Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category

18
Sep
14

Quote of the Day

Deep Space Homer10

“Sir, the TV ratings for the launch are the highest in ten years!” – NASA Guy
“Yay!” – NASA Geeks
“And how’s the spacecraft doing?” – NASA Director
“I don’t know.  All this equipment is just used to measure TV ratings.” – NASA Guy

Happy birthday David Mirkin!

15
Sep
14

Simpsons Take the Bowl Videos

Bart the Daredevil12

“How much longer was Sherbert planning on making this piece of junk?” – Homer Simpson

There are a lot of great videos up on YouTube from the big Simpsons show at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend.  They’re all from people’s phones, so the fun police could be along to take them down at any time, but we can enjoy them while they last.

Here’s Azaria doing some intro:

Conan O’Brien doing “The Monorail Song”:

Azaria and Cartwright doing a prank call:

“Do the Bartman”:

“See My Vest”:

“Be Our Sitter”:

“Happy Birthday Lisa”:

David Silverman and his flaming tuba doing “We Put the Spring in Springfield”:

“We Do”:

Azaria as Duffman:

Jon Lovitz doing “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want To Get Off”:

“Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?”:

“Spider-Pig”:

Weird Al doing a “Jack & Diane” parody about the show (he even takes a swing at Zombie Simpsons, bless his heart):

And, just for fun, here’s Azaria performing “Let It Go” as Chief Wiggum:

12
Sep
14

Reading Digest: Live Concert Edition

SpringfieldBowl

“Devilishiously satirical!  I wonder if anyone else got that?” – Dr. Hibbert
“We’re out of here!” – Homer Simpson

That very cool Hollywood Bowl show is this weekend.  I won’t be able to attend, but if any of you fine Simpsons fans out there make the trip, please let us know.  (I’d be happy to post pictures, an account, what have you.)  In more provincial news, I saw my first Halloween display in a store this week, and I thought, “wow, that’s pretty early”, then when I was going through WordPress tags for this week’s post I came across tons of spam sites selling Homer costumes, Bart costumes, Radioactive Man costumes, Duffman/woman costumes, etc.  I guess it’s already that time of year.

In regular news, Simpsons stuff is getting back to normal, though we still have a couple of people writing and reminiscing about the marathon.  In addition to that, there’s new shoes, Duff Beer getting banned in Australia, the theme song covered by Ohio State’s marching band, and much more.

Enjoy.

A Day In The Life Of Simpsons Quotes – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this day long diary of all the Simpsons quotes that go through someone’s head.  I think many of us can relate.  (Also, thanks for the nice mention.)

Fireworks Finale: The Simpsons Take the Bowl – Some PR agency sent me the little press kit for their series of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend.  That’s the ticket link, and it looks like a blast.  I’m particularly intrigued by this under the “Artists” section:

Kipp Lennon

Nancy Cartwright singing “Lisa It’s Your Birthday” with Lennon would be pretty fucking cool.  Come on, YouTube, don’t let me down!

‘The Simpsons’ Marathon Ratings Prove The Animated Series Is Here To Stay; EP Al Jean Comments On Massive Success For FXX – I still have no way to watch FXX, but these could be fun from time to time:

FXX, who according to Saftler is planning one day marathons in the future (including a Halloween marathon of every “Treehouse of Horror”), should be able to profit from “The Simpsons” for a long time.

The Halloween episodes are an obvious candidate, as are whole seasons, but if I were them I’d be thinking along the lines of all the flashback episodes, episodes with classic Itchy & Scratchy bits, episodes written by Jon Vitti or Jeff Martin, and things like that.  Also, too, this is yet another reminder that the business press is just as incurious and obsequious as the entertainment press; they cite the syndication deal as $750 million authoritatively, but their link just speculates about the number.  Just like with the voice actors’ salaries, repeating a number doesn’t make it true and the real one is a tightly held secret that nobody involved would ever want public.

‘The Simpons’ Marathon: FXX Sets 8-Episode, Music-Themed Marathon – Looks like they got started last night:

Just as America is recovering from FXX’s recent 12-day marathon of every episode of the “The Simpsons,” the cabler has set an eight-episode, music-themed marathon of the cartoon, beginning at 8 p.m. on Sept. 11.

Since this marathon is “songs created by the show”, there’s nothing after Season 8.

Australia Bans Sale of ‘The Simpsons’ Duff Beer – Oh, well:

However, the Alcohol Policy Coalition complained about the fictional beer to the Alcohol Beverages Advertising Code adjudication panel in June, claiming that Duff beer is very popular with children and adolescents, and therefore might draw their attention to it.
“The association of The Simpsons with the product name and packaging is so strongly entrenched in Australian popular culture that the name and packaging will draw the attention of under 18 year olds,” the panel wrote on its decision on Tuesday.

