Posts Tagged ‘Treehouse of Horror III

14
Apr
14

Behind Us Forever: Days of Future Future

Chalkboard - Days of Future Future

“Bart, you cast the wrong spell!  Zombies!” – Lisa Simpson

So, was this episode the Futurama crossover or not?  I didn’t see Fry or Leela, but there was a beer swilling robot and lots of inter-species relationships, so I’m not entirely sure.  Also, part of it was a coma fantasy or a dream sequence, but I don’t have access to an original script so I don’t know if those pages were on pink paper or goldenrod.

For those of you sage enough not to have watched it, we begin in the present when Homer dies.  Frink, and remember, this is supposed to be the present, brings in a clone of Homer to the funeral.  Homer then spends the next few minutes dying and coming back as a clone.  Eventually it’s thirty years from now and Homer becomes a computer program instead.  In that future, Bart is divorced from Amy Poehler, Lisa is married to Milhouse (who becomes a literal zombie because now they’re just fucking with me), and Marge eventually also becomes a computer program who gets eaten or something by Homer.  Seriously, the end is so confusing that they have Moe say that he doesn’t get it.

- Hey, the couch gag was short and clever for a change.

- Ah, for the days when Homer eating in his underwear was funny instead of a harbinger of boredom.

- “You’re alive, but how?” – Time to have things explained.

- We got to the death montage nice and quick.  It’s a completely unnecessary death montage, but at least they didn’t dawdle.

- Oh, look, there’s an incinerator-bot that looks like something that was reject from a Futurama storyboard back in 2003 or so.  Has Zombie Simpsons resorted to dumpster diving the Futurama offices?

- “All is not lost, I was able to download Homer’s brain into this flash drive.” – They know we’re pretty much as far from Halloween as it is possible to get on the calendar, right?

- Bart’s ex-wife is dating an Alien alien named Jerry.  I am not making this up.

- Okay, the “Cretaceous Park” sign (“Now Correctly Named”) was kinda funny.

- You know, all this talk of zombies reminds me that Ugly Americans had its moments.  It never quite got there, but it was a hell of a lot better than this.

- At least this Total Recall scene didn’t take long.

- It’s our second song montage.  The first one was Homer dying.  This one is Bart getting laid.

- Clown group sex, didn’t see that one coming.

- A robot drinking alcohol . . . where have I seen that before?

- It’s pure fan service and couldn’t hope to salvage even a little bit of this episode, but they have adult Maggie and Gerald sucking on a straw together.  It was quick and almost charming.

- Nice of Marge to pop out from behind that plant at Moe’s for an expository conversation about marriage with her kids.

- “Wait, Mom, does that mean you’re gonna take Dad back?”, see what I mean?

- So, Marge just digitized herself and was eaten by Homer.  Moe, speaking for all of us, says “I can’t tell if that was love, suicide or a really boring video game.”  The “really boring” part certainly applies.

- Oh, that couch gag was a fan idea.  No wonder it didn’t suck.

Zombie Simpsons likes to take any decent joke and run it into the ground with repetition, and this was them doing that on an episode scale.  A couple of seasons ago they did that “Holiday of Future’s Passed” episode where they did Christmas in the future.  I wasn’t a fan, but they got a little bit of positive attention from it, so the natural thing to do would be to go back and stretch everything there way past the breaking point.  It’s just their style.

Anyway, the ratings are in and they are unprecedentedly wretched.  Last night, just 3.59 million people hoped that this show gets canned sometime in the next thirty years.  That’s good for second lowest all time, bested only by the non-8pm slot “Diggs” episode from last month.  Seven of the ten lowest rated ever, including the entire bottom five, have been broadcast since January.

