“Operator, I’d like to place an order for my husband.” – Marge Simpson
“Would he like to lose weight, stop smoking, learn the state capitals, master hostage negotiations . . .” – Subliminal Tape Operator
“Hmm, hostage negotiations . . .”
“Listen, Taboli, we’re ignoring all of your demands. What do you say to that?” – Hostage Negotiator Homer
“Better give me the weight loss tape.” – Marge Simpson
Posts Tagged ‘Bart’s Friend Falls in Love
“Operator, I’d like to place an order for my husband.” – Marge Simpson
“Americans have grown up with the image of the jolly fat man, Dom DeLuise, Alfred Hitchcock, and, of course, Santa Claus. But in real life, Santa would be suffering from gall stones, hypertension, impotence, and diabetes.” – Kent Brockman
“To those who doubt the power of the magic 8-ball, I say: behold my F!” – Bart Simpson
You may have noticed that since last weekend the “Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead” pages have undergone some revisions. The text of the book here at the site is now completely updated to the official 1.1 version of the text. In addition to that, the main page has been revised to account for the fact that the book is now completely up at the site and not being parceled out chapter by chapter.
The Kindle version has similarly been updated. If you are one of the wonderful human beings who has already purchased it, you should be able to update to the 1.1 version by downloading the book again. You already own the book, so you won’t be charged again, it’ll just replace the old version with the new one. Amazon warned me it might take up to 48 hours for the update to fully propagate, but by this weekend it should be there. If you experience any problems with this, please let me know.
(For those of you waiting on the ePub and PDF versions, I must ask a little more patience. It’s a bit of pain to update the text across different formats, so I’d like to give 1.1 a little time to see whether or not any other mistakes shake loose before I put it into two more formats.)
Most of the revisions in version 1.1 are minor, correcting stray punctuation and the occasional overlooked error like referring to “A Streetcar Named Marge” as “A Streetcar Named Desire”. However, there are now three additional footnotes, all of which are the direct result of feedback from you guys. The smallest is a quick aside in Chapter 12, noting that Hank Azaria has not, in fact, been in every episode. That was just a simple oversight on my part. I knew that he hadn’t been, it just never occurred to me during all the times I looked at Chapter 12. The other two are a bit more substantial, and I want to credit the three people who made them possible.
The first comes at the beginning of Chapter 2, where I finally acknowledged the existence of Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, a syndicated Hanna-Barbera sitcom that ran in the early 1970s. This one is wholly due to generalsherman67’s comment on the original book post. There are quite a few episodes up on YouTube, and it’s about as forgettable as you’d expect. It’s a standard mom-dad-kids setup, there’s lots of canned laughter, and the animation is much less detailed than The Flintstones or The Jetsons. But it does exist, and now the book reflects that.
The second is in Chapter 4. On the original, Residents Fan mentioned that The Simpsons had been a big part of Sky One becoming a mainstream channel in the UK. No sooner had I made a note to look into that than Wesley Mead came through with his remarkable guest post about the whole history. Since that’s a vastly better job than I would have even considered doing, it’s now referenced directly in a footnote.
My thanks to everyone who spotted something, and everyone who linked to the book. We got a lot of traffic not only from blogs and the like, but just from people mentioning it on message boards and other places where people talk about pop culture. Every link is appreciated.
Finally, I can’t help but post this, which I grabbed a few days ago when I was first getting ready to write this post:
Yup, that’s “Zombie Simpsons” wedged between the guy who played Screech and the woman whose formulaic show gave the world the “moment of shit”. I’m not sure how to feel about that, but it’s too odd not to mention.
“Hello, I’m actor Troy McClure, you kids might remember me from such educational films as ‘Lead Paint: Delicious but Deadly’, and ‘Here Comes the Metric System’. I’m here to provide the facts about sex in a frank and straightforward manner. And now, here’s ‘Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to You-Know-What’.” – Troy McClure
Happy 20th Anniversary to “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”! Original airdate 7 May 1992.
