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. 




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