23
Oct
13

Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III9

“Do you sell toys?” – Homer Simpson
“We sell forbidden objects from places men fear to tread.  We also sell frozen yogurt, which I call frogurt.” – House of Evil Owner

15
Oct
13

Animation Alley: Treehouse of Horror III

tohiii-1(this episode was directed by Carlos Baeza)
After two years of Marge in front of the curtain with her earnest word of warning, here Homer steps in, childishly goading the audience. But first, a wonderful take on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with Homer subbing for the master of horror, clearly even fatter than the silhouette.

tohiii-2I laugh out loud every damn time during this shot of Marge chastising Homer, with no movement but Homer’s chewing lips. That completely blank expression serving to pay off the simple gag involving Homer the food monster. Also, not animation related, but I do like Marge setting up this traditional, but still slightly macabre party game, it’s such a true mom thing of her to do. Nowadays, extreme wet blanket one-dimensional Marge certainly wouldn’t be up for something like this.

tohiii-3Always fun to go frame-by-frame on animation smears like this. The limited amount of frames, and the wonderful coconut sound effect of Milhouse’s head hitting the wall, makes this a brilliant small moment of funny.

tohiii-5What a hilarious shot. The framing of it, the repairman’s shocked expression against Marge’s unaffected one, presumably having been dealing with this for a few hours, and the Krusty doll hoisted upon Homer’s lips painfully yanking at his elongated tongue. Just amazing.

tohiii-6“King Homer” pays tribute to the very original King Kong, of course, aping (heh heh) many of the shots from that film. My favorite is this, recreating the kinda goofy looking insert shot of the beast as the reaction to a live actor screaming in terror. Also great is later when he pulls Marge through the window, it’s just like the original, with Fay Wray flailing within a giant fake monkey fist.

tohiii-7My favorite moment in the entire show may be Shirley Temple’s little shoes falling off when she’s being picked up by Homer. But that doesn’t really come across in a framegrab, so here’s a shot of him eating the famous child actress.

tohiii-8Another great drawing. As if a gargantuan ape wouldn’t look awkward enough inside a church, they pose him in such a way he seems not only awkward, but self-conscious. Look at him looking up at his little hat! It’s almost adorable.

tohiii-9A perfect example of the show piling jokes on top of jokes on top of jokes. So Bart’s reading “Find Waldo Yet Again,” already a double joke, in the title referring to the dizzying amount of Waldo books, and the fact that since Bart figured that he struck out with “Baby’s First Pop-Up Book,” maybe this mature tome would appease Krabappel. So we see Waldo’s right there in the open, and if it weren’t easy enough, there’s a kid right there on the beach pointing at him. Brilliant.

tohiii-10Astounding reference to three network animated shows that emerged soon after The Simpsons to attempt to reach a similar audience… and were all swiftly cancelled. Lucky that they all involved animals so this joke works perfectly. Of the three, I’ve only seen Fish Police, and boy oh boy…

tohiii-11 Another great “Technical Difficulties” card, as usual. The only show to rival this incredibly specific type of humor is The Critic (“Wheel Be Right Back!”)

tohiii-12I love how even in the middle of a joke involving how brainless he is, Homer is still able to realize he’s been insulted when the zombies look elsewhere for brains.

tohiii-13Great drawings of zombie Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney kicking about Skinner’s head. I love how while a yellow complexion seems perfectly normal, altering them to green and purple truly makes them look sickly and undead.

tohiii-14Not animation related, but I wanted to end with my favorite line from the show.
“Excuse me, I’m John Smith.”
“John Smith, 1882?”
“My mistake!”

29
Oct
12

Bonus Quote of the Day

What Pressure

“Homer, what’s wrong?” – Marge Simpson
“That doll tried to kill me.” – Homer Simpson
“I’d say that the pressure’s finally gotten to Dad, but, what pressure?” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday Dan Castellaneta! 

29
Oct
12

Quote of the Day

Wreck the Car, Raise the Dead

“Dad, we did something very bad.” – Lisa Simpson
“Did you wreck the car?” – Homer Simpson
“No.” – Bart Simpson
“Did you raise the dead?” – Homer Simpson
“Yes.” – Lisa Simpson
“But the car’s okay?” – Homer Simpson
“Uh-huh.” – Bart & Lisa Simpson
“Alright then.” – Homer Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Treehouse of Horror III”!  Original airdate 29 October 1992.

13
Oct
12

Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III8

“Smithers, this is a golden opportunity.  If we get him alive, we can put him on Broadway!  Dead, we’ll sell monkey stew to the army.” – C.M. Burns

31
Oct
11

And the Children Were Silent

Chalkboard - Treehouse of Horror XXII

“That doll is evil, I tells ya.  Evil!  Evil!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
Grampa, you said that about all the presents.” – Marge Simpson
I just want attention.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

I happened to find myself at my brother’s house yesterday, keeping an eye on three of his kids, two nephews (13 and 11) and a niece (8).  Though they’re well aware that the new episodes are subpar, they wanted to watch the new Zombie Simpsons.  When Homer farted for the first time my niece got a goofy grin on her face, but the boys only looked up from their laptops intermittently.  Not a single one of them laughed out loud during the entire episode, and when it was done my niece said, and I quote, “That wasn’t very good.”  Allow me to agree with the eight-year-old.

