Archive for February, 2012

29
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Animation Plagiarism

(Image sources: Honeymooners, Flintstones, Phil Silvers (Bilko), Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear, Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney)

“Okay, maybe my dad did steal Itchy, but so what?  Animation is built on plagiarism!  If it weren’t for someone plagiarizing ‘The Honeymooners’, we wouldn’t have ‘The Flintstones’.  If someone hadn’t ripped of ‘Sgt. Bilko’, there’d be no ‘Top Cat’!  Huckleberry Hound, Chief Wiggum, Yogi Bear?  Ha!  Andy Griffith, Edward G. Robinson, Art Carney.  Your honor, you take away our right to steal ideas, where are they gonna come from?” – Roger Meyers Jr.

Happy (real) Birthday Alex Rocco!

28
Feb
12

“Separate Vocations” Spews Truth

Separate Vocations10

“Looks like you just bought yourself a lottery ticket, to jail!” – Chief Wiggum
“He’s unconscious, sir.” – Lou
“Ah, they can still hear things.” – Chief Wiggum

This post was originally going to go up yesterday for the 20th anniversary of this episode’s first broadcast, but about halfway through I noticed that there was a “hidden” audio track that turned out to be a one man commentary from Al Jean.  (Side note: Dear DVD people, drop the “easter egg” crap, will ya?  Just like hidden tracks on CDs, the game is up.  You can’t hide anything from modern media software.)  Apparently Jean’s basement flooded and he missed the original recording, so he came back in for a solo make up session.  I didn’t have time to do the second commentary track yesterday, so I figured, it’s already been 7,305 days, what’s a 7,306th? 

Jean says some interesting things, but through a lot of it he just sounds crushingly lonely.  The whole time he was talking all I could picture was this:

Homer Defined5

Not pictured: Mike Reiss

Just four guys here, Groening, Vitti, Reiss and Silverman.  Jean’s comments from the other track are interspersed in bold

1:30 – Lots of praise for George Meyer, who didn’t want to do commentary here.  Mostly it’s the usual stuff about how he doesn’t write many episodes because they needed him in the rewrite room.  This episode was all but final when he turned in his script.  The whole testing sequence is apparently there pretty much as is. 

1:50 – Jean points out that most of the writers were pretty good test takers, and this kind of thing was something they were used to doing.

2:30 – Jean mentions how Iowa was where these standardized tests came from, and I can vouch for that.  I was taking tests like this at the time this episode was made, and all of them were from “Iowa Testing” or whatever.  We all thought it was weird, but I loved that it was made fun of in this episode.

3:20 – The sight of Dr. J Loren Pryor prompts them to credit Vitti with the name.

3:50 – Someone took a vocational test that said he was going to be a librarian.  Couldn’t tell who, but I think it was Reiss.

4:40 – The little piece of music Lisa plays for the devastating music teacher was apparently an Alf Clausen original.

5:15 – Everyone laughs at “you know, devastating”.

5:15 – Jean mentions that they’ve had to resort to using tapes of actual crappy school bands to get the effect right sometimes because the pros just can’t play that poorly.

5:45 – Joking that they never know which one is Lou or Eddie leads to someone mentioning that Lou’s voice was sort of a Sylvester Stallone impression.

6:15 – Everyone’s pleased they got away with “polling the electorate” as a “nice dirty joke”. 

7:00 – As Snake goes speeding by, Silverman mentions how they aren’t just parodying one movie here, they’re going for every action movie cliche they can.

7:40 – Apparently Clausen actually worked on some cop shows in the 1970s and 80s, so the chase music was something he knew.

7:45 – People have always loved the milk truck exploding.

7:55 – And “Damn boxes!”.  As someone says, it’s “always empty boxes”.

8:00 – Jean mentions that if they’d done this episode today (circa Season 15), they’d have Wiggum in the car and give him a lot of lines.  But at this point, “We were still trying to maintain the fiction that the chief of police didn’t go out on every call, and you didn’t see him in every shot where you’d have the cops.”

8:20 – Generic compliments for the angles and lighting as the cops search for Snake.

8:40 – When we come back for “Death drives a stick”, someone compliments Shearer on his “Quinn Martin voice”.  This sends me to Wikipedia where I found out that Quinn Martin:

was one of the most successful American television producers. He had at least one television series running in prime time for 21 straight years (from 1959 to 1980), an industry record.

I learned something today.

8:45 – Jean’s making fun of all the old Quinn Martin shows, and how “pompous” and repetitive they were.

9:05 – Saying that Wiggum’s voice isn’t quite the one we know.  I’d disagree with that.  It’s pretty well Edward G. Robinson by now. 

9:40 – Mentioning how the layout artists had some fun with Bart and Lisa switching roles and doing things they normally don’t do.

10:20 – Everyone chuckles at the pictures of Homer stuffing himself into the cake.

10:45 – Talking about how cute flashback astronaut Marge is, how she really does look and pose like a little girl.

11:20 – The flashback leads Groening to mention how he pitched a show to FOX about doing Homer at various ages.  They didn’t bite, which leads to some quick jokes about how all they do are crappy reality shows which someone mocks as “how many midgets they can fit inside an elephant”. 

11:30 – Jean mentions how the Skinner-Vietnam thing got started here as a throwaway.  They didn’t sit down and plan things out for characters, things just sort of evolved based on what worked.  Again, I would like to point out that this isn’t something Zombie Simpsons does.  When was the last time they added to what we know about a character without it being some horrible retcon? 

12:10 – Compliments for the shot of Skinner with the desecrated puma.  Someone wonders if this was the line that set him up as a traumatized Vietnam vet.

13:20 – Groening recalls that a lot of the older writers were really geeked to have Steve Allen on as a guest voice, Swartzwelder in particular.  Apparently it took nine takes to get “Ay Carumba” out of him.  He kept making it sound Spanish.

13:20 – Apparently before he died Steve Allen went on a bit of a crusade against television crudity, and cited The Simpsons specifically.  I couldn’t find any details with a quick search though. 

14:15 – Apparently the blue dot over his face was taken from a rape trial one of the Kennedys was involved with. 

15:00 – Someone’s trying to remember if the bad girls in the bathroom reoccurred.  They don’t think so (I can’t think of anything either). 

15:20 – They’re chuckling at “Laramie Jr.” cigarettes, and how they always get letters when they show smoking.

16:00 – Laughing at all the crap in the seized property room.

16:50 – Laughing at Mr. Glasscock when Reiss fails to explain the joke.

16:50 – Jean thinks Mr. Glasscock was a teacher Reiss had, and that’s how they got it by the censor, by telling them that it was a real name.

17:30 – Neat story here about Ralph and how he wasn’t quite the world beating moron that he’d later become.  Reiss then mentions that it wasn’t until the next season in “I Love Lisa” that they made Ralph Chief Wiggum’s kid, and they only did it to flesh out the story a little because it was running short.  That leads to a longer discussion of Ralph and how he’s dumb, but he’s also got that blissful enthusiasm about things.  They don’t say this, but little evolutions in the characters like that are one of the things that helped the show.  These days everyone’s a caricature of a caricature of something they used to be.

18:00 – Jean’s very complimentary about chalk dust and cigarette smoke as transparency effects that look really good and were much better than they could do in Season 1.

