“Perhaps this pamphlet will prove helpful.” – D. Hibbert
“So You’ve Ruined Your Life.” – Marge Bouvier
Posts Tagged ‘I Married Marge
“Step aside, I’ll deliver this baby.” – Homer Simpson
“Uh, why don’t you let me handle it, Homer?” – Dr. Hibbert
“Oh, college boy, eh?” – Homer Simpson
“Homer, for God sakes, let him deliver the baby!” – Marge Simpson
In its never ending desperation to come up with something – anything – that hasn’t specifically been done before, Zombie Simpsons will try everything from relatively mundane stories to outlandish fantasies. This episode had two of the former. In the A-plot, Homer helps deliver a baby after getting stuck in an elevator. In the B-plot, Lisa tries to help professional football cheerleaders unionize. (And, yes, they’ve done both “strike” and “Homer loves other kids more than his own” before, just not exactly like this, which is good enough for them.) But even these stories, which don’t involve popped eyeballs or magic wingsuits, can be poorly told, and “Labor Pains” does exactly that. You can maybe overlook the fact that Homer delivers this kid in all of thirty seconds and then calmly goes home the same way you can maybe overlook Lisa getting pulled out of the stands to help with a cheer routine. But those are just the tip of the iceberg.
From there, Homer never mentions the elevator and sneaks around Marge for no discernible reason other than plot necessity. He also takes the kids to the zoo, gets in a fight with monkeys, and has one of the weirdest goodbye scenes the show has ever done. Lisa’s story fares no better. She easily gets into the stadium a couple of times, runs a union out of the treehouse for some reason, and has her nominal opponent, the Rich Texan, hire scab cheerleaders who not only lack what you’d call cheerleading skills, but would never in a million years want to be cheerleaders (especially Patty and Selma). Crammed in along all that nonsense are the usual collection of time killing montages, pointless dream sequences and asides, characters mysteriously appearing and disappearing, and even a shockingly boring Itchy & Scratchy.
- They’ve got another mildly clever and very long couch gag, this one involving the Mayflower and Thanksgiving. These twenty minutes aren’t going to fill themselves, people.
- So Lenny is using the same cheating glasses Bender used back in Season 2 of Futurama? That’s the kind of fresh concept we’ve come to expect from this show.
- Well, it sure didn’t take long to go from this woman in labor to her lying on the floor.
- That Lamaze flashback certainly didn’t need to be there.
- And there’s another guy in the elevator. Their need to drop people into scenes for no reason is bordering on pathological at this point.
- As if to prove my point, there’s Kirk as a peanut vendor where he wasn’t half a second before.
- Also as usual, the sign gags are by far the best thing here: “We Covered the Over !!!”.
- There is no point in even trying to write down every one of their sitcom-y, laughtrack primed jokes, but here’s a typically brainless example: “Wow, now there are two things named after me, a baby and a law banning airhorns after three am”, beat, laughs, next scene.
- Continuing the point above, after the commercial break Homer goes to the new mom’s apartment. As he’s doing that, we hear conversation through the door of the poker game and then, in the next scene, Lenny walks out the door so Moe can cripple/kill him by throwing cards at his back. Moe then steps into the hall, drops another turd punchline, and walks away without noticing Homer.
- Now it’s time for a montage!
- And we pick up from that with an Itchy & Scratchy montage. Back to back!
- This is how they advance the story, with Homer expositing everything we’ve seen . . . in a daydream sequence: “I’m shopping for Homer Junior, a baby I delivered in an elevator the night I pretended to go to work but was really playing poker.” Real life Marge is then forced to ask why he’s saying that. Good question.
- I could overlook things like Lisa just walking into the giant football stadium during cheerleader practice, knowing more about what’s going on than the actual cheerleaders, and them acting consecutively dumb, super power enabled, and smart, if the jokes or the dialogue were strong or interesting. But they aren’t. They just move from one dumb thing to another, and the scene concludes with the cheerleaders shaking their heads back and forth so their hair sounds like salt shakers or something.
- Further evidence of the generally low give-a-shit level, after Marge walks in on Carl doing his massage training (or whatever), neither he nor she closes the door to his apartment afterwards. He leaves it open to get back to what he’s doing, and she leaves it open as she walks down the hall. Out of sight out of mind as usual.
- Guh, this scene with Marge finding Homer and the baby takes forever. This is classical crappy sitcom: either one of them could straighten this out with one sentence, but they’ll just keep spewing hammy lines at each other instead because they stopped even vaguely resembling real people long ago.
- Holy shit, we’re on our third montage of the episode for the cheerleader strike.
- They do remain competent at unconnected sign gags. Marge reading a book called “Kicking the Advice Book Habit” is pretty good. The actual scene is godawful, with Marge, seemingly having forgotten her two most recent scenes with Homer, being surprised that he was spending time with the other baby.
- After one of the dumbest strikes in history, the Rich Texan concedes only to have Kirk show up for no reason to get beaten by him.
- Now Jerkass Homer is fighting monkeys . . . Maggie is in pretend danger . . . and Marge shows up for no reason. I’ve had fever dreams that were more coherent than this. (Funnier, too.)
- Oh, man, this reconciliation scene the with the suddenly returned father is jokeless, emotionally empty, and facepalm level stupid. On the bright side, it’s a completely appropriate way to end this thing.
- Further proof that signs gags are all they’re good at: the cheerleader books over the end credits. Sure some of them are hard to read because of the, you know, credits, but they are there.
