“According to Fretful Mother magazine, if Maggie doesn’t talk by age one we should consider a corrective tongue extender.” – 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.
“In a moment, we’ll look at the courageous Korean gymnast Kim Huyang, who made a perfect dismount on what was later revealed to be a broken leg.” – Olympics Announcer
In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for this brief, amazing interruption of Season 22. Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom. Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk. This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough not on “fjord”).
The discussion below completes our usual trio of posts (Ratings FAIL, Compare & Contrast, Crazy Noises) after a new episode airs. And while it’s been enjoyable pretending that “Lisa’s First Word” was the greatest Zombie Simpsons episode ever, tomorrow it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming of looking at the innumerable ways Zombie Simpsons falls short of its predecessor. A special thanks goes out to our old friend Friz for this comment and to this anonymous commenter for the two notes that finally got my rusty brain in gear on this. Though I wish I’d thought of it Sunday afternoon instead of Sunday night, that would’ve been a fun fake preview to write.
But I don’t think this whole thing was just filler, or even a belated and overly long April Fools prank. The fact that FOX broadcast a great episode at 8pm on Sunday for the first time in forever was useful because it gave us an opportunity to subject a genuine classic to the same kind of minute scrutiny that we apply to Zombie Simpsons. We’re not exactly neutral observers, so this was hardly a controlled experiment, but picking through “Lisa’s First Word” closer than I ever have before was an interesting exercise nevertheless.
On some level, it’s not at all surprising that a show as carefully crafted as The Simpsons would stand up to close inspection. After all, these are episodes that are notorious for containing jokes, asides and references that people don’t catch even after multiple viewings. But until I wrote that Compare & Contrast post yesterday, I’d never noticed the way “Lisa’s First Word” kept bringing up its main plot themes throughout the course of the episode. Oh sure, I saw it happen every time I watched it, but the structure of it was never something I’d actively considered.
More broadly, this applies to just about any episode. With The Simpsons, each episode gets better the more you think about it. Picking up new subtleties and catching things you missed is part of the fun. Zombie Simpsons works the other way, it gets less entertaining the more you consider it. Cheap jokes get worse when repeated, plot kludges get less defensible, and all the problems and inconsistencies that were glossed over the first time become more and more pronounced.
[We thought we had Dave this week, but he managed to escape again. I should probably up the bounty on his head.]
Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then, let’s get going.
Mad Jon: I watched the broadcast version, but there was nothing different than the normal episode. I was figuring on a shout out to E. Taylor, at least more than the special guest voice credit.
Charlie Sweatpants: Nothing?
Mad Jon: Nothing. Not a note, recognition of gratitude, or extra anything.
Charlie Sweatpants: That might have required a production assistant to spend ten minutes producing something. Hardly worth it.
Mad Jon: Very true.
Someone will have to fire that agent.
Charlie Sweatpants: I’m sure there are things wrong with this episode, in that there are perhaps a few lines here or there that might have been tweaked or delivered differently to make me laugh harder, but at this level that’s like complaining that one of those mirrors NASA uses to see stuff that’s 9 billion years old isn’t smooth enough. If it was the size of the Earth the biggest bump would be a couple of centimeters, and criticizing that is nitpicking of a scale even I can’t condone.
Mad Jon: I agree. However, after watching it, including all commercials just for the hell of it, I couldn’t help but think what it would have been like in HD. Not that I want it in HD, but more along the lines of "What if this WAS a new episode."
My conclusion is that most of the Zombie Horde wouldn’t care for it.
Charlie Sweatpants: Animation wise, I assume.
Mad Jon: Push aside the cultural references, as they were at least 19 years old, even though I assume most of them were timeless enough, but the joke style wouldn’t have gone over.
Charlie Sweatpants: How do you mean?
When I put the DVD versions up on my big screen the blood dripping on "I’ll Be Back" looks fantastic.
Mad Jon: No, push that aside too. I am talking about what you and I would consider jokes. Think of the simple humor, based on a family barely stringing it together, with subtle, situational jokes. Now think of trying that on someone who has been conditioned to laugh at overtly physical comedy and random scene changes. I mean come on, this episode really REALLY has continuity. People who watch the Zombie episodes would undergo culture shock similar to a WWII vet who hid in a cave for 30 years.
