Posts Tagged ‘Holidays of Future Passed

15
Dec
11

Crazy Noises: Holidays of Future Passed

Lisa's Wedding10

“Hey, I remember you.  Mayor Quimby, right?” – Lisa Simpson
“I, uh, er, ah, no.  Look at this license: Mohammed Jafar.” – Mohammed Jafar

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 (especially on “inconsequential”).

There were a lot of pointless scenes in “Holidays of Future Passed” that were nothing more than Zombie Simpsons checking in on various characters to see how they were doing in the future.  One in particular, Homer throwing a rock at Burns Manor, stands as a good example of why even the ones that were funny fall flat. 

First, think about what’s going on.  Homer is watching Bart’s kids and decides, apropos of nothing, to take them “downtown”.  In this case, “downtown” means the Kwik-E-Mart and walking by Burns Manor.  That’s it.  The entire trip is the flimsiest possible excuse for the episode to work in Apu, who gets into a giant gunfight, and Burns. 

What happens when Homer and the boys walk past Burns Manor?  Homer chucks a rock through Burns’ window:

Sober Vandalism

That’s a hell of a throw.

We’re two seconds into this scene and it’s already fallen apart.  Remember, the whole premise of Homer in this episode is that he’s sober and responsible now.  That’s the reason he’s watching Bart’s kids.  So even if we set aside the fact that they just walked out of the Kwik-E-Mart and decided to stroll past the corner of Croesus and Mammon, what possible reason is there for Homer to hurl a rock through Burns’ window?  Kicks?  Anger?  He never says a word, and neither do Bart’s usually stuck up and responsible kids. 

Right after that, Burns pops up in the broken window and tells someone, it’s not clear who, to release the hounds.  That prompts Smithers, who must’ve just been waiting by the gate, to appear stage left:

Patient Smithers

Being eight feet away, he naturally didn’t say anything before Homer threw the rock.

Smithers, who hasn’t aged much in thirty years, dumps out a box of bones, Homer imitates the audience and shrugs, and the scene ends.  No part of the setup, the action, or the punchline make any sense or fit in with each other.  And while I understand that it’s just a cheap throwaway joke (dog bones, ha ha!), the episode is wall to wall with scenes like this one. 

Flanders appears unprompted at an open window to discuss his love life.  Patty and Selma do the same.  Skinner’s there for a tiny cameo as Bart’s landlord.  Krusty shows up to act painfully unfunny as Andy Rooney (which Bart was surprised by for some unfathomable reason).  These scenes are clumsy, they distract you from what’s going on, and they involve the usual Zombie Simpsons nonsense of people appearing out of nowhere and acting dumb. 

Zombie Simpsons is clearly going for that “Lisa’s Wedding” feeling, but there’s nothing here that tracks with what we know of the characters.  Quimby getting indicted and having to drive a cab?  That fits and it’s funny.  The same goes for Milhouse rising to his natural rank as a bitter middle management type, and a frozen Burns sporting seventeen stab wounds in the back.  “Holidays of Future Passed” doesn’t have that, it just serves up cheap throwaway jokes, one after another.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Dave: Sure

Charlie Sweatpants: This episode made me wonder if the Zombie Simpsons people are swapping ideas with the people behind the new Futurama episodes.

Dave: In the sense of "what might be?"

Because there was a whole lot of future-silliness going on

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much, things like joking that Google had enslaved half of humanity, or have Kearney say "do it the old fashioned" way when his magic gloves drove the taxi.

Both of those felt very Futurama-y to me.

Dave: I can see that

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of things like that, some of which worked better than others.

Dave: Yeah, I don’t know if I was in a generous mood or if my lack of sleep was clouding my judgment, but I found much of the episode not reprehensible.

It wasn’t good, let’s be clear. But it wasn’t the unrepentant shitshow these have usually been

Charlie Sweatpants: I sort of agree. This one was basically one of those episodes where they tell three unrelated stories: Lisa and her daughter, Bart and his kids, and Maggie having a baby. None of them made any sense in the least, but along the way there were some decent, as I said, Futurama-type gags.

Dave: Exactly right

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem is that way too many of them didn’t land. The Lenny-Carl thing was just awful, and that was before they kept it going so the two of them could exposit about how weird things got.

Homer breaking Burns’ window and Smithers walking over to dump a box of bones was also long and lame.

To be sure, there were some good things, but mostly they were background stuff, Church of Lard Lad is the first thing I’ve out and out laughed at all season.

Dave: Yes, I enjoyed that greatly

Agreed that some of the gags felt strained (nothing new there), but as you say they were essentially inconsequential.

Charlie Sweatpants: Flanders and Maude’s ghost, Patty & Selma’s love bots, the repetitive freezing and unfreezing of Grampa, there were a lot of them that either went on way too long or just plain didn’t work.

Dave: The freezing of Grampa definitely went on about a minute too long

We knew they were going to wrap it with a bow (sorta) so why delay the inevitable?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s about the size of it. Same with Lisa’s daughter. As soon as she goes into the computer (again, Futurama much?) you know they’re going to have some goofy reconciliation.

