Archive for January, 2012

31
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

Randomly Determined

Image shamelessly yoinked from here as a result of search for “randomly determined”.

“I’ll get the dictionary.” – Hugh Parkfield
“Why?” – Lisa Simpson
“You’ll see when you get there, the word ‘stochastic’.” – Hugh Parkfield
“Pertaining to a process involving a randomly determined sequence of observations!” – Lisa 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 (especially on “Michelangelo”).

This episode is such a patchwork of unrelated elements that it’s difficult to discern a structure or theme. Oh sure, there’s the rag, but the rag seems to move between kinda, sorta real history like Michelangelo and Vikings to fanciful tales like One Thousand and One Nights. (Speaking of which, and not that this episode needed more beheadings, but in the original tale the previous wives all get killed. Nice to know that’s where they draw the line.) Things made just as little sense back in Springfield, particularly when you remember that Milhouse produced Drederick Tatum from nowhere to punch Bart in the arm. I know things don’t tend to make sense these days, but this did seem like an especially “Fuck you, audience” effort on their part.

Charlie Sweatpants: Since I imagine you are very busy, want to get right to it?

Dave: Please let’s. Anagrams of "Jeremy Irons" are funnier than whatever the fuck it was that happened last night.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m at a loss for where to start with this episode. The A-plot wasn’t so much a plot as an excuse for whatever dumb historical situations they could come up with, and the B-plot was so undercooked and nonsensical that they would’ve been vastly better off just dropping it.

Dave: In two words: just terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shit sandwich.

Dave: Santorum rag.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

The structure of the whole thing was a contradictory mess. If the rag was in the "real world" of Springfield, how did a Homer look alike climb Mount Everest, break down that wall, etc.? If the rag wasn’t in the real world, then what the hell was all that stuff with Bart and Milhouse doing happening at the same time?

You can do a weird, historical sketch show, you can do a show about Bart and Milhouse having a fight. I don’t think you can do both at the same time, especially when the two stories have nothing to do with each other. If the rag had made and lost friends over the years, or if it had seen friendships wax and wane, okay then maybe there’s a connection or a theme. But there was nothing like that.

Dave: Stop it with that incessant logic of yours. You’re making too much sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: You don’t need a lot of logic to be confused by this, just a short term memory that lasts more than about ninety seconds.

More than once it cuts from the Bart-Milhouse thing back to the rag on the bar.

Which of course sends us back to Persia or Europe or whatever.

Dave: Everest. France. Whatever is right

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, what was with the back-to-back executions? Was that supposed to be the same time and place, or different?

Dave: I think the former? Who knows. It was tedious either way.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even back in Springfield it was tedious. Marge stole Moe’s rag, which he apparently sleeps with, and didn’t tell him . . . except that she must have told him because he ended up at the Simpson house.

Dave: Question. Why does Moe sleep at the bar?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know. Has he been doing that for a long time? Back in Season 6 and Season 9 he had a house.

Dave: That’s what I remember, too. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

It was convenient for whatever sinister purpose the writers needed to advance the shred of plot they had.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though you’d think he’d lock the bar before he went to cot. Oops, there I go thinking again.

Dave: Definitely thinking too hard, that rag needed to be stolen.

Charlie Sweatpants: Moe’s panic at losing the rag was out of deep left field.

Dave: Yup.

Charlie Sweatpants: Here’s a head scratcher though, was it more or less out of nowhere than the ending with Santa’s Little Helper and Maggie?

Dave: More?

Why did Wiggum show up?

It was just nonsense end to end.

Charlie Sweatpants: I assume because that teargas joke killed at the table read.

Why were some of the historical scenes made up of Simpsons characters and others not? The monks weren’t regulars, but Homer was. The pope was a regular but Michelangelo wasn’t. It was all very strange.

Dave: Wasn’t Michelangelo one of the gays?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe? Of course, I wouldn’t have had time to notice all of that if there’d been some, you know, jokes. But those were few and far between.

Dave: i.e., regular by Zombie Simpsons standards

There were jokes?

Do tell.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I guess it counts as a joke when medieval Wiggum got hit in the crotch and then went over to do cave paintings, because that’s what they did in medieval times (<– may not be true).

Dave: Go on.

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of those. Like the fact that the tapestry was made in medieval France, but then found its way to Persia where they’d never heard of Christians.

I’ll admit that’s nitpicky, but damn it, if you’re going to do an episode where a rag travels through historical times, shouldn’t you maybe put a tiny bit of effort into your history?

Dave: You’d think so. But then again, you’re thinking.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know, bad habit.

But I didn’t need to think too hard to wonder why Homer was walking up the wall and onto the ceiling at the beginning.

Dave: Oh right, the dance off.

I’d nearly forgotten.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I didn’t need to think to know it made no sense for Lisa to be standing right behind Bart as he read the thing she supposedly wrote to Milhouse.

Dave: Don’t forget, Maggie was there too.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I didn’t need to be thinking to wonder why Bart was on the mountain filling balloons with oxygen while Comic Book Guy floated by.

Dave: I don’t remember that. Probably a good thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely. I don’t think there was a single scene here that made sense, even just considered on its own. Burns falls off a giant cliff and then everyone decides to beat him with sticks. Why?

Dave: Because, ha ha, the French are cowards?

Look, ripping on the French is fun. But what transpired wasn’t even close to being funny.

This from a show that has a wonderfully rich history of doing just that.

Charlie Sweatpants: But like most of this episode, that stuff is all in the past.

Dave: Indeed. What a waste of my time, Jeremy Irons, electricity, and so on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else catch your eye here?

Dave: Nope. To quote the rag, "I’m in hell."

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the rag was kind of a pain in the ass wasn’t it/he?

But it’s okay because after all that it was happy with the dog. Or something.

31
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Bart vs Australia6

“Hello, I’m Evan Conover with the U.S. State Department.” – Evan Conover
“Undersecretary for International Protocol, Brat and Punk Division.” – Marge Simpson

30
Jan
12

Sensitive Moe Was the Least of Our Problems

Chalkboard - Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

“The Flaming Moe dates back to my forefathers who were bartenders to the Tsar.” – Moe  

Whatever else may be said about it, and we’ll likely be saying a lot this week, “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches” is further evidence of why there’s no hope whatsoever for Zombie Simpsons ever getting any better.  It had a Halloween episode level of weirdness, gore, and insane things (Moe is apparently a yeti, for example), but still couldn’t manage to squeeze out anything satirical or intelligent despite not having any rules to play by.  It had a celebrity playing someone other than himself, but didn’t have him do much of anything and didn’t give him any meaningful lines.  It had a B-plot in which Bart and Milhouse could have been just regular kids, but instead had them acting in that same weird, knowing, painfully self aware manner that Lenny and Carl do nowadays.  They gave themselves a completely blank canvas with no restrictions on story, character, believability, setting, or even time, and still fell back on things like Homer’s head being used to break down a stone wall, people beating Burns’ corpse with sticks, and multiple beheadings.  Oh, and there was a talking sponge.  This is the show now.

The magical narration tapestry/rag/respected character actor was theoretically the common element, but it didn’t have anything to do with about half the things that happened.  No explanation was given for how it got from place to place, it was hardly involved in a number of those sketches, and the entire thing with Nelson and his many wives didn’t involve it in any way.  The rag may speak in the dignified tones  of Jeremy’s Iron, but it didn’t have anything to say other than to complain.  The entire “history already written on the tapestry” thing was dropped completely midway through the episode, as was the curse of the sheep or whatever that origin thing was.  Confusingly, some segments had regular Springfield characters (Homer ended up as a peasant, a Viking, and a mountain climber) while others seemed to involve just random dudes. 

