Crazy Noises: Behind the Laughter

Behind the Laughter2

“I can’t believe it, we won another contest!” – Marge Simpson
“The Simpsons are going to Delaware!” – Homer Simpson
“I want to see Wilmington!” – Lisa Simpson
“I want to visit a screen door factory.” – Bart Simpson
“This’ll be the last season.” – Homer Simpson

For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes.  This year we’re doing Season 11.  Why Season 11?  Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show.  Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “diaphragm”).

Charlie Sweatpants: Behind the laughter is one of the few Season 11 episodes that I do watch from time to time.

Dave: Do tell.

Charlie Sweatpants: This is one of those very few episodes that I think are basically Season 9 worthy. It’s definitely got some rough patches and things that don’t quite work, but it moves quickly and has a lot of good ideas.

  It definitely helps that there’s basically no story and they can just do flashbacks and little segments. By this time, story was hardly a concern.

Mad Jon: Agreed. I think the premise of the episode allowed much more license than normal.

  I was willing to overlook Homer being crazy in the interviews for comments like "And that horrible act of child abuse…"

Charlie Sweatpants: Right.

There’s "Peepin It Real", Teenwolf 3, Susan B Anthony Man, and Marge’s stern, disapproving diaphragm thing.

Dave: As I’m watching it now, there are a few more chuckles than I remember previously.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s nice and consistent too.

Even if there are some things that don’t work and/or go on too long, there aren’t a big stretches where there’s nothing decent.

A lot of these Season 11 episodes ("It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge", included) start decently and then go running off the cliff as things get weirder and zanier.

Mad Jon: I think my feelings for this episode got better as they kept adding more and more seasons afterwards.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why’s that?

Mad Jon: The first time I saw it I probably thought to myself that, hey that’s fine, a lampoon of a relatively popular behind the scenes TV show that I’ve seen a hundred episodes of. Hell, I wouldn’t know anything about Thin Lizzy if not for VH1.

As I got older and less stupid, I came to the realization that we have discussed so many, many times. This episode would have been a great series finale, as opposed to a decent season finale.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, it would’ve.

  It could’ve been a bit meaner to itself, but that’s a tall order. On the other hand, for fans at least, it kind of is a series finale.

There’s classic Simpsons trivia nights in Chicago and Toronto now, and as far as I know they stop at Season 11 too.

Mad Jon: I’m not sure I could name any actual episode titles past this one.

  Although I imagine I could randomly assemble a few words, probably with one of the characters names, and be pretty close if not dead on.

It’s a matter of statistics at that point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the road after this one is very long and very dark.

It’s like one of those photos of North and South Korea from space at night. The South is lit up like Christmas tree, and then there’s a really distinct line with just a few specs of light. This episode is the DMZ.

Mad Jon: That’s a pretty good analogy.

Dave: Yep, spot on.

Mad Jon: Back to things I enjoyed, I liked Bart as Renegade, along with his two side car sidekicks.

Charlie Sweatpants: The "I hear that Renegade" is one of those things I just can’t not smile at.

  There are a lot of good media parodies like that in this one.

Calling Krusty and "Embittered Comedy Legend", Bart’s fair weather friends, and Willie Nelson, taxpayer, are all pretty good.

Mad Jon: The subtitles in the interviews were generally good.

Charlie Sweatpants: And Jimmy Carter’s break dancing.

Mad Jon: Rapping comedy break dancing.

Charlie Sweatpants: And the "New Awareness Awards" being "an elaborate sham".

Dave: The fact that Bart and Richie Rich are best friends.

Charlie Sweatpants: For all the amusement though, a lot of it still feels kind of weak. Like the Grammy awards, which is funny with the categories and all, but they did that better way back in Season 5.

Mad Jon: Agreed. Also they had to throw in the obligatory Ozzie bites something…

I did like the early mention of going for frosty chocolate milkshakes. It made me want to watch Bart the Genius.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they do a decent job of creating a decent parody backstory.

That their network connection was that the president of FOX was also a hair dresser is a good example.

  It’s just close enough to true that it works as satire. For the most part, this episode toes that line well.

Mad Jon: For sure. I also can’t help but think about the narrator’s line about gimmicky premises and nonsensical plots. As well as the shameless trotting out of celebrities.

Mainly I can’t stop thinking about it because it hadn’t even really begun to start.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I’m forever grateful for the "This’ll be the last season" joke.

Mad Jon: It’s like talking about how you are worried about someone’s alcoholism when they haven’t even missed a mortgage payment yet.

