Archive for January, 2013


Quote of the Day

Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner7

“This is where we store Ann Landers and Dear Abby for their twenty-three hours of daily sleep.” – Tour Guide
“My advice is to free us or let us die.” – Ann Landers


DVD Commentary: Bart the Genius


Be gentle, it’s my first one of these.

Four guys on this commentary, David Silverman, Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Jon Vitti.

David Silverman talks about the popularity of the show after the Christmas Special

Matt Groening talks about the development of the now classic “Simpsons” main titles music

Blackboard and main titles were originally a way to pad the show length, but as the show got more sophisticated the writers didn’t want to cut anything

This episode was Jon Vitti’s first 30-minute script, and David Silverman’s first full-length directorial debut

Koreans don’t have bananas, hence the miscoloring

KWYJIBO was also later used as a name for a computer virus

Milhouse’s hair is inconsistently colored in this episode, occasionally black, occasionally blue

Jon wrote a  list of 100 bad things that Bart could do, and cheating on a test was the only thing that stuck

Series was not going to do fantasy sequences initially, but that stipulation was relaxed after the directors started using them very creatively (dream sequence with numbers)

Matt wanted a full orchestra to play the emotion that the show otherwise could not have depicted using animation

It was very controversial how stupid Homer’s handwriting was on the check

Loren Pyror sounds a lot like Mr. Burns in this episode

Matt considers this episode, like the other 12 in Season 1, to be experiments in the visual language of the show. Things like giant plants which featured somewhat prominently in the background were later removed

It used to be Skinner’s persistent goal to get Bart out of Springfield Elementary

There’s a discussion/mea culpa about Bart’s many, likely unoriginal, catch phrases, from “eat my shorts” to “cowabunga” etc.

The school that Bart goes to is a product of co-creation from the writers, not necessarily based on any actual school that the writers went to

The first draft of this episode was over 71 pages long!

Matt initially could not wrap his head around the fact that the sketches were moving, owing to his background in print media, but loved what he was seeing all the same

It was easier to merchandise villains than friends, so that’s why the show’s writers kept adding more

One can’t help but notice the crudeness of the animation in the opera scene

They’re all chuckling at the leisurely pacing of this episode, a result of the show’s creators learning on the fly

Kids playing with marbles is a cute anachronism

Shadows were used sparingly in early episodes out of concerns that they couldn’t afford them

The hamster gets to escape after Bart’s chemistry mishap, otherwise the joke earlier about the hamster being dissected would’ve been too cruel

Bart’s confession was animated in the US, not Korea

David enjoys having a yellow character talk to a green character


Quote of the Day

Whacking Day9

“Bart, I’d like you to read this copy of Johnny Tremain, it’s a book I read as a girl.” – Marge Simpson
“A book?  Pfft.” – Bart Simpson
“I think you might like this.  It’s about a boy who goes to war, his hand is deformed in an accident.” – Marge Simpson
“Deformed?  Why didn’t you say so?  They should call this book Johnny Deformed.” – Bart Simpson


Animation Alley: Bart the Genius

[Note: Mike Amato of Me Blog Write Good is going to be writing about the animation for the Yellow Jubilee.]

If we’re gonna talk about the animation from the first season, then we must start with the first cut of the very first episode, “Some Enchanted Evening” (feel free to mute the video, it’s just the schmucky uploader doing “commentary.”) The brunt of the animation for the show, and a sizable amount of all American animation, is done overseas, and because of how long the animation process is, and with the speed and the technology back then, a whole season could be in production before people State-side get to see any of it. So when everyone sat down to watch the first cut of “Evening,” it was quite a surprise (James L. Brooks’ famous initial statement: “This is shit.”) The thing is, no one was really doing this “realistic” type animation at the time; the creators didn’t want the very bendy, loose, rubber hose style animation that they were seeing. But thankfully, the second show in was in much, much better shape, giving Groening and co. a sigh of relief. So behold, “Bart the Genius,” the episode that saved the series.