Making the entire thing even more bizarre was the way the Bart-Milhouse story apparently happened while the rag was narrating.  It wrapped up at the same time that Moe got the rag back from Marge, which means that Bart freaked out about Milhouse (and had Lisa write him a poem or whatever) all in a single night.  If that’s the case, then why did the two plots have nothing to do with one another?  It’s one thing to abandon Springfield for an episode of historical sketches, but to keep yanking us back there every few minutes for some more creepy passive aggressive conversation between Bart and Milhouse just made it even more sloppy and scatterbrained than it already was. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are lower and grimier than the floor at Moe’s.  Last night’s incoherent history essay was yawned through by a mere 5.12 million people.  That’s just a hair above three weeks ago and is good for fourth place on the all time lowest rated list.  Season 23 remains on track to be the least watched ever by a fair margin. 

30
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Dog of Death8

“Good news Mr. Danielson, we saved your gamecock.  But I’m afraid he’ll never fight again.” – Veterinary Nurse
“That’s what you think!  He’ll fight and he’ll win!” – Mr. Danielson

29
Jan
12

Sunday Preview: Moe Goes From Rags To Riches

zombierags

Image improved by Dave.

There’s new Zombie Simpsons tonight, and it’s a doozy.  Simpsons Channel:

After Moe is heckled for not having any real companions, Moe’s best friend and beloved bar rag narrates his incredible thousand-year journey to Springfield. Beginning in the Middle Ages, the bar rag was loomed into a beautiful and ornate medieval tapestry and traveled around the globe through the hands of royalty before finding himself found himself at Moe’s Tavern. When the bar rag goes missing, Moe realizes that he has more friends than he thought. Meanwhile, Bart begs Milhouse for forgiveness after the two friends get into a tiff.

Yeesh, a bunch of sensitive Moe plus Bart and Milhouse getting into a fight.  The best thing I can say about that is that at least the B-plot is something they haven’t repeated recently.  And maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t the rag kinda look like it’s flipping the bird? 

29
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Lard of the Dance2

“Can I help you, sir?” – Greasy Teen
“My God, you’re greasy.” – Homer Simpson
“Mr. Marouka?  Help.” – Greasy Teen

28
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

$pringfield8

“Excuse me, ma’am, don’t you think you’ve gambled enough?” – Mr. Smithers
“No.” – Marge Simpson
“Okay.  We’re required by law to ask every seventy-five hours.  Get her another free drink.” – Mr. Smithers

27
Jan
12

Reading Digest: Dreams Edition

Treehouse of Horror VI5

“Groundskeeper Willie was in my nightmare too, but he got me with hedge clippers.” – Lisa Simpson
“He ran his floor buffer over me.” – Nelson Muntz

We’ve got a lot of good links this week.  There’s two promising new blogs, several people who agree with us, and lots of fan made stuff (including a Mexican Bart figurine).  But we’ve also got three – count ’em, three! – people who had the Simpsons in their dreams this week.  Good thing you don’t have to pay a royalty for that yet.  There’s also some good discussion of older episodes, a cool Flash map of Springfield, plenty of usage, and Zombie Simpsons damaging relations with Pakistan (well, sort of). 

Enjoy.

Clickerbox: The Simpsons Season 2 – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this tour of Season 2 courtesy of someone who wasn’t allowed to watch the show as a kid but has seen many of the later episodes.  She’s harsh on some episodes I love, but it’s fascinating to see someone coming at them from a perspective utterly unlike mine.  She goes through the whole season, so there’s a lot here.

Cartoon Quotes – A new blog featuring, as you may have guessed, daily quotes from cartoons.  It’s brand new, and has quotes from several characters ranging from Bugs Bunny to Shaggy from Scooby Doo, but Homer’s on the banner and there have been three Simpsons quotes already.  All three of them are dead on correct, so let’s hope he keeps it up.

Interactive Map of Springfield – I sort of think I’ve posted this before, but it’s damn cool.

Poll: What is your favorite season of The Simpsons? – Lenny says that after much thought she’s got a favorite, but before she reveals it, she wants to know yours.  I don’t think I could pick one, I’d just feel all the seasons I didn’t pick staring at me accusatorily.  But if you’ve got one, go ahead. 

Kidrobot and The Simpsons present Matt Groening – There’s going to be a Matt Groening doll.  I suppose it was inevitable. 

Forrest Gump and the Simpsons via YouTube – What if you took the audio from an extended trailer for Forrest Gump and matched to clips from the show?  Well, you don’t have to, someone else did and it is fantastic:

That is great. 

The Simpsons Meets Skyrim of the Day – Fus Ro D’oh.

10/18/11 – Even in dreams you can’t escape The Simpsons:

We are at our apartment, watching The Simpsons, while we wait to leave for the wedding. The roommate who is getting married points out how the character Lisa has changed in the episode, while my other roommate bakes.

Merman Sideshow Bob and Bart by ~Foxiso on deviantART – Fan made drawing of a Sideshow Bob as a merman drowning Bart, the idea for which originally came in a dream.

20th January – Another Simpsons dream:

Dream 5! Ohh yeah, we’re getting into the big numbers now! I was in our conservatory. I was with my brother, and a man who looked like one of the characters for the Simpsons. We were about to get filmed for an episode. It went well, so I went to watch the premiere. I looked like a Simpson!

That’s just what you’d look like if you were a cartoon character. 

You Built What?! A Wearable LED Television – Remember that guy from last summer who built a television into a coat and had The Simpsons playing on it?  He’s back, this time with a shirt that also plays The Simpsons.  Excelsior to you, David Forbes.  (via)

Obituary: Phil Hartman – Our old friend Gran2 has started a new blog called “Late Obituaries”.  It’s either obituaries written long after the person dies, or an obituary for the genre of obituaries.  This is the first post, and it strong suggests the former.  That is a great picture of Hartman. 

Bidding war over dried glue that looks like Homer Simpson. Sort of. – When this ends, I just picture the two guys who bid thousands for it giggling and running away when one of them wins as the auctioneer has to ask, “Yes, were there any serious bids for this item?”

Fascinating contest in store – Somewhere in New Zealand there is a racing greyhound named Sideshow Bob:

Secondly, the potent Dave and Jean Fahey Canterbury training partnership provided the quinella in both of those heats, although one of them (Sideshow Bob) has since been an injury-enforced scratching.

I really wish there was a picture. 

Valentine’s Day Card – Awesome homemade “Choo Choo Choose” Valentine’s Day card. 

LEGO-Can you guess what they are? – The Simpsons one is very minimalist and cool, but for giggle factor the champion has to be Lego Princess Leia photocopying her own butt. 

Not Even Selma Will Have Him – Memebase – Forever alone!

Cartoon Pick of the Day: The Simpsons: Maggie Makes Three – Very nice writeup of “And Maggie Makes Three”.

Top 10 TV Theme Tunes – There’s a lot of good YouTube here, as well as more British shows than you usually see on lists like this.  And, of course, we all know what’s at #1. 

CAN’T SLEEP – Very Demotivational – That bed never gets old. 

