“They’re all about smugglers.” – Bart Simpson
“Not this one, The Smugglers of Pirate Cove, it’s about pirates.” – Homer Simpson
“Bart, it’s such a nice day today, let’s have detention outside.” – Mrs. Krabappel
Sad news, Marcia Wallace, Mrs. Krabappel herself, died yesterday. The cause was “complications from breast cancer”:
She would also build a second career as a voice-over actress, giving life to Edna Krabappel, Bart Simpson’s cynical and chain-smoking fourth grade teacher on “The Simpsons.” The role, a sublime parody of disaffected instruction, earned her an Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 1992. The show’s executive producer Al Jean said Saturday that the character would be retired out of deference to Wallace’s death.
Good on Jean. So long, Marcia. We’ll miss you.
Left image shamelessly yoinked from The Wrap link above. Right image, one final “Ha”.
“Eighteen bucks for this? What a ripoff!” – Some Guy
Yesterday was the entry deadline for Threadless’s Simpsons design contest. All told they accepted 820 submissions (and there was a real rush at the end because that number was 494 when I checked it yesterday afternoon). You can view all of them here, and scoring goes on until Tuesday, so you’ve got plenty of time to vote.
I’m not sure how many they are going to actually print, but there are definitely a couple that I’d consider actually buying. Below are some of the ones I liked best, but there are a lot more at the site.
Wow! Chocolate, half price! – It’s a little busy as a design, but it’s a very recognizable scene so it shouldn’t be a problem.
BONESTORM – Oh, nothing, just the Bonestorm logo.
Hitmen… best friends – Lenny and Carl in a fantastically well drawn guns out version of Travolta and Jackson from Pulp Fiction.
Movie Poster – Man Getting Hit By Football, an official selection of the Springfield Film Festival.
The Stingy & Battery Show – The black and white broadcast look is a nice touch.
Monorail Emblem – Just what it says.
They Fight & Bite – Giant Itchy head.
They Fought & Bit – Scratchy version.
Lincoln Squirrel – This is one of those you could basically never wear to anything but a gathering of geeks, but if someone recognized it you could probably be their best friend forever.
You don’t win friends with salad! – Illustrated with all the constituent parts of a common hot dog.
I got toasted at Flaming Moe’s – This shirt would be ideal for taking off before you sit down to a family dinner.
Lisa&Marge&Homer&Maggie&ElBarto – Nice usage of the “bunch of names” t-shirt design.
The Fraternity – The Stonecutters emblem with “Stonecutters” and “Est. 776 BC”. I’d like this better if it was just the emblem, make people figure out what it is. (Also, they were established long after 776 BC if their “fifteen-hundredth anniversary” was in 1995.)
Simpson & Son Tonic – You look like a man who needs help satisfying his wife.
A Vintage Intro – There are a lot of these that involve using the outlines of the characters, and this is probably my favorite. The clouds are great, but it’s especially nice the way they worked in Snowball II and Santa’s Little Helper.
Duff Beer Can Pop Art – Andy Warhol Duff is a great idea, and the colors are fantastic.
Spruce Moose – This could’ve done with a few less elements, plane and airport names alone would’ve been enough, but I can’t design for shit, so what do I know?
dnjk – The bullies.
Duff Ad ! – A pinup Marge selling Duff! Viva life!
Silhouette Night – Again, this one is very obscure, even moreso because it comes from “The Principal and the Pauper”, but it’s still pretty cool.
The Simplesons – Another silhouette one, but very, very minimal. It especially looks good on the black background of the t-shirt.
Bleeding Gums Murphy – A jazzman deserves a portrait with some style.
Meet the Be Sharps! – There were a few Be Sharps designs, this one is their album cover in all its silly glory.
Worker & Parasite – Exactly that. Are those letters even actual Cyrillic? I have no idea.
Brave Corporate Logo – Mr. Sparkle says “Join Me or Die!”.
TRONUT – Ah, old school Tron.
A Super-Simpsons-Spectrum – Yet another silhouette, the colors are nice but I might get rid of the logo at the bottom. It’s pretty obvious what this shirt is.
Up and Atom! – Radioactive Man and Fallout Boy in a simple, 2-d design.
Food Chain – The food chain, with Homer at the center.
The Frogurt is also Cursed – Like so many of these I think this one is trying a little to hard to make people get the reference, but evil frogurt is evil frogurt.
Lisa Plays – And if a jazzman deserves a portrait in style, so does one of the great little ladies of jazz. The spotlight is a nice touch.
The Painting – Just the sailboat from behind the couch. It’s simple and generic looking, and would probably fly over the heads of even casual fans, but that’s what makes it cool.
THRILLHO_ – 8-bit (16?), monochrome Thrillhouse.
Shudder – Translating the rake scene into a still image is tricky, but this design pulled it off.
Mr. Plow – Just the logo with an enjoyably pleased looking Homer.
Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse – Milhouse jumping from the end of “Lisa’s Date with Density” combined with his winning phrase from “Mom and Pop Art”.
Precious Venus – Mmmm, gummy Venus.
Doof – From Sweden!
Angry. Angry Young Man. – Sideshow Raheem with black power hair picks. Nice.
Ben – Just a bear with a microphone strapped to his head.
YELLOW – I like the inventive nudity and all, but how come Marge doesn’t have a mouth?
The Happy Sumo – The neon sign from the outside of Springfield’s first sushi restaurant.
Down With Homework – Simple and effective for starting riots.
Guy Incognito X Homer – A great design showing off Homer and his exact double.
Can I borrow a Feeling – It’s got his picture on it!
JARRING MIX – Nice little Futurama cross over.
Eye On Springfield – And now, Part 7 in our eye opening look at the bikini.
The Be Sharps – Another Be Sharps design, this time just of their name and a hat. Cool.
3 Ralph Moon – Three Wolf Moon is nigh ancient in internet time, but this is pretty funny.
Yay! It’s laser day! – Speaking of Ralph, here he is in another meme that’s not exactly fresh but really works well with him.
Springfield: Good – A Springfield postcard design with Jebediah’s motto.
let your spirit soar – Mona’s painting of Homer as a kid would probably be good for a real life kid, particularly the kind who enjoy running around naked.
It’s just a little airborne! – Just a flying pig with an apple in its mouth. Simplicity itself.
The Godburns – Finely detailed drawing of Burns as Vito Corleone.
Demoiselle D´Simpson – An artsy Homer, Marge and Maggie.
The Simpsons’ Present… – Homer’s Hitchcock outline from “Treehouse of Horror III”. This would get double pop culture reference points on a t-shirt.
WITH IT! – I’m generally not a fan of t-shirts that have more text than Ivanhoe on them, but Grampa’s quote about not being with it anymore is awfully tempting.
As I said above, there are a lot more. The list here isn’t even 10% of them, and Threadless’s site is easy to scroll through (it’s 30 designs to a page), so check ’em out and vote for your favorites.
“As Roger Meyers Jr., the owner of the park, I’d like to thank you for stopping the killer robots. And to show my appreciation, here are two free passes.” – Roger Meyers Jr.
“But there are five of us.” – Homer Simpson
“Here are two free passes.” – Roger Meyers Jr.
“That’s better.” – Homer Simpson
Last week I mentioned that Simpsons singing group from New York that will be performing in San Diego this Saturday. Well, they’ve been very generous and offered us two free tickets to their performance. Like last year with the Mr. Burns play in D.C., none of us can go, but we’ll be giving those tickets to the first person who offers to see it and write us a quickie review for it. You pick, 5:30pm or 9:30pm on Saturday the 20th at the C3 Performing Arts Center. (You can watch the trailer video here.) If you want to see the show but don’t want to write a review, you can always toil in our underground sugar caves or work the lima bean harvest for the first 100,000 years, but we’d rather have a few hundred words about whether or not you liked what you saw.
I’ve also been reminded via e-mail that it is now summer, which means that it’s also the season for guest posts. I’ve got a couple in the hopper, but if you have a Simpsons related rant/theory/favorite episode/personal story/editorial reply, we’d love to read it. Pictures and images are welcome, and we’re happy to link back to your blog, Twitter account, or other on-line haunt. As always, no money and (very) minor internet fame can be yours!
Please e-mail us if you want the tickets or if you have a guest post or post idea.
“Lisa, I’m afraid we’ll have to stop getting you those volumes of Encyclopedia Generica from the grocery store.” – Marge Simpson
“But, Mom, next week is Volume IV, Copernicus through Elephantiasis.” – Lisa Simpson
Wikipedia has a simple test for whether or not something merits its own article: notability. Like the rest of Wikipedia, it doesn’t work in theory, only in practice, and the current guidelines list five criteria:
Basically, “notability” means that someone besides the subject or its author is discussing something and that there are multiple citable sources of such discussion. In that vein, Wikipedia has now brought us:
The missed capitalization and odd phrasing of the title are in the original, but don’t let that throw you, the article is a remarkable piece of work. (And I’m not just saying that because it cites us several times.) There are two primary authors, Coin945 and Martarius, and while I have no idea who they are, they have pulled together a staggering number of sources and references from articles discussing the decline and fall of the show.
From a readability standpoint the article is way too long (someone on the Talk page pegs it at 17,000 words). But they have amassed 173 individual sources documenting criticisms, and a few defenses, of the quality of the show. As someone who has a little experience researching and writing about the show and its descent, I am awed by that. Just organizing all of those had to be an enormous amount of work, and good on them for doing it. The sheer scale may make it tough to read all the way through, and I’m sure it’ll get pared down eventually, but they’ve got an outline of the opinions around the show that looks fairly accurate, and that’s a valuable thing to have. Three cheers for notability and diligent Wiki/Simpsons geeks! Well done.
