Archive for January, 2014



17
Jan
14

Compare & Contrast: Overprotective Fathers

Bart's Friend Falls in Love15

“Samantha!” – Mr. Stanky
“Dad!” – Samantha Stanky
“Noooooo!” – Mr. Stanky

As far as nothingburger girlfriend characters go, Kumiko is so empty that she makes the relatively one-dimensional Rene from Season 9 look like Katniss Everdeen.  Rene at least talked to Moe before dating him out of pity.  Kumiko apparently fell in love with Comic Book Guy without even so much as meeting him.  But even that vacuous characterization is rich and deep compared to Kumiko’s father, who shows up out of the blue and instantly becomes the focus of the episode despite failing, after his very first scene, to do what he said he was there to do.  And, of course, per standard Zombie Simpsons operating procedure, he doesn’t get a name.

Back in Season 3, the show gave us another father who didn’t want his daughter dating one of Springfield’s losers.  He also didn’t get a first name, but in that case it didn’t matter because by the time he was on screen for his one scene, he’d already been a shadow over their doomed romance from the beginning of the episode.  I speak, of course, of Samantha Stanky’s father, Mr. Stanky, in “Bart’s Friend Falls In Love”.

To understand how The Simpsons could make a better character despite his having only one scene on screen and just four lines, it helps to look side-by-side at how and when each of them is introduced and expanded.  Mr. Stanky (which is hard to type without giggling a bit) is mentioned for the first time in the middle of the first act, just three minutes into the episode, when Samantha, forced by Mrs. Krabappel to introduce herself in front of the class while being graded on grammar and poise, says:

We just moved here from Phoenix.  My dad owns a home security company.  He came to Springfield because of its high crime rate and lackluster police force.

Right there, with the man himself most of the episode away from even being seen, we can form a mental picture of the guy.  He owns a security company, and he’s willing to uproot his family and move across the country to a city with lots of crime because of it.  We know right away that he’s not a sentimentalist and probably isn’t someone you’d want to screw around with.

By contrast, Kumiko’s father doesn’t show up until twelve minutes into the episode, at what I guess is supposed to be the first or second act break (Zombie Simpsons makes it hard to tell).  Up to this point we hadn’t heard of him at all.  He didn’t rate so much as a toss off line from Kumiko or Comic Book Guy about her father maybe not wanting his daughter pulling up stakes and moving to America to live with some dude he’s never met.  They had eight minutes left to fill, so you knew something had to keep the new lovers from riding off happily into the sunset, but the episode is so poorly set up and written that it could just as easily have been an argument about Marvel vs. DC, the superiority of American or Japanese animation, or really anything, up to and including a meteor strike or General Zod showing up.  Having dropped in from nowhere, he and Homer proceed to recap the episode and explain who he is and why he’s there.  We don’t see him confront Comic Book Guy or Kumiko, he just stands there.

Two Men Talking (Part 1)

Men of action!

The next scene is Kumiko crying and walking out of the store, escorted by her father.  They proceed down the sidewalk and, for all intents and purposes, his story is completed barely a minute after he arrived on screen.  He came to get his daughter.  He got his daughter.  The end.  Naturally, Zombie Simpsons can’t drop things there, but whether they know it or not, that’s the story they just told us.

Compare that clumsy plot advance to the second time we hear Mr. Stanky mentioned, when Milhouse and Samantha are, as the old children’s rhyme goes, kissing in a tree.  Samantha puts a halt to things because:

Milhouse, I’ve gotta go.  My Dad thinks I’m having my braces examined.

Without the man himself so much as coming close to the screen, we know that he has no idea that some local kid in a city he probably doesn’t even like is kissing his precious baby girl.  We also know that if he did know, he wouldn’t approve, because otherwise, why would she lie to him about going to the orthodontist?

Bart's Friend Falls in Love14

She kinda, sorta is having her braces examined, but her father is unlikely to see it that way.

The next time he’s mentioned is at the end of what is very clearly the second act, when Bart has grown exasperated with being the third wheel and losing his best friend to a skirt.  Milhouse, desperate to continue his closed-mouth-kissing, pre-adolescent romance asks if they can still use Bart’s treehouse because:

If her father finds out, he’ll kill her.

