supposed to be people anymore?

  And then Homer switches back and forth from blitheringly dumb to suave and charming in the space of a single scene.

Mad Jon: Yep.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then Burns shows up alone, is awkward with everyone, and then once they’ve had their karaoke party and things are (I guess) cool, Smithers appears just because. Was he there the whole time? No. They just needed him not to be there right until they did.

Mad Jon: Yep again.

But don’t worry, that allows Smithers to utter the joke about Homer setting the world on fire, and then Homer becoming an accounts man.

  Which leads to a take off episode, which is only what, 5 years late?

It was even late for the major network’s mirror series failure.

Charlie Sweatpants: Speaking of the accounts man, he also just appeared. First Homer was alone in Burns’ office, then there was a guy with a drink and a cigarette.

Mad Jon: Transitions are not an account man’s strong point I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: Take off is about right. It wasn’t satirizing Mad Men, it wasn’t even satirizing working too much, drinking on the job, or anything else. It was just Homer going through a few motions until he stopped.

I did think John Slattery got in a few okay lines, particularly his regret about not seeing his secret other family, and there were some little things like him pointing to his nose to Quimby so they could go do coke in the bathroom, but that was about all this episode had to offer.

Though, as usual, even the decent stuff was taken too far. When Marge goes to visit him and they’re suddenly in the bedroom: kinda funny. When they keep doing it: less and less so.

Mad Jon: I agree about Slattery, and I agree about the ongoings.

He was a bright spot in black hole. Unfortunately I couldn’t see past the event horizon.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the rest of it was just so damn bad. I guess I have to hand it to them, I didn’t see sitcom-river-rafting coming as an ending.

As soon as I realized what they were doing I just shook my head. Inviting two groups of people to the same place at the same time? They made fun of that back in "Fear of Flying". Now they’re actually doing it.

Mad Jon: That was out of left field. But it was equally as improbable as any other crazy ending that was most certainly guaranteed, so I can’t be too angry about it.

Charlie Sweatpants: The sheer physical dumbness of it was exceptional though, even for them.

  They were going down parallel rivers, couldn’t see one another, and no one in either boat wondered why Homer was constantly jumping overboard? The fuck?

Mad Jon: The fuck indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Is everyone supposed to be rock bottom stupid here? Because I’m out of other explanations.

Mad Jon: Look, do you want to see Homer poke himself in the eye for 20 seconds and piss in a bush or what? These things don’t happen on their own, you have to have a crazy lead in or these bits just don’t work.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d be inclined to say they don’t work anyway, but that’s just me. And then there was the freaking waterfall.

  Which, again, the fuck?

Mad Jon: Oh yeah. Homer went over the fall didn’t he?

Also he found some gold too didn’t he?

  Also some government guys died there too, eh?

Charlie Sweatpants: But that was after he was able to push his entire family to safety. I think he went over because, as Chekhov once said, if you see a waterfall two minutes before the end of the third act, the main character will go over it in one minute. Or something.

Mad Jon: Close enough.

Still not as bad, however, as the throwaway Maggie DUI scene.

  TV doesn’t usually ‘bother’ me. I am pretty desensitized in general, and pretty hard to shock. But that scene scarred me on several levels.

Enough that the van Houten sex scene didn’t even register with me for quite a bit.

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t pay it that much heed. I mean, you could see it coming a mile away.

The van Houten thing was just lame. Like it’s supposed to be a shock joke, only they have to have Kirk pipe up just to make extra sure we get it.

  That’s one of those instances where less is more, and they went with more and then some.

Mad Jon: It bothered me. That’s all. A lot.

  Also there was a b-plot wasn’t there?

Charlie Sweatpants: Half of one.

  Bart reads to Lisa, Lisa reads to Bart, Bart reads to bullies who promise to see him again . . . and then it ended.

  Really weird.

Mad Jon: It turns out Bart can’t read well. And Lisa can help, and absolutely no lead in was necessary.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t sell them short. There was the lead in where Homer got home from work and Marge was already in some kind of lingerie and that meant that Bart and Lisa had to spend time together.

