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

26
Jul
12

Crazy Noises: The Mansion Family

The Mansion Family1

“You won a Grammy.” – Lisa Simpson
“I mean an award that’s worth winning.” – Homer Simpson
“LEGAL DISCLAIMER:  Mr. Simpson’s opinions do not reflect those of the producers, who don’t consider the Grammy an award at all.” – Subtitle Crawl

For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes.  This year we’re doing Season 11.  Why Season 11?  Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show.  Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (sadly enough, not on “drowning”).

Today’s episode is 1112, “The Mansion Family”.  Yesterday was 1111, “Faith Off”.

[Note: Dave couldn’t make it this week, Mad Jon and I are jealous he didn’t have to watch these.]

Charlie Sweatpants: This episode is just wretched beyond belief.

Mad Jon: This is pretty bad. I liked a few lines but other than that, I got nothing positive to say.

Charlie Sweatpants: It features pretty much everything I hate about Zombie Simpsons, and that was before I remembered that they had Britney Spears(!) on when she was at the peak of her peak.

  Trendy, self voiced celebrities are just awful in general, and this one they didn’t even write any jokes for her, just normal dialogue.

Mad Jon: There were lots of Zombie issues here. Most notably for me were the constant, CONSTANT Jerkass Homer things (I made a big list actually), and the fact that there were only 5 or 6 characters used in the entire episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: That must be a long list.

Mad Jon: If it were a quotation, I would have to use block quotes:

Drags statue out of award show, Saws his workstation in half for no reason, gets ripped up in the auto dresser, puts his ass through a painting while pretending to be a billionaire, drives the lawn mower through the house, idiot at dinner, swirls the liquor on the ground, swirls more on Lisa and everything else then passes out drunk, makes long distance call to Thailand, throws blowout party because he is leaving tomorrow, steals Burns’ boat, gets into stupid fight with pirates and their parrots, also argues with Coast Guard, and is at peace with his friends drowning, sobs because he is no billionaire, faces no repercussions for losing a multi-million dollar yacht

Also, I think this episode uses Lenny’s name more than any other episode ever.

Charlie Sweatpants: There is Marge being worried about Lenny at the beginning of "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder".

But the Jerkass Homer quotient here is tediously high. It’s also one of my least favorite kinds because Marge and Lisa get dragged along to basically alternate between not stopping him and not caring.

The low comes when Burns decides to let Homer be the house sitter. Not only is it dumb, weak, nice Burns (which always sucks), but the stupidity of it all makes them basically admit that even they think Burns remembers Homer’s antics now.

Mad Jon: Oh, I refer to that scene as the softball moment.

Charlie Sweatpants: The day when you have to stop playing baseball and start playing softball?

Mad Jon: No, it is because Burns lobs the scene over the plate so Homer can spend the rest of the episode being Zombie Homer.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ah. He does that.

Mad Jon: It makes sense in my head, although not so much when I read what I’ve typed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, Homer spends the rest of the episode bouncing around Burns’ house and boat, so I’d say it’s fair to say that Burns gave him a nice fat one here.

It doesn’t make sense, and half the episode is just Homer being a dick in various wealthy locations, but if you like seeing Homer scream and wail, then you’ve just seen a towering home run.

Mad Jon: It was very much bipolar Zombie Homer

And most everyone else spends the rest of the episode not being themselves.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much.

  Marge and Lisa, in particular, seem to alternately look the other way and then yell at Homer for trashing Burns Manor.

They don’t make any sense as characters here. They just sort of orbit Homer. Though I suppose that’s true of everyone.

Mad Jon: Especially Lenny, Carl, Moe, Grandpa, Krusty, and the others that DROWNED in the net at the end.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the drowning thing has always been a lowlight. Like, we know this isn’t serious, but what the fuck?

Mad Jon: A tad too nuts for me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed. Like "Faith Off", the ending skips and jumps so many times that I’m not even sure what I’m watching by the end.

  I mean, Marge tells us that Burns will be home tomorrow, and in the scene after that, he has his first exam with the doctor. That is remarkably shitty editing.

