Archive for April, 2011


Quote of the Day

New Kid on the Block5

“I actually had some doubts about moving to Springfield, especially after that Time cover story, ‘America’s Worst City’.” – Ruth Powers
“You can see our house in that photo!” – Marge Simpson

Happy birthday Conan O’Brien!


Quote of the Day

Some Enchanted Evening4

“If you’d like to share your embarrassing problem with our listening audience, we invite you to call our therapist of the airwaves, Dr. Marvin Monroe.  Our number is 555-PAIN.” – KBBL Announcer


Quote of the Day

Homer and Apu4

“Alright, why do you want to become part of the Kwik-E-Mart family?” – Executive
“Because I like people, and I need a place where I’ll be out of the sun.” – Barney Gumble


Reading Digest: Sketches, Drawings and Art Edition

There's No Disgrace Like Home7

“Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention.” – Homer Simpson

As the title indicates, there are quite a few different fan made pieces this week, ranging from quick and dirty to very elaborate.  We’ve also got some excellent and poor usage, a bizarre video game/music website, a sweet hockey mask, and video of adorable children not paying attention to Zombie Simpsons. 


Old process, new representation – Smooth Charlie’s click of the week is four awesome pieces of Simpsons art in a gallery in South Korea.  The Lisa one is especially fantastic.

Sitar Hero – Ten million internet points to whoever came up with this.  “Pour Some Curry On Me”, ha. 

Webwatch: Welcome to the internet, my friend! – A short write up of our old friends over at Eye on Springfield (via @dailysimpsons).

WEBSITE OF THE DAY – Isle of Tune – The background:

There are, without a doubt, quite a few things I lie awake at night wondering about. Some of them are quite mundane. Some of them are just a bit weird. A couple would probably make a psychiatrist start taking notes, but not one of them has ever been: "I wonder what the theme from The Simpsons looks like as a road layout"

Yes, that’s right, there is now a website that can finally answer the all-important question, that nobody in the history of human existence has ever, ever, wondered about.

And that’s why we love the Internet, isn’t it?

Yes, yes it is.  The website, and the top rated version of the Simpsons theme

My Simpsons Collection – Though I am generally opposed to Simpsons merchandise, that framed puzzle of Homer at the grill is really cool. 

‘The Simpsons’: Nancy Cartwright looks back at 22 seasons of Bart – Exactly what it says (via @SimpsonsArchive).

Simpsons S1E1 – This is a picture of a handwritten review/synopsis of “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”.  Makes for oddly fascinating reading. 

Bart Simpson Coin Purse by gozer on Etsy – That’s right, a purse. 

Video: Man Beats Bus on Big Wheel – Double fail here:

Homer Simpson once said “Public transportation is for suckers,” and after watching this video of a New Yorker beating a bus in a one-mile race from 10th avenue to Madison avenue by two minutes.

First of all, no he didn’t say that.  Marge once recounted that Homer thinks “public transportation is for losers”, but that’s it.  Second, that’s not a sentence.  Poor usage. 

Nothing related to the Simpsons; and The Fiver’s Little Helper – This is a very Simpsons-Zen approach to confusing topics:

Whenever the Fiver is ordered to conjure "funny" out of incredibly dull stories about takeovers, shares, leveraged buyouts and other unspeakably tedious fiscal matters, our thoughts invariably turn to Santa’s Little Helper, family dog of The Simpsons. Whenever somebody is giving out to him for some misdemeanour, we are invariably shown the putdown from the confused pooch’s point of view: everything is in black and white, an angry human is gesticulating furiously and all he can hear is "Blah blah blah! Blah, blah blah blah blah, blah blah blah! Blah!"

Maggie Simpson – Instructions for creating a pretty good version of Maggie as a Nintendo Mii. 

Sergei Bobrovsky Breaks Out New Gear For Playoffs – If Sideshow Bob is on the side of a goalie mask, it must be playoff time (via). 

Season 22 News Revealed – If you want to gaze into the boring beyond of upcoming episodes, our friends over at Everything Simpsons have you covered. 

Precious could go all the way, says 4J – Cavan is a county in Ireland.  Currently there’s a “Cavan’s Got Talent” music and dance competition going on there.  That lead to this:

Long live the king! Precious is back and this time he means business. The Nigerian St Pat’s student lit up CGT with an amazing take on I Feel Good a few weeks ago and after a couple of so-so weeks (or os-os, as Bart Simpson put it), he showed amazing bouncebackability with a fantastic cover to close the show last week.

Excellent Season 1 reference. 

Time Travelling Through The Eyes Of Harry Potter, Mr. Scott and Marty McFly – Three different franchises, three different takes on time travel.  McFly has the good sense to reference Homer’s toaster. 

