Archive for the 'Behind Us Forever' Category

27
Oct
17

Behind Us Forever: Treehouse of Horror XXVIII (Oh, and Morgan Spurlock returns)

“Oh, dear!” – Marge Simpson
“No, Mom, it counts as a hit. Dad just won the game.” – Lisa Simpson
“Well, I guess he’ll be happy when he comes to.” – Marge Simpson

A few quick breakdowns:

  • I finally watched that “Springfield of Dreams” special that FOX Sports paid Morgan Spurlock to produce to commemorate Homer’s induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s fine. Not great. Not terrible. Maybe a little too long and uneven, but watchable.Spurlock put his rolodex to work and brought in a crapton of famous people, some of whom work out better than others. Joe Buck, Bob Costas, George Will, and Dr. Oz(?) seem to only barely be in on the joke. Whereas Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Mike Scioscia, and that baseball historian all made me at least chuckle. I have no idea why Russel Brand or Neil DeGrasse Tyson were there, I guess maybe the producers hoped they would tweet about it or something? Nick Offerman got to pretend to be Brad Pitt, Bush the Younger, and John Swartzwelder. That last one was a nice touch, though I’m guessing 95% of the people watching have never heard of him.

    Mostly it’s a retelling of “Homer at the Bat” in a Ken Burns style where clips from the episode are interspliced with talking heads or occasional Simpsons characters talking (Spurlock and two guys he work with wrote it). It spends more time than I’d have liked explaining jokes from twenty-five years ago (did you know it’s dangerous to put sheet metal over your head in a thunderstorm?), but overall it’s fine. And, hey, I got to use the Morgan Spurlock tag on this blog again. Been ages.

  • On to Treehouse of Horror XXVIII(!). It opens with an extended couch gag that’s the family as candy sitting in someone’s trick or treat bowl. There’s a decent joke when a leftover chocolate Easter bunny begs to die, which then gets run into the ground as the family slowly eats him. This needed to be a lot bleaker and have a lot less joke explanations.
  • The first segment is an Exorcist thingie that mostly involves Maggie killing characters at a dinner party in gruesome ways. It gets off to a bad start when Agnes and Helen walk into Maggie’s room suddenly to declare the party started. Eventually a priest comes in and the demon jumps into Bart, who likes it. The end.
  • The second segment started out semi-not-un-promising by being based on Coraline, which was awesome. Lisa goes through a small door to an alternate reality where things are animated in 3D and everyone has buttons for eyes. Pretty soon the whole family is there, but then they all come back to the usual universe. It ends with everyone there, including Other Mother Marge as a spider, and rip roaring dialogue like this:

    Button Homer: “Bart drew this picture of his family. Now we’re getting visits from a social worker and an exterminator.”
    Spider-Button Marge: “I’ll be ready!” [Shoots pistol, starts chainsaw]
    Lisa: “And I’ve learned no matter how bad things are, they could get much, much worse.”

    At that, Nelson walks in from nowhere so Lisa can zip and unzip his lips.

  • The third segment opens with Lisa in a tuxedo in front of a curtain, reminiscent of Treehouses of Horror past (sigh), warning us that, “What you’re about to see is so disgusting, you’ll watch Game of Thrones to calm down. You have been warned.” Turns out it’s about Homer eating himself piece by piece until there’s nothing left. It’s basically one joke over and over again and includes a montage and a self voiced celebrity chef who pulls the classic Zombie Simpsons intro of walking in unannounced and telling us his name.

Anyway, the numbers are in, and they’re up slightly but about the same. A self-consuming 3.66 million people watched this year’s Halloween episode when they could’ve been watching Coraline on DVD.

20
Oct
17

Behind Us Forever: Whistler’s Father

“Look at those silk pillows! It’s like the set of some high class porno film.” – Marge Simpson
“No, no, it’s just our basement” – Homer Simpson
“Hold on, that’s our basement?” – Marge Simpson
“Yes, so? Come on, more kissing.” – Homer Simpson
“It looks so elegant! And all it takes are some lace curtains and a beaded lampshade. You’ve got to show me exactly what you did!” – Marge Simpson
“But I was gonna score!” – Homer Simpson
“No, you weren’t.” – Marge Simpson

NOTE: Sorry this is so late. Been one of those weeks. (And I just noticed I didn’t put up a quote for today, ugh.)

I’ve listened to enough of the DVD commentaries over the years to know how many different people work on these scripts and how many iterations they go through before they reach my TV. And while I have never worked on a TV show, there are times when I (or anyone else, for that matter) can plainly see that a script maybe went through the wringer a few too many times.

The story-ish substance of this one is twofold: 1) Homer is pushing Maggie to be a professional child entertainer because Maggie can whistle really well, and 2) Marge is working as an interior decorator for Fat Tony. So far, so ho-hum. The weird part is that both of them are apparently hiding their plotlines from one another. Why? No explanation is ever given or hinted at. It feels like an artifact. Homer and Marge keep secrets from each other was the concept, and, seventeen drafts later, that part has been forgotten except for a couple of scenes where they explicitly tell us they’re doing that.

