Posts Tagged ‘Lisa Goes Gaga

23
May
12

Crazy Noises: Lisa Goes Gaga

Homer's Phobia7

“Come on, Homer, join the party.” – John

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 “sappiness”).

We discuss the pathetically lame Marge/Gaga kiss below, and the fact that this isn’t the first time Zombie Simpsons has employed this cheap attention stunt.  (And there’s the way it apparently turned Marge on so much that she immediately needed to fuck Homer like they’d never fucked before, which adds to the stupidity and incoherence.)  But more generally, it’s further evidence of just how far behind the times Zombie Simpsons has fallen, especially compared to The Simpsons.

Gay characters were basically non-existent on television in 1990, and yet The Simpsons hinted that Smithers was gay and had Karl (who self evidently was gay) kiss Homer full on the lips.  In 1994, Homer visits a lesbian bar and thinks the only thing wrong is the lack of a fire exit.  Three years after that, they did “Homer’s Phobia”, which was broadcast two months before the famous “Ellen comes out” episode.  However important or not important those things were or weren’t, there’s no denying that The Simpsons was way ahead of its time in terms of portraying gay characters and stories.

Fast forward to today, and Zombie Simpsons is lagging behind on the exact same things.  There was Patty’s it’s-not-really-a-woman marriage, Marge kissing Lindsey Naegle (in a Homer fantasy, no less), those pathetic gay bars, and now this hapless stab at relevance.  It’s remarkable not only for how culturally tone deaf it is, but for how far they’ve regressed from where they used to be.

[Note: Our old friend Zombies Rise from the Sea joined us again this week, and we got into what may be the longest Crazy Noises ever.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, we’ve got everybody. Shall we begin?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Let’s do this!

Charlie Sweatpants: So, this episode, memorably bad or just regular bad?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: (i.e. is this so bad that it stands out by their standards)

Mad Jon: This was so bad it stood out.

Dave: It was tremendously obnoxious. End-to-end.

Mad Jon: This was mega bad, I was in serious danger of doing some damage to the TV on Sunday night.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who’s idea was it to put Lady Gaga on the show?

Charlie Sweatpants: At this point, they seem to regard guest voices as sort of awards that they give out to people they like or admire.

Mad Jon: I dunno, but I imagine it was the same person who agreed to let her have 51% of the lines in the episode too.

Dave: And superpowers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Tim Long?

Mad Jon: I don’t even know where to really begin.

Charlie Sweatpants: Think of Jebediah, and the words will come.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well… I think we should.

Wait, hold on!

I think a psychic force is telling me something.

Mad Jon: I am not even sure I could coherently describe the INTENDED plot.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s what my psychic force is telling me, the plot.

The Lisa plot that tries so hard to be emotional but ends up sappy.

Charlie Sweatpants: The psychic force was certainly terrible (and there was even less need for it twice), but since the whole thing was apparently some kind of off-season, no-rules-apply, Halloween episode, I don’t know that it was even in the Top 5 bad things here.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: How did they think it was a good idea?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say it was part of their overall “exaggerate everything about Gaga” theme.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Gaga is clearly going to Springfield, why have some unexplainable force that isn’t even satirized or joke about tell her about Lisa?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the whole she has to cheer up the town AND cheer up Lisa thing seemed very redundant.

Dave: I think the Halloween episode parallel is pretty apt; they more or less threw their own minor rules out the window and went for it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Agreed Dave.

Cheering up the entire town she did easily because Springfield has basically turned into a bunch of people who would cheer at any celebrity coming their way.

Especially Lady Gaga.

Mad Jon: And even when they were trying to have a progression, they just fast forwarded it. I cite how quickly Lisa dropped the notebook that outed her as the Truth Teller.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: My god the town of Springfield has lost their personality.

That scene pissed me off Jon.

I mean why do they have people suddenly become clumsy to serve the plot? Hell, why even have the notebook with her.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed, Jon, the plot was very stop and start. It would move rapidly, then pause so Gaga could interact with random people, then zoom forward again (Lisa’s angry outburst and instant reconciliation come to mind).

Mad Jon: It should.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: If I were Lisa I would have held onto the notepad or even just left it at home hidden or even stored the information on a computer.