This is tight as a drum storytelling.  Milhouse is making explicit what was hinted at earlier and giving Bart the crucial piece of information he needs to break them up, all in a single, eight word sentence.

The third time we hear from Mr. Nakamura (which isn’t funny at all, especially compared to Stanky), it’s when he’s inexplicable sitting in a Japanese restaurant getting drunk with Homer.  The last time we saw him he was walking off with his daughter and talking about taking her back to Japan.  Did she object or disappear?  Was the flight delayed?  Is she locked in his hotel room right now?  Why would he listen to Homer anyway, a man he barely knows who clearly knew his daughter was with the man he wholeheartedly disapproves of?  Who knows?  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t care about any of those questions and thanks you for not caring as well.

Nakamura’s next scene comes after he and Homer get into the hallucinogenic snake wine.  It’s the very pretty centerpiece to the episode wherein they cram as many Simpsons characters as they can into Miyazaki references.  This all ends with Nakamura coming face to face with one of the masked guys from Spirited Away and telling us all out loud that he now doesn’t mind Comic Book Guy marrying his daughter.  Like I said, it’s pretty, but it’s also gratutious filler that advances the already shambling story roughly two (very obvious) centimeters.

The fourth time Mr. Stanky comes up is when Bart narcs on Samantha and Milhouse’s little love nest.  Again, this is superb storytelling, as the threat he poses to the young romance, implicit at first and growing ever more explicit, is now approaching at full speed.  Hitherto he’d only been referenced, now he’s on the phone with Bart and bearing down on the treehouse like a parental hurricane.

The fifth and final time he’s part of the episode is the culmination of the previous four.  His abrupt and unexpected appearance at the treehouse shows us that he’s exactly who we’ve been told he is: a take charge kinda guy who doesn’t want his little girl anywhere near some punk kid she thinks is a good kisser.  He grabs Samantha (literally), tosses her in the car, and speeds her out of Milhouse’s life.  It’s the climax of the episode, with the remainder being Bart and Milhouse reconciling and the bittersweet ending with Samantha at the penguin house.

The last couple of times we see Mr. Nakamura, he’s expositing his new found approval of his daughter’s dumpy boyfriend, showing up to their wedding in a silver C-3P0 costume (the fuck?), and then getting drunk with Homer some more on an elementary school playground because those last thirty seconds aren’t going to fill themselves.  It’s a sticky sweet ending that’s no different than what was happening before he arrived, which isn’t surprising since he is, as most Zombie Simpsons characters are, more prop than person.  His reason to be there was so flimsy that no one even mentioned him for the first two thirds of the episode, and when he did show up it had little to do with his stated intentions and everything to do with Zombie Simpsons shoving some movie references into a previously blank spot on their storyboard.

Mr. Stanky, on the other hand, was a constant and growing off screen threat who did exactly what his daughter and her brief boyfriend knew he would.  Both of them were killjoys in their way, but one of them was good at it and lent the episode and the ending the kind of character, depth and complexity that make the jokes hit home and the story relatable.  The other was just there.

17
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Dumbbell Indemnity5

“To Marge, and all the blissful years I’ve spent hiding from her in this bar.” – Homer Simpson
“Hear, hear!” – Drunks

16
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Homerpalooza11

“Hey, wait!  I’m okay today!  My mom bought me deodorant!” – Milhouse van Houten

15
Jan
14

Behind Us Forever: Married To The Blob

Chalkboard - Married to the Blob

"Tell me, how do you feel about forty-five year old virgins who still live with their parents?" – Comic Book Guy
"Comb the SweetTarts out of your beard and you’re on." – Comic Babe
"Don’t try to change me, baby." – Comic Book Guy

[Note: Sorry for the extremely late posting on this one.  That kind of week.  Compare & Contrast should be along tomorrow.]

Over the last ten years or so, Hollywood has become extremely adept at giving "geeks" (for lack of a better term) what they want.  The most visible expression of this is the way that comic book movies have come to be routine fixtures in each year’s list of box office champions, but down on the small screen things have been going along just as well.  Between the Battlestar Galactica remake, yet more comic book properties, the uneven but occasionally glorious return of Futurama, and plenty more, there is stuff beyond Star Trek that your stereotypical fat guy geek can love.  Over that same span of time, The Simpsons went from one of the most beloved things on television to the pale imitation of itself that exists today, something so cluelessly mediocre that pretty much nobody outside of the entertainment industry and its various paid shills will say anything good about it in public.  "Married to the Blob" is like a tiny microcosm of that, with the once razor sharp satire of Comic Book Guy getting the full Moe treatment of lovesick lonely heart before falling ass backwards into a one-dimensional wish fulfillment girlfriend who is, wait for it, a hot, Asian manga artist.  I guess there’s something to be said for the completeness of that collapse into hapless pandering, but it sure doesn’t make for entertaining television.

