“They are all against you, Bart. You must kill them all. They all must die.” – House
“Are you my conscience?” – Bart Simpson
“I-…yes, I am.” – House
Happy birthday Nancy Cartwright!
“I’m going to write a figure on this piece of paper. It’s not quite as large as the last one, but I think you’ll find it fair.” – C.M. Burns
“I think we should take it.” – Lionel Hutz
There were two big Simpsons news stories this week. First, the “Simpsons World” app/website finally launched. I took a quick look, but it spent lots of time buffering and seemed to be struggling under launch-day loads, so I’ll come back to that next week. (We do have quite a few links about it, however.) The second was that an actor who played a minor character in Goodfellas is suing the show for [Dr. Evil pinky] two-hundred-and-fifty-million-dollars [/Dr. Evil pinky] because Legs looks like him. It doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell, and even if they someone convince FOX to pay them (which would be very un-FOX like), it’ll be a teeny tiny fraction of that. Yet for some reason this hopelessly longshot lawsuit got tons of press. It was linked all over the place, with plenty of them just mindlessly repeating the big scary number. We’ve got a link, but there’s basically nothing to it.
More importantly, Halloween is next week, and the annual crush of costumes (and tattoos!) has begun. There are some really good ones in our first link, and there’s more where that came from. And, of course, there’s lots of other random items as well: the Homer computer doll with infrared eyes, Harry Shearer just being himself, Jean dutifully slogging through another interview, a decidedly unlicensed music video, and much more.
Classic Simpsons Trivia Chicago Costume Contest 2014 – I put this up on Twitter, but it’s really worth a look. I can see why the Clown Bed won, but Dr. Hillbilly and the Iron Yuppie should’ve at least gotten some kind of couples or group costume award. Ashley Grant and the Luann in her jacuzzi suit are also pretty damned awesome.
Never miss an episode with smart Homer Simpson – This is awesome. Someone took a Homer doll, slapped some electronics into it, and now it automatically turns on the doll’s eyes whenever the show is on. Bravo, tech geeks. Bravo.
The appearance of the Simpsons characters as the originally appeared in animated shorts on “The Tracey Ullman Show” is proof that even “The Simpsons” is nostalgic for the pre-dull “The Simpsons.”
The Simpsons in Retrospect – A thorough breakdown of the decline of the show that includes a chart of the ever declining popular opinion of the show.
How Harry Shearer Discovered the Soul of Richard Nixon – There’s a little bit of Simpsons stuff in here, Shearer calls Burns more purely evil than Nixon, but this is my favorite part:
MJ: Is there any other president you’d like to play?
HS: Well, I’ve, on my radio show I’ve played every one since—
MJ: How’s your Garfield?
HS: Poor. But who’s to know?
Ha! Shearer is the best.
Counting Down To Halloween With The Simpsons #1 – These are a series of posts about just what makes the Treehouse of Horror episodes so great.
Counting Down To Halloween With The Simpsons #2 – This one’s about Marge’s warnings before the first ones. It’s good to remember this:
What few people realize however is that in the very first Treehouse of Horror this warning was not a gag or gimmick as it became later but was meant to be taken seriously. In 2014 The Simpsons have pretty much become part of the furniture in western society so its easy to forget that when it first aired in 1989 it was a highly controversial show.
I’d say it’s still a gag, even if, yes, it was meant to actually deflect anger. But that speaks to the brilliance of the show: they knew they were going to piss people off, so why not pre-ignore them as well?
Counting Down To Halloween With The Simpsons #3 – Amusing tombstones.
Counting Down To Halloween With The Simpsons #4 – Scary credits.
DisfiguredStick – Milhouse – That is a great Milhouse costume, and the backpack is a nice touch.
It’s Never Too Late to be Marge Simpson – Husband and wife go as Homer and Marge. Great wig.
Essential Halloween Viewing – “Treehouse of Horror V” makes the list here, along with several other old cartoon specials. I actually remember that episode of Ghostbusters.
Top 10 TV Halloween Specials – V and VI make this list.
Goodfellas Actor’s $250 Million Lawsuit Against The Simpsons – This looks like a hopeless attempt to squeeze some money from FOX. The headline number is just there for press attention, which it got a ton of. (Thanks to Rob K. for sending it in.)
