Author Archive for Charlie Schaldenbrand


Quote of the Day


“I think I could actually hear the air being torn, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Oh, shut up.” – C.M. Burns


Quote of the Day


“This is great!  Not only am I not learning, I’m forgetting stuff I used to know!” – Milhouse van Houten

Happy birthday Pamela Hayden!


Quote of the Day

Homer Badman18

“I don’t know Homer Simpson, I never met Homer Simpson, or had any contact with him, but . . . I’m sorry, I can’t go on” – Crying Woman
“That’s okay, your tears say more than real evidence ever could.” – Talk Show Host


The Simpsons vs. Thanksgiving

Bart vs Thanksgiving17

“I would say something comforting, but, you know, my voice.” – Jacqueline Bouvier 

“Bart vs. Thanksgiving” was originally broadcast twenty-five Thanksgivings ago (22 Nov 1990, to be exact). It’s the first episode written by George Meyer (just the 20th episode overall, and the 7th of Season 2), and it’s a great showcase of just how quickly the show began firing on all cylinders. The Thanksgiving episode has everything from blink-and-you’ll-miss-them background gags to gleefully cruel satire of sacred American institutions and self mocking meta-jokes.

Underlying everything is the show’s cardinal grace: a family that loves each other even while they don’t like each other. The story centers around Bart’s disdain for Lisa and her resentment of it, but it also covers Marge harshly scolding Bart; Patty, Selma, and Jacqueline trashing Marge; Homer’s indifference to his kids; and Grampa and Homer treating each other like furniture. In the end, they get “one more crack at togetherness” because they actually do love each other; but that only comes after the episode has spent considerable time rolling around in the rich comedy soil of family insults and contempt.

Around that is non-stop mockery of all the goofy traditions of modern American Thanksgiving. People watch the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys, and on this sacredly secular day, Homer is gambling against his favorite team and all the idiots in the stands are using flash photography. Hooray For Everything comes out at halftime to celebrate the Western Hemisphere (“the dancin-est hemisphere of all!”) to the delight of Homer-esque dimwits nationwide. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade gets doubly insulted, both for using outdated cartoon characters that kids no longer care about, and for pandering to know nothing 10-year-olds by including a Bart Simpson balloon. (Which they actually did that year.)

Bart vs Thanksgiving13

Son, this is a tradition. If you start building a balloon for every flash in the pan cartoon character, you’ll turn the parade into a farce!” – Homer Simpson

The episode the starts taking whacks at the often awkward and sometimes bitter tradition of having extended family over for dinner. Patty and Selma manage to insult Marge as soon as they walk in the door by having brought their own dinners. Jacqueline Bouvier shows up barely able to talk, but what words she does say express nothing but disappointment and shame at her three daughters. Homer goes to pick up Grampa at the retirement home, where forgotten old people get “turkey puree” and feel hopelessly lonely as the manager reads off an impersonal list of names whose families bothered to fax(!) in an empty holiday greeting. The choice Meyer and the rest of the writing staff present is both clear and bleak: spend the holidays with your family and you get to be miserable while you’re being insulted and put down, or spend it alone and forgotten and you get to be miserable and lonely.


“This place is depressing!” – Homer Simpson
“Hey, I live here!” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

After Bart and Lisa fight and Bart accidentally destroys Lisa’s prized centerpiece, the family (minus the two of them) finally sits down to dinner for a prayer from Homer:

“And Lord, we’re especially thankful for nuclear power, the cleanest, safest energy source there is . . . except for solar, which is just a pipe dream. Anyway, we’d like to thank you for the occasional moments of peace and love our family’s experienced. Well, not today, you saw what happened! Oh, Lord, be honest, are we the most pathetic family in the universe or what?”

Bart vs Thanksgiving15

To which everyone at the table replies, “Amen”, before Selma calls it the, “Worst prayer yet”.

From there, the show continues its contemptuous survey of the hollowness of the holiday. At the corner of Croesus and Mammon, we see Burns throw away a feast while his security guards eat TV dinners and read Les Miserables. On the wrong side of the tracks, Kent Brockman shows up to the soup kitchen to win himself another local Emmy for what one of the bums perfectly derides as, “one of those be-thankful-for-what-you-got stories”. That joke still resonates because those stories remain a seasonal staple on local news, but what makes it even better is that this episode was actually broadcast on Thanksgiving! Real stories every bit as self serving and chock full of phony empathy as Brockman’s were being broadcast all over the country that very night.

Bart vs Thanksgiving16

The harsh limits of televised sympathy.

The story then wraps up with Bart actually being thankful for his family, and even apologizing to Lisa. Crucially, he doesn’t apologize because he’s being starved or because Marge told him he “ruined Thanksgiving”, but because deep down he feels bad for hurting his sister’s feelings. It’s a moment of actual family bonding, but it never degenerates into schmaltz or cliches.

With the relentless negativity of the extended family long gone, the episode ends with the nuclear Simpson family in their pajamas, happily slurping and belching over a table of leftovers. Thanksgiving may be a gluttonous charade, and your family may infuriate and hurt you, but spending it with them can still be special.


