Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category

26
Jan
15

Behind Us Forever: The Musk Who Fell to Earth

The Old Man and the Lisa15

“Eww, this place has got old man stink!” – Hitman
“Oh.” – C.M. Burns
“Don’t listen to him, sir.  You’ve got an enchanting musk.” – Mr. Smithers

I never bothered to watch the Lady Gaga episode a second time, so this comparison may be a little looser than I think it is, but the Elon Musk episode sure felt a lot like it.  A mega famous person arrives out of nowhere in Springfield (Gaga in a giant train, Musk in a spaceship that lands in the Simpsons backyard), crazy shit happens for a little while, then the mega famous person leaves.  There isn’t anything that remotely resembles story, conflict or satire, and the jokes, for whatever little they’re worth, are mostly just exaggerated plays on that mega famous person.  Lady Gaga had a crazy bra, Elon Musk has self packing luggage, har har.

Even by Zombie Simpsons standards, this one was disorganized and scatterbrained, so buckle up.

– No couch gag.

– Homer just showed up to hold up a quarter against an eagle.

– Marge is here now too.

– The Eagle has Maggie, and now Homer is punching it.

– “Ha ha, stupid eagle, it wasn’t the mouse we were after, it was you!”

– Oh, good, the broom vs. eagle fight is continuing.

– Homer’s eyeball popped out.

– So, Homer trained the eagle for four weeks?

– And now Elon Musk is descending in a space pod.

– Homer is weeping and bowing now.  This is more schizo than usual.

– Lisa is now explaining who Musk is.

– “So, what brings you to Springfield, Mr. Musk?”  Exposition Marge is here for us.

– After Musk explains why he’s here, Homer asks him if he’s interested in visiting him at the plant.  Musk replies, “I am, and I will”.

– Lisa just read out loud what Musk wrote on a piece of paper.  This is also going slower than usual.

– I was going to try to explain what’s happening now, but Lisa did it for me, “He’s taking your Homerisms and turning them into his own great ideas.”  This will go on for a while.

– Musk and Homer drove by Lou and Wiggum.  There were gunshots.

– Burns is reading suggestions out loud.

– Burns is being happy and nice, always his best traits.

– This Imaginer(sp?) guy interlude was bizarre.

– But it got weirder as Homer and Musk sit on top of the cooling towers.

– Then they hugged.

– “I don’t trust Musk.”  Exposition Smithers is trying to move the plot along.  I do like that he simply told us how he was feeling instead of us getting to see why he thinks that way, though.  It saves time for all the great stuff they’ve got here.

– Smithers just woke Burns up in the middle of the night for some reason.  Then the hounds were released indoors.

– So, everyone has self driving cars now.  That was unexpected.

– I didn’t see this musical interlude coming.

– Burns just informed us that he’s going to have Musk killed.

– Marge and Homer are in bed.  Marge reminded everyone of what’s going on, then Homer described Musk again.

– A bunch of old guys just shot at Musk and Homer.  Then Homer told us what just happened.

– Musk is apparently going back to his home planet now.

– But first he built Bart a real lightsaber.  Okay.

– And, after some zero-g tears, it’s over.  Huh.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they’re about what we expect with no football on.  Last night just 3.40 million people wondered why Elon Musk wasn’t doing something more interesting with his time.  That’s good for #4 on the all time least watched list and doesn’t auger well for the remaining ten or so episodes this season.

25
Jan
15

Sunday Preview: The Musk Who Fell To Earth

musk1

When inventor Elon Musk  arrives in Springfield and befriends Homer, the two revolutionize the nuclear plant. But the ambitious Musk soon has Mr. Burns seething and Burns tries to have him removed, forcing Homer to make a tough decision.

While I find the real life Elon Musk to be a relatively interesting person, I have absolutely zero desire to see him interact with zombie Homer.  At least they didn’t try to rope him and SpaceX into the insane Kang and Kodos episode from a few weeks back.

23
Jan
15

Reading Digest: Cranky with the Media Edition

Bustling Newsroom

“Wow, a bustling metropolitan newsroom, funneling scoops from all over the globe.” – Lisa Simpson
“Hi, are you interested in a subscription to the Shopper?” – Sales Dude
“Low introductory rates.” – Sales Lady
“No, please, you gotta help old Gil.  What’s it gonna take to keep you on the phone?  Dance for you?  But you wouldn’t even see it.  Alright, I’m a dancin’!” – Gil

This week, I make only tangentially relevant complaints about several linked articles: lazy sourcing, inappropriate pageview whoring, and two instances of recycled content that sort of, somehow had something to do with the show.  Happily, we’ve got a lot more stuff as well, including more Season 2 breakdowns, a couple of great pieces of fan art, Lego Grampa, and a real life electric hammer.

