Archive for December, 2011


Quote of the Day

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire6

“I hope you feel better, Santa.” – Little Girl
“Oh, I will when Mrs. Claus’s sisters get out of town.  Thanks for listening kid.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

A Star is Burns10

“Tonight we’ll visit Springfield’s answer to the Benedictine monks, the Rappin’ Rabbis.” – Kent Brockman
“Don’t eat pork, not even with a fork!  Can’t touch this!” – The Rappin’ Rabbis
“Marge, are we Jewish?” – Homer Simpson
“No, Homer.” – Marge Simpson
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

A Star is Burns11


Reading Digest: Flanders and Tebow Edition

Homer Loves Flanders4

“You know Stan Taylor?” – Homer Simpson
“Know me?  Ned Flanders saved me.  I used to party all night and sleep with lingerie models until Ned and his Bible group showed me that I could have more.” – Stan “The Boy” Taylor
“Professional athletes, always wanting more.” – Homer Simpson

It’s silly season and so people tend to be away from their keyboards more than usual, which means a shorter than average Reading Digest.  (In case you are bored or stuck at work or something, I have attempted to compensate through aggressive block quoting.)  We do have two Tebow-Flanders links this week though, in addition to lots of crappy merchandise (seasonally appropriate!), the ugly reality behind that merchandise, some excellent usage, and a forward for the L.A. Kings who agrees with us.


[Programming Note: With Annual Gift Man descending from the moon on Saturday night things are likely to be a little quiet around here.  Quotes of the Day will go up as normal, of course, but there might be just one or two other posts next week, depending on when Netflix delivers the first disc of . . . ugh . . . Season 14.  There probably will be a Reading Digest next week, but no promises.  This time of year has a way of cruelly mocking well intentioned plans.]

“Um…Dasher…Dancer…Prancer…Nixon…Comet…Cupid…Donna Dixon?” – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this piece of well deserved love for “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”.  That episode can never be loved enough.

D’oh! Stunned couple unearth 800-year-old stone head in their garden… and it looks like HOMER SIMPSON – The 800 year figure is total speculation, but apparently someone at a museum did think it was old.  And it does look like Homer.

Review: Greetings from the Simpsons! – That postcard blog remains on a Simpsons roll.  This week they’re reviewing two different books of Simpsons postcards.  Check out Selma’s “Rocket Bra”. 

7 Similarities Between Tim Tebow and Ned Flanders – I like #6 and #7:

6. Both are thankful for the little things, like rainbows. And Marion Barber.

7. Both have a non-believer they just cannot convert.


Watch: Brad Bird talks about directing Tom Cruise in IMAX for M:I – Ghost Protocol – If we get one good thing out of a completely unnecessary fourth Mission Impossible movie, it will be to let Brad Bird do whatever he wants next:

As long as I’ve been in LA, I’ve been enjoying great conversations with Brad Bird.

When I worked at Dave’s Video in the early ’90s, Bird was one of our regular customers.  At that point, he was working on "The Simpsons," and he was already known by some film geeks for his incredible "Family Dog" episode of "Amazing Stories."  At that point, I remember long conversations about pulp classics, spy movies, his dream of making either "The Spirit" or a SF animated film called "Ray Gunn," and much more.  He was one of those customers of ours who really lived and breathed movies, who seemed to be interested in every genre and in every type of filmmaking.

There’s also some interesting backstory about The Iron Giant

“One For The Book”/“The Spy Who Came In For A Cold One” – Speaking of showbiz lore, here’s a little Sideshow Bob tidbit for you:

(There is a punchline: According to multiple sources, Kelsey Grammer, who had worked with Rabb in the theater, would later claim to have used him as the model for Sideshow Bob, The Simpsons’ affected, two-bit carny geek with Shakespearean aspirations.)

25 Of The Craziest Simpsons Guest Stars – This is a decent if (somewhat page-whorish) list that stops right as it gets into the twilight of the show.

