“Ow! My bones are so brittle, but I always drink plenty of . . . Malk?” – Bart Simpson
Happy 20th Anniversary to “The PTA Disbands”! Original airdate 16 April 1995.
“Kids have been doing that one since my day.” – Marge Simpson
Rather than get into the nonsensical pageant of the transmundane that was the last third of “Blazed and Confused”, I’d like to take a look at a small moment from the beginning that illustrates the general shallowness of this episode. Specifically, the way that Bart’s closet/skeleton “prank” fails as both a prank, a joke, and as a part of the rest of the episode, especially when compared with Bart’s similar actions in “The PTA Disbands”.
While the backstories differ considerably, the immediate situation in both episodes is remarkably similar. In each one, the kids have a new teacher about whom they know basically nothing other than, as Bart says, “They’re trying to teach”. Also in each, Bart has prepared an elaborate booby trap to welcome the newly unfortunate teacher. This is where the two episodes diverge.
In “Blazed and Confused”, Bart has hidden a remote control car and a skeleton in the closet at the back of the room. His plan is to bump the car into the door a couple of times to get the teacher to investigate; when the door is opened, the skeleton drops from the ceiling, presumably frightening the teacher.
This is, to put it mildly, a very pedestrian prank. It wouldn’t be all that hard to set up in real life. Unless the person involved was very high strung or this was being done late at night on Halloween or something, it probably wouldn’t frighten anyone so much as briefly puzzle them. For proof, look no further than “Bart Carney”, which did the exact same thing as an example of something that was indefensibly lame.
“That was just confusing.”
To be fair to Zombie Simpsons, upon seeing Bart’s hapless skeleton trick, Milhouse says that it’s only kinda scary. So they’re aware that this is not one of Bart’s masterpieces. But they still have him go through with it, thinking it’ll work. It’s Bart doing what so many characters do in Zombie Simpsons: act contrary to who he is. Similarly, later in the episode, Marge will blindly trust Homer to do something that the Marge of Season 6 would never blindly trust Homer to do. The situations and story requirements are so dumb that they require the characters to act like lifeless versions of themselves just to get from scene to scene.
Bart’s prank, which they show us twice, is something the Bart of “The PTA Disbands” would scoff at. He’s the kid who hung a giant log from the ceiling to smash some unsuspecting teacher back into the blackboard. It would probably be fatal in real life, but that doesn’t matter because this is a cartoon and nothing bad actually happens. Bart leaps to his mother’s rescue, and she, having nearly just killed, fondly intones that kids have been attacking their teachers Ewok-style since she was in school.
This is one of those multi-layer jokes that made this show so damned funny. There’s 1) the over the top violence of it, 2) the fact that little 10-year-olds are vicious enough to plan it, 3) that 10-year-olds have always been doing that, and 4) that all of this is considered so normal that nobody is even upset. And none of that even takes in the context: Bart having to be reminded of them by Milhouse, the list of already dispatched teachers, and Bart suffering the beginnings of the perpetual embarrassment of being one of his earnestly uncool mother’s students.
And Milhouse didn’t even have to stick his nose through the hole.
The blackboard shattering impact of the log isn’t any kind of stand alone joke or punchline. It’s a fast and necessary part of a complete scene where each element complements and exaggerates every other. The last line before it comes crashing down is Milhouse’s, “I meant the other bobby trap!”, a statement that wouldn’t make sense if we hadn’t already seen Bart brush the thumb tack off Marge’s chair, or rush up there in a panic, or the rest of the scene that explains what they’re doing.
By contrast, the last line before Season 26 Bart starts his effort at teacher warfare, is Bart saying, “I will not. Anything to delay a spelling test”. What spelling test? What is Bart hoping this hapless thing he once saw in a broken down carnival ride is going to accomplish? Cause this guy to run off screaming? Prime him for the most traumatic hose soaking of his life? We sure don’t know. He’s trying to get out of something the audience neither knows nor cares about, and what he’s doing wouldn’t work anyway. In and of itself, the prank is dumber and weaker, and outside of that it dangles (literally) in the middle of the scene with hardly a connection to outside events.