The lovable archvillain – Short review of “Krusty Gets Busted”. 

Couldn’t Quite Put My Finger On It – Fan made sketch of four fingers meets five.  Nice. 

fear of loneliness – I don’t know if it’s been going on for a long time and I just now noticed it, but it seems like there are a lot more screen grabs posted with the subtitles these days.  This is one of those all time classic Krabappel lines, and Marcia Wallace nailed it. 

Those Amazing Humans, #287, Matt Groening – Short bio and nice little fan made sketch of Groening. 

Thought Cycle – Animated .gif of Homer at the ballet.

“I don’t know! I don’t know why I did it, I don’t know why I enjoyed it, and I don’t know why I’ll do it again!” -Bart Simpson – There’s nothing at this link (except for a nice WordPress theme), but the quote is spot on so that makes it excellent usage. 

Nicki Minaj Talks Rocking A Marge Simpson Wig – Awesome:

"Never did I think I would be rocking the Marge Simpson," Minaj said in an interview. "But you know what, now that I am [wearing] them I realize that she was cutting edge and before her time. So shout out to Marge.

Enrique Iglesias Totally Looks Like Pepe from “The Simpsons” – Enh.  Kinda. 

"The Simpsons" Reviewed by infoMania’s Kids Kouch – They showed some clips from a recent Zombie Simpsons episode to some kids.  I was going to write something snarky about this, but the YouTube commenters beat me to it:

the new simpsons episodes suck. why would you make them watch those? you horrible horrible man.

rainy1sun 4 days ago


@rainy1sun agreed…seasons 3-8 are the best while seasons 1-2 and 9-10 are pretty good too

joecabot34599 4 days ago

Good to see someone thought of the children.


Quote of the Day

Peanut Butter Brownies

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user VirtualErn.

“I made some peanut butter brownies for everyone.” – Marge Simpson
“Well, would anyone else like a bite of banality?” – Llewellyn Sinclair
“I would.” – Chief Wiggum


Faded Stars, Failed Stunts

Krusty Gets Kancelled9

“Here’s my address book, go get those stars!” – Krusty the Klown

According to the schedule on FOX’s website, there’s no new Zombie Simpsons this Sunday (rerun) or next Sunday (rerunning the movie).  And while no new Zombie Simpsons is always good news, it also means we’re going to lack for fresh meat around here.  (This week’s Crazy Noises should be along in a day or two.)  Fortunately, Splitsider stepped into the content gap this morning with an excellent piece by Chris Morgan titled “The Changing Role of Guest Stars on The Simpsons.

The conclusion is a little soft, but for the most part the article is enjoyably harsh on Zombie Simpsons.  It takes the time to dredge up some of their more pandering and desperate moments, from Britney Spears to that reprehensibly boring boy band episode.  In particular, I’d like to highlight this, which comes right after a paragraph that is laced with terms like “wasn’t funny”, “gimmicky”, “poorly executed”, and “groan”:

Things haven’t really changed much since seasons 11 and 12.

That is precisely the problem.  Zombie Simpsons is nothing if not stale, and it’s stale because all it does is go through the motions, including the way it handles celebrity voices.  The roll call from “The Great Simpsina” is a perfect case in point.

The story concludes with Lisa and Raymondo backstage at the magic competition watching the milk can trick go wrong.  It’s going wrong because it’s been sabotaged, and it was sabotaged by four (4) celebrity magicians.  Not one, four.  They could’ve ended their story the exact same way with a single celebrity guest, but instead they crammed in as many as they could.

This isn’t a recent Zombie Simpsons innovation, they’ve been doing things like this since the show permanently decomposed around Seasons 11 and 12.  There have been episodes overflowing with sports stars, journalists and authors.  They’ve even larded up on cross promotion with other FOX programs on at least three separate occasions

As both “Homer at the Bat” and “Krusty Gets Kancelled” make clear, it isn’t about the number of celebrity guests, it’s about why they’re all there.  In “Homer at the Bat”, there are nine baseball players because that’s how many guys are on a team.  In “Krusty Gets Kancelled”, the avalanche of guests is integral to a story about Krusty making a big, star studded comeback.  In “The Great Simpsina” and similar drudgeries it’s more for the sake of more. 

Morgan’s article, once again:

Sometimes they play actual characters, but more often than not they play themselves, and usually in a small cameo. In other words, stunt casting. If the writers have a good joke for it, that’s fine, but far too often these guest appearances feel gratuitous. Through 18 episodes this season, there have been 44 guest stars.

That’s a rate of nearly two and a half per.  Stunt casting indeed. 


