“Homer, you know how unpredictable the French are. One minute they’re kissing a woman’s hand, the next they’re chopping off her head. What if they start a war?” – Marge Simpson
“Relax, I built a bomb shelter.” – Homer Simpson
Posts Tagged ‘Treehouse of Horror VIII
“Do your worst, you filthy, pretentious savages!” – Mayor Quimby
For evidence that Zombie Simpsons is utterly bereft of ideas that can even be called creative, much less original, one need look no further than the fact that for the second time in a year they made an episode where the family departs Springfield to go live in the wilderness with survivalist nutbars. But that isn’t the most damning thing about “Homer Goes to Prep School”, because the closest thing to this episode isn’t even another episode, it’s a post-apocalyptic Halloween segment from a decade and a half ago.
The first story in “Treehouse of Horror VIII” is “The Homega Man”, a Halloween fable where a nuclear blast supposedly wipes out Springfield. In the end, of course, Homer discovers that the mutants who chase him around aren’t the only ones who survived, but in fact his entire family is alive, well and unharmed. It’s a goofy twist, but it’s also a Halloween segment, where you can do anything you want and things have to be relatively simple because you’ve only got a few minutes in which to introduce, tell and then conclude a story.
“Homer Goes to Prep School” has none of those excuses, and yet it follows almost the exact same template. First, there’s a nuclear disaster. Second, Homer gets chased by other survivors. And finally, Homer discovers that things are actually just fine, the end.
In “Treehouse of Horror VIII”, France launches a nuclear strike on Springfield out of the Eiffel Tower. This is absurd on the face of it for any number of reasons: France and the US are allies, downtown Paris would be a terrible place for a launch silo, and, as far as Wikipedia knows, France never deployed an ICBM, “Intel Inside” or not.
Wikipedia says that the actual French nuke forces are called the “Force de Frappe”. That is awesome.
But none of that matters because, hey, Halloween episode. Weird shit is supposed to happen, and it’s funny as hell to have the famously thin skinned French start a nuclear war over a mild ethnic slur from a small town American politician.
“Homer Goes to Prep School” has no such excuse. It’s supposed to be taking place in something that at least resembles the real world. And even though Zombie Simpsons likes to just go bizarre with things, the first third of this episode is Homer freaking out over how horrible people are, and the conclusion is about people being decent to one another, so it clearly wants us to take at least some of what’s going on here seriously. So when they employ a dumb and lazy “EMP” that Homer somehow manages to cause while no one else at the plant is looking, it isn’t wacky fun, it’s just a hackneyed plot contrivance. Nuclear war over the word “frogs” is a joke; EMP because it’s time to move the plot along is just bad writing.
Hmm. Must be time to start the first part of the third act.
Having caused Springfield to lose power, Homer bundles his family up and heads for the survivalist compound. The few minutes they spend there is a waste of time, even by Zombie Simpsons standards. For starters, we’ve already seen that Homer now has a bunch of supplies in the basement, so not only is there no reason for him and the clan to flee, but their stated reason for returning – to help the other people of Springfield – could’ve been done without them ever heading out of town in the first place.
More aggravating is the escape/chase scene itself. For starters, the survivalists are chasing the family in a wood stove powered pickup, two horses pulling a Hummer, and Lindsey Naegle firing a machine gun backwards. All of those are dumber and less believable than the apocalypse mobile that the mutants had in “The Homega Man”, and the last one is so stupid that it was recently mocked by XKCD (which is and has been much funnier than Zombie Simpsons for a long time). But just as bad are the jokes, which are such hapless filler that Zombie Simpsons explains them as they happen. Consider this, as the family plows through a corn field:
Homer: Out of our way corn! The starving people of Springfield are desperately in need of our delivery of canned corn, corn flakes, and flash frozen corn niblets!
If this isn’t the longest, least subtle, and most heavy handed way you could make that joke, it’s gotta be close. It also takes more time than, say, Homer quickly running over the Johnny & Edgar Winter Tour in “Treehouse of Horror VIII”, which – again – was a Halloween episode.