Enjoy.

Snowpiercer: “Sorry Mom, the Mob has spoken!” – How would you cast a dystopian train movie with Simpsons characters?  Start with Mr. Burns taking Ed Harris’s part and work backwards.  (Thanks to JRC & Diana for e-mailing their post in.)

Bart Vs. Thanksgiving – Our buddy Noah continues his adventures through Season 2.

Dead Putting Society – This is the episode that really turned Flanders into Flanders.  It’s not just that he’s richer, nicer, and more popular than Homer, there’s a real guy under there, one who can get pissed off but who’s still relaxed enough to not care about mowing the lawn in his wife’s Sunday dress.

Dancin’ Homer – The original story of degradation and humiliation.

Two Cars In Every Garage And Three Eyes On Every Fish – Heh:

The first time I saw this episode, I honestly thought Mary Bailey was a real governor (I was young, OK?), and I was wondering why the show was kissing this person’s butt so much.

But it’s “Not Just Another State”.

Abe Simpson – Click this.  It’s Grampa made out of Legos.

Gr8at: The Simpsons Jokes – Just some gags from the show.

29 Jokes Only “Simpsons” Fans Will Find Funny – This is a Buzzfeed link, so the headline is misleading clickbait and the actual post is mostly a rehash of stuff that’s been floating around forever.  That said, there were a couple I’d never seen before.

‘The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening will attend Saturday screening of his father Homer’s films – The headline tells you pretty much what you need to know.  If you’re in or around Portland, tickets are $15.

My Favorite Simpsons Quotes – It’s a twofer, with YouTube.

The Top 5 Best Movie-Inspired Theme Park Rides – The Simpsons ride comes in at #3, but it’s worth the click for the aerial photo of the Harry Potter ride.  The castle the visitors see is dwarfed by the warehouse that actually has the ride.

One Image Shows Just How Talented The Simpsons’ Voice Actors Are – This old chart of who does the Simpsons voices was making the rounds this week.

TV’s best shows mostly exist because of crappy sitcom reruns – How reruns of The Simpsons and other shows pay for all those critical darlings.  I have no real objection to the article, but I must object to this:

FXX paid so much money — $750 million — for The Simpsons because it knew this, and because The Simpsons was one of the few remaining cash cows without a cable deal.

That link takes you to this:

The deal also is set to make TV history as the priciest off-network pact ever, expected to fetch at least $750 million, and the first one to include full digital rights. The enormous size of the deal — which some say could potentially reach $1 billion if the series keeps producing new seasons — stems from the staggering volume of Simpsons episodes available

Not only is the $750,000,000 number just “expected”, but it also doesn’t have a source.  It’s like numbers for how much each cast member makes per episode of Zombie Simpsons: a rumor repeated so many times that people take it as fact.  The reality is that nobody outside of News Corp really knows what’s in that deal or how much it’s worth.  I get that writers need to cite facts and stuff, but the entertainment press is really sloppy and lazy and publishing these numbers again doesn’t make them any more trustworthy.

Homer Simpson’s Electric Hammer Created In Real Life (video) – Good idea, but sadly it doesn’t appear to actually hammer nails very well.

Dudeoir Photography – Remember when Homer got Homerotic for that boudoir photo shoot?  Turns out there’s actually a term for that:

Dudeoir is Boudoir for men wrapped up in the “macho” phrase to make it more appealing to men who are insecure of their masculinity.

The Simpsons: three notes that pay composer Danny Elfman’s health insurance – Heh:

“Those are the three notes that kept me in health insurance for 25 years,” composer Danny Elfman says of the opening to The Simpsons theme music.

REVIEW: Mr. Burns a Post-Electric Play at Theater Wit – The Chicago version of the play gets a nice review.

Artist aleXsandro Palombo depicts The Simpsons as Jews in a concentration camp to mark 70th anniversay of Auschwitz liberation – This is that same Italian guy who’s been on a roll with these lately.  (Pro tip: if the word “Auschwitz” appears in the headline, maybe don’t make the related stories sexy celebrities and a bikini model so emaciated I can count her ribs.)