Quote of the Day

They Saved Lisa's Brain2

“Lindsey Naegle, Advanced Capital Ventures.” – Lindsey Naegle
“Oh, what do you produce?” – Lisa Simpson
“Synergy, and books on how to cheat at bridge.” – Lindsey Naegle


Compare & Contrast: Magic Tricks

“Behold the box of mystery!” – Milhouse van Houten

About halfway through the ridiculous (in a bad way) main plot of “The Great Simpsina”, what’s-his-face (The Great Raymondo) takes Lisa under his wing and tells her the secret he’s kept for decades.  In yet another example of the way the attention span of Zombie Simpsons is measured in microseconds, the show treats this revelation as poignant and moving, even going so far as to have the old magician finally decide to tell her after he mentions that he has no children and compares Lisa to his beloved and long departed wife.  This is a Hallmark Hall of Fame level of schlock.

Unlike formulaic, made-for-teevee melodrama, however, Zombie Simpsons doesn’t know how to have all of its moments converge at once.  Raymondo has been carefully guarding this trick for most of his life, and him telling it to Lisa is the pivot point of the entire story.  Does she do it as part of his grand return to the stage?  Nope.  Does she wow the audience at the “World Magic Championships” that conclude the episode?  Wrong.  Does she perform this historic feat at recess in front of a handful of elementary students?  Oh, Zombie Simpsons, you’ve done it again.

If all that had been in service of some interesting satire or humor it might’ve been merely horrible, but the episode was light on comedy in favor of what can only be described as magic tricks.  Despite the fact that this is only one episode, the examples are almost too numerous to list.  Raymondo’s side of the ledger is mostly small stuff, like instantly changing Lisa into a flapper costume and back again.  But most of Lisa’s actions in this episode are parlor tricks, from beating things out of Bart’s esophagus to putting Maggie in a birdcage, and the less said about the super powers of the guest stars and the antics of – ugh – “Cregg Demon” the better.  Any one of their deeds would be impressive if they weren’t part of a cartoon, but they are.  When Bugs Bunny pulled similar stunts on Daffy or Elmer it was funny not because of what Bugs was doing, but because of the stuttering furor and homicidal rage of his victims.  Here the audience just “ohhs”, “ahhs” and applauds.

History's Dullest Resurrection

Animated magic tricks aren’t cool, even when they don’t cruelly and needlessly bring back the dead.

The fundamentally fraudulent nature of the entertainment – expecting laughs for tricks that aren’t actually impressive – is compounded when you remember that there was no need for it.  Lisa learning the craft from an aging magician would’ve been enough without the pastel pyrotechnics.  It’s a story that could’ve had plenty of space for historically satirical flashbacks, jokes at the expense of magic and entertainment generally, and the almost unlimited comedy of failed magic tricks.

And here is where the comparison to The Simpsons becomes painfully obvious.  The Simpsons intuitively understood that when you’re dealing in animation a successful illusion is boring because it doesn’t require anything more than pen meeting paper.  Failed illusions, on the other hand, can be hilarious.  Consider Krusty’s grotesquely disastrous ventriloquism when he’s trying to compete with Gabbo, or the giant scar on Milhouse’s stomach when Bart tried to saw him in half.  Even the “mathemagician” in “Grade School Confidential” operates on the idea of funny failure when he flunks elementary arithmetic dividing twenty-eight by seven and coming up with three.

Tricks Gone Awesomely Wrong

Would it be funny if Krusty didn’t need the mustache?  Or if that remainder had disappeared?

The best counterexample, though, is the one most closely related to Lisa’s recess performance, “Milhouse the Magician” from “$pringfield”.  Like Lisa’s performance, the audience is just a handful of people.  Unlike Lisa’s performance, that makes sense.  Like Lisa, Milhouse is new to magic.  Unlike Lisa, he doesn’t have hacks making him instantly good at it.  The result is brief, fitting, and very funny.


No one cares about the cat in the box . . . until it attacks the magician.  (He still got some applause.)

The relentless reliance on magic isn’t a case of Zombie Simpsons being weighed down by twenty years of accumulated baggage and backstory.  They didn’t need to cram in as many “ta-da!” moments as they could.  Just like they didn’t need four celebrity magicians to show up and voice themselves (in an episode that already had two famous guest stars).  Nor did they need to have the secret to a world famous trick be revealed to someone who’d been doing magic for about two weeks.  They did all that by choice, and it’s just further evidence of how much they value razzle dazzle over substance, humor and making the most of their medium.

[Update 14 April: Corrected two minor word repetitions that I missed in the after-work fog of yesterday.]


Quote of the Day

Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes5

“This chair is two thousand dollars.  We could buy a whole living room set for that.” – Marge Simpson
“Marge, there’s an empty spot I’ve always had inside me.  I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service, but those were dead ends.  I think this chair is the answer.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Yuri Gagarin

Image shamelessly yoinked from Vintage Space.

