20
Mar
12

Crazy Noises: Them, Robot

Robot Workers

“Crush, kill, destroy.” – 100% Loyal Robot Workers

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “poisoning”). 

Zombie Simpsons makes no secret about the way the front of the episode is often completely unrelated to the rest of it.  (It’s the sort of thing they’ll nervously joke about on commentaries.)  Things often take rather severe turns at or around the first commercial break, usually because the opening is more of a self contained sketch than setup for the rest of the plot.  For the most part I’ve grown numb to that, but “Them, Robot” took this to a new level of story indifference. 

The opening of the episode is Homer on an alcohol free weekend because the plant is having a drug test on Monday.  When the drug test finally got around to happening, after Jerkass Homer went to a nice restaurant and spat in other people’s food (naturally, they applauded), I thought that was going to be the reason Burns used to fire all the employees.  After all, if every employee flunks the drug test, why not hire robot workers?  Zombie Simpsons being Zombie Simpsons, they didn’t do that.  Instead they had a guy we don’t know suffer from radiation poisoning and die, a plot element that wasn’t mentioned again, and which had nothing to do with the finale when Burns rehires all his old workers. 

That kind of rank plotting isn’t unusual for them.  (And, as you can see above, The Simpsons managed to do this whole story better in three words, two scenes, and ten seconds.)  But in this instance they had a simple way to make the story (such as it was) kinda work, and they still didn’t do it.  From my humble vantage point at the receiving end of the chattering cyclops, I have no idea how they manage to produce episodes this consistently sloppy.  But things like this do make one wonder if they don’t need to put some caffeine in the water cooler down there at 1 Zombie Simpsons Plaza. 

Note: Dave and Mad Jon have both gone intercontinental this week.  Fortunately, Magdalena from Lenny Tunes and Mike from Me Blog Write Good were kind enough to join me. 

Mike: So Charlie, you wanna kick off, or what?

  However you normally do this.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m ready to get started if you two are.

Lenny: Sure.

Mike: Yeah, I’m ready.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then, anyone want an opening tirade?

Lenny: The worst part for me was the brunch scene.

Mike: Wait, before we get to the episode

  Can someone explain to me what the point of that couch gag was

Charlie Sweatpants: More self congratulation, I think.

Lenny: That’s what I thought. I felt like you should either try to be political or make it all about you, but both? It was weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: Might have just been a leftover idea from the 500th episode.

Mike: It was political "commentary" with a random Simpsons timeline thrown in.

Lenny: Exactly.

Mike: With appearances of such classic characters as Lisa’s dance instructor and that weirdo Willy Wonka guy who sold Bart’s T-shirts

And it was only every other year for some reason.

  It kind of set the stage right there that the writers seem to not give a shit anymore if things make sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: I just assume that, these days.

The brunch scene being a case in point. That was Jerkass Homer to a T.

  And yet everyone else there treated him like he was normal or something.

Lenny: Everyone besides Homer was just completely vacant.

  Marge and Lisa apparently just sat there while he ordered and drank six mimosas?

Mike: Yeah. Patty and Selma just sat there, no commentary at all.

Lenny: Patty and Selma not saying anything is annoying enough in of itself, but it’s especially terrible when you consider that them being their usual selves would be an organic way to drive Homer to drinking.

Charlie Sweatpants: It went beyond them as well. All those other people, staff and customers, actually applauded him.

Mike: Exactly. They could have built a little bit of tension, but instead stuck to dumb jokes.

Lenny: And Marge just sat there when Homer drank either five or six mimosas (the animation wasn’t consistent), but then suddenly she has the all-knowing power to tell that coffee has alcohol in it just from glancing at it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say they were more antics than jokes, but I may be splitting hairs.

Mike: Yeah, jokes imply there’s humor present.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then they ran that into the ground by repeating just about anything that involves alcohol, more or less as a list.

Lenny: Yeah, I don’t know if let’s-see-how-many-things-with-alcohol-in-them-we-can-name quite counts as a joke.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. There wasn’t so much as a comment about how all these brunch foods have booze in them.

Mike: But let’s go bigger picture here: apparently this is a science fiction universe where there are these hyper sophisticated robots.

That Burns bought from God knows where.

Charlie Sweatpants: That would be the episode’s Achilles everything, all right.

Mike: That and for some reason it spring boarded to the entire town being unemployed.

  I thought I spaced out and missed a few scenes.

  Does everyone in Springfield work at the nuclear plant?

Charlie Sweatpants: Just to make things consistently annoying, the episode can’t even be consistent about what the robots can and can’t do. They go from tough to fall apart in no time flat.

Lenny: That was annoying because even throwing in a quick line from Smithers like "one solution that’s very popular" would give you some warning that this would affect more than just the plant.