– Once again, the couch gag goes on for a very long time and is possibly the most creative part of the episode.

– This Radioactive Man movie/show/comic-imagining/whatever it’s supposed to be would have worked better without each character explaining themselves, sometimes twice.

– Lisa just walked in from nowhere to tell us what’s about to happen . . . and now it’s happening.

– A pointless, self voiced celebrity.  Thanks, Mr. Ellison.  No, there won’t be a check in the mail.

– So this other comic book guy, whom they had to remind us who he is, just barged in front of Homer in line to exposit and get the plot started and brag about being married.  I don’t think it would kill them to have at least one scene make sense, but they seem to think it would.

– And now Homer’s impatient at being made to wait.  He wasn’t for the minute it took them to have rival comic book guy appear and disappear, but the show conveniently forgot he was there for that stretch of time.  Infants have a better sense of object permanence than Zombie Simpsons, and it’s not even close.

– Well, give them this, they know their songs suck even if they do hide it behind their mask of low key, Comic Book Guy hostility calling it cliched.  Seriously, they rhymed "it" with "it".

– Stan Lee’s here as both a real person and a hallucination, and they still had Comic Book Guy exposit exactly what he did.

– Kumiko’s first lines involve her telling us what she’s doing and the pulling out a copy of her manga which she then tells us about as we see it.

– Comic Book Guy immediately goes to the Simpson house for advice because what else would he do?

– They switched it up, now Marge is telling us exactly what’s going on.

– Okay, Mr. Sparkle being a popular form of suicide is kinda funny.

– Nothing says good writing like conflict free explanation of what a character is feeling at exactly that moment: "Oh, I don’t mind.  If you think it’s stupid, say it’s stupid."

– Which is followed quickly by "I’m in love, and yet still a little bitter.  It’s surprising."

– Montage!

– They say the first rule of screenwriting is "show, don’t tell".  The post-montage scene is Comic Book Guy and Kumiko telling Marge and Homer that they’re moving in together, which is followed by Marge and Homer in the backyard telling us about a housewarming gift.  They broke it twice in two scenes.  Three more and they get a free Subway sandwich.

– The guy who is obviously Kumiko’s father is here, but Homer told us who he was because otherwise it would’ve been confusing.

– They are really angling for that free sandwich: "So an obese nerd has stolen my daughter to live in his basement?".

– Comic Book Guy is on the couch and straight up telling us who he’s referencing.  I can almost smell the low grade meatballs.

– Now Kumiko’s father is drinking with Homer . . . even though we just saw him walking off screen saying he was going back to Japan with his daughter.  It’s amazing, when they do almost show us something they don’t seem to think it counts.

– And we’re back to montage, though at least this one is kinda pretty in that, "Hey, we’ll animate something in someone else’s style so people will say nice things about us on-line for a change" way.  This is their go to stunt these days.

– And yet they still had Bart and Lisa show up to explain what’s going on in the montage.  Honestly, it’s like a neurosis.

– "Enough non-sense, I came here for my daughter" – who was with you two scenes ago.  How you lost her again will never be explained or even mentioned, but you did have her back not all that long ago.

– And now Kumiko is singing the exposition.

– That’s like ten scenes in a row: "Homer, drinking that rice wine and going to White Castle really opened my eyes."  That punch card has been filled out, free sandwiches for all!

– And because all that exposition didn’t fill up enough time, we’ve got a completely unconnected final scene where Milhouse lays an egg.  A fitting metaphor for this piece of dreck.

Anyway, the ratings are in and, as expected, they crashed back to earth with no football as a lead in.  Just 4.71 million people wondered why they weren’t watching a Miyazaki movie instead on Sunday.  That’s not quite enough to break into the ten least watched all time, but it’s not far off the pace either.  There’s no Zombie Simpsons this Sunday because of football, but non-football-lead-in Zombie Simpsons appears to be just as bad in 2014 as it was in 2013, and 2012, and 2011 . . .

