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07
Mar
13

The Telltale Head Spews Truth

telltalehead

Today’s post is another installment in our long-running “series” of DVD commentary posts; the lucky victim this time is Season 1’s classic “The Telltale Head.” Featured speakers on the commentary are the episode’s director Rich Moore and writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss. I’ll keep it short and simple (read: descriptive and lacking in any meaningful/substantive analysis), but here are the highlights from their conversation for me:

(Times are approximate)

  • 00:17 – Supposedly there were a lot of Elvis sightings when this episode was written, hence the chalkboard gag
  • 00:31 – Early intro didn’t have Burns or Smithers in the Homer/SNPP shot
  • 01:21 – Directors, well at least Rich Moore in this case, don’t get residual checks when this episode airs. Wah wah.
  • 02:08 – During table readings, the episode got big laughs up front and petered out, which explains the reverse structure of the episode as it we know
  • 02:34 – This is one of the few episodes that actually has the title after the credits
  • 02:52 – This is also Rich Moore’s Simpsons directorial debut
  • 03:14 – Episode is full of first appearances – Rev. Lovejoy, Jimbo, Dolph, Kearney, Quimby, Apu
  • 03:40 – Homer standing on the couch is where the episode originally started before the structural changes
  • 03:51 – This is the first time the family goes to church
  • 04:15 – The Simpsons staff is full of football fans, so references work their way into many episodes
  • 05:45 – Apparently the Sunday school teacher doesn’t have a name
  • 07:15 – “Twister mouths” were phased out in Season 1, but made an accidental appearance in Season 3 thanks to Wes Archer
  • 07:37 – Repeat backgrounds are a godsend
  • 08:11 – “Space Mutants” was a regular thing that just sort of dropped out of later episodes
  • 09:25 – Jimbo is named after Jim Brooks
  • 10:50 – Apu wasn’t originally intended to be an ethnic character, but Hank Azaria added the accent during the table read and the rest is history
  • 11:17 – It’s still a five-fingered discount even though the characters only have four fingers
  • 14:07 – Rich’s father called after this show aired to ask if Homer was based on him
  • 14:27 – Bart’s first ninja costume
  • 15:30 – Intent of the episode was always to be played as “live action” with interesting composition and shots rather than the flatness associated with many early episodes
  • 16:50 – At the table read, the fact that the Jebidiah’s head was cut off didn’t resonate with the group as much as the denizens of Springfield
  • 17:50 – This is where shit gets weird: the head starts talking. This didn’t get many laughs initially
  • 18:22 – You rarely see Moe and Burns share a scene together
  • 18:31 – First episode where Smither’s affection for Burns is notable
  • 18:40 – Around the middle of the first season, Sam Simon declared that Smithers should be gay, but not to make a big deal about it. The audience caught on quickly though
  • 18:57 – First Sideshow Bob, who is both silent and looks nothing like his later incarnation
  • 20:40 – First mob made up of supporting characters and not generic people
  • 22:04 – The early internet was a cruel mistress in pointing out animation inconsistencies and other flaws (sound familiar?)
  • That’s a wrap!
17
Jan
13

DVD Commentary: Bart the Genius

bartthegenius

Be gentle, it’s my first one of these.

Four guys on this commentary, David Silverman, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Jon Vitti.

David Silverman talks about the popularity of the show after the Christmas Special

Matt Groening talks about the development of the now classic “Simpsons” main titles music

Blackboard and main titles were originally a way to pad the show length, but as the show got more sophisticated the writers didn’t want to cut anything

This episode was Jon Vitti’s first 30-minute script, and David Silverman’s first full-length directorial debut

Koreans don’t have bananas, hence the miscoloring

KWYJIBO was also later used as a name for a computer virus

Milhouse’s hair is inconsistently colored in this episode, occasionally black, occasionally blue

Jon wrote a  list of 100 bad things that Bart could do, and cheating on a test was the only thing that stuck

Series was not going to do fantasy sequences initially, but that stipulation was relaxed after the directors started using them very creatively (dream sequence with numbers)

Matt wanted a full orchestra to play the emotion that the show otherwise could not have depicted using animation

It was very controversial how stupid Homer’s handwriting was on the check

Loren Pyror sounds a lot like Mr. Burns in this episode

Matt considers this episode, like the other 12 in Season 1, to be experiments in the visual language of the show. Things like giant plants which featured somewhat prominently in the background were later removed

It used to be Skinner’s persistent goal to get Bart out of Springfield Elementary

There’s a discussion/mea culpa about Bart’s many, likely unoriginal, catch phrases, from “eat my shorts” to “cowabunga” etc.

The school that Bart goes to is a product of co-creation from the writers, not necessarily based on any actual school that the writers went to

The first draft of this episode was over 71 pages long!