“Second comes right after first.” – Buzz Aldrin


Taking Attendance

Chalkboard - The Great Simpsina

“Okay, when I call your name, uh, you say ‘present’ or ‘here’.  No, say ‘present’.” – Moe

If there’s one scene that’s been played over and over again in Zombie Simpsons, it’s the listing of the celebrity names.  Once upon a time even celebrities playing themselves (James Woods, Tito Puente, everybody from “Homer at the Bat” and “Krusty Gets Kancelled”) got actual introductions.  Now they appear and have their names read aloud.  This is actual dialogue spoken by Lisa in “The Great Simpsina”:

Ricky Jay.  David Copperfield.  Penn.  Teller.

It sounds like she’s reading roll call at a talent agency picnic.  Once all of them had shouted “present”, we got the usual self serving celebrity dialogue of feeble jokes at their own expense.  It’s marketing masquerading as satire, and it’s the kind of humorless comedy that used to be restricted to award shows and The Hollywood Squares

That sad conclusion, the fight scene felt like watching someone play a bad Final Fantasy clone, came at the end of your standard sitcom “child meets old person guest star, learns stuff” story.  These have been around forever, and this wasn’t a particularly well done version.  Along the way, Lisa got to be the instant professional, Jack McBrayer got to play Kenneth on a show other than 30 Rock, and there was a harmless “parody” of Criss Angel. 

The numbers are in and they are atrocious.  For the sake of decimal consistency, I have to round off last night’s numbers and use my standard two decimal places, which gives a number of 5.00 million viewers.  However, it’s worth nothing that TV By the Numbers goes to three decimal places, and last night’s came in just a shade under 5 million at 4.996.  Even the rounded number makes this the lowest rated episode of all time, coming in well below last year’s “Million Dollar Maybe”, and the third decimal place makes it the first episode to ever come in under five million viewers.  Two more episodes at roughly this level will drag Season 22 into a virtual tie with Season 20 for lowest rated ever, and three will put it over the top, so to speak. 


Quote of the Day

Brush with Greatness7

“Incidentally, thanks for not making fun of my genitalia.” – C.M. Burns
“I thought I did.” – Marge Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Brush with Greatness”!  Original airdate 11 April 1991.


Sunday Preview: The Great Simpsina

Guest stars, guest stars, guest stars. That’s the theme of tonight’s Zombie Simpsons episode, whose description is capable of inducing a brain hemorrhage:

The family is greeted by folk singer Ewell Freestone (guest voice Jack McBrayer) when they visit a peach farm, but when Marge goes overboard with peach-inspired dishes, Lisa and Bart try to get rid of the unwanted fruit. Later, Lisa becomes a magician’s apprentice to the legendary Great Raymondo (guest voice Martin Landau) who helps her develop her craft, but a schoolgirl crush clouds her judgment when she is coaxed into revealing the Great Raymondo’s most famous magic trick to his phony archnemesis. But when the rival magician’s act takes a risky turn, the Great Raymondo has one last trick up his sleeve and stages showdown with Ricky Jay, Penn & Teller and David Copperfield (guest-voicing as themselves), showing them why he is the master of the craft.

Will someone please tell me what peaches have to do with magic, and why should we care?


Quote of the Day

Colonel Homer5

“Oh, Homer, you’re as smart as you are handsome.” – Lurleen Lumpkin
“Hey! . . . Oh, you meant that as a compliment.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Bake Him Away, Toys

“Take him away, boys.” – Bart Simpson
“Hey, I’m the chief here.  Bake him away, toys.” – Chief Wiggum
“What’d you say, chief?” – Lou
“Do what the kid says.” – Chief Wiggum


Reading Digest: The Perils of Syndication Edition

Homer Goes to College7

“Wow!  They’ll never let us show that again, not in a million years!” – Krusty the Klown

Assuming that pure joy expands in a circle at the speed of light, the echo of my unbounded glee at learning that reruns of The Simpsons would be on five days a week should be somewhere between Altair and Sigma Draconis by now.  In those dark days before DVDs, DVD rips, and bottomless hard drive platters, watching old episodes wasn’t easy to do, and the news that it would be on every weeknight (and sometimes on Saturday) was literally life changing.  All those episodes that I had only seen once or twice were suddenly going to be broadcast again and again, and that meant that I could watch them again and again.  These days I never watch the syndication runs, both because they’re hopelessly polluted with Zombie Simpsons and because having episodes on my computer is vastly more convenient.  But I recognize that I’m in the minority on how I watch, and this week we have two links to demonstrate that.  One to a television station that’s broadcasting good episodes in May, and another to someone who’s still shackled to the whims of the program directors.  We’ve also got pictures of that beaded Springfield, an awesome love song, plenty of excellent usage, and a Hans Moleman video. 