15
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2g

“Officer, you have arrested an innocent man!” – Sideshow Mel
“Really?  Aw, jeez, alright, Colossus, you’re free to go.  But stay away from Death Mountain.” – Chief Wiggum
“But all my stuff is there!” – Dr. Colossus

14
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Bart's Girlfriend13

“I don’t want you playing with something that has such bizarre hair.  Awful, awful hair.” – Marge Simpson

13
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Homer the Vigilante13

“How are we gonna get out of here?” – Otto
“We’ll dig our way out!” – Homer Simpson
“No, no, dig up, stupid.” – Chief Wiggum

Happy (blizzard belated) 20th Anniversary to “Homer the Vigilante”!  Original airdate 6 January 1994.

12
Jan
14

Sunday Preview: Married To The Blob

untitled (2)

Homer offers dating advice to Comic Book Guy when he meets a Japanese manga author who catches his fancy.

Oh CBG, how I miss you, and how I loathe what you have become.  From what I’ve read they unfroze Stan Lee to say a few lines, and although that isn’t a new thing for Zombie Simpsons, I think it has at least been a while.

12
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Bart After Dark12

“And after visiting the area for the past two months, I have determined it is not feasible to construct a supertrain between Springfield and Aruba.” – Mayor Quimby

11
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield7

“Marge, did you know that Kennedy and Lincoln had the same handicap?” – Homer Simpson

10
Jan
14

Reading Digest: Simpsonized Politicians Edition

Two Bad Neighbors9

“Just gonna relax with my U.S. News and World whatnot.  Ah, good, roasting the new guy.” – Bush the Elder

Before we get to this week’s links, I’d like to show you something that illustrates just how different the attitude of the Zombie Simpsons writing staff is from that of The Simpsons.  Yesterday, Matt Selman, who is the longtime second-in-command at Zombie Simpsons and who’s been running some of his own episodes the last two seasons, tweeted this:

Sell-out Man

Zombie Simpsons has long acted as unpaid advertising for businesses The Simpsons genuinely mocked, but it’s another level of commercial apathy to have one of the head writers take to Twitter and personally help his “pals” at Axe advertise the shitty and laughably stupid perfume they sell to insecure and sexually naive adolescents.  (Selman, by the way, is in his 40s.)  Twitter didn’t exist twenty years ago, but it’s damn hard to imagine the guys who wrote the beer parody ad where dour feminists turn into giddy bikini babes at a splash of Duff personally endorsing Budweiser or Miller Lite in their spare time, much less repeating the ads they mocked so harshly.  That tweet is some shameful shit.

In more pleasant Simpsons news, the big story this week was the release of official pictures of the new Lego Simpsons set.  There were uncountable tweets, blog posts, and articles about this, but there’s only one link below because all of them were just reposting the same pictures and information.  In addition to that, we’ve got two links each this week to people getting themselves Simpsonized and politicians invoking the show to lambaste their enemies.  And in addition to that, we’ve got quite a few excellent fan made drawings, some excellent usage, several people who agree with us, and some real life turnip juice, just like they make in Shelbyville.

The Merciless Peppers of Quetzalacatenango – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this scientist’s discussion of those merciless peppers:

When Homer just barely puts one of these peppers on his tongue, it burns so much he has to find something to drink; beer is at hand, but he doesn’t drink it only dipping his tongue in it to remove the heat (capsaicin is not water soluble, but is in fat, so milk or drinking straight up butter is the way to go, alcohol actually makes it worse),

Say cheese! You’re being Simpsonized – The first of our two Simpsonizing posts this week has the entire process, from sketch to done, of Simpsonizing a picture of two young women.  Looks great.

You Can Add Lego’s Simpson Set To Your Must Have List For 2014 – All New Pics AND A Video! – Lots and lots of pics from the Lego set, including a video of nice Scandinavian people explaining how they were designed.  You can buy it next month for $200 (ouch).

Turn Your Handsome Face into a Simpsons Cartoon – The “Simpsonize Me” site has been dead for a few years now, but you can get yourself done that way for a mere $5 if you’re so inclined.

homer.jpg – Just because it was 15 KBBL degrees below zero on my way to work Tuesday doesn’t mean it isn’t blazing hot on the other side of the planet.  Heh.