Of course, that whole twenty seconds or so is like one unbroken string of out of character weirdness, so . . . maybe you’re not selling them short by not bringing it up. The sooner humanity forgets about it the better off the species will be.

Mad Jon: I think we’re through the looking glass on this one buddy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but I’d rather not be.

30
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Kamp Krusty8

“Mrs. Krabappel, in figuring out my final grades I hope you’ll note that all of my textbooks are being returned in excellent condition, in some cases still in their original wrappings.” – Bart Simpson
“Duly noted.” – Mrs. Krabappel

29
Nov
11

Compare & Contrast: Flapping Dickey

“It ain’t comedy that’s in my blood; it’s selling out.” – Krusty the Klown

I’ve started quite a few Compare & Contrast posts this season by noting that there were a lot of different possibilities for what to compare and contrast.  It’s true as well for “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants”, the two big, blinking neon obvious ones being the raft trip and Homer becoming an executive.  The raft trip in “Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood” contains things like Flanders doing “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” with the books of the Gospel and Homer actually bragging that they’re all doomed.  The promotion in “Simpson and Delilah” is because of a crooked union contract and comes only because of the world’s prejudice against bald people.  (Oh, and there’s Karl.  I love you Karl.)  In both cases The Simpsons had things that fit better in the overall story, made more sense, and were actually, you know, funny.  I could elaborate, but I’ve harped on those things a lot in the last few weeks.  Instead I’d instead like to take a look at a smaller incident that illustrates the comedic weakness of Zombie Simpsons. 

Back in Season 9, as a way to explain that Krusty’s clown/1950s standup routine was painfully dated (oh, the irony!) they had him epically bomb at a charity comedy festival.  Just as things are going completely off the rails, none other than Jay Leno asks rhetorically, “What’s he gonna do next, a flapping dickey?”.  Immediately Krusty indeed begins, ahem, flapping his dickey.  The audience remains unimpressed, and Krusty swiftly gets the hook. 

The Last Temptation of Krust4

Simpsons era Krusty knew this wasn’t funny.

On Zombie Simpsons though, the flapping dickey is a working gag rather than a sign of being abysmally unfunny.  Its mere existence is supposed to be funny in and of itself.  (It even goes to 11.)  Moreover, Krusty is expecting it to work.  As he says, “Why can’t I be funny with just my words?  Bill Maher doesn’t put dangerous things near his crotch.”  Zombie Simpsons is thinking something like “A flapping dickey?  That could be funny if we make it extreme!”.  Yes, they’re implying that Krusty is lame, but at the same time they’re expecting you, the audience, to laugh at the thing itself. 

The Genuine Article

Apparently the spinning bowtie didn’t make the cut.

This episode has a lot of problems far worse than its earnest treatment of the flapping dickey, even including the scene’s lame conclusion when Krusty’s machinery backfired and he fell down.  But it’s indicative of the overall cheapness that Zombie Simpsons brings to its humor.  It’s one thing to take low hanging comedy fruit, it’s another to take the stuff that already fell off the tree and try to package it as gourmet. 

Nor is the flapping dickey an isolated incident.  Just in this episode there’s things like pouring Homer a bunch of consecutive glasses of bourbon, pretty much everything (the wrong family, the chopped up contract, the lawn mower-foot thing) from that montage, and Homer stopping to take a whiz while swimming between the rafts that inexplicably can’t see each other.  If you’re feeling generous you could give them high marks for at least trying to keep things busy, but are any of those things supposed to actually be funny?  They aren’t even halfway to clever. 

Things like this are why Zombie Simpsons is such a bore to watch if you want to do anything other than stare blankly.  It’s a hash of things that have been done better before and the dumbest, least imaginative things anyone could think of.  That’s why the flapping dickey is such a perfect example, it’s not just a repeat, it’s a repeat of something that was deliberately not funny. 

