Archive for July, 2014

31
Jul
14

Just Because

Simple Minded TV Mayhem

Watched this one when I got home from work and thought it’d make a nice .gif.

31
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

In Marge We Trust12

“Hey, hey, Mr. Sparkle!  Mr. Sparkle!” – Japanese Man
“Konnichi wa.” – Homer Simpson

30
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

Homer the Smithers10

“We’re going to have to put a steel rod where your spine was.” – Dr. Hibbert
“Will I ever move a piano again?” – Mr. Smithers
“Oh, my goodness gracious, no.” – Dr. Hibbert

29
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

Lisa's First Word13

“Guess what, Homey?  There’s going to be twice as much love in this house as there is now!” – Marge Simpson
“We’re gonna start doing it in the morning?” – Homer Simpson
“No.” – Marge Simpson
“Oh.” – Homer Simpson
“We’re going to have another baby.” – Marge Simpson

28
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

'Round Springfield14

“Lisa, when you get to be our age, you’ll learn a few things.  Like when a sign says, ‘Do Not Feed the Bears’, man, you’d better not feed the bears.” – Homer Simpson

27
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

I Remember

“Mrs. van Houten, I’m Bart’s mother.  We met in the emergency room when the boys drank paint.” – Marge Simpson
“I remember.  Please, come in.” – Luann van Houten

26
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

The Two Mrs Nahasapeemapetilons5

“Hey, Dad, I’ve come to spend some time with my favorite father.” – Homer Simpson
“Baloney!  You came here to put me in a home.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“You’re already in a home.” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, how could you?” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

25
Jul
14

Reading Digest: Promising Features, Regrettable Drawbacks Edition

Homer vs Patty & Selma13

“Congratulations, Mr. Simpson, this invention of yours has made us all rich, especially you!  It’s simple yet ingenious, and it fits right in the palm of your hand.  Every person in America now owns one of these, and in many cases, three or four.” – Imaginary Executive
“Uh, could I just get a look at that?” – Homer Simpson
“Now, why would you need to see it?  You’re the genius who invented the . . . product in question.” – Imaginary Executive

The big news this week was the first look at “Simpsons World”, an app/website-of-some-kind that’ll be debuting in October.  I have very mixed feelings about it, and I’m sure we’ll learn more once people who aren’t obsequious entertainment reporters can get their hands on it.  For now, however, there’s quite a lot to be excited about (easy access to clips, being able to stream the show) and quite a lot to be pissed about (you must have cable, your cable company must have FXX, AND it’s only in the US).  How much of either ends up in the final product remains to be seen.

In addition to that we’ve got word record breaking tattoos, two more Lego links, old video games, finger nail art, fan art, and some excellent usage.  Enjoy.

With FXX’s Simpsons World, A Clip Database Comes Closer to Non-Linear Reality – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is – by far – the most thoughtful first hand account of Simpsons World I read.  There is some healthy skepticism here along with fanboi excitement about what some of the promised features could mean.  It’s a little long, but in a week where every entertainment site seemed to do little more than quote the press release, you’re better off reading this than ten of those.  The fact that there’s going to be a currency called “donuts” that you can “earn” makes me very leery, for obvious reasons.

Here’s how the new Simpsons app will change your life – A quicker breakdown highlighting some of the main features.

‘The Simpsons World’ app won’t be available in Canada – And this is part of the reason why I have mixed feelings.  TV rights are locked into ancient distribution deals that are definitely bad for fans and, one suspects, also bad for the people who create the shows.  Endless legal arcana has always been a big help to the bosses screwing the worker bees.  As Bill Oakley sarcastically noted earlier this week:

Oakley Tweet - Lawsuit

Mondrian and Homer Simpson Inspired Wine Bottles – Some Russian designers created fake Homer and Marge wine bottles.  They are gorgeous, too bad there’s no wine in them (yet).

Simpsons Fan Sets Record With 41 Homer Simpson Tattoos – I put this up on Twitter a few days ago, but there’s plenty of good pictures at the link.  The one of Homer inside his Ganesh costume is a nice touch.

The … – Duplo Simpsons!

You can’t mess up with Lego. – Surprisingly creepy Flanders.  Looks like after the Gremlin got to him.

“And I for one welcome our new insect overlords…” – The complete background and a few examples of modern usage.

The Simpsons to kill off Krusty the Clown: 6 life lessons he taught us – The hot rumor is that they’re going to “kill” Krusty.  I would be skeptical if I bothered to care.  However, there are some good Krusty moments here, including a great .gif of him killing the wealthy dowager.

10 Hilarious “The Simpsons” Moments – Plenty of good YouTube here.

Nvidia Announces Shield Tablet, an Android Device for Hardcore Gamers – Excellent usage:

In an online press briefing yesterday, Shield Tablet general manager Matt Wuebbling said the market for mobile devices has matured to the point that a company like Nvidia can respond to the specific needs of a niche like hardcore gamers. A trend of homogeneity turning to variety is coming to tablets the same way it came to cars and PCs, Wuebbling said.

And if tablets were cars, Nvidia seemingly wants the Shield to be the Canyonero from “The Simpsons”:

Unexplained fires will be a matter for the courts!

Speedy Ortiz talks the Simpsons and playing in space at Pitchfork Festival 2014 – Good answer:

DC: (If the world were going to end in a year) and you were allowed to play any one festival, what would it be?

