Archive for April, 2010



21
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

Jehovahs Witnesses

Image used under Creative Commons from Wikimedia Commons.

“We need the money, and my life is pretty boring.  Last week, some Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door and I wouldn’t let them leave.  They snuck away when I went in the kitchen to get more lemonade.” – Marge Simpson

20
Apr
10

Synergy Wears Down

Fatigue

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user marwho.

“Homey, why don’t you lie down and relax.” – Marge Simpson
“No time, Marge, I think Mr. Burns wants me to do some long division.” – Homer Simpson

I think all those staff cuts at IGN are finally having an effect.  Last week I noticed that their fluff piece on “American History X-Cellent” was unusually short.  Now comes this week’s entry, and it’s even shorter.  Out of curiosity, I grabbed all the reviews from calendar 2010 and ran a word count.  Starting with “Thursdays with Abie” and running through “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed”, IGN averaged 650.5 words per week.  The highest was 720 and the lowest was 614, so the lengths were relatively stable.  Then last week’s checked in at only 473 words, and this week’s is a mere 420.  (I presume that’s a coincidence, but you never know.  I’d probably need to be high to write this kind of crap.)  IGN just can’t seem to muster the effort for a proper fellating of Zombie Simpsons. 

Anyway, this week’s is pretty typical: restate the plot, praise a few things, make positive reference to Three’s Company . . . wait, what?  Three’s Company?  And it’s a compliment?  Yeah, I’d say IGN is pretty worn down.  As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

April 19, 2010 – There was a lot nothing to enjoy in "Chief of Hearts." Pairing Homer with Wiggum had not been something overdone by the series [Ed Note: leaving that alone because it’s too screwed up to fix], so having the two at the center of the episode had a certain freshness to it has only been done two or three times over, instead of the usual five or six. The story, maybe not so much, but the pairing worked however, has been done so many times that it no longer matters who’s doing it.

It all started with Homer’s misinterpreted unfunny and wildly nonsensical armed robbery at the Springfield bank. I thought his hidden candy apple and his caramel-filled mouth were a great way to get the story rolling a good preview of the relentlessly boring antics to come. I also loved felt the same way about his rants against doing community service. "I want to go to jail. Free food! Teardrop tattoos! Library books that come to you! I’ll serve anything but the community!" That it was a cooler full of food that made Homer and Wiggum fast friends was no surprise just as unoriginal and dimwitted.

Their misadventures playground flirting together were entertaining was hacktacular and pointless. It was fun to learn about the versatility of police pants. Learning that Wiggum’s underwear is specially made by a village in the Ukraine was another standout way to make this barren scene take even longer. ("They call me Daddy Round Round.") I wasn’t expecting to see Chief Wiggum get shot, but Homer’s bedside vigil made for a satisfying gave them an excuse for a clock eating montage of boring bits. The episode took an interesting embarrassingly predictable turn as Wiggum became needy and their friendship hit the rocks, and then for some reason the pair needed to work together again to free themselves from Fat Tony. Overall, the story had an interesting staggered along a tired and trod path and there were a good number of successful bits throughout without anything to keep things entertaining and funny.

Bart’s "Battle Balls" storyline was also fun a black hole of pointless suck, even though there was absolutely nothing to it. It mainly consisted of a few well-placed television trope bits about Marge’s misinterpretations of things said about the Japanese game. In a very Three’s Company way, Marge began to think Bart was a drug dealer, it was just a dull in 2010 as it was in 1980. Just as funny  lazy were a couple great lines about why Bart couldn’t possibly be dealing drugs. First was Marge with, "He doesn’t have the math skills," and then later was Bart with, "Not until you raise my allowance."

An episode with Chief Wiggum as a central character means there’s a chance we’ll get a few Ralph bits to enjoy make the fanboys slap their fins, both directly and indirectly. Ralph’s bet with Bart during a game of "Battle Balls" was classic typical: "And if I win, you have to teach me how to play this game." And I loved Chief Wiggum sharing a couple of Ralph’s major worries: "What if the bed wets him," and "What if Superman decided to kill everybody." Those were a few of the bonus failed Ralph-isms were extra uninspired dreck in an enjoyably solid episode that consisted of nothing but.