How ‘The Simpsons’ Taught ‘Parks and Recreation’ to Create Rich, Memorable Characters – Sadly, this stopped being true about fifteen seasons ago:

The success of the formula boils down to the writer’s diligence for giving each character a specific role to play from episode to episode. Dr. Hibbert is the doctor, and that’s it; we see him every time there’s a storyline related to medicine. Moe is always serving drinks at Moe’s, and Apu is always behind the counter of the Kwik-E-Mart. Similarly, you’ll rarely see Groundskeeper Willie away from Springfield Elementary.

They have turned most of the secondary characters into goo and will mash them willy-nilly into any scene, no matter how out of place they are.

Hank Scorpio – #310/#365 – Somebody slapped a Scorpio sticker on a trash can in Ireland.

The Boy – Cool fan made drawing of a very pissed off Homer.

Bartfink – An awesomely creepy fan made Bart drawing.

Kick-flip Triptych: Rad Dogs. The United Geekdom Geek Dogs Expo. – Fan made drawing of Santa’s Little Helper flipping over a car on a skateboard.  (The Back to the Future one is pretty good, too.)

Ogni volta che un autore spagnolo usa un laismo, in Italia un traduttore muore. – Nelson photoshopped into laughing at the Death of Marat.

The Simpsons – Fan made drawing of the Simpsons swimming.

The Proverbial Skeptic’s 5 Buzzwords to Stop Using in 2014 – Excellent usage:

There is a scene in an old episode of The Simpsons from 1997 which depicts a corporate meeting held to create a new cartoon character (Poochie, who ends up being voiced by Homer). The executives in the meeting keep throwing out buzzwords until a writer, clearly fed up that the conversation is going nowhere, interrupts to say “Excuse me, but ‘proactive’ and ‘paradigm’? Aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I’m accusing you of anything like that. I’m fired, aren’t I?”

But that was 1997. It’s a new year, and it’s also National Hangover Day, so, as The Proverbial Skeptic, it is only right for me to suggest some resolutions. People don’t say “paradigm” or “proactive” or the all-time classic, “synergy”, anymore.

He keeps on rockin’ and stompin’: Greg Rekus stomps his way to the Park Theatre Wednesday – And excellent reference:

Armed with an acoustic guitar and a tambourine-clad stomp box, Winnipeg musician Greg Rekus often gets the “one-man band” tag, a musical term that, according to The Simpsons, will get you attacked by a monkey.

Go for the face!

Isaac Newton in the Simpsons – Did you forget Isaac Newton’s birthday last week?  I sure did.

Round 46, Part 2: The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star – The winner by default wins again.

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1: When Flanders Failed VS. Homer The Heretic – True:

After dancing around in his underwear, Homer heads to the kitchen for something to eat. What’s he cooking? Comedy gold.

THE BEST EPISODE THINGY THERE EVER WAS ROUND 1: Stark Raving Dad VS. Separate Vocations – This line always gets me:

Marge: Doctor, if you just talk to him for five minutes without mentioning our son Bart, you’d see how sane he is.
Doctor: You mean there really is a  Bart?! Good Lord!

Blurst of times – YouTube of those blurst times.

The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season – True:

There are a few laughs, but overall the 16th season reminds us just how good we had it during seasons 4-8.

IL Gov. Compares GOP Candidates To The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns – He even got the full name right, calling him “C. Montgomery Burns”.  Well done.

‘The Bart Simpson defence’: Surprising pop culture references in the Dáil and Seanad – Irish politicians like quoting Bart.

Istanbul Grill’s Turn of the Turnip – Excellent reference:

Remember that episode of The Simpsons in which Bart and his pals meet their Shelbyville doppelgangers after the latter steal Springfield‘s hallowed lemon tree? Remember how the episode ended, with Springfield kids quenching their thirst with sweet lemonade, while Shelbyville’s youngsters chugged turnip juice in disgust? And remember how your palate recoiled at the thought of the beverage, even if you had never conceived of it in your life, let alone tasted it? Well, turnip juice has been a Turkish staple for centuries, and you can order a glass of it at Istanbul Grill in Fountain Valley.

