Posts Tagged ‘Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’Oh

07
May
09

Citation Is Not Satire – Video Game Edition

“If I were you I really would use those quarters for laundry.” – Noiseland Video Arcade Guy

The internet is filled with people who love television and video games, and so the brief Halo/teabagging bit from last Sunday’s Zombie Simpsons was mentioned in many places.  I saw it on Joystiq first, but this description from Kotaku sums things up well:

I guess we can move the trend marker for “Teabagging in Halo” on the downward trajectory of its lifespan, just to the right of the shark fin.

That’s about right, by the time Zombie Simpsons gets around to mentioning something it’s usually well past its expiration date.  But this also provides a good excuse to demonstrate the pervasive laziness of what passes for jokes on Zombie Simpsons.

To illustrate just how flimsy Zombie Simpsons is we must look back to one of the thirteen underappreciated masterpieces of Season 1.  In “Moaning Lisa” Homer and Bart play a boxing game against each other; last Sunday, Homer sat in his fantasy bachelor apartment playing a facsimile of Halo.  Let’s compare and contrast.

You couldn't actually dance on someone's grave, even in "Punchout!".

Even in "Punch Out!!" you couldn't actually dance on someone's grave.

The boxing game in “Moaing Lisa” bears a vague resemblance to Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, far and away the most famous video boxing game of the time.  But instead of simply using the game as is, the show brought its own sensibilities to it, including graphically sophisticated cartoon violence that 1990 video games couldn’t actually do.  Fast forward nineteen years and there’s no creativity whatsoever to the Halo clone in “Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’oh”; it’s basically a straight copy and paste job (and it’s not the only one).  The game in the episode appears more or less as it does on the XBox and the “joke”, such as there is one, is to simply show something you can do in the game.

This is just another example of the collapse of humor the show has experienced over the years.  Back then, it took a popularly understood video game concept, played with it a little to make it funnier, and worked it into the overall plot.  Now, it takes a well understood concept, unmodified in any way and completely unrelated to anything else in the episode, and expects the audience to laugh simply because they recognize the reference.  There’s no joke, there’s no satire, it’s just repetition.

Finally, let me say one quick thing as a Halo player.  I’ve been been teabagged on numerous occasions (often by opponents whose voices make it abundantly clear that their testicles have yet to descend, which makes it both weirder and funnier), and I’m not above the occasional teabagging myself.  So take my word for it when I say that the refreshingly crude culture of on-line games like Halo, essentially a forum for the unrestrained id of the American male, is a very rich comedy vein (witness Red vs Blue).  Zombie Simpsons didn’t even try to tap it.

05
May
09

Synergy Fakes an Orgasm

“Hey everybody, I’m gonna haul ass to Lollapalooza!” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

This week’s IGN Zombie Simpsons fellatio is an exercise in sloppily faked enthusiasm.  Lisa’s teacher is Miss Hoover, not Mrs. Hoover (part of the fun of Ms. Hoover is that she very much wants to be Mrs. Somebody and isn’t).  Then there’s “science water”, which very pointedly isn’t capitalized in the episode but is in the review.  There are also a couple of basic editing errors.  If you’re going to pretend to enjoy something you’ve got to pay attention to the details or else your paramour/meal ticket might become suspicious.  

Anyway, here’s the edited, synergy-less review.  Enjoy:

May 4, 2009 – “Waverly Hills, 9021-D’oh” was a fantastic episode example of just how far The Simpsons has fallen and was quite possibly my favorite of the season. It followed the family, with the exception of Maggie who was conveniently absent, as they tried to work the system to get Bart and Lisa enrolled at a more prestigious elementary school and it did so with hilarious references its usual lumbering, expositive style and smart storytelling half-baked nonsensical twists. And it was funny boring. Very, very funny boring.

After Marge became over-hydrated sampling Science Water the opening conceit, she snuck into Springfield Elementary to use their lavatories. She discovered cartoonishly terrible conditions, overcrowded classrooms and teachers that just don’t care, all of which have existed for a long time but which must now be painstakingly spelled out for the audience. Marge watched as Mrs. Ms. Hoover reached tenure and proceeded to let Ralph teach the class have a small cameo: “Class, in what year was one plus one? The answer is, the Amazing Ralph.” She took her complaints to Principal Skinner, but was simply met with a stocked wet bar hackneyed gag that’s been done better in several earlier episodes.