Mad Jon: The scene continuity was indeed lacking.

I did enjoy the scene at the doctors with the Pope and Castro.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Castro thing seemed to be stretching it, but it was okay.

I like the pirate captain saying that "for liability purposes" the ocean will kill them.

Mad Jon: However, the good lines were very few and far between. So that sucked.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, there are a few, but this one is mostly herky-jerky weirdness and Homer fighting pirates and a bunch of other stuff.

  Like Homer wailing over the end credits, which would’ve been funny if it hadn’t gone all the way to the damned Gracie logo.

  That shit got old fast.

Mad Jon: Yep. I wasn’t a huge fan of the wailing over the credits. Mainly because of how it got there.

Homer is depressed, even though he just cost his boss more money than he will ever make in his career and still faces no consequences. Then he starts crying about not being a billionaire, and then it is over.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s Jerkass Homer.

Mad Jon: Oh, I know.

Charlie Sweatpants: He isn’t funny and is an asshole.

Mad Jon: I know that too.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here?

Mad Jon: Nothing worth pointing out.

It is all crap, and I don’t like to pick through crap in that much detail.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even if it’s sloppy as hell getting there, Homer describing the MLB retransmit ship ("or so the legend goes") is kinda amusing.

Mad Jon: I was already broken by that point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Not worth picking through the crap, of course, but still gets a little smile.

Okay, I say let’s retreat to hidden blogger island and never speak of this again.

Mad Jon: Can we gamble there?

Charlie Sweatpants: Sure.

Mad Jon: Ok then. But I get to be the one with more parrots on his shoulder.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fine. You deal with the bird shit.

26
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

King of the Hill4

“They won’t stop me from delivering these UNICEF pennies . . . Go, pennies!  Help the puny children who need you.” – McBain

25
Jul
12

Crazy Noises: Faith Off

Faith Off1

“You’re playing days are over, my friend.  But you can always fall back on your degree in Communications!  Oh, dear Lord.” – Dr. Hibbert
“I know.  Is phony major.  Lubchenko learn nothing!  Nothing!” – Anton Lubchenko

For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes.  This year we’re doing Season 11.  Why Season 11?  Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show.  Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough, not on “Lubchenko”).

Today’s episode is 1111, “Faith Off”.  Tomorrow will be 1112, “The Mansion Family”.

[Note: Dave couldn’t make it this week, Mad Jon and I are jealous he didn’t have to watch these.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: I am.

Charlie Sweatpants: Bart as the healer/preacher it is, then.

Like “Little Big Mom”, I think there could’ve been a good episode here. And like “Little Big Mom”, I want to like this episode but just can’t.

Mad Jon: Agreed, I was telling my wife that I wasn’t not looking forward to watching this one, but then I realized why I never watch it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which is?

Mad Jon: Well it is a rich tapestry.

  I am sure it will fall along the same lines why you want to like it, but can’t get your head around it.

The common Zombie characteristics are here, and it really could have been a good one. There are lots of good lines, and some solid ideas, but always something is lying around the corner to cut off the potential for sustained enjoyment.

Charlie Sweatpants: The “potential for sustained enjoyment” is a good way to put it.

I can buy Bart becomes a faith healer among the students at the school. He can exploit people’s faith for his own benefit, learn a lesson (but not really) and there you go. But I can’t buy Bart taking all of Lovejoy’s flock, then letting Milhouse get hurt, then seeing Homer crippling a kicker to have Fat Tony show up and all the other crap that makes the ending a swirling mess.

  No sooner is there something decent than things get bizarre and out of hand again. And in so many different ways.

This is also one of the few times I can recall wishing the opening wasn’t related to the rest of the episode.

Mad Jon: Why is that?

Do you feel the opening would have been better on its own, or t’other way round?

Charlie Sweatpants: The football game/float subplot was a great source of how bad the ending got. If they had dropped that for a straight Bart-as-preacher angle, the ending might not have ended with Fat Tony and flying legs.

