Archive for the 'Company Eating Rules' Category



14
Aug
12

Mourning the Loss of Mourning

Loss of Mourning4

By Philip J Reed

I love intelligent criticism.  As a writer, I’d be nowhere without it.  It’s important to identify flaws in the things we love — or in the things that, with some substantial revision, we might come to love — but anybody can do that.  What’s comparatively more rare is insight. It takes very little effort to point at the things we dislike and say, "Yeah…that sucked."  It takes a lot more effort — and perhaps some amount of jilted affection — to devote four posts to every new episode for the sole purpose of figuring out why those things sucked. That’s what drew me to Dead Homer Society, and that’s what keeps me here.

But what of my own dissatisfaction with the show?  To be fair, I could disagree with everything Mr. Sweatpants & Friends write here, and still come away from their articles enlightened.  In fact, I do often disagree with their final assessments of certain things…but that doesn’t mean I can’t find some value in their discussions.  That’s the mark of intelligent writing; agreement isn’t the endgame at Dead Homer Society.  Consideration is.  And, unfortunately, consideration isn’t the kind of thing that does modern-day Simpsons any favors.

My own concerns with the show honestly have very little to do with the state of the comedy.  Yes, I’ll unquestionably concede that I’m lucky to get one or two good laughs out of an episode today…but, as strange as it might sound to admit this, I’m okay with that.  Since season 9 or so, I’ve been looking elsewhere for my weekly dose of great jokes…and I’ve found them without a problem.  South Park, Futurama, King of the Hill, The Venture Bros., American Dad, Archer, Bob’s Burgers…and those are just the cartoons.  There’s no shortage of great animated comedies right now, and there hasn’t been for years.  It’s certainly sad that I can no longer number The Simpsons among them, but the torch has been passed so many times now that I think it’s almost foolish to look back.  The Simpsons isn’t a fond memory of yesterday…it’s a memory of yesterday’s yesterday’s yesterday.  It’s gone.  And, what’s more, it’s been gone longer than it was actually here.  It brought a lot of laughter in its time but, frankly speaking, we can find that elsewhere now.

However there is one loss — one truly tragic loss — that died with The Simpsons so many years ago, and for which we still haven’t found a suitable replacement.  That loss is heart.

While I miss the sharp, subversive satire of the show’s first decade or so on the air, we can now find that elsewhere.  What we can’t find — at least not as easily, or as frequently — are the cartoons that move us.

I grew up watching The Simpsons.  I was eight years old when it premiered, and I had seen the Tracy Ullman shorts before that.  My family made a big deal of The Simpsons Christmas Special, and I’m not sure any of us knew that it was going to be a regular show after that.  That debut felt — and still feels — like an event.  I remember even now the rough animation, which only served to cement the feeling that we were being thrust into a different world.  It was a world that looked like nothing we’d ever seen before.  It was new, it was exciting, and it was a place we wanted to revisit time and again.

It was funny — as overdone as Homer injuring himself is today, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed as hard at it as I did when he struck his head emerging from Santa’s workshop — but it also had heart.  Not the TGIF-flavored heart my younger TV-watching self was used to…but real, honest, genuine heart.  The heart you find in a family full of imperfections.  The heart you find among social desolation.  That heart that comes when Christmas is here and everybody else seems to be having a far better time than you are.    The heart you find in the distance between perception and reality.  The heart you find in the desire to not only support your family, but to elevate them…and the difficulty or impossibility of actually doing so.  It was a naturally American sort of heart.

I don’t remember if I cried during Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire. I probably didn’t, however sweetly sour it may have been, but as I grew up and the show grew up alongside me, there were episodes that downright decimated me emotionally…and they always did so with honesty.  They didn’t yank at your heartstrings…they simply broke your heart from afar.

Moaning Lisa, for instance, is still — as far as I’m concerned — one of the most raw, brutally frank explorations of depression that we’ve ever seen on network television.  It’s right up there with A Charlie Brown Christmas in terms of the unforgettable quality with which it delves into unexplained — and inexplicable — childhood melancholia. It’s something I dealt with when I was younger, and it’s something I’ve dealt with as an adult.  It’s the familiar feeling that you don’t fit in, yes, but it’s deeper than that:  it’s the feeling that you can’t, and will never, fit in…that there’s something wrong with you for not fitting in.  Lisa’s depression isn’t just sad…it’s moving. She’s a young girl with more to offer than anybody around her realizes, and yet all she feels is broken and alone.

Eventually, like Charlie Brown before her, she learns to accept it. She finds something into which she can channel her feelings, and that helps her to regulate them, and to cope with them in a more healthy way.  It’s the perfect predecessor to the equally classic Lisa’s Substitute, whose simple "You are Lisa Simpson" moral remains one of the most heartbreakingly perfect moments in anything I’ve seen on television.

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For The Simpsons — which was endlessly screamed about in the media as being anti-American, anti-religious and pretty much anti-everything we should stand for as a people — to devote such time and attention to things as simple as a little girl feeling sad…well, that was the real subversion.  This big, bad, society-destroying cartoon show was perfectly content to spend its time in the jazzy blue company of a little girl who doesn’t fit in.  There’s no greater subversion of expectations than that.

So compare this to Lisa Goes Gaga, the finale from this past season, or The D’oh-cial Network.  Lisa’s feelings of lonesome frustration used to be treated seriously.  They used to mean something…though you’d never know it from watching more recent explorations of that same theme.  Lisa still feels like an outcast, but now that’s a catalyst for outrageous plots and insultingly simple solutions. Compare the multi-car pileup nonsense of The D’oh-cial Network to Lisa feeling too depressed to participate in a game of dodgeball.  There’s no comparison…and yet they’re both, ostensibly, triggered by the same feelings in that episode’s protagonist.  Compare Mr. Bergstrom, who emphatically does not make everything better but simply serves as a fresh and intelligent perspective through which Lisa can view herself anew, to Lady Gaga, who chugs in on a magic rainbow train or something and telepathically saves the day.  It sounds silly, but the latter does actually make some attempt at heart…it’s just so far removed from the show that it used to be that it can’t recognize what it’s looking for.

It’s easy to chart the decline of the show just by looking at episodes like this, episodes with themes that worked so well in the past that now are being trotted out not only to diminishing returns, but to retroactively damaging returns.  Consider the flashback episode, which was first used in season two’s sweet The Way We Was.  That episode refused to wallow in sentimentality, and yet it ends up explaining exactly why Marge is with Homer, and why he — contrary to anything else we might have seen by that point — deserved her.  It was sweet, without being sentimental.  It was a flawed beginning to a flawed relationship, and it was easy to both pity and relate.  It was, in a word, perfect.

That was by no means the last of the great flashback episodes, but opinion is bound to differ on just when they became unnecessary.  I will say, however, that the ones that do succeed, succeed because they found the right way to blend the comedy with a lot of heart.  Comedy isn’t a reason to send us on a flashback — after all, there’s nothing you can’t show us in present day for a laugh — but it is a way to explore the heart beneath the characters…to see them in younger, more idealistic times, before they became the beaten and despondent individuals we know today.  Contrast this with That 90s Show, which exists as a flashback episode simply to make dial-up modem jokes and try to convince us that Homer invented grunge.  It’s difficult to believe in the face of pointless self-indulgence like this that the show used to be capable of such effortlessly gorgeous moments as "DO IT FOR HER."

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For a single character to follow along the downward spiral, from emotional triumphs to insulting mediocrity, take a look at what they did with Homer’s mother, Mona Simpson.  Her first major appearance, Mother Simpson, easily ranks among the all-time upper tier of Simpsons episodes.  It was funny, absolutely, but I’d be willing to wager that when asked to identify one single moment from that episode, most people would point to Homer, silent, sitting atop his car and staring into the night sky.  It’s a moment of profound restraint — nothing happens at all.  Everything is internal, and it’s unforgettably moving.  We don’t know what’s going through Homer’s mind in that moment, but we can certainly guess.  That moment is his.  We’re allowed to witness it, but we’re not allowed to invade it.  We’re kept at a distance for a reason…and so is Homer.  It’s beautiful.

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And yet, we weren’t allowed to remember the character that way. Homer, and we, were robbed of that perfect conclusion by bringing Mona back periodically due to writers not having any other ideas.  She came back once to reveal Homer’s middle name, and that was okay…though certainly unnecessary.  After that, however, we were beyond unnecessary, as Mona reappeared just to die and give Homer an excuse to act like James Bond while scattering her ashes, and then again as a ghost to haunt Homer and make him wet the bed, or something.  It’s getting harder and harder to remember Homer on that car, sadly reflecting upon the darkness around him, and all too easy to remember him as a mishmash of bland slapstick and unearned emotion.

That’s what disappoints me about the state of the show.  It’s not that the comedy isn’t as sharp.  It’s not that the satire is dull and toothless.  It’s not even that the voice actors don’t seem to care anymore.  It’s that the show, once so capable of reaching profound emotional plateaus, would now rather have Homer pissing himself and Lisa singing backup at a Lady Gaga concert.

It doesn’t mean anything anymore.  For all the talk of the boundaries pushed by The Simpsons in its early years, I truly believe the most impressive boundary it toppled was emotional.  Anyone who didn’t tear up at One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Bluefish, Bart’s Dog Gets an F, or I Love Lisa had something seriously wrong with them.  Now anyone who does tear up does so solely in mourning for the show long gone — the show that announced to the world that cartoons could be as affecting and insightful as anything else on television, perhaps even moreso…and then spent fifteen or more years proving itself wrong.

