Archive for the 'Behind Us Forever' Category

04
Dec
17

Behind Us Forever: Mr. Lisa’s Opus

♫”Disco Duck and Fleetwood Mac…” – Homer Simpson
“Coming out of my 8-track…” – Marge Simpson
“Michael Jackson still was black!
Those were the days!”♫ – Homer & Marge Simpson

Zombie Simpsons has a longstanding pattern of running the few good jokes they come up with into the ground. Occasionally they will also get positive reviews (from less forgiving outlets than this one) for more non-traditional episodes (the Lego one comes to mind). This week these two long standing traits collided into the jumbled mess that is “Mr. Lisa’s Opus”.

Back in Season 23, they did “Holidays of Future Passed” where they flashed forward to a time when Bart and Lisa had become parents. It allowed them to break out of the maddeningly familiar confines of present day Springfield and garnered some praise. They tried something similar in Season 27 with “Barthood”, which starts with Bart as a small child and progresses into his adulthood. It didn’t get as much attention, but when you’ve got 22 episodes to make per season, any gimmick is worth trying a third time, and so we now have the Lisa version of “Barthood”.

Confusingly, the episode starts with a flashback, then flashes forward to the future, then retells itself chronologically from the flashback, except for another flashback that breaks that up. If that sounds unnecessary and complicated, that’s because it is. I was reminded of the “Move Star” episode of Archer where Cyril tells Mallory, “You can’t have a flashback with a flash forward in it, that’s bad writing.” Indeed, it is.

– We begin with Homer expositing a flashback (labeled “7 years ago…”) by telling us that baby Lisa saying things makes her smart then expositing his own daydream with a dancing Einstein.

– And we flash forward from that to Lisa typing on a hologram (and a subtitle informing us it’s now “17 years later…”). She’s narrating a Harvard admissions letter, which leads to an incredible triple-repeat exposition within another flashback:

Flashback Future Lisa: I was born with one great advantage, a family that never made anything easy, never more than on my seventh birthday.
Flashback Future Lisa Flasback: It’s my birthday! Seven years old! I’ll wear my favorite blue dress. [dress disintegrates] I’ll wear red, just for today. It’s my birthday!

Was it her birthday? I missed it.

– I should also note that there was a stretch of a joke in there that did kinda have a decent punchline. In the flashforward, Bart is 20 and Homer is strangling him, which leads to Bart admitting he didn’t vote, which leads to Homer chastising him for enabling fascism, which leads to an offscreen “must stop President Kid Rock”.

– In the past, Marge gives Maggie a pacifier for the first time, which leads to an extended (and I mean *extended*) sequence where Marge can’t pull it out. Yay for dialog free filler! (Also, everyone has apparently forgotten Lisa’s birthday.)

– There’s a scene where Principal Skinner hallucinates about his mother. It took some time.

– Homer figures out that it’s Lisa’s birthday, and for some reason they put candles in a bowl of cheerios. Weird.

– Now we’re flashing back forward to eighteen-year-old essay writing Lisa, and it’s apparently also her birthday. Then Luigi walks up from out of nowhere along with a kid from the flashback.

– After the commercial, Bart comes in and Leon Kompowski is there to add some intentionally crappy extra verses to the birthday song. They even brought back Kipp Lenon, the guy who did Michael Jackson’s singing in “Stark Raving Dad”. Lisa eventually checks her watch out of boredom. I check and notice we’re only 1/3 through. Ugh.

– Next, flash forward Lisa flashes back again, this time to her 14th birthday. 14-year-old Lisa gets off the school bus holding a tower of presents because sure, why not? Ralph pokes his head out of a curiously missing window, exposits for a while (he’s still in second grade) and manages to end with this episode’s second and final half decent joke, “I’m growing a mustache under my long nose”. Get it, cuz he’s in puberty? It’s not great, but I’ll take what I can get.

– With no room for her stack of presents, Lisa goes to put them in Marge’s closet and discovers a packed suitcase and a letter to Homer. For reasons unknown, the letter begins talking to Lisa, begging her to read it. She does, and finds out that Marge is going to leave Homer through the power of flashback-flashforward-flashback^2-exposition.

– The next two scenes are in the kitchen and then at dinner where we continue to learn that Marge is going to leave Homer. Inside of that is Lisa fantasizing about attending Harvard, though for some reason her dream boyfriend is a dick and then the buildings fall down.