Leading News Resource of Pakistan – Last week I made fun of Zombie Simpsons for basically airing a free commercial for Cinnabon with their barely disguised “Cinnabun”.  Here’s why they deserve your scorn:

‘Cinnabon’ opens newest location in Karachi

[…]

Homer Simpson loves them. Jerry Seinfeld wants to marry them. And now Karachi residents can enjoy the world famous cinnamon rolls filled with the company’s signature Makara Cinnamon.

Somebody’s using it to actually pimp Cinnabon in Pakistan.  This never happened with Duff or Buzz.

Station / Estación # 10: Obrera – Click through for some excellent graffiti of Homer and Bart near a metro station in Mexico City. 

These are the bricks you’re looking for – A take on the evolution of Lego, with a particular knock at a Zombie Simpsons’ joke from a couple of weeks ago. 

Marge and Lisa Simpson Loves Donatella and Allegra Versace. Fashion Simpsons – From the same site as last week’s fashion mashups. 

The GOP’s Seemingly Never-Ending Debates – Poor usage:

Apart from global appeal, intentional comedy, puckish charm and hints of a first-rate mind operating under a veneer of stupidity, Sarah Palin has something in common with Bart Simpson. I’m specifically talking about the scene where Grandpa, forced to babysit the kids, refers to a note card provided to him by Marge. It reads: “Always do the opposite of what Bart says.” Too bad the GOP isn’t as smart as Abe Simpson.

That manages to get the quote wrong and the character wrong, and that’s always poor usage. 

My Favourite Cartoon Character – Cool fan made computer animated Lisa. 

Nice Bart Simpson pictures – There’s two here.  There’s a boring one of a Bartman statue at Comic Con 2009.  The cool one is a homemade Bart figurine from Mexico. 

Brits want to use bees as security guards to protect historic site – Excellent page whoring usage, io9:

Vandals are damaging a historic site in Wales, and its operators have come up with an ingenious solution: protect the place with bees. This should work, for as noted bee expert Homer Simpson once observed, bees will bite your bottom, and then your bottom’s big.

Got a dumb story with no hook?  Gin up a tenuous Simpsons connection and put a picture of Homer on it.  Denton has taught you well, young one. 

The 15 Best Band Cameos on TV – Good list here.  There’s lots of YouTube, and Simpsons makes it three times, for Smashing Pumpkins, The Ramones, and The Beatles, which comes in at #1. 

First You Get the Sugar: The name might confuse, but the music doesn’t – Speaking of bands and the show, here’s another band that took it’s name from an episode:

“People in tune with The Simpsons get it pretty quick,” observes drummer Daniel Moscovitch.

“While others still don’t understand what it is,” chimes in guitarist Adam Kagan. “Which is good – I say go rent Scarface, then watch The Simpsons, and then you’ll understand.”

Australia Day…In 10 Words « In 10 Words – That scene in “Bart vs. Australia” was the only good thing to come out of Crocodile Dundee, and they made two sequels! 

Homer Simpson Kills Ned Flanders by ~darthraner83 on deviantART – Fan art of Homer eating a donut after having just casually beheaded Flanders with a lightsaber.  Definitely works better than a pipe. 

Bart Simpson by ~katval1 on deviantART – Fan art of a slightly disturbing, goggle-eyed Bart.

Lisa Simpson by ~aquariano186 on deviantART – Speaking of disturbing, here’s fan art of a grown up Lisa with an undersized head and an oddly placed bust. 

Simpsons scratchboard art by Edwin Vazquez – Lots more than just Simpsons characters here, very neat.  The urinating Mickey Mouse is particularly depraved looking. 

Man wins €680,000 with one-euro football accumulator bet – Excellent reference:

Anyone who has seen The Simpsons episode where Monty Burns opens a casino knows that betting is evil, and Gamblor will ensnare you with his neon claws if you partake.

Gambling is the finest thing a person can do.

Rangers’ Rookie Hagelin Honed His Skills as a Standout at Michigan – Another NHL player who likes the show:

Hagelin’s adjustment from Sweden to the United States was surprisingly smooth. He was already fluent in English, having learned the language in school and through daily viewings of “The Simpsons” and “That ’70s Show.”

“In Sweden, they broadcast the American shows in English with Swedish subtitles, whereas in many European countries they dub them,” Hagelin said. “Watching those shows in English was big for me.”

The Simpsons Trivia Game – A free, 1500 question Simpsons trivia game for Android. 

Billy Cundiff: An Open Letter to the Baltimore Ravens’ Latest Scapegoat – Lenny actually says “Everybody” not “Everyone”, but this is still excellent usage:

To borrow a line from The Simpsons, "Everyone makes mistakes: that’s why they put erasers on pencils."

Poor Billy Cundiff. 

Family Guy (And Other Controversial Cartoons) – A Family Guy review that agrees with us:

They parody songs, popular sayings, celebrities and other cartoons (such as The Simpsons… And how it’s not been funny since you were 13 – sad but true).

Indeed, sad and true.

30 Rock: Best Comedy on TV or Stuck in Cruise Control? – And here’s a review of 30 Rock that agrees with us:

I get the argument of, ‘Come on, 30 Rock should challenge itself and try something different.’ But look what happened to a show like The Simpsons. That was the funniest show on TV for about 10 years, but its style definitely started to change, and it got terrible, and quite frankly, I cringe when I see ads for an upcoming episode today. And trust me — this is coming from a die hard Simpsons fan back in the day.

And I guess that’s my point. I’m sure after 10-12 years, the creative team of The Simpsons needed to try something else with the show. It didn’t work. Okay, fair enough. Let’s move on. But that show is still on the air today, and it’s getting progressively worse, completely losing what made it so brilliant in the first place. At this point, stop trying to change it, and just end it.

Amen, brother. 

Five TV Shows That Changed The World – Finally, here’s as excellent a one paragraph summary as you will ever read:

The Simpsons (1989-today)

Fully explaining the impact of The Simpsons in anything less than a massive leather bound tome is nearly impossible, considering the brilliant creative minds it has bestowed upon the world (Brad Bird! Conan O’Brien! Greg Daniels!), the countless shows it has influenced (South Park! Family Guy! Every show that’s ever been on Adult Swim!), and the staggering number of classic episodes it is responsible for (“Marge vs The Monorail!” “Homer at the Bat!” “Cape Feare!”). The “Golden Age” of The Simpsons is nearly a decade’s worth of sharp satire, breaking down every facet of American culture into hilarious, endlessly quotable, and sometimes even touching animated half-hours. Without The Simpsons, cartoons may have always been socially unacceptable for people over the age of 12 to watch. That an entire generation is growing up with a watered down, way-past-its-prime version of TV’s greatest dysfunctional cartoon family is a shame, but the first ten seasons of The Simpsons remain mandatory viewing for the pop culture fiends of the future.

Testify! 

27
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Lisa the Beauty Queen4

“Get yer haggis right here!  Chopped heart and lungs boiled in a wee sheep’s stomach!  Tastes as good as it sounds!” – Groundskeeper Willie

26
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes11

“Unckie Herb, what advice would you give to a boy who will most likely become a bum like yourself?” – Bart Simpson
“Discarded pizza boxes are an inexpensive source of cheese.” – Herb Powell

25
Jan
12

A Thoughtful (But Demonstrably Dumb) Defense of Zombie Simpsons

Lots of Hearsay and Conjecture

“Why do we need new bands?  Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974.  It’s a scientific fact.” – Homer Simpson

Back at the end of December, reader Brian sent in a link to a video at The Escapist modestly titled “The Simpsons Is Still Funny – Pt. 1”.  It’s about five minutes long, and you can view it at the link.  The second part, “The Simpsons Is Still Funny, Part 2”, came out a week later.  These are the kind of internet videos where there’s a fast talking voiceover accompanied by a series of pictures, memes and other low cost imagery.

