“How are we gonna get out of here?” – Otto
“We’ll dig our way out!” – Homer Simpson
“No, no, dig up, stupid.” – Chief Wiggum
Happy (blizzard belated) 20th Anniversary to “Homer the Vigilante”! Original airdate 6 January 1994.
“Well, as you can see, when the burglar trips the alarm, the house raises from its foundations and runs down the street, around the corner to safety. . . . Well, the real humans won’t, uh, won’t burn quite so fast in there.” – Professor Frink
“Lisa, the mob is working on getting your saxophone back, but we’ve also expanded into other important areas: literacy programs, preserving our beloved covered bridges, world domination.” – Homer Simpson
“World domination?” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh, that might be a typo.” – Homer Simpson
“Mental note: the girl knows too much.” – Homer’s Brain
We’ve now gotten through a little more than half of Season 11 on Crazy Noises, and it’s inspired quite a few comments along the lines of “this is when I knew the show was dead”. Most notably, a couple of weeks ago commenter Dan S. just went ahead and asked:
I’m curious to know how all of you felt about season 10 and 11 when they first aired. Looking at them today it is unmistakable that the quality had declined horribly, but at the time of first airing when I was in eighth grade I don’t remember talking about how bad they were or even noticing until about season 12. I chalk most of that up to being relatively young, but I wouldn’t mind reading an article about a look back to how you felt about the show as it was in its decline.
There are a few interesting replies in that thread (and it’s fascinating to see how different episodes had similar effects on different people), but I was very far from the internet that weekend and couldn’t give it the attention it deserved. However, that basic question, how you felt about the decline of the show as it was happening, is something that’s been on my mind since last summer when we were going through Season 10.
What’s struck me about Seasons 10 and 11 is how little my opinions have changed since they were first broadcast. With Season 7, and especially Season 8, my estimation of quite a few episodes went way up as I saw them more times. For example, I really didn’t like “El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer” the first time it was broadcast. I thought the whole dream sequence was dumb and I can remember saying that “Batman’s really let himself go” was the only genuinely excellent joke in the whole episode. But as that one got to syndication, the shock of the initial zaniness wore off and I appreciated it more and more.
So while I didn’t like a lot of Seasons 9 and 10 when they were new, I was willing to give them some time to change my mind. The problem was that as Seasons 9 and 10 got dumped into the rerun pool, fewer and fewer episodes grew on me the way “El Viaje de Nuestro Jomer” had. There are only a handful of episodes in Season 8 that I basically never watch, but in Season 9 it’s more like half, and Season 10 is even worse.
It wasn’t until Season 11 was being aired that I finally started admitting in public that the show had gone massively downhill, and that was only because I couldn’t help but notice that the syndication runs now had quite a few episodes that I simply didn’t like to watch. I wanted to like these episodes, and I was desperate for any sign that the show was returning to form, but too many of them weren’t merely weirdly surprising on a first viewing, they were just plain boring. Until then I was still defending the show by saying something along the lines of, “wait until you’ve seen it a few times before passing judgment”, but that excuse ran dry when Season 10 started in reruns.
Season 12 was the last full season I watched all the way through, and it contains “Simpson Safari”, the episode that broke my hopes that the show could ever again become what it had been. In Season 13 I instituted a “first commercial” watching policy, where I’d give the new episodes until the first commercial break to make me laugh. If I cracked up or sort of liked it, I kept going. More often than not, though, I’d either turn it off after the first commercial or start doing something else and mostly ignore it. After not watching very many whole episodes, I gave up entirely.
With the benefit of hindsight, I’d say I stuck it out a bit too long. If I’d known in 2000 that the show would still be on in 2012, I probably would’ve quit sooner. But at the time, me and everyone I knew kept expecting to hear that the show was finally going to end, and I didn’t want to miss out on what I thought were its last seasons, however poor.
So, in answer to Dan’s question, that’s what I was thinking at the time. Those of you old enough to remember the show’s decline as it happened, how did you feel? Those of you too young for that, when did you figure it was lost?
“When cat burglaries start, can mass murders be far behind? This reporter isn’t saying that the burglar is an inhuman monster like the Wolfman, but he very well could be. So, professor, would you say it’s time for everyone to panic?” – Kent Brockman
“Yes I would, Kent.” – Professor
“Okay, we’ve got the secret vigilante handshake, now we need codenames. I’ll be Cue Ball, Skinner can be Eight Ball, Barney will be Twelve Ball, and, Moe, you can be Cue Ball.” – Homer Simpson
“You’re an idiot.” – Moe
The last two episodes of Zombie Simpsons have seen the entire opening, couch gag and all, dropped completely. They’ve also featured Matt Selman’s name before Al Jean’s in the customary spot for the show runner. Not coincidentally, the last two episodes have also seen the show impressively manage to get even further away from what once made it great. At this point I don’t think the writing staff thinks of this as anything but a sketch show.