29
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Radioactive Man5

“Uh, these aren’t real x-rays are they?” – Milhouse van Houten
“Good question!  We’ll check into that.  Okay, x-ray machine to full power and . . . action!” – Director

28
Nov
11

Over the Falls

Chalkboard - The Man In the Blue Flannel Pants

“Simpson, stop frolicking and get to work!” – Mr. Smithers
“Right away, Mr. Smithers, I’ll just walk across these slippery rocks . . .” – Homer Simpson

Near the end of “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants” a man on a jet ski appears from the sky just before a raft with several able bodied men plunges over a waterfall because another able bodied man wouldn’t push them slightly to shore.  At that point, Zombie Simpsons could safely assume that its audience was completely numb to plot whiplash.  I certainly thought I was.  Then Homer, who less than a minute before had possessed the power to swim away from the falls while pushing a raft, fell back into the river and went over the falls by himself.  My whiplash came back. 

That was the end of the A-plot.  There was also briefly a B-plot, but Zombie Simpsons dropped it completely after only its third scene.  Maybe that was for the best, because it was bizarre enough already with Bart and the bullies (who are apparently bullies again) suddenly finding their love of Little Women, especially since the whole thing was a repeat of a much better joke from “Homer Loves Flanders”. 

On the plus side, John Slattery was there, and since he’s not quite famous enough to play himself they had him play a role virtually identical to the one he plays on Mad Men.  I thought he had a couple of decent lines, though there was an awful lot of crap around them (Lenny and Carl at the diner was a particular lowlight).  Of course, he’s a lot funnier on Mad Men than he was on Zombie Simpsons, but that’s hardly his fault. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are sinking to depths Madison Avenue wouldn’t even consider.  Just 5.61 million people reached for bourbon last night, that’s the lowest ever for the fall half of the season, the fifth lowest in the history of the show, and so bad that it’s brought the Season 23 average down to just 6.98 million.  Season 22’s average, the lowest in history, was 7.10.  If they stopped showing new episodes right now, Season 23 would already be the least watched ever, and the lowest rated part of the schedule is still to come.  I hope they have a good accounts man. 

28
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Mom and Pop Art5

“Oh, I hate these flood pants . . . hey, they’re working.  My feet are soaked, but my cuffs are bone dry.  Everything’s coming up Milhouse!” – Milhouse van Houten

Happy birthday to Pamela Hayden!

27
Nov
11

Sunday Preview: The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants

zombieflannel

Image improved by Dave, as always.

Zombie Simpsons is making Homer an executive tonight.  I swear I’ve seen that before somewhere, but I can’t quite place it.  Simpsons Channel has the grisly details:

THE SIMPSONS host a tastemaker party at their home to promote Absolut Krusty, Krusty the Clown’s own brand of liquor. Mr. Burns takes notice of the party’s success and decides to promote Homer to “Account Man” for the Springfield Nuclear Plant. Robert Marlow (guest voice John Slattery), a seasoned account veteran, takes Homer under his wing and shows Homer what the high life is like in the corner office. Meanwhile, Lisa introduces Bart to a new literary world which sparks his interest in reading classic novels, and when Homer’s long hours at the office become the norm, a family vacation with Marge and the kids help him realize that family always comes before work.

Wow, that is a lot of stuff to pack into twenty minutes, and none of it explains why the family is at the movies in the preview image, so be ready for a series of neck twisting plot turns. 

27
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Homer and Apu5

“Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, you have disgraced the Kwik-E-Mart corporation.” – Executive
“But, sir, I was only following standard procedure.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
“Ah, true.  But it’s also standard procedure to blame any problems on a scapegoat or sacrificial lamb.” – Executive
“Uh-huh.  And if I can obtain for you these animals?” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

26
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Homerpalooza4

“Music is none of my business.” – Marge Simpson
“That’s fine for you, Marge, but I used to rock and roll all night and party every day.  Then it was every other day.  Now I’m lucky if I can find half an hour a week in which to get funky.” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday Wes Archer!

25
Nov
11

Reading Digest: Muppets Edition

A Fish Called Selma7

“Dad, what’s a Muppet?” – Lisa Simpson
“Well, it’s not quite a mop, and it’s not quite a puppet, but man . . . so to answer your question, I don’t know.” – Homer Simpson

Shorter than usual Reading Digest this week on account of Thanksgiving, but there are a couple of links relating to the new Muppet movie.  One is the quote above, which was very popular when discussing the revival of the moribund Muppets franchise, the other is a reference to none other than Poochie by the director himself.  As usual, once The Simpsons comments on something, it sticks around forever.  Besides that there’s two great pieces of fan art, some excellent usage, the pepper spray meme, and some despair at network television’s fan unfriendly cancellation decisions. 