The idea of getting the kids into school in Waverly Hills Plot Necessary Suburb soon took hold. There was no a forced comparison between the two schools. Waverly Hills had an auditorium and a gym that are in separate rooms, which we’ve seen at Skinner’s school many times! Whereas Springfield Elementary combined math and gym to create “dodge book.” To beat the system, Marge suggested they rent a cheap apartment in Waverly Hills Plot Necessary Suburb to gain residency and then send the kids to school there. With this basic set up, the episode was free to cover what often results in the best episodes two tracks of tepid zaniness: the kids dealing with school, and Homer trying to pull off a scheme. Bart and Lisa have often been thrown into new school-related situations, though rarely do they have this little to actually do with school, whether it’s both being sent to the same grade (“Bart vs. Lisa vs. 3rd Grade“), adventurous field trips (multiple episodes) or Lisa posing as a college student (“Little Girl in the Big Ten“). The episode didn’t waste much time establishing the situation ramping up the wackiness. Bart sealed his reputation in a hilarious bit with Chief Wiggum “arresting him” in return for Bart going to Ralph’s birthday party. The fact the that Wiggum was trying to make the same deal with Fat Tony and his cronies made the bit all the better take even longer. Bart then made Lisa cool in the most hacktacular way possible by telling the Waverly Hills Plot Necessary Suburb elite that she was best friends with Alaska Nebraska, the well-named Hannah Montana parody who showed up for one scene to monologue a while.

It all played out exactly as one might expects from formulaic television, but with a level of funny that has become all too common rare in these latter double-digit seasons: little to none. The school storyline bits involved time wasting set pieces such as Chalmers and Skinner conversing like a married couple, Milhouse stuck playing hide-and-seek for three weeks, Ellen Page (Juno) voicing the cynical Alaska Nebraska (“Could you tell I lip-synched that whole speech?”) and the Caitlin trio delivering some of my favorite lines from the episode lines which, like last week, were funnier in ‘Mean Girls’: “Those are last year’s shoes! Kill her!” “Also, it’s Lisa.” “Kill her twice!”

Equally as good time consuming was the storyline about Homer and Marge establishing residency. Homer’s tour of apartments with Cookie Kwan was a lot of fun ate some clock: “I can’t afford this place, it’s way too fancy. Sometimes there’s not a train going by.” The best part most mechanically plugged in pop culture reference was having the residency inspector be the coin-flipping Anton Chigurh from No Country for Old Men. (Homer: “Heads! I mean, tails! I mean, on it’s side!”) His use of the air gun to validate Homer’s parking was hysterical conformed exactly to type. This storyline had a great twist meandering middle to it, as Homer needed to live in the apartment in preparation for a random inspection. The story conceit then basically became about Homer role playing life as a college bachelor, down to pretending to meet Marge for the first time at a party: “How about you, me and my wife have a two-way?”

This brilliantly predictably turned into Marge taking over Homer’s life and apartment, as new girlfriends often do on television. When the kids were ready to return to the status quo finished getting chased around Plot Necessary Suburb, Homer and Marge decided it was time they had their home in the suburbs wrapped things up. Overall, “Waverly Hills, 9021-D’oh” was a smart tedious, funny formulaic episode that not only continued the trend of great dimwitted post-HD-switch episodes, but also outshined them all could’ve spewed from the Powerbook of the laziest Hollywood hack.

04
May
09

Zombie Simpsons: Copy & Paste FAIL

What to make of the images below?  Were these clever throwbacks designed to be shoutouts to long time fans?  Or was it simply a copy and paste job done out of laziness?

 

useless-retreads1

It's in HD so it has to be better . . . right?

 

originals1

It was produced on a smaller budget, with older techniques for a low resolution screen and the stacked desks work much better. Zombie Simpsons can't even copy properly.

