“A lot of you would think I was crazy if I did this.” – Homer Simpson
“He’s crazy!” – C.M. Burns
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“The challenger learned how to fight in the notorious projects of Capital City, and honed his skills while serving time for aggravated assault and manslaughter in Springfield Prison.” – Boxing Announcer
“Alright, a local boy!” – Barney Gumble
With the hoopla around the premier and the crossover now safely in the rear view mirror, and Halloween stuff not yet ramping up to full volume, it’s a pretty short Reading Digest this week. We do have hometown articles about both Al Jean and Mike Reiss, however. In addition to those, we’ve got some excellent fan art, a couple of interesting lists, and some stuffed animal based charity.
[TV Talk] Top 10 Simpsons Horror Movie Parodies – This is a pretty good list. There is one Zombie Simpsons segment, but it’s #9. #10 is the Guillermo del Toro couch gag, which was pretty entertaining even if it wasn’t part of the show proper.
Cakes Raise Cancer Awareness – Simpsons cakes, specifically, and there’s even art of one of Comic Book Guy. Bravo.
Sometimes words just get in the way – Longtime director Mark Kirkland has made a short, silent movie:
A romantic comedy that takes place, as the first title card explains, in a “long-forgotten movie studio,” The Moving Picture Co. 1914 has a 22-minute running time that Kirkland notes is the same length as a Simpsons episode if you cut out the commercials.
“I’m used to that time length and meter,” says the California Institute of the Arts graduate, who double-majored in film and animation. “The Simpsons are in my blood.”
Weird Al is playing the guy who’s playing Jesus.
Reboot The Simpsons – Instead of flashing everyone forward, I guess you could go backwards instead, but either way I remain convinced that the current show has to die before anything new and interesting can come out of Simpsons-world.
Reproduction of Lisa Simpson, The Scream – Excellent fan made painting.
Four sitcoms past their prime – Zombie Simpsons is such a fixture on lists like these, that the lists themselves have taken a meta-note of it:
This show has been on every past-their-prime list published in the last decade.
Bargain Bin Games – The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The World – A YouTube review.
Say Anything Parodies on TV: 8 of the Best – Otto proposing to Becky is on here, but I’d probably go with Itchy & Scratchy’s “Spay Anything” in “Cape Feare”, though that doesn’t have the boombox over the head thing.
On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘The Simpsons’ Season 26, Episode 3: ‘Super Franchise Me’ – According to the ratings, a lot of people do this:
Truth be told, I only watch about four “The Simpsons” episodes a year, until they choke out their “Treehouse of Horror,” and then I go on my way forgetting that they’re on TV, basically having vague memories that this was something I once looked forward to watching.
WTF Wednesday: Questionable Trends in Fashion – The trend of fashionable Bart clothing spreads.
Hype launches The Simpsons apparel with Topman – See above. Retro cool now, I guess.
There’s one thing 9-year-old Karis Zavala rarely puts down: a miniature doll of Lisa Simpson from the animated sitcom “The Simpsons.”
She’s vowed for the past seven years to never let it go.
She and her sister are going a charity thing to collect plush toys for kids.
Library dedicates section to ‘The Simpsons’ writer, Bristol native – You gotta love Reiss:
“When I won my first Emmy for ‘The Simpsons,’ I told my wife ‘Take a picture, I’ve got to send it to the hometown paper,’ and she did,” he said. “Four days later it was on the front page of The Bristol Press — me in a tuxedo holding an Emmy, over the caption ‘Local Man Claims To Win Award.’”
‘The Simpsons’ founding writer Al Jean on his Detroit roots – And speaking of local-boy-makes-good, Jean talks about his roots, and what they have to teach us.
BWW Reviews: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY with The Catamounts in Boulder – The play gets good reviews even a couple thousand miles from Broadway.
Did The Simpsons Predict A Hot-Button SCOTUS Case 22 Years Ago? – No. This has been simple answers to simple questions.
robocall – Excellent illustrative reference:
The pre-recorded, automated telephone call, almost as widely reviled as it is exploited, has benign and malevolent uses. Professor Frink, in The Simpsons, envisioned using the technology to tell children about school cancellations, which seems harmless enough. But in the same episode, Homer demonstrates a range of abuses. An appointment reminder from your auto dealer or the doctor’s office may not be so bad. But no one likes non-human solicitations, or repeated entreaties to vote for this candidate or the next.