Enjoy.

Milhouse Art – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this excellent fan made Milhouse art.  I especially like the second one. 

Nobody Likes Milhouse! – Animated .gif with subtitles.

Occupy Wall Street Supporter Makes Jay-Z "Scrooge" Sculpture – That is a neat sculpture, particularly the Mr. Burns head sandwiched between Hova and Scrooge McDuck. 

Pepper spraying cop meme: next level – Chief Wiggum goes to UC Davis.  

IAR Press Conference Coverage: ‘The Muppets’ – Lots of people quoted this in response to the new Muppets movie, please consider this link a stand in for the rest of them:

In a now ancient but in no way diminished episode of The Simpsons, Lisa asks Homer, "Dad, what’s a Muppet?"  To which her father replies, "Well, it’s not quite a mop, and not quite a puppet, but man," and laughs with a satisfied chuckle before adding, "To answer your question: I don’t know."  Aside from being a typically quotable moment of vintage Simpsons, this exchange actually gets to the essence of The Muppets.  Intellectually, we know that Jim Henson‘s creations are simply felt puppets, yet they’re imbued with such character and life that we wholly believe them as living organisms with heart and soul.

Excellent usage.

Director James Bobin Talks ‘The Muppets’ – Hey, speaking of the Muppets, here’s an interview with the director of the new movie about a new Muppet they made:

Anytime you hear that, there’s going to be a new character, you’re all, “Oh no…” It’s like in The Simpsons, when they did that great episode about the skateboarding ninja dog.

Oh yeah, Poochie!

Poochie! Right, Poochie is a guy who’s created by the network to make it cool. They just have this disastrous idea, and they have another random character who’s just living in [The Simpsons’] house. The Simpsons were always very honest about that sort of thing. Literally, the death knell of any great idea is that committee coming together to create a character to put in the show, because the demographics demand it.

The Simpsons named US TV show with greatest influence on Britain – I don’t know enough about British culture to speak to this, but you’ll get no argument from me. 

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword…In 10 Words – Lee Carvallo, you’ve done it again.

Pyjamas – Slightly cleverer than the usual Krusty Brand Seal of Approval stuff, it’s a t-shirt with Homer’s body so the wearer’s head goes where Homer’s would.  It does clash slightly with the ruggedly handsome model.  At least he’s got the five o’clock shadow. 

Three of a Kind – Expounding on the superiority of the SEC to the shattered remains of the Big 12:

The Big 12 is 2 teams deep right now.  And one of those teams lost to the worst team in the big 12 since the big 12 was ever thought of.  To quote Moe Syzlak “they’re the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.”  Yes, I’m talking about Iowa State.

The quote is slightly off, he says “They were the suckiest”, and of course it was Homer who said it, not Moe.  Apparently Ess Eee Cee speed does not allow for double checking things. 

“Yeah, I used to be rich.  I owned Mickey Mouse Massage Parlors, then those Disney sleazeballs shut me down.  I said, ‘Look, I’ll change the logo, put Mickey’s pants back on!’  Pfft, some guys you just can’t reason with.” – Railroad Bridge Bum (The Simpsons) – “Well, I used to own a successful car company.  My strategy was giving ’em Japanese names.  You guys ever drive a Tempura hatchback?”

My Six-Year-Old Sings the Blues – Excellent usage:

But since we’re mother and daughter, I assume that there’s some connection between her desire to steep herself in sadness when she’s sad and my tendency towards annoyance when people try to cheer me out of the doldrums.

“The blues isn’t about feeling better, it’s about making other people feel worse, and making a few bucks while you’re at it.” – Bleeding Gums Murphy (from The Simpsons)

Let’s Get Animated! – A top ten list of animated comedies.  The Simpsons gets the top spot for obvious reasons, but I was pleasantly surprised to see The Critic at #4, and Mission Hill even makes an appearance. 

