Archive for July, 2010


Nobody likes Zombie Simpsons

Lisa on Ice5

“That’s very nice, Dad, but it’s wrong for you to reward violent competitive behavior.  However, I will sit up front with you if it’s a fatherly gesture of love.” – Lisa Simpson
“Okay, hon . . . sucker!  Competitive violence, that’s why you’re here!” – Homer Simpson

A few days ago, a poster on HFBoards, a hockey discussion site, put up a link to us.  This was on the 624th post of a thread titled “Favorite Simpsons moments – Part 2”.  Being a sucker for Simpsons discussions, I went all the way back to post #1 and started reading.  There’s plenty of funny stuff, and the occasional discussion of how the newer episodes aren’t up to snuff. 

Happily, the ongoing recitation of Simpsons moments, screen grabs, and quotes also serves as a natural demonstration of just how little people care about Zombie Simpsons.  As of this writing, the thread has 635 posts, of which only 93 even mention an episode from a double digit season.  That’s a shade under 15%, and a ratio of nearly 7:1. 

My counting was extremely generous to Zombie Simpsons too.  If someone mentioned an episode from Seasons 10+, even if they were quoting an earlier post to reply with a quote from real Simpsons, I counted it.  And the usual Zombie Simpsons caveats apply, so many of those 93 are quotes from Seasons 10 or 11, and a decent chunk come from discussing Season 21 episodes that were broadcast during the run of the thread.  In other words, almost no “Favorite Simpsons moments” came from Zombie Simpsons. 

But let’s not end on a downer.  In that thread I also found this:

Nice throw. 


Quote of the Day

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, stop it! I made a special cake for you to ruin, it’s over there.” – Marge Simpson
“Oooh!” – Homer Simpson


Reading Digest: Pop Culture and Do-Gooder Edition

Radio Bart6

“Krusty, what are your plans for the royalties?” – Kent Brockman
“Well, we gotta pay for promotion, shipping, distribution, you know those limos out back?  They aren’t free.  Whatever’s left we throw down the well.” – Krusty the Klown

Lots of creative, fan made takes on pop culture this week, including nesting dolls, desktop images, and a ton of artwork.  In addition to that, both Yeardley Smith and Julie Kavner are lending their considerable talents to charitable causes.  Plus we’ve got the usual assortment of YouTube and usage, some rock climbers, a poorly forged petition signature, and Shakespeare in Northern California. 


MacHomer – Shakespeare in the original Simpsons is coming to California’s East Bay next week, shows run Tuesday through Saturday.  (via Twitter)

Rogue Android Apps Secretly Grab User Data – Some wallpaper apps for Android, including at least one with a Simpsons theme, were sending user data to China. 

Popcap reveal new Disco Zombie – Click through for a zombie from the “Plants vs. Zombies” people that looks suspiciously like Zombie Disco Stu. 

“Lisa’s Wedding” comes full circle – Somebody else noticed that we’re now living in the year of “Lisa’s Wedding” and went through all the various things they got right and wrong.  And, don’t forget, her actual wedding date is Sunday. 

Pop Icons In A Different Light Part 2 – These are fantastic, and they include that sweet “Springfield Still Life” thing we’ve linked to a couple of times.  Here’s part one, which doesn’t have any Simpsons, but does have a cool Conan O’Brien.  (Thanks Monstermike!)

Muhammad Yunus on the Simpsons – Yeardley Smith’s involvement with microfinance has landed the concept’s originator a guest spot on Season 22. 

Couch Joke – The family on the couch in what looks like a screen grab from a badly frozen NES game.  

Reality TV and the Secret Rejection of Neoliberalism – I really wish we had something to call it besides “reality”, but oh well.  Regardless, this is excellent usage:

Encouraging alcoholism? Well, yes, but this can be turned into a plot point as well. A Tool Academy contestant was forced off the show when it was revealed he had alcohol problems, something the producers displayed with dramatic slow-motion clips of the man holding the beer the show gave to him in endless quantities. The show then took credit for this intervention into the contestant’s addiction that it had enabled. To paraphrase Homer Simpson, reality TV, the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems.

Comic-Con – I don’t know if this picture is of the same guy who was there last year, but that’s a pretty sweet Dancin’ Homer costume. 

Simpsons Sunday – More YouTube from Leah:

Halle Berry on The Simpsons – The title tells you pretty much what you need to know.  And if you cynically assume she’ll be playing herself, you would be correct:

The actress will play herself in a storyline which will see her present an Academy Award to both Bart Simpson and his dad Homer, Simpsons producer Al Jean told reporters during the Comic Con Convention in San Diego last weekend.

