“A Simpson on a t-shirt, I never thought I’d see the day.” – Marge Simpson
Happy birthday James L. Brooks!
“Oh, Marge, sitting next to the boss, the best night of the year and it’s ruined!” – Homer Simpson
Last year Simpsons Day fell on a Saturday and I got to spend the whole thing sitting on my ass and watching cartoons. Sadly, today is a work day, but there’s still plenty of great, old Simpsons stuff to enjoy on-line. For starters, check out this 1990 interview with Groening, Brooks and Simon:
Near the end, the interviewer asks about all the merchandise (remember, this was the absolute height of Bartmania), and Groening plugs some of the upcoming licensed crap:
We’ve got some great stuff on its way out, just stay tuned for the Nintendo game, and the Simpsons pinball machine, the official Bart Simpson vehicle of destruction, that’s a skateboard, and lots more.
The great big flashing neon irony of the video comes when Groening is asked about the origin of the show and, referring to the original bumper shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, says:
I think it’s a very insidious way of keeping people paying attention to a TV show is to make little short cartoons about the length of a commercial so people had to pay attention. If you blinked you’d miss them when they were on the Tracey Ullman show.
The interviewer then asks, “Did you draw them immediately the way they are now?”, to which Groening responds:
Well, if you watch them on Lifetime, cable, you’ll see that the Simpsons have transformed quite a bit since the early days.
Ha! Now 1990 is the early days, far more so than 1987 was at the time.
Speaking of 1990, to give you an example of just how immensely popular and phenomenal the Simpsons were at the time, here is a “video yearbook” from some high school’s 1989-90 school year:
Season 1 had just finished airing when this was made, and Bart not only gets the last word (it’s right at the end), but he also gets about as much time as the Berlin Wall coming down. In a similar high school vein, take a look at this marching band performance of the opening theme in 1990:
The cameraman isn’t doing anyone any favors here, but note the big cheer that goes up from the crowd at the 15 second mark when they recognize the theme. It’s much bigger than the cheer that the band got before they started playing Elfman’s catchy masterpiece.
Finally, this is a video from 1990 produced by British Sky Broadcasting for “dealers”, which I presume means the middlemen who have to decide whether or not to carry the channel. Basically, it’s an in-house promo for how great their programming is and why it’s worth carrying. At the 7:30 mark they talk about Sky One and how it reaches tons of younger viewers, and they specifically cite The Simpsons as a big reason why.
When the promo starts, it not only calls the show “the smash hit of the 90s”, but it contains this rather amazing slice of 1990, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney holding a Bart Simpson doll while Colin Powell stands behind him:
I’ll hopefully have more a little later. In the meantime, happy Simpsons Day, everybody!
“I can’t think of a better place to spend a balmy summer’s night than the old ball yard. There’s just the green grass of the outfield, the crushed brick of the infield, and the white chalk lines that divide the man from the little boy.” – Lisa Simpson
“Lisa, honey, you’re forgetting the beer. It comes in seventy-two ounce tubs here.” – Homer Simpson
Good morning and welcome to the sixth Simpsons-Beer Marathon. Today we’re doing Season 2. As with previous efforts, I will make use of the pause and reverse buttons to get a quote right or take a screen grab, but the fast-forward button will go totally unused.
Since I’ll be in no condition to do it later in the day, Chapters 11 & 12 of the book are on-line right now. That gets us through the bulk of the text. Most of the appendices are short, and I’ll put them up sometime next week. Serious thanks once again to everyone who has read the book, found one of my mistakes, linked it somewhere, or actually bought it. And now, it’s been Simpsons-Beer Marathon day for hours and I’m still not drunk yet, so let’s get going.
1. Bart Gets an F
2. Simpson and Delilah
3. Treehouse of Horror
4. Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish
5. Dancin’ Homer
6. Dead Putting Society
7. Bart vs. Thanksgiving
8. Bart the Daredevil
9. Itchy & Scratchy & Marge
10. Bart Gets Hit by a Car
11. One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish
12. The Way We Was
13. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
14. Principal Charming
15. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
16. Bart’s Dog Gets an F
17. Old Money
18. Brush with Greatness
19. Lisa’s Substitute
20. The War of the Simpsons
21. Three Men and a Comic Book
22. Blood Feud
“I’m sorry, young man, you’re just not ready. Pick up your check at the front office and for god’s sake put some clothes on!” – Dave Rosenfield
The internet pickings were slim this week. I don’t know if it was a hangover from the Fourth or just general summer doldrums, but we do have some summer links, including an RC car, a Spanish clip from “Summer of 4Ft 2”, and a nice baseball story. There are also a couple of lists, an upcoming screening of Harry Shearer’s New Orleans movie, some excellent usage, and even the thinnest of tie-ins to the Murdoch-phone hacking scandal.