Mike: There was absolutely no connection between the robots and the unemployment.

  None.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s like they’re trying to do both too much and not enough at the same time. The town falling apart because of robot workers is a rather big story, but it barely rates more than a couple of scenes, probably less screen time than Homer playing baseball with the robots.

Mike: Well that was a laugh riot.

  Especially when all those robots got hit by traffic.

Charlie Sweatpants: That just kept going.

Mike: There’s just so much padding… That, the loud "D’oh," and the endless "working hard or hardly working"

  Which features Homer at his loudest and most obnoxious.

  And getting hurt.

  A veritable Jerkass trifecta

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed.

Lenny: Another moment that stuck out to me as being particularly bad was Homer slicing his head, because it was simultaneously too violent and not violent enough.

  Him actually getting his head sliced open seems like overkill, but then the fact that there’s no blood or even a noticeable scratch afterwards made it absurdly tame.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way of putting it. He had a pretty big chunk missing, but there was no blood, nothing. It was just off-putting.

Lenny: Same with him getting part of his mouth ripped out by the paperclip.

Mike: I forgot about that.

  Holy shit, man.

Charlie Sweatpants: Of course, the robots’ buzzsaw hands disappeared shortly thereafter, so who knows?

Speaking of that paperclip scene, Homer can apparently turn off power to the city while asleep now. It’s yet another thing that’s been done before (Colonel Homer) that has no impact here because of how poorly it’s done.

Mike: And it’s treated as a goof by Marge and Lisa.

Lenny: This episode had a lot of admitting that Homer’s the only person in the universe who matters. The power’s out so Marge knows it’s him, the robots who are programmed to preserve life endanger drivers to save Homer, etc.

Everyone besides Homer is a prop in this universe.

Mike: Yeah, right.

If it had been treated with some severity, it could have springboarded to Burns wanting to eradicate human incompetence by getting the robots.

Lenny: That would make a lot more sense than "the federal government considers alcohol a drug."

Mike: I mean, Smithers could have taken the only human position.

Charlie Sweatpants: Or the fact that the drug test itself was dropped like a hot potato. The actual reason Burns hired the robots was because the random guy got radiation poisoning.

Mike: So Homer’s sobriety meant nothing.

  Just more filler.

  Great jokes like Homer reading the voter’s guide and Gil getting killed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Same with Homer’s attempts to bond with the robots. It’s all filler because the only thing they know how to do is wind up Homer and let him loose to act like an asshole.

Mike: I just really don’t understand where there were going with a lot of this stuff.

  Homer befriends the robots, but why?

Charlie Sweatpants: I would be curious to read the first draft of one of these scripts some time. Did it make sense once upon a time and all that got stripped out in favor of Luigi standing there with pizza boxes, or was it always this messy?

  I honestly have no idea.

Mike: I have no clue.

  I just need to reiterate: there was NO connection between the robots and the town becoming unemployed.

There has to be a version of this episode where there was.

Lenny: Yeah, I mean, they highlighted unemployment with…Barney? Like him being underemployed is this big shift?

Mike: Here, it makes no sense.

  Yeah.

  Also, his voice sounded off. His and a few others.

Lenny: That might be why Patty and Selma didn’t have any lines, actually.

Mike: I haven’t watched new episodes in a few years, is this common?

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought Kavner was having a really hard time with Marge in this one.

Mike: Burns was off at a few points. Smithers sounded fine.

Charlie Sweatpants: And yeah, I’ve long suspected that we see much less of Patty and Selma (and nothing of their mother) because she just can’t do that rasp any longer.

Mike: Speaking of Burns, I guess it’s a joke that he’s reading Tina Fey’s book.

  I guess?

  Free promotion?

Lenny: The Tina Fey book and the fact that they made their third or fourth Angry Birds joke made me feel like they’re just desperate to be cool.

Mike: You really think that’s it? A desperate attempt to seem relevant and modern after all these years?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say it’s more of a reference than a joke. For it to be a joke they’d have needed to make up something that was like Bossypants but not actually it.

Lenny: Maybe I’m misreading it, but stuff like that always makes me feel like my high school teacher is trying to prove he’s still with it or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s definitely the feeling I get.

It was like that Chris Christie thing a few months ago, they try to stay relevant by putting in things that can be done late in the process. The book title could’ve been anything.

Mike: Yeah. It’s just Insert Reference Here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Precisely.

Though even then they screw things up. They made a joke about Rudy not being that inspiring a story, but failed to note that he got convicted of bilking investors in a stock scam.

Mike: Then we end with Burns and Homer teaming up against the robots, for some reason, and the townspeople miraculously being there to save the day.