“It’s a bit of a satire of the different Oscar acceptances where two people clearly race to the stage to get there first, and Homer and Bart are fighting to be the one that accepts.”

The episode is scheduled to air in early 2011.

Well, that certainly sounds unpleasant and boring.  Many upcoming guest voices were announced at Comic-Con, including Dr. House and Wallace and Gromit, but I don’t care and I suspect that you don’t either. 

Mayor, DMC take stand on caregiver abuse – Julie Kavner has been lending her voice to some PSAs in New York City. 

Wood Village casino initiative fails to make November ballot – This will not help your cause:

For the exemption initiative, 61 percent of the 172,136 signatures turned in were valid — the second lowest validity rate of any petition in the past decade. The average rate is 73 percent.

Moe Szyslak, the fictional bartender from "The Simpsons" TV show, turned up on one petition sheet. So did Satan, said Brown’s spokesman Don Hamilton. He said the secretary of state’s office took extra care when checking the signatures.

Fatherly, er Homerly Advice – This is a new site called “Daily Funny Quotes”, and their second post is two perfectly quoted lines from “Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood”:

Homer: Marge, don’t discourage the boy. Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals…except the weasel.

There’s also Homer’s encounter with poetic justice at the hands of poor quality furniture. 

My 50 Favourite TV Characters – Part 2 – This is numbers 40-31, and Burns is right there are #31:

I’ll be honest; I’ve decided to limit myself to only 3 Simpsons characters for this list. I didn’t want to overwhelm it with all the colourful characters of the greatest TV show ever.

If the remaining 30 (which aren’t posted yet) contain only two more Simpsons characters, which will they be?  Homer’s probably a lock, but will the other one be Bart, Lisa, someone else? 

Lisa Simpson Wallpaper – Very cool fan made Lisa wallpaper.  There are versions for the rest of the family too. 

50 Russian Nesting Dolls for Geeks – Wow, there are a ton of cool ones, including three Simpsons variations.  I especially like the Christmas one.  (Thanks Vinylgoddess!)

The Mall – I loathe malls, it’s nice to know I’m not alone.  Also, excellent usage:

I’m reminded of a surprisingly cheery moment in the Halloween special of one of my favorite series: the Simpsons. After the advertisements of Springfield gain their sentience and begin ransacking the city, Lisa and Paul Anka team up to set things right. They begin singing a (wonderfully catchy) chorus of, “Just don’t look / just don’t look,” for all the residents of Springfield. Their idea is, if no one pays attention to the advertisements, they’ll lose their power.

Tweetly-tweet – Now this is how you announce your new Twitter account:

So anyway, you can follow me on Twitter now. I am just as funny and insightful there as I am everywhere else, which is to say, mildly so.

My twitter name is courtesy of my husband, but more accurately, courtesy of The Simpsons. And my profile picture is a shot of me doing a cartwheel in front of the U.S. Capitol. Because you know, yay America.

Well what about that tattoo on your chest?  Doesn’t it say Die Claire, Die? 

secret garden – Check out the Homer cutout that silently watches over this rather elaborate San Francisco backyard. 

Hangin’ Out – In Southern Oregon people climb a rock formation known as “Marge’s Navel” that looks like a certain teevee mom.  Sadly I was unable to find any pictures, but here’s a little more information about it, and it’s companion “Marge’s Backside”.

How many people in the United States are named Maggie Simpson? – According to this website I’ve never heard of, the answer is 46. 

Have Aliens Visited the Earth – Short answer: no, as this post makes clear:

There are a few major flaws with these theories, some scientific, some psychological. The paramount one from the Misanthrope’s POV is that the people who claim to have been abducted etc. are generally non-descript nobodies desperate for attention. As the great sage Lisa Simpson said, the people that see aliens are “all pathetic low-lifes with boring jobs.” Well said Lisa. When someone like Bill Gates or Barack Obama claims to have been abducted let me know.

That’s slightly off, she actually says “It’s just that the people who claim they’ve seen aliens are always pathetic low-lifes with boring jobs.”  But it’s very close and quite apt so I’m still calling it excellent usage.

In My Brain While Sleeping… The Simpsons Of The Futurama – A dream (literally) episode of the show, and it’s about on par with the real thing.  Also, there’s this:

Every joke that’s attempted throughout the episode falls flat, and a beat following every punchline, Milhouse sobs over what the show has become…

…just like all the old fans

We don’t cry . . . well, not much. 

