19
May
14

Behind Us Forever: The Yellow Badge of Cowardge

Chalkboard - The Yellow Badge of Cowardage
“Gratzi, gratzi, you have brought great joy to this old Italian stereotype.” – Don Vittorio DiMaggio
“No, no, Don Vittorio, you’re not-” – Legs
“Yes, I am.  I know it, I am.” – Don Vittorio DiMaggio

If nothing else, “The Yellow Badge of Cowardge” capped off Season 25 with the same brand of forgettable and lackluster nonsense that we’ve come to expect.  (Points for consistency, if literally nothing else.)  Jokes and childishly simple plot points are explained ad nauseam while the overall story staggers around in a world of dull nonsense.  So, for example, near the middle of the episode Homer and the guy who looks and sounds like Don Vittorio DiMaggio but isn’t Don Vittorio DiMaggio drive around with barrels of gunpowder strapped to their car.  Despite the fact that we know nothing of consequence is going to happen, the show insists on driving them through a bunch of neighborhoods where everything might explode.  It goes on for the better part of a minute and they explain every place they go before they get there.  It’s Season 25 (and really all of Zombie Simpsons) in a nutshell: a bad joke that’s explained ahead of time and then run into the ground.

– At least the couch gag was short.  Didn’t have a couch, but it was short.

– Why is Lisa narrating when the first time we see her she’s asleep?

– Bart banging pots and pans . . . feels like I’ve seen that before.  Also, he explained what he was doing while he was doing it.

– “That’s a prison road crew” – Marge, telling us what we’re looking at.

– Having had a couple of jokes explained while they were happening, here’s Marge to pre-explain the fire department delivering pizza in a pointless, Family Guy aside.

– Narration Lisa is now also pre-explaining the jokes “and run with your leg tied to someone who wouldn’t talk to you all year”.

– Cletus, doing the same.

– Skinner is getting pelted with eggs.  He used to be good at his job.

– As is sometimes the case, the sign gags are at least okay.  Lewis’s out of office text message was kinda funny.  It couldn’t save that extended bit with Chalmers just yelling and mumbling, but it wasn’t terrible.

– This whole field day is an excuse for them to jump from one bad idea to another.

– Okay, Edwin Moses contemptuously saying that all hurdles are the same size was funny.

– The cheese grater abs on Milhouse are kinda gross.

– I think Chalmers reciting all the kids names is supposed to be fan service.  Getting hard to tell.

– Aaaaand, proving once again that they will overuse anything decent, they have Moses jump off a cliff (literally).

– Nelson’s here to punch Milhouse.  Supposedly he’s there because the bullies don’t want to pay off a bet to Martin (which they would do why, exactly?), but maybe he just wanted Milhouse to stop expositing while he ran.

– Speaking of exposition, Narration Lisa is now helpfully explaining his dilemma to us: “Bart faced a terrible choice, take a beating with his friend or slither off like a coward.”

– “Mom, I’m narrating!” <- actual line

– Hibbert, having explained what we just saw happen to Milhouse, now pre-explains the joke about kids having ice cream headaches.

– Time for a Bart dream sequence that re-explains the scene we saw less than two minutes ago.

– Bart is now re-re-re-explaining what happened . . . to Maggie: “You must have figured out I chickened out during the race.”  Shit like this is unforgivably lazy writing.  Could Maggie handing Bart a chicken feather kinda work?  Sure.  But it doesn’t work when she wanders into his room in the middle of the night and then, after the fact, instead of making a joke or even just showing us Bart feeling ashamed, they have him repeat what’s going on.

– Case in point of the above: Narration Lisa is explaining that when Homer was a kid, he liked fireworks because then he couldn’t hear his parents yelling.  Fine.  But instead of showing us that, and maybe even trying to make it funny while it happens, they tell us what’s going on explicitly, “It was the one night of every year that he couldn’t hear his parents argue.  He figured it was because they loved the fireworks just as much as he did.”.