20
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish4

“What would you recommend for a family that’s not sure they should be here?” – Marge Simpson
“The ‘Sushi Surprise’, a little bit of everything.  It is very non-threatening.” – Akira

Happy Birthday George Takei!

[Edited because I forgot the word “not” the first time.]

19
Apr
10

Ratings Catastrophe Continues

Chalkboard - Chief of Hearts

“That story isn’t suitable for children.” – Lisa Simpson
“Really?  I keep my pants on in this version.” – Chief Wiggum

Remember when Chief Wiggum used to go to speakeasies, porno theaters, and brothels?  Zombie Simpsons thought that was a little dull, so they decided to spice things up by grafting a cliche-ridden romantic comedy plot onto him.  It’s almost as though improbable melodrama is the only thing they know how to do.  Along the way they managed to turn Wiggum into something even whinier and duller than their endlessly heartbroken Moe.  In terms of sheer character destruction, that’s pretty impressive. 

Then there was the Bart plot, which, uh, I don’t even really know what that was.  Much like last week’s little ant farm side show, it had neither an ending nor a conflict.  It was just sort of there for a little while, until it wasn’t.  The scene in Bart’s room was so flat, humorless, and anti-climactic that it took me a second to realize that it was the ending. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they’re still awfully bad.  Last night’s obliteration of Wiggum seared itself onto 5.93 million pairs of eyeballs.  That’s up slightly from recent weeks, but still low enough for 10th worst all time.  It’s now the fifth week in a row that Zombie Simpsons has scored in the bottom 10.  Or, to put it another way, the last five Zombie Simpsons episodes are all among the ten lowest rated in the show’s 21 year history.  Oh, and to add insult to injury, a rerun of Family Guy did better than a first run Zombie Simpsons. 

19
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

vlcsnap-36912

“Those guys must be millionaires…” – Bart Simpson

“I’ll bet they get all kinds of girls…” – Nelson Muntz

“I question the educational value of this assembly” – Ms. Hoover

“Hey, it’ll be one their few pleasant memories when they’re pumping gas for a living.” – Mrs. Krabappel

18
Apr
10

Sunday Preview: “Chief of Hearts”

Another Sunday is upon us and while there’s no promo picture for tonight’s “Chief of Hearts,” we’ve got a gut-wrenching description via Wikipedia:

Homer is completing his court-ordered community service when he befriends his supervisor, Chief Wiggum, by offering him one of his sandwiches. Touched by the act of kindness, Wiggum assigns the other convicts unpleasant tasks, but allows Homer to join him at the picnic table. They continue to grow close, but when the Chief gets injured during a botched bank robbery, Homer doesn’t come through when Wiggum needs him the most. Meanwhile, Bart becomes addicted to Battle Ball, a Japanese game made up of plastic balls and magnetic cards, and his family and teachers try to help him kick the habit.

To quote Eric Cartman, “Dude. The fuck?” Where’s the plot? The entire (and flimsy) synopsis could’ve been a throwaway gag in an episode of Classic Simpsons. I’m curious to know whether anyone actually thinks there’s any potential for tonight’s episode to be, um… good.

18
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

Bart Gets Famous4

“Sit perfectly still.  Only I may dance.” – Conan O’Brien

Happy birthday Conan O’Brien!

17
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

Ye Olde Simpsons

“If cartoons were meant for adults, they’d put them on in primetime.” – Lisa Simpson

Happy birthday Bill Kopp!  (He was a character animator for the shorts.)

16
Apr
10

Reading Digest: Insufficient Zealotry Edition

 Dead Putting Society1

“Now, this is a picture of your enemy, Todd Flanders.  Every day, I want you to spend fifteen minutes staring at it, and concentrating on how much you hate him, and how glorious it will be when you and Charlene annihilate him!”
“Who’s Charlene?” – Bart Simpson
“I’ll show you who Charlene is!” – Homer Simpson

This week we have two links to people who think Zombie Simpsons is much worse than The Simpsons, and yet they cannot quite bring themselves to condemn it.  I find their lack of hate disturbing.  Oh well, it’s nice to have them on board, even a little bit.  We’ve also got a couple of foreign language links, two quotes from the same website, an interview with Harry Shearer, and an interesting look back at “Krusty Gets Busted”. 