Matt initially could not wrap his head around the fact that the sketches were moving, owing to his background in print media, but loved what he was seeing all the same

It was easier to merchandise villains than friends, so that’s why the show’s writers kept adding more

One can’t help but notice the crudeness of the animation in the opera scene

They’re all chuckling at the leisurely pacing of this episode, a result of the show’s creators learning on the fly

Kids playing with marbles is a cute anachronism

Shadows were used sparingly in early episodes out of concerns that they couldn’t afford them

The hamster gets to escape after Bart’s chemistry mishap, otherwise the joke earlier about the hamster being dissected would’ve been too cruel

Bart’s confession was animated in the US, not Korea

David enjoys having a yellow character talk to a green character

18
Nov
12

Sunday Open Thread

Are we all excited about tonight’s new Zombie Simpsons? From Simpsons Channel:

Homer is shocked to discover that his bowling teammate, Dan Gillick (guest voice Steve Carell), is an accountant for Fat Tony and his mob. Meanwhile, Lisa adds insects to her vegetarian diet after passing out during a saxophone solo, but starts questioning her decision when bugs start pleading for mercy in her dreams.

Mobsters and insect-eating sound like a winning combination.

22
May
11

Sunday Preview: “The Ned-liest Catch”


At long last, we’re two hours away from the end of Season 22 of Zombie Simpsons with a miserably titled finale, “The Ned-liest Catch.” I don’t even know what that means. Is Ned some of crab? Is Ms. Krabappel some sort of captain? Does anyone care? Here’s the description from Simpsons Channel, in case you do:

Feeling guilty for getting Mrs. Krabappel suspended after one of his school pranks, Bart helps her escape detention, and Ned Flanders winds up saving her life in the process. When Edna and Ned start dating, he is surprised to learn she’s been with many of Springfield’s men, including Homer and Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer (guest-voicing as himself).

Ned’s a good samaritan and Edna’s a slut. Oh and there’s a guest star. Whatever. Moving on.

10
Apr
11

Sunday Preview: The Great Simpsina


Guest stars, guest stars, guest stars. That’s the theme of tonight’s Zombie Simpsons episode, whose description is capable of inducing a brain hemorrhage:

The family is greeted by folk singer Ewell Freestone (guest voice Jack McBrayer) when they visit a peach farm, but when Marge goes overboard with peach-inspired dishes, Lisa and Bart try to get rid of the unwanted fruit. Later, Lisa becomes a magician’s apprentice to the legendary Great Raymondo (guest voice Martin Landau) who helps her develop her craft, but a schoolgirl crush clouds her judgment when she is coaxed into revealing the Great Raymondo’s most famous magic trick to his phony archnemesis. But when the rival magician’s act takes a risky turn, the Great Raymondo has one last trick up his sleeve and stages showdown with Ricky Jay, Penn & Teller and David Copperfield (guest-voicing as themselves), showing them why he is the master of the craft.

Will someone please tell me what peaches have to do with magic, and why should we care?

13
Mar
11

Sunday Preview: “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”

Straight from the unfortunately named FOX publicity machine, FOX FLASH, here’s a preview for tonight’s episode of Zombie Simpsons:

The town is abuzz when Cheech and Chong announce a Springfield stop on their much-anticipated reunion tour. But when Cheech and Chong take the stage in front of their loyal fans, the jokes were just not the same for Chong, so Homer steps in and delivers all the punchlines by heart. Impressed, Cheech invites Homer to go on tour with him as new duo “Cheech and Chunk” while Chong forms a more progressive comedic team, “Teach and Chong,” with Principal Skinner. While Homer is on tour, Marge attempts to help the neighborhood cat lady and change her hoarder ways, but turns into a hoarder herself in the process, and Homer realizes that life on the road is not all high times and slapstick humor.

I can’t help but think that Cheech and Chong won’t resonate with the average Zombie Simpsons viewer, but what do I know? Maybe there’s some profound connection between aging stoner types and shitty-animated-show enthusiasts. Ugh. Stay tuned for the aftermath and if it’s any consolation, Season 22 should be ending pretty soon.

23
Jan
11

Sunday Preview: “Homer the Father”

Here we go again. Simpsons Channel tells us that two bearded guest stars, David Mamet and James Lipton, will lend their voices to tonight’s “Homer The Father,” which has a plot that sounds nearly as dry as the title:

Homer becomes obsessed with Thicker than Waters, a 1980s family sitcom written by David Mamet (pictured left), and models his parenting skills after the show’s sensible father much to the chagrin on Bart, who desperately sets his sights on a brand new dirt bike. But when Homer insists that Bart must earn the dirt bike, Bart takes matters into his own hands and schemes with Russian and Chinese spies to provide top-secret information in exchange for the new bike, which winds up putting Bart in a precarious situation. Later, James Lipton (pictured right) conducts an interview with a television cast on Inside the Actor’s Studio.

I’m not sensing a total disaster (must be my New Year’s resolution to be less critical), but I’m not sure this is going to light my world on fire either. Bart improbably making connections with Russian and Chinese spies does, however, sound way less interesting than him becoming an exchange student in France while Homer dotes on an Albanian boy/spy/son-substitute. But, I digress; chances are “Homer the Father” will be as exciting as celery soup. So much for that resolution of mine.




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