Patty or Selma, you are a real woman … – A multi-colored animated .gif of Patty based on one of the vacation photos from “Flaming Moe’s”.
Awesome Character #1: Milhouse Van Houten – Just a little appreciation for everyone’s favorite dorky doormat.
Thrift Store Halloweekends – Barney Gumble, The Simpsons Spooky Light-Ups (Burger King) – Someone found a fast food toy left over from 2001.
Homer Simpson Stonecutter by deathbycartoon – Fan made depiction of the Chosen One leading the Stonecutters to glory.
Simpsons Collection Vol:1 – Fan made Simpsons sketches.
The Simpsons predicted Ebola outbreak in 1997, some people on the internet actually believe – I’d say most people just think it’s weird, but I’m sure there are some believers out there.
Blood Feud – Episode #035 – Heh:
We are now at the end of the episode here and I have one thing to say… How the hell did the delivery guys manage to get the gift of Xtapolapocetl into the house? There is absolutely no way! Well, that cartoons for you.
The Simpsons Arcade Game retrospective: How Konami struck yellow gold – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us. In this case, in a video game retrospective:
Family Guy’s Peter Griffin spoke for most of us when he declared “I am over the Simpsons,” during a recent crossover episode with Springfield’s famous five, but such talk would have been dismissed as sacrilege when Matt Groening’s creation was at the peak of its popularity.
It’s been misfiring for as long as most of us can remember, but The Simpsons remains one of television’s greatest achievements.
“Sweet, trusting Marge, I can’t let you down. I’ll get some money somehow. . . . Hello, Vegas? Gimme a hundred bucks on red. . . . D’oh! Alright, I’ll send you a check.” – Homer Simpson
It’s now officially mid-October and there has been no announcement from FOX or anyone else about next season. For most shows, that wouldn’t be an issue, but for Zombie Simpsons, which is wildly asynchronous with the rest of network television’s renew/cancel announcements, it’s very odd. Thanks to the show’s ancient pedigree and very long production schedule, the last couple of renewal announcements have come in early or mid-October. Well . . . it’s that time of year and we haven’t heard anything.
Complicating matters is the general laziness of the entertainment press. Last year we got the renewal announcement for Season 26 on October 4th. But that’s all we got. Unlike previous renewals, which bragged about the new episode total, all the press release said was that the show would be around for Season 26. And while plenty of sites reported “Simpsons renewed” none that I was able to find (then or now) contained an episode total. (Even The New York Times just wrote up the press release and didn’t ask any questions.)
The episode total is more important than the season number because, as I’ve said before, how the show ends is determined by the production runs, not the broadcast runs. For several years now, FOX has been ordering 22-episode production runs. The “SABF” run comprised most of Season 25, and its first few episodes have spilled into Season 26. Sometime soon, the “TABF” run will start being broadcast and will make up most of Season 26. This is all entirely normal.
However, since the copy and paste brigade that passes for entertainment journalism didn’t give us an episode total, it’s at least possible that instead of ordering a full 22-episode production run last year, FOX only ordered a shortened run that will end this spring instead of spilling over into next fall. If that’s the case, then we could see the end of the show in 2015.
Now, I don’t think that is the case and I don’t want to start any rumors that the show is finally going to end. Quite frankly, the opposite is more likely. Odds are that last year they ordered a full 22-episode TABF run, no reporters bothered to ask them for a total, and that the show is already de-facto renewed for at least a partial Season 27.
But the reason this time of year is important is because of the extraordinarily long lead time needed to create an episode. The show can’t wrap the finale the week before it’s broadcast and just send everyone home. Instead, the production will gradually shut down months ahead of time as new scripts stop being ordered and the final episodes wind their way through the animation process. In the age of Twitter and friends, there’s no way you could keep that secret, even for a little while.