When Will ‘The Simpsons’ End? FXX Marathon Raises Series Finale Date Question – I don’t know when the show is going to end anymore than anyone else does, but people, professors of pop culture included, seem weirdly focused on numerology to me:

But Robert Thompson, a professor of pop culture at Syracuse University told IBTimes that the show will have to end sometime. “[The end of 'The Simpsons'] is going to have to happen sooner rather than later,” predicts Thompson. “It’s not going to go another 26 seasons.” Thompson guesses the powers that be of “The Simpsons” may be trying to hit 30 seasons before they call it quits, saying “30 seems to be one of those numbers that has some magical tradition behind it,” but he says no one could fault the show at this point for ending at any time.

It was the same with the last renewal, when people were saying things like “25 seasons seems like a good number”.  As mentioned above, I do not know when the show will end, but the ruthless people in charge of that decision won’t be factoring “that’s a nice number” into their thinking.

Can a China Deal Breathe New Life into ‘The Simpsons?’ – There’s now a streaming deal for China.  I’m sure all the writers and staff will be properly compensated.

*The Simpsons Theme* – Ten favorite Simpsons quotes.  There’s some famous ones on there as well as some old fashioned silliness, “Bake him away, toys!”.  Heh.

Watch Ohio State’s Marching Band Cover ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Themes – The Simpsons theme starts at the 1:40 mark:

Converse x The Simpsons Pack – Fall/Winter 2014 – New Converse shoes appear to just be a regular thing now.  Shoe fiends, prepare to be separated from your money.

Automobiles Of The Future. – “Well, Jimmy, that’s a Homer, only the prototype was ever made.”

KSK Mock Draft: The Next NFL Commissioner – I’d vote for the Rod to replace the Rog.

The Patients NO Doctor Likes – Oof, this would be bad:

-The Abe Simpson- For those of you who are unversed in The Simpsons, grandfather Abe is a character who tells pointless stories, and these patients do the same thing. You will get sucked into a ten minute diatribe about something that you assume is relevant only to find out that they have lured you down a rabbit hole into a vortex of nothingness. THEY don’t even remember the point to their story. I once listened to a fifteen minute account of a women’s relationship with her Welsch Corgi. I incorrectly assumed this was going somewhere with her medical condition, maybe flea infestation, or worms or something, but NO, it went nowhere. Later I found out that the Corgi had been dead for six years, and we still hadn’t discussed anything about her medical condition.

The Simpsons Casting Couch – This actually is bad, but I chuckled.

The Simpsons Life – Cool fan poem.

Adventure Time Syrup, Independent Thought Alarm Button – I have friends who are teachers, I would definitely buy them an Independent Thought Alarm gag gift.

LisaSimpsonStudent – This list of Lisa episodes goes way too deep into Zombie Simpsons for my taste, but there are some very good ones listed as well.  I am slightly disheartened by the lack of “Lisa’s Pony” or “Lisa the Greek”, but that’s just me.

D’OH – Heh.

Póngalo en la H / Put it in H – That would be the car they had in mind.

How Do *You* Like to Party? – Excellent reference:

While I was thinking about potential party and promo ideas, and trying to tie elements of the party into the book, I remembered that for most of the book, Denny carries a shotgun, and it kind of becomes an iconic weapon for her. Then, unfortunately, because my mind inevitably slips into Simpsons references, I pictured Homer out in front of the bowling alley with a shotgun… Bowling! Get your bowling here!
I have a feeling that this marketing plan would attract record numbers of police and fire officials, but few would stay to purchase books.

You’ll never know till you try.

D’oh! – A personal essay about the show that plenty of us can relate to:

So the question is “What do I owe The Simpsons?”. Well, to be honest, probably more than even I realize. It was the first thing that I can really remember immersing myself in; it was the first time that I felt like something was mine. The very foundation of my sense of humor is cemented in the early Conan O’ Brien, John Swartzwelder episodes, marked by absurd but engaging situations, and witty dialogue. It was the first time in my short life that I was able to see something and then try to mold myself from that model in emulation of it. I think everyone of us has that at some point in our childhood, and I think it’s a pretty big psychological development. It represents cognizance, analysis, and repetition, but also a degree of self-awareness since you have to be aware that you’re trying to change your behavior, or yourself in order to emulate, or replicate some external stimuli. For me, that stimuli was The Simpsons, and for this I owe the Simpson family, and Matt Groening a Duff.

Daddy Duty: Homer Simpson – Someone dads can relate to – Columnist loves the show, doesn’t mention the decline, cites only episodes from single digit seasons, yeah, this is one of those.

C. Montgomery Burns’ Handbook of World Domination Book Review – Sounds nice.

When did ‘The Simpsons’ go downhill? – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us, this time in the Kankakee, Illinois Daily Journal:

Before the marathon, I would have been hard-pressed to tell you exactly when the show went downhill. Now I can tell you that it was probably in season 12 (I missed season 11, so it could have been then, too. Many critics point to this time as the start of the downfall).