– More of same: “With his mother gone, Homer needed a hero, and no one was more of a hero than the magical little man behind the controls.”  Stop. Explaining. Everything. Please?

– After Homer and the old fireworks guy who looks and talks like Don Vittorio DiMaggio spit one liners at each other, the A-plot returns to once again remind us that Bart is feeling guilty.  This will not be the last time.

– Homer and the repeat old Italian stereotype are now buying fireworks from Cletus.  It ends with an exploding Spider-Pig.

– Bart is now sharing a stage with Drederick Tatum for winning that race.  One of Tatum’s actual lines, “What’s going on?  Seriously, what’s transpiring?”  They’re actually asking themselves for more exposition.

– After some more expositions (“Bart’s a coward”, “He lied to us”), Tatum tells the tattoo guy (what, you didn’t think there’d be a tattoo guy there?) to change his tattoo of Bart.

– Another decent sign gag with “Fruit Tree Sale, Grow a Pear!”.

– Old people saying they’re all cowards is a decent enough idea, but once again they manage to stretch things too long, re-re-re-explain themselves several times, and generally screw things up.

– After Bart wakes up with Milhouse in his bed, we get yet more nonsense exposition, “This is an angry sleepover, I’m only doing it because it was on the books.”.  It’s one thing to have quick aside scenes, it’s another to have them involve both of the main characters in the A-plot in a way that doesn’t fit in with what we’re seeing and then having one of them say why.

– The Homer driving montage would’ve been much funnier if they hadn’t pre-explained every joke and then have it go on for forty-five seconds.

– And speaking of weak jokes that take too long: Wiggum and Lou trying to fire their Revolutionary War muskets.

– Homer has gotten into an unexpected fight for the second week in a row.  This time it’s on a barge full of fireworks that will end up pointing directly at the crowd for a few moments of fake tension.

– Still more evidence of how hacktacular all of this is.  The fireworks are pointed at the crowd.  Bart spies the Retirement Castle bus, then looks at the keys hanging off the back of the driver’s belt.  Fine.  Overly convenient and kinda dumb, but not beyond rescue.  Then Bart says this, “Milhouse, this is my chance to make things right.”.  Ugh.

– Grampa fleeing by saying “Don’t worry, boys, I’ll be with you all the way to Berlin” was kinda funny.  As per standard Zombie Simpsons procedure, however, they have to stretch it by having him jump in a nearby boat that we’d never seen before.

– Carl just made a Twitter joke . . . then he explained it and told us what we were looking at.

– Actual line: “Quit explaining everything!”.  Make of that what you will.

– And we end the season with Grampa playing piano and an unrelated epilogue where Bart brushes his teeth and Maggie squeaks like a chicken.

Anyway, the numbers are in and . . . they did it!  Last night just 3.28 million people wished the writing staff had the courage to let the show die.  That is good for #2 on the all time least watched list (only the 7:30pm, sad-kid-mental-patient “Diggs” remains lower) and it pushes the average overnight rating for Season 25 down to 4.99 million viewers.  Back in March and April, when they were pulling in low 4 and high 3 million numbers, I didn’t think they’d stink out loud enough to get down under 5 for the season, but the last few weeks have gone a long way towards showing just how unloved this show has become.

I’m planning on doing a longer ratings post this week or next, but in the meantime, here is the current list of least watched episodes.  Note that all but #10 are from this season:

(Season-Ep/Date/Viewers in Millions/Title)

  1. 25-12 / 9-Mar-14 / 2.65 / Diggs
  2. 25-22 / 18-May-14 / 3.28 / The Yellow Badge of Cowardage
  3. 25-19 / 27-Apr-14 / 3.38 / What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting
  4. 25-18 / 13-Apr-14 / 3.59 / Days of Future Future
  5. 25-21 / 11-May-14 / 3.61 / Pay Pal
  6. 25-13 / 9-Mar-14 / 3.73 / The Man Who Grew Too Much
  7. 25-11 / 26-Jan-14 / 3.91 / Specs and the City
  8. 25-15 / 23-Mar-14 / 3.93 / The War of Art
  9. 25-16 / 30-Mar-14 / 3.94 / You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee
  10. 23-21 / 13-May-12 / 4.00 / Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend

Those are not the numbers of a healthy show.  Then again, undead things don’t have pulses anyway.