03
Jul
12

“Our Mickey Mouse Property” – The Moment a Fox Exec Told Me The Simpsons Were Doomed

By Bobak

When I was in undergrad in Los Angeles, I took classes in film/television at both my school (USC) and extension courses on the industry at UCLA.  (I’m now a lawyer in an unrelated field, so a lot of good that did.)  One of the UCLA courses I took was on marketing and always had a round table of execs from all the major Hollywood players, many from Fox which was just down the way in Century City.  A lot of times the execs would come in gushing about their latest productions–I remember the Disney people were all about Toy Story 2 and some really high up Fox exec was convinced Anna and the King was going to get a dozen nominations (lesson: movie execs are full of themselves and BS).

This was roughly 1999, and one day we had a Fox television marketing exec come in gushing about a major decision at Fox: she said the company had decided to take their embrace of The Simpsons to the next level and turn it into “our Mickey Mouse property” (her words, I will never forget how it was phrased). Fox wanted something as iconic as Mickey and went with the folks from Springfield. This was around the same time Fox began to seriously crack down on any unauthorized use of Simpsons clips or images on the web (I remember either the LA Times or Variety had an article about how they went after many fan sites).

At the time I heard this proclamation, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Mickey had been neutered by Disney in order to be their ultimate brand representative–how were The Simpsons going to fare?  As a fan since the Tracey Ullman days, I hoped the extra attention from the parent corp would help.  At the same time, that much additional investment could cause Fox to push forward with The Simpsons regardless of quality just to have their Mickey on the front line at all times.

Jump to 2000: I’m at a gathering with all my friends and someone says “hey, let’s watch the new Simpsons!”, so we do and no one laughed the entire episode. That was the moment I realized Fox’s commitment wasn’t for the better.

[Editor’s Note: If you’ve got something Simpsons related on your mind and think it might make a good guest post, drop us a line at deadhomersociety at gmail.  Tiny amounts of internet fame can be yours.]

20
Jun
12

Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play: Enjoyed By All

By Hank Pumpkins

Let me start out by saying this: I both love to pretend, and am horrible at, being a journalist, a profession where my egocentrism is at odds with my sheer obliviousness. Which explains why I showed up to the Wooly Mammoth Theatre haughty with lofty perceptions of how I would craft my review-de-resistance—and also why I showed up looking like a sweaty bum, wearing a White Sox cap, my trusty Toms loafers, and a t-shirt of Boba Fett if he were a dog (“Boba Fetch”, a bartender explained to me later—like I said, oblivious). Were I a more conscious human being, I probably would have given half a thought to bringing a date, and dining with her there at the theatre (they had delicious looking food, surprise surprise), but I didn’t. So, instead, I pretended to be a journalist all night; which is to say, I grabbed beer as fast as possible and hid my awkwardness under the veil of "fly on the wall" integrity, to try and catch a slice of both play-house Americana as well as Simpson-neck-beard-fandom in the surprisingly funny and poignant Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play.

There was much less of the latter group than the former; I was a bit disappointed I didn’t spot any Geniuses At Work, as it were, though there were several people in the audience that had that decisive “I remember this episode and quote it fondly” loud laugh (which matched my own). The rest of the audience were the seasoned play-goers, people who were “down on the scene”, “with the haps”, and whatever other 60’s slang I can think of. The kind of people that don’t come in buzzed off their ass, whipping out their camera phone and snapping pictures until a friendly, though scared, attendant begs me to stop taking photos. Alas, I lost my only chance of someone saying “sir” without adding, “You’re making a scene.”

During intermission, the various different play-going demographics—suits, the elderly, cute girls in sun-dresses—parsed out the play with various success: they chattered about the meaning of The Simpsons in our society, pop-culture’s place in the future, and sometimes, rather simply, “Side-what Bob?”  I found it cute. 

The playwright, Anne Washburn, mentions in the booklet that The Simpsons was a serendipitous, though later obvious, symbolic pop-culture choice which the survivors of an unnamed apocalypse cobble together as a means of bonding and survival. Her play is at once hilarious and a bitter pill, as Washburn’s characters find light and grace in possibly the only piece of pop-culture that would survive a nuclear holocaust. Dear God, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s likely The Simpsons may be the cockroach that shakes off the radiation and survives us all.

It’s clear as the play progresses, however, that time changes us all, and particularly our memories. For Post-Electric is not just an excuse for actors to quote Homer, but also a rumination on memory and story-telling, and a thought-provoking perspective of a future where the hand-me-down stories of each generation were given to us from a boob-tube.

In the first act, the characters, days out of said apocalypse, hilariously string together “Cape Feare” as best as they can, and I have to admit, it was hard not to join in with these people palling about onstage sorting out the episode’s first sequence like a bunch of drunk friends on a couch. The writer mentions that these bits were fleshed out from bull sessions between the cast—and the light-hearted, real conversation shows. What made Act I such a draw for me was the genius in the simplicity of it all.  Of course, this is how I would react if the Apocalypse happened.

All The Simpsons talk works in great contrast with the dire circumstances of the world around the characters, which grows even more desperate and doomed as the play progresses. The characters’ understanding of The Simpsons—and television, and pop-culture, and, well, the past—all starts to fall apart, and the melting-pot of pop-culture references is a hilarious, but dark, game of roulette.  There’s a very prevalent sense that not even The Simpsons might be able to carry on to the next generation—at least in the form that we know it. As no TV and no beer make society something-something, the earlier “Cape Feare” bull-sessions whisk away into something unfamiliar: purple-monkey-dish-washer territory.

The show takes a turn for the melodic in the strange third act, which works as a giant equals sign to the thoughts and build-up beforehand. The play shoots forward several decades, where The Simpsons as we know it has been deconstructed and smelted together with other lingering fragments of pop humanity, baked under the context of a world barely breathing after 80-some years of devastation and ruin. The final act was my least favorite, as we’re shoved down the rabbit-hole in this dream-like Simpsons facsimile. The whole thing is pretty much set to song, and deftly presented, but didn’t have the gritty punch the earlier acts did. Still, the steady dilution of “Cape Feare” into its end-of-the-world futuristic counterpart is an amazing trick to nail, and all hands on deck of the Pinafore do a remarkable job (as far as my understanding of critiquing plays go). I was clapping pretty hard at the end, and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because I had been drinking.

What’s most surprising to me, though, is that it seemingly took as long as it did for someone to use The Simpsons in such a clever way. Directors like Quentin Tarantino are known for their ironic use of cotton-candy pop-culture conversations that belie the amorality and violence that bubbles around the chatter. Finally there’s a similar conversation happening with something so near and dear to me, a Gen-X variant on the ol’ post-apocalyptic “what makes us human” yarn—and a sci-fi future that accepts that The Simpsons is really effin’ important, damn it. After all, when the grids do go down, what’s humanity going to talk about? The Denver Broncos? Feh.

NOTE: I want to send a very hearty thanks to Charlie and especially the Wooly Mammoth, who all so graciously decided that me entering a place of culture and writing about it would be a good thing. I had an amazing time—if you’re in the DC area, check it out. If you’re not, be jealous, chummmmmmm…p.

Hank Pumpkins doesn’t just have the best nom-de-plume on the planet, he also writes miserable fiction and even more miserable personal accounts of his shlubby life over at Love in the Time of Sausage (www.littosonline.com). Love, Hank Pumpkins.

13
Jun
12

“English? Who Needs That?”: The Simpsons in the United Kingdom

By Wesley Mead

On Sunday 2nd September 1990, The Simpsons premiered in the UK, on a channel called Sky One. Sky One knew it would be a hit, surely. Advance press had been exhaustive and excited; buzz from the States was phenomenal. But I doubt even the most faithful of Simpsons fans at Sky in 1990 had any idea it would go on to be the show that saved the channel and defined their service for decades to come.

Maybe that’s a little hyperbolic. But it is difficult to overestimate the impact The Simpsons had on British multichannel television. To understand this, a bit of history is required. Let’s flashback to mid-1990 in the UK: Sky Television and British Satellite Broadcasting operate two competing satellite services, each with an array of exclusive channels. Most notably, BSB has Galaxy, and Sky has Sky One.

Original programming wasn’t really an option for either network, given the budget constraints of such niche channels, so both invested in repeats and imports. Galaxy acquired China Beach and Murphy Brown; Sky nabbed Moonlighting. So far, so good, though Sky were losing out in the (admittedly miniscule) ratings battle. But Sky’s savvy deal to acquire The Simpsons for a British audience – as Murdoch stablemates of Fox, this wasn’t too difficult a task – completely turned the tables. Garnering masses of attention in the mainstream media, including national newspapers and Sky’s own Sky Magazine, the show was almost certainly the highest-profile satellite acquisition to date, and the audience was clearly intrigued.

Thanks, Magazines Galore! Your JPEGs may be rat-like in appearance, but you are truly kings among men.

That first airing delivered tens of thousands of new viewers to the heretofore obscure channel. Given Sky’s extremely limited reach, the ratings had lived up to the hype. Its Sunday teatime scheduling undoubtedly contributed. The 6pm timeslot ensured the widest possible audience could tune in; particularly children, who would prove to comprise a significant component of the show’s viewership in the UK (arguably moreso than in the USA). But what really helped was the hype. Critics and commoners alike were raving about the show; magazines dedicated spreads to Bartmania; TV aficionados were spreading the word about the first “cartoon for adults” in decades. Everyone had heard about the show, and those with the means simply had to check it out. It was rare for a quality television show to be restricted to a niche, subscription channel on its first run; it was even rarer that said quality show was a cartoon about a yellow American family. The curiosity of the populace was piqued, and they found themselves enthralled and entertained in significant numbers. It was clear that the show was living up to the hype, as ratings consistently increased, and the British public really seemed to connect with the universal satire.

They may have been promoted with lousy commercials, but The Simpsons were on TV!