– At Moe’s, Moe has robot spider legs. Yeah, yeah, that’ll eat up some time.

– Okay, stick with me here, Homer exposits at Moe’s, then Lisa shows up and they exposit some more about Marge leaving him, then Homer calls Ned, who is his stand-by AA sponsor, and then Ned and Homer have an intervention at Moe’s. There is screaming.

– Inside of that mess is Homer having a devil fantasy where Satan appears to joke that a Flaming Moe is the “most overpriced thing at Universal Studios”. That joke reached so far it thew its back out.

– Lisa gets into Harvard, we go to commercial, and then it comes back with a subtitle reading “10 years from now”. We then see them pulling up to Harvard to move Lisa in, so this is now after she wrote her essay, which was where we were flashing back from. Ugh. [Futurama Donbot Voice: “From the context it is clear what you mean.”]

– Zombie Simpsons believes you would like to see older Homer spazzing out like Grampa.

– Then Lisa meets what will turn out to be her first roommate, who exposits all of her and Lisa’s feelings simultaneously:

Lisa: So, you play and instrument?
Roommate: Bari-sax.
Lisa: Are you any good?
Roommate: I played at Kenny G’s funeral.
Lisa’s Brain: Ooh, she’s pretty impressive.
Lisa: Uh, any childhood heartbreak?
Roommate: My parents forgot my birthday three times.
Lisa’s Brain: She beats me at everything! I don’t belong here! Roommate: While you were feeling inferior, I took the top bunk.

– Later, Bart shows up and briefly makes out with a Harvard girl to piss off her dad. I know this because he told us exactly that. Then Bart encourages Lisa and we cut to a second roommate scene where Lisa gets another roommate who exposits all the same things as the first girl except that she’s feeling vulnerable like Lisa so they decide to become friends. (Also, there’s a weird lesbian joke at the end that goes nowhere.)

– Now we get a flashback montage that goes in reverse back to Lisa’s baby scene from the beginning.

– Then we end on another All in the Family style song like the one from “Lisa’s Sax”. It goes on for a looong time and includes Homer making dial up modem noises.

Anyway, the ratings are in and I’m running out of ways to say that they’re exactly as they have been. With a football lead-in, last night a mere 4.31 million people got confused by nested flashbacks.

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.

 

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

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“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

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“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.

15
Nov
16

Behind Us Forever: Havana Wild Weekend

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“Oh, you’re gonna love it in Cuba, Marge. There’s shredded pork everywhere.” – Homer Simpson

In a world where up has become down and black has become white, I suppose there’s some comfort to be taken in the fact that Zombie Simpsons remains as incoherent and forgettable as ever. In this season’s second travel episode, the family goes to Cuba to get Grampa medical care, or something. That story line gets dropped very quickly in favor of a series of disconnected Cuban references and something about the CIA. This episode also features an unusual amount of “look a character just appeared out of nowhere” scenes.

Some lowlights:

  • We open with a Shark Tank parody that has voiceover that explains what it is. Later, they will explain this again.
  • After an expository scene with a retirement home nurse, a van drops Grampa off in skid row. Wiggum just happens to be there to tell no one in particular that this is also where he drops off mentally ill people. There are a lot of darkly funny jokes to be made about how many homeless people in America are also mentally ill. Zombie Simpsons decides to explain it with no actual joke. This show can be painful to watch.
  • Now we’re in a VA hospital waiting room where there’s a long wait time and that wait time is explained over and over again. Then a random guy walks up from nowhere to explain that Grampa should go to Cuba for cheap medical care.
  • Smash cut to a cruise ship where Fred and Ricky from I Love Lucy walk up from nowhere to banter for a bit. Yeesh, this episode is lazy.
  • Grampa sees a Cuban doctor. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that nothing else happens.
  • Montage of Grampa driving in an old car with helpful exposition from a Cuban guy who walked up from nowhere for no reason. I should be counting these, but I’m not going back and you can’t make me.
  • The family is having dinner, while Homer exposits where they are. Then they’re in a hotel. Then Grampa’s in a bar. These are just scenes next to each other.
  • “Wheels McGrath, I knew you in the Air Force!”, says Grampa as another random person walks in from offscreen.
  • Grampa’s old friend wants to start a nightclub in an old airliner. Which he got to after “hacking” through the jungle because he likes hacking. Repeating words is funny. Repeating words is funny. Repeating words is funny.
  • Second montage.
  • There’s a Ticketmaster joke that gets explained twice.
  • Now the airliner is flying away because it was all a CIA plot, or something. The episode still has two minutes to go, so there’s a random golf scene tacked on and a rehash of the Shark Tank thing from the beginning.