And the opening, which is the best part of the episode, would have been better off, particularly if they transported Lubchenko’s immortal “Is phony major! Lubchenko learn nothing!” to the banquet.

Mad Jon: Oooh, that would have been better.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right?

Though I’ll never get why they replaced Dean Peterson with that weak Dean Wormer knock-off.

Mad Jon: I liked the opening, but I was also a fan of the scene when Bart meets Don Cheadle.

  Agreed.

  Why on earth was Dean Peterson not the same guy?!?

  He didn’t do any of the things that the typical Dean Wormer knock-offs normally do.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, he was mean, old and crotchety. Though he does get some good lines.

Mad Jon: Not the same. Take for example the Futurama version.

  That was good.

  This was weak.

Charlie Sweatpants: “A 7-5 football team doesn’t come cheap” and “Professor Rocko and Chancellor Knuckles” being my two favorites.

Mad Jon: I was about to point out that he did have some of the best lines.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed on the guy from Mars University. What he loves about being dean of students is the peace and quiet and the respect he receives.

But the opening quickly leads to the bucket thing, which leads to the revival for some reason, which does give Don Cheadle a couple of good lines but makes no sense all the same.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I know. The random event machine didn’t skip a beat this time.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d forgotten that they got to the revival meeting by just crash landing there.

Mad Jon: Me too.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, Jebus, I know this episode has no transitions whatsoever, but that was abrupt, even for a car crash.

Mad Jon: I couldn’t figure out what was going on, I thought it was the circus or something and I just didn’t remember.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nope, they just drop it out of nowhere.

The story priorities here are just weird. Like, they spend that whole seen showing Bart acquiring that tent, and then they skip over just about anything that would lead Lovejoy’s entire congregation to it.

It’s the same with Homer at the game. He’s got a BBQ in the stands, he jumps onto the field, and all this other crap, but they never explain why he’d want to build a float, or why he’d be able to build a float.

Mad Jon: He went from BBQ in the aisle to drunk in the seat, to aware of the fact he isn’t on the field, to drunk driving his float.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yup.

Mad Jon: In addition to your valid float related items. There were 3 floats, and Homer, by himself, makes one.

Charlie Sweatpants: And don’t forget that he just shows up in the locker room with Hibbert (who is the team doctor for some reason) to heal Lubchenko.

Mad Jon: Also true.

Charlie Sweatpants: Or that Fat Tony materializes out of nowhere.

Mad Jon: Yeah, just had to throw that in I guess. Couldn’t let Bart try to heal Lubchenko without Homer being threatened by a laser guided ice pick.

Charlie Sweatpants: There still are good jokes though. The Keith Jackson impersonator is okay (like his “an overdue salute to halftime itself”), and this is where “Lubchenko learn nothing!” landed, but at this point in the episode I have so little idea what’s going on that I’m not even sure if Fat Tony is serious or an apparition.

Mad Jon: The associations are pretty loose here.

  But again I think that there is really too much going on to allow a simple mind such as mine to focus on the two major plot lines.

Charlie Sweatpants: Neither of them makes a half lick of sense, is the problem.

And that’s before Fat Tony shows up out of nowhere for one of them.

The whole thing is just a giant mess, and yet we’re supposed to take the ending seriously?

Mad Jon: Yeah whateves.

  I do have to ask, why did Lenny blink 3 times after the cow college comment preceding what I assume was the commercial break?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve always liked that. Well, not the blinking, but that stern nod he gives. Like it’d be fighting words to contradict him.

I’m also a fan of Brockman getting pissed at “fever”, though I could’ve done without the pan off camera for his nerdy nephew writer.

Mad Jon: The nephew was probably too much.

Charlie Sweatpants: Any other standouts for you here?

Mad Jon: I enjoyed the preacher and Bart’s discussion of religion as full coverage against accidental death.

But other than that, not really.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, Cheadle’s delivery on “wow, that’s a good angle” is a definite highlight.

