Posts Tagged ‘Politically Inept With Homer Simpson

12
Jan
12

The Fat Man and the Fumbled Sleight of Hand

“Is there room at your table for a foolish old man?” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“Well, sure!  We’ll have to move a chair in from the den, but it’s no problem.  Bart!” – Homer Simpson

Before we finish up with “Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson”, I want to point out one last trick they used to try and make this out-of-date hodgepodge seem snappy and current.  Like the faces of the various Republican contenders (and the null signs over the pictures of Cain and Bachmann), this was clearly a late addition used to work around the fact that the production schedule prevents them from ever being with the times.  Here is the establishing shot of the Republican meeting where Ted Nugent makes his unexplained appearance:

Eight (Relatively) Skinny Men

After this, the show cuts to a close up of Burns and Homer discussing Homer’s choice.  When Homer balks and asks if they can get Chris Christie, Burns points stage left and we see . . .

One Fat Man

. . . Chris Christie, as out of place as if he were in a flashback.  Partly this is just Zombie Simpsons’ old habit of having characters beam in and out of scenes whenever a line and a half of dialogue calls for it.  But in this case it doubles as another incongruous way to make this episode seem the least bit current.  Just a few seconds after the above cuts back to Homer, he gets his gravy hat shot off by Ted Nugent, and we see that Christie is once again missing from the table:

Eight (Relatively) Skinny Men2

And we’re back to how we were in the original shot.  There’s no Christie, nor is there food all over the place.  Most importantly, it’s all characters they could animate into the scene well in advance, so if Christie had actually run they could’ve shown Mitch Daniels sitting in his wife’s handbag or Tim Pawlenty quivering in a pool of his own flop sweat.

This is just a minor cheat, but it nicely illustrates what a Frankenstein’s monster Zombie Simpsons really is.  It’s made of unrelated pieces (many of them quite old) sewn together and zapped to see if they’ll stand up and walk.  And if they have to staple a few scenes on like a bad toupee to make it look kinda normal, then so be it.

11
Jan
12

Compare & Contrast: The Republican High Command

Sideshow Bob Roberts7

“Hail, brothers!  Coranon silaria, ozoo mahoke!” – C.M. Burns
“Mahoke!” – Republicans

There were so many nonsense plot twists in “Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson” that some of the worst ones went by so quickly I almost didn’t notice that they had happened.  At one point though, they stopped briefly at the impenetrable fortress that is Republican Party Headquarters.  That imposing structure made its first appearance in “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, and while this isn’t the first time they’ve revisited it, this one was notably similar because the fiends and ghouls within its walls were doing the same thing they were doing back in Season 6: selecting a candidate.

In each case they weren’t selecting the candidate alone.  Both times they were making their choice with the help of a popular talk show host.  But that’s about where the similarities end.

In “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, those men (and their vampire friend) are exactly the kind of people you’d expect to see plotting strategy in the highest tower of a scary ass castle.  They begin their meeting with a ritualized and evil sounding greeting, and they’re there for the explicit purpose of placing one of their unquestioning henchman in the mayor’s office.  Even better, they’re so contemptuous of democracy and apathetic toward anything but their own interests that at first they actually think that the water cooler in the hallway is the candidate.  These guys are mean and powerful, but also kinda clueless.  In other words, they’re Republicans.

Sideshow Bob Roberts6

Note that everyone but Barlow is clapping.

Now consider what happens at the exact same meeting, in the exact same place, in “Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson”.  It’s even mostly the same cast of characters, but none of them do anything except sit there in the background.  Burns is the only one who speaks, and all he does is ask Homer to pick from a set of actual candidates.  For starters, the Burns I know would never abdicate a decision to the likes of Homer.  More blatantly, these guys have become powerless feebs.  They’re supposed to be evil and just short of all powerful, and yet they sit silently while Homer picks their presidential candidate.  How the hell did these guys ever earn their way to the top of that castle?

Compounding what a bunch of slack jawed wimps they are, Ted Nugent strolls out of the darkness firing his little bow to the surprise of everyone:

Surprise Visitor

You’d think a castle like that would have better security.

Zombie Simpsons isn’t making any kind of political point here, they aren’t mocking the Republican Party or any part of our goofy, convoluted electoral process.  They’re thoughtlessly using the same party headquarters they’ve always used before getting to what they know best: getting everyone else out of the way so that Homer and Ted can act like crazy people.