Mad Jon: I would have done anything but what happened.

Charlie Sweatpants: What’s more, and this may be attributable to the overall Halloween vibe, they had people acting weird and out of character even by their standards.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: More then usual?

Charlie Sweatpants: The school actually doing these awards, Flanders talking with Gaga out of the blue, all those people who shouldn’t have been there at the concert (Grampa in particular).

And yeah, I think it was more than usual. Think about Skinner and Hoover here. They’re both aiding and abetting the children taunting Lisa mercilessly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who else has to be at the concert, without someone they wouldn’t be able to showcase how super big Lady Gaga is?

Mad Jon: Agreed. CBG wipes his face with Superman #1, Flanders was anyone but Flanders.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: And yeah, Skinner was unusually mean.

Charlie Sweatpants: Marge and Homer were the same way. It was like neither of them had ever dealt with Lisa before.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well it’s a consequence of trying to have an emotional sappy plot.

You know, Lisa moping, acting sad, isolated…

It isn’t even done in a way that’s substantial but people ate it up anyway.

Mad Jon: Back to Marge real quick, why was she afraid to be touched?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t know, I instantly blocked that scene out when I saw Gaga kissing Marge.

Charlie Sweatpants: I kind of felt bad for Lisa after a while. I mean, she’s basically being stalked and harassed by a celebrity with the active complicity of her parents and all she wants to be is left alone. It was creepy.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Terrible!

Charlie Sweatpants: The kiss was atrocious.

Dave: So they could work in a lesbian kiss. Duh.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: And don’t forget the twitter hashtag the network put up to showcase the scene.

Charlie Sweatpants: What’s worse, they did the same thing like three seasons ago.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Not the show, but the FOX network.

This isn’t even funny.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really? I didn’t know that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I recorded the episode, it was clearly from the network.

Dave: What was the hashtag?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: #GagaKissesMarge

I mean WTF?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s really desperate.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The network must want it’s now super low rated show to succeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, using an always heterosexual female character kissing another woman as publicity? That’s so low and old that it’s actually a cliche:

http://deadhomersociety.com/2009/08/24/zombie-simpsons-in-the-land-of-tv-tropes/

Dave: Huh. The twitterverse ate it up. https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23gagakissesmarge

No surprise there, I guess.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The internet in general is stupid.

Charlie Sweatpants: Doesn’t surprise me, though I wouldn’t take it as an indictment of the internet generally. The kind of people who are going to care enough to add that to their Twitter feeds are probably going to be enthusiastic rather than bored.

Remember, we’re the weirdos, not them. Most the people who watch this show probably actually like it.

It’s only the real die hards who watch it in spite of never finding it good.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Getting back on topic, just how sappy was that emotional content?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Honestly, the emotions were so clumsy that I’m not sure they even qualified as sappy.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s like Tim Long read a book about how to write and read a chapter that described how a character can be emotional.

Charlie Sweatpants: Other than my sympathy for Lisa wanting to be left alone, barely any of this was coherent enough to even get at where they were coming from.

Mad Jon: I didn’t see as much of what I would call emotion as I did what I would call manic reactions.

Charlie Sweatpants: Gaga at the end is exactly that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean they force her into a situation that is contrived (Lisa telling lies about herself, being popular) then they have the parents try to sympathize with her, the bullies tease her and even Lady Gaga try to cheer her up all while she acts mopey, lies down in bed, cries without tears, says stuff a teenager would say.

For me to emote with a person, the situation has to matter and the moments during that situation have to be involving.

None of these moments were involving.

Mad Jon: Nobody was really ‘feeling’ anything. Almost every situation makes me think that any doctor nearby would be handing out bottles of Xanax.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Most people who voted 3/5 on NoHomers felt something.

They actually fell for the whole “Lisa” shtick.

Charlie Sweatpants: Again, that doesn’t entirely surprise me.

Mad Jon: Neither I.

Dave: Ok guys, hate to do this but I gotta run. Enjoy the rest of your chat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay Dave, have a good evening.

Mad Jon: Peace Dave.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Sad to see you go Dave, but have a good evening.

Nice to meet you.

Dave: Likewise. Later guys.

