Archive for the 'Behind Us Forever' Category

20
Mar
17

Behind Us Forever: A Father’s Watch

“I have a watch with a minute hand.” – Bart Simpson
“Alright, you can come. What time is it?” – Mr. Smithers
“12:80. No, wait. Wait. What comes after twelve?” – Bart Simpson
“One.” – Mr. Smithers
“No, after twelve.” – Bart Simpson

First off, sorry for there not being a Behind Us Forever for “22 for 30” last week. I was traveling Monday and Tuesday and by the time Wednesday rolled around I really didn’t feel like getting back into it. For those who haven’t seen it, Zombie Simpsons replaced character exposition with voiceover narrator exposition, Bart shaved points in a basketball game, and that was about it.

This week it’s back to character exposition. Springfield goes through a couple of parenting fads, first wanting to give all their kids trophies, and then not wanting to do that. Meanwhile, Grampa gives Bart an old pocketwatch that makes Bart feel confident (which he apparently hadn’t been doing before). Bart loses it, then Homer gets it, then Homer gives it to Bart. Then, in another one of those bizarre post-credit sequences they rely on so heavily to fill their time, Ralph Wiggum gets drafted into the NBA with the NBA commissioner voicing himself.

The watch Grampa gives Bart has great significance, which the show repeatedly reminds us of through statements like this one, “That watch was the only thing that made me not terrible, I can’t lose it”. Homer even had what had to be a 30 second rant in the middle in which he explained three or four times why he cared about the watch, but I’m staying with a friend of mine and the DVR only recorded a couple minutes of the show, so I can’t transcribe it. (The torrent isn’t up yet, and I need to go to bed soon because I’ve got to get up at 6am to catch two trains and then get in a truck to drive to Arizona. Being semi-homeless isn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be, but it does not respect one’s preferred schedule very often.) Homer also yelled about Freud a lot.

This episode opens in Frog Heaven where we see two angel frogs talking about what’s happening to one of their bodies back down on Earth. Turns out Bart is desecrating it more than dissecting it. There’s maybe the kernel of a good joke in here, but Zombie Simpsons runs it into the ground by cutting back and fourth about five times and repeating it so often that they end with the frogs getting tired of their own gag.

From there we get a couple of parenting experts who give different advice, two montages, lots more exposition, and a scene where Bart repeatedly drops rocks on Milhouse’s head. Since I have no screen grabs, I can’t properly illustrate any of these scenes, but take my word for it when I say that they make no sense. For example, Bart losing the watch – one of the few discernible plot points in the episode – occurs for no reason at the end of a montage. Since one episode of Zombie Simpsons is pretty much like all the others these days, I think you get the idea.

I was able to get this quote down live, “My trophy business has failed”. Try to guess what had just happened. You will not be wrong.

06
Mar
17

Behind Us Forever: Kamp Krustier

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“Krusty, this camp was a nightmare. They fed us gruel. They forced us to make wallets for export. And one of the campers was eaten by a bear!” – Bart Simpson
“Oh my God!” – Krusty the Klown
“Well, actually, the bear just ate his hat.” – Bart Simpson
“Was it a nice hat?” – Krusty the Klown
“Oh yeah.” – Bart Simpson
“Oh my God!” – Krusty the Klown

It will come as no surprise to readers of this site that Zombie Simpsons is dumb and derivative. It’s been coasting off the legacy of The Simpsons for well over a decade now, and it’s got to scratch and claw at the worn out bottom of a wormy barrel for story ideas that have maybe only been done once or twice before. That brings us to “Kamp Krustier”, this week’s attempt to squeeze people’s fond memories for just a little more attention.

The episode opens with a title card reading, “A short while ago, in Season 4…”. This is, presumably, to let us know that they know how absurd it is to have a direct sequel episode a quarter of a century after the original. (It doesn’t help.)

From there, we see Santa’s Little Helper wandering around the house, past discarded items of Homer and Marge’s clothing. We then see him walk past the kitchen, which is trashed and in which Maggie is resting in a chicken bucket. Eventually he gets outside to find Homer and Marge humping in the treehouse, after which Homer literally bangs a gong he produces from nowhere.

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Now, I don’t want to blow this out of proportion, and I recognize that they’re under no obligation to faithfully recreate things from Season 4, but even this first scene is telling about how much the comedy of this show has gotten dumber since then. If there’s one thing Simpsons Marge would never, ever do, it’s let the house become a trashdump like this and leave Maggie completely unattended.

