Posts Tagged ‘At Long Last Leave

22
Feb
12

Compare & Contrast: New Towns

You Only Move Twice6

“Mr. Scorpio, this house is almost too good for us.  I keep expecting to get the bum’s rush.” – Marge Simpson
“We don’t have bums in our town, Marge, and if we did they wouldn’t rush, they’d be allowed to go at their own pace.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m in the middle of a fun run!” – Hank Scorpio

Though you’d hardly know it from how much screen time it got, the main plot of “At Long Last Leave” was the family Simpson moving to a new town.  Coincidentally, this is also the main plot of “You Only Move Twice”.  The differences between the two are too numerous to count, but to get a good approximation of how large the gap is, we needn’t look much further than the way the respective new towns are portrayed. 

Start with just the basic mechanics.  Cypress Creek is the main setting of almost the entire episode.  The Simpson family gets there right after the first commercial break with nearly three quarters of the episode still to go.  The Outlands isn’t introduced until the episode is already half over, and it doesn’t stay on screen long.  Less than three minutes after we catch our first sight of it, Homer and Marge and back in Springfield.  We don’t see it again until there’s only a few minutes left in the episode (and Homer and Marge’s trip to Springfield is longer than either of the times we see The Outlands).  By contrast, “You Only Move Twice” doesn’t go back to Springfield until the very end.

Then there are the respective houses.  In Springfield, 742 Evergreen Terrace is as much a part of the Simpson family as Grampa.  The television, the bedrooms, the kitchen table, there’s a recognizable believability to the place (even if the floor plan is somewhat impossible) that makes the scenes that take place within better than they otherwise would be.  The house in The Outlands shares none of those traits.  Even if you set aside the fact that it makes no sense how they came by it, the shanty in The Outlands has no personality.  It’s just a shack, and it has nothing to do with the rest of the episode.  There’s never a clear shot of it, and the only thing the family does is walk out of it.

Generic Shanty

Blink and you’ll miss it.  Near as I can tell, this is the only time you see the whole house.

But in Cypress Creek, the house itself is funny.  It’s a funhouse reflection of the kind of palatial McMansions that were so vogue right up until 2008.  Though the family is only there for the one episode, you get a sense of how vast the living room and kitchen are, of the tasteful upper-middle-class elegance of the back yard and dining room.  This isn’t done purely for show either, the house is so self sufficient, cleaning and watering itself automatically, that Marge has nothing to do.  This striver’s paradise even keeps Maggie busy for her. 

You Only Move Twice7

This show can make a terrified baby funny.  Suck it, Zombie Simpsons.

Moving beyond the house, the rest of Cypress Creek is just as well realized.  The planned community is the opposite of Springfield’s broken down chaos.  Everything works: the schools are good, the shops are trendy, and the activities are healthy.  And, of course, we get to see all of these things and laugh at them and the real life counterparts they so closely resemble.  Anybody who’s ever been through a resort town in America can recognize something like “The Spend Zone”.  Ditto highly funded schools that have a program for everything. 

The Outlands, by contrast, are so sparingly portrayed that I’m still not sure quite what they’re supposed to be.  They clearly liked the whole Mad Max thing, with Mohawk Maggie being the prime example of that.  But they also had it scaled back to something vaguely recognizable as backwoods America, especially with the nameless shotgun guy.  That the rest of Springfield shows up would seem to support the “backwoods America” model, but then the whole town is abandoned and Bart smashes Skinner with a helicopter, which is much more “Mad Max”.  They seem contradictory, but neither is on screen enough to be coherent or intelligible, so who knows?  

What makes the relative paucity of scenes in The Outlands, indoors and out, so bad is the fact that the story is supposed to be about either a) the Simpsons adapting fine to their new home, never to return, or b) the townspeople deciding that they all want to leave Springfield (for some reason).  The episode can’t seem to decide, but whichever it was going for, the ending hinges on this point.  It’s the main conflict of your story, it’s not something you can breeze over or be vague about. 

Cypress Creek, on the other hand, is on screen enough that it feels like a real place, and is tremendously funnier for it.  The shops, the house, the school, the fun run, all of it is funny precisely because it’s an (only slightly) exaggerated version of a white collar, corporate yuppie utopia.  That they would have a school so lavishly funded that Bart can do no harm and a house so automated that Marge feels useless is believable enough that you know the joke must have had some sting for the kind of people it was mocking.  Lisa, irony of ironies, has the Edenic nature she craves turn on her.  Only Homer wants to stay, which means his eventual decision to return to Springfield is the culmination of all those other events. 