Poll: An Affair to Remember – I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that this pretty much sums up my relationship to the Tapped Out game, and I’ve only been playing it for four months:

Longer than the grueling hours it used to take to play Monopoly. Longer than the occasional dalliance with solitaire. Longer than my late night virtual gambling phase with Blackjack and Poker. And longer than any marathon session with Donkey Kong, Solid Snake, or Zelda.

TSTO and I have basically been having an affair for 15 months now – it’s been an illicit affair, one my family and friends don’t quite approve of.

The Liebster Award!!! – Good answer:

5. What is your favorite TV show?

All time? Probably “The Simpsons”. There was a time in my life when a 24-hour all-Simpsons channel would have made perfect sense to me.

An Important Announcement From In 10 Words – This post is actually 130 words, but I’m glad it’ll keep going.

Line(s) of the Day #TheSimpsons – Heh.

‘The Simpsons’: Judd Apatow on playing ‘self-involved’ Judd Apatow – A short interview with Apatow.  No real news, but there wouldn’t be, would there?

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh – A book review that agrees with us:

Another fun thing about this book is reminiscing about old Simpsons episodes from my childhood. This book describes different episodes that have secret mathematical equations or anecdotes built-in. When the author describes the episodes and the deeper mathematical meaning, I gain a newfound appreciation for the episode. Nothing beats old Simpsons episodes in my humble opinion, and now I know why – the writers are so smart!

Wendy Wept – This is about the most recent finale of South Park, but it does nicely agree with us:

The show filled a subversive void that The Simpsons had left back in the nineties, when they transitioned from being edgy to over to just plain sad.

True.

10
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided13

“My Dad left my Mom after she got hooked on cough drops.  By the end, her breath was so fresh, she wasn’t really my mother anymore.” – Nelson Muntz

09
Jan
14

Compare & Contrast: Federal Hardasses

Homer vs. The 18th Amendment9

“With rum running hoodlums in the catbird seat, Springfield sent for the one man who could clean up the town and shoot the gangsters: Rex Banner.” – Narrator Who Is Not Walter Winchell

These days there are more teevee cop stereotypes than you can shake a nightstick at.  There are the gruff loners who play by their own rules, but they get results, damn it.  There are the emotionally haunted forensics experts.  There are the (always model pretty) lady detectives who are just as tough as the boys.  In the subset of federal teevee cops, we’ve got everything from savvy military investigators and yet more forensic experts to the ever reliable, order barking modern super-agent.  Epitomized by Kiefer Sutherland, he’s tough, he’s ultra-competent, he’s had way too much coffee, and he likes yelling orders into cell phones.  That, in a nutshell, was Will Arnett’s character in “Steal This Episode”.

Set the clock back to a time before cell phones and SWAT teams, and those same upright federal crusaders with haircuts you could set your watch to were still there, they were just less excitable.  In place of Sutherland’s unrestrained id, there was Robert Stack, battling crime week after week in gangster ridden Chicago.  And that, in a similar nutshell, was Dave Thomas’s Rex Banner in “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment”.

Both characters are hard charging, rule crazy feds, but that’s about where the similarities stop.  Like the Capital City Goofball or Race Banyon before him, Rex Banner is the kind of one-off satirical archetype at which The Simpsons excelled.  His clipped speech and complete lack of humor are instantly recognizable even if you’ve never seen Robert Stack wear a fedora.  The same way that you don’t need to know the name of a single square shouldered astronaut or giant fuzzy mascot to get Banyon and the Goofball, you don’t need to know a single teevee cop to understand that Banner is a ramrod straight G-man from the old school.

Banner’s dialogue matches his posture.  He speaks in short sentences that are nevertheless laced with old time slang worthy of an untouchable 1920s prohi:

“Listen, rummy, I’m gonna say it plain and simple: where’d you pinch the hooch?  Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side?”

“Open up, curly, this is a raid!”

“Don’t crack wise with me, tubby.”

“It’s not up to us to choose which laws we want to obey.  If it were, I’d kill everyone who looked at me cockeyed.”

There he is, a minor character never to return, who nevertheless becomes a full, if batshit crazy, human in just a few minutes of screen time.

Compare that to the grossly underwritten and underthought agent in “Steal This Episode”.  I’d call him by his name, but they didn’t bother to give him one.  Other characters only address him three times: once as “sir”, once as “hotshot”, and one final time at the end when Lisa just walks up to him in court and starts talking.