Mr Sparkle – Homer Simpson by Lucas Jubb – Fan made Homer, complete with sunshine, stars and those creepy eyes.

Five Questions For A Blogger. (3) – Including some Simpsons love and a .gif of Milhouse petting that nice doggy on the beach.

What I Watched: Week 2 (Jan 11- Jan 17) – This is wise:

The Simpsons is by far my favourite TV show of all time. I own the first 12 seasons and they’re definitely the most watched discs in my collection because I often grab a season and put in whatever disc. This week I was watching some of season 8 which features Homer’s best buddy Frank Grimes (or Grimey, as he liked to be called).

Monday has spoken… – Heh.

Simpsons at its finest – Heh.

Osteology everywhere: Graffiti – Explaining the lack of graffiti in Kazakhstan with “Lemon of Troy”.

That’s a Coconut Cake! Part 1 | You Can’t Have That One, That’s a Coconut Cake – Trying to recreate Agnes’ inviolable cake on a blog named after it.  Good luck.

An Open Letter to Great Indian Litterbugs – Never having been to India, I can’t comment much on the main subject here, but there is a .gif of Homer and Bart making garbage angels.

16
Jan
15

Reading Digest: Yet Moar Anniversaries Edition

I Married Marge14

“I was twenty-four years old with a beautiful girlfriend and a job with a future. . . . Hey, you’re supposed to be listening to my story!” – Homer Simpson
“I thought it was over.  You had a problem turning blades, you overcame it, the feel good story of the year.” – Bart Simpson

So the 25th anniversary of “Bart the Genius” was this week, which gave lots of people another chance to go back and talk about all the things the show has done.  Most notably, this included internet pop culture factory The A.V. Club, which had a “Simpsons Week“.  We’ve got a few of their articles linked below as well as a bunch more, plus the usual assortment of usage, fan made stuff, and weird stories from foreign countries.

Enjoy.

10 Simpsons from the last 10 seasons that aren’t the… Worst. Episodes. Ever. – I’ll admit that part of the reason I’m linking this here is that it mentions us (thanks for the extra few thousand pageviews!).  More importantly, however, are the pretzel like word-knots needed to in any way shape or form defend Zombie Simpsons.  Observe:

Placed one episode after the other, 220-plus hours of Simpsons episodes doesn’t look like a steady rise through the early years, a pleasant plateau from seasons six through 10, and then a precipitous drop. Viewed in this context, with the filters of nostalgia and goosed-up memories removed, The Simpsons maintains a remarkable consistency through its 25 years on the air.  Yes, it’s produced a few genuine clunkers over the years, but between the truly great moments and the truly regrettable ones, there’s a midrange of Simpsons episodes that any other series would be proud to claim.

That’s the opening paragraph.  It would seem to not agree with the third one:

To admit that the “good” version of The Simpsons couldn’t last for 26 seasons is to admit that the greatest TV show ever made is also just another TV show. The Simpsons was so transcendently good for so long, but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to the vagaries of inspiration and production that every other show deals with.

So, wait, where’s the twenty-five years of “remarkable consistency” if it was “transcendently good for so long” before falling victim to the same forces that destroy all television shows?  It can be consistent, or it can be great and then fall apart, hard to see how it can be both.  Here’s the kicker, the last sentence of that paragraph:

Quality be damned, the show remains a cultural force.

Under all the verbiage, there remains no denying that the show that’s on now isn’t the same one that started all those years ago.

What’s your favorite Simpsons quote? – For further evidence, here’s nineteen A.V. Club people picking their favorite quote.  Eighteen of them pick from a non-Zombie Simpsons season (including the author of “10 Episodes” link above).  The one dissenter writes this:

I’m going to court controversy—and possibly incite a whacking stick-wielding mob—but my choice comes from an episode that aired within the last 10 years. “Papa Don’t Leech,” from the 19th season, is not, by any conceivable measure of quality, a good episode of The Simpsons. Its sins are various—the opening dream sequence of Homer gleefully murdering Abe is bad, but that’s nothing compared to the way the episode craps on the show’s past by unnecessarily revisiting country music seductress Lurleen Lumpkin, from the classic “Colonel Homer.”

You’ve got to pick through a lot of shit to find something worthwhile in Zombie Simpsons.  The same cannot be said of The Simpsons.

