Synergy Salivates on Command

Skinner Box

Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

“And now boys and girls, here he is, the boy that says the words you’ve been longing to hear, like the salivating dogs that you are: Bart Simpson!” – Krusty the Klown

No two secondary characters are more associated with stereotypical Zombie Simpsons fandom than Ralph Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.  They went from uproarious diversions to main attractions, the one part of any episode the writers can be confident will cause well conditioned people to slap their fins together.  Synergy, being the corporate-fanboy id of Zombie Simpsons mentality, wallows in them:

We also got to see Ralph as a debate podium and listen to Comic Book Guy

Maybe I’m reading too much into what’s probably just another clumsy formulation written with one eye on the word count, but the phrasing of that jumped out at me.  “We” “got to”, like it’s some kind of treat, a fish you’ve been tossed as a reward for the good behavior of sitting through the rest of this crap: If you don’t turn the teevee off, we’ll make Ralph say something stupid!  We’ll have Comic Book Guy mention something geeky!  Like a broken down performer too deluded to know that there’s no shame in retirement, the show’s been reduced to promising to do the old tricks if you’ll just give them one more night at the old rate.

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

May 3, 2010 – Sunday night gave us another solidly crappy episode of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons. This wasn’t an episode as good as last week’s "The Squirt and the Whale," [Ed note: leaving that alone because, really, you’re writing professionally, at least read it over once before hitting “submit”.] but there was still a lot of laughs filler and a fun dull storyline. And the twist ending made so little sense that it fogged the mind and helped elevate the audience forget everything that came before it . The Lisa storyline was a bit of a bore, but even that had a great line or two was stretched horrible to fill time.

In "To Surveil With Love," Springfield found themselves the victims of what they believed to be a terrorist attack that was never mentioned for the rest of the episode. That it was actually the result of Burns trying to secretly dispose of plutonium for some reason, and Homer’s love of mac and cheese was quite fitting typically lazy and even a not the least bit funny. The town’s overreaction plot conceit was to bring in a consultant from London who then covered the city with surveillance cameras. Eddie Izzard voiced the consultant page or two of dialog. This was a rather bland role, one that I wasn’t even sure was a guest voice until the closing credits made it clear how much of waste it truly was. It’s too bad that more something couldn’t have been done with the character since it was being voiced with someone with a reputation such as Izzard’s.

Still, the surveillance storyline was fun an excruciatingly dull grind. It made sense that Chief Wiggum would ditch the duties of monitoring the video to the town buttinskis, like Marge, Ned, Helen Lovejoy and others, but only Ned and Marge ever said anything, and only Ned ever did anything. Wiggum said they were the best picks because they were "prying, not pervy.", a description which for some reason applied to Kirk van Houten.  Once Ned learned that, for plot purposes, you could talk to those you’re monitoring, he became the local voice of god. I loved how Bart used his backside to discover the blind spot in his backyard and killed a lot of screen time doing so, and that he and Homer took full advantage of it to kill even more time. Best Most pointless was seeing Superintendent Chalmers wearing a dress and spinning nunchucks: "This used to be a tiny part of me." Homer showing Ned the problems with all the surveillance, and the two going around town destroying the cameras was a bit brain meltingly obvious, so it was nice that we got and could not be saved by a little twist. The cameras were actually broadcasting England’s number one reality series, "The American Oafs."

The B storyline with Lisa having issues with how blondes are perceived was the weak link in the episode and is the reason "To Surveil With Love" doesn’t score a bit higher just as formulaic and obvious. But even with this blah story, we got a few great lines they had a lot of time left to fill. I loved Bart explaining the blonde boys aren’t dumb, they’re evil: "Like in The Karate Kid and World War II." ate some clock. We also got to see Sensing how weak the whole thing was, they fell back on their old standbys and had Ralph as a debate podium and listen to Comic Book Guy explain his general malaise: "Would you be jolly if you thought Comic Con was moving to Anaheim?"

Overall, "To Surveil With Love" was a fun another wasted episode, hurt only by the uninteresting filler of Lisa dealing with blonde stereotypes that occupied almost its entire runtime. But And even that delivered its share of unmemorable quotes offenses to comedy. If the past few episodes are any indication, this season may will go out on a very high note as another disgrace to this once funny series.

3 Responses to “Synergy Salivates on Command”

  1. 1 Lovejoy Fan
    4 May 2010 at 3:31 pm

    If you’re reading too much into this, then I must’ve has well, because I actually read the review before the synergy was edited out and I noticed that eager attitude as well.

    I’ve said many times how sick I am of CBG, so I’m not going to repeat myself, but this whole attitude really irks me. What on earth is so great about that one line that it has to be mentioned in the review; and in such a positive light, as well? Never mind the fact that he wasn’t really meant to be in that location (why the hell would CBG show up at Lisa’s debate?) or the fact that the line really wasn’t that clever; they practically drooled over it, just like they did with that god-awful corset joke in the last episode. Goddamn it, I didn’t even make that much of a big deal about Lovejoy’s (few) lines in that Israel episode; probably because they really weren’t that funny either. Even the people over at No Homers barely mentioned this joke, because it’s just not that funny.

    The problem with these characters is that, now the writers have figured out how popular they are, they use them repeatedly. Unfortunately, this means they get old very, very fast, and this really is no exception. With Ralph, we know he’ll say or do something randomly stupid. With CBG, we know he’ll either say something geeky or be the subject of a fat joke. It’s predictable.

    Oh, and yes, it did make sense to use Helen and those others… if they’d actually done something. But I’ve already gone there.

  2. 4 May 2010 at 6:00 pm

    Speaking of falling back on their old standbys…

  3. 3 sVybDy
    5 May 2010 at 2:03 am

    What’s even sadder about the reveal that the cameras were secretly filming a reality show for England is that this plot/gag is more or less lifted from a Simpsons comic that is literally more than a decade old. In Simpsons Comics #42, Springfield had cameras installed all over town for the purpose of taping Homer, who became the unwitting star of “The Homer Show” all across America (except for in Springfield, where the show was blacked out.)

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