– We open on Marge pacing the bedroom while, for the second week in a row, they do a Homer-can-talk-while-he’s-asleep bit. She eventually wakes him up to key us into the plot and get in the first shovel fulls of this episode’s metric tons of exposition:

Marge: Homer, wake up, please. I can’t sleep. I’m having friends over tomorrow. Luann van Houten…
Homer: …Backstabber.
Marge: Bernice Hibbert…
Homer: …Snob.
Marge: And Helen Lovejoy…
Homer: Okay, she’s pretty hot. I mean, hot for a reverend’s wife, but so judgmental.

Thanks to this, Homer gets stuck watching Maggie.

– Homer watches Maggie and very little happens (“what to do? what to do?” is a repeated line/joke/time filler).

– We see Marge with the gals and they are exceptionally hostile, right from the bat. They just insult Marge out of blue. No disagreement, no escalation, just straight to open insults. It’s really weird.

– Upstairs, Homer spends thirty seconds or so looking for a whistling sound before he discovers it’s coming from Maggie. This leads to a dream sequence where Homer is professionally whistling in an Uncle Sam costume.

– Her taste insulted by the other women, Marge resolves to decorate the “pick up waiting room” at the school the best she can. She’s gonna need a montage! Montage!

– At the newly decorated room, Fat Tony shows up out of nowhere to declare the room perfectly decorated and hires Marge as his decorator for an old post office he purchased. That was timely, unexpected, and hacktacular, all in one.

– At Moe’s, Homer has Maggie in a backpack and is pretending to whistle for the guys when Grampa walks in out of nowhere to exposit about how he used to be a professional whistler. He opens the door and says:

“Well, well, well, it looks like my no talent son can suddenly whistle. Tell me Homer, how’d you trill that high C with your lips in second position?”

It is then revealed that Maggie is whistling and that Grampa used to be a professional whistler, which leads to a narrated flashback. For those keeping score at home, we’re at the 7:30 mark and we’ve had a montage, a flashback, a dream sequence, and two characters bursting through doors to advance the plot.

– Grampa’s flashback ends badly when he tries to whistle three notes at once, which they animated thusly:

This isn’t quite popped eyeballs. But it’s not far off, either.

– That stunt broke Grampa’s lips, which leads to another flashback where he has to pay other guys to kiss his girlfriend:

I have no response to this.

– Grampa then declares that Maggie is gonna go into show business, which leads to him whistling with five holes in his mouth instead of three. Didn’t they just say he couldn’t do that? I am confused.

– Hey, look, a good sign joke:

– And we’re back to exposition with Grampa explaining that he and Maggie are there to hear songbirds.

– Over in Marge’s plot, Fat Tony is introducing Marge to the post office. Legs and Louie are there for some limp banter.

– At a talent tryout for kids, Grampa tells a bored looking guy that Maggie whistles. He replies by expositing how he feels and expositing what he’s going to do:

“This I gotta hear. Not because I am looking forward to it, but because it is my job.” [He smokes a whole cigarette. Maggie whistles.] “Fantastic talent. Now, move along. I have a heart attack at four o’clock. And here it comes.” [Has heart attack.]

Hacktacular!

– Marge is at a hardware store with Fat Tony and the gang. She is now dressed as an “interior decorator” which means a brown suit dress and sunglasses. This is another one of those scenes where the writers seem to think its relateable when interior decorators pitch expensive indoor fountains at you. They must hate that almost as much as when their butlers wash their sock garters but they’re still covered in schmutz.

– Next scene, Homer and Marge are in bed and Marge wonders what that whistling is. They then both ask how the other would feel if they kept a secret from each other. This forces me to wonder why in the hell (or how, for that matter) either of them is keeping their plot lines a secret. This is the first we see of it and we’re well past halfway. Even by Zombie Simpsons standards it feels dropped in.

– Because Lisa hasn’t really been in this episode, we get a thirty second filler scene where she freaks out about Maggie being talented. No, I don’t know why. Maybe that’s a secret too.

– Homer and Maggie are now watching a TV special about an entertainment baby that went to prison. I guess it’s supposed to be a “Behind the Music” type thing, but it’s mostly just narration. It leads to Homer expositing out loud about his motivations for pushing Maggie to be a whistling star. Nothing about it needing to be a secret, or why Marge might care. I guess it’s nice that they are neither showing nor telling, but since they’re expositing something unrelated instead, I don’t think it qualifies as an improvement.

– Marge has finished decorating the post office for Fat Tony. Turns out it’s a brothel, which we learn when Quimby appears from nowhere to ask if he can bang Marge. Kent Brockman then bursts into the hall to tell Fat Tony and Marge that they didn’t see him. The door was closed. He wasn’t being seen. Even by cartoon standards this is dumb.

– At the baby talent show, Homer explains that he is disturbed by what the other showbiz parents do to their kids. At the post office/brothel, Marge is ashamed of what she’s done. No sooner has she told us this than Helen, Luann, and Bernice walk in from outside – once again for no damn reason – to start attacking Marge again. The brothel ends up getting burned for insurance money after Marge exposits that Fat Tony’s mom used to have a PO box there. Remember what I said above about this script going through the wringer too many times? Weird crap like this is why.