Enjoy.

Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on ‘House,’ ‘Chuck,’ ’24,’ ‘Supernatural,’ ‘Private Practice,’ and more! – Every time I visit Entertainment Weekly’s website, a little piece of me dies.  Nevertheless, there’s Zombie Simpsons news:

Question: Alyson Hannigan tweeted that she just recorded a role for The Simpsons. Got deets? Is this How I Met Your Mother-related? —Jenny
Ausiello: Nope. When Lisa’s substitute music teacher becomes the latest object of Skinner’s affection, the prince sets up Bart as a distraction for her zany daughter — Hannigan. The episode — titled “Flaming Moe” because the A-plot involves the barkeep and Smithers turning the local pub into a gay bar for non-hunks — will air in January 2011.

Yes, you read all of the above correctly.  Bart’s getting another love interest (probably), the episode title has been stolen from Season 3, and we’re going to get another craptacular gay episode.  American Hero Harvey Fierstein disapproves.  (Thanks to Alex via e-mail.) 

Selma, Paul e i ragazzi del sabato sera – The Simpsons, season 4, episode 13 – This is in Italian, which I do no speak.  But Google Translate did a decent job on it (from what I can tell), and it’s actually quite interesting.  In the Italian translation of “Selma’s Choice”, instead of one of the sperm donors in the catalogue being “one of the Sweathogs” but “not Horshack”, it’s one of the Beatles, but not Paul McCartney.  At least, according to Google Translate. 

Gaurd Your Beer With Style! – Krusty Brand Seal of Approval on this one, it’s a talking Homer that sits in your refrigerator and talks to you when you open it. 

Worn-out welcomes – This is an AV Club discussion of pop culture items you want to end, or wish had ended sooner.  Needless to say, Zombie Simpsons makes the cut:

Man, like most of you, I loved the seasons up until around 10, at which point I completely stopped watching for a while, except for the occasional burst here and there. I reviewed the animation bloc for TV Club last year, which required I get back to regularly watching, and I was shocked to find the show had become something completely different. No, it wasn’t absolutely terrible—I’m not one to think the show’s entire creative well ran dry back in the day—but it definitely felt like something wasn’t right.

[…]

People who’d never seen the old episodes probably thought they were hysterical, but I just couldn’t shake the feeling that things were better and richer before, and I found it impossible to sit back and enjoy an episode like it was meant to be enjoyed. For the sake of my own sanity, I like to think of The Simpsons as two completely separate, 10-season shows.

It’s nice to know that even people who find Zombie Simpsons tolerable can agree that this new show is a completely different entity than the old one.  (Thanks go to D.N. for the link.)

Salud, Uruguay! – This is an interesting post about one guy’s trip to Uruguay.  It contains a link (which is messed up) to a fantastic YouTube video of Homer’s classic Uruguay joke translated into different languages.  Here it is:

Side note: notice how different the animated openings are for different languages. 

Sad shoes – This is the same quote blog I linked to a couple of weeks ago.  They missed on Grandpa warning Homer about mountaineering, and they got this one wrong too:

“Lisa’s dancing makes my shoes sad.” – Ralph Wiggum, “The Simpsons”

The actual Ralph quote is:

“Lisa’s bad dancing makes my feet sad.”

 

Snowball – Same site as the above, but this one they nail:

“I had a cat named Snowball … She died! She died! Mom said she was sleeping … She lied! She lied! Why oh why is my cat dead? Couldn’t that Chrysler hit me instead?” – Lisa Simpson, “The Simpsons”

I guess if you’re going to get one wrong and one right, you might as well get the one from Season 3 right instead of the one from Season 11.

The Simpsons Keyboards and Mice Make You Want to Go Doh! – Another Krusty Brand Seal of Approval here.  Meh. 