We know this because we were shown the exact same scene (literally) in Season 4. Homer and Marge get extra frisky while Bart and Lisa are gone in “Kamp Krusty”, and the house looks fine and Maggie is being watched.

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Look at the above: Homer and Marge are still getting it on, but Marge hasn’t suddenly forgotten who she is just so the show can have Homer crow about sex like a twelve-year-old who just learned what the word means. On The Simpsons, it’s clear that Homer and Marge’s lives got easier and more fun without Bart and Lisa around, on Zombie Simpsons they just default down to a trashed house because that’s the simplest and most outrageous thing they could come up with. That it’s something Marge’s character would never do doesn’t enter into their thinking.

Don’t get me wrong, the opening didn’t ruin the episode or anything (the rest of the script is more than capable of that), it’s just a perfect, 1:1 comparison of how vacuous the show is now and I couldn’t pass it up.

As for what actually happens in “Kamp Krustier”, well, the kids come back and get sent to a therapist where Bart fakes being traumatized so as not to go to school while Lisa pretends not to be traumatized so she can go to school. Meanwhile, in the other plot, Homer becomes ultra-smart and productive at work after he and Marge can’t screw 24-7 anymore. No, it doesn’t make sense. And no, neither really get resolved.

– Continuing with the whole “let’s show a dumbed down version of twenty-four seasons ago”, here’s a couple of screen grabs from what “Kamp Krusty” would look like if they did it today:

RiderOfVulture

Yes, that is Bart riding a vulture. Please laugh.

 – While riding the vulture, Bart burns four children alive, screaming “Death to tennis camp”. It’s weird.

– Krusty is dropping the kids off and Milhouse is sucking his thumb and so is Kirk.

– Now we’re at a group therapy session where Bart realizes he can get out of school. Outside, Skinner walks up out of nowhere to complain that the therapist parked him in:

Skinner: Uh, somebody parked me in. Toyota Corolla. It’s got to be one of you.
Therapist: Try the karate studio.
Skinner: I tried the damn karate studio.
Therapist: Ugh, alright, it’s me. I blocked you in, okay?

Then it ends.

– Homer’s trying to get it on with Marge, but she shoots him down and then Bart shows up to sleep in their bed for some reason.

– At breakfast, Marge is reading a pamphlet on Bart’s trauma:

Marge: This pamphlet on trauma they gave Bart is very alarming. Loss of appetite. Thousand yard stare.
Bart: Not hungry.
Marge: Where are you looking?
Bart: A thousand yards away.

Expository repetition comedy, brilliant.

– In a nod to their favorite kind of dialogue, there’s an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon with an expository intro.

– Homer getting to work early because Bart is still sleeping in his parents’ bed. Suddenly, Homer’s smart and tells us that it’s because he’s sexually frustrated.

– In a twist we probably could’ve done without, Bart’s having a nightmare about camp, wakes up to tell the audience, “My God, I really am traumatized”. He then goes to Lisa’s room in the middle of the night:

Bart: Lis! Lis!
Lisa: Can it wait till morning?
Bart: Sure. [morning comes] Lis! Lis!
Lisa: Thanks for waiting till morning!

Bart then tells Lisa about a dream he had so she can explain what’s going on:

Lisa: It’s coming back to me too! Whatever happened must’ve been so horrible we repressed the memory. But don’t tell, because they’ll make me miss school.

Thanks for the recap, Lis.

– Homer being smart montage.

– The kids are now at an amusement park where Lisa exposits her trauma and tells us she’s riding a ride while she’s riding it.

– Marge tries to seduce Homer, but he shoots her down and pulls a theremin out from nowhere.

ComedyTheremin

And now, the punchline: “I said therapy, not Theramin!” [rimshot]

 – We’re now at the “Masters and Johnson Institute”, which has a sign outside reading “If We Weren’t Doctors, We’d Be Arrested”, which is so far the only funny thing in this episode. Well done, sign gag.

– Homer and Marge are now in a sex therapy session with Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan from Masters of Sex, a show I have no particular opinion on since I only made it through about four episodes. They also tell us exactly what we’re seeing.

– Moe then shows up to masturbate with a robot in the hallway outside the therapy room. He orgasms behind a pebble glass window, and the show reaches what may be a new low.