American History with Grandpa Simpson – And finally, this is a link to that promotional video FOX put up last year, which gives me another excuse to point out that there’s nothing in it past Season 9


Quote of the Day

The Otto Show4

“Now, just meet me back here after the show.” – Homer Simpson
“Thanks, Dad.  Sure you’re not going to be bored?” – Bart Simpson
“Boy, some of the best times I’ve ever had were in the back seat of a car.” – Homer Simpson


“The Simpsons Movie” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou4

“Well, you know what? I’m glad you’re nervous, because that means we’re on the right track!” – Herb Powell

Several weeks ago I came across bobservo’s post about The Simpsons Movie commentary in which he described how the creators of the movie basically focus grouped it into oblivion. There are two commentary tracks on the disc and, having slogged my way through the all-star one (Brooks, Groening, Jean, Castellaneta, etc.), I have to agree with him. The commentary reveals another problem as well, one that resulted from all that focus group feedback, but we’ll get to that in a second. First, the timidity, then the horrible damage it did.

Both The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons are famous for their lack of network/studio interference; whatever their respective merits, both shows are the product of a group of people who thought A was funny and B was not, the outside damn world be damned. According to the commentary, that famous independence was completely abandoned during the creation of The Simpsons Movie. Rather than the writers writing, the actors acting, the animators animating and letting chips fall where they may, a partially completed version was repeatedly shown to test audiences, and everything was redone based on their reactions. The fickle minds of Sally Housecoat and Eddie Punchclock so terrified the powers that be that they nervously offered up whole new scenes and endings based on the reactions of a few dozen people in Tempe and Portland. For a show that once prided itself on doing what it wanted without interference, this is an unsurpassable capitulation.

The result of all that bowing and scraping is a fractured movie. Scenes and characters were added and removed willy nilly such that the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Movie Goes Oops For example, halfway through the movie the family finds itself basically teleported to a carnival so Homer can ride a motorcycle in a big metal ball. Seconds prior to being at the carnival, they were holed up in a hotel room, hiding from a massive police manhunt. There’s no scene of them traveling to the carnival, nor is any reason given why they would want to go there. They’re in the hotel and then – poof – they’re at the carnival.

While at the carnival, no mention is made of the police chasing them, nor are they at all concerned about being seen by a crowd. The entire story the movie was telling has been dropped so that Homer can ride a motorcycle. Why does Homer ride a motorcycle? Because he rides one at the end and they need to establish that motorcycle riding is something Homer can do. According to the commentary, they originally had no scene to establish that, and they crammed in the carnival as a patch job when somebody noticed. The next time we see the family, the police chase is back on and they’re once again running for their lives as though the carnival scene had never happened.

The commentary is littered with moments like that, where a line was given to a different character or something was removed or added with only minimal regard to what that did to the rest of the movie. Test audiences and rewrites had them so tied up in knots that the script was never finished; things were being taken out and put back right up to the end. This movie feels like a creaking mass of parts barely held together by spit and string because that’s exactly what it is.

Now comes the inevitable “to be sure” statement, and here it is. To be sure, there are good jokes in The Simpsons Movie, some survived the test screenings, fewer were a result of them. But whatever can be said of this movie, good or bad, it was not made the way The Simpsons was made. It was made… tentatively. There was neither confidence nor verve in its creation; the script was passed around and vetted until it resembled refrigerator instructions. There are bits and pieces that work, but taken as a whole it is a jumble, and heaven help you if you try to make sense of it from start to finish. Worst of all, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before: put things inside, make them cold – hit Homer in head, make Tempe laugh.

Commentary #1 has James Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Scully, David Silverman, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith and Richard Sakai. As if to further prove how slapdash this effort was, Sakai is not listed on the DVD menu as one of the commenters. Maybe he was left off intentionally. Then again, maybe they just didn’t care.

1:20 – First mention of the test screenings, and it’s very revealing. They were talking about what to do with the Itchy & Scratchy opening, and how they expected that as soon as people saw Scratchy they would be clapping and cheering just because they recognized the character. No one slapped their fins together at the first test screening though, and they seem surprised by this. Is it any wonder this show runs on nostalgia fumes? They thought people would cheer out loud just because they saw a character on screen!

1:40 – They’re recording this before the movie came out.

2:20 – This should come as no surprise, the end of the cartoon, with Scratchy getting filled with missiles, came very late in the process.

3:30 – Green Day was coincidental, they just happened to want to be on the show when they were trying to pick a band for the opening. They’re laughing about how they could’ve plugged in any band here.