The irrational rightness of The Simpsons – Our old friend Alec-Nevala Lee on the show’s inexplicable weirdness:

What I’d like to highlight here is a quality that doesn’t get mentioned often enough: the show’s underlying strangeness. Looking back at the golden years of the series, it’s striking how many lines, scenes, and images are both inexplicable and totally right. They’re often tangential beats that go on longer than seem comedically possible—not just the rake gag from “Cape Feare,” but Mr. Burns laughing over the crippled Irishman in “Last Exit to Springfield,” or Homer twiddling his thumbs in “Bart’s Comet.” They’re the comedic version of what Donald Richie, in his discussion of Kurosawa, calls “the irrational rightness of an apparently gratuitous image in its proper place,” and as Richie points out, they’re often the things we remember.

The Simpsons: The Genius of “Bart the Genius” After 25 Years – Den of Geek with a tremendous write up of “Bart the Genius”.  A sample:

The episode crystallized the Simpsons vision. The writers turned intelligence and authority on its head. They ridiculed open education and peppered it with subversion. Left, right and center are all off-kilter in Springfield. Blue noses were tweaked and ratting was rewarded. Bart runs bare-assed across the family living room.

Top 5 Kubrick References in ‘The Simpsons’ – With no Zombie Simpsons whatsoever.

On Endings – Very true:

The truly sad thing about these endings is that they can all be done so well, yet many shows never get a chance to try them, since it is far easier to milk a show until it stops paying, then cancel it abruptly. If The Simpsons had ended when it seemed appropriate to wrap it up, a lot of money would have been lost.

Judd Apatow’s ‘Simpsons’ Episode — Season 26 Interview With Writer – Jean and Apatow doing a short publicity interview.  I’d kinda like to read this:

JEAN | I actually had a Golden Girls [spec script]. … It was one where Dorothy had an auto accident with Mother Teresa and everyone hated Dorothy.
APATOW | Did you get the job?
JEAN | No, they hated it. [Laughs]

Springfield Stitches – Excellent fan made versions of Ralph not getting any valentines and Kirk van Houten’s master pictionary skills.  Some are even for sale if you click through.

Here’s the unfinished first line of paintings at about 97% complete all around and many more to come soon on Etsy! – The devilish look on Bart’s face is great.

Russian Man to Build Copy of ‘The Simpsons’ House in Moscow Region – That’s a much better headline than “Man to Build House”.

This guy recorded alternate versions of your favorite TV theme songs, and they’re incredible – Here’s the Simpsons one:

Find Your Somate, Homer – Heh:

Sometimes, though, the curtain gets pulled back, and great search terms come through. Today, I was treated to this:

“Find your somate, Homer.”

This was either a typo (“find your soulmate, Homer” are the immortal words of Johnny Cash, in his guise as Space Coyote, to Homer Simpson) or an earnest call for Homer Simpson to manifest in the physical world.

What’s Marge Simpson’s problem? – Never thought of it like this:

The thing that bothers me is that in many previous episodes, Marge has consistently stood by Homer no matter how stupid he was, but in this episode, Marge is always against Homer and is constantly locking horns with him over religion. What I’m wondering is, in “Homer the Heretic”, why does Marge get so easily flared up over religion? In every episode where the family goes to church, Marge always has to play the role of the traffic cop, rushing the entire family to go to church looking clean.

Seems pretty Marge like to me for her to pray (“he just likes to sleep in on Sundays”), invite Reverend Lovejoy over, and just keep going back, but that’s just me.

Simpson And Delilah – Some Season 2 love.

Treehouse Of Horror – And some more.

Ript Apparel: Future City, Action Packed 1st Issue!, and Police Dept. of Springfield – Wink wink, indeed.

Wade Boggs — 107 Beers – Pitt the Elder!

Simpsons did it: Springfield’s denizens coming to Minecraft for Xbox – The headline tells you pretty much everything you need to know, but click through and try to count all the references in the actual article.  I dare you.

Photo of the Week: The Simpsons in NYC – Nice.

The Simpsons Serves Up a Stinker – Man, people really didn’t like that alien episode.

Mobile Gaming: The Simpsons vs Family Guy – Heh:

I agree: You can’t really compare The Simpsons to Family Guy on television. They’re different shows and comparing those two would be like comparing cats to dogs. Whichever you like best is your own opinion. But, their mobile games… Those I can compare.