– At the talent show, Maggie fails because she can’t whistle anymore with a tooth coming in. (Actual dialog: “Look she’s got a tooth coming in!”, which is said by Bart who has just wandered on stage.) Mel then exposits all of this from the audience because they like having Mel yell shit. God I’m bored.

– Homer concludes the scene and the plot by telling us, “The only thing that’s been worth it about this experience is that I got to spend time with this little girl. And that’s the tooth.” Please, someone, take me to a dentist’s office and leave the gas on.

– And we end on Marge and Homer in bed recounting each other’s storylines and promising “no more secrets”, which, again, has nothing to do with anything we’ve just seen.

– Small bonus: End theme is a whistle version by what I assume is a professional whistler named Nick Fascitelli. It’s not worth sitting through this, but I am a sucker for versions of the theme song.

– Other credit note: regular “Music By” credit for Clausen.

Anyway, the numbers are in, and with no late FOX NFL game this week, they’re back to the darkest corner of the basement. Last Sunday, just 2.90 million people didn’t tell anyone they watched Zombie Simpsons.

11
Oct
17

Behind Us Forever: Springfield Splendor

“She doesn’t look sad. I don’t see any tears in her eyes.” – Homer Simpson
“It’s not that kind of sad. I’m sorry, Dad, but you wouldn’t understand.” – Lisa

After last week’s little experiment, it’s back to regular Zombie Simpsons this week, including plots that don’t make sense, two clock eating montages, several unnecessarily self-voiced celebrities, the standard hacktacular ending, and plenty of characters telling us exactly how they’re feeling. As a sort of bonus, some of this week’s exposition is written down rather than spoken.

The story here is – and stop me if you’ve seen this one a dozen times before – Lisa is sad. She goes to a therapist who tells her to do “art therapy”, which turns into a comic book that she writes and Marge draws, which turns into a Broadway musical, which turns (at long last) into the end credits. There isn’t really a b-plot this week, so they tossed in some random scenes of Bart and Homer doing brief sketch pieces.

– No couch gag or title sequence, which means this one ran long, which is not a good sign, especially when the opening is Lisa having a dream that she narrates to us.

– Waking up, Lisa runs into Homer and Marge’s room where, in the span of just thirty seconds, they manage to do the “Homer wakes up instantly” joke twice.

– The family ends up at Springfield community college so Lisa can get discount therapy. Since this episode is mostly filler, they encounter Lenny on the front steps:

Lenny: I only paid a student dentist twelve dollars for this brand new crown. [He pulls out his tooth.] See?
Marge: I don’t think it’s supposed to come out.
Lenny: That’s why I paid a student para-legal to sue him. I lost! [He tosses the tooth aside and walks off.]

After this scintillating exchange, Homer looks at the family, then smiles and nods vigorously. This is funny, but not for the reasons the show wants.

– They walk by Dan Harmon teaching a class. He gets pelted with spitballs and falls down. This is the first of many useless self voiced celebrities.

– Homer tosses Bart into a dog grooming class because, hey, that’s funny.

– We finally get to the therapist, who is clearly pregnant but who also tells us she’s pregnant. I swear they sometimes read the stage directions out loud and nobody notices.

– Effort alert: there are a couple of book titles in the counselor’s office, the only one of which I liked was “The Social Psychology of Student Loan Debt”. But, hey, they’re kinda trying. Right?

– The Bart-as-dog thing is still going on as Lisa struggles to draw her feelings. Then Marge comes in and draws Lisa’s feeling for her. This leads to our first montage as Marge’s drawings of Lisa’s life are animated. This includes thought bubbles for this week’s distinguishing feature: written exposition.

– Lisa goes back to the community college therapist to show off her drawings and, dun dun dun, they’re not in her backpack. Outside we see Comic Book Guy and that wife they gave him finding the pages and deciding to publish them as a “Sad Girl” comic. This leads to more exposition from Lisa, who says, “It’s been a week and I still can’t find my therapy comic. I’d be just mortified if even one person saw my private thoughts.” They then walk by the comic book shop which has them in the window. [sad rimshot]

– This leads to a minute long scene that involves YouTube, exposition, a bear costume, more exposition, and then even more exposition until Lisa agrees to let them sell the book. Jebus, that took a while.

– Lisa becomes famous, with random people in the supermarket asking for her autograph and Mel shouting out the word “zeitgeist”. This leads to our second montage, which is accompanied by a one-word substitution “parody” of the old Rod Stewart song “Infatuation“. The credits will later inform me it was sung by Kipp Lenon, a/k/a the guy who did the singing for Michael Jackson back in Season 3. There’s your trivia moment for this one.

– After the montage, there’s a Homer and Bart sketch that uses the Andy Griffith Show theme song. That is all.

– Moving the plot along to a comic book festival, we get a women-in-art panel discussion with Marge, Lisa, and three self voiced celebrity writers/cartoonists. This takes a while and ends with Marge being jealous because all the questions are for Lisa. No, it doesn’t make any sense.

