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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.

12
Dec
10

Sunday Preview: “Donnie Fatso”

You thought you could saunter off into the holiday season without another episode of Zombie Simpsons, didn’t you?   Well guess again.  As if last week’s Katy Perry nonsense weren’t enough, tonight we’ve got a gritty, guest star-filled crime drama called “Donnie Fatso.”  Okay, maybe it won’t be gritty, but it definitely has Jon Hamm and Joe Mantegna.  From Simspsons Channel:

Donnie Fatso airs tonight in North America. Homer spends New Year’s Eve in the Springfield Penitentiary after getting caught bribing an official. An FBI investigator (Jon Hamm) offers to reduce his jail time if Homer agrees to go undercover as an informant to investigate Fat Tony. When Homer forges a special bond with Fat Tony and his family, he becomes conflicted between his obligation to the government and his loyalty to his new family. After an unexpected turn of events, Fat Tony’s cousin Fit Tony (Joe Mantegna) seeks to settle a score with Homer, but winds up teaching him an important lesson.

Homer was previously a rat in “The Trouble with Trillions“, but I’m more perplexed by the notion that this could be an episode of Zombie Simpsons with one distinct plot, instead of a hodgepodge of tangents and perfunctory fan service bits cobbled together for the kiddies.  I not optimistic it’s going to be a winner on that basis alone, but it does somehow make it seem intrinsically less shitty.  There’s something unsettling about that…

05
Dec
10

Sunday Preview: “The Fight Before Christmas”

Like clockwork, we’ve regrettably reached the time of year when we have to suffer through a Christmas-themed episode of Zombie Simpsons.  “The Fight Before Christmas” (har, har) has Martha Stewart and Katy Perry as guest stars, though I assume that they will be as forgettable as the other celebrity voices this season.  Here’s Simpsons Channel with the blow-by-blow:

Disappointed that she is alone spreading the holiday cheer, Marge sends a letter to Martha Clause (Martha Stewart) to help her save the family Christmas. Martha comes to the rescue and transforms the house into the North Pole chalet Marge has always dreamed of, but when the family is noticeably absent from the perfectly trimmed holiday home, she realizes that it’s Homer and the kids who make the holidays special. Meanwhile, the Simpsons get ready to sneak away for a tropical holiday vacation in Hawaii, but surprise visitors Mr. Burns and Moe’s new friend, Katy Perry (guest-starring as herself in a special live-action sequence) delay their getaway.

So, the writers of Zombie Simpsons have decided to give us a live-action sequence, two guest stars, a contrived morality tale about the meaningless of materiality, and a travel episode rolled into one.  Wouldn’t a lump of coal have been preferable?  I guess the kitchen sink approach is somewhat novel in its utter lack of focus, though I suppose if Katy does the following, it is likely many will overlook the the episode’s inherent and unavoidable flaws:

Bouncy bouncy.

28
Nov
10

Sunday Preview: “How Munched Is That Birdie In The Window?”

I hate shitty, two-bit, fame-whore Danica Patrick so much that I’m not even going to dignify this episode with commentary.  I’ll leave it at the description from our friends at Simpsons Channel:

Bart helps nurse an injured pigeon back to health. After Santa’s Little Helper eats the bird, Bart has a hard time coping with the loss. Worried that Bart needs some help getting over the loss, Marge and Homer take him to a therapy session with Dr. Thurston, who advises that the only cure for Bart’s blues is to give away the family dog, but when the Simpsons visit the pup’s new home, a shock causes them to rethink their decision.

21
Nov
10

Sunday Preview: “The Fool Monty”

Sweet baby Jesus, Zombie Simpsons are at it again this week with another spiritual rehash of an old episode.   Tonight, Lisa takes an interest in curmudgeonly old Burns, only to realize that he’s incapable of being changed. Sounds familiar, right?  It’s basically the plot of Season 8’s “The Old Man and the Lisa,” and I harbor doubts that “The Fool Monty” can outshine its predecessor.  If you’re still curious, here’s the actual rundown from Simpsons Channel:

After learning that he is suffering from multiple illnesses and has only a few weeks to live, Mr. Burns becomes distraught by the town’s less-than-sensitive reaction to his announcement. Following an unexpected turn of events, Bart finds Mr. Burns weak and vulnerable in the wilderness and secretly takes him into the Simpsons’ home. But when Homer and Marge learn about their new houseguest, they decide it’s payback time, and Lisa, determined to stand up for Mr. Burns, learns that old habits die hard.

The Season 22 suckfest continues unabated.  Stay tuned for our usual ratings report and Crazy Noises later this week.

14
Nov
10

Sunday Preview: “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life”

Tonight’s follow up to last week’s underwhelming Treehouse of Horror episode is “Lisa Simpson, This Isn’t Your Life”.  We’ve got a dull, lifeless description from Simpsons Channel, which merits a dull, lifeless response:

Discovering that Marge was once a stellar A+ student whose grades plummeted after being distracted, Lisa fears that she will end up just like her mom unless she pledges to focus solely on academics in an encore episode. When Marge makes a secret deal allowing Lisa to attend her dream school, Lisa learns a lesson in family and altruism. Meanwhile, Bart puts Nelson in his place and unintentionally claims the title of “School Bully.”

Oh goodie.  No blood this week, I just don’t have it in me.