19:20 – They’re enjoying the battering ram here. 

19:40 – Groening says the headshot of Bart (where it looks like a logo and zooms in and out) looks very “video-y”.  Apparently they pulled a frame of Bart’s head on and spun a picture of a police car to get the effect. 

20:00 – Noting all the dramatic angles (and ripped off Beverly Hills Cop theme) as they search the lockers.

20:20 – Interesting animation note here.  You know how in cartoons if you’ve got a lot of one object (say, lockers) and one of them is going to move, it’s always a different color?  Apparently that’s an artifact of cell depth.  The one that’s going to move is on a different layer when they film it, and even though the cell is transparent, there’s a very slight color to it, so things that are on different layers, even if they’re painted with the exact same color, appear differently.  You can compensate by mixing the paint differently, but it still happens, apparently more with darker colors than lighter ones.

21:50 – Happy to have the nice ending that’s both sweet (Bart sticking up for Lisa) and a joke (mooching money). 

22:30 – Groening rhetorically asks what Meyer would’ve thought.  Someone replies that he would’ve said, “If this made one child hate the police, it was worth doing”.  Ha.

28
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1e

“Why is it when I heard the word ‘school’ and the word ‘exploded’ I immediately thought of the word ‘Skinner’!?” – Superintendent Chalmers

27
Feb
12

Bonus Quote of the Day

Marge Gets a Job7

“Now, Marge, just remember, if something goes wrong at the plant, blame the guy who can’t speak English.  Ah, Tibor, how many times have you saved my butt?” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday Bill Oakley!

27
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Separate Vocations9

“Bart, the school is a police state.  Students are afraid to sneeze, and I have you to thank.” – Principal Skinner

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Separate Vocations”!  Original airdate 27 February 1992.

26
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Bart After Dark8

“Let us give no more scrutiny to this bawdy house and its small clientele of loyal perverts.” – Mayor Quimby
“Oh, I’m afraid this problem goes far beyond Eugene and Rusty.” – Reverend Lovejoy

25
Feb
12

More of a Good Thing

Flaming Moe's8

All these years later, people still love watching The Simpsons.  I’m not internet-omniscient or anything, so I don’t actually know if this is more or less prevalent than for any other old television program, but earlier this week I came across another blog dedicated to rewatching the show.  (500) Days of Homer popped up one week ago, and is currently through the first five episodes.  The about page explains:

The idea was born while I was reading countless articles about the huge 500-episode milestone that The Simpsons is hitting. As I read, I realized that I’d only seen maybe a handful of those episodes. Being a person that lives for pop culture, this was a criminal oversight that I needed to fix.

So, in a typical over-reaction, I declared that I’d watch the entire series, from the beginning, one episode a day. I’d then write about each episode, every single day, until I was caught up with the show. Conveniently, the quest will take about 500 days, give or take however many new episodes air between now and July 2013. This is by far the stupidest thing I’ve gotten myself into, but I plan on going through with it. I may soon hate myself for giving myself at least 500 writing assignments, but hopefully I’ll truly understand one of the most important pieces of American culture by the end.

I’d strongly recommend tapering off around Season 10 or so, you can skip around from there and not miss much of anything, but this is the internet and everyone gets to do what they want.  So far though, this one is going very well.  From the post on “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”:

Perhaps that’s why, even more than its live-action counterparts, The Simpsons hit a nerve that revealed deep insecurities in the population. Despite the creative team not quite knowing its characters completely (this episode is full of strange character work—Marge being drunk, Mr. Burns welcoming his workers, Homer being embarrassed by everyone else), they put honesty over consistency. Without that prioritization, the show would have never become what we know it as.

It would have just been another cartoon.

Indeed.  The honesty of Season 1 is one of its most durable features.  Good luck, Hunter Phillips, I hope you keep it up.

On another “watch them all” blog, our old friend Mike Amato has gotten to “The Principal and the Pauper”.  I would like to heartily agree with all of this:

I can sort of understand what they’re going for in the third act. We see the real Skinner in action, and he’s just out of touch enough with the rest of the characters that they’d feel uneasy about him and want the old Skinner back. But what did he do so wrong? As a man who was a POW for decades, he took mild offense to Bart’s warped version of the pledge. And he borrows his mother’s car. We gotta get this guy the fuck out of here; I guess that’s the point, that the characters are quick to act to get rid of this mild shake-up in their daily lives. The whole story is just so bloated and large that the final act feels so rushed and rash.

Exactly.  They had to cut so many corners to cram that story in to twenty-two minutes that not only was there hardly any room for humor, there wasn’t even enough time to make it work.  Continuing:

Now I can’t besmirch Keeler; the man’s written some of the best episodes of Futurama, so he’s pretty skilled with a pen. But I will say if the aim here was to make a meta episode, they certainly kept it to themselves. Everything in the episode is handled so seriously, with dramatic music cues and scenes of serious dialogue. There’s no real wink to the audience; call back to “Poochie” where Roy shows up to spice up the show, but there’s nothing like that here.

Again, those are exactly my sentiments.  I can see how that originated as a way to mock the audience for taking a cartoon character too seriously, but they just didn’t have time to get that idea into the episode. 

Read Mike’s whole post, and check out (500) Days of Homer.  While we’re at it, maybe we can even get Drunk Rambles going again.  Mark left off with “Life On the Fast Lane” and hasn’t updated in a while, but he did a great job of illustrating his points with screen grabs, and it’d be cool if he kept going. 

25
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Molder-Matic

Image shamelessly yoinked from here.

“Asa Phelps spent his entire life in Springfield, except for four years service in World War II and one high school day trip.  He worked at the United Strut and Bracing Works as a molder’s boy, until he was replaced by a molder-matic and died.” – Reverend Lovejoy

24
Feb
12

Reading Digest: Still Digesting Edition

'Round Springfield7

“Oh look, here comes Lumpy, the school snake!” – Principal Skinner

The huge spike in on-line chatter leading up to last week’s forgettably indifferent episode of Zombie Simpsons didn’t subside when the credits rolled, so this week’s Reading Digest is just as gargantuan as last week’s.  Once again there was just too damn much going on at once to digest (as it were).  Below you’ll find a few more “500 yay!” type articles and, just like last week, they are an implicit statement about just how very little people care about Zombie Simpsons.  There’s also lots of stuff about Groening, Hank Azaria’s favorite episode, an awesome Georges Seurat-Simpsons mashup, plenty of excellent usage, a new video game, and a ton of great YouTube.

Enjoy.

‘The Simpsons’ Had A Message for Fans Last Night – I put Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week up on Twitter yesterday because even though this video is nearly four years old, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.  And it is eleventeen kinds of awesome:

Bravo.

‘The Simpsons': Q&A with Matt Groening on reaching 500 episodes – Reason number five million to love Matt Groening:

On Valentine’s Day you’re getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In my previous life working for the Los Angeles Reader, I used to type up the calendar section, and any time any celebrity would get a star on Hollywood Boulevard I would type up the press release. But as an investigative journalist I would actually drive to the address where the star was going to be, and I would note what store it was in front of and write, say, "Curly Joe DeRita is receiving his star in front of the Pussycat Theater," or whatever it was — Joe’s Bong Shop. And I remember getting calls saying, "Please don’t. Please don’t put what stores are at these addresses."