Even by Season 8, moving the Simpsons out of Springfield was something that had been done a few times already (“Dancin’ Homer”, “Cape Feare”, even “Deep Space Homer”).  But it doesn’t feel played out or rehashed in “You Only Move Twice”, and a big part of that is because Cypress Creek is a fully thought through location.  That its idyllic setting is all in support of things like Project Arcturus just makes it funnier.  Compare that to the brief, confusing, and potentially contradictory sketchpad known as The Outlands.  The place makes no sense and is hardly on screen, which is all the worse when you remember that everyone spontaneously decides to move there.  As usual, Zombie Simpsons collapses under even the slightest scrutiny, while The Simpsons is built to last. 

21
Feb
12

Crazy Noises: At Long Last Leave

Cape Feare6

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (embarrassingly enough, including on “Thunderdome”).

When the splattered mishmash that passed for a plot in “At Long Last Leave” finally got the family to the “outlands” halfway through the episode, Zombie Simpsons came back from commercial with a derivative of the opening credits.  We see clouds part, hear the familiar chorus saying “The Outlands” instead of “The Simpsons”, and spend the next thirty seconds panning over the bizarro community that will (sort of) be the setting for (some of) the rest of the episode.  This is obviously a naked repeat of “The Thompsons” opening from “Cape Feare”, but if you take a closer look you can see how weak a repeat it really is. 

For starters, Zombie Simpsons calls its place “The Outlands”, which isn’t a joke and sounds like the rejected title of a World of Warcraft expansion.  “Terror Lake”, by contrast, is both original and funny.  Season 5 also set up the family’s move far in advance.  We already know that the FBI has given them new identities, that this is their destination, and that Sideshow Bob is stowed away under the car.  All of the main elements of the plot come with them in one neat little package.  Season 23 has Homer pull the car over in a random spot that just happens to be next to a bizarre squatters camp, and then has an unnamed guy with a gun come out of the bushes for no reason and invite them to stay. 

For the openings themselves, not only does Zombie Simpsons take much longer, but they also drop in a ton of random crap.  We pan over their new home town (which we know nothing about at the time), see Bart spray painting a wall (lotta destroyed buildings for a wilderness encampment), then follow him them to their (entirely built) shack where they park their rather impressive fleet of vehicles, including a helicopter.  Huh?  The last time we saw them they were in their station wagon with all their worldly possessions, now they live better than the Lord Humungus.  The Simpsons doesn’t have to do anything that strange or unexpected because it has enough going on at that point that it makes sense for the family to pull up in car they got from the FBI and get on the houseboat. 

The real capper, though, comes in how each one ends.  “The Thompsons” ends with a normal couch gag before cutting to the first real scene of the family in Terror Lake.  The mechanics of it are the same as a regular opening.  Them scrambling into the houseboat and getting a net full of fish dumped on them didn’t really happen, it was just a playful way to introduce their new location.  Zombie Simpsons, on the other hand, had them go through all that, including the helicopter and Homer getting run over by a team of horses, and then just started the regular scene as though all that stuff was real. 

Granted, this scene did contain the “sick of watching fox” joke, the first time in a long time that I’ve liked a joke, waited for them to ruin it (by having the fox attack Homer or something), and then had them not do that.  But it undercuts the entire concept of having a second opening in the middle of the episode if it isn’t actually an opening.  At full speed this isn’t the greatest problem in the world, especially in an episode like this one that expects the audience to forget anything that happened more than a ninety seconds ago.  But it’s another example of how The Simpsons gets better the more you think about it while Zombie Simpsons get worse. 

[This week No Homers member Zombies Rise from the Sea joined us.  You can read his detailed rebuttal to Michael Price (who wrote this episode) here.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Yep

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah

Mad Jon: Where do you want to begin?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The 500th episode.

The extravagance of it.

  Bleh.

Charlie Sweatpants: You thought so? I thought there was a surprisingly small amount of "hooray, anniversary!" stuff. Besides the couch gag and the "go outside" title card, it seemed pretty typical.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Let’s not forget the opening sequence where it said "the most meaningless milestone of all".