If You Can Do The Bartman, You’re Bad Like Michael Jackson – A history of the show’s early musical success.

Orange juice – Heh.

Why ‘The Simpsons’? – The show remains very useful:

do worry that one day “The Simpsons” will be completely out of date and every year I find fewer students who are able to fill in “how does this episode end?” questions. However, I still get good reception from students on the whole. I’ve had older students who said before class they avoided the show because it was “trashy” but really enjoyed the clips. That being said, most of my clips are from the first eight seasons when the show was focused on the characters much more than the newer episodes are.

Stick with those and you’ll be okay.

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker-snax! – A guinea pig (I think) wearing sunglasses and a tiny Duff foam dome.  Excellent.

Random Photos – Jan13 – Ah, the world of Legos, where Spider-man can drink a coffee next to Marge.

Flaming Moe’s – Episode #045 – Ash heads to a place right down the block where you can drink your misery away.

No Need To Worry When Playing With House Money – Oregon’s crushed football hopes put into perspective with excellent usage:

Homer: Will you remember this the next time I wreck your life?
Lisa: It’s a deal.
That episode reminds us that we can’t look at tonight’s game from the filter of where the season is now, but rather from where the season began, through a lens of the preseason narratives that the cynical fans believed and the optimistic feared going into the season.

Kitty Says Cobrashark – Pretty creepy Burns/skull design.

I hate being Ill but its a great excuse to watch Simpsons under my duvet and not move. – Well put:

Unfortunately after all of those cuddles from the children within the nursery I am not poorly I’m all flued up with a poorly stomach so this is my perfect excuse for not moving and watching Simpson episode after Simpson episode there is something about the Simpsons that cheers me up im not quite sure whether its cause it takes me back to my childhood and sitting with my dad to watch them or whether its just because they are awesome and by awesome I mean seasons 2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11 there are none of the newest ones I don’t like them end of lol.

16
Jan
15

How Lisa Simpson Became Her Own Substitute

By Roisin Peddle

Forgiveness, please, for some pointless nostalgia right off the bat. Just like The Simpsons, I turned 25 this year. Being a kid without ‘the channels’ [i.e. cable] in 90s Ireland turned me into discerning Simpsons fan. For one thing, our state broadcaster, RTE, was ridiculously behind in broadcasting ‘new’ episodes. In 1998, I remember enjoying ‘Bart’s Friend Falls in Love’ for the first time. The episode was already six years old; so as a result I didn’t see anything from the newer seasons until well after I’d developed my critical faculties.

Secondly, RTE never cut anything out of the original broadcast. Watching “Sideshow Bob Roberts” on prime time on Channel 4 or Sky 1, the lack of Kelsey Grammer’s marvellously-delivered “Is that what you want, you smarmy little bastards?” jars every time. The generous might say the Irish didn’t believe in censorship (ha!). More likely, the RTE mandarins were terrified to cut up expensive tape from America. You should have seen them inserting ad breaks mid-sentence in BBC programmes before the advent of digital.

Smarmy Little Bastards

Saved by cheapness.

What I am getting at here is that I loved The Simpsons, and it’s shaped me in quite a few ways; my sense of humour, my cynicism, my love of rich creamery butter, all owe a little something to Groening, Brooks, Simon and co. And then, when I was about 12 or 13, and RTE finally caught up with Zombie Simpsons, it was over. But unlike other things that are over, it kept going.

Many who have given up on the show have their own tipping point. It might be as far back as Armin Tamzarian or Frank Grimes, or it might be Season 22. For me it was a little thing called “Homer Simpson In: Kidney Trouble” when he ran out on his own father who needed a transplant. I was done with the show; it wasn’t what I used to love. Any Zombie Simpsons I’ve seen since have failed to win me back to the fold. And while the movie was alright, it was only alright by the standard of Zombie Simpsons.

I’ve watched an awful lot of the classics lately, and they hold up. The references may be a little dated, but the jokes are so good you don’t care. One of my old college mates made the point that he only knew the names Lee Majors and Eudora Welty through The Simpsons, and he had no intention of finding out more about the people themselves. When Mr. Burns compares a puppy to Rory Calhoun, it doesn’t matter who that is, it matters that a) this old, heartless man spares lives due to his ridiculous whims and b) he’s so out of touch he doesn’t realise that dogs stand up on their hind legs on quite a regular basis. Zombie Simpsons, like Family Guy, assumes the viewer knows something about the figure being joked about, and the joke relies on this knowledge to be funny.