[...]

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that at some point, the characters became almost caricatures of their worst traits. Now, Marge is not much more than the nagging wife, Lisa the sanctimonious vegetarian, Bart the troublemaker, Homer the drunken buffoon. They’re not as nuanced as they once were, and they’re definitely lacking a lot of the humanity they once had.
There’s also the matter of the millions of guest stars. The later episodes are too focused on cameos from whoever is popular that millisecond, and the writers are more interested in sucking up to the celebrities, instead of parodying them.
For instance, in the “Lisa Goes Gaga” episode in season 23, Lisa learns from guest star Lady Gaga that’s important to be true to yourself, which, yawn. I was unaware “The Simpsons” had turned into “Sesame Street.”

Heh, too true.  Too true.

07
Sep
14

Quote of the Day

Marge on the Lam10

“Would you two like to go the ballet?” – Marge Simpson
“That’s girls stuff.” – Patty Bouvier

Happy birthday Julie Kavner!  

05
Sep
14

Reading Digest: Weak Defenses of Zombie Simpsons Edition

ITried

“I think Lisa needs to feel a little special tonight.  How about letting her ride up front too?” – Marge Simpson
“Eh, I tried.” – Homer Simpson

As was inevitable as soon as FXX decided to run the marathon consecutively, instead of something more humanitarian like banishing Zombie Simpsons to the unemployable alcoholic angry loner hours, there have been some defenses of Zombie Simpsons cropping up in the last few days.  To start things off, we’ve got three of those, followed by another overflowing pile of other great stuff.  We’ve got several links to fan art, lots of people reminiscing about the show, a woman who kept her Maggie doll for twenty-four years, and lists and lists and lists of episodes, most of which wouldn’t don’t even mention Zombie Simpsons.

Enjoy.

To start, here are three professional defenses of Zombie Simpsons, in decreasing order of both quality and defensiveness of Zombie Simpsons (that’s not a coincidence):

Extend Your Simpsons Marathon Buzz With These Videos: Gothamist – This one is very solid and is also Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week despite citing some truly awful episodes as “gems”.  For starters, there is a metric ton of good YouTube here, including that great Conan O’Brien discussion with the old writers, The Longest Daycare, and some other stuff.  Closer to my heart is this:

Despite our reservations, we have truly enjoyed this chance to catch up a bit on the so-called “Zombie Simpsons” era, the not-so-affectionate term Simpsons aficionados use for the show post-season 12.

They didn’t give us a link, which I was a little miffed about at first.  Especially because the author goes on to inadvertently cite the two big reasons the show went to hell (writer turnover and that march of time) before basically agreeing with the central premise of “Zombie Simpsons”, namely that it and The Simpsons aren’t the same show:

The show is certainly not the same as it used it (which you can blame on changes in the writing room, or just a byproduct of the inexorable march of time and commerce upon an hit animated television show), and the later seasons don’t touch the first decade (they don’t exist in the same universe, truly)

But then it occurred to me that it’s actually better that we’re not linked because that means the term is catching!  Everything is falling into place and all I have to do is take the ice scraper, road maps, and jade monkey out of my glove box before the next full moon.

Sorry haters, The Simpsons is still really good – Thanks to the five or so people who sent me this misleadingly headlined Vox article.  Why misleading?  Well, try this:

Yes, the show repeats itself a fair amount, but it would be hard for it not to. And, yes, the show has sort of lost a point-of-view character, as its writers have aged past first the Simpson kids and then even the Simpson parents. Many stories in its later years tend to be along the lines of “Can you believe things are this way?!” and have the tone of a particularly perturbed anecdote in the “Life in These United States” feature in Reader’s Digest.

There’s more tepid praise and “to be sure” type statements at the link, so “Sorry haters” isn’t exactly justified by the actual text.

It’s also worth pointing out that the two videos he embeds are about as far from your run of the mill Zombie Simpsons episode as it’s possible to get.  One was the Guillermo del Toro opening, which they had basically nothing to do with.  The other was from the Lego episode, which was their most lovingly produced and hyped episode in a very long time, and still sucked worse than Season 11.

The Simpson’s Maude Flanders Isn’t as Good as She Seems – And finally, we come to our old friend MovieBob, last seen around these parts making wild assumptions without any evidence to back them up.  Well, matters haven’t changed much.  He spends half his post coming to the realization that Maude was kind of an authoritarian and praising her character for being better than he remembers, then noting that she dies in Season 11 . . . you know, when Zombie Simpsons finally took over.  More amusing, is this:

It also helps put to lie the “Zombie Simpsons” fallacy — the notion of a seismic downward-shift in quality. There are good episodes as recently as last season, and entries from the infallible “classic” era that don’t really hold up. (Mr. Burns sexually-harassing Marge in Marge Gets a Job, Season 4 Episode 7? Not really that funny outside of the let’s-kidnap-Tom-Jones business at the end.)

