Archive for the '23rd Anniversary Yellow Jubilee' Category

25
Mar
13

Quote of the Day

Homer's Night Out4

“Uh-oh, it’s the fe-mailman.” – Bart Simpson
“Fe-mail carrier, Bart.” – Lisa Simpson

07
Mar
13

The Telltale Head Spews Truth

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Today’s post is another installment in our long-running “series” of DVD commentary posts; the lucky victim this time is Season 1’s classic “The Telltale Head.” Featured speakers on the commentary are the episode’s director Rich Moore and writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss. I’ll keep it short and simple (read: descriptive and lacking in any meaningful/substantive analysis), but here are the highlights from their conversation for me:

(Times are approximate)

  • 00:17 – Supposedly there were a lot of Elvis sightings when this episode was written, hence the chalkboard gag
  • 00:31 – Early intro didn’t have Burns or Smithers in the Homer/SNPP shot
  • 01:21 – Directors, well at least Rich Moore in this case, don’t get residual checks when this episode airs. Wah wah.
  • 02:08 – During table readings, the episode got big laughs up front and petered out, which explains the reverse structure of the episode as it we know
  • 02:34 – This is one of the few episodes that actually has the title after the credits
  • 02:52 – This is also Rich Moore’s Simpsons directorial debut
  • 03:14 – Episode is full of first appearances – Rev. Lovejoy, Jimbo, Dolph, Kearney, Quimby, Apu
  • 03:40 – Homer standing on the couch is where the episode originally started before the structural changes
  • 03:51 – This is the first time the family goes to church
  • 04:15 – The Simpsons staff is full of football fans, so references work their way into many episodes
  • 05:45 – Apparently the Sunday school teacher doesn’t have a name
  • 07:15 – “Twister mouths” were phased out in Season 1, but made an accidental appearance in Season 3 thanks to Wes Archer
  • 07:37 – Repeat backgrounds are a godsend
  • 08:11 – “Space Mutants” was a regular thing that just sort of dropped out of later episodes
  • 09:25 – Jimbo is named after Jim Brooks
  • 10:50 – Apu wasn’t originally intended to be an ethnic character, but Hank Azaria added the accent during the table read and the rest is history
  • 11:17 – It’s still a five-fingered discount even though the characters only have four fingers
  • 14:07 – Rich’s father called after this show aired to ask if Homer was based on him
  • 14:27 – Bart’s first ninja costume
  • 15:30 – Intent of the episode was always to be played as “live action” with interesting composition and shots rather than the flatness associated with many early episodes
  • 16:50 – At the table read, the fact that the Jebidiah’s head was cut off didn’t resonate with the group as much as the denizens of Springfield
  • 17:50 – This is where shit gets weird: the head starts talking. This didn’t get many laughs initially
  • 18:22 – You rarely see Moe and Burns share a scene together
  • 18:31 – First episode where Smither’s affection for Burns is notable
  • 18:40 – Around the middle of the first season, Sam Simon declared that Smithers should be gay, but not to make a big deal about it. The audience caught on quickly though
  • 18:57 – First Sideshow Bob, who is both silent and looks nothing like his later incarnation
  • 20:40 – First mob made up of supporting characters and not generic people
  • 22:04 – The early internet was a cruel mistress in pointing out animation inconsistencies and other flaws (sound familiar?)
  • That’s a wrap!
26
Feb
13

Permanent Record: Jimbo Jones

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“That one looks like a school bus going over a cliff in flames with kids inside screaming.” – Jimbo Jones

Like any other organization or group of people, a school has a natural hierarchy.  The adults are separate from the kids, obviously, but even within groups there are levels and layers.  For the adults there are staff and faculty, for the students there are grades, gender, circles of friends and lots of other ways the students sort themselves out.  One of the things that made Springfield Elementary so compelling and recognizable as a place, even though it’s fictional and inhabited by people with bulging eyes and no chins, is that the show captured the social ecosystem of a grade school with such trenchant clarity.

Among the kids in Bart’s class we have Milhouse, a weak kid who latches onto Bart, Martin, a true nerd who kisses the teacher’s ass, Sherri and Terri, the goody two (four?) shoes twins, and Nelson, the kid who gets to be the bully by dint of being bigger than everyone else.  “The Telltale Head” shows us some of the kids outside of Bart’s class, specifically the three older bullies: Dolph, Kearney and, above all, Jimbo.

Whereas Nelson is in the same grade as Bart and therefore serves as his daily tormentor, Jimbo and his cronies are older.  They wouldn’t pass up an opportunity to harass Bart, but he’s much too small fry for them to care about on a day to day basis.  In the school hierarchy, Jimbo and company are far above Bart.