But the biggest problem I have with Zombie Simpsons is that the characters are no longer real people. It’s too simplistic to say the problem with Homer is that he’s now a jerk. In Season 6’s “Lisa on Ice”, for example, he behaves appallingly. He bullies his kids, rides roughshod over everybody and everything, and values victory over all else. But he’s a jerk in a realistic way. He’s relatively low down the ladder of a society where winning is everything. His kids are the only way he can taste some success, and he just loses the run of himself. We can see why this is happening. He’s still a fundamentally decent (and therefore normal) person underneath.

Bart and Lisa (and Maggie) were real children too. The writers in the classic era understood kids: their misconceptions (“reverse vampires”), thier fears (“can’t sleep, clown will eat me”) and their utter confusion regarding the adult world. When you’re ten, you can’t understand why you’re not allowed to spend an afternoon smashing mustard sachets with a hammer.

Mustard

Why are you doing that?  I dunno.

As a kid, I could identify with Bart’s pain at not being allowed to see The Itchy and Scratchy Movie and his disgust at Milhouse and Samantha’s little relationship. But it was Lisa I ‘got’, seeing her was like seeing myself on screen. Like her, I was a clever child who sometimes found it hard to fit in with my peers. I got excited over history and books and I soon found out that that made me a bit weird.

Lisa would later become a mouthpiece for whatever views the writers wanted to put across to their audience (environmentalism, etc.), but in the classic seasons she was a real kid. She fell out with Bart regularly and could be petty (“That’ll learn him to squish my tomater”). Her inner fantasies were sometimes bitter and vengeful. At one point she daydreams about kicking Bart and impaling him on her Nobel Peace Prize. Yet the sibling love of the oldest Simpson kids was palpable too. In later seasons they’re almost strangers sharing the same house, but in the classics they were a little team.

The arrival of Alison in “Lisa’s Rival” would teach Lisa that she would not always be the smartest person in the room. It was the first challenge to the arrogance that can come with being a clever kid (luckily, I had my mediocrity in Maths to save me from that fate), and Lisa reacted like a real eight-year-old would. She got jealous and angry, and concocted a pathetic revenge scheme before feeling horribly guilty.

In Zombie Simpsons, Lisa is a forty-year-old left-leaning feminist in an eight-year-old body (apt, really, because if she was real she’d be 34). But in the classic era her precocious intelligence was tempered by her youth: she worshipped actors called Corey and played with dolls.

Back to “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”, the subplot of which involves Lisa becoming concerned about Homer’s weight. Throughout the episode she reads from Eternity magazine about various improbable ways science will improve our lives. It’s all hokum, but it’s precisely the kind of hokum I fell for when I was eight.

“Lisa’s Substitute”, which I just watched and hadn’t seen in years (it seems Seasons 1 and 2 are never shown on TV anymore) is just like it. It’s a beautiful piece of TV: heart-warming and funny. Ms Hoover, Lisa’s teacher, develops psychosomatic Lyme disease (“Does that mean you’re crazy?” “No, it means she was faking it!”), and during her recuperation, the second grade gets a Dustin Hoffman-voiced substitute called Mr Bergstrom. He’s funny, good-humoured and has a genuine passion for teaching. Lisa falls – hard – and it’s through her childish adulation and insecurities (like refusing to play the sax in class, which would be unthinkable in later seasons) that we see her as she is: a bright little girl, an outcast in a family where the boorish Homer and incorrigible Bart dominate.

Homer and Lisa argue when he dismisses her heartbreak at Mr Bergstrom’s departure. The structure of the argument (Lisa snaps, calling Homer a baboon, who wins her round by impersonating one) would be unthinkable in Zombie Simpsons. Reflecting a realistic father-daughter dynamic isn’t what they do. Mr Bergstrom’s final note “You are Lisa Simpson” would be mocked in a fifteenth season episode, where Marge gives her the same handwritten note, only to be dismissed; “I already have one of those”.

Read the Note

It only works once.

Mr Bergstrom would not write a Zombie Lisa Simpson a note.  She isn’t anything, just a collection of poorly-thought out gags and outdated political issues.

Girl nerds were an endangered species on TV when I was a child, and they are still a rarity. I wonder if nerdy little eight-year olds see anyone they recognise on the box now. It’s sure as hell not Lisa Simpson, that’s for sure.

