“But, Marge, you deserve a vacation. It’s a chance for you to clean up after us in a whole other state.” – Homer Simpson
Posts Tagged ‘Fear of Flying
“Eww, you like the Monkees? You know they don’t write their own songs.” – Girl on Bus
“They do so!” – Marge Bouvier
“They don’t even play their own instruments.” – Girl on Bus
“No! No!” – Marge Bouvier
“That’s not even Michael Nesmith‘s real hat.” – Girl on Bus
“Ahhhhhhh!” – Marge Bouvier
“Kids can be so cruel.” – Dr. Zweig
“But it’s true, they didn’t write their own songs or play their own instruments.” – Marge Simpson
“The Monkees weren’t about music, Marge, they were about rebellion! About political and social upheaval!” – Dr. Zweig
When The Simpsons would have one of its characters go someplace new or do something they’d never done before, whenever it introduced a new element to the show, it usually made that thing a harsh (if sometimes sympathetic) satire. So, for example, New York City is filled with jerks and dickish parking officers, but it’s also got nice people who’ll yell back at the jerks in Tower One and glamorous (if inane) Broadway shows. The sushi restaurant is friendly and delicious, but there’s still drunken karaoke and a map to the hospital on the back of the menu. The dentist is a sadistic lunatic, but he’s also not wrong about calling you a liar when you tell him how often you brush.
Zombie Simpsons, of course, has a hard time sending the family anywhere novel or having them do something new because everything they come up with is a repeat of some kind. Beyond that, though, when they do put the family in an unusual situation, they tend to put things in the most positively exaggerated light possible. Cruise ships are idyllic paradises that are the most fun you’ll ever have. Going to E3 or some other big show is awesome because you’ll get to run around with VIP passes and see all this cool stuff. Trips to fancy restaurants are never too expensive or disappointing, and the staff will always treat you like gold. It’s a completely different mentality, one that’s insulated from unhappiness and incurious about pretty much everything. And, it goes almost without saying, seeing happy people have fun isn’t generally as funny as the opposite.
For a clean example of how weak this soft focus mentality is, look no farther than the therapist’s office in “Specs and the City” and the huge differences with Dr. Zweig’s office in “Fear of Flying”. Zweig is certainly a competent therapist, but she also straight up lies to Homer about not blaming him and interrupts Marge’s big realization because a measly $30 check bounced. The doctor in Zombie Simpsons barely gets any lines because he’s more prop than person. (He ends the episode cutting Homer’s hair in his office because comedy.) But beyond his almost nonexistent characterization are the ways that Marge going to therapy is handled.
On The Simpsons, therapy is a almost prohibitively expensive and really can lead to families breaking up. (Not that ditching Homer would entirely be a bad thing for Marge.) But it also bears enough of a resemblance to real therapy that it provides plenty of opportunities for jokes, parodies and satire. So we see Marge’s flashbacks to her traumatic first day of school and seeing her father as a stewardess, get her Lost in Space dream, and have Zweig cracking jokes about copyright, and sarcastically mocking the “rich tapestry” of Marge’s problem after Marge ignores her about the unpaid bill.
Zweig may charge on a sliding scale, but she still charges.
By contrast, Zombie Simpsons has Marge complain about Homer in some rather serious terms but lacks the skill or coherence to turn them around and make them funny at all. Instead they just give the therapist a bunch of bland therapy lines:
So, Marge, how’ve you been?
And has there been any improvement in Homer’s drinking?
Maybe if you just concentrate on one problem, like his temper.
The jokes, if that is what they are, consist solely of Homer acting outraged at Marge’s legitimate sounding complaints. This is startlingly emotionally tone deaf, even for them. The sympathy and audience here are with Marge complaining about Homer, which is portrayed quite seriously. But the show sticks with Homer’s shock because, hey, that’s where what passes for the punchlines are.
More to the point, the therapy is, well, just therapy. No attempt whatsoever is made to goose it into something funny and insightful. It’s left alone and is so dry and straightforward that the doctor’s dialogue wouldn’t be out of place in an instructional video. He never even comes close to something insane and hilarious like a buttoned down shrink yelling out her love for an all but forgotten mock 60s pop band.
This man does not love the Monkees. He’s so boring he may not listen to music at all.