Not that I give a rats ass about that. I just happened to be thinking about it.
Charlie Sweatpants: Just because someone has been raised on gruel doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate steak and potatoes.
Mad Jon: I know, but this is just such a style change. It’s a great style change, and I know there are people who live with the Zombie episodes that love the real Simpsons, but I can’t believe that the people who openly support Zombie Simpsons could get down with the good stuff.
There are lots of people who don’t like steak.
And I would imagine that I could find a larger ratio of them at a vegetarian buffet than I could at Golden Corral.
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but it’s not like this episode lacks for physical comedy. Between Itchy & Scratchy, Sideshow Bob nearly getting decapitated, the supine Swede . . . there’s more people getting hurt in this episode than in most Zombie Simpsons.
There’s that other stuff going on around it, but if you were just watching for that this episode has you covered.
Mad Jon: Agreed, but the tone is so different. Ok, I don’t want to argue with you on this point. It is distracting us from the episode, and it was just something I was thinking about when I should have been paying attention to my sales manager this morning.
Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough. How about a lighting round? Bonus points for the smallest number of words you use to describe it. I’ll go first.
The clown bed.
Mad Jon: Spit in every 50th burger.
Charlie Sweatpants: Fretful mother magazine.
Mad Jon: Oh damn you.
Charlie Sweatpants: Damn you, I was going to say "Bart’s first word", but yours is shorter.
Okay then, "Rendering Plant".
Mad Jon: I was also thinking, "Shove-it" or "David Hasselhoff"
Charlie Sweatpants: Crooked 50s game show.
Mad Jon: Just came on the market.
Charlie Sweatpants: I could use a TV tray.
Mad Jon: You smell that?
Charlie Sweatpants: Shaving their backs 9,000 miles away.
Mad Jon: Iron helps us play
Charlie Sweatpants: Going to start doing it in the morning?
Mad Jon: Gotch’er wallet
Charlie Sweatpants: Look, a fjord.
Damn it, wrong episode.
Mad Jon: Maggie related, but yes, wrong one.
Although you almost got me to say "Wow, Two!"
Charlie Sweatpants: That’s real shag carpeting!
Mad Jon: Who’s cuter now?
Charlie Sweatpants: You personally stand to lose forty-four million dollars.
Mad Jon: It’s right there!
Charlie Sweatpants: No wonder he won Minnesota.
Mad Jon: He’ll tire himself out
Charlie Sweatpants: Hibbert’s beaded dreads.
Mad Jon: Homer’s living room vision
Charlie Sweatpants: The way only one of Lisa’s eyes open after Patty kisses her.
Mad Jon: Love that spout medley
Charlie Sweatpants: You don’t have a Cousin Frank.
Mad Jon: Since I’m returning your second born
Charlie Sweatpants: I started, so you get last go, but . . .
"Takes one to know one." "Swish!"
Mad Jon: Oh jeez, that’s a topper. but….
Girls just wanna have fun.
Charlie Sweatpants: The professor was right, perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything. Well played, sir.
Mad Jon: It’s actually kind of frightening how non-difficult that was. I am seriously considering cutting back the nights I go to bed with a Simpsons DVD on ‘play all’.
Charlie Sweatpants: I see no problem with it.
Mad Jon: Yeah, that seems like an empty promise.
Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think there’s much left to be said. The world will little note, nor long remember and all that.
Mad Jon: Yeah, I don’t know what else to say, except what a rare deal this is, eh? Would you have ever imagined FOX doing this kind of thing? I mean, especially without any real acknowledgement for why they were doing it.
"Dad-dy" could have been anyone, it just happened to be someone famous who died.
Charlie Sweatpants: They did the same when Michael Jackson died, but that was in the summer when nobody gives a shit anyway.
Mad Jon: Yes well, this is first run time baby, and there were black bars on the sides of my screen.