Poochie? That you? – An ad for hot dogs with a serious Poochie look alike. Nice find.
Do You Even Stretch Bro? Stretching and the gym. – Exercise advice for when you go to the all night gym.
Top Man Simpsons Prints – High fashion Simpsons stuff is no longer just for the ladies.
On this day in history… – Celebrating the anniversary of “Rosebud”. Go to hell, you old bastard.
Things Get Violently “Simpsons”-Like In Girl Talk’s New Video – Indeed they do:
“Suicide (Remix)” is the latest video to come from the collaboration between mash-up artist-turned-beatmaker Girl Talk and journeyman rapper Freeway. In it, artist Lisa Ramsey unleashes a violent stream of animated mayhem that was clearly, ahem, inspired by The Simpsons. The colorful pastiche puts shotgun-toting Bart Simpson and Milhouse van Houten on skateboards–and the skateboards themselves are about as far as the faithfulness goes. By the time a fully grown and blessed out Lisa makes the scene, sway-dancing while puffing on a joint–it’s clear that we’re worlds away from Springfield. Still, it’s mandatory viewing for anyone who has ever wanted to see the sailboat painting from the Simpsons’ living room attain sentence and spit bars.
Don’t forget the daggers that come out of Krusty’s eyes. Video at the link.
How Do I Get The Simpsons World FXX App? Everything You Need To Know. – I’d quibble with “Everything”, there, but the main outline seems solid.
Simpsons World: A Streaming Archive of American History – A hands on look at the site.
‘Simpsons’ go streaming: Al Jean talks new site – Jean doing a publicity interview. No real news, but he was talking to CNN, so that goes almost without saying.
How ‘Simpsons World’ Went from Deal Point to Immersive App Via FX Networks – Apparently Brooks insisted that if they were going to sell streaming rights, the streaming had to be something special. Of course, this is Variety and it uses phrases like this, “The app…allows lean-in users to customize their searches”, so take it with ten thousand grains of salt. (I’m not sure what marketing dictionary “lean-in users” came from, but please put it to the torch immediately. Thank you.)
Catching Up With The First Family Of TV – This is a nice writeup of how one guy came back to the show through the marathon. It’s also yet another example of how gun shy people are about bringing up Zombie Simpsons. Every example he cites is from early in the show, and there’s even this:
Every episode ever. Whatever you want to watch. Not sure if your in the mood for season 3 or 17? Hit random and maybe you’ll get something nice from season 6.
Season 17 is a wasteland, Seasons 3 and 6 are not, but to say so explicitly is to invite trouble when all you want to do is relax and laugh. I get it. I just wish it wasn’t so prevalent.
Embiggened: Here’s a Look at “Simpsons World” From A-Z (GQ) – An alphabetical list of stuff on the site, like the above link, mentions only stuff from non-Zombie Simpsons seasons.
Some Changes Need to be Made to Simpsons World – Seems like they’ve still got some kinks to iron out:
However, there is one change that needs to be made and it needs to be made immediately.
The placement of commercials is goofy. Last night while watching “A Star is Burns” I was awaiting my favorite quote from the episode when Hans Moleman says “I was saying boo-urns.” I love that quote and say it all the time.
What I got was Moleman saying “I was saying boo” cut to a commercial “oo-urns”.
Now while watching “You only move twice” I was greeted with a commercial, in the middle of the opening title sequence.
During “Lard of the Dance” I saw a commercial in the middle of a sceen.
Get your spook on: Hallowe’en flash sheets in Brighton and beyond – Some cool Simpsons Halloween themed tattoo designs.
Tattoo Artist Turns Bart Simpson Into Horror Icons! – These are from a different source, and they’re all Bart. Candyman and Beetlejuice are pretty cool. More at his website.
Stark Raving Dad Episode #036 – Ash starts in on Season 3.
The 10 Greatest Simpsons Horror Movie Parodies – There’s one from Zombie Simpsons at #10, almost out of pity.
When you get the last slice, you be all like… – Animated .gif of Bart laughing after Homer brings him pizza in “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie”.
New trending GIF tagged tv the simpsons eating… – Homer snacking while watching football.
