Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category

22
May
15

Behind Us Forever: Mathlete’s Feat

Treehouse of Horror X5

“Oh, my God!  Lisa!  She’s been crushed, and so have the hopes of our mathletics team.” – Principal Skinner

Sorry (again) for the non-existant blogging around here, still been busy.  There probably isn’t going to be a Reading Digest today, but on the plus side, Season 26 is over, so I’ve got plenty of time to pretend that I’ll get caught up at some point.  On the Harry Shearer front, there has been nothing but silence from both sides so presumably they’re still talking.  Read into that whatever you’d like.

As for the finale, “Mathlete’s Feat” was bog standard: lots of filler, even more exposition, several magically appearing characters, and a couple of montages.  After a rich school beats Springfield Elementary’s mathlete team, the Nerds (from “Homer Goes to College”) buy the school a bunch of computers, that promptly get fried, which leads to a lot of flattering exposition about Waldorf schools, which leads to Bart becoming the captain of the math team (for some reason), which (just one scene later) leads to a rematch with the rich school, which leads to the usual unconnected ending.

– Hey, Rick and Morty, that’s better than this.  Thank goodness this “couch gag” took over 10% of the episode.

– “Good Seats Will Always Be Available” is pretty decent for an opening sign gag.

– But things go south fast with a literal drive by appearance from Nelson and twenty-seconds of Homer not laughing at a math joke.

– The Nerds are back for a hopefully brief cameo.  Oh, and the math competition has a full audience.  They didn’t even remember their own sign gag.

– Krusty just showed up to apparently host and yell the words “Drug Reference!” at the audience.

– Okay, Krusty’s gone.  Now we’re on “introductory videos” for each team.  Oh, and the rich kids video is directed by a yelling Michael Bay.  South Park did that way better a long time ago.  Just sayin’.

– Lisa’s monologing for some reason.

– Homer is explaining Lisa’s emotions.

– The Nerds are sticking around.  Apparently they went to Springfield Elementary.

– Sigh.  Skinner just appeared out of nowhere in Miss Hoover’s class, grabbed a film strip projector, and hurled it out the window (breaking it) and causing Willie to scream in pain.  Remember when Skinner was funny because he was a buttoned down square and not another zany nutbar?  The writing staff doesn’t.

– Montage!

– The “state of the art digital book burner” was a bit of a stretch, but they did set its temperature to 451F.

– And now the computers the Nerds bought have all been fried.  That took a while, and involved a lot of exposition and urgent horn music.

– Back from commercial and we are literally watching them do nothing.

– The teachers now have no electronics and the Nerds have vanished from the plot without so much as a goodbye, so we’re getting their new, non-technical classroom activities exposited to us.  Like Nelson reading his marshmallows.

– Lisa just left class and walked outside to see Willie, who didn’t so much as greet her before he went into a monologue of his own.

– Oh, for fuck’s sake, after getting several things explained to us, Lisa declared, “Move over, metric system, I’m learning the gastric system!”.

– And now Lisa just walked in on Skinner and Chalmers to exposit some more about learning math from Willie.  It’s bad, “Willie has showed me that losing our technology doesn’t have to be the end of our learning.  We could turn our school into a Waldorf school.”  This reminds of that scene in Spaceballs where Rick Moranis looks right at the camera and asks, “Everybody got that?”.  Only there it was intended to be funny.

– Lisa is now explaining a Waldorf school. . . . and now she’s teaching in the kitchen with no teachers around and, ugh, Lunchlady Doris.

– Now Lisa is back in class learning from Miss Hoover.  I guess they ran out of things for her to explain.

– Now Marge is reading from a pamphlet at the dinner table to further the explanations.

– There’s a song now, which Homer liked enough that he took over the explanations about the school in the next scene.

– Oof, this is a mess.  Willie was outside with some kids, and then Lisa and Skinner ran up out of nowhere to inform him that the plot needs to move along.

– After Lisa promoted Willie to coach of the school math team, he starts yelling and chasing Chalmers with a whip.  I take back my previous “Oof”, now it’s really a mess.

– Now Chalmers crashed his car after Bart hit him with an egg.  Now Bart is leading the math team.  Now, now, now.

– And we’re back at a math competition against the same school from the beginning.  Full audience again.  Sigh.

– Willie has a Gandalf hat and stick for some reason, so the squeaky voiced asks him about college so he can pretend to be a sorting hat from Harry Potter.  References!

– Lisa answers a math question correctly (which for some reason is taken as stunning, but whatever), then Bart complains that no one said there’d be math, then Lisa feels compelled to remind everyone that Bart is the math team captain.  That happened one scene ago, but since it doesn’t make any sense and we never saw Bart do any captaining before getting to the competition, I guess they felt the need to restate it.

