Posts Tagged ‘Once Upon a Time in Springfield

21
Jan
10

Crazy Noises: Once Upon a Time in Springfield

Marge vs. the Monorail2

“Krusty, why won’t you answer my calls?  You’ve never even seen our son.” – Fraught Woman

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 “illegitimate”).

I sometimes wonder whether the people behind Zombie Simpsons operate from the same comedy principals that made The Simpsons great and just suck at implementing them, or if they don’t understand what made the show funny in the first place and instead just flail around in their own mediocre way.  The truth is that it’s probably a bit of both.  Indeed, we can see evidence for each in “Once Upon a Time in Springfield”. 

In support of the first contention (that they get it but suck) are things like the wedding scene where we see Krusty’s bitter ex-wives.  It wasn’t particularly funny but it had the structure, if not the content, of actual Simpsons. 

In support of the second contention (that they don’t get it and suck) we have the underlying premise of Krusty’s plot.  Krusty is funny precisely because he’s so unlikeable and selfish and yet here we have him finding love and, as the odious phrase goes, “growing as a person”.  It completely contradicts and undermines everything that made the character who he was, it’s hard to imagine anyone who understands him writing this.  Ah well, I guess we’ll never really know, but either way the key word is “suck”. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get started?

Mad Jon: Yes

Yes we should

I’ll need some prodding though, I seem to have blocked it from memory.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I would like my opening statement entered into the record as: this episode unintentionally crossed a line of bitter irony that was barely on the horizon in "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie"

Mad Jon: Oh wait, now I remember, something about Anne Hathaway and a princess

Dave: Yep, that was something that happened

Charlie Sweatpants: Having Bart and Milhouse writhing in agony as their favorite show became a travesty of its former self was either the most clever "fuck you" to the fans in years or a depth of self ignorance hitherto unplumbed on network television.

Mad Jon: I am going with option b. That would be pretty clever, a little too clever methinks.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m inclined to agree.

Dave: brb

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll stay here, but I’m going to think about products I might like to purchase.

Mad Jon: You can’t expect me to sit here for thirty minutes.

Dave: Back, and yes, option B makes the most sense

The writers aren’t nearly that good or clever enough to be that subversive

Charlie Sweatpants: You’re probably right. The show is pretty oblivious these days.

Mad Jon: That would be pretty funny if we were wrong about this, and it turns out that the last few seasons of the Simpsons are like the Jonas Brothers episode of South Park and Matt Groening is making a crappy show for some profitable purpose.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s all a massive marketing conspiracy?

Mad Jon: Not that I can think of what that profitable purpose would be, I am pretty sure the merchandising is equal to the GNP of most developed nations.

Dave: Oh please won’t somebody think of the fanboys?

Their heads would explode

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d buy that, but I don’t think there’s anything secret about it. At least the Jonas Brothers were being lied to, I’m pretty sure the current staff knows what the score is on some basic level.

Dave has left

Charlie Sweatpants: Uh oh

Mad Jon: Well, it looks like Dave can’t take it anymore.

Dave has joined

Charlie Sweatpants: Comcast again?

Dave has left

Charlie Sweatpants: Damns.

Dave has joined

Charlie Sweatpants: Internet problems?

Dave: Yeah, I think so.  Carry on

Mad Jon: I know a guy who went to ITT Tech for 2 years only to end up as the supervisor of the 12-8am call center.

He made more money selling computers at Best Buy, and didn’t have to pay ITT Tech to do that.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s awful on a number of levels, but what does it have to do with this conversation?

Mad Jon: Nothing, just saying.

Dave: My mind is reeling at those statements

Mad Jon: Comcast sucks that’s all.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes it does.

Anyway, back to the episode.

Dave: Agreed. So where were we?

Charlie Sweatpants: We were debating whether or not having Bart and Milhouse suffer as television fans was an intentional swipe at guys like us. We came down on "no" because it seems too clever for them.

Mad Jon: Man, that’s all we got?

Charlie Sweatpants: But while we’re on the subject of "fuck you"s to the fans, um, what the hell was up with Burns?

Mad Jon: They must have felt they needed a B plot. Probably because the A plot, which has the same guest star the A plot had like 6 episodes ago, sucked.

He must really like Homer, Carl, and Lenny.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah but how would that be different from any other episode?

Mad Jon: You know, because of the Guest Star, usually its a different patsy each time.

