The Lesson Is: Never Try

Chalkboard - Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts

“This is as good as I can do, and I still failed!” – Bart Simpson

When it comes to Zombie Simpsons I’m firmly in the camp of “It Never Gets Better”, and last night’s exercise in repetition and tedium is a perfect example of why.  They managed to not spin themselves into blood soaked absurdity like last week, there weren’t any pointless celebrity cameos, and there was even kind of a story.  But while this is the best they can do, it’s still flat, dull and boring.

Just consider the school auction at the beginning.  In that scene alone we get a healthy dose of Jerkass Homer, there are characters present who have no business being there, Skinner acts dumber than anyone could ever possibly be, and several voices (notably Captain McAllister, Krabappel, and Skinner) don’t sound anything like themselves.  On top of all that, “school fundraiser” is a scene the show has done numerous times already.  So even if the scene didn’t have all those problems, it’s still something that was done better twenty years ago.

The rest of the episode suffers from the same problems.  Bart gets someone fired?  Been done, and much more plausibly.  School takeover?  Ditto.  Bart gets interested in American history?  Please.  And in each instance it made better sense, was less forced, and had more jokes the first time around.

In Season 5, Skinner lost his job because Bart brought a dog to the school.  In Season 23, Chalmers lost his job because he took five reprobates camping to find the lost glasses of a dead president and didn’t bother to get permission slips despite the fact that he’s the fucking superintendent.  And nevermind that Nelson, who had previously been super Teddy Roosevelt enthused (which has its own set of problems), sits there while it happens and literally doesn’t say a word.  Even when Zombie Simpsons keeps itself kind of grounded it has to conjure up nonsense and paper over glaring plot holes to move along.  That there are a couple more chuckle worthy lines than usual (“Have you ever seen a horse your father wasn’t betting on?” is pretty good) isn’t enough to rescue it, or even come close.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are worse than I could’ve hoped.  Last night’s remedial class was attended by a paltry 6.12 million viewers.  As expected, the lack of a football lead in crashed the rating and restored Family Guy to its usual place as the most watched animated show.  But it gets better.  That number is the lowest fall rating for a new episode ever.  (The fall numbers are always higher than the winter/spring numbers.)  So while Zombie Simpsons usually starts out well above its season average from the previous year, this year it’s average viewership is already below that of last year.  Granted, that’s an average of just two numbers, but right now they’re at 7.02 million per episode, which is well below last year’s average of 7.10 million, which was the lowest in the history of the show.  That likely won’t last, but it’s a very good start.

11 Responses to “The Lesson Is: Never Try”

  1. 1 Mr. Snrub
    3 October 2011 at 1:31 pm

    Whilst this episode was more perhaps “rehashed” than others I don’t think you can criticise it for that. Nearly every episode nowadays has elements from older episodes, unintentionally. After 488 (?) episodes, it’s inevitable. The episodes main problem was pacing, there was too much for one episode, not that it was rehashed.

  2. 2 Stan
    3 October 2011 at 1:40 pm

    It’s actually their problem to come up with new (or refreshed enough to be as new) ideas, not the viewers’. Saying “yeah but oh well this show is 23 years old so give it some slack” doesn’t cut it. You’re old? Get off the fucking air! That’s how it should be. And the Simpsons of today, even at their bestest, are still not able to compete with the other shows, wven though there’s not much to ask for a competition (as the other three opuses often tend to repeat themselves).

    This is majorly deplorable because they still have potential, the onsets are still there, the actors can still do their voices and the animations alows for much more spectrum today than even 10 years ago. Yet they fail, and by trying harder they fail even more. Sad but true.

    3 October 2011 at 2:03 pm

    There is an infinite number of new stories they can do, but after this long, nearly every joke and storyline is going to remind us of another joke or storyline or whatever… but we are diehard fans. Since they just keep assembly-line-churning these babies out and don’t really seem to give a shit who watches them, they can — and will — rehash their stories. I wonder how many of the new Simpsons writers haven’t even seen some of the early episodes? (I’m reminded of a Groening commentary I listened to recently where he watched an episode and said it was the first time he’d ever seen it, right then and there, for the purpose of the DVD commentary… hah!).

    I like how you touched upon the “characters not sounding like themselves” thing… I’ve noticed in some random recent episodes, Apu (who doesn’t seem to show up much nowadays) and Otto both had weird voice changes. I notice this more and more. Is it the actors aging or do the voice directors just not care or they just don’t think audiences will care or notice or…

    Also, Nelson’s mom looks a lot different, or is it just me? (Nelson’s dad has also looked different from his first appearance, and his back-story changes consistently; maybe this is some sort of in-joke, or the creators, again, just don’t really care)

    One last thing, there was actually a lot going on in the story last night, as Snrub pointed out, which is odd since the show was overall pretty dull. How can there be so many plot threads and the show still feels so lifeless and tired?

    As for the other 3 shows, they all feel exactly the same to me, with just a change here or there (the daughter is either a hippie, a whore, or a loser; the talking animal is either a fish, a dog, or a bear — who all probably want to fuck the main female character). I don’t like their style of humor for the most part (constant flashback humor, references to other shit to make you go ‘OH! I KNOW WHAT THEY’RE PARODYING!’) or their characters (who are always either idiots or assholes), but I will say the idea of 3 shows all dealing with a hurricane as the plot device was somewhat interesting. Family Guy definitely won — just for the trip sequence — but just barely; all the shows felt the same, they’re all paced the same, have the same animation and atmosphere, and all have similiar humor. Meh.

