“Guess what, Homey? There’s going to be twice as much love in this house as there is now!” – Marge Simpson
“We’re gonna start doing it in the morning?” – Homer Simpson
“No.” – Marge Simpson
“Oh.” – Homer Simpson
“We’re going to have another baby.” – Marge Simpson
Posts Tagged ‘Lisa’s First Word
“Don’t forget to check out the galley. That’s real shag carpeting!” – Captain McAllister
The title of yesterday’s episode, “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again”, is a reference to a famous 1996 David Foster Wallace article for Harper’s, in which he embarked on a giant luxury liner to experience the narrow, selfish, and vapid thinking that underlies the modern cruise industry (as well as the bland and mostly uninteresting people who think of it as the height of fun). It’s an enjoyably cruel piece of writing (it was later used as the headline piece to a book length collection of essays he published), and you can read the whole thing in PDF format. The subtitle is “On the (nearly lethal) comforts of a luxury cruise”, and the main point is that cruise vacations are mercilessly inhuman.
Wallace held the cruise industry in utter contempt, and not without cause. It’s environmentally disastrous, ethically compromised, and generally unpleasant on anything deeper than a surface level. The spectacular sinking of the Costa Concordia in January is only the most high profile of the industry’s problems. Two years ago, they kept sending tourists to their fenced in resorts in Haiti while people were dying in earthquake rubble. Crew members, who work long and extremely stressful hours, routinely disappear without a trace. And just a few weeks ago, two fishermen died on their disabled boat when a cruise ship failed to rescue them even though the crew had been alerted by passengers to their presence. In other words, this is an industry that places a higher priority on cheesy lounge acts and shuffleboard than it does on human life, and it is ripe for parody and satire.
David Foster Wallace knew that the only way you could say something honest or interesting about cruise ships was by reveling in the ugliness that props up that gleaming facade of stark white hulls and perpetually happy people. Zombie Simpsons borrowed his title, and then did the opposite, making their cruise out to be so awesome and perfect that they actually wrote a song about how awesome and perfect it is. I realize it’s not their job to do exposes on irresponsible corporate behavior, but by sticking with such a sunny perspective they limited themselves to only the safest and most tame kinds of comedy (when they were bothering to attempt humor at all).
Of course, the episode did eventually descend into post apocalyptic chaos (and I thought we were done with the “Outlands”), but only after acting as an unpaid and unquestioning endorsement for most of its run time (and concluding that the only way to have a bad time on a cruise is to take one with Bart Simpson). And, it goes almost without saying, no part of the episode made the least bit of sense, from the completely unnecessary (and exposition filled) scenes where the family paid for the vacation, to Bart’s panic after the song, to the immediate descent of the ship into Mad Max 4: The Wet Warrior, to a quick sketch or two in Antarctica. Along the way, characters wander in and out of scenes for no discernable reason, the plot swings wildly from one idea to another, and most of the stabs at being funny are paint-by-number bricks like this:
Lisa: It’s so diverse! I’ve died and gone to a PBS kids show.
[Kids in wheelchairs roll up out of nowhere.]
Marge: You’ll never guess how many bath towels they gave us. Enough!
Bart: And there’s a DVD library of movies that haven’t been released yet! Whoa. Whoa.
The episode wasn’t completely without its charms, “Magazine Hater” magazine is pretty clever, and the cult of the lifeguard isn’t a terrible idea. But, again and as usual, the stuff that has a little bit of thought to it is drowned in a sea of garbage that can’t rise to the level of being semi-clever or even coherent. When this is your ending . . .
. . . the ship has irreversibly foundered.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be historically bad. Only 5.00 million viewers sat through last night’s infomercial for Carnival and company before hitting up the buffet. That ties last year’s “The Great Simpsina” for the fourth lowest number ever. The post-New Year’s episodes of Season 22 generally hovered around six million viewers. Season 23 is down to five million, and routinely fails to get even that many.
“When are we going to get to my first word?” – Lisa Simpson
“Your what what?” – Homer Simpson
“My first word!” – Lisa Simpson
“Ah, you don’t want to hear that story. I know, I’ll tell you about the time I got locked in the bank vault with Mr. Mooney. It was another one of my harebrained schemes.” – Homer Simpson
“Dad!” – Lisa Simpson
“Wait a minute, that was The Lucy Show!” – Homer Simpson
I like to point out how they frequently ignore the episode during a lot of these Zombie Simpsons commentaries, but for the actual listener it’s maybe the best part. Toward the end of this one, Al Jean tells some stories about his time writing for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and it’s both funny and interesting. The episode flat lined well before he got off on this tangent, so nothing of value was lost.
Nine people on this one, including Carolyn Omine as the lone woman.
0:30 – During the introduction, Jean mentions that he wasn’t the show runner yet, but was lurking. This leads to some pointless banter between him and Scully.