The problem is that this situation isn’t funny and doesn’t work unless those guys at the table are at least a little frightening and/or competent.  The castle, the maps on the walls, the overall Bond villain motif, none of that matters if the supposedly boss Republicans are a bunch of silent, slack jawed nobodies who give power to Homer, don’t know that Ted Nugent is in the room, and act intimidated and scared instead of contemptuous and powerful.

It goes almost without saying that once things leave this room they continue on their wildly different paths.  When Sideshow Bob ran for mayor, he ran for mayor.  He stacked the debate in his favor, broadcast dishonest commercials, rigged the election, and immediately began an autocratic rule, convinced that he was above the law.  Nugent gutted an elk and then went away.

Like the castle meeting itself, Nugent’s non-candidacy was another woefully blown comedy idea.  Actually making Ted Nugent the Republican nominee isn’t a terrible concept.  It’s not exactly an act of insightful genius, but it’s not a complete dry hole either.  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t try that at all.  Once Nugent meets Homer, he just sort of hangs out at the Simpsons house until the end of the episode.  Nobody runs for anything, nor is there any satire, of Nugent or anything else.  Nugent and Homer just do some goofy stuff and then it ends.

Watching Zombie Simpsons do things like go to Republican Party Headquarters is like watching a couple of kids sit in their parents car and pretend to go for a ride.  They can superficially mimic the scenes and actions, but they aren’t leaving the driveway.  There’s no substance, no movement, no thought or action.  And if you’re looking for something that’s funny, subversive or even just memorable, you’re completely out of luck, because that’s not what they do.

10
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson

Range of Emotions

“You know, Homer, when I found out about this I went through a wide range of emotions.  First I was nervous, then anxious, then wary, then apprehensive, then kind of sleepy, then worried, and then concerned.  But now I realize that being a spaceman is something you have to do.” – Marge Simpson
“Who’s doing what now?” – Homer Simpson

This episode suffered from a severe case of plot whiplash more or less from start to finish. Homer goes through so many different phases here that the episode itself got confused toward the end. After the plane freakout, the YouTube fame, the talk show guest spot, and finally him getting his own Glenn Beck-lite style show, I think they just sort of lost track of what Homer was supposed to be doing and feeling at any given moment.

Right after he starts his gravy thing, Lisa gets cold feet (yes, she was on set with him, why do you ask?), to which Homer replies:

Don’t worry, sweetie, I think I know how to whip up an audience just short of a frenzy.

Once his gravy boat thing takes off, Marge and Lisa complain, to which he replies:

I’m an entertainer. And you can’t entertain and inform at the same time.

So, wait, what is Homer doing now? Does he think he’s just an entertainer, or does he think he’s seriously advocating things? In the first quote he sounds serious, in the second not so much, and keep in mind that he says the second line on his way to Republican Party headquarters.  A bit later, after he finds out that his obviously fake dream was fake, Homer tells Lisa:

I’m so mad, not only will I endorse Ted Nugent, I will call for an end to the direct election of Senators!

And like that, he’s moved onto another new position: serious but angry. That lasts for all of one minute before he fails to cry and Lisa (again out of nowhere) tells him:

Maybe it’s because deep down you don’t believe in what you’re doing.

Homer agrees with that and the episode peters out, which only serves to make things even more contradictory and convoluted. Now that he’s serious again he can’t cry because he doesn’t really believe in what he believed two scenes ago, which was when he was serious and able to cry on command. Wait, what? The whole ending is predicated on the idea that Homer can’t cry unless he seriously believes what he’s saying, but he already admitted earlier that he can cry when he’s not serious. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get to the odious task at hand?

Mad Jon: Please.

The sooner we start, the sooner I can die from it.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good way to look at it.

  Though it is taking a more long term approach to this whole thing than they were.

Mad Jon: You are probably right.

Charlie Sweatpants: This episode is going to age worse than almost anything. It’s like a Leno or Letterman monologue preserved in animation.

Mad Jon: Keen observation.

Just as a beginning overall observation, I have to say that most Zombie episodes have at least one or two good lines, or at least a funny sign somewhere, or, failing that, a good line that is trashed by its inability to end. This episode had none of these things.

  It was truly boring and strange.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, for all the text on screen, there wasn’t much there that rose even to chuckle worthy.

  There was that news ticker, but it had lines that would’ve been rejected by the Onion News Network guys.