Now, if I pointed out every shot or moment I liked in this show, this article would be endless. For these write-ups, I’m gonna try to boil it down to three scenes or specific moments that I feel are particularly strong, or have neat stuff to say about them.

First is the opening to our show, with the family playing a game of Scrabble in the living room. Of course we open up with Maggie, our infant savant, spelling “EMCSQU” with her blocks, then we pan up to see she’s right at the leg of the table where the rest of the family are none the wiser to her sudden stroke of intellectualism.

Here we have our first use of animation smears, which are always fun to freeze frame on. They’re done during quick movements to accentuate the speed, you see them in a lot of Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons. Most of these “cartoonier” techniques were phased out after the first few seasons or so. Also, another first season hallmark: bizarre photos on the wall. Why would they frame and hang a photo of an aghast Homer screaming? Well, why not?

Bart places down his game-winning word: ‘kwijibo.’ He places the letters down off-center so haphazardly, speaking to his messy nature as a little boy, but also because of how desperately he wants to get the hell out of this quality family activity.

Fantastic straight-ahead drawings of Homer, getting very subtly more irate as his thick skull registers that Bart is making fun of him.

My next scene is Bart’s math dream, back when the show used to take great artistic license with dream sequences. Done all in monochrome, we see Bart attempt to solve one of those over-complicated “if two trains left the station” questions imagining himself on one of the said trains. As the sequence goes on, we see numbers appear more and more as parts of the background until Bart encounters the conductor: a manically insane Martin. From that point, it’s a series of quick cuts as Bart panics, about to be in a head-on collision between the two trains, until he falls backwards back to reality and out of his seat in the classroom.

My last moment really isn’t done justice with framegrabs, unfortunately, but if you’re reading this blog, surely you’ve got these DVDs on your shelf somewhere, and if not, then I am filled with shame. Anyway, it’s when Homer and Marge are called to Principal Skinner’s office regarding Bart’s transgressions. In the early days of the show, and particularly in this episode, Bart is our star, so we’re seeing things from a kid-like perspective. He’s in trouble, and then the parents show up, the frame cut so you don’t even see their faces as they enter from camera right. First is Marge, who greets Skinner cordially, walking in quite daintily, her left arm held out fancily, overall a very delicate and docile creature. Then follows Homer, a large presence, stomping in with his fist at the ready to accuse Bart. This one quick moment perfectly communicates Homer and Marge’s characters and their feelings on the situation at hand. The staging, the animation, the acting, all of it comes together in this short four seconds or so to tell so, so much.

As I said, I can go on so much longer, but these are just a few great moments from a great episode.


Quote of the Day

Homer Loves Flanders6

“Tonight on Eye on Springfield, just miles from your doorstep, hundreds of men are given weapons and trained to kill.  The government calls it “The Army”, but a more alarmist name would be: The Kill-Bot Factory.” – Kent Brockman


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail9

“I still think we should’ve spent the money to fix Main Street.” – Marge Simpson
“Well, you should’ve written a song like that guy.” – Homer Simpson


Permanent Record: Dr. J. Loren Pryor

Bart the Genius9

“Ah, finished already?  Principal Skinner will be very interested to . . . oh. . . . You know, you misspelled ‘confession’.” – Dr. J. Loren Pryor

Even at its earliest stages, The Simpsons was always careful not to pass up comedy opportunities.  Whether it was minor characters, secondary locations, television shows, or anything else, the show made sure to populate the universe of Springfield with people, places and ideas that were just as delightfully twisted as the main family.  A school psychologist evaluating troublemaking Bart could easily have been portrayed as a straight ahead public servant, a caring individual who tries to help steer the wayward young man.  But that wouldn’t have been any fun, so instead the show gave us Dr. J. Loren Pryor, a book smart quack who can’t see past his own glasses to the obvious fact that Bart Simpson is scamming him.

This is the first episode with “Dr J.”, and while he pops up a few more times in the show, this is his definitive performance.  Consider his first interaction with Bart.  The show lets us know right from the get go that this guy is not nearly as smart as the tie and vest would have you believe.  Not only is he measuring Bart’s head with calipers, but he’s getting quickly, thoroughly and easily had:

Bart the Genius8

Sir, phrenology was dismissed as quackery a hundred sixty years ago.