Anyway, the ratings are in and they are getting embarrassingly bad. FOX bumped Zombie Simpsons back to 9:00pm so they could use their NFL overrun to premier Almost Human, (it does not appear to have worked), and the show brought in just 4.13 million viewers. That’s fifth on the all time least watched list and more than a million viewers down from this same time last season.
“Barnacle Bill’s home pregnancy test? Homer, shouldn’t we have gone with a better known brand?” – Homer Simpson
“But, Marge, this one came with a free corncob pipe.” – Homer Simpson
“Okay, let’s see, ‘Ahoy, maties, if the water turns blue, a baby for you. If purple ye see, no baby thar be’.” – Marge Simpson
“Well, what color is it, blue or purple?” – Homer Simpson
“Pink.” – Marge Simpson
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
“Hmm, ‘If ye test should fail, to a doctor set sail’.” – Marge Simpson
[Note: Crazy noises for “Eight Misbehavin” and “Take My Wife, Sleaze” will be along later this week.]
Babies and where they come from have long been staples of fiction generally and comedy specifically. Between all the wrenching social changes that come with a kid, the biological absurdities and humiliations that come with making and birthing one, and all manner of other assorted goofiness (everything from buying children’s products to changing diapers), procreation is a rich source of material. Like their real life counterparts, however, new fictional children must be handled with care.
The biggest danger a “new baby” episode poses to a fictional universe, especially a television show, is the fact that it is a change in the fabric of the entire story that is both profound and permanent. There is a huge gulf between the kind of plotlines you can do with a character who is actively caring for an infant and a character who is not, and adding a baby changes characters from one type to the other instantly. Consider, if you will, the relative cases of Apu and Homer when each of them became a father for the first time.
Superficially, there isn’t much beyond new fatherhood that’s similar. Homer gets Marge pregnant accidentally and is woefully underprepared (legally, financially, socially) to be responsible for anyone. Guys who work menial jobs at mini-golf places and share living accommodations with the likes of Barney Gumble are not what you’d call well prepped daddy material. Apu, on the other hand, is married, reasonably prosperous, and deliberately knocked up his wife so they could start a long planned family together. But well planned, relatively uneventful births don’t make for very compelling stories, so Apu gets the completely insane curveball of surprise octuplets.
Ugh, from parody to reality in less than three seasons.
As a comedy or story premise, there’s nothing inherently wrong with big, multiple births. There have been media circuses around unusually large multiple births for a long time, and if you’ve ever seen someone go through a multi-kid pregnancy, you know that while it isn’t fun, it could be funny if handled in the right way. But Zombie Simpsons handles the octuplets so poorly that they’re introduced as a shocking cliffhanger to get people to stick around after the commercial.
Not only does that not make any sense whatsoever, but that’s only the beginning of the comedy destroying zaniness. After that, the episode piles one bizarre plot shocker on top of another. First Apu and Manjula get robbed and abandoned by everyone who was supporting them, then they put their kids in a zoo, then the zoo makes them part of a crushingly boring circus act that is somehow popular and profitable, and finally they have to break their kids out of the zoo in a daring nighttime raid. By the time all these capers wrap up, the audience has practically forgotten how this all got started in the first place and any genuine humor from such a situation has long since fled the scene.
By contrast, when Homer finds out Marge is pregnant, they go through a much saner and more relatable story, which means that they can exploit all of the recognizable follies for comedy. The humor is by turns cultural (the “So You’ve Ruined Your Life” pamphlet), crude (“If I didn’t know better, I’d swear he was trying to moon us”), silly (“This castle is impregnable”), social (“The tenth wedding’s on the house”), and everything in between, and it’s all based around an event (two twenty-somethings who didn’t use a condom) that has happened to countless people before.
Even if we overlook the oddity of the octuplets, “Eight Misbehavin” does none of that. It’s about a bafflingly stupid and pointlessly weird conspiracy run out of a zoo. The octuplets themselves are never treated as anything more than props, starting with their hacktacular entrance in Dr. Hibbert’s pockets and ending with them sitting quietly in the audience at the same fucked up zoo show that they used to headline.
Even in the future the only thing they get to do is be wacky together.
All that would be bad enough, except that where The Simpsons cleverly set all three of its “new baby” episodes in the past, Zombie Simpsons dropped the octuplets into a bizarro, present day situation that it’s been stuck with ever since. The octuplets show up from time to time on the show, but for the most part they exist as background filler (a similar thing happened to that baby Selma adopted). And since the show is now locked into this new situation, Apu and Manjula have been relegated to one-note sideshow characters. Some variation on “eight babies are a handful” is pretty much the only joke either of them has been allowed since.
So not only did Zombie Simpsons do a “new baby” episode so needlessly exaggerated and poorly thought out that it doesn’t make any sense from scene-to-scene, but they permanently altered two of their own characters (one of whom had only been around for two seasons and was hardly in need of a reboot) for the worse by shackling them to an amorphous blob of kids that’s only really good for one kind of joke. Apu as a character didn’t change, it’s just that now he’s a harried parent if the octuplets happen to be in a scene (he does more actual parenting in that brief scene with his nephew in “Homer the Heretic” than he does in this entire episode), and regular old Apu when they aren’t.
Life and all its complexities are funny, and while you can exaggerate some of them, if you exaggerate everything you end up with something that’s so simplistic and weird that it’s actually boring. Zombie Simpsons doesn’t seem to mind, but The Simpsons never would’ve stood for it.
“Homer, do you ever think about the future?” – Marge Simpson
“You mean, like, ‘Will apes be our masters’?” – Homer Simpson
“No.” – Marge Simpson
Happy (one day late) 100th birthday to Pierre Boulle!