Perfectly Cromulent Analysis: Mr. Plow – Smooth Charlie’s Click of the Week is a post on “Mr. Plow” by our old friend Andreas.  He extensively and rightly praises that excellent “Do you come with the car?” joke that still rings true nearly twenty years later.  Well worth reading in full. 

The Unofficial Smithers Love Song – Fan made song and video that contains 100% of your daily recommended amount of fuck yeah (via @springfieldx2). 

Electronic Arts Cancels ‘Dead Space 2’ Wii, ‘The Simpsons Game 2’ – A Simpsons related game I didn’t know was being developed has been cancelled. 

10 Best Female Voice Actors | Actors & Directors | Screen Junkies – Nancy Cartwright snags #1 here, but no one else from the show makes the cut.

The Simpsons Makes a Skit About Precious – Thanks go to Maggie C for sending in a link to this Tumblr site that noted Zombie Simpsons’ pathetic “Precious” dream sequence in “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing”.  My favorite comment got right to the point:

holy shit fuck you, simpsons

Simpsons town revealed in Forest Hills artist’s home – Pictures from the revealing of Forty Square Feet of Awesome.  The Disco Stu door prize is pretty cool.

Financial Lessons from the Final Four, Yoga, Homer Simpson, and Other Odd Sources – Prosaic advise courtesy of a copy and paste job at Time magazine.  They get the quotes right so it’s excellent usage even if it is banal to the point that Henry Luce’s corpse would blush if it still could. 

Everything I Know About Money, I Learned from Homer Simpson – And linked from the above is this, which doesn’t quote anything, but does mange to allude only to plotlines from Season 10 and earlier.

Grizzly Links: Stephen Colbert, David Lynch, The Simpsons, & a Midget in a Gorilla Costume – There’s some good stuff here, I’m especially fond of the Jaws painting (though shouldn’t one of them be on drums?).  Among the links is a montage of Hans Moleman clips, the first part is mostly from good seasons with a sprinkling of Zombie Simpsons, volume two reverses the ratio:

FOX legal will be calling in three, two, one . . .

Homer simpson Minecraft Skin – Exactly what it says.  Nicely done.

Searching for gluten-free food at Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville – Discussing watching baseball when your usual pleasures are denied you brings us this:

In a long-ago episode of “The Simpsons,” an on-the-wagon Homer sits silently sober at the ballpark while everyone around him enjoys cups of beer. After a few seconds of dead silence with his eyes wide open, Homer remarks: “I never realized how boring this game is.”

Excellent usage.

Mr Burns takes a nap – While I’m not a fan of crappy collector stuff, I am a fan of it being used creatively. 

Todays winners and Losers – From the “Losers” category:

The feeling when you get home and you flick to channel 4 and the simpsons end credits are on… gutted.

I used to hate that feeling. 

Future Finds: Computers (#74) – Speaking of creatively repurposing Simpsons stuff, this guy doesn’t sound like on of the five richest kings of Europe to me. 

Classic Simpsons In May – A UHF station in San Francisco will be running “rare” and “haven’t seen in years” episodes during the month of May, and by that they mean things from Seasons 1-10.  Fucking Zombie Simpsons has ruined syndicated Simpsons. 

Things That Will Always Guarantee Laughs – This is a list, and while I don’t agree with everything on it, this is true:

The Simpsons (seasons 3 to 8)

Oh Seasons 1 & 2, I will love you so much it will make up for the rest of the world’s indifference. 

The Origin Story – Reminisces, and a picture, of a 1990 Bart Simpson skateboard. 

Forbes Fictional 15: list – This list gets stupider every year.  How do you assign a worth to the dragon from The Hobbit?  And what the hell is Jeffery Lebowski doing on there?  He’s so poor he had to steal a million dollars from little urban achievers.  Oh, and Mr. Burns checks in at #12.

First Look: Doughnut Vault – There’s a new donut shop in downtown Chicago that sounds fantastic (albeit pricey).  This is poor usage, however:

Homer Simpson may have said it best when he called the doughnut sacrilicious.

The waffle that Bart tossed on the ceiling was sacrilicious.  The donut is just, “Mmmm” or “transcendent” (as translated by Lisa).

Release the Hounds – Silvio Berlusconi as Mr. Burns.  Heh. 

#1 of the 365 Things That Make Me Happy: The Simpsons – Ahem:

I absolutely adore The Simpsons and have ever since the shorts were used as bumpers on another favorite television show of mine; “The Tracy Ullman Show”. I know a lot of critics and fans say that the show isn’t as good as it used to be, and to some degree they are right. However, I feel that The Simpsons have given me so many great years of programming, that if they want to coast on a few episodes, I don’t mind a bit.