20 Responses to “Behind Us Forever: The Yellow Badge of Cowardge”


  1. 19 May 2014 at 4:12 pm

    I hate to get peoples hope up but there is a decent chance 26 might be the last season. American Dad! leaving for TBS and the breaking up of Animation Domination with the addition of Brooklyn Nine Nine. You also have Bob’s Burgers moving to the Futurama and Cleveland Show death spot of 7:30 and FOX clearly not interested in picking up anymore animated shows. I really think that unless FOX is determined to get the Simpsons to that magical number 30 than they have 2 to 3 seasons tops.

    • 2 Joe H
      19 May 2014 at 4:29 pm

      Fox really should be picking up another show. While I’m glad it’s no longer the “MacFarlane hour” they should at least try to keep it a 4-program block.

  2. 4 Joe H
    19 May 2014 at 4:14 pm

    The sight gags were definitely the only creative part of the show, like the newspaper at the very beginning of the episode that actually had Quimby’s entire speech legible with some pretty good jokes that normally would not survive average ZS treatment, such as an amusing “Game of Thrones” aside without actually naming the show itself.

    There was also the only other part of the episode I found funny, Hibbert asking the visibly beaten up Milhouse “What happened to you back there…..something good?” Sadly, a few good one-liners can’t save this episode.

    That whole betting sequence, the crux of the entire episode, makes no sense. Only 6 students out of 20+ students are able to be bet on. Of those Bart is given 8/1 odds, the lowest next to Milhouse for some reason despite that he is is such a dominant lead he’s actually able to come to a complete stop and still win by several lengths. Add to that, they bullies actually allowed Martin of all people to walk away with a longshot chance of a $20,000 killing.

    Yet NONE of this matters once Bart does his “cowardly” act. Despite the lower odds, we saw that at least one person bet on Bart to win and must have walked away with pretty nice winnings. This should have affected how Bart was treated in the end considering the money of his classmates was on the line for him to win and some of the kids were likely happy Bart’s win paid off and wouldn’t have been angry if he threw the race. Likewise, shouldn’t Martin have blown some sort of gasket once it came to light that be was robbed out of a fortune?

    Lastly, that tattoo bit got undercut by Bob’s Burgers stealing its thunder a few weeks earlier with another (better) unfinished tattoo joke.

    Speaking of which, this episode was easily the lamest of the Fox animation block as a season finale. Bob’s Burgers got its first two-parter, American Dad tied up a loose plot thread that was going on for two seasons (and opened up a possible spin-off), and even Family Guy had a better-than-average episode.

  3. 19 May 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Cowardge? Um… wow.

    I used to record all the episodes and label the tapes. I didn’t know the titles, but to try to organise my VHSs I made them up. I called ‘Homer Defined’ ‘Homer’s Lucky Button Pushing’…

  4. 6 FireFlower
    19 May 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Hopefully 26 will be the last season….unless they keep it going until they have literally no viewers left.

    • 7 Anonymous
      19 May 2014 at 11:07 pm

      I have a bad feeling that Fox doesn’t actually care about Zombie Simpsons’ ratings, and they’re just churning out new seasons because the merchandise sells better if the show is still airing new episodes.

      Season 30+, here we come!

      • 8 Stan
        20 May 2014 at 4:25 am

        I second this.

      • 9 Sarah J
        21 May 2014 at 1:04 am

        I shudder to think how much worse the show would get. I imagine they’d just have a cat stomp on a keyboard and use that for dialogue; no one will care by then.