First of all, this word “fallacy”, it requires some evidence to back it up.  MovieBob doesn’t cite a single episode that he thinks is good.  He’s welcome to think what he likes, of course, but not even naming a single one doesn’t do his argument any favors.  Instead, he takes a quick dump on “Marge Gets a Job”, an episode I cannot recall anyone else ever calling bad.  Who doesn’t like Troy McClure’s Half-Assed Guide to Foundation Repair, The Spruce Caboose, and, of course, the Angel of Death on funny hat day, to name but a few?  Just as importantly, it ranks dead in the middle of the stellar Season 4 on IMDb’s episode guide.  That’s called “evidence”, and if you’re going to use the word “fallacy” it helps to have some.  (Thanks for the link, though.)

TV Legends Revealed | Did No ‘Simpsons’ Fan Correctly Guess Who Shot Mr. Burns? – Interesting backstory and a reminder that 1-800-Collect was a strange, strange thing.

Bart Club street art on a San Diego corner. – Some great pictures of various Bart versions on things.  The four-eyed banana Bart is particularly memorable.

The 20 Greatest Musical Moments On The Simpsons – These are songs the show created not band guest appearances, so there’s no Zombie Simpsons.

Cropping The Simpsons and The Wire – The genius of the standard #Slatepitch article has always been its ability to generate responses.  (Also, too, please don’t fuck up The Wire.)

Why We Love The Simpsons’ Music So Much – The marketing for next weekend’s show at the Hollywood Bowl is ramping up, and this L.A. Weekly article has a nice little story about when Elfman met Groening and how Elfman wrote the theme:

“As soon as I saw the sequence, I heard the ‘bah-bah-bah-BUM-bah-bah-bah…’ ” he says. “I drove home really fast because I didn’t want to lose it. I ran down the steps of my studio and I made a cassette, and sent it out the same day. That demo was, essentially, The Simpsons theme. There is some great cosmic irony that it’s the quickest and most easily conceived job of my life, and it became probably the most famous thing I ever wrote.”

Growing Up with Bart Simpson – Yet another appreciation of the show, this one at Newsweek Jr., that walks right up to the line of saying the show sucks now before backing off.  Of course, all examples cited are from early seasons.

Homer Simpson’s 10 Most Memorable Non-Power Plant Jobs On ‘The Simpsons’ – Our old friend John Hugar cites no examples from past Season 10.  Bravo.

Favorite “Simpsons” episodes – One from Season 12 makes the cut, but nothing after.  It’s almost like nobody likes Zombie Simpsons.

Repost: In honor of the Every Simpsons Ever Marathon my list of the Best.Episodes.Ever – There are 126 episodes on here, and almost no Zombie Simpsons.

Infographic: A Statistical Break-d’oh-n Of The 25 Types of “Simpsons” Episodes – That’s a pretty cool graphic, but since it basically shows that there never were any “Bart” years, you’d think the intro wouldn’t repeat that fallacy.  (See what I did there?)

The Glue – There’s only a small bit in this Phil Hartman article about the show, but it is a great read.  I didn’t know he was the oldest rookie cast member of SNL ever.

D’oh! It’s Throwback Thursday. – There’s a lot of stuff this week, I know, but this picture of a girl with her precious Maggie doll in 1990 and of her still with it in 2014 is pretty damned cool.  Excellent.

10 Facts About The Best ‘Simpsons’ Writer Ever, John Swartzwelder – Mostly culled from Twitter, but are pretty good.

(b)Art Critic – The Simpsons Class it up With Art Show – There is some great stuff here, especially the Itchy & Scratchy Land movie poster.

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times: Celebrating ‘The Simpsons’ at 25 – Yet another retrospective with plenty of reasons why the show was great.

#EverySimpsonsEver: Steve Sax remembers his appearance on ‘Homer At The Bat’ – Heh:

[I thought], “We’ve arrived.” You get to do The Simpsons, man. Let me tell you what. I get to do speaking, right. I speak at different places all over the country. When the question-and-answer period comes up, it’s not about, “Hey, what was it like hitting against Clemens?,” or, “What was it like in the World Series?” It’s like, “Hey, man, was it fun on The Simpsons?” That’s what everybody asks me still. I get more acclaim for The Simpsons than anything.

The Simpsons… – Simpson family heads done in Lego.  Maggie and Homer are great.

WWLSR: Seasons 10-12 – Lisa’s books from the last good years.

A Bomb in the Lasagna: How Will We Remember “The Simpsons?” – An interesting question:

Will The Simpsons be a show defined by specific eras, or will it be taken as a whole; as one massive, culture satirizing and culture defining megalith?