“Aw, it’s a boy, and what a boy!” – Homer Simpson
“Uh, that’s the umbilical cord. It’s a girl.” – Dr. Hibbert
Continuing on yesterday’s theme of the astonishingly excellent episode that aired on Sunday, this week’s Compare & Contrast is highly abnormal. Instead of highlighting how Zombie Simpsons takes ideas that have already been done and manages to make them worse in every possible way, this week’s post gets to stack up two episodes that take equal care with their stories, characters and jokes. Because while the concepts here are similar, nothing is repeated and everything ties together.
Unlike more recent flashback episodes, “Lisa’s First Word” never resorted to the rampant retconning of Season 19’s “That 90s Show” or the bizarre multi-time frame plots of Season 20’s “Dangerous Curves”. Instead, like “And Maggie Makes Three” before it, it told a simple story about kids changing Marge and Homer’s life, and told it well.
They’re being funny, but they’re also trusting the audience to remember this.
In the very first flashback scene we see a young (and not yet bald) Homer greeted after a day at the power plant by toddler Bart. Their first interaction, a mere two minutes into the episode, sets up a theme that will continue throughout: the flat refusal of Homer’s kids to call him “Daddy”. Bart does it here, and again when they arrive at their new home; and Lisa pulls the same stunt at the end. What’s so great about it is that none of these occasions are treated the least bit seriously. At the opening we see Bart, still in diapers, deliberately taunt Homer. In the middle Bart tells Homer that their new home “sucks”; Homer asks him not to use that word, but to call him “Daddy”. At the end, Lisa successfully pronounces “David Hasselhoff”, but is utterly bewildered by her father’s request that he be called anything but “Homer”. Each one builds on the others, Homer’s mounting frustration definitely included, which makes the finale, when Maggie does call him “Daddy”, both sweet and funny. Sweet because it happened, funny because Homer wasn’t there to hear it.
Homer closed the door seconds too soon, and an episode’s worth of buildup pays off.
The other theme of the episode is Bart’s increasingly hostile attitude toward his new sibling. After initially thinking the baby might be useful for such things as deflecting blame and stunt ramps, Bart quickly realizes that a second child means less attention for him. Once again, this is established early and gradually. After Bart’s unrealistic expectations about using the baby to sop up spills, he loses the apartment he called home, his mother has less patience for his usual antics, and he’s forced from his reassuring crib into the hilariously nightmarish clown bed. No one incident is invoked as a clumsy turning point as in so many Zombie Simpsons episodes, instead a number of indignities accumulate to make Bart hate Lisa.
But Bart’s feelings toward his new sister never cross the line into genuine malice or danger. Even when he’s got the scissors out, the show never implies that he’s about to actually hurt her. Quite the opposite, in another of the brilliant little plot folds, Lisa takes Bart’s antics toward her as play (note her pleased giggle when he puts her in the mailbox). That affection is what ultimately resolves the flashback plot, which in turn sets up the resolution for the overarching plot of Maggie’s first word. It’s a story within a story, and both are seamless and smooth, which means none of the humor ever feels out of place or out of left field.
Compare that to the similarly life changing events of “And Maggie Makes Three” and you’ll see the same type of nested, mutually reinforcing stories at work. That episode opens with some enforced family time leading to questions about why there are no pictures of Maggie in the photo album. The purpose of the flashback is to explain the lack of pictures, but that concept is quickly subsumed (though never forgotten) in the larger tale of how Maggie came to be.
Note Maggie’s pained and disappointed expression as she looks at Homer. It’s there for a reason.
As the flashback opens, we see Homer emerging from the events of “I Married Marge” (well, after his awesome Die Hard fantasy). In that episode, he had to put the welfare of his wife and child ahead of his own. No more eating cookie dough for dinner for him. By the events of “And Maggie Makes Three”, Homer’s years of “mind numbing, back breaking labor” have let him claw his way out of debt, which allows him to, for a brief moment, put his own happiness once more in the forefront of his life. Along the way, the theme of Homer ignoring Maggie (i.e. having no pictures of her) is constantly reinforced, both within the flashback (Homer’s near pathological inability to understand that Marge is pregnant), and back in the present (Homer nearly sitting on her).