Lenny: After the robots somehow know where Mr. Burns lives and go straight there because Homer messed with them using a screwdriver.

Mike: Well they followed Homer, to be fair.

Lenny: Oh, guess I missed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: But why did he go there?

  Did he know he’d be able to get in?

Mike: Because he bought the robots.

I guess he thought it was his only option.

  I won’t gripe that point, it was one of the few things here that made sense.

  But Burns would absolutely not let him in.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know I mentioned this above, but the ending was another place where they really expect you to not remember anything from even just a minute or two before. The robots were ultra-deadly, and then all of a sudden, they had no buzzsaw hands and were easily defeated by basically unarmed people.

Lenny: And it drove me crazy that Homer assumed he’d be able to reprogram sophisticated robots by shoving a screw into them and it somehow worked.

  And Mr. Burns then learned he needs human employees even though his only human employee was the one who screwed everything up.

Charlie Sweatpants: To be fair, this is like the fourth time they’ve shown Homer tinker with robots since about Season 12.

None of those made sense either, but they are being consistent.

Lenny: I just remember "See all that stuff in there? That’s why your robot never worked."

Mike: Linguo, the battle bots one…

Charlie Sweatpants: Wasn’t there one he threw out of his garage half built, as well?

  They kinda blur together.

Mike: Oh yeah, right.

  "Father!"

Lenny: Well, obviously I am out of my element after season 8. That is weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: But Lenny’s right, Burns had no real motivation to hire everyone back except that it was the end of the episode.

Lenny: And because they beat the scary robots with corn dogs, which is impressive.

Mike: Yeah. Those robots are total weaksauce, man.

Charlie Sweatpants: And about half of their lines were pointless exposition that even Cmdr. Data himself couldn’t sell.

  I mean they actually had him say, “Our programming restricts our movement to yellow guidance lines”. They had half a dozen chances to show us that, then they told it to us instead, then they ignored it for the rest of the episode.

Mike: They ignored it immediately when they showed Homer painting the baseball diamond, then we immediately see robots standing off the line.

Lenny: I guess the animators did their best with a script that called for completely contradictory visuals.

Mike: I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: They stick the animators with a lot of impossible tasks.

Mike: Poor bastards.

  Wishing they worked for Bob’s Burgers instead.

Lenny: Indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not their fault the script called for Homer to pick up Mr. Burns and swing him around for a second before putting him back down like nothing happened.

Lenny: Or called for Luigi to use pizza boxes like a flip book.

  I hated the scene where Mr. Burns uses the robot as a foot rest because I thought I knew where it was going and then not only did they not do what I thought, they didn’t really do anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it took them a long time to not do it, as well.

Mike: What did you expect?

Lenny: I thought it would be about Smithers being like "I could do that!" and being way too giddy about being Burns’s foot rest, leaving them both uncomfortable.

Mike: Oh, I see.

Lenny: Which would at least be a joke based on character instead of…visual gags seems too strong, but visuals, I guess.

Mike: Harry Shearer making orgasm noises. That would have at least been interesting.

Lenny: Haha. And would have been a better and more subtle sex joke than Barney holding that hat up, which they thought was way funnier than it was.

Charlie Sweatpants: Forgot about that. Guh.

Mike: Forgot that too. In front of children, no less.

Let me just ask, was there anything about the episode you all liked?

Lenny: I thought some of the robots’ material was okay.

Charlie Sweatpants: I did like Spiner’s delivery on "We do vent nitrogen once a year. You do not want to be around for that."

Mike: I think I smirked at the Rudy line, but that’s it.

Lenny: Yup, those are the two that got me.

Mike: Like, honestly, I was stunned at how poor this episode was.

I’ve seen maybe four episodes in the last three years.

  The last being that Xmas show from this season, since everyone was jizzing their pants over it.

  At least on No Homers

Lenny: Ah, I’ve seen everything this season and I think I would put this towards the top. The Christmas one is definitely at the top for me, being a solid 4/10.

Mike: But man, I’m dumbstruck.

  I’m not even trying to be funny, are they always this bad, Charlie?

How would you rank this with the rest of the season

Charlie Sweatpants: This was par for the course, yeah.

Lenny: I thought the last two we’ve had were worse.

Charlie Sweatpants: Honestly, I’m consistently amazed people can differentiate these that much. There are notably worse things here or there, but was this overall any less nuts than the magic bar rag, or Lisa’s overnight social network? Or Homer becoming a famous talk show host and political power broker? None of them make sense.

Mike: Yeah, that’s the overriding feel I got.

Nothing made sense.

No overarching theme, no consistent character stuff, no emotional arc

  Just a bunch of random shit that sort of related to each other. Sometimes.

