27
Jul
11

“Saturdays of Thunder” Spews Truth

Saturdays of Thunder9

“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.


8 Responses to ““Saturdays of Thunder” Spews Truth”


  1. 1 Anonymous
    27 July 2011 at 5:03 pm

    It’s funny that even the commentaries are just vastly better on the earlier seasons…

  2. 2 D.N.
    27 July 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Ken Levine has a pretty good blog, although so far he doesn’t seem to have posted too much Simpsons-related material. Here are a couple of items…

    Burns/Smithers sketch about the 2007 TV writers’ strike:
    http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2007/11/no-one-earns-as-much-as-burns.html

    (Brief) description of what it’s like working in animation compared to live-action:
    http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/2010/04/writing-for-simpsons.html

  3. 3 John Hugar
    27 July 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Did you ever read the essay I e-mailed you guys last week?

    Oh, and good post. I didn’t know Cosby actively disliked the show.

    • 4 Charlie Sweatpants
      27 July 2011 at 10:56 pm

      I did, and I meant to e-mail you. The auto posts I scheduled before I left notwithstanding, I was away from the internet from Friday through Monday, so I’m behind in general.

  4. 5 fudge
    28 July 2011 at 7:29 am

    Had no idea Cosby disliked the show so much either.

    Thanks for mentioning that Groening had nice words about THE CRITIC, or at least some aspect of it. The “A Star is Burns” fiasco always bothered me in some ways, especially when you consider what an excellent episode it is.

  5. 6 Anonymous
    28 July 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Sorry, I just have to say it, since it’s come up here: I don’t understand the high regard for THE CRITIC. I used to think THE CRITIC was a cool, underrated show…until I actually sat down and watched some. What I actually saw was a dress rehearsal for shitty Simpsons episodes: zero regard for plot and an overfocus on cutaway jokes.

    • 7 fudge
      28 July 2011 at 4:26 pm

      I actually just sat down and rewatched it myself and I like it more than ever. It’s brilliant, imo, but only if you’re really into movie parodies and whatnot. The actual “plots” aren’t always the best, and many of the characters aren’t likeable, but the show as a whole was a whole lot more clever and watchable than most, imo (South Park for example). But mainly I’m just into movie parodies.

  6. 8 SailorSonic
    29 July 2011 at 10:06 pm

    See, I found this episode extremely funny, due to the violence. But, then again, i find anime like Higurashi no naku koro ni (great anime, by the way) funny too. Maybe i just like violence.


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