Network Television has no humanity – This is true:

Network Television, if they’re not killing wonderful TV shows in their prime, then they just start beating a dead horse! I think we can all agree, that even though The Office is a great show, it would have been better if they had just took a leave out of the book of their British counterpart and ENDED THE SHOW WHILE THEY WERE AHEAD! Same goes for the Simpsons…. I mean really?

Really.  Sad, but really. 

25
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Homer's Triple Bypass3

“I keep hearing this horrible, irregular thumping noise.” – Homer Simpson
“It’s your heart, and I think it’s on its last thump.” – Mechanic
“Whew, I was afraid it was my transmission.” – Homer Simpson
“Hey, where’s he going?” – Billy
“Billy, remember that old Plymouth we just couldn’t fix?” – Mechanic
“We’re going to sell him to Mr. Nikolopoulos?” – Billy
“You’re a dull boy, Billy.” – Mechanic

24
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Bart vs Thanksgiving6

“Now, before we sit down to our delicious turkey puree, I have some happy news.  The following people have relatives who wish they could be here today: Antonovsky, Conroy, Falcone, Martin, Thorson, and Walsh . . . oh, and Mrs. Spencer, you too.” – Springfield Retirement Castle Guy
“Oh, I knew they wouldn’t forget me.” – Mrs. Spencer

23
Nov
11

Compare & Contrast: Defeating the Bad Guy

Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish6

“Wait, come back!  You can’t do this to me!  I’m Charles Montgomery Burns!” – C.M. Burns

As an audience member, there are few things more satisfying that a good defeat of a wretched villain.  Unfortunately, that also means when things go wrong, when the villain is bland or the ending is weak, it is correspondingly unsatisfying.  At the end of the “The Book Job”, Homer and his improbable posse use what Lisa describes as an idea from “every movie ever” to stymie a book publisher who, despite what the music would have you believe, isn’t all that evil.  I say “stymie” instead of “defeat” because it isn’t at all clear that what he’s doing is evil or that he’d be in any way displeased with the results; and I say “book publisher” instead of his name because he’s so bland he didn’t get a name.  By contrast, at the end of “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”, Marge permanently defeats Mr. Burns’ run for governor with nothing more than her wits and the three eyed fish that was in the first scene.

For a really enjoyable villain defeat, you need to have a proper villain do terrible things so that people really want to see him lose, which Zombie Simpsons naturally doesn’t.  The nameless book publisher doesn’t commit any crimes, hurts no one, and hardly seems all that evil.  What is his offense, exactly?  Editing a book that was deliberately made to be crappy and formulaic?  Only on Zombie Simpsons could rewriting mass produced schlock be considered a sin.

Evil Glasses, Eviler Cravat

The only evil thing about this guy are his fashion accessories. 

Mr. Burns, one of television’s great villains, hardly needs describing, so let’s just concentrate on what he’s trying to do in “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”.  After his plant miserably fails an inspection, he’s faced with a hefty but by no means ruinous repair bill.  Instead of spending money on fixing the plant, his response is to purchase the governor’s office so he can continue running his business in a manner that will one day render the planet uninhabitable.  The Simpsons being The Simpsons, it’s played for laughs, but when you think about what he’s trying to do it’s truly despicable.  The other guy just wants to sell a few books that, while low brow, don’t harm anyone and actually seem to make quite a few people happy.

Beyond his lack of evil though, the bad guy in “The Book Job” doesn’t actually get defeated.  At the end we see that the book, trolls and all, is quite popular.  The bookstore has given it lots of shelf space, and kids and geeks are reading it avidly.  Since all he wants to do is make money selling books, and he doesn’t care at all whether the book is about trolls or vampires, he’s actually won.  The million dollars he paid to Homer’s goofy gang of the suddenly hyper-competent is a small price to pay for the runaway bestseller and budding franchise he appears to have on his hands.

The opposite happens to Mr. Burns, who sees himself humiliated on television and his campaign for governor thwarted on the eve of success.  Best of all, Burns is defeated by his own villainy.  His disregard for polluting the water is what allows Marge to defeat him. 