Mad Jon: Apparently it’s not too soon for Steve Jobs jokes.

  I haven’t watched any ONN stuff, but I take it by your comment that I am not missing much.

Charlie Sweatpants: They’re great from time to time, but my point was more than this is something that is actively being done far better by people other than Zombie Simpsons.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, Glenn Beck? He ain’t been popular since aught nine, dagnab it.

Mad Jon: I thought I asked you to stop chatting like a grizzled early century blogger…

Charlie Sweatpants: Consarn it.

It just feels like the expiration date on Arianna-Huffington-has-a-funny-accent jokes was several years ago.

Mad Jon: Agreed. This would have felt fresher 4 years ago, but whatever. Fresher doesn’t mean better I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, but South Park nailed Beck to a wall two years ago when it was still funny, and they did a much better job. Ten years from now when I’m try to explain to someone who Glenn Beck was, that’s the episode I’m going to show them.

Mad Jon: Good idea, that was funny. This was not. Also it was at best a poor imitation, filled with lots of meaningless sobbing.

Charlie Sweatpants: I suppose that goes to your point about there not being any decent lines here. This time instead of taking something good and repeating it into the ground, they took something dumb.

Mad Jon: Oh sure.

Sort of like the beginning of the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that just kept going.

Mad Jon: That wasn’t so much satirical as it was just stupid. That was them doing the things you do when you go to the airport.

  Then Homer started ranting.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget the exploding luggage.

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, the things that weren’t accurate were so off base that they missed whatever non-slapstick humor they were going for.

Anyway, it was long and boring, and ended in a stupid rant that led to a creepy t.v. show for a guy who cries for attention.

Charlie Sweatpants: The slapstick was on overdose here.

  When Nugent shot Flanders in the forehead, I half expected him to turn his head sideways so we could see that the arrow really went through, like it was “Hee Haw” or something.

Mad Jon: I sort of flinched when that scene happened, and I don’t think the glare left my face for the rest of the show.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was pretty much every time Nugent was on screen. Unlike so many other guest stars, he was in more than two scenes. Like so many of them though, he only had a few lines which he kept repeating. Bows are awesome! I’m hardcore!

Though I will say, the only highlight of the episode for me was his little song at the end. I don’t know if he wrote it or they did, but "I’ll move the White House to Kalamazoo" is funny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, but only in hindsight for me, as by then I was too busy actively forgetting what had happened for the previous 21 minutes.

  What is he pitching anyway?

Charlie Sweatpants: Got me. Himself, I suppose.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: But before we even get to Nugent, think of all the other shit that goes on here.

Homer leaps off the airplanes wing to get beaten by security guards, which led to a guest spot on a talk show in Washington . . . which immediately led to him having his own show apparently back in Springfield.

  That’s a hell of a lot of ground to cover, and I think at some point even they weren’t sure where they were supposed to be.

Mad Jon: Yeah that’s a good point, not that it’s a new development or anything. But he was in DC gets, a show, and then starts a political movement in his hometown where the show is filmed apparently.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought the scene with the television executives was particularly crappy in that regard.

Mad Jon: Also where Lisa can just show up on set in the middle of filming.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, first Marge and the kids beam into the scene, then those two executive exposited about three plot problems into existence in about thirty seconds.

And that’s before we get to Burns(!) and the rest of the Republicans letting him pick their guy.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that was especially random.

  And rehashed. I miss Sideshow Bob.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s just an unbelievably lazy thing to do. Okay, the Republican bosses want his help or something, or want to bribe him to endorse someone, sure, that I’ll buy. But instead Ted Nugent appears out of nowhere.

That’s so many gaping leaps of logic in such a short time that I’m still tired from watching them.

And all that was before everyone got in on a conspiracy to make Homer think he received a vision from the Founding Fathers.

Mad Jon: Oh Jesus, I almost forgot about that.

  How unnecessary was that?!?!

Charlie Sweatpants: All the unnecessary. All.

It was shockingly dumb and boring, even by the towering standards of Homer becoming a nationally famous talk show host. (And wouldn’t that make him a millionaire?)

The stupidities compound one another.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I still can’t get over some of the scenes. Especially the rants. Those rants are not how Homer rants.

Charlie Sweatpants: But then he decided he was just playacting, or something.

Mad Jon: I guess. That’s a little too deep for me.

Charlie Sweatpants: They hinted at it, but then ignored it. Like everything else it was more confusing than anything.