  But this one remains basically unwatchable in my book. There’s just way too much stupid.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

  But I have an easy solution for us, we can continue not watching it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good. Onto Burns Manor, then?

Mad Jon: Yep.

25
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Incriminating

“How much did you see?” – Lyle Lanley
“Uh, nothing incriminating.” – Marge Simpson
“Good.” – Lyle Lanley

24
Jul
12

Compare & Contrast: Hibbert’s Examples

Bart the Daredevil6

“I won’t even subject you to the horrors of our Three Stooges ward.” – Dr. Hibbert

[Note: Crazy Noises for “Faith Off” and “The Mansion Family” will be along on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.]

It’s not exactly news that the show increasingly relied on weird, hyperactive nonsense as it flew apart at the seams and became Zombie Simpsons.  The world of Springfield, which originally had been a recognizable if exaggerated stand in for real life, increasingly became the kind of stylized pseudo-reality where actions didn’t really have consequences and physical realities change from scene to scene.  The simplest way to see this is to look at the basic stories of so many episodes in Seasons 10 and 11: there’s the Loch Ness Monster, there’s Bart downing a satellite with a tank, there’s Homer and company breaking into Rupert Murdoch’s Super Bowl suite. 

But it wasn’t just the big events of the stories that reveal this new commitment to silliness over everything else.  Consider the scene in “Faith Off” where Dr. Hibbert shows Homer and Marge some of the other patients in his care.  Homer has managed to get a bucket glued to his head (which itself is more than a little reminiscent of Bart getting novelty items glued to his face in Season 9’s “Lost Our Lisa), which gives Hibbert a chance to simply raise some blinds and show off three patients with “traumedy” injuries.

Traumedies

Here’s everything Hibbert says to introduce them:

Hibbert: I’m afraid it’s hopeless.  Beneath that bucket he’s more glue than man.
Marge: So he’s stuck like this forever?
Hibbert: Oh, now don’t fret.  These days, the victims of comedy-traumas, or traumedies, can still lead rich, full lives.

And that’s the whole joke.  The episode pans over each of them, Hibbert doesn’t really say anything after that, and then it’s time for Homer to continue living with the bucket on his head.  It’s far from the worst scene in the episode, but it is the kind of unremarkable filler on which Zombie Simpsons leans so heavily.  There isn’t anything going on here more than, hey, we drew these slightly amusing pictures that make so little sense that we hope you’ll giggle at them.

Contrast that with a superficially similar scene in “Bart the Daredevil”, where Hibbert shows Bart some of his other patients in an attempt to prevent Bart from again trying to copy daredevil stunts.    Here’s the dialogue:

Hibbert: I think I know something that might discourage him from this sort of behavior.  Bart, in this ward are the children who have been hurt by imitating stunts they saw on television, movies, and the legitimate stage. . . . This little boy broke his leg, trying to fly like Superman.  This boy’s brother hit him in the head with a wrench, mimicking a recent TV wrestling match.  I won’t even subject you to the horrors of our Three Stooges ward.
Marge: Gee, I never realized TV was such a dangerous influence.
Hibbert: Well, as tragic as all this is, it’s a small price to pay for countless hours of top notch entertainment.
Homer: Amen.

Unlike the guy with the swordfish through his chest, this scene has more than one thing occurring.  Not only are Bart’s motivations and antics central to the plot and Hibbert’s patients believable (if funny) exaggerations, but we’re also treated to that wonderful meta joke where Marge, Hibbert and Homer take a (rather mean) potshot at the show’s critics.  It’s one of the subtler “think of the children!” jokes the show ever did, but there’s no mistaking that they’re not only calling television “dangerous”, but saying that it’s perfectly okay for it to be so. 

The whole scene and all the gags it contains work because they aren’t filler, aren’t just silly drawings and cheap jokes.  We get a callback to earlier in the episode with the wrench, we set up the central conflict of the rest of the story (Marge and Homer trying to stop Bart from being a daredevil), we get the subtle glance at the fourth wall with the meta-television joke, and there’s even some token Stooges silliness (though it would be awesome if real hospitals had Three Stooges wards). 