Rosenfield evolving with the Tides – See that picture of the manager firing jockstrap Homer? He was named by Ken Levine, who worked as a broadcaster before he wrote “Dancin’ Homer”. The real Rosenfield was recently honored by the Norfolk Tides for fifty years of service to the minor league team.
How To: Frankenstein-Mod your Bart Simpson Chia Pet – Instructions with lots of pictures (including the finished product) for turning an officially license Bart Simpson Chia Pet into a Frankenstein’s Monster. Sweet.
Homer Simpson Custom Car/Airplane – A custom build remote controlled car with Homer on top of it.
Harry Shearer Talks About Tearing Down the Army Corps of Engineers in The Big Uneasy – If you’re in the Bay Area you can see Shearer on Sunday night at the Roxie Theater. There’s a 7pm and a 9pm show, and he’ll be there after the 7 and before the 9.
Bart Simpson – Drama – Great fan made drawing of Bart crooning at full Goulet/Bennett levels.
The perils of cleverness – Just because you can do something slightly clever, doesn’t me you should:
And in comedy, it results in a mode of humor in which pop cultural references and winks to the audience have replaced real comedic situations. For this last manifestation, which is probably the saddest of all, I can do no better than quote George Meyer, the legendary writer and producer for the best years of The Simpsons: “Clever,” Meyer notes, “is the eunuch version of funny.”
Simpsons Video of the Week – Our friend Lenny found a Spanish version of the very end of “Summer of 4 Ft 2”. Awesome.
Jessie J tweets she’s on ‘bed rest’ after emergency foot surgery – English singer Jesse J broke her foot and then tweeted this:
I feel like Bart Simpson in the episode when he had broken his leg and couldnt play out… #staresoutthewindow
Some quick math says she was six years old when that episode was broadcast. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the kids are alright.
Michael Jackson Never Sang On The Simpsons – Following up from last week, we can add RTT News (Global Financial Newswires) to the list of people too lazy to Google the Michael Jackson singing thing before writing it up. Rather breathlessly writing it up in this case:
The voice has long been credited to John Jay Smith, but Simpsons scholars and pop-culture aficionados have since attested that it was a pseudonym for the King of Pop. Yeardley Smith, the voice of Lisa Simpson, is now clearing up the confusion once and for all.
Speaking to TMZ.com, Smith says: "[Michael] was not allowed to sing on the show, so he literally hand-picked a guy to sing like him."
Twenty years later, Kipp Lennon is being outted as the man who lent his voice for the famous episode.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I prefer my financial and economic news from people who don’t grab headlines unchecked from TMZ.
July 4th History and Best Locations for Fireworks on Independence Day – This is the opening to a Fourth of July guide for San Diego:
"Celebrate your country’s independence by blowing up a small part of it." – Apu (The Simpsons)
DUVALL: GOP is failing the history test – And so is this:
We will all celebrate our nation’s birthday in different ways. As Apu, the Kwik-E-Mart owner on “The Simpsons” said when selling Homer a cache of illegal fireworks, “celebrate the birth of your country by blowing up a small part of it.”
Both of them attribute it to Apu, who didn’t say it, and get the quote wrong.
Weekend Diversion: The Physics of Fireworks! – Where the local news sites fail, the physicist blogger gets it right:
"Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it." -The Simpsons
Bingo. (Incidentally, that post is awesome.)
Loud Laughs From Loud Laughers – Here’s a quick YouTube of what James L. Brooks sounds like when he laughs.
10 Great Things You Might Know Troy McClure From – For something that obviously has no Zombie Simpsons in it, this list is strangely underwhelming. It’s just rehashes of some of McClure’s appearances on the show (e.g. “Troy’s cheeful narration and a surprisingly jolly musical soundtrack provide an odd counterpoint to video footage of terrible car accidents.”) along with a few quotes.
Turn Over A New Leaf – There’s a new place in Saskatoon that is trying to win friends with salad:
Homer Simpson once famously sang “You don’t make friends with salad,” but Saskatoon’s latest eatery, Greenleaf Fresh Fruit and Salad, has the power to make a ton of new pals — if they can generate the word of mouth I think they thoroughly deserve.
It’s actually “win” not “make”, but that’s too perfectly relevant not to be excellent usage.
Lisa simpson without feet Minecraft Skin – Exactly what it says.
