Posts Tagged ‘The Springfield Files

04
Mar
15

Yes, 1980s Teevee Was That Bad

ABCComedies

“Alright!  It’s time for ABC’s TGIF lineup!” – Lisa Simpson
“Lis, when you get a little older, you’ll learn that Friday’s just another day between NBC’s Must See Thursday and CBS’s Saturday night craporama.” – Bart Simpson

This morning, Al Jean retweeted this horrifying YouTube copy of ABC’s network promo for the 1982-83 season:

It’s eighteen minutes long and isn’t worth watching in full, but starting at the 7:15 mark you can see three of their new comedies.  Two are family sitcoms.  The first, “Star of the Family”, starred Brian Dennehy as the dad.  Here’s the IMDb summary:

Fire Captain Buddy Krebs’ 16-year-old daughter Jennie Lee begins getting show-business offers because of her singing talents in the country/pop genre. This scares Buddy because he does not want his daughter to grow up too fast. Adding to his troubles, are (1) his wife runs off with a bellhop, (2) his 17-year-old son has muscle instead of brains in his head, (3) his crew down at the firehouse are “strange”: Feldmand tells his mother he is a doctor instead of a fireman, Rosetti has only sex on the brain and Max, a Hispanic, speaks fractured English. Finally, his daughter signs with a manager named Moose; the name fits the description of the woman.

Two precocious kids and a wacky fire station with an ethnic!  Millions of dollars were spent to create that.  It lasted ten episodes.

The second family comedy, “It Takes Two”, is just as bad:

Sam and Molly Quinn are two hard working career people just too busy with their careers (him a doctor and she a lawyer) to pay attention to each other or their teenage children.

That one made it a full twenty-two episodes but, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, did not get a second season.

Finally we come to “The New Odd Couple“, which is two black dudes who are opposites instead of two white dudes who are opposites.  It was a remake of a series that was itself a remake of a movie which was an adaptation of a play.  Creative!  It lasted eighteen episodes.

Stuff like this is why I described 1980s American television as a “terrible world“.  NBC and CBS were making shows just as bad and just as repetitive, and year in, year out, those three crappy channels were it.  No cable.  No satellite.  No internet.  Thank Jebus The Simpsons destroyed these so thoroughly that “family sitcoms” never recovered.

12
Jan
15

Quote of the Day

The Springfield Files16

“So I says, blue m&m, red m&m, they all wind up the same color in the end.” – Homer Simpson

15
Aug
14

Reading Digest: FXX Marketing Shifts Into High Gear Edition

WeatherVane

“Were you on my roof last night, stealing my weather vane?” – Ned Flanders
“This interview is over!” – Homer Simpson

The big 12 day marathon on a channel neither I nor millions of other people get will begin next Thursday morning.  This week we’ve got several links about it, including the full transcript of a conference call interview Al Jean did earlier this week (there’s actual news for once!) and some very cool posters.  In addition to that, we’ve got more of the fan made Lego Springfield, an unveiling date for the building sized mural in Oregon, Harry Shearer being Dick Nixon, very old sneakers, and a great vacation photo from Washington D.C..

Enjoy.

The Simpsons – Al Jean Interview – This is a full transcript of a conference call Jean did on Wednesday.  Mostly it’s just him efficiently blowing through questions he’s heard dozens of times before (Will there be a sequel? How about those upcoming crossovers?  He even makes a joke about someone asking where Springfield is.), but there is some real news buried in there:

– The app will allow for fan rankings of the episodes:

Q: can you talk a little bit about at TCA you were talking about the database of their new website and there would be a ranking of episodes based on fan favorites. How that ranking is determined?

A: It’s to be determined. It’s up to the fans. We went and listened to what it seemed that people wanted out of the show, and when the app is fully up and running, which probably won’t be until early next year, you can get clips, you can send clips to your friends, you can do an assortment of clips almost like re-edit like people did with the [indiscernible] stuff, and the voting will be up the users too. It will be whatever everybody who logs in votes for and shows they like or dislike. Shows that people dislike the most may actually get some interest viewing, and it’s not for us to say. That’s the great thing about this app.