New trending GIF tagged horror cartoon simpsons marge… – Marge’s hair exploding into bats.
The Simpsons has now officially been bad for longer than it was ever good – And finally (via @dailysimpsons), I get to not only end with someone who agrees with us, but it’s even in a real publication:
The first segment took the Simpson family to Hell: a city, it seems, very much like Springfield. It was amusing to begin with, but soon pointlessly repeated itself. The last segment had the family confronted by doubles of themselves: a comment, I think, on the endless proliferation of Simpson images and on the repetition compulsion referenced above. The middle segment — well, I can’t tell you about the middle segment because I’ve forgotten it already. Honestly.
The Simpsons has now been bad for longer than it was good, but when it was good it was great. Television has never provided as many inspired jokes per minute, sometimes per second, as The Simpsons did; has never been as consistently, ruthlessly, creatively
irreverent as The Simpsons was. It taught a generation to revere wit and to distrust authority, two hugely important achievements. Now the irreverence has shrunk to mere random rudeness, and the jokes are flabby and far between. Everything’s gone slack.
“This sandwich tastes so young and impudent. Seymour, what’s with the good grub?” – Mrs. Krabappel
“Well, perhaps I ought to let you folks in on a secret. Do you remember me telling Jimbo Jones that I’d make something of him one day?” – Principal Skinner
“Are you saying you killed Jimbo, processed his carcass, and served him for lunch? . . . Ha!” – Mrs. Krabappel
This year’s Halloween special had three segments: one about a hellish version of Springfield Elementary, one about a Kubrick movie, and one about the Simpson family co-existing with different versions of itself. Twenty years ago, the Halloween special also had three segments, one a Kubrick movie parody, one about Homer traveling between different versions of his family, and one about a hellish version of Springfield Elementary. Except for the order, they match up perfectly. Since The Simpsons always takes precedence over Zombie Simpsons, we’re going to follow the order from “Treehouse of Horror V”.
“The Shinning” vs. “A Clockwork Yellow”
Like most big name directors, Stanley Kubrick made some great movies and some crappy movies. From a parody and satire point of view, however, what made his films great was the sheer number of iconic and memorable characters, images, and lines. Whether it’s the Monolith, Jack Nicholson hacking his way through a door, or Malcolm McDowell and his gang strutting down the street in suspenders, bowler hats, and cod pieces, Kubrick movies are full of moments that stick in the audience’s mind, which makes them perfect for comedy.
The Simpsons exploited that all the time. There’s Homer at the “Dawn of Man” in Lisa’s Pony; there’s Bart reaching for the cupcakes in “Duffless”, there’s Frink with the Strangelove glasses in “Homer Defined”. “Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming” not only features R. Lee Ermey from Full Metal Jacket, but even has a complete war room from Dr. Strangelove. None of those defined an entire episode, they were just quick little things put in there for fans who cared to notice them.
“The Shinning”, the first segment from “Treehouse of Horror V”, was different in that it retold an entire movie. All the major plot points and characters from the 144 minute film are condensed into just seven minutes of screentime. All by itself that’s damned impressive, but what turns it into a Simpsons masterpiece is the way that each thing they reproduce is recognizable as the original yet still creative and funny in its own way. The blood spilling out of the elevator isn’t a moment of gore soaked terror, it’s a ho-hum hotel regularity, no more interesting than fresh towels or the luggage carts in lobby. It just usually gets off at the second floor.
The hedge maze, the ghostly bartender, Homer getting locked in the fridge, the typewriter being a window into madness, even Bart’s titular “shinning” and Willie’s failed rescue attempt, these are all recognizable to anyone who has seen the film and each is given its little twist. But, and this is crucial, no one needs to have seen the movie to get any of them. It helps, sure, but you don’t need it. Homer declining his Nicholson destiny (“Can’t murder now, eating”) is funny all on its own. The references to the film augment the story and the jokes, not the other way around.
The same cannot be said for “A Clockwork Yellow”, which reads like mismatched excerpts from a Kubrick film guide. This is plenty apparent right at the beginning, where pretty much everything is a weird and senseless reenactment of A Clockwork Orange. Moe has a gang just like Malcolm McDowell did. But where McDowell’s gang turns on him for being a crappy leader; Moe’s gang turns on him just because that’s what’s supposed to happen. Not only is it reductive rather than creative, but weak references are left to stand alone.