“Push out the jive. Bring in the love.” – C.M. Burns
If there is one persistent misperception about this blog on the wider plains of the internet, it is that we simply hate Zombie Simpsons and that’s it. Beneath that strong and oft expressed dislike, however, is the real reason we’re all here: love. We love The Simpsons. It was a show beyond even the most enthusiastic superlatives, and it remains so more than two decades after it took America and the world by storm. Its creation was a once in a lifetime alignment of immensely improbable coincidences that came together with perfect timing. It never should’ve happened, but it did, and the world is a much funnier place for it.
That incredible show has endured so well that, in nearly four years of weekly Reading Digest posts, we’ve been able to link to thousands of Simpsons related pages that were viewed by untold millions of people, and that’s just the stuff that came into the narrow slice of the internet that we survey. Every week there are blog posts about favorite episodes, fan art of various kinds, and an endless stream of people who quote the show when something in their life resembles that collection of twenty year old television episodes. All the time, thought, attention and creativity that goes into generating that endless torrent of words, images and real world stuff is a testament to how much joy The Simpsons still produces. It seems unlikely that any other two decade old piece of culture – in any medium – still generates even a significant fraction of that interest and activity. So we are hardly alone in our love of this show.
To celebrate that, and keeping in mind the show’s traditional disdain for meaningless milestones, today we are launching The Simpsons 23rd Anniversary Yellow Jubilee. What is that? Well, we’re not entirely sure yet. For starters, we’re going to be watching Season 1 and following along as the episodes move through the 23rd anniversary of their original broadcasts. Starting today and continuing throughout the week with “Bart the Genius”, we’ll be looking at the DVD commentaries, the animation, the quotes, the sign gags, and the episodes as a whole. As for what precisely that entails in terms of recurring posts, well, that’s what we’re still figuring out.
And we want to hear from you. (Yes, you!) Whether in comments or via e-mail, we want to hear about your favorite parts of the episodes, personal memories, and anything else you can think of. Guest posts about each week’s episode are most definitely welcome, but this is much more “Do What You Feel” than “Do As We Say”.
The important thing is that we’re watching television. So if you’ve got the DVDs at home, know where to watch them elsewhere [legally unactionable stage cough], or can score them from a library, Netflix, or Amazon (Season 1 $25 new, ~$6-10 used), sit down and bask in television’s warm glowing warming glow with us.
“Good morning, everybody, and welcome to an event that harkens back to the carefree days of the Great Depression: the soap box derby.” – TV Announcer
Every once and a while I am moved to briefly praise the people up at WordPress HQ. They do a regularly excellent job of making sure that everything works, the new features that they add tend far more toward “useful” than “bloat”, and their customer support, even for people who aren’t paying jack, is responsive, friendly and informative. Sometimes, though, things go awry.
In this case it’s a very harmless awry, and it’s far more my fault than theirs, but I laughed when I saw it. Unexpectedly, I got an e-mail from them yesterday, subject “Your Annual Report from WordPress.com”. A quick search of my inbox reveals that in four years of blogging with them, this is the first time I’ve gotten an “Annual Report”. Turns out it’s a new thing this year, a cutesy little flash graphic with your site’s stats that’s a way to encourage people to blog more. This is part of the one for Dead Homer Society:
In case you can’t see the image, it’s titled “Crunchy numbers” and reads:
About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 970,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take bout 18 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!
So this is some script that takes a look at your pageview stats, matches that with a predetermined list of numbers and figures, and then writes this paragraph into the e-mail. If we’d had 50,000 pageviews this year, it’d probably say something like “About 12,000 tourists vomit on the Nauseator every year. This blog was viewed about 50,000 times in 2012. If it were the Nauseator, it would take about 4 years for that many people to vomit. Your blog caused more people to vomit than a ride at Disney Land!”. They’re being a little disingenuous because that 970,000 number is pageviews, not unique visitors, so comparing it to tourists in Europe is like counting the number of visitors a country has by the number of people who request a brochure on their website.
But those little idiosyncrasies aside, it’s the image at the right that cracked me up. Unlike the cheery site stats and graphics that are supposed to make you the blogger feel good about all the time you spend complaining on the internet, it’s a chart that’s plummeting like a stone and has a distinctly depressing appearance to it. They grabbed that particular image because the Zombie Simpsons page was by far our most popular this year (just north of 27,000 views), and if you include the child pages (which it obviously does), that graph is the first image. It’s the average Amazon stars for the DVDs from Chapter 1, and the reason it’s dropping like a rock is because it’s about Zombie Simpsons. Heh.
See you all in 2013.
