“Our broadcast range is only twenty-three feet, which makes us the most powerful jazz station in the entire US of A.” – KJAZZ Guy
Posts Tagged ‘‘Round Springfield
“Two hundred and fifty dollars? But I need that album to honor the memory of Bleeding Gums Murphy.” – Lisa Simpson
“He’s dead? Well, why didn’t you say so?” – Comic Book Guy
It doesn’t come up in individual statements, but when you listen to the commentary for this episode right after you listen to the commentary for “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”, the most striking thing is the absence of feeling the need to explain things. Instead of anyone getting defensive or saying something about, “no really, this was a good idea”, it’s all just trivia about the episode, the occasional short tangent, and backstory on this or that. The Season 11 commentary is just this side of an apology. The Season 6 commentary is a regular DVD commentary track.
Five guys on this one: Jean and Reiss, Steven Dean Moore (who directed), and Joshua Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia, who wrote the script.
0:20 – Jean starts out by noting that this is the non-“A Star Is Burns” episode that was done with a lot of the staff from The Critic, and they figured that at this point in the show’s run a major character hadn’t been killed, so why not? Importantly, he notes that the episode is actually about “Lisa’s grief”, which is much better than “Flanders’ dating”, but he doesn’t say that last part.
1:00 – Reiss originally wanted to kill Marge’s mother.
1:30 – The first episode Steven Dean Moore worked on was “Moaning Lisa” and this was the first one he directed, so it was a nice bookend for him.
1:50 – Jean notes that Ron Taylor, Steve Allen, Phil Hartman and Doris Grau all did voices on this episode and all of them have since died. That causes Reiss to crack, “It’s a real blood bath, folks, so sit back and enjoy”.
2:25 – Reiss and Jean took credit on the story, but Sternin and Ventimilia got the “teleplay” credit. Reiss notes that show runners don’t usually take story credits like that, but they thought it was going to win a bunch of awards “it’s death and a black guy and jazz” . . . and then it didn’t. But they did get paid.
3:30 – Jean says that they don’t remember for sure who came up with “cheese eating surrender monkeys”, but that it might have been Ken Keeler. Then they joke around about how people took it awfully seriously when it was just a throwaway joke for them.
5:15 – There’s a backlighting effect on the operating table lights to make it look more like old hospital shows.
6:00 – The little glints on the jagged metal-Os are done post production.
6:15 – Reiss’ father is a doctor, and no matter how many times they asked him, he wouldn’t tell them that you could get appendicitis from eating a piece of metal. Jean then jokes that more people saw this than know him, so they won.
6:45 – Writers and directors love flashbacks because they don’t have to do anything.
8:00 – Jean makes the obligatory note that Steve Allen had done a voice before and later harshly criticized the show.
8:30 – Laughing at the Faberge egg habit. Reiss says that Joan Rivers was collecting them and that’s where he got the idea.
9:00 – It’s Castellaneta doing the great Cosby impression here, but they’d gone back to Sunday by now and Cosby was off the air, so Reiss calls it “residual malice”, which would be an awesome band name.
10:15 – Josh Sternin really did have appendicitis once.
10:20 – It took awhile to get Lisa’s un-brushed teeth “gross but clear”.
10:40 – One of the reasons they wanted to pitch this was to let Lisa sing “Jazzman”.
10:50 – Jean then notes that this was when the show was longer so they could take their time and do things like show the song.
11:40 – Jean can’t tell the difference between a tenor and a baritone saxophone. Moore comes on to say that she’s normally supposed to play tenor, but for this they downsized the sax a little. Jean’s brother plays the saxophone, but that doesn’t help, which leads Reiss to crack, “We ignore our families, that’s why we’re comedy writers”.
12:50 – The scene where Lisa wins over the crowd prompts Jean to compare it to the movie Ray where the same thing happens.
13:00 – Reiss comes on to note that Lisa finding out Bleeding Gums is dead should’ve been the act break. I probably haven’t seen this episode with commercials in the better part of a decade, so I really have no idea where the act breaks are.
13:45 – This was only the second script Sternin and Ventimilia had done. The only other one they’d done was an episode of The Critic. They talk about how cool it was to be a fan of the show and then be able to put words in the mouths of the characters. Jean, feeling wistful, says he felt the same way when the cast of Gilligan’s Island came on Alf while he was writing there.