Remember this part of that one movie? Yeah. Cool. Well, good talk.
Consider what is maybe the most famous scene from A Clockwork Orange: McDowell with his eyes propped open, forced to watch terrible things so that he won’t ever do them again. In “A Clockwork Yellow”, Moe wears a similar contraption, but he’s doing it for no discernible reason:
Moe: These eye clamps are the only way I can tolerate today’s TV.
Announcer: Tonight on FOX!
Moe: Ahh, turn it off, I’ll be good. I’ll be good!
If there is a joke in the final line (debatable), its premise is completely negated by the first. If he’s wearing it voluntarily, it makes no sense for him to beg to have the TV turned off. The sad reality is that he’s only wearing them because you can’t use A Clockwork Orange as your source material without someone getting their eyes propped open; setups, punchlines, and common sense be damned.
See, Zombie Simpsons? It’s not hard to work this in and have it make sense. It’s really not.
This complete dependency on making references is shaky enough early on, but the segment collapses completely at the end when the show just blows through references as fast as it can. There’s the guy from Full Metal Jacket, there’s a thing that – again for no discernible reason – looks briefly like the Monolith, there’s some dudes dressed like they’re in Barry Lyndon, there’s a bunch of naked people like in Eyes Wide Shut. And that’s it. There’s no coherence, no jokes, no indication whatsoever that the writers have taken something, parodied it, and made it their own. They’re just showing you stuff you’re supposed to recognize. It’s less a television segment than it is a police lineup.
“Time and Punishment” vs. “The Others”
Despite the fact that one of these is about time travel and the other is about ghosts, the basic concepts here are very similar. In each case, we see different versions of the Simpson family. Like the Kubrick mess, however, the transparent thinness of Zombie Simpsons is immediately apparent.
In “The Others”, the old ghost-Simpsons just stand around and don’t really do anything. Ghost-Marge gets the hots for Homer, and they spend basically the entire segment stretching that piece of nothing far past its breaking point. Ghost-Homer eventually gets around to killing regular Homer, but not until after he’s stood around and not done anything for a good long time. Once Homer is dead, ghost-Homer goes back to not doing anything.
Their habit of having most of the family just sort of stand there (ghost-Lisa literally doesn’t get even a single line) carries all the way through to the end when, in a desperate bid for internet attention (and how sad is that?), they create more versions of the family to stand there. For starters, this has nothing to do with the rest of the segment we just saw. The house was haunted, so older versions of the family appeared. Now a bunch of randoms show up because . . . well, just because, that’s why. If this was funny or joke filled, that’d be one thing, but it’s just more unsupported references.
They can’t stand this any longer. Somebody please pay attention to them!
“Time and Punishment” takes the idea of multiple different versions of the Simpsons seriously. We see them not only as rich and perfect (in a world Homer doesn’t know rains donuts), we see them as obedient to Flanders (the unquestioned lord and master of the world), we see them as giants and with lizard tongues. Each incarnation is very brief (much shorter than the “The Others”), yet the whole family is given things to do, lines to say (even Maggie!), and we get a glimpse of each world Homer visits in just a few seconds.
There aren’t any orphaned references, either. When the episode runs through all those versions of the Simpson home, including underwater, the Flintstone’s house, Sphinx-Bart, and a fairy tale inspired giant shoe, not only is it lightning fast, but it fits with what Homer’s doing. Because the writers bothered to show us several fleshed out parallel worlds already, the quick references to others add to that instead of being something tacked on to fill screen time (like a bunch of other Simpson families standing on the lawn for no reason).
“Nightmare Cafeteria” vs. “School Is Hell”
The main axiom of Springfield Elementary on The Simpsons is that it’s a waste of time and nobody wants to be there. The students don’t learn much (even the likes of Martin and Lisa learn and excel more out of the classroom than in) and the teachers don’t care, but everyone has to show up, so they do. In its own way, it’s already a kind of hell, so making it somehow worse for Halloween takes some imagination.