Mad Jon: You know what else really gets me? It’s a small thing, but it’s indicative of a larger issue. Why does Homer go to the Quickie Mart in disguise? He knows the viral video has millions of hits, but has no idea people like him for it? And he doesn’t discover this until he goes out to by a six-pack?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, I thought the costume was weird, but what wasn’t? Sideshow Mel and Rainier Wolfcastle were just standing there.

Mad Jon: That’s all. I just couldn’t stop thinking about that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here?

  There was the whole wearing a gravy boat on your head thing, but I figure the less said about that the better.

Mad Jon: Nah, except we should also probably point out that Bart tags the video with "Classic Simpsons" which must be some joke about how un-classic it was, but probably not, but whatever. I disliked it, but not enough to make any further mention of it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I caught the "Classic Simpsons" thing too. It’s not like they’re unaware.

09
Jan
12

Somewhere, Birch Barlow Doesn’t Weep

Chalkboard - Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson

“Bart, I don’t want you to see me cry.” – Milhouse van Houten
“Oh come on, I’ve seen you cry a million times.  You cry when you scrape your knee, you cry when they’re out of chocolate milk, you cry when you’re doing long division and you have a remainder left over.” – Bart Simpson

A few episodes ago, Zombie Simpsons had Krusty point out that because of the lead time of their animation they come off looking like cheap, late-to-the-party hacks when they try to do topical shows.  That fundamental problem was all over last night’s year late Glenn Beck-Tea Party episode.  The subject matter was stale and the satire was stuff that has been done better elsewhere, but the place you can see it most is in the little tricks they use to make this expired milk seem fresh.  They ran current jokes in a news ticker, they had static images of the Republican presidential field on a table, with Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain’s photos crossed out with easy-to-add-late graphics.  They know that these episodes don’t work well, but they went ahead and did it anyway because if you can take some potshots at Glenn Beck a year after he was dumped off television and add in some political jokes no one will care about two months from now, then you have to do it.

Of course, problems with stale topicality were accompanied by other typical Zombie Simpsons problems.  There was a main story that did not manage to make sense for more than two minutes.  Characters appeared and disappeared at will, most egregiously when Nugent showed up at the breakfast table immediately after Lisa was talking as though he wasn’t there.  And there was plenty of really pointless slapstick, including Homer getting hurt, kids lining up to be randomly fired into an archery target, and Homer dumping paint on his own head. 

Watching this, I really can’t help but think the staff would rather be writing for Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show.  Sketch comedy is clearly what they like doing, politics provides and endless supply of cheap jokes, and things like Homer’s airplane freakout at the beginning are right in that four or five minute sketch show sweet spot.  After that one we got Homer on someone else’s talk show, Homer on his own talk show, and Homer thinks he travels to the past, among others.  Of course, all that was supposed to be happening against a background story of a national political movement, but they didn’t pay much attention to that so I don’t see why the audience should have to. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are really, truly awful.  FOX didn’t have a late football game, but CBS had Pittsburgh-Denver going to overtime at 8:00pm, which meant that a mere 5.11 million people remembered Ted Nugent after the Steelers came back to tie it late.  That’s easily the lowest so far this season and is tied with Season 21’s “Million Dollar Maybe” for the second lowest number of all time.  This was the shows 496th episode, and 493 of them were seen by more people.  Giants-Packers will be the late game next Sunday, so Zombie Simpsons is likely to get a one week bounce from that, but Season 23 is now all but assured of being the least watched season ever.  The only question now is how far it sinks. 

08
Jan
12

Sunday Preview: Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson

It’s a new year, but Zombie Simpsons is up to its same old stale tricks:

Homer lands his own political talk show after a video featuring his impassioned rant on poor treatment at the airport goes viral. As his talk show quickly gains popularity nationwide, Homer becomes the spokesperson for the Gravy Movement and the voice of America’s newest political party. But when ill-informed Homer is asked to select the next Republican nominee for President and officially endorses right-wing rock star Ted Nugent (guest voicing as himself), Marge and Lisa worry that Homer’s opinion and influence might be more powerful than he realizes.

There’s familiar combination of elements: Homer getting a new job, a celebrity guest voicing as himself, and a story that doesn’t make any sense.  At least it sounds like they’re accurately portraying the Nuge’s ideological commitment to getting people to pay attention to him.  Welcome to 2012, everyone.




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