There are a couple of okay sign gags in all that (Marge is reading a book called “Cuban Escapes by Elian Gonzalez”, for example), but it’s hard to notice amidst the swerving plot, layers of exposition, and half-dozen or so characters who randomly appear from the ether. In other words, it’s typical Zombie Simpsons.

Anyway, the numbers are in and Zombie Simpsons once again got a nice bump from football, and once again failed to hold even half that audience. The post-game show drew 21.28 million viewers. Zombie Simpsons managed just 7.13 million.

Obviously numbers like this are enough for FOX to pick up two more years worth of episodes, but while this qualifies as a good (even great) number these days, it’d be a terribly low one even just five or six years ago. That’s the sorry state of network TV: crowing about audience numbers that would’ve been a disaster at the beginning of the decade.

21
Oct
16

Behind Us Forever: Treehouse of Horror XXVII

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“No! No, let me explain! Every Friday evening after work Mr. Burns undergoes a series of medical treatments designed to cheat death for another week.” – Mr. Smithers 

I’ve been staying with friends in Arlington, VA this week and doing the D.C. tourist thing in Our Nation’s Capital while a constant loop of “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” plays inside my head (with a side order of “Amendment to Be“). That left watching another lifeless Zombie Simpsons Halloween special pretty low on my priority list. But watch it I did, and it was, well, lifeless.

At the risk of repeating myself, the attention span of Zombie Simpsons has grown so short that they can’t even write coherent 6-7 minute segments. Like several previous Halloween episodes, this one was atomized even further, starting with an opening sketch with fan service ghosts, then going into a long couch gag that was a parody of Planet of the Apes called “Planet of the Couches” (<- creative!). After that they did their three main segments before ending with a 600th episode montage that made me pine for the days when they refused to celebrate meaningless milestones.

The first segment was a Hunger Games/Mad Max 4 mashup where Burns somehow had taken all the water. Here’s a typically brainless scene:

Lisa: Oh, God, me and my big mouth.
Marge: Ooh, I just donated the winter clothes.
Ralph: I’m a god in this reality.
Lisa: Sure, why not?

After that was an exposition heavy segment where Lisa’s imaginary best friend kills a bunch of people. Remember that line from “Hell Toupee” where Lisa exclaims, “Of course, the transplant! Somehow Snake’s hair must be controlling…” and then Marge cuts her off because everyone’s already figured that out? This segment was an extended exercise in ignoring that. Observe:

Imaginary Best Friend: Hey, Lisa, let’s gossip about boys. Isn’t Milhouse so cute? Oh, of course, he suffocated.
Lisa: My Mom was so right when she said I didn’t need you anymore.
Imaginary Best Friend: Oh, I see, so nosy old Marge was the reason you moved on from me.
Lisa: Oh, no, she’ll kill Mom! What do I do?

Finally there was a Kingsman thing where Moe is secretly running a spy agency out of the bar. Homer is some kind of villain, a lot of it is a weird action sequence that kills a lot of time by killing a lot of people, and then it ends for no apparent reason. As usual, about half the dialogue is them explaining what we’re seeing, but I think I’ve quoted this thing enough.

Anyway, the ratings are long since in and they remain bad even when they’re good. On Sunday, Zombie Simpsons managed to pull 7.44 million viewers, by far their highest since last January when they had playoff football as a lead-in. Unfortunately, since the post-game show had 15.38 million viewers, they once again managed to lose more than 50% of their NFL lead-in.

10
Oct
16

Behind Us Forever: The Town

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“Hey, ma, I’m on TV!” – Drunk #1
“Hey, where’s that weather chick?” – Drunk #2
“Ooh, this is some wicked party!” – Drunk #3
“Hey, have you seen Sully?” – Drunk #4

Zombie Simpsons has settled into its rut well enough that they have a “travel” episode pretty much every season. This year, they went to Boston, though in a break from tradition they also had the family move there for six minutes of screen time. Other than that weirdness, it was a very typical travel episode: a few real things and people got renamed, everything was pretty nice, and Homer screamed around the locals a lot.