Charlie Sweatpants: The kind of sappiness that they went for was real lowest common denominator stuff. That will always play with fans.

“Friends” stayed on the air for like four seasons longer than it should have on that alone.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: But the way it’s portrayed, it seemed like it was trying to go for that 8-year old being sad but failed.

The acting of Yeardley Smith is better then usual but I don’t want to emote based on acting, I want to emote based on the situation.

Charlie Sweatpants: But that’s part of the problem with how sloppy it was.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It annoys me because if people keep falling for this then people are going to do the same thing over and over.

Charlie Sweatpants: Literally no one in that situation (sad little girl having minor, childish crisis) would make as big a deal out of cheering her up as they did.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Agreed.

But still, who needs an emotional moment with proper buildup and proper investment when you can just have someone act sad? And I’m talking about all of the series here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right, pretty much everyone harasses Lisa at some point (they eve had Maggie do it for fuck’s sake) and they have their little sad moment. There is no buildup, it starts with her depressed and stays at a flat line for most of the episode.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: All while Gaga tries to be Michael Jackson.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the end was like that. Lisa actually gives two different reasons why she’s suddenly fine.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It just sets a poor standard for the production of TV series everywhere, Zombie Simpsons I mean.

Charlie Sweatpants: Was it because Homer’s incompetence as a parent is now endearing to her, or was it because she had a “great sneeze”?

Mad Jon: How does one define “little monster”?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I couldn’t understand a single word Homer said.

Nor could I understand what Homer had to do with Lisa’s revelation.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon: Gaga fans call themselves “little monsters”.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly, Homer’s chat with Lisa didn’t do anything.

Mad Jon: So Gaga keeps telling people they can be little monsters, meaning they are allowed to be her fan?

Charlie Sweatpants: Meaning they’re allowed to let their true, weird selves fly free. Concurrent album purchases are not required, but not discouraged either.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: No, I’m not a superfan of hers but I’m guessing it all sort of has to do with the inner beauty and desire they hold inside.

I’ve listened to ‘The Fame”, I have yet to listen to her recent work.

Maybe that’s a good thing…

Mad Jon: I see. So it’s like an apathetic version of music scientology. I have heard plenty of Gaga, but I know almost nothing of the culture.

Not that it really matters.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: So let’s talk about what Lady Gaga is trying to be, “Michael Jackson”.

Anybody remember “Stark Raving Dad”?

Charlie Sweatpants: The fact that they had Lisa saying “I denounce thee” like it was musical scientology was just part of the overall “fluff Lady Gaga” thing.

Then she comes back and is a superfan at the end. It was practically a commercial.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Or their interpretation of who Gaga is, trying to inspire people, achieve dreams they cannot achieve.

Mad Jon: The end was horrific.

Charlie Sweatpants: And yeah, they really didn’t leave me with any choice but “Stark Raving Dad” for today’s Compare & Contrast.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t associate that with Gaga but I can understand why other people would.

Mad Jon: I associate it with hilarity.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Just imagine Gaga and her terrible voice acting trying to bond with Lisa.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was something that bugged me right from the start. She cannot act for shit.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: She isn’t even aware she’s on an animated show, it’s more like one of those cheesy PSA’s from the 80’s.

Mad Jon: Is that what her actual voice sounds like? I’ve never heard her talk before.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well maybe but she’s trying to “act” so any normalcy is thrown out the window.

I imagine that when she talks she’s good.

Acting, not so much.

Charlie Sweatpants: Her delivery on “We’ve got to cheer up a whole town. Where’s the dress I wore when I met . . . the Pope” was solid wood from end to end.

And yeah, the required skill sets of “singer” and “actress” don’t actually have much overlap.

Some people can do both, but most of them can’t.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It doesn’t seem like she knows what to do or is willing to portray herself as a character, she sounds as if she’s trying to make a voice and emote it but ends up with the opposite effect for lack of better words.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s like Lisa’s story line, her readings were just flat.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Maybe she’s unable to immerse herself in the character or something, I don’t know.

Heh, the irony of it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Whatever the reason, it was bad.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Maybe she should have sung her lines, it wouldn’t have been acting but it would have been better then what we got.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say there was more than enough singing.

