24
Feb
10

Synergy Wasn’t All That

Brush with Greatness3

“Alright family, I want the truth.  Don’t pull any punches.  Am I just a little bit overweight? . . . Well, am I?” – Homer Simpson
“Forgive us Dad, but it takes time to properly sugarcoat a response.” – Lisa Simpson

This was one of those rare weeks where the Zombie Simpsons episode was so bereft of humor, or even just attempts at humor, that even wholly owned News Corporation subsidiary IGN couldn’t gin up too much praise.  It concludes by saying:

“The Color Yellow” just wasn’t all that worth it.”

Of course the numerical score is still a 6.4, but that’s because IGN sucks at math.  Speaking of “wasn’t all that”, it’s IGN’s Faint Praise Phrase of the Week.  Instead of just coming out and saying that it wasn’t funny IGN used a lot of wobbly kneed qualifiers of which “wasn’t all that” was the favorite.  Fortunately, all you’ve got to do is drop the “all that” and a quivering synergy sentence becomes a nice, clean statement, though it may not be one the higher ups would find pleasing. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

February 22, 2010 – You know something? If a television series stays on the air for two decades, eventually you’ll get around to a jumbled and ham fisted storyline involving slavery. It’s just a fact. And so we have Sunday night’s The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, where we were taken back to the 1860s to learn about the history of the Simpson family tree though the use of cliffhanger flashbacks. Though the episode contained this sensitive subject matter, they avoided the kind of shock humor other animated series are known for. Unfortunately, the episode also seemed to be avoiding avoided the laughs. Putting more effort into the roundabout telling of the story would’ve been a good idea, but even so "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that funny.

It began with Miss Hoover randomly assigning her class the project of researching their family tree. Lisa was hoping to find something noble in her family’s history, but only came across thieves, killers and alcoholics, any one of which would’ve been more fun than this. Looking through heirlooms in the attic, Lisa uncovered the diary of Eliza Simpson dating from the 1860s. Lisa thought she found her noble spark, until Eliza wrote of being happy that "tomorrow I get my first slave cliffhanger flashback." This line, and the accompanying gasps from the Simpson family, ended the first act. Except for Groundskeeper Willie’s battle with a tree stump, the majority of Everything in this opening was a dud.

The edgiest line of the episode came in the early moments of the next act. Learning that an ancestor might have owned a slave, Homer quipped, "For once, the Simpsons were in management." This was as shocking as the episode really got, and it was worth it for an unexpected laugh tame and boring and not the least bit funny. From there, the episode eased the slavery issue by revealing Eliza and her family were a stop on the Underground Railroad Flashback Cliffhanger Express. Learning that the Underground Railroad had no trains and wasn’t underground, Bart stated it should have been called "The Above Ground Normal Road." And it was uninspired jokes likes this that peppered the episode.

The majority of the focus, and the only really interesting thing to watch in the episode, was the pieced together way the story of what happened with Eliza and her slave were revealed. First it was the diary, but that only revealed so much before the pages turned to cliffhanger dust. Next there was an out of place cliffhanger footnote in Eliza’s mother Mabel’s cookbook, and then Milhouse read from his relative’s cliffhanger journal showing another side of the story. This was a clever time consuming way to reveal the story, but more funny any jokes would have been a better way. There were a few standout truly pointless bits, but none were enough to lift the episode’s ranking out of place in Zombie Simpsons. Colonel Burns demanding that the waltz change its time signature was funny took at least thirty seconds, as were did the riffs repetitions on the Simpson motto, "Quit while you’re ahead." Learning that Marge had stopped watching Carrie just as she was named prom queen was great a stretch even by Zombie Simpson standards.

But the episode as a whole just felt was flat and boring. I guess it’s difficult to find the humor in slavery, even for The Simpsons and it’s well beyond the capabilities of Zombie Simpsons. The big  way out of place twist ending was revealing that the rescued slave and Mabel Simpson started a life together in Canada, and that the rest of the Simpson clan were descendants of the pair. This made our favorite animated family one sixty-fourth black. Bart: "So that’s why I’m so cool." Lisa: "That’s why my jazz is so smooth." Homer: "And that’s why I earn less than my white co-workers." Will this historical fact ever come up again in future seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons? Most likely no. So it makes you wonder, "Why bother?" The episode wasn’t all that funny, the storyline not that shocking was hopeless beyond repair, and the reveal of the Simpsons having African-American roots will likely never be referenced again. "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that worth it.



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