“Whoa, I bet the 8-Ball didn’t see that one coming.” – Bart Simpson
“Yeah.” – Milhouse van Houten
With so many years of backstory hanging over its head, Zombie Simpsons often resorts to the inane and bizarre to keep believable and long established relationships fresh. Once upon a time, Moe was Homer’s bartender. Sure, they knew each other a bit better than the average rag and coaster jockeys, but they never strayed too far from the recognizable baseline of bartender-customer. Along the same line, Skinner and Chalmers used to be junior and senior in a dumb bureaucracy and Lenny and Carl used to be office buddies. All of those have been trashed under a half-clever veneer of self knowing television tropes. Homer and Moe are best buddies when they need to be; Skinner and Chalmers are attached at the hip, and Lenny and Carl are . . . whatever they are.
In that same vein, Bart and Milhouse have gone from plausible boyhood friends to an overtly self-aware pair of co-dependent jokers. When The Simpsons still cared about its audience and characters, Bart was the dominant half of a realistic friendship and Milhouse was the forgiving and easily awed sidekick. That’s a pretty good basis for fiction, and it worked for a long time. But even an archetype that durable can only hold out for so many hundred episodes before it becomes a stereotypical hack job. At this point, their roles have gone beyond “well established” to “crap, how do we make this not a complete repeat?”, and that’s the real problem of their half told story in “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches”.
Bart and Milhouse have fought before, many, many times. Sometimes it was a minor part of the episode, like “Bart After Dark” or “A Milhouse Divided”; sometimes it was a major part of the episode, like “Homer Defined” or “Bart Sells His Soul”. But for comparison to “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches”, nothing is closer than “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”.
In both episodes, Milhouse gets pissed at Bart for taking him for granted. And in both episodes, Milhouse eventually forgives Bart. The difference is in how those things happen, both the falling out and the rapprochement. In The Simpsons, Milhouse gets mad because of a serious betrayal; in Zombie Simpsons, Milhouse snaps with no warning for no real reason. On the other end, Milhouse in The Simpsons sees his beef with Bart resolved; Milhouse in Zombie Simpsons goes with the flow because he knows just as well as the audience that things have to get back to normal.
Sadly, this is what passes for normal these days.
In “Moe Goes from Rags to Riches”, the opening scene is a town meeting at Moe’s that becomes a dance party. (Of course it does.) In the course of said meeting, we see the two of them dancing together to Lionel Richie, and the following exchange happens:
Bart: That’s even sadder than being friends with Milhouse.
Milhouse: You know something, Bart, I’m getting tired of things like that.
Bart: Tired of what? I dump on you and you take it, that’s how friendship works.
Milhouse: Not anymore. Friendship over.
This comes from precisely nowhere. And while you might be tempted to forgive Zombie Simpsons this narrative shortcut because we already know Milhouse resents Bart in general, don’t forget that Bart has said plenty of worse things to Milhouse over the years with no reaction whatsoever. Based on what we know of the two of them, this sudden eruption of pique is entirely out of character. Zombie Simpsons doesn’t give us even a single line where we see Milhouse steaming up before he’s at full spurned-friend boil.
I’m asking for white hot rage and you’re giving me a hissy fit!
By contrast, in “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”, Milhouse snapping comes with an entire episode’s worth of buildup and occurs even quicker. Instead of a tired, verbose and unexpected exchange, The Simpsons has Milhouse lose it with a single, exposition free word:
Bart: Listen, Milhouse, I got a confession to make. I’m the one who narced on your kissing.
Not only is this shorter and funnier, but it fulfills the prime commandment of screenwriting, “show, don’t tell”. In Zombie Simpsons, Milhouse tells us why he’s mad, even though Zombie Simpsons is taking for granted that we already know the reason. Here, no explanation is needed because we’ve seen the two characters build up to this over the course of the entire episode. Milhouse’s anger, and his subsequent death grapple with Bart, shows us how pissed off he really is.
Hallelujah, they’ve done it again!
Things get even more embarrassing for Zombie Simpsons as the two move from their confrontation to their inevitable reconciliation. In “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love”, the reconciliation happens quickly; The Simpsons had no illusions about pretending that Bart and Milhouse would end up something other than friends. The tension during their fight – the deliberately overwrought horn music, Bart contemplating smashing his best friend with scissors, a broken bottle, and a brick – is all comedy. The scissors? Sure. But there’s no reason for there to be shattered glass and masonry in Milhouse’s room other than as a gag. The show doesn’t even pretend to imply that Bart’s actually going to use them, so when he finally settles on the Magic 8-Ball as his weapon, it fits. It’s physically plausible and plot relevant (the 8-Ball having predicted their falling out back in Act 1).