Dr. J. Loren Pryor: Tell me, Bart, are you ever bored in school?
Bart: Oh, you bet.
Dr. J. Loren Pryor: Mmm-hmm, ever feel a little frustrated?
Bart: All the time, sir.
Dr. J. Loren Pryor: Do you ever dream of leaving your class to pursue your own intellectual development on an independent basis?
Bart: Wow, it’s like you’re reading my mind, man.

Look at those questions!  Bart’s sold a lot of adults on a lot of crap in his time, but Pryor is such a sucker that all Bart has to do here is agree with him.

This is only the second episode, but the societal nihilism that underpinned so much of the show’s satire in later years was already apparent.  The only person who sees through Bart’s con is Lisa.  Everyone else, from his parents to the principal to the “learning coordinator” are all fooled.  Pryor, the supposed expert, is the worst offender, and we get further payoff from his academic obtuseness at the end.

Sitting in his office, which is adorned with a picture of Bart next to a picture of Albert Einstein, Pryor falls hook, line and sinker for Bart’s plan to return to his regular school.  Even after the chemistry explosion, Pryor still doesn’t understand that Bart isn’t a genius.  Indeed, he leaps at the Jane Goodall comparison and rushes from his office to put Bart’s plan into action.  It isn’t until Bart literally spells it out for him in his confession that Pryor finally realizes how big a fool he’s been.

Though he’s only a small part of the episode, “Bart the Genius” leaves no doubt about the fact that Dr. J. Loren Pryor is a nebbish idiot.  So as the series progresses we understand why he can be so callous in telling Lisa that a homemaker is “like a mommy” or careless when he gets mixed up and thinks that Bart is the kid with the “flamboyant homosexual tendencies”.  He’s a doctor, but he’s also a dolt.


The Simpsons 23rd Anniversary Yellow Jubilee

King Size Homer12

“Push out the jive.  Bring in the love.” – C.M. Burns

If there is one persistent misperception about this blog on the wider plains of the internet, it is that we simply hate Zombie Simpsons and that’s it.  Beneath that strong and oft expressed dislike, however, is the real reason we’re all here: love.  We love The Simpsons.  It was a show beyond even the most enthusiastic superlatives, and it remains so more than two decades after it took America and the world by storm.  Its creation was a once in a lifetime alignment of immensely improbable coincidences that came together with perfect timing.  It never should’ve happened, but it did, and the world is a much funnier place for it. 

That incredible show has endured so well that, in nearly four years of weekly Reading Digest posts, we’ve been able to link to thousands of Simpsons related pages that were viewed by untold millions of people, and that’s just the stuff that came into the narrow slice of the internet that we survey.  Every week there are blog posts about favorite episodes, fan art of various kinds, and an endless stream of people who quote the show when something in their life resembles that collection of twenty year old television episodes.  All the time, thought, attention and creativity that goes into generating that endless torrent of words, images and real world stuff is a testament to how much joy The Simpsons still produces.  It seems unlikely that any other two decade old piece of culture – in any medium – still generates even a significant fraction of that interest and activity.  So we are hardly alone in our love of this show.

To celebrate that, and keeping in mind the show’s traditional disdain for meaningless milestones, today we are launching The Simpsons 23rd Anniversary Yellow Jubilee.  What is that?  Well, we’re not entirely sure yet.  For starters, we’re going to be watching Season 1 and following along as the episodes move through the 23rd anniversary of their original broadcasts.  Starting today and continuing throughout the week with “Bart the Genius”, we’ll be looking at the DVD commentaries, the animation, the quotes, the sign gags, and the episodes as a whole.  As for what precisely that entails in terms of recurring posts, well, that’s what we’re still figuring out.

And we want to hear from you.  (Yes, you!)  Whether in comments or via e-mail, we want to hear about your favorite parts of the episodes, personal memories, and anything else you can think of.  Guest posts about each week’s episode are most definitely welcome, but this is much more “Do What You Feel” than “Do As We Say”. 