14:50 – Interesting directing note here, David Silverman told Moore that when Grampa is pointing and yelling at various things being “Death!”, they shouldn’t pull the frame out too quickly. They originally had the camera pulling very fast, but the joke is that Grampa is overreacting, so the camera should under-react to show how senile he’s being.
15:15 – Jean jokes that the Starland Vocal Band tattoo would’ve been a great act break which prompts Reiss to say, “Don’t tell that to FOX, they’ll be giving us eight act breaks now”. Just an observation, but Jean always seems to be having way more fun on commentaries where Reiss is around as opposed to when he isn’t.
16:05 – Everyone laughs at the hot dog cart at the funeral.
16:55 – It is indeed a white Bronco in which Hutz and OJ’s attorney’s speed away.
17:10 – That causes Jean to recall that they were working on The Critic right by the freeway during the OJ chase (Wikipedia and YouTube for those of you too young to remember 1994) when they saw all the helicopters. He jokes that they should’ve run to an overpass with a sign reading “Watch The Critic” among all the signs that said Go, OJ Go.
18:00 – Moore was told that the laid back DJ was based on David Mirkin, but nobody seems to know if that’s true or not.
18:30 – Jean and Reiss explain how odd and puzzling Pogs were, even at the time.
19:45 – Just in case you were wondering, this episode gets its title from a 1986 movie called ’Round Midnight.
20:00 – Wes Archer’s brother Martin did most of the animation on the scene where the clouds come together.
20:20 – Everyone laughs at Wiggum getting poisoned.
20:45 – The “Kimba, I mean Simba” joke is a reference to a 1960s cartoon about a lion named Kimba whose father died. There was even a baboon.
21:30 – Reiss asks Sternin and Ventimilia how it was to write this. Predictably they say it was a lot of fun, then one of them jokes, “It was back when we were young and full of hope”. Heh.
21:50 – Moore jokes that after he worked a long time to get a directing slot on the show, he wasn’t sure how many he’d get because, really, how long could it go on after six seasons already?
“One more time!” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh, come on, Lisa, I got a date with Billie Holiday.” – Bleeding Gums Murphy Cloud
There are a lot of head shaking problems with the way the show killed off Maude Flanders. The biggest is probably the fact that it was motivated by outright cheapness on the part of FOX and whoever else signed the checks. Maggie Roswell had been with the show since Season 1, providing not only Maude’s voice, but also the voices for Miss Hoover, Helen Lovejoy, Luann van Houten, and countless one off or minor parts (“No, my son is also named Bort”). She was always credited as a guest, and the money they paid her to show up in ten or so episodes a year wouldn’t have been a rounding error on the show’s annual budget.
To fans of the show, refusing to pay her means two things. First, it means the nimrods in charge are fucking with the show, which is always bad. Second, it means that trivial monetary matters have overridden concerns about quality, which is worse. The Simpsons was what it was in no small part because it was protected from the death-by-a-thousand-cuts that wear down so many other programs, and refusing to pony up for something as vital yet inexpensive as the actress who voices half of your minor female characters can only mean that the bean counters have gotten their knives well into the vital organs of the show. They mention several times on DVD commentaries that FOX repeatedly nickel-and-dimed them about giving up the live orchestra for each episode, and that FOX was behind the shortening of the episodes by two minutes as well as the ongoing fiasco that is the four act structure. Screwing Roswell out of a few thousand dollars was a chilling precursor to those other management imposed restrictions.
As bad as all that is, however, it occurred outside the control of the writers. Neither Mike Scully nor anyone on staff at the time could’ve kept FOX from treating the Simpsons franchise like a rented mule. Off-voice Maude (a recurring problem in Season 11) and the disappearance of Roswell’s other characters simply isn’t their fault. What is their fault is the unbelievably dumb, callous, and cartoon-y way they handled Maude’s death.
Relating an unmitigated tragedy like the sudden death of a woman who was beloved by her community, her husband, and her two small children would be a tricky task even on a show that’s typically calmer than The Simpsons. Doing so in a cartoon where physically impossible things routinely happen (even before the show fell apart) requires walking a very fine line that allows you to express the sadness of it all while still keeping the story moving and the jokes coming. “Alone Again Natura-Diddily” not only fails to walk that line, it swerves back and forth across it like a drunk driver.