Within two months of its first episode airing, Sky One’s overall channel ratings had seen a double-digits percentage rise – amazingly, beating out those of BSB’s Galaxy. In a stunning turnabout, BSB merged with Sky by November – crucially, keeping the Sky branding. Pre-Simpsons, BSB had looked the inevitable winner of the UK satellite race, commanding higher advertising rates and drawing greater audience. But once The Simpsons had premiered? Sky were the clear winners, home to the highest-rated scripted show on satellite, and driving that Simpsons audience to the rest of their lineup while they could.

Buzz about the show reached fever pitch in the subsequent months. “Do the Bartman” made it to number one in the UK singles charts in January 1991, at a point when only a tiny – but increasing – percentage of the audience had access to the show. (The video’s airing on BBC1’s “Top of the Pops” was the first real free-to-air taste of the show.) Buzz among everyone from the media elite to the school playgrounds was that The Simpsons was the defining reason to upgrade to satellite or cable TV. T-shirt sales, as in the US, were through the roof; two-episode videotapes sold by the shedload, allowing non-satellite viewers their first access to the show proper.

The show remained a significant draw for Sky One throughout the early ’90s. The Sunday-evening episodes were must-watch events. Backlash from wary parents was limited, and the backlash that did take place only heightened popularity among kids. By 1993, Sky began to see the value in “stripping” the show across multiple days of the week – similar to syndication in the USA – and these saturation repeats played a key role in heightening its popularity here, as viewers just getting interested in the show could catch up on past editions more readily.

By 1993, Sky One had invested in a copy of cloud.jpg.

But as Sky and Fox aired its fourth, fifth, sixth, even seventh season, the majority of the country – the 50 million without subscription TV – were wondering when they’d get their chance to catch up on this yellow American family. Sky and cable had increased market share significantly – and it’s fair to say that The Simpsons played a reasonable role in that takeup – but penetration had only gone from 4% to 20%. That left a whole lot of viewers without The Simpsons in their lives. In 1996, though, that majority finally got their answer, as the BBC – the UK’s public service broadcaster, funded by public money and airing no commercials – announced they’d acquired the terrestrial rights to the show. (In the ’90s in the UK, “terrestrial” referred to the four or five main channels accessible to anyone with a TV: BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, and later Channel 5.)

The Simpsons finally got its long-awaited terrestrial debut on Saturday, November 23rd, 1996. The channel: BBC One. The time: 5:30pm. The episode: There’s No Disgrace Like Home. The ratings: …actually, surprisingly underwhelming. Only five million viewers tuned in. Naturally, this was orders of magnitude greater than the ratings on Sky One, but BBC was available to everyone in the country; considering the great British public had been waiting over six years for this free-to-air, commercial-free premiere, it’s hard to say these results were a success.

To be fair, 5:30pm Saturday wasn’t the greatest timeslot. It had the benefit of being kid-friendly, but it was rather earlier than most Saturday-evening high-profile programming. (It had previously been home to repeats of ’70s sitcom Dad’s Army – not exactly prestigious.) But when ITV started airing new episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch opposite it, and drawing greater viewership, it was clear something wasn’t right. Could consumer demand have died off prematurely? Could most of those interested in the show have converted to Sky long ago? The Sky episodes were still drawing relatively good numbers, so it was hard to blame the show itself. The BBC couldn’t really risk burning off the sixty-one episodes they’d made a deal for (every show through early season four) with such relatively poor ratings, so they pulled the show, and had a strategic rethink.

The Simpsons returned, after six weeks’ hiatus, in March 1997. This time, though, things were a bit different. It was airing on BBC2. BBC2 had already played home to an array of US hits, from The X-Files to Ren & Stimpy, and it seemed like a logical home for the show. Mondays at 6pm saw new episodes air, followed by new-to-terrestrial airings of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (a combination so potent that 70,000 Facebook fans still remember it); Fridays saw a double-bill of classic episodes, airing until 6:45pm. This time, the ratings were stronger: not in raw terms, as BBC2 weekdays was more of a niche slot; but proportionately, The Simpsons was quite a hit, garnering ratings around 4 million during this period. Its positioning against news on both BBC1 and ITV saw younger and more tech-savvy audiences gravitate towards it, while its early-evening timeslot also allowed children of all ages to tune in, too. Internet buzz among diehards about censorship drew some criticism to the slot (older fans naturally wanted unedited episodes in later timeslots) but the cuts were generally minimal (a “bastard” here, some bloody Treehouse of Horror violence there) and ensured the show could retain the crucial child audience.

None of your fancy store-bought fonts for the BBC.

The late ’90s and early 2000s saw the show peak in audience reach in the UK: between strong ratings for new episodes on Sky and great performance of terrestrial premieres on BBC, The Simpsons was at its commercial zenith in Britain. Perhaps the most telling evidence of this is in BBC2’s move, in March 2002, to strip the show across five nights a week. They’d dabbled with three nights before – Mon, Wed and Fri – in 2000 and 2001, but every weeknight? Terrestrial saturation of an American show was uncommon at this point; some were concerned that the general audience would begin to suffer Simpsons burnout. Typically, there would be an episode at 6pm on BBC, then two or four on Sky One; add in the occasional dabbling with morning and post-watershed slots for the show on Sky, as well as its regular presence on Saturday and Sunday evenings, and some weeks in 2000 saw thirty-plus episodes of the show air. But critics be damned: the figures held up, the eyeballs continued to tune in, and the BBC’s 6pm weeknights slot remained permanent for the next four years. With a healthy catalogue of classic episodes that still hadn’t been aired on terrestrial, the BBC were in a great position, as they were able to “premiere” multiple seasons within a single calendar year (though as a condition of Sky’s contract, they remained at least four seasons behind the US at all times).

Domino’s Pizza sponsored The Simpsons on Sky One for many years. Alas, in 2008, the partnership came to an end, as UK regulations made it more difficult for fast food companies to sponsor shows that lots of children watch. (In a bid to recreate the successful partnership, Pizza Hut sponsored the show on Channel 4, too. That didn’t work out. So now, Shockwaves hair products sponsor the show. Yeah, I dunno either.)

Sky were experimenting with expanding the show’s foothold on their schedule, too. Double-bills had been the order of the day for a couple of years; in late 1999, they looked to use the show as the launchpad for “Skyrocket” (please, forgive the pun), a three-hour Saturday evening animation marathon. Alas, the project was doomed, as Futurama and Family Guy had not yet grown into the cult sensations they would become, and The PJs and King of the Hill lacked a strong UK fanbase. Nevertheless, Sky persevered, trying out Simpsons-only marathons on every Bank Holiday they could find; Christmas 1999 saw six episodes on Christmas Day, seven on Boxing Day, and a seven-episode “Viewer’s Choice” on Christmas Eve. They ran the show at 7:30 and 8am on weekdays for a period; weekend mornings also saw the occasional jaunt. In 2000, they toyed with a pre-King of the Hill 10pm slot for the show, which they occasionally used to show uncut versions of more risque episodes (“Natural Born Kissers”, “Grampa vs Sexual Inadequacy”). It was plain to any observer that The Simpsons was the lynchpin of Sky One’s schedule during this period.

And who could blame them? The show was a seriously hot cultural property in Britain during this period. Dozens of four-episode VHS compilations were released here between 1998 and 2002, typically at a rate of four per year. My data is incomplete, but I understand that each and every one landed in the UK top 10 video chart. The Simpsons video games released during that period were strong sellers, despite oft-derisory critical reception (“The Simpsons Wrestling” got a very weak 5/10 score in the Official UK Playstation Magazine, but it still sold by the shedload here). The comics, rebranded for the UK, sold excellently. Citing heavy appeal to kids, BBC One aired season one episodes of the show as part of their Live & Kicking Saturday morning strand (usually home to Rugrats). Multiple UK-targeted unofficial episode guides were published – compared to the USA, which hadn’t seen any such references printed since the early part of the decade, it was clear Simpsons mania was enjoying a second wind in Britain. As the tenth anniversary of the show’s UK premiere loomed, The Simpsons had greater cultural penetration in the UK than ever before.

I paid £12.99 for these four episodes on video. (Still better value than £12.99 for a whole season of Zombie Simpsons, mind.)

Both BBC and Sky saw fit to celebrate a decade of the UK’s favourite family. The BBC actually got in on the game first; their celebratory evening on 23rd June 2000 included two strong documentaries and a plethora of episodes classic and new (well, new to terrestrial). But from a scheduling perspective, Sky’s weekend-long celebration in August was more revealing, as the weekend culminated in the UK premiere of Malcolm in the Middle, a show they would dub the “live-action Simpsons”.

Some questioned the logic in concluding a Simpsons weekend with a completely unrelated show, but it actually worked effectively. As Sky continued to pair Malcolm with The Simpsons, Malcolm became a breakout hit here in its early years, retaining a significant percentage of The Simpsons’ audience, and actually remained a more consistent performer in Britain than it did during its later years in the USA.

Throughout the 2000s, new episodes of The Simpsons typically declined in performance, despite continued uptake of Sky and cable services ensuring more and more viewers had access to the show. Maybe it was a case of over-saturation; maybe it was a case of Zombie Simpsons beginning to dilute the odds of finding a classic. But as cultural elder statesman, the show remained an integral part of the Sky brand. In deference to the key role it played in defining their brand – and playing a key role in their subscriber stats – thousands of Sky engineer vans across the country were plastered with images of the Simpson family throughout the latter half of the 2000s and early 2010s. As the decade came to a close, The Simpsons, still a steady performer among an increasingly fractured viewership, was used to lead off Modern Family, The Middle and Raising Hope, turning them into moderate hits for the station. It’s perhaps in this way that Sky now gets the most value from the show: it’s no longer the pop-culture behemoth it was in the 1990s, driving potential subscribers to choose Sky; instead, it’s a utility player that’s earned its face on the walls – and vans – of fame. Repeats don’t air quite as much these days – there are none on Saturdays, sometimes only one on Fridays – and Sky spend far more on advertising for Modern Family than they do for OFF. Regardless, though, it’s an integral part of the Sky lineup.