MF: We got this question the other day, and I’m still sticking with the Simpsons one.

DM: Oh yeah, Hullabalooza. The Smashing Pumpkins would have to play.

SD: Sonic Youth plays too, right?

DM: Yeah. And Peter Frampton. He’s headlining.

And in between sets they could watch the acts from the Pageant of the Trans-Mundane.

Homer Simpson’s parenting advice – There’s a couple Zombie quotes on here, but it’s a pretty solid list.

The Simpsons 25 – A heartfelt and touching remembrance of a lost child through the show.

20 ‘Simpsons’ Quotes That Everyone Hears In Everyday Conversation – Nice list.  Not sure how often you actually hear some of these, but nice list nevertheless (via @dailysimpsons).

Gameplay – Midnight Rescue was a great game, and don’t feel bad for learning wordplay from the likes of Chalmers.  We all did.

‘Simpsons’ Fan Made Only Coke Name Bottle Worth Owning – Someone finally took this to its logical conclusion.  Unfortunately, Coke is now sold out of “Bort” personalized bottles.  I repeat, they are sold out of “Bort” bottles.

Mike Scully’s “The Simpsons”: When everything went wrong – Our old friend Stefan Grasso takes some swings at the Scully years.

Newt! (OMD2) – Fingernail designs inspired by “Radioactive Man”.

Planet of the Apes (1968) Review – I saw “A Fish Called Selma” long before I saw the old Charlton Heston movie too:

Aside from what I’d picked up in a Simpsons episode with a musical version of the movie, Planet of the Apes was a mystery. I had an idea that it was much more about chasing humans, action-packed fight sequences and heavy science-fiction.

It’s only after you’ve seen the movie that you pick up on other references, like the parents rounding up the kids at the beginning of “Bart’s Girlfriend”.

The Simpsons: “The Otto Show” – Even when people don’t like a particular episode, it’s still generally pretty good.

14 Classic Episodes from The Simpsons, season 5 (and 8 memorable ones!) – Season 5 is just insanely solid.

You Are Lisa Simpson – A list of sad animated moments includes “Jurassic Bark” and Homer sitting on the hood of his car after saying goodbye to his mother.

SNES A Day 59: Krusty’s Super Fun House – That was a pretty fun game.

“Going to a nice restaurant with my wife tonight.” – Heh.

“The Simpsons” needs to can its celebrity guest stars – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us.  In this case it’s mainstream outlet Salon:

There are two ways the celebrity guest appearance goes on “The Simpsons”; in some cases, a star appears as him- or herself, as with the episode where Lisa and Lady Gaga become friends. In others, a star riffs on his or her persona, as in the episode in which Homer and Marge become friends with “hipsters from Portland” played by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. The only commonality here is that in all cases, no matter who the celebrity is, their persona takes over the plot. In the world of the show, Lisa would never become friends with a pop star and Homer and Marge are studiously unhip. But still the celebrities must be shoehorned in, even when it means that the story either ignores what we know about the characters or just makes the nominal stars of the show into bland sounding boards.

“The Simpsons” has never been realistic, but in its best years it obeyed internal logic as to how its characters would behave. Dustin Hoffman’s famous appearance as “Mr. Bergstrom,” Lisa’s substitute teacher, cleverly demonstrated Lisa’s need for respect from adults. But such stories need to be done subtly, with an attention to narrative coherence. Even stars as hammy as Kelsey Grammer playing Bart’s nemesis Sideshow Bob could have told an interesting story, but simply plugging in a celebrity and expecting greatness is a tall order.

Except for when they talk to reporters, the staff stopped expecting greatness a long time ago.

25
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

Dumbbell Indemnity6

“And bring us the finest food you got, stuffed with the second finest.” – Moe
“Excellent, sir, lobster stuffed with tacos.” – Gilded Truffle Waiter

24
Jul
14

Debunking the Zombie Simpsons Apologists (Part 2)

By Calvin

[You can check out Part 1 here.]

So-called “fans” have always criticized the show, even in its glory days. Al Jean says so.

Charlie Sweatpants effectively debunked this argument, but it bears repeating. During the classic years of The Simpsons in the 1990s, Internet access was not even close to being as widespread and democratic as it is now. Many of us relied on dial-up modems at schools and libraries to access the Internet through now-outdated programs like America Online and Prodigy, which were slow and expensive to use from what I remember.

I didn’t know Simpsons message boards existed. Even Simpsons writers like Bill Oakley thought it was a hassle to get online and engage with these techie fans, whom he ignored anyway.

These so-called Simpsons fans’ disparaging comments about the classic episodes can be found in The Simpsons Archive at snpp.com, proving that Internet message boards have always been havens for snark and trolling, even in the early years. But as Charlie writes about the SNPP crowd:

“Their opinions have outsized prominence because they were amongst the first people to discuss popular culture on-line, but the population that generated those reviews is extremely non-representative of Simpsons fans. It’s highly skewed towards the techiest of the early 1990s nerds who were, to put it mildly, an abnormal set of people … that said criticism is ridiculously harsh, should NOT obscure the fact that in this day and age, indeed since the turn of the century at least, there has been a solid and growing contingent of Simpsons fans who feel the show has badly lost itself.”