“Nightmare Cafeteria” pulled it off by taking the grim realities of normal episode Springfield Elementary and taking them to insanely logical Halloween episode extremes. It’s one of the only Treehouse of Horror segments that doesn’t involve anything supernatural and that’s part of what makes it so great. The faculty crosses over from merely being apathetic and passively hostile towards the students into murderous cannibalism . . . but they do so because of budget cuts. Authority figures devouring children because they couldn’t make decent sloppy joes any other way, it’s hard to think of a more Simpsons concept than that.
Sloppy Jimobs are pretty damned horrifying.
By contrast, Zombie Simpsons not only doesn’t do that, they actually make Springfield Elementary nicer and more pleasant than it normally is. I’m going to repeat that because it is an unusually clear example of just how witless and unmoored this show is. They made the school in Hell more fun and enjoyable than the one on Earth.
As with so many Zombie Simpson ideas, it could’ve actually been interesting if it wasn’t done in the shallowest imaginable way. But they didn’t go for “Earth is Hell” style irony, or even a particularly inventive version of Hell. They just recreated Springfield Elementary with funkier looking students and flames outside the windows. Even the Skinner-Chalmers monster is less evil than the two of them usually are. Can you imagine the real Chalmers saying this?:
Hell Chalmers: As educators, our job is to gently nurture your child’s passion.
It’s sincere, it’s genuine, and it means he actually cares about Bart! It’s antithetical to everything Chalmers is and does. Again, had they made that sort of the point (Hell Chalmers is a better educator than real Chalmers), it could’ve worked, but two layer thinking is way too deep for Zombie Simpsons. Instead, we get a montage before Homer shows up to be tortured for some reason. There are a couple of chuckles in there (Yankees class, for example), which makes it the strongest segment of an anemically weak episode, but even in Hell the bright and sunny attitude of Zombie Simpsons makes everything simple, shallow, and harmless.
Halloween will always be better served by the Skinner who condemns a kid to suffocation for a paper airplane (even before he starts eating them) than by one who wants Bart to achieve his full potential. The same goes for Simpson family members who are twisted and weird rather than still and silent. Ditto thoughtlessly repetitive Kubrick references vis-a-vis full blooded (and full bodied) satire.
Twenty years on, there are reasons “Treehouse of Horror V” often tops Halloween lists. “Treehouse of Horror XXV” will be lucky to even be remembered.
On the annual spooktacular Halloween special, Bart and Lisa are transported to a demon-filled alternate universe after Bart reads a set of Aramaic symbols he finds on the underside of his desk; Moe’s “Clockwork Orange”-style gang is disrupted when Dum (Homer) falls for a girl (Marge) who wants him to give up the thug life; and, in an homage to “The Others,” the Simpsons are visited by their former Tracey Ullman-era versions of themselves
Happy almost-Halloween everyone, it’s time for the annual installment of THOH. This is the 25th such episode, which I guess could be celebrated as some sort of milestone, if one wished to do so. I’m not going to, but I am a bit of a jerk.
“The challenger learned how to fight in the notorious projects of Capital City, and honed his skills while serving time for aggravated assault and manslaughter in Springfield Prison.” – Boxing Announcer
“Alright, a local boy!” – Barney Gumble
With the hoopla around the premier and the crossover now safely in the rear view mirror, and Halloween stuff not yet ramping up to full volume, it’s a pretty short Reading Digest this week. We do have hometown articles about both Al Jean and Mike Reiss, however. In addition to those, we’ve got some excellent fan art, a couple of interesting lists, and some stuffed animal based charity.
[TV Talk] Top 10 Simpsons Horror Movie Parodies – This is a pretty good list. There is one Zombie Simpsons segment, but it’s #9. #10 is the Guillermo del Toro couch gag, which was pretty entertaining even if it wasn’t part of the show proper.
Cakes Raise Cancer Awareness – Simpsons cakes, specifically, and there’s even art of one of Comic Book Guy. Bravo.
Sometimes words just get in the way – Longtime director Mark Kirkland has made a short, silent movie:
A romantic comedy that takes place, as the first title card explains, in a “long-forgotten movie studio,” The Moving Picture Co. 1914 has a 22-minute running time that Kirkland notes is the same length as a Simpsons episode if you cut out the commercials.