To take just one example of this, the first non-Lovejoy speaking parts at Maude’s funeral are Groundskeeper Willie, Captain McAllister, and Professor Frink wailing, out loud, with their various catchphrases. Not only am I not sure that we’ve ever seen any of these characters interact with Maude even a single time, but the next shot is the supposedly maudlin one of Reverend Lovejoy walking over and putting his hand on Ned’s shoulder while the now motherless Flanders boys are sitting right next to him.
Ignoring Rod and Todd, the closest thing this episode has to a coherent theme.
This is straight up sad, and yet the next thing we cut to is a bunch of Lovejoy administered meta jokes about Apu’s kids, the Van Houtens getting divorced, and a t-shirt firing squad clad in black bikinis. The show whipsaws back and forth with no regard for what the audience might be thinking or feeling at any given time.
By contrast, Season 6’s “’Round Springfield” handles the death of another minor character brilliantly by respecting the finality of death (something that isn’t easy in animation, where anything goes) and Lisa’s feelings at the loss. At the same time it tells us a story that is funny and worthy of the odd but special place Bleeding Gums had in Springfield.
Even though he was only in a few episodes, Bleeding Gums Murphy was another one of the show’s instantly iconic characters. A content but jaded take on the Magical Negro trope, Bleeding Gums gave Lisa a veteran’s perspective on jazz and the saxophone that she had been sorely missing. He wasn’t exactly what she wanted to be when she grew up, but he was also the only person she’d ever known “who had the same love for music that I do”.
Far differently than “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”, the death of Bleeding Gums at the end of the second act of “’Round Springfield” isn’t some warped plot twist dropped out of the sky. The first time we see him in the episode, he’s already in the hospital and not looking his full self, and the subsequent flashbacks show us that he’d had a full and pretty awesome life. He lived long and mostly well, and he got to do some amazing things, so while his death is sad, it’s not a senseless tragedy the way Maude’s death is. Not only is he not cut down in his prime, but it’s not the unexpected whim of a scriptwriter or studio executive that does him in.
More importantly, “’Round Springfield” gives Bleeding Gums the respect he deserves before he shuffles off to his date with Billie Holiday in the sky. After he dies, Lisa (one of his favorite people) earns his post-mortal respect by getting his music to perhaps the widest audience it has ever known. She loved him and his work, and we the audience get to see her conclude their relationship on an awesome (and literal) high note.
A great send off. They didn’t even try this for Maude.
This works because the story isn’t, and really can’t be, about Bleeding Gums. He’s dead, but The Simpsons is going to continue, so the episode has to be about how life goes on without him rather than his death and Lisa being sad about it. “Alone Again Natura-Diddily” makes a weak stab at that same kind of sentiment near the end with Rachel Jordan, Christian rock babe, but falls woefully short both because Maude’s death was so much more traumatic and because that consolation prize isn’t about Maude or Maude’s death, it’s about Flanders finding a new wife.
If your wife dies and leaves you, the newly minted widower, with two small boys to raise on your own, finding love again is something you’ll probably want to do at some point. But that point is in the future, long after you’ve made sure your sons are doing okay and you’ve adjusted to daily life without the woman who cooks, cleans, reads Ann Landers, and otherwise lives your life with you. In “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”, Flanders looking for love is the only post-Maude activity given any real screen time. The whole middle of the episode is Homer trying to get him hooked up, as though that were the only pressing concern he has. Rod and Todd are barely in it, and Flanders doesn’t do anything but be sad and go on lousy first dates.
Strangely, the episode seems to expect the sadness it so coarsely introduced to stay in tidy little boxes like Flanders on the swing set with Homer, but it obviously can’t. Given the magnitude of the change they dropped on Springfield, it hangs over everything like a black cloud. Worse, Maude is treated like an afterthought, barely eulogized, and her prospective replacement is given a rollicking introduction at the end of the third act. As surely as if she’d been Dr. Maude Winslow, “Alone Again Natura-Diddily” isn’t so much about death as it is about character replacement.
She was a bigger part of the show than Bleeding Gums, and her death irretrievably changed the relationship between Homer and Ned, but in Season 11 none of that matters. They cast Maude Flanders off like she was driftwood. Bleeding Gums got an exit worthy of him and the show.
