Behind Us Forever: Mathlete’s Feat

Treehouse of Horror X5

“Oh, my God!  Lisa!  She’s been crushed, and so have the hopes of our mathletics team.” – Principal Skinner

Sorry (again) for the non-existant blogging around here, still been busy.  There probably isn’t going to be a Reading Digest today, but on the plus side, Season 26 is over, so I’ve got plenty of time to pretend that I’ll get caught up at some point.  On the Harry Shearer front, there has been nothing but silence from both sides so presumably they’re still talking.  Read into that whatever you’d like.

As for the finale, “Mathlete’s Feat” was bog standard: lots of filler, even more exposition, several magically appearing characters, and a couple of montages.  After a rich school beats Springfield Elementary’s mathlete team, the Nerds (from “Homer Goes to College”) buy the school a bunch of computers, that promptly get fried, which leads to a lot of flattering exposition about Waldorf schools, which leads to Bart becoming the captain of the math team (for some reason), which (just one scene later) leads to a rematch with the rich school, which leads to the usual unconnected ending.

– Hey, Rick and Morty, that’s better than this.  Thank goodness this “couch gag” took over 10% of the episode.

– “Good Seats Will Always Be Available” is pretty decent for an opening sign gag.

– But things go south fast with a literal drive by appearance from Nelson and twenty-seconds of Homer not laughing at a math joke.

– The Nerds are back for a hopefully brief cameo.  Oh, and the math competition has a full audience.  They didn’t even remember their own sign gag.

– Krusty just showed up to apparently host and yell the words “Drug Reference!” at the audience.

– Okay, Krusty’s gone.  Now we’re on “introductory videos” for each team.  Oh, and the rich kids video is directed by a yelling Michael Bay.  South Park did that way better a long time ago.  Just sayin’.

– Lisa’s monologing for some reason.

– Homer is explaining Lisa’s emotions.

– The Nerds are sticking around.  Apparently they went to Springfield Elementary.

– Sigh.  Skinner just appeared out of nowhere in Miss Hoover’s class, grabbed a film strip projector, and hurled it out the window (breaking it) and causing Willie to scream in pain.  Remember when Skinner was funny because he was a buttoned down square and not another zany nutbar?  The writing staff doesn’t.

– Montage!

– The “state of the art digital book burner” was a bit of a stretch, but they did set its temperature to 451F.

– And now the computers the Nerds bought have all been fried.  That took a while, and involved a lot of exposition and urgent horn music.

– Back from commercial and we are literally watching them do nothing.

– The teachers now have no electronics and the Nerds have vanished from the plot without so much as a goodbye, so we’re getting their new, non-technical classroom activities exposited to us.  Like Nelson reading his marshmallows.

– Lisa just left class and walked outside to see Willie, who didn’t so much as greet her before he went into a monologue of his own.

– Oh, for fuck’s sake, after getting several things explained to us, Lisa declared, “Move over, metric system, I’m learning the gastric system!”.

– And now Lisa just walked in on Skinner and Chalmers to exposit some more about learning math from Willie.  It’s bad, “Willie has showed me that losing our technology doesn’t have to be the end of our learning.  We could turn our school into a Waldorf school.”  This reminds of that scene in Spaceballs where Rick Moranis looks right at the camera and asks, “Everybody got that?”.  Only there it was intended to be funny.

– Lisa is now explaining a Waldorf school. . . . and now she’s teaching in the kitchen with no teachers around and, ugh, Lunchlady Doris.

– Now Lisa is back in class learning from Miss Hoover.  I guess they ran out of things for her to explain.

– Now Marge is reading from a pamphlet at the dinner table to further the explanations.

– There’s a song now, which Homer liked enough that he took over the explanations about the school in the next scene.

– Oof, this is a mess.  Willie was outside with some kids, and then Lisa and Skinner ran up out of nowhere to inform him that the plot needs to move along.

– After Lisa promoted Willie to coach of the school math team, he starts yelling and chasing Chalmers with a whip.  I take back my previous “Oof”, now it’s really a mess.

– Now Chalmers crashed his car after Bart hit him with an egg.  Now Bart is leading the math team.  Now, now, now.

– And we’re back at a math competition against the same school from the beginning.  Full audience again.  Sigh.

– Willie has a Gandalf hat and stick for some reason, so the squeaky voiced asks him about college so he can pretend to be a sorting hat from Harry Potter.  References!

– Lisa answers a math question correctly (which for some reason is taken as stunning, but whatever), then Bart complains that no one said there’d be math, then Lisa feels compelled to remind everyone that Bart is the math team captain.  That happened one scene ago, but since it doesn’t make any sense and we never saw Bart do any captaining before getting to the competition, I guess they felt the need to restate it.

– Luigi just stood up from the crowd to yell for a bit and then walk into a pole.  Huh.

– Montage!

– Though it is giving them a chance to flash a few equations on the screen.

– Then Bart somehow got the last question by drawing on Homer’s head.  Then Homer yells about what we just saw.

– Our post-plot comedy sketch this week is an after party where Lisa is somehow drunk on “Mountain Doo”.