They didn’t even get the blackboard font right. Damn you, Sky!

But what of terrestrial? The most significant event of the show’s scheduling in the ’00s was its move from BBC2 to Channel 4. In terms of audience share and target audience, the two networks were quite similar, with BBC2 perhaps slightly more upmarket. But significantly, Channel 4 was a commercial network: while it had public service responsibilities similar to BBC, it had to earn its own money, through advertising. It was this key difference to allowed Channel 4 to pick up the show when BBC could no longer afford to; as ratings plateaued, BBC could no longer justify spending increasing amounts of public money on the show. (By this point, even terrestrial runs commanded a stunning £700,000 per episode.) It was with clear regret that the BBC had to give up on the show – it contributed towards a shocking 10% drop in their 2004 ratings compared to the year prior – but it seemed the sums were unworkable. So, in November 2004, after a six-month break from terrestrial (BBC had concluded their run back in spring), The Simpsons were back on terrestrial TV.

Channel 4’s scheduling of the show over the past eight years has proved relatively uneventful. After early dalliances with new episodes airing between 9pm and 10pm on Friday (similar to their previous flagship US import Friends), C4 soon found that the comfortable 6pm repeats – scheduled in the same way as the BBC’s had been for the previous four years – were actually out-rating the prime-time episodes; in later years, new-to-terrestrial seasons simply aired in those same 6pm slots. In the early days, the channel attempted a few “events”: alongside the expected “Simpsons Night” on the day they acquired the show, they used The Simpsons as the hosts of their 2004 “Alternative Christmas Message” – an offbeat alternative to the traditional Christmas Day’s Queen’s Speech in Britain, which rated well.

So yeah, according to that Christmas message, Lisa is a Cornish nationalist. Yeah.. I don’t really know why they did that either.

In recent years, the channel has settled into a comfortable, but successful pattern of the stripped 6pm weekday slot sitting alongside a Sunday afternoon double-bill. They remain four years behind Sky (and Fox), premiering season 20 later this year. Viewing figures have been unexciting but fair; typically around the 1.5 million mark in summer and 2 million in winter, down around 500,000 on five years ago. That doesn’t sound so impressive on paper, but it comfortably outrates the shows C4 had previously had in that slot (including Futurama and Home Improvement in the late ’90s) and most episodes end up in Channel 4’s weekly top 20. Increased penetration of Sky and cable should also be taken into account – nowadays, the majority of people can see new episodes four years before they air on Channel 4 – and with so many more channels now available even on the free-to-view Freeview platform, viewership has fractured significantly.

While the new episodes may lack the “event” feel – and the corresponding viewership figures – the punters, the loyal fans, are still willing to fly their fan flag high on special occasions. Case in point: The Simpsons Movie. It earned a phenomenal £13.6 million in its first weekend at the UK box-office, accounting for a staggering 2.6m admissions. According to box-office analyst Charles Gant, a movie typically generates in British pounds one-tenth of what it earns in US dollars; based on those rough guidelines, The Simpsons Movie did disproportionately better in Britain by nearly 80%. (That £13.6m opening figure? Only 15% less than barnstorming four-quadrant megahit The Avengers in its first weekend – and taking into account ticket price inflation and 3D uplifts, The Simpsons Movie almost definitely saw greater numbers turn out to watch). Between that performance, the series’ continued role in shepherding new US imports to cult-hit status on Sky, and its now-permanent 6pm Channel 4 slot delivering consistent figures every day of the week, it’s perhaps interesting to note that in its autumn years (boy, do I hope they’re autumn years), The Simpsons is holding up – commercially, at least – much more resiliently than in its homeland. Yes, there have been ratings declines, and DVD sales have decreased – when you’re talking about a show that’s creatively declined as much as Zombie Simpsons, it’s inevitable – but on the whole, the franchise remains a significant player over here. It often seems like Britain continues to embrace the show even more than the USA.

Considering the fact that the show wasn’t even available to eighty percent of the country during its seven greatest seasons, I’d call that a success.

23
May
12

Crazy Noises: Lisa Goes Gaga

Homer's Phobia7

“Come on, Homer, join the party.” – John

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “sappiness”).

We discuss the pathetically lame Marge/Gaga kiss below, and the fact that this isn’t the first time Zombie Simpsons has employed this cheap attention stunt.  (And there’s the way it apparently turned Marge on so much that she immediately needed to fuck Homer like they’d never fucked before, which adds to the stupidity and incoherence.)  But more generally, it’s further evidence of just how far behind the times Zombie Simpsons has fallen, especially compared to The Simpsons.

Gay characters were basically non-existent on television in 1990, and yet The Simpsons hinted that Smithers was gay and had Karl (who self evidently was gay) kiss Homer full on the lips.  In 1994, Homer visits a lesbian bar and thinks the only thing wrong is the lack of a fire exit.  Three years after that, they did “Homer’s Phobia”, which was broadcast two months before the famous “Ellen comes out” episode.  However important or not important those things were or weren’t, there’s no denying that The Simpsons was way ahead of its time in terms of portraying gay characters and stories.

Fast forward to today, and Zombie Simpsons is lagging behind on the exact same things.  There was Patty’s it’s-not-really-a-woman marriage, Marge kissing Lindsey Naegle (in a Homer fantasy, no less), those pathetic gay bars, and now this hapless stab at relevance.  It’s remarkable not only for how culturally tone deaf it is, but for how far they’ve regressed from where they used to be.

[Note: Our old friend Zombies Rise from the Sea joined us again this week, and we got into what may be the longest Crazy Noises ever.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, we’ve got everybody. Shall we begin?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Let’s do this!

Charlie Sweatpants: So, this episode, memorably bad or just regular bad?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: (i.e. is this so bad that it stands out by their standards)

Mad Jon: This was so bad it stood out.

Dave: It was tremendously obnoxious. End-to-end.

Mad Jon: This was mega bad, I was in serious danger of doing some damage to the TV on Sunday night.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who’s idea was it to put Lady Gaga on the show?

Charlie Sweatpants: At this point, they seem to regard guest voices as sort of awards that they give out to people they like or admire.

Mad Jon: I dunno, but I imagine it was the same person who agreed to let her have 51% of the lines in the episode too.

Dave: And superpowers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Tim Long?

Mad Jon: I don’t even know where to really begin.

Charlie Sweatpants: Think of Jebediah, and the words will come.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well… I think we should.

Wait, hold on!

I think a psychic force is telling me something.

Mad Jon: I am not even sure I could coherently describe the INTENDED plot.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s what my psychic force is telling me, the plot.

The Lisa plot that tries so hard to be emotional but ends up sappy.

Charlie Sweatpants: The psychic force was certainly terrible (and there was even less need for it twice), but since the whole thing was apparently some kind of off-season, no-rules-apply, Halloween episode, I don’t know that it was even in the Top 5 bad things here.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: How did they think it was a good idea?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say it was part of their overall “exaggerate everything about Gaga” theme.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Gaga is clearly going to Springfield, why have some unexplainable force that isn’t even satirized or joke about tell her about Lisa?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the whole she has to cheer up the town AND cheer up Lisa thing seemed very redundant.

Dave: I think the Halloween episode parallel is pretty apt; they more or less threw their own minor rules out the window and went for it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Agreed Dave.

Cheering up the entire town she did easily because Springfield has basically turned into a bunch of people who would cheer at any celebrity coming their way.

Especially Lady Gaga.

Mad Jon: And even when they were trying to have a progression, they just fast forwarded it. I cite how quickly Lisa dropped the notebook that outed her as the Truth Teller.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: My god the town of Springfield has lost their personality.

That scene pissed me off Jon.

I mean why do they have people suddenly become clumsy to serve the plot? Hell, why even have the notebook with her.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed, Jon, the plot was very stop and start. It would move rapidly, then pause so Gaga could interact with random people, then zoom forward again (Lisa’s angry outburst and instant reconciliation come to mind).

Mad Jon: It should.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: If I were Lisa I would have held onto the notepad or even just left it at home hidden or even stored the information on a computer.

Mad Jon: I would have done anything but what happened.

Charlie Sweatpants: What’s more, and this may be attributable to the overall Halloween vibe, they had people acting weird and out of character even by their standards.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: More then usual?

Charlie Sweatpants: The school actually doing these awards, Flanders talking with Gaga out of the blue, all those people who shouldn’t have been there at the concert (Grampa in particular).

And yeah, I think it was more than usual. Think about Skinner and Hoover here. They’re both aiding and abetting the children taunting Lisa mercilessly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who else has to be at the concert, without someone they wouldn’t be able to showcase how super big Lady Gaga is?

Mad Jon: Agreed. CBG wipes his face with Superman #1, Flanders was anyone but Flanders.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: And yeah, Skinner was unusually mean.

Charlie Sweatpants: Marge and Homer were the same way. It was like neither of them had ever dealt with Lisa before.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well it’s a consequence of trying to have an emotional sappy plot.

You know, Lisa moping, acting sad, isolated…

It isn’t even done in a way that’s substantial but people ate it up anyway.

Mad Jon: Back to Marge real quick, why was she afraid to be touched?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t know, I instantly blocked that scene out when I saw Gaga kissing Marge.

Charlie Sweatpants: I kind of felt bad for Lisa after a while. I mean, she’s basically being stalked and harassed by a celebrity with the active complicity of her parents and all she wants to be is left alone. It was creepy.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Terrible!

Charlie Sweatpants: The kiss was atrocious.

Dave: So they could work in a lesbian kiss. Duh.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: And don’t forget the twitter hashtag the network put up to showcase the scene.