As the story progresses, the coming of his third child spoils Homer’s brief “waking coma” reverie, and he’s initially unhappy. He still does what he has to do, including going back to Mr. Burns, literally on his hands and knees, but he doesn’t like it. Just as with Bart’s resentment of Lisa, however, Homer’s resentment of the yet to be born Maggie is played entirely for laughs. There’s the way he cracks pathetically less than ten seconds after vowing to bear his burdens alone. Then there’s his resigned attitude towards the birth of “another mouth”, which evaporates the instant he lays eyes on his new daughter. Even in that moment, as “awwwww” worthy as any in the history of television, sentiment is never allowed to dominate the proceedings. Homer’s wildly inaccurate first impression of the umbilical cord sees to that.
But having wrapped up the flashback plot, the story still hasn’t resolved the first issue: the missing pictures of Maggie. And there, just as in “Lisa’s First Word”, the two stories come together right as the credits roll. There are no pictures of Maggie because the circumstances of her birth, and Mr. Burns’ “special demotivational plaque”, mean that those pictures are always needed at the power plant, the place Homer crawled back for a girl that, at the time, he had never seen.
When the job’s done right, there’s no need for schlock sentiment, the real kind will appear on its own.
“It’s back to the basics, classic Itchy & Scratchy!” – Bart Simpson
“We should thank our lucky stars they’re still putting out a program of this caliber after so many years.” – Lisa Simpson
From time to time, people ask us what we would do if Zombie Simpsons ever broadcast a good episode. Would we kick it just because it’s Zombie Simpsons, or are we open minded enough to say that, yeah, even here in 2011 the show can still be good? Well, I’m here to tell you that last night’s episode on FOX was outstanding from end to end, with a great story, fantastic writing, and more quotable lines than we usually see in a whole season of Zombie Simpsons. Let it never be said that we at the Dead Homer Society doesn’t know quality television when we see it.
“Lisa’s First Word” was another flashback episode, in this case to the events surrounding Lisa’s birth during the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. As you’d expect, there were a lot of jokes at the expense of the 80s and 80s culture, but it never felt like a “destination” episode where they go someplace and just make a string of unrelated gags about it. Instead we got delightfully silly period pieces, such as having the immigrant kids’ stickball game be played in a video arcade instead of the street, and quick, knowing laughs at everything from David Hasselhoff and Carl Lewis to Walter Mondale, Cyndi Lauper and M*A*S*H.
The story itself was just as great. Seeing how Lisa was born, how Homer met Flanders, and even how the Simpson family came to live on Evergreen Terrace is the kind of elegant, revealing and downright funny fan service that has been so sorely lacking in recent years. After Flanders introduces himself in a very Flanders-esque way (“The handle’s Flanders, but my friends call me Ned”), Homer dislikes him immediately without any overwrought histrionics or cliched backstory (“Hi, Flanders”). And when Homer has to ask Grampa for a loan to buy a house, the show never lets the bittersweet emotion of a family transitioning from one generation to another overwhelm the fun. Not only did Grampa win the house “on a crooked 50s game show”, but the touching moment when Homer invites Grampa to share their new home is used as the setup for a punchline about how quickly and callously Homer sent his father to the dreary Springfield Retirement Castle. The whole thing was fantastic from start to finish.
Anyway, the numbers are in and they are eye-poppingly awesome. “Lisa’s First Word” was watched by 15.5 million U.S. households, making it the most watched episode in six years, since that one that came on right after the Super Bowl. Curiously, this excellent new episode is not available yet on Hulu.com.
There’s no guarantee that they’ll be able to return consistently to this stratospheric level of quality. And the description of next week’s episode, in which Marge becomes obsessed with peaches, Lisa becomes a magician’s assistant, and a number of famous people guest voice themselves, isn’t encouraging. But if they can routinely put on something as beautifully animated (the spaghetti slurping scene was gorgeously drawn), fast paced (they covered a ton of topics in just twenty-two minutes), and laugh ’til you cry funny (“I think his name is Mother Shabubu now”) as they did last night, then we’ll have no choice but close up shop on this here blog because there will no longer be any need for it. Here’s hoping.