Simpsons safety reaches Australia after 5 years and at twice the price – I think I’d seen these Simpsons safety posters before, but I’m not sure.  (via Springfield Springfield’s Twitter feed)

Writers and Density – I agree with some of this, but there is one thing I must disagree vehemently with:

There’s now some 457 episodes already written, and that number will probably get about 500 when the show finally ends. Much like M.A.S.H , The Simpsons will no doubt be in reruns until the sun dies and we’re forced to strap rockets to the moon and venture out in search of new planets, but with such a sheer volume of episodes it’s hard to pick out the gold.

In actuality, it’s not the least bit hard to pick out the gold.  If it comes from a double digit season the odds are heavily against you, if it comes from a single digit season the odds are heavily in your favor.  It’s really not that complicated, although the slipshod nature of syndication does cause problems.

No. 12 Burns, C. MontgomeryForbes released its annual pageview grab of the wealthiest fictional characters.  It’s not that interesting. 

Harry Shearer Sings About Goldman Sachs, Santa Claus Bailout – Interview with Harry Shearer about his new album, complete with perfunctory question about when the show will end and equally perfunctory answer about he doesn’t know.

Ford’s Car Of The Future–By Way Of The Simpsons? – Ford has set up a website where you can request that separate, soundproof bubble dome (with optional restrains and muzzles) for the kids. 

Mid Week Mini: Frank Welker – The many voices of Frank Welker, Simpsons included.

Adapted 10/40/70 – The Simpsons, “Krusty Gets Busted” – This is a more detailed animation analysis that I like to get into.  But it does show just how much care and thought used to go into the show.  One suspects that Zombie Simpsons would flunk this kind of test miserably. 

This is how I remember the Lincoln Assassination – It’s pretty much impossible to think about John Wilkes Booth without picturing Bart’s Schwarzenegger-esque interpretation. 

How The Simpsons Interacts With Other Cartoons – Interesting post about how the show treated other animated formats.  As usual, the great majority of the non-stupid stuff comes from the early seasons. 

Top 10 Sarcastic The Simpsons Quotes – Some of these are misquoted, some of them are from Zombie Simpsons.  Bra-vo. 

Seth MacFarlane’s Dirty Teddy Bear Movie – Seth MacFarlane is making a live action movie with a computer animated teddy bear.  Here’s the part I like:

Fox’s Sunday Night plays like a block of stand-up juxtaposed with a really bad short theater piece. 3 MacFarlane shows with interchangable characters against the hollow husk of "The Simpsons," which has long been coasting by with the assumption that Rupert Murdoch won’t cancel the show that made the network.

Tee hee, “hollow husk”. 

16
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

vlcsnap-23989

“How can you even think of releasing Side Show Bob?!?” – Marge Simpson

“He’s Just faking it to get out of jail! He’s a maniac!” – Bart Simpson

“Bob is no maniac. He explained his reasons for trying to kill us all, and I assure you they were perfectly sane.” – Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby

15
Apr
10

Compare & Contrast: Nude Burns

“Hey Mom, did he have those spots all over his body?” – Bart Simpson
“I heard that!” – C.M. Burns

One of the few genuinely interesting things I learned while tormenting myself with the Season 12 commentaries was that Zombie Simpsons isn’t allowed to show ass crack.  (Of course, The Simpsons was so fond of cartoon nudity that they had enough for an entire ending credits montage of it by the middle of Season 7.)  Now, all shows labor under some burden of censorship, that’s just the way of the world.  But Zombie Simpsons doesn’t even try to get clever with it.  Burns isn’t wearing some kind of special rich guy underwear, nor a drab prison pair, just sparkling clean tighty-whities.