My guess would be that as long as Zombie Simpsons is still on the air, it will be thought of as a contemporary show, for the simple reason that they can always plug in the latest pop culture fad/star/whatever.  Once the show finally ends, however, much of that will fade as the references become stale and all we’ll be left with are the ones that don’t lean on contemporary pop culture (you know, The Simpsons).

11 ‘Simpsons’ marathon episodes you should watch this week – These episodes are atrocious and not worth watching, but the existence of a list like this in Entertainment Weekly is yet another piece of evidence that they are two vastly different shows.

I Caught Yellow Fever: My 12 Days Through FXX’s Simpson’s Marathon – I suppose burnout is one reason to stop paying attention as the marathon got into double digit seasons.  Of course, that there really weren’t any old favorites left to view might have had something to do with it as well.

DJ and His Every Simpsons Ever Marathon – Good point:

And one of my biggest fears was watching those older episodes, but FXX’s promo for this, and accompanying commercial extensions catering to the series and their supporting cast of characters (like this amazing piece of work) drew me towards breaking my old episode trepidations. One of the underrated, yet important occurrences found during this was the how much I laughed. I wasn’t expecting to get as many laughs as I did, perhaps given I’m watching at the age of 24 compared to watching a lot of these episodes (seen before or not) at 12, 13 or 14. There are a plethora of moments I literally laugh out loud at by myself when I’m either walking around at work or at the the grocery store, like this absolute gem.

A few characters from The Simpsons – Cool fan made CGI renderings of some characters, with great tented fingers on Burns.

The Simpsons: The 10 Simpsons episodes worth tuning in for – And no Zombie Simpsons, because why would there be?

Couch Potato: My Favorite “The Simpsons” Episodes! – Also contains no Zombie Simpsons, and puts “Homer Badman” as the all time favorite.

20 Mr. Burns-Centric ‘Simpsons’ Episodes Everyone Should Know – No Zombie Simpsons?  Why?  Because Zombie Burns is an incompetent softie.

A Blind Spot the size of “The Simpsons” – Of all the Simpsons reminisces I’ve read the last couple of weeks, this one might be the most dense in terms of references.  Well done.  Also, co-sign:

About ten years ago I stopped watching The Simpsons. I think it was the episode where they went to Africa and a giraffe was hiding in a prairie dog hole where I realized that they’d gone way off the rails.

Correlation Does Not Imply Causation – Excellent usage, tiger repelling rock and all.

How I am watching #EverySimpsonsEver without cable – God bless DVDs (or DVD rips, whatever).

Will “The Simpsons” ever be good again? – No.  This has been simple answers to simple questions.

Thoughts on Barkira – High praise from someone who loves the original Akira.

Springfield, USA: A Part of us All – Some thoughts on what makes Springfield so relatable.

The Simpsons 1987 Styley – A fan made wheel of Simpsons family members, done in the old way.

6 Things I Learned From The Simpsons Marathon | The Further Adventures of Douchebag Batman – And finally, I not only get to end with one of the many people who agrees with us, but who points out what is often overlooked, it happened quick:

The Downfall in Quality Was Fast
So what I’ve been doing is picking and choosing which episodes to DVR and watch later. I’m sure plenty people are using the same method of watching the show. What’s I find interesting is how quickly I lost interest in the series. By season 10 I’ve only been recording the Treehouse of Horrors and the occasional episode. This is a sharp contrast compared to Saturday when I would record hours of the show and still miss some I wanted to see. Given I knew that by season 11 I had lost interest in the show; I’m hardly the only person to feel this way. I thought it was because I was heading into high school but no, it’s just kind of boring.

It is.

29
Aug
14

Reading Digest: The Hell With It Edition

The Call of the Simpsons11

“There.  Finished.” – Homer Simpson
“You are?” – Lisa Simpson
“Well, it’s a quick job, but it’s shelter.” – Homer Simpson
“It is?” – Marge Simpson

Just like last week, this is by necessity incomplete.  I just can’t keep up, but there is a ton of good stuff below.  My inbox is also a mess, and I know I owe like half a dozen people e-mails, so hopefully I get to that and then fill in many of the links I didn’t have time to get to.  In the meantime: enjoy.

Not Allowed In The Deep End: Ralph Wiggum’s Finest Moments – A great tribute to Ralph that treats him like a real child.

The Simpsons Deserves Another Great Video Game – A Hit and Run sequel would be pretty cool.  But it would require EA to make a good game which . . . yeah, not getting my hopes up.

How ‘Simpsons’ Movie Parodies Have Changed Over 25 Years – This is much gentler on Zombie Simpsons than I would be, but it’s got a lot of great YouTube and is explicit about the fact that the show went to hell.

