Compare & Contrast: Branson Sign Jokes

A while back I linked to this post by our friend Friz about how the Simpsons has fallen apart.  (For another example in his series, click here to see the decline in relevance of Itchy & Scratchy.)  What he did was compare background gags from “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” and some piece of shit from Season 16.  Long story short, in “Bart Gets an F” a joke might be on screen for only a fraction of a second.  In Season 16, things are left on screen for a long time and Homer even breaks the fourth wall by asking if everyone has finished reading. 

I was reminded of that post (if not the Season 16 episode itself, which I’ve never seen) while listening to the commentary for “The Old Man and the Key”.  Even if we set aside the fact that the family’s trip to Branson, Missouri was a rehash from “Bart on the Road”, the older episode still blows the newer one away.  In each, the show puts up some signs for fake shows in Branson.  The difference isn’t only between what they came up with, it’s in how they were presented. 

Below is the screen grab from “Bart on the Road” I used for Tuesday’s post:

Bart on the Road3

The shot above contains four signs (five jokes if you want to count the hat with the tag in the background).  The image lasts for only one second as the rental car drives into town; it’s just an establishing shot of where they are, and yet it’s packed to the gills with jokes.  (Fake band Ferl Dixon & the Second Helping Boys would make an equally brief appearance at the chili cook-off in Season 8.)  Compare that to the ten second long montage of entering Branson in Season 13:

Branson Signs

The above is a nice example of not only the slap dash nature of Zombie Simpsons (it’s “Wilford” not “Wilfred”, even in 2001 that would’ve been a snap to look up) but also of the threadbare nature of the humor.  “The Angina Monologues” is pretty funny, but it’s no better than “Phantom of the Opry” or “Up With White People”, and the Glen Campbell/Andy Williams thing is one joke in two signs that both get full screen billing.  What was a little treat for people willing to pause the show in Season 7 has become a full fledged part of the episode in Season 13.  You do the former when you’ve got so many good ideas you’ve hardly got time for them all; you do the latter when you’re desperately short of ideas and trying to kill time.  If you’re scoring at home, that makes two jokes in ten seconds for Season 13 against four in one second for Season 7. 

It’s true that Zombie Simpsons is capable of coughing up a decent joke from time to time, but it can’t even come close to the sustained torrent of gags and jokes that was the hallmark of The Simpsons

2 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Branson Sign Jokes”

  1. 2 September 2010 at 5:58 pm

    it’s sort of insane that they’ve been doing less freeze-frame jokes at a time when everybody has a vcr, dvr, or what-have-you

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