Ha!  And, from the same interview, an (apparently un-ironic) discussion of that computer animated Tintin movie:

Also, for me, as a viewer, perfection is unengaging. And when you see things that are physically impossible, there’s so much physically impossible imagery that can be thrown at you before you stop caring.

Mr. Groening, please call your office.

The Sunday Intertitle: Give Chase a Chance – Apparently, when Selma imagines what her kids by Hans Moleman would be like in “Selma’s Choice”, it was based off an old silent movie where a guy imagines what his family would look like if he married a woman with a wooden leg.  I did not know that.  Cool.

Real Geeks Dine At A Periodic Table Table – A guy named Theo Gray has a wooden table of the periodic table:

You can catch a glimpse of Homer etched into a silicon disc at the 3:45 mark.  It’s in a case with a bunch of other odd samples, which he introduces by saying, “There’s a bunch of stuff in here.  It’s not terribly well organized.”  I love it when chemistry geeks aren’t “terribly well organized”.  That makes things more fun.

Alison Krauss covers The Simpsons theme – Earlier this week I said I liked the rendition of the theme that was done over the closing credits of “At Long Last Leave”.  Turns out it was Alison Krauss:

I somehow missed that in all the 500th hype.

FILTER Magazine Celebrates The Simpsons 500th Episode – There’s an excerpt of an interview with Groening here, but the real treat is the cover image, which is a way cool drawing of a pissed off Homer getting yellow paint all over himself.

The Simpsons’ 500th Episode…In 10 Words – Yeah, but I don’t have a Nielsen box so it didn’t help them.

E o carnaval espanhol? – This is in Spanish, so I’m not sure, but I think it’s pictures taken at a street carnival in Madrid.  I can’t decide which is more terrifying, the Smurfs costumes or the Simpsons ones.

Muppet Show Alfabesi! – I’ve linked Simpsons related picture alphabets before, but not this one.  Some of the faces are a little disturbing, but I like Marge’s hair billowing all the way up to Homer.

The Simpsons – a tale of love and pain – A longtime fan relates a long time spent with the show, though years and continents.  Aww.

the simpsons @ 500 – I couldn’t find a link to the original artist, but click through for an amazing rendition of “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand-Jatte” with Simpsons characters.  I don’t think I’ve never seen this before, but it is sweet.

Behind the Scenes of the THR’s ‘Simpsons’ Cover Shoot – Speaking of cover images, this is a promotional video from The Hollywood Reporter that’s one half them putting together their cover, and one half David Silverman giving a tour of the studios.

At the 3:30 mark you can see a FOX guy working on one of those Wacom tablets.  He clearly knows what he’s doing, but the computer is also clearly smoothing things out for him as he draws.

YouTube HOF: Best. Simpsons. Moments. Ever. – The writers at Grantland pick some favorite Simpsons moments.  There’s a lot of good YouTube here, and the only thing even remotely from Zombie Simpsons is sexy Flanders from Season 11.

Comparing Each NFL Team to a Character from the Simpsons – Meh.

Love, Death and Bananas: The Early Woody Allen – A long article about Woody Allen twice references Flanders:

There’s a line in an episode of The Simpsons that I believe encapsulates many people’s feelings toward Woody Allen (those who know who he is): during a dinner party, Ned Flanders confesses, “You know, I like his films, except for that nervous fellow that’s always in them.”

Excellent usage.

‘The Simpsons': It turns out your favorite episode was … about 100 episodes. None of them, uh, hit a homer, but all of them were hits – Yet another reader survey turns into an implicit rejection of Zombie Simpsons.  This one’s from Oregon.

Doug Webb, Ehud Asherie – The guy who does Lisa’s saxophone parts in the opening just put out a new album.

500 Days of Simpsons – Our friend The Byronic Man lists a bunch of old favorites and asks his readers for their suggestions.  As you’d imagine, Zombie Simpsons is thin to non-existent amid all the hilarity.

23 Seasons of The Simpsons, 23 Favorite Episodes – Denise picks a favorite from all 23 seasons.  That looks exhausting.

‘Simpsons’ celebrates 500th episode – Apparently Hank Azaria’s favorite episode is “Homer’s Enemy”.  I saw a lot of love for that one over the last couple of weeks.

The Making Of "Homer At The Bat," The Episode That Conquered Prime Time 20 Years Ago Tonight – A fantastic baseball focused writeup of “Homer at the Bat”.  Which leads to . . .

How a Farmington Hills hardware store helped The Simpsons accidentally spoof George Steinbrenner and make tv history – . . . some even more fantastic local color follow up:

Feb. 20, Deadspin: Most fans assumed that the show had cribbed from real-life events. In fact, Mr. Burns’s sociopathic infatuation with sideburns was inspired by showrunner Al Jean’s grandfather, who owned a hardware store in the ’70s and would constantly berate his employees for their excessive follicular growth. Mattingly had recorded his dialogue a full month before his dustup with the Yankees.

Who knew Al Jean’s grandfather was George Steinbrenner 20 years before George Steinbrenner? One wonders if they wear turtlenecks and blazers in Farmington?

Jean’s Hardware is still in business, and Al Jean’s metro Detroit roots possibly explain the many, sometimes subtle, Michigan references on the iconic show. For instance, Homer once shouted at a pack of elk to “go back to Grosse Pointe,” and another time he dreamed of taking a RV to the Holland Tulip Festival.

Neat.

How the Simpsons will spark EA’s freemium push – There’s a new game coming out for iOS soon, though the actual gameplay details are pretty light on the ground.  Here’s a couple more images, for whatever they’re worth.

Slo-Mo Thing of the Day – Some mad genius took the one minute long couch gag from “At Long Last Leave”, slowed it down to 1/4 speed, and then set it to the Portlandia theme.  Gaze in horror as the series degrades before your eyes:

‘The Simpsons’ Creator Matt Groening Donates $500,000 to UCLA – In other Groening news:

Matt Groening has donated $500,000 to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) for the endowment of the Matt Groening Chair in Animation.

The endowment will allow visiting artists to teach classes in TFT’s animation program.

Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 30 – 21) – This is the continuation of the list from last week.  There’s one Zombie Simpsons episode here (the 24 one), but that’s it.

Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 20 – 11) – This is all good stuff.

Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 10 – 1) – As is this, with plenty of Season 2 in the top 20.

(Semi)Counter Post – Top 25 Simpsons Episodes – The top 50 guy’s co-blogger wrote up his own list.  There’s a few Zombie Simpsons episodes on here, but not many.  The final score across both bloggers at Bloggius Maximus?

The Simpsons (Season 11 or earlier): 67 
Zombie Simpsons (Season 12+): 7

You suck, Zombie Simpsons.

Classic Moments From The Simpsons – Yet another 500th inspired post.  This has three short YouTube videos, none from Zombie Simpsons.

Episode 13 – Take Two, From the Top – A long Canadian podcast touches on Zombie Simpsons around the 53:50 minute mark.  My favorite exchange:

“You watched it forever.  What do you think of it now?  ’Cause a lot of people are back and forth on it.”
“Uh, well, I don’t know.  It’s kinda garbage, to be honest.”

Heh.

Simpsons Hockey Jerseys – Mockups of Lisa and Bart’s sweaters from “Lisa on Ice”.