These particular Zombie Simpsons defenses are narrated by a guy named Bob Chipman, who usually does movie videos.  Obviously I don’t agree that what FOX puts out on Sundays is still funny.  (I don’t even think it should be called “The Simpsons”.)  But Chipman makes some plausible but easily falsified assumptions that come up every once and a while, and they’re worth rebutting in detail.

The tagline of the first video is “The Simpsons isn’t bad, you just grew up”, and that’s a reasonably accurate summary of the video.  The Simpsons came out when Chipman was a kid, and he grew into an adult during the single digit seasons which are widely considered to be the best ones.  His basic theory is that since he and others like him became more sophisticated fans as the show was at its peak, people have a nostalgic need for those seasons to be remembered as the best ones.  Unlike He-Man, The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers (all of which he specifically invokes), The Simpsons was a childhood love that could still be loved by adolescents and adults without any of that icky irony.

I’m going to quote his conclusion at some length here (this begins at the 4:05 mark):

We might have moved on from thinking that cherry bombs and graffiti and “Ay Carumba” were the coolest things on Earth.  But now we could groove on, you know, incisive showbiz satire, everyday working class annoyances, and the existential ennui of being a smarty-pants trapped in a dumbed down world, all punctuated by a rotating staff of extremely talented comedy writers.  That was the real miracle of The Simpsons’ golden age, thanks largely to a parody of the bad-little-boy sitcom archetype briefly becoming an actual phenomenon with kids and winning a massive grade school audience for a show that was originally intended for an older, primetime viewership, it was able to become for those same kids one of the few precious entertainments of their childhood that was still just as awesome, if perhaps in a different way, as they grew up through their teens and into young adulthood.  That, my friends, is how something goes from being simply a good TV show to a full blown, unassailable pop culture institution.  And since the timeline of that quote-unquote “institutionalization” roughly coincides with the first nine to ten years of the series, guess which seasons tend to be remembered as “the best ones”?  So, yeah, from where I sit, that is how The Simpsons earned a legacy of such high standard that even The Simpsons couldn’t live up to it anymore.

The gist of all that is that The Simpsons simply isn’t as good as you remember it being, you just love it because you loved it as a kid and it’s still highly watchable now that you’re an adult.  The big, flashing problem with this is that most fans didn’t grow up with the show the same way he did.  He’s mistaking a very narrow age bracket of people as everyone.

This is all based on a wildly incorrect and myopically self centered assumption back at the 2:20 mark of the video:

“It seems to me that a certain majority of disappointed, hard core Simpsons fanatics are also, unsurprisingly, ground zero Generation 1 fans roughly in my relative age bracket.”

A “certain majority”?  Outside of Chipman’s immediate friends and acquaintances, is there any evidence for that rather narrow age restriction whatsoever?  He certainly doesn’t provide any, instead just assuming it to be true.  But it isn’t true.  In fact, it isn’t even remotely true.  Chipman was a kid when the show came out, so he probably knows a lot of other people who were kids when it came out too.  But the show, while popular with kids, was never just for kids.

That is all the more remarkable when you remember that there was a complete lack of adult animation at the time (at least in this country).  Before it even premiered, people knew kids would watch it.  After all, it was a cartoon and it was on at 8:00pm, the long protected “family hour”, when kids were expected to be watching television.  But adults latched on to it just as hard and as quickly.

To be sure, most of those adults were probably on the young side, members of that sweet, sweet 18-34 demographic.  But “Bartmania” wasn’t a children’s fad the way Pokemon would later be a children’s fad, or the way the Ninja Turtles and Transformers had been children’s fads a few years before.  It was a general cultural storm that encompassed not only kids, but millions of adults as well.  Two quick quotes from John Ortved’s book should serve to illustrate this.  Here’s current show writer Tim Long (p119):

“When the show started, I was a sophomore in university.  I remember thinking, This is the fasted, funniest show ever.  I cannot believe this show is on the air.  It just felt like a miracle.”

This was a common sentiment among people his age bracket, and he was born in 1969.  Ask a fan roughly Long’s age sometime and you’ll get stories about The Simpsons being something people watched in college bars or at home in groups.  During the early years of the show, new episodes were an event for a lot of people long past puberty.

Here’s Robert Cohen, who was a production assistant during the first couple of seasons (p120):

And for me in particular, the first “holy crap” moment was during the Hollywood Christmas parade, which is this dopey parade that goes down Hollywood Boulevard, and stars of yesteryear wave from convertibles; it’s this very weird parade.  It was the second season, and they’d asked the Simpsons to be in the parade, so they hired some dancers to put on costumes and Jay Kogen and I wore our Simpsons crew jackets.  We piled into this car called the Gracie-mobile, which was this big old El Dorado convertible painted with the Gracie logo.  The plan was that we would drive the Simpsons down the street in the parade.  When we pulled out on to the street and it was parade time – I was at the wheel – the people mobbed us to the point that the car could go only about twenty yards.  The sheriff’s department had to veer us outta there because it was like a riot.  And they weren’t interested in us.  They were interested in these actors in Simpsons costumes.  Obviously they weren’t even the real Simpsons.  That’s when I realized, Holy crap.  This thing’s outta control.  Because it was just hundreds of people mobbing stinky felt costumes that represented the show.  I knew the show was popular, but I didn’t realize how popular until that moment.

Those hundreds of people were not all ten year olds.  Moreover, right about the time those anonymous people in costumes were escaping that mob, this was on newsstands all over the country:

Time Magazine Cover (31 Dec 1990)

This was when the cover of Time was among the most important cultural markers in America, and it’s not about a children’s obsession, it’s “The Best of ’90”, period.

The Simpsons was never a kids show, so when Chipman compares people obsessing over its “golden age” to the way people have kitschy attachments to He-Man or Transformers, he’s conflating two very different things, his personal experience and that of the wider audience.  The idea that the show declined noticeably isn’t restricted to people born from roughly 1975 to 1985.  It’s a widely held opinion among people of disparate ages, and plenty of people followed the entire arc of the show from Season 1 to Season 9 or so as adults.  No pre-pubescent nostalgia is needed to say that the show has gone to hell.

As if to underscore how weak this argument is, the second video drops this concept completely.  It doesn’t support this contention and barely even mentions it.  Instead, it focuses on the way the culture and the media environment have changed around the show.  Chipman gets to his point quickly (1:00):

The Simpsons was an absurdist parody.  My contention, then, is that the reason it’s different now is less because the show itself has changed, but that the world around it has changed to the extent that almost everything it first existed to skewer, satirize and parody doesn’t exist anymore.

He continues from there to discuss how many of the situations parodied on The Simpsons were universally recognizable because there were only three networks and everyone was at least aware of the family sitcom tropes the show liked to make fun of.  Nowadays, with hundreds of channels and the bottomless pit of the internet fracturing the culture into a bunch of tiny niches, he thinks the show had to become an exaggerated parody of itself to survive.

