“Where are the dice?” – Lisa Simpson
“Daddy says dice are wicked.” – Todd Flanders
“We just move one space at a time. It’s less fun that way.” – Rod Flanders
Archive for July, 2011
“Don’t look at me! Don’t look at me!” – Clancy Bouvier
There was a lot of (content-deficient) news about Zombie Simpsons coming out of Comic-Con this week, a bit of which I’ve linked below. Long story short: it’s going to be just as dull as Season 22, which was just as dull as Season 21, which was just as dull as Season 20, and so forth. They released a promotional clip from the Halloween episode, but when I went to watch it on YouTube it said that it’d been taking down due to a copyright claim by FOX. Morons. In the realm of news not coming out of Comic-Con, FOX is changing its deal with Hulu to prevent all you internet freeloaders from seeing their shows for (almost) free. New episodes of Zombie Simpsons (and other shows) won’t be available at Hulu until a week after they originally air. It’s almost like they don’t want you watching their shows. Of course, we’ve also got some neat fan art, a writeup of a Simpsons trivia night I desperately want to attend, some word nerd love for “cromulent”, lots of Mike Reiss, and the usual smattering of excellent usage.
Can I Borrow an Answer? My Night of Simpsons Trivia – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this refreshing, full-bodied write-up of classic Simpsons trivia night in Brooklyn.
Simpsons’ Vet Mike Reiss Leads a Toonful Evening – Awesome recap of Mike Reiss’s appearance at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival last week. I love this part:
For a writer not a comedian, Reiss timing was pitch-perfect on lines like, “I’m Jewish. I would never eat a ham sandwich in a synagogue on Yom Kippur – if anyone was watching.”
Oh, and the episode he brought with him was “Like Father, Like Clown”. No Zombie Simpsons.
The Simpsons’ Mike Reiss Talks About Unexpected Success and Superheroes’ Jewish Origins – A related interview with Reiss. I would submit this as a big part of the reason the quality of the show has fallen so dramatically:
How many seasons were you and Al the showrunners?
Part of season two, and then seasons three and four. It was a real burnout job. The job nearly killed me. I was working 100 hours a week, and we were working 51 weeks a year. The big change that’s happened over the years is that we started out with six writers, and then we went up to eight writers, and now we have 23 writers — and everybody’s really good at the show. But that’s allowed us to spread the workload around. Al’s been running the show single-handedly for eight or 10 years. And that would not have been possible in the old days.
Fox challenges cord-cutters by sticking TV shows behind paywall – Oh, this is rich. If you want to watch FOX shows on Hulu, you’ve either got to be a Hulu Plus subscriber or a subscriber to a cable/satellite package that lets you go through a convoluted login process. Why? Let FOX “president of affiliate sales” Mike Hopkins explain:
What caused Fox, and presumably others, to become gun-shy about putting ad-supported content online for free? "We’re concerned that cord-cutting is going to be a problem," Hopkins said.
The subscriber gravy train is leaking gravy, and their response is to make sure the doors are still locked. Shrewd. There are a lot of reasons watching television on-line sucks, but the luddite intransigence of the local affiliates (who have the networks by the balls for all kinds of arcane reasons) doesn’t get nearly the press it should.
[Brief note on Hulu Plus: I was staying with a friend last weekend and he’s got access to Hulu Plus through someone at work. Hulu Plus is awful. It’s hard to navigate, the commercials are relentless, and when things do come back or go to commercial the video skips. They may get some of those things sorted out in the future, but as of right now it’s not ready for primetime.]
“The Simpsons” [Film Roman] – Television Critics Association – Some bland quotes from Jean accompanied by some mildly interesting pictures of the current animation process.
Behind-the-scenes: The Simpsons – A small tour of the animation facility with some banal quotes from Jean and Mark Kirkland and the usual heavy emphasis on upcoming guest stars. Sadly, no pictures.
Lil Chase’s top 10 unwords – Oh yeah, “cromulent” is on here.
Is Homer Simpson Coaching The Baltimore Ravens? – This is just excellent usage:
Derrick Mason? I like your hustle.
That’s why it was so hard to cut you.
Unmotivated Socialites – This is the story of the beginning of a project wherein one member is skeptical:
DANIEL Oh, I'm so out right now. ALEX If you hear me out, Everything will be coming up Millhouse okay?