Dave: Oh sure. I’d be shocked if someone didn’t see that coming

Charlie Sweatpants: Did any of the little set pieces other than Lard Lad jump out at you as particularly good (or bad)?

Dave: I sort of enjoyed the airport/airplane bit

It went on too long, but seemed to accurately convey the dystopian hell in which I spend much of my life.

Charlie Sweatpants: The airplane thing wasn’t bad, though you’re right it did go on too long.

Much like an actual airplane flight, I suppose. Though that’s not the world’s most complimentary comparison.

Dave: Nope.

Charlie Sweatpants: Overall though, there are some decent bits, but there are just as many dumb ones, and to get through it all you’ve got to sit through scenes like the one where Bart and Lisa get drunk and complain at each other, as well as Bart pining for his ex-wife and Marge resenting Lisa, which goes nowhere.

It’s a very bumpy road. Much better than the gaping chasm of most of Season 23 so far, but that doesn’t say much.

Dave: That’s the long and short of it, yep.

All the same, glad it’s over with and that we don’t have to deal with another episode until January.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a future I can believe in.

13
Dec
11

Compare & Contrast: Maggie’s Silence

Lisa's Wedding9

“Will that girl ever shut up?” – Homer Simpson

The more I think about it, the more “Holidays of Future Passed” feels like a flashy, stripped down remake of a classic movie.  The effects are splashier, the budget higher, and the cast larger, but despite the occasionally entertaining scene or idea, the whole thing is a jumble.  Too often you’re just marking time until the next segment begins, hoping it’s better than what you’re currently seeing.  To illustrate that, I’d like to take a look at a running joke “Holidays of Future Passed” slavishly copied from “Lisa’s Wedding”: Maggie’s silence as an adult.

Like the enduring mysteries of which state contains Springfield and why Mr. Burns can never remember Homer, Maggie’s silence is one of the show’s longstanding quirks.  They did an entire episode around the idea with “Lisa’s First Word”.  They also liked to occasionally drop it in as a little gag, like when Bart faked her voice in “Radio Bart” or Maggie babbled like Flanders in “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily”.  But even in “Lisa’s First Word” it was never a big joke.  Instead it cropped up from time to time in quick and unobtrusive ways, a playful wink from the show to the audience.

It was fleeting and flirtatious, and that very scarcity was its charm.  “Lisa’s Wedding” demonstrates an inherent understanding of the that fragility.  They knew “Maggie talks” wasn’t important or deep enough to support whole chunks of the episode, so they slipped it into parts of the story where it could work without wilting under the spotlight.  There are just three times Maggie almost talks in “Lisa’s Wedding”:

  • 1) When Homer goes to use the phone, she’s already on the line, talking in her room.
  • 2) At the dinner table, Lisa asks if she wants to go dress shopping but Marge yells at her to not talk with her mouth full.
  • 3) As the ceremony is about to start, she’s interrupted just before singing “Amazing Grace” by Hugh announcing that the wedding is off.

Compare that to a whopping eight in “Holidays of Future Passed”:

  • 1) When getting an ultrasound (with her band just hanging out for no reason), the robot tells her that she can’t talk because baby.
  • 2) As she goes to board the teleporter, she’s silently directed to the airplane instead.
  • 3) Inside airplane, she sits impatiently.
  • 4) Going into labor in a taxi cab, she doesn’t say a word.
  • 5) In the hospital entrance, Kearney the cabbie somehow gets her checked in while she doesn’t do anything.
  • 6) In the hospital delivery room, they actually give her a pacifier (see below).
  • 7) Still in the delivery room, Marge walks in to her daughter about to give birth, no words are exchanged between the two of them. 
  • 8) Finally, back at home, Maggie presents the baby to her family but still doesn’t say a word.  Marge declares it a girl and, since this is Zombie Simpsons, no one even asks what her name is. 

Seen and Not Heard1

I always communicate my immediate medical needs non-verbally.

Not only are there a lot more of these, they’re uniformly dumber than the mere three in “Lisa’s Wedding”.  You’re not going to say something to the cab driver or the hospital staff while you’re in labor with no friends or family around?  You’re not going to tell people the name of your new kid?  In “Holidays of Future Passed”, Maggie-doesn’t-talk isn’t a clever conceit, it’s an obtuse and stubborn silence, one that was made up and forced on her in a piece of exposition that itself made no sense.  Are all pregnant women forbidden from talking in the future?  That’d be a much more interesting idea, so naturally Zombie Simpsons completely ignored it. 

Even more telling, if I asked you what Future Maggie is in this episode, would you be able to say anything beyond “rock star”?  That’s all we know about her, that she’s a musician.  It’s the absolute bare minimum of backstory and isn’t explored in any way.