  Why even do it like that if it’s meaningless?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, forgot that one. Still pretty minor, though.

Mad Jon: To make meaningfullness out of it?

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought it was a callback to the chalkboard in "Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song".

Mad Jon: I agree that it wasn’t as over the top 500 as I thought it would be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The most often referenced callback of all time, for good reason

  But still, celebrating it in the form of an extravagant couch gag calls for some concern; I do like that they referenced their history though.

That’s the positive thing about it.

Mad Jon: Also the gag killed some time.

  So they got that going for them as well.

Charlie Sweatpants: That definitely occurred to them.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yup

Charlie Sweatpants: And while it wasn’t bad, couch mashups like that have been on YouTube for some time. (See yesterday’s comments, for example.)

Mad Jon: I thought about that. But this show has forsaken public opinion for quite a while now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that thought raised a "meh" in the writers’ room.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: True, I mean preceding the 500th episode was an interview by the episode’s writer Michael Price which showcases how bizarro the show’s people have gotten.

Mad Jon: Hmm, I didn’t know that guy existed.

Charlie Sweatpants: They broadcast that? I didn’t see it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It was a web interview.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: I read that long interview he gave last week. I like how they always talk about how they’re careful not to do things they’ve done before. Then you have things like last week’s Itchy & Scratchy and this week’s "The Outlands" intro that make that little piece of bullshit as inoperable as one can be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That is ironically hilarious.

  I’ve written replies to most of the comments he made; you know that post right?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, someone on our site linked it. I’ll admit that I skimmed most of it, you have more stamina for that stuff than I do, but I agreed with most of what I read.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It just turns me off, praising cleaner HD animation as a better thing, insisting that they care for the characters, insisting that the show is as good as ever.

  Have they even realized there are some legitimate criticisms out there on the internet?

  Sorry to go off topic but that interview had me somewhat mad.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know what you mean. It’s the quintessential don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining type stance.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I do "Babar" reviews on NoHomers that point out animation no one has ever seen before; granted there may be better examples but those examples are ones no one has seen before and they’re beautiful.

Charlie Sweatpants: The old Babar? Man, I haven’t seen that since I was a kid.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Hand drawn animation is like an art, to insist that people want cleaner HD animation is just shameful. It’s like we don’t appreciate flaws in work, we want everything to be robotic.

At least I’m getting through to people who have heard of Babar and watched it as a kid but didn’t watch it recently.

Charlie Sweatpants: Might have to look that up, for nostalgia purposes if nothing else.

Mad Jon: I didn’t look for this in this episode, but that is an especially angering point when you see some of the scene disparities that that have happened since the change to HD. I think this has come up several times in the last year or so.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I agree, it’s like a consistent talking point when talking about Zombie Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought that was something the couch gag did a good job of (sorry, pun) illustrating.

  There’s a lot more life to the earlier ones, and you can actually watch them get more sterile.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: At least the 500th episode couch gag serves a purpose, to show how they declined.

Charlie Sweatpants: The only animation note I had from the episode proper was to wonder about Wiggum’s uniform

  In the park he wasn’t wearing his usual one and then at the house he was. I don’t know if that was a callback to something, but it looked odd.

Mad Jon: I didn’t even notice

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I didn’t pay much attention to that; it does prove you are the master at noticing animation differences many people don’t.

Mad Jon: He does have an eye for that.

  If for nothing else.

Charlie Sweatpants: I wouldn’t have thought so, and yet, here were are.

As for the episode itself, I’m just baffled.

  Why did they all come out to the Outlands at the end?

Mad Jon: Why not.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why would Homer advertise for the people he calls jerks to come there?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You have every right to be, there are so many things to be baffled at.

Mad Jon: The attempt at continuity for its own sake I assume.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why did they sneak into the middle of the city and then discuss their disguises?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Poor attempt at humor I guess…

Charlie Sweatpants: The last half of the episode is just one hanging plot thread after another.

Mad Jon: How was that a plot?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That perplexed me too, I mean I guess the episode writer wanted to end the episode on a sweet, emotional and grand note but it just raised more questions then it satisfied.

  I mean why not ask them to come back, why not have a speech that makes Springfield realize they’re jerks.

That would be a better ending then what we got.

Mad Jon: It was just Homer and Bart doing random things with random Springfieldians showing up.

