“Two hundred and fifty dollars? But I need that album to honor the memory of Bleeding Gums Murphy.” – Lisa Simpson
“He’s dead? Well, why didn’t you say so?” – Comic Book Guy
It doesn’t come up in individual statements, but when you listen to the commentary for this episode right after you listen to the commentary for “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”, the most striking thing is the absence of feeling the need to explain things. Instead of anyone getting defensive or saying something about, “no really, this was a good idea”, it’s all just trivia about the episode, the occasional short tangent, and backstory on this or that. The Season 11 commentary is just this side of an apology. The Season 6 commentary is a regular DVD commentary track.
Five guys on this one: Jean and Reiss, Steven Dean Moore (who directed), and Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, who wrote the script.
0:20 – Jean starts out by noting that this is the non-“A Star Is Burns” episode that was done with a lot of the staff from The Critic, and they figured that at this point in the show’s run a major character hadn’t been killed, so why not? Importantly, he notes that the episode is actually about “Lisa’s grief”, which is much better than “Flanders’ dating”, but he doesn’t say that last part.
1:00 – Reiss originally wanted to kill Marge’s mother.
1:30 – The first episode Steven Dean Moore worked on was “Moaning Lisa” and this was the first one he directed, so it was a nice bookend for him.
1:50 – Jean notes that Ron Taylor, Steve Allen, Phil Hartman and Doris Grau all did voices on this episode and all of them have since died. That causes Reiss to crack, “It’s a real blood bath, folks, so sit back and enjoy”.
2:25 – Reiss and Jean took credit on the story, but Sternin and Ventimilia got the “teleplay” credit. Reiss notes that show runners don’t usually take story credits like that, but they thought it was going to win a bunch of awards “it’s death and a black guy and jazz” . . . and then it didn’t. But they did get paid.
3:30 – Jean says that they don’t remember for sure who came up with “cheese eating surrender monkeys”, but that it might have been Ken Keeler. Then they joke around about how people took it awfully seriously when it was just a throwaway joke for them.
5:15 – There’s a backlighting effect on the operating table lights to make it look more like old hospital shows.
6:00 – The little glints on the jagged metal-Os are done post production.
6:15 – Reiss’ father is a doctor, and no matter how many times they asked him, he wouldn’t tell them that you could get appendicitis from eating a piece of metal. Jean then jokes that more people saw this than know him, so they won.
6:45 – Writers and directors love flashbacks because they don’t have to do anything.
8:00 – Jean makes the obligatory note that Steve Allen had done a voice before and later harshly criticized the show.
8:30 – Laughing at the Faberge egg habit. Reiss says that Joan Rivers was collecting them and that’s where he got the idea.
9:00 – It’s Castellaneta doing the great Cosby impression here, but they’d gone back to Sunday by now and Cosby was off the air, so Reiss calls it “residual malice”, which would be an awesome band name.
10:15 – Josh Sternin really did have appendicitis once.
10:20 – It took awhile to get Lisa’s un-brushed teeth “gross but clear”.
10:40 – One of the reasons they wanted to pitch this was to let Lisa sing “Jazzman”.
10:50 – Jean then notes that this was when the show was longer so they could take their time and do things like show the song.
11:40 – Jean can’t tell the difference between a tenor and a baritone saxophone. Moore comes on to say that she’s normally supposed to play tenor, but for this they downsized the sax a little. Jean’s brother plays the saxophone, but that doesn’t help, which leads Reiss to crack, “We ignore our families, that’s why we’re comedy writers”.
12:50 – The scene where Lisa wins over the crowd prompts Jean to compare it to the movie Ray where the same thing happens.
13:00 – Reiss comes on to note that Lisa finding out Bleeding Gums is dead should’ve been the act break. I probably haven’t seen this episode with commercials in the better part of a decade, so I really have no idea where the act breaks are.
13:45 – This was only the second script Sternin and Ventimilia had done. The only other one they’d done was an episode of The Critic. They talk about how cool it was to be a fan of the show and then be able to put words in the mouths of the characters. Jean, feeling wistful, says he felt the same way when the cast of Gilligan’s Island came on Alf while he was writing there.
14:50 – Interesting directing note here, David Silverman told Moore that when Grampa is pointing and yelling at various things being “Death!”, they shouldn’t pull the frame out too quickly. They originally had the camera pulling very fast, but the joke is that Grampa is overreacting, so the camera should under-react to show how senile he’s being.
15:15 – Jean jokes that the Starland Vocal Band tattoo would’ve been a great act break which prompts Reiss to say, “Don’t tell that to FOX, they’ll be giving us eight act breaks now”. Just an observation, but Jean always seems to be having way more fun on commentaries where Reiss is around as opposed to when he isn’t.
16:05 – Everyone laughs at the hot dog cart at the funeral.
16:55 – It is indeed a white Bronco in which Hutz and OJ’s attorney’s speed away.
17:10 – That causes Jean to recall that they were working on The Critic right by the freeway during the OJ chase (Wikipedia and YouTube for those of you too young to remember 1994) when they saw all the helicopters. He jokes that they should’ve run to an overpass with a sign reading “Watch The Critic” among all the signs that said Go, OJ Go.
18:00 – Moore was told that the laid back DJ was based on David Mirkin, but nobody seems to know if that’s true or not.
18:30 – Jean and Reiss explain how odd and puzzling Pogs were, even at the time.
19:45 – Just in case you were wondering, this episode gets its title from a 1986 movie called ’Round Midnight.
20:00 – Wes Archer’s brother Martin did most of the animation on the scene where the clouds come together.
20:20 – Everyone laughs at Wiggum getting poisoned.
20:45 – The “Kimba, I mean Simba” joke is a reference to a 1960s cartoon about a lion named Kimba whose father died. There was even a baboon.
21:30 – Reiss asks Sternin and Ventimilia how it was to write this. Predictably they say it was a lot of fun, then one of them jokes, “It was back when we were young and full of hope”. Heh.
21:50 – Moore jokes that after he worked a long time to get a directing slot on the show, he wasn’t sure how many he’d get because, really, how long could it go on after six seasons already?