Simpsons marathon sets record, spans 10-plus seasons – One final follow up on those two people who broke the official record for consecutive viewing:

The marathon started with Episode 1 on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and the winners made it up to the 11th episode of the 11th season, or through 239 total episodes.

Sadly, this does not clear matters, as the eleventh episode of Season 11 is “Faith Off”, which is episode #237.  Whatever.

Best of the Bull-ogosphere: February 14 – Voodoo Five – Much excellent Valentine’s Day usage in relation to University of Southern Florida football.

a stoned family, is a together family – A fan made image of the entire family stoned.  Since it’s from a blog called The Stoned Dude, it makes perfect sense.

THE FRIDAY FIVE – 24.2.2012 – A top five Simpsons guest stars:

FIVE SIMPSONS GUEST STARS

1. Ringo Starr
2. Michael Jackson
3. Dustin Hoffman
4. Stan Lee
5. Adam West

Stan Lee was Season 13, everything else is solid.  And even if there is one from Zombie Simpsons, it’s still ten years old.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Homer at the Bat” — the smoothest Simpsons episode ever – Agreed:

Most episodes from the show featured a main story and a side story. But this was one entire story from beginning to end. It didn’t involve anything out of the ordinary. And I think that’s what attracted the audience to it.

There weren’t any distractions throughout the show. It was just one story the entire way. It was just smooth.

The way that they got nine separate guest stars to fall victim to nine separate subplots remains one of the most amazing features of that episode.  Smooth, indeed.

At 500 Episodes, “The Simpsons” Remains Tiresome – This is gentler on Zombie Simpsons than I am, but I agree totally with the sentiment:

The new episodes are not particularly bad, but rather unable to measure up to the gems that made the show so iconic in the ‘90s. But with the show’s increasing number of unmemorable episodes, the duds now outnumber the classics. Each episode feels like a repeat of an idea that the show has already had, though in the show’s defense, such a fate may be impossible to avoid after 23 years on the air.

The Simpsons Tell Gen X Jokes – A look at the humor of the show, and its decline, for people who were in college when it debuted.  (This is what I’m talking about when I say it’s ludicrous to hide behind childhood nostalgia as a way to defend Zombie Simpsons.)

In Which I Discuss Pop Culture References and The Simpsons – As a prologue to a longer discussion about references in the show, we get this excellent summary:

Alas, I no longer turn my TV to FOX every Sunday night at eight. And the reason is simple- The Simpsons is terrible. Awful. Unfunny and sad (alcoholic clown-sad, not Bambi’s mom-sad).

It wasn’t always this way, of course- back in the early to mid nineties, The Simpsons was the smartest, fastest, funniest show on television, and a monstrously huge pop culture phenomenon to boot. Nowadays it’s a shell of it’s former self.

Amen.

Review of The Simpsons’ 500th Episode, "At Long Last Leave"Time magazine agrees with us:

It probably won’t surprise you that every single episode I came up with was from the show’s first decade. I would love to write the contrarian article saying that 2000s Simpsons is better than 1990s Simpsons, but come on.

[…]

That said, the whole question of whether The Simpsons should go off the air doesn’t excite me, because it’s moot. The Simpsons, which is to say the classic, worldview-defining show that provided me a memorable quote for pretty much every occasion in life, already went off the air. It had a great run–eight or ten years, depending who’s counting, which is far, far longer than even most great TV shows maintain their greatness.

It was replaced by a second Simpsons,** which began around the late ’90s, give or take. This was not as great a show, it was less focused on the Simpsons as a family unit, and in some ways wasn’t even really a sitcom, so much as an institution, like Saturday Night Live, which became known for its famous guest cameos and its parodies and takes on topical issues. It was a lesser show, but that was fine; the world also needs comedies that are just often pretty funny, and to me its existence took nothing away from the preceding seasons.

Preach it, mainstream media brother!

It Ain’t What It Used To Be – And finally, I get to end with a top ten list that wholeheartedly agrees with us:

Last Sunday, The Simpsons broadcast it’s 500th episode. 500th. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. And whilst it’s become a cliché to say that it’s gone considerably downhill in the last ten years, it should never be overlooked that for about 5-6 years, The Simpsons was the funniest, wittiest, cleverest thing on TV, and when it was at it’s best, I’d say it was the greatest thing that has ever been on television.

Thus, I have decided to do a little celebratory post, specifically my top 10 episodes ever, in honour of the greatest programme that ever was, that has now become a sub-Family Guy crapfest. Never forget the good times.

Testify!

24
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

The Canine Mutiny5

“You gotta give me back my floor!  My customers are walking around on the pipes.” – Moe
“Hey, next time, pay your bills.” – Repo Depot Guy
“But I don’t want to!” – Moe

23
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

King Size Homer8

“And remember, if you’re not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper.  If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain.” – Dr. Nick

22
Feb
12

Compare & Contrast: New Towns

You Only Move Twice6

“Mr. Scorpio, this house is almost too good for us.  I keep expecting to get the bum’s rush.” – Marge Simpson
“We don’t have bums in our town, Marge, and if we did they wouldn’t rush, they’d be allowed to go at their own pace.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of a fun run!” – Hank Scorpio

Though you’d hardly know it from how much screen time it got, the main plot of “At Long Last Leave” was the family Simpson moving to a new town.  Coincidentally, this is also the main plot of “You Only Move Twice”.  The differences between the two are too numerous to count, but to get a good approximation of how large the gap is, we needn’t look much further than the way the respective new towns are portrayed. 

Start with just the basic mechanics.  Cypress Creek is the main setting of almost the entire episode.  The Simpson family gets there right after the first commercial break with nearly three quarters of the episode still to go.  The Outlands isn’t introduced until the episode is already half over, and it doesn’t stay on screen long.  Less than three minutes after we catch our first sight of it, Homer and Marge and back in Springfield.  We don’t see it again until there’s only a few minutes left in the episode (and Homer and Marge’s trip to Springfield is longer than either of the times we see The Outlands).  By contrast, “You Only Move Twice” doesn’t go back to Springfield until the very end.

Then there are the respective houses.  In Springfield, 742 Evergreen Terrace is as much a part of the Simpson family as Grampa.  The television, the bedrooms, the kitchen table, there’s a recognizable believability to the place (even if the floor plan is somewhat impossible) that makes the scenes that take place within better than they otherwise would be.  The house in The Outlands shares none of those traits.  Even if you set aside the fact that it makes no sense how they came by it, the shanty in The Outlands has no personality.  It’s just a shack, and it has nothing to do with the rest of the episode.  There’s never a clear shot of it, and the only thing the family does is walk out of it.

Generic Shanty

Blink and you’ll miss it.  Near as I can tell, this is the only time you see the whole house.

But in Cypress Creek, the house itself is funny.  It’s a funhouse reflection of the kind of palatial McMansions that were so vogue right up until 2008.  Though the family is only there for the one episode, you get a sense of how vast the living room and kitchen are, of the tasteful upper-middle-class elegance of the back yard and dining room.  This isn’t done purely for show either, the house is so self sufficient, cleaning and watering itself automatically, that Marge has nothing to do.  This striver’s paradise even keeps Maggie busy for her. 

You Only Move Twice7

This show can make a terrified baby funny.  Suck it, Zombie Simpsons.