New Book Tells "Heaven Is For Real" Readers To Go To Hell – Simpsons alum Gary Apple has written a parody book about a six year old who goes to Hell.
Rewatching Childhood Favorites – Notable on this list of old cartoons to go back and watch again:
The first 10 seasons of The Simpsons
The Eleven Best Fake Names from The Simpsons – I’ve always been partial to Homer calling up the babysitting service as “Mr. Sampson” wherein he learns what a bunch of savages he and his family are. Still, this is a pretty good list.
Zings Of The Day July 7, 2011 – Speaking about the Murdoch phone hacking:
News of the World, which is being shut down, supposedly hacked into the mobile-phone voice mails of people ranging from celebrities and politicians to murder victims. I wish they would’ve hacked into "The Simpsons" and made it end years ago. Another News Corp. property well past its prime.
I fail to see how the mechanics of that would work, but it’s a nice sentiment.
“Ah, the Gammills, good to see you.” – C.M. Burns
“You’re an inspiration to all of us in waste management, sir.” – Mr. Gammill
“Well, take your mind off contaminants for one night and have a hot dog.” – C.M. Burns
“Homer! Homer! X-Y-Z.” – Marge Simpson
“Examine my zipper, why? Whoops.” – Homer Simpson
Zombie Simpsons is nothing if not a heartless and brainless imitation of The Simpsons. Unfortunately for those charged with doing the imitating, the real thing left very few topics uncovered during its run. Consequently, Zombie Simpsons is forced to dig up old ideas, slap a more modern theme on them, and pretend that they’ve done something new. This happens in ways small and large.
For a small one, look at the awkward way “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing” dredged up Bart’s crank calls to Moe. Times have changed and crank calling doesn’t really exist anymore, but that didn’t stop Zombie Simpsons from haphazardly trying to cram its bloated, rotting foot into the glass slipper. Not only would Moe be able to instantly identify Bart as the sender (as anyone who’s ever used a cell phone knows), but why does he read it aloud? When it was a phone call looking for someone at the bar, he called out the name like a person in his position ordinarily would. Now that it’s a text message, there’s no reason for him to say it out loud, even if it had been a mildly plausible fake name.
The scene was just Moe saying “I. M. A. Wiener” as though he was reading from a cue card. “Mike Rotch”, “Jacques Strap”, “Seymour Butz”, the whole gag is that these are names that are actually jokes. What’s “I. M. A. Wiener”? Not a single part of this works. It’s like that kid from grade school who told a joke and got a laugh, and then kept telling the same joke long after everyone else had moved on.
For a larger example, we turn to family sports outings. In both “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing” and “Dancin’ Homer”, the family Simpson takes a trip to a ball game courtesy of Charles Montgomery Burns. The differences start to pile up before the family even arrives at the stadium. In “Dancin’ Homer”, we hear that the family is there because it was “Nuclear Plant Employees, Spouses, and No More Than Three Children Night”. This setup takes just a couple of seconds, is perfectly consistent with Homer’s role in life as a faceless blue-collar slug, and even sneaks in a joke about how cheap Mr. Burns is, all in a single line of dialogue. (And it’s immediately followed by Otto’s fantastic two birds with one stone line.)
Zombie Simpsons is incapable of such a quick and well crafted opening. Instead it serves up more than two minutes of Burns and Smithers in an old time hot air balloon, all the plant employees just hanging out in the parking lot (with rifles), a cathedral that materializes out of nowhere and then vanishes just as suddenly, and Burns personally rewarding Homer. It’s everything The Simpsons never was: overwrought, drawn out, illogical, you name it.
Things get worse when Zombie Simpsons finally gets to the stadium. In a repeat of their meandering trip to the desert a few weeks ago, they proceed immediately to a series of disconnected set pieces that aren’t related to one another or to the episode as a whole. There are four skits here, the “Museum of Tolerance”, the masseuse store, the mascot zoo, and the guys who don’t like sports. Just like last time, they could’ve been placed in any order whatsoever without a single change to the dialogue.
“Dancin’ Homer” suffers from none of that aimlessness. Each scene, each line of dialogue, is precisely positioned to lead into and build up the next one. First there’s Homer and Bart’s discussion of the nature of minor league baseball (“Aren’t we gonna see any washed up major leaguers?”), Lisa’s ode to the Americana of the “old ball yard”, and Homer reminding her that it includes beer in “seventy-two ounce tubs” and heckling the umpires.