MoeOrgasm

“Alright, I just finished. Deviant out.” That’s what he actually says. 

 – For reasons that I’m sure were explained, the Simpsons go to Kamp Krusty at night to discover that it’s now an adult retreat.

– Bart exposits us into a flashback:

Bart: I’m remembering now, we were trying to escape by canoe.

– Also, Mel is in the flashback and Bart narrates exactly what we see.

– Homer and Marge eventually have sex at the camp while Bart and Lisa discover that their trauma was actually a dwarf posing as a child who escaped and didn’t die. I made none of that up.

 

Anyway, the ratings are in an they continue to be bad. Last night, just 2.62 million people heard Moe finish. To its (VERY) slight credit, Zombie Simpsons acknowledged this near the end. Bart says, “Now I’m glad everything’s alright”, which leads to the following two screens:

SadRatings1

SadRadings2

(That’s the fake dead dwarf/escaped child on the left. In case you were wondering.) 

21
Feb
17

Behind Us Forever: The Cad and the Hat

dang

“Hey, that little boy is playing three games at once.” – Chess Bystander
“Checkmate.” – Opponent #1
“Checkmate.” – Opponent #2
“Checkmate.” – Opponent #3
“Dang.” – Bart Simpson

I try to forget these episodes as quickly as possible. (Given how bland and repetitive they are, this isn’t usually very difficult.) But just one week after I accused Zombie Simpsons of having Exposition Tourette’s, they put on an expository masterpiece, even by their wretched standards. It starts with Bart getting a temporary tattoo that says “Bad to the Bone”. He informs us of it, then repeats the phrase several times as he applies it, shows it off, sees it wash away, and then misses it.

But the real pinnacles of exposition here come in pairs, first in the middle, and then again at the end. The first is during one of several flashbacks (the second week in a row they’ve done multiple flashbacks to some oddball trauma Homer suffered as a child) where Homer learns chess from an old guy, which is quickly followed by a real chess master (voicing himself) on Skype telling Homer exactly what he’s doing as he does it.

The second pair is back-to-back at the end to – ahem – resolve both of this episode’s main stories. If you like characters not only telling you directly what they’re feeling, but also explaining why it matters, you’re in luck. I have transcribed them below so that you can enjoy all of their feculent glory.

In terms of what actually happens, in one story, Bart throws away a hat Lisa really liked, and is then accompanied by a guilt monster voiced by Patton Oswalt. In the other, Homer is apparently a well practiced chess player who has to work out some grief against Grampa. If both of those seem devoid of thought, humor, or sense of any kind, congratulations, your brain works at least as well as a third-grader with recent cranial trauma.

– These are my notes, verbatim, from the opening: “Couch gag with dialogue again. Oh, this must be the Robot Chicken thing. Oof, that took a while.” I even think the exposition bug is catching, Homer exposited his way through the whole thing, describing what he was doing and seeing.

– We open on Bart and Lisa on the couch, expositing directly into the camera about the story we’re about to see. This is gonna go well.

– Grampa watches Bart play a World War II game, then surrenders to it.

– Now they’re at the beach and Bart has built a giant sand head over Homer. He then drops some seaweed down the head, which falls out of the nose onto Homer’s head. In the next scene, Homer reminds us of what we just saw.

– Lisa is hat shopping by having a dream montage.

– Homer’s now having a chess flashback. We’re five minutes in and we’ve got exposition, montages, and flashbacks. I have never taken a screenwriting class. I have no desire to take a screenwriting class. But I can say without hyperbole that this script would earn a failing grade in every screenwriting class ever taught.

– Bart’s plot appears to consist mostly of him saying he’s “Bad to the Bone” after he got and then lost a temporary tattoo of that. If any part of this changes, I will let you know, but I don’t expect it to. Also, he just threw away the hat that Lisa bought.

– Frantic Lisa searching-for-hat montage. Depending on how you want to count, that’s two or three of them. This is naked clock eating and we aren’t even eight minutes in.

– Patton Oswalt just showed up to be Bart’s guilt as a weirdly Hugo looking monster. Mostly he exposits:

“Your lack of remorse just makes me grow.”

He then grows.

nothugo

I miss pigeon-rat.

– Homer has apparently rediscovered his love of chess. Fine. So have Barney, Lenny, and Carl, who are all playing him 3-on-1 at Moe’s. Uh, okay.