“Wow, you’ve had some career! Although the moral seems to be that a lifetime of jazz leaves you sad and lonely.” – Lisa Simpson
“Well, before you came to visit, I would have agreed with you.” – Bleeding Gums Murphy
Happy birthday Yeardley Smith!
“Oh look, here comes Lumpy, the school snake!” – Principal Skinner
The huge spike in on-line chatter leading up to last week’s forgettably indifferent episode of Zombie Simpsons didn’t subside when the credits rolled, so this week’s Reading Digest is just as gargantuan as last week’s. Once again there was just too damn much going on at once to digest (as it were). Below you’ll find a few more “500 yay!” type articles and, just like last week, they are an implicit statement about just how very little people care about Zombie Simpsons. There’s also lots of stuff about Groening, Hank Azaria’s favorite episode, an awesome Georges Seurat-Simpsons mashup, plenty of excellent usage, a new video game, and a ton of great YouTube.
‘The Simpsons’ Had A Message for Fans Last Night – I put Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week up on Twitter yesterday because even though this video is nearly four years old, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. And it is eleventeen kinds of awesome:
‘The Simpsons’: Q&A with Matt Groening on reaching 500 episodes – Reason number five million to love Matt Groening:
On Valentine’s Day you’re getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In my previous life working for the Los Angeles Reader, I used to type up the calendar section, and any time any celebrity would get a star on Hollywood Boulevard I would type up the press release. But as an investigative journalist I would actually drive to the address where the star was going to be, and I would note what store it was in front of and write, say, "Curly Joe DeRita is receiving his star in front of the Pussycat Theater," or whatever it was — Joe’s Bong Shop. And I remember getting calls saying, "Please don’t. Please don’t put what stores are at these addresses."
Ha! And, from the same interview, an (apparently un-ironic) discussion of that computer animated Tintin movie:
Also, for me, as a viewer, perfection is unengaging. And when you see things that are physically impossible, there’s so much physically impossible imagery that can be thrown at you before you stop caring.
Mr. Groening, please call your office.
The Sunday Intertitle: Give Chase a Chance – Apparently, when Selma imagines what her kids by Hans Moleman would be like in “Selma’s Choice”, it was based off an old silent movie where a guy imagines what his family would look like if he married a woman with a wooden leg. I did not know that. Cool.
Real Geeks Dine At A Periodic Table Table – A guy named Theo Gray has a wooden table of the periodic table:
You can catch a glimpse of Homer etched into a silicon disc at the 3:45 mark. It’s in a case with a bunch of other odd samples, which he introduces by saying, “There’s a bunch of stuff in here. It’s not terribly well organized.” I love it when chemistry geeks aren’t “terribly well organized”. That makes things more fun.
Alison Krauss covers The Simpsons theme – Earlier this week I said I liked the rendition of the theme that was done over the closing credits of “At Long Last Leave”. Turns out it was Alison Krauss:
I somehow missed that in all the 500th hype.
FILTER Magazine Celebrates The Simpsons 500th Episode – There’s an excerpt of an interview with Groening here, but the real treat is the cover image, which is a way cool drawing of a pissed off Homer getting yellow paint all over himself.
The Simpsons’ 500th Episode…In 10 Words – Yeah, but I don’t have a Nielsen box so it didn’t help them.
E o carnaval espanhol? – This is in Spanish, so I’m not sure, but I think it’s pictures taken at a street carnival in Madrid. I can’t decide which is more terrifying, the Smurfs costumes or the Simpsons ones.
Muppet Show Alfabesi! – I’ve linked Simpsons related picture alphabets before, but not this one. Some of the faces are a little disturbing, but I like Marge’s hair billowing all the way up to Homer.
The Simpsons – a tale of love and pain – A longtime fan relates a long time spent with the show, though years and continents. Aww.
the simpsons @ 500 – I couldn’t find a link to the original artist, but click through for an amazing rendition of “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand-Jatte” with Simpsons characters. I don’t think I’ve never seen this before, but it is sweet.
Behind the Scenes of the THR’s ‘Simpsons’ Cover Shoot – Speaking of cover images, this is a promotional video from The Hollywood Reporter that’s one half them putting together their cover, and one half David Silverman giving a tour of the studios.