Mad Jon: Yep, more than plenty.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Speaking of songs, is Tim Long even trying with these songs anymore?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know, but some of those lyrics wouldn’t have been out of place in an elementary school production that doesn’t have a lot of help from the teachers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The song she sang in the beginning felt like it came off from one of her studio albums.

It didn’t even feel like it was created for a Simpsons episode, it actually felt like a song written for one of her albums.

Charlie Sweatpants: The credits had both big songs with lyrics by Tim Long and music by Rex Promise.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: A quick Google search is unclear as to who or what “Rex Promise” is.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Possibly someone hired off the street to produce these songs.

It’s funny, this is like the first time a song on the Simpsons felt like a promotional effort.

It wasn’t satirical, it was subconsciously promoting an upcoming album from her even though it was written for this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know about first time, but it was definitely a promotional event.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I will admit that the lyrics are decent, if Tim Long leaves The Simpsons then he could easily join up with Lady Gaga’s entourage and write songs for her.

The lyrics are not decent for the Simpsons however…

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes, the lyrics weren’t even trying to be funny.

Mad Jon: I wasn’t even paying attention to them.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, “When they’re young, all little monsters learn that they are scary/ Ugly, stupid, shunned by cupid, overweight, and hairy.

“But every monster needs to find that secret deep inside.

“That transforms doctor Jekyll into sexy mister Hyde.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That song could easily fit onto “Born this Way 2″

Charlie Sweatpants: Christ that’s bad. That sounds like Up With People modernized so they could use the word “sexy”.

Mad Jon: That’s pretty bad.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Agreed.

The fact that it can be placed into a Gaga album makes it worse.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but at this point we’re pretty close to the bottom anyway.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: At this point they should just sell the show to Pixar since they praise it so damn much.

Mad Jon: “It can’t possibly be bottomless” – “Well, for all intents and purposes….”

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Including in this episode, with the terrible mention of Cars.

Charlie Sweatpants: Forgot about that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Simpsons tries so hard to be Pixar material but it’s not Pixar, it will never be Pixar.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I missed that too, but I’m not surprised by myself for that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, Brad Bird left, what do you expect?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You do have a point there.

Mad Jon: Meh, I think they are just trying to get by, one profitable day at a time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much. Any final thoughts about this episode in particular?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There’s still so much about this episode to talk about.

We haven’t even got to how shallow the satire is.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was satire?

Mad Jon: There may be more to talk about, that doesn’t mean that it’s worth talking about.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well, the only satire in this episode was how extravagant she was, how many costumes she was in and how she’s a superstar.

Charlie Sweatpants: I wouldn’t call what they did satire.

Mad Jon: I dunno, I got nothing productive to bring up.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s exaggeration. Like things Lady Gaga would have if physics, chemistry, and biology didn’t apply.

Birds won’t actually fly around you (well, outside of Hitchcock movies, anyway), but in here you can have anything your heart desires.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I know it’s common but it just seems like they’re honoring her rather then truly mocking her.

Even that scene where Homer eats Gaga’s meat suit seems like it’s honoring it rather then mocking it.

God how I hate scenes like those.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. Though I’d go with “sucking up to” instead of “honor”.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: If your meat suit gets eaten by Homer, it’s instantly an institution.

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Honestly, I felt weirded out listening to the Gaga music, seeing the Gaga train, the black guy…

It felt like an episode of “The Cleveland Show” rather then The Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: There’s no denying that Zombie Simpsons has taken more than a few cues from MacFarlane (especially since his triumphant comeback) of late, but this was extreme even for them.

That opening and closing narration is the real giveaway.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I forgot about that; what did that have to do with the episode anyway?

Charlie Sweatpants: They know they can’t just do it crazy, so they include this disclaimer.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I was a dancer for Lady Gaga, bleh.

Did we already mention Lisa’s “Elementary School Musical” like song or is that not worth talking about?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think it’s worth examining in detail or anything. Every complaint I have about the first song applies to the second.

Especially the “Up With People” part.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I feel the same, but I will say that Yeardley Smith’s vocals felt auto-tuned.

And the way it ended the episode undermined everything it tried to do.