Zombie Simpsons lacks anything even remotely resembling that kind of subtlety and relevance. Since they dove into their dead end conflict in the very first scene, they have no story to tell. All they’re left with is a few disconnected set pieces: Bart at Milhouse’s window, Bart breaking in to Milhouse’s room, Bart outside Milhouse’s front door. There’s nothing to these scenes except for Bart and Milhouse exchanging hackneyed, knowing banter like the predicable sitcom characters they’ve become.
Instead of giving us a fun reason for the two of them to be angry at one another and then resolving the unavoidable quickly, Zombie Simpsons creates a problem for Bart and Milhouse out of nothing and then expects the audience to care as they wrap it up with one glacial dead end after another. The Simpsons knew not to pretend that things weren’t going back to normal. Zombie Simpsons doesn’t (or doesn’t care), so they stretch out the worst part and are left with nothing to show for it but nonsense like Milhouse swallowing rocks, Bart falling to pieces overnight and reading a sappy poem Lisa wrote, and Drederick Tatum appearing from nowhere. They said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet.
“Bart, I don’t want you to see me cry.” – Milhouse van Houten
“Oh come on, I’ve seen you cry a million times. You cry when you scrape your knee, you cry when they’re out of chocolate milk, you cry when you’re doing long division and you have a remainder left over.” – Bart Simpson
A few episodes ago, Zombie Simpsons had Krusty point out that because of the lead time of their animation they come off looking like cheap, late-to-the-party hacks when they try to do topical shows. That fundamental problem was all over last night’s year late Glenn Beck-Tea Party episode. The subject matter was stale and the satire was stuff that has been done better elsewhere, but the place you can see it most is in the little tricks they use to make this expired milk seem fresh. They ran current jokes in a news ticker, they had static images of the Republican presidential field on a table, with Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain’s photos crossed out with easy-to-add-late graphics. They know that these episodes don’t work well, but they went ahead and did it anyway because if you can take some potshots at Glenn Beck a year after he was dumped off television and add in some political jokes no one will care about two months from now, then you have to do it.
Of course, problems with stale topicality were accompanied by other typical Zombie Simpsons problems. There was a main story that did not manage to make sense for more than two minutes. Characters appeared and disappeared at will, most egregiously when Nugent showed up at the breakfast table immediately after Lisa was talking as though he wasn’t there. And there was plenty of really pointless slapstick, including Homer getting hurt, kids lining up to be randomly fired into an archery target, and Homer dumping paint on his own head.
Watching this, I really can’t help but think the staff would rather be writing for Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show. Sketch comedy is clearly what they like doing, politics provides and endless supply of cheap jokes, and things like Homer’s airplane freakout at the beginning are right in that four or five minute sketch show sweet spot. After that one we got Homer on someone else’s talk show, Homer on his own talk show, and Homer thinks he travels to the past, among others. Of course, all that was supposed to be happening against a background story of a national political movement, but they didn’t pay much attention to that so I don’t see why the audience should have to.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they are really, truly awful. FOX didn’t have a late football game, but CBS had Pittsburgh-Denver going to overtime at 8:00pm, which meant that a mere 5.11 million people remembered Ted Nugent after the Steelers came back to tie it late. That’s easily the lowest so far this season and is tied with Season 21’s “Million Dollar Maybe” for the second lowest number of all time. This was the shows 496th episode, and 493 of them were seen by more people. Giants-Packers will be the late game next Sunday, so Zombie Simpsons is likely to get a one week bounce from that, but Season 23 is now all but assured of being the least watched season ever. The only question now is how far it sinks.
“We just moved here from Phoenix. My dad owns a home security company; he came to Springfield because of its high crime rate and lackluster police force. All my friends are back in Phoenix, and this town has a weird smell that you’re all probably used to, but I’m not.” – Samantha Stanky
“It’ll take you about six weeks, dear.” – Mrs. Krabappel
I was never a big fan of Seinfeld. Like Cheers before and Friends after, it was a popular but ultimately dull sitcom. It was no more a revolutionary show than Law & Order is/was. Both may be the best expressions of their respective shitty genres, but that doesn’t change the fact that the kind of television they represent is inherently shitty.
