“The watchdog of public safety, is there any lower form of life?” – C.M. Burns
It would be one thing if Zombie Simpsons merely repeated ideas and stories that had been done on The Simpsons. Given the enormous catalog of episodes, it’s certainly understandable that scenes and concepts would need to get recycled from time to time. Hell, that was understandable way back in the heyday of the show.
For example, Season 2’s “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” has a great nuclear plant inspection, where we see gum used to seal a crack in the cooling towers, a plutonium paper weight, and ankle deep toxic waste. But all that doesn’t detract in the least from the inspection in Season 5’s “Homer Goes to College”, because instead of showing us the same things again, it gives us a completely different set of horrifying looks into Springfield Nuclear Power Plant.
For starters, the inspectors show up during nap time, where meltdowns are averted by sleepy hound dogs and Smithers is curled up at Burns’ feet. When the surprise inspection team rings the bell, Burns denies them entry and tells a pathetic lie about old fashioned cookies before the inspectors start hacking at the door with an ax. The inspection hasn’t even started yet and already The Simpsons is at full speed, tossing off jokes and ludicrous ideas as fast as possible.
Compare that to the – ahem – “inspection” in “My Fare Lady”. Instead of nap time and Homer falling asleep on the “Plant Destruct” button (“Please Do Not Push”), Burns just happens upon Moe, who has been hired as a janitor, mopping the floor. (This whole thing is so inconsequential that we don’t even get an establishing shot and a crow screech.) That immediately leads to a standard Zombie Simpsons joke, wherein the punchline takes forever to arrive, and is patiently explained to the audience:
Burns: Hey, swabbie, you missed spots there . . . another one there . . . and there! Every other spot is begrimed!
Moe: It’s called a checkerboard floor, you unwrapped mummy.
At that, the camera helpfully pulls back to show us the aforementioned checkerboard floor. Hi-larity.
No sooner has that happened then Smithers walks up with a bunch of inspectors in tow, “Sir, the NRC is here for a surprise inspection”. Huh? Even by the standards of incompetent Zombie Simpsons Burns, this is head spinning. These guys just waltzed into the plant without Burns (or Smithers, apparently) even knowing they were there? Somewhere, Season 5 Burns is scoffing at his successor’s haplessness. One second they’re not there, the next they are; there’s no lie about cookies, no ax, no nothing.
In Season 5, once the inspectors do get in, we see them testing the plant employees while Burns and Smithers gaze down from above. Except, of course, for the three workers who’ve been strategically diverted down to the basement with the important job of keeping a bee in a jar.
I always wondered what these guys did at the plant. Accountants?
Down in the basement we see a glowing rat, dripping ooze, and several spilled barrels of toxic waste. No other mention of them is made because it doesn’t need to be. Moreover, the inspectors have no idea these three geniuses (and the improperly stored nuclear waste) are here. They’re in the parking lot testing the employees. Here’s the Zombie Simpsons version of the same thing:
See the glove? The inspectors didn’t.
While Moe asks penetrating questions like, “You’re the head inspector, huh?”, nothing else happens except the unacknowledged gas leak and the slowly inflating glove. It’s easily the best part of this scene, but it also makes the inspection team even more bland and boring than they already were. (Thanks for the meandering story about your Queen cover band.) The scene is Moe telling them they can’t come in after they’ve already come in, followed by them, despite already being inside and being, you know, federal nuclear inspectors, meekly accepting that and shuffling off screen.
This is basic stuff, the audience getting to see characters with personality do things instead of just listen to somebody we don’t know talk about something we don’t care about and can’t see. To be fair to Zombie Simpsons, the inspection in “Homer Goes to College” is given more screen time, so things like nap time, bee guarding, and Homer causing a meltdown without any nuclear material being in the truck have a chance to breathe. But it’s not like “My Fare Lady” was crammed with other great bits. The episode has three different driving montages, one of which goes on for well over a minute.
Not that extra time would’ve helped. More lines for incompetent Burns, more background jokes explained, and more of the nothingburger inspection team aren’t going to make “My Fare Lady” any better. When the NRC shows up in Season 5, there’s a big ominous musical cue, and they begin to methodically test employees. These nondescript cardboard cutouts (only one of them even speaks) get silence and deserve it.