1:40 – The original title here was “Smithers’ father’s apparent murder”.
2:40 – Mike Scully’s in a different room because he’s working on Parks & Recreation.
3:00 – Jean finally starts talking about the episode by helpfully informing us that the paper towel guy “Burly” is a parody of “Brawny”.
3:30 – Paul Newman called in his part over the phone from a movie he was working on.
4:10 – Long silence.
4:20 – Tragedy of tragedies, they changed the real “Brawny” logo a year after this. Meanwhile, Homer and Bart have broken into Flanders house for some reason.
5:10 – After much paper towel discussion, someone mentions that he’d lost the DVD they sent him of this episode so he tried to watch it on-line on some website, but a sex quiz came up after it started playing.
5:40 – Jean tries again to bring up the show, but instead of talking about what’s actually going on, which is boring, he opts to talk about how when they first did their flashbacks to the 1970s Brad Bird advised against it. He said they tie themselves in knots if the show ran ten years. Everyone laughs.
6:20 – Harry Shearer’s wife Judith Owen does the singing here, and they take a minute to plug her albums.
6:40 – This was the first time they’d used the Pimento Grove as a setting since the early seasons, so they had to update the look.
7:00 – Quick story about how Hank Azaria got to meet Jerry Lewis and it was the rare case where the celebrity lives up to your expectations.
7:20 – Now they’re talking about all the old characters who have portraits on the walls in the background.
7:30 – Jean recalls a time Mike Reiss got invited on stage by a hypnotist, and the guy leaned into Reiss and whisper yelled “Just do what I say!”. I can’t do Jean’s delivery credit, but he told it really well. Everyone on the commentary laughed and so did I.
8:30 – After a brief discussion of Smithers foreshadowing Act 3, there’s a pause before they pick up talking about the guy who drew a lot of this. He’s working in video games now.
9:00 – Homer’s just screaming now. Jean recalls that it got a big laugh at the table. I’ll bet it did.
9:15 – Points for consistency, they’re cracking up as Homer continues to scream.
9:40 – See above comment.
10:20 – After a long silence, Jean mentions that while he’s sure most people know this, the title is a play on The Wonder Years.
10:45 – After a quick flashback to Homer falling down the cliff in “Bart the Daredevil”, they mention that they kept the clip short because they didn’t want people to think it was about to turn into a clip show.
12:00 – Not much commenting going on other than the occasional desultory laugh.
12:20 – Jean enjoys the television absurdity of how everyone remembers flashbacks even though they’ve never remembered it in any other episode.
12:30 – They compliment a joke that’s coming up, and then nobody laughs at it when it happens. Weird.
13:30 – Long silence.
13:40 – Silence broken when someone asks if anyone had any good procrastinations when they were supposed to be writing this episode. No one responds and it’s back to silence.
14:10 – General discussion of who was the first one to come up with the idea of someone remembering things and then narrating over them.
14:30 – Finally talking about the episode again, flashback Homer just found a corpse and they’re recalling the debate over how gruesome to make it.
15:20 – Ian Maxtone-Graham’s dad writes books about ocean liners. That fact came up after a good thirty seconds of “huh?” type conversation.
16:10 – Talking about how they should bring “Mesmerino” back. Why would they do that?
16:20 – Someone asks Jean if he ever wrote a Carnac the Magnificent bit when he was writing for Johnny Carson. Jean recalls that the best one they ever wrote they sold to Alf: The answer is “St. Elsewhere” and the question is “What is the message on Mother Teresa’s answering machine?”. Another answer was “Red Square”, and the question was “What’s that spot on Gorbachev’s head?”, which they accidentally used twice and didn’t realize it.
17:05 – Still talking about Carson. This is far more interesting than the episode, which is now looking for a body. I would happily listen to Al Jean talk about The Tonight Show for at least an hour.
18:00 – Complimenting themselves for bringing back the ultra absorbent towels from the beginning to drain the water out of the basin to find the skeleton.
18:30 – A lot of compliments for the set here, from the shape of the skull that Bart apparently brought with them to the trap door under the bear in Burns’ office.
19:10 – Discussing the difficulty of getting mystery stories right, specifically mentioning “Who Shot Mr. Burns”, which seems to me to be the first mystery. Huh. Oh, and Burns is now conveniently showing them a movie in his office, but no one’s talking about that.
19:30 – Much laughter as they joke about how they were originally going to show this as security camera footage, but then didn’t. As usual, no one is talking about what’s going on in the episode.
20:30 – Here’s an interesting tidbit, they have three models for 1970s Burns that they use.
21:30 – Hank Azaria improvised a lot of the filler at the end, and was apparently very happy with it.
22:10 – As the credits roll, they’re discussing an alternate ending that didn’t make it where Homer kept screaming.
22:30 – And we close with Homer screaming over the 20th Century FOX logo. They laugh.