The important thing is that we’re watching television.  So if you’ve got the DVDs at home, know where to watch them elsewhere [legally unactionable stage cough], or can score them from a library, Netflix, or Amazon (Season 1 $25 new, ~$6-10 used), sit down and bask in television’s warm glowing warming glow with us. 


Bonus Quote of the Day

Hidden Camera

“Before we begin, is anyone here an investigative reporter?” – Lyle Lanley
“I am, and she is.” – Investigative Reporter
“Well, I’d like you to please leave.” – Lyle Lanley
“Should we take our hidden camera?” – Investigative Reporter
“Would you?” – Lyle Lanley
“Let’s go, Phil.” – Investigative Reporter

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Marge vs. the Monorail”!  Original airdate 14 January 1993.


Quote of the Day

Bart the Genius7

“Bart, there are students in this class with a chance to do well.  Will you stop bothering them?” – Mrs. Krabappel


Sunday Preview: A Test Before Trying


When Springfield Elementary is threatened with closure because of low standardized test scores, the fate of the school rests on one student who missed the test, and who must raise the average above the minimum threshold: Bart Simpson. Meanwhile, Homer finds a parking meter at a local dump, and starts deploying it around Springfield to fleece unwitting parkers of their quarters.

Maybe we’ll get to see the Comptroller again, or maybe we’ll just get to see Bart motivated to do the proper thing because of the guilt trumpets that are bound to sound off every 20 seconds in this new episode.  I won’t know, because I am infinitely more likely to watch The Golden Globes than this crap factory.  And I once promised a blind kid I would never watch the Golden Globes again.



Quote of the Day

Girly Edition8

“Ooh, the gum with the cracker center.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Grade School Confidential9

“Is this how you imagined your life, Edna?” – Principal Skinner
“Well, yes, but then I was a very depressed child.” – Mrs. Krabappel
“To poor decisions.” – Principal Skinner
“Hear, hear.” – Mrs. Krabappel


Reading Digest: Joining the Club Edition

Beyond Blunderdome2

“But we’ve already bought five Golden Globe awards!” – Studio Executive
“I don’t make movies to win awards!  Especially now that I have two Oscars.” – Mel Gibson

As has been reported widely on Twitter and lesser outfits like British newspapers (synergy!), “The Longest Daycare” was nominated for one of those twinkly statues respectable celebrities are always holding.  I have no idea whether it will win or not, though David Silverman would be foolish not to already be working on a speech.  Regardless, it’s a great short, and if it’s going to get a phony accolade, why not the one with the most clout?

Relatedly, Rich Moore, one of the all time champion Simpsons directors, is up for “Best Animated Feature” for Wreck-It Ralph.  Moore’s name is on a ton of classic episodes, and he worked on The Critic and Futurama.  He also directed the Alzheimer’s episode of Drawn Together, which is about as mean and insensitive as you can be on television and the furthest thing possible from Wreck-It Ralph, so he’s a guy who can pretty much do it all.  Best of luck to the both of them.

That said, remember when the show hated awards and the awards hated the show?  Good times.

In regular old news this week, we’ve got a couple of great Simpsons song collections, an epic Russian kitchen, two pieces of excellent image usage, and some for real not safe for work pictures!  There are also interviews with Mike Reiss and Rich Moore, some cool fan art (including shoes and a table full of famous clowns), and plenty of people citing the Simpsons over that brilliant trillion dollar coin idea.


Songs of The Simpsons – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is part one of this collection of Simpsons songs, complete with YouTube.  It’s worth the click just for the Lurleen Lumpkin mural that’s the background picture for “Your Wife Don’t Understand You”.

Songs of The Simpsons, Part Two: Readers’ Choice – And part two, with more songs and more YouTube.

Simpsons family | : : : Paint Kitchen : : : – This is a fan made mural of Springfield done in what is apparently a Russian kitchen.  It’s got it all: monorail, beheaded statue, the soft serve ice cream place that Maggie thought might be Marge in “Homer Alone”.  Wow.