Contrast that with all the things we learn about Maggie in those three (much shorter) scenes in “Lisa’s Wedding”.  Right from the first view we get of her (the image at the top of this post), we can tell a bunch of things about her.  She’s dressed in a very “tough girl” sort of way with a work shirt, pants and heavy looking boots.  She’s at least kinda bad assed because there’s a dirt biking trophy in the background, but we can tell she’s also smart because her room is littered with books.  Plus she’s got to be pretty sociable if she’s on the phone all the time.

In just this brief glimpse of her we can see that she’s got Bart’s attitude and Lisa’s brains.  So when we see her glower at her mother for telling her not to talk with her mouth full, or hear Dr. Hibbert tell us that she’s quite the hellion but also has a beautiful voice, it fits in with what we already know.  It’s only a few seconds, but you get a decent idea of what kind of teenager Maggie is, of a character that befits the baby girl who can catch beer bottles before they hit her father in the head, pull the trigger on Mr. Burns, and have a bitter rivalry with the baby with one eyebrow.

What is “rock star” compared to that?  And what kind of “rock star” remains silent through airport check in, a wild taxi ride, hospitalization, and fucking labor because a robot told her to?  The Maggie in “Holidays of Future Passed” is a grown up baby and has just as little personality.  The Maggie in “Lisa’s Wedding”, though on screen for hardly any time at all, has a thought out persona that fits in with what we already knew about her.

Which brings us back to her remaining silent.  Zombie Simpsons takes having her not say anything as a kind of burden, just another established piece of beloved fan lore that they have to dutifully write their way around.  But they can’t be bothered to come up with reasons or interruptions that are the least bit plausible even initially, much less when used over and over again.  The Simpsons didn’t do any of that.  Instead, they saw keeping Maggie silent as a comedy opportunity and took advantage of it accordingly.  That’s why Homer complaining that she talks too much and Hibbert complimenting her pipes feels like the writers are having fun and playing around while expository robots and silent labor feel like they’re clumsily routing themselves around an impediment. 

Seen and Not Heard2

We know this is what you want to see, you mangy fanboy dogs.

12
Dec
11

Didn’t Groening Already Make a Show About This Kind of Stuff?

Chalkboard - Holidays of Future Passed

“What’s normal to him, amazes us.” – Future Guy #1
“He will be our new god.” – Future Guy #2
“Yay!” – Future Crowd

I’ll start right off by saying that this is easily the best Zombie Simpsons episode so far this season.  That alone isn’t much of a compliment (if it is one at all), so let me clarify by stating unequivocally that the “First Church of Lard Lad” is the funniest thing I’ve seen on Zombie Simpsons in a long, long time.  Even better, it was accompanied by a couple of other decent little set pieces that were more than a little reminiscent of some of the less boring new Futurama episodes.  The show only really had one kind of joke (“look at how things in the future are exaggerated versions of things now”), but did wring a few entertaining iterations out of it. 

Sadly, all was not smiles and sunshine.  Many of those same set pieces either didn’t work at all or were dragged on far longer than they should have been.  The plots, three of them in one tangled mess, didn’t make any sense individually or as a whole.  Half the ideas were directly or indirectly recycled from “Lisa’s Wedding”.  And by the end it felt like they were ticking off a list of their most used characters just so we could check in with the future versions of all of them.  The Ralph one was as painful and long as it was predictable, though, to my surprise, Comic Book Guy didn’t rate an appearance while Lenny and Carl did.

Sadder still, this was basically a Futurama episode and they can’t do that every week, so it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season.  When they’re stuck back in present times in boring old Springfield we’re all but guaranteed to be back to getting the kind of undifferentiated garbage that we’re accustomed to on Sunday evenings.

Anyway, the numbers are in, and, as expected without a late FOX football game, they have plummeted back to earth like an insane airliner with the cockpit windows boarded up (which was funny).  Last night’s trip through time caused only 6.45 million viewers to wonder if Zombie Simpsons will be on Season 53 in 2041.  That’s back to being well below the Season 22 average of 7.10 million viewers, and it’s lower than any fall episode in either Season 21 or Season 22.  So while for one night I didn’t totally regret watching Zombie Simpsons, I’m still glad only a few people bothered to do the same.

11
Dec
11

Sunday Preview: Holidays of Future Passed

zombieholidays

Image bloodied by Dave, as always.

For the final new episode of 2011, Zombie Simpsons is trotting out two ideas that have been done multiple times before, Christmas episodes and future episodes.  Get ready for bad cliches and potential spinoff characters galore:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and the Simpsons flash-forward thirty years to find themselves in a tech-savvy, futuristic Springfield. Bart and Lisa have children of their own and decide to spend the holidays as one big family at Homer and Marge’s house. Lisa and Bart turn to Homer and Marge for parenting advice and begin to realize that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

The episode is set in Christmas 30 years in the future, where Homer and Marge are empty nesters and Bart, Lisa and Maggie bring their own kids over to see Homer and Marge for Christmas. Bart is now a lousy, deadbeat dad who actually lives in the school, which is now condos, and Skinner is his landlord. Bart has had two kids and is divorced and Lisa is married to Milhouse. Adult Bart and Lisa get drunk in the Treehouse, talking about their family.

Get drunk?  What a good idea.




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