Holiday Toy Guide | The Indypendent – I have no idea how much credence to give this, Jebus knows citing National Review Online isn’t encouraging, but here it is:

Homer Simpson Slippers

China, the biggest exporter of consumer goods on the planet, is also home to the largest penal colony in the world — a top-secret network of more than 1,000 forced-labor camps known as laogai. Charles Lee, one of five million prison slaves, was imprisoned from 2003-2006, and says that he was forced to make Homer Simpson slippers. When asked by a reporter from National Review Online what he thought of people who bought the slippers, he replied, “Oh, they just want the cheapest product. But I feel that, if they knew about my situation, it would bother them.” D’oh!

Banksy, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you. 

Burger King Marge Simpson 12in Doll 1990 – The Krusty Brand Seal of Approval strikes again:

Burger King Marge Simpson 12in Doll from 1990

Yes, her feet are bigger than her shoulders, but I’m sure it passed a rigorous quality screening before it got sent to Burger King.

Homer Simpson animated clock $16.99 & free shipping, hurry – More crappy merchandise:

Crappy Homer Clock Here’s the “Member Summary”:

Product Features: •Beer or doughnut? Homer can’t decide
•Arms move up and down
•Eyes move back and forth from doughnut to beer
•Requires 2 AA batteries (not included)
•Tells the time
What You Get: Homer Simpson Animated Clock

“Tells the time”, well that’s a relief.

Corporate America: No complaints considered – It’s Season 11, but it’s still excellent usage:

So in the words of “The Simpsons’” Krusty the Klown, “”Have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Kwazy Kwanzaa, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan.” And speaking of complaints, I just know I’ll be hearing about this.

Not from me, he got the quote dead on.

Sideshow Bob by ~Raptorhunter123 on deviantART – Fan drawing of Sideshow Bob with hair that’s been flattened a bit.  Perhaps he was sleeping?

Fictional Holiday Specials That I Wish Were Real – More of Krusty’s Non-Denominational Holiday Fun Fest would’ve been a real improvement for that episode.  Also, KISS Saves Santa is a fantastic idea.

Thhhhhheeeee Skaaaarrryyyyyyyssss – A few photos of really well done Marge graffiti in Melbourne, Australia.

Tim Tebow…In 10 Words – The rare twofer reference from our friend Galileo, with both the tagline and the tooltip being Simpsons related.

New Deck: International Icon Tarot (with Happy Squirrel card) – There’s a real tarot card deck with a Happy Squirrel card:

Some extra love is of course reserved for the Happy Squirrel card (about which you can read everything you ever wanted to know here and here), which was included as a reference to Matt Groening’s The Simpsons (you can see a storyboard of the episode here). I love squirrels, and I love Lisa Simpson, and I love having a serious tarot deck that references The Simpsons.

Sadly those links aren’t working, but that’s still pretty cool of whoever it is decides what goes into tarot decks.

25 Days of Ultra-Christmas: The Simpsons – “Holidays of Future Passed” – This guy’s much more positive on that episode than I was, but he’s coming from the right place:

The Simpsons, as much as I think it’s the greatest TV comedy of all time, hasn’t been worth watching on a week-to-week basis in at least a decade. Last year’s Christmas episode, which I tuned in for solely because of the Christmas blogging, was pretty dour, and exactly the kind of lame, unfunny stuff I expected from the show.

Alvin & The Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked…In 10 Words – The chipmunks were part of the “crappy computer animated movie” invasion of the Aughts.

There’s a Simpsons fan in Kings’ locker room – And finally, I get to end with someone who agrees with us, and who just became my new favorite NHL player:

Growing up in the small Mennonite community of Winkler, Manitoba, roughly 15 miles north of the border with North Dakota, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Penner found ways to remain entertained outside of hockey during the long winter months.
He watched "The Simpsons." Three or four times a day.
"I first started watching with my mom," Penner said. "That was the first kind of PG-cartoon I could watch coming from a really Christian town."
He also was known over the summer for using a relevant Simpsons quote when asked by a reporter whether fans’ criticism of his play had gotten to him.
"The one thing I can say — and I don’t know if you watch ‘The Simpsons,’ the episode with Darryl Strawberry, when they start (chanting) ‘Darryl, Darryl,’ and there’s a tear in his eye — I used to laugh at that, and now I don’t," Penner told LA Kings Insider in July.