Charlie Sweatpants: What’s worse, they did the same thing like three seasons ago.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Not the show, but the FOX network.

This isn’t even funny.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really? I didn’t know that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I recorded the episode, it was clearly from the network.

Dave: What was the hashtag?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: #GagaKissesMarge

I mean WTF?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s really desperate.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The network must want it’s now super low rated show to succeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, using an always heterosexual female character kissing another woman as publicity? That’s so low and old that it’s actually a cliche:

https://deadhomersociety.com/2009/08/24/zombie-simpsons-in-the-land-of-tv-tropes/

Dave: Huh. The twitterverse ate it up. https://twitter.com/#!/search/%23gagakissesmarge

No surprise there, I guess.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The internet in general is stupid.

Charlie Sweatpants: Doesn’t surprise me, though I wouldn’t take it as an indictment of the internet generally. The kind of people who are going to care enough to add that to their Twitter feeds are probably going to be enthusiastic rather than bored.

Remember, we’re the weirdos, not them. Most the people who watch this show probably actually like it.

It’s only the real die hards who watch it in spite of never finding it good.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Getting back on topic, just how sappy was that emotional content?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Honestly, the emotions were so clumsy that I’m not sure they even qualified as sappy.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s like Tim Long read a book about how to write and read a chapter that described how a character can be emotional.

Charlie Sweatpants: Other than my sympathy for Lisa wanting to be left alone, barely any of this was coherent enough to even get at where they were coming from.

Mad Jon: I didn’t see as much of what I would call emotion as I did what I would call manic reactions.

Charlie Sweatpants: Gaga at the end is exactly that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean they force her into a situation that is contrived (Lisa telling lies about herself, being popular) then they have the parents try to sympathize with her, the bullies tease her and even Lady Gaga try to cheer her up all while she acts mopey, lies down in bed, cries without tears, says stuff a teenager would say.

For me to emote with a person, the situation has to matter and the moments during that situation have to be involving.

None of these moments were involving.

Mad Jon: Nobody was really ‘feeling’ anything. Almost every situation makes me think that any doctor nearby would be handing out bottles of Xanax.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Most people who voted 3/5 on NoHomers felt something.

They actually fell for the whole “Lisa” shtick.

Charlie Sweatpants: Again, that doesn’t entirely surprise me.

Mad Jon: Neither I.

Dave: Ok guys, hate to do this but I gotta run. Enjoy the rest of your chat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay Dave, have a good evening.

Mad Jon: Peace Dave.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Sad to see you go Dave, but have a good evening.

Nice to meet you.

Dave: Likewise. Later guys.

Charlie Sweatpants: The kind of sappiness that they went for was real lowest common denominator stuff. That will always play with fans.

“Friends” stayed on the air for like four seasons longer than it should have on that alone.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: But the way it’s portrayed, it seemed like it was trying to go for that 8-year old being sad but failed.

The acting of Yeardley Smith is better then usual but I don’t want to emote based on acting, I want to emote based on the situation.

Charlie Sweatpants: But that’s part of the problem with how sloppy it was.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It annoys me because if people keep falling for this then people are going to do the same thing over and over.

Charlie Sweatpants: Literally no one in that situation (sad little girl having minor, childish crisis) would make as big a deal out of cheering her up as they did.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Agreed.

But still, who needs an emotional moment with proper buildup and proper investment when you can just have someone act sad? And I’m talking about all of the series here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right, pretty much everyone harasses Lisa at some point (they eve had Maggie do it for fuck’s sake) and they have their little sad moment. There is no buildup, it starts with her depressed and stays at a flat line for most of the episode.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: All while Gaga tries to be Michael Jackson.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the end was like that. Lisa actually gives two different reasons why she’s suddenly fine.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It just sets a poor standard for the production of TV series everywhere, Zombie Simpsons I mean.

Charlie Sweatpants: Was it because Homer’s incompetence as a parent is now endearing to her, or was it because she had a “great sneeze”?

Mad Jon: How does one define “little monster”?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I couldn’t understand a single word Homer said.

Nor could I understand what Homer had to do with Lisa’s revelation.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon: Gaga fans call themselves “little monsters”.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly, Homer’s chat with Lisa didn’t do anything.

Mad Jon: So Gaga keeps telling people they can be little monsters, meaning they are allowed to be her fan?

Charlie Sweatpants: Meaning they’re allowed to let their true, weird selves fly free. Concurrent album purchases are not required, but not discouraged either.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: No, I’m not a superfan of hers but I’m guessing it all sort of has to do with the inner beauty and desire they hold inside.

I’ve listened to ‘The Fame”, I have yet to listen to her recent work.

Maybe that’s a good thing…

Mad Jon: I see. So it’s like an apathetic version of music scientology. I have heard plenty of Gaga, but I know almost nothing of the culture.

Not that it really matters.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: So let’s talk about what Lady Gaga is trying to be, “Michael Jackson”.

Anybody remember “Stark Raving Dad”?

Charlie Sweatpants: The fact that they had Lisa saying “I denounce thee” like it was musical scientology was just part of the overall “fluff Lady Gaga” thing.

Then she comes back and is a superfan at the end. It was practically a commercial.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Or their interpretation of who Gaga is, trying to inspire people, achieve dreams they cannot achieve.

Mad Jon: The end was horrific.

Charlie Sweatpants: And yeah, they really didn’t leave me with any choice but “Stark Raving Dad” for today’s Compare & Contrast.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t associate that with Gaga but I can understand why other people would.

Mad Jon: I associate it with hilarity.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Just imagine Gaga and her terrible voice acting trying to bond with Lisa.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was something that bugged me right from the start. She cannot act for shit.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: She isn’t even aware she’s on an animated show, it’s more like one of those cheesy PSA’s from the 80’s.

Mad Jon: Is that what her actual voice sounds like? I’ve never heard her talk before.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well maybe but she’s trying to “act” so any normalcy is thrown out the window.

I imagine that when she talks she’s good.

Acting, not so much.

Charlie Sweatpants: Her delivery on “We’ve got to cheer up a whole town. Where’s the dress I wore when I met . . . the Pope” was solid wood from end to end.

And yeah, the required skill sets of “singer” and “actress” don’t actually have much overlap.

Some people can do both, but most of them can’t.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It doesn’t seem like she knows what to do or is willing to portray herself as a character, she sounds as if she’s trying to make a voice and emote it but ends up with the opposite effect for lack of better words.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s like Lisa’s story line, her readings were just flat.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Maybe she’s unable to immerse herself in the character or something, I don’t know.

Heh, the irony of it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Whatever the reason, it was bad.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Maybe she should have sung her lines, it wouldn’t have been acting but it would have been better then what we got.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say there was more than enough singing.

Mad Jon: Yep, more than plenty.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Speaking of songs, is Tim Long even trying with these songs anymore?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know, but some of those lyrics wouldn’t have been out of place in an elementary school production that doesn’t have a lot of help from the teachers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The song she sang in the beginning felt like it came off from one of her studio albums.

It didn’t even feel like it was created for a Simpsons episode, it actually felt like a song written for one of her albums.

Charlie Sweatpants: The credits had both big songs with lyrics by Tim Long and music by Rex Promise.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: A quick Google search is unclear as to who or what “Rex Promise” is.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Possibly someone hired off the street to produce these songs.

It’s funny, this is like the first time a song on the Simpsons felt like a promotional effort.

It wasn’t satirical, it was subconsciously promoting an upcoming album from her even though it was written for this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know about first time, but it was definitely a promotional event.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I will admit that the lyrics are decent, if Tim Long leaves The Simpsons then he could easily join up with Lady Gaga’s entourage and write songs for her.

The lyrics are not decent for the Simpsons however…

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes, the lyrics weren’t even trying to be funny.

Mad Jon: I wasn’t even paying attention to them.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, “When they’re young, all little monsters learn that they are scary/ Ugly, stupid, shunned by cupid, overweight, and hairy.

“But every monster needs to find that secret deep inside.

“That transforms doctor Jekyll into sexy mister Hyde.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That song could easily fit onto “Born this Way 2”

Charlie Sweatpants: Christ that’s bad. That sounds like Up With People modernized so they could use the word “sexy”.

Mad Jon: That’s pretty bad.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Agreed.

The fact that it can be placed into a Gaga album makes it worse.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but at this point we’re pretty close to the bottom anyway.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: At this point they should just sell the show to Pixar since they praise it so damn much.

Mad Jon: “It can’t possibly be bottomless” – “Well, for all intents and purposes….”

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Including in this episode, with the terrible mention of Cars.

Charlie Sweatpants: Forgot about that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Simpsons tries so hard to be Pixar material but it’s not Pixar, it will never be Pixar.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I missed that too, but I’m not surprised by myself for that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, Brad Bird left, what do you expect?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You do have a point there.

Mad Jon: Meh, I think they are just trying to get by, one profitable day at a time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much. Any final thoughts about this episode in particular?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There’s still so much about this episode to talk about.

We haven’t even got to how shallow the satire is.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was satire?

Mad Jon: There may be more to talk about, that doesn’t mean that it’s worth talking about.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well, the only satire in this episode was how extravagant she was, how many costumes she was in and how she’s a superstar.

Charlie Sweatpants: I wouldn’t call what they did satire.

Mad Jon: I dunno, I got nothing productive to bring up.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s exaggeration. Like things Lady Gaga would have if physics, chemistry, and biology didn’t apply.

Birds won’t actually fly around you (well, outside of Hitchcock movies, anyway), but in here you can have anything your heart desires.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I know it’s common but it just seems like they’re honoring her rather then truly mocking her.

Even that scene where Homer eats Gaga’s meat suit seems like it’s honoring it rather then mocking it.