Lenny: For me there’s just a slight difference between the ones that I can’t stand while I’m watching them and the ones that I’m able to stomach and then upon reflection I realize how bad they are and I’d put this in the latter category, which puts it towards the top of this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: Low bar, huh?

Lenny: Oh yeah.

Mike: Those are some standards.

Lenny: For instance, this one didn’t have a scene where Homer tried to have sex with Marge while wearing a diaper, even though everyone in the history of adult diapers has realized there’s a pretty simple system of have sex, then put on a diaper, then go to sleep. Low points like that are what make the difference for me.

Mike: …I don’t even want to know what that’s about.

Lenny: It was terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Last week. And yeah, don’t bother.

Mike: But in summation, I can at least say this episode makes me appreciate season 9 a hell of a lot more.

  I was bumming a little bit rewatching the season, but this…

Lenny: That’s exactly how I feel about looking back on 9 and 10.

Mike: My goodness.

  We could only be so lucky to get that quality again.

  At least they told stories. And had humor.

Charlie Sweatpants: I had the same experience with Season 10 last summer. Season 10 is unbelievably good compared to these. Plenty of them suck, but there’s still some heart, logic and good ideas, even if they don’t work.

This is just a bunch of random crap that hardly seems to have had any thought put into it.

Mike: So anything else to be said about this pile? I have to go pour bleach on my mind after visualizing Homer having sex in a diaper.

Lenny: Yeah, you’re lucky you didn’t get the actual visual from the episode. I think that’s all I got for this one.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think we’re going to get lower than giant diaper.

  Let me just say thanks to both of you for joining me this week.

Lenny: Thanks for the invite!

Mike: Wait, let’s end on a positive note.

  With Barney in a diaper on the street.

  A man of quiet dignity.

Charlie Sweatpants: He knows you can hear him!

Lenny: That is fine hardcore nudity.

Mike: Indeed.


17 Responses to “Crazy Noises: Them, Robot”


  1. 1 FireFlower
    20 March 2012 at 3:53 pm

    The whole town being unemployed was weird and didn’t make sense… and so was that yellow guidelines thing. All of a sudden the robots don’t need them anymore. HUH?!
    Do people get paid to write this stuff?

  2. 4 Thrillho
    20 March 2012 at 4:54 pm

    This was another one where I yawned more than I laughed. There’s a few cute background jokes (and I think the Museum of Sight Gags would have worked if it had a better punchline), but I was mostly resisting the urge to change the channel.

    I’d also like to bring up the “Working hard or hardly working” bit. Just because something was kind of funny in Season 13 doesn’t mean it needs to be brought back 10 years later (especially when you repeat it about eight times.)

  3. 20 March 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Speaking of the script, I don’t even think one such exists. I think they just write random things on post-its and then someone combines them together. The combining is probably done by an elephant, the writing is done by some monkeys.

    As for the level of zombieness, it has been a solid four years I hadn’t seen an episode to be better than the 14-20 Seasons level. The Moonshine of the Simpson Mind was probably around Season 12, which was fantastic expectation by the time. They really lost it ever since.

  4. 20 March 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I agree with Thrillho–I thought the Museum of Sight Gags was a high point for this episode.

    My favorite line was: “The designated hitter corrupts the purity of an otherwise elegant game.” But that is only because it expresses my personal belief.

    And it was great to hear Brent Spiner even if most of his lines were boring.

    Otherwise, the theme for this episode seemed to be: repeat as much as possible to fill time.
    The repeating–hardly working and robot sacrifices were BORING!

  5. 20 March 2012 at 8:26 pm

    So the only good line was about circuit bunching?

  6. 12 ecco6t9
    21 March 2012 at 2:41 am

    Sad that one joke from a classic episode is leagues better than several episodes today.

  7. 13 Anonymous
    21 March 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Remember the days when Patty and Selma used to say “Hello everyone except Homer”?

  8. 14 profburnham
    22 March 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I have stopped watching Simpsons (by an amazing coincidence, around the 9th season), and watched this episode only so I would better understand the comments of the incomparable Lenny. I agree that overall it was weak and repetitive, but I got enough laugh-out-louds that I just might keep watching. Some highlights: I loved that Mr. Burns has updated the trap door with an ipad app. I am always happy to see poor Gil. The gay references were funny and subtle — the kids disappointed that Smithers would not share Death in Venice with them, and the robots bonding over Death in Venice and Merv — you have to love a Death in Venice joke. As a baseball fan, I was thrilled to learn that even the robots despise the designated hitter rule.

    • 15 Anonymous
      22 March 2012 at 10:52 pm

      Mr Burns using an IPAD?! they’ve been making him so old fashioned lately… ahh this hurts my head as it’s too weird and illogical :/


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