You can see this same isolation and lack of connection throughout “Blazed and Confused”. The scene where Jason shows up to murder the park ranger was just a random thing dropped into the middle of the episode. There are literally no characters at “Blazing Guy” other than Lassen. Everyone else in attendance is just a one note blip, on and off the screen for whatever reason they happened to be there. Lassen introducing himself in Skinner’s office hardly needed to be there. And, given that his face cutting was probably the creepiest thing he did, the episode likely would’ve been better off without that entire scene.
Zombie Simpsons never bothers to weave a joke or a scene together with everything else. They just stack a few things up and hope a couple of them land. And if Bart’s prank doesn’t work, who cares? Maybe the next thing will. The Simpsons didn’t do that. It made each part of the script, down to individual lines and words, aspects of a coherent whole that builds on itself. That intrinsic context and support can make a murderous “prank” hilarious, just as not having context and support can drain the fun from great ideas, and leave bad ones hanging lifelessly from a thread.
“My teacher’s a nightmare! Three kids got sick from inhaling his ointment fumes, he confiscated everything made of tin, and then he sent us home early because he got his beard caught in the pencil sharpener.” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh, okay, um, here . . . Oh!, uh, okay, let’s see, um, what if I did this? . . . You’re on your own!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“Now for operation Strike Make Go Longer. . . . You know, I heard Skinner say the teachers will crack any minute.” – Bart Simpson
“Skinner said the teachers will crack any minute, purple monkey dishwasher.” – Teacher
“Well, we’ll show him! Especially for that purple monkey dishwasher remark.” – Mrs. Krabappel
Sorry for the later than usual posting, but that Uproxx/Warming Glow thing was just too damn dumb to be dealt with in a snarky sentence or two. (That it came on a blog named after a Simpsons joke is just aggravazing.) As you’ll see, the stupid has already spread to the A.V. Club, though they were at least a little circumspect, and from there it’ll just keep going, giving rhetorical ammunition to all kinds of shallow arguments and internet trolls. Feh. Anywho, this week we’ve got two more people cracking wise about the looming catastrophe that is the Family Guy crossover, a sweet Lego Springfield, several cool pieces of fan art (including some mashup posters), two political links (one from Alabama, the other from Russia/Ukraine), and a new officially licensed book.
The Most Iconic Buildings in Springfield From ‘The Simpsons’ Rebuilt in LEGO – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week has already been up for a while, but is damned impressive. The tire fire is just superb.
Minimalistic Poster by Karl Bembridge – Excellent fan made poster featuring nothing but Marge’s hair.
The Simpsons get political in art pieces – The same guy who had Marge and other cartoon characters as beaten up wives now has several of them asking to free Gaza. Say this for the guy, he knows how to attract attention.
How Bart Simpson was dragged into the war of words against Putin – Someone photoshopped the opening sequence to call Vladimir Putin a “dickhead”. Heh.
Simpsons Mash Ups – Some of these I’ve seen before, some of them I haven’t, and there are some very good ones.
Conan to perform The Simpsons ‘Monorail’ song with gay choir – That show at the Hollywood Bowl looks increasingly impressive. Maybe they’ll end up putting it on YouTube for the rest of us?
The Decline and Fall of The Simpsons: Rape jokes in Springfield – There was too much criticism of the Family Guy crossover for just one week to contain, so here’s some more:
I’m not being holier-than-thou. “The Simpsons” has never shied away from dark subjects – Moe himself is a case in point. He is a violent man with a history of criminal activities. He has variously been depicted as homicidal, syphilitic and even as a stalker who is also a registered sex offender. And yet the character has been allowed many moments of nuance and tenderness too. Although an especially-ugly yellow-skinned cartoon character, Moe Szyslak is a recognisably-human character who has clearly known love and loss.
Trailer Talk- The Simpsons Guy – And along similar lines:
What bothers me most about this crossover is that “Family Guy” and “The Simpsons” have very different cultures and senses of humor. The first being a “Simpsons Knock-Off” and a “frat boy” show that later evolved into satirical name dropping, left winged shout outs, cultural riffs, and senseless violence. That freedom and willingness to make people mad, groan, and complain, and then still get great viewership is what has set it apart from everything else on TV. “The Simpsons” on the other hand was built on family values, not swearing as much, nothing superficial like excessive violence (unless its a springfield riot). The stories were all “everyman” stories as well. More relatable to the original older audience the show was targeted for, before the YA crowd elevated it to current popularity. On paper you would not think two shows like this could really do a crossover.