Of the various crimes against comedy that went into those four segments, the farting was the most tiresome, but the entire episode was an exercise in stretching weak jokes and weaker ideas to fill that unforgiving time requirement.  The premise of the opening segment is Homer getting trapped a la 127 Hours, but even though that whole thing was supposed to be an introduction, it took nearly two minutes just to get Homer out into the boonies.  Once he was there they dragged it out even more by having him chew off a limb three (3) times.  The second segment had such a weak premise that it couldn’t make it through even its limited runtime without a classic Zombie Simpsons swerve, having Homer suddenly become Spiderman.  The Dexter thing suffered a similar fate as it ran out of steam and needed divine intervention to make it to the commercial break.  The Avatar segment, easily the longest, clocking in at nearly eight minutes, spent more than a quarter of its runtime on the goofy battle/action/whatever sequence at the end that was light on jokes, thought and satire and heavy on surprisingly boring cartoon violence.

There were a couple of lines I actually liked, notably Flanders telling the hooker to “Spend less time on your back and more time on your knees” and Chalmers’ windy but accurate “This is a delicate mission that requires utter loyalty.  I can think of no better candidate than the resentful guy in the wheelchair who has just arrived.”  But for each of those there were a dozen or more cringe inducing duds like the alien repeatedly screaming at Milhouse.  When she yelled at him for kicking the rock my instant reaction was, “I wonder how many times they’re going to repeat this.”  The answer was three.

All in all, this was about what to expect from Zombie Simpsons in a Halloween episode.  Turned loose with no limits on their creativity, they hash together a few tepid pop culture references and call it a day.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are the worst ever for a Halloween episode.  Last night’s unworthy successor was silently endured by just 8.01 million viewers.  That’s below last year’s 8.20, which was itself a record low for Treehouse of Horror.  The Halloween episode is often one of the strongest numbers of the year, and if that’s the best Season 23 has to offer then it’s going to plummet to unheard of depths by the end of the season.

30
Oct
11

Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III7

“Hey, who’s this ‘Homer’ dude?” – Captain Otto
“He’s either a fifty foot prehistoric ape, or a tourist trap concocted by the Ape Island Jaycees.  Either way, we’re going ashore.” – C.M. Burns

28
Oct
11

Reading Digest: Marge Costume Edition

Marge in Costume

As I’m sure everyone knows, Monday is Halloween, and while there were lots and lots of previews for Sunday’s Zombie Simpsons episode, you will find none of them linked below.  Why bore yourself more than once?  Instead we have several links to Marge costumes past and present.  Sadly, the only picture is of a lame store bought one, but a quick Google Image search will net you plenty of great looking homemade ideas and tips.  In addition to that, we’ve got a Homer video game customization, a wildly overzealous copyright takedown notice, lots of usage, a kick ass home made skateboard, and a guy who agrees with us so much that he actually uses the word “zombie”. 

Enjoy.

Duff Brewery – Jaw dropping, fan made, wood burned, skateboard of Captain McAllister.  Here’s a picture from slightly farther back with a bottle opener attached.  Wow. 

by TW Collins Minimalist Lisa Simpson – The blue makes it look a bit more like Maggie to me, but the resemblance is uncanny. 

10 Sitcoms That Actually Moved Women Forward – Simpsons checks in at #9 among good company.  Unfortunately, the YouTube is from Zombie Simpsons (via).  Which leads me to . . .

What’s the deal with airline food and Asian people? – . . . this article about 2 Broke Girls and where the line gets drawn between stereotype comedy that’s funny, and stereotype comedy that’s just stereotypes.  I’d like to add this sentiment to the cost of Zombie Simpsons:

Buuut, comedy isn’t just pointing and laughing. If it were, all comedy would be incredibly mean-spirited. A good chunk of comedy is laughing with the protagonists, at ourselves. “We’ve all been there.” This means that while our protagonists may get humiliated and hurt, they also get the character development, the funny lines, the big checks—while the women and black people stand off to the side, being kind of sagely and disappointing and not funny. In a comedy. Call it the Lisa Simpson Problem.