These days whenever someone says “yada yada yada” the first thing that springs to most people’s minds is Seinfeld. The reason for that is that Seinfeld – at the height of its popularity – based an entire episode (titled “The Yada Yada”) around an otherwise pedestrian turn of phrase. For the record I’d like to point out that five years before that Seinfeld episode Bart deployed their trademark phrase in defense of one of his vile yet innocent deeds:
Bart: Well Milhouse, tis better to have loved and lost, yada yada yada. Let’s got to the arcade.
A formulation around which Seinfeld based an entire episode was used by The Simpsons as a fitting but unimportant piece of dialogue. ‘Nuff said.
This episode has long been notorious amongst connoisseurs of the decline and fall of The Simpsons for the scene where Homer is raped by a panda. Why is Homer in a position to get raped by a panda? Because Mr. Burns is paying him to humiliate himself. Why is Mr. Burns doing that? Because this show is completely out of ideas. Because this episode is based off of a novel where a psychotic rich man pays people to humiliate themselves. But the panda rape? That’s pure Zombie Simpsons: it’s not that funny to begin with, it takes forever to actually happen, it’s played strictly for shock/horror and it has almost nothing to do with the actual “story”.
Surprisingly enough, years of fans bitching about this one may have had a small effect as even the commentators seem at least slightly embarrassed in parts.
Only seven people on this one, including Groening and a token female.
1:00 – The source material for this half-aborted mistake is a novel called “The Magic Christian” about a crazy billionaire who believes that everyone has their price. Fine. “It’s really about trying to plumb the depths of Homer’s dignity . . . and given that by the middle of the episode we have Homer on the floor of a bathroom in a diaper I think we plumbed pretty hard.” Ugh.
2:45 – Still discussing “Magic Christian” and other stuff far removed from what’s actually going on in the pained setup here.
5:00 – One of them watched this one the night before the commentary and can’t remember if there’s a B story or not (there is). Maybe he has to drink as much as I do to get through these?
5:30 – Long, long silence.
7:00 – Story about the table read and how when they got to the third act people were “just horrified” and it “shut down all laughter”. Hmmmm. “But we made some fixes”. Yeah, that sounds like the kind of thing that could use just a little tweak.
8:30 – The original ending was Homer as Santa Claus splattering pig’s blood on people instead of Burns as Santa Claus throwing fish guts. Big change there.
10:30 – Talking about how, like the episode about “The Prisoner”, most people hated it, then laughter. It’s one thing to throw a joke over the heads of most of your audience from time to time, it’s quite another to base whole episodes off things that most of your audience won’t get. This show used to know the difference; now they’re laughing at the fact that nobody likes what they’re doing.
12:20 – “There was a time when Hibbert was actually a pretty good doctor.” Where have I heard that before? “Not much difference between him and Nick Riviera right now.” Gee, maybe that’s a bad thing? Nah. Hibbert to the EXTREME!
13:20 – Discussing the panda rape and how there was no way it should’ve gotten through the editing process, everybody laughs. Also, much giggling at the prolonged cattle prodding.
14:15 – They’re laughing at how bad it is, not how funny it is. They almost sound uncomfortable, that’s a first.
16:15 – Long silence after discussing other things that bombed at the table read.
18:15 – Mostly silence with not much discussion, once again I think they’re about as bored with this as I am.
20:15 – Still awfully quiet. They did briefly discuss how hard it is on the animators when they have to do a crowd, but that’s it.
21:00 – Still fixating on it not being pig’s blood and how that’s such an improvement.
21:50 – Talking about how the ending was essentially unsalvageable. We know, oh, we know.
“We worked so hard and now it’s all gone. We ended up with nothing because the three of us can’t share.” – Bart Simpson “What’s your point?” – Milhouse van Houten “Nothing, just kinda ticks me off.” – Bart Simpson
That is how you end an episode between Bart and Milhouse. Or, if you need them to reconcile, you can have Bart smash open a Magic 8 Ball on Milhouse’s skull, but it’s a sweet moment because he didn’t use the brick, broken bottle or pair of scissors.
Flowers and apologies? Fuck off, Zombie Simpsons.
“We start with pure milk chocolate…” – TV announcer
“Chocolate…” – Homer Simpson
“Add a layer of farm-fresh honey…” – TV announcer
“Oh, sweet…”- Homer Simpson
“Then we sprinkle on four kinds of sugar…” – TV announcer
(drooling noises) – Homer Simpson
“And dip it in rich, creamery butter.” – TV announcer