4:45 – The church sign says “Thou Shalt Turn Off Thy Cell Phone”, the alternate was “Stolen Bible Amnesty Day”.

5:45 – First time pausing the movie. Ugh, this is going to go on for a while. Marge was originally going to be the one spazzing out in church, not Grampa.

8:15 – Discussing how widescreen means they can cram more stuff into the background. This reminds me of nothing so much as “Phantom Menace” when the fact that every shot had a bunch of crazy crap going on in the background was considered an unalloyed good.

9:00 – Someone compliments Castellaneta on his performance of Grampa speaking in tongues. Castellaneta seems taken by surprise, I don’t think he was paying attention.

9:30 – The scene in the car with Grampa in the rug was endlessly rewritten.

10:45 – As Homer and Bart are on the roof, someone says “With this movie, for better or worse, everything done is crucial. Everything is either setting up a joke, paying off a joke, or giving you information you have to have.” That seems a rather grand assessment.

11:45 – They’re very pleased with themselves for having Homer fall through the roof instead of off the roof. Truly, creative genius at work.

12:30 – More about how many rewrites they had to go through, this time in regards to the scene with Lisa going door to door.

12:45 – Continuing in the same vein, they initially had Lisa and Milhouse getting together, but test audiences weren’t familiar with Milhouse’s longstanding crush on her.

13:45 – A lot of things changed between the test screenings in Portland and Phoenix.

14:25 – Discussing the little banner at the bottom of the screen to advertise a fake FOX show, they originally had it a bit crueler, “What are you going to do, entertain yourselves? Don’t make us laugh.” But that got shot down. At least one person here, I can’t tell who, sounded a little mournful about that getting bumped for safer material, “I was hoping to take a chance with it.”

15:15 – Very pleased with themselves for managing to show Bart’s dick.

16:25 – Still laughing at how cool they were for keeping in the nudity. Nevermind that Bart is handcuffed to a pole for some reason.

16:35 – Rewrote the whole handcuffed to the pole scene after the original “didn’t work”.

17:15 – Now Bart’s getting humiliated in the restaurant and they’re going on and on about how they toned this down. In the original, Homer was even less likable here. Test audiences to the rescue!

17:45 – Apparently it was a lot “coarser” originally and just kept getting toned down.

18:30 – They went through lots of designs on the pig. I’m sensing a pattern here.

19:00 – Yeardley Smith just showed up.

20:10 – Al Jean (I think, might be someone else) is talking about how this schmaltz (he uses the words “sweet and deep”) with Bart looking enviously into the Flanders house while Homer cuddles the pig is his favorite scene. Someone else then cracks that it’s a good time to go for popcorn. First time I’ve laughed.

21:20 – Homer getting electrocuted while biting the fish survived years of rewrites.

21:45 – Test audiences love Flanders cocoa preparation.

22:00 – Spider-pig was a late entry.

25:00 – Apparently both David Silverman and Richard Sakai left. I, uh, didn’t notice.

25:10 – The computer animation technology they used was very new. They didn’t think that even a few years ago they could’ve done as many rewrites after test audience reactions. They used Wacom Cintiq tablets to do quick story reels, which were brand new at the time. Here’s a YouTube.

26:30 – Discussing the silo, they had long arguments about how many euphemisms for “shit” they could come up with and whether or not they could call it “crap”.

27:30 – As Homer drives up to the lake to dump the silo, there are a bunch of signs that say “No Dumping”, and one with Hans Moleman saying “You Suck”. They had a lot of other signs there, but they all got dropped. No explanation is given, but I choose to chalk it up to continued desire to make this as bland (and profitable) as possible.

28:30 – Talking about the squirrel with all the eyes, originally there were lots and lots of creatures, but audiences didn’t know what was happening at the end, and so they dropped it. Hence, the “thousand eyes” thing from Grampa’s rant doesn’t work.

29:45 – Went through a lot of designs for Russ Cargill (a/k/a Not Hank Scorpio), to the point that Burger King had the wrong design made into toys.

31:15 – They stopped playback at the point where the dome is coming down and the church people run to Moe’s and the Moe’s people run to church. According to them this was one of their favorite jokes, they all loved it, and yet they were going to ax it until, you guessed it, one test audience finally laughed at it.

31:45 – We’re still paused here and this deserves some more attention. They had to make the sign at Moe’s say “Moe’s Bar” instead of just “Moe’s”. There’s some crosstalk, but you can hear Jean (again, I think it’s him, not sure) in the background saying that they did that in case people didn’t know what “Moe’s” was. That ought to tell you everything you need to know about the mentality behind this production. They’ve dumbed it down to the lowest possible level out of what can be roughly described as total audience paranoia.