In short, the nameless book guy isn’t evil and doesn’t lose.  Mr. Burns is unlimitedly evil and is utterly beaten.  One of those is a great ending, the other is Zombie Simpsons. 

23
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson4

“You know, when I was a girl, I always dreamed of being in a Broadway audience.” – Marge Simpson

22
Nov
11

Crazy Noises: The Book Job

The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show4

“It’s not your fault, Homer, it’s those lousy writers.  They make me madder than a, um. . . yak in heat.” – Marge Simpson

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 (shockingly enough, not on “pastiche”).

In comments and on Twitter there have been more generous appraisals of “The Book Job” than is usual for Zombie Simpsons, as well as some eye rolling at my typically harsh appraisal of it.  And while I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I do think I understand that.  “The Book Job” had a bit more life to it than most Zombie Simpsons episodes, but I’m also of the opinion that most of that was the same kind of cheap pandering that we got last week, the only difference is that it was fiction books in place of video games and celebrity chefs.  In other words, the package here is a little shinier than usual, but there’s still a turd under the wrapper.

Consider this exchange near the end between the gang and Neil Gaiman (who, let us not forget, is voicing himself and just showed up out of thin air):

Patty: How could they do this to our book?
Skinner: It was the singular vision of seven people.
Moe: No way!
Gaiman: What you’re feeling is called ‘pride of authorship’.  You thought you only cared about money, but you actually care more about what you’ve created together.
Homer: British Fonzie is right, our story is actually more important than money.

This is them literally restating the plot and telling us (not showing us, but telling us) how they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it.  This is exactly the kind of hacktacular crap they were mocking in “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” when Marge says that those lousy writers make her feel madder than “a yak in heat”.  Or, to grab from another show for a moment, this is what the Robot Devil was talking about when he told Fry his opera sucked because “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel!”.

And that is far from the only example.  Here’s the scene where they plot out their book:

Patty: The heroes are all orphans.
Skinner: And they’re set in a place kids relate to, say, a school, but it’s actually magic.
Frink: And, the protagonist always discovers that he is supernatural.
Homer: Okay, our book will be about an orphan who goes to a magical school where he discovers he’s a vampire.

From there they repeat the word “vampire” about seventeen times, with Frink actually saying “So many vampires!”.  This is the book equivalent of “Gamestation” and “Guts of War”, they’re not poking fun at anything, they’re just restating things.  From there we’re treated to their exposition-tastic creation of their troll idea, which is basically the exact same thing as the above.  This includes the poorly animated thought bubble background which is just to make super-duper-sure that the audience gets it:

Creative Failure

I’m so glad they were able to find clipart of bridges and trolls.

Nor was the shoddy animation limited to their shared dream sequences.  Check out Homer in the bookstore, here:

Strange Wallpaper

So many blank books!

For an episode that clearly took a lot of pride in its background stuff, making all the books single color with no evidence of writing on them is all the more revealing.  They don’t even look like books, more like kids play blocks.  Then there’s the mysteriously appearing printer.  Here’s Lisa in front of her desk:

Mystery Laptop

Nice laptop, shame it’s about to be sucked into another dimension.

And here’s Lisa just a few seconds later:

Mystery Printer1

Is fifteen seconds of object permanence too much to ask?

The laptop is gone, the printer has appeared, Lisa managed to move to the other side of the desk, and the entire room shifted.  This isn’t one or two small mistakes, this is them drawing the room completely differently for shots that are only a few seconds apart.  But wait, there’s more!  Note the pages streaming off the printer:

Mystery Printer2

Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are everyone’s friend.

Notice that not only do the pages behave nothing like actual paper, but they are also identical to one another.  They couldn’t be bothered to move the text around or even just rotate the damn images.

The entire episode is filled with bland, expository dialogue and wildly uneven animation like this.  And that’s before you even get to things like the story not making sense, the characters acting nothing like themselves, and all the usual Zombie Simpsons crap.  That Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright were doing decent impressions of George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s repartee isn’t nearly enough to save this.

Charlie Sweatpants: Where do you want to start?