These are just two small scenes, but there’s no denying that each one is attempting very different kinds of entertainment.  Zombie Simpsons wastes time because, well, what else are you going to do once you’ve gotten a bucket stuck on Homer’s head?  They’ve left anything that could be called recognizable reality behind, so they’re left with nothing more than eating clock with a few drawn out sight gags that don’t make any sense.  The Simpsons doesn’t waste time or drop all pretense of reality because it knows that killing time isn’t funny and that for satire to work things can’t be boundlessly silly in one scene and totally normal in the next.

24
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Whacking Day8

“Hey, kids, how was school?” – Homer Simpson
“I learned how many drams in a pennyweight.” – Lisa Simpson
“I got expelled.” – Bart Simpson
“That’s my boy!” – Homer Simpson

23
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Rosebud10

“How much do you want?” – C.M. Burns
“A million dollars and three Hawaiian islands, good ones, not the leper ones.” – Homer Simpson

22
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

The Call of the Simpsons6

“I’d like to see your finest RV.  Do you have something that’s better than the Land Behemoth?” – Homer Simpson
“Yes, we do.  That would be the Ultimate Behemoth.” – Cowboy Bob
“Where is it?” – Homer Simpson
“You are standing in its presence.  Behold!  Isn’t she, look at this thing, this is, can you, man built this.  It’s a vehicle.” – Cowboy Bob

Happy birthday Albert Brooks!

21
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

A Streetcar Named Marge5

“Perhaps we are all a little mad, we who don the cap and bells and tread beneath the presidium arch, but tonight you will all be transformed from dead eyed suburbanites into white hot grease fires of pure entertainment! . . . Except you, you’re not working out.  I’ll be playing your part.” – Llewellyn Sinclair
“Drag.” – Otto

Happy birthday Jon Lovitz!

20
Jul
12

Reading Digest: Longest Daycare Wrap-Up Edition

The Canine Mutiny6

“And baby Gerald, we can’t help but wonder what mischief you’ll get into next.” – Mayor Quimby

We’ve got a few final links to Maggie’s star turn this week, including a couple of pictures of her as silent film stars of yesteryear.  In addition to that we’ve got a couple of home made Simpsons costumes (one for fun, one for opposing the Syrian government), some excellent usage, a couple of people who agree with us, and a lone, dutiful mention of the Olympics. 

Enjoy.

[Note: I’ve added our spinoff site to the links at right.  The Batman 7 review will go up at 4pm Eastern.]

Let’s See What Happens… – You write about Simpsons, you get links from us.  That’s all there is to it.  In this case, is a rundown of three great guest voices from Season 1. 

FILM REVIEW MAGGIE SIMPSON IN “LONGEST DAY CARE” – Yet another positive review of Maggie’s short.

The Revolting Syrian-يلا إرحل يا بشار, Bart Simpson comes to protest in Kafrsouseh – A guy in a homemade Bart Simpson mask protests in Syria.

‘Simpsons’: Maggie as Charlie Chaplin in ‘Modern Times’ – PHOTO – Some promotional images for “The Longest Daycare” have Maggie drawn into old films by Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Maggie in remakes of those.  Just sayin’.

Ice Age: Continental Drift – Still more love for “The Longest Daycare”:

And the big plus is that the film is preceded by a superb 4 and a half-minute animated short called “The Longest Daycare”, starring Maggie Simpson of “The Simpsons” fame. Its brevity is its strength—and it puts to shame anything the main feature has to offer.

Day 21: Marine Day – A fan made Captain McAllister costume complete with napkin beard and pipe made out of a deodorant lid.  Arghh!

Movie Review: No 16. Goodfellas – There’s a lot of Paul Sorvino in Fat Tony, but I don’t think this is true:

Since the Simpsons is pretty much my go-to reference point for all things pop culture, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Simpsons character ‘Fat Tony’ and his cronies. Interestingly (at least according to Wikipedia), the character of Fat Tony was modelled after the actor Paul Sorvino, who plays the mob boss in Goodfellas, HOWEVER, the first Simpsons episode to feature Fat Tony (which involves a very similar plot to Goodfellas) was devised before Goodfellas was released!