32:00 – Now comes the obligatory, “The church isn’t next to bar!” rag on the “die hard” fans who won’t like that. It goes on for thirty seconds and someone even mentions No Homers.

32:35 – Getting into more of the cut jokes, as the dome is coming down they originally wanted Burns to pop in and say that at this point you can no longer get your money back. They were afraid people might not realize that it’s a joke and actually ask for their money back. Wow.

33:10 – Mildly interesting trivia point: Edward Norton came in and did a Woody Allen impression for the guy who gets crushed by the dome, but they dropped that too.

34:15 – The dome has come down, and they’re aware of how much pointless exposition they now have to get through. But putting the screen in the dome made it “interesting” enough, according to them.

34:45 – The “trapped like carrots” line was a Swartzwelder joke that lasted from the first draft.

36:00 – They had some writers from the show come in late and do a lot of the lines for Albert Brooks. They’re the ones listed as consultants after the credits.

37:20 – Talking about all the writers who aren’t here for the commentary. Meanwhile, the crap silo is being lifted and the movie is steadily getting worse. Long silence.

39:00 – Talking about how tough the big crowd shot was to do. Needless to say, they cut jokes about three times after the audiences didn’t laugh.

40:15 – The scene with the arms breaking through the door was a late entry as well because they “could never get a great joke for these arms coming through”. Oh, we know.

40:45 – As the Simpsons are being driven out of their home and are fleeing over the wooden board to Flanders’ house, there is much discussion about how things were changed even after the animation was done, and how they had to keep at it because a lot of the jokes just didn’t work.

41:20 – “I just love Marge’s hair burning like a q-tip, and she calmly shakes it off.”

41:30 – Odd discussion about how they didn’t want to make Homer too much of a jerk. Huh? This is him not being too much of a jerk?

42:30 – The treehouse scene was actually worse in earlier drafts where they had lots of other things going back and forth during the mob scene.

43:10 – They were surprised the censors let Homer use his middle fingers. That was one of the few things I actually laughed at in the theater.

44:50 – The little moment that Lisa and Colin share was originally Bart and Flanders with Bart mooning the dome and it turning into a heart shape. But people thought it was weird. The test audiences may not have been a bad idea after all.

45:50 – The “gone mad with power” joke, which is maybe the best line in the whole movie, is the one they used to test the foreign language auditions for Not Hank Scorpio.

46:30 – The two policemen kissing and falling into the hotel got cut in Singapore. Now you know.

47:25 – The motel scene, as Marge and Lisa and Maggie are scolding Homer, was rewritten more than almost anything. Despite that it still ended up “burdened with a ton of exposition that has to get in.” Alaska wasn’t even in the movie for the first two years of the script.

48:30 – “The original idea was that Homer wanted to go to Homer, Alaska.” It’s really getting weird on the commentary, they’re recounting all the different rewrites and dead end ideas they eventually discarded or worked into the movie. I think they can tell they kinda went off the rails and this list of justifications just reinforces that.

49:45 – And – wham! – we’re at a carnival where Homer is going to ride a motorcycle for some reason. The list of equally terrible alternatives continues, at one point they were going to be on some kind of clown try out show. No wonder this film feels like disjointed nonsense, that’s how it was put together.

50:30 – “The lesson of editing this film was definitely getting from point to point quickly, and not laboring, and not making it look like a new film was starting.” Let’s consider that comment, they realize that they have a bunch of unrelated scenes that have nothing to do with one another. Instead of trying to justify them or weave them into a coherent story, their solution was to jump from one unrelated thing to another as fast as possible.

50:55 – The whole carnival scene was kept in because originally they hadn’t set up that Homer could ride a motorcycle, which they needed him to do at the end. For a while they didn’t have any set up for their ending.

51:30 – The scene at Moe’s where every thing gets stolen was another late, unrelated addition.

52:00 – The drawn out joke where Marge doesn’t want the attendant to see the wanted poster comes in for some heavy, preemptive defense here. This was, I think, not a unanimous winner among the writers.

52:40 – The cut to Burns house leads to another round of “Oh this scene was a pain!” and how they didn’t have anything that really worked. Some of these really feel less like explanations than justifications.

53:30 – Talk of which stuff is computer animated and which isn’t.

54:00 – They really had a bug up their ass to send the family to Alaska, and they went back and forth a ton on why they were there.