2009-2012 DIY Shoes – Scroll down about 2/3 of the way for a cool set of fan made Simpsons shoes.  Homer even appears to have a tattoo of himself on his own head.  Cool.

Doh! Don’t miss ‘Simpsons’ back story – An interview with Mike Reiss about his appearance at the Tucson Jewish Film Festival.  Apparently he’s got his act down pat, at this point:

What should the audience expect from "The Simpsons and Other Jewish Families" tonight?

I have an hour of funny stories and anecdotes about the shows. … If you don’t have a good hour of stories after 24 years, then you’re not paying attention.


Have you done this for other film festivals?

The organizer of the San Francisco (Jewish) Film Festival, he had the idea to do this. He was someone I knew in college. I went to give the speech to a sold-out 1,300-seat auditorium. It was the biggest event in the history of this festival. The box office records have sold the idea of this. As a result, every Jewish film festival in the country has invited me to come and give this lecture. We just had sold-out shows in Nashville, San Diego, New Orleans and Charlotte.

That sounds like it’d be a lot of fun.  For fans of the show there’s the usual blather about Zombie Simpsons, but there’s also this:

What are you most proud of during your time writing "The Simpsons"?

It’s not that I feel proud of it, but I co-wrote this episode very early in the series where (Bart) saws off the head of Jebediah Springfield. It was in a very offhand thing; we wrote it in three days, and it introduced 10 major characters in that episode. We introduced Eddie, Lou, Chief Wiggum, Apu, Mayor Quimby, Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney in this one episode. At the time we didn’t think we were making history; it was just a summer job for all of us. We just made up these characters on the fly and named them after our friends.

It remains mind-blowing how they put that whole thing together so quickly.

How ‘The Simpsons’ Helped Launch ‘Wreck-It-Ralph’ – An interview with Rich Moore, mostly about the movie.  Count me among those who hope they make a sequel.

Americain – Discussing an “American” sandwich in France, leaves us with a grease stained wrapper and excellent usage:

“And remember, if you’re not sure about something, rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it’s your window to weight gain.” -Dr. Nick

Send in the clowns – Fan art of clowns at the last supper, including Homie, Krusty, and three Jokers.

Guy Fieri is America’s Krusty the Clown – This is a great comparison:

Fieri has become a real-life version of the ultimate celebrity marketing strumpet, The Simpsons Krusty the Clown. As Krusty is to comedy, Guy is to food — a living cartoon, a face to be plastered on any product presented to him alongside a slow-cooker full of coin, a hollow symbol of grub for which quality is no object.


$US1 trillion coin debt solution gains currency – Burns, Homer and the trillion dollar bill are being mentioned left and right these days.  This one is from Australia:

"While this may seem like an unnecessarily extreme measure, it is no more absurd than playing political football with the US – and global – economy at stake," the petition said.

The TV series The Simpsons could take credit for at least some of the inspiration. In an episode in 1998 a $US1 trillion dollar bill from the postwar years went missing. It was Homer Simpson’s mission to find it.

Thanks to reader David L. for sending this one in. 

Father Of Animation – Those of you more expert in animation than I will have to fill in the blanks here:

Otta Messmer was employed by the Pat Sullivan Studio in 1916.Three years later he created Felix the Cat; it was a milestone in the development of animation as an art form. Not since Gertie the Dinosaur had a cartoon character exhibited such a degree of personality animation as Felix’s brooding, ponderous walk. Indeed, Messmer probably would have take the secret to his grave had not animation historian John Cane-maker tracked him down in 1976 (the revelation produced quite a stir in animation circle…twenty years later the story was lampooned on an episode of “The Simpsons”).

The only thing I could find was this, at Wikipedia:

In an episode of The Simpsons, Dean Scungio quotes from The Encyclopaedia of Animated Cartoons on the history of Felix: "A Felix doll became Charles Lindbergh’s companion on his famed flight across the Atlantic." Another episode of The Simpsons, in which the origins of the cartoon characters Itchy & Scratchy are explored, parallels some of the disputed history Felix’s creation set forth above, and includes a spoof film entitled Manhattan Madness, presented as the first Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, supposedly from 1919, that is similar in style to "Felix in Hollywood" and other early Felix animations.