Tim Hortons USA Vs Tim Hortons Canada – It’s The Little Differences – The little differences between Tim Hortons north and south of the St. Lawrence with audio YouTube of Wiggum and the boys from “22 Short Films About Springfield”.
As gripping as ABC – Excellent usage:
IN AN EPISODE of “The Simpsons,” Steven Wright tells this joke: “I finally got around to reading the dictionary. Turns out the zebra did it.” Lisa, of course, has to explain the joke to Homer: “Dad, the zebra didn’t do it, it’s just a word at the end of the dictionary.”
But even Homer didn’t need Lisa to explain to him the underlying premise: Nobody reads the dictionary cover to cover.
The article’s about a novel written as a dictionary. What will they think of next?
Comic-Con 2011: Ronan Posts a Question to ‘The Simpsons’ panel – No Sideshow Bob in Season 23, that’s a relief.
Savouring the Journal: A Simpsons Synchronicity! – No sooner do you think about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, then they appear on The Simpsons in a foreign country.
“Expand my brain, learning juice!” -Homer Simpson – In a delightfully ironic twist, Freakoutville uses a quote from Season 17 to link to an awesome fan made drawing of Homer accompanied by an endorsement of us. Well played.
10 things we learned about ‘The Simpsons’ at Comic-Con – It’s a stretch to get to ten, but never underestimate the ass kissing/space filling abilities of Entertainment Weekly. They’ve been doing this a long time. On the actual news front, not much beyond the usual: more guest stars, more gimmicks, more Ozmodiar.
Dangerous Entertainment News – Monday, July 25 – Linking the above article:
Seriously, only EW would write a promotional article about a classic show that should have been cancelled about ten years ago. Keep up the hard-hitting analysis EW!
Amen on both counts.
“When are we going to get to my first word?” – Lisa Simpson
“Your what what?” – Homer Simpson
“My first word!” – Lisa Simpson
“Ah, you don’t want to hear that story. I know, I’ll tell you about the time I got locked in the bank vault with Mr. Mooney. It was another one of my harebrained schemes.” – Homer Simpson
“Dad!” – Lisa Simpson
“Wait a minute, that was The Lucy Show!” – Homer Simpson
I like to point out how they frequently ignore the episode during a lot of these Zombie Simpsons commentaries, but for the actual listener it’s maybe the best part. Toward the end of this one, Al Jean tells some stories about his time writing for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and it’s both funny and interesting. The episode flat lined well before he got off on this tangent, so nothing of value was lost.
Nine people on this one, including Carolyn Omine as the lone woman.
0:30 – During the introduction, Jean mentions that he wasn’t the show runner yet, but was lurking. This leads to some pointless banter between him and Scully.
1:40 – The original title here was “Smithers’ father’s apparent murder”.
2:40 – Mike Scully’s in a different room because he’s working on Parks & Recreation.
3:00 – Jean finally starts talking about the episode by helpfully informing us that the paper towel guy “Burly” is a parody of “Brawny”.
3:30 – Paul Newman called in his part over the phone from a movie he was working on.
4:10 – Long silence.
4:20 – Tragedy of tragedies, they changed the real “Brawny” logo a year after this. Meanwhile, Homer and Bart have broken into Flanders house for some reason.
5:10 – After much paper towel discussion, someone mentions that he’d lost the DVD they sent him of this episode so he tried to watch it on-line on some website, but a sex quiz came up after it started playing.
5:40 – Jean tries again to bring up the show, but instead of talking about what’s actually going on, which is boring, he opts to talk about how when they first did their flashbacks to the 1970s Brad Bird advised against it. He said they tie themselves in knots if the show ran ten years. Everyone laughs.
6:20 – Harry Shearer’s wife Judith Owen does the singing here, and they take a minute to plug her albums.
6:40 – This was the first time they’d used the Pimento Grove as a setting since the early seasons, so they had to update the look.
7:00 – Quick story about how Hank Azaria got to meet Jerry Lewis and it was the rare case where the celebrity lives up to your expectations.
7:20 – Now they’re talking about all the old characters who have portraits on the walls in the background.
7:30 – Jean recalls a time Mike Reiss got invited on stage by a hypnotist, and the guy leaned into Reiss and whisper yelled “Just do what I say!”. I can’t do Jean’s delivery credit, but he told it really well. Everyone on the commentary laughed and so did I.
8:30 – After a brief discussion of Smithers foreshadowing Act 3, there’s a pause before they pick up talking about the guy who drew a lot of this. He’s working in video games now.