Charlie Sweatpants: No arguments here. Anything else just on the episode? After that, I’d like to get a quick opinion from each of you about Season 23 overall.

The only thing I’ll say is that the couch gag wasn’t terrible. It was five years later than it should’ve been (struggles with Wii-motes are so 2007), but it was short.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There were some decent gags like Lady ZhaZha (for the reference) but then again, “Trash of the Titans” had decent jokes and that episode is terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon? Anything else?

Mad Jon: Nothing else about this episode.

As far as season 23, I can’t say that I could distinguish it from any of the last few.

Not that this is a surprise to anyone, but what can you say? There is nothing relevant or intelligent about the show. Again, this isn’t new.

I don’t see any point in trying to sparse out what went more wrong this year as opposed to last year. What does it matter if the splattered mass of carbon on the road was a squirrel or a raccoon?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Season 23 is by far the worst modern Simpsons season yet. It only has like two really good and memorable episodes compared to the other episodes which are either bad or bland, hell even Season 22 had some episodes I enjoyed; Season 23 doesn’t even seem like they’re trying anymore, they’re just parodying movies, sticking Simpsons characters into situations that they think are funny and let’s not forget about the terrible ToH episode this season.

The only thing exciting was Matt Selman show running a few episodes, but only one of them turned out good, the rest were just an alternate version of what would happen had he show ran rather then Jean.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think 23 felt much different than the last few. The lowlights are always a little memorable (the bar rag this year, Katy Perry last year, I think that slavery episode was Season 21), but you could have broadcast pretty much anything after the HD switch and it would probably take me until the first commercial to figure out it was a rerun.

Mad Jon: Good call.

Charlie Sweatpants: The one thing I have noticed in the last two years, and even more this year, is that the number of voices that have moved past “off” and into” barely recognizable” is increasing.

There have been multiple times the last season where I was astonished at how much even characters like Marge and Lisa have changed recently.

But that’s about the only thing change I can really say seemed to pick up this year.

Mad Jon: That’s probably enough thinking for this season anyway.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I may dig more into this into my review of it, but Season 23 proves to the writers themselves that they don’t need to put in the extra effort as long as they have some way to gain publicity or appease the Simpsons fans that they have. They can stick Bart together with Chalmers and no matter how unbelievable and undeveloped it is, people will still eat it up. They can put Lisa Simpson in a Facebook like situation and it’ll get publicity all because it has Lisa Simpson with Facebook. I can’t say I’m surprised about the critic sites but these sites and the fans are influencing the behavior of The Simpsons, making them think that this is acceptable. They tried to do an emotional episode and have a “Stark Raving Dad” like plot but they got caught up in their own world and they thought that the script they had was good when in actuality it wasn’t.

I know it’s commonplace and I’m not getting anywhere with this but this proves that they’re not going to get out of their world anytime soon, as long as they have the media, internet, and the people who still manage to trick themselves into thinking this episode is good; they’ll keep making Simpsons.

Mad Jon: Ok, well, if there isn’t anything else, I have been traveling for most of the last two weeks, and this is my first night home since last Thursday. I am going to bed.

Thanks Taylor, Thanks Pants,

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay Jon, sleep well.

Mad Jon: Good night.

Charlie Sweatpants: You’re largely right about them slipping into their own little world.

Springfield doesn’t really resemble much of anywhere anymore.

And they seem fine with that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: People should really demand more from The Simpsons.

And going even further, everything really…

Springfield resembles LA more then anything else.

Charlie Sweatpants: More than anything else, I’d agree, but it’s too weird to be any place anymore. Witness that scene last week when the whole town and the camera crew barged into Flanders’ hospital room to report on him and Krabappel.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I witnessed, you’re right about that.

Charlie Sweatpants: The show has fallen a long, long way from a time when Grampa and Homer could gossip about Brockman dating the weather lady or Flanders was just a well liked guy.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I miss the days of characters, decent plots, decent satire, hand-drawn cell animation.

Charlie Sweatpants: You and me both.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Hell I miss the days we didn’t have Facebook.

Charlie Sweatpants: Given the way their stock offering went, those days may be coming again.