In what I choose to take as a tacit admission of their massive overuse of exposition, right at the beginning they have Homer say, “Do you have to describe everything?” as Marge is placing pot pies on the dinner table one by one. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from spending the rest of the episode telling us what we’re seeing. This includes when Homer is chasing the Flanders kids around like a bull, several reminders that they’re in Boston on a “hate-cation”, and a truly hacktacular scene where Lisa declares, “They’ve got every recognized species of nerd!” and then process to list them as she walks in front of each one. There was also a montage near the end where they drew lots of real Boston places and had Bart tell us what they were.

Eventually, Homer tears a baseball cap in half and the family moves back to Springfield. Really, that’s what happens. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t recommend it.

Anyway, the ratings are in and they are the typical catastrophe we’ve come to expect from non-NFL lead-in episodes. Last night’s ode to Boston was witnessed by a mere 3.39 million viewers. It took them a long time to finally fall through the 4 million viewer mark, now they do so routinely.

05
Oct
16

Behind Us Forever: Friends and Family

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“I want to go on the yard work simulator!” – Bart Simpson

The official synopsis for this week’s episode of Zombie Simpsons:

Mr. Burns’ search for a clan to play his virtual-reality family leads him to hire the Simpsons, except for Homer, since Burns intends to play the father. With nothing to do, Homer befriends the new next-door neighbor, a woman who eats, drinks, thinks and acts like him.

A more honest synopsis:

Burns goes to a therapist, who then dies for no apparent reason. At the funeral, which the Simpsons attend because reasons, Burns realizes no one loves him. Then he runs over Frink, who was using a virtual reality headset. Burns then has Smithers use Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie as a virtual reality family so that he can pretend someone loves him, which for some reason means all four of them have to live at Burns Manor seemingly forever. Meanwhile, Homer meets a new female neighbor of his and becomes weird friends with her. When Marge gets back from Burns Manor, she freaks out about this in one of the dumbest and angriest Zombie Simpsons scenes in a while. Then it ends.

The most unintentionally entertaining part of the episode was the couch gag. They’ve gotten so used to explaining jokes and filling their scripts with unnecessary exposition that they did it before the episode even began. First, we see the family on the couch with a smart phone in front of them. Each member gets clicked and turned into an icon:

expositedcouchgag0

As couch gags go, at least it’s slightly novel. But when it gets to Homer, instead of having the screen flash “memory full” or some other wordless joke like the couch gags have long been, they had Homer explain out loud what was happening:

expositedcouchgag1

Homer: I’m too fat!

The phone then gets swapped for a larger tablet and he declares himself, “Still too fat!”. It’s completely unnecessary, we can plainly see that he’s too big to fit, but they felt the need to explain it anyway. I’m not laughing with you, Zombie Simpsons, but for once, I am laughing.

Anyway, the ratings are in, for both this week and last week’s premier. For the season premier – with no football lead-in – Zombie Simpsons managed to attract just 3.36 million viewers. That’s a horrifically bad number, but thanks to the nearly as bad Season 27 premier, isn’t actually a record. Last year’s premier only got 3.26 million viewers. By way of comparison, the previous low was Season 25’s 6.29 million.

On Sunday, Zombie Simpsons managed to display some self awareness with their chalkboard gag:

lostnflleadin

Unfortunately, they did, in fact, lose half of their NFL lead-in. FOX’s postgame show was watched by 12.49 million Americans, with Zombie Simpsons retaining only 6.00 million. Heh.

11
Jan
16

Behind Us Forever: Teenage Mutant Milk-caused Hurdles

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“Now, come on, you’re going to learn how to shave.” – Homer Simpson

I completely didn’t realize there was a new episode last week.  Ignorance is truly bliss.  This week, Homer goes to the store to buy milk, and ends up getting a new kind that pushes both of his kids into early onset puberty, which basically means zits for Lisa and a mustache for Bart.  Meanwhile, there’s a new, hot teacher at the school and Bart and Skinner compete with each other for her attention.  If it was coherent in the least it’d be weird, instead it’s just the usual Zombie Simpsons mess.

– La-Z Rider couch gag was kinda fun, and sucked a minute and a half out of the episode. Good for it.