I sympathize with Zombie Simpsons writers to some extent in that I work for a news website that allows online comments. Some of the nasty, unfair things readers write about my work and my colleagues’ work makes me despair for humanity. That’s still no excuse for us to churn out an inferior product; regardless of the comments, I’m inspired to work harder and be better.

As Charlie explains:

“When the real grumbling about the show started, it wasn’t because disliking the show was cool, or because the most involved fans all have mean streaks.  It was because the show got worse, a gradual process that had precisely nothing to do with the internet and everything to do with the show itself.”

You’re older, crankier and more cynical. Of course (Zombie) Simpsons no longer appeals to you.

I’ve never understood this argument. Even former Simpsons writer Jay Kogen (co-writer of episodes like “Bart the Daredevil” and “Last Exit to Springfield”) used this to defend the show in a Reddit Q&A.

When asked if he thought the show’s quality had declined over the years, Kogen responded:

I keep thinking that maybe people feel that way because THEY’VE gotten older. I loved the first star wars movies and hated the later ones because I saw the first ones when I was 12 and the later ones when I was 30. Kids who saw the later ones as kids, loved them.”

The Star Wars movies Kogen viewed as young boy (Episodes 4-6) debuted to critical and commercial acclaim and made a significant impact on pop culture, much as The Simpsons have. Decades after their initial release, people still can’t get enough of Star Wars and all the comic books, TV shows, clothing and toys. Some people have turned Star Wars into a lifestyle.

In contrast, the Star Wars prequels (Episodes 1-3), which came complete with the latest film technology and big-name actors, received much scorn and mockery, and George Lucas was excoriated. Even Zombie Simpsons poked fun at how disappointing the Star Wars prequels were (they were years late to the party, but still).

Kids who only saw Episodes 1-3 loved them because they didn’t have the originals to compare them with. (Plus, why are you placing so much faith in the opinions of children?)

By Kogen’s logic, he should hate the original Star Wars movies and older Simpsons fans like myself should hate those old episodes. Yet he doesn’t follow through with this argument. Instead, it seems he suggests that Zombie Simpsons only appeals to young children who have never seen the earlier seasons. That’s not a defense but an admission that Zombie Simpsons is not what it used to be, as well as a mockery of its adult fans.

(Zombie) Simpsons has evolved with time, as have you. Of course it’s not as funny/relevant/impactful to you as it once was.

This is a variation of the argument above, and it also doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Do Zombie Simpsons writers really not care about making a show that makes an impact or holds up well with time?

Yes, apparently. Zombie Simpsons writer Dana Gould made this argument, as did Zombie Simpsons writer Michael Price, who brings up the silly Star Wars comparison. (Mike, do you really compare your work to the dreaded Star Wars prequels?)

I started watching The Simpsons when I was about 7 or 8 years old; I’m now a 20-something adult. (Yikes!) When I watch classic Simpsons episodes, I find they are still as funny to me at this age as they were when I was a kid; in fact, I appreciate these episodes on a different level because I understand more of the jokes and references that probably went over my head when I was a child. As a writer myself, I appreciate the story structure and character development of episodes like “Marge vs. the Monorail” and “You Only Move Twice,” which should be studied in English and creative writing courses.

Besides, can anyone really argue that The Simpsons has “evolved”? No character has really changed: Bart and Lisa are still ageless in elementary school; Maggie is still a baby; Homer and Marge are still married; Diamond Joe Quimby is still mayor; 99.9 percent of the original characters are still alive. They’re the same people, but less likeable and relatable.

Regarding our changing world, Zombie Simpsons has never really dealt with how major events like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Barack Obama’s election, WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing, or wars in the Middle East have affected the citizens of Springfield, aside from the occasional heavy handed or forgettable episode. Zombie Simpsons never even parodied George W. Bush!

True, I’m not the same person at this age as I was when I was 9: I’m older, more educated, less naïve, more realistic, a beer drinker, not as lazy or easily amused. So why does The Simpsons hold up so well for adult me, while Zombie Simpsons (and the cartoons I used to enjoy as a child) do not? It’s not nostalgia.

If you don’t like the show, don’t watch it.

This is not a defense of the show, but thanks for the advice, Confucius. I’m already ahead of you.

It’s worth noting that if you listen to the DVD commentaries for Zombie Simpsons, not even the writers, producers and voice actors seem to like the show. Now compare those to commentaries for classic episodes, and it’s like the difference between night and day. When your own priceless voice actors can’t get excited about the show, it’s time to end it.

But The Simpsons is still capable of one or two funny jokes per episode

The worst episodes of Family Guy, a shameless joke factory, can still have one or two jokes that make you laugh.

Dane Cook probably has at least one routine that makes me smile.

Sean Hannity might say something I agree with on occasion.

Is it really worth spending 22 minutes of your time watching a mediocre Simpsons episode in hopes that Homer Simpson will say something — anything — that makes you chuckle?

But The Simpsons team want to keep making money the show going. Matt Groening said so!

If the prolific Seth MacFarlane can admit that Family Guy should have ended a few years ago, then Matt Groening can do it too.

At this point, it’s completely disingenuous to insist that The Simpsons should keep going because the cast and crew are dedicated to putting out a quality show for us lucky fans – especially when they have essentially admitted that the show is a shameless merchandising tool.