  5. 10 Rob K.
    19 May 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Worst. Season. Ever.

  6. 11 Jeff
    19 May 2014 at 11:51 pm

    “- The Homer driving montage would’ve been much funnier if they hadn’t pre-explained every joke and then have it go on for forty-five seconds.”

    Here I imagine Milhouse saying, “Ohhhhh, when are they gonna get to the fireworks factory?”

  7. 12 Tom
    20 May 2014 at 12:08 am

    This site is pathetic. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore the show if you hate it so much rather than devoting your time to watching it and then blogging about it?

    • 13 Ghost
      20 May 2014 at 8:24 am

      This post is pathetic. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore this site if you hate it so much rather than devoting your time to reading it and then commenting about it?

    • 14 tin can
      20 May 2014 at 9:45 pm

      I highly suggest you follow the “Zombie Simpsons: How the..” link at the top, and read some of the introduction. Trust me, I totally get where you’re coming from. It’s a great point for a hate site. Why bother spending your life stewing and spitting vitriol at something you loathe?

      But the bottom line is that this is a hate born from a love. It’s most apparent in the always-excellent compare/contrast pieces, but even that can easily be mistaken for mindless hatred. The fact that they pick the episode apart like this is meant as an illustration, which is why there’s so much commentary on the quality. DHS is not at all shy to deliver praise when it’s due, but it also pulls absolutely no punches with a show that, frankly, is weak enough to warrant pity-laughs. You might as well pick apart Yes Dear for inconsistencies.

      Except Yes Dear was never the Simpsons. It’s not dragging what is arguably the smartest, funniest cultural juggernaut of a show into weak imitation gruel. That’s where opinions might diverge: if you don’t care about that, this site’s not for you. I’m not saying either opinion is better, but the whole point of this endeavor is to illustrate exactly HOW it’s a deeply flawed program, desperately in need of cancellation.

    • 15 oddMLan
      21 May 2014 at 12:20 am

      Al Jean, is that you?

      • 16 Rembrandt Q. Einstein
        22 May 2014 at 7:54 pm

        Hahahaha. People who are positive about the show are Al Jean. That never gets old.

  8. 17 Rox
    20 May 2014 at 2:28 am

    Charlie, I have one question. How much million of viewers had The Simpsons? I recall reading”Bart Gets A F” got around 30+ million viewers and later seasons usually had 10+ million, but maybe the methodology used by Nielsen was completely different back in the nineties. I also found hard to imagine we needed 10+ seasons of awful pre-Zombie and Zombie Seasons stuff before reaching numbers below 7 million, which I think it was the average for Season 20-21. But I could be completely wrong.

    • 18 Charlie Sweatpants
      20 May 2014 at 10:03 pm

      I’m hoping to answer some of that with a more detailed ratings post, but as far as I know “Bart Gets an F” was the most watched episode in the show’s history (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bart_gets_an_f):

      “the final Nielsen rating for the episode was 18.4 and a 29% share of the audience, finishing second in its time slot behind The Cosby Show, which had an 18.5 rating and 29% share. It finished eighth in the weekly ratings, but was watched by an estimated 33.6 million viewers, making it the number one show in terms of actual viewers that week”

      I started keeping track of the ratings back in 2009 for Season 21, and at the time they were routinely doing 8-9 million in the fall and 5-6 million in the winter. As always, those are totals and don’t reflect share, demographics or any of the other things that matter more than absolute numbers. But even above and beyond the general slippage in network viewership the last five years or so, Zombie Simpsons has declined noticeably.

  9. 20 Stan
    20 May 2014 at 4:29 am

    I think that because of the show’s current reputation, even the eps they don’t completely screw up still don’t get watched by enough audience. Like that Days of Future Future episode, I’m sure it was still better than genetically modified Sideshow Bob, but ended up with lesser ratings.

    Also (and I’ve already said that couple of years ago), they should rate by who’s still tuned in when the credits roll, not at the beginning.


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