“I’m used to that time length and meter,” says the California Institute of the Arts graduate, who double-majored in film and animation. “The Simpsons are in my blood.”
Weird Al is playing the guy who’s playing Jesus.
Reboot The Simpsons – Instead of flashing everyone forward, I guess you could go backwards instead, but either way I remain convinced that the current show has to die before anything new and interesting can come out of Simpsons-world.
Reproduction of Lisa Simpson, The Scream – Excellent fan made painting.
Four sitcoms past their prime – Zombie Simpsons is such a fixture on lists like these, that the lists themselves have taken a meta-note of it:
This show has been on every past-their-prime list published in the last decade.
Bargain Bin Games – The Simpsons: Bart Vs. The World – A YouTube review.
Say Anything Parodies on TV: 8 of the Best – Otto proposing to Becky is on here, but I’d probably go with Itchy & Scratchy’s “Spay Anything” in “Cape Feare”, though that doesn’t have the boombox over the head thing.
On TV: 5-sentence review of ‘The Simpsons’ Season 26, Episode 3: ‘Super Franchise Me’ – According to the ratings, a lot of people do this:
Truth be told, I only watch about four “The Simpsons” episodes a year, until they choke out their “Treehouse of Horror,” and then I go on my way forgetting that they’re on TV, basically having vague memories that this was something I once looked forward to watching.
WTF Wednesday: Questionable Trends in Fashion – The trend of fashionable Bart clothing spreads.
Hype launches The Simpsons apparel with Topman – See above. Retro cool now, I guess.
There’s one thing 9-year-old Karis Zavala rarely puts down: a miniature doll of Lisa Simpson from the animated sitcom “The Simpsons.”
She’s vowed for the past seven years to never let it go.
She and her sister are going a charity thing to collect plush toys for kids.
Library dedicates section to ‘The Simpsons’ writer, Bristol native – You gotta love Reiss:
“When I won my first Emmy for ‘The Simpsons,’ I told my wife ‘Take a picture, I’ve got to send it to the hometown paper,’ and she did,” he said. “Four days later it was on the front page of The Bristol Press — me in a tuxedo holding an Emmy, over the caption ‘Local Man Claims To Win Award.’”
‘The Simpsons’ founding writer Al Jean on his Detroit roots – And speaking of local-boy-makes-good, Jean talks about his roots, and what they have to teach us.
BWW Reviews: MR. BURNS, A POST-ELECTRIC PLAY with The Catamounts in Boulder – The play gets good reviews even a couple thousand miles from Broadway.
Did The Simpsons Predict A Hot-Button SCOTUS Case 22 Years Ago? – No. This has been simple answers to simple questions.
robocall – Excellent illustrative reference:
The pre-recorded, automated telephone call, almost as widely reviled as it is exploited, has benign and malevolent uses. Professor Frink, in The Simpsons, envisioned using the technology to tell children about school cancellations, which seems harmless enough. But in the same episode, Homer demonstrates a range of abuses. An appointment reminder from your auto dealer or the doctor’s office may not be so bad. But no one likes non-human solicitations, or repeated entreaties to vote for this candidate or the next.
Patty or Selma, you are a real woman … – A multi-colored animated .gif of Patty based on one of the vacation photos from “Flaming Moe’s”.
Awesome Character #1: Milhouse Van Houten – Just a little appreciation for everyone’s favorite dorky doormat.
Thrift Store Halloweekends – Barney Gumble, The Simpsons Spooky Light-Ups (Burger King) – Someone found a fast food toy left over from 2001.
Homer Simpson Stonecutter by deathbycartoon – Fan made depiction of the Chosen One leading the Stonecutters to glory.
Simpsons Collection Vol:1 – Fan made Simpsons sketches.
The Simpsons predicted Ebola outbreak in 1997, some people on the internet actually believe – I’d say most people just think it’s weird, but I’m sure there are some believers out there.
Blood Feud – Episode #035 – Heh:
We are now at the end of the episode here and I have one thing to say… How the hell did the delivery guys manage to get the gift of Xtapolapocetl into the house? There is absolutely no way! Well, that cartoons for you.