9:00 – Homer’s just screaming now. Jean recalls that it got a big laugh at the table. I’ll bet it did.
9:15 – Points for consistency, they’re cracking up as Homer continues to scream.
9:40 – See above comment.
10:20 – After a long silence, Jean mentions that while he’s sure most people know this, the title is a play on The Wonder Years.
10:45 – After a quick flashback to Homer falling down the cliff in “Bart the Daredevil”, they mention that they kept the clip short because they didn’t want people to think it was about to turn into a clip show.
12:00 – Not much commenting going on other than the occasional desultory laugh.
12:20 – Jean enjoys the television absurdity of how everyone remembers flashbacks even though they’ve never remembered it in any other episode.
12:30 – They compliment a joke that’s coming up, and then nobody laughs at it when it happens. Weird.
13:30 – Long silence.
13:40 – Silence broken when someone asks if anyone had any good procrastinations when they were supposed to be writing this episode. No one responds and it’s back to silence.
14:10 – General discussion of who was the first one to come up with the idea of someone remembering things and then narrating over them.
14:30 – Finally talking about the episode again, flashback Homer just found a corpse and they’re recalling the debate over how gruesome to make it.
15:20 – Ian Maxtone-Graham’s dad writes books about ocean liners. That fact came up after a good thirty seconds of “huh?” type conversation.
16:10 – Talking about how they should bring “Mesmerino” back. Why would they do that?
16:20 – Someone asks Jean if he ever wrote a Carnac the Magnificent bit when he was writing for Johnny Carson. Jean recalls that the best one they ever wrote they sold to Alf: The answer is “St. Elsewhere” and the question is “What is the message on Mother Teresa’s answering machine?”. Another answer was “Red Square”, and the question was “What’s that spot on Gorbachev’s head?”, which they accidentally used twice and didn’t realize it.
17:05 – Still talking about Carson. This is far more interesting than the episode, which is now looking for a body. I would happily listen to Al Jean talk about The Tonight Show for at least an hour.
18:00 – Complimenting themselves for bringing back the ultra absorbent towels from the beginning to drain the water out of the basin to find the skeleton.
18:30 – A lot of compliments for the set here, from the shape of the skull that Bart apparently brought with them to the trap door under the bear in Burns’ office.
19:10 – Discussing the difficulty of getting mystery stories right, specifically mentioning “Who Shot Mr. Burns”, which seems to me to be the first mystery. Huh. Oh, and Burns is now conveniently showing them a movie in his office, but no one’s talking about that.
19:30 – Much laughter as they joke about how they were originally going to show this as security camera footage, but then didn’t. As usual, no one is talking about what’s going on in the episode.
20:30 – Here’s an interesting tidbit, they have three models for 1970s Burns that they use.
21:30 – Hank Azaria improvised a lot of the filler at the end, and was apparently very happy with it.
22:10 – As the credits roll, they’re discussing an alternate ending that didn’t make it where Homer kept screaming.
22:30 – And we close with Homer screaming over the 20th Century FOX logo. They laugh.
“We’re not coming down until our jobs are reinstated and you acknowledge and celebrate our love.” – Principal Skinner
“No one would like to celebrate your love more than I, but I am a public servant and not permitted to use my own judgment in any way.” – Superintendent Chalmers
“Dear God, not again!” – Dave from the National Fatherhood Institute
Toward the end of this commentary, right after Martin slaps Bart to get him to pay attention, Jean comments on how much violence there is in this one. He laughs as he recalls that it might have been a reaction to how stressed out everyone was while they were doing this. I can’t comment on that, but he’s right that there are a lot of violent images in here (Nelson whipping Bart as they race, Martin crashing and getting set on fire, even the unfortunate shark attack). The difference is that none of it is drawn out or gratuitous. The things Jean notes as violent wouldn’t even rate as such past Season 10 or so, even the shark attack. It lasts less than two seconds, is completely bloodless, and is funny not just for being violent, but also for being completely absurd (made even better by the cry of “not again!”).
Six guys on this one.
0:30 – This one premiered before the first televised showing of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video, and included the second part where he smashed up a car, which caused a lot of controversy. On the plus side, the episode got great ratings.
2:20 – They were trying to come up with a name for a fake detergent, and the first eight or so they came up with were already real detergents before they got to Spiffy.
2:45 – When they were first designing Dr. Nick, they’d heard Azaria’s voice and thought he was doing an impression of Gabor Csupo, so they did a caricature of him. Azaria was actually doing Ricky Ricardo.