– Lenny just zipped himself into a suitcase, which was odd. Then Moe dragged him off to a closet where other people are apparently zipped into suitcases. I don’t want to overuse, “Uh, okay”, but, uh, okay.

lennysuitcase

Nothing says “Moe’s” like chess tournaments and random luggage stunts.

– Ooh, another chess flashback, this is #1 on our Masterpieces of Exposition tour:

Homer (Voiceover): So I found a professor who lived nearby. A master of the game. Kind. Patient. Devoted to me. I went everyday.
Professor: You are ready now.
Young Homer: Thanks for the lessons, professor.
Professor: You remind me of my son.
Young Homer, Oh, where is he now?
Professor: He’s right over there. He just doesn’t like chess.

It goes on from there, and I picked it up in the middle. That’s how interminable it was.

– Lisa tells Bart’s guilt to grow. In the background, that’s exactly what it does. Live exposition!

bigmonster

This enormous exposition monster will devour us all!

– How about another montage? Homer is mad an Grampa for quitting their chess games, so we get thirty seconds of Grampa getting beat up as bowling pins and an imaginary head.

– Now we’ve got a celebrity self voice via Skype for no reason whatsoever. Here is #2:

Chess guy: You cut out for a second. Did you gasp. Then you will nod. Then you will eat a piece of cheese while your wife doesn’t look. Then you will undo the top button of your pants. I’m always three moves ahead.

For once, I actually see what joke they’re going for here. The problem is that he says these things as Homer is doing them. He’s not ahead of anything. It’s like that time Skinner ruined the “Who’s on First?” bit with Chalmers, but unintentional.

– Bart is now tracking down Lisa’s hat, which he threw into a junk yard. He wants God’s help, so all of a sudden Rod and Todd are there. There was no joke about God sending them. They were just there.

– To wrap things up, Homer and Grampa are playing chess, with lots of action asides to make it take longer.

– And here’s your resolution to that, which is also Exposition Masterpiece #3:

Homer: Dad! Dad, it seems I love you. Can’t you say it seems you love me to?
Grampa: Aw, my son loves me. Now I can die in peace.

– We go right from that into the other resolution, #4:

Bart: Now what’s your problem?
Lisa: Oh, shut up! I forgive you!
Bart: You forgive me?
Lisa: Yes.

– And now there’s a giant mutant at the nuclear plant because weird asides are just how they fill those last few seconds now.

– One weird aside wasn’t enough, so here’s Homer’s version of Bart’s guilt monster, complete with other demons. Who then exposit themselves.

moarmonsters

Your guess is as good as mine. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they’re just as bad this week as they were last week. A scant 2.46 million viewers had this episode read to them. Poor bastards.

13
Feb
17

Behind Us Forever: Fatzcarraldo

girly-edition13

“And I’ll be able to tackle all the hard hitting children’s news the grown-up controlled media won’t touch. Plus I get to be on TV!” – Lisa Simpson

Zombie Simpsons long ago stopped astonishing me with how bad it can be, but every once and a while I can’t help but marvel at just how far the writing has devolved. These episodes mostly adhere to the loosest of structures: an A-plot, a supplemental B-plot, both wrapping up near the end. But the incredibly low bar they have for what counts as a story (or as a resolution) is remarkable when you take a second to think about it.

Consider this episode’s B-plot: Lisa is apparently the chief reporter for a school radio station. How do we know that? Well, we see her – all by herself but with a hat and a microphone – standing outside of a fake awards show. From there we see a staff meeting, one report from detention, and then Skinner abruptly ends the radio news show, causing Lisa to be apparently heartbroken. That’s it.

compressedbplot

It’s four scenes, and I doubt it’s even three full minutes of screen time, even if you count generously. It gets – ahem – resolved at the end when Homer is leading the police on a chase and Lisa gets a megaphone from Chief Wiggum so she can explain what her dad is doing.

makessense

This, in turn, is seen by some fat guys in a restaurant and causes them to come to Homer’s aid. Even if we ignore all the ways that doesn’t make sense, it still doesn’t do anything to resolve Lisa’s being sad about her radio station getting cancelled. What’s the thinking? (Was there any thinking?)

I’m pretty good at scrounging these episodes for even the most tendentious and transparent of links between scenes, but I got nothing here. The only line Lisa has after this is to tell Homer, “I’m sorry, Dad. It’s over” before he rides the caboose down a hill and off a bridge.