I used to say almost exactly that, then they kept on coasting for more than a decade.  But The Simpsons does always make me happy. 

Critics use The Simpsons to lampoon Mexico’s Slim – Somebody took out a newspaper ad in Mexico making fun of the world’s richest man, Carlos Slim, with “The Slimsons”.  Sadly, I was unable to find an image of the ad on-line. 

Weird science on the equator line – Wikipedia is skeptical of Lisa’s explanation of the Coriolis effect, but this is a first hand account of the strange things you can do at the equator, and it includes clockwise and counterclockwise draining.     

“The Simpsons” and Their Films – The image and the link from whence it came are something we’ve mentioned before around here.  But I want to wholeheartedly agree with this:

The more films I watch the more I notice that sometimes I’m approaching them backwards: I’ve often seen the parody before I’ve seen the picture itself. When I first saw Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life (1946), for example, I found it was quickly coloured yellow, as Homer Simpson’s take on George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) came to mind.

In fact, The Simpsons becomes consistently richer the more films I see. References to America’s cinematic heritage appear not only in episode-long treatments of certain pictures but also in the more fleeting echoes of a particular shot or character trait.

I’ve lost track of the number of movies I’ve watched specifically because they were mentioned on the show.  Last year that number included The Devil and Daniel Webster (thanks Andreas!), which was fantastic. 

Up and atom, veggie burger! – And finally, among an excellent looking recipe and much excellent usage is this:

It was only the Simpsons’ 7th season, so it still had writers who rolled out classic lines

Indeed.  (There’s also YouTube of “My eyes, the goggles do nothing!”.) 


Quote of the Day

The Springfield Connection4

“Marge, you being a cop makes you the man, which makes me the woman!  And I have no interest in that, besides occasionally wearing the underwear, which, as we discussed, is strictly a comfort thing.” – Homer Simpson


Cutting Digital Corners

“Don’t worry, baby, the tube’ll know what to do.” – Homer Simpson

I’ve never worked as an animator, nor even been able to draw decently, so feel free to take the following with a grain of salt.  Having said that, I’ve sat through every single one of the HD episodes of Zombie Simpsons, and I think all their digital tools have made it increasingly easy for them to cut corners.  Take the image below from “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing”:

Generic School

There’s nothing terribly remarkable, it’s just an establishing shot of the school.  (You can see Bart’s stupid tractor ride starting in the lower left corner.)  Compare it to basically the same shot from “The Last Temptation of Homer”:

The Last Temptation of Homer3

The things I’m about to point out aren’t a big deal, and my ignorance of the working trade of animation may make the next few dozen sentences completely worthless, but to my eye the hand drawn one looks like it had a lot more care put into it.  Specifically, there are three items I noticed upon close inspection: the windows, the flag pole, and the sidewalks.

In the Season 22 image, the little bend marks in the windows are barely visible, but the ones you can make out all look the same: two parallel lines of slightly lighter blue to give the glass panes a little more substance than if they were monochrome.  In the one from Season 5, the lines in the windows are black (making them much more visible), and no two are the same.  The different windows give the drawing a less generic feel, making it easier for you to imagine that each window conceals an actual room.  After all, real window panes aren’t perfectly uniform; from the day they’re cut they get scuffed and scratched in different ways. The Zombie Simpsons windows are so perfectly alike that it subtracts the feeling of life from the image, whereas the windows in The Simpsons were all clearly done one by one, giving them a unique feel that makes the whole thing look more like a real building, even if the lines aren’t aligned down to the millimeter.

Now look at the flag poles.  On the digital one, the flag pole is utterly boring.  It’s just two precisely parallel lines that someone has used a fill command to make grey.  The hand drawn one has a lot more personality.  It doesn’t just disappear into a tuft of grass; it has a base so you can actually see what’s holding it steady.  Moreover, the pole itself appears to taper toward the top the way real flag poles do.  Someone took the time to draw and inspect it, instead of just plopping it down with a couple of clicks. 

It’s the sidewalks are where you can really see the difference though.  Because while both sidewalks contain mistakes, they are of a vastly different character.


I’ve circled portions of each above.  First, consider the one from Zombie Simpsons and note the perpendicular lines in the grass.  These are clearly the outlines of sidewalk slabs and they don’t belong on a lawn.  You can see a line between the two sections as well as a line where the grey is supposed to meet the green.  Those lines wouldn’t be there if it had been originally drawn as grass, but this is self evidently an existing image that was modified.  And while the original had concrete where someone wanted chlorophyll, whoever made the change never bothered to remove the lines after clicking the paint bucket icon.  Nor is this some unnoticeable thing, the existence of the line where the sidewalk pieces meet indicates that “fill” had to be clicked twice.  They may have been careless, they may have been rushed, but whoever grabbed the existing template image couldn’t be bothered to take six seconds to correct an obvious (albeit minor) problem.