In addition to on paper, I don’t think they can do it on a television screen either.
The Simpsons Archive dredges up some vintage Internet scorn from the show’s golden age – See, this is why I write lengthy replies to crap like that Uproxx post this morning. On the internet, dumb ideas just ripple into the infinite future.
The Simpsons – Fan made drawing of the family on the couch. Has a nice Season 1 feel to it, well done.
Celebrate 25 Years of The Simpsons™ With An Excerpt and Giveaway of ‘C. Montgomery Burns’ Handbook of World Domination’ – The merchandising parade continues, with a new book that you can win a copy of.
Governor or Simpson’s character? Democrat Parker Griffith enjoys laugh at opponent’s expense – Someone backing the Democrat in the Alabama governor’s race send them these:
10 Badass Cartoon Characters Who’d Be Feminists In Real Life – Lisa, needless to say, makes the list.
What Happens When You Grow Up – Going back to old episodes, (of the show and others):
It’s all very surreal; you say the words that you’ve had memorised for this long out loud, but the meaning becomes warped and morphs into something new. Jokes take on new meaning due to new-found wisdom that however many years have brought you since you heard them as a kid, but they still work.
It is a very odd feeling, but there’s lots to catch.
Springfield @ Universal Studios – Some more pictures from the Springfield area, including several things I hadn’t seen before.
London actors present stories of The Simpsons after the end of the world – The Mr. Burns play is moving from London, England to London, Ontario for a week starting August 29th.
The War Of The Simpsons – Episode #033 – And his eyes were like steel, cold and hard.
The longest drawing in the world… – Awesome:
I bought a giant roll of drawing paper and wax crayons and felt tip pens.
My brothers and sisters and I are now attempting to make a really long drawing. We were inspired by the movie ‘Ramona and Beezus’.
It’s been a lot of fun so far. We started off by drawing trees and buildings, but then moved on to cartoon characters such as The Simpsons.
There’s plenty of pictures at the link.
Artistic Brain Freeze – Creativity and the lack thereof explained in comic form with an analogy to “The Mansion Family”.
100 Greatest TV Episodes: Homer the Heretic (s4 ep3) – And finally, I get to end with someone who agrees with us during this writeup of all time great episodes (“Homer the Heretic makes The Simpsons the first series to have two separate entries into our list!”):
What’s more, he asks genuinely insightful questions of society through his actions and even his words – famously and poignantly asking God:
“I’m not a bad guy, I work hard, and I love my kids. So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to hell?”
Who knew he could say something that wasn’t entirely stupid, eh, current Simpsons writing team?
They certainly don’t, but we knew that already.
“But we don’t have that kind of money. In fact, no school could afford-” – Principal Skinner
“Here’s the admission, plus something for you. See that they get a little extra education, would you?” – Principal Valiant
“Yes, sir, Principal Valiant!” – Fort Springfield Ticket Taker
“He thinks he’s so hot ever since he swept the Princy Awards. Well, those things are rigged.” – Principal Skinner
“It took the children forty minutes to locate Canada on the map.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge, anyone can miss Canada, all tucked away down there.” – Homer Simpson
Whenever Zombie Simpsons hitches its fading star to a currently popular celebrity, your Katys Perry and Ladys Gaga, the internet throws a brief but mild fit wherein huge numbers of pop culture sites that normally couldn’t give a fuck about the show write about how Celebrity X is gonna be Simpsonized. That very thing happened this week in regards to Justin Bieber’s brief and pointless cameo, so it’s a bit of a clipped Reading Digest. Bieber clogged the tubes, and once you’ve read one blog post lamenting the brevity of his appearance, you’ve read all several thousand of them. Besides that deliberate omission, we’ve got some cool fan art, a statistical analysis of other celebrity guests, some excellent usage, several people who agree with us, some (possibly dubious) statistics about Duff, and a plastic donut.
Oh, and this is basically obligatory today:
The Curse of the Simpsons! – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this statistical look at whether or not guest voicing on The Simpsons is bad for your health. Short answer, no:
So there is no curse, celebrities who appear on the Simpsons live about an extra 3 years (on average at least). If we look at the ages Simpson guests have been dying, the average is 76 years, with some folks pushing 100.