So, we have a couple of interesting pieces of information:
1. It’s mid-October and there’s been no renewal announcement.
2. There was no confirmation that the TABF production run is a full 22-episodes. (At least that Google and I could find, anyway.)
3. The long production time of the show means that it’ll shut down months before the last broadcast.
Where does that leave us? It means that sometime in the next month or so we’ll either get a renewal announcement, a cancellation announcement, or another rumor heavy cluster fuck (a la 2011) about whether or not the show will stagger forward for another year or more. My money is on a renewal announcement (best predictor of future behavior being past behavior, and all that), but we are in a situation where it’s at least possible that we might hear otherwise in the near future.
Keep watching the skis.
[Update 2:08pm Eastern: Word from Caesar himself in comments: "TABF = full 22 order". Still looking for a renewal notice, but there will definitely be at least a partial Season 27.]
“Noise. Bad noise.” – Homer Simpson
“Five minutes before critical mass.” – Power Plant Computer
“Critical wha? . . . Okay, okay, don’t panic, whosever problem this is, I’m sure they know how to handle it. . . . Ahh! It’s my problem, we’re doomed!” – Homer Simpson
“Bart’s been acting very strangely, and that pizza delivery truck has been parked across the street for two weeks. How long does it take to deliver a pizza?” – Marge Simpson
“Looks like our cover’s blown.” – FBI Agent #1
“Let’s roll.” – FBI Agent #2
“I was wrong to have a dream. Wrong as usual. I mean, if you’re nothing special, why kid yourself?” – Marge Simpson
The obvious choice for comparing and contrasting Marge’s sandwich shop in “Super Franchise Me” is her pretzel wagon in “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson”. In both episodes, we see Marge not only strike out on her own a bit, but into the food industry, and with eventually poor results. Of course, in Season 8, we get into the story right away, instead of wading through an unrelated opening (montage included); and it makes a lot more sense that she’d be able to open a garage-based franchise with $500 instead of the never mentioned five or six figures required for a full blown retail store; and the endings are vastly different, with one tying nicely into the rest of the episode, while the other involves another random incident in an episode that already had way too many of them. (Oh, and they needlessly repeat Cletus listing his kids.) Instead of getting into all that, however, I’d like to take a closer look at Marge’s competition and, more broadly, what it says about how Springfield itself is presented in The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.
The first scene in “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” is a meeting of the “Investorettes” over coffee. In addition to Marge, we’ve got Helen Lovejoy, Luann van Houten, Maude Flanders, Edna Krabappel, and, of course, Agnes Skinner (It means Lamb, Lamb of God!). The setup doesn’t require any explanation because we can tell right away what they’re doing: they’re a group of women with a few extra dollars who are getting into business.
“Children are so fat today! Isn’t there some way we can make money off that?”
The conflict that will eventually escalate into a mob war is all set up right here in the opening scene. It’s Marge versus her erstwhile partners, and it’s strong enough to carry an entire episode without any assistance from a B-plot. After their initial falling out, we see each side countering the other a couple of times, and it builds on itself all the way to the little guy asking for “forgiveness, please”.
Moreover, the Investorettes are clearly the stronger party. They get the sleek, looks like it doesn’t even need your business, Fleet-A-Pita truck, while Marge is left hauling pretzels around in the back of her beat up station wagon. They kicked her out, they go after her business when all she’s doing is trying to work, and they hire even more vicious mobsters than Homer does. They are a strong and worthy foe for Marge, and the episode reflects that in everything from Marge only buying a franchise to spite them all the way to Chief Wiggum and Helen diving away from the exploding truck.
The story is well built enough to both fill the time and add emotional heft, which means that the show is free to crack jokes and cram in as many funny scenes as possible. There’s Jack Lemmon’s terrible introduction video (where he has to walk away from the camera before he sits down, check for millipedes, and extol the futuristic virtues of working in a garage). There’s the franchise saleswoman allaying Helen Lovejoy’s nativist suspicions by calling a pita a “Ben Franklin”. There’s Homer guilting Fat Tony, Skinner’s “boaking” accident, and the barrage of pretzels knocking Whitey down. The combat between the two groups gives a purpose to all the mayhem.