55:15 – The whole point of the long, drawn out throwaway avalanche scene was to get Bart and Lisa out of the house so they could have a sex scene. These guys can’t write their way around a problem in less than thirty seconds of screen time.

57:15 – After a long discussion of how they had a hard time coming up with a reason for the people in Springfield to riot against the dome (really? they riot all the time), they decided that the audience would be really focused on the family. That lead to this damning self indictment, “We really wanted to write this movie for people who weren’t that familiar with the Simpsons.” Which prompts someone else to reply, “We found out we got no free laugh when a character said, ‘Oh that’s that character, it’s good to see them in the movie’.”

In those two sentences lies the root of why this movie sucks. They wrote a movie that didn’t try to appeal to fans because their earlier attempts to appeal to fans fell flat. Why did those efforts fail? Because they were using single test audiences whose main sin appears to be not laughing uproariously when a known character simply appeared on screen.

58:00 – Silence as the plot to blow up Springfield commences in the President’s office.

58:40 – They selected Tom Hanks because they thought he was the most trusted celebrity in America.

59:30 – Pretty much ignoring Homer’s freakout and Bart’s taunting of him and talking about the background animation.

60:15 – They actually think they’re keeping Homer from being a jerk as he walks out on his family.

61:10 – At one point they had Homer riding a moose. Like you do.

61:40 – Kavner had to do a ton of takes for Marge’s videotaped farewell to Homer before they finally decided that she nailed it.

63:20 – We’ve paused again as Homer floats away on the iceberg. Castellaneta describes doing Homer’s voice nowadays as “physically exhausting” because there’s so many emotional changes and “lots of yelling”. He should have some pull with the writing staff by now, maybe he could do us all a favor and see if he can get them to make Homer yell less.

64:20 – Castellaneta’s still talking, this sounds like Behind the Actors studio (such a pleasure to work with X and Y). Somewhere, the disembodied spirit of James Lipton is smiling.

64:30 – Yeardley Smith chimes in with this interesting little factoid. She’s talking about how recording this was like the early years of the show when it would take about eight hours to get all the voices recorded; now they’ve got it down to about four.

65:30 – Smith’s going on about putting emotion into cartoons and what a great character Lisa is. Meanwhile, the movie is still paused which means we’re not advancing towards the end at all.

66:15 – Right after discussing how improbable it is that Marge would ever leave Homer, they talk about how they were really going for a gut slamming moment with this breakup. Nobody noticed that those two statements are contradictory. Also, movie still on pause.

66:40 – Oh hell, the seconds are going slow, literally. While it’s on pause like this the timer is moving at about one half speed, which means this pause hasn’t been three minutes, it’s been more like six. C’mon, unpause . . . unpause . . .

67:00 – They’re just filling time now, except that there’s no need to because it’s paused. All they’re doing now is congratulating one another.

67:30 – I keep expecting this to end, and it keeps not ending.

67:40 – Thank fuck, we’re moving again.

68:00 – As the polar bear menaces Homer for no reason, they’re discussing how the upcoming “epiphany” scene is one of the “biggest problems” in the movie, “audiences had a hard time with it, we had a hard time with it”.

68:40 – They were thinking about cutting the epiphany scene, but they didn’t think it felt “thick enough” without it. Translation: even when we don’t have a set amount of time to fill, we use filler. Hans Zimmer, the composer, had to tell them that Homer was already trying to find his family when he left the cabin. In other words, they had constructed a story so poorly that they needed the soundtrack guy to tell them where their plot holes were.

69:15 – Still defending the inclusion of the epiphany scene.

70:20 – Talking about yelling as things get worse on screen.

71:05 – More help from Zimmer as they thought the hallucination was too scary until he made up the orchestral arrangement of the Spider-Pig song for them.

71:20 – You can detect hints of shame as the hallucination rolls on, they’re speaking awfully defensively, especially given the fact that no one in the room is being critical.

71:40 – After Homer gets dismembered, including an “Ouch, My Balls” moment, there’s this: “Every crude physical joke, played great.” So, they know this scene sucks, but they think hitting Homer in the balls makes it okay. Remember, this took years to develop.

72:50 – After Homer runs out of the tent, they used to have the medicine woman saying “I will bill your HMO” or “How come they all think I work for free?”, but they never got a big enough laugh so it got cut. The testicle hit though, that stayed in.

73:35 – The dogs attacking Homer stayed in from the beginning.

75:00 – Rather than discuss the pointlessness of having Homer get lost again, they’re talking about more things that didn’t test well and got cut.