  Except random means familiar show characters.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They were even doing random things before they showed up, none of which worked.

Mad Jon: Like Super Nintendo Chalmers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s true Jon.

The ending may be worth talking about but the outlands themselves; barely shown.

  It’s like the most hyped up part of the episode yet they only spend a few minutes showing it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean where’s the community, where’s the people? It’s like this place only exists so that the Simpsons can move and have some stuff to do; cartoony stuff no less.

Charlie Sweatpants: And what they did show was just odd. If I got a free Mad Max helicopter for moving to the middle of nowhere, I’d be there tomorrow.

Mad Jon: It was a place to store the Simpsons for 10 minutes while they did some physical comedy before the clock ran out.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I miss the days when "You Only Move Twice" and "Cape Feare" had actual cities with actual people.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the way they got there was weird. They pull over and there’s a crazy guy with a gun, and they’re just like, "Let’s live here!"

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Exactly, convenience.

Mad Jon: In the vibrant hobo city they could see from outside the car but not from inside it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: convenience = piss poor writing

Charlie Sweatpants: There was no effort to make it even remotely interesting as a place, like so you said, unlike Terror Lake or Cypress Creek.

Mad Jon: Ohhh! Ice Creamville!

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The only interesting thing it had with the lawlessness but even that is wasted.

They could of taken out the useless guest appearance by the WikiLeaks guy but then they wouldn’t have a famous guest star!

Charlie Sweatpants: At least we were spared another meth joke.

Mad Jon: I think the worst part of the wasteland was the complete lack of character development among even ONE of the other occupants

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s true.

Charlie Sweatpants: Very much including Assange.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Simpsons acted not as a family, but as cartoon characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yep. Check out the new clothes, for example.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There were some people on NoHomers who praised the acting of the family but I couldn’t see any of that, Homer and Marge barely had a connection; Bart wasn’t into it and they all seemed to transition from role to role pretty effortlessly.

  The clothes thing is the most obvious thing in the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: There could have been something to the "Marge is more homesick than the rest of them thing", but they didn’t even bother.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Marge was the only one homesick.

  And they didn’t even use that properly to transition into the romantic scenes in Springfield.

  I admit, I liked those scenes but placed in the context of a plot with barely any buildup and barely any involvement; it’s a waste.

It’s like those scenes are standing out to make the episode better and more charming then it actually is.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. You need a better reason to break into the bowling alley than wearing costumes that make them look nothing like Burns and Smithers. And I’d further note that when the town shows up at the house, they’re right back in their normal clothes.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Consistency be damned.

It’s like the entire thing is designed to be plotted in a way that seems epic but it just collapses on itself.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good way to put it. They had this big story, but they’re constantly undercutting themselves and sabotaging their own story because, hey, we’ve got to get Homer’s head sucked into a jet engine, we’ve got to have everyone show up for no reason.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Why is it that they got to put wacky humor into the show and explain the jokes?

  We’re intelligent, we can understand smart humor and smart things.

Mad Jon: Foreshadowing be damned! We like our joke transparent nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants: They could’ve done that in so many ways: the town gets bored without the Simpsons, the town gets jealous that the Simpsons are living better in the outlands and makes them move back. Anyone worth their salt could’ve made this work, but they didn’t even try.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I’m surprised they didn’t even show that.

Charlie Sweatpants: The mystery and secrecy committee is a good example. That wasn’t a terrible idea, but it. just. kept. going.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Personally I was expecting the Simpsons to sneak back into Springfield and witness their lives without them but it doesn’t happen.

  So finally, someone mentions the courtroom scene.

It’s not a bad idea per say but the execution is majorly flawed.

Charlie Sweatpants: If we’re willing to spot them that the Simpsons are superstars and no longer even kind of a regular family, then yes, it wasn’t a terrible idea.

Mad Jon: Good point

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The entire courtroom thing could’ve had impact but they had to point out the obvious things and they had to do the worst thing of all.

  Portray The Simpsons as this family who does wacky things, circa the Scully era of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget having Sideshow Mel apparently rip out an ulna.

Mad Jon: Or radius, I guess we’ll never know.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They had a chance to portray them as a family that while doing some major damage, was just as one of them, though dysfunctional.

The criticisms could of been common, they could of been exaggerated, they could of been even ridiculous but instead they’re focused on the damage and the money spent on the damage.