God how I hate scenes like those.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. Though I’d go with “sucking up to” instead of “honor”.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: If your meat suit gets eaten by Homer, it’s instantly an institution.

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Honestly, I felt weirded out listening to the Gaga music, seeing the Gaga train, the black guy…

It felt like an episode of “The Cleveland Show” rather then The Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: There’s no denying that Zombie Simpsons has taken more than a few cues from MacFarlane (especially since his triumphant comeback) of late, but this was extreme even for them.

That opening and closing narration is the real giveaway.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I forgot about that; what did that have to do with the episode anyway?

Charlie Sweatpants: They know they can’t just do it crazy, so they include this disclaimer.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I was a dancer for Lady Gaga, bleh.

Did we already mention Lisa’s “Elementary School Musical” like song or is that not worth talking about?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think it’s worth examining in detail or anything. Every complaint I have about the first song applies to the second.

Especially the “Up With People” part.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I feel the same, but I will say that Yeardley Smith’s vocals felt auto-tuned.

And the way it ended the episode undermined everything it tried to do.

Charlie Sweatpants: No arguments here. Anything else just on the episode? After that, I’d like to get a quick opinion from each of you about Season 23 overall.

The only thing I’ll say is that the couch gag wasn’t terrible. It was five years later than it should’ve been (struggles with Wii-motes are so 2007), but it was short.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There were some decent gags like Lady ZhaZha (for the reference) but then again, “Trash of the Titans” had decent jokes and that episode is terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon? Anything else?

Mad Jon: Nothing else about this episode.

As far as season 23, I can’t say that I could distinguish it from any of the last few.

Not that this is a surprise to anyone, but what can you say? There is nothing relevant or intelligent about the show. Again, this isn’t new.

I don’t see any point in trying to sparse out what went more wrong this year as opposed to last year. What does it matter if the splattered mass of carbon on the road was a squirrel or a raccoon?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Season 23 is by far the worst modern Simpsons season yet. It only has like two really good and memorable episodes compared to the other episodes which are either bad or bland, hell even Season 22 had some episodes I enjoyed; Season 23 doesn’t even seem like they’re trying anymore, they’re just parodying movies, sticking Simpsons characters into situations that they think are funny and let’s not forget about the terrible ToH episode this season.

The only thing exciting was Matt Selman show running a few episodes, but only one of them turned out good, the rest were just an alternate version of what would happen had he show ran rather then Jean.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think 23 felt much different than the last few. The lowlights are always a little memorable (the bar rag this year, Katy Perry last year, I think that slavery episode was Season 21), but you could have broadcast pretty much anything after the HD switch and it would probably take me until the first commercial to figure out it was a rerun.

Mad Jon: Good call.

Charlie Sweatpants: The one thing I have noticed in the last two years, and even more this year, is that the number of voices that have moved past “off” and into” barely recognizable” is increasing.

There have been multiple times the last season where I was astonished at how much even characters like Marge and Lisa have changed recently.

But that’s about the only thing change I can really say seemed to pick up this year.

Mad Jon: That’s probably enough thinking for this season anyway.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I may dig more into this into my review of it, but Season 23 proves to the writers themselves that they don’t need to put in the extra effort as long as they have some way to gain publicity or appease the Simpsons fans that they have. They can stick Bart together with Chalmers and no matter how unbelievable and undeveloped it is, people will still eat it up. They can put Lisa Simpson in a Facebook like situation and it’ll get publicity all because it has Lisa Simpson with Facebook. I can’t say I’m surprised about the critic sites but these sites and the fans are influencing the behavior of The Simpsons, making them think that this is acceptable. They tried to do an emotional episode and have a “Stark Raving Dad” like plot but they got caught up in their own world and they thought that the script they had was good when in actuality it wasn’t.

I know it’s commonplace and I’m not getting anywhere with this but this proves that they’re not going to get out of their world anytime soon, as long as they have the media, internet, and the people who still manage to trick themselves into thinking this episode is good; they’ll keep making Simpsons.

Mad Jon: Ok, well, if there isn’t anything else, I have been traveling for most of the last two weeks, and this is my first night home since last Thursday. I am going to bed.

Thanks Taylor, Thanks Pants,

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay Jon, sleep well.

Mad Jon: Good night.

Charlie Sweatpants: You’re largely right about them slipping into their own little world.

Springfield doesn’t really resemble much of anywhere anymore.

And they seem fine with that.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: People should really demand more from The Simpsons.

And going even further, everything really…

Springfield resembles LA more then anything else.

Charlie Sweatpants: More than anything else, I’d agree, but it’s too weird to be any place anymore. Witness that scene last week when the whole town and the camera crew barged into Flanders’ hospital room to report on him and Krabappel.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I witnessed, you’re right about that.

Charlie Sweatpants: The show has fallen a long, long way from a time when Grampa and Homer could gossip about Brockman dating the weather lady or Flanders was just a well liked guy.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I miss the days of characters, decent plots, decent satire, hand-drawn cell animation.

Charlie Sweatpants: You and me both.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Hell I miss the days we didn’t have Facebook.

Charlie Sweatpants: Given the way their stock offering went, those days may be coming again.

Any further thoughts, Simpsons wise?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Though this may go against your mission, I think that The Simpsons with some fresh blood can go on, though that is increasingly becoming a pipe dream because there is barely anybody who can both make it fresh and not be susceptible to being sucked into a fantasy world like the one the writers are currently in.

Charlie Sweatpants: I gave up hope a long time ago.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: This show really needs to end.

The declining numbers will make it more certain that Fox will cancel it by Season 25, I mean what purpose would Fox have to continue making the show when the episodes that are already produced will make them millions.

It’s becoming an ever increasing reality day by day, The Simpsons time is finally coming to a close.

Even though a lot of the episodes in the modern era suck, they’re still worth something to Fox.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the financial incentives for FOX are very complicated, and FOX doesn’t do anything to make them clear to the public.

This show anchors a major (and profitable) Sunday night lineup for them, they’ve got the syndication rights to consider, and there’s the merchandise. All of these things are inextricably tied up with the continuation of the show. If low quality and critical apathy were going to cancel it, it would’ve happened by now. To some extent the same is true of the ratings. They go down every year, sure, but they’ve been going down every year for a decade now.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: This is the lowest that they’ve gone.

Charlie Sweatpants: True, but I don’t know nearly enough about the television business or FOX’s internal thinking to even be able to guess if it’s close to low enough.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: And there is only so much they can do to cheapen the show before Fox decides to pull the plug and just make the money off the cable rights which they gain when the show ends.

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess all I’m trying to say is, it wouldn’t surprise me if 25 is it, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s still going at 30.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Though there are people who don’t want to see it go away because it’s been a part of their lives for so long but we’ll get over the loss sooner then we think.

I guess you have a point Charlie, all we can seemingly do is just point out the flaws.

Hoping…

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much.

I want to thank you again for joining us this evening (even if Dave and Jon conked out early).

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Always appreciated.

Even though I’m hotheaded at times, it’s always nice to let out the flaws an episode has.

Charlie Sweatpants: It is cathartic, I’ll give it that.

21
Feb
12

Crazy Noises: At Long Last Leave

Cape Feare6

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (embarrassingly enough, including on “Thunderdome”).

When the splattered mishmash that passed for a plot in “At Long Last Leave” finally got the family to the “outlands” halfway through the episode, Zombie Simpsons came back from commercial with a derivative of the opening credits.  We see clouds part, hear the familiar chorus saying “The Outlands” instead of “The Simpsons”, and spend the next thirty seconds panning over the bizarro community that will (sort of) be the setting for (some of) the rest of the episode.  This is obviously a naked repeat of “The Thompsons” opening from “Cape Feare”, but if you take a closer look you can see how weak a repeat it really is. 

For starters, Zombie Simpsons calls its place “The Outlands”, which isn’t a joke and sounds like the rejected title of a World of Warcraft expansion.  “Terror Lake”, by contrast, is both original and funny.  Season 5 also set up the family’s move far in advance.  We already know that the FBI has given them new identities, that this is their destination, and that Sideshow Bob is stowed away under the car.  All of the main elements of the plot come with them in one neat little package.  Season 23 has Homer pull the car over in a random spot that just happens to be next to a bizarre squatters camp, and then has an unnamed guy with a gun come out of the bushes for no reason and invite them to stay. 

For the openings themselves, not only does Zombie Simpsons take much longer, but they also drop in a ton of random crap.  We pan over their new home town (which we know nothing about at the time), see Bart spray painting a wall (lotta destroyed buildings for a wilderness encampment), then follow him them to their (entirely built) shack where they park their rather impressive fleet of vehicles, including a helicopter.  Huh?  The last time we saw them they were in their station wagon with all their worldly possessions, now they live better than the Lord Humungus.  The Simpsons doesn’t have to do anything that strange or unexpected because it has enough going on at that point that it makes sense for the family to pull up in car they got from the FBI and get on the houseboat. 

The real capper, though, comes in how each one ends.  “The Thompsons” ends with a normal couch gag before cutting to the first real scene of the family in Terror Lake.  The mechanics of it are the same as a regular opening.  Them scrambling into the houseboat and getting a net full of fish dumped on them didn’t really happen, it was just a playful way to introduce their new location.  Zombie Simpsons, on the other hand, had them go through all that, including the helicopter and Homer getting run over by a team of horses, and then just started the regular scene as though all that stuff was real. 

Granted, this scene did contain the “sick of watching fox” joke, the first time in a long time that I’ve liked a joke, waited for them to ruin it (by having the fox attack Homer or something), and then had them not do that.  But it undercuts the entire concept of having a second opening in the middle of the episode if it isn’t actually an opening.  At full speed this isn’t the greatest problem in the world, especially in an episode like this one that expects the audience to forget anything that happened more than a ninety seconds ago.  But it’s another example of how The Simpsons gets better the more you think about it while Zombie Simpsons get worse. 