– Later, Marge wants to write her own comic, gets in a fight with Lisa, and then Martin Short shows up doing a half hearted impression of the voice he does on the PBS version of Cat in the Hat. He’s playing an “impish genius” who wants to turn the comic into a musical. I know he’s an “impish genius” because they tell us twice.

– A big part of what they think works here is recitations of previous shows this guy did. Lisa says he did a “Waiting for Godot” where Godot showed up, and an all dogs version of “Cats”. There’s gonna be like four more of these, all recounted seemingly out of nowhere.

– The Homer-Bart sketch interludes continue with Homer now thinking he’s going to be rich. I will update you as necessary.

– The next minute and a half is Martin Short rambling and Lisa getting jealous of Marge because the show is so off beat that “Sad Girl” is barely in it. This is conveyed to the audience via Lisa’s explicitly saying it, “Mom, he’s ignoring my story and making this all about your drawings.”

– Lisa flees back to the therapist, who now has a crib that she’s gently rocking. Remember, she was pregnant and they told us so. Now she obviously has a kid and they will tell us that as well. The need to make even the most obvious things explicit is among the seven or eight most annoying tics of this show.

– Homer is now planning to get a sail boat.

– The show finally starts and it’s basically montage #3, with lots of music and crazy stuff happening because wordless musicals are a good way to eat time.

– After one final scene of Martin Short yelling and explaining things, the music devolves into chaos and the audience flees.

– And we end at a bar where everyone is drinking and Marge and Lisa exposit their reconciliation.

The numbers are in, and thanks to a late Packers-Cowboys game, 5.25 million people saw Lisa be sad and felt the same way. Remember, ratings are meaningless and no one in charge of anything knows what they’re doing.

06
Oct
17

Behind Us Forever: The Serfsons

“I’ll go to the first aid tent and tell them to plug in ye olde stomach pump.” – Lisa Simpson

NOTE: Sorry this took all week to post. I was traveling.

I should start out by saying that I appreciate that they at least tried to get creative here. “The Serfsons” is basically an episode length Halloween segment that gets the tiresome antics of Zombie Simpsons out of Springfield without the family having to win another contest or something. The good news is that you can tell they actually put some effort into this one; there are a couple of clever ideas and while most of the sign gags are meh, there are a few funny ones.

The bad news is that this is still Zombie Simpsons. An awful lot of the dialog is unnecessary expositions and joke explanations, characters randomly show up and vanish when needed, and the couple of good non-sign jokes get run into the ground. And, of course, the overall story is a meandering mess that resolves itself so poorly that it actually retcons its own ending twenty seconds after it happens.

If you haven’t seen it, the basic idea is that all the denizens of Springfield are in a fantasy realm that’s sort of Lord of the Rings, sort of Game of Thrones, sort of Generic Fantasy IP Project #644. Jacqueline is slowly dying and Homer needs gold to buy an amulet to cure her. Lisa, it turns out, has magic powers and can turn lead into gold. This leads to the Ministry of Magic (or whatever) kidnapping her for her abilities, and that in turn leads to a weird battle. There’s also a gelatinous cube whose super power is explaining jokes about itself.

– Gotta give them this: the Game of Thrones-y version of the theme song is kinda good. (Given the timeframe, I would assume Alf Clausen wrote it, but I really don’t know. He’s credited here as “Composer Emeritus”, which is a pretty sleazy way of saying “Fired”.)

– The actual episode starts off with, wait for it, a bunch of exposition. We see the family in their home and then this happens:

Homer: Water soup again?
[A crow lands on the windowsill. Marge bashes it with her ladle.]
Marge: Now it’s crow soup!
Homer: Ooh, I call an eye!
Lisa: Me too!
Bart: Me three!
Marge: And Maggie gets the beak.
[She then gives Maggie the beak.]

– After this, Rainier Wolfcastle, dressed as a knight, bursts in through the wall, makes Homer kiss his horse’s hooves for fifteen seconds, and then bursts out through a different wall. I am not going to transcribe all the random sketch comedy crap like this that happens. Just know that there’s a lot of it.

– Shortly thereafter, Homer yells at Lisa for “anti-feudalist” talk. Had this been brief and/or the only example, it might’ve been funny. But it goes on for quite a while and gets recited about three more times.

– Milhouse is a gremlin of some kind. And Jacqueline is in an exposited retirement home manned by giant spiders.

– At the row of severed heads we get more feudalism exposition.

– Jacqueline has been standing there for all of the above exposition, then breaks in unexpectedly by walking in from out of frame. Even when they have a character in a scene they feel the need to drop them in out of nowhere. If you wrote each line on a 3×5 card and shuffled them thoroughly it might actually improve the flow of this dialog.

– Speaking of jokes that would’ve worked once, Hibbert diagnoses Krusty with “genital smurfs”, which sing and frequently throw hats whenever Krusty looks down his pants. Once, this could’ve been fine. We’ll get several more.

– Jacqueline is turning to ice because an “ice walker” bit her on their date. Said ice walker then walks up to the window to apologize from nowhere before more exposition about how he’s a thousand years old and likes “young” women like Marge’s mom. This too will be repeated.