That sounds . . . interesting.  Everything depends on implementation, but I’ll be curious to see both a) how it shakes out and b) how they react if the fan rankings massively denigrate almost everything after Season 10 or so.  Also note that while the app is scheduled to launch in October, he’s already talking about it not being all the way up and running until 2015.

– This is about the upcoming marathon on FXX:

we’re going to be live tweeting, not continuously, but every time there’s an episode I wrote or a show ran, I’ll try to get in on them. We’re asking guest stars who did the show if they’d like to tweet with the writers. So, we hope to have a discussion going on for the whole way and throw in interesting things people may not have heard.

I bet that’ll depend greatly on when the episodes air.  For example, they’re starting at 10am Eastern next Thursday, so assuming two episodes per hour, Season 3 will be starting at 2:30am Eastern.

– Answering a question about what format the episodes on FXX will be:

Well, the versions as I understand it are the original versions, but they’re expanded to HD except on the app, you can get the original 4X3 because people would want to see the 4X3 so that will be available, but the ones that they’re broadcasting, as I understand it, are the originals with the HD expansion for the ones that weren’t in HD.

I’m not sure what “HD expansion” means, black bars, that blurry extra side thing people do sometimes?

–  One more thing about live tweeting during the FXX marathon:

Yes, we’re totally encouraging it. It’s @BestSimpsons is the Twitter site reserved for the marathon. So, yes, it starts at 7 a.m. August 21st Pacific Time/10 a.m. Eastern and I’ll be tweeting then.

@BestSimpsons looks an awful lot like an abandoned fan account.  There’s only 79 tweets total, and though the most recent is about the FXX marathon, it was from last month and was the first since January.  It links to what also looks like an abandoned fan site, which hasn’t updated since May of last year.  Now, this is from a transcript, so it’s possible that this is a transcription error and is missing a character or two.  I asked Jean on Twitter right before I posted this (and went to lunch), so if he responds (and he often does), I’ll update.

Update 2:10pm: And it was indeed a transcription error.  The actual live tweet account for the FXX marathon is @EverySimpsons.  

Simpsons Trivia Night (Published on The West End Magazine) – Recently, the classic Simpsons trivia competitions have taken a step up, holding “film festivals” and doing Diorama-ramas, but the bar has been raised by this group in Australia.  They set up a fake Simpsons living room!  Excellent.

The Simpsons – FXX Posters – I don’t often get a chance to say this, but: well done, FOX marketing department.  Those are gorgeous and creative and just generally cool.  I might even go so far as to buy a poster if they got rid of the logo and the hashtag.

Watch the trailer for the ‘Simpsons’ marathon – On the other hand, this promo, while pretty, is also quite dumb.

FUSION — Fusion Announces Documentary Project with Sam Simon, Co-Creator of The Simpsons – Simon continues to handle hideous disease about as well as is humanly imaginable.

The Simpsons Bart Boot Sneakers – Actual Simpsons sneakers from the early 1990s, including the stylized box.  Very cool.

Fashion Spotlight: Better Call Hutz, Bartman Begins, and Doh! Zombies! – The punctuation in Hutz’s word bubble is brilliant.

Happy birthday, Dustin Hoffman, or “Mrs. Krabappel, are you trying to seduce me?” – A framed picture of Mr. Bergstrom is pretty damned cool.

HickoryDickoryDank comments on How would you like to see The Simpsons end? – This Reddit thread was making the rounds this week, but the best answer I saw came from a two year old thread on the same idea.

Get lost in a Simpsons themed corn maze – Neat:

Corn maze season starts in September and it is the busiest time of year for the Meuer Farm.

They started planing in February to get “The Simpsons” themed maze just right. The maze has two phases that have a total of around three miles of paths.

There’s an aerial picture at the link.  Looks very fun.

