15
Aug
12

Saddlesore Galactica Makes Baby Jesus Cry

The Principal and the Pauper5

“Come on, get to the part where you steal his identity!” – Bart Simpson
“I’m trying to explain how emotionally fragile I was.” – Armin Tamzarian
“Oh, it’s one of those stories.” – Bart Simpson

The collapse between Season 9 and Season 11 seemed long and painful while it was happening, but looking back over the (now very long) history of the show, it was almost the blink of an eye. Case in point is the commentary for this episode, which is stunning for how closely it tracks later Zombie Simpsons commentaries yet is totally unlike those from just a few seasons before. They know that this episode is reviled by fans, but instead of opting for the Oakley-Weinstein-Keeler approach and taking the criticism in stride while attempting to explain what they were doing, they just sit there and endure it, offering nervous laughter, empty self deprecation, and “well, I like it” type statements all the way through.

Having listened to both commentaries, I can only think that it’s because while “The Principal and the Pauper” was really dumb and boring, it also had a great deal of thought put into it. Keeler and company state repeatedly that they had a lot of stuff that got cut for time, and Keeler clearly had some bigger ideas he was trying to get across. But “Saddlesore Galactica” is just dumb filler that happened to cross lines of audience tolerance that the writers weren’t even aware existed. Keeler was consciously challenging the audience and fell short; by contrast, they not only thought they were going to disappoint their audience and didn’t care, they couldn’t even correctly identify the audience’s main problem with it.

This episode isn’t any more watchable than “The Principal and the Pauper”, but that episode at least had enough thought put into it that the commentary could be interesting and relevant. This commentary is just the standard Zombie Simpsons evasions, half-hearted defenses, and general boredom.

Here’s another similarity with Zombie Simpsons commentaries, way too many guys. Eight, in this case: Tim Long, Tom Martin, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Matt Groening, Matt Selman, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and Lance Kramer.

1:00 – They’re giggling about the title, and this already feels far more like Season 13 or 14 than it does 8 or 9.

1:25 – Mentioning “fan reaction”, goes with “it seems to be divided” and Long goes on to joke that the third act was based on an experience of his. This is not getting off to a good start.

1:50 – That leads to them saying how funny they thought it was when they rewatched it for the commentary.

2:20 – Defending the Jockey Elves by saying it’s the kind of thing a lot of other shows do now. That is, uh, not an actual defense.

2:50 – Meyer breaks in and says that since the crazy twist happens so close to the end, “it’s kind of an odd place for it”. Indeed, it is.

3:00 – And Groening, the only other guy on here besides Meyer from the beginning, claims to have never seen this episode. I think both of them are a little ashamed of this.

3:50 – Scully (I think) comes on to note that he doesn’t know how many set pieces they’ve done at various fairs, amusement parks and the like.

4:15 – “Oh, here’s Bachmann Turner Overdrive, who we were thrilled to have on the show.” Remember everyone, their stated reason for releasing the DVDs so slowly is that the commentaries take a long time. Scintillating insight like that is why.

4:50 – Desultory compliments for Homer’s dancing after he yells at the band.

5:40 – Someone wonders how they picked “Living in America”, which causes Meyer to joke that it was Michael Dukakis’s campaign theme song so that it certainly has hip credentials.

6:30 – Not much by way of backstory for the diving horse. They did have a story and photo of a real diving mule, but that was it.

7:00 – Understatement of the entire commentary: “This little b-story about Lisa’s outrage over the other team cheating kind of gets lost amid jockey brouhaha.”

7:45 – As Duncan comes on screen, someone points out that there was a Disney movie about a diving horse, but they’d already used the title “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” for a different episode.

8:00 – Duncan struggling to get to the side of the pool gets a big laugh.

8:15 – Larry Kramer is on talking about how they took the time to learn how horse’s ankles work so that everyone would know how to properly animate the horse. That was nice of them, but a realistic looking horse isn’t exactly an asset to this episode.

9:00 – For the Comic Book Guy segment: “We thought the best thing to do was just cop to it.” “That’s one of the reasons the show has earned such enmity.” The lack of self awareness is pretty amazing.

10:00 – Nervous laughter during Homer’s pearl fantasy. Someone even calls it “disturbing”.

11:00 – More or less the same as we see Marge use her fire extinguisher for no reason.

11:30 – Long silence until Moe’s heart finally starts pounding out of his chest.

12:00 – Meyer informs us that they do actually ride clockwise in Europe. I’m glad he’s here.

12:25 – The race track announcer is a real race track announcer.

13:00 – Generic compliments for the race track announcer guy.

13:45 – Nice backhanded compliment from Groening there as he compliments the emotion of the episode and says he’s looking forward to where this goes. Nervous laughter all around.

14:00 – Meandering small talk as Duncan shows up with his nose ring.

15:00 – Monocle joke doesn’t get much of a laugh.

15:40 – Comic Book Guy’s second appearance just gets noted as one of an unusual number of callbacks in this episode.

16:00 – As Duncan crashes the other horses, Scully (again, I think) says “Watching it last night I couldn’t help but notice the flagrant rule violations”, which gets a bigger laugh than anything in a while.