– Nevermind, that was our first, post-plot comedy sketch.  The second one is introduced with a title card that reads, “The Simpsons Post Show Jug Band Fills The Time”.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: they know how crappy these are and do not care.

– The jug band filled twenty-five seconds of dialogue free time, though, so at the very least the title card wan’t lying.

The numbers are (long since) in, and they’re about what we’d expect.  Last Sunday, just 2.79 million people wished Rick, Morty, and the jug band thing could’ve taken more of the runtime.  That’s good for #4 on the all time least watched list, and pulls Season 26’s average viewership down to just 4.80 million.  Season 25 previously held the record for least watched Season at 4.99.  Come on down, Season 27!

As always with the ratings, the nuts and gum numbers are better than the overall ones, and since we now know that FOX has the option to keep the show on until 2019, I wouldn’t hold out any hope that they’ll drive the show off the air.  But it is fun to point and laugh.

33 Responses to “Behind Us Forever: Mathlete’s Feat”

    • 2 Hugh Jazz
      22 May 2015 at 12:37 pm

      Well, actually….

    • 3 Anonymous
      22 May 2015 at 12:43 pm

      Another cromulent comment from the mind of Charles Norwood aka Kearney.

    • 5 turlet
      25 May 2015 at 4:24 am

      The primary characters became stale over 13 years ago. The secondary characters like Skinner, Moe, Burns, Apu became stale 8 years ago. (we see more of Moe than we do if Marge these days).

      Now even the tertiary characters like Chalmers, Ralph Wiggum, Milhouses parents and Cletus are beyond dull and repetitive.

      When the Simpsons was in its first (and only good) decade, i doubt the writers ever thought they would run so long that they would have to start basing episodes around characters who used to just deliver a line or two in an episode. And boy it shows.

      • 6 Matthew
        28 May 2015 at 4:54 pm

        The problem is not that they’re trying to add more dimensions to supporting characters: the problem is they’re not doing a good job of it.

  1. 7 Stan
    22 May 2015 at 12:41 pm

    These aren’t Lisa’s feet.

  2. 8 Victor Dang
    22 May 2015 at 12:47 pm

    I haven’t watched ToHX in a while (seeing how it’s from Season 11 and all), but I’m guessing the quote above is from the One Good Segment in there?

    I do have to say I love it when you’re able to effectively mock a Zombie Episode with a quote from Good Simpsons, though.

    • 9 Victor Dang
      22 May 2015 at 1:37 pm


      – Our post-plot comedy sketch this week is an after party where Lisa is somehow drunk on “Mountain Doo”.

      – Nevermind, that was our first, post-plot comedy sketch. The second one is introduced with a title card that reads, “The Simpsons Post Show Jug Band Fills The Time”. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: they know how crappy these are and do not care.

      Does anyone remember when Good SImpsons did this only once? But there they couldn’t figure out a way to put in more jokes in the episode (vs. filler here) to meet the minimum time, which is why they did it.

      OK that doesn’t sound that different from what’s going on here, but point is they put actual effort into the episode back then, and when they ran into limits, they put extra effort to get around those (so we got “Everybody Loves Ned Flanders”, but now we just get “Generic Jug Band Blues”). I sure miss those days.

      • 10 Victor Dang
        22 May 2015 at 1:56 pm

        Forgot to mention the following when talking about “Good Simpsons meeting minimum air time (creatively)”…

        – that classic rake gag in “Cape Feare” (which actually should come to mind first), which I timed around to be 45 seconds when I rewatched it recently
        – “Dental plan!” “Lisa needs braces!” You all should know which episode that’s from, and that actually clocked in at around 30 seconds from my estimate

        Another thing I noticed recently was that the show (in “Good Form”) seemed to have a different approach for stretching time with each show runner(s):
        – Al Jean & Mike Reiss: try to cram the show proper with more gags and jokes than one can count
        – David Mirkin (at least Season 5): fill it out with movie references (and even outright movie quotes sometimes, Homer’s “You can’t handle the truth!!” from “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” comes to mind)
        – Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein: elaborate all the characters’ speech! (e.g. Bart’s “who needs tolerance?!” thing and Homer’s excellent “Your ideas intrigue me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter” line from “Mountain of Madness”)
        – Mike Scully: uhh…

        I can’t really say what approach the show had in its first two seasons, but I’m not sure if there even was any cramming (beyond the writers apparently trying to fill every nook and cranny with jokes, and James L. Brooks telling them to cool down and hold back), at least for time, since the show was so new and the possibilities of where it could go seemed endless.

        • 11 Bleeding Gums Murphy
          22 May 2015 at 4:58 pm

          Hey, these are pretty neat comments. Never realised the different approaches to time-filling. And yeah, this Behind Us Forever’s quote is from The Collector’s segment.

          I think the basic difference between the longer filler gags in The Simpsons and the “gags” from Zombie Simpsons is that in the former they are still relevant to the overall plot, while this isn’t true in the latter. The rake gag comes after Sideshow Bob being hurted by cactus and is followed latter by the same character having his bones crushed by elephants, while at the same time Bob is trying to kill Bart (or coming close to him, which adds towards his rage. Or in the dental plan’s case, it show us Homer’s limited skills as a negociator against Burns’s failing to realize Homer is not that bright, which lead us to scenes like their conversation at Burns’s office. Then in later seasons the filler gags are more of a hit & miss, like Homer’s dialing to Japan, but at least they aren’t too painful.