[Update 5:30pm Eastern: And we have an answer:

Studios Always Take the Credit

In case you can’t see the image, that’s a tweet from Henry Rothschild (@misterculture) reading:

Re: Felix, Sullivan took credit a la Roger Meyers Sr. in “The Day the Violence Died.”


What I’ve Been Reading: January 6, 2013 – Heh:

Finally, a dolphin trainer in Ukraine has trained a dolphin to crawl on land. You can watch a video of it here. Oh my God, IT’S HAPPENING.

Films Referenced on The Simpsons – My Criterion – A good list of Simpsons movie references that only has one Zombie Simpsons entry.  (via)

The Dude abides… – YouTube of the bowling scene from “Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder” set to the “peed on your fucking rug” scene from The Big Lebowski.  Bravo.

Academy gets a few things right for 2013 Oscar nominations – There’s a reason for this:

The Simpsons catches up to South Park.  One surprise is seeing The Simpsons finally catching up to South Park as Oscar nominations go.  The Simpsons got a nomination in the animated short film category (South Park was previously nominated for best song for the film South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut).

The South Park movie was awesome.  The Simpsons movie wasn’t.  But “The Longest Daycare” was excellent, so there you go.

WordPress Wednesday – 8 New Plugins From The Plugin Directory – Check out number 7:

This plugin is a chance to relive your childhood. The Hello Simpsons Chalkboard Gag plugin was based on the Hello Dolly plugin that most active WordPress users are familiar. Much like the reason why Hello Dolly was created, the Simpsons Chalkboard Gag plugin was designed to bring a little light-hearted fun into every page of the admin panel.

As an added bonus, this plugin creates the [simpsons] shortcode which can be included on any page or post and, when used, will return a different Bartism each time the page is loaded.

WUB! WUB! WUB! WUB! – This is a cool fan drawing of Zoidberg, which isn’t technically Simpsons, but it’s still pretty cool.

homer simpson – This is not the first time I’ve seen a picture of Homer drawn on a woman’s naked crotch, and if you’re reading this on an employer owned computer where bare labia isn’t a good idea, it’s probably best not to click at the moment.  That said, the first image does give him a rather awesomely pensive look.  Not sure what’s with the cucumber in the others, though.

The Keys of Marinus – Story #005 – This is a Dr. Who review blog run by a couple, and anything that geeky is bound to touch on The Simpsons sooner or later:

On a personal note, I was very impressed (impressed, is that the right word?) that Jael decided to use the simple phrase “D’oh!”  My attempt to Simpson-ize her is working.  Please, dear reader, ask her what her favorite line from The Simpsons is; I know what it is, but having her say it is much more rewarding (especially given her major in college).

I’m guessing she was a philosophy major.

Television-impaired – The author is going a month without television, and she opened it with this:

Lisa: Maggie, come to the one you love best…

There’s also a picture of Maggie hugging the TV.  Excellent usage.

The Simpsons in Cameos: 6 Greatest Guest Star Appearances Of All Time – This is an unusual list in that you don’t see many of the usual suspects (Michael Jackson, Glenn Close), but there’s nothing past Season 11, so it’s okay by us.

Texas Chainsaw 3D…In 10 Words – Rustier!

A Trillion Dollar Platinum Coin…In 10 Words – The obvious Simpson joke here is already popping up in a lot of places.

Stars in Danger: The High Dive…In 10 Words – But Marge, Alan Thicke is throwing knives at Ricardo Montalban!

Bunheads…In 10 Words – Gonna go see the bear in the little car, huh?

Things I Love Thursday: American Comedy – A Brit discusses her love of American comedy with some good YouTube, including the rakes.

Simpsons – I’m Freaking Out – Just a jpg of Milhouse freaking out from “Team Homer”.

Five of Television’s Underrated Characters – Flanders makes the list here.