16:45 – Tom Martin apparently went to high school with the trumpet player from Cake, but they didn’t use the original song for the montage and then apparently they went back and redid it with the real song instead of a sound alike. That discussion takes us to the jockey elves.

17:05 – Someone calls it the emotional heart of the season.

17:20 – After some tepid defense and nervous laughter, they blame it on Donick Cary before half-assedly saying, “I’m really proud of this, I think it turned out really funny”.

17:50 – Nervous laughter and silence as the elf song goes on. The contrast with the commentary from “The Principal and the Pauper” is stark as hell.

18:05 – “Oh, there’s the Bart elf” gets a round of relieved laughter.

18:55 – “I think Homer’s fear of having his brain eaten by jockeys is . . . solid.” They aren’t even trying to defend this. Every once and a while they just say that it’s great or make slight fun of themselves. They know.

19:20 – “Boy, you guys really had to draw a lot of racing scenes.” This is what passes for commentary by Season 11.

20:00 – The announcer speculating about the “terrifying planet of the horses” gets a legitimate laugh.

20:20 – As the jockeys light the cannon: “They’re not really making any effort to be furtive anymore.” Lotta that going around.

20:50 – Apparently Homer’s pre-flight line about a “moral sewer” was the thing Steve Allen said about the show. That prompts a kinda sad, “Is that true?” from Groening (who has been pretty quiet even by his standards). He then says that Ray Bradbury knocked the show as well. This relieves them of having to talk about the chase scene.

21:55 – The credits roll as they apologize to Clinton by saying that they had no idea what was coming. Of course, Bush the Younger never really got touched by Zombie Simpsons, but commentaries are safer places to express opinions.

22:20 – Groening thinks the jockey thing was great. I honestly can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic, but there’s not enough time left to tell if he was or not.


12 Responses to “Saddlesore Galactica Makes Baby Jesus Cry”


  1. 15 August 2012 at 6:34 pm

    This is basically a Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry crossed with a Compare & Contrast. If I wrote something that was nearly universally reviled by fans, I’d definitely want to say something about it, but I guess it’s not the case with this bumper crop of writers. This is the point I stopped listening to commentaries since the episodes I wanted to hear explanations for, like this, “Kill the Alligator and Run,” “Bart to the Future” and so on, get nothing but awkward silence and forced, nervous laughs.

  2. 2 kloipy
    15 August 2012 at 8:48 pm

    it’s funny how much the commentary changes in the later seasons. the first 8 seasons have great insight, honesty, and a lot of hilarious moments

    • 3 abra cadaver
      16 August 2012 at 3:36 am

      The only real highlight of any of the recent commentaries was the one where Groening says, “I’ve never seen this episode before.”

      • 4 abra cadaver
        16 August 2012 at 3:50 am

        Haha. I seriously wrote that before reading this post… and what’s funny is I distinctly remember him saying that about a DIFFERENT episode (can’t recall which one, but it seems like it was a season 12 commentary).

        I wonder how many episodes of this show he created that he hasn’t even seen? Hilarious.

  3. 5 Chris
    16 August 2012 at 12:25 am

    “If I wrote something that was nearly universally reviled by fans, I’d definitely want to say something about it, but I guess it’s not the case with this bumper crop of writers.”

    I think that would only be the case if it was something you put a lot of work into, and feel like people maybe misunderstood what you were doing. But when you half-ass something and have no real defense for how lousy it turns out, there’s nothing to do but nervously laugh about it. Oakley-Weinstein-Keeler felt they were really doing something with Principal and the Pauper, so even though fan reception is mixed-to-negative on that one, they’re willing to defend it. Scully and this bunch of amateurs did nothing with this episode but half-ass it and toss on jockey elves for some shock laughs.

    And if someone on the commentary for Saddelsore actually said that fans are divided on that one, I would like to tell him that they aren’t divided at all, and that it’s almost universally reviled.

    • 6 abra cadaver
      16 August 2012 at 3:48 am

      Man, that reminds me, “The Principal and the Pauper” commentary is really really annoying, isn’t it..

  4. 7 Patrick
    16 August 2012 at 10:55 am

    2:20 – Defending the Jockey Elves by saying it’s the kind of thing a lot of other shows do now. That is, uh, not an actual defense.

    The Simpsons is meant to be the show that dares to be different, what a lame excuse and the same reason Karl’s voice actor didn’t want to take part in that clichéd season 14 ep. where homer moves in with the gay couple.

  5. 8 Patrick
    16 August 2012 at 10:59 am

    Also Bush Jr. NEVER being made fun of once pretty much sums up ZS’s shoddiness but then again they had his partner Blair make a guest voice appearance for no real reason other than PR

  6. 10 Hank
    16 August 2012 at 4:35 pm

    The thing is: other than George HW Bush (and that was largely in response to him ‘shooting first’), Simpsons didn’t really do attacks on real life politicians. They tended to use caricatures and symbolism, making the show more timeless and, arguably, funnier. If anything, the overt Clinton joke was a sign of the show being “zombified,” and overt GWB jokes would have been just the kind of cheap “ripped from the headlines” crap that ZS currently revels in.


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