But even if we set aside childish squeamishness about fleeting nudity, the HD animation still looks dry and dismal when compared with the genuine article:

Nude Burns

Look how much more desiccated Burns appears in Season 2.  He’s got the liver spots all over his body, instead of just on his head, and the bags under his eyes are much more pronounced.  His spine is an unbroken ridge indicative of a man with, in his own words, “a mighty hump”.  The lines in the Season 21 drawing are certainly cleaner, but that only serves to highlight the lack of detail.  Look what happens when we zoom out and take in the full images:

Sterile Background

Look at how sterile and lifeless the background is.  Most of the coloring looks like it was done with the “fill” command (which it probably was).  There’s no cynical work posters, no frightening prison cavity search implements, nothing.  It’s just a nameless, character-less guard and Burns.  Now, look at the scene from “Brush with Greatness”:

Brush with Greatness4

Here a lot of thought and care have been put into both the background and the other characters.  All the accouterments of an upper-lower-middle class bathroom are present: the hamper, the fuzzy toilet seat cover, even the stick-on wall fish.  Marge is holding a laundry basket so we know she has a reason to enter the bathroom, and Smithers is eyeing Burns’ crotch.

In Season 2 we see something that was put together with an eye towards quality, in Season 21 it’s just cookie cutter mass production.  And, by the way, some of the distortion on the Season 2 images comes from the fact that I grabbed them from my ripped .avi files, not from the DVDs themselves.  So even at a compression handicap, The Simpsons still blows Zombie Simpsons away.

Special thanks to commenter Derp for reminding me a while ago that I needed to do an animation post.

15
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

The Crepes of Wrath4

“Please, please kids, stop fighting.  Maybe Lisa’s right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil has a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.” – Homer Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “The Crepes of Wrath”!  Original airdate 15 April 1990.

14
Apr
10

Crazy Noises: American History X-cellent

Possibilities“Don’t worry honey, I’m sure your father is . . .” – Marge Simpson
“Maybe . . . No . . . That’s a long shot . . . Bingo.” – Marge’s Brain
“Don’t worry, he’ll be here.” – Marge Simpson

In our continuing mission to bring you only the finest in low class, low brow, and low tech internet Simpsons commentary we’re bringing back our “Crazy Noises” series and applying it to Season 21.  Because doing a podcast smacks of effort we’re still using this “chatroom” thing that all the middle schoolers and undercover cops seem to think is so cool.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “carnivorous”).

Dave couldn’t make it this week.  He was in a bar letting strange men buy him drinks, apparently that’s more fun that reliving the 22-minute wasteland of “American History X-Cellent”.  I can’t say I blame him.  Minus one third of our complement we only went for about half our usual length.  Does that mean Dave is responsible for more chat than we are?  Or does it just mean we’re lazy?  You decide.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, so ready to get started?

Mad Jon: ready enough

Charlie Sweatpants: Without using the words "awful", "reprehensible", or "tortuous", describe this episode.

Mad Jon: Carnivorous

Charlie Sweatpants: Good one.

Mad Jon: My soul has been left half eaten and cold on a cheap paper plate

Charlie Sweatpants: Bummer.

Mad Jon: I don’t even know where to begin. This was not only boring, and unoriginal, but also unorganized and almost offensive to gays, there I said it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Because of Smithers?

Mad Jon: More of because of the bar scene where homer was flashing Smithers. Also Smithers was terrible on his own.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh man, I forgot about the flashing thing, that was horrible.

Mad Jon: I had the feeling that this episode was originally written for season 20, for some reason it has that kind of feel to it, but then they decided it was too awful, and canned it. Only to bring it back now.

Charlie Sweatpants: That whole scene was a mess. I mean, Smithers ducks out for a phone call and they get caught talking about him? Soap Operas have more realistic turning points.

Mad Jon: And better reactions to drama

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t really tell Season 20 and 21 apart.

  Second that.

(about the reactions to drama)

Mad Jon: I can. 20 has a distinct flavor that to me tastes like the ashamed feeling I had the first time I got caught peeling one off.

Charlie Sweatpants: And 21?

Mad Jon: 21 feels more like I’ve been a hooker for 5 years… I’m still young and could probably turn my life around at a community college, but we all know it’s too late. And that’s the saddest part of all.

But I digress.

  There is a lot more anger as opposed to confusion with 21.

Charlie Sweatpants: And you’ve only been watching the last couple seasons of Zombie Simpsons, I hate to think what you’d feel like if you’d sat through all of 12+.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that’s an ugly thought.

Charlie Sweatpants: But we digress…

  Bringing us back to the topic of sudden, pointless character changes, they’re getting really clumsy at swapping Burns from good to evil and back again.