When I’ve had a bad day – Great line.

Welcome to my world 25 – Animated .gif of Bart become isolated and weird.

January 7: The Typewriter Patent – Some interesting history comes with monkey Simpsons YouTube:

Our need to share thoughts in a formal easy to read manner has driven much of the technology we share today, and some of the best mathematical myths. The Infinite Monkey Theorem states that if you put a monkey at a typewriter eventually they would almost surely produce the complete works of Shakespeare.

The Best Musical Guest Stars on The Simpsons – And finally, I get to end with someone who (basically) agrees with us:

It’s no secret that the series has had its share of struggles as it approaches the quarter-century mark, but if viewers can accept the unfortunate realization that, no matter the quality of the writing, characters just aren’t able to garner the same interest more than 500 episodes later, there is still plenty to enjoy about watching Springfield’s hapless first family galavanting around their quaint, and surprisingly durable, little town. I’ll admit that I am not a regular viewer of new episodes, but I religiously watch the first fourteen or so seasons.

Fourteen’s generous, but yeah. 


Quote of the Day

Secrets of a Successful Marriage6

“If you feel so bad about yourself, there’s always things you can do to feel better.” – Marge Simpson
“Take another bath in malt liquor?” – Homer Simpson
“There’s that.” – Marge Simpson


Compare & Contrast: Twist Nuclear Endings

Treehouse of Horror VIII10

“Do your worst, you filthy, pretentious savages!” – Mayor Quimby

For evidence that Zombie Simpsons is utterly bereft of ideas that can even be called creative, much less original, one need look no further than the fact that for the second time in a year they made an episode where the family departs Springfield to go live in the wilderness with survivalist nutbars.  But that isn’t the most damning thing about “Homer Goes to Prep School”, because the closest thing to this episode isn’t even another episode, it’s a post-apocalyptic Halloween segment from a decade and a half ago.

The first story in “Treehouse of Horror VIII” is “The Homega Man”, a Halloween fable where a nuclear blast supposedly wipes out Springfield.  In the end, of course, Homer discovers that the mutants who chase him around aren’t the only ones who survived, but in fact his entire family is alive, well and unharmed.  It’s a goofy twist, but it’s also a Halloween segment, where you can do anything you want and things have to be relatively simple because you’ve only got a few minutes in which to introduce, tell and then conclude a story.

“Homer Goes to Prep School” has none of those excuses, and yet it follows almost the exact same template.  First, there’s a nuclear disaster.  Second, Homer gets chased by other survivors.  And finally, Homer discovers that things are actually just fine, the end.

In “Treehouse of Horror VIII”, France launches a nuclear strike on Springfield out of the Eiffel Tower.  This is absurd on the face of it for any number of reasons: France and the US are allies, downtown Paris would be a terrible place for a launch silo, and, as far as Wikipedia knows, France never deployed an ICBM, “Intel Inside” or not. 

Treehouse of Horror VIII9

Wikipedia says that the actual French nuke forces are called the “Force de Frappe”.  That is awesome. 

But none of that matters because, hey, Halloween episode.  Weird shit is supposed to happen, and it’s funny as hell to have the famously thin skinned French start a nuclear war over a mild ethnic slur from a small town American politician.

“Homer Goes to Prep School” has no such excuse.  It’s supposed to be taking place in something that at least resembles the real world.  And even though Zombie Simpsons likes to just go bizarre with things, the first third of this episode is Homer freaking out over how horrible people are, and the conclusion is about people being decent to one another, so it clearly wants us to take at least some of what’s going on here seriously.  So when they employ a dumb and lazy “EMP” that Homer somehow manages to cause while no one else at the plant is looking, it isn’t wacky fun, it’s just a hackneyed plot contrivance.  Nuclear war over the word “frogs” is a joke; EMP because it’s time to move the plot along is just bad writing.

I Miss the Dog Who Averts Meltdowns

Hmm.  Must be time to start the first part of the third act.