7 Artists Influenced By The Simpsons: Fall Out Boy, Les Claypool, And More – Just what it says.  I didn’t know one of the guys from Primus named his home studio “Rancho Relaxo”.

FXX Airs ‘The Simpsons’ in Wrong Aspect Ratio. Won’t Someone Think of the Children? – Comes with some good examples of how their idiotic aspect ratio decision cuts out some of the jokes.

‘The Simpsons': 5 Best Courtroom Scenes (and Lessons for Lawyers) – There’s some good ones here and no Zombie Simpsons.

5 Absurd Fan Theories About ‘The Simpsons’ – The only one of these I’ve even heard of was the Smithers one, but they are absurd.

Play D’oh!: The Simpsons FXX marathon schedule – There’s a good collection of recommended moments and episodes at the top, none of which are Zombie Simpsons.  (via @ChannelGuideRAB)

The Simpsons top 50 episodes – This is a pretty good list (there’s one episode from Season 13, but that’s it).  (via @dailysimpsons)

Lisa Simpson’s 6 Most Dramatic Identity Crises – This is a nice little slideshow that doesn’t contain any Zombie Simpsons.  Horray.

20 Mr. Burns-Centric ‘Simpsons’ Episodes Everyone Should Know – Yet another list that mercifully has no Zombie Simpsons.

The Simpsons find a true home in downtown Springfield – That mural in Oregon was unveiled.  It’s cool, and Yeardley was there.  Also, there’s YouTube.

Father of ‘Homer Simpson’ voice actor dead at 99 – Some sad news this week, Castellaneta’s father Louis died.  He sounded like a damn good guy:

“When I was very young and he was tucking me in bed, he turned away for a moment and said he had something in his eye,” the son said Thursday. “When he turned back, he had two ping-pong balls over his eyes with black dots on them and said, ‘AH, that’s better.’ For a while as a very young kid, I thought that he had the ability to make his eyes like that.

“When I asked him why he rarely went to church with us, he told me it was because he was Jewish. For five years, I thought I was half-Jewish — until one time I brought it up at the dinner table. Mom said, ‘Where did you get that?’ I said, ‘Dad told me.’ She hit him on the arm and said, ‘Lou!’ Obviously, it wasn’t true.”

‘The Simpsons’: A genius portrait of American childhood – A very nice appreciation of how well the show captured and portrayed real kids.  This is also an example of what I was talking about this morning.  This link is in the Washingotn Post, and doesn’t so much as even nod to the collapse of the show.  Maybe it’s not 100% necessary, but Zombie Simpsons certainly doesn’t show the kids as kids, so maybe it is.

Oy! NHL threatened The Simpsons over Stanley Cup scene – They even sent a cease and desist letter.  Also, there’s a nice .gif of Krusty puking in the Cup.

What Happens To The Human Brain If You Try To Watch Every ‘Simpsons’ Ever – Sleep deprivation would make things less funny eventually according to the scientists who came up with the (presumably) un-ironically named “humor appreciation test”.

The Simpsons and My So-Called Life are the Right Kind of 90s Nostalgia – A comparison of the very early years with the show that made Claire Danes a star.

Four Lessons Philadelphia Can Learn from The Simpsons – Great observation:

After six or so uninterrupted hours in Springfield, it became apparent that the allegedly fictional town is based on none other than Philadelphia.

Officially speaking, series creator Matt Groening claims that Springfield is inspired by a number of generic small towns, and the ambiguity of where, exactly, it could exist is a long-running joke on the show (trust me — I haven’t got off my couch in days). Briefly, the honor went to Springfield, Vermont, when Fox held a contest promoting The Simpsons Movie.

However, Philadelphians will recognize the mix of casual corruption, enthusiastic alcoholism, rabid fandom, and blood-sucking, soul-crushing monopolies as, well, home sweet home.

‘The Simpsons’ Marathon is College Football Fan’s – A look at the show through college football.

What The Simpsons’ Herb Powell Taught Us About The US Auto Industry – A nice writeup of “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” through the lens of the early 1990s auto industry.

Throwback: At a ‘Simpsons’ table read (doh!) – A TV critic recounts the time in 2001 he went to a table read.

‘The Simpsons’ jumped the shark in one of its best episodes – We’re not the only ones who think of “Homer’s Enemy” as a turning point.

29
Aug
14

Speak No Zombie Simpsons, Hear No Zombie Simpsons

Mr Lisa Goes to Washington9

“I had a feeling it was too good to be true.  Every time you get a million dollars something queers the deal.” – Homer Simpson

Since the marathon started last week, there’s been far more Simpsons commentary on the internet than I could possibly hope to keep up with: podcasts, blog posts, articles, the never ending firehose of Twitter, you name it.  For the most part this has been very enjoyable.  Usually, the only time people start talking about the show is when they do another publicity stunt.  Some are linked to their most recent guest appearance or meaningless 50th/100th episode milestone, others some new line of merchandise, or, more recently, the killing of a character and doing crossovers with Family Guy and Futurama.  For the most part these get dutifully written up by the usual sycophantic entertainment news sites and that’s about it.  The marathon, however, has been different.