In a few joke addled lines we see everything we need to see to setup the remaining time at the ball park: Homer’s happiness at being able to get drunk at the game, Bart’s love of faded athletes, and Homer’s nervousness around Burns (the one thing that can spoil his fun). All that while they’re making fun of everything in sight. From Flash Baylor hitting on Marge to the overlong national anthem to advertising for “$pringfield $avings” (Safe From 1890-1986, 1988-) and “Royal Majesty” (Clothing For the Obese or Gangly Gentleman), there’s nary a moment wasted. And all without shoehorning in any unrelated or ill fitting set pieces. When Burns sits down next to the Simpsons, we can feel Homer’s disappointment because up to that point he’d been having such a good time.
Right before that happens we get a scene that, more than any other here, really illustrates the yawning chasm between the satirical joy of The Simpsons, and the crude freak show of Zombie Simpsons. Homer finds himself up on the jumbotron, unaware that his fly is open until after he’s waved to the crowd and identified himself. Since he’s in the previously established good mood, he takes the gentle ribbing in stride and everyone keeps having fun. It’s short, simple, and good natured, the kind of thing that might happen to a real person at a real stadium.
Lisa’s embarrassed. Bart thinks it’s funny. Homer laughs it off. Everyone’s in character.
By contrast, when Bart gets put up on the video board in “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing” the jumbotron lingers on him long past the point of anything being funny. It’s not a grown man with his fly down, which he can quickly correct and is basically harmless. It’s leering at little kid who wet his pants, which he’s stuck with. Worse, the tickling alone takes thirty seconds; the scoreboard operator seems to know, almost by magic, that Bart and Homer are important and he should leave them up there forever. It becomes ugly and uncomfortable long before Bart pisses himself, and then it manages to become even dumber.
Lucky they had that graphic ready.
Once again Zombie Simpsons shows its complete inability to tell a story or make a point without battering its audience in the face. The entire scene takes more than a minute, and to make it abundantly clear that these are not characters with whom the audience can identify but rather one dimensional caricatures, Marge does nothing. She doesn’t castigate her husband. She doesn’t act to help her child in any way. Unlike in “Dancin’ Homer” she just sits there like a comedy prop and sets up Homer for his next little bit about doing the wave. None of them are the least bit human anymore, which makes the show’s clumsily heavy handed stabs at emotion, in this case Bart’s embarrassment, completely meaningless. Hell, Family Guy handled a similar situation with far more realism and humor.
The stadium scenes are reflections of their respective programs. On The Simpsons, a recognizable family goes to a recognizable event, and the show has fun at their expense and that of the world around them, all while telling a single story. (One in which, I might add, Homer’s a lucky amateur and not an instant professional.) On Zombie Simpsons, some hardened, bitter television characters act through some set pieces, all the while talking like narrators and comedy writers.
“Well, I guess it’s back to good old Springfield.” – Bart Simpson
“But I can’t go back, not after I’ve seen the bright lights of Capital City. I’ll wither and die like a hothouse flower!” – Lisa Simpson
In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22. Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom. Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk. This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (disturbingly enough, not on “Pedobear”).
One of the things I’ve noticed about Season 22 so far is that Springfield resembles Hollywood more and more with each passing episode. Just this season we’ve seen this humble Midwestern town acquire a massive private school, a big budget production of Wicked, and a seemingly endless supply of hopelessly trendy restaurants and upscale nightclubs. It’s almost like Springfield is exclusively inhabited by a bunch of highly paid writers who think civilization ceases to exist south of Wilshire.
[Note: Dave couldn’t join us again this week. He swears he’s going to have time for us soon, but we know better. It’s okay, we love him anyway.]
Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get this unpleasantness over with?
Mad Jon: Yes. Let’s begin
Charlie Sweatpants: Where to begin? There’s so much suck here.
Mad Jon: Was that Pie Man flying next to Bartman in the opening?
Charlie Sweatpants: I think so. I’ve never forced myself to watch that one.
Mad Jon: That was the eye opener for me.
Charlie Sweatpants: While I applaud their efforts to stock the opening with lots of changes each week, all they ever seem to do is reference older crap.
Mad Jon: That must have been season 13 or 14, I don’t know, but I remember I watched like half of it and it was like coming out of a coma.
I knew the Simpsons was no longer what it was, but I was most assuredly in a "It’ll get better right?" mode.
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that never happened.
Mad Jon: I know that now, but back in the early 2000′s when I was no longer watching first runs regularly, I figured it was like boiling water.
Charlie Sweatpants: You just ignore it long enough and it’ll get there?
Mad Jon: Something like that.
Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of things that needed to be ignored for a long time in this one. I doubt it set any kind of record, but man there were a ton of jokes that took way too long.