Any further thoughts, Simpsons wise?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Though this may go against your mission, I think that The Simpsons with some fresh blood can go on, though that is increasingly becoming a pipe dream because there is barely anybody who can both make it fresh and not be susceptible to being sucked into a fantasy world like the one the writers are currently in.

Charlie Sweatpants: I gave up hope a long time ago.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: This show really needs to end.

The declining numbers will make it more certain that Fox will cancel it by Season 25, I mean what purpose would Fox have to continue making the show when the episodes that are already produced will make them millions.

It’s becoming an ever increasing reality day by day, The Simpsons time is finally coming to a close.

Even though a lot of the episodes in the modern era suck, they’re still worth something to Fox.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the financial incentives for FOX are very complicated, and FOX doesn’t do anything to make them clear to the public.

This show anchors a major (and profitable) Sunday night lineup for them, they’ve got the syndication rights to consider, and there’s the merchandise. All of these things are inextricably tied up with the continuation of the show. If low quality and critical apathy were going to cancel it, it would’ve happened by now. To some extent the same is true of the ratings. They go down every year, sure, but they’ve been going down every year for a decade now.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: This is the lowest that they’ve gone.

Charlie Sweatpants: True, but I don’t know nearly enough about the television business or FOX’s internal thinking to even be able to guess if it’s close to low enough.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: And there is only so much they can do to cheapen the show before Fox decides to pull the plug and just make the money off the cable rights which they gain when the show ends.

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess all I’m trying to say is, it wouldn’t surprise me if 25 is it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s still going at 30.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Though there are people who don’t want to see it go away because it’s been a part of their lives for so long but we’ll get over the loss sooner then we think.

I guess you have a point Charlie, all we can seemingly do is just point out the flaws.

Hoping…

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much.

I want to thank you again for joining us this evening (even if Dave and Jon conked out early).

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Always appreciated.

Even though I’m hotheaded at times, it’s always nice to let out the flaws an episode has.

Charlie Sweatpants: It is cathartic, I’ll give it that.

22
May
12

Compare & Contrast: Megastar Guest Voices

Stark Raving Dad11

“We want Michael!  We want Michael!  We want Michael!” – Crowd
“Here he is, here’s the guy want to see!” – Homer Simpson
“He’s three hundred pounds!” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
“He’s white!” – Woman in Crowd
“He’s dressed without flair!” – Moe
“Boooo!  Boo!” – Crowd

It would take an awful lot of words just to catalog, to say nothing of exploring or explaining, the myriad of mistakes that comprise “Lisa Goes Gaga”.  The episode had it all: bizarre and comedy free flights of fancy, unvarnished celebrity marketing, excruciatingly bad exposition, magic powers, characters acting bizarrely out of type (Lisa, Skinner, there were a lot), pointless and unrelated scenes, and, to top it all off, the entire thing may or may not have been the dream of some anonymous backup dancer.  But all of those problems cascaded from one central failing, the inability of Zombie Simpsons to handle the very famous.

Whether or not you are a fan of her songs or of the outsize public persona to which her music is only tangentially connected, Lady Gaga is undeniably one of the most famous and discussed people on planet Earth here in 2012.  She’s enormously popular with her fans, of course, but she’s also reached that rare level of fame where literally anything she does is news to the celebrity press, and her statements and actions frequently push beyond the paparazzi ghetto and into regular news.  Even a passing familiarity with popular culture requires you to at least know who she is.

This is Wikipedia’s list of Season 23’s guest stars:

Aron Ralston, Jane Lynch, Mario Batali, Anthony Bourdain, Tim Heidecker, Gordon Ramsay, Eric Wareheim, Neil Gaiman, Andy García, Kevin Michael Richardson, John Slattery, Matthew Weiner, Kevin Dillon, Janeane Garofalo, Jackie Mason, Joan Rivers, Dana Gould, Ted Nugent, Armie Hammer, David Letterman, The Tiger Lillies, Jeremy Irons, Michael Cera, Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, Julian Assange, Kelsey Grammer, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Jackie Mason, Robbie Conal, Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Nicholas McKaig, Kenny Scharf, David Byrne, Glenn Close, Brent Spiner, Kevin Michael Richardson, Steve Coogan, Treat Williams, Bryan Cranston, Eric Idle

There are a lot of recognizable names on that list, but in terms of raw fame, none of them are even in the same league with the one time Stefani Germanotta.  Parts assigned to a bunch of television chefs, or a talk show host, or even some well known movie star are basically interchangeable.  There are, after all, quite a few television chefs, and if Jeremy Irons doesn’t want to be the talking bar rag, there are plenty of other respectable British actors with great voices out there.  There is only one Lady Gaga.