The problem with this is that while there’s a superficial truth to it, it misses the fundamental aspects of American life The Simpsons got at.  The police on The Simpsons are fat, incompetent and often drunk on their own power.  Whatever the quality of your local force, that overall perception remains very much with us.  Springfield Elementary is perpetually underfunded and doesn’t do many of its kids a whole lot of good.  Sound familiar?  Corrupt local politicians, annoyingly pious neighbors, gossipy church ladies, and evil plutocrats are still a recognizable part of the American landscape.  Self help scams, niche conventions, and painfully dumb awards shows haven’t gone anywhere either.

While some of the concepts the show parodied have faded from memory, the basic take on American life remains amazingly current and relevant.  To say, as Chipman does, that the show has become “less vital and certainly less relatable” (4:40) simply because the media landscape has changed is to let Zombie Simpsons off the hook.  There have been plenty of vital and relatable shows (pick a critical darling from the last decade) that, while never reaching the level of fame The Simpsons reached, don’t come in for the same kind of routine criticism as Zombie Simpsons.  That’s because they aren’t dragging around twenty years of backstory, aren’t constantly repeating things they’ve done better in the past, and aren’t kept alive because FOX doesn’t want to risk a profitable timeslot on a flop.

More than just being a cop out, however, saying a show has to get away from what made it great to stay alive sounds more like a reason to take it off the air than keep it on the air.  There are any number of familiar examples of this, silent movie stars who couldn’t make the transition to sound, rim shot comedians in tuxedos who became dinosaurs after Lenny Bruce, hair metal bands embarrassed off the charts by grunge.  At some point, people stop caring about what you were doing, and if you can’t change sufficiently, then you’re going to become irrelevant, just as Zombie Simpsons has.

We can still appreciate classics from a bygone era.  Truly great books and movies often stay great, genuinely good music has a way of enduring, and those old seasons of The Simpsons have aged incredibly well because they still speak to so much of our lives.  But to keep doing what no one cares about anymore is the definition of malingering.

As always, this is somebody’s opinion and they’re perfectly entitled to it.  But the specific arguments Chipman is making here simply don’t hold water.  They’re riddled with factual inaccuracies, somewhat contradictory (so the show did change?), and generally sloppy.  Saying that people’s love of the original seasons is based on nostalgia may be true for a few individuals, but there’s no evidence for that among the general population of fans.  Saying that that the world evolved around it is true, but in no way changes the fact that plenty of other shows have found ways to not suck in the era of http.  Think Zombie Simpsons is funny all you want, but don’t try to back up your opinion with things that aren’t true and don’t make sense. 

25
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Brother From Another Series4

“You wanted to be Krusty’s sidekick since you were five!  What about the buffoon lessons?  The four years at clown college?” – Sideshow Bob
“I’ll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way!” – Cecil

24
Jan
12

“The Great Louse Detective” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Black Widower6

“This is one more Emmy than you’ll ever win you bantering jack-in-the-box!” – Sideshow Bob
“Just don’t drop that thing in the shower, Bob.” – Krusty the Klown
No talent shill!” – Sideshow Bob
Second banana!” – Krusty the Klown
Panderer!” – Sideshow Bob
Bore!” – Krusty the Klown

This was a very above-average commentary by the standards of Season 14. In this case it actually helped that they had a lot more guys than usual because there’s only a few times when no one’s talking at all. It also helps that this is a Sideshow Bob episode, which gives them plenty of excuses to bring up old episodes and other (mostly) unrelated stories. To be sure, there are still lots of tangents and the occasional moment where you can tell they aren’t real proud of what’s going on, but for the most part they did seem to enjoy both the episode and commenting on it.

The episode itself is still terrible, of course. It doesn’t make sense, involves a lot of bad slapstick and action, and tries to make up for that with unrelenting hyperactivity. This includes Sideshow Bob getting repeatedly electrocuted, a blatant piece of musical filler at the end, and lots of fake tension and suspense. The main plot concludes with a stilt chase because, you know, stilts.

Eleven (eventually twelve) guys on this one, including Castellaneta and Groening, the latter of whom might have said ten words the entire time.

0:35 – The whole idea here was for Sideshow Bob to not be the criminal. But it’s getting harder for them to come up with things for him that aren’t just “straight out murder”. There haven’t been a lot of Bob episodes since this one.

2:00 – David Silverman talks about how the original design of Bob was non-descript because he was just Krusty’s silent, background sidekick. Brad Bird spiced it up after hearing Kelsey Grammer’s voice for “Krusty Gets Busted”.

3:30 – Silence broken by uncomfortable laughter as Homer is in a steam room with a naked Rainier Wolfcastle.

4:30 – Here’s a perfect moment of Zombie Simpsons commentary. Jean invites Steven Dean Moore to talk about how he did the animation for the door of the sauna. While he’s doing that we see Homer’s badly desiccated body collapse out of the room. That part doesn’t get mentioned.

5:15 – Long silence here broken by a discussion of whether or not this is a real Sideshow Bob episode and how FOX often has slightly misleading ads for what the episode is about. The time they billed the episode as “The Simpsons are going Canada!” but only had about two minutes of Canada in it is mentioned as another example.

6:00 – Long tangential discussion about “Silence of the Lambs” and whether or not real criminals are used to catch other criminals like they’re doing here. This gets to other movies and prison snitches quickly.

6:40 – Long silence broken by Jean asking why Sideshow Bob’s skin is a lighter color. Nobody seems sure other than, “that’s probably how Brad did it”.

7:00 – Generic praise for Grammer as a guest voice.

7:30 – That leads to an interesting note from Silverman, that for “Black Widower” he added more mouth shapes for Bob because of Grammer’s nuanced pronunciation.

8:00 – And we’re off on a tangent about other guest voices and celebrities they’ve made fun of. The widow of Mr. Rogers apparently once ran into Jean and knew they’d made fun of her husband.

8:50 – They were still talking about Mrs. Rogers when someone broke in to talk about the episode (pointing out that they’re referencing “Krusty Gets Busted”) and it took them a second to stop interrupting each other. It was actually surprising that someone wanted to talk about what’s going on. Ha.

9:30 – Laughing about the first open appearance of Frank Grimes Jr., the real villain here.

10:10 – Jean: “The Simpsons are awfully friendly with a man who chased Bart around with a machete.” Meanwhile, Bart is needlessly electrocuting Bob.

10:30 – Guys keep laughing every time a character comes up and whacks a Homer dummy Bob set up. A lot of the time on things like this the laughter sounds nervous or forced, but they really seem to think this is hilarious. Can’t say I agree, but these are always better to listen to when they’re having fun.

11:15 – Boredom sets in again quickly though as someone wonders why Moe’s sometimes has a pool table and sometimes doesn’t.

12:30 – Not much is happening so they’re talking about the song at the end of this episode. These days they have a harder time getting song parodies cleared.

13:00 – I guess they got nominated for an Emmy with that song. Someone remembers peeing in the men’s room with Alf Clausen after they lost. It’s actually funny.

13:30 – Now it’s time for more Emmy tales. Apparently that year if you went to the bathroom they wouldn’t let you back into the auditorium.

14:40 – Tim Long just showed up, so that puts us to twelve guys.

15:15 – Homer’s on a parade float now, and they’re mentioning the usual difficulty of animating crowds.

15:50 – Now they’re talking about a crowd scene in the movie. Homer’s running people over on his parade float, but that doesn’t come up.

16:30 – Laughing about “The Museum of Swordfish”.

17:00 – Long silence as Bob, Duffman and the Duff Blimp save Homer.