At the 3:30 mark you can see a FOX guy working on one of those Wacom tablets. He clearly knows what he’s doing, but the computer is also clearly smoothing things out for him as he draws.
YouTube HOF: Best. Simpsons. Moments. Ever. – The writers at Grantland pick some favorite Simpsons moments. There’s a lot of good YouTube here, and the only thing even remotely from Zombie Simpsons is sexy Flanders from Season 11.
Love, Death and Bananas: The Early Woody Allen – A long article about Woody Allen twice references Flanders:
There’s a line in an episode of The Simpsons that I believe encapsulates many people’s feelings toward Woody Allen (those who know who he is): during a dinner party, Ned Flanders confesses, “You know, I like his films, except for that nervous fellow that’s always in them.”
‘The Simpsons’: It turns out your favorite episode was … about 100 episodes. None of them, uh, hit a homer, but all of them were hits – Yet another reader survey turns into an implicit rejection of Zombie Simpsons. This one’s from Oregon.
Doug Webb, Ehud Asherie – The guy who does Lisa’s saxophone parts in the opening just put out a new album.
500 Days of Simpsons – Our friend The Byronic Man lists a bunch of old favorites and asks his readers for their suggestions. As you’d imagine, Zombie Simpsons is thin to non-existent amid all the hilarity.
23 Seasons of The Simpsons, 23 Favorite Episodes – Denise picks a favorite from all 23 seasons. That looks exhausting.
‘Simpsons’ celebrates 500th episode – Apparently Hank Azaria’s favorite episode is “Homer’s Enemy”. I saw a lot of love for that one over the last couple of weeks.
The Making Of "Homer At The Bat," The Episode That Conquered Prime Time 20 Years Ago Tonight – A fantastic baseball focused writeup of “Homer at the Bat”. Which leads to . . .
How a Farmington Hills hardware store helped The Simpsons accidentally spoof George Steinbrenner and make tv history – . . . some even more fantastic local color follow up:
Feb. 20, Deadspin: Most fans assumed that the show had cribbed from real-life events. In fact, Mr. Burns’s sociopathic infatuation with sideburns was inspired by showrunner Al Jean’s grandfather, who owned a hardware store in the ’70s and would constantly berate his employees for their excessive follicular growth. Mattingly had recorded his dialogue a full month before his dustup with the Yankees.
Who knew Al Jean’s grandfather was George Steinbrenner 20 years before George Steinbrenner? One wonders if they wear turtlenecks and blazers in Farmington?
Jean’s Hardware is still in business, and Al Jean’s metro Detroit roots possibly explain the many, sometimes subtle, Michigan references on the iconic show. For instance, Homer once shouted at a pack of elk to “go back to Grosse Pointe,” and another time he dreamed of taking a RV to the Holland Tulip Festival.
How the Simpsons will spark EA’s freemium push – There’s a new game coming out for iOS soon, though the actual gameplay details are pretty light on the ground. Here’s a couple more images, for whatever they’re worth.
Slo-Mo Thing of the Day – Some mad genius took the one minute long couch gag from “At Long Last Leave”, slowed it down to 1/4 speed, and then set it to the Portlandia theme. Gaze in horror as the series degrades before your eyes:
‘The Simpsons’ Creator Matt Groening Donates $500,000 to UCLA – In other Groening news:
Matt Groening has donated $500,000 to the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT) for the endowment of the Matt Groening Chair in Animation.
The endowment will allow visiting artists to teach classes in TFT’s animation program.
Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 30 – 21) – This is the continuation of the list from last week. There’s one Zombie Simpsons episode here (the 24 one), but that’s it.
Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 20 – 11) – This is all good stuff.
Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 10 – 1) – As is this, with plenty of Season 2 in the top 20.
(Semi)Counter Post – Top 25 Simpsons Episodes – The top 50 guy’s co-blogger wrote up his own list. There’s a few Zombie Simpsons episodes on here, but not many. The final score across both bloggers at Bloggius Maximus?
The Simpsons (Season 11 or earlier): 67
Zombie Simpsons (Season 12+): 7
You suck, Zombie Simpsons.
Classic Moments From The Simpsons – Yet another 500th inspired post. This has three short YouTube videos, none from Zombie Simpsons.
Episode 13 – Take Two, From the Top – A long Canadian podcast touches on Zombie Simpsons around the 53:50 minute mark. My favorite exchange:
“You watched it forever. What do you think of it now? ’Cause a lot of people are back and forth on it.”