This week it was Homer running around with the kids, last week it was Marge, but it almost doesn’t matter since most of the cast is now barely recognizable as human, much less the characters they used to be. For example, Homer and Bart used to not like Patty, but here they leap right in to including her in their little scheme. There isn’t so much as a nod to anything of what we know about the Simpsons universe, all that matters to Zombie Simpsons is making sure that we understand that Homer is standing in for George Clooney and Patty is Julia Roberts.
Once they have that established, the rest of it plays out like a less entertaining version of the Family Guy-Star Wars mashups. Just like the Oceans Integers movies, everyone’s slick and cool and well dressed, only now they’re yellow! Just like the original, there are lots of double crosses and fake outs and everyone is winking at the camera. It’s so stylish and urbane that it thinks those are the only two things that matter. That’s how you get multiple flashbacks, an action montage, and a mistaken belief that those title cards were so funny that we needed a dozen of them.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they are worse than ever. Just 5.74 million people watched Zombie Simpsons instead of reading a book last night. That isn’t just a bad number, that is a catastrophe. It’s tied for the 10th lowest number of all time, and is the lowest ever for the fall half of the season. Season 22, the lowest rated season in the show’s history, didn’t have a number that bad until February.
“We are insured, aren’t we, Mom?” – Lisa Simpson
“Homer, tell your child what you bought when I sent you to town to get some insurance.” – Marge Simpson
“Curse you, magic beans!” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, stop blaming the beans.” – Marge Simpson
“Oh, sorry folks, gee I really hate to spoil this little love-in. But Mr. Malloy broke the law, and when you break the law you gotta go to jail.” – Chief Wiggum
“Ah, that reminds me, here’s your monthly kickback.” – Mayor Quimby
“You just, you couldn’t have picked a worse time.” – Chief Wiggum
“Dad, don’t you see you’re abusing your power like all vigilantes? I mean, if you’re the police, who will police the police?” – Lisa Simpson
“I dunno, Coast Guard?” – Homer Simpson
Oh, Joe Mantegna, I wish you were on every commentary. In case you’ve forgotten, in this episode Homer becomes the police force for Springfield and then Fat Tony tries to assassinate him, and then Maggie shots Fat Tony, and then it ends. If that sounds like a weak mashup of “Homer the Vigilante” and “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” with a dash of “Who Shot Mr. Burns, Part 2”, that’s because that’s largely what it is. Fortunately, the commentary only rarely takes notice of the episode, and instead kills time with discussions of The Sopranos, Don Knotts and Dean Martin, it also finds time for funny stories from Mantegna and others.
Only six people on this one, including Caroline Omine and Mantegna.
1:00 – The idea for this episode came when someone had to get one of those private security systems installed.
2:00 – Rehashing the origin of a joke about a fake monster’s wallet that shows up later. This leads to general banter of a not particularly remarkable kind.
3:00 – Mantegna was once in Australia shooting a mini-series, and interviewers kept asking him about Fat Tony and Simpsons.
3:20 – That leads to talk about the time Mantegna played Dean Martin.
4:00 – And that leads to a Dean Martin story about a time he called the cops on a party at his own house.
4:45 – Jean’s telling Mantegna that they’re going to kill Fat Tony and have him replaced by Fit Tony. I guess they were working on that worthless “Donnie Fatso” episode around this time.
5:05 – Mantegna’s talking about his Uncle Willie who was the basis for the Fat Tony voice. It’s funny.
5:50 – Following up on that, Omine and Jean talk about how sometimes people in real life think things on the show are based on them when they really aren’t. I guess Wikipedia used to say that Homer was based on Jean’s dad, but that isn’t true so he deleted it.
6:30 – Generalized discussion about how quickly the town riots. Jean then recounts how there were huge disasters in Southern California seemingly every three weeks in the early 90s.
7:20 – Apropos of nothing, Jean just asked Gould to do his Don Knotts impression. This leads to a story about meeting Don Knotts.
8:40 – Actual note on the show: sometimes the cast is kind of protective of their characters, so in this scene Bart is being eyed suspiciously by Homer for eating an apple instead of Lisa because Yardley Smith thought it was too Jerkass Homer (not her words) for him to be mad at Lisa.