Dave: I think you mentioned this a while back Charlie, but Burns liking his employees is wildly out of character

Charlie Sweatpants: That Burns would want them back I can stomach, that he would get them back by being NICE to them, that I cannot.

Mad Jon: To play the Devil’s advocate, I don’t think he liked them, he just wanted them not to leave.

Er, what Charlie said.

Dave: Sure, six of one, half-dozen of another

You guys knew what I meant

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, I can read between the rage lines.

Mad Jon: Those doughnuts sounded pretty tasty though.

Charlie Sweatpants: But isn’t that part of the problem?

Mad Jon: Taste?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve seen Homer eat a donut that was dropped on a parking lot by a monkey.

Mad Jon: And then stepped on by another monkey. Yeah, you’re right.

I’m not saying the plot wasn’t shaky, or even terrible, but I do like doughnuts.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sorry, I’m choking on my own rage here.

Mad Jon: While I’m thinking of it, Did they end up getting married in the river, or something. How did this end?

I kinda wandered off as the episode was wrapping up.

Charlie Sweatpants: To take Homer loving donuts and turn it into something that was legitimately out of character for Homer is almost beyond comprehension.

Dave: They floated down the Seine to an acoustic version of "Moon River"

Mad Jon: Bam, second encore.

Charlie Sweatpants: After like three minutes of cliche.

Dave: and then there was a unicorn and sparkles

Charlie Sweatpants: You know what that reminded me of?

Mad Jon: What?

Fill me in here.

Charlie Sweatpants: "You know what happens! They find Captain Kook’s treasure, all the elves dance around little green idiots, I puke, the end."

Mad Jon: Ah.

Dave: Well played.

Charlie Sweatpants: The ending of this episode was more formulaic and predicable than the Happy Little Elves. I can’t stress how mind bendingly uncreative this show has gotten any more than that.

Mad Jon: I liked Krusty better when he was a drunken gambling degenerate who has several illegitimate children.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes, a thousand times yes to that.

Mad Jon: And how many hours a day do you think Jackie Mason is awake? Like 3?

Dave: Jon you made a comment a few days back that still resonates today – I haven’t the energy to say anything more than "this sucks" anymore

Mad Jon: Yeah, Zombie Simpsons will do that to you.

Charlie Sweatpants: When Krusty let her go for what can almost be described as a decent Simpsons-esque reason, they screwed it up by chickening out and giving it a sappy ending.

Dave: Well you forget Charlie, they had to celebrate a meaningless milestone

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, the best is apparently yet to come. So I guess all our fears can be set aside.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know about that. "Fear" implies uncertainty, whereas I know that there’s at least another season and a half of this feculent drivel left (and probably more than that).

Dave: Ye of little faith.

Mad Jon: Well put. I remember about 15 years ago when Troy McClure told us that this is going to go on until the show becomes unprofitable.

Dave: It’s going to go on until the actors croak.

Mad Jon: Those can be replaced.

Dave: Damn you and your relentless logic.

Charlie Sweatpants: Unprofitability is but a scant hope these days.

I will say that there was one joke in this episode I liked. Near the beginning when they were auditioning Krusty’s replacements and one of them says "Hey hey, I’m non-union!"

Dave: I thought that was cute.

Charlie Sweatpants: But like Bart and Milhouse’s agony this may be either a ridiculously clever threat at those sadly mortal voice actors or just more unintentional irony.

Dave: Again I’m voting for the latter.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yup.

Anything else? I can’t help but feel like all we’ve criticized is the romantic comedy ending, the massively out of character B plot, and the intentionally dull nature of the main plot.

But when I type it out like that it seems longer than it felt.

Dave: That pretty well covers it. I might add though that Hathaway’s Long Island accent was excruciating

Mad Jon: I didn’t know that Anne Hathaway could sing. Not that it matters, and for all I know it wasn’t even her, but whatever. Also, I always thought that, um, dogs, laid eggs.

Dave: And as a once and future New Yorker, wildly offensive

Charlie Sweatpants: IMDB says she was born in Brooklyn though.

Mad Jon: Hah, her accent does suck. So that’s pretty funny.

Charlie Sweatpants: So she can’t convincingly imitate her own accent . . . actually that is kinda funny.

Dave: Brooklyn isn’t Long Island friend

I mean, they might be on the same island but they’re worlds apart

Charlie Sweatpants: But culturally they’re different, I got you.