Compounding the dullness is the fact that, in Zombie Simpsons at least, straight ahead therapy works, really really well! After her bland (and more than a little depressing) appointments, Marge is a cake baking sex machine! Chalk up another awesome point in the life of Homer Simpson.
Compare that to the just-good-enough and probably temporary (her next flight does crash on takeoff) relief Marge gets from her much funnier and more involved therapy. Even her final, successful session doesn’t end triumphantly, it ends with Dr. Zweig saying Marge is “nuts” for thinking her father was “an American hero” and Marge immediately getting her name wrong.
The Simpsons created a joke laden, topsy-turvy satire of therapy that worked only to the barest minimum of the definition of success. Along the way they had a smart but callous therapist, some understandable (if cartoonish) spousal paranoia, and a bunch of pop culture parodies, from campy sitcoms to Alfred Hitchcock. They also managed to treat Marge and her doctor like real people, with concerns and flaws. Zombie Simpsons had textbook dull therapy work perfectly in that it kept the kickass life Homer loves completely intact without him having to do anything.
“I never thought I’d win this easy.” – Bart Simpson
“This has nothing to do with you, Simpson. I have many, many issues with my beloved smother-, mother.” – Principal Skinner
The B-plot in this episode was a forced rehash of “Homie the Clown”. The A-plot was, almost impressively, even dumber, with Skinner pulling a giant combat knife out of his mother’s back and not noticing that she wasn’t actually dead before trusting himself to Homer and Bart(!). Before we got to that, however, we had plenty of Bart acting wildly out of character, more exposition than you can throw a screenwriting book at, and, oh what the hell, a nuclear submarine.
- Even the couch gag has to electrocute Homer. It’s like a nervous twitch.
- Skinner exposited his whole announcement to the school. This isn’t starting well.
- “No, Skinner said I had a clean slate, so right now I’m as good as any kid!” – Seriously, that was the previous scene
- Lisa actually asks Bart “What are you doing?” – Fry’s holophoner opera for Leela was less hacktacular.
- Homer farting with each step into the yard isn’t as bad as that time they did a whole Halloween segment about him farting, but it’s pretty bad.
- Lisa just biked up to Krusty, who helpfully told her everything that was going on in his life. I liked this scene better when it was in “Bart the Fink”.
- “You’re like egg salad at a picnic, Simpson” – They do know they don’t have a laughtrack to hoot and ooh and the appropriate times, don’t they? Sometimes I’m not sure.
- Bart’s little action sequence about trying not to be late was almost completely pointless. The only good thing about it is that now I can stash that dumb truck into my inventory on Tapped Out.
- “Time to celebrate with a fruit on the bottom yogurt” – Skinner telling us exactly what he’s about to do, I think that makes on for every major character in this episode.
- This b-plot about world Krustys (Krustii?) is atrocious, even before you get to the whole “Homie the Clown” thing.
- Okay, Irish Krusty is funny.
- So, the fake death thing is dumb, but it just keeps getting dumber with Skinner going along with it/falling for it. Scooby Doo had more well conceived plots.
- There’s the repeat of Irish Krusty, which isn’t as funny as the first one. When they do come up with something funny, they really can’t resist overusing it.
- And now Milhouse and Maggie are involved because . . . huh?
- Almost as an afterthought, they decided to wrap up the B-plot with a chase scene. I guess that was nice of them.
Anyway, the ratings are in and they are good by current Zombie Simpsons standards and wretched by the standards of Zombie Simpsons of a few years ago. Last night’s hapless remake made just 6.82 million people with they were watching Season 6. That’s a high for this year, yet well below the average for even Season 22.
“If word gets out about this, Crazy Clown Airlines will be a laughingstock. In exchange for your silence, I’m prepared to offer your family free tickets to anywhere in the United States, excluding Alaska and Hawaii, the freak states.” – Crazy Clown Airlines Executive
“Woo-hoo! Good news, everybody, because I endangered lives, we can fly anywhere we want.” – Homer Simpson
“Alaska!” – Bart Simpson
“Hawaii!” – Lisa Simpson
“Come on, Marge, I want to shake off the dust of this one horse town! I want to explore the world! I want to watch TV in a different time zone. I want to visit strange, exotic malls. I’m sick of eating hoagies. I want a grinder, a sub, a foot long hero! I want to live, Marge! Won’t you let me live? Won’t you please?” – Homer Simpson