When Bart and Jimbo first meet, we see this discrepancy in Bart’s awe of Jimbo (“you’re the worst kid in school”) and Jimbo’s total ignorance of Bart (“what’s your name, man?”).  As the story progresses, we see Bart trying as hard as he can to hang out with the older kids his idolizes, so he goes along with things he isn’t comfortable with (stealing from the Kwik-E-Mart, stoning the statue) while struggling to seem cool.

For his part, Jimbo plays the elder bad boy perfectly.  He’s okay with boosting candy and Playdudes and throwing rocks at inanimate objects, and he likes that Bart’s got a smart mouth and willingness to go along with stuff.  But he’s willing to dropkick Bart out of his orbit in an instant once it becomes clear that, for all his enthusiasm, Bart is still too much of a little kid to hang out with them.

Later episodes would use both sides of the relationship.  So Jimbo and Bart will work together when their interests are aligned (like the escape from Utility Basement B in “Whacking Day”), but Jimbo will easily turn on Bart when that suits him (“As soon as the check clears, I’ll let you go”).  When he wasn’t around Bart, Jimbo (and Dolph and Kearney) were the show’s way to make fun of sullen teenagers.  They’ll chase Bart down for doing ballet, but they’ll also rush off to the library to read about the Founding Fathers because of Ralph’s moving portrayal of George Washington.

Like so many of the other recurring minor characters, Jimbo and company made Springfield feel more like a real place.  They didn’t have to be good or bad, and none of them ever really got their own episode, they just had to be there, acting like the mostly harmless juvenile delinquents that they are. 

19
Feb
13

Permanent Record: Maggie Simpson

The Call of the Simpsons8

“The boys certainly are taking a long time.  I hope Maggie isn’t slowing them up too much.” – Marge Simpson

For reasons of television necessity the Simpson family has always been an adventurous lot.  But while Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa can easily go out into the world and get into and out of trouble, little Maggie is limited by the fact that she can’t talk and can barely walk.  But while those limitations usually see her shuffled off to the side, the show also gives strong hints that she is the smartest and toughest of them all. 

“The Call of the Simpsons” is the first serious indication that we in the audience get that Maggie is more than a pacifier sucking background character.  It’s true that in “Bart the Genius”, while the rest of the family is trying to build Bart’s vocabulary with Scrabble, she’s spelling out physics equations with wooden blocks.  But having her wander into the woods, befriend a clan of cave bears, and then save Homer and Bart from them was the first time the show took Maggie out and built a little story around her.

With the exception of the television idiots and the camping jerk and his wife, it’s told entirely without dialogue.  It’s just Maggie being silently fearless and resourceful with a musical accompaniment to set the mood.  It’s not a major part of the episode, but it is in the best tradition of The Simpsons, sweet but absurd and funny. 

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 And people say the crazy stuff didn’t start until Season 4.

In subsequent seasons we see her liberate pacifiers from a heavily guarded locker at the Ayn Rand School for Tots, unintentionally stage a massive jail break by crashing a car into the prison, and trek across Springfield in a search for Marge that ends with a peaceful nap under an ice cream sign while the police panic beneath her.  She may be silent, but she is smart, tough and funny, so when the Simpson kids are shipped off to the unfortunate care of Patty and Selma in “Homer Alone”, Bart and Lisa go along meekly while Maggie outfights a grown man and stays safely out of their clutches.  She effortlessly snags the bottle thrown at Homer’s head in “Lisa on Ice”; and while she is only briefly on screen in “Lisa’s Wedding”, we get a clear portrait of a teenage Maggie who has the attitude of Bart and the brains of Lisa.  Oh, and she shot Mr. Burns.

All that stuff was well in the future when this episode was created, but you can see the seeds of it right here.  Even at this early stage they were already having fun with unconventional storytelling and doing things that would’ve been impossible on a non-animated show.  (It’s also a great example of how they put that live orchestra to good use.  Maggie and the bears simply wouldn’t work without that “Peter and the Wolf” style music.)  Maggie is the least prominent Simpson, but the show still had the good sense to treat her like a real character, even way back in Season 1.

12
Feb
13

Permanent Record: Mr. Largo

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“Alright, class, from the top: one and two and three and. . .” – Mr. Largo

American primary schools are filled with godawful bands.  While a few students might genuinely like playing music and even have some skill, most of the members are kids that have no particular aptitude for music, aren’t overly fond of their instruments, and/or are only in the band because their parents made them join.  In this context, “band” is just another class or after school activity, something most of the kids will go through the motions for, if only to keep the adults off their backs.  At the head of this artistically doomed enterprise is the music teacher, someone who has, for whatever reason, ended up teaching on the lowest rung of musical education. 

Mr. Largo perfectly exemplifies every bad stereotype there is about school music teachers.  He’s an authoritarian, he long ago lost whatever passion he had for music or his work, and, as Lisa would reveal in Season 2, his most profound lesson to probably his best student was that “even the noblest concerto can be drained of its beauty and soul”.  We can see all of these traits in Largo’s brief two scenes in “Moaning Lisa”. 