Per IMDb, Goodfellas was released in September of 1990, but “Bart the Murderer”, the first episode with Fat Tony, didn’t air until October of 1991.  Even with the long lead time to produce an episode, it’s hard to see how Fat Tony predated Paulie. 

Chick-Fil-A…In 10 Words – Steak or chicken?  One of each, please.

Available Now: Secret Lover: Episode 1. – Lenny’s conquest of the internet continues.  Now she’s got a podcast, and it’s a Simpsons reference!  But the nits, the nits must be picked:

My supplemental podcast Secret Lover (named for the most apt description of television I’ve ever heard, “Friend, mother, secret lover”) will now go up each week.

I know how easy it is to overlook things when you’re starting something new, but c’mon, it’s “Teacher, mother, secret lover”.  I’ve got it on a t-shirt and everything.

From The Precious Minds of The Internet – With the Olympics starting, I suppose it needs to be reiterated that, yes, the logo does look like Lisa giving a blowjob.  Because Rule 34 pervades every last switch on the internet, someone has helpfully colored in the logo in case you didn’t get it the first time.

Western Pacific Airlines Boeing 737-301 N949WP (msn 23230) (Fox-The Simpsons) LAS (Bruce Drum). Image: 102059 – A Simpsons painted passenger jet, including Marge’s hair on the tail.

Point and Click this B*tches: Amiga Amazing – It’s about time. – A review of Bart vs. the Space Mutants . . . on an Amiga.

The Simpsons Arcade Review – Pretty much what it says.  Like most of these reviews, it gives points for nostalgia and not many for gameplay or sophistication.

Top 5: Favorite Afro-Haired Characters – Sideshow Bob is on here, and so is Sho’nuff from The Last Dragon, truly one of the great cheese haircuts of the 1980s.

Classic Literature and Modern Movies – As usual, any discussion of literature’s influence on movies and teevee is incomplete without The Simpsons.

“Seinfeld” Scores a Bull’s-Eye – I blame Zombie Simpsons:

What all-time great sitcoms are in the discussion with Seinfeld?  The Simpsons?  With only winks at highbrow humor (Mayor Quimby appearances, Lisa’s storylines), The Simpsons relies most often on lowbrow/despicable humor.

Zombie Simpsons relies on “lowbrow/despicable humor”, The Simpsons just used it.

Daily Shots – 14/07/12 – Mister Smithers – A nearly nine minute YouTube video of the echo of “bony old behind!” from “Mountain of Madness”.

Life is dandy. – Excellent second hand usage:

Someone said this the other day on Facebook when they realised that The Killers, and Coldplay are coming to tour here, and that they were in Hawaii while it’s freezing here: ‘Everything’s coming up Milhouse’.

How Much Weirdness Can You Buy for $5? – Mmm, minor infringement:

How much would you pay someone to record your voice mail greeting in Homer Simpson’s voice?
Chris Hardy will do it for $5. For $5 more, he’ll record up to a 3-minute script.
Hardy doesn’t stop with Homer — he also does the rest of the Simpsons, most of the South Park cast, Beavis and Butthead, and a host of other cartoon characters. And, $5 price tag aside, the 47-year-old former radio personality has transformed his part-time voice-over gig into a lucrative side business.

Gabor Csupo, Legendary Animator of The Simpsons and Rugrats, Opens gGallery in Santa Monica – Pretty much what the headline says.  Csupo’s looking pretty good these days.

Homer Simpson Phone Booth – Apparently, phone booths in Russia kinda look like Homer’s mouth.

White Sox Week That Was: 7/9-7/15 – The results were good enough to overlook some things – Excellent usage:

According to dictionary.com, "cromulent" is a real word now and not just a joke from The Simpsons, which makes it the perfect word to sum up the White Sox week in Kansas City.  It was fine, adequate.