“It sure was nice of Mr. Burns to invite us for a midnight dinner at his country house in Pennsylvania.” – Homer Simpson
Classic Simpsons trivia is spreading. First there was Toronto, then New York City, then Chicago, and now Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh Simpsons Trivia Makes our big debut Sunday November 25th at 8pm at Hambone’s in Lawrenceville. We’ll be showing episodes and drinking and giving out prizes to the winners. This is for true fans of CLASSIC Simpsons episodes (nothing after season 9) so bring your A-GAME and come compete against some of Pittsburgh’s finest Simpsons fans. Play by yourself or form a team of up to 4 people. It’s free to play and you might win prizes and/or the respect of others!
If you’re in or around the area, the address is at the link. And, as a bonus, if you’re out doing this you won’t have to be home to watch tonight’s episode of Zombie Simpsons. Thanks to reader Tram for sending this in, and have fun!
“Otto!” – Bart Simpson
“That’s what my driver’s license says!” – Otto
We got an e-mail from one of FOX’s hip, edgy Web 2.0 marketing firms announcing some upcoming home video releases, including Season 15 on December 4th. This being a press release, there is very little interesting information contained within. In fact, there’s no text at all about Zombie Simpsons, just two images, one a cover mockup with Otto on the front, the other a recycled idea:
Based on this, it’s a standard release with all the usual home video bells and whistles: audio commentary (ugh), deleted scenes, and sketches. I’m slightly curious to see “The Commercials” on there, but since it’s Season 15, I don’t actually care either.
As a bonus, we can see that not only are they now cribbing from The Simpsons for their marketing materials, but there are also now “Blu-ray Bonus Episodes” (which I don’t think were on earlier seasons). Basically, FOX likes the premium they can charge for Blu-Ray* but is hampered by the fact that Zombie Simpsons didn’t get to HD until Season 20, so to get you to pay the extra $10 (or whatever), they’ve included one episode each from Season 3, Season 9 and Season 11. It’s hard to imagine that there are all that many people out there who are interested in Season 15 and who don’t already own the previous seasons, but they stopped putting a lot of thought into these releases a long time ago.
Also, check out how much better the Otto drawing from “The Otto Show” is than the promotional one. His cap is more disheveled, his headphones are on crooked, his teeth aren’t uniform, even his eyes look crazier and dumber. Once again, the older animation has much more personality.
*Humble suggestion that I would buy in a heartbeat:
I’d easily spend $100 on that, and I don’t think I’d be alone.
“Not long ago, the FOX Network approached the producers of The Simpsons with a simple request: thirty-five new shows to fill a few holes in their programming lineup. That’s a pretty daunting task, and the producers weren’t up to it. Instead, they churned out three Simpsons spin-offs, transplanting already popular characters into new locales and situations.” – Troy McClure
With Season 23 now rapidly fading into the indistinct blob that is Zombie Simpsons, it’s time for us to get started on our summer schedule. As you can see from the chart below, there are some blank spots on it.
We will be doing Crazy Noises for Season 11, and the first of those should be along later this week. I’m also going to do some more commentary posts from earlier seasons. But even that will leave lots of days around here that can only be filled by exploiting other people’s time and labor.
So, just like last summer, we’re going to pass the days by not paying other people to write blog posts for us. Last year we had a bunch of great entries (check out out Company Eating Rules category), including several lists, personal essays, and analyses of different show eras. If you’ve got a blog or other website, we’ll not only link to it, but you can cross post your article there as well. Pictures and images are welcome, and just about any topic that’s Simpsons related is okay by us.
As a special incentive for anyone in the Washington D.C. area, we’re giving away free tickets to “Mr. Burns, A Post Electric Play”. Thanks to my relentless linking to their blog the last few weeks, the theater’s social media person got in contact with us last Friday. Neither Dave, Mad Jon, nor myself are in D.C. or are going to be there before the play closes, but rather than turn down free stuff, we thought it better to give the tickets to the first person who offers to see it and write a review for us. So if you can make it down to the Woolly Mammoth theater in the next couple of weeks, and you’ve got a 500-1500 word review in you, e-mail me and we’ll talk.
Anyone else who wants to write a guest post for us should e-mail me as well, though your only compensation will be the enjoyable pride of a job well done. That’s not as cool as free tickets, but we have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
“And where’s Barney?” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, he’s with his new girlfriend, the Japanese conceptual artist.” – Principal Skinner
“Barbershop is in danger of growing stale. I’m taking it to strange new places.” – Barney Gumble
In the interest of not burying the lead: mocking Season 23 has been fun, but it’s also the last time we’re going to go full tilt for a new Zombie Simpsons season around here. Don’t worry, we’re not taking the site down or anything; in fact, for the next few months you shouldn’t notice much difference. Quotes of the Day will continue as normal, and, just like the last three summers, we’ll be doing Crazy Noises for old episodes. This year it’s going to be Season 11, the last one the Manifesto lists before Zombie Simpsons.
After that, the Magic 8-ball becomes less clear. Season 24 (ugh) will likely start sometime in late September, but we won’t be doing our full Preview-Ratings-Crazy Noises-Compare & Contrast schedule. I’m sure we’ll do something (and suggestions are welcome), but whatever it is will be much less comprehensive.