Mad Jon: I can’t even tell anymore. I think he is a new type of thing. Some sort of evil good guy.

  Like when Jesus ran that ponzi scheme.

Charlie Sweatpants: They do it at the end of "Rosebud" with about three lines of dialog, by the end of "Team Homer" it’s a quick change of heart. Now he has to get green electro-puke sucked out of him so he can be good for about six minutes.

  Jesus would like to assure you that this is not one of those shady pyramid schemes you’ve heard about. His model is the lower case "t".

Mad Jon: Was that the same guy who was the big black dude in the green mile? It didn’t sound like him, but who knows what that dude’s up to nowadays.

  "t" for time to leave…

Charlie Sweatpants: Michael Clarke Duncan was the guy in Green Mile, but IMDB says he’s never been on Zombie Simpsons.

Mad Jon: I think he even points it out in the end of Team Homer. If I only knew then what I know now…

Charlie Sweatpants: But the whole Burns in prison thing was a waste.

  Burns gets saved, Burns has a small montage, Burns immediately turns evil again.

Mad Jon: Well, they had to start and end and have a middle of the episode somewhere. I think your opening to this weeks Synergy was dead on.

Charlie Sweatpants: If they had any sense of pacing left they’d have done all that in about thirty seconds.

  The whole "Smithers as tyrant boss" was a complete waste as well.

They only showed them working for one scene (which was shorter than the oh so clever reveal in the bar) and they weren’t doing anything.

Mad Jon: I definitely had even more of a "c’mon lets move on" feeling than I usually do with zombie episodes.

Charlie Sweatpants: The "asbestos" joke took forever, and had been done twice between Seasons 2 and 6, and much better.

Mad Jon: Remember the days when Lenny was put in charge by the Germans? ahh, sweet memories.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, that was the bank.

Mad Jon: Oooh, you’re right. Where am I?

Charlie Sweatpants: Three beers deep?

Mad Jon: Three?

  Anyway, I didn’t catch the Asbestos joke the first time since I stopped paying attention 20 seconds in.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, there really isn’t much else, unless you want to talk about the B plot with the ant farm.

Mad Jon: Wait, the part where Bart and Lisa have ants and then don’t?

Charlie Sweatpants: All that happens in this whole episode is Burns has a dumb Fourth of July party (total waste), Burns goes to jail, Burns gets out of jail.

Mad Jon: I guess that was a plot wasn’t it

Charlie Sweatpants: Plus the B plot. There just wasn’t much here.

Mad Jon: And what was here was in no way organized other than Burn’s getting keen on Jesus.

Charlie Sweatpants: What was with the keen on Jesus thing, anyway?

Mad Jon: I meant to say, Burn’s was evil, then he got keen on Jesus, then he was in charge again.

Charlie Sweatpants: They put Monty Burns in a prison, and all they could think to do was make him Christian for three minutes?

Mad Jon: What was the book title?

  I forget.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was Helter Skelter.

You know, because Charles Manson looks like Jesus.

Mad Jon: Is that a book I should be familiar with?

Charlie Sweatpants: Probably not.

Mad Jon: Good.

Charlie Sweatpants: So is there anything left worth complaining about here?

Mad Jon: I’m almost out of beer…

Charlie Sweatpants: No, I meant about the episode.

Mad Jon: Ahh, no.

  I am out of hate for tonight

Charlie Sweatpants: Good, it’s always bad when you run out of beer before you run out of hate.

14
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

Supercomputer

Image used under Creative Commons license from Wikimedia Commons.

“Well sure, the Frinkiac 7 looks impressive – don’t touch it! – but I predict that within one hundred years, computers will be twice as powerful, ten thousand times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them.” – Professor Frink

13
Apr
10

Synergy Sees What It Wants to See

Five Riots and a Parade

One of these is not like the others.

“Wait, I’m confused about the movie.  So the cops knew that internal affairs was setting them up?” – Homer Simpson
“What are you talking about?  There’s nothing like that in there.” – Movementarian Guy
“Oh, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie.  I have a very short attention span.” – Homer Simpson

This week, IGN pulled its usual stunt of disparaging Zombie Simpsons while still giving it a ridiculously high numerical score (6.9).  I had to make a surprisingly small number of changes to edit out the synergy, and many of those were me replacing faint praise with no praise.  There were quite a few whole sentences that came synergy free. 