No wonder they keep having pointless cameos like Bieber and Captain Picard, it makes people live longer. Jean’s probably got a lucrative, off the books sideline in selling guest spots. (At this rate, Bieber’s going to be alive until 2130.)
Went to get my oil changed and found this… – This is a reddit link to a positively amazing set of images of styrofoam cups with elaborate drawings, including the Simpson family on the inside of one.
Bizarro Baseball: the Isotopes – Merchandising, merchandising, where the real money from the movie is made:
Perhaps the strangest, most incredible part of this origin story lies in the annals (or lack thereof) of subsidiary rights:
In the three months after the team’s name was announced in September 2002, before the team ever took the field, the team sold more merchandise than the Albuquerque Dukes sold in any single season, and led minor league baseball in merchandising revenue in 2003.
The real life Simpsons: The Groening family tree – This is what happens when you have to come up with characters in the waiting cubicle at 1987 FOX.
Canadian ‘couch gag’ a dream come true for ‘Simpsons’ fan – So that couch gag contest they’re running isn’t just a desperate ploy for attention, it’s an internationally desperate ploy for attention:
Savaya, 22, earned the trip to Hollywood by coming up with a “couch gag” for the opening credits of the season 24 finale of The Simpsons. It airs Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Global.
Savaya’s couch gag will air only on the Canadian broadcast of the show.
“I’ve never seen a Canadian couch gag before so I figured I might as well make it as Canadian as possible,” he says of his decision to include Sir John A. MacDonald, a hockey player, a loon and a beaver — and Maggie replacing her pacifier with a hockey puck.
Not now, Ralph.
Top 8½ Overlooked Games – Video game nostalgia that agrees with us:
lots of people bought it but many dismissed it as another crappy licensed game. And those who did so were wrong. Sure, it’s a GTA clone without the violence, but it’s also some of the best ones out there. Good gameplay, good Simpsons-esque humor (not nearly as good or daring as in the golden age of Simpsons, but still), voice acting by the original cast and so on.
The Simpsons writer hails North West talent – More about that new British show Weinstein is doing.
Voice to Vexed – Perfectly quoted excellent usage:
This is a verbatim message I recently spoke to my brother’s Voice-to-Text service, quoting Chief Clancy Wiggum from The Simpsons: “This is Papa Bear. Put out an APB for a male suspect, driving a . . . car of some sort, heading in the direction of, uh, you know, that place that sells chili. Suspect is hatless. Repeat: hatless.”
I can’t wait till they throw his hatless butt in jail.
Huzzah! – Because all dictionary entries should reference The Simpsons and be written on bar napkins.
“Mad Men” accidentally includes anachronism, sets Internet ablaze – Quoted at length because, yeah:
As aforementioned, “The Simpsons” provides an excellent send up of this. But Comic Book Guy does not only pick apart fictional TV shows and comic books of the “Simpsons” universe. In thinly veiled moments of meta-commentary, he pokes fun at the “Simpsons’” devoted fan base. This is done beautifully in an old episode when the Simpson family obtains a pet horse. Comic Book Guy references a previous “Simpsons” episode with a similar plotline. To a crowd of surrounding people, he cattily insinuates the series’ laziness. The “Simpsons” writers proceed to throw shade at obsessive fans such as Comic Book Guy, as Homer asks aloud: “Anybody care what this guy thinks?” The crowd resoundingly replies: “No!”
In the past weeks, some voices in the media have played Comic Book Guy to “Mad Men’s” “The Simpsons.” In a recent episode of “Mad Men,” Joan Holloway referenced eating at New York restaurant Le Cirque. Upon fact checking, people discovered that there was no Le Cirque in 1968 New York. Ostensibly, this quibble seems reasonable; historical authenticity is a vital part of “Mad Men’s” mojo, and to let if fall by the wayside seems a disregard for what the viewers love about the show.
Joan has the Wizard Key, I knew it!
Childhood Nostalgia: Mmm Donuts. – Eat it, Freeman and Nicholson:
Around the time the Simpsons Movie came out, 7-11 came out with these pink sprinkled donuts, identical to the one from the character. Of course I immediately bought it when it came out and man did I fell in love with it. It wasn’t the best donut I have ever eaten, overload on sugar and frosting and mediocre dough. But the fact that I accomplished a childhood dream (to eat that little pink donut), the taste didn’t really matter to me. Besides that feeling where you eat that little pink donut alongside the POP! Homer Simpsons figurine that has the same little pink donut in his hand, priceless.