The Weird Minutes Before Nixon’s Resignation – Harry Shearer re-enacts Nixon’s resignation:

The recording of the minutes before the resignation is one that Shearer has always found confounding. It is so clear that the camera crew is unmoved by Nixon’s small talk. “If you were a comic, you’d stop after two of your jokes bombed like that, but he just keeps going,” Shearer said. “For years, I was puzzled by that behavior. Why didn’t he just sit quietly until the time came to deliver the speech? What was going on there?” The answer that finally came to him, as he rehearsed the scene, is that Nixon already had an eye on rehabilitating his reputation. “Those people in that room were going to go out and say, ‘He wasn’t depressed, he wasn’t angry. My god! He was the nicest guy in the world.’ I think that’s exactly who he was. That’s how he got out of his depression, on fight. And the fight starts here.”

Shearer’s the best.

“Bart! Get out of the Spirit of St. Louis!” – Now that is a great Air and Space Museum photo.  Bravo.

The Simpsons’ Town of Springfield, to Scale, in Lego – There is now a YouTube tour of that fan made Lego Springfield.

Old LA Zoo – Oh, cool:

The first Saturday of every month a local comic book store, Nerd Melt, hosts Simpson trivia, called Stonecutters. We lucked out this month because they pushed it back a weekend so we were able to attend. There are 3 rounds of trivia, which get progressively more difficult, with episodes of The Simpsons shown between each round. Every month they bring in special guests who have worked on the show and the episodes played are generally episodes the guests have worked on, so that the guests can give live commentary. This month there were two former directors and a storyboard artist.

Voice of Lisa Simpson to attend mural unveiling Aug. 25 – I guess we’ll get to see that mural a week from Monday.

doh! if only it worked that way! – Sadly, we cannot all escape from reality as easily as Homer.

11
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

Great Story

“Oh, it was awful.  They set me on a cold metal table and prodded me with humiliating probes.  And th-oh, wait, that was my physical.” – Homer Simpson
“Great story, Homer.  Really.” – Karl

26
Feb
14

Quote of the Day

The Springfield Files15

“Thank God it’s Wednesday.” – Jasper
“It’s Friday.” – Mrs. Glick
“Uh-oh, wrong pills. . . . Uh, little help?” – Jasper

16
Oct
13

Compare & Contrast: Suspense Show Takeoffs

The Springfield Files14

“For the love of God, help me!  I’ve been here for four days and a turtle’s got a hold of my teeth.  There he is!  Come back here, you.  Slow down!  I’ll get yeh!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“This is the worst assignment we’ve ever had.” – Agent Scully
“Worse than the time we were attacked by the flesh eating virus?” – Agent Mulder
“Ow!  He bit me with my own teeth!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“No, this is much more irritating.” – Agent Scully

Whether it’s shadowy terrorist networks and shady politicians, a government conspiracy to collude with aliens, or any other formula for dramatic mystery, people like to be in suspense about what’s going to happen next.  What nefarious plots will the heroes uncover?  What dastardly twists do the villains have up their sleeves?  Will the leads fall in love and kiss (or possibly get naked) on screen?

All of these things are a rather far cry from the reasons people watch animated comedies.  So when it comes time for a parody, it helps tremendously to know that you’re here to poke fun at your source material and not merely repeat it.  For a good example of the former, there’s “The Springfield Files”.

The X-Files became a parody of itself toward the end as the conspiracy kept getting strung out and strung out (and strung out) because it was one of FOX’s few hit shows and they couldn’t bear to let it die.  (When Troy McClure shows the FOX “Programming Chart” later in Season 8, they weren’t kidding when it was just that, The Simpsons and Melrose Place.)  But in its prime, The X-Files was a popular critical darling that kept audiences’ rapt attention with inventive monsters of the week and a nefarious global conspiracy that unfolded ever so slowly.