76:00 – The wrecking ball was in there from the beginning, someone even calls it a “classic coyote shot” and “Chuck Jones 101”. I’d call it Remedial Chuck Jones 1a on account of the coyote always got hurt in quick and inventive ways whereas this wrecking ball is the same joke over and over and over.

77:00 – Changed the backgrounds of the town so it doesn’t look as bad in response to – guess what – audience testing.

78:00 – A couple more concepts that didn’t make it past the test audiences.

79:00 – More discussion of things that didn’t please test audiences and now aren’t here.

79:50 – Having Homer write his plan down on a leaf was used to “re-establish story”, whatever that means.

81:10 – Cletus distracting Not Hank Scorpio was, just like so many other things, a late substitution. It used to be Lenny.

82:00 – Now that we’re back to the dome, there’s a lot of talk about the large backgrounds in a lot of shots.

82:30 – Homer kicking the bomb so the timer goes faster was in there from the beginning, unlike so much else, it tested well.

83:30 – Talking about how much of Bart’s personality they could retain while he’s with Flanders. They had him “de-Barted” to a greater extent earlier.

83:50 – Mildly interesting note, they were nervous about the police bomb robot killing itself because there was that Super Bowl commercial with the suicidal robot that pissed off the anti-suicide people.

84:15 – “Once again, Homer’s gonna get hit in the head”, followed by polite chuckles.

84:40 – They didn’t know how much people needed to be reminded of the whole carnival/motorcycle thing. I can’t imagine why people would have forgotten a throw away scene that had nothing to do with anything that was about seventeen such scenes ago.

85:15 – They weren’t sure how to get Homer and Bart to reconcile, and they ended up doing it the way they did because Hans Zimmer wrote a musical cue that they liked. Zimmer sounds like he should’ve gotten story credit at this point.

86:30 – Martin getting his revenge was in from the beginning.

86:50 – They were nervous as to whether or not people were going to buy the whole “riding the motorcycle upside down and hanging on by the hair” thing, but ultimately they figured they’d done so much already that people wouldn’t care.

88:15 – Originally they were going to be chased down the dome by the bomb, but they thought the cracking dome made “more logical sense”. They actually said that.

89:30 – Originally they weren’t going to have Not Hank Scorpio confront Homer, but then “Matt” (not sure if it’s Groening or Selman or someone else) pointed out that, yeah, you might want to have the hero confront the villain.

90:15 – After Maggie saves them, they laugh about how she just wanders off instead of being taken by Bart and Homer. Originally it was going to be President Schwarzenegger, now it’s Maggie. I’ve lost count of variations on “this was character X, but then we changed it to character Y”.

91:00 – Yeardley Smith improvised the line about Lisa’s had being sweaty. I like that line.

91:30 – As they’re all celebrating, originally they were going to have Grampa come up and says, “I never thought I’d be happy to say these words, but . . . my son.”

92:50 – Homer falls off the roof to end the movie and someone, I think it’s Castellaneta, jokes “You could see it coming from two hours away.”

93:30 – As the credits roll, Smith jokes about “sequel” being Maggie’s first word, which prompts lots of joking around about how it’s not important that she already had her first word fifteen years ago. Do people really care about that?

96:00 – They’re still hanging out during the credits, talking about animators and editors and generally congratulating each other. I’m done.


Quote of the Day

Selma's Choice4

“One drop of this love potion, and you will have any man you desire.” – Princess Opal
“Really?  What are the magical ingredients?” – Selma Bouvier
“Mostly corn syrup, a little rubbing alcohol, you’ll be lucky if it doesn’t make your hair fall out, actually.” – Princess Opal


Crazy Noises: Treehouse of Horror VIII

Treehouse of Horror VIII2

“Oh hi, as the FOX censor, it’s my job to protect you from reality.” – FOX Censor

There’s no new Zombie Simpsons until September, so we’re going to spend the summer overthinking Season 9.  Why Season 9?  Because we did Season 8 last summer, and Season 9 was when the show started becoming more Zombie than Simpsons.  Since we’re too lazy to do audio and too ugly to do video, we’ve booked a “chatroom” (ours is right between the one with the sexy seventh graders and the one with the bored federal agents pretending to be sexy seventh graders).  So log on to your dial-up AOL and join us.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “unprecedentedly ”).

Today’s episode is 904 “Treehouse of Horror VIII”.  Yesterday’s was 910 “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace”. 

Note: Dave was called away due to a half-witted oaf shortly after we started, so the second half is a two man affair.