Finally we come to the abrupt, just-kidding-it-was-all-okay-after-all ending. In “The Homega Man”, Homer returns home to find his family safe and sound before we get the unexpected spasm of Halloween violence wherein the rest of the family blows away all the mutants. In “Homer Goes to Prep School” we get two whole minutes of drawn out exposition about what did and didn’t happen. It’s not endless, but it does kinda feel that way:
Lisa: What happened with the EMP?
Prof. Frink: Only Springfield lost power, you see, and after a few days it came back.
Waits: Then society didn’t crumble? The zoo animals weren’t eaten?
Chief Wiggum: Well, a couple.
Waits: This non-disaster is a catastrophe.
Marge: Are you really so disappointed the world didn’t end just so you could be proven right?
Waits: No, no, no, it’s just that, in the new world, I would’ve been a big shot.
Lisa: Guys, can’t you see that an imperfect society is better than the savagery of creating a new one? I, for one, am glad we’re stuck with civilization. And I think we will be for a long, long time.
Which, of course, leads to the zombie comet, which itself has to be explained:
Zombie Kid: I’m hungry.
Zombie Dad: Look, you can have potato chips now or, if you wait ten minutes, you can have all the brains you can eat.
Zombie Kid: I want both.
Yup, they are now literally Zombie Simpsons. Add it all up and there’s no getting away from the conclusion that “Homer Goes to Prep School” is a poor mimicry of a much better episode. And while that happens a lot with Zombie Simpsons, usually they don’t take post-apocalyptic Halloween segments as their templates and then go them several worse in terms of weirdness.
It’s a pity that I don’t have a way to tabulate just how much time they spend off topic in these Zombie Simpsons commentaries, because this one might have set a record. Even by their standards there are several impressively long tangents about things that are only connected to the episode by the thinnest of threads. I think my favorite might be when they talk about how you can’t actually swim around in a flood.
Speaking of floods, this episode ends with one. Homer has blasphemed the church such that the entire town floods up to roof level, at which point Lovejoy shows up in a helicopter with a blue glow that makes him look like an extra in a Tron movie. If you’re thinking to yourself that all of that sounds stupid and that they ended the show with a flood in Season 10, well, yeah, it was and they did. As usual, it’s best not to think too much about these.
Eight guys on this one.
0:45 – Original pitch was based off an NPR story about the “gospel of prosperity”. Oh man, you picked those sleazy Bakker acolytes who run prosperity gospel scams and came up with this hunk of shit? Shame, Zombie Simpsons, shame. They don’t come much slower and fatter over the plate than prosperity gospel scammers.
1:30 – This one opens with a WNBA game because all the NBA guys had turned them down for a guest spot a couple of years ago.
2:30 – Still talking about the WNBA.
3:00 – Wow, boredom has set in awfully quickly here. Mike Scully’s name appearing in the credits prompted someone to break a long silence by saying, completely out of the blue, “We were just at Mike Scully’s lifetime animation award ceremony last night. And there’s his name.” That causes everyone to laugh at how off topic it is.
3:45 – Marc Wilmore won a basket shooting contest in a game once. This thrilling story is keeping them nicely distracted from the glacial pace of the episode, in which the Rich Texan is now dancing for no reason.
4:10 – “Me and Marc were actually at a Clippers game thanks to Al giving us his tickets . . .” The story keeps going from there. Homer is crying and yelling on screen now.
4:45 – Omine is now telling a story about taking her kid to a Clippers game.
5:10 – Holy crap, it’s the third basketball story in a row. Al Jean’s wife went to a game once and they put her on the kiss-cam with a dude that she didn’t know who just happened to be sitting next to her.
5:30 – Another kiss-cam story.
5:45 – After a quiet period after the second kiss-cam story, Jean finally says something about the episode. Pointing out that when they show things on television with the image of the outside of the TV there it’s called a “TV matte” or “mat”, I don’t know. That segues nicely into Jean complaining that Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary was too New York centric.
6:20 – Still talking about Ken Burns.
6:50 – See above.
7:05 – Jean breaks the post-Burns silence by asking Michael Polcino, who directed this, how they animated the lenticular card. It was two images cross dissolved with white lines interspersed. Polcino’s explanation is so short and business like that everyone laughs at how short and business like it is.