Compare that to the complete lack of friction between Marge’s sandwich shop and the one that the Cletus clan opens across the street. They have no history with Marge and aren’t even in the episode before Bart points out their competing franchise. We don’t see why they’d want to do this, why the franchise lady would set them up next to Marge, nothing.
Oh, look, the antagonists have arrived . . . fourteen minutes into a twenty minute episode.
Compounding the stupidity is the way that, as soon as they open, Marge’s shop is simply assumed to be kaput. If anyone should be able to compete and win against Cletus – in food, no less – it’s Marge. But Zombie Simpsons doesn’t so much as entertain the idea. Instead, they cram a bunch of weak redneck references in there because . . . well, because that’s what they think is funny with Cletus. It sucks for the same reason that there’s a difference between Skinner getting his hand broken, and Skinner getting his hand broken so that the mob can force him, at laser targeted gunpoint, to use school money to buy pretzels from an unsuspecting Marge. Goofy shit is a lot funnier if it has a reason to be goofy, or, as Krusty once put it, the pie gag only works if the poor sap’s got dignity.
Beyond just the plot flimsiness, however, Cletus and family showing up out of nowhere to succeed for no reason is another manifestation of the many ways Zombie Simpsons has hollowed out the wonderfully bleak premises of The Simpsons. Opening a national fast food franchise costs a lot of money and, if it works, is a ticket to serious prosperity. By contrast, paying five hundred bucks for a poster and a bug infested bag of “ingredients”, or even opening a food truck, is the kind of low-rent adventure the citizens of a small and poor town might actually do. It fits with who we know the characters are, which not only makes it easier to believe in the story, but also opens the rest of it up for satire.
Frank Ormand isn’t a bad guy, but he knows how hard and humiliating it is to hang off one of the lowest rungs in American capitalism. He’s a good natured and well meaning hustler, but a hustler nevertheless. The mystery lady who only shows up when the plot demands it, on the other hand, is just another Lindsey Naegle clone, with no motivation, no backstory (implied or otherwise), and nothing to do but spit out exposition and shallow punchlines (mostly exposition, though). To wit:
Frank Ormand: Ooh, you sound like me. Well, the old me, which was, ironically, the young me. I was once like you were, young lady, like all these people, lost in a sea of flashy gimmicks and empty promises. Then God tossed me a life preserver, a tasty, golden brown, life preserver.
That’s how he starts his pitch: homey, friendly, and encouraging. In just his few brief scenes, we see a guy who’s not trying to scam anyone, he’s just locked into a shitty business that, despite decades of evident failure, he even still believes in. The earnesty and desperation are what makes his cornball pitch funny, like a used car salesman who’d be personally hurt by anyone who thinks his overpriced jalopies aren’t quality automobiles at bargain prices. Then there’s this:
Trudy Zengler: Marge, see this face? It’s opportunity. Blink and you’ll miss it. . . . Just kidding, I’m right behind you. I’m Trudy Zengler, vice-president of development for Mother Hubbard’s Sandwich Cupboards. How would you like to run your own business, take control of your financial future?
We don’t know who she is or why she’s there, but she’s got a zany pitch and a helpfully expository question that just happens to apply to some worries that neither we nor she knew Marge had at that moment. Ormand’s is great because it’s a Simpsonized version of what a guy like him would actually say. Hers falls flat because it’s a rote recitation of facts that don’t make any sense. Frank Ormand’s desperation is genuine; Trudy Zengler, on the other hand, has about as much personality and depth as the cardboard cutout they later have Burns fall in love with.
On The Simpsons, trying is the first step towards failure. So when Marge tries her best, she indeed fails miserably. (If you want some butter, it’s under her face.) But on Zombie Simpsons, cool stuff just happens all the time. The sandwich shop is a hit and only gets stopped because someone else’s is an even bigger hit. In the Springfield of The Simpsons, neither Marge nor Cletus would ever have had the money to even open the store. But in the Springfield of Zombie Simpsons, money is no object and even the dirt poorest are rich when they need to be. Cloying optimism was never part of The Simpsons, but it’s hard to imagine Zombie Simpsons without it.