The Simpsons Arcade Game retrospective: How Konami struck yellow gold – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us. In this case, in a video game retrospective:
Family Guy’s Peter Griffin spoke for most of us when he declared “I am over the Simpsons,” during a recent crossover episode with Springfield’s famous five, but such talk would have been dismissed as sacrilege when Matt Groening’s creation was at the peak of its popularity.
It’s been misfiring for as long as most of us can remember, but The Simpsons remains one of television’s greatest achievements.
“Sweet, trusting Marge, I can’t let you down. I’ll get some money somehow. . . . Hello, Vegas? Gimme a hundred bucks on red. . . . D’oh! Alright, I’ll send you a check.” – Homer Simpson
It’s now officially mid-October and there has been no announcement from FOX or anyone else about next season. For most shows, that wouldn’t be an issue, but for Zombie Simpsons, which is wildly asynchronous with the rest of network television’s renew/cancel announcements, it’s very odd. Thanks to the show’s ancient pedigree and very long production schedule, the last couple of renewal announcements have come in early or mid-October. Well . . . it’s that time of year and we haven’t heard anything.
Complicating matters is the general laziness of the entertainment press. Last year we got the renewal announcement for Season 26 on October 4th. But that’s all we got. Unlike previous renewals, which bragged about the new episode total, all the press release said was that the show would be around for Season 26. And while plenty of sites reported “Simpsons renewed” none that I was able to find (then or now) contained an episode total. (Even The New York Times just wrote up the press release and didn’t ask any questions.)
The episode total is more important than the season number because, as I’ve said before, how the show ends is determined by the production runs, not the broadcast runs. For several years now, FOX has been ordering 22-episode production runs. The “SABF” run comprised most of Season 25, and its first few episodes have spilled into Season 26. Sometime soon, the “TABF” run will start being broadcast and will make up most of Season 26. This is all entirely normal.
However, since the copy and paste brigade that passes for entertainment journalism didn’t give us an episode total, it’s at least possible that instead of ordering a full 22-episode production run last year, FOX only ordered a shortened run that will end this spring instead of spilling over into next fall. If that’s the case, then we could see the end of the show in 2015.
Now, I don’t think that is the case and I don’t want to start any rumors that the show is finally going to end. Quite frankly, the opposite is more likely. Odds are that last year they ordered a full 22-episode TABF run, no reporters bothered to ask them for a total, and that the show is already de-facto renewed for at least a partial Season 27.
But the reason this time of year is important is because of the extraordinarily long lead time needed to create an episode. The show can’t wrap the finale the week before it’s broadcast and just send everyone home. Instead, the production will gradually shut down months ahead of time as new scripts stop being ordered and the final episodes wind their way through the animation process. In the age of Twitter and friends, there’s no way you could keep that secret, even for a little while.
So, we have a couple of interesting pieces of information:
1. It’s mid-October and there’s been no renewal announcement.
2. There was no confirmation that the TABF production run is a full 22-episodes. (At least that Google and I could find, anyway.)
3. The long production time of the show means that it’ll shut down months before the last broadcast.
Where does that leave us? It means that sometime in the next month or so we’ll either get a renewal announcement, a cancellation announcement, or another rumor heavy cluster fuck (a la 2011) about whether or not the show will stagger forward for another year or more. My money is on a renewal announcement (best predictor of future behavior being past behavior, and all that), but we are in a situation where it’s at least possible that we might hear otherwise in the near future.
Keep watching the skis.
[Update 2:08pm Eastern: Word from Caesar himself in comments: "TABF = full 22 order". Still looking for a renewal notice, but there will definitely be at least a partial Season 27.]
“Don’t make me tap the sign.” – Bus Driver
There are episodes of Zombie Simpsons that border on manic, where they just throw crazy shit at the screen and hope that some of the incoherent jumble produces a chuckle or two. But there are also episodes like “Super Franchise Me”, that feel like they were produced by people in the depths of an Eeyore level depression. This is Zombie Simpsons going through the motions: slowly, reluctantly, joylessly. The story, Marge opens a sandwich franchise, is paper napkin thin, and since there’s no B-plot, they had to tack on a slow motion fantasy chase sequence at the end to shuffle this one across the twenty-minute finish line.