15
Jan
15

Compare & Contrast: Hypnotic Personality Changess

Clemens

“What about Clemens?” – C.M. Burns
“Sir, he’s in no condition to play.” – Mr. Smithers

A person suddenly changing their whole personality basically only happens in fiction.  It can be the steel screw who becomes a softy, the wallflower gaining rock solid confidence, even the idiot who’s suddenly smart.  The usual way to do this is with a bonk on the head, which generally comes complete with a second one near the end to put everything back the way it was.  (NOTE: Brains don’t actually work that way, please do not attempt at home.)

Sometime in the very early 1990s, a then unknown Judd Apatow sat down and wrote a teleplay that took that tried and true television premise and applied it to Homer Simpson.  The twist, if it can be called that, is that instead of his noggin getting a floggin’, Homer got himself altered through hypnosis.  A few meaningfully pronounced words, and, presto change-o, Homer Simpson thinks he’s a little kid again.  Hilarity is presumed to ensue.  (He and the episode would’ve been better off if he’d cornered the real-estate market instead, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The problem is that this premise is parchment paper thin even before you start noticing all the holes in it.  The go to joke for the personality switch episode is “whoa, s/he’s acting totally out of character”, beyond that there isn’t much there.  What’s worse, your character’s normal personality is the one that makes sense in context.  Having them act completely abnormally is generally an awkward fit, at best.

“Bart’s New Friend”, as Zombie Simpsons so often does, brings out the worst of this old and not terribly good premise.  By making Homer a little kid who’s friends with Bart, they not only have to shoehorn Kid-Homer into all kinds of bizarre places, but also gave him nothing to do while he was there.  When he (twice) shows up to play with actual kids, he doesn’t interact with them or really do anything, the episode just wants us to know he’s there.  The same is true when they’re at home, where all that happens is “Homer is a kid”.  The family barely reacts and nothing outside of that is even happening.

The beginning of the episode is Homer working a ton because he’s now the only safety inspector and actually has to do his job.  That whole rationale is dropped completely for the rest of the episode until a lone mention at the end that the other guy game back.  We don’t see anything with the plant or Homer’s co-workers after their safety inspector reverts to childhood.  Lenny and Carl don’t try to take him to Moe’s to jog his memory, Burns doesn’t disbelieve his story, nothing.

Similarly, Marge, Lisa and Bart don’t have anything but Homer going on.  Basically the only time we see any effect on anything is Homer’s brief appearances with the other kids, but even those are glossed over to the point of barely happening.  Here’s the dialogue from when Bart and Homer are playing in the park:

Bart: If you wedgie me, my friend will beat you up.
Dolph: That’s not your friend, it’s your screwed up Dad.
Jimbo: Pretty sad, really.
Kearney: We’ll leave you alone.
Bart: You did it, Homer!  You saved me from the bullies!  You’re the coolest kid I ever met.
Milhouse: What about me?
Bart: You’re in the top hundred.
Milhouse: Boo-yeah!
Bart: Now you’re not.
Milhouse: Oh.

For one thing, this is hacktacularly expository.  Bart and Dolph explain what’s going on, then Bart recaps it for us (“You saved me from the bullies!”), but nobody actually does anything but stand around.  More importantly, in that entire scene Homer doesn’t say a single word.  He is literally a prop.

Silent Homer

Please do not interact with the story’s main character.

That silent cameo is about the closest this episode comes to actually showing us some of the effects of the tortured premise it went out of its way to employ.   This is the mid-life crisis equivalent of buying that sports car model that was cool when you were fifteen and then leaving it in the garage.  It was a dumb idea even before they didn’t try to have any fun with it.

Compare that to the time The Simpsons employed the exact same premise with, of all people, Roger Clemens.  In just a few quick scenes, Clemens goes through an identical story to Kid-Homer, and we actually get to see some of the effects of it, with Clemens being unavailable for the championship game and clucking away instead of pitching.

Better yet, it’s one of those perfect note jokes that builds on everything around it.  A man acting like a chicken is one thing; maybe it’s funny, maybe it’s not.  But a big league star pitcher acting like a chicken because he was hypnotized by a quack on orders from an evil rich man who paid him to be a ringer in a smalltown softball game?  That’s so good that your final (non-song) call back to it can be a minor part of a still photo and it’s still hilarious:

Homer at the Bat12

Look at Roger Clemens, he just did an entire episode of Zombie Simpsons in two scenes and you can tell it just by looking at him.