17:40 – Interesting tidbit here as everyone’s ignoring the stupid chase scene that’s happening. They had a lot of trouble with pullouts (i.e. zooming back from a shot) when they switched to digital color because it made the thickness of the lines go screwy so it didn’t look like it was the same drawing. They prefer to do cuts.

18:15 – Silence broken when everyone laughs at Homer’s inability to remember Frank Grimes.

18:30 – They do a flashback to “Homer’s Enemy”, and talk a little about how you can see the difference between the animation from Season 8 to Season 14.

19:00 – Mostly silence here, with the brief mention of “Homer’s Enemy”.

19:30 – Now we’re back to more typical desultory laughter.

20:00 – Sideshow Bob’s trying to stab Bart now. Jean’s laughing because no matter how many of these they’ve done it never is the last one.

20:30 – And now they’re discussing the next Bob episode. Meanwhile, Bob is singing and no one’s paying attention.

21:30 – They’ve spent the last minute telling unrelated stories.

22:00 – The original ending was going to be Bob getting hit by rakes as he leaves the Simpsons’ yard. They decided against it.

22:20 – And we end on them joking about being in a sauna like at the beginning of the episode.

24
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Homer at the Bat5

“Wow!  How many home runs you gonna hit with that?” – Bart Simpson
“Let’s see, we play thirty games, ten at bats a game . . . three thousand.” – Homer Simpson

23
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Lisa the Greek11

“The happiest day of my life was three Sundays ago.  I was sitting on my Daddy’s knee when the Saints, who were four and a half point favorites but only up by three, kicked a meaningless field goal at the last second to cover the spread.” – Lisa Simpson
“Dear God.” – Ms. Hoover

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Lisa the Greek”!  Original airdate 23 January 1992.

22
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

Game Show Bribe

“Oh, very well, it’s time for your bribe.  Now, you can either have the washer and dryer where the lovely Smithers is standing, or you can trade it all in for what’s in this box.” – C.M. Burns
“The box, the box!” – Nuclear Inspector

21
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

The Homer They Fall2

“Well, sir, you more than meet every one of this state’s requirements to box, wrestle or be shot out of a cannon.” – Dr. Hibbert
“That’s what we get for living in a state founded by circus freaks.” – Marge Simpson

20
Jan
12

Reading Digest: One Word Off Edition

Lisa's Wedding11

In an odd coincidence, there are three pieces of excellent usage this week that are just one word away from being dead on.  Being my nitpicky self, I’ve added the correct words in, but all three still rate as excellent usage in my book.  In addition to that we’ve got lots of fan art, including a bunch of drawings of Homer and Marge as famous fashion people.  There’s also a couple of great YouTube videos, some love for Season 3 and 5, an unconvincing defense of Season 9’s most infamous episode, and lots of other stuff. 

Enjoy.

The Many D’ohs of Homer Simpson – This was linked in more places than you can count this week, and with good reason.  It’s every annoyed grunt from Seasons 1-20.  It is epic:

As a bonus, you can watch the show deteriorate before your eyes.  There’s a noticeable uptick in the horrendousness of Homer’s injuries and craziness of the situations as you get into the second half of the video.

Religious Anti-Ninja Turtle Propaganda from the Ancient World [Video] – One good four and a half minute YouTube deserves another, and this one is a doozy.  I’ll let Comics Alliance explain:

Canadian men in an early 1990s propaganda film decrying the original TMNT animated series, Vanilla Ice, Bart Simpson and other alleged evils of the ancient world.

These guys put the fun in fundamentalist dogma, but in more of a huggable Canadian way than in a fire-and-brimstone Billy Graham way.  Observe:

Mostly they’re mad at the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and this whole thing screams early 90s, but they do fit in two moments of Simpsons vitriol, both courtesy of a sweater clad guy who looks like Rowsdower’s wussy cousin.  At 1:30 he cites Bart’s prayer from “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” with disbelief that modern society allows such blasphemy on television.  Sadly the video is edited so the context is missing, but the general tone is perfectly funny on its own.

You’ve got to watch the video to really get it, but let’s just say that there’s more than hint of “prefers the company of men” to these guys, which makes this at 3:35 doubly hilarious:

Another cartoon character in the script that was a homosexual that became Homer’s secretary that was continually trying to seduce him.

Karl does a lot of things in that episode, even kiss Homer, but “continually trying to seduce him”?  I hope at least one of those guys made it out of the closet.

Defending The Simpsons’ "The Principal and the Pauper" – I saw this linked in a few places this week, but having read it I can comfortably stand by what I said last year.  That episode has so many plot twists and so much retconning that there just isn’t room for anything else in a mere twenty-two minutes.  For further evidence of this, consider that the linked article is a little over a thousand words, a quarter of them are spent just describing the plot of the episode.  Also, this is just not true:

The issue isn’t that people don’t find this episode funny. Some people may find that is the case, and given the subjective nature of comedy that is a reasonable argument.

How many quotable lines are there in that episode?  I doubt I could squeeze more than two or three Quote of the Day posts out of it.  Whether or not someone finds a joke funny is subjective, whether or not something is even trying to be funny is much less so.  There’s far more straight up exposition in that episode than there are gags, and that’s why I don’t buy Ken Keeler’s defense or this one.

Struggling with the question of belief? Homer Simpson’s got the answer – It’s our second week in a row with a link using Homer to illustrate the stupidity of Pascal’s Wager.  There’s more than a hint of freshman level theology here, but he (almost entirely) gets his quotes right:

I think we can safely conclude that the probability of a liberal God fascist – one who doesn’t mind which version of him you believe in, but if you don’t believe in him at all, he’ll let you rot in hell – is negligible. As Homer Simpson put it when arguing that he shouldn’t go to church: "Don’t you think the almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week?"

There’s a small nit to pick in that Homer actually says “think that the almighty”, but it continues:

If, on the other hand, it matters which God you believe in, it’s because there are certain important rewards of belief that you will not receive if you don’t believe in the right one, or punishments for failing to believe correctly. But even Homer Simpson can see the problem with this: "What if we’ve picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder?" Choosing the wrong God might be worse than believing in none at all.

That quote is dead on, so I’m calling that the rare double excellent usage.

A Conversation with Mike Reiss: One of The Simpsons’ Original Writers Sits Down with Discord – Pretty much what it says.  There isn’t a whole lot of new information here, but Reiss is always good for a laugh or two.  I did get an enjoyable sarcastic eye roll out of this:

J: So, final question, back to The Simpsons, I always wanted to ask, why did Bart’s ‘bad boy’ persona change as seasons went on?

M: We almost ran out of ideas for Bart. We just couldn’t relate to him. We were all more like Lisa in those days. Then we grew up, and all of a sudden we were Homer.

Hello, Smithers! Gizmodo likens SOPA to Mr. Burns – A screen grab a nice little writeup of Gizmodo’s banner on Wednesday.

Lisa Simpson <3 – Image of Lisa with the text of her epic “rich husband” rant from “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy”.  Except for missing the word “anything” between “be” and “more” on the second line the quote is dead on.

Xbox Live Achievements for The Simpsons Arcade Game uncovered – There are ten of these, and while I’m not sure about “easier than arm wrestling”, the ones that are specific references come from Season 10 or earlier.  Just sayin’.

The Simpsons did it. They’ve done everything. – Turns out that “Lisa the Greek” correctly called the 3rd quarter score of last week’s Denver-New England game.