The rest of the episode, a hodgepodge of chases and exposition, sucked too.  Given last week’s dismal viewership I’m going to be hopeful and set the over/under at a flat 6.00 million viewers.  C’mon under.  

Update: TV by the Numbers says, “I just received notice that the Sunday Night fast affiliate ratings that we use for our posts have been delayed due to Nielsen processing issues. No ETA on when they may be available, but I will post as soon as I can. ”  There also weren’t any overnight numbers yesterday, so I’m taking the no ETA thing seriously.  Still hoping for under six million though.

Wednesday Update: The numbers are finally in and the wait wasn’t worth it.  The over has it at 6.55 million viewers, oh well.  While I’m here, since Monday I’ve figured out something that was bothering me about the above set of images.  The older two images are from episodes which are, for lack of a better word, “imaginary”; the one on the left is from a possible future in “Lisa’s Wedding” and the one on the right is from a Treehouse of Horror.  Conceptually that makes them a lot different than an ordinary family living in a town called Springfield, which is what The Simpsons used to be about.  Zombie Simpsons, on the other hand, operates in a reality where wild craziness is just assumed to be part of the normal world.   

30
Apr
09

The End is Near

 

Season 20: VERY not worthy.

Season 20: VERY not worthy.

Image used under CreativeCommons license from Flicker user windy_sydney

The end of Season 20 is finally in sight.  Simpsons Channel now has promo images and plot descriptions up for all three of the remaining episodes.  It’s almost over.  

First up is Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D’Oh, in which Bart and Lisa go to a rich kids school while Homer enjoys the bachelor lifestyle in the apartment he and Marge rented to get their kids into said school.  Also, we’re getting Ellen Page voicing Miley Cyrus Alaska Nebraska.  

  • Jon’s Thoughts:  Didn’t Homer live the bachelor lifestyle with a couple of gay dudes a few seasons ago? Oh God, I think Weird Al was in that episode as a musical guest.  Since this can’t possibly be as good as that awful episode, hopefully it will at least spur some derogatory remarks from Miley Cyrus that will help accelerate her career towards the heroin induced asphyxiation death on which I’m counting.
  • Dave’s Thoughts:  I have the sinking feeling this will be another empty celebrity guest appearance. Not sure I have enough of an emotional connection to tween pop starlets to give a shit about them skewering Hannah Montana.
  • Charlie’s Thoughts:  When I first read this about a week ago there was a faint glimmer of hope in my Zombie Simpsons scarred mind because the plot is relatively original.  Then we had that helicopter parent episode and the tiny ember of hope died.  

Next Sunday is a short-story episode titled Four Great Women and a Manicure.  We’ll let Brian from Simpsons Channel describe it:

they spin four tales of famous women featuring famous Springfield faces: Selma as Queen Elizabeth I, Lisa as Snow White, Marge as Lady Macbeth and Maggie (guest voice Jodie Foster) as the idealistic architect protagonist from Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”.

  • Jon’s Thoughts:  God fucking damn it, nothing pisses me off more than these short story episodes. These are always death.
  • Dave’s Thoughts:  When was the last time Zombie Simpsons did a decent multi-story episode?
  • Charlie’s Thoughts:  I have nothing to add here except to point out (again) that Maggie did once organize the resistance at the Ayn Rand School for Tots, I’m not sure Objectivism is her cup of tea.  Also, “The Fountainhead”?  That’s not even the well known Ayn Rand novel.

Finally we come to the season finale, Coming to Homerica.   The Simpsons Channel description is only two sentences long, but really all you need is this:

Homer organizes a border patrol group.

  • Jon’s Thoughts:  You just know he’ll start as some xenophobic bastard that learns that culture mixing is what made America great and then he’ll end the episode on the side of the illegal aliens ala “Much Apu About Nothing.”
  • Dave’s Thoughts:  No more vigilante groups. Once in a series is more than sufficient.
  • Charlie’s Thoughts:  My colleagues pretty much nailed it: mix “Homer the Vigilante” with “Much Apu About Nothing”, strain out all the intelligence and wit, and shake well.  If we’re lucky, and I wouldn’t count on it, Homer will at least learn his lesson a little faster than he did in “Mypods and Boomsticks”.  



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