9:35 – Selman’s telling a story about a time he called his security company because he heard a noise that turned out to be an ice machine. They told him he was supposed to just call and not be embarrassed, but he felt stupid anyway. Meanwhile, Homer just threw boiling hot nacho cheese on Snake.
10:30 – The scene where Homer recounts all of the jobs he had is about forty-five seconds long. Jean jokes that if they did this now it would be like three minutes.
11:40 – No one remembers how they did the shot of Homer in front of the scared old lady in his security company commercial, where he has a shadow like he’s talking in front of a screen. This was pre-digital, and Jean mentions that one of the reasons they switched was because there just weren’t enough qualified people to do the hand painted cels.
12:25 – The joke where the monster in Homer’s commercial takes Homer’s business card and says “Monster put in wallet.” was a big deal for them. They talked about it way back at the beginning of the commentary. I’m not really sure why.
12:50 – Jean wants to give credit to Tony DeSena, which is this guy unless I’m spelling it badly wrong, for originally coming up with the idea of putting Homer into The Sopranos opening for a special he was doing. He was just going to use clips from old shows, but that gave them the idea to write new jokes and animate the whole opening themselves, and it’s become one of those insanely popular pop-culture crossovers.
That leads someone else to joke that instead of writing new jokes and animating it themselves, they just animated it.
13:40 – Selman asks Mantegna if he was a Sopranos fan. Mantegna wasn’t really, he thinks that’s because he’s done so many of those characters and the fact that he didn’t have HBO at the time on account of he had little kids and was afraid of what they’d watch.
14:30 – Still talking about Sopranos.
15:20 – Selman asks Mantegna if people ever think he was on the Sopranos. They do, also Goodfellas.
15:30 – Prompted by virtually nothing, Gould brings up a link someone sent him to Ain’t It Cool that said he had to go. He laughs at this because he is, indeed, gone from the show.
16:00 – I think they’ve mentioned this before, but when Homer has to do something like make up his own lyrics to a song, it’s often Castellaneta improvising.
16:15 – This scene in church is kinda based on High Noon, which leads to a longer discussion of High Noon and how editing out the bad parts of something is often just as important as adding in good ones. Then Jean red-lines the unintentional irony meter by saying, “This is true with comedy, editing is the best thing you can do: taking things out that don’t work improves things more than you would ever dream.”
17:40 – They’re still talking about the wonders of editing, when the Sopranos-style opening starts up.
18:35 – As the opening winds down, Jean drops some Sopranos trivia, namely that David Chase wanted to do a different song every time, but HBO insisted that they use the same song since that would get the audience more excited.
19:00 – The ending, that Maggie saves Homer by shooting everybody, was apparently Jim Brooks’ idea.
19:35 – Mantegna is involved with some big Italian-American groups, and he likes to bring up Fat Tony as a way to tell them to lighten up about things.
20:35 – Jean then brings up the fact that the show likes to embrace every stereotype it can get its hands on.
21:05 – Talking about the positives of laughing at stereotypes continues until someone, sounds like Selman but I’m not sure, jokes, “But I do think all Italians are in the mob.” Mantegna doesn’t miss a beat, “Well, speaking for myself, yes.” Everyone laughs, and it was funny.
21:15 – And we go out joking that the show will finally end with Homer in a diner and then a black screen, just like The Sopranos.
“Asleep at the switch! I wasn’t asleep, I was drunk!” – Homer Simpson
Counting last night’s, there’s been a new Zombie Simpsons for five consecutive weeks. There are two more weeks to go before the season ends. It’s the longest streak of new episodes since I started watching Zombie Simpsons when we began this blog last year, and it’s getting to me. Fortunately, there’s a sure fire pick me up.
It’s time for another Simpsons-Beer marathon. Just like last time I’ve put a poll at right. Since I already did Season 5, I’ve replaced it in the poll with Season 7. Before anyone asks, should Season 7 win, I will only be watching 24 of the 25 episodes. I will not let “Marge Be Not Proud” spoil my good time. If you’re new around here, those two links will give you all the background you need.
The poll will be open all week and will close at midnight on Friday night here in the States (04:00 Saturday the 15th GMT). A short list of episode titles in each season is here, a more detailed list is here. Just like last time, the marathon should start around 8:00am Eastern time (12:00 GMT) on Saturday, and I’ll post increasingly intoxicated updates as the awesome, awesome day progresses.
Update 15 May: And it’s Season 6 in a landslide! Thanks to everyone who voted and, once again, a special thanks to the lone Season 2 voter. Don’t worry Joey, we’ll make it to California someday.
Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.”
Otto Man Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:30 pm
Listen, Stu, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.