That yawning fame gap means that you have to do something special for her.  Just having her show up as somebody’s girlfriend or rival won’t fly.  Even more importantly, it’s a fantastic opportunity.  Someone who draws that much attention from that many places opens up a nearly unlimited array of potential subjects and stories.  Zombie Simpsons wasted all that by having Lady Gaga not just play herself, but play herself as Lady Gaga the Megastar.

Identical Gagas

We’ll do what she did, and that’ll make people like us, right?
(Second image shamelessly yoinked from
here.)

Twenty seasons ago, The Simpsons took a similar opportunity with Michael Jackson – who was, relative to the time, probably even more famous than Gaga is now – and turned it into one of their most memorable episodes.  Crucially, they did it by stripping Michael Jackson of everything that made him Michael Jackson the Megastar: his looks, his fame, his fashion, his sex appeal, everything.  All they left him with was his talent and his voice, which, if you’re having him play a fictional cartoon character, are the only truly important parts.

Stark Raving Dad10

Creative, recognizable and funny will always be better than mindless repetition.

They understood that exaggerating the already exaggerated – and that kind of globe spanning fame is nothing if not the exaggeration of one person into something more than a person – was pointless.  Once someone has actually taken a chimpanzee with him on tour or gone out in public wearing a dress made of meat, there isn’t anything you can do to make the situation meaningfully stranger.  Trying to compete with things like that by making them even bigger or weirder isn’t the least bit creative, it’s just an animated imitation of something someone else is already doing.  If news broke tomorrow that Lady Gaga was touring in a pink and purple train with giant shoes on its drive wheels and a built in concert stage, you might be impressed, but you wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

By contrast, making Michael Jackson an ordinary person is a real feat.  Unexceptional and unremarkable are two things Michael Jackson never was.  From the time he became famous as a child right up until his death, Jackson was always larger than life.  But on The Simpsons (and really only on The Simpsons), he was just a guy, a bricklayer from New Jersey who liked it when people were nice to him.

That humanity is why the story in “Stark Raving Dad” has such heart to it and why the episode is unique among all the things Michael Jackson was famous for.  Bart and the rest of the town love Michael the Megastar.  For them, it’s about the album sales and the dance moves and the one white glove covered in rhinestones.  For Leon Kompowsky, however, those things are incidental to Michael Jackson, the talented boy who loves his sisters and writes songs for them.

The only time “Lisa Goes Gaga” even hinted at that kind of depth and creativity was when Lisa went off on Gaga for giving people false hope and unrealistic expectations.  All the positive attitude and self confidence in the world can’t change the fact that sometimes people fail, that sometimes life gives you lemons that cannot be turned into lemonade.  But the episode dropped that idea almost as soon as it considered it, and ended with Lisa doing things that the overwhelming majority of Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters will never get to do: meet her and sing with her and experience even a little bit of what it’s like to look upon the world from that tremendous height.  After all, there’s a parallel universe somewhere in which Germanotta stubbed her toe before an audition or didn’t meet the right people and today she’s wearing regular clothes and working at a temp agency for slightly more than minimum wage.

The Simpsons openly contemplated that idea by showing that what made Michael Jackson special would’ve still made him special even if he’d been a fat mental patient who dressed without flair and never sold a single record.  After all, his music could reach deep and bring people together even when it was played on an overturned waste basket.  Massive fame and all the glitzy trappings that come with it may be nice, but they are too impersonal to define a person or their talent.  Zombie Simpsons was too distracted by the shiny objects to notice that, so they mistook Lady Gaga’s fame and the pizzazz that comes with it as an end in itself rather than as a side effect of something more important.  Once that mistake was made, the episode never had a chance.