“Uh, well, I don’t know. It’s kinda garbage, to be honest.”
Simpsons Hockey Jerseys – Mockups of Lisa and Bart’s sweaters from “Lisa on Ice”.
Simpsons marathon sets record, spans 10-plus seasons – One final follow up on those two people who broke the official record for consecutive viewing:
The marathon started with Episode 1 on Wednesday at 5 p.m. and the winners made it up to the 11th episode of the 11th season, or through 239 total episodes.
Sadly, this does not clear matters, as the eleventh episode of Season 11 is “Faith Off”, which is episode #237. Whatever.
Best of the Bull-ogosphere: February 14 – Voodoo Five – Much excellent Valentine’s Day usage in relation to University of Southern Florida football.
a stoned family, is a together family – A fan made image of the entire family stoned. Since it’s from a blog called The Stoned Dude, it makes perfect sense.
THE FRIDAY FIVE – 24.2.2012 – A top five Simpsons guest stars:
FIVE SIMPSONS GUEST STARS
1. Ringo Starr
2. Michael Jackson
3. Dustin Hoffman
4. Stan Lee
5. Adam West
Stan Lee was Season 13, everything else is solid. And even if there is one from Zombie Simpsons, it’s still ten years old.
Most episodes from the show featured a main story and a side story. But this was one entire story from beginning to end. It didn’t involve anything out of the ordinary. And I think that’s what attracted the audience to it.
There weren’t any distractions throughout the show. It was just one story the entire way. It was just smooth.
The way that they got nine separate guest stars to fall victim to nine separate subplots remains one of the most amazing features of that episode. Smooth, indeed.
At 500 Episodes, “The Simpsons” Remains Tiresome – This is gentler on Zombie Simpsons than I am, but I agree totally with the sentiment:
The new episodes are not particularly bad, but rather unable to measure up to the gems that made the show so iconic in the ‘90s. But with the show’s increasing number of unmemorable episodes, the duds now outnumber the classics. Each episode feels like a repeat of an idea that the show has already had, though in the show’s defense, such a fate may be impossible to avoid after 23 years on the air.
The Simpsons Tell Gen X Jokes – A look at the humor of the show, and its decline, for people who were in college when it debuted. (This is what I’m talking about when I say it’s ludicrous to hide behind childhood nostalgia as a way to defend Zombie Simpsons.)
In Which I Discuss Pop Culture References and The Simpsons – As a prologue to a longer discussion about references in the show, we get this excellent summary:
Alas, I no longer turn my TV to FOX every Sunday night at eight. And the reason is simple- The Simpsons is terrible. Awful. Unfunny and sad (alcoholic clown-sad, not Bambi’s mom-sad).
It wasn’t always this way, of course- back in the early to mid nineties, The Simpsons was the smartest, fastest, funniest show on television, and a monstrously huge pop culture phenomenon to boot. Nowadays it’s a shell of it’s former self.
Review of The Simpsons’ 500th Episode, "At Long Last Leave" – Time magazine agrees with us:
It probably won’t surprise you that every single episode I came up with was from the show’s first decade. I would love to write the contrarian article saying that 2000s Simpsons is better than 1990s Simpsons, but come on.
That said, the whole question of whether The Simpsons should go off the air doesn’t excite me, because it’s moot. The Simpsons, which is to say the classic, worldview-defining show that provided me a memorable quote for pretty much every occasion in life, already went off the air. It had a great run–eight or ten years, depending who’s counting, which is far, far longer than even most great TV shows maintain their greatness.
It was replaced by a second Simpsons,** which began around the late ’90s, give or take. This was not as great a show, it was less focused on the Simpsons as a family unit, and in some ways wasn’t even really a sitcom, so much as an institution, like Saturday Night Live, which became known for its famous guest cameos and its parodies and takes on topical issues. It was a lesser show, but that was fine; the world also needs comedies that are just often pretty funny, and to me its existence took nothing away from the preceding seasons.
Preach it, mainstream media brother!