Mad Jon: Yeah, that seems to keep happening
Charlie Sweatpants: The Cat Lady opening comes to mind, Homer repeatedly walking back into Moe’s, Homer tying his foot to the bed, the little cupids at the end, the kids freaking out about their hairlines, all of them and more just kept going.
Mad Jon: Remember that email I sent you last week? The one that said I could hear Moe crying already? 2:35.
That’s how long it took.
Charlie Sweatpants: You were right in your e-mail.
Mad Jon: Also the Pedobear.
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the whole Bart freakout thing, what was that?
It wasn’t even a plot, it was like two scenes!
Mad Jon: When Bart was looking for the nanny cam in Pedobear? I don’t know why the therapy with J Loren Pryor’s new voice was there.
Although it did provide a second opportunity for us to see Supernintendo Chalmers.
Charlie Sweatpants: He lives at the school, I swear it.
Mad Jon: Well, he went to that pick up seminar as well. I have a note that says simply "Chalmers not in school!!’
Although Skinner and his conversation did involve the faculty in a way.
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they have a real hard time having one without the other.
Mad Jon: I smell a spinoff!!!
Charlie Sweatpants: Anything but that.
Mad Jon: Seconded.
Charlie Sweatpants: That seminar scene was where the show went to plaid. It was bad before, but then seeing Homer and Moe succeed, and Marge go completely insane, guh, it was tough to take.
Mad Jon: I checked out when Bart and Lisa freaked out about the lack of hairlines.
Which was another of your too long jokes, one that probably needs some discussion.
Charlie Sweatpants: Good move. It took them nearly a minute to turn Marge into the wicked witch.
Mad Jon: I thought they were going hillbilly the way they blacked out her tooth, but then, what do you know!
Charlie Sweatpants: But it didn’t stop there, they even got her a broom, and set it on fire! Hilarious!
Mad Jon: And the flying monkey.
There was a flying monkey. Mr. Teeny XIXIV I think…
Charlie Sweatpants: Well Burns used to have flying monkeys, of course that whole joke took about four seconds.
But that was a very long time ago.
Mad Jon: I guess they actually did continue the research…
Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the subject of the painful nightclub scene . . . did Moe even say anything?
Mad Jon: Not the second time… I think he just smiled and nodded.
The first time he had a pickup line that didn’t contain the line "I want to do you."
Which is a line that Moe would use. The real Moe at least.
Charlie Sweatpants: Real Moe’s been dead for a very long time.
Mad Jon: I know. I know.
Charlie Sweatpants: Did you want to discuss the hairline thing? I kinda rolled you on that.
Mad Jon: I think we have to at least address it a bit, I don’t have anything mind blowing to say about it.
Charlie Sweatpants: There’s nothing mind blowing about it.
Mad Jon: But c’mon, the hair has never been mentioned, and all of the sudden it’s a 25 second throwaway joke.
Baby and the bath water I guess.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well, they’ve made jokes about the hair before, and I wasn’t immediately sour on it. But I’ve learned that whenever I find myself thinking "that’s kinda funny" to wait and see how long they go at it. This one was excruciating. Any time you end up with Lisa looking like Baby Gerald that’s not good.
Mad Jon: Pretty bad. Pretty bad.
Charlie Sweatpants: This is minor, but it really bugged me. Twice we get the exterior shot of the grocery store, right? But did you notice what wasn’t there?
Mad Jon: Cars?
Charlie Sweatpants: The shopping cart rolling into the street!
Mad Jon: Ahhhh.
Yeah, I was looking up side boob pics at the same time the show was on. Sorry.
Charlie Sweatpants: I always liked that as a running joke, and for a show that loves naked nostalgia and fan service as much as Zombie Simpsons, I thought I could at least count on that.
Okay, anything else here? The only thing we haven’t really talked too much about was that vile self help guy, but I’ve said my piece about that.
Mad Jon: Nah, we would do Brad Goodman disservice by the mere discussion of what’s his name.
Charlie Sweatpants: In that case, I’ll be a human going.
Mad Jon: Do what you feel.
We like Roy.
“Last year you got a little rambunctious and mooned the poor umpire.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge, this ticket doesn’t just give me a seat. It also gives me the right – no, the duty – to make a complete ass of myself.” – Homer Simpson
Happy 20th anniversary to “Dancin’ Homer”! Original airdate 8 November 1990.
“You’d think the players’ wives would be a little closer to the action.” – Marge Simpson
“Actually this section is for the players’ ex-wives.” – Ex-Wife #1
“And then I found out that all the while there was this bimbo in Kansas City.” – Ex-Wife #2
“Throw at his head!” – Ex-Wife #1