Here’s a sample of the dialogue from the June 18 update of The Simpsons Tapped Out game (which, by EA’s own estimates, has generated $130 million since its debut), written by Zombie Simpsons writers:

Blue-Haired Lawyer: Krusty, if you’re jaded about being rich, there’s only one solution to your spiritual crisis — get even richer … What you need is to start making new Itchy & Scratchys.

Krusty: But we’ve already got hundreds of them, and the characters don’t change or age. What innovative stories could any writer wring out of those characters?

Blue-Haired Lawyer: From what I can tell, none. But it doesn’t matter. No one needs to watch the new episodes. They just need to know they’re being made and remember the old ones fondly… and voila, the brand is still relevant! Then you can start merchandising T-shirts and action figures, slot machines and beer… maybe even develop a freemium game!

Krusty: Would the game have to be good?

Blue-Haired Lawyer: Not at all!

If that’s not a cynical admission of them turning this once-beloved show into a zombie cash cow, than I don’t know what is.

24
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

Regional Dialect

“You call hamburgers ‘Steamed Hams’?” – Superintendent Chalmers
“Yes.  It’s a regional dialect.” – Principal Skinner
“Uh-huh, what region?” – Superintendent Chalmers
“Uh, upstate New York.” – Principal Skinner
“Really.  Well, I’m from Utica and I’ve never heard anyone use the phrase ‘Steamed Hams’.” – Superintendent Chalmers
“Oh, not in Utica, no, it’s an Albany expression.” – Principal Skinner

23
Jul
14

Debunking the Zombie Simpsons Apologists (Part 1)

By Calvin

[You can read Part 2 here.]

One of the reasons I enjoy visiting Dead Homer Society at least once a week is reading the articulate breakdowns and critiques of latter-day Simpsons episodes, from the show’s desperate efforts to be relevant by bringing in celebrities and making clumsy pop culture references, to the poor and disjointed writing, lame new characters, odd character development, bad animation, and lack of actual, you know, jokes. As a longtime Simpsons fan who reveres its glory years, it was devastating to find myself joining the ranks of its fans-turned-critics and agreeing that it should have ended years ago.

Yet I’m intrigued by fans of Zombie Simpsons, who lack an equivalent website like DHS but pop up in nearly every online discussion to defend the show. Sure, it’s difficult to engage with people who dismiss your arguments with, “Well, I still like it,” but it’s gotten annoying to see them trot out the same arguments and half-hearted defenses of Zombie Simpsons that can easily be debunked.

For the record, I favor ending Zombie Simpsons with a proper sendoff, as the writers on Futurama were able to do when that show was canceled. I believe it’s ridiculous to keep defending a bad show with vigor that these “fans” would never give to any other show, as if Zombie Simpsons is more sacred than the Catholic Church or Prophet Muhammad.

Here are my responses to some of the most common (and silly) defenses of the show. In keeping with the theme of this website, I refer to latter-day Simpsons (post-season 9 episodes) as Zombie Simpsons.

Even at its worst, (Zombie) Simpsons is still better than most crap on television

I still hear this claim from the most devoted fans, even though they typically preface it with a caveat like, “I don’t rush home and watch it like I once did” or “I watch it On Demand when I have the time.” Can you imagine Simpsons fans saying this when the show was in its prime? “I didn’t have time to watch ‘Lisa’s Pony,’ but I recorded it and will see it later this week if I have the time.”

The problem with making this claim, especially in 2014, is that The Simpsons is no longer the best show on TV. Heck, it’s not even the best show on Sunday.

You’ve probably read those articles about how we’ve entered the golden age of television, when cable and broadcast networks are attracting the best and brightest writers, actors and directors, and TV shows are surpassing movies in the quality of their acting and writing. Famous Hollywood directors and actors are jumping on the bandwagon and forgoing movies in favor of television (and being rewarded for it).

On Sunday nights, Americans have the option of tuning in to a range of popular, critically acclaimed shows such as Game of Thrones, Mad Men, True Detective, Veep, The Walking Dead, Silicon Valley, Boardwalk Empire, Cosmos, True Blood, British imports like Sherlock and Downton Abbey, and many other shows I’m forgetting. Even the other shows on the Fox’s Sunday cartoon block like Bob’s Burgers and American Dad! are earning critical and fan acclaim. In contrast, I can hardly find an article about Zombie Simpsons’ latest ratings gimmick without a variant of the “It’s not as good as it used to be” line.

The next day, these shows become the hot topic of conversation with family, friends and co-workers. Yet I can’t remember the last time I discussed the latest Simpsons episode with coworkers and friends – which would have been inconceivable to me 15 years ago.

Perhaps if you live in a country with state-run television that relies on U.S. imports to fill the schedule, than Zombie Simpsons may still be better than 99 percent of everything else. Still, don’t most people watch everything online anyway?

Shut up, Comic Book Guy. The Simpsons owe you nothing. If anything, you owe them for all that free entertainment they gave you.

My, what a timely Simpsons reference dating all the way back to … 1997, in season eight. Could you not think of any line from season 20-something that delivers an equally clever jab?

Regarding your overall point, I agree that I owe The Simpsons a lot for the years of entertainment it provided to me. This is why, 20 years after my first viewing, I remain an outspoken fan of those classic seasons, and why I engage with fellow fans, including those of you who continue to convince me that its inferior seasons are somehow worthy. Heck, I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t care about it.