Starting last week and continuing through the weekend (Seasons 7 and 8 were on most of Sunday), there was an avalanche of people actually talking about The Simpsons instead of Zombie Simpsons or the latest officially licensed crap.  Even better, it was an overwhelming tidal wave of love: people talking about how the old episodes are great, dark, cynical, smart, heartfelt, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Perhaps most encouraging, at least on Twitter, was the huge number of people watching with their kids.  Nine-year-olds whose parents grew up on the show got sucked into things like “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy” and “Bart of Darkness”.

However, there was one persistent undercurrent to all the comity and enjoyment that kinda bugged me, and it’s gotten worse as the marathon has switched into Zombie Simpsons.  Namely: there’s an almost unspoken taboo against mentioning how much the show has gone to seed.

Before I get into a couple of examples, let me say that I completely understand this.  People just want to discuss or praise the show; they don’t want to have an argument with some pissed off fanboi who may or may not turn out to be a flaming troll asshole.  This is why you’ll often see articles about the show (and this has been everywhere with the FXX marathon) start with some kind of disclaimer about how people complain too much, “blah blah blahing” away criticism of later years, and similar.  It’s simply easier to preempt people from calling you a bitter, uncool Comic Book Guy type than it is to deal with it after the fact.  (This exact phenomenon came up in comments on Wednesday.)

What makes this so annoying from the point of view of a Zombie Simpsons critic is that, no sooner have people made this disclaimer, than they proceed to talk about favorite episodes, gags and stories that come exclusively from Season 9 and earlier.  This is why I called the idea that the show is as good as ever a “Soviet fiction“.  Everyone knows the show isn’t anything like what it once was, they just don’t want to say so explicitly because to do so is to invite trouble, trolling, and pointless arguments that have been hashed and rehashed countless times already.

You can see this phenomenon in spades in two recent discussions of the show: one on a WHYY Philadelphia program called “Radio Times” and the other on the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast.  Production wise, these are a step way above your standard blog rant about the show, and yet that same reluctance applies.

The “Radio Times” episode aired last week, and the producers were kind enough to email me about it.  Here’s the description:

Today, the FXX network begins its 276 hour-long marathon of every episode of The Simpsons ever.  This is to commemorate the launch of the expansive SimpsonsWorld application, which will provide access to every episode, as well as a searchable database of the show’s transcripts.  Today, we discuss the 25 year-old series, its impact on American culture, and why it merits such an expansive service.  We’re joined by DAVID BIANCULLI, television critic for WHYY’s Fresh Air and founder of TVWorthWatching.com, KARMA WALTONEN,  lecturer at UC Davis’s University Writing Program and co-author of The Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield, and Simpsons writer and co-executive producer, MICHAEL PRICE.

The whole show is about fifty minutes long, and there’s a Soundcloud link at their site along with a direct .mp3 download.  It’s an interesting discussion (Bianculli’s then 5-year-old son got to see a lot of Season 1 early on critic preview tapes, lucky kid), and it was nice to hear our old friend Karma Waltonen talk about how she uses the show to discuss a wide range of topics.  These are some of the assignments:
“Simpsons and religion, Simpsons and politics,Simpsons and the road, Simpsons and infotainment, Simpsons and family, Simpsons and sexuality, Simpsons and education,Simpsons and self-referentiality”
Throughout, they cut to Michael Price and ask him about how the show gets made and all the other standard questions that usually come up.  But there’s a glaring incongruity that would be completely invisible to the overwhelming majority of the people who listened to that episode of “Radio Times”.
Price, who seems like a nice enough fella, came aboard in Season 14.  But everyone – literally everyone: the guests, the callers, and the listener e-mail they read  on the air – cites episodes and jokes from before he was on staff.  People talk about “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer”, “Itchy and Scratchy and Marge”, and “Much Apu About Nothing”, among others.  The only mention of a Zombie Simpsons episode is one caller who recalls a slightly racist sign gag from Season 13.  (The family drives through Chinatown and sees a sign for “Toys L Us”.  Amusingly, the host realizes that it’s a little off color and moves smoothly and professionally past it.)  Everyone is obviously too NPR-polite to mention the quality slide while Price is on the line, but the fact that all but one example came from the early years is a huge elephant in the room.