Google Accidentally Makes An Awesome Simpsons Reference – He can’t avenge his partner with that pea shooter!

The Simpsons Comic-Con 2012 Live Blog – This might be fun:

1:13 Will there ever be a ‘McBain’ short? They throw it to the crowd to see if they’d rather see an ‘Itchy and Scratchy’ short or a ‘McBain’ short and the crowd cheers louder for ‘McBain’ so of course, the panel chooses ‘Itchy and Scratchy.’

I have my doubts.  They haven’t done a decent Itchy & Scratchy in forever, and they haven’t done McBain in even longer.

Family Guy – A discussion of Family Guy leads to this:

You don’t have episodes or seasons that drag too much and bring the entire show down. It’s definitely better than what I like to call the ‘Simpsons Method’ where you have an amazing run but continue on for ten years too long.

Animated comedies never die.

If You Want The Simpsons Set Free, You Must Kill Them First – And finally, that guy who complained about the lack of streaming in Forbes last week agrees with us in an update post:

I stopped watching new episodes of The Simpsons years ago. One critic aptly summed up the decline thusly:

    Memorable story arcs have been sacrificed for the sake of celebrity walk-ons and punchline-hungry dialogue.

Now in addition to not being funny, I can not like the new episodes because their existence is what is keeping online streaming from us.

All bad things flow from Zombie Simpsons.

20
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Batmen and Catwomen

(Image credits: Adam West, Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale, Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Anne Hathaway)

“Hey, kids, Batman!” – Homer Simpson
“Dad, that’s not the real Batman.” – Lisa Simpson
“Of course I’m Batman.  See, here’s a picture of me with Robin.” – Adam West
“Who the hell’s Robin?” – Bart Simpson
“Oh, I guess you’re only familiar with the new Batman movies.  Michelle Pfeiffer?  Ha.  The only true Catwoman is Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, or Eartha Kitt.  And I didn’t need molded plastic to improve my physique, pure West.  And how come Batman doesn’t dance anymore?  Remember the Batusi?” – Adam West

19
Jul
12

Compare & Contrast: Children Perform for Burns

Audition Rejection

“Ow!” – Bart Simpson
“Excellent.” – C.M. Burns

To say that the evil and charismatic Mr. Burns enjoys having people perform for him is something of an understatement.  This is a man who has crippled an Irishman for his own amusement and tied a bundle of cash to a string to taunt an eight-year-old girl.  He kidnapped Tom Jones and made him sing while shackled to the stage.  The Burns we all know and love to hate likes to see people squirm under duress, preferably duress that he’s causing.

You can see this trait in spades in “Burns’ Heir”.  In this episode alone, we see Burns fire a pistol at a man’s feet to make him dance, laugh as Homer is plunged into an industrial smokestack, and drop Lenny into a pit while he was pleading for his job.  In keeping with his cruel and callous nature, Burns summons many of the town’s children to his mansion so that they can try to impress him and win his money.  Since he doesn’t really tell them what he’s looking for (other than no girls and no geeks), the entire idea is borderline sadistic.  Young kids have to stand on a stage so that all of their insecurities and shortcomings can be picked apart by an old man who plainly despises most of them.  True to form, Burns proceeds to humiliate the ones he doesn’t like and either applauds or instigates physical violence against the ones who really displease him.

Burns' Heir8

Give the bully an extra point.

The entire scene is exactly what we expect from Burns.  He’s evil, in charge, and taking out his frustrations and fears on people who are hopelessly weaker than he is.  The only kid who even kind of impresses him is Nelson, and that’s because Nelson’s the one who shares Burns’ contempt for the rest of them.  This is Burns wallowing in his own crapulence with no one to stop him or even mitigate his actions.

The opposite of that scene occurs in “Grift of the Magi” when Skinner takes some of the kids to Burns Manor to beg for help for the school.  In both cases, the kids are there because their adults want money from Burns, but that’s where the similarities end.  Consider, just for a minute, how everyone got there.  In “Burns’ Heir”, it’s made explicitly clear that these children are there only on the sufferance of Burns.