It Ain’t What It Used To Be – And finally, I get to end with a top ten list that wholeheartedly agrees with us:
Last Sunday, The Simpsons broadcast it’s 500th episode. 500th. I mean, that’s just ridiculous. And whilst it’s become a cliché to say that it’s gone considerably downhill in the last ten years, it should never be overlooked that for about 5-6 years, The Simpsons was the funniest, wittiest, cleverest thing on TV, and when it was at it’s best, I’d say it was the greatest thing that has ever been on television.
Thus, I have decided to do a little celebratory post, specifically my top 10 episodes ever, in honour of the greatest programme that ever was, that has now become a sub-Family Guy crapfest. Never forget the good times.
“This just in, Krusty the Klown staged a press conference today to defend himself against charges that his products are unsafe, his theme park is a death trap, and that he’s marketing videos of Tonya Harding’s wedding night.” – Kent Brockman
“And I contend that those tourists were decapitated before they entered the Krustyland House of Knives. Next question.” – Krusty the Klown
“Gee, your station has a lot of problems.” – Lisa Simpson
“Tell me about it, just look at our morning guy.” – KJAZZ Guy
“Hello, this is Moleman in the Morning, good Moleman to you. Today, part four of our series of the agonizing pain in which I live every day.” – Hans Moleman
“Boy, this thing is shredding my insides!” – Krusty the Klown
“Uh, Krusty, that wasn’t a metal one, that was a regular Krusty-O.” – Sideshow Mel
“It’s poison.” – Krusty the Klown
Fair Warning: Semi-hinged rant below.
Back in January, a few days before the Super Bowl, I wrote a post making fun of the Coke ad that was going to run during the game. Shortly thereafter, an e-mail appeared from one of those hip, edgy Web 2.0 marketing firms hoping to get us to help them promote the ad. Shortly-er thereafter, a second e-mail showed up apologizing for sending the first. The guy who sent it had finally had time to read the post and figure out that our site was unlikely to help with anything but getting yelled at by his boss. (That he thought he could “recall” e-mails sent to a gmail.com address remains funny all these months later.) Mistakes happen, especially in the frenzied marketing days before the biggest event on the American television calendar.
Hurry, however, cannot excuse all faults; yesterday we got a press release from another hip, edgy Web 2.0 marketing firm. They build Facebook pages and Flash promo games for movies and teevee shows, and they were hoping we’d help them market the upcoming Season 13 home video release. If I were smarter, or just feeling noble, I would have summarily deleted it; mentioning it in any way just plays into their fiendish trap. But I couldn’t help myself, there was too much delicious marketing evil on display, so I decided to make myself part of their hypocrisy and play their little game.
Most of the press release was the usual blah blah: here’s why the show’s great, here’s when you can buy this marvelous set, here are the episode titles. More interesting is what’s not there: Sam Simon. The Soviet style airbrushing of Simon out of the history of the show continues:
“The Simpsons” is a Gracie Films Production in association with 20th Century Fox Television. James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and Al Jean are the executive producers.
I haven’t seen any of Season 13 in a long time, but I’m pretty sure Simon is still listed as an Executive Producer. IMDB sure thinks so, but nevermind.
Included with the press release was a link to their website. But this was no ordinary link, you needed a user name and an extremely convoluted password to access it. And what did I find when I got through the security? The press release! It was the exact same text as the e-mail, both on the page itself, and available as a downloadable Word .doc file. The only other thing on the needlessly password protected page was the image of Ralph from the Season 13 cover, which I could view directly or download as a 304kb zip file. The zip file contained a higher resolution version, unzipped it was a whopping 324kb. Way to save bandwidth.
To be fair, there was a little bit of actual information contained in all the blather. However, it’s not likely to make anyone spend the extra $10 on Blu-ray:
The Blu-ray release also includes specially created menus with additional animation that does not appear on the DVD.
Holy shit! It’s got different menus that have additional animation! That’s sure worth my ten dollars (sarcasm detector explodes). I understand that taking advantage of the rich and the ignorant is a good way to make scratch, but still. They’re charging ten bucks for animated menus, that’s just unseemly.
Speaking of the rich and the ignorant, expensive menu animations are not the only means to take advantage of them. Should you find yourself at Comic-Con in two weeks, you can buy the set in the crappy plastic head package . . . a whole month before it gets to stores. Something tells me that at the convention they’ll be charging the full fifty dollar “suggested retail” price for such a historic opportunity, even though you can pre-order it on Amazon for just a little over thirty. Marvel at how they pitch what amounts to a 66% markup:
As an added bonus, they will also receive a collectible limited edition lithograph as a gift-with-purchase.