White pranks youth on new show – Another quote off by one word:

As occurs with most things in life, the new series Betty White’s Off Their Rockers brought to mind a quote from The Simpsons.

Homer, speaking to his father (universally known as Grandpa), adopted a sugary sweet tone as he said, "Dad, you’ve done a lot of great things. But you’re a very old man, and old people are useless."

Homer says “very old man now”.  Oh well, still excellent usage.

‘Beauty And The Beast’ Returns And Enchants, Even In Unneeded 3-D – Heh:

Besides, there are kids out there who don’t even know where Mr. Burns’ "See My Vest" number on The Simpsons came from. And they really should.

Don’t forget The Critic!  Though I’d guess lots more kids know “See My Vest” than “Beauty and King Dork”.

Marge Simpson and Homer Simpson. Diane Pernet and Karl Lagerfeld – A blog called Humor Chic, which I’ve linked before, went off this week drawing Simpsons characters like famous fashion people.  I can’t comment on the accuracy of these as I only recognize half the names and have no idea what these people look like, but here’s the full spread of links:

Bravo.

Bart and Lisa – Bart and Lisa Simpson Photo (28324403) – Fan made drawing of Bart wrecking Lisa’s snowman.

Ned Flanders by ~MrsLemmy on deviantART – Yet another fan made drawing, this time of Flanders looking quite butch after he rakes up some leaves.

The Simpsons Fan Art – Fantastic collection of fan made stuff.  I’ve seen some of them before, but there are a lot of new and good ones as well.  (via)

Apu – I chuckled.

NailArt and things: Pink Love and Bart Simpson – A shirt with a fan painted image of Bart peering around a corner.  Cool.

The Simpsons season 3 review – A glowing review of Season 3:

I would give this season a 10 out of 10 due to the fact that it doesn’t matter how many times you watch these episodes they never get old and its worth remembering that they were brought in 1992 and are still funny to this day.

I was listening to an Oakley & Weinstein commentary a month or so ago, and they said they thought Season 3 was the best one.

Bong Of The Day: Bart Bong – I think we can safely say that this does not fall under the Krusty Brand Seal of Approval:

This awesome Bart Bong from Excellent Pipes is pretty sweet, the Bart Simpson bowl is blown with 24ct. gold fumed glass!! It has a cool twist in the tube that act as an ice catcher to cool down your hits. I love the big rounded bowl shape that the base of this bong has.

You can buy a lot of weed for the price of a bong like that. 

Broken Hill Statue Totally Looks Like Homer Simpson – Yeah, kinda.

D’oh, A Simpsons Marathon Challenge – This is a very nice writeup of that stupid marathon FOX is doing to promote the 500th episode, and it doesn’t mention anything past Season 7.

Friday Five: Five Favorite Rolling Stone Covers – The ones with the family drawn as Bruce Springsteen, Nirvana and the Beatles make #1 here.

‘The Simpsons’ approaching 500th episode – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us:

We’ve been watching a lot of episodes of “The Simpsons” in my household lately. Not new episodes, but classics from old DVD collections.

My son has discovered the show and is currently obsessively watching the fifth season which, I’m startled to realize, aired several years before he was born.

I haven’t watched “The Simpsons” in years. As I’ve noted previously in this blog, I think the show ran out of steam somewhere around the 10th season. The few episodes I’ve seen in the past decade seemed cheap and obvious.

The fifth season, currently in “play all” mode at my house, was a whole different story.

Got that right.  It concludes:

The show’s 500th episode is set to air Feb. 19 and I might tune in. I want to enjoy the show like I did when acid-washed jeans were all the rage. I’m afraid both are cultural icons whose time has passed, though.

Yeah.

20
Jan
12

Quote of the Day

The Old Man and the Lisa7

“Hey, aren’t you that guy everybody hates?” – Barney
“Oh my, no.  I’m Monty Burns.” – C.M. Burns

19
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: The D’oh-cial Network

Radio Bart12

“I’m here for my free birthday sundae.” – Bart Simpson
“Eat it and get out.” – Phineas Q. Butterfat Clerk

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 “Jeeves”).

It wasn’t worth doing an entire post about, but there was one scene in “The D’oh-cial Network” that I thought perfectly illustrated the gaping philosophical and humor differences between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons. During that extended bunch of set pieces at the mall, Homer takes a gift card into “Cinnabun”. Note that, per standard Zombie Simpsons operating procedure, this is just a slight misspelling of a real place, not an actual parody.

You Can't Buy This Kind of Publicity

I hope they got some complimentary pastries in exchange for that kind of free advertising.

Once inside, Homer walks up to the Squeaky Voiced Teen, hands him the card, and tells him to just start rolling the giant confection into his mouth. The kid complies, drawing the blinds and closing down the entire store while Homer sucks this thing down.

Hell Labs Franchise

I never get service like this when I redeem a gift card.

Set aside the fact that The Simpsons did this exact thing with the Ironic Punishment Division in “Treehouse of Horror IV”, it’s also eerily reminiscent of Bart’s free birthday sundae in “Radio Bart”. Both scenes have the character come in and expect free goodies. What makes it eerie is the way you almost couldn’t draw up a better example of the world spanning differences between the philosophy and humor of The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.

Zombie Simpsons has Homer go to a thinly veiled real store and get treated like a VIP. Not only does he get exactly what he asks for, but the clerk even closes the store so he can gorge himself in private. (Remember, this is the man who once exhorted his wife to not be ashamed while he was being used as a freak show attraction for an all you can eat seafood buffet.) The only joke is that Homer is fat.

The Simpsons has Bart go to a store they made up whole cloth. It isn’t an advertisement for a real chain, it’s a rather mean satire about the fake nostalgia and dishonest advertising real ice cream stores employ.

Radio Bart11

Everything implied or stated is either misleading or an outright lie.  That’s funny.

When Bart gets there, he isn’t treated like a star; he’s treated like an unwanted moocher. The birthday sundae is pitifully tiny, the guy behind the counter is a jerk to him, and there isn’t so much as a whiff of the old time whimsy the coupon promised. Phineas Q. Butterfat and his brand of wholesome fun are all lies. It’s just a crappy ice cream place with surly employees and tiny portions.

The Simpsons sees a world that kinda sucks, in which you will get lied to and yelled at and are treated poorly. Zombie Simpsons sees a world that’s awesome, in which perfect strangers will treat you like royalty and carry out your every desire, and if they can throw in a nice mention for a real store in the process, why not? It’s not like they’re here to satirize anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get to the depressing task at hand?

Mad Jon: Yeah, I was hoping you would forget that we had to do this, but let’s go for it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I haven’t been drinking that much.

Mad Jon: Maybe a slight electrocution or something, I dunno.

  Not enough to kill you, just to kill some of your short term memory

Charlie Sweatpants: If my short term memory had been injured, I might have enjoyed this episode.

Mad Jon: Doubtful.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, some kind of brain damage anyway.

Mad Jon: Was this the first time that there was a nameable person actually in the couch gag?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe?

  One wonder’s why Letterman went for it. Boredom, I suppose.

Mad Jon: I haven’t watched Letterman in years, has it gotten that hard to get late night ratings that he needs the ~ 4 million Zombie Simpson viewers to help him out?

Also, it seemed like this episode decided to forgo the normal activity that leads to the plot line, and just dove right into it.

  And by ‘it’ I mean the 4/5ths of the episode that was a flashback.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know if I should give them credit for having the lawyer make that joke about the opening being unrelated, or if it should aggravate me because it means they’re perfectly content to waste their time and mine.