    Soooo… any predictions on how bad Allen Gregory will be? All the ads make it look pretty bad. I’ll watch it anyway since I am pretty bored on Sunday nights before work..

    • 4 Stan
      3 October 2011 at 4:35 pm

      I didn’t watch the hurricane trilogy yet, but I’m sure it will beat this episode’s ass real hard. Sure, these shows see all the same, but at least MacFarlane’s team did bother with creating a refresh every 5 years or so, and it does work. There are plenty of ways to refresh the Simpsons: from going back to aminated minute shorts to spinning off main characters is a myriad different ways. Instead, they don’t do it. They stay conservative and still shit out episodes, which, after 23 years of production using same statute, come out like diarrhea now. I dunno how much longer this can go on (probably until the viewer numbers get so low the Fox stealth helecopter actually comes out and cancels the whole team).

      • 4 October 2011 at 3:11 am

        I will say one thing I find interesting about Family Guy… Stewie (from the episodes I’ve seen) doesn’t seem to be doing the “I want to kill Lois and take over the world and I hate everybody” thing so much anymore, him and Brian have actually become good friends actually. It’s odd there’s actually (somewhat) a sense of continuity between episodes, too.

        “Fox stealth helecopter” haha. I suppose it’s sorta amusing how The Simpsons have made the Fox Newscopter an actual character now, but it’s also kinda sad. They pretty much exclusively reference old material — even new material that gets some press (see: the Banksy stunt and subsequent “Banksy” grafitti on an episode or two) gets re-referenced constantly. Kinda sad.

        Anyway, re: the MacFarlane money train .. I’ve always thought, instead of American Dad, why not have Peter enter the CIA for a season? Instead of the Cleveland Show, why not have a few episodes about Cleveland exclusively? Oh well.

        • 6 Stan
          4 October 2011 at 11:09 am

          The thing with Family Guy imo is that they keep up with today’s social trends. They stay in pace with what’s going on with the world today and what is actually funny. It thus seems sharp and clever whatever they pull, even if it’s a fucking bird song – they do not reference the song directly, but the memetization that it instead created (like a spread of some stupid video on Youtube). The Simpsons on the other hand tend to clumsily parody things they see here and there, like a fart in his late 70s going to the club and saying “Look at me, I’m hip too!” In this way it’s kinda pathetic, but not just because it’s the wrong way of doing things, but also because the show is too old to appeal in this way, which actually makes it funny… desperately-pathetic funny that is.

          Personally I don’t think MacFarlane’s shows repeat itselves that much. I mean while the setup looks alike, the characters are also different: Peter’s an upper-middle class moron, Stan’s a selfish alpha-male in the family and Cleveland’s just a meme that went on for too long to become a show on its own. You can even see the differences between jokes, as in FG they seem to tend strictly towards pop culture, in AD they usually parody ways of the late 70s and early 80s of thinking how well everything went in America, and in CS they just pull on a little too much on black guys (probably because Fox didn’t tolerate racism-oriented satire of the earlier FG episodes, like Brian barking on P. Diddy for example). Anyway, I don’t think they’re that much repetitive, and whomever the producers are, despite all similarities, a big kudos to them for still making those three shows feel somewhat different.

  4. 7 Shane
    3 October 2011 at 9:26 pm

    John K. did an interview about his opening. Sounds like he put more thought into it than the writers did of the rest of the episode. http://www.cartoonbrew.com/tv/exclusive-john-k-talks-about-his-simpsons-opening.html#comments

    Also note this unsurprising part: “Matt Groening and Al Jean [executive producer] asked me to do it. They showed me an opening that Banksy did that satirized the animation production assembly line system in Korea and told me it was really popular, so they wanted to do something similar with me.”

    Repeat what’s popular! Great artistic method. ;)

  5. 8 david
    4 October 2011 at 6:33 am

    you know that its gonna suck… but you still watch.. face palm! d’oh!

    yeah moe that team sure did suck last night.. they just plain sucked! i’ve seen teams suck before, but they were the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked.. ~ homer j. simpson

    maybe try watching sports… just sayin…

  6. 4 October 2011 at 8:38 am

    I don’t want to get anybody’s hopes up, but apparently the cast negotitations are not going well…


    • 5 October 2011 at 3:04 am

      Hilarious. The six primaries probably have each made $100,000,000 or so, if not more, over the years. They work roughly 2-4 hours a week, 22 weeks a year. $4,000,000 a year is still pretty insane! I mean, this isn’t like Billy West or John DiMaggio, who are constantly voicing new characters on different shows, most of the Simpsons cast nowadays just do Simpsons voices if I’m not mistaken — so, to make $4m a YEAR from 40-ish hours of work on ONE SHOW isn’t good enough, then… uh.. jesus.

      Plus, they’d still get more money from cuts of the profits from merchandising, which might lead to even more money down the road.

      I’m sure Fox will eventually just replace all of them, and the show will continue forever.

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