In the first, at band practice, he not only lashes out at Lisa for not playing along dully like the rest of the students, but evinces not a whit of empathy for her or the hardscrabble Americans she invokes as her justification for straying from the sheet music.  All he cares about is making those kids play “My Country Tis of Thee”, and if their rendition is off key, off rhythm and only barely recognizable as the song they’re trying to play, well, he doesn’t care about that. 

In his second appearance, just after Marge has given Lisa her terrible advice about smiling no matter what, he point blank tells Lisa that he doesn’t want any more “creativity” from her.  For Largo, music isn’t about being creative, it’s about muddling through with strict adherence to the original, however inadequate or terrible sounding. 

As a character, and despite his inclusion in the opening credits, Largo never developed into a standby the way many other Season 1 creations did.  He didn’t become Lisa’s foil the way Krabappel and Skinner were Bart’s, and except for background shots he rarely appeared outside of the school.  But as with so many other characters, Largo didn’t need a great deal of backstory or his own star turn in an episode to make him seem like a real person.  He was a music teacher who, by temperament, talent and good, old fashioned apathy, was cut out to be little else.  He didn’t really like his job or his students, and that made him a perfect fit in Springfield and at Springfield Elementary.

28
Jan
13

Permanent Record: Burns Manor

There's No Disgrace Like Home13

“There it is, kids, stately Burns Manor, heaven on earth.” – Homer Simpson

Watching Season 1 episodes with the knowledge of what the show was going to become can often blur out just how well formed many of the show’s ideas were, even before the voices and the animation had developed.  Burns, and the palatial estate on which he lives, illustrate that well.  “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” is the first time we get to see Burns Manor, and while it would be revised and updated in Season 2 and later, the fundamental ideas of it are all right here.

The image at the top of this post is the establishing shot, and right away we know that a) it’s luxurious to the point of absurdity (note the string music in the background when the family walks in), and b) the Simpsons (and by extension, you) are not the least bit welcome.  On only one day per year does Burns allow regular people into his perfect world (the warning sign doesn’t say that “Trespassers” will be shot, it says “Poachers”), and even then it’s only so his employees can bow and scrape before him.  The sack race is mandatory (and Burns must be allowed to win), the father whose kid didn’t want to be there is not only getting promptly ejected from the party, he’s being fired permanently.

But the mansion itself is just as important, particularly vis-a-vis the rest of Springfield.  Besides the Simpson home, there are only three other real settings in this episode.  There’s Moe’s, a dingy bar that doesn’t even have a color television, the pawn shop, and Dr. Monroe’s clinic, which is hardly a top notch medical facility since, as Lisa points out, he advertises it during boxing:

Dumpy Springfield

The bar is dirty and dingy, the pawnshop is a pawnshop (and has cracks in its walls and ceiling), and the rather grandly named “Family Therapy Center” is just some rented office with a dumpster right where you can see it on your way in.  Burns Manor, on the other hand, is the only really nice place in the entire town:

Opulent Burns Manor

It’s got a foyer worthy of Versailles, classical architecture, and enormous grounds decorated with fountains and gazebos.  Unlike Springfield, which is kind of a mess, Burns Manor is polished and perfect.

We’re still years away from Bart having the train that disappears for hours and one time came back with snow on it, or the band shell where a captive Tom Jones performs for Marge and Homer, or the guards who sing that all they own they owe, but Burns Manor is already recognizable as a place that is both very rich and very cruel.  Moreover, it’s already a place that highlights all the things the Simpsons don’t have, and really can never have.  Homer’s place is at Moe’s with the passed out drunk on the bar; Marge has the house that Bart describes as a “dump” when he thinks its someone else’s.  Even the perfect family Homer sees leaving Burns Manor at the beginning is stuck at Dr. Marvin Monroe’s run down clinic.  Burns Manor, on the other hand, stands literally up on a hill, looking down on them all.

24
Jan
13

Animation Alley: Homer’s Odyssey

Make no mistake, there’s a lot of really weird and wonky animation in the first season. I used to find it really off-putting, but now I’ve learned to accept it, and it actually makes these shows all the more charming to me. Just as the show was trying to find its footing with the writing, the same could be said about the animation. There’s a lot of weird shit in this show, a few moments in particular I want to highlight.

animodyssey01
I love the execution of Nuclear Energy: Our Misunderstood Friend; the designs, the limited, jerky animation, the scratched up film, it’s fantastic. Also it’s the first and only time we’ve seen Smilin’ Joe Fission, though he may have showed up on a logo somewhere, we’ve never seen another filmstrip featuring him. Pity.

animodyssey02
Much focus is made on black Smithers, but here’s a pretty glaring animation gaffe. Wes Archer brought this up in the commentary and everyone laughed about it.

animodyssey03
Nice quick door slamming montage of Homer’s failed job interviews. I love the shitty drawing of this guy, with dot eyes like Akbar and Jeff in Life in Hell. I also like the implication that Homer went up to the drive-thru window to ask for a job.