This is a masterful Marketspeak sentence. Look at it:
“added bonus” – nevermind that it’s not exactly clear what the original bonus is, unless you consider cheap, shoddy packaging a bonus; also, note the alliteration at the beginning
“also receive” – not just “receive”, but “also receive”, subtly implying that you’re really getting a lot of stuff; such a good deal!
“collectible limited edition” – Now, “collectible” and “limited edition” basically mean the same thing, so why would you put two words that mean the same thing in a row? To cover your bases and reinforce the concept that you (yes you!) are getting something valuable that only special people like you (yes you!) can get.
“lithograph” – a fancy word for “drawing”, verbiage costs nothing, but adding something decent to the package might shave precious pennies off the net profit; fuck those collector geeks anyway, they’ll buy anything
“gift-with-purchase” – Mr. Webster, if you please: “gift”, noun. “something voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation” A “gift-with-purchase” is an oxymoron, but calling it a “gift” makes it seem cuddlier than what it really is: you paying extra money for chintzy crap and the perceived social status of having something only several thousand other people have.
To finishing things off, and like any good sales pitch, this hip, edgy Web 2.0 press release contains a call to action, a little hint at the glory and prizes that can be mine if I help them promote this shitty, shitty product. Bold in the original:
For further information including review copy requests and possible giveaway or interview opportunities, please contact [E-mail address]
Mmmm, free “possible giveaway” swag. The “Best wishes” part also slays me, especially considering that it wasn’t followed by a person’s name.
I’ve got to say though, the sophisticated predation of a modern marketing campaign is a frighteningly impressive beast, especially when something like this press release invites you to fondle the hindquarters and marvel at the teeth. While it’s true that all they’re really doing is wringing every last penny out of television episodes that are nearly a decade old (and crappy ones at that), their methods demonstrate extremely keen anthropology. They have a precise faculty of human weakness, and they know the most tender places to strike.
It isn’t easy to sell things at a grotesque markup, but Comic-con, where collectors predominate and everyone’s mind is already swirling from the big noises and shiny things, is clearly the place to do it. No one with a titch more brains than money will pay extra for a standard definition television show on Blu-ray, but there’s plenty of coin to be made marketing to unconsidered purchases. Whether it’s bought as a gift or not, the kneejerk human reflex of expensive=better will add undetermined millions to the bottom line.
My plaintive internet keening will have no measurable effect on their revenue, and there’s no chance that an honest outline of their disingenuous sales tactics will cause a significant number of people to reject them. Even whether or not documenting their greed and immunity to shame is worth doing is an open question. But futility and pointlessness have never been impediments to this website. Rot in hell, Zombie Simpsons. May your discs and collector’s editions be left in middens with the rest of pop culture’s cruelest mistakes.
“You’ve made an old jazz man happy, Lisa.” – Bleeding Gums Murphy Cloud
“You must avenge my death Kimba, I mean Simba.” – Mufasa Cloud
“Luke, I am your father.” – Darth Vader Cloud
“This is CNN.” – James Earl Jones Cloud
“Will you guys pipe down! I’m saying goodbye to Lisa!” – Bleeding Gums Murphy Cloud
“We’re sorry.” – Mufasa Cloud, Darth Vader Cloud, James Earl Jones Cloud
Happy Birthday James Earl Jones!
“I’ve been playing jazz for thirty years and I just can’t make a go of it. I want you to have my saxophone.” – “Blind” Willie Witherspoon
“This isn’t a saxophone, it’s an umbrella.” – “Bleeding Gums” Murphy
“So I’ve been playing an umbrella for thirty years? Why didn’t anybody tell me?” – “Blind” Willie Witherspoon
“We all thought it was funny.” – “Bleeding Gums” Murphy
“That’s not funny.” – “Blind” Willie Witherspoon
“And I won’t rest until I’ve gotten a hot dog.” – Homer Simpson
“Homer, this is a cemetery.” – Marge Simpson
“Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here!” – Hot Dog Guy
“Woo hoo!” – Homer Simpson
“What do you do, follow my husband around?” – Marge Simpson
“Lady, he’s putting my kids through college.” – Hot Dog Guy