That uncomfortable fact probably sails over the head of just about everybody (of the people actually participating, my guess is that only Waltonen and Price even realized it).  And while the deterioration of The Simpsons isn’t something that’s strictly necessary to bring up, it’s still a glaring omission to not even mention what is easily one of the most widely debated aspects of the show.  Not discussing it at all is like pretending Michael Jordan retired after 1998, Bobby Fischer never went publicly crazy, or Emily Dickinson lived a long and happy life.  This is a Philadelphia based program, they probably love Rocky 1, but they wouldn’t do a show on it and not even mention the franchise’s crash landings in various sequels.  Yet the collapse of The Simpsons is so potentially toxic that no one brought it up even to disagree with it.

The same can be said of the Slate Culture Gabfest episode about the marathon.  They don’t have a Zombie Simpsons writer whose work they nonchalantly ignore, but they do have a discussion of the show and what makes it “timeless” that repeatedly cites single digit seasons as being among the finest and most influential things ever done . . . all while saying not a word about the later and far inferior season which at this point constitute the bulk of the episodes.

Like the WHYY program, the silence on the decline of the show is deafening.  They dance around it, even saying that they don’t follow the show any more and citing what seasons (single digits) they think constitute the part of the series that makes it still relevant even twenty years after it was broadcast.  Nobody talks about the later years, because, again, doing so just invites trouble.

This misleads the audience by omission.  A healthy chunk of the Culture Gabfest discussion is devoted to whether or not kids decades from now, who probably won’t get references to Cheers or Phantom of the Opera, will still laugh at something like “Flaming Moe’s”.  Their consensus is that, yes, kids in the future will get it, because you don’t actually need to know Cheers to enjoy it any more than you need to have seen Citizen Kane to get “Rosebud”.  (For the record, I and plenty of other people had probably seen “Rosebud” fifteen or twenty times before ever watching Kane.)  But “Flaming Moe’s” and “Rosebud” are light years of quality and timelessness away from, say, the Lady Gaga episode, or the popped eyeball episode, or even the “picture a day” YouTube episode.

Again, I understand the reluctance.  Criticizing the show and saying that it isn’t as good as it once was is to invite the most boring and annoying kind of discussion.  I wouldn’t call the e-mails I routinely receive “hate mail” (no one has, for example, threatened to drink blood out of my genitals (<- asshole)), but they tend not to be kind.  And one of the very first comments we ever got on this site way back in 2009 was to call me a pedophile.  It’s aggravating and time consuming even before you get into refuting the same tired arguments over and over again.

But if you want to talk about why the show is “timeless”, you are doing your audience a disservice if you don’t talk about the difference between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.  The show is a global cultural phenomenon to which basically nothing else can even be compared, and those early seasons are a literary goldmine whose breadth and depth touch on an all but unlimited array of immutable human subjects: love, failure, humiliation, redemption . . . the list goes on.  There’s a reason Karma Waltonen can teach a kaleidoscope of college level topics through the lens of The Simpsons.

That’s why I’m not kidding when I compare The Simpsons to William Shakespeare and Mark Twain.  Twain had a #1 bestseller one hundred years after he died, and people still make new and innovative Shakespeare adaptations for stage and screen because in both cases the writing is just that good.  Are high school students in the class of 2114, 2214 or even later going to be forced to watch “Cape Feare” the same way they’re forced to read Hamlet or Huckleberry Finn?  I don’t know, and I’m never going to find out because I’ll be dead by then.  But from the vantage point of 2014, you’d be hard pressed to nominate any other recent cultural creation that stands a better chance (or even comes close).  After all, there’s already a play that’s been critically acclaimed in New York City and London about how people will be reinterpreting The Simpsons far into the future.

So while it’s enjoyable to see The Simpsons lauded and praised on big name podcasts, public radio, and other mainstream outlets, there’s no getting around the fact that eliding and/or ignoring the show’s precipitous fall makes their encomiums incomplete (at best).  The Simpsons itself deserves the praise, but to overlook or conflate it with the shallow detritus its reputation and legacy still manage to keep on the air degrades and distorts both what it means now and how it will fare in the future.  It’s a pain in the ass to do, but if you want to talk meaningfully about The Simpsons, you’ve got to talk about Zombie Simpsons.




E-Mail

deadhomersociety (at) gmail

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Twitter Updates

Useful Legal Tidbit

Even though it’s obvious to anyone with a functional frontal lobe and a shred of morality, we feel the need to include this disclaimer. This website (which openly advocates for the cancellation of a beloved television series) is in no way, shape or form affiliated with the FOX Network, the News Corporation, subsidiaries thereof, or any of Rupert Murdoch’s wives or children. “The Simpsons” is (unfortunately) the intellectual property of FOX. We and our crack team of one (1) lawyer believe that everything on this site falls under the definition of Fair Use and is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. No revenue is generated from this endeavor; we’re here because we love “The Simpsons”. And besides, you can’t like, own a potato, man, it’s one of Mother Earth’s creatures.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 421 other followers