The same cannot be said for the image from The Simpsons.  The sidewalk leading to the school is filled in to the right of the stairs but not to the left.  Whether the sidewalk or the building was done first is irrelevant, someone drew both from scratch and then realized that they made a mistake lining them up.  Lacking a six second option, they covered for it as best they could.  Nobody’s expecting perfection, and not a single viewer decided to love or hate either of these episodes based on such trivial goofs.  But where Zombie Simpsons ignored an easily corrected mistake, The Simpsons took the time to carefully camouflage one that was as harmless as it was difficult to correct.

Again, all this may just be my lack of knowledge about animation processes talking.  But the impression a close viewer gets is that the convenience of digital tools makes it so easy for Zombie Simpsons to get things like windows and flag poles to “acceptable” that they don’t take the time (or aren’t budgeted for the time) to push them past that.  When The Simpsons drew by hand, they had to put enormous care into every little detail because not doing so would make the entire thing look slipshod.  And while we can’t fault the show for technological changes in the entire industry, we can say with great confidence that minute attention to detail is no longer one of their concerns.


Quote of the Day

Lisa the Greek7

“Look at these prices!  We could finally get rid of those termites for the cost of this meal.” – Marge Simpson


Crazy Noises: Lisa’s First Word

Lisa's First Word8

“In a moment, we’ll look at the courageous Korean gymnast Kim Huyang, who made a perfect dismount on what was later revealed to be a broken leg.” – Olympics Announcer

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for this brief, amazing interruption of Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough not on “fjord”).

The discussion below completes our usual trio of posts (Ratings FAIL, Compare & Contrast, Crazy Noises) after a new episode airs. And while it’s been enjoyable pretending that “Lisa’s First Word” was the greatest Zombie Simpsons episode ever, tomorrow it’s back to our regularly scheduled programming of looking at the innumerable ways Zombie Simpsons falls short of its predecessor. A special thanks goes out to our old friend Friz for this comment and to this anonymous commenter for the two notes that finally got my rusty brain in gear on this. Though I wish I’d thought of it Sunday afternoon instead of Sunday night, that would’ve been a fun fake preview to write.

But I don’t think this whole thing was just filler, or even a belated and overly long April Fools prank. The fact that FOX broadcast a great episode at 8pm on Sunday for the first time in forever was useful because it gave us an opportunity to subject a genuine classic to the same kind of minute scrutiny that we apply to Zombie Simpsons. We’re not exactly neutral observers, so this was hardly a controlled experiment, but picking through “Lisa’s First Word” closer than I ever have before was an interesting exercise nevertheless.

On some level, it’s not at all surprising that a show as carefully crafted as The Simpsons would stand up to close inspection. After all, these are episodes that are notorious for containing jokes, asides and references that people don’t catch even after multiple viewings. But until I wrote that Compare & Contrast post yesterday, I’d never noticed the way “Lisa’s First Word” kept bringing up its main plot themes throughout the course of the episode. Oh sure, I saw it happen every time I watched it, but the structure of it was never something I’d actively considered.

More broadly, this applies to just about any episode. With The Simpsons, each episode gets better the more you think about it. Picking up new subtleties and catching things you missed is part of the fun. Zombie Simpsons works the other way, it gets less entertaining the more you consider it. Cheap jokes get worse when repeated, plot kludges get less defensible, and all the problems and inconsistencies that were glossed over the first time become more and more pronounced.

[We thought we had Dave this week, but he managed to escape again. I should probably up the bounty on his head.] 

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then, let’s get going.

Mad Jon: I watched the broadcast version, but there was nothing different than the normal episode. I was figuring on a shout out to E. Taylor, at least more than the special guest voice credit.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nothing?

Mad Jon: Nothing. Not a note, recognition of gratitude, or extra anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: That might have required a production assistant to spend ten minutes producing something. Hardly worth it.

Mad Jon: Very true.

Someone will have to fire that agent.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m sure there are things wrong with this episode, in that there are perhaps a few lines here or there that might have been tweaked or delivered differently to make me laugh harder, but at this level that’s like complaining that one of those mirrors NASA uses to see stuff that’s 9 billion years old isn’t smooth enough. If it was the size of the Earth the biggest bump would be a couple of centimeters, and criticizing that is nitpicking of a scale even I can’t condone.