– We open on thirty seconds of chaos in the classroom while Willie reads poetry. For the record, that’s 10% of the show gone and not a single word written by the staff. This might be the best episode of the season.

– Nevermind. Willie just pre-explained a vaping joke.

– The new teacher is a cool army vet. Bart’s inner monologue is explaining to us how he’s feeling about this.

– Homer is driving now and singing that he has a legal BAC. Then he passes Wiggum, who says, “I like it when the drivers sing their blood alcohol level”. It’s not enough for them to (repeatedly) tell us what we’re seeing, now they’re telling us they like doing it.

– Case in point: Homer just said, “Woo-hoo, I’m running a basic errand.”

– Apu and Homer are discussing fancy milk. Apu then tells us we’re about to watch a video. Guess what happens next? Go on. Guess.

ExpositVideo

– The video took forty seconds.

– Homer, Bart and Marge are in the kitchen acting surprised that Bart’s hair is combed. Homer then narrates and explains a sign gag before asking Bart to restate the plot about his cool new teacher.

– Still in the kitchen. Still restating the teacher plot.

– Bart’s hanging out with the new teacher by telling us about things we didn’t see. Novel.

– Montage!

– Skinner just appeared out of nowhere, and we got everything explained out loud again by Skinner’s brain, Bart’s brain, and then the new teacher’s brain.

– Lisa and Bart are both starting puberty apparently, so their natural, child like reaction is to run into their parents room and exposit about it.

– Marge says, “I just read about it in Thing magazine.” Then she holds up the magazine.

– Homer is teaching Bart to shave. Huh. Never seen that before.

– It’s apparently recess, and Skinner is expositing as a way of hitting on the new teacher.

– Lisa is wearing makeup now to cover up her new acne. This leads to more inner monologue exposition, which is apparently this week’s theme: “Oh, my God. I’m popular. Hope this doesn’t go to my head. It went right to my head!”

– Bart’s getting tutored by the new teacher, so Skinner walks in from nowhere to continue their pointless romantic rivalry.

– The milk puberty plot is rolling along in the kitchen again. Much explaining.

– Oof. So Homer calls the milk hotline, which Snake picks up in jail. Snake then carves the address into some guy’s head. It sucks when they repeat themselves. It sucks more when they repeat Family Guy.

– Having caught Skinner making out with the new teacher in the hallways (you know, cause it’s a school), Bart just walks into Skinner’s office. Skinner then explains how he’s dating the teacher. Also, Bart’s mustache looks weird.

WeirdMustache

It looks like a barnacle.  

– Aaaand now we’re back in the hall where Skinner is talking to the new teacher, and Bart signs for a delivery of “Pets” after expositing that he needs a way to derail Skinner’s happiness.

– I may be having an embolism, but I actually think this episode is getting worse. Skinner and the new teacher are making out in the teacher’s lounge. Then Skinner opens a box of chocolates that contains a bunch of animals who promptly disappear. Skinner then explains that they’ve been pranked, which causes Willy to materialize out of no where to plot revenge.

– Lisa is now at a party for popular kids and think expositing again. Then she gets on a table and starts explaining things, causing a voice from off screen to yell, “Is there a point to this?”. Good on you, voice from off screen.

– Lisa’s skin, it turns out, is fine because, as she helpfully explained to us, “the bad milk wore off”.

– Ralph pops out of nowhere and Lisa acts like she’s never met him.

– Bart is in his room still plotting revenge. Lisa then appears to restate the plot again, just in case we in the audience didn’t remember the last five times they explained it.

– Skinner and the teacher are at a skating rink. Bart is also there because reasons.

– Skinner’s mother then appears to break up his relationship, then Bart and Milhouse and Skinner go hang out and roast marshmallows.  Didn’t see that coming.

– And we end on Bart and Lisa fighting in the kitchen before Maggie picks them both up and Homer explains that she can do that because she’s still drinking the milk. That’s right, they actually ended the episode with Homer expositing a joke. Points for consistency, I guess.

The NFL ran long yesterday, so primetime didn’t even start until 8:20 on FOX and the numbers are currently a mess, but the first pass has them at 6.44 million.  The final ones will be higher than normal because they always are after playoff football, but that’s pretty week considering.  Last week, even with an NFL lead-in, Zombie Simpsons was watched by just 4.42 million people.




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