– Now the family needs gold to buy an amulet to cure Marge’s mom. This is stated explicitly and will be exposited several more times.

– So, in what I guess is supposed to be a Game of Thrones twincest thing, Marge’s creepy twin brother walks up out of nowhere to hit on Marge.

– The first of the two really good sign gags is George R.R. Martin wearing a sandwich board that reads, “The End Is Not Nigh” on the front and “I’ll Tell You When It’s Nigh” on the back.

– They try to cram in a Moe-prank-call with a scroll tied to a raven’s leg. It works about as well as you’d expect.

– At the “Human Power Plant” we see all the SNPP guys pushing a big wheel while Ogre Willy whips them. This leads to an extended scene where Burns explains that pushing the wheel doesn’t actually power anything and that their suffering is used to give rich people tiny, decorative wings. It doesn’t hook into the rest of the episode. It’s a one-off sketch that isn’t the least bit funny since it takes a full minute of explanation to get to the punchline, which is then repeated several times in case we missed it. I’m hard pressed to think of how the writing here could be any worse. It’s disconnected, mostly setup, and has a weak payoff. What else could it screw up?

– From there we see Aslan, wearing a big wooden cross, “come to offer solace in this difficult time”. Marge accuses him of wanting to take advantage of her while she’s vulnerable. Had this been left here, it’d be funny. Aslan as pushy missionary is a great idea. Instead, it goes on for twenty more seconds.

– Lisa turns some lead into gold to get the amulet for her grandmother. Then exposits that she didn’t do magic before because she doesn’t want to go work for the king. Also, Aslan shows up again. It won’t be the last time.

– Jacqueline gets cured, Bart shows up out of nowhere to exposit about how it happened.

– [siren emoji]Good Joke Alert[siren emoji]:

Jacqueline: I watched my daughter marry an ogre.
Homer: I am not an ogre. My father married an ogre after my mother was eaten by a different ogre.

Castellaneta nails this as Homer patiently but exasperatedly explaining something to an in-law he genuinely doesn’t like.

– Marge then decides to cook a hobbit to celebrate her mother’s newfound health. This leads to the second of the two really good sign gags in the episodes:

Is this self serving and kind of a low blow? Sure. But I laughed.

– And my joy is instantly ruined as we travel over to the hobbit cage where three hobbits exposit about which of them is to be eaten for far too long. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: these people know good jokes when they see them. They just can’t resist running them into the ground to fill time.

– There are some good fake store signs in this one, of which “Banana Monarchy” is my favorite and “David’s Merkins” is the dirtiest.

– At the town square things start to get really weird in preparation for the bizarro ending that’s coming. Homer and a bunch of other characters get into an argument about what the afterlife is like. Much exposition ensues. Also more smurf crabs or whatever.

– And Lisa gets kidnapped because “Sorcererintendent Chalmers” saw her using magic. Here are my notes from this:

As Lisa gets taken, more exposition

More feudalism exposition

“How are we going to get over these walls?”

As you may have guessed from that last part, they have to get over some walls. In transcription form, tell-don’t-show does kinda work.

– That last line leads to a bunch of Ents showing up. Homer, holding an ax, thanks them for their “sacrifice” and we then see them being made into ladders. Had this been it, great. Instead, the Ent has to exposit the joke (“We could’ve torn down the castle walls in five minutes”) before getting his face cut off with more exposition from Homer.

– During the battle, Mel literally dies explaining a joke.

– As the battle winds down, Homer declares, “Now we’re losing!” before declaring “Now we won!”. They’ve been over-using this kind of “here’s something so obvious it has to be funny” humor for a long time, but this is the worst example I can recall. Yeesh.

– And, after a dragon dies then gets resurrected, we end on Lisa expositing the end of the world.

Anyway, the numbers are (long since) in and they’re about what you’d expect. The season premier of the show that used to be The Simpsons was watched by 3.26 million viewers. That’s down a teensy bit from last year and the exact same as Season 27. As stated over the summer, though, bad numbers are fine so long as they’re not falling-into-a-bottomless-pit bad. So the mediocrity will continue. Welcome to Season 29, everyone. We can check out, but they’ll never leave.

22
May
17

Behind Us Forever: Dogtown

“The dog has had enough excitement.” – Marge Simpson
“But Marge, dogs can never have enough excitement!” – Homer Simpson

Two years ago, as part of their “use our reputation to farm out work we’d rather not do” policy, Zombie Simpsons let the Rick & Morty people do a couch gag. It was okay, and I’ve long said that the guest couch gags are one of the few parts of the show that’s still kinda creative. Well, this week Zombie Simpsons did an extremely poor take off on the Rick & Morty episode “Lawnmower Dog”. Emphasis on “extremely”.

In “Dogtown”, Springfield passes a bunch of dog friendly laws, which for some reason causes all the dogs to go feral and take over the town. When Rick & Morty did this, it was the B-plot of an Inception parody that got very dark and disturbing (as is that show’s wont). When Zombie Simpsons does the same thing, it’s too incoherent to be anything other that vaguely weird. Remember the “Night of the Dolphin” segment from Season 12’s Halloween episode? This was like that, but stretched over the whole episode and plus pages of unnecessary exposition.

