Archive for July, 2012

31
Jul
12

On the Jockey Elves and the Land of Chocolate

Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk8

“Well, uh, I wish the candy machine wasn’t so picky about taking beat up dollar bills . . . because a lot of workers really like candy.” – Homer Simpson
“We understand, Homer.  After all, we are from the land of chocolate.” – Horst
“Mmm, the Land of Chocolate.” – Homer Simpson

There’s little doubt that “The Principal and the Pauper” is the most infamous episode in the history of the show, in no small part because it was one of the first episodes that was basically 100% boring.  Prior to Armin Tamzarian blazing his way into the history of the decline and fall of The Simpsons, even episodes that hadn’t been up to the show’s all but impossibly lofty standards still contained plenty of excellent material.  “The Principal and the Pauper” was so demented, however, that everything that might have resembled humor got squeezed out in favor of trying to make that painfully ditzy plot move along.  “Saddlesore Galactica”, coming two and a half worsening seasons later, had many more bad episodes to hide amongst than “The Principal and the Pauper”, but manages to make a strong case for second place on the infamy list by doing essentially the same thing: having a main premise that is elementally, painfully and incomprehensibly bad. 

At it’s most basic, having horse jockeys be subterranean elves is a decently Simpson-y idea.  Jockeys really are small, sometimes frightfully skinny people, and if one dressed as an elf for Halloween he’d be a shoe in for best costume at most parties.  Taking that stereotypical and mildly offensive similarity and making it funny is exactly the kind of thing The Simpsons did. 

The difference is that when The Simpsons put up impossible flights of fancy, it kept them fantastical and it kept them short.  When Snowball II and Santa’s Little Helper are watching the news late at night in “Bart’s Comet” and feign sleep as Bart walks by, it’s something that you know isn’t serious.  When Homer flings himself out of the power plant and crashes the car while singing the Flintstones’ theme in “Marge vs. the Monorail”, it doesn’t affect the story, it’s just a funny way to open the episode.  When they show Vishnu working switches at the center of the Earth in “Bart vs. Australia”, it doesn’t change any other scene, it’s just a background gag to keep things lighthearted.  As a concept, “all jockeys are really elves” fits in well with those.

But instead of being tucked safely into a real story like it should’ve been, the jockey elves were put on center stage and left out to dry.  This is the crucial failing of this episode, the one bad rivet that sends the whole bridge crashing down the ravine.  It’s so unexpected and plainly stupid that, like Skinner being an imposter and then everything going back to normal, you have to wonder how anyone, let alone professional comedy writers, could ever have thought it was a good idea. 

To illustrate just how bad this is, consider what “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” would’ve been like if, instead of being efficient German technocrats, Hans, Fritz, and Horst had actually been candy gremlins from the land of chocolate who chased after Homer through the streets of Springfield.  You could leave every other joke, even the entirety of the brilliant first act, in place, and that plot twist – real life candy gremlins chase Homer through the streets – would’ve spoiled the whole thing. 

Fantasy and Reality

The Land of Chocolate works between Homer’s ears, less so on Evergreen Terrace.

The same can be said for what “Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes?” would be like if it’d had a Tamzarian twist where the Herb who came back was the real Homer in disguise.  Similarly, Guy Incognito was funny as hell, but he also wasn’t Homer’s long lost brother.  The guy who was tired of people making fun of his giant hand didn’t use it to strangle anyone, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 

That the show felt that it was both necessary and okay to rest entire episodes on overly absurd ideas was still surprising in Season 11, which is why the phrase “jockey elves” sends shivers up the spines of so many Simpsons fans.  By Season 12, it was basically routine.  So episodes like “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes”, “The Great Money Caper”, and “New Kids on the Blecch”, which have endings that are just as insane and magical as the jockey elves, don’t register as much.  Since then it’s been pretty much the same, up to and including Season 23, where a super powered Lady Gaga, an immortal talking bar rag, and swarms of magic robots (twice!) are just par for the course. 

31
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Team Homer7

“Burns never gives money to anybody.  Just last week I asked him for fifteen hundred dollars.” – Homer Simpson
“For what?” – Marge Simpson
“Oh, I gotta get the third degree from you too?” – Homer Simpson

30
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

The Front12

“Abe, tell ’em about your amazing life.” – Roger Meyers Jr.
“I spent forty years as a night watchman at a cranberry silo.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“Wow!” – Roger Meyers Jr.