7:30 – Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think Jean was hoping Polcino would eat up a bit more time. There was a whiff of Vaudeville straight man to Polcino’s succinct response. To keep things going, Jean asks how the candle flames were done.
8:00 – There wasn’t much to that story either, but it did lead to the usual but-things-are-different-with-computers-now conclusion that happens every time they talk about the animation on these episodes. On screen Homer just caused two trucks to crash into one another.
8:30 – Jean breaks a long silence as Homer goes to unclog the sink through prayer. He wonders about the efficacy of prayer, which causes someone else to jokingly ask if there’s a message to this show. That leads to some casual banter about the unlikeliness of any deity caring about strikeouts or made free throws.
9:30 – As the God-as-Sportsfan discussion winds down, Selman chimes in with a Ricky Gervais joke on that subject.
9:45 – After a silence, we’re still talking about old Gervais routines.
10:15 – Homer just fell down, which prompts a rare comment about the episode. Apparently Castellaneta did a longer falling noise at the table read that was really funny.
10:30 – Jean mentions that with Hartman and therefore Lionel Hutz gone, it was always tough to introduce a new lawyer into the show. Sounds like a reason the show could’ve ended to me.
10:50 – I’ll give Jean credit, he’s doing his best to make this interesting. As Homer proceeds with a lawsuit against the church, Jean talks about how many Catholic churches have been sued since this episode came out and jokes about one that became Greek.
11:30 – Jean again, joking about how they’re still using VHS tapes here.
12:00 – Jean mentions that they’re aware of Jerkass Homer, but then fails to understand the concept by saying that the first time his mom thought Homer was an asshole was “When Flanders Failed”. Jerkass Homer is most definitely not on display in “When Flanders Failed”, because there all he does is not tell people about the Leftorium. Jerkass Homer is when he goes crashing into people and screaming and generally acting out.
12:30 – Someone says, “They criticize Jerkass Homer, but they never praise Niceass Homer”. To which Selman says, “They never praise anything”. To which I say, not true. Read just about any post on this site that mentions an episode prior to Season 10 or so and you will see bounteous and florid praise. Hell, I even say nice things about new episodes every once and a while.
13:00 – They had a fight with the standards and practices people over Homer dancing around the church in his underwear. I would only point out that they did that – in a Halloween episode – five seasons before this.
13:45 – A question about whether or not they’d be allowed to do stuff like this today leads to a long discussion about censorship on the show and who it is they’re trying not to offend. Jean’s opinion is that the censor fights they don’t win anymore are the ones about vulgarity, butt cracks, and the odd politically correct things like not wanting Lisa to have wine at dinner when they went to Italy.
14:30 – Reverend Lovejoy is trying to preach in the bowling alley, which leads both Jean and Omine to jokingly point out how poor a choice this is for the new church. That in turn leads to a long discussion of bowling alley quirks and etiquette. Seriously.
15:10 – Now they’re discussing the claw machines often found in bowling alleys.
15:30 – Jean follows the claw discussion by asking Polcino about the lighting of the sky in afternoon/evening. Up to this they hadn’t done as much graduated shading because you had to draw it, now it’s five seconds on the computer. That’s one of the reasons he likes digital over the hand painted, because you get so many more color and shading options.
17:00 – Still talking about hand painted versus digital. Flanders is praying to pool cues.
18:00 – They’re still talking about the disadvantages of hand painting things, among them noxious fumes and toxic chemicals.
18:40 – Discussing how they do the rain drops. Meanwhile Homer is being struck by lightning.
19:05 – Flanders just drove a rather large boat out of his garage, which prompts Jean to ask “Now where was this ark stored?” to general laughter.
19:30 – And now we’re discussing floods. Not the flood in this episode. Just floods in general.
20:00 – See above.
20:30 – Now they’re joking about whether or not they won a religious award for this one.
20:55 – Colonel Sanders is on a cloud at the end here, which prompts Selman to let us all know that he and the Colonel have the same birthday, September 9th.
21:15 – And we end with Polcino calling it well written, with which I must respectfully disagree.