Moving beyond the house, the rest of Cypress Creek is just as well realized.  The planned community is the opposite of Springfield’s broken down chaos.  Everything works: the schools are good, the shops are trendy, and the activities are healthy.  And, of course, we get to see all of these things and laugh at them and the real life counterparts they so closely resemble.  Anybody who’s ever been through a resort town in America can recognize something like “The Spend Zone”.  Ditto highly funded schools that have a program for everything. 

The Outlands, by contrast, are so sparingly portrayed that I’m still not sure quite what they’re supposed to be.  They clearly liked the whole Mad Max thing, with Mohawk Maggie being the prime example of that.  But they also had it scaled back to something vaguely recognizable as backwoods America, especially with the nameless shotgun guy.  That the rest of Springfield shows up would seem to support the “backwoods America” model, but then the whole town is abandoned and Bart smashes Skinner with a helicopter, which is much more “Mad Max”.  They seem contradictory, but neither is on screen enough to be coherent or intelligible, so who knows?  

What makes the relative paucity of scenes in The Outlands, indoors and out, so bad is the fact that the story is supposed to be about either a) the Simpsons adapting fine to their new home, never to return, or b) the townspeople deciding that they all want to leave Springfield (for some reason).  The episode can’t seem to decide, but whichever it was going for, the ending hinges on this point.  It’s the main conflict of your story, it’s not something you can breeze over or be vague about. 

Cypress Creek, on the other hand, is on screen enough that it feels like a real place, and is tremendously funnier for it.  The shops, the house, the school, the fun run, all of it is funny precisely because it’s an (only slightly) exaggerated version of a white collar, corporate yuppie utopia.  That they would have a school so lavishly funded that Bart can do no harm and a house so automated that Marge feels useless is believable enough that you know the joke must have had some sting for the kind of people it was mocking.  Lisa, irony of ironies, has the Edenic nature she craves turn on her.  Only Homer wants to stay, which means his eventual decision to return to Springfield is the culmination of all those other events. 

Even by Season 8, moving the Simpsons out of Springfield was something that had been done a few times already (“Dancin’ Homer”, “Cape Feare”, even “Deep Space Homer”).  But it doesn’t feel played out or rehashed in “You Only Move Twice”, and a big part of that is because Cypress Creek is a fully thought through location.  That its idyllic setting is all in support of things like Project Arcturus just makes it funnier.  Compare that to the brief, confusing, and potentially contradictory sketchpad known as The Outlands.  The place makes no sense and is hardly on screen, which is all the worse when you remember that everyone spontaneously decides to move there.  As usual, Zombie Simpsons collapses under even the slightest scrutiny, while The Simpsons is built to last. 

22
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

The Joy of Sect7

“Smithers, why haven’t I heard of this ‘The Leader’?  He’s as rich and wicked as I, but he seems to enjoy tax exempt status.” – C.M. Burns
“Actually, sir, with our creative bookkeeping and corporate loopholes, we only pay three dollars a year.” – Mr. Smithers
“You’re right, we’re getting screwed!” – C.M. Burns

21
Feb
12

Crazy Noises: At Long Last Leave

Cape Feare6

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (embarrassingly enough, including on “Thunderdome”).

When the splattered mishmash that passed for a plot in “At Long Last Leave” finally got the family to the “outlands” halfway through the episode, Zombie Simpsons came back from commercial with a derivative of the opening credits.  We see clouds part, hear the familiar chorus saying “The Outlands” instead of “The Simpsons”, and spend the next thirty seconds panning over the bizarro community that will (sort of) be the setting for (some of) the rest of the episode.  This is obviously a naked repeat of “The Thompsons” opening from “Cape Feare”, but if you take a closer look you can see how weak a repeat it really is. 

For starters, Zombie Simpsons calls its place “The Outlands”, which isn’t a joke and sounds like the rejected title of a World of Warcraft expansion.  “Terror Lake”, by contrast, is both original and funny.  Season 5 also set up the family’s move far in advance.  We already know that the FBI has given them new identities, that this is their destination, and that Sideshow Bob is stowed away under the car.  All of the main elements of the plot come with them in one neat little package.  Season 23 has Homer pull the car over in a random spot that just happens to be next to a bizarre squatters camp, and then has an unnamed guy with a gun come out of the bushes for no reason and invite them to stay. 

For the openings themselves, not only does Zombie Simpsons take much longer, but they also drop in a ton of random crap.  We pan over their new home town (which we know nothing about at the time), see Bart spray painting a wall (lotta destroyed buildings for a wilderness encampment), then follow him them to their (entirely built) shack where they park their rather impressive fleet of vehicles, including a helicopter.  Huh?  The last time we saw them they were in their station wagon with all their worldly possessions, now they live better than the Lord Humungus.  The Simpsons doesn’t have to do anything that strange or unexpected because it has enough going on at that point that it makes sense for the family to pull up in car they got from the FBI and get on the houseboat. 

The real capper, though, comes in how each one ends.  “The Thompsons” ends with a normal couch gag before cutting to the first real scene of the family in Terror Lake.  The mechanics of it are the same as a regular opening.  Them scrambling into the houseboat and getting a net full of fish dumped on them didn’t really happen, it was just a playful way to introduce their new location.  Zombie Simpsons, on the other hand, had them go through all that, including the helicopter and Homer getting run over by a team of horses, and then just started the regular scene as though all that stuff was real. 

Granted, this scene did contain the “sick of watching fox” joke, the first time in a long time that I’ve liked a joke, waited for them to ruin it (by having the fox attack Homer or something), and then had them not do that.  But it undercuts the entire concept of having a second opening in the middle of the episode if it isn’t actually an opening.  At full speed this isn’t the greatest problem in the world, especially in an episode like this one that expects the audience to forget anything that happened more than a ninety seconds ago.  But it’s another example of how The Simpsons gets better the more you think about it while Zombie Simpsons get worse. 

[This week No Homers member Zombies Rise from the Sea joined us.  You can read his detailed rebuttal to Michael Price (who wrote this episode) here.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Yep

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah

Mad Jon: Where do you want to begin?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The 500th episode.

The extravagance of it.

  Bleh.

Charlie Sweatpants: You thought so? I thought there was a surprisingly small amount of "hooray, anniversary!" stuff. Besides the couch gag and the "go outside" title card, it seemed pretty typical.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Let’s not forget the opening sequence where it said "the most meaningless milestone of all".

  Why even do it like that if it’s meaningless?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, forgot that one. Still pretty minor, though.

Mad Jon: To make meaningfullness out of it?

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought it was a callback to the chalkboard in "Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song".

Mad Jon: I agree that it wasn’t as over the top 500 as I thought it would be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The most often referenced callback of all time, for good reason

  But still, celebrating it in the form of an extravagant couch gag calls for some concern; I do like that they referenced their history though.

That’s the positive thing about it.

Mad Jon: Also the gag killed some time.

  So they got that going for them as well.

Charlie Sweatpants: That definitely occurred to them.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yup

Charlie Sweatpants: And while it wasn’t bad, couch mashups like that have been on YouTube for some time. (See yesterday’s comments, for example.)

Mad Jon: I thought about that. But this show has forsaken public opinion for quite a while now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that thought raised a "meh" in the writers’ room.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: True, I mean preceding the 500th episode was an interview by the episode’s writer Michael Price which showcases how bizarro the show’s people have gotten.