[This week No Homers member Zombies Rise from the Sea joined us.  You can read his detailed rebuttal to Michael Price (who wrote this episode) here.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Yep

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah

Mad Jon: Where do you want to begin?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The 500th episode.

The extravagance of it.

  Bleh.

Charlie Sweatpants: You thought so? I thought there was a surprisingly small amount of "hooray, anniversary!" stuff. Besides the couch gag and the "go outside" title card, it seemed pretty typical.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Let’s not forget the opening sequence where it said "the most meaningless milestone of all".

  Why even do it like that if it’s meaningless?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, forgot that one. Still pretty minor, though.

Mad Jon: To make meaningfullness out of it?

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought it was a callback to the chalkboard in "Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song".

Mad Jon: I agree that it wasn’t as over the top 500 as I thought it would be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The most often referenced callback of all time, for good reason

  But still, celebrating it in the form of an extravagant couch gag calls for some concern; I do like that they referenced their history though.

That’s the positive thing about it.

Mad Jon: Also the gag killed some time.

  So they got that going for them as well.

Charlie Sweatpants: That definitely occurred to them.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yup

Charlie Sweatpants: And while it wasn’t bad, couch mashups like that have been on YouTube for some time. (See yesterday’s comments, for example.)

Mad Jon: I thought about that. But this show has forsaken public opinion for quite a while now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if that thought raised a "meh" in the writers’ room.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: True, I mean preceding the 500th episode was an interview by the episode’s writer Michael Price which showcases how bizarro the show’s people have gotten.

Mad Jon: Hmm, I didn’t know that guy existed.

Charlie Sweatpants: They broadcast that? I didn’t see it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It was a web interview.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: I read that long interview he gave last week. I like how they always talk about how they’re careful not to do things they’ve done before. Then you have things like last week’s Itchy & Scratchy and this week’s "The Outlands" intro that make that little piece of bullshit as inoperable as one can be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That is ironically hilarious.

  I’ve written replies to most of the comments he made; you know that post right?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, someone on our site linked it. I’ll admit that I skimmed most of it, you have more stamina for that stuff than I do, but I agreed with most of what I read.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It just turns me off, praising cleaner HD animation as a better thing, insisting that they care for the characters, insisting that the show is as good as ever.

  Have they even realized there are some legitimate criticisms out there on the internet?

  Sorry to go off topic but that interview had me somewhat mad.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know what you mean. It’s the quintessential don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining type stance.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I do "Babar" reviews on NoHomers that point out animation no one has ever seen before; granted there may be better examples but those examples are ones no one has seen before and they’re beautiful.

Charlie Sweatpants: The old Babar? Man, I haven’t seen that since I was a kid.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Hand drawn animation is like an art, to insist that people want cleaner HD animation is just shameful. It’s like we don’t appreciate flaws in work, we want everything to be robotic.

At least I’m getting through to people who have heard of Babar and watched it as a kid but didn’t watch it recently.

Charlie Sweatpants: Might have to look that up, for nostalgia purposes if nothing else.

Mad Jon: I didn’t look for this in this episode, but that is an especially angering point when you see some of the scene disparities that that have happened since the change to HD. I think this has come up several times in the last year or so.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I agree, it’s like a consistent talking point when talking about Zombie Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought that was something the couch gag did a good job of (sorry, pun) illustrating.

  There’s a lot more life to the earlier ones, and you can actually watch them get more sterile.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: At least the 500th episode couch gag serves a purpose, to show how they declined.

Charlie Sweatpants: The only animation note I had from the episode proper was to wonder about Wiggum’s uniform

  In the park he wasn’t wearing his usual one and then at the house he was. I don’t know if that was a callback to something, but it looked odd.

Mad Jon: I didn’t even notice

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I didn’t pay much attention to that; it does prove you are the master at noticing animation differences many people don’t.

Mad Jon: He does have an eye for that.

  If for nothing else.

Charlie Sweatpants: I wouldn’t have thought so, and yet, here were are.

As for the episode itself, I’m just baffled.

  Why did they all come out to the Outlands at the end?

Mad Jon: Why not.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why would Homer advertise for the people he calls jerks to come there?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You have every right to be, there are so many things to be baffled at.

Mad Jon: The attempt at continuity for its own sake I assume.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why did they sneak into the middle of the city and then discuss their disguises?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Poor attempt at humor I guess…

Charlie Sweatpants: The last half of the episode is just one hanging plot thread after another.

Mad Jon: How was that a plot?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That perplexed me too, I mean I guess the episode writer wanted to end the episode on a sweet, emotional and grand note but it just raised more questions then it satisfied.

  I mean why not ask them to come back, why not have a speech that makes Springfield realize they’re jerks.

That would be a better ending then what we got.

Mad Jon: It was just Homer and Bart doing random things with random Springfieldians showing up.

  Except random means familiar show characters.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They were even doing random things before they showed up, none of which worked.

Mad Jon: Like Super Nintendo Chalmers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s true Jon.

The ending may be worth talking about but the outlands themselves; barely shown.

  It’s like the most hyped up part of the episode yet they only spend a few minutes showing it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean where’s the community, where’s the people? It’s like this place only exists so that the Simpsons can move and have some stuff to do; cartoony stuff no less.

Charlie Sweatpants: And what they did show was just odd. If I got a free Mad Max helicopter for moving to the middle of nowhere, I’d be there tomorrow.

Mad Jon: It was a place to store the Simpsons for 10 minutes while they did some physical comedy before the clock ran out.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I miss the days when "You Only Move Twice" and "Cape Feare" had actual cities with actual people.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the way they got there was weird. They pull over and there’s a crazy guy with a gun, and they’re just like, "Let’s live here!"

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Exactly, convenience.

Mad Jon: In the vibrant hobo city they could see from outside the car but not from inside it.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: convenience = piss poor writing

Charlie Sweatpants: There was no effort to make it even remotely interesting as a place, like so you said, unlike Terror Lake or Cypress Creek.

Mad Jon: Ohhh! Ice Creamville!

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The only interesting thing it had with the lawlessness but even that is wasted.

They could of taken out the useless guest appearance by the WikiLeaks guy but then they wouldn’t have a famous guest star!

Charlie Sweatpants: At least we were spared another meth joke.

Mad Jon: I think the worst part of the wasteland was the complete lack of character development among even ONE of the other occupants

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s true.

Charlie Sweatpants: Very much including Assange.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Simpsons acted not as a family, but as cartoon characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yep. Check out the new clothes, for example.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: There were some people on NoHomers who praised the acting of the family but I couldn’t see any of that, Homer and Marge barely had a connection; Bart wasn’t into it and they all seemed to transition from role to role pretty effortlessly.

  The clothes thing is the most obvious thing in the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: There could have been something to the "Marge is more homesick than the rest of them thing", but they didn’t even bother.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Marge was the only one homesick.

  And they didn’t even use that properly to transition into the romantic scenes in Springfield.

  I admit, I liked those scenes but placed in the context of a plot with barely any buildup and barely any involvement; it’s a waste.

It’s like those scenes are standing out to make the episode better and more charming then it actually is.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. You need a better reason to break into the bowling alley than wearing costumes that make them look nothing like Burns and Smithers. And I’d further note that when the town shows up at the house, they’re right back in their normal clothes.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Consistency be damned.

It’s like the entire thing is designed to be plotted in a way that seems epic but it just collapses on itself.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good way to put it. They had this big story, but they’re constantly undercutting themselves and sabotaging their own story because, hey, we’ve got to get Homer’s head sucked into a jet engine, we’ve got to have everyone show up for no reason.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Why is it that they got to put wacky humor into the show and explain the jokes?

  We’re intelligent, we can understand smart humor and smart things.

Mad Jon: Foreshadowing be damned! We like our joke transparent nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants: They could’ve done that in so many ways: the town gets bored without the Simpsons, the town gets jealous that the Simpsons are living better in the outlands and makes them move back. Anyone worth their salt could’ve made this work, but they didn’t even try.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I’m surprised they didn’t even show that.

Charlie Sweatpants: The mystery and secrecy committee is a good example. That wasn’t a terrible idea, but it. just. kept. going.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Personally I was expecting the Simpsons to sneak back into Springfield and witness their lives without them but it doesn’t happen.

  So finally, someone mentions the courtroom scene.

It’s not a bad idea per say but the execution is majorly flawed.

Charlie Sweatpants: If we’re willing to spot them that the Simpsons are superstars and no longer even kind of a regular family, then yes, it wasn’t a terrible idea.

Mad Jon: Good point

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The entire courtroom thing could’ve had impact but they had to point out the obvious things and they had to do the worst thing of all.

  Portray The Simpsons as this family who does wacky things, circa the Scully era of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget having Sideshow Mel apparently rip out an ulna.

Mad Jon: Or radius, I guess we’ll never know.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They had a chance to portray them as a family that while doing some major damage, was just as one of them, though dysfunctional.

The criticisms could of been common, they could of been exaggerated, they could of been even ridiculous but instead they’re focused on the damage and the money spent on the damage.

  Bleh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Instead they have Moe screaming that Marge is the monster queen, or whatever.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That joke wasn’t exactly funny per say.

Charlie Sweatpants: That one bugged me, if for no other reason than Moe is supposed to have that creepy crush on Marge.

Mad Jon: Was the Homer driving through the school from the episode where the kids and adults have the musical standoff?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think it was supposed to be.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah.

Mad Jon: Didn’t he get away with that? Oh whatever.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Probably, I mean the kids were blamed for it.

  Just goes to show they don’t do the proper research anymore.

