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.


5 Responses to ““Separate Vocations” Spews Truth”


  1. 1 Chris
    28 February 2012 at 3:30 pm

    “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.”

    Well someone have Jean tell Jean that they don’t HAVE to have Wiggum in every police scene. One of the many great things about the show was its rich tapestry of characters. When Bart is riding around with Eddie and Lou, is anyone missing Wiggum? Eddie and Lou do just fine on their own (“polling the electorate” “suspect is driving a…car”).

    “These days everyone’s a caricature of a caricature of something they used to be.”

    Lord isn’t that the truth. I’ve been rewatching some episodes from season 11, just to reacquaint myself with episodes I haven’t seen in years, and man is it unbelievable just how much Homer dominated the show, and just how wild they made his character. Manic-depressive is probably the best term to describe it.

  2. 2 Son of Duane
    29 February 2012 at 4:43 am

    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.

    Steve Allen joined the Parents Television Council in 1998, as Honorary Chairman.
    I found a few articles on the Internet, but none specifically mention the Simpsons.

    http://www.enquirer.com/columns/kiese/1998/12/121598jki.html

    http://www.npr.org/programs/npc/2000/000331.sallen.html

  3. 3 Anonymous
    29 February 2012 at 8:21 am

    “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.”
    Wow, and here they’re admitting it.

    “When was the last time they added to what we know about a character without it being some horrible retcon?”
    Well what about how Joan Rivers made Krusty a clown? Oh, right.

    Very interesting commentary.

  4. 4 baconkong
    29 February 2012 at 3:18 pm

    “When was the last time they added to what we know about a character without it being some horrible retcon?”
    The closest thing we get now are learning about some hobby a character apparently has (usually the same one that one of the Simpsons are taking up for their “hobby of the day” episodes). Of course, you never see or hear about it again after that episode, but that’s ZS for you.


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