As for why we’re doing this, there’s only one real reason and it is not intended ironically. We think it best to stop before we get dull and do nothing but repeat ourselves.
For all its manic bumbling and endless stream of pointless cameos, the only enduring characteristic about Zombie Simpsons is how blandly repetitive it is. Episodes consistently have no coherent story, few jokes, fewer funny jokes, wasted guest voices, hacktacular pop culture references, and all manner of things poorly lifted from old episodes. And then every once in a while the animation goes off the rails too, though that’s usually because the writers have once again managed to string together something too dumb to convey.
In Crazy Noises and elsewhere, I’ve begun to get the sense that we’re often doing little more than citing examples of the same kinds of things each week: it sucked when they made Homer do this, that joke went on too long, that’s not even a joke, this voice sounds terrible, that was done better years ago, this made no sense, etcetera etcetera. We are trying to put a tiny thrill into these gray little episodes, but they rarely give us something novel enough to make criticisms we haven’t already made dozens of times before. Whatever points we’ve tried to articulate over the past few years here, another few thousand words per episode are unlikely to change them. In short, it seems very unlikely that most of the episodes in Season 24 (or Season 25, or Season 26, or Season Whatever) are going to be worth a close examination and serious criticism.
On a related personal note, I simply find Zombie Simpsons boring. I stopped watching regularly sometime in Season 13, and didn’t catch more than a handful in total from Seasons 14-19. When Dave, Mad Jon and I started getting serious about this site in early 2009, I picked up at the beginning of Season 20, and very little had changed. I’ve seen every episode since, four full seasons, and I can honestly say that’s enough. Apart from its vague resemblance to my favorite show ever, Zombie Simpsons just isn’t that interesting; and I’d rather not spend my time watching it.
Long story short:
On two happier notes, Chapters 7 & 8 of the book are now on-line, and to celebrate the end of Season 23, I’m going to do another Simpsons-Beer Marathon this Saturday.
For those of you who’ve started reading this site since the last time I did this, you can find a full explanation of how this works here. Basically, I watch an entire season of the show, drinking one beer per episode, and post updates along the way. I’ve done marathons for Seasons 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6 already, and you can check them out by clicking on our “Living Life to Its Fullest” category.
You can vote for which season you’d like me to watch on Saturday in the poll at right. And, no, if Season 7 is selected, I won’t be including “Marge Be Not Proud”. I dislike that episode, even if it does have some very funny parts (see the freshly posted Chapter 7 for details). The marathon begins at 8:00am Eastern Daylight Time (US), which is 12:00 UTC, Saturday May 26th. The poll closes at midnight Eastern Time tomorrow.
Update 26 May: It’s Season 2 in a landslide:
Thanks to everyone who voted.
“I’m not some dizzy starlet who can’t string two words together!” – C.M. Burns
It is my great relief to announce a project that has been the better part of a year in the making: “Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead”. It’s a mini-book (~22,000 words) that is as close as I can come to a definitive statement on how The Simpsons became Zombie Simpsons. Table of contents:
Part I – Putting the Spring in Springfield
1 – What Is Zombie Simpsons?
2 – The Terrible World of 1980s Television
3 – The Most Anti-Authority Show Ever
4 – You’re Watching FOX, Shame on You
Part II – Show Business Is a Hideous Bitch Goddess
5 – The Retirements
6 – The Deaths
Part III – Stories of Degradation and Humiliation
Season 7 – A Very Special Episode
Season 8 – Frank Grimes and the Phony Kidnapping
Season 9 – Armin Tamzarian and the Death of Story
Season 10 – Jerkass Homer Gets a Job
Season 11 – The Destruction of Springfield
Season 12 and Beyond – Zombie Simpsons
Appendix A – A Note on the Term Zombie Simpsons
Appendix B – Episode Numbers vs. Production Numbers
Appendix C – December 17th: Simpsons Day
Appendix D – A Defense of Mike Scully
Appendix E – Yeah, It Was That Good (1,000,000 A.D.)
You can read the first two chapters right here, right now. And though the entire text will eventually be available for free on-line, before that happens we’re going to conduct an experiment in the strange new world of digital publishing. If you want to read the entire book today, you can purchase it from Amazon’s Kindle store for $2.99. (Why $2.99? Because that’s the minimum price Amazon demands for only taking 30% of the gross instead of 65%.) It will remain available in that format and at that price indefinitely; meanwhile, it will be published in chunks here at Dead Homer Society until every dot, tittle and citation is on-line for anyone to read whenever they like.
The thinking behind this is that some people (especially the kind of people with the disposable income to own Kindles and iPads) are willing and able to pay for words if the price is reasonable and the payment is easy to make. At the same time, making it available only in a paid version is self defeating and stupid. Not only do fewer people read it, but using digital rights management and other convoluted anti-“piracy” measures to police the internet is a fool’s errand. Therefore, the only sensible thing to do is make it easy for people to purchase and easy to get for free, however odd that may seem at first glance. We’ll see how it goes.