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Another quality background. There were a lot of washed out gradient walls like this early on, they look pretty terrible. The exclamation point on the sign is great, though. Must Be 21!

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I love how when Homer signs Bart’s report card, he’s not even looking at it. Then when the kids walk away, his arms just falls to the ground and the pencil rolls out of it, his expression never changing and his vacant stare never diverting from the ceiling. By moving as little as possible, we see that he’s a truly broken man. Also, more great portraits, this time one for Marge, and another for her hair.

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There’s so many insane background characters in this show, especially toward the end at the power plant rally. I love the guy with the red superhero mask, and the really fat guy with the humungous smile. How come those guys never took off?

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One strange but lovable piece of animation that sticks with me is during Homer’s internal monologue of whether to take Burns’ deal, as he goes back and forth with being able to support the family and stick to his principles… then notices how big Burns’ desk is and his clean shirt. He’s at the verge of a meltdown when Burns urges him to make a decision, to which Homer calmly responds, “What the hey, I’ll take the job.” Fantastic.

22
Jan
13

Permanent Record: Sherri & Terri

Homer's Odyssey9

“We’re gonna make you sing, Bart Simpson.” – Sherri
“Yeah, Bart Simpson, we’re gonna make you sing.” – Terri

When “Homer’s  Odyssey” was first broadcast, and The Simpsons was considered just this side of Satanic cults by much of mainstream culture, one of the best things about it was the way it mocked success.  People who did well in Springfield didn’t always deserve it, and even the ones who did were often portrayed as insufferable jackasses.  The most glaring example of that is easily Flanders, who is a genuinely nice guy but who is also grotesquely inhuman in the way he is immune to the humdrum failures and humiliations of ordinary people.

Sherri and Terri, though much less prominent than Flanders, fill a similar role.  They are goody two shoes; teacher’s pets who are plenty willing to abuse their favored status among the adults to torment Bart Simpson.  They are proof that the kids who get good grades, do their homework on time, and never get detention can be just as mean and troublemaking as anyone else.

Just as bad, both they and their father, who’s one of Homer’s bosses at the nuclear plant, aren’t above using their favored status to shame and taunt people below them.  In short, it isn’t enough for their family to be better, they have to rub it in.  Society’s betters are just as bad as you are.

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Like Milk Duds, they’re poison on the inside.

This idea of universal mockery is one of the things that differentiates The Simpsons from regular comedy, then and now.  Just having Homer crash his cart and get fired in front of his son is funny.  But even in Season 1, that wasn’t enough.  Homer and Bart losing is much better when we not only see other people looking down on them for their failure, but also the way that the people looking down on them are selfish jerks too.

From the time they deliberately misinform Bart about US history to when they narc on Milhouse’s secret birthday party all the way up to trying to make Moe sing the million dollar birthday fries song twice, Sherri and Terri enjoy picking on people who aren’t as competent and put together as they are.  They have a mean streak, and they’re perfectly willing to exploit the fact that they’re twins to express it.

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The twins enjoy the suffering and humiliation of others.  Just like the rest of us.

Unlike Zombie Simpsons, which frequently has characters show up in a scene for no reason other than to spout some piece of hacktacular dialogue, The Simpsons made even very minor characters like Sherri and Terri into real people.  It understood that even characters who only get a few lines can be recognizable people, and that no one is too minor to have some funny flaws.

17
Jan
13

DVD Commentary: Bart the Genius

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

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

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

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

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

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

Koreans don’t have bananas, hence the miscoloring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids playing with marbles is a cute anachronism

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

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

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

David enjoys having a yellow character talk to a green character

16
Jan
13

Animation Alley: Bart the Genius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14
Jan
13

Permanent Record: Dr. J. Loren Pryor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14
Jan
13

The Simpsons 23rd Anniversary Yellow Jubilee

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

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

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

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

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

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




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Useful Legal Tidbit

Even though it’s obvious to anyone with a functional frontal lobe and a shred of morality, we feel the need to include this disclaimer. This website (which openly advocates for the cancellation of a beloved television series) is in no way, shape or form affiliated with the FOX Network, the News Corporation, subsidiaries thereof, or any of Rupert Murdoch’s wives or children. “The Simpsons” is (unfortunately) the intellectual property of FOX. We and our crack team of one (1) lawyer believe that everything on this site falls under the definition of Fair Use and is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. No revenue is generated from this endeavor; we’re here because we love “The Simpsons”. And besides, you can’t like, own a potato, man, it’s one of Mother Earth’s creatures.