Ha.  But wait, it gets better:

Perhaps Penner will need to take Homer’s advice from the episode "Whacking Day" as a message to get the team’s offensive pulse beating again.
"You just put away that rage and put it into a little ball and unleash it at the appropriate time," Penner paraphrased from memory. "Like the day daddy hit the referee with the whiskey bottle. Remember that, when daddy hit the referee?"
But is quoting "The Simpsons" in an NHL locker room the easiest way to get through to your teammates?
"It depends on your audience. A lot of these guys I think aren’t as big of a Simpsons fan as I am," Penner said. "I remember even a couple of years back with a buddy Zenon Konopka, who plays for the Ottawa Senators now — we would go nonstop all day. Maybe I’ve gotten away from it a bit, but it’s always in the back of my mind."

Now I have two new favorite NHL players.  Oh, and here’s the part where he agrees with us:

"Whenever they’re on, I’ll watch them," Penner said. "I’m a purist. The older the episode, the more I’ll enjoy them."
*    *    *
Dustin Penner’s favorite Simpsons lines
• Marge: The plant called and said that if you don’t come in tomorrow, don’t bother coming in Monday.
Homer: Woo hoo! Four-day weekend!
• Homer: Default? Woo hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language! De-fault! De-fault! De-fault!
• Homer: Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is: Never try.

Professional athletes, never trying. 


Quote of the Day

Subtle Flattery

“I’ve never seen such an obvious attempt to curry my favor.” – C.M. Burns
“Fabulous observation, sir.  Just fabulous.” – Mr. Smithers

Happy birthday Harry Shearer! 


Compare & Contrast: Bart’s Remorse

Bart vs Thanksgiving9

“Oh, yikes, what is that?” – Bart Simpson
“It’s the centerpiece, Bart.” – Lisa Simpson
“Well, it’s taking up valuable real estate.” – Bart Simpson

As our friend Mike Amato has been plowing through all the old episodes, I’ve been wondering what he was going to say about “Marge Be Not Proud”.  This week, I got to find out.  He’s a lot more upbeat about the episode than I am, but what surprised me in reading his take was how little we actually disagreed.  There really are a lot of good and excellent parts in this episode, and his long list of tidbits and quotes is very solid (I’ve always liked “You have entered: power drive”).

Where we part seems mostly to be in how much weight we assign to certain problems:

If you read this blog then you’re probably familiar with Dead Homers Society, and their attesting that this is the sole blemish on seven flawless classic seasons. I can’t claim some of their gripes aren’t valid; when you boil it down, this is a “very special episode” played fairly straight, with no real twist or subversion. But what keeps it engaging and impacting is its honesty.

Certainly some things bother or don’t bother some people more than others.  For example, I can’t work up too much excitement over problems with “canon” and inter-episode continuity, but start having characters behave in ways that are anathema to their established personalities and I go ballistic.  Mike is willing to overlook the “very special episode” thing, but it really rubs me the wrong way, and it’s the main reason that this is the only episode in Season 7 I almost never watch.

“Marge Be Not Proud” was the first time the show really let itself get bogged down with conventional television tropes.  They did it in a way that’s subtler than “The Principal and the Pauper”, but both of them are weak stories being propped up by teevee convention (cheap morality for “Marge Be Not Proud” and shocking twists for “The Principal and the Pauper”).  Relying directly on old saws like that was something the show had never done before, and it produced episodes that attempt to portray real emotions, but end up undercutting themselves with hoary tricks and tired cliches.