  Bleh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Instead they have Moe screaming that Marge is the monster queen, or whatever.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That joke wasn’t exactly funny per say.

Charlie Sweatpants: That one bugged me, if for no other reason than Moe is supposed to have that creepy crush on Marge.

Mad Jon: Was the Homer driving through the school from the episode where the kids and adults have the musical standoff?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think it was supposed to be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah.

Mad Jon: Didn’t he get away with that? Oh whatever.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Probably, I mean the kids were blamed for it.

  Just goes to show they don’t do the proper research anymore.

  I mean have we seen Bart flood the school before in a cartoonish way?

Mad Jon: I dunno, probably. There have been 500 of these things.

Charlie Sweatpants: That episode with Lisa and the whale I remember, but I don’t remember the gym flood.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Think the gym flood was put in there to exaggerate how "trouble" they are.

Charlie Sweatpants: Of course, Zombie Simpsons is very easy to forget.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean it’s like; hey "The Simpsons are this wacky, crazy family who does damage everywhere they go."

Not even in the Zombie Simpsons did The Simpsons do a lot of damage.

  This unfair representation of them gets to me and ruins the episode.

Mad Jon: But without that unfair representation, we wouldn’t get to watch Maggie go Thunderdome, or Homer and Bart ride around on 4-wheelers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who needs that, when you can have a proper adventure with proper actions and proper characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Maggie Thunderdome thing was bizarre. It’s like they couldn’t quite decide if the Outlands were awesome, or if they were actually a Mel Gibson hellscape.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Maggie thing was due to the outlands, even Le Jake had no problem with it.

  You do make a good point Jon.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was also disappointed when Maggie had the knife to Carl’s throat. That sucked on its own, but then they didn’t even have the care to show Carl with a bandage on his ear afterwards.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Definitely.

Charlie Sweatpants: You want to make a joke about a baby with a big ass knife? Fine. Just don’t pretend it didn’t happen seven seconds later.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Sorry to go off topic here but in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Caesar had the potential to be multi-dimensional, understand the good and the bad side of the humans, but instead they made him one dimensional, which sucks. The Simpsons are done the same way, they’re one dimensional, they sprout out certain traits and they show no personality.

  Even during the scenes when they defend themselves.

As I said before Charlie, consistency is key.

Charlie Sweatpants: That movie was disappointing, but funny you should mention Planet of the Apes. That’s tomorrow’s quote of the day.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I’m glad other people agree, my review on the movie got a lot of flack despite its immense detail.

Back to the episode at hand…

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d agree in general that the characters are one dimensional, but in this episode Lisa was almost zero dimensional. They had her spout "back to nature" type stuff to be happy, but the place they were in wasn’t exactly an environmentalist commune. She should’ve been miserable, but they didn’t want her to be so, in spite of everything we know about her, she wasn’t.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Not only that, but Lisa’s addiction to technology is not like her at all.

  She has basically transformed into the adult version of a child.

Mad Jon: Agreed. She was praising the remoteness, but was the first one to embrace the return of connectivity.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Whatever happened to the Lisa with integrity?

Mad Jon: And that was pretty much her only two scenes this episode.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Totally.

Charlie Sweatpants: She has it from time to time, but like the rest of them she jumps from personality to personality so quick she could be diagnosed as manic.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I did like her personality in "The Book Job" somewhat, she was somewhat consistent there…

  But you’re absolutely right Charlie, Lisa is inconsistent.

So let’s talk about the episode writer Michael Price; how is it that a guy with a theater background is able to write episodes with are either mediocre and bad; and how did me manage to mess up the 500th episode?

  I thought guys with theater backgrounds went on to make quality stuff?

Charlie Sweatpants: Good questions. I know basically nothing about him, however.

Mad Jon: Neither I

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Me neither but from the interview I read, it looks like he had some talent, some potential.

  Here he feels the need to pack every cinematic trick into the book, raise the stakes, focus on emotional moments, make the moments as big as possible.

It’s like he’s trying to make the plot huge to compensate for the lack of content in the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: The sense I get from these episodes is that there is basically no difference in authorship. These are so heavily crammed with stuff that I don’t get the sense that any one writer can keep a lasting mark on something.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You’re right about that in that the interview said 3% of content remains from rewrites.