Mad Jon: I agree. However, after watching it, including all commercials just for the hell of it, I couldn’t help but think what it would have been like in HD. Not that I want it in HD, but more along the lines of "What if this WAS a new episode."

My conclusion is that most of the Zombie Horde wouldn’t care for it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Animation wise, I assume.

Mad Jon: Push aside the cultural references, as they were at least 19 years old, even though I assume most of them were timeless enough, but the joke style wouldn’t have gone over.

Charlie Sweatpants: How do you mean?

When I put the DVD versions up on my big screen the blood dripping on "I’ll Be Back" looks fantastic.

Mad Jon: No, push that aside too. I am talking about what you and I would consider jokes. Think of the simple humor, based on a family barely stringing it together, with subtle, situational jokes. Now think of trying that on someone who has been conditioned to laugh at overtly physical comedy and random scene changes. I mean come on, this episode really REALLY has continuity. People who watch the Zombie episodes would undergo culture shock similar to a WWII vet who hid in a cave for 30 years.

Not that I give a rats ass about that. I just happened to be thinking about it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Just because someone has been raised on gruel doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate steak and potatoes.

Mad Jon: I know, but this is just such a style change. It’s a great style change, and I know there are people who live with the Zombie episodes that love the real Simpsons, but I can’t believe that the people who openly support Zombie Simpsons could get down with the good stuff.

There are lots of people who don’t like steak.

And I would imagine that I could find a larger ratio of them at a vegetarian buffet than I could at Golden Corral.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but it’s not like this episode lacks for physical comedy. Between Itchy & Scratchy, Sideshow Bob nearly getting decapitated, the supine Swede . . . there’s more people getting hurt in this episode than in most Zombie Simpsons.

There’s that other stuff going on around it, but if you were just watching for that this episode has you covered.

Mad Jon: Agreed, but the tone is so different. Ok, I don’t want to argue with you on this point. It is distracting us from the episode, and it was just something I was thinking about when I should have been paying attention to my sales manager this morning.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough. How about a lighting round? Bonus points for the smallest number of words you use to describe it. I’ll go first.

The clown bed.

Mad Jon: Spit in every 50th burger.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fretful mother magazine.

Mad Jon: Oh damn you.


Charlie Sweatpants: Damn you, I was going to say "Bart’s first word", but yours is shorter.

Okay then, "Rendering Plant".

Mad Jon: I was also thinking, "Shove-it" or "David Hasselhoff"

Charlie Sweatpants: Crooked 50s game show.

Mad Jon: Just came on the market.

Charlie Sweatpants: I could use a TV tray.

Mad Jon: You smell that?

Charlie Sweatpants: Shaving their backs 9,000 miles away.

Mad Jon: Iron helps us play

Charlie Sweatpants: Going to start doing it in the morning?

Mad Jon: Gotch’er wallet

Charlie Sweatpants: Look, a fjord.

Damn it, wrong episode.

Mad Jon: Maggie related, but yes, wrong one.

Although you almost got me to say "Wow, Two!"

You’re Funny!

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s real shag carpeting!

Mad Jon: Who’s cuter now?

Charlie Sweatpants: You personally stand to lose forty-four million dollars.

Mad Jon: It’s right there!

Charlie Sweatpants: No wonder he won Minnesota.

Mad Jon: He’ll tire himself out

Charlie Sweatpants: Hibbert’s beaded dreads.

Mad Jon: Homer’s living room vision

Charlie Sweatpants: The way only one of Lisa’s eyes open after Patty kisses her.

Mad Jon: Love that spout medley

Charlie Sweatpants: You don’t have a Cousin Frank.

Mad Jon: Since I’m returning your second born

Charlie Sweatpants: I started, so you get last go, but . . .

"Takes one to know one." "Swish!"

Mad Jon: Oh jeez, that’s a topper. but….

Girls just wanna have fun.

Charlie Sweatpants: The professor was right, perfectly symmetrical violence never solved anything. Well played, sir.

Mad Jon: It’s actually kind of frightening how non-difficult that was. I am seriously considering cutting back the nights I go to bed with a Simpsons DVD on ‘play all’.

Charlie Sweatpants: I see no problem with it.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that seems like an empty promise.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think there’s much left to be said. The world will little note, nor long remember and all that.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I don’t know what else to say, except what a rare deal this is, eh? Would you have ever imagined FOX doing this kind of thing? I mean, especially without any real acknowledgement for why they were doing it.

"Dad-dy" could have been anyone, it just happened to be someone famous who died.

Charlie Sweatpants: They did the same when Michael Jackson died, but that was in the summer when nobody gives a shit anyway.

Mad Jon: Yes well, this is first run time baby, and there were black bars on the sides of my screen.


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