Mad Jon: Why bother sugar coating it if you don’t care how the person feels about the taste?

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that. I’d add that the outdoor mall thing is yet another example of the wealthy-Southern-California setting they seem intent on inserting into every third episode or so.

  It’s nice that you get to shop at places that take their decor from Disneyland’s Main Street USA, but the rest of us don’t give a fuck.

Mad Jon: Yeah, we got one of those around here, but I can tell you that there aren’t any upper-lower middle class families shopping there with gift cards.

And the condos there cost more than my house.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. I pine for a day when Lenny, a blue collar bachelor if ever there was one, begged Marge not to tell people how he lived.

Mad Jon: I was just about to ask if you remember the difference between a Lenny begging Marge not to tell people how he lives and a Lenny begging the Simpson family to spend time with him.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, I do. And scenes like that weird and kinda Pedobear thing with Lenny and the dolls make it impossible not to remember.

Mad Jon: That was tragic if nothing else.

Charlie Sweatpants: And creepy.

Mad Jon: Very much so.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though that was before Otto rode a greased up Bart like a skateboard.

Mad Jon: Also, did you feel as depressed as I did watching the McBain scene? That was bad even for a character that hasn’t had a meaningful presence in a decade.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was terrible. It’s a mark of how low the show has fallen that they can’t even kick Schwarzenegger when he’s down.

Mad Jon: Well, luckily this scene led to Lisa being shunned by her friends so the writers could copy a movie that I’ve never seen.

Charlie Sweatpants: A copy would’ve been an improvement.

Mad Jon: I just assumed. Like I said, I didn’t see the movie, so I have no idea.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, they tried to copy it. But nobody told them that just recreating a scene or two and putting in the same music wouldn’t get them all the way home.

  I bitched about this in Compare & Contrast, but I don’t think a single plot point in this episode actually made sense.

Mad Jon: Yes indeed.

Most of the rest of my notes are things like "nothings happening, nothings happening" "Homer and Grandpa argue for a while", "Skinner and Chalmers are talking" and "It’s over, everyone looks pissed"

Charlie Sweatpants: Lisa signs on to a Springfield school chat site that already fucking exists, and that . . . what? . . . inspires her to create a Facebook clone because huh?

Mad Jon: Yeah the using the social site to make a social site was a quick way in.

Charlie Sweatpants: And apparently she doesn’t have a computer, and Facebook doesn’t exist there, and smart phones are all new, and no one’s ever used text messaging before.

The episode assumes that you both get the reference and have no idea what it is. It’s really annoying.

Mad Jon: I think what gets me the most is that, again, 4/5 of the episode is a flashback that leads to the last 1/5 which is pretty much just a reason to play the bad Radiohead cover that is, I assume, related to the movie whose preview I saw that had the same music. Then it ends 2 minutes early.

Charlie Sweatpants: Not a bad summation.

Mad Jon: You were willing to stuff the first 20 minutes with crap that was not only non-relative, but on-running and not funny, are you telling me you couldn’t keep going for another 120 seconds? Did you not cut anything out of this episode?

Charlie Sweatpants: That was another thing I bitched about in Compare & Contrast. They jump from one item to another with no connection whatsoever, and that was after they took until nine minutes into the episode to start the A-plot.

Mad Jon: Again indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: At least show us why this thing is so popular, or why Lisa created it after seemingly being happy on an already existing site. They do none of that.

I mean, they couldn’t even squeeze in a joke about why "SpringFace" was so popular only in Springfield.

Mad Jon: Well, I assume that just like their TV stations, the Springfield internet only works in Springfield.

Charlie Sweatpants: I suspect that’s more thought than the writers put into it.

Mad Jon: I am sure you are right.

I guess 1000 friends for Lisa is equivalent to 500 million for Zuckerberg.

Charlie Sweatpants: She would know, she talked to him last season.

Mad Jon: Jebus I forgot about that.

Then again, I don’t think I could give you more than 2 or 3 coherent recaps of last season, let alone a list of guest stars.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the kind of short term memory loss I’m envious of.

Mad Jon: Drink more, my friend. Drink more.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, indeed.

What bugged me more here was the way that people glommed onto "SpringFace" for no reason. Skinner got upset that Bart – BART! – unfriended him. Marge was totally cool with Homer driving and looking at his phone. Lovejoy just threw in the towel and starting using his phone during church.

Lovejoy actually says "If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em", and then goes all random internet. At the very least he could’ve used "SpringFace" to connect with the people who weren’t looking at him.

What is the point of having a website that everyone in town is using to communicate with one another if you never – not once – use it to show people communicating with one another?

Mad Jon: Yep, good point.

Lovejoy could have posted his sermon, or you know, been Lovejoy and hit the "Bird Button" to get people to listen to him.

I am sure that not having anything resemble Facebook was part of the deal or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’d have been better, but, again, that would require far more thought than they put into this.

Any other specific lowlights?

Mad Jon: I didn’t understand the Olympic crew scene, but I assume that was because I didn’t watch the movie.

  I didn’t understand the strangely animated short at the end, but that should have never happened anyway.

  So specifically, no.

Charlie Sweatpants: The rowing thing was indeed from the movie. Zuckerberg got sued by a couple of crew team blue bloods who thought he stole their idea. The guy who played them in the movie did the voice.

Mad Jon:   Oh wait.

I was going to point out that the "Ask Jeeves" thing made me chuckle as he walked out of the court pew, until they kept going of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought the same thing.

Mad Jon: Ok, the crew thing makes slightly more sense then. Did they actually get $65 million or whatever to add to their already existent fortune?

Nevermind, I don’t care.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think so. I don’t care enough to know the actual history of Facebook, and while the movie was better than I was expecting, I don’t think it had all that much to do with the actual history of Facebook either.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: For specific lowlights, I’ve got three. In no particular order, there was the Homer-hitting-Moleman-with-his-car thing, which was really dumb, but actually better on the commercials that were airing during the Giants-Packers game because there they cut out the extended car crash that piles up behind Homer. It took longer and was dumber in the episode.

Mad Jon: When that happened I thought that was why they were in court….

Charlie Sweatpants: There was also Brandine lighting up her meth pipe in court. Is that even a joke? If a bailiff had looked at her and shrugged, then maybe it’s a joke. As it happened, I don’t know what that was supposed to be other than "Methamphetamine, hurr hurr".

Mad Jon: So it’s come to this….

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah.

Mad Jon: The third?

Charlie Sweatpants: The Nelson/Angry Birds thing. They made the exact same joke outside of the electronics show earlier this season. They repeated a joke from about five episodes ago, and the first time wasn’t that good to start with.

Mad Jon: Excellent.

In fact it was so unmemorable the first time that I don’t remember it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d forgotten about it until this. Upon seeing it, I almost didn’t believe it. That’s some seriously hacktacular crap right there. That joke was two years out of date the first time.

Mad Jon: …Probably should have said unmemorable or something. But I am several beers past caring about my grammar in this chat room.

  But you are right. I think I finished that game about 18 months ago, and they have so many ‘holiday versions’ that I don’t even bother playing anymore.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else? I’m perfectly content to end on video game apathy.

Mad Jon: Apathetic is our calling card.

Charlie Sweatpants: This site’s word count would argue against that, but in general, yes.

Mad Jon: Touche Pants. But that is mainly your fault.

Charlie Sweatpants: Meh.




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