– Luigi just stood up from the crowd to yell for a bit and then walk into a pole.  Huh.

– Montage!

– Though it is giving them a chance to flash a few equations on the screen.

– Then Bart somehow got the last question by drawing on Homer’s head.  Then Homer yells about what we just saw.

– Our post-plot comedy sketch this week is an after party where Lisa is somehow drunk on “Mountain Doo”.

– Nevermind, that was our first, post-plot comedy sketch.  The second one is introduced with a title card that reads, “The Simpsons Post Show Jug Band Fills The Time”.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: they know how crappy these are and do not care.

– The jug band filled twenty-five seconds of dialogue free time, though, so at the very least the title card wan’t lying.

The numbers are (long since) in, and they’re about what we’d expect.  Last Sunday, just 2.79 million people wished Rick, Morty, and the jug band thing could’ve taken more of the runtime.  That’s good for #4 on the all time least watched list, and pulls Season 26’s average viewership down to just 4.80 million.  Season 25 previously held the record for least watched Season at 4.99.  Come on down, Season 27!

As always with the ratings, the nuts and gum numbers are better than the overall ones, and since we now know that FOX has the option to keep the show on until 2019, I wouldn’t hold out any hope that they’ll drive the show off the air.  But it is fun to point and laugh.

17
May
15

Sunday Preview: Mathlete’s Feat

Mathlete's_Feat_promo_2

When a modernized Springfield Elementary has a technical meltdown, Lisa transforms it into a Waldorf school. Meanwhile, Groundskeeper Willie becomes the coach of the mathletes

Season Finale! For this year’s death rattle, Lisa has apparently been given the ability to force families to send their formally publicly educated children to a school that won’t grade anyone.  All this makes me think about is that Otto almost had tenure at Brown.  Also Willie is now a modern day Archimedes, so you know, whatever.  Frankly the only interesting thing that is related to this episode is that i don’t have to watch any previews for a few months.  Have a great summer.

16
May
15

Rumor Control: Shearer Negotiations Still Open

I Married Marge16

“Is Mom gonna have another baby, Dad?” – Lisa Simpson
“Maybe.” – Homer Simpson

Apologies for the lack of Compare & Contrast, Reading Digest, and general radio silence around these parts the last couple of days.  My Dad went in for a long planned surgery yesterday (which went fine), but between that, work, and the Shearer kerfuffle, regular blogging fell down a hole without even the benefit of Leonard’s carcass to land on.

In terms of actual Simpsons news, there have been two developments of note.  The first is Shearer related, though it needs to be kept in context.  Good ol’ CNN Money reports:

For all “The Simpsons” fans concerned that a Mr. Burns voiced by Harry Shearer has spent his last days in Springfield, the voice actor has two words for you: “stay tuned.”

This was the response Shearer had Friday when asked by CNN Money if there was a possibility that he could return.

Shearer had no other comment, other than to reference a tweet from “Simpsons” producer James L. Brooks. On Thursday afternoon, Brooks wrote, “Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.”

Does this mean anything?  Short answer, yes with an if: if Shearer or FOX found the uproar over his departure (I even heard a segment about it on BBC World Service) so disruptive that one of them caved on some previously stuck negotiating point, then maybe he’ll be back.

Long answer, no with a but: but this is third hand information glimpsed through the notoriously dirty lens of CNN.  It implies that they’re still talking, but that’s all it does.  It doesn’t change the fact that Shearer’s only public statement to date was that he seemed to be done.  Of course, even that is open to interpretation since all he really did was quote a letter from a lawyer and thank people for their support.  Jean was (publicly, at least) taking it seriously, but even that could be posturing.

So, what do we actually know?  As always in these situations: very little.  Shearer saying “stay tuned” certainly moves the needle a little bit back towards “he isn’t leaving”, but since it was never even close to definitively pointed at “he’s gone”, that doesn’t say much.  Until we get either a) a definitive statement that Shearer has signed and is returning, or b) an announcement of new voice actors for some or all of his characters, we can’t know for sure.  Whatever happens, the substantive conversations will take place well out of public view, so it’s best to treat all non-definitive news as suspect until proven otherwise.

The second piece of news, which was absent from every single renewal article I came across, is from an interview Jean gave with The Hollywood Reporter:

Do you think this opens the door for other cast? I know that they’ve signed for two more seasons but given the show’s track record do you think that there’s concern?

It’s a really different issue. They are signed for a four-year contract [with] two-year options on Fox.