Just as damning is the fact that we don’t seem him do much of anything.  He swoops into Homer’s backyard theater, then goes away while the show has Homer escape and Marge repeatedly (like, a lot) feel bad about turning him in.  (Incidentally, Marge didn’t mean to do it, but that kind of story subtlety is instantly lost in the seemingly endless scenes where Homer unknowingly guilts her over and over again.)  The next time we see our federal Javert he’s outside with the lead singer of Judas Priest, then he’s in court, and then he’s done.  The man has no story, no resolution, no nothing.

Worse still are his lines.  There’s no consistency to them.  They’re a mash of the usual Zombie Simpsons expository sitcom banter:

“Men, set your guns on kill.  We’re going after Homer Simpson.”

“Earplugs in, blinders on, we trained for this.” [copious screaming]

“Hollywood may be run by big corporations trying to squash people, but they make movies about people standing up to big corporations trying to squash them, and winning.”

He tells us what we already know, tells us what we’re about to see, and sums up the ending in case the other half-dozen times it was explained to us didn’t take.  These aren’t the words of a hard-ass, take no prisoners federal agent.  They’re the words of a nameless nobody with no core and no character.  He’s on screen, he yells some things (most of which have nothing to do with one another), and then he’s gone.

It’s been a long time since Zombie Simpsons created a character anyone would remember more than an hour after watching the episode, and this nameless Rex Banner wannabe is a perfect illustration of why.  They don’t deal in characters anymore, they deal in props.  The audience for Homer’s movies includes Miss Hoover, Sideshow Mel, the Squeaky Voiced Teen, Chief Wiggum and a bunch of other characters who probably would never have been there in Season 8.  When Superintendent Chalmers gets singled out by Homer, it could’ve been anyone else in the back yard without changing the scene one whit:

Bizarre Town Meeting

Jimbo and Frink have always been best friends.  They have so much in common.

Agent Whathisname is a recognizable archetype that they treat like any other replaceable part.  They don’t give him a story, don’t make him move the main plot (he doesn’t chase Homer to the consulate, the family just goes there and he somehow knows they went), and don’t even bother to give his lines the least bit of personality.

Rex Banner is a precisely distilled take on fictionalized Elliot Ness: body and mind carved out of solid wood.  The other guy, whoever he was, flitted in and out of a few scenes and then vanished, his presence and personality as insubstantial as a wisp.

09
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

There's No Disgrace Like Home14

“Boy, someone’s really gobbling up the juice, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Excellent, excellent.  Perhaps this energy conservation fad is as dead as the dodo.” – C.M. Burns

Happy Birthday Al Jean!

08
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Homer Alone13

“So, what’s the verdict?” – La Pamperie Stylist
“Oh, dear God!  I can’t even put a bag over my head.” – Woman
“Yes, you can.” – La Pamperie Stylist

07
Jan
14

Behind Us Forever: Steal This Episode

Chalkboard - Steal This Episode

“Come on, Milhouse, you have to do this.  If not for yourself, then for the movie going public, and for the foreign markets that more important than ever nowadays, and finally, for me, the Mickster.” – Mickey Rooney
“No.” – Milhouse van Houten
“Alright, I tried.” – Mickey Rooney

I’m on record as saying that the “travel” episodes tend to be the least unwatchable.  They still can’t tell a story for shit, the dialogue remains hamfisted and expository, and nothing makes sense even within individual scenes, but giving them a fresh topic usually does result in a couple of decent laughs.  “Steal This Episode” was basically that, except instead of traveling somewhere, Zombie Simpsons turned its cataract clouded eye towards movie downloading.  It lent itself to some decent jabs at the entertainment industry for a while until, as they always do, things went haywire with prison bus crashes, Swedish consulates, weird courtroom drama, and the almost obligatory crush of self voiced celebrities.  

– This Radioactive Man spoiler thing got tiresome quickly.  It’s fun to make fun of absurd comic movie plot twists and all, but it probably shouldn’t take the first five minutes of the episode to do so.

– “Joke?” on the church sign may be the laziest thing ever put there.  It’s like a script note that never got looked at.