– They’ve really become fond of adding dialogue to the couch gags the last few years. This one involves them climbing to the top of a mounting, wherein Homer radios for the couch, which is then brought in by a Sherpa. The (unintentionally) funny thing here is that there’s no need for it. Having Homer use the radio pre-explains the joke and spoils it in the process. It would’ve worked fine without.

– From there, the opening gets truncated at Homer leaving the plant. He’s then in traffic with GPS yelling at him. This goes on for a bit before Homer finds himself stuck in an alley with the choice to run over Gil or Santa’s Little Helper. Homer runs Gil over and I’m finally convinced that the regular opening isn’t coming back.

– And we are quickly into exposition land:

Insurance Agent: “Now, I do have to warn you, if Gil sues he’ll end up with everything you’ve got.”
Homer: “But that’s everything I’ve got! Okay kids, give me your best worried looks. . . . Ooh, that’s good worry. And Maggie, when we visit Gil, you should think about your Mom and me disappearing forever any time we step behind a wall.”

Homer then proceeds to do step behind a wall, all the while narrating what he’s doing. Then he gets lost and screams. This is all dumb and repetitive enough on it’s own, but the really weird part is Marge is sitting right there as Homer’s basically traumatizing the baby. These are the sorts of things real Marge put a quick stop to, but Zombie Marge just sits there and watches with her computer drawn dead eyes.

– Later, at the hospital, the family visits Gil, Bart then walks in dressed as a nurse so he and Homer and exposit a plan to put Gil into a coma.

From here, Bart stabs Homer in the butt and then Homer falls down. Remember when this show was smart?

– Marge now exposits some Gil dialogue:

Gil: “Cha cha cha!”
Marge: “Cha cha cha, that’s hopeful”
Gil: “Cha cha ching!”
Marge: “Oh.”

It’s bad enough that I have to explain jokes on this here internet website, but that’s part of why it’s here. Why Zombie Simpsons feels the need to explain them on a network television show that’s ostensibly a comedy is beyond me.

– Lisa, just now grasping what’s going on for some reason, has a fantasy where they live with other families, Bart then has a different one. Hey, these twenty minutes of screen time aren’t going to fill themselves, people.

– Repeating dialogue can be funny (“The best performance of your life?”/”The best performance of my life!”), but Zombie Simpsons does it a couple dozen times per episode. Here in court, Homer testifies about how he loves the dog and that’s why he hit Gil, the lawyer then asks the stenographer reads it back with sentimental music. Guess what happens!

– After the trial, Gil gets repeatedly trampled.

It wasn’t funny the first time, but maybe it’ll be funny the third time.

– Springfield is now a dog paradise, so it’s time for a montage.

– Wiggum arrests a veterinarian, who exposits about the coming dog rebellion. Once again, tell don’t show triumphs on Zombie Simpsons.

– In yet another joke that was done better decades ago, Homer is explaining Doggy Heaven to Bart.

– Santa’s Little Helper collapses partway through the doggy door of the house. Homer picks up the cat and takes thirty seconds to use it to pull the dog through the door so he can say, “look what the cat dragged in”. This is followed by Bart and Lisa both proclaiming that muscle pulling stretch for a joke, “worth it”. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they know these jokes suck. They don’t care.

This takes almost 5% of the episode.

– Kirk is outside with a little dog, which growls at him. He then lies down on the ground, exposing his belly. We know this because we see it. Nevertheless, Zombie Simpsons has him describe exactly what he’s doing.

– As a pack of wild dogs circles Homer, he lists off a bunch of breed names. [McBain Voice]: That’s the joke.

– Skinner, in case anyone has forgotten, exposits what’s happening, “Not one student showed up to school just because a pack of ferocious, masterless dogs are roaming the playground”. Thanks, Seymour.

– Vet guy now expositing the same thing Skinner just did. I’m not going to transcribe it because I respect the pixels of your screen too much.

– Gil gets volunteered to tame the dogs for some reason, which leads to some back and forth exposition between him and Marge.

– Bart and Lisa are out with Crazy Cat Lady, who is there to protect them or something. She then exposits through subtitles.

– Here’s a double whammy, action exposition and emotional exposition:

Bart: “We’re about to die at the hands of a dog”.
Lisa: “Paws. Dogs have paws.”
Bart: “Just remember, the last thing you did in life was correct me.”
Lisa: “Oh, that actually makes me feel better.”

– And then Marge just shows up to growl and kick a dog, then Lisa exposits what’s going on, then Gil shows up to exposit about what didn’t happen. I’m tired.

– Our second montage shows all the dogs going back to normal.

– And it ends on a chihuahua threatening Gil. Season 29, here we come! [♫FOX fanfare♫]

Anyway, the numbers are in and . . . yikes. Last night just 2.14 million viewers should’ve been watching a Rick & Morty rerun. That’s the lowest season finale ever, and a 20% drop from last year’s (which used to be the lowest finale ever). Given the catastrophic state of broadcast network television, there’s no telling whether or not numbers like these will ever actually get the show cancelled, but its complete cultural irrelevance is pretty well sealed.