Mad Jon: Go back to the east coast you bastard. You probably like the Yankees too, don’t you. Everything I know about you is a lie.

Dave: I don’t know how to begin to respond to that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t.

He’s probably been drinking.

Mad Jon: Sorry, I typed the loud part quiet and the quiet part loud.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

Mad Jon: And actually I am stone sober, so that’s probably my problem right now.

Sorry Dave

Charlie Sweatpants: Sobriety is irritating.

Dave: I forgive you Jon.

Charlie Sweatpants: So once again we’ve come to anger while discussing Zombie Simpsons.

Mad Jon: We have to stop this. It’s tearing us apart.

Charlie Sweatpants: Zombie Simpsons is like that slime from Ghostchasers II, it makes good people to bad things.

19
Jan
10

Synergy Contradicts Itself

“Smithers I’ve been thinking, is it wrong to cheat in order to win a million dollar bet?” – C.M. Burns
“Yes, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Let me rephrase that.  Is it wrong if I cheat in order to win a million dollar bet?” – C.M. Burns
“No, sir.  Who would you like killed?” – Mr. Smithers
 

In its never ending mission to praise Zombie Simpsons in the most obsequious of ways IGN will sometimes slip up.  Like all paid sycophants, IGN doesn’t have a coherent, well thought out world view.  It simply finds ways to praise and doesn’t concern itself with any kind of emotional or intellectual integrity.  That means that on occasion you get statements that, while praiseworthy when taken in the moment, contradict an earlier praiseworthy statement.  This week’s review is such an occasion.  With that one exception I’ve edited out the synergy.

January 10, 2010 – The 450th episode of The Simpsons was further proof that it’s nice to still have this series around this show has gone on way too fucking long. All sorts of arguments can be made that the show just isn’t as good as it used to be, and to an extent, it would be hard to argue those are all true. But I don’t think you’d have such an easy time convincing people that the current state of the series is bottom-of-the-barrel terrible even though that’s also true. Okay, it may not be turning out classic boring turd after classic boring turd after classic sappy boring turd, but The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons can still deliver convince smart dimwits and solid fanboys that’s it still qualifies as entertainment. "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" was another solid episode sappy boring turd, from television’s longest running series. And, honestly, to deliver an ineffective, unfunny episode on your 450th turn is quite an accomplishment about what we expect these days.

The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons has reached milestones like this a number of times in its history. On each occasion, the episode itself paid little mind to the goal being accomplished [Ed Note: I’m leaving this sentence alone to point out that it directly contradicts something IGN said last summer.  That’s sloppy synergy.]. Only "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" stands out as an episode actually saying something about the feat it was achieving. With that episode, The Simpsons became the longest running primetime animated series, surpassing The Flintstones. And in that episode, the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon was portrayed as faltering and losing its edge, much like The Simpsons itself was being talked about at that time, it was a joke that could only work once and despite that fact became a staple of later episodes (cough, Comic Book Guy, cough). "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" took a similar route trotted this tired cliche out yet again when the producers of "The Krusty the Clown Show" complained that the show was losing ratings among young girls and decided to add Princess Penelope to the cast.

Penelope will never be likened to Poochie being added to the cat and mouse duo (except by me, of course), but the storyline still offered up a lot of laughs suffered horribly as deliberately unfunny sequences were used to eat screen time. Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) gave a fun  by the numbers performance as the Princess, which also showcased used her singing chops to kill some more clock. Krusty had a very blindingly familiar arc in the episode, hitting rock bottom and then swearing a comeback, and lots of laughs exposition came from Krusty dealing with his predicament, yet again. I was quite enjoyed bored by his wild "Hey-Hey!" followed by the somber, "Seriously, hey-hey, kids." Krusty’s embarrassingly slow slapstick bits in the dumpster after announcing his comeback were also a riot painfully dull: "Oh, why do clown things always happen to clowns?" Laughs Grim recognition could also be found in Bart and Milhouse’s reactions to a princess taking over their favorite show, especially when Bart referred to a sidekick as the lowest form of life. Milhouse happily agreed.