        • 22 May 2015 at 9:33 pm

          Minor quibble: Oakley and Weinstein’s episodes rarely came in short. Actually, they always ran long, because they were so devoted to making the show as full of entertaining content as possible that they often overcompensated. Case in point – the rough cut of “Bart the Fink” ran 28 minutes long, seven minutes more than they could broadcast.

          Jean and Reiss, though, they were notorious for having episodes run short. Apparently Scully’s episodes tended to be shorter too, but he compensated by using the full opening on nearly every episode in the four seasons he did. You look at Scully episodes in syndication, and almost nothing is cut from them.

        • 15 Stan
          23 May 2015 at 2:28 pm

          I don’t think the James L. Brooks, Sam Simon and Matt Groening episodes did any cramming to fill time because they actually wrote and planned rich stories that could fill the timeslot with room for commercials.

      • 16 Stan
        22 May 2015 at 8:18 pm

        “Mountain Doo”… It’s like a kick in the face. Al Jean’s wrinkly smiling face.

  3. 17 Doug
    22 May 2015 at 1:06 pm

    Now into cryostasis until the next season’s premiere, and may your dreams be filled with Simpsons highlights from seasons 2 through 8.

  4. 20 FireFlower
    22 May 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Please, Zombie Simpsons, let Wendy Pini do a guest couch gag next season!

    She is the artist and co-creator of ElfQuest and my artist idol.

    • 21 turlet
      25 May 2015 at 4:10 am

      They will probably base an awful episode around her where she walks out of a painting and helps Bart discover a passion for art. Onky Bart will get resentful that ge isnt as good as her and start sabotaging her work.

  5. 22 BigBastardP.
    22 May 2015 at 4:22 pm

    “And now the computers the Nerds bought have all been fried. That took a while, and involved a lot of exposition and urgent horn music.”

    Honestly, with the EMP that came out, shouldn’t it have shorted out everywhere around the school as well (all we get is a “joke” with Burns and Smithers)? Where the fuck’s the logic?

    Otherwise, this was a pathetic finale that even I couldn’t sit through.

    • 23 Stan
      22 May 2015 at 8:20 pm

      “Where the fuck’s the logic?”
      Oh, she married common sense 11 years ago. Their kid self-respect is about to finish his fifth grade.

      • 24 Stan
        22 May 2015 at 9:34 pm

        I heard their daughter Dignity ran off and became a hooker or one of those pseudo-porn art film actresses. Reason and Emotion, her two kids, were shipped off to foster care after Dignity’s live-in boyfriend Integrity slashed her face with a box cutter and flushed her drugs down the toilet after he found out Reason and Emotion weren’t biologically his. Dignity says she fought back by kicking him in the stomach, but the cops found her pinned down by Integrity while yelling at her for lying and cheating on him.

  6. 26 Captain Wacky
    22 May 2015 at 4:54 pm

    I’ve been to the year 3000! (and The Simpsons are still running)

  7. 28 Stan
    22 May 2015 at 9:26 pm

    At least you can take some comfort in the fact that IGN, which usually sucks the show ‘s dick like a horny high schooler on her first date, gave the episode a D and said it was awful. I wish they gave it an F, but we can’t win ’em all.

  8. 30 Anon
    24 May 2015 at 2:51 am

    Reminder that it’s now Lunchlady Dora not Doris

  9. 24 May 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Geez, the folks who still praise/defend this show’s modern incarnation have the same mindset as Opie & Anthony listeners who do the same with Greggshells, A.K.A. the more useless remaining half of that radio program. (Say what you want about what Anthony got fired for, but he was the guy who gave O&A life; nowadays, not even that sweet lil’ boy James Norton can keep that ship afloat.)

  10. 32 turlet
    25 May 2015 at 4:03 am

    The constant exposotion is a sad reflection on the quality of the jokes and the audience they are writing for. One of the first things I learnt about comedy is that if you have to explain your jokes then they are probably not funny.

    They know the plots and gags they produce are lame so they have to explain them over and over again without a shred of irony. It is also for the benefit of the family guy audience that they are trying to tap into. Those of the short attention span who just want junk food comedy. The only difference is that ZS are using montages instead of cutaways.

    The fact that they did a ZS and FG crossover and it didnt even seem weird seeing the Family Guy lot in Springfield shows just how indistinguishable the two shows are becoming.

    • 33 Stan
      28 May 2015 at 4:37 am

      Didn’t The Simpsons used to do cutaway jokes (only those were more like flashbacks and imagine spots to embarrassing and weird incidents, like Homer becoming a military guinea pig to get out of having dinner with Party and Selma, Bart’s first word being “Ay, caramba!” after seeing Homer and Marge have sex, or Bart’s future as a fat male stripper whose female fans hate him), but stopped because Family Guy was doing it?

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