That Lisa has become a scold, set off to the side to cast disapproval, and not funny is all on Zombie Simpsons.  She didn’t used to do that, she used to do things like lose her faith in democracy, gamble on pro football, and play hockey, and it was hilarious.  Now?  Not so much. 

The Critic–The Live Action Movie – Attempting to cast a live action movie of The Critic.  There are some good choices in here, but I can’t see Gary Busey or Robert Redford as Duke Phillips.  We’d need someone who can play a megalomaniacal Southerner, did Jerry Reed have any kids that went into acting? 

Mike Argento: A burger and a shake, all in one – Excellent usage:

"We take eighteen ounces of sizzling ground beef, and soak it in rich, creamery butter, then we top it off with bacon, ham and a fried egg," the announcer, a woman with a voice soaked in sex, intoned, breathlessly. "We call it the Good Morning Burger."

That episode aired in 1994. Since then, reality has taken to beating satire into a coma.

He goes on to compare it to some new gigantic burger they have at Denny’s. 

There is no such thing as bad publicity – Bart and Martin’s competing posters for class president.

Midnight Club Los Angeles Homer Simpson’s Car – A YouTube video of a rather impressive Homer customized car for Midnight Club: Los Angeles. 

Simpsons – A picture of a Marge Halloween costume that is sadly of the “sexy X” variety rather than the “homemade and cool” variety.  That looks more like a bustier than a dress.  (Also, thanks for the link!) 

Trick or treat – Aww, (future) family togetherness:

And then there were other times when I was one of the few weirdos dressed up on the 31st of October. Like 17 years ago when I worked for a large conservative government agency and showed up at my new place of employment decked out like Madonna. With half of my eyebrows shaved off and drawn into an arch, a high Jeannie-style ponytail, and two pointy prominent cones poking through my pin-striped suit, I thought I looked good.

My boyfriend’s sister, who also worked there and was not in costume, called their mother immediately to report my attire.

The following year my future mother-in-law looked relieved when I showed up at her house trick-or-treating with her son as the less sexy Marge Simpson and Krusty the Klown.

Three-Eyed Nuclear ‘Simpsons’ Fish Caught – It’s a real three eyed fish caught (apparently) near a nuclear plant.  It’s definitely not appetizing. 

♥ Girls Get Busy ♥ | WE ♥ LISA SIMPSON zine contributors needed – This is the same thing I mentioned last Saturday, just a reminder that the deadline is next week. 

The problem with people’s problems – Nice reference:

RADIO REVIEW: THERE IS an episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa, the smart one, sees her belief in the irretrievable dim-wittedness of her family confirmed by their choice of television viewing, a reality show called When Surgery Goes Wrong . Oh, how we laughed. Little did we know that the fictional programme’s apparently outlandish subject would become a staple – nay, a triumphant highlight – of one of Ireland’s most popular radio shows.

Kane County Chronicle | Face time with Sara Harrigan – Woman on the street interview reveals this:

What was your best Halloween costume? Marge Simpson.

It’s Only a Movie: Films For All Hallow’s Eve – Some old, campy, or just plain fun Halloween viewing, including, of course, Treehouse of Horror. 

[Vídeo do dia] Abertura humana dos Simpsons – There’s a YouTube video here, but it doesn’t play.  It’s been taken down by the dimwitted legal eagles at FOX.  Normally I just skip these kinds of things, but here’s the preview image:

Dastardly Copyright Infringers

Looks like a real threat to FOX’s bottom line to me.  I mean, that nine-year-old in the back has cymbals! 

Late but never forgotten. – Fan made drawing of Maggie as the spawn of Kang. 

Tax Court Refuses to Allow Man to Save Him from Himself – This is a blog by two accountants, and it features almost excellent usage:

Reaffirming my long-held belief that everything in life can be related back to The Simpsons, there’s an episode in which Homer is investigated by the IRS for tax fraud. In lieu of prosecution, Homer is told that he will “work for the IRS” to help the Service bring down Homer’s boss, Mr. Burns. Homer’s reply to the proposed arrangement?

“Sure, but can you pay me under the table?….I’ve got a little tax problem.”

Homer’s actual quote is “Okay, but could you pay me under the table? . . . I got a little tax problem.”