You can purchase the book from Amazon right now, or you can read the first two chapters by clicking the new “Zombie Simpsons” button in the navigation bar at the top of this page. This is the current schedule:
Today: Chapters 1 & 2
Tomorrow: Chapters 3 & 4
Sunday: Chapters 5 & 6
Next Week (Probably Thursday): More
One final note, I am not the least bit above making revisions should any of you fine Simpsons fans out there discover that I’ve made any factual errors. My sources are all stated plainly, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t made an unfounded assumption somewhere or screwed up some part of the history of the show. If you (yes, you!) come across something where I’m just flat out wrong and you can point me to some credible evidence of my wrongness, please tell me. It’s the only way I’ll learn.
“Welcome to Enchantment Lane, where all the parts come together and Malibu Stacy is born. Some folks say there’s a little touch of fairy dust in the air.” – Tour Lady
“Aw, crap, there’s a clog in the torso chute! Leroy, get your ass in gear!” – Assembly Line Worker
“Shut your hole.” – Leroy
On Monday this week, Mike Reiss gave a speech at Virginia Tech. This comes from an interview conducted by the student paper in advance of that:
CT: What is your involvement with the show?
I’m currently a consultant. I go in every Wednesday, I fly in there – there’s nothing special about Wednesday, it runs like a factory and its always in production. Every Wednesday I just come in and sort of step onto the assembly line and help out. The show is written by 8-10 people sitting in a room just throwing out ideas and jokes. Every Wedneday I’m just one more guy who goes in to help it.
CT: Are you considered something of an elder statesmen around there because you were since the show’s inception?
Reiss: Sometimes I feel that way. Sometimes I feel like they’ll put in one of my jokes just because I’m an old man and not because its particularly funny. I’ll get embarrassed sometimes, like I’ll throw in a joke where I know its not that good and they’ll put it in. People are very nice to me, it’s just a nice job. I think people – it’s the rare show on tv where the average tenure there is about 10 or 12 years. People like it, we all get along on, we all respect each other.
I don’t have any direct experience with what does or does not make for a truly great television writing room, but that kind of polite comity doesn’t exactly scream “high standards”. The only other piece of interesting not-quite-news was about a possible movie sequel:
CT: If you do make another one do you think you’ll wait until the show has finished its run on TV?
Reiss: I think that’s the general plan, I think the day the show finally goes off the air, like a year later we’ll all going to miss it and I think then we’ll be a little more interested to do the movie.
I’d be fine with that. The first movie wasn’t very good, but FOX is going to do something with these characters after the show goes off the air, and another movie done without the background pressure of the ongoing series would be about the best we can hope for.
There’s more at the link. He talks about how it was easier back in Season 3 and 4 because, “we had all the tricks and all the architecture in place but the show was new, it wasn’t like we’d done 10,000 ideas like we have now where it’s hard to find things to write about”. But it was the part about the assembly line nature of the place letting in embarrassingly weak jokes that caught my attention.
“Hey, thanks everybody. You know, I’m here today as Luke Skywalker, but I’m also here to talk about Sprint. As you can see, you stand to save up to seventeen cents a month over the more dependable providers.” – Mark Hamill
“Ahh, talk about Star Wars!” – Data
Here’s your fun trivia fact of the day: Harry Shearer did voice work for the original Star Wars movie! He’s not sure who he was, but he did come in and record a few lines for them. I had never heard this before, and it’s not on his IMDb page, but confirmation comes from the man himself:
Image shamelessly yoinked from the link above.
In case you can’t get the image, blogger Drew Stewart asks Shearer:
I just heard a rumor that you dubbed 1 of the Imperial Officers in the original Star Wars. True?
Shearer says “Yes.”; Stewart then asks:
Did you also voice some Rebels? How did you get involved?
To which Shearer replied:
Not clear on what-all I did. Just some words on paper. They called me in, I did it, I left.
This all got started when Stewart saw a forum post on a Star Wars site and decided to run it down via Twitter. Well done. There’s some speculation at the link about which lines may have been his. None of their suggestions seem implausible, but I don’t think they’re exactly conclusive either (via).
[Programming Note: There’s no new Zombie Simpsons for two more weeks, and while I can usually fill in the gap well enough, things are likely to be sparse around here for at least this week. Hopefully I’ll come across more easy stuff like this. Maybe Dan Castellaneta was a background Klingon in Star Trek III or something.]
To celebrate the 300th or so episode of Zombie Simpsons, The Hollywood Reporter interviewed some of the more illustrious members of the staff and put together a couple of photo streams. They talked to Groening, Brooks, Jean, O’Brien, Scully, Cartwright, Castellaneta, Kavner, Smith, and Azaria; and they got pictures from inside the production offices. The main article is here, and the behind the scenes pictures are here. In an artful attempt to dredge some pageviews out of their archived content, there are also some links to older articles and photo collections as well. Those aren’t as interesting. In fact, the one called “Meet the Cast” is just a collection of generic red carpet photos that they slapped together last fall after the renewal was announced.