The A-plot is just as incoherent. Patty and Selma have to move in with the Simpsons, though since they never come back after the scene where we see them move in it hardly seems to matter. Homer eats at a chili dog place from his childhood, but the owner doesn’t remember him until he does. Credits. Yeesh.

– I don’t think I’ve mentioned this in a long time, but there really is no better shorthand for the difference between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons than the change in what happens to Homer between the original opening and the HD one they implemented back in Season 20. Homer used to see Marge’s car coming, yell, and get out of the way. Now he just gets plowed into, leaving a Homer shaped hole in the garage wall.

– Huh, a 2001 opening. Never seen that before. But this one’s in the service of a giant domino setup that goes on for a full minute. That screen time ain’t gonna fill itself.

– In some of the promotional hooha over the Gatsby double episode, I saw one of the staff congratulating themselves on not having Homer rap, saying it wouldn’t be funny. Well, in this episode Homer raps.

– Homer just said, “Stop forcing banter” after this joke exchange at Patty & Selma’s fake awards show:

Patty: You know, Selma, James Bond has a license to kill.
Homer (offscreen): Stop forcing banter!
Selma: But a lot of people would kill for these licenses.

That is followed in the next scene by Homer yelling banter at Lisa:

Lisa: Ooh, here comes an audience member now.
Homer: One guy in the In Memorium reel was alive when it started!
Lisa: Don’t forget your giftbag!
Homer: It’s just a coupon for a dollar off a car wash…

It goes on from there, but you get the idea. They know this show is bad. They don’t care.

– After that, Homer drives for a long time so he can get some real fast food since Krusty Burger is now Japanese health food, or something.

– Montage

– Arriving at a hot dog place, we get this timely gem: “Chewy, we’re home. Chewy is what I call my mouth.” I love it when the jokes slip seamlessly into the dialogue.

– Grampa just appeared in a scene for no reason. Can’t remember the last time an episode didn’t have someone materialize out of thin air.

– Exposition is bad enough when it’s for actual plot points. This is for a plot point that won’t be mentioned again for the rest of the episode:

Marge: Patty & Selma lost their jobs at the DMV because they spent too much on the awards show.
Selma: We went over the forty-three dollar budget.
Patty: By a hundred thousand dollars.
Marge: To save money, I said they could live here for a while.

We don’t see Patty or Selma again after this scene. I’m so glad it was here.

– Hey, the B-plot just showed up real briefly. Hi, B-plot!

– We’re on like the fourth montage now after Homer fires himself so he can go back to the hot dog stand.

– Krusty is there for some reason, sad that his restaurant is now terrible health food. He says, and I am not making this up, “I’m a self hating chew”. Oy, that’s bad. (Also: Krusty will later be part of a cabal of fast food mascots chasing Homer and this hot dog stand down a freeway. It wouldn’t have made sense even if they had an explanation, which they didn’t.)

– Now Homer is playing the tambourine, and there’s a song whose lyrics are mostly the words “hot dog” over and over again, and then what passes for the plot gets dropped in as the old hot dog guy says, apropos of nothing, “I still don’t remember you, man.”

– B-plot scene alert. Principal Skinner is there for no reason, he takes her hat, some kid runs in to say something, even by Zombie Simpsons standards this is shabby and strung together with chicken wire.

– I don’t know if there’s such a thing as Exposition Tourette’s, but if there is this show has it in spades. This is what Homer says as they pull up to the hot dog stand with a big “Closed” sign on it:

Homer: Oh, no, the hot dog stand is closed. The place I forgot for thirty years is gone.

– Then Homer wraps a chain around his neck and gets choked.

– And now he’s driving off with the hot dog caboose in tow.

– More forced banter:

Lisa: Chief Wiggum, maybe I can defuse the situation.
Wiggum: De-fuse? Well, there’s a first time for everything.
Lisa: Can you hand me your mic?
Wiggum: Every police regulation says no, but you know what says yes?
Lisa: What?
Wiggum: Your eyes.
Lisa: Awww.

– Now a bunch of fat guys, who were happily eating the health food ten seconds ago, are dragging this caboose up a hill because, uh, reasons. It goes on for twenty seconds.

– Old hot dog guy is back and now he remembers Homer for no reason.

– Ralph, who shows up out of nowhere asks why the cartoonish moon (which is playing a saxophone) needs sunglasses.