Floated in an Isolation Tank – A first hand account:

Have you ever seen that Simpsons episode where Home and Lisa lie in isolation tanks? When Lisa experiences a hallucination wherein she becomes the family cat and Homer believes that, when his isolation tank is reclaimed by repo men and dropped down a hill, he has also gone on a wild mind ride? I’ve done that. Floated in the isolation tank, that is, not been inadvertently repossessed.

“Don’t kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about!” -Troy McClure (The Simpsons) – Freakoutville, FTW.

Die, Simpsons, Die – And finally, I get to end with someone who vehemently and epically agrees with us.  Seriously:

I say let the pulvarized zombie horse keel over and die instead of throwing it a goodbye party first.

There’s much, much more at the link, and it’s so much like my dreams it’s scary.  Highly recommended.

07
Oct
11

Zombies Never Die

“Chapter Eight, let’s talk zombies.  If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie.  You must walk the Earth feeding on the brains of the living until the spell is broken.” – Bart Simpson

It’s official, Zombie Simpsons lives to bore another day.  James L. Brooks just tweeted it (via):

Death, Taxes and Zombie Simpsons

That’ll take it through Season 25, or at least the spring of 2014.  Neither side is likely to release any detailed figures but, as with every other time they’ve gone through this goofy public fit, mutual financial benefit won the day.  I’ll do a more informative update when there’s some actual hard information.  Until then I would just like to point out the irony that this site, which wants to see the show taken off the air, was one of the few all week that never thought it was going to happen.  Oh well. 

03
Mar
11

Why Teevee Sucks (The Book)

Treehouse of Horror III6

“Mr. Blackheart?” – Lisa Simpson
“Yes, my pretty?” – Mr. Blackheart
“Are you an ivory dealer?” – Lisa Simpson
“Little girl, I’ve had lots of jobs in my day, whale hunter, seal clubber, president of the FOX Network, and like most people, yeah, I’ve dealt a little ivory.” – Mr. Blackheart

A few weeks ago, a reader (thanks Steve!) e-mailed me with a PDF copy of an unpublished book written by a longtime television writer named Andrew Nicholls.  Nicholls and Darrell Vickers, his writing partner, have been typing away for television since the 80s, including a number of recognizable titles and the last years of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.  (This is their website).  Nicholls’ book is titled “Valuable Lessons: How I Made (And Lost) Seven Million Dollars Writing For Over A Hundred Shows You Never Heard Of”.  It’s a 280-page insider’s tale of the bureaucratic, greedy, dishonest, and generally fucked systems and people that make almost all teevee suck so very, very hard.  There’s a PDF copy available at their website, or you can drop eight bucks and get a nicely formatted Kindle version.  Either way it’s an excellent read.

In particular, I want to draw your attention to two parts which serve to illustrate the same principle from two different vantages.  If Nicholls has an overarching theme, other than “where the hell did my life and money go?”, it’s that teevee is shitty because too many twits are allowed positions of creative power.  The first selection is the only section of the book that deals directly with The Simpsons, though Al Jean and Mike Reiss do make an occasional cameo elsewhere.  The second is about what happens to an otherwise promising show when the inmates begin running the studio.

The Simpsons was famously doused in anti-executive garlic by His Holiness St. Brooks of New Jersey, and “Valuable Lessons” is a reminder of just how lucky we are to have gotten the show the way we did.  I’m going to quote this at some length because it gets right to the heart of how utterly backwards and unintentionally cynical the unwritten rules of mass media really are.  From a chapter titled “Where Are They?” (p. 44):

Those who develop programs for television, who account for all the new shows’ existence at the annual TCA (Television Critics Association) meetings in L.A. or New York, often say they’re open to any new thing they feel the public might be turned on by. Innovation. Stuff we haven’t seen on TV until now. Push that envelope. We’re the network that takes chances. We’re always looking for talent. (No, they’re always looking for latent). We wanted to give it a twist, do it from a new angle. We told everyone this year to think outside the box. Mix things up. Take a few wild swings, see what happens.

So where are the high-IQ characters on TV who aren’t also socially inept?

Where are the single people with poor or no relationships?

Where are the characters who have three or four, or even two major interests in their lives?

Where for that matter is the person who is consistently interested in anything other than sports, beer, sex and money?