The interviews and the behind the scenes photos are pretty cool though. Some highlights:
“In every half hour of every day, an episode of The Simpsons is broadcasting somewhere around the globe.”
I doubt that. I’d doubt that if it was in The New Yorker, and The Hollywood Reporter is a long way from The New Yorker. Then there’s this:
So I started drawing my comic, Life in Hell, and sold it as a zine at the record store. Production designer Polly Platt showed it to James L. Brooks. He was curious and called me for a meeting at Paramount. My 1962 Ford Fairlane had just bitten the dust. Luckily I was living right across the street from Paramount. They wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have a car. I said, "But I have a meeting with James L. Brooks!" That was 1985. Nothing came of the meeting until a couple years later when James asked me to come over to the Fox lot to meet again.
I didn’t know Groening and Brooks had a meeting two years before the shorts started. I’ve also never heard this story before:
"The Simpsons series began like many things begin: with an animator getting drunk at a Christmas party. We were already doing Tracey Ullman, and David Silverman, who was with us then and would go on to direct The Simpsons Movie, cornered me and poured out his heart about what having a primetime Simpsons show would mean to animators.
Granting that memories of parties from a quarter of a century ago might not be the most reliable information in the world, I do like the image of David Silverman cornering Brooks and demanding he do a half hour show for the sake of animators everywhere. Viva la animación!
Here’s Conan O’Brien describing something that has gone by the wayside:
When I got there, they told me, first and foremost, "The Simpsons characters are a family who love each other. They need to exist in that reality. Bart can’t take out a gun and shoot Homer in the face; it’s not the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote."
There are a lot of Zombie Simpsons counterexamples of that, but right now I’m just thinking of that episode they did last year with all the popped eyeballs.
Anyway, the article and the slideshow are worth seeing, particularly for the picture at the top of the first page of Brooks, Groening and Jean. Brooks is the only one who looks even remotely comfortable, Groening and Jean look like they’d rather be anywhere else. Jean especially has a look on his face that’s a mixture of “who farted?” and “I just sat on something sharp”.
“Watch out, Laszlo Panaflex!” – Troy McClure
Matt Groening is getting a tile on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I found this out via a press release we got this afternoon, but if you’d asked me this morning whether or not he already had one, I would’ve said “Probably?”. Here are the official details:
MATT GROENING CELEBRATES 500TH EPISODE OF “THE SIMPSONS” WITH
STAR ON THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME
WHO: Matt Groening
Emcee: Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, President/CEO Leron Gubler
Guest speakers: Hank Azaria (voice of Moe, Chief Wiggum, plus others)
and Yeardley Smith (voice of Lisa Simpson).
WHAT: 2,459th Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the Category of
WHERE: 7021 Hollywood Boulevard at the corner of Sycamore near The
WHEN: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 11:30 a.m.
“The Simpson’s star”? Does no one at hip, edgy Web 2.0 marketing firms proofread anymore? The rest of the press release contains more indirect comedy, like the mini-biography that uses the registered trademark symbol four times in five sentences, just in case you forgot that “Life In Hell®” after the first one. More amusing still is this bit from the legalese at the end:
The information in this email and any attached files is confidential. It is intended solely for the use of the addressee. Any unauthorized disclosure or use is prohibited.
It’s a fucking press release! The whole point of sending it to me is to get me to disclose its contents, but apparently that’s prohibited. Oops.
Anyway, good for Groening. And if anyone goes to the ceremony, do me a favor and count how many times they make “what an honor to have people’s shoes all over my name” type jokes.
Hank Azaria is starring in a new sitcom called Free Agents. He plays a depressed PR man who, if the poster image is anything to go by, sleeps with his partner. Wackiness and sexy results no doubt ensue. (It premiers tonight at 10:30 on NBC.) More importantly, he did a promotional interview with Vulture, and said some interesting things:
How much of a drain on your career is The Simpsons at this point?
It’s about four hours a week.
Do you have any new characters in you?
Really, no. A few years ago, I kind of … ran out. I’ve done literally 100, 150 different characters. Some of them have only appeared for a line or three. But the point is, every sound I can make has been harvested for the show at this point. It used to be — like in year ten — there were a couple of new ones a week. Now, one or two or year. I have no new voices — they’ve all been used.
So, according to Hank Azaria, voice of Moe, Wiggum, and Comic Book Guy himself, the show has been less interesting since Season 10. He’d be a fool to walk away from all that cash – for just four hours a week, no less – so he keeps doing the same old things over and over again, but he’s willing to admit in public that he has no new voices. The kicker comes at the end though:
Are there parallels to any Simpsons character?