You can’t end The Simpsons. It’s a popular, critically acclaimed show, and an American institution! People would lose their jobs!

Folks, are you familiar with how television works? All in the Family, M.A.S.H., Seinfeld, Cheers, I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show were TV royalty in their heyday. Guess what happened to them?

TV shows get canceled all the time for any number of reasons. There are websites dedicated to informing viewers when their favorite shows are canceled. Zombie Simpsons is no different.

I know the disappointment of seeing a favorite show get canceled. Freaks and Geeks, Carnivale, The Critic, Rome, Boomtown, Arrested Development, and Futurama are favorite shows of mine that were axed by heartless network executives. (Note how two of those shows were created by Simpsons alumni.)

I’m frustrated when my favorite shows get the chop but I adjust, as do the people behind these shows. Cancelation is not a career death sentence. Producers, writers and actors go on to do other things. Matt Groening & Co. are big boys (and big girls) with clout in the industry; they’ll be fine and may go on to create other great shows.

As I stated above, I would like Fox to give Zombie Simpsons advanced notice to end the show so that the writers could give it a proper sendoff, just as the writers of Futurama were able to do. Subsidizing a show with diminishing ratings for the benefit of a few vocal fans is not how TV should work (unless you’re a Communist or something).

But if I still haven’t convinced you, let’s imagine the alternate world in which The Simpsons ended its run after Season 8. What could have happened?

  • The Simpsons cements its status as the greatest show of all time and is admired for ending at the height of its popularity, while subsequent criticism from critics and fans (like me) never happens
  • Matt Groening goes on to create Futurama and several other TV shows that earn critical and audience acclaim
  • A Simpsons movie comes out every few years
  • Simpsons writers, voice actors and crewmembers get jobs at other sitcoms and cartoon shows, and drive the overall quality of those programs up (it’s worked out for Brad Bird and Greg Daniels)
  • Mike Scully doesn’t become a hated figure among fans
  • The Simpsons still gets a lucrative syndication deal where two to four classic episodes are aired back to back, five days a week, on Fox or on one of those cable channels like TBS or Cartoon Network
  • We don’t get to see Homer take 50+ new jobs as an acrobat, hair stylist, Super Bowl choreographer, Mexican wrestler, paparazzo, and grunge musician
  • Awful episodes like “Saddlesore Galactica,” “That ‘90s Show,” “Strong Arms of the Ma,” “Donnie Fatso,” “Large Marge,” and the episode where Homer gets raped by a panda never get made

The horror, the horror!

[Ed Note: Part 2 coming tomorrow!]

23
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

PapaHomer

“Pepe!” – Homer Simpson
“Papa Homer!” – Pepe
“Son, your life is gonna better, starting now.” – Homer Simpson

22
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

Bart's Inner Child15

“Right now, I want each of you to try something interesting.  There’s no trick to it.  It’s just a simple trick!” – Brad Goodman

Happy birthday Albert Brooks!

21
Jul
14

The Day the Laughter Died

By Mike Zanna

There was a time when The Simpsons was the best show on TV. The show that currently calls itself “The Simpsons” has little resemblance. It’s not nearly as good. It’s not even good compared to the rest of the stuff on television. It’s like The Simpsons, but without everything that made The Simpsons so amazing. The show has become a hollow shell, a shadow of itself, a ghost of its former greatness. I’m sure there’s another supernatural metaphor I could use.

So what the hell happened? At some point, The Simpsons went off the air and was replaced by its evil twin, Zombie Simpsons. I’m not sure when this happened, but it was at least a decade ago, maybe even a decade and a half. I started wondering if I could pinpoint the exact moment that the change occurred. If I could find one episode that killed the show, what would it be? When exactly did The Simpsons jump the shark? I came up with an answer. Personally, I think The Simpsons died on February 13, 2000, with the death of Maude Flanders.

Alone1

Maude wasn’t the only one who died that day.

“Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” isn’t the worst episode ever, but it had the longest lasting negative effect on the series. Most bad episodes can be safely skipped or ignored. Even “The Principal and the Pauper” restores the status quo at the end of the episode. Whether you like the revelation about Principal Skinner or not, it doesn’t affect the episodes that aired afterwards. “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” was what TV Tropes would call a Wham Episode. Afterwards, the show would never be the same.

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and after eleven years, I can see why the producers would want to shake things up. It’s just that this particular change was a bad idea that was poorly handled. The show had made some changes before, and many of them are lampshaded in this episode. For example, the Van Houtens had split up. Zombie Simpsons would later have them get remarried. Killing Maude Flanders was the first change the producers had made that was irreversible.

The Simpsons had never killed a recurring character before. Bleeding Gums Murphy had died back in Season 6, but he hadn’t been seen on the show in years, outside of the opening title sequence. He wasn’t played by one of the show’s regular voice actors, so the producers couldn’t use him without bringing in Ron Taylor or recasting the part. Maude Flanders was played by one of the regulars, Maggie Roswell, who had played many parts before leaving the show. She would later return, but Maude would not.