Where are the poor people who slowly work their way to wealth instead of inheriting it or winning it in a lottery like Malcolm and Eddie or Roseanne?

Where are the socialists?

Where are the highly-admired bullies? A 2004 UCLA study revealed that schoolyard bullies are actually popular with their peers and, contrary to everything you see on TV, they have the lowest rate of emotional problems. (We had a highly-admired bully on Ned’s Newt, but you haven’t seen that.)

Where are the men who offer to help a woman build or assemble something and who succeed? Or the women (Ellen being the exception) who do so and fail?

Where are the mentally ill Chinese guys?

Where are the families engaged in ongoing frustrating disputes with insurance companies, HMOs, Boards Of Education, local government?

Where are the unattractive middle-aged people trying to figure out why or where their lives turned out so horribly wrong?

Where are the men or women involved in ongoing labor disputes?

When has a boys’ sports team ever beaten a girls’ team?

Where are the Jewish families, orthodox or non? With only 5.8 million citizens, who’s more of a minority in the U.S. than the Jews? There are more Mormons in America, for Moroni’s sake. And where are the Mormons for that matter, God bless their underage-niece-marrying souls?

Where are the white characters who continually get the better of a minority character? This is the kind of argument right-wingers make, no? But what does it say of the idées recues of a society that a network will only air an episode of a comedy in which the woman shows her husband how to start a fire, or how to jack up a car or erect a camping tent?

It says they think it’s funnier that the woman can do it.

Think about that. They wouldn’t air a show in which the punchline was that an athlete can outrun a couch potato. Or that a Harvard grad out-SATS a self-educated guy who grew up on a farm. (The Simpsons is a whole separate case… and it’s close to miraculous, considering how much money it’s made Fox, and how much the other networks like money too, that it hasn’t been more widely imitated in half-hour comedy. Their secret: no network notes. Ever. Do you know what Fox did to help the show in its first two years? Nothing. They hated it.)

In other words, they think having the woman fix the tire is so obviously unlikely that to show it will provoke laughter. They are saying, “We all know women are incompetent at this, let’s turn things on their head in this one instance for a big wacky guffaw!”

Except, over the years, that one instance has become every instance, and the comedy has worn off like the outside of a Tic Tac.

If you’re picking up here because you skipped the block quote, go back and read the whole thing.  I’m serious.

Shit like that is why The Simpsons is unique, and why most television programs are forgettable and bland.  How many times have you seen the exact same plot on different shows?  How many times have you heard the same jokes?  Watched as the same concepts and characters are dragged in circles around your screen like the floppy corpses of vanquished charioteers?

Which brings us to Drexell’s Class.  This particular single season sitcom has so completely dissolved into the pop culture ether that its opening credits don’t even merit their own YouTube video.  You have to skip to the 5:35 mark, past the openings for The Trials of Rosie O’Neill, Step by Step, Reasonable Doubts, The Best of the Worst, and Palace Guard, to see them and, insult to injury, the video is titled “1991 TV show openings Part 7”.  I failed to find a clip; most of the video search results were maudlin tributes to Brittany Murphy (who got started on the show), and even those were just still photos of her accompanied by whatever piece of musical treacle seemed least likely to offend the copyright gods.  Drexell’s Class has been all but totally forgotten and, to hear Nicholls recounting of its genesis, it’s no wonder why.

Drexell's Class

Image yoinked from epguides.

The show was originally conceived as “W.C. Fields teaching school”.  It’s a pretty simple fish out of water setup: cantankerous hard ass forced into the company of educators he considers beneath him and children he loathes.  They even got Dabney Coleman to play the W.C. Fields part, which made perfect sense as Coleman spent the 80s playing cantankerous hard asses (most memorably in Tootsie and Nine to Five).  Nicholls describes the beginning of the first episode (p. 140):

On a particularly bad day, Drexell calls the father of a troublemaking student in to school, only to learn that the dad works at a local racetrack and knows of a wink wink sure thing in tomorrow’s last race.  Drexell places a big bet and proceeds to systematically trash everyone and everything at the school, while running back and forth between home and class to pack, and following the race on the TV and radio.  Of course after he’s called the Principal an “inflexible, barren, potato-shaped sack of malice” the winning horse stumbles on the track.