Dave: Near as makes no difference. It was a haze of mediocrity.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed it was. And while there were a lot of small problems, the overarching one is that this was just so damn gimmicky.

Dave: Yeah. Just a pastiche of dumb shit. Though I did chuckle at Ralph wanting to go back into Sarah’s womb.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was okay with the Ralph thing until he actually, you know, climbed under her dress.

Dave: Well yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole dinosaur opening was annoying. Did we need to get to the screaming and the running so fast?

Dave: No, we did not. But they didn’t waste a second.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s just another example of how they can’t go even a few seconds without not making any sense.

And that was before Homer and the kids just walked backstage like they owned the damn place.

Dave: Yeah. But how else could they have started the whole crime heist nonsense?

Logically started, anyway.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s my overarching problem that spoiled the whole thing for me. Maybe I’m overreacting, but after last week’s food blogger thing and now this Ocean’s Eleven thing I’m sick and tired of one-note episodes.

Not only are they unimaginative, but they’re so transparently pandering. Food blogging, people like that right? Ooh, teen lit, there’s something that’s been in the New York Times style section lately.

Dave: The alternative is 2-3 plots that collectively don’t make any sense. Pick your poison. In this case teaming up Homer, Bart, Skinner, Moe, etc. and tossing in a celebrity felt just about right.

But teen lit is so topical. And werewolves, c’mon.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the problem. They’re so completely bereft of actual ideas that they’re leaning on cheap topicality. Except it takes them a year to make an episode so by the time they get around to something it’s usually already played out.

South Park does a lot of topical episodes, and they tend to be the ones that don’t age very well because they’re only really funny in that moment. But for South Park you at least get that moment. Making fun of Harry Potter-Twilight-Etcetera was current, what? Three years ago when the first Twilight movie came out?

Dave: Something like that. I tend not to pay attention to those sorts of things.

Charlie Sweatpants: Look at it this way, they can’t figure a way to just do something with the Simpson family or with Lisa loving a series of books. So they have to set everything to 11, make a boring and predictable caper plot, and end up having Homer break into some heavily defended skyscraper.

Dave: Are you sure you’re not secretly moonlighting for them?

Charlie Sweatpants: Ouch. What did I do to deserve that accusation?

Dave: That was harsh and unnecessary. I take it back.

Your summary was just very on point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, I may be overreacting because they’ve done two of these in a row now, but all of the annoying things that were there last week are here this week in spades.

Characters acting unlike themselves, lame “parodies” that amount to little more than misspelling things, a story that doesn’t make any sense, all they want to do is make some bad pop culture jokes and the rest of the episode is poorly done window dressing around that.

They actually had Moe say he didn’t want to get involved with another of Homer’s “hare brained schemes”. If that’s not an admission of, like you said, mediocrity, I don’t know what is.

Dave: So what’s to be done?

They could stop. But they won’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, bitching on the internet is something, isn’t it?

Dave: Better than the alternative, which is pretending the show’s still good and/or relevant.

Charlie Sweatpants: Better than nothing, I suppose.

As for individual problems this one had, where to begin?

I was sick of that music and title card thing by about the third one, and then they kept on coming.

There was an excess of their usual pointless and boring bloodshed.

Homer being super slick and competent all of a sudden. Props and characters appearing and disappearing at random.

There were also a couple of times where the animation really seemed phoned in. Like last week they had a lot of background stuff in some scenes (though most of them were lame for the previously discussed reasons), but when they weren’t showing a bunch of book titles, everything was really stale and repetitive.

When the printer in Lisa’s room starts spitting out pages, all of them are identical. The books in the bookstore are just flat, monochromatic rectangles.

Dave: I didn’t even notice that, honestly.

I was more put off by the poorly done homages to the Oceans movies.

Charlie Sweatpants: I generally only notice the animation if it’s really bad or really good, and this was really bad.

It really was Homer Simpson and the Springfield Variety Players bring you Oceans 15 or whatever.

Dave: They may as well have had Duck President.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you notice that Marge didn’t have a role in the caper, so she basically disappeared right after the opening?

Dave: Now that you mention it, yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: There just wasn’t any space for her, I guess.