I suppose the producers could have resurrected Maude if they’d wanted to. They are the gods of the show’s universe, after all. They can do whatever they want. But there’s no way they could bring her back without destroying the show’s reality. Then again, this episode ran the week after “Saddlesore Galactica,” which might be the least realistic show ever. The producers could have pressed the reset button, but they didn’t. They made their choice and stuck with it.

Maude Flanders wasn’t the most interesting person in the world, but one of the things that made The Simpsons great was its large cast of diverse characters. It had an entire universe full of people who seemed like real people, but funnier. She had played a key role in great episodes like “Bart of Darkness” and “Home Sweet Home-Diddily-Dum-Doodily.” And she lived next door to the title characters. But Maude Flanders wasn’t the only character who died in “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily.” The episode also basically killed the character of her husband, Ned.

Alone2

He’s just not Ned.

Before he became a conservative Christian stereotype, Ned Flanders was just a nice guy with a perpetually cheerful attitude. Even when times were tough, he at least tried to keep a smile on his face. See “When Flanders Failed,” “Homer Loves Flanders,” or “Hurricane Neddy.” His religion was a part of his character, sure, but I think his most prominent character trait was his positive attitude. After this episode, he couldn’t be that guy any more. There would always be some sadness in him. There would have to be.

I guess the producers thought making Ned single again could lead to some interesting stories, but it really didn’t. And I think Ned dating other women so soon after losing Maude was kind of out of character. I don’t think he would be so quick to look for a replacement. There could have been some humor in Ned trying to date again, but there really wasn’t. There were a couple of episodes, two with that Christian singer girl whose name I can’t remember, and one with Marisa Tomei. And then there’s that strange Zombie Simpsons plot line where he dated Mrs. Krabappel and they later got married. Now she’s gone too, and he’s a widower twice over. That’s just depressing.

Then there’s effect that losing their mother would have on the kids, Rod and Todd. “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” basically skips over their reaction, and I guess it would have to. It’s kind of hard to make that funny. But I think it shows that the producers of this episode did a really half-assed job. They wanted to kill a character, but they didn’t want to deal with the consequences that it would have. The characters on The Simpsons were characters. They seemed like real people. On Zombie Simpsons they’re just props for delivering bad jokes. It’s kind of hard to feel sympathy for them, because they don’t act like people would.

Then there’s the way “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” changed the character of Homer. He had become more of a jerk during Mike Scully’s tenure as show runner, and this episode shows him at his absolute low point. He actually causes another person’s death. He is responsible for the death of someone that he has known for years. A real person would feel at least a little guilty about that.

Okay, it wasn’t actually his fault. It was an accident. Maude Flanders’ death was like something from an Itchy and Scratchy episode. Slapstick violence isn’t really funny if we’re supposed to care about the people who get hurt. I guess you could blame the girls who shot the t-shirts that knocked Maude off the bleachers. This kind of begs the question of why they were at the funeral. But really, the girls only shot the t-shirts because of Homer. He provoked them, so he has to take some responsibility for the fact that a person died. It’s the first time his antics caused another person’s death.

Alone3

This is a pretty crappy way to send off a longtime character.

I know some people might mention Frank Grimes, but that’s a different situation. Homer doesn’t actively antagonize his co-worker. He tries to be a nice guy to him. He tries to make friends, but it doesn’t work. Frank ends up going crazy out of jealousy and basically kills himself, by doing something too stupid even for Homer. And that episode was basically The Simpsons criticizing itself. It was almost a self-parody.

Homer wasn’t a jerk in “Homer’s Enemy,” but he really was in “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily.” There’s a line where he says he parked in the ambulance zone preventing any possible resuscitation. What the hell? First off, that doesn’t even make sense. I don’t think you can resuscitate someone with a broken neck. But second, it just makes Homer seem more like a callous bastard. It also makes the producers look like jerks too. It’s possible to be tasteless and funny, but I think this episode is just the first one.

I think my least favorite joke is when Bart changes the cake from “Rest in Peace” to “Rest in Pee.” This is too juvenile for even a 10-year-old. The fact that the producers think this is funny is just really telling, and the fact that they think Bart would find it funny shows how little they get his character. Then there’s the scene with Rod and Todd playing “Billy Graham’s Bible Blaster,” which is actually a little funny. But I don’t think the kids would just be playing video games after their mom died. Maybe they’d be happy because they think she’s in heaven. I don’t know.

Death is a hard subject to make funny, but The Simpsons were able to do it. Take “’Round Springfield” for example. This website has already done a Compare and Contrast with that episode, so I don’t want to be redundant. It’s just amazing how much better that episode is than “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily.” “’Round Springfield” managed to be funny while still taking the death seriously. It managed to be sad but also had some great jokes. “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” doesn’t do either of those things. The death is treated like a joke and the attempts at humor are just sad.

“Alone Again, Natura-Diddily” was a terrible episode, but it was more than that. When Maude Flanders died, a part of the show died. The characters stopped behaving like actual people, so it became really hard to care about them. The show had lost its sense of humor, and with this episode it lost its heart. Yes, it’s kind of arbitrary, but I think that’s the episode where the show crossed the line from The Simpsons to Zombie Simpsons. It was the day the series died.