“Ohhh doctor! We are seconds away from the 100M Butterfly and with the East German, heh heh, women, shaving their backs 9,000 miles away, the Americans are heavy favorites.” – Not Keith Jackson
In our continuing mission to bring you only the finest in low class, low brow, and low tech internet Simpsons commentary we’re bringing back our “Crazy Noises” series and applying it to Season 21. Because doing a podcast smacks of effort we’re still using this “chatroom” thing that all the middle schoolers and undercover cops seem to think is so cool. This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “patriotism ”).
One of the nice things about actually posting these chats is that, unlike Dave and Mad Jon, if there’s something I forget to complain about I can rectify my omission by complaining about it now. And when we did this chat I forgot to complain about the “opening ceremony” thing. It goes on for a full minute and has, wait for it, two jokes. It takes Costas fifteen seconds just to set up the one note Ivan Reitman gag which then drags on for another twenty seconds. You could’ve kept all the jokes and gotten the whole opening ceremony scene down to ten seconds just by getting rid of the Costas exposition and not milking the “who you gonna call” thing. But then you’d be fifty seconds further away from a “whole” episode. They’re so transparently desperate to fill time that they might as well just give up and install a laughtrack.
Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we commence with the curling?
Mad Jon: Ok
Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll start by going out on a limb and saying that I hated this fucking episode.
Mad Jon: That may have been the worst episode I have seen in a long time. I would have to go back and check but I don’t think I say that too often. I think I usually say "That episode sucks" or something.
Dave: It was undoubtedly and unrepentantly stupid, a massive waste of 23 minutes of my life.
Charlie Sweatpants: The thing that really bothered me is that this is the kind of episode that they can sometimes scrape up to almost Season 12 standards. They’ve got a fresh topic to mock, they have the family go somewhere, there’s lots of new things.
Dave: It’s the copout setup, right?
Mad Jon: I think that has been a theme for the last few episodes.
Charlie Sweatpants: And yet, all they came up with was a bunch of montages, several curling scenes that were identical and two subplots so sparse that can’t even be called "B".
Mad Jon: But still, curling is terrible.
Charlie Sweatpants: Curling is like any other niche sport, it’s laughable to everyone who doesn’t love it. The same is true of NASCAR, ballroom dancing, and consensual sodomy.
Dave: It’s hard to mock something that no one cares about, and they didn’t even do a good job of it. It could’ve been any other sport really.
Mad Jon: I think that the only thing I thought was almost funny was when homer said "There’s a winter Olympics?"
Charlie Sweatpants: The montage, or what Homer said?
Dave: Are you guys getting my messages?
Mad Jon: Because that’s how I feel. I have tried to get into the winter Olympics. But each time I do I turn the TV on and see ski jump or curling round robin or sprint biathlon, and I lose any patriotism that may have been there.
Charlie Sweatpants: I got "It’s hard to mock something that no one cares about, and they didn’t even do a good job of it. It could’ve been any other sport really."
But I kind of ignored it. Don’t take it personally.
Mad Jon: And the montage was what I meant, with Santa on the diving board. It was bit of visual humor.
Dave: I won’t. I just got a red nastygram saying the group didn’t receive my chat.
Charlie Sweatpants: I hate it when that happens.
Mad Jon: I have had a couple of those tonight.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s 2010, you’d think a company as evil and powerful as Google would’ve figured out a chat concept that AOL mastered in about 1994.
Dave: They’ve had a rough week. But I digress.
Charlie Sweatpants: I kinda liked the Santa montage until they showed him trapped under the ice, not that that wasn’t kinda funny, but as soon as he broke though my first thought was "he’s gonna be trapped under the ice" and then when they did it I was massively disappointed.
Mad Jon: Yeah, but I knew it would end poorly and stopped paying attention 4.5 seconds in.
Charlie Sweatpants: I mentioned this in the recap post, but I did laugh at the Swedes, "Joy is but the shadow pain casts."
Mad Jon: Oh yea, I liked the Swedes. The first time at least.
Dave: Out of context that’s funny, yeah.
Mad Jon: I thought I was going to have to turn in my resignation after the Mrs. Skinner montage.
That was almost it.
Charlie Sweatpants: That whole pole vault thing? That was awful.
Dave: Angry, spiteful Agnes is funny. Regretful, bitter Agnes is not.