3:30 – Vlada from The Critic was also designed after Csupo.
3:45 – Ken Levine (who’s on the commentary) and his writing partner David Isaacs (who isn’t) worked on a show with Mary Tyler Moore for a year, so they thought the Mary Tyler Moore haircuts on Patty & Selma were hilarious. Jean cracks that Levine said “worked with Mary Tyler Moore” the same way other people say “I served in Vietnam for two years”. It was funny.
4:30 – They had a censor battle over Bart welding in horribly unsafe ways. Their reply was that it was hard for kids to get access to welding equipment so they wouldn’t really do it. I guess that worked.
4:50 – They only had one report of a kid ever getting hurt imitating the Simpsons. He was trying to skateboard down some stairs, but they were skeptical of the story.
5:40 – Discussing the avalanche of cliches they parodied in the scene where McBain’s black partner gets shot right before retirement.
6:00 – Someone, I think it’s Reiss but it’s hard to tell, was thrilled that they used the “Mendoza!” line on MST3K like a year after this.
6:20 – Jean thinks the fatherhood test was a real thing Sam Simon found.
7:20 – Reiss jokes that the years he and Jean were running the show were the years when people on the show were always watching TV.
7:30 – Jean discussing how they used that TV watching to do cutaways, which they did a ton of on The Critic, and which now has become the hallmark of Family Guy. Then Groening says what he thought was “great” about The Critic was that they got to do all the parodies they wanted to do.
8:10 – Jean’s discussing how making the family the center of the show makes it really tough for other shows to make relatable characters without being compared to The Simpsons. This brings up King of the Hill, which Reiss (again, I think) cracks has “Homer with glasses”, which leads to Groening kinda laughing and Reiss replying “Yes, I said it.” Ha.
8:40 – Jean recalls the irony of editing this episode at three in the morning instead of being home with his kid.
9:10 – They think “Ronny Beck” was a friend of David Isaacs.
9:50 – Jean describes the fatherhood institute guy’s voice as Harry Shearer doing Casey Kasem/Mason Adams.
10:20 – Laughing about Cosby’s dislike for the show.
11:00 – The design of the soapbox derby racer was based on some real life failures.
11:15 – Jim Reardon jokes that bad carpentry is a theme of his life.
11:20 – The Cosby book quotes are actually from the book.
12:00 – The censors also didn’t like Homer putting the welding torch in the gasoline.
12:40 – Laughing about Homer’s inability to construct a decent racer.
13:00 – Discussing the scandal that rocked soap box derby racing when one kid had a magnet in his car, which I assume is this.
13:30 – Talking about how the idea for this one came from the throwaway line in “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” when Bart describes building a soap box derby racer after the cartoons become lame and nonviolent.
14:00 – Joking that they did three father/child type plots in a row and nobody noticed or cared.
14:30 – The censors had no complaints about Martin being on fire, but they did get a lot of complaints, especially from Jean’s mother.
15:30 – Mentioning how the lettering on the shirts (“Team Simpson”) would probably be printed now instead of looking miserable and hand drawn, which leads to the usual discussion of how animating has changed thanks to computers. Nobody mentions that if Bart and Homer had nicely printed shirts it wouldn’t work as well. The fact that the shirts are just as crappy looking at the racer is what makes them funny.
16:40 – Laughing (for the second time) at the Honor Roller and the neat little sound it makes when it goes by.
17:00 – Russi Taylor does Martin, as well as Minnie Mouse, which lead to a digression about her husband who does Mickey but is actually a great big biker looking guy.
17:50 – The derby announcers, and their love of superlatives and exaggerated historical significance, come from Olympic announcers who do the same thing.
18:35 – Laughing at Homer blowing off Flanders.
19:10 – Laughing at their love of gratuitous violence here when Martin just slaps Bart.
19:25 – As usual Groening remains unimpressed at the crowd scene.
19:50 – Groening was told by someone at 20/20 that Ted Kennedy hates Quimby. Groening then gets in his little disclaimer that he supports Kennedy and donates to him, but that he does have a funny voice. (Of course, this was recorded before Kennedy died.)
20:50 – Laughing at the unexpected smallness of Ronny Beck and another strange character in the crowd.
21:30 – Everyone cracking up at Homer and Bart celebrating Bart being a bad winner.
22:20 – And we close on them jokingly complaining that they didn’t win any awards for this episode.