That reliance is something Zombie Simpsons would later make almost routine, but in “Marge Be Not Proud” it was novel.  They simply didn’t used to do things like that.  Consider a similar story of Bart misbehaving and then redeeming himself, “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”.  Both episodes are built around holidays, but, more importantly, both episodes involve Bart acting out and Marge dealing with it.

When Marge yells at Bart in “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”, all the emotional weight of the episode is condensed into a single devastating line that comes like a kick to the stomach: “I hope you’re happy, Bart, you’ve ruined Thanksgiving!”.  That is Marge at a full boil (and a bravura delivery by Kavner), and for Bart it comes completely out of the blue.  He has no idea how much he hurt Lisa, which is why he doesn’t understand that his cavalier attitude about it is what pushed his mother over the top from angry to enraged. 

Bart vs Thanksgiving7

Yikes indeed.

This is (yet another) one of those scenes from The Simpsons that just flat out works from start to finish.  Everyone is in character.  The feelings, actions and relationships involved are believable and realistic.  And you don’t feel bored or cheated that the rest of the story is spent resolving the conflict set up in this moment because the emotional punch of the scene is devastating.  Just look at the aftermath:

  • Homer & Marge – Furious at Bart, but that quickly turns to fear and remorse when they find out he’s gone. 
  • Lisa – Crushed that her centerpiece, a “labor of love”, was destroyed by the brother who constantly overshadows and torments her.  It breaks her in a way that no previous incident has because she begins to suspect that Bart is irredeemable, which is both sad in and of itself and bad news for her in general. 
  • Bart – Sees the destruction of the centerpiece as an accident and is self centered enough that he genuinely doesn’t understand why everyone is so upset over it.  With Lisa, Homer and Marge all seriously angry at him, he gets defensive and bails. 

The ruining of Lisa’s centerpiece is such a titanic moment that the show needs only to lightly reference the emotions it generates with little and humorous touches afterwards.  When Bart tramples the flowers he has to remind himself that he’s mad.  When Lisa tries to read the family her poem there’s just the briefest moment of resignation on her face as she is, once again, instantly set aside as the family chases down Bart.

“Marge Be Not Proud” doesn’t have anything even approaching that kind of deft touch with its story.  Bart’s remorse is constantly paraded before the audience, as though we’d forgotten it from a few seconds ago.  They lay it on so thick that Bart gets caught not once, but twice.  There’s basically no progress to the story in between his encounters with the security guard, it’s just one drawn out sequence of Bart feeling bad about himself.  “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” has a lot going on so it never gets bogged down rehashing what we already know.  “Marge Be Not Proud” has just the single thread: Bart and Marge feeling bad about each other, and it pounds it into the ground.

Much of the episode is one event after another that reinforces Bart’s guilt about stealing the game.  Right from the time Brodka (whose Lawrence Tierney gruffness is great) puts his hand on Bart’s shoulder, it’s an unrelenting parade of the exact same thing.  There’s Bart walking through the mall with Brodka; there’s Santa rejecting Bart; there’s Brodka leaving the unsparing message on the answering machine; there’s Bart being told he has to go back to the store; there’s Marge pointing out that he’s ruined all their past photos.  Each segment strikes the same tone: Bart feels bad.  And all that happens before he gets caught the second time, after which the guilt trip really starts to get heavy.

Marge Be Not Proud3

Are you tired of seeing this expression?  This episode isn’t. 

Interspersed with all that is a lot of very funny stuff (“Where was I?  Oh yeah, stay out of my booze!”), but it can’t conceal the fact that this episode has the emotional range and progression of a metronome.  It just keeps hitting that same point over and over and over and over and over.

The monotony of it not only leaves the episode wanting in terms of emotional depth, it also guarantees that the ending is going to be face meltingly obvious.  Since the episode has spent so much time wracking Bart with guilt, the only thing it can do at the end is have him finally, at long last, make good.  All those scenes of Bart looking nervous, embarrassed, worried, remorseful, etcetera paint it into a corner from where there is only one, hacktacular exit.

