Archive for the 'Behind Us Forever' Category

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.

 

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

Kamp Krusty21

“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.

zombieintimacy

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.

comedyintimacy

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.




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