But that wasn’t what it looked like once FOX got done with it.  And please remember that this is 1991 FOX, the network that was operating out of a shoebox, broadcasting controversial fare like The Simpsons and Married With Children, and constantly promoting itself as the rebellion against network television.  Nicholls:

At first Fox seemed to be on board with the premise of the show:  the posters had a picture of a scowling Dabney and the slogan DABNEY COLEMAN ON FOX.  IT HAD TO HAPPEN.

But as we went into production the notes on the script bespoke a different attitude:
*character is too nasty
*give Otis’s character more genuine moments so you care about him
*he is a fundamentally decent guy and this needs to be sensed
*show how he takes the situation of anger and turns it into a positive teaching thing
*show edgier ways of showing “heart” moments that will be unique to the show
*he needs to have more levels in his character coming across (charming, funny, graceful, wisdom)
*have Otis push Billy Ray to a new level and show a breakthrough and how it has affected him
*a genuine moment is needed in the script
*show how he genuinely is a good teacher

Gee, can we get genuine enough?  When I read heart moments I just about beshat myself.

As you can guess, things went rapidly downhill from there.  FOX, the edgy new kid on the block that was supposed to be changing all the rules, had the horse race excised in full from an episode in which the main plot was the horse race.  A few pages later FOX lets them know, “We never want to see another scene set in the classroom”, on a show that had the word “Class” in the title.

It’s that kind of grotesque, Brazil-level absurdity that makes so many shows basically unwatchable if you want to do anything besides set your brain to “liquefy” for a little while.  Case in point, this promo for the episode “Bully for Otis”, which looks to have been broadcast during the original airing of “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk”:

Har har, Dabney fall down!  Check out this joint promo for “Homer Defined” and the Drexell’s Class episode “Convictions”:

It’s funny because they’re prisoners!  Keep in mind that “Convictions” was the fifth episode of the series.  Five (5) episodes in and they had completely abandoned their premise.  Nicholls relates that the prohibition on showing the regular classroom came after episode four.  “Valuable Lessons” has plenty of those kinds of gory details, up to and including a dead orangutan, as well as some “aww Johnny” moments about Carson that are just nice.  It’s a quick read, and if you have any interest in how television shows are made, and why they are made so relentlessly poorly, it’s very much worth your time.

29
Nov
10

Paging G.E. Smith (Updated)

Chalkboard - How Munched is That Birdie in the Window

“So then his wife comes through the door!” – Homer Simpson
“So?” – Bart Simpson
“Did I mention she was dead?” – Homer Simpson
“No.” – Lisa Simpson
“Well, she was.  And she hit him in the head with a golf club!” – Homer Simpson
“And?” – Bart Simpson
“Don’t you remember?  He went golfing all the time and it really bugged her.” – Homer Simpson
“You said he went bowling!” – Lisa Simpson
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

I’ve often compared Zombie Simpsons to bad sketch comedy, and “How Munched is That Birdie in the Window” is one of the best examples yet inflicted upon the masses.  Not only did none of the scenes compliment each other, many of them had literally nothing to do with the rest of the episode.  Instead, there were a series of brief scenes that barfed up a few hammy jokes and pratfalls before ending as abruptly as they started. 

It began with another extremely long couch opening.  That was followed by two scenes that were completely unrelated to everything.  And I mean “completely”, both the angels bowling and Homer’s Halloween leftover story had nothing to do with the rest of the episode, nor were they setting anything up.  I half expected a house band to break in and play a few guitar licks so that the transition from the monologue to the Big Ear Family would be easier on the audience. 

Then, apropos of nothing, the pigeon showed up.  That lead to a pigeon montage, an unrelated Homer scene with a pigeon coop, another unrelated scene with Milhouse, random characters using pigeon messages to set up random scenes and, finally, Moe appearing for no reason whatsoever.  Each scene has its own little timid stabs at humor, then ends.  You could write a description of each one on an index card, shuffle them thoroughly, and reorder the entire episode and it would’ve made as much (or more) sense as the real thing. 

The main conflict, if it can even be called that, was Bart getting upset at his dog, and that wasn’t introduced until halfway through.  It too came straight out of the blue, Santa’s Little Helper simply appeared and ate the bird, though the suddenness did not prevent them from milking it for half a minute of screen time.  As if to add to the randomness, they had two relatively well known guest stars, one an actual actress, neither of whom was given anything to do but appear and disappear quickly.  Oh, and did I mention that it ends with an ostrich fight?  It did.  And, no, it didn’t have anything to do with the rest of the episode either.