So at this point Fox has options for seasons 29 and 30?

Yes.

It turns out that there will be no negotiations due in October of 2016, because the most recent renewal wasn’t just for two more production runs, it was for two more production runs with a FOX option for two more after that.

In addition to being further evidence of the incompetence and incuriosity of the entertainment press (a network option for two more years isn’t a minor detail), this overlooked nugget means that, if FOX wants it, the show will be on until 2019 at the least.  Assuming twenty-two episode production runs for the option, that would bring the show to 669 episodes.  As a reminder of how long Zombie Simpsons has been on, “Behind the Laughter” (the Season 11 finale) was episode #248.

Whether or not Harry Shearer will be there for all that, I have no idea.

14
May
15

Please Stop With the $14 Million Number

The Old Man and the Lisa17

“If I’d spent my life listening to Dismal Doras like you, I wouldn’t be worth two-hundred-million dollars today.” – C.M. Burns
“But according to your most recent biography, you only have one-hundred-million dollars today.” – Lisa Simpson
“I’ve ha-, . . . I’ve . . . ” – C.M. Burns
“Um, actually, sir, it’s, uh, considerably less than that.” – Mr. Smithers

A nice, headline grabbing number, preferably with a dollar sign next to it, is a well known pageview booster.  So let this be my usual renewal related reminder that there is no creditable public information on what the current or past salaries of the Simpsons voice actors are/were.  Back before the 2011 renewal, the widely cited figure was $400,000 per episode.  After that it came down somewhat to $300,000 (though I saw it mentioned as low as $200,000).  Now, thanks to the feckless morons at CNN Money (a backwater in an already grossly negligent and irresponsible news outfit), the current deal is being touted at $7,000,000 per year, or $318,182 per episode:

‘Simpsons’ Mr. Burns walking away from $14 million deal

What is their source for that eye catching number?  You’ll be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) to learn it’s an anonymous source:

The actor was offered a guaranteed $14 million for two years of work, according to someone with direct knowledge of the matter.

Okay, sometimes people don’t want to go on record, and that’s okay.  That factual information reaches the public is supposed to be the important part, right?  Well, here’s the kicker:

“To me, the deal he rejected would be the dream of a lifetime for the rest of the world,” the source said.

That’s not information.  That’s spin.  Moreover, it almost certainly marks this source as someone at FOX since s/he’s painting Shearer as walking away from “the dream of a lifetime for the rest of the world”, that ungrateful bastard.

Shearer himself has said in the past that the reported salary numbers are inaccurate, and I’m far more inclined to believe him than some nameless insider who feeds bullshit like that to CNN Money.  Remember, Shearer and the rest of the cast are forbidden from discussing what they’re actually paid, so FOX and their anonymous flacks have a free hand to inflate the numbers and paint the cast as greedy jackasses, and CNN Money is only too happy to help them do it.

Shoddy information coming from CNN is nothing new, of course.  The real problem is that people repeat these numbers so many times that they seem credible even when transparent horseshit like the above link is the only basis for it.  It’s happening already:

14milliondollarbullshit

And it’s not just Simpsons or entertainment related outlets that unquestioningly repeat this.  The Chicago Tribune already picked it up, and I even saw it on freaking Slashdot.

So, pretty please, with sugar on top, remember that you don’t know how much money the Simpsons voice actors make.  I don’t know how much the Simpsons voice actors make.  And the business/entertainment press for damn sure doesn’t know how much the Simpsons voice actors make.

14
May
15

Rumor Control: Harry Shearer (Possibly/Probably) Leaving Zombie Simpsons

Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song15

“Nobody’s mentioned me, have they?” – Principal Skinner
“I thought I heard someone say your name in the cafeteria, but they might have been saying ‘skim milk’.” – Bart Simpson

The internet is full of reports that Harry Shearer will not be doing voices for the recently announced two season renewal.  This being the internet, the certitude of the headlines ran a bit ahead of the actual information.  Here are the facts:

1.  Over the last couple of days, TMZ (I know, gross) reported that Shearer was not on board with the most recent renewal.

2.  Late last night (though since I think he’s in Britain it might have been morning for him), Shearer tweeted the following:

from James L. Brooks’ lawyer: “show will go on, Harry will not be part of it, wish him the best.”. (1/2)

This because I wanted what we’ve always had: the freedom to do other work. Of course, I wish him the very best. (2/2)

Thanks, Simpsons fans, for your support.

Shearer subsequently turned down a couple of media interview requests.

3.  That was followed a couple of hours later by Jean tweeting:

.@TheSimpsons #everysimpsonsever The show will go on, made by people who love it and see in it the most wonderful vehicle for satire ever.

