Crazy Noises: This Little Wiggy

This Little Wiggy1

“Alright, alright, now, you’re over stimulated.  Let’s get some beer in you and then it’s right to bed.” – Marge Simpson
“Woo-hoo!  Beer beer beer!  Bed bed bed!” – Homer Simpson

There’s new Zombie Simpsons Sunday, so this is the last of our summer series 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 “conceding”).

Today’s episode is 918 “This Little Wiggy”, tomorrow’s will be 902 “The Principal and the Pauper”.  In a return visit, Bob Mackey joined us this week.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I figure we should start with "This Little Wiggy" in case we vent spleens on "Principal and the Pauper". Any objections?

bobservo: Sounds fine.

Mad Jon: none from me.

bobservo: I have opinions that may shock and disturb you!

Dave: Let’s go.

Charlie Sweatpants: Go for it. This is the first time I’ve watched all of Season 9 since it was on the air. I’m pretty numb to shocked and disturbed, but possibly not completely numb.

bobservo: Well, more on Principal and the Pauper.

I’m kind of lukewarm on this Ralph episode.

Dave: The episode certainly answers the question of "is there such a thing as too much Ralph?"

Mad Jon: I enjoy the beginning and the end of this episode. It’s that pesky middle where Bart learns something about himself and what his actions mean to other people that really sucks.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Knowledgeum is easily the best part of this one.

Mad Jon: For sure.

bobservo: I think Ralph over-saturation hit its peak with this episode.

Dave: No objections on that point.

bobservo: To the point where after this, any sort of random gibberish could pass as a "Ralph line."

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely.

bobservo: Does he do something different in the opening credits every week now, or something?

Mad Jon: Couldn’t tell you.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sort of.

  Sometimes it’s different, sometimes it’s not.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I guess I’ve seen that, now that I am un-repressing memories of last fall…

bobservo: But I think at some point the writers decided that wheeling out Ralph was a cheap way to get laughs, so they kept doing it without much thought.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem isn’t so much the total amount of Ralph here – it can’t be much more than "I Love Lisa" – so much as it is that it’s all Ralph punchlines.

bobservo: You hear Jean talk about this philosophy a lot with his idea that some people are satisfied just to see certain characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was all over the movie commentary.

bobservo: Right.

Dave: So what we have then is proof in action.

Charlie Sweatpants: They really did think just showing a character is enough.

bobservo: Well I think Ralph was a little different in "I Love Lisa;" more oblivious than retarded.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way to put it. He also actually had a story arc, here he just kind of wanders around.

Mad Jon: I do like the visual when Marge opens the door and Ralph is just standing there with the melting fudgicle and the Chinese finger trap.

bobservo: Yeah, he really only dispenses punchlines throughout this story.

There are some good moments; I think it’s some good observational humor about having to hang out with messy/annoying kids growing up.

  And befriending those same annoying kids once you realize how much cool stuff they have.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the kernel of this episode, but it’s barely mentioned later.

Once Bart and Ralph go on their adventure that whole aspect of the story gets dropped in favor of a standard After School Special morality tale.

Mad Jon: Ugh, it’s really not good.

bobservo: That aspect really felt forced in a non-Simpsons kind of way.

Mad Jon: Knowing that part is coming up ruins what may have been a passable adventure with the key.

Charlie Sweatpants: That scene where Bart takes the key was written in about 1973 and all they did was change the nouns.

Dave: Yeah the morality bit is unsubtle to say the least.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jimbo and company are also much weaker here than they were previously. In "Telltale Head" you can buy a) why they hang out with Bart and b) why Bart misreads them.

Here it’s just straight up Bart does something he’s uncomfortable with and immediately feels guilty.

bobservo: And the show basically admits that the third act is garbage, but that doesn’t make it better.

Charlie Sweatpants:  You’re right about that, Quimby gives not one but two speeches about how improbable the ending is.

And those were just the final ones, there’s also the security guard giving them a chance to run, the bullies throwing away they key to "pick huckleberries" when they damn well would’ve kept it.

And the whole Lisa part at the end. It’s kinda funny that she doesn’t get credit, but they’re once again conceding that the whole thing makes no sense.

bobservo: Well that seems to me to be part of a trend that eventually made the show unwatchable: meta-jokes about how lazy the writers are being.

Charlie Sweatpants: It got old a lot faster than they thought it would.

bobservo: Actually if you watch some of the post-season-8 commentaries, the writers mostly make fun of the horrible logic of the episodes themselves — so that seems to be something they enjoy.

Charlie Sweatpants: They’re still doing it in Seasons 12 and 13, I can assure you.

bobservo: Where in older episodes they would subvert TV writing cliches, but not out of laziness alone.

Charlie Sweatpants: This is definitely one of those episodes where self awareness crosses the line from clever to lazy.

bobservo: There would usually be some commentary to go along with the subversion, back when they cared.


Charlie Sweatpants: There’s still some spark here, Chief Wiggum’s "forbidden closet of mystery" and much of the beginning work well (I’m especially fond of McClure’s disclaimer about your care being repeatedly broken into and Homer’s excited state coming out of Knowledgeum), but this is another one where it feels like they have some good jokes but have just given up on even trying to fit them into a story.

bobservo: The story does meander a bit before giving up on saying anything about anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: It has that coasting feeling, like some artist or musician who’s read too much of their own good press and thinks they can do no wrong.

Mad Jon: Yeah, there are once again several good lines. But I don’t really have a problem with good jokes being part of a beginning that doesn’t particularly relate to the plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: But the beginning didn’t force the rest of the plot to suck. I mean, why did they go to an abandoned prison?

  There had to be easier ways to let Ralph have a little triumph at the end.

Mad Jon: Well, you will receive no argument there, the episode slid down a giant hill once Marge set up the ‘play date’.

bobservo: A plot rat led them to an ending?

Charlie Sweatpants: Literally.

Dave: Convenient, no?

bobservo: When I was watching it, I forgot how finding the key led to the electric chair.

  And then I was very sad.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it was a corner they didn’t need to put themselves in in the first place. The Teevee Gods didn’t make them go to the prison.

Mad Jon: No, no they probably didn’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here before we move on to the bitter heart of Season 9?

bobservo: I’m ready to go.

Mad Jon: Yep

Charlie Sweatpants: Very well. Steel yourselves; we’re going in.


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