Mad Jon: Hmm, I didn’t know that guy existed.

Charlie Sweatpants: They broadcast that? I didn’t see it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It was a web interview.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: I read that long interview he gave last week. I like how they always talk about how they’re careful not to do things they’ve done before. Then you have things like last week’s Itchy & Scratchy and this week’s "The Outlands" intro that make that little piece of bullshit as inoperable as one can be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That is ironically hilarious.

  I’ve written replies to most of the comments he made; you know that post right?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, someone on our site linked it. I’ll admit that I skimmed most of it, you have more stamina for that stuff than I do, but I agreed with most of what I read.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It just turns me off, praising cleaner HD animation as a better thing, insisting that they care for the characters, insisting that the show is as good as ever.

  Have they even realized there are some legitimate criticisms out there on the internet?

  Sorry to go off topic but that interview had me somewhat mad.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know what you mean. It’s the quintessential don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining type stance.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I do "Babar" reviews on NoHomers that point out animation no one has ever seen before; granted there may be better examples but those examples are ones no one has seen before and they’re beautiful.

Charlie Sweatpants: The old Babar? Man, I haven’t seen that since I was a kid.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Hand drawn animation is like an art, to insist that people want cleaner HD animation is just shameful. It’s like we don’t appreciate flaws in work, we want everything to be robotic.

At least I’m getting through to people who have heard of Babar and watched it as a kid but didn’t watch it recently.

Charlie Sweatpants: Might have to look that up, for nostalgia purposes if nothing else.

Mad Jon: I didn’t look for this in this episode, but that is an especially angering point when you see some of the scene disparities that that have happened since the change to HD. I think this has come up several times in the last year or so.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I agree, it’s like a consistent talking point when talking about Zombie Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought that was something the couch gag did a good job of (sorry, pun) illustrating.

  There’s a lot more life to the earlier ones, and you can actually watch them get more sterile.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: At least the 500th episode couch gag serves a purpose, to show how they declined.

Charlie Sweatpants: The only animation note I had from the episode proper was to wonder about Wiggum’s uniform

  In the park he wasn’t wearing his usual one and then at the house he was. I don’t know if that was a callback to something, but it looked odd.

Mad Jon: I didn’t even notice

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I didn’t pay much attention to that; it does prove you are the master at noticing animation differences many people don’t.

Mad Jon: He does have an eye for that.

  If for nothing else.

Charlie Sweatpants: I wouldn’t have thought so, and yet, here were are.

As for the episode itself, I’m just baffled.

  Why did they all come out to the Outlands at the end?

Mad Jon: Why not.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why would Homer advertise for the people he calls jerks to come there?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You have every right to be, there are so many things to be baffled at.

Mad Jon: The attempt at continuity for its own sake I assume.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why did they sneak into the middle of the city and then discuss their disguises?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Poor attempt at humor I guess…

Charlie Sweatpants: The last half of the episode is just one hanging plot thread after another.

Mad Jon: How was that a plot?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That perplexed me too, I mean I guess the episode writer wanted to end the episode on a sweet, emotional and grand note but it just raised more questions then it satisfied.

  I mean why not ask them to come back, why not have a speech that makes Springfield realize they’re jerks.

That would be a better ending then what we got.

Mad Jon: It was just Homer and Bart doing random things with random Springfieldians showing up.

  Except random means familiar show characters.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They were even doing random things before they showed up, none of which worked.

Mad Jon: Like Super Nintendo Chalmers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s true Jon.

The ending may be worth talking about but the outlands themselves; barely shown.

  It’s like the most hyped up part of the episode yet they only spend a few minutes showing it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean where’s the community, where’s the people? It’s like this place only exists so that the Simpsons can move and have some stuff to do; cartoony stuff no less.

Charlie Sweatpants: And what they did show was just odd. If I got a free Mad Max helicopter for moving to the middle of nowhere, I’d be there tomorrow.

Mad Jon: It was a place to store the Simpsons for 10 minutes while they did some physical comedy before the clock ran out.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I miss the days when "You Only Move Twice" and "Cape Feare" had actual cities with actual people.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the way they got there was weird. They pull over and there’s a crazy guy with a gun, and they’re just like, "Let’s live here!"

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Exactly, convenience.

Mad Jon: In the vibrant hobo city they could see from outside the car but not from inside it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: convenience = piss poor writing

Charlie Sweatpants: There was no effort to make it even remotely interesting as a place, like so you said, unlike Terror Lake or Cypress Creek.

Mad Jon: Ohhh! Ice Creamville!

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The only interesting thing it had with the lawlessness but even that is wasted.

They could of taken out the useless guest appearance by the WikiLeaks guy but then they wouldn’t have a famous guest star!

Charlie Sweatpants: At least we were spared another meth joke.

Mad Jon: I think the worst part of the wasteland was the complete lack of character development among even ONE of the other occupants

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s true.

Charlie Sweatpants: Very much including Assange.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Simpsons acted not as a family, but as cartoon characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yep. Check out the new clothes, for example.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There were some people on NoHomers who praised the acting of the family but I couldn’t see any of that, Homer and Marge barely had a connection; Bart wasn’t into it and they all seemed to transition from role to role pretty effortlessly.

  The clothes thing is the most obvious thing in the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: There could have been something to the "Marge is more homesick than the rest of them thing", but they didn’t even bother.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Marge was the only one homesick.

  And they didn’t even use that properly to transition into the romantic scenes in Springfield.

  I admit, I liked those scenes but placed in the context of a plot with barely any buildup and barely any involvement; it’s a waste.

It’s like those scenes are standing out to make the episode better and more charming then it actually is.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. You need a better reason to break into the bowling alley than wearing costumes that make them look nothing like Burns and Smithers. And I’d further note that when the town shows up at the house, they’re right back in their normal clothes.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Consistency be damned.

It’s like the entire thing is designed to be plotted in a way that seems epic but it just collapses on itself.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good way to put it. They had this big story, but they’re constantly undercutting themselves and sabotaging their own story because, hey, we’ve got to get Homer’s head sucked into a jet engine, we’ve got to have everyone show up for no reason.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Why is it that they got to put wacky humor into the show and explain the jokes?

  We’re intelligent, we can understand smart humor and smart things.

Mad Jon: Foreshadowing be damned! We like our joke transparent nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants: They could’ve done that in so many ways: the town gets bored without the Simpsons, the town gets jealous that the Simpsons are living better in the outlands and makes them move back. Anyone worth their salt could’ve made this work, but they didn’t even try.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I’m surprised they didn’t even show that.

Charlie Sweatpants: The mystery and secrecy committee is a good example. That wasn’t a terrible idea, but it. just. kept. going.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Personally I was expecting the Simpsons to sneak back into Springfield and witness their lives without them but it doesn’t happen.

  So finally, someone mentions the courtroom scene.

It’s not a bad idea per say but the execution is majorly flawed.

Charlie Sweatpants: If we’re willing to spot them that the Simpsons are superstars and no longer even kind of a regular family, then yes, it wasn’t a terrible idea.

Mad Jon: Good point

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The entire courtroom thing could’ve had impact but they had to point out the obvious things and they had to do the worst thing of all.

  Portray The Simpsons as this family who does wacky things, circa the Scully era of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget having Sideshow Mel apparently rip out an ulna.