@simpsonswiki @TheSimpsons recast if Harry does not return. No yellow wedding.

Jean was very active, replying to people and generally doing his job as the public face of the show.

4.  A couple of hours later, James L. Brooks replied (also on Twitter):

Hey, we tried. We’re still trying. Harry, no kidding, let’s talk.

5.  After speaking with a couple of media outlets, Jean did a quick interview with Entertainment Weekly in which he said that they were still hoping to work things out, but that if Shearer was out the door, they would recast his parts, probably with multiple people.  As to the question of why, he gave a round-about answer (bold italics are mine):

What is that period of time? Weeks? Well, it’s pretty vague because we have seven holdover [episodes] that Harry did in the fall, so there’s a big period of time. Obviously, we just want to know what he wants. We’ve rededicated ourselves this season to making the show better and not just saying, ‘Okay, we’re just happy for the pickup.’ We really care about it and everybody’s coming to more [table reads] and doing more on the show, so if he’d like to be a part of that, we’d love him. And if not, we’d like to know and then we’ll go another way.

Would you describe yourself as hopeful then that this could be resolved? I have no idea. I didn’t know he was going to tweet last night. That was very surprising. And the tweets were confusing because he had an offer. It wasn’t like we didn’t offer him a substantial thing. No. 2, he mentioned that he wanted to do outside projects. Everybody on the show does lots of outside projects. He actually gets to record on the phone and do the [table] reads on the phone. So we’ve never kept him from doing that stuff. So that’s one confusion I had. For the last several years, he’s done reads on the phone. He doesn’t always participate. We’ve excused him for several and he records, as long as it’s done in time, when it’s convenient for him. So it’s not a scheduling thing and he says it’s not a money thing, so I’m not sure what he’s thinking.

So, all the sturm und drang aside, all that appears to have happened is that, through a couple of unexpected tweets, Shearer broke off a negotiation and dropped a big, steaming PR shitpile in the collective lap of Jean, Brooks, and FOX.

What does all this mean?  Well, it could end up meaning nothing.  This isn’t the first time Shearer has been unhappy in public during negotiations for renewal.  In the linked interview, Jean was deliberately cagey about how long they could go on without Shearer, but based on what we know about production schedules, it could easily be months before they’d actually need him to record new episodes.  If they announce new cast members, that’d probably mean it’s a done deal, but I’d guess we’re a ways away from that.

There are, however, a couple of circumstantial pieces of evidence that this isn’t a public negotiating ploy on Shearer’s part and does indeed mean he’s leaving the show.  The first and biggest is that the other five main cast members have already signed.  Jean makes it clear in that interview that Shearer has been given the same offer the rest of them already took, so even just negotiating with him at this point would upset a deal that already took them months longer than usual to reach.

There’s also the fact that Shearer has never actually called it quits before.  He’s needled the show and ragged on FOX, but to my knowledge he’s never said he was done.

Finally, there are Jean’s highlighted comments above.  If it’s true that they’ve “rededicated” themselves and want more active participation from people, Shearer might not want the hassle.  He’s been content to (literally) phone it in these last few years, but he values his time a lot more than a few extra million bucks he may never spend anyway, so why bother?  He knows damn well the show is a shadow of itself, and if everyone’s just there for the money and he doesn’t need the money . . . well, that may be all she wrote.

Whatever his specific reasons, at the moment the safest assumption is that Harry Shearer will not be a member of the cast for the UABF production run.  If that holds, the last episode with his voice will be broadcast next season, probably in November or December.  We’ll see what happens, but unlike the renewal that always seemed like it was going to get done, this is uncharted territory.

10
May
15

Sunday Preview: Bull-E

20150505201242!Bull-E_promo_5

After Bart gets bullied at the school dance, Marge convinces the town to pass anti-bullying legislation. Homer then gets arrested and sent to rehab for bullying Ned Flanders, only to subsequently leave rehab as a hero.

Albert Brooks is guest voicing tonight, so those of you who choose to watch have that going for you. I especialy won’t be watching now, as I feel whenever he voices a character anymore it just makes the episode even worse by comparison.  It’s like using Godiva chocolate syrup on a dog shit sundae. Rest assured, I believe there is only one more episode before summer vacation.

09
May
15

Quote of the Day

Three Men and a Comic Book13

“Wait a minute!  Martin, if you, Milhouse and I went in together, we could buy a copy of Radioactive Man #1 right now!” – Bart Simpson
“Wow!” – Martin Prince & Milhouse van Houten

Happy birthday James L. Brooks!




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