Bucket List: Eat a Homer Simpsons donut – CHECK
Your childhood dream was to run out onto the field during a baseball game, and you did it last year, remember?
Dag 097 – Yet more t-shirt.
Best. Episode. Ever. (Round 25) – In a competition between “Homer the Heretic” and “Lost Our Lisa”, I must respectfully disagree.
7 Pensamentos de Homer Simpson – You know it’s a good joke when you can recognize it even in a foreign language:
5. Lisa, vampiros são faz-de-conta, como elfos, gremlins e esquimós.
♫♫ I don’t care, I love it ♫♫ – Speaking of languages I don’t speak, I have no idea what’s going on here, but there are two ladies painting Homer on a wall. Cool.
The Great Gatsby…In 10 Words – And then I saw the lighthouse, and I remembered how you love blinking lights.
Doctor Who Monday: Nightmare in Silver…In 10 Words – Oh, I forgot to, uh, carry the one.
Randy Jackson Leaving American Idol…In 10 Words – I wouldn’t.
The Office (US)…In 10 Words – Determined or not, that cat is long dead by now.
You’re Wrong about the Worst Draft Pick in Packers History – Excellent usage:
Everyone is feeling pretty good about the prospects picked. We’re in that afterglow period where we can imagine all the good things that our team can do without being pestered by the reality of games played, injuries suffered, potentials not reached.
As Homer Simpson would say, “that Bart is a little miracle … he reminds me of me before the weight of the world crushed my spirit.”
Homer actually says “that Bart of ours”, but close enough.
I lack direction – The show has always provided a roundabout introduction to pop culture:
I also realized that, though I had not really heard of or seen Doctor Who before then, I had glimpsed Doctor Who out of the corner of my eye; I started watching The Simpsons maybe in 2000, or thereabouts, both the new shows on Sundays and the reruns that played in the afternoons, and there was that Halloween episode where the Comic Book Guy turned into a Comic Book Villain, The Collector, and started collecting famous people, including ‘Doctor Who’ or the Fourth Doctor.
Duff Beer | Beer Of The World – Not entirely sure that this is trustworthy, but five percent seems about right:
- Name: Duff Beer
- Brewery: Duff Breweries
- City: Springfield
- Country: USA
- Produced since: 1989
- Style: Pilsener
- ABV: 5%
- Ingredients: water, malted barley, maize, hops
TV – The Top 15 episodes of The Simpsons (Part 2) – An otherwise fine list spoiled by an entry from Season 19.
PIXIE and PIXIER: Lisa Simpson Girl Gang – A snazzy Lisa hat for the fashionable Simpsons fan.
Homer Simpson Listening to Ned Flanders – An animated .gif of Homer not caring about that rowboat of decorative geraniums.
The Simpsons/Robot Chicken Couch Gag – In case you missed it, here’s the YouTube. (It took too long and it was still the best part of the episode.)
Analog 365 Project Day 133 – Good enough:
I found this giant plastic doughnut my boyfriend has from a Simpson’s game and couldn’t resist taking a goofy self portrait with it.
Everyone loves plastic donuts.
You Don’t Make Friends with Salad! – Weight loss sucks:
Homer Simpson was right; you don’t make friends with salad.
1-800-COLLECT – I’d forgotten that the show did collect call ads. Why collect call numbers were ever worth advertising on television I will never know.
When my blog gets foreign visits: – Animated .gif of the shifty eyed dog from “Beyond Blunderdome”.
lenny loves carl – This is a new blog with the fantastic title you see at left. Also: just one week until Arrested Development!
The Simpsons Season 7 Review – Yup:
After re-watching The Simpsons Season 7 it made me realise how good the show was and how much it has gone downhill.
My Hero: Lisa Simpson – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us. And besides, who doesn’t love Lisa?:
Now, right off the bat, I have to admit that I haven’t been as much of a Simpson’s fanatic as I was as a child. When I talk about The Simpsons, I’m talking about post-the-three-eyed-crow-opening, the old school Simpsons that had obscure literary references, sexual innuendos and morally thematic episodes. It was in these early years that I first fell in love with Lisa Lionheart, the girl who never backed down from a fight.
Amen. (Also, lotta good screen grabs and YouTube there.)
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