The Simpsons took The X-Files and made fun of all of it: the inherent goofiness of the FBI investigating “paranormal” crimes and creatures, the endless breadth of conspiracy theories, and the unusually drop dead sexiness of that pair of agents.  It wasn’t mean about any of it, a show as silly and relentlessly serious about itself as The X-Files isn’t exactly a hard target for satire, and the two lead voices were happy to show up and have a little fun at the expense of their meal ticket.

But “The Springfield Files” never feels like an X-Files episode or even tries to copy one.  Mulder and Scully are there, of course, but they’re hardly the protagonists and they basically disappear as soon as they ascertain that Homer’s a drunken idiot who shouldn’t be taken seriously, which doesn’t take long at all.  The “alien” turns out to be Mr. Burns, which the Springfield mob understandably tries to kill anyway.

Even the quick departure of Mulder and Scully laughs at The X-Files.  Scully tells Mulder that they have to go since this is obviously not an alien, and then she gets annoyed and just walks off in boredom as he launches into his elaborately insane “truth is out there” speech.  Meanwhile, real crime, Moe smuggling exotic animals, is happening right in front of the FBI.  Along the way they have time to throw in Leonard Nimoy parodying himself and his lesser television accomplishments, FOX, and Friday nights.

The Springfield Files13

That’s not Leonard Nimoy!

“Homerland” manages none of that, and instead seeks to recreate, more or less as closely as possible, scenes and characters from Homeland.  For starters, there’s the opening, which like their Dexter parody from a couple of seasons ago, basically requires you to have seen a relatively obscure cable show to get what’s going on since it’s little more than a remake with Simpson characters substituted for the regulars.  The plot and even the musical cues are more or less direct copies, and poor Kristen Wiig is asked to do little more than alternate between being crazy and being suspicious in a Claire Danes role that has just that one joke that they repeat over and over again.

They’re so concerned with faithful reproduction that the scene where Lisa catches Homer “praying” is practically a shot-for-shot duplicate of one on Showtime, except that Homeland didn’t have the daughter exposit needlessly.  You don’t need to be a fan of Homeland, or even really know anything about the show, to know that’s a bad idea.  This is some of Lisa’s actual dialogue:

Lisa:  It looks like he’s praying . . . to the East.  The Middle East!  Mecca.

As a feat of bad writing that’s kind of impressive.  It’s quadruple expositive, including explaining one thing thrice over, and for that extra special Zombie Simpsons kick it involves Lisa acting uncharacteristically suspicious of Muslims.

What’s going on around all that crappy dialogue isn’t helping.  Shows like Homeland and The X-Files, which rely on twists and discoveries and secrets, set up those kind of scenes carefully.  Zombie Simpsons just tossed this one in with no explanation because, hey, there was one like that on Homeland.

Making matters yet more incoherent, Zombie Simpsons asks scenes like this to be treated as part of a serious mystery – hence Lisa’s shocked reaction to seeing Homer “pray” – but doesn’t treat anything else with even a scrap of care.  Things are whispered to and around Homer in scenes where other characters are standing right next to him, he keeps muttering his plot in case anyone had forgotten (the audience included), and the ending – which falls well short of the full runtime despite all the repetitive flashbacks – is unironically happy and just, with Burns being a complete idiot and getting arrested.

Burns Oopsie

He actually says “Oopsie” here, like he’s a toddler in a paper towel commercial.

In “The Springfield Files”, the big Burns reveal matches the rest of the mystery in deliberate silliness and contains lines like “The most rewarding part was when he gave me my money”.  In “Homerland”, it’s Burns expositing himself into jail for no reason whatsoever and has lines like “Wait a minute, Burns.  You don’t have a functioning AC system at a nuclear plant?  That’s against the law!”.  As usual, where The Simpsons made sense and kept things fun, Zombie Simpsons produces an intermittently serious mess.

23
Sep
13

Quote of the Day

The Springfield Files11

“Now we’re going to run a few tests.  This is a simple lie detector.  I’ll ask you a few yes or no questions and you just answer truthfully.  Do you understand?” – Agent Scully
“Yes.” – Homer Simpson




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