The secondary storyline of this episode was subtly celebratory of the even further out of character for this once awesome series reaching such a status of productivity. This story conceit centered on Homer, the nuclear power plant and donuts — all icons of the series itself which were once again bastardized in the name of filling time. Due to cost cutting, Mr. Burns eliminated the free donuts in the break room. Without his free food, Homer hungrily lamented, "All I’ve had are my meals." This made it easier for a corporate headhunter to almost lure Homer, Lenny and Carl to work for the Capital City power plant for some reason. Not only would they have gotten free donuts, but also other perks like massages and Gary Larson pointless cameos as their in-house cartoonist. The unseen Larson comic was a fantastically funny bit for fans of The Far Side: "A lion would not want to see that on his X-ray." Of course, it was simply the promise of the world’s greatest donuts that brought the three coworkers back to Springfield after Burns decided he loved his employees for some reason.

The direct references to The Simpsons longevity — the blackboard bit, Maggie’s billboard and the actual thanks at the end of the episode — were fun wildly undeserved self fellatio, but what really felt good were the donuts. Homer’s undying love for the product ("…the masculine contours of the box juxtaposed with the feminine curves of the treat themselves.") is just like our love for the series . . . 300 episodes ago. Congrats on 450.

12
Jan
10

Does Seth MacFarlane have feelings?

I’ll give the writers of Zombie Simpsons credit where credit is due: when they want to go out on a formulaic note, they don’t hold back. To say that Sunday’s ending was supremely schmaltzy is an understatement, as Krusty and Penelope lovingly floated away on the Seine under a starry sky to an acoustic version of “Moon River.” As if that weren’t enough, the writers took an additional opportunity to blanket the audience with warm fuzzies in the form of a passive aggressive “fuck you” to the haters (i.e., us.):

Right. Ignoring the self-delusion in the second line, it’s interesting to note that an alternate, almost funny ending was screened to journalists earlier. Whatever you think of the Family Guy/Simpsons rivalry/non-rivalry, you have to admit the snarkier text is worth a chuckle:

I suspect we’ll never know why one version aired over another, but Gawker and the New York Times have half-heartedly speculated the latter was axed to spare Seth MacFarlane’s feelings. Then again, does a wealthy man like Seth even care what others think about him? Highly unlikely.

11
Jan
10

Better Lucky than Good

Chalkboard - Once Upon a Time in Springfield

The numbers are in and as expected they are monstrous.  FOX’s relentless anniversary promotion combined with the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history prompted 21.07 million people to watch last night’s Zombie Simpsons.  According to TVbytheNumbers that number is likely to change somewhat (probably down, if I read it correctly) because the Packers/Cardinals game didn’t finish until after 8pm.  So we’ll update this when the final numbers are available.  By 8:30, when Spurlock’s thing was supposed to start, the numbers were down to a still large, but by no means enormous, 13.46 million. 

I’ll do the math when the final number is known, but this one night might be enough to prevent Season 21 from being the lowest rated season ever.  Season 20 did terrible in the spring and Season 21 will need to do even worse to get the Season 21 average below Season 20’s 7.12 million. 

Update 14 January: The final numbers are in and as expected they were revised down significantly.  The final number for that awful episode was 14.62 million viewers.  It’s still the top rated episode since the post-Super Bowl one back in 2005, but not nearly as huge as originally thought.

10
Jan
10

Zombie Simpsons Violates My “No Romantic Comedy” Rule for Me

“Morons, pathetic morons in my employ stealing my precious money.  This is hopeless.  None of these cretins deserves a promotion.” – C.M. Burns

I was slightly afraid we’d be in for some schlock on account of the whole fake 20th Anniversary thing.  I should have been more afraid.  No only did the B-plot pervert Burns beyond even what Zombie Simpsons has done before,* but the last half of the A-plot was a romantic comedy that would’ve made Julia Roberts ashamed.  Also, it’s not a good idea to take up a lot of your run time with things that are deliberately unfunny.  Though the sight of Bart and Milhouse suffering through a total perversion of their favorite show did strike a chord with me. 

That wasn’t even the height of the unintentional comedy though.  Because while I don’t have any real opinion on Domino’s Pizza admitting their product sucked, throwing themselves on the mercy of their customers, and then begging forgiveness, I do find it ironic that they’re advertising this complete top to down overhaul on Zombie Simpsons.  And finally we can add Krusty to the list of voices that don’t sound like themselves and longer. 

We’re going to have to be ready for a massive 20th anniversary/playoff football overtime ratings number on this one.  I’m braced for over 10 million even as I hope against hope it’ll fall short of that. 

*I didn’t like it when they made him incompetent, but he’s never before (to my knowledge) loved his employees.  Ugh.




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