The same isn’t true of “Bart vs. Thanksgiving”.  When Bart returns to the house after having been at the homeless shelter, he stops short of walking in the door because he has no way of knowing that everyone is worried about him and that his return will be welcomed.  He still doesn’t understand why they were so mad at him and fears a repeat.  From his point of view, their anger was a grotesque and hurtful overreaction, and since he hasn’t spoken with them since, he has no idea what to expect now.

Bart vs Thanksgiving8

Even in the harsh moments, things stay funny.

In turn, that sets up his rooftop reconciliation with Lisa, which is both sweet and lined with little jokes to keep things light (“the boy nobody wanted just won the Super Bowl”, “did they cry?”/“yes”/“whoa, bulls-eye!”).  Every character acts according to what they know at the time, and all the scenes work within both the plot and emotional boundaries that were established earlier.

The ending of “Marge Be Not Proud” is much clumsier (though still a far cry from Zombie Simpsons).  Just like in Season 2, the big moment is Bart returning to the house, this time after having gotten a nice picture of himself taken.  Right here the episode opens up a rather stark plot hole.  Bart went back to the Try-N-Save and had no problem whatsoever with Brodka.  Huh?  A big chunk of the middle of the episode is the fact that Bart can’t go to the Try-N-Save.  Did that restriction get lifted?  They don’t say.

More immediately jarring is the way they stage Bart’s return.  After he walks into the house the show puts on this big confrontation between Marge and Bart over what Bart has in his jacket.  Marge and the audience are supposed to believe that it’s the video game, but Bart knows it’s his picture (with receipt, just in case you didn’t get it yet).  Since Bart knows that, what is the point of that little mini-chase?  Of Bart’s terrified looking behavior?  Bart’s been trying to make good for a third of the episode at that point, are we really supposed to think he’s stolen video game?  The entire scene is fake tension filler before we get to the hammy conclusion that we all knew was coming.

Marge Be Not Proud2

It’s Christmas, so Bart is apparently aware that the end must involve lots of ham.

This is the problem with having such a formulaic, one note plot: it leaves you with no option for resolving it other than cheese drenched schmaltz, a sentiment the show had rigorously avoided to that point.  And since it’s something Bart’s been trying to do for most of the episode, by the time it finally happens it’s more of a relief than a resolution.

There’s real emotional pain in both of these episodes, but “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” uses it mostly in the background to drive a typical Simpsons story.  Even better, the emotional state of the characters changes as they go through the plot.  Bart realizes that the family he was so mad at is actually the best thing he’s got; Lisa feels sad that Bart is gone even after what happened.  Finally, they have their private moment on the roof where Bart at last becomes aware of what he originally did.

“Marge Be Not Proud” puts its lone emotion front and center where it weighs everything else down and makes the story painfully simplistic.  It’s a single note compared to a symphony, and while there’s a lot of decent stuff in between, the episode has the same kind of weak structure that characterizes so many bad episodes that have come since.  If you can abide that one note droning in the background, then more power to you for Troy McClure’s shoplifting video, “SimReich”, and the way Lisa drops the can of fake snow.  I can’t.  Too many bad episodes, “The Principal and the Pauper” included, start rattling around inside my head.

(Oh, and do read Mike’s whole post, it’s got lots more of the good stuff than this does.) 


Quote of the Day

Bart Gets Hit By a Car9

“Your son is a very sick boy, just look at the X-rays.  You see that dark spot there?  Whiplash.” – Dr. Nick Riviera
“Whiplash?  Oh, no!” – Homer Simpson
“And this smudge here that looks like my fingerprint?  No, that’s trauma.” – Dr. Nick Riviera


Quote of the Day

Itchy and Scratchy - The Movie3

“I’m here live in Korea to give you a first hand look at how American cartoons are made.” – Kent Brockman

Happy birthday Phil Roman!


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