29
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Bart the Fink2

“Okay, folks, show’s over.  Nothing to see here, show’s – oh my God, a horrible plane crash!  Hey everybody, get a load of this flaming wreckage!  Come on, crowd around.  Crowd around, don’t be shy, crowd around.” – Chief Wiggum

28
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Burns Baby Burns1

“This may take awhile, Smithers.  Why don’t you get drunk and stumble around comically for my amusement?” – C.M. Burns
“I’ll be a one man conga line.” – Mr. Smithers

27
Jul
12

Reading Digest: The Content Low of High Summer Edition

Lisa's Sax8

“And so, Springfield’s heatwave continues.  With today’s temperature exceeding the record for this date, set way back four billion years ago when the Earth was just a ball of molten lava.” – Kent Brockman 

It may be the summer doldrums, it may be something else, but it’s a short Reading Digest this week (and my apologies to the several of you who’ve e-mailed in and to whom I’ve not responded; been that kind of week).  We do have an inordinate number of 10s this week though, a couple of lists and three entries from our old friend Galileo’s “In 10 Words”.  There’s also some usage, one more review of “The Longest Daycare” that says it’s much better than Ice Age 4, and an awesome list of wildly stupid (potential) Zombie Simpsons plots. 

Enjoy.

10 Frequently Used Simpsons Quotes – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this excellent collection (with lots of YouTube) from our old friend ilmozart.  The best part about it is, not only are there no Zombie Simpsons quotes, but many of them aren’t the ones you usually see on quote lists.  Bravo.

Quote Hanger – A quote blog hits on some of Homer’s best advice to Bart.  (Though since nits must be picked, Homer actually says “the three little sentences”, not just “three sentences”.)

The 10 Dumbest "Sports" of the Summer Olympics – Excellent usage:

8. Trampoline
Sure, trampolines are lots of fun. And as the character Todd Flanders once noted on The Simpsons, each leap on the spring-loaded canvas "brings us closer to God." But an Olympic sport? In 2000 the IOC agreed with young Flanders when — to the dismay of the pogo-stick and hulu-hoop lobbies — it vaulted trampoline jumping from backyard activity to the pantheon of the Olympic games.

Catch them, Lord, catch them!

Homer Simpson Beer Poses (20 Photos) – Lots of images of Homer (mostly with beer), some fan made, some not.  The one of him alone on the couch is particularly well done.

The Dark Knight Rises…In 10 Words – There are a lot of Simpsons/Batman quotes, but there really was no way not to use that one last Friday.

Sally Ride…In 10 Words – How doth the hero, strong and brave, a celestial path in the heavens pave.

The Watch…In 10 Words – Now Ben Stiller is off to battle aliens in a far off galaxy.  That sounds like a good movie.  Yes, a movie, yes.

Flanders’ field – Everyone loves Harry Shearer, even cynical DJ members of Generation X.

Grampa Simpson by ~GreenDayFanGirl on deviantART – He’s even wearing Napoleon’s hat!

People Who Look Like Things… – The animated .gif.

Pro Community – A Community fan sees the torch of best show being passed from The Simpsons to South Park to Community.

Top 10 Novelty Songs – Pretty much what it says, with “Do the Bartman” checking in at #5.

Review: “The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare” – A long and thoughtful review of both Ice Age 4 and “The Longest Daycare” from a guy who has kids and thinks most daycare places suck. 

Kickin’ Skulls Y’all – Excellent reference in a comic book review:

Zubkavich and Huang do very well together in marrying the four genres, though comedy is their priority. The above page conveys the hilarity of our heroes escaping the flaming scene of a crime with the same casual tenseness of a Simpsons “I left your present in the car” gag. Allow me to explain, without the aid of asterisk OR parenthesis, The Simpsons “I left your present in the car” gag. Often, a negligent character, like Homer J. Simpson, will have forgotten to buy a present for his wife, or one of his children. Upon being reminded of the birthday, anniversary, etc., he will then say that the present is…in the car…yeah, with appropriate hesitation and pauses, for comedic effect. The rest of the gag is pulled off via off screen audio, as we hear him slam the door, run to the car, start the car, and drive it away quickly. To see it in action, please view “Treehouse of Horror III,” which is in the fourth season of The Simpsons.

2012 Election: Why Voting Third Party is Not (Necessarily) “Throwing Your Vote Away” – Moderate usage:

Even though both “candidates” run on a platform of enslaving people to build a ray gun capable of obliterating a distant planet, Americans still vote en masse for either Kang or Kodos due to their party affiliations. When someone raises the option of voting for a third-party candidate who has the best interests of humanity at heart, Kang responds with “fine, throw your vote away!”, implying that a vote for a third-party candidate is a waste. The people largely respond, putting Kang — and his platform of universal human enslavement — into office.

He actually says, “Go ahead, throw your vote away!”.

Let’s Play A Game: Your Best Hypothetical Late-Era Simpsons Synopsis. – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us:

Incredibly, "The Simpsons" has been shit-awful for more than twice as long as it was ever good (seasons one and two are a wash, with a couple exceptions in the second; seasons three to nine are among the Top Five Things Ever On TV; seasons ten through 23–23!–are varying degrees of total garbage).

I stand by every episode in Season 2, but if you showed me a list of the insane plots they came up with next to a list of the insane plots that will actually be in Season 24, I might have a hard time telling which is which.  Thanks to reader Adrian for the tip!  

27
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Superfriends

“I am called Ham, since I enjoy ham radio.  This is E-mail, Cosine, Report Card, Database, and Lisa.” – Ham




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