Burns' Heir7

See, Zombie Simpsons?  Sign gags can be in service to the plot.

By contrast, in “Grift of the Magi”, the kids just show up and start putting on a show which Burns, for some unexplained reason, sits patiently and watches.  Having the episode skip over the how and why of Skinner and his charges getting into Burns Manor, as well as the how and why of Burns paying attention instead of instantly releasing the hounds, is yet another example of the declining give-a-shit level of the show as it became Zombie Simpsons. 

It wouldn’t have been hard for them to come up with some kind of excuse or joke for how they all got into Burns Manor or why Burns is listening to them.  Maybe they poisoned the hounds, maybe the security guards are all illiterate, who knows?  Anything would’ve been better than the nothing they actually did.  No sooner has this episode said that it’s impossible to get into Burns Manor than Skinner and the kids just appear, and Burns is fine with it.  They don’t even care enough to give us a single line (from Burns, Skinner, anyone) that makes light of the fact that they just skipped over a gaping plot chasm and contradicted one of the most well established traits of one of their best known characters.

Somewhat impressively, things manage to get even worse once the little production actually starts.  Skinner’s play is predictably stupid and cut rate, nothing wrong with that, but then Burns falls for it, not realizing it’s for charity until the very end.  This is a man who wanted to drive on after he hit Bart with his car, a man who kidnapped a Brazilian soccer team to work in his nuclear plant, a man who was once accurately described by Judge Snyder as having an, “unbelievable contempt for human life”.  No part of the real Burns would ever be so gullible as to find Skinner’s toddling morality play plausible or so empathetic to care that someone might be served rat poison:

Nelson:  Hmm, which one of these is the salt?  Too bad I’m an idiot cause my school closed.  Oh, well.
Burns: No, that’s the rat poison!

It actually goes downhill from there, but in just that single exchange we can tell that Burns simply isn’t who he’s supposed to be anymore.  The smart and unlimitedly cruel Burns is gone, and in his place is a doddering fool who is dumb and caring.  As Bart and Ralph(!) get their turns on stage, this new Burns continues to lap up their transparent bullshit:

Skinner:  Now, who in Springfield will eat the poisoned broth?  It could be anyone, even Mr. Burns.
Burns: This play really speaks to me.

[…]

Ralph Wiggum: Hello, I’m Dr. Stupid.  I’m going to take out your liver bones.  Oops, you’re dead.
Burns: I never liked that Dr. Stupid.
Skinner: Mr. Burns, I’ll be honest.  We had a hidden agenda tonight. 
Burns: [gasps] No!

This is precisely the kind of weak, stupid, and generally helpless Burns that never existed during The Simpsons.  Compare that to the way Burns reacts to the kids who are auditioning to become his heir:

Milhouse: I have nothing to offer you but my love.
Burns: I specifically said no geeks!
Milhouse: But my Mom says I’m cool.
Burns: Next.
Nelson: Gimme your fortune or I’ll pound your withered old face in!
Burns: Oh, I like his energy.  Put him on the callback list.

This is the real Burns: mean, evil and with no patience for those who aren’t.  When he eventually settles on Bart for being “a creature of pure malevolence”, he does so because Bart is smashing his windows and decapitating his statues, actions that would presumably shock and horrify the feeble man in “Grift of the Magi”. 

On top of all that (of course), is the fact that in “Burns’ Heir” the scene with the performing kids is crucial to the overall story, whereas in “Grift of the Magi” it’s an unnecessary and time filling detour that has almost nothing to do with the main plot.  But plot irrelevance is par for the course in Zombie Simpsons.  The real damage here is to Burns, and by extension to the show, since turning him into a husk of himself destroys all the fun that comes with having a wealthy man who revels in the misery of others.

19
Jul
12

Quote of the Day

Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment8

“You’re watching Top Hat Entertainment, adult programming all day, every day, except in Florida and Utah.  Coming up next, Stardust Mammaries.” – Sultry Female Announcer




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