Having caused Springfield to lose power, Homer bundles his family up and heads for the survivalist compound.  The few minutes they spend there is a waste of time, even by Zombie Simpsons standards.  For starters, we’ve already seen that Homer now has a bunch of supplies in the basement, so not only is there no reason for him and the clan to flee, but their stated reason for returning – to help the other people of Springfield – could’ve been done without them ever heading out of town in the first place.

More aggravating is the escape/chase scene itself.  For starters, the survivalists are chasing the family in a wood stove powered pickup, two horses pulling a Hummer, and Lindsey Naegle firing a machine gun backwards.  All of those are dumber and less believable than the apocalypse mobile that the mutants had in “The Homega Man”, and the last one is so stupid that it was recently mocked by XKCD (which is and has been much funnier than Zombie Simpsons for a long time).  But just as bad are the jokes, which are such hapless filler that Zombie Simpsons explains them as they happen.  Consider this, as the family plows through a corn field:

Homer: Out of our way corn!  The starving people of Springfield are desperately in need of our delivery of canned corn, corn flakes, and flash frozen corn niblets!

If this isn’t the longest, least subtle, and most heavy handed way you could make that joke, it’s gotta be close.  It also takes more time than, say, Homer quickly running over the Johnny & Edgar Winter Tour in “Treehouse of Horror VIII”, which – again – was a Halloween episode.

Finally we come to the abrupt, just-kidding-it-was-all-okay-after-all ending.  In “The Homega Man”, Homer returns home to find his family safe and sound before we get the unexpected spasm of Halloween violence wherein the rest of the family blows away all the mutants.   In “Homer Goes to Prep School” we get two whole minutes of drawn out exposition about what did and didn’t happen.  It’s not endless, but it does kinda feel that way:

Lisa: What happened with the EMP?
Prof. Frink: Only Springfield lost power, you see, and after a few days it came back. 


Waits: Then society didn’t crumble?  The zoo animals weren’t eaten?
Chief Wiggum: Well, a couple.
Waits: This non-disaster is a catastrophe.
Marge: Are you really so disappointed the world didn’t end just so you could be proven right?
Waits: No, no, no, it’s just that, in the new world, I would’ve been a big shot.


Lisa: Guys, can’t you see that an imperfect society is better than the savagery of creating a new one?  I, for one, am glad we’re stuck with civilization.  And I think we will be for a long, long time.

Which, of course, leads to the zombie comet, which itself has to be explained:

Zombie Kid: I’m hungry.
Zombie Dad: Look, you can have potato chips now or, if you wait ten minutes, you can have all the brains you can eat. 
Zombie Kid: I want both.

Yup, they are now literally Zombie Simpsons.  Add it all up and there’s no getting away from the conclusion that “Homer Goes to Prep School” is a poor mimicry of a much better episode.  And while that happens a lot with Zombie Simpsons, usually they don’t take post-apocalyptic Halloween segments as their templates and then go them several worse in terms of weirdness. 


Quote of the Day

Three Men and a Comic Book8

“Today, we wash Beulah.  You know what that is?” – Mrs. Glick
“Some old lady thing nobody’s heard about for fifty years?” – Bart Simpson
“No.  It was my wedding dress.  But then I dyed it black and it became my mourning dress.” – Mrs. Glick


Quote of the Day

The Way We Was14

“You may not remember me.  I’m Homer Simpson, I mooned for rebuttal.” – Homer Simpson
“Yes, I remember.” – Marge Bouvier

Happy birthday Al Jean!


Quote of the Day

Fix You, Miss You

“With my bills paid off I can finally quit this lousy job!” – Homer Simpson
“But, Homer, how are you going to make a living?” – Lenny
“Don’t worry about Homer J., I’ve got a plan . . . a plan that’ll fix you good.” – Homer Simpson
“Hey, what did we do?” – Carl
“Sorry, that just slipped out.  I’ll miss you.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Homer the Great10

“You put that sticker on your car so you won’t get any tickets, and this other one keeps paramedics from stealing your wallet while they’re working on you.” – Lenny
“Oh, and don’t bother calling 9-1-1 any more.  Here’s the real number.” – Carl


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