(Sorry we forgot to put up a preview post. Guess we weren’t the only ones half-assing it this week.)
- And you can tell things are off to a bad start when they have a clock eating non-guest couch gag. It’s 45 seconds long. Just 19m:15s to go!
- Guh, Flanders is reading the sign gags. The sign gags are one of the few things they don’t completely suck at, so this is always annoying.
- And then they did it with Homer reading the name of the Japanese city.
- This is one of the dumber montages I’ve seen in a while. Marge is cooking meat, and Homer is worried for some reason. It takes almost forty seconds. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
- You want a good example of how filler-iffic this episode is? Bart and Lisa just watched Homer stuff food into Santa’s Little Helper for fifteen seconds before they objected. It wasn’t funny, but it did eat some time!
- On a printed, 8pt font list of this episode’s problems, this would be on about page three, but it makes no sense for Marge to make all these sandwiches after Flanders takes his freezer back. The premise is that the food is gonna go bad before anyone can eat it, and now she’s got a ton of sandwiches that would still need to go in the fridge.
- Similar to the above, why does Bart want sandwiches at night before he goes to bed?
- Oh, now they have a scene with Flanders explaining that he’s keeping them in his freezer. It’s nice that they tied up the loose end, I guess, but when your story is so week that you almost have to retcon it before the first commercial break, it’s not a good sign.
- Oh, look, the main story has arrived in the form of a woman showing up at the school, where Marge went for no apparent reason. Literally neither of them should be there. Well done, Zombie Simpsons.
- Gotta love sparkling dialogue like this: “Mom, you’re gonna open a sandwich store?”, “Uh-huh.”
- Homer’s flashback to a Pizza Hut certainly went on for a while.
- Marge being happy that everything here is hers could’ve been interesting if it had been developed beyond having her just say “my” over and over.
- Krusty and Mr. Teeny just showed up for some reason. And now the monkey is bathing in a giant salsa tray.
- Frink’s applying for a job. Marge sets it up by telling him not to make any weird noises. He then makes weird noises. I think this was diagrammed out in Chapter 3 of “Scriptwriting For the Terminally Boring”.
- Gil handing out the strip club card would’ve been much funnier if the “Tell You Their Real Name” Tuesday joke had either been on the card or spoken aloud. It’s both. Reading the sign gags really sucks.
- Remember what I said earlier about Marge being happy about things actually being hers? Well, that got dropped completely and now the Simpson family is working in the restaurant.
- “I was short staffed and your father volunteered.” – Thanks, exposition Marge! We only saw that one minute ago, how could we possibly remember it?
- Montage #2. This one is about making and selling sandwiches.
- The “We’re Closed and the Alarm Is On” sign with the skull and crossbones is kinda funny, but I’m just happy they didn’t have someone read it to us.
- There’s another sandwich place across the street now. Bart pointed it out. I like this scene, it’s a combination between their hatred of object permanence and their love of bizarre and abrupt plot twists.
- Cletus is reading ridiculous kids names. Haven’t seen that before.
- Burns and Smithers just showed up for some reason.
- It’s okay, they’re gone now.
- You can argue about whether or not this show is funny (I don’t think it is, but to each their own), but there’s no denying that it’s dumb. The premise here is that the sandwich franchise opened another location across the street and screwed Marge. That’s actually a real problem (Subway, for example, is notorious for screwing its franchisees like that), but it’s not used for any kind of comedy here whatsoever. Instead, they have Homer get scalded, stabbed and bashed in his crotch, and even then it doesn’t make sense.
- Just for good measure, we see Burns fall incompetently off of a rowboat. Remember evil Burns? He was fun.
- And now it’s over and they’ve got a caveman Homer very (very) slowly chasing some giant animal because this episode came in a solid minute short, even with all that filler.
- Nice of them to mention Jan Hooks, though.
Anyway, the ratings are in and they are way up, but only because of football overrun. Last night’s cripplingly stretched premise was seen by 7.34 million people, probably half of whom just left it on after the Dallas-Seattle game. That’s down from the also football lifted season premier, and it would’ve been an average number as recently as Season 22, but it counts as good for them these days. Next week, the late national game is Giants-Cowboys, so we’ll see if there’s another (relatively) big number.