08
May
17

Briefly Behind Us Forever: Moho House

“Uh, you look pretty clean. You, uh, mind if I have this dance?” – Moe
“It’s all yours.” – Disgusted Woman
“Okay, I won’t lie to you. A lot of people saw that.” – Homer Simpson

By this time Wednesday I’m going to be in a post-anesthetic fog following (what I hope will be successful) shoulder surgery. Since I’m only going to have one useful arm for eight weeks, I’ve got a ton of stuff to get done before that. Hence, the episode summary below is shorter than normal. If you haven’t watched “Moho House”, you will be unsurprised to learn that it suffers from a nonsense plot, lots of exposition, repeated jokes, and the usual array of Zombie Simpsons problems.

This one is another in the “will Marge and Homer break up?” series. (Non-spoiler: they don’t.) You see, Marge is once again mad at Homer, only this time an old friend of Burns comes into town and makes a bet that he can break them up. To do so he gives Moe a trendy club to manage. They even briefly bring back the talking bar rag, albeit now it’s silent because sure, why not?

Here’s a taste of some of the dialogue:

Homer: Honey, when you were talking about those flowers, was it a metaphor for anything? Was it? Honey? Metaphor?

Later, at Moe’s new club:

Marge: Moe, good to see you.
Moe: Good to see you, Midge. Boy, who knew you’d look so great in a strapless dress.
Marge: Well, thank you.
Moe [directly to camera]: Methinks I see my opportunity.
Sideshow Mel: Why are you telling me?
Moe: I always considered us friends.

If you guessed that Marge never left and Mel just appeared from nowhere, you’d be correct. This episode is full of those kinds of stilted, unnatural interactions, like when Smithers tells Homer how to give a gift to Marge, or Moe tells Marge what Homer thinks about her, or pretty much everything involving Burns old pal who’s trying to break Marge and Homer up because he apparently wants to sleep with Smithers (don’t ask, it doesn’t make any sense on screen and will make even less if I try to describe it).

For fun with repeat jokes, Homer at one point is begging Marge to forgive him and walks (on his knees) by Bart and Lisa. Then this happens:

Homer: I hope you kids haven’t lost any respect for your old man.
Bart: Uh, can’t lose what you don’t have.
Homer: Thanks, boy.

This is a dumber and more explicit way of redoing this exchange from “War of the Simpsons

Homer: I just hope you didn’t lose a lot of respect for me.
Bart: Dad, I have as much respect for you as I ever did or ever will.

One of those is Bart subtly fooling Homer during what Homer thinks is a moment of father-son bonding. The other is Homer stopping briefly to be a dumbass.

Anyway, the numbers are in and continue to be basement drain level low. Last night just 2.28 million viewers checked their watches as Moe became love lorn once again.

01
May
17

Behind Us Forever: Looking for Mr. Goodbart

“Mr. Goodbar to the front desk. The front desk is looking for Mr. Goodbar.” – Candy Convention PA

Season 28 has only a few episodes left, and the most distinct thing I can say about “Looking for Mr. Goodbart” is that it is one of them. They once again switched to a voiceover narration for (some of) the exposition, there was a subplot about Homer and Lisa playing a barely renamed Pokemon Go thing, and Bart spent much of the episode being nice to old ladies before he learned a lesson about it, or something. As usual, none of it makes sense, characters appear out of nowhere frequently, and what passes for the plot is too incoherent to really wrap up.

(No, I have no idea what’s with the title. It worked as a throwaway joke in Season 6, here it’s just part of their sick need to make every episode title a pun.)

– Since Zombie Simpsons never misses an opportunity to celebrate a meaningless milestone, this one opens with the first Ullman short (that was also in the “138th Episode Spectacular”) because it just passed its thirtieth anniversary (two weeks ago, but who’s counting?). There’s also a song.

– The first scene is Bart getting gussied up in the bathroom before he goes out into a fancy restaurant and gives a table of old ladies a cup of tea. It then lurches right into voiceover narration:

“I know what you’re thinking, this must be some kind of prank. Is there laxative in the punch bowl? Well, there is, but they’re doctors prescribed that. I’ve changed. I’ve become pinchable. You look confused. Why don’t I start from the beginning?”

After that we go to the school with a “Two Months Earlier” subtitle. This is gonna be really dumb, isn’t it?

– At grandparents day, Skinner and Chalmers are mad at Bart for adding some lyrics to some song. I’m glad they retired Krabappel after Marcia Wallace died (like they should’ve done for Lunchlady Doris), but it speaks to the creative bankruptcy of the show now that they don’t bother coming up with a replacement. This looks to be a very ordinary day in the fourth grade classroom, yet it’s being headed by Skinner and Chalmers. The nominal superintendent then yells at the nominal principal via text messages because Zombie Simpsons will cling to the rotting skeleton of The Simpsons and repeat jokes no matter what. Later, in Skinner’s office, Agnes shows up for no reason and Skinner makes Bart walk her to the bus stop because that’s totally in character for everyone.