Entertainingly, the one part of the episode IGN genuinely enjoyed never actually happened: the riot.  Moe and Marge both use the word “riot”, but no riot ever broke out.  When Springfield riots you see torches and pitchforks; cars are turned over, fires are lit, and stores are looted.  All that happened here was some people throwing fruit at Burns, and even that we mostly didn’t get to see.  No riot occurred, and yet IGN specifically praises the riot scene.  High comedy.

April 12, 2010 – There really hasn’t been a memorable Mr. Burns-centric episode of The Simpsons during the last few seasons. Nothing immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately Fortunately, "American History X-cellent" will quickly fade from memory as well. It could have had potential ten years ago, but that all faded away the deeper into the episode we got long ago.

Any episode focusing on Burns has used to have potential. He’s the billionaire curmudgeon we love to hate. When the episode opened showing Burns locked away in Springfield Penitentiary, and then flashbacked to show us how we got there, the field was wide open for what could be coming. It was good sad to see Burns characteristically wielding his power and exploiting his nuclear plant employees by making their Fourth of July picnic solely about him instead of something actually evil. I also enjoyed how wondered why Burns was carted away in an actual donkey-drawn cart when he was arrested for stealing a painting. The nonchalance of the town riot was also very could have been funny if there had actually been a riot. The folks in Springfield used to riot a lot, so it was would’ve been smart and funny to see Moe selling "stuff to throw" and Marge taking advantage of the empty malls if one had taken place.

The main plot of the episode, however, was tired and mostly unfunny. C. Montgomery Burns was finally thrown in prison ("After all my years of stockjobbing, gun running, attempted murder, successful murder and tom peepery, they get me on a petty, multi-million dollar art theft."), but instead of watching him become the power hungry king of the yard, we got old references to The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Burns’ narration was inconsistent, unfunny and unnecessary. In a week, there will be little you’ll remember of Burns’ time in prison because there really wasn’t anything to it. Had a better story been developed, things could have been much funnier. Instead, the episode was filled out with two other underdeveloped ideas.

The first was a complete waste, as Bart and Lisa bonded over their failure to raise an ant farm. There’s little to say about it because it was as exciting and funny as actually raising an ant farm. The other storyline would have been served better with more screen time. With Burns in the big house, Smithers was left to run the power plant. His transition from good boss– introducing a medical plan that covers illness– to worse than Burns– instead of releasing the hounds, he released wolverines– was a very fun decent idea. Cutting the ant story and expanding on this could have made the episode a hundred times better slightly less intolerable.

Though the potential was there, "American History X-cellent" failed to deliver a would-be classic a decent Mr. Burns episode. His time in prison was too mundane. Evil Mr. Burns is always more fun than a kindhearted Mr. Burns, and new and original ideas are always better than tired Shawshank references. Maybe we’ll get an old school Mr. Burns episode next season in the parallel universe where this show doesn’t suck.

13
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

Jefferson Memorial, Deserted As Always

Image on left used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user pablo.sanchez.

“Mr. Jefferson, my name is Lisa Simpson, and I have a problem.” – Lisa Simpson
“I know your problem, the Lincoln Memorial was too crowded.” – Thomas Jefferson
“Sorry sir, it’s just-” – Lisa Simpson
“No one ever comes to see me.  I don’t blame them, I never did anything important, just the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, the dumbwaiter-” – Thomas Jefferson
“Uh, maybe I should be going.  I caught you at a bad time.” – Lisa Simpson
“Wait!  Please don’t go, I get so lonely.” – Thomas Jefferson

12
Apr
10

Security at Burns Manor Has Really Gotten Lax

Chalkboard - American History X-Cellent

“Going somewhere?” – C.M. Burns
“That’s impossible!  How did you get here first?” – Bart Simpson
“Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for explanations later.” – C.M. Burns