21
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

A Streetcar Named Marge9

“Maggie is allergic to strained pears and she likes a bottle of warm milk before nap time.” – Marge Simpson
“A bottle?  Mrs. Simpson, do you know what a baby’s saying when she reaches for a bottle?” – Ms. Sinclair
“Ba ba?” – Marge Simpson
“She’s saying, ‘I am a leech!’.  Our aim here is to develop the bottle within.” – Ms. Sinclair

Happy birthday Jon Lovitz! 

20
Jul
14

An Observation While Re-Ripping My DVDs

DVDs

“The way I see it, if you raise three children who can knock out and hog tie a perfect stranger, you must be doing something right.” – Marge Simpson

A few months ago I stopped resisting and finally got a smart phone.  It’s very snazzy and does lots of things my beloved old flip phone couldn’t do, including play video.  Naturally, this got me to thinking about how I could get The Simpsons on there.  Way back in 2006, I ripped all my DVDs to .avi files that came in at ~183MB each.  (These are the files from which I get pretty much all of the screen grabs on this site.)  For the 203 episodes that comprise Seasons 1-9, that’s a total of 37.2GB.  My new phone, snazzy though it is, has only 32GB of space, a mere 26.8GB of which is available for media storage.  To paraphrase Hermes Conrad, if I know anything about which number is bigger than the other number, those files won’t all fit on the phone.  Ergo, time to re-rip the DVDs to smaller files.

Now, ripping teevee show DVDs is boring, repetitive and time consuming, so I put it off a good long while.  But on Friday I finally got off my duff and figured out the right settings in HandBrake for a good balance between quality and file size.  For the curious, I settled on H.264 at 320kbps video and 96kbps audio in a .mkv file to preserve the DVD chapters.  More importantly, each episode runs just ~73MB, and once I’m done they should come in just under 15GB total.  These won’t look or sound great on my television, but on a tiny phone screen with headphones, they’re just fine thank you.

One of the annoyances of all this is making sure each file gets named correctly.  HandBrake can’t automatically add the titles to the filenames (you have select “Title1” and so on), and after each disc is done I’m left with something like this:

Simpsons – 401 – .mkv
Simpsons – 402 – .mkv
Simpsons – 403 – .mkv
Simpsons – 404 – .mkv

Since I’ve never watched these files before and it’s always possible that I goofed and picked the wrong part of the disc or made some other mundane mistake, I check them after I add episode titles.  I don’t need to watch the whole thing, just play the file real quick, skip to the somewhere past the credits, and make sure that the file I’ve just called “Simpsons – 403 – Homer the Heretic.mkv” is, in fact, “Homer the Heretic”.  I finished through Season 4 yesterday, and I just started ripping Season 5 today.  So I have popped open and seen a few random seconds from a lot of episodes this weekend.

Doing so has served as yet another reminder (not that I needed one) of how astonishingly dense this show is.  You can skip to almost any part of an episode and see something that is laugh out loud funny.  Boop, there’s Bart thinking they can’t afford all the library books in “Dead Putting Society”.  Boop, there’s the casino reverend handing Homer ten dollars worth of chips and telling him to kiss the bride.  Boop, there’s “The Erotic Adventures of Hercules”, with Normal Fell as Zeus!  Whether you land in an A-plot, a B-plot, or even just a cutaway or flashback, there’s something memorable and funny.

I have no real point here, it’s just amazing, especially when you remember that these episodes are all 20+ years old.

20
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

The Last Temptation of Krust8

“Wow, a clown!  Do you think he’s evil?” – Todd Flanders
“He smells evil.” – Rod Flanders
“Should we tell Daddy?” – Todd Flanders
“No,  let’s poke him a little while longer.” – Rod Flanders

19
Jul
14

Quote of the Day

The Call of the Simpsons10

“Mr. Simpson, you’re never gonna own a better RV, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I mean, literally buddy, this is it for you.  You know?  It’s this or a wagon.” – Cowboy Bob

18
Jul
14

Reading Digest: Fun for All Ages Edition

Lisa the Vegetarian15

“I think it’s nice we’re doing something Maggie will enjoy for once.  Besides, I’m sure Storytown Village is also fun for everyone, from eight to . . . God only knows.” – Marge Simpson

There are more than a few things that make The Simpsons unique, even when compared to other hit programs.  Close to the top of that list, and this is borne out more and more with each passing year, is the damned near agelessness of it.  At some point, the world is going to tire of the Simpsons family and it’ll become a part of history, but that point seems to keep receding into the future rather than coming closer.  This week we’ve got a couple more links about that very adult play positing that the culture of the show would survive the apocalypse, and in a nice contrast to that we’ve also got glowing write ups of old episodes from a teenager (who wasn’t even born when the episodes he’s watching were made) and even younger kids who dress up and act out the show.  We take that persistent interest for granted, but it’s pretty damned mind blowing when you take a second to think about it.

In addition to that we’ve got a couple of people who agree with us, the most detailed Lego breakdown yet, Lego Gorilla the Conqueror, shameless Buddha merchandise, and some excellent usage.  Enjoy.

The Simpsons Lego House – I’ve linked a few people assembling the Simpsons Lego set before, but nobody’s taken this many pictures and gone into this much detail.  If you want an up close look at what’s in that box, this is the link for you.

The Simpsons: “Dog of Death” – Young, soon to be college student takes a look at some of Season 3 that he’s never seen before and comes away impressed . . .