Mad Jon: Or radius, I guess we’ll never know.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They had a chance to portray them as a family that while doing some major damage, was just as one of them, though dysfunctional.

The criticisms could of been common, they could of been exaggerated, they could of been even ridiculous but instead they’re focused on the damage and the money spent on the damage.

  Bleh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Instead they have Moe screaming that Marge is the monster queen, or whatever.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That joke wasn’t exactly funny per say.

Charlie Sweatpants: That one bugged me, if for no other reason than Moe is supposed to have that creepy crush on Marge.

Mad Jon: Was the Homer driving through the school from the episode where the kids and adults have the musical standoff?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think it was supposed to be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah.

Mad Jon: Didn’t he get away with that? Oh whatever.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Probably, I mean the kids were blamed for it.

  Just goes to show they don’t do the proper research anymore.

  I mean have we seen Bart flood the school before in a cartoonish way?

Mad Jon: I dunno, probably. There have been 500 of these things.

Charlie Sweatpants: That episode with Lisa and the whale I remember, but I don’t remember the gym flood.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Think the gym flood was put in there to exaggerate how "trouble" they are.

Charlie Sweatpants: Of course, Zombie Simpsons is very easy to forget.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean it’s like; hey "The Simpsons are this wacky, crazy family who does damage everywhere they go."

Not even in the Zombie Simpsons did The Simpsons do a lot of damage.

  This unfair representation of them gets to me and ruins the episode.

Mad Jon: But without that unfair representation, we wouldn’t get to watch Maggie go Thunderdome, or Homer and Bart ride around on 4-wheelers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who needs that, when you can have a proper adventure with proper actions and proper characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Maggie Thunderdome thing was bizarre. It’s like they couldn’t quite decide if the Outlands were awesome, or if they were actually a Mel Gibson hellscape.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Maggie thing was due to the outlands, even Le Jake had no problem with it.

  You do make a good point Jon.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was also disappointed when Maggie had the knife to Carl’s throat. That sucked on its own, but then they didn’t even have the care to show Carl with a bandage on his ear afterwards.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Definitely.

Charlie Sweatpants: You want to make a joke about a baby with a big ass knife? Fine. Just don’t pretend it didn’t happen seven seconds later.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Sorry to go off topic here but in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Caesar had the potential to be multi-dimensional, understand the good and the bad side of the humans, but instead they made him one dimensional, which sucks. The Simpsons are done the same way, they’re one dimensional, they sprout out certain traits and they show no personality.

  Even during the scenes when they defend themselves.

As I said before Charlie, consistency is key.

Charlie Sweatpants: That movie was disappointing, but funny you should mention Planet of the Apes. That’s tomorrow’s quote of the day.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I’m glad other people agree, my review on the movie got a lot of flack despite its immense detail.

Back to the episode at hand…

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d agree in general that the characters are one dimensional, but in this episode Lisa was almost zero dimensional. They had her spout "back to nature" type stuff to be happy, but the place they were in wasn’t exactly an environmentalist commune. She should’ve been miserable, but they didn’t want her to be so, in spite of everything we know about her, she wasn’t.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Not only that, but Lisa’s addiction to technology is not like her at all.

  She has basically transformed into the adult version of a child.

Mad Jon: Agreed. She was praising the remoteness, but was the first one to embrace the return of connectivity.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Whatever happened to the Lisa with integrity?

Mad Jon: And that was pretty much her only two scenes this episode.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Totally.

Charlie Sweatpants: She has it from time to time, but like the rest of them she jumps from personality to personality so quick she could be diagnosed as manic.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I did like her personality in "The Book Job" somewhat, she was somewhat consistent there…

  But you’re absolutely right Charlie, Lisa is inconsistent.

So let’s talk about the episode writer Michael Price; how is it that a guy with a theater background is able to write episodes with are either mediocre and bad; and how did me manage to mess up the 500th episode?

  I thought guys with theater backgrounds went on to make quality stuff?

Charlie Sweatpants: Good questions. I know basically nothing about him, however.

Mad Jon: Neither I

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Me neither but from the interview I read, it looks like he had some talent, some potential.

  Here he feels the need to pack every cinematic trick into the book, raise the stakes, focus on emotional moments, make the moments as big as possible.

It’s like he’s trying to make the plot huge to compensate for the lack of content in the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: The sense I get from these episodes is that there is basically no difference in authorship. These are so heavily crammed with stuff that I don’t get the sense that any one writer can keep a lasting mark on something.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You’re right about that in that the interview said 3% of content remains from rewrites.

  But still…

Charlie Sweatpants: Is that where that was? I remember reading that at some point last week but all that stuff has kind of blurred together.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: If you’ve got twenty minutes and four acts and you want them to get expelled from town before reconciling things, you can do that. This wasn’t even attempting to do that. I wonder if the first draft did?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Possibly but then again, the four act structure was forced upon them.

Regardless, even with the idea that they have no idea where to go and what scenes to use when they start up acts; they couldn’t make a good script for squat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Their apathy for story is impressively total. They really couldn’t care less. If something sort of works, cool, if nothing works, that’s cool too.

Bring on the bomb shelter and Homer eating talcum powder!

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s like a comedy club, their purpose is to showcase all forms of comedy that makes them laugh.

  Whether we like it or not.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve compared them to a sketch show more than once.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: So I’m not alone here…

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s hard to tell how these pieces could ever fit together.

Mad Jon: The Fart Machine has too much farts!!!!

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s the problem, the episodes can be romantic, can be dramatic, can even be nothing, but the consistent feeling is that it’s a comedy club.

These people aren’t focused on making a plot that’s engaging and relatable, these people are focused on making a plot that crams as many jokes/weak satire/gags as possible.

Mad Jon: Which would explain the slate at the end.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. The Assange thing is a perfect example. I don’t know the genesis of it, but it had nothing to do with anything in the episode and didn’t even make sense.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s just another thing they do to be relevant.

Mad Jon: Meh

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Soon they’ll have the girl from the GEICO commercials on The Simpsons; I have a source that guarantees it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

Mad Jon: GEICO? or Progressive?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Progressive, apologies.

  Got my car insurance companies mixed up.

Mad Jon: Well, they are pretty much all the same. Flo could be working for any of them and I wouldn’t notice anymore than I didn’t notice Wiggum’s uniform.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Don’t worry, they’ll make you notice.

Mad Jon: Thanks for the encouragement.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The ultimate problem is that despite the poor plotting, despite the failed attempts at plot despite the lack of anything memorable; people still watch.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they aren’t much for sneaking in celebrity guests, Kelsey Grammer and Jackie Mason this week notwithstanding.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The people who are giving this 5/5 and 4/5 without looking into the episodes are the ones who are justifying their material; I mean I can understand if it entertains you but in no way this episode is a classic.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, definitely not. It’ll disappear down the memory hole just like everything else.

Mad Jon: Jackie Mason was the one that bothered me the most. Krusty’s dad has a problem with the Simpsons?

Charlie Sweatpants: Why not, so, apparently, do Moe, Barney, and a bunch of other people you wouldn’t figure.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The products that entertain you for a while and then you forget about later on is a product; which The Simpsons has become. I don’t know what these people are finding in this episode that are making them give 5/5 but there is nothing in there that’s 5/5 worthy; it’s yet another overrated episode.