Zombie Simpsons Writer #1: Have we ever had Smithers take over the power plant?
[10 second pause]
Zombie Simpsons Writer #2: I don’t think so. 
ZSW#1: How do we get rid of Burns?
[20 second pause]
ZSW#2: Could we send him to prison?
ZSW#1: Why not?  How do we get him out of prison?
ZSW#2: What if Homer broke in to prison?
ZSW#1: That’s stupid-
[Intern pokes head in door] Intern: Lunch orders?
[90 seconds pass as two sandwiches are ordered.  A twenty minute discussion of condiments follows.]
ZSW#2: So, Homer breaks Burns out of prison.
ZSW#1: Sounds good.  Where’s my sandwich?

One of my most frequent complaints about Zombie Simpsons is the flat out lazy nature of the storytelling.  Case in point from this week’s exercise in bland, we have Homer, Lenny, and Carl breaking into prison to get Burns out.  I cannot discern a single reason for this to have happened.  Not one.  They didn’t need it as an excuse to use voiceover narration, they didn’t need it to set up or resolve a conflict or confrontation, they didn’t even use it for comedy effect about how easy it is to break into or out of prison.  Burns goes to prison thanks to some expository dialogue from Lou; Burns is released from prison thanks to some expository dialogue from Lenny.  That’s it.  Nothing else happens, and they don’t even give us the perfunctory courtesy of winking at the camera while they do it. 

Of course, it’d be easier to look past all that if it was funny besides, or if there were even, you know, jokes.  Instead, you get things like thirty seconds of Homer not eating a rotten jack-o-lantern, and twenty seconds of Smithers answering a customer service call.  That second scene doubled as an exposition heavy turning point in what I suppose I have to call the “plot”.  It also made no sense for Smithers to be there, and contained foreshadowing dialogue that After School Special writers would consider overt. 

The numbers are in, and they are as awful as we’ve come to expect.  “American History X-Cellent” managed to benumb only 5.65 million viewers.  That’s good for fourth worst all time.  Of the seven episodes that have been broadcast since Spurlock’s special, six of them are in the ten least watched ever, and the seventh (“The Color Yellow”) is #13.  The 20th anniversary stuff will probably keep Season 21 from being the least watched season ever, but there’s no hiding the numbers: Zombie Simpsons is getting the worst ratings in its history and shows no sign of bottoming out. 

12
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

The Day the Violence Died2

“There’s a box you can sleep in.” – Bart Simpson
“Thanks.” – Chester J. Lampwick
“Just move that cot out of the way.” – Bart Simpson
“Okay.” – Chester J. Lampwick
“Do you know what radon is?” – Bart Simpson
“No.” – Chester J. Lampwick
“Good night.” – Bart Simpson

11
Apr
10

Sunday Preview: “American History X-Cellent”

After a blissful two-week reprieve, tonight we have fresh Zombie Simpsons to endure. This one’s called “American History X-Cellent,” a not-so-subtle twist on the feisty romp from 1998 that was “American History X.” While I don’t expect any scenes of graphic curb-stomping, I do expect that tonight’s episode will be equally difficult to watch. Here’s the lowdown from our friends at Simpsons Channel:

When the police are called to diffuse a rowdy crowd at Mr. Burns’ estate, one of the officers recognizes priceless stolen paintings on the walls, and the maniacal billionaire is taken downtown for questioning.

With Mr. Burns gone, Smithers takes charge of the power plant. But when employees take advantage of his good nature, he exacts revenge by forcing the employees to work night and day.

These unfair working conditions prompt Homer and his crew to devise a plan to bust out Mr. Burns.

While nothing about the description specifically incites pangs of revulsion, there’s hardly a chance that “American History X-Cellent” won’t be a hot mess. The plot is flimsy, nothing will happen, montages will be overused, and the whole thing will be laborious and ruthlessly unfunny. Years and years of precedent back me up and let’s face it, things aren’t just going to suddenly change overnight.

11
Apr
10

Quote of the Day

Summer of 4 Ft 2(3)

“Who died and made you boss?” – Nelson Muntz
“Mr. Estes, the publications advisor.” – Lisa Simpson




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