The numbers are in and, sadly, they’re up.  Happily, they are also not final, as football ran very long on FOX yesterday.  The preliminary numbers say that 9.42 million people choked down last night’s Zombie Simpsons, but even with the big lead in from football those numbers are likely to come down.  Since that number is much higher than anything Zombie Simpsons has posted this season, let’s hope it comes down a lot.  Unlike the last time this happened, I will actually update this post when the final numbers are published. 

Update 3 December 2010: Unfortunately, the final numbers were only revised down slightly to 9.39 million viewers.  That makes this one easily the highest rated of the season.  Let’s hope it stays that way.   

26
Oct
10

Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III5

“Hey, I heard we’re going Ape Island.” – Carl
“Yeah, to capture a giant ape.  I wish we were going to Candy Apple Island.” – Lenny
“Candy Apple Island, what do they got there?” – Charlie
“Apes, but there not so big.” – Carl

14
Oct
10

Quote of the Day

Air Pollution

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user skampy.

“And in environmental news, scientists have announced that Springfield’s air is now only dangerous to children and the elderly.” – Kent Brockman
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

25
Oct
09

Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III3

“From A-apple to Z-zebra, ‘Baby’s First Pop-up Book’ is twenty six pages of alphabetic adventure.” – Bart Simpson
“Bart, do you mean to tell me you read a book intended for preschoolers?” – Mrs. Krabappel
“Well, most of it.” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday Nancy Cartwright!

19
Oct
09

Zombie Simpsons Abandons Precedent

“Please Lis, they prefer to be called the ‘living impaired’.” – Bart Simpson

Typically there are three segments to a Treehouse of Horror episode.  (Discounting the opening with the monsters at the Halloween party, which was pointless filler if ever there was such a thing.)  The first segment was basically a chase scene that had no jokes.  The second segment was another zombie segment (that also had a chase scene that had no jokes).  The third segment was a bizarre musical theater number that had, quite literally, nothing to do with Halloween with the exception of Kang and Kodos being in the audience.  They couldn’t even be bothered to produce three Halloween segments.  There was one truly scary moment though, Al Jean was credited as Al “20 More Years” Jean.

So, even though it was only 2/3 of a Halloween episode (and Zombie Simpsons at that) it was billed as a full one and those tend to do well in the ratings.  I’m setting the over/under at 9.5 million viewers and, as always, I’m hoping for the under.

Update: The numbers are in and at 8.59 million viewers the under has it handily.  This also makes XX the least watched Treehouse of Horror ever, by almost two million viewers.

18
Oct
09

Quote of the Day

zombieflanders1

“Hey Simpson! I’m feeling a mite peckish. Mind if I chew your ear?” – Zombie Flanders
*gunshot*

zombieflanders2

“Dad, you killed the Zombie Flanders!” – Bart Simpson
“He was a zombie?” – Homer Simpson

Halloween Zombie Simpsons tonight, brace yourselves and grab your shotguns.

14
Oct
09

Quote of the Day

calliope1

“I am Calliope, the muse of heroic poetry!” – Martin Prince

calliope2

“No kidding.” – Nelson Muntz

07
Oct
09

Quote of the Day

Frogurt

“Well, I need something for my son’s birthday.” – Homer Simpson

“Ah, perhaps this will please the gentleman.  Take this object, but beware: it carries a terrible curse.” – House of Evil Owner

“Ohh, that’s bad.” – Homer Simpson

“But it comes with a free frogurt.” – House of Evil Owner

“That’s good.” – Homer Simpson

“The frogurt is also cursed.” – House of Evil Owner

“That’s bad.” – Homer Simpson

“But you get your choice of topping.” – House of Evil Owner

“That’s good.” – Homer Simpson

“The toppings contains potassium benzoate.” – House of Evil Owner

“…” – Homer Simpson

“That’s bad.” – House of Evil Owner

06
Oct
09

Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III4

“Good evening.  I’ve been asked to tell you that the following show is very scary, with stuff that might give your kids nightmares.  You see, there are some crybabies out there, religious types mostly, who might be offended.  If you are one of them, I advise you to turn off your set now.  C’mon, I dare you.” – Homer Simpson




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