Dave: Well, last week we had too much of her. Maybe they thought a break was in order.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s also possible they just ran out of time with all of the flashbacks and thought bubble expositions.

They had to keep explaining what things were going on and illustrating the story with crappy animated icons.

Dave: The show is layered beast, too dense for the average television viewer. Be glad we had our hands held.

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe you’re right and I should be grateful they only explain things three or four times instead of five or six.

Dave: That’s what they’ll resort to next season.

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t wait.

Anything else here?

Dave: Nope. I can’t believe we’re only 6 episodes in. Feels like an eternity already.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know the feeling.

22
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

The Boy Who Knew Too Much5

“Prison bus, Otto?” – Bart Simpson
“The regular school bus broke down, so take a seat before I blow your heads off!” – Otto
“Otto!” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh, sorry, this bus and I have sort of a Shining thing going on.” – Otto

21
Nov
11

Nobody Cares About Reading

Chalkboard - The Book Job

“Okay, we’ve got the secret vigilante handshake, now we need codenames.  I’ll be Cue Ball, Skinner can be Eight Ball, Barney will be Twelve Ball, and, Moe, you can be Cue Ball.” – Homer Simpson
“You’re an idiot.” – Moe

The last two episodes of Zombie Simpsons have seen the entire opening, couch gag and all, dropped completely.  They’ve also featured Matt Selman’s name before Al Jean’s in the customary spot for the show runner.  Not coincidentally, the last two episodes have also seen the show impressively manage to get even further away from what once made it great.  At this point I don’t think the writing staff thinks of this as anything but a sketch show.

This week it was Homer running around with the kids, last week it was Marge, but it almost doesn’t matter since most of the cast is now barely recognizable as human, much less the characters they used to be.  For example, Homer and Bart used to not like Patty, but here they leap right in to including her in their little scheme.  There isn’t so much as a nod to anything of what we know about the Simpsons universe, all that matters to Zombie Simpsons is making sure that we understand that Homer is standing in for George Clooney and Patty is Julia Roberts.

Once they have that established, the rest of it plays out like a less entertaining version of the Family Guy-Star Wars mashups.  Just like the Oceans Integers movies, everyone’s slick and cool and well dressed, only now they’re yellow!  Just like the original, there are lots of double crosses and fake outs and everyone is winking at the camera.  It’s so stylish and urbane that it thinks those are the only two things that matter.  That’s how you get multiple flashbacks, an action montage, and a mistaken belief that those title cards were so funny that we needed a dozen of them. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are worse than ever.  Just 5.74 million people watched Zombie Simpsons instead of reading a book last night.  That isn’t just a bad number, that is a catastrophe.  It’s tied for the 10th lowest number of all time, and is the lowest ever for the fall half of the season.  Season 22, the lowest rated season in the show’s history, didn’t have a number that bad until February.

21
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Flaming Moe's7

“Tonight, we salute the silver anniversary of the great Springfield Tire Yard Fire, twenty-five years and still burning strong!” – Kent Brockman

Happy 20th anniversary to “Flaming Moe’s”!  Original airdate 21 November 1991.

20
Nov
11

Sunday Preview: The Book Job

There’s no bloody image this week because we respect Neil Gaiman even when he momentarily discards his love of good storytelling and voices himself on Zombie Simpsons.  The episode itself, however, is going to suck and suck hard:

Lisa becomes disheartened when she learns the shocking truth behind the ‘tween lit’ industry and her beloved fantasy novel characters. But Homer decides to cash in on the craze and forms a team to group-write the next ‘tween lit’ hit, with the king of fantasy, Neil Gaiman (guest-voicing as himself), lending his expertise to the effort. After catching the eye of a slick industry publisher (guest-voice Andy Garcia) at the Springfield Book Fair, the team gets an advanced copy of their work and discovers that the corporate lit business is a bigger operation than they imagined.

Cheap formulaic culture failing to make fun of other cheap formulaic culture?  You couldn’t cut that irony with a fucking lightsaber. 

20
Nov
11

Quote of the Day

Lisa the Simpson6

“We now return to ‘When Buildings Collapse’ on Non Stop Fox!” – FOX Announcer




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