Mad Jon: Real terrible.
Charlie Sweatpants: You’ve got it there Dave, when Agnes is sad we have to pity her and pity for old women is not something I enjoy. When she’s angry she’s funny.
Also, their goofy reconciliation at the end was nauseating.
Dave: Would you have it any other way?
Mad Jon: I now have another reason to wish for a meteorite to hit Bob Costas.
So I got that going for me too.
Charlie Sweatpants: He’s pretty small, the usually astronomical odds against that are even worse for him.
While we’re on Costas, I have a bone to pick.
Mad Jon: Go for it.
Charlie Sweatpants: When he talks about how Olympic coverage feeds on tragedy, that could’ve been great. But it wasn’t because it was exactly the kind of fake self deprecation that sports announcers actually do.
If they’d had him darkly muttering about how awesome it was that Marge was hurt it might’ve worked, but instead they just had him reciting the kind of pat, harmless crap that he does in real life.
I wasn’t surprised, they did the exact same thing when they had Mitch Albom on, but still. Targets this show once bit into it now gums for awhile and then lets go.
Mad Jon: Now why don’t you criticize the quartet on the deck of the Titanic.
Charlie Sweatpants: The violin player was half a beat behind the whole night!
Mad Jon: But in seriousness, I agree with what you just said.
Charlie Sweatpants: About the violin player?
Dave: About everything, I think.
Charlie Sweatpants: Sorry, I was going for Moe in Flanders’ bomb shelter there but I forgot you can’t hear me.
Mad Jon: I can’t think of a sports commenter other than Keith Jackson who I don’t want to not be alive any more.
And Dave was right.
Dave: People tell me that quite often.
Mad Jon: Well then you are a better man than I.
Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the topic of weak subplots, on a scale of one to incessant, broken smoke alarm how annoying was Lisa’s subplot?
Dave: Incessant with a touch of odiousness for good measure.
Charlie Sweatpants: Are we then agreed that Lisa’s subplot was so boring and pointless that we have nothing to say about it?
Dave: I think you were building to something, but otherwise agreed
Mad Jon: Yeah, that was pretty bad.
Pin addiction? Really? Couldn’t it have been some British Colombian delicacy or something?
Dave: Oh god, I just remembered the upside down dancing muzzle.
What did I do to deserve that?
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, if ever there was cry in pain for needing fifteen extra seconds, that was it.
Dave: To whom was that supposed to appeal?
Charlie Sweatpants: Though Homer’s little speech about curling was awfully bad as well.
I think it was supposed to be from Henry V, but the only thing that tipped me off was the background music. What a blatant time eater.
Mad Jon: I was definitely a little more ashamed than normal while watching that bit.
Charlie Sweatpants: Though blatant time eater was more of a theme to this episode than curling.
Mad Jon: Touche salesman.
Dave: What’s the opposite of shame?
Mad Jon: Pride?
Dave: No, not that far from shame.
Mad Jon: Less shame?
Charlie Sweatpants: The hallucination, the bobsled thing, the repetitive curling scenes, even the Three Stooges thing, everything was stretched, even by the standards of Zombie Simpsons. Those were pretty far from shame and pride. Indifference, I think, was quite close.
Mad Jon: I wish I could do my job drunk, you know, like a Zombie Simpson writer.
Charlie Sweatpants: That may be giving them too much credit. Maybe the rotisserie chicken place changed their spices.
Mad Jon: "Ok guys, think of an Olympic sport to lampoon this winter. You know, like… Curling. Only more dynamic and interesting!"
"…Curling ok with you guys?"
Charlie Sweatpants: Uh-huh.
Okay, do we have anything else to say about this?
Mad Jon: I’m cashed.
Dave: Me too.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well then, I hereby declare us all gold medal winners.
“It’ll be great to see the old gang again, Potsie, Ralph Malph, the Fonz.” – Homer Simpson
“That was ‘Happy Days’.” – Marge Simpson
“No, they weren’t all happy days, like the time Pinky Tuscadero crashed her motorcycle, or the night I lost all my money to those card sharks and my dad Tom Bosley had to get it back.” – Homer Simpson