Charlie Sweatpants: Time to move from one holiday to the other?

Mad Jon: Yes, lets

  I generally feel it’s tough to screw up a TOH, because you only get like 5 or 6 minutes a segment. So worst case scenario it’s boring.

And even if the story is dumb, there are usually a couple of good gags.

Charlie Sweatpants: True.

  In the case of VIII, I think they get better as they go along.

Mad Jon: I can see that, I am not a huge fan of the fly one.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Omega Man one has too much rather pointless action, Fly vs Fly has less, and Easy Bake Coven even less.

  The fly one has some down points, I’ll not disagree with that.

  Would you agree that the witch one is easily the best of the three?

Mad Jon: You are right about Homega Man, there is a lot of Homer just punching dead guys.

Yes, I would agree with that statement.

  There are a lot of good lines in that one.

Charlie Sweatpants: Homega Man has its moments, particularly “I stand by my ethnic slur”, the Kang and Kodos reverse UFO sighting, and Homer dancing naked in church.

Mad Jon: I did chuckle at all those scenes.

Charlie Sweatpants: But you’re right that they think Homer punching dead guys is funnier than it really is, and the whole car chase thing takes way too long.

Mad Jon: Yeah I usually check out right about then,

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s a good bathroom break moment, not much happens.

  But as I said, I think of that as the weakest.

Mad Jon: Precisely, although tonight I went to move the sprinkler right as the chase left the church.

Charlie Sweatpants: Didn’t miss much, did you?

Mad Jon: Nah. I also like Herman’s description of the bomb shelters abilities, “It can take a 6 megaton blast, no more, no less.” It’s very Herman.

Charlie Sweatpants: Most of the humor is right up front.

The fly one is similar in that regard.

Mad Jon: Indeed. I like the garage sale.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s big problem isn’t a chase scene as much as it is a sitcom level inability of the family to realize that Bart’s a fly.

Mad Jon: The plot kind of ruins the story.

Charlie Sweatpants: But it takes less time.

  So I don’t mind it as much.

Mad Jon: Like I said, can’t screw up 5 minutes that much as long as there are a couple of jokes,

I think there are multiple reasons that the TOH series kept up its viewers through most of The Simpsons’ tenure. I know it’s a bit of an institution, but when you can capitalize on not cutting your own wrist for 22 minutes as well as your viewer’s increasingly short attention span, you can accomplish a lot with very little.

Even the last few seasons have had pretty decent numbers, especially when compared to the regular episodes.

Charlie Sweatpants: TOH is like a videogame with cheat codes. You’re already doing something fun (or working from an unprecedentedly robust comedy template), now you can do it without any rules.

Mad Jon: That is a good summary of why I like the witch bit from this TOH – its cheeky and different. They can have fun with the characters in a new way without forgetting their traits.

 Going out on limbs is usually what gets the Simpsons in trouble, but you can do it with TOH.

Charlie Sweatpants: The final segment is easily the best here. Right from the get go, with the town motto being “First Toil, Then the Grave”. That is the best summary of the Puritans ever, and it’s only five words.

Mad Jon: That is good, I also like Ned’s response to Goodie Maude’s fears about carnal whatevers.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed.

  There’s also Krabappel with the scarlet A, Quimby’s throwing the floor open to “wild accusations”, and the whole due process of being thrown off the cliff which culminates with Wiggum’s “The Bible says a lot of things, shove her.”

Mad Jon: Ha ha, I love the bible line.

Charlie Sweatpants: The only comedy opportunity it feels like they missed was with Lovejoy and Flanders, it’s not hard to make fun of the panting, lascivious hypocrites who were the big men behind witchcraft accusations.

  But they gave it a decent turn with Marge actually being a witch.

On the whole, this one has much less action/suspense and much more actual jokes.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

And that’s the story of the first caramel cod.

Charlie Sweatpants: As per usual, I find myself with a lot less to say about good Simpsons.

Mad Jon: Well, when you spend time watching new Simpsons, its ok to be more complainer than exalter.

  You sort of have to be in the right mode to discuss what they do right.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which is not the mode I’m in after watching Miracle on Evergreen Terrace.

Mad Jon: On the nose.

Charlie Sweatpants: But rather than double back on ourselves, shall we call this one done? Unless, of course, there’s more to TOH VIII you wish to add.

Mad Jon: Nah, I think we covered the important stuff.

Charlie Sweatpants: And the not so important stuff.

Mad Jon: I’m more of a generalist anyway.


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