A young Judd Apatow who didn’t know how to write yet may have once pronounced himself satisfied with this, but The Simpsons did it better in less than a page.  Bloated out to full script length, it’s typical Zombie Simpsons.

 

12
Jan
15

Behind Us Forever: Bart’s New Friend

This Little Wiggy6

“Then me and my friend were about to press it, but the man said not to press it, but we pressed it anyway!  And we ran and we hid in a giant tire, oh yeah, and my other friend was already there!” – Homer Simpson

In yet another desperate bid for attention, Zombie Simpsons has once again hitched its cart to a more currently successful person.  In this case, it’s Judd Apatow (who wrote a couple of good episodes of The Critic back in the day), who dusted off an old spec script he wrote twenty odd years ago.  The premise is that Homer gets hypnotized and thinks he’s Bart’s age.  I’ll just say this: there’s a reason this didn’t get made when the show was good, and it’s not because Apatow wasn’t famous then.

– Oof, that couch gag took an awful long time.

– And we get an early start on this week’s unnecessary exposition with Homer singing to himself about walking.

– So there’s another safety inspector?  I’m sure glad he and Homer repeated who he was and what he did several times.  I never would’ve caught it in one.

– The book titles are pretty good, “The Core: Mistress of Death”.  As usual, the sign gags are the best thing here.

– Lenny and Carl were there, then they weren’t.

– Now Lenny’s back.

– Ah, that’s good exposition, unneeded, nonsensical, the whole megillah: “You need to relax.  So, I got us all tickets to see the circus on Saturday.”

– Homer is ranting about parking now.  It’s like they believe that the famous phrase is “tell, don’t show” instead of the other way around.

– I get that the sideshow signs are Apatow references, but reminding the audience about the existence of Funny People isn’t a good idea.  I gave up on that movie halfway through and have never talked to a single person who liked it.

– So, Marge needed to explain to Homer that she had to use the port-a-potty, why, exactly?

– “No, I’m not”/”Yes you are” just keeps going, doesn’t it?

– “Mom, Dad’s been hypnotized to think he was ten.” – Thanks, Exposition Lisa!

– “Buddy Ebsen Died Here” on the hospital sign is pretty good.  Sadly, this episode would probably be funnier on mute.

– Hey, a briefly popped eyeball.

– I’ll give them this, 10-year-old Homer is at least a novel take on Jerkass Homer.  It’s not funny or entertaining or anything, but he’s never been an asshole quite like this.

– Culottes were funny that one time; here, not so much,

– Uh, why is Homer at the school?

– Naturally, Chalmers is there.  Remember when he was the superintendent?  Good times.

– They’re reusing the happy music from “Treehouse of Horror II” when Bart and Homer bond.  It was ironic then.  It’s kinda ironic now, but in a different way.

– Also, Chalmers and Skinner are back.

– Speaking of re-used music, Lisa’s playing “Baker Street“.

– “Lis, you know how Dad thinks he’s a ten-year-old?”/”I’ve been emotionally dealing with that all week, so, yes.” We just saw Lisa have fun with Homer.  Also too, unnecessary exposition.

– And now Bart’s explaining what we just saw.

– Now they’re at Itchy & Scratchy Land for some reason.  That was unexpected.

– The MST3K robots on the amusement park ride are a nice touch, though once again the best parts of this episode have nothing to do with its story and work fine without any sound whatsoever.

– Incidentally, if you ever do get suckered into going to Disney’s California Adventure park, the Soarin’ Over California ride is one of the few things really worth doing.  It’s a lot more entertaining in person than as filler in Zombie Simpsons.

– Marge, Chief Wiggum, Lou, and the hypnotist just showed up out of nowhere.  How did they find Bart and Homer?  Enh. At least Wiggum re-explained things.

– And Homer’s back to normal now, though he also recapped things.

– I guess the “Je Suis Charlie” thing is a nice gesture, but why was it in between the end of the story and this weird Marvel thing they needed to fill the contractually obligated runtime?

– Huh, that was Stacy Keach at the beginning.

Anyway, the numbers aren’t in for some reason, but given the lack of late football on FOX and competition from yet another awards show, I wouldn’t expect much.  I’ll update after TV By the Numbers does.

Update: Here they are, just 4.39 million.




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