– So, Bart hasn’t seen the movie even though he was sitting at Krusty Burger with Milhouse getting the toy thirty seconds earlier?  I guess they didn’t specifically say he saw it, but they have intra-episode continuity problems so often that they don’t get the benefit of the doubt anymore.

– “Hey, they tricked us, that’s a commercial.”  Just once this season I’d like to get through an episode where what I just saw isn’t explicitly explained to me immediately after.  This is the ninth episode, so there’s probably about thirteen to go.  I don’t like my chances.

– The FOX logo with the NASCAR thing keeping people from finding out how to download stuff was funny.  The callback was weak, but at least it was brief.

– Steady stream of animated misfires was good, too.

– But the FBI angle is getting worn out already.

– The Star Wars crawl was pretty good even if things are starting to spin out of control.

– And the FBI thing has officially disintegrated with earplugs, blinders and all kinds of screaming.  The whole thing is pointless filler.

– “It’s probably someone I would never suspect, never suspect.  Your moans of sympathy are all I have!  Whoever did this to me will be haunted by unbearable guilt forever . . . forever.” – This kind of intentionally silly exposition could be funny if it were a) done better and b) not done every other damn scene.

– Someone thought prisoners talking like entertainment industry insiders was very funny.  You know, up until the pointless bus crash.

– And now we’re at the dinner table for more of Expository Guilt Theater: “I just can’t imagine anyone turning him in.”

– So, why are we in a Swedish consulate?

– “You like this?” – said the audience incredulously

– “Consulate.  Consulate’s are regional offices which serve the embassy in the capital.” <- Filler Sentence That Did Not Need to Be Written, Much Less In the Actual Episode

– Here’s Apatow for some more weak Hollywood insider ranting.

– Wow, they’re throwing celebrity guest voices at us with a remarkable clip.  It’s not funny or anything, but it’s kind of impressive in its own manically sad way.  I suppose it was nice of them to let all these people show up to gently mock their industry even as they promote it and themselves.  

One of the big reasons why the show will never regain even a scrap of its former greatness is the unavoidable repetitiveness of it.  Movie downloading isn’t exactly a fresh topic generally, but it was something mostly new for Zombie Simpsons.  But while it gave them a couple of relatively easy and untouched topics to make fun of, they immediately fell into their familiar pattern of bashing Homer around for no real reason, piling on celebrity voices just because they can, and hanging everything on a frayed string of a story that snapped completely right around the time it was literally thrown under the bus.  So while they got a nice writeup on Torrent Freak and a .gif of Homer yelling at the rude movie patrons was one of the biggest items on Reddit yesterday, no one is going to care about or really remember this episode even a year from now, much less twenty or more.  Like that YouTube picture-a-day takeoff from back in Season 19, one little part might earn some minor internet renown, but the rest of the episode will quickly fade to indistinguishable nothing because it’s a forgettable mess.

Anyway, the ratings are in and they are hugely improved, though it’s a one time only deal that had nothing to do with the episode itself.  FOX had the 49ers-Packers playoff game (Zombie Simpsons started seven minutes late), and that bleed through gave them 12.04 million viewers.  That number will come down on a final revision, but even after that it’s almost certain to be the highest rated episode of the entire season.  Next week, CBS has the late playoff game, and the weekend after that there won’t be a new episode as the respective NFC and AFC championship games start later than usual to get into those sweet, sweet primetime advertising hours.  

07
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Homer the Heretic12

“It’s 11 KBBL degrees below zero, I hope you’re someplace warm!” – Bill
“You bet your sweet . . . ass!” – Homer Simpson

06
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Mr. Plow7

“Take it easy, folks, it’s snow-picnic out there!” – Bill
“I snow what you mean.” – Marty
“You’re dead weight, Marty.” – Bill

05
Jan
14

Sunday Preview: Steal This Episode

Steal_This_Episode_Promo_1

Homer becomes annoyed with movie theaters, so Bart teaches him how to download movies illegally. Homer is delighted with his discovery of free movies until he’s caught for piracy.

Lots of guest stars tonight, including Judd Apatow, Leslie Man, Seth Rogan, Will Arnet, and several more.  Which I guess is as good of a group as any to use in an episode about a topic that was actually a topic several years back.

 

 

05
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

Mom and Pop Art7

“Shaving my shoulders!  I’m getting it all shaved off!” – Homer Simpson




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