– And finally, we end on mascot cannibalism because, sure, why not?

Anyway, the numbers are in and for once the Grammys are good for something. Last night’s screenwriting atrocity was witnesses by a mere 2.45 million viewers. I haven’t been keeping my ratings spreadsheet up to date because I’m lazy, so I don’t know where that ranks, but it’s really bad.

17
Jan
17

Behind Us Forever: The Great Phatsby

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“What can I say except thanks for the predictable champagne, pizza that’s hardly ‘numero uno’, and ice cream cake which reminds us why make thirty-one flavors when you can’t get vanilla right?” – Retiring Food Critic 

Every once and a while, Zombie Simpsons puts its nose to the grindstone and actually tries to make an interesting episode. The Lego episode wasn’t very good, but it was at least visually interesting and ambitious. That “Kang and Kodos are real” episode was maybe gonna be the second movie and actually had some ambition to it. “The Great Phatsby” was certainly promoted like it was going to be something out of the ordinary, a one-hour episode! They put on the full publicity press, getting written up for their [Drudge Siren]FIRST HOUR LONG EPISODE[/Drudge Siren] in publications as diverse as USA Today and Billboard.

Problem is: they didn’t deliver. This is a very normal episode of Zombie Simpsons that got ballooned to twice its runtime. Consider this, from that Billboard link:

Beanz, whose past collaborators include Britney Spears and Timbaland, created about 18 songs for this episode. Executive producer Matt Selman has said that’s more than any other guest composer he’s ever worked with. Part of that prodigious output included fun collaborations with Snoop, Common and RZA.

I watched all forty-two bloated minutes of this thing, and even if you stretch the definition of the word “song” until it tears apart you aren’t going to get anywhere near eighteen of them. By my count, there were three: one during the Burns spending montage, one to exposit how the evil rap mogul had tricked Burns, and part of one near the end that was gonna be the Burns revenge diss track. I guess if you want to count the instrumental remake of the theme song over the end credits that’d get you to four, but that’s still a lot less than eighteen. For comparison sake, in the regular twenty-two minute Shary Bobbins episode, there were five full songs, six if you count the end credits theme song.

So if there were only a few songs, what the hell was in all that screen time? The same garbage that’s in most Zombie Simpsons episodes: montages, nonsensical plots and subplots, and exposition galore. They had two separate B-plots, one for the first half of the episode (Lisa gets a rich boyfriend, then betrays him to comb a pony) and one for the second half (Marge opens a knicknack shop, which is hilarious to everyone who’s ever spent a lot of time in the Hamptons – relatable comedy!). If you’re wondering how well that worked, go back and watch those straight-to-DVD Futurama “movies” that did the same thing. It’s just as bad.

Perhaps my favorite moment, and further evidence that they put as little effort into actually writing/editing this as they do for their regular dreck, came when Homer meets a goose. First, we see the goose swallow a shrimp whole:

swallowinggoose

That is immediately followed by Homer saying, “He eats the way I do! Without swallowing.” Chewing. The word they were looking for is “chewing”. So not only is this a repeat of a joke from “Homer’s Enemy”, they got first-grade vocabulary wrong.

The rest of the episode is just as dumb. Near the middle, after Burns has lost all his money, Homer begins expositing that Burns is sad. Then Burns starts to cry and Homer, in voiceover, exposits that as well. Then Burns tears his shirt open. Helpfully, Homer exposits that too. It goes on for forty(40!) seconds. The good news is that I don’t need to screencap it because Homer explained everything:

Homer (VO): The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they’re watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly. Oh, no, wait, he’s crying now. That’s worse. Now he’s really sobbing heavy. Oh, now he’s gone to his knees and he ripped his shirt open. All of his buttons fell off of his shirt. Now he’s kicking his porch. Oh, he hurt his foot and he’s hopping around! He tripped over a dog. That’s way worse. Montgomery Burns had hit rock bottom.

That’s how you eat up two episodes worth of screen time. It also places a somewhat different character on this quote from Matt Selman:

For all the hype about “The Great Phatsby” being The Simpsons’ first-ever hour-long episode, and the understandable skepticism about its description as “a rap-flavored parody of The Great Gatsby,” the episode’s origins are decidedly more modest. “This was just going to be a regular episode, but the table read went so well, in a fit of passion and excitement and ambition and excess, we decided to supersize it,” is how Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman puts it, and that makes sense when looking at the final product.