09
Nov
10

Quote of the Day

“You just got citric acid in my eye! You’ll pay for that, Springfield.” – Shelby

06
Nov
10

Quote of the Day


“Ah, I’m just a big, toasty cinnamon bun.  I never want to leave this bed.  Uh oh, gotta take a whiz.  Think man, think.  Think, think, think . . . I better get up.” – Homer Simpson

10
Oct
10

Sunday Preview: “MoneyBART”

 

You're getting too old for this, Scioscia.

 

I have three things to say about tonight’s episode, “MoneyBART”:

  1. The only Lisa + Bart + sports rivalry episode that should exist, ever, is “Lisa on Ice.”
  2. The only episode in which Mike Scioscia matters is “Homer at the Bat.”
  3. This is the third episode of Season 22 and the third in a row with a guest star.  Remember when guest voices were used sparingly?

That’s all.  If you’re still reading, here’s the description from Simpsons Channel:

A visit by a Springfield Elementary alum-turned-Ivy-League student pushes Lisa to question her own go-getter attitude and reevaluate the scope of her extracurricular activities. Convinced that there is no such thing as having too many clubs or activities listed on her resume, Lisa jumps at the opportunity to coach Bart’s little league team. Despite having little understanding of baseball, Lisa coaches the team to a record winning streak by putting her book smarts in statistics and probability into play. But when Bart questions Lisa’s coaching tactics and confronts her for taking the fun out of baseball, Lisa benches him from the championship game. Hoping to lift his spirits, Marge spends the day with Bart at an amusement park where MLB manager and former catcher Mike Scioscia gives Bart sound advice and reminds him of his genuine love of the sport. Meanwhile, with one last chance to win the game, Lisa makes an unexpected call and learns that there is more to sports than winning.

09
Oct
10

Quote of the Day

“Big deal. When I was a pup, we got spanked by presidents ’til the cows came home. Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions.” – Grampa Simpson

03
Oct
10

Sunday Preview: “Loan-a-Lisa”

Look at me, I'm an overexposed "billionaire."

Mark Zuckerberg is going to be on Zombie Simpsons tonight.  Is it possible for a show to be even more dead to me?  Yes, yes it is.  For those of you who care, here’s the lowdown:

When Grampa gives each member of the family a portion of his savings, Lisa and Marge spend their money in drastically different ways. Lisa invests in Nelson’s brand-new business venture, but soon realizes that her friend’s instant success might lure him away from the classroom. Worried that his judgment might be clouded, Lisa introduces Nelson to the well-educated and successful creator of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg (guest-voicing as himself), only to find out that he too dropped out of school. But when the soaring business suddenly takes a sharp turn, Lisa teaches her friend that education is invaluable

Recycled plot point?  Check.  Recycled title?  Check.  Pointless guest star?  Check.  Call me when it’s over.

30
Sep
10

Quote of the Day

“And who are you little boy?” – Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby
“I’m one of your nephews you don’t see very often… Bart-Bart.” – Bart Simpson

28
Sep
10

Quote of the Day


“This was the happiest time of my life. I’ll never forget you guys — especially you, Joey.” – Homer Simpson


“See you around, Mr. Homer.” – Joey


“Don’t worry Joey, we’ll make it to California someday.” – Homer Simpson


“Sure we will Mr. Homer, sure we will.” (coughs violently) – Joey

Loyal Stonecutter’s Note: No, they won’t. The pessimism of this exchange in Homer’s otherwise bittersweet parting moment is cruel, borderline cold, and entirely brilliant.

26
Sep
10

Sunday Preview: “Elementary School Musical”

Look at the children, they're so happy.

As I conjure up this post on a beautiful Sunday morning, I am filled with a sense of loathing and revulsion. This isn’t “The Simpsons.” This is a tired, miserable, train wreck of a television series grasping at straws that don’t exist to stay relevant to people who don’t care. The description of the Season 22’s opener, “Elementary School Musical,” isn’t pretty:

When Krusty the Clown is announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Homer invites Bart to accompany him on a trip to Oslo for the ceremony. Sensing that Lisa would feel left out, Marge surprises her with a week-long retreat at performing arts camp, where she is greeted by her artsy counselors Ethan and Kurt  and fellow musically inclined campers, who inspire her to embrace her creative side. After she returns to Springfield, Lisa becomes restless with her ho-hum suburban lifestyle and sneaks off to Sprooklyn in hopes of connecting with her inner hipster, but she soon realizes that the city is not the same as camp. [Editor's note: Guest staring some shitheads from "Glee" and a couple Kiwis.]

Glossing over the fact the chain of events leading to Krusty’s Nobel Peace Prize will, in fact, be contrived and ludicrous, we can consider “Elementary School Musical” from a few perspectives. There’s synergy: no doubt FOX is hoping that some of the rabid, misguided, juvenile “Glee” fanbase will flock to the season opener in spades, temporarily propping up viewership and ad dollars. There’s cross-promotion, though the much loved “Flight of the Conchords” hasn’t had a show in well over a year. And finally there’s precedent: pseudo-rival “South Park” already did it. It was even called… wait for it… “Elementary School Musical.” Zombie Simpsons has had nary an original idea in years and it was only a matter of time before it caught up to the competition, figuratively and literally.

I actually prefer a less analytical approach. The onus is on Zombie Simpsons not to suck. They haven’t had a winner in years and no amount of singing or neologisms (seriously, Sprooklyn?) will reverse that course. Why on Earth would the show’s producers and writers want to make something good when they’ve committed bloody murder for thirteen years straight?




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