Quote of the Day

Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming11

“Look at that hunk of junk.” – Bart Simpson
“You’re ignorant!  That’s the Wright Brothers’ plane!  At Kitty Hawk in 1903, Charles Lindbergh flew it fifteen miles on a thimbleful of corn oil!  Single handedly won us the Civil War, it did.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“So, how do you know so much about American history?” – Bart Simpson
“I pieced it together, mostly from sugar packets.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming”!  Original airdate 26 November 1995.


Quote of the Day

Bart vs Thanksgiving14

“And the Silverdome, now ablaze with flashbulbs as Hooray for Everything leaves the field.  Of course, a stadium’s much too big for flash pictures to work, but nobody seems to care!” – Football Announcer


Behind Us Forever: Lisa With an S

The Last Temptation of Homer13

“Dad, why are you singing?” – Lisa Simpson
“Tell a lie!  Tell a lie!” – Homer’s Brain
“Because I have a small roll in a Broadway musical.  It’s not much, but it’s a start.” – Homer Simpson
“Bravo.” – Homer’s Brain 

I gave up on this episode halfway through (read more and you’ll see why).  The basic idea is that Lisa wants to go to band camp, but Homer loses money in a poker game to Moe’s elderly, ex-Broadway star girlfriend.  (I am not making that up.)  Said ex-Broadway star comes over to the house and then takes Lisa on tour, wacky hijinks ensue, etcetera etcetera, and then at some point the credits roll.

The couch gag is a kind of Star Trek doodle that probably never should’ve left the upper right corner of some bored person’s script.

We open with a West Side Story “Tonight, Tonight” song opening for poker night.  Most of the lyrics are the word “tonight”.

Lisa: “to save time, I’ll start describing the favor.” There’s an extra layer of laziness and audience contempt when they pre-exposit the exposition.

Lenny just fell out a window.

Poker montage!

Now they’re doing an Inside Out thing in Homer’s head.  Helpfully, it restates what’s going on (again).

And Homer loses at poker.  Barney is now driving a dart board like a steering wheel.  Feh.

Late at night, Bart pokes his head into Lisa’s room to re-exposit the plot.  Thanks, Bart!  I was confused as to whether or not Homer losing at poker would impact Lisa going to band camp.

The old Broadway lady is at dinner with the family now.  They’re recounting stories.  Tell, don’t show!

Here’s a typically boring and haplessly constructed series of events:

  1. Homer tries to flatter the old lady by saying “tell me you’re writing a book”.  Then . . .
  2. Bart starts choking himself with his necktie, which causes the camera to pan away from her and over to him.  Then . . .
  3. Homer grabs Bart and says, “sit down, boy, we’re trying to show this dame that we’re deserving of her pity”.  That neatly restates the thing we’d just had explained to us twice.  He continues:
  4. Homer: “Where’s that crutch I gave you?”
    Bart: “There’s nothing wrong with my leg.”
    Homer: “There will be!”
  5. Bart then bashes Homer’s leg with a crutch, so . . .
  6. Homer screams in pain, then . . .
  7. He pretends to hobble around on the crutch when the old lady, who’s been sitting there the whole time, is put back into frame.  Homer then restates the plot once again.  Pre-explained jokes, repeated exposition, no sense of object (or character) permanence; Lordy, this show is bad.

Lisa is now playing saxophone for the old lady, then pulls out “Laney’s” albums and reads the covers to us while she shows them.  This form of storytelling, reading out loud while showing us the accompanying picture, is usually reserved for librarians reading to kindergartners.  It is also sadly typical of Zombie Simpsons.

Marge is arguing with the old lady, then Grampa chimed in before saying, “I’ve been here, I’ve just been quiet”.  Things like this are why I’m convinced the writing staff knows how shitty these scripts are and is long (LONG) past the point of caring.

You know what?  Fuck it.  Let’s skip forward three minutes and see what’s happening . . . the screen is panning over a bunch of empty theater seats and balconies before Milhouse appears from nowhere to tell us he got a ticket and then Lisa describes what we just saw.

Let’s skip ahead another three minutes . . . the old lady is singing (Lisa’s part of the band).  Moe, in the audience, then tells us what we just saw, “Cheering for someone getting a word right.  That is a low bar.”  Indeed.  Three more minutes, please . . .

Moe and the old lady finish the episode in a “visiting New York City” montage.  But there’s one of those post-credit sketches where Homer is arguing with an Amish guy who’s related to Flanders.  I watched 51% of this carcass, that should be enough.

So, the ratings for the last two episodes are in and very little has changed.  The one from two weeks ago, “Friend With Benefit”, did not have the benefit of an NFL lead-in and was endured by only 3.5 million viewers.  (Fun fact: the headline of that article includes the words “family”, “guy”, “series”, and “low”.)  This one did have an NFL lead-in and managed 5.64 million viewers, almost exactly a million less than the previous episode that had football protecting it from apathy.  Overall, ratings: still atrocious.


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