Did that table read include such gems as these:

Carl: If there’s no more money, we’ll take our personalized bowling balls, fold up bicycles, and go. [Guess what happens then! Go on, guess!]

Bart: What kind of crazy flavors are these? Quince jelly and pepper? Market greens? Bone broth brittle? I don’t know what this place hates more, kids or ice cream. [All of those flavors, by the way, were on a sign behind him.]

Old Guy: Well, before long another aimless soul will open another adorable store here. And when they do, old Sam the Sign Hanger will be ready with his level and his ladder. Oh, why here comes one now. [At that, two people show up. But you knew that already.]

On the plus side, there were a few good sign gags that didn’t get read out as dialogue. At one point while Burns is in his family crypt (don’t ask), there’s one that reads “Ebenezer Burns: The Ghosts Taught Me Nothing”. Heh. The opening line also wasn’t bad:

Homer (VO): In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice. He said the laziest way to tell a story is through voiceover narration.

That was supposed to be self-irony. Turned out to be the regular kind.

Anyway, the ratings are in and getting a huge lead-in from football helps as always. That sorry excuse for a hip-hop Gatsby parody was seen by 14.08 million viewers. That number will probably get revised downward somewhat (there was another football game on opposite the show), but it’ll still be there biggest number in a while.

10
Jan
17

Behind Us Forever: Pork & Burns

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“They can’t take our house! My pot-bellied pig is in there! Oh, Mr. Porky, no!” – Homer Simpson

It has long been true that just about the only thing anyone remembers from the bloated mess that was the movie (itself now almost ten years old) is Spider-Pig. In this episode, Spider-Pig comes back as a kind of Mojo-the-Helper-Monkey replacement. Wacky hijinks ensue. In the B-plot, Marge becomes obsessed with de-cluttering her house, which leads Lisa to get rid of her saxophone until it turns out Marge had it all along. No, it didn’t make any sense in the episode either.

Here are some typically brainless scenes:

  • The couch gag has dialogue again. This seems to be happening a lot more lately. I guess they’re finally giving up on maintaing them as a short, silent pre-show joke. Can’t say I blame them. Every part of this show is beyond the point of exhaustion.
  • There’s a book called “The Japanese Warrior Monks’ Guide to Tidying Up”, which would be okay as a throwaway gag, but turns into an entire storyline, complete with Marge reading the whole title aloud after we’ve already seen it three or four times. Delayed exposition, huh.
  • The writing on this show has gotten so sitcom-y over the years that I don’t even notice it most of the time, but this was particularly bad: “Think of the kids! The kids working in overseas factories to make this crap!” Setup, beat, punchline.
  • Characters who weren’t in the room suddenly appearing in the room: Milhouse & Grampa so far, I’m sure there will be more.
  • Homer makes a “reuse this calendar” joke. Sure it’s not 1985 right now, but who knows what Season 30 will bring?
  • So, uh, Spider-Pig is back for some reason.
  • gimpvan
    Homer just attempted to give Spider-Pig away in a darkened parking lot at night, which lead to a lot of shallow “creepy van” jokes that ended with a guy in a gimp costume in the back of one. Do things like this really get laughs at table reads? And, if so, has anyone checked for a gas leak in that room?
  • There’s a Dr. Nick scene. About half of it is him counting to five in Spanish.
  • In one of their more bizarre scene set ups, Marge and Homer have a confrontation about Homer keeping Spider-Pig while they’re standing in the front door. How did they get there? Why are they there? No idea. The scenes on either side have nothing to do with it. I know they don’t care about things like this, but nobody actually seems to live in this universe anymore, they’re just cutouts standing in front of backdrops waiting for the next skit to start.
  • Homer and Lisa are now duel expositing about their feelings at the dinner table. Really badly:
    Homer: Oh, that is really, really sad.
    Lisa: Wow you understand how I feel?
    Homer: Yes, because I feel about my pig the way you used to feel about your honk-a-ma-flute.
  • “Homer, those kids hands are covered in barbecue sauce”, um, okay.
  • “Dad, no, that’s a snake from the petting zoo!” – The context for this line is that Homer is going to spray the hounds with a hose. There is no petting zoo. This show makes more sense when you pretend there’s an invisible box marked “Props” that follows everyone around.
  • unwoundedpig
    So . . . Mr. Burns’ hounds attacked Spider Pig, with lots of growling and tearing. Then they get pulled off and Spider-Pig is . . . fine. Looks a little sad, but fine. Homer then freaks out because he needs to or something. The whole scene is awkward, because they want it to simultaneously be a vicious dog attack, but they also don’t want to show any blood or gore because this is still supposed to be a comedy.
  • Now there’s a pig doctor treating Spider-Pig, and now Mr. Burns is going to put him into pig rehab because he just exposited about his insurance for some reason.
  • Homer is having a dream about the Mayo Clinic being doctors who are mayonnaise jars. Worse, the mayo jars spend the whole dream expositing what they’re doing.
  • Pig vacation montage. There’s three words I wasn’t expecting to type when I started this episode.
  • Let’s end on some more clunky exposition: “Now what’s wrong?”, “My joy’s returned  but my passion’s gone.”
  • They must’ve really liked that mayo doctor things, because they’re killing the last twenty seconds of contract mandated runtime with an ER parody. Timely.