  But still…

Charlie Sweatpants: Is that where that was? I remember reading that at some point last week but all that stuff has kind of blurred together.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: If you’ve got twenty minutes and four acts and you want them to get expelled from town before reconciling things, you can do that. This wasn’t even attempting to do that. I wonder if the first draft did?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Possibly but then again, the four act structure was forced upon them.

Regardless, even with the idea that they have no idea where to go and what scenes to use when they start up acts; they couldn’t make a good script for squat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Their apathy for story is impressively total. They really couldn’t care less. If something sort of works, cool, if nothing works, that’s cool too.

Bring on the bomb shelter and Homer eating talcum powder!

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s like a comedy club, their purpose is to showcase all forms of comedy that makes them laugh.

  Whether we like it or not.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve compared them to a sketch show more than once.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: So I’m not alone here…

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s hard to tell how these pieces could ever fit together.

Mad Jon: The Fart Machine has too much farts!!!!

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s the problem, the episodes can be romantic, can be dramatic, can even be nothing, but the consistent feeling is that it’s a comedy club.

These people aren’t focused on making a plot that’s engaging and relatable, these people are focused on making a plot that crams as many jokes/weak satire/gags as possible.

Mad Jon: Which would explain the slate at the end.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. The Assange thing is a perfect example. I don’t know the genesis of it, but it had nothing to do with anything in the episode and didn’t even make sense.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s just another thing they do to be relevant.

Mad Jon: Meh

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Soon they’ll have the girl from the GEICO commercials on The Simpsons; I have a source that guarantees it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

Mad Jon: GEICO? or Progressive?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Progressive, apologies.

  Got my car insurance companies mixed up.

Mad Jon: Well, they are pretty much all the same. Flo could be working for any of them and I wouldn’t notice anymore than I didn’t notice Wiggum’s uniform.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Don’t worry, they’ll make you notice.

Mad Jon: Thanks for the encouragement.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The ultimate problem is that despite the poor plotting, despite the failed attempts at plot despite the lack of anything memorable; people still watch.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they aren’t much for sneaking in celebrity guests, Kelsey Grammer and Jackie Mason this week notwithstanding.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The people who are giving this 5/5 and 4/5 without looking into the episodes are the ones who are justifying their material; I mean I can understand if it entertains you but in no way this episode is a classic.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, definitely not. It’ll disappear down the memory hole just like everything else.

Mad Jon: Jackie Mason was the one that bothered me the most. Krusty’s dad has a problem with the Simpsons?

Charlie Sweatpants: Why not, so, apparently, do Moe, Barney, and a bunch of other people you wouldn’t figure.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The products that entertain you for a while and then you forget about later on is a product; which The Simpsons has become. I don’t know what these people are finding in this episode that are making them give 5/5 but there is nothing in there that’s 5/5 worthy; it’s yet another overrated episode.

  Agreed Charlie.

Mad Jon: There is no point in trying to explain insanity. This is of course assuming those 5’s weren’t given by employees or the family of employees of FOX.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: No, actual members of NoHomers gave this 5/5; I respect their opinions but still.

Additionally they even gave me flack for being overly harsh on the episode, despite the detail of the review.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s the internet. It happens.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I guess…

Mad Jon: Well, I will never stop being paranoid.

Charlie Sweatpants: On that note, I’ll just leave this here: http://xkcd.com/1019/

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I think we all have to live with the obvious statement; as long as The Simpsons is on, they will keep producing stuff that the public will love and that the critics will eat up.

  The people on the Simpsons will keep accepting pay cuts and soon, they’ll be working for free.

Mad Jon: Merchandising baby

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve given up trying to even guess when the show will end.

  Though speaking of endings, I did like the hillbilly version of the theme over the credits.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Eh.

Mad Jon: Didn’t even notice.

But I am much less patient than you Pants.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I’m kind of a sucker for different renditions of the theme.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t understand everything, maybe I should move to the industrial district of LA; I hear the air is cleaner there…

  I can understand Charlie.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here? The only thing I don’t think we’ve hit is the voices, because in this one Brockman, Quimby, and Marge all sounded off to me. But they’ve all done so before, so that ain’t exactly news.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The voices are always off…

  I do remember the drill in the beginning being weak and the cringe-worthy Lisa and Homer dialog.

That seemed like something Family Guy would do.