21
May
12

A Spectacular and Unwatched Catastrophe

Chalkboard - Lisa Goes Gaga

“What the hell was that?” – Krusty the Klown

Give Zombie Simpsons credit, when they embarrass themselves for a pop star, they really embarrass themselves for a pop star.  From start to finish, “Lisa Goes Gaga” relentlessly displayed the pitiful imagination and mediocre craftsmanship behind Zombie Simpsons.  In an episode where they outright tell the audience, right up front in an opening narration, that they’re discarding the usual rules and that weird and strange things are going to happen, just about the only weird and strange things that they managed to conjure were a lot of Lady Gaga outfits. 

Unfortunately for them, dresses made of birds and fire spitting bras will not fill an entire twenty minutes of screen time.  They had to fill in the moments when they weren’t expecting us to laugh because Lady Gaga did something weird with empty and pointless scenes like the school awards, Flanders showing up to converse with Gaga and then disappearing, Marge’s weird behavior at the kitchen table (where she apparently lost the ability to let someone touch her and then quickly regained it), the flash mob, and Homer tossing Lisa around like an hourglass for no reason other than it took up a lot of time. 

On top of all that, what little plot and story that did manage to exist between the Gaga fluffing and the filler didn’t make any sense and crashed into itself several times.  Take, for example, the reaction of the townspeople to Gaga.  When she arrives, they’re head over heels in love with her.  Then, for no reason we see, they cheer that she’s sad as she’s leaving.  Oh, and there were songs, but the less said about those the better.

Somewhere in all that mess, Lisa moped around for a while before she felt better, but we didn’t really know why she felt better until she explicitly exposited it – twice.  The first one:

Lisa: Dad, thank you.  Like always, the fact that I could tune you out without fearing that I’d miss out on something gave me the time to take stock and realize how ungrateful I have been.  Which means, I’ve got a train to catch.

Sure enough, Lisa then catches a train, at which point we get explicit exposition #2:

Lisa: Gaga!
Gaga: Lisa?  Why are you here?
Lisa: To thank you.
Gaga: For what?
Lisa: Look at me!  You did help me, by allowing me to inappropriately focus eight years of rage and rejection on you.  It was like a great sneeze.  And now I can say what’s good about me.

That is appallingly bad writing.  It basically boils down to this:

Gaga: Why are you here.
Lisa: Let me tell you.
Gaga: Okay, I’ll ask again.
Lisa: Now I’ll tell you.

Fortunately for Lady Gaga, Zombie Simpsons isn’t relevant enough to damage her pop culture standing, but that was weird, dumb, unfunny, and boring, even by their standards. 

Anyway, the numbers are in, and Gaga did them no good.  Just 4.79 million people tuned in for that hacktacular exercise in misbegotten pop culture references and inane self help statements.  That’s good for #4 on the all time least watched list, and leaves Season 23 with an average viewership of just 6.13 million people, by far the lowest ever.  Here’s the last five years of Zombie Simpsons:

Season 19 – 8.26 Million
Season 20 – 7.12 Million
Season 21 – 7.13 Million
Season 22 – 7.10 Million
Season 23 – 6.13 Million

At the time, Season 19 was easily the lowest rated ever, and then Seasons 20-22 were even worse.  But Season 23 is a down a whopping 14% just from Season 22.  This does set the bar low for Season 24 to avoid being the third consecutive least watched season ever, but tripping over low bars has become something of a specialty for Zombie Simpsons. 

20
May
12

Sunday Preview: Lisa Goes Gaga

zombiegaga

Image bloodied by Dave.

The picture above is the preview image of a YouTube video they put out to promote this week’s episode.  Even if it weren’t bloody, I think flying, headless, boob-cannons nicely sums up what we’re dealing with:

Lisa tries to reverse her status as one of the least popular girls in school by ghostwriting positive things about herself on the school blog. When her plan backfires, her social ranking plummets to a new low – until a psychic force tells Lady Gaga (guest-starring as herself) that Lisa needs her help. With Gaga’s assistance, Lisa and the entire town of Springfield realize that being yourself is better than being like anyone else.

I’m curious to see how much Gaga is actually in the episode.  She could be in just one scene or in half the episode.  You never can tell with Zombie Simpsons.




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