Anyway, the ratings are in and the annual Zombie Simpsons NFL Playoff lead-in has once again produced their best number of the year. On Sunday, 8.19 million people left their televisions on after the Giants-Packers game. To my surprise, FOX is also getting a late playoff game this Sunday, so that’ll help Zombie Simpsons next week as well.

14
Dec
16

Behind Us Forever: The Nightmare After Krustmas

grift-of-the-magi5

“Let’s just agree that the commercialization of Christmas is at best a mixed blessing.” – Lisa Simpson
“Amen.” – Gary Coleman

Annual or near annual Christmas episodes were never a hallmark of The Simpsons. The premier episode was a Christmas special, but that was the last time the show did a Christmas episode until Season 7’s “Marge Be Not Proud”. That five season gap has never been repeated. The show went back to the tinsel well in Seasons 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, and now again in Season 28. (And I might have missed one because a lot of those seasons blur together.)

This year’s entry in that sad parade was several pieces of fractured nonsense mashed together into an episode. There’s a bit about Krusty connecting with his estranged daughter, who’s apparently a devout Christian. There’s also a bit about Reverend Lovejoy needing more converts, which leads him to lean on Krusty, which leads to Krusty making his show dull and then almost drowning in a frozen river. There’s also a C plot about Maggie being afraid of an Elf on the Shelf type thing called the Gnome in Your Home. It involves lots of exposition and an extended dream sequence in which nothing happens except a completely pointless cameo by Wayne Gretzky.

As per usual, Zombie Simpsons seems blissfully unaware of its own story even as it unfolds. Early in the episode we see Lovejoy get pressured from his superiors to get more converts. It’s dumb (and more and higher ranking reverends keep walking into the scene for no reason), but whatever, it’s a decent enough start for a plot. Lovejoy eventually bumbles into Krusty while both are at Moe’s, which is odd but I guess still sorta makes sense. We next see Krusty at church singing an off lyric hymn on stage while his daughter is for some reason sitting with the Simpsons, which doesn’t make sense on multiple levels, but is at least still moving the story forward.

From there things get utterly incoherent as one of Lovejoy’s bosses shows up again to say that Krusty needs to be baptized right away for no particular reason. Lovejoy states Krusty’s reasons for wanting to wait, which are then immediately dropped so Krusty can get baptized in a frozen river. Krusty then falls into the river, has a near death experience, and comes out apparently still a Christian, until – with not even a single line of dialogue to explain it – he sits next to a Jewish ambulance and is immediately Jewish again.

All this makes so little sense that in an unrelated sequence after the story ends, they show regular God next to a Jewish version of regular God (no, it doesn’t make any sense) arguing over which one of them gets credit for Krusty. I understand that the show has a kind of “rubberband” reality where things can get stretched, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that the rubberband not get stretched, released, and then broken several times during the same story, sometimes even during the same scene. Case in point: Krusty’s near death experience under the ice is treated as serious even though Jasper catches him on an ice fishing line and Reverend Lovejoy pulls him out of the water, after which Krusty is fine.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be low and meaningless. On Sunday, just 5.60 million viewers wondered how many Christmas episodes Zombie Simpsons has done by now. That’s about where the ratings were last December, which is both bad in terms of overall viewers and irrelevent since the show will be with us for at least two more seasons anyway. That should result in at least one more bland and immemorable Christmas episode.




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