Call me when you notice they are living in the dumpster, then you will know what the bottom looks like.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

Mad Jon: Unless they had a guest list and episode guide for the next half decade already written by that point…. Which I dunno, maybe the computer spits them out that far in advance.

Charlie Sweatpants: Seems unlikely. Anything else about this one?

Mad Jon: Nah, other than the "this will be the last season" bit you already mentioned, I don’t have much else that sticks with me.

Dave: Not from me. It was certainly the more pleasant of the two to watch.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s good for what it is, and by Season 11 standards, it’s very above average.

Well, gentlemen, ending on a so-so episode seems about right for this series of posts.

  WordPress tells me that this is the 153rd episode we’ve discussed over the past three and a half years.

Dave: That’s something.

Mad Jon: Where do the years go….

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say about half of them are any good, though I may be overestimating.

Mad Jon: That has to be more episodes than most TV series run, and probably by a long shot.

Charlie Sweatpants: True. Sadly I don’t think syndication riches are in our future.

Mad Jon: I’ll give you half with a lazy scale of 2.

Charlie Sweatpants: Is lazy scale like degree of difficulty?

Mad Jon: Meh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good answer.

Dave: Lazy scale, nice.

Charlie Sweatpants: Before we sign off here, any general thoughts on Season 8-11? It’s four seasons where I think every season is worse than the one that precedes it.

The drop off from 8 to 9 is noticeable as hell, but the one from 9 to 10 might be the biggest total.

Mad Jon: I’m happy I had the opportunity to parse the Alzheimer like demise with the two of you. I’ve seen all of these before, but to actually consider them in order really let me see what kind of slope this show was on. And more than that, it was an opportunity to see why.

Dave: Yeah, that seems accurate. There was no return to form or anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: I sat through at least part of every episode from Season 12 and 13 before I quit on the show, and there aren’t much in the way of highlights from here.

Mad Jon: There really aren’t

Charlie Sweatpants: Just catastrophes like that damned Africa episode.

Mad Jon: Sometimes I think of one or two, but much like a dream, it fades faster than I can do anything about it.

Dave: How poetic

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, then, fellows, I can end on the poetic. Honor and a pleasure and all that.

Dave: Smell you later.

Mad Jon: Thank you gentlemen.

5 Responses to “Crazy Noises: Behind the Laughter”

  1. 1 Anonymous
    20 September 2012 at 10:54 pm

    The “last season” line is great until they recycle the dialogue and go to Delaware in the season 12 finale. If only Homer were right…

  2. 2 abra cadaver
    21 September 2012 at 3:29 am

    Truly great episode and one of the last WATCHABLE episodes they made.


  3. 3 Al Gore Doll
    21 September 2012 at 12:44 pm


  4. 4 Col. Coward
    21 September 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Ah, “Behind the Laughter.” In my personal history of the Simpsons, I see this one as the last truly “good” episode of the show. It has a lot of awesome parts in it–the “wing and a prayer” line is one of my favorite in the history of the series.

    I think it’s very telling to note that they did this basically by not being The Simpsons. Not only do they adopt the format of a completely different show, but they basically throw all characterization out the window and sever their connection with the show’s past. They even have Homer saying “this is the last season,” and basically destroy the mystery of Springfield’s state. It’s like the show was saying goodbye. And of course, even though most of us didn’t stop watching at this point exactly, it does feel like an ending for most of us, doesn’t it?

    A lot of the time when a show is good you guys will say how it would have fit in with one of the earlier, better seasons… but this one would not fit in anywhere else. In terms of quality, yes, it’s at the same level of season 9. But really, the episode works best as an ending, and I would say having come after so many crappy episode helps it. It’s like the perfect goodbye episode, the sort-of series finale that is the closest we ever got to real closure on The Simpsons.

    I sometimes imagine an alternate universe where they used this episode as a springboard to turn the show into something completely different. Throw out the old format and make a crazy show that was no longer centered on the family anymore. I think the show could POSSIBLY have been good for a few more years if they did this. Probably they would have failed, but at least it would have been an interesting failure, and maybe one that led to cancellation… rather than the lifeless mediocrity we’ve had now for over a decade and counting.

  5. 5 Zombies Rise from the Sea
    21 September 2012 at 5:58 pm

    Well, while I didn’t get a chance to join in. I’d still like to add my two cents; the best thing I love about this is the “Simpsons Christmas Boogie” song with it’s synthy grooves and it’s nostalgic sensibilities, I just can’t help to enjoy that song whenever it plays. Everything else about the episode is unmemorable at best with only a few good jokes in there; once you get past the concept of it than it becomes nothing more than a boring Scully-era episode.

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