Charlie Sweatpants: You could say that about a lot of this episode.

  They did manage to get Homer naked, tarred and feathered.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They also managed to show a Braniff Airways jet in a way that seemed cartoonish and pathetic.

Mad Jon: That’s a first eh? I remember Grandpa being so, but Homer?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Grandpa wasn’t even in the episode, his ghost was there in the town hall meeting though.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

Mad Jon: Touche

Zombies Rise from the Sea: In closing. "Look out Gunsmoke, we’re about to prove that entertainment can be as cheap and lazy as possible and people will still love it. Who needs to make a quality product when you can just sit back and half-ass it? That’s the American way!"

Charlie Sweatpants: Sounds about right. The Gunsmoke thing always amuses me because, really, does anyone think that show was high quality television?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well people did love it and watch it en masse right?

In a time where there was no internet to add

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, when there were three channels and no internet.

  Beat me to it.

  Okay, well, Zombies, many thanks for joining us again.

Mad Jon: Indeed.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Always a pleasure Charlie; always a pleasure.

20
Feb
12

Oh Hell, Let’s Move the Town Again

Chalkboard - At Long Last Leave

“Homer, that’s your solution to everything, to move under the sea.  It’s not going to happen!” – Marge Simpson
“Not with that attitude.” – Homer Simpson

Give Zombie Simpsons credit for consistency, for the 500th episode they served up a perfectly banal rendition of their usual hacktacular schlock.  They recycled two old ideas (family leaves Springfield, rebuild the town), had an illogical, meaningless and irrelevant celebrity voicing himself, and left plot threads hanging all over the place.  No real reason is given for why the town suddenly decides they miss the Simpsons, nothing about the “Outlands” makes sense, either as a post-apocalyptic environment or as a modern “off the grid” community, and what few jokes there were leaned heavily on Homer getting hurt and bizarre asides.  To top it all off, they had a lot of filler in the form of an ultra long couch gag, a second opening in the middle of the episode, and a bunch of set pieces that dragged on interminably (e.g. Wiggum and the cat thing, parading the family out of town).

For examples of all of these problems we need look no further than the sudden u-turn the episode took after its clock killing “The Outlands” opening.  They had just reached their destination, but after talking to the wildly out of place Julian Assange for no reason, Marge says she misses Springfield and then – wham – they’re back in Springfield.  The first scene is them already in the heart of the city before they decamp for a couple of quick stops at the Lard Lad sign, the Bowlarama, and their house.  None of these are related in the least aside from being in Springfield. 

To get them back out of Springfield (after the bullies mysteriously disappear from the house), they essentially rerun the earlier scene from the town hall.  This one occurs at night and six minutes deeper into the episode, but basically nothing has happened in that time other than some disjointed set pieces.  Compounding the problem, there isn’t anything in the second expulsion that even so much as hints at, much less actually sets up, the eventual ending where – for no discernable reason – the rest of the town decides that they all want out of Springfield. 

Apart from the couch gag and the passive aggressive title card at the end (and, for the record, I’ve been outside several times already today) there wasn’t much in the way of celebratory fireworks here.  Abandoning the town to build a shanty one a few miles down the road sounds epic, until you remember that in just the last few years they’ve had Springfield fenced off from immigrants, descend into chaos from Lisa’s social network, and irradiated by a nuclear bomb.  Abandoning or destroying Springfield is unexceptional these days.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are wretched, despite all the hype.  Last night just 5.79 million viewers wondered why this thing hadn’t ended hundreds of episodes ago.  That’s an improvement from last week’s nadir, but it’s still embarrassingly low and continues to sink Season 23’s overall viewer average. 

19
Feb
12

Sunday Preview: At Long Last Leave

Zombie Simpsons 300

Almost lost amidst all the hubbub about the 500th episode is the fact that it’s just, you know, an episode.  It is likely to be forgettably boring:

The Simpsons sneak into a secret town meeting to which they aren’t invited and discover it’s about whether to ban the family from Springfield. The town decides to evict the family, forcing them to join an off-the-grid community. Homer and Marge try to sneak back into Springfield, but receive hostile treatment from their former friends and neighbors, and begin to appreciate their new, welcoming home.

Sounds like someone dusted off an early version of the movie script and thought, “Instead of Alaska, we’ll send them off the grid.  Why not?”. 




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