  Agreed Charlie.

Mad Jon: There is no point in trying to explain insanity. This is of course assuming those 5’s weren’t given by employees or the family of employees of FOX.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: No, actual members of NoHomers gave this 5/5; I respect their opinions but still.

Additionally they even gave me flack for being overly harsh on the episode, despite the detail of the review.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s the internet. It happens.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I guess…

Mad Jon: Well, I will never stop being paranoid.

Charlie Sweatpants: On that note, I’ll just leave this here: http://xkcd.com/1019/

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I think we all have to live with the obvious statement; as long as The Simpsons is on, they will keep producing stuff that the public will love and that the critics will eat up.

  The people on the Simpsons will keep accepting pay cuts and soon, they’ll be working for free.

Mad Jon: Merchandising baby

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve given up trying to even guess when the show will end.

  Though speaking of endings, I did like the hillbilly version of the theme over the credits.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Eh.

Mad Jon: Didn’t even notice.

But I am much less patient than you Pants.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I’m kind of a sucker for different renditions of the theme.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t understand everything, maybe I should move to the industrial district of LA; I hear the air is cleaner there…

  I can understand Charlie.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here? The only thing I don’t think we’ve hit is the voices, because in this one Brockman, Quimby, and Marge all sounded off to me. But they’ve all done so before, so that ain’t exactly news.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The voices are always off…

  I do remember the drill in the beginning being weak and the cringe-worthy Lisa and Homer dialog.

That seemed like something Family Guy would do.

Charlie Sweatpants: You could say that about a lot of this episode.

  They did manage to get Homer naked, tarred and feathered.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They also managed to show a Braniff Airways jet in a way that seemed cartoonish and pathetic.

Mad Jon: That’s a first eh? I remember Grandpa being so, but Homer?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Grandpa wasn’t even in the episode, his ghost was there in the town hall meeting though.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

Mad Jon: Touche

Zombies Rise from the Sea: In closing. "Look out Gunsmoke, we’re about to prove that entertainment can be as cheap and lazy as possible and people will still love it. Who needs to make a quality product when you can just sit back and half-ass it? That’s the American way!"

Charlie Sweatpants: Sounds about right. The Gunsmoke thing always amuses me because, really, does anyone think that show was high quality television?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well people did love it and watch it en masse right?

In a time where there was no internet to add

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, when there were three channels and no internet.

  Beat me to it.

  Okay, well, Zombies, many thanks for joining us again.

Mad Jon: Indeed.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Always a pleasure Charlie; always a pleasure.

21
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Pierre Boulle

Both images taken from Wikipedia (Kwai, Apes).

“Homer, do you ever think about the future?” – Marge Simpson
“You mean, like, ‘Will apes be our masters’?” – Homer Simpson
“No.” – Marge Simpson

Happy (one day late) 100th birthday to Pierre Boulle!

20
Feb
12

Oh Hell, Let’s Move the Town Again

Chalkboard - At Long Last Leave

“Homer, that’s your solution to everything, to move under the sea.  It’s not going to happen!” – Marge Simpson
“Not with that attitude.” – Homer Simpson

Give Zombie Simpsons credit for consistency, for the 500th episode they served up a perfectly banal rendition of their usual hacktacular schlock.  They recycled two old ideas (family leaves Springfield, rebuild the town), had an illogical, meaningless and irrelevant celebrity voicing himself, and left plot threads hanging all over the place.  No real reason is given for why the town suddenly decides they miss the Simpsons, nothing about the “Outlands” makes sense, either as a post-apocalyptic environment or as a modern “off the grid” community, and what few jokes there were leaned heavily on Homer getting hurt and bizarre asides.  To top it all off, they had a lot of filler in the form of an ultra long couch gag, a second opening in the middle of the episode, and a bunch of set pieces that dragged on interminably (e.g. Wiggum and the cat thing, parading the family out of town).

For examples of all of these problems we need look no further than the sudden u-turn the episode took after its clock killing “The Outlands” opening.  They had just reached their destination, but after talking to the wildly out of place Julian Assange for no reason, Marge says she misses Springfield and then – wham – they’re back in Springfield.  The first scene is them already in the heart of the city before they decamp for a couple of quick stops at the Lard Lad sign, the Bowlarama, and their house.  None of these are related in the least aside from being in Springfield. 

To get them back out of Springfield (after the bullies mysteriously disappear from the house), they essentially rerun the earlier scene from the town hall.  This one occurs at night and six minutes deeper into the episode, but basically nothing has happened in that time other than some disjointed set pieces.  Compounding the problem, there isn’t anything in the second expulsion that even so much as hints at, much less actually sets up, the eventual ending where – for no discernable reason – the rest of the town decides that they all want out of Springfield. 

Apart from the couch gag and the passive aggressive title card at the end (and, for the record, I’ve been outside several times already today) there wasn’t much in the way of celebratory fireworks here.  Abandoning the town to build a shanty one a few miles down the road sounds epic, until you remember that in just the last few years they’ve had Springfield fenced off from immigrants, descend into chaos from Lisa’s social network, and irradiated by a nuclear bomb.  Abandoning or destroying Springfield is unexceptional these days.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are wretched, despite all the hype.  Last night just 5.79 million viewers wondered why this thing hadn’t ended hundreds of episodes ago.  That’s an improvement from last week’s nadir, but it’s still embarrassingly low and continues to sink Season 23’s overall viewer average. 

20
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

“Alright Simpson, let’s go over the signals.  If I tuck the bill of my cap like so . . .” – C.M. Burns
“Yeah.” – Homer Simpson
“. . . it means the signal is a fake.” – C.M. Burns
“Uh-huh.” – Homer Simpson
“However, I can take that off by dusting my hands thusly.” – C.M. Burns
“Got it.” – Homer Simpson
“If I want you to bunt, I will touch my belt buckle not once, not twice, but thrice.” – C.M. Burns
“Uh-oh, I don’t understand a word he’s saying.  Why doesn’t he just let me bat?  I wish I was home with a big bag of potato chips.  Mmmm, potato chips.” – Homer’s Brain

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Homer at the Bat”!  Original airdate 20 February 1992.

19
Feb
12

Sunday Preview: At Long Last Leave

Zombie Simpsons 300

Almost lost amidst all the hubbub about the 500th episode is the fact that it’s just, you know, an episode.  It is likely to be forgettably boring:

The Simpsons sneak into a secret town meeting to which they aren’t invited and discover it’s about whether to ban the family from Springfield. The town decides to evict the family, forcing them to join an off-the-grid community. Homer and Marge try to sneak back into Springfield, but receive hostile treatment from their former friends and neighbors, and begin to appreciate their new, welcoming home.

Sounds like someone dusted off an early version of the movie script and thought, “Instead of Alaska, we’ll send them off the grid.  Why not?”. 

19
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

Homer's Barbershop Quartet8

“Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
“Never fit on a marquee, love.  From now on your name is Apu de Beaumarchais.” – Nigel
“Well, it is a great dishonor to my ancestors and my God, but okay.” – Apu de Beaumarchais

18
Feb
12

Quote of the Day

The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase5

“I was just in a car accident, can I use your phone?” – Betty
“Uh, using the phone’s a four drink minimum.” – Moe




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