Do you remember the episode that has Frank Grimes in it? Remember that show? Kind of a one-off character. This guy comes to the Springfield the nuclear power plant, works for Homer and gets really jealous that everything works out for Homer even though Homer is an idiot. There’s a lot of Frank Grimes in Alex — nothing works out for him and he’s tremendously sad and yet somehow, hopefully, it’s funny.
Even one of the main voice actors has to reach all the way back to Season 8 to plug his new show. Truly, nobody cares about Zombie Simpsons. Sincere good luck with Free Agents, Hank.
“Who are you?” – Homer Simpson
“Homer, I’m your guardian angel. I’ve assumed the form of someone you would recognize and revere, Sir Isaac Newton.” – Guardian Angel
“Sir Isa Who-ton?” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, very well.” – Guardian Angel
“Colonel Klink! Did you ever get my letters?” – Homer Simpson
Anyone reading this site has probably had the experience of watching The Simpsons and realizing that something (a scene, a joke, or just a quick image) is a parody while not quite knowing what’s being referenced. Sometimes, even if you do know the source, you don’t know it well enough to understand it completely. There are a lot of ways to look these sorts of things up nowadays, and the episode capsules on SNPP and elsewhere are often informative. But can’t someone else do it? Yes, someone else can.
The Springfield Historical Society is a new Simpsons blog that takes old references from the show and explains them using all the video and image tools that weren’t available back when people were swapping text over 1200 baud modems on Usenet. For example, take The Love-Matic Grampa segment from “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase”, sure you know it’s based on bad television concepts of yore, but here you can watch YouTube of My Mother the Car, a mid-60s sitcom starring one of the lesser Van Dykes. His wife sends him out to buy a station wagon and he comes back with an old jalopy inhabited by the spirit of his dead mother. Hilarity ensues (they made thirty episodes of this).
Here’s one I’d never noticed before, in “The Way We Was”, teenage Marge stares plaintively into a mirror. Despite the fact that I’ve seen the Norman Rockwell painting on which it’s based, I never put two and two together. Here they’re right next to each other. New posts go up Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and there are already articles on topics ranging from Morganna the Kissing Bandit and Sheriff Lobo to Billy Beer and the execrable Studs. The whole thing is highly recommended.
“In light of these new facts, of which I now realize I was largely aware, I must take action.” – Mayor Quimby
Remember Dana Gould? He was one of the two Zombie Simpsons writers in Spurlock’s 20th anniversary special who took petulant, off topic swipes at people who say Zombie Simpsons sucks. His nonsensical quote, in full:
“The people who say ‘It was never as good as it was five years ago’, it’s like well, neither are you, that’s the problem.”
Set aside the fact that “never as good as it was” is self contradicting, we know what he means. More recently, he said pretty much the opposite. Asked about his favorite episode in an interview with the Denver Post website Reverb, he said:
My favorite all-around episode I think is the “Last Exit to Springfield,” the one with the monorail. That to me was the show’s early zenith where it just really cranked on all cylinders. My favorite of my own was called “Goo Goo Gai Pan,” where they flew to China to adopt a baby for Marge’s sister Selma, and based on my own experience adopting our daughter.
Yes, “Last Exit to Springfield” is not the one with the monorail, but I’d chalk that up to a brain fart or a slip of the tongue. On more substantive matters, he specifically and deliberately refers to the show’s “early zenith”, when it “cranked on all cylinders”. That sounds an awful lot like an admission that the later years of the show are inferior to the early ones, doesn’t it? He may not think Zombie Simpsons is as bad as I do, but he clearly thinks it’s not as good as The Simpsons. I don’t know whether he’s had a change of heart since he talked to Spurlock or if he was just being less guarded and more honest in a more obscure forum, but there’s no mistaking what he’s saying: The Simpsons peaked and then went downhill. Thanks, Dana.
“I’ll just spend the summer getting better acquainted with an old friend called television.” – Bart Simpson
“Hope you enjoyed that, kids, cause Krusty’s out of here for the summer! In the meantime, we’ll be running, ugh, classic Krusty.” – Krusty the Klown
Memorial Day weekend is over and we’re a long way from Labor Day, so it’s time for the annual switch to Dead Homer Society’s summer schedule. Reading Digest will still go up on Fridays, and we’ll be posting two Season 10 Crazy Noises per week. (We’re going in broadcast order this time, “Lard of the Dance” should be up tonight or tomorrow.) I’m also planning on doing some more DVD commentary posts from the early seasons (like this one).
However, as you can see in the image below, there’s still plenty of space on the schedule. And while two years of this has made me quite adept at spinning bullshit into blog posts, I certainly appreciate any help from all of you fine readers and commenters. So consider this an open invitation: guest posts, fan rants, photo essays about that time you made a Good Morning Burger; if it’s Simpsons related, contact us by e-mail and we’ll run it.
Thanks for reading and putting up with us through another year of Zombie Simpsons.