The Simpsons: “Colonel Homer” – . . . particularly with this one:

Hilarious, emotional, and wonderfully paced, it doesn’t get more classic The Simpsons than “Colonel Homer.”

The Simpsons: “Black Widower” – These episodes were made before he was born, hard to see anyone doing the same for Season 23 in two decades or so.

Truro school celebrate end of summer term with unusual school production – And speaking of the kids being alright, here’s some even younger ones dressed up as the “Sampsons” for a play.

Producers Endorse New Fox Presidents: ‘They Really Know What They’re Doing’ – Al Jean knows where his bread is buttered:

“I’ve worked with them both for a while, and they really know what they’re doing,” said “The Simpsons” executive producer Al Jean, who pointed to their long string of successes with comedies like “How I Met Your Mother.” “I think of the 23 network presidents ‘The Simpsons’ have had, they’ll be the best.”

Meet the new monkey bosses, same as the old monkey bosses.

ELEVEN PARIS x The Simpsons x colette – Promoting the high fashion merchandise means opening up a Simpsons themed something or other in Paris for a little while:

If you are a Simpsons fan and in Paris over the coming weeks, do try and make the effort to go and see the fun and loud Simpsons lair lurking under the super chic glass, chrome interior of colette. It’s the closest you may get to Springfield on this side of the Atlantic, until they open a Euro Universal Studios

Hello? Euro Universal Studios open for business!

The Simpson Family & the Respective Strains of Weed That Match Their Characters (You’re Welcome!) – The weirdness of the Homer_Marijuana twitter account continue to echo.

WWLSR: Seasons 7-9 – The Lisa reading project rolls on, including through the book heavy “Summer of 4 Ft. 2”.

Bunch of bloody clowns… – Fan made collage that includes a rather Mr. Sparkle looking Homer.

The Simpsons – The “25 Years Comic Con” poster.

Flashback: ‘The Simpsons’ Turn ‘Planet of the Apes’ Into a Musical – Video – There’s video, and there’s this:

As awesome as Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may be, it’s definitely not the best resurrection of the franchise. That honor still goes to the 1996 Simpsons episode “A Fish Called Selma,” which featured Troy McClure (voiced by the legendary Phil Hartman) reviving his stalled career by appearing in a musical adaptation of The Planet of the Apes entitled “Stop the Planet of the Apes. I Want To Get Off!”

And he’s starring as . . . the human!

Celebrate 25 Years of The Simpsons with 7″ Silver Homer Buddha – He is not forgetting the first two Noble Truths!

Tritone-Based Songs: The Devil’s Music – I did not know this:

It’s the very first notes you hear: “The Siiiiiimmmm-” form a tritone, before “-mmpsons” resolves back to a perfect fifth. The bass notes you can hear poking through now and again also follow a pattern that’s based around the Devil’s interval.

If you play the close credits backwards, there’s a recipe for a really ripping lentil soup.

Brilliant and Bonkers… ‘Mr Burns’ at The Almeida Theatre – The play’s got just over a week left in London, so here’s another happy review.

Review – Mr Burns by Anne Washburn at the Almeida Theatre – And here’s another “good, but…” review:

As a result, I’m not sure whether I’d recommend Mr Burns or not! If you prefer your theatre to be safe and comfortingly familiar, stay away. However if you’re willing to embrace something bravely different and take a risk, then give it a go. Although you have been warned about that third Act!

Futurama 3D – The Forrest Gump song is a little out of place, but that is very impressive visually:

The ad for Mom’s robot oil is a nice touch.

VIDEO: See The World ‘Futurama’ Rendered In 3-D – Some more stills and some extra video from the above.

Max’s Tavern named “best bar in the world” by Bar and Restaurant Magazine – It does bear a little resemblance to Moe’s, at least from the outside.  Not sure how that would help in a ranking, Moe’s is a dump, after all, but I’m not in charge of “Bar and Restaurant Magazine”, so what do I know?

People, like animals, are sometimes just jerks – Excellent usage:

Eventually, for everyone’s sake he was moved on to an animal reserve where he immediately picked up where he left off in Evergreen Terrace.

“Why is he attacking all those other elephants?” Marge asked the head ranger.

“Animals are a lot like people, Mrs. Simpson,” he replied. “Some of them act badly because they’ve had a hard life or have been mistreated. But, like people, some of them are just jerks.”

Mick Malthouse was moved onto the game reserve we know as Princes Park at the end of 2012 and picked up where he left off at Collingwood.

The game preserve guy actually says “Well” before “Animals”, but that’s nitpicking.

My Top 10 Favourite Television Opening Credits – The show comes in at #4 here.

Marge Attacks – Not sure of the source here (comic book, maybe?), but it’s Marge as the victim of a Kang & Kodos experiment.

Gorilla the conqueror! – The granddaddy of them all in simple Lego form.

Who Still Watches The Simpsons? – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with some people who agree with us.  A local sports radio guy in Kentucky asks:

Half a dozen of us would spend entire weekends watching episodes old and new on TV or DVD or VHS(!), bickering over which ones were funnier, cobbling together conversations entirely from Simpsons quotes. We played Simpsons boardgames. We destroyed local Simpsons-themed bar trivia nights. Yet all of us, every single one, stopped watching almost a decade ago. Come to think of it, literally not a single person I regularly speak with watches The Simpsons anymore.

No one in the comments watches it either.




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