– Meanwhile, and in a highly timely parody, Lenny is playing “Peekymon Go”. (Ripped from the headlines!) He walks into the reactor core. Then Homer starts playing and does the same thing.

– On their way out of the school, Bart and Agnes bond by messing with Martin’s grandma for some reason. In a completely believable and not at all inhuman turn of events, Martin’s grandma then gets mad at her grandson because she was lightly taunted by them.

– Later, in a graveyard, the show has a parade of characters walk over Frank Grimes’s tombstone playing their very insightful Pokemon misnaming. I think this counts as fan service because at the end Gil shows up to tell us that he didn’t catch the monster.

– After some more Pokemon scenes, Homer gets sprayed by a skunk. We then see him sitting in a tomato juice bath in the garage with Marge.

I’m going to transcribe it because it neatly illustrates several of this show’s repetitive problems:

Marge: Sprayed by a sunk. Homey, that game is too dangerous.
Homer: The game was fine. Reality was dangerous. Now could you move a little to your left, there’s a stumblebee right behind you.
Marge: Is there any fad you don’t take too far?
Homer: The aerobics ones.
Lisa (Out of nowhere): Mom, what dad could use is a co-layer who’ll make sure he doesn’t get hurt, because the game is good for him. You can see that he’s lost weight from the walking.
Homer: I’m using the factory holes on my belt.
Marge: Wow! Wow! Lisa, why are you interested?
Lisa: Because it’s the greatest game ever! In this world, I can throw a ball!

Let us count the terribleness here: first, Marge exposits what we just saw. Then Homer acts like an invincible jerk. Then Lisa, who could’ve plausibly been there anyway, walks in from nowhere like she’s been a part of the conversation the whole time. (At this point, they’re so used to having people walk up to conversations that they do it even when they don’t have to.) Then Homer repeats a joke from “Brush with Greatness” (nearly word for word). Then Marge invites Lisa to exposit, and Lisa promptly does so. The scene is hacktacular in so many ways that it’s almost impressive.

– Speaking of hacktacular, we get Bart narrating more now and he explains that kissing up to Agnes got him free sneakers, so now he’s going to kiss up to other old ladies too. This is promptly followed by a montage of grandma nicknames.

– There’s an Itchy & Scratchy that ends with a human character killing himself with a revolver. It has nothing to do with the rest of the episode (we see Bart laugh at it while watching with an old lady, but that’s it) and seems, well, a little out of place.

This is TOH level gore and is very far from the violent but cartoon-y antics of Tom & Jerry. 

It’s not the violence or the gore that bothers me. It’s the fact that it’s random, pointless, and unconnected to everything else in the episode. A chef killing himself can be funny, but it’s not funny when that’s all there is to it.

– As usual, the only good part is the occasional sign gag.

Gotta admit: Curl Up And Dye is a pretty good name for a hair salon full of old ladies.

– But whatever good I was feeling is immediately blown away by more pointless exposition and random character appearances. In this one we meet Phoebe, an old lady who yells at Bart and then exposits his scam. She will be the focus of Bart’s story for the rest of the episode. As much as I don’t like to play Monday Morning Screenwriter here, I dunno, maybe it would be good to introduce the main character of the A-plot before the halfway mark.

– I don’t feel like explaining it, but the weird Cybill Shepherd thing is just bizarre.

– Sometimes my bare notes don’t need to be elaborated upon: “Comic Book Guy wanders by”

– I guess Phoebe is British because her presence let Bart frequently repeat the phrase “taking the piss”.

– Skinner’s in bed expositing about his life.

– Phoebe paid Bart to check her out of her nursing home. Now Bart’s worried she’s going to kill herself and goes back. The receptionist there neatly explains a bunch of things we didn’t see.

– And now there’s a flashback to what we saw two minutes ago. These episodes have the structural consistency of playdoh that’s been left out in the sun.

– Homer and Lisa playing Pokemon is still going on. They decided to buy cheat codes or something, which Homer is now burning, and then Homer starts talking about knives and cakes for some reason. No, it didn’t make any sense on screen either.

– Bart is looking for the supposedly suicidal old lady, and out of nowhere a bunch of Pokemon players show up to help, which leads to the . . .

– Searching montage! (In which a Pokemon rendered version of Maggie is told to “stab and kill and maim”. Lotta weird bloodshed in this one.)

– Phoebe is found, and exposits that it was all pointless anyway, “I’ll admit I had some dark thoughts, and I used you to escape form the home. But once I got out here by myself, completely free, I realized there’s so much to live for.” Thanks for wrapping up the plot, exposition lady!

– Homer now meta-expositing to run out the clock.

– And since event that couldn’t kill the last of the time, we have a Skinner sketch to end things, including Milhouse expositing.

Last night, a scant 2.26 million viewers sat through that doughy mess of an episode. Near as I can tell, the networks are taking another (well deserved) overall beating this year, so I have no idea how the drop in the absolute ratings for Zombie Simpsons compares the rest of the schedule. Still: incredibly low ratings are incredibly low ratings.

 




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