  I mean have we seen Bart flood the school before in a cartoonish way?

Mad Jon: I dunno, probably. There have been 500 of these things.

Charlie Sweatpants: That episode with Lisa and the whale I remember, but I don’t remember the gym flood.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Think the gym flood was put in there to exaggerate how "trouble" they are.

Charlie Sweatpants: Of course, Zombie Simpsons is very easy to forget.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I mean it’s like; hey "The Simpsons are this wacky, crazy family who does damage everywhere they go."

Not even in the Zombie Simpsons did The Simpsons do a lot of damage.

  This unfair representation of them gets to me and ruins the episode.

Mad Jon: But without that unfair representation, we wouldn’t get to watch Maggie go Thunderdome, or Homer and Bart ride around on 4-wheelers.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Who needs that, when you can have a proper adventure with proper actions and proper characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Maggie Thunderdome thing was bizarre. It’s like they couldn’t quite decide if the Outlands were awesome, or if they were actually a Mel Gibson hellscape.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The Maggie thing was due to the outlands, even Le Jake had no problem with it.

  You do make a good point Jon.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was also disappointed when Maggie had the knife to Carl’s throat. That sucked on its own, but then they didn’t even have the care to show Carl with a bandage on his ear afterwards.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Definitely.

Charlie Sweatpants: You want to make a joke about a baby with a big ass knife? Fine. Just don’t pretend it didn’t happen seven seconds later.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Sorry to go off topic here but in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Caesar had the potential to be multi-dimensional, understand the good and the bad side of the humans, but instead they made him one dimensional, which sucks. The Simpsons are done the same way, they’re one dimensional, they sprout out certain traits and they show no personality.

  Even during the scenes when they defend themselves.

As I said before Charlie, consistency is key.

Charlie Sweatpants: That movie was disappointing, but funny you should mention Planet of the Apes. That’s tomorrow’s quote of the day.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I’m glad other people agree, my review on the movie got a lot of flack despite its immense detail.

Back to the episode at hand…

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d agree in general that the characters are one dimensional, but in this episode Lisa was almost zero dimensional. They had her spout "back to nature" type stuff to be happy, but the place they were in wasn’t exactly an environmentalist commune. She should’ve been miserable, but they didn’t want her to be so, in spite of everything we know about her, she wasn’t.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Not only that, but Lisa’s addiction to technology is not like her at all.

  She has basically transformed into the adult version of a child.

Mad Jon: Agreed. She was praising the remoteness, but was the first one to embrace the return of connectivity.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Whatever happened to the Lisa with integrity?

Mad Jon: And that was pretty much her only two scenes this episode.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Totally.

Charlie Sweatpants: She has it from time to time, but like the rest of them she jumps from personality to personality so quick she could be diagnosed as manic.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I did like her personality in "The Book Job" somewhat, she was somewhat consistent there…

  But you’re absolutely right Charlie, Lisa is inconsistent.

So let’s talk about the episode writer Michael Price; how is it that a guy with a theater background is able to write episodes with are either mediocre and bad; and how did me manage to mess up the 500th episode?

  I thought guys with theater backgrounds went on to make quality stuff?

Charlie Sweatpants: Good questions. I know basically nothing about him, however.

Mad Jon: Neither I

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Me neither but from the interview I read, it looks like he had some talent, some potential.

  Here he feels the need to pack every cinematic trick into the book, raise the stakes, focus on emotional moments, make the moments as big as possible.

It’s like he’s trying to make the plot huge to compensate for the lack of content in the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: The sense I get from these episodes is that there is basically no difference in authorship. These are so heavily crammed with stuff that I don’t get the sense that any one writer can keep a lasting mark on something.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: You’re right about that in that the interview said 3% of content remains from rewrites.

  But still…

Charlie Sweatpants: Is that where that was? I remember reading that at some point last week but all that stuff has kind of blurred together.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: If you’ve got twenty minutes and four acts and you want them to get expelled from town before reconciling things, you can do that. This wasn’t even attempting to do that. I wonder if the first draft did?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Possibly but then again, the four act structure was forced upon them.

Regardless, even with the idea that they have no idea where to go and what scenes to use when they start up acts; they couldn’t make a good script for squat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Their apathy for story is impressively total. They really couldn’t care less. If something sort of works, cool, if nothing works, that’s cool too.

Bring on the bomb shelter and Homer eating talcum powder!

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s like a comedy club, their purpose is to showcase all forms of comedy that makes them laugh.

  Whether we like it or not.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve compared them to a sketch show more than once.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: So I’m not alone here…

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s hard to tell how these pieces could ever fit together.

Mad Jon: The Fart Machine has too much farts!!!!

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: That’s the problem, the episodes can be romantic, can be dramatic, can even be nothing, but the consistent feeling is that it’s a comedy club.

These people aren’t focused on making a plot that’s engaging and relatable, these people are focused on making a plot that crams as many jokes/weak satire/gags as possible.

Mad Jon: Which would explain the slate at the end.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. The Assange thing is a perfect example. I don’t know the genesis of it, but it had nothing to do with anything in the episode and didn’t even make sense.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: It’s just another thing they do to be relevant.

Mad Jon: Meh

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Soon they’ll have the girl from the GEICO commercials on The Simpsons; I have a source that guarantees it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

Mad Jon: GEICO? or Progressive?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Progressive, apologies.

  Got my car insurance companies mixed up.

Mad Jon: Well, they are pretty much all the same. Flo could be working for any of them and I wouldn’t notice anymore than I didn’t notice Wiggum’s uniform.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Don’t worry, they’ll make you notice.

Mad Jon: Thanks for the encouragement.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The ultimate problem is that despite the poor plotting, despite the failed attempts at plot despite the lack of anything memorable; people still watch.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they aren’t much for sneaking in celebrity guests, Kelsey Grammer and Jackie Mason this week notwithstanding.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The people who are giving this 5/5 and 4/5 without looking into the episodes are the ones who are justifying their material; I mean I can understand if it entertains you but in no way this episode is a classic.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, definitely not. It’ll disappear down the memory hole just like everything else.

Mad Jon: Jackie Mason was the one that bothered me the most. Krusty’s dad has a problem with the Simpsons?

Charlie Sweatpants: Why not, so, apparently, do Moe, Barney, and a bunch of other people you wouldn’t figure.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The products that entertain you for a while and then you forget about later on is a product; which The Simpsons has become. I don’t know what these people are finding in this episode that are making them give 5/5 but there is nothing in there that’s 5/5 worthy; it’s yet another overrated episode.

  Agreed Charlie.

Mad Jon: There is no point in trying to explain insanity. This is of course assuming those 5’s weren’t given by employees or the family of employees of FOX.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: No, actual members of NoHomers gave this 5/5; I respect their opinions but still.

Additionally they even gave me flack for being overly harsh on the episode, despite the detail of the review.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s the internet. It happens.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I guess…

Mad Jon: Well, I will never stop being paranoid.

Charlie Sweatpants: On that note, I’ll just leave this here: http://xkcd.com/1019/

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I think we all have to live with the obvious statement; as long as The Simpsons is on, they will keep producing stuff that the public will love and that the critics will eat up.

  The people on the Simpsons will keep accepting pay cuts and soon, they’ll be working for free.

Mad Jon: Merchandising baby

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve given up trying to even guess when the show will end.

  Though speaking of endings, I did like the hillbilly version of the theme over the credits.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Eh.

Mad Jon: Didn’t even notice.

But I am much less patient than you Pants.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I’m kind of a sucker for different renditions of the theme.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: I don’t understand everything, maybe I should move to the industrial district of LA; I hear the air is cleaner there…

  I can understand Charlie.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here? The only thing I don’t think we’ve hit is the voices, because in this one Brockman, Quimby, and Marge all sounded off to me. But they’ve all done so before, so that ain’t exactly news.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: The voices are always off…

  I do remember the drill in the beginning being weak and the cringe-worthy Lisa and Homer dialog.

That seemed like something Family Guy would do.

Charlie Sweatpants: You could say that about a lot of this episode.

  They did manage to get Homer naked, tarred and feathered.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: They also managed to show a Braniff Airways jet in a way that seemed cartoonish and pathetic.

Mad Jon: That’s a first eh? I remember Grandpa being so, but Homer?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Grandpa wasn’t even in the episode, his ghost was there in the town hall meeting though.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

Mad Jon: Touche

Zombies Rise from the Sea: In closing. "Look out Gunsmoke, we’re about to prove that entertainment can be as cheap and lazy as possible and people will still love it. Who needs to make a quality product when you can just sit back and half-ass it? That’s the American way!"

Charlie Sweatpants: Sounds about right. The Gunsmoke thing always amuses me because, really, does anyone think that show was high quality television?

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Well people did love it and watch it en masse right?

In a time where there was no internet to add

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, when there were three channels and no internet.

  Beat me to it.

  Okay, well, Zombies, many thanks for joining us again.

Mad Jon: Indeed.

Zombies Rise from the Sea: Always a pleasure Charlie; always a pleasure.

02
Nov
11

Crazy Noises: Treehouse of Horror XXII

Homer the Heretic7

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to appear in a tortilla in Mexico.” – God

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “irrelevantly”, but not for many of our guest’s British variations.).

In our longer than usual conversation below we touch briefly on the animation, and while I don’t want to make too big a deal out of this, I think it’s worth a couple of pictures.  Specifically, take a look at the shoddier treatment the divine gets in Zombie Simpsons than it did in The Simpsons.  Here’s how God looked in “Treehouse of Horror XXII”:

Zombie God

And here’s how God looked in Season 4:

Simpsons God

Instead of those often odd looking shadows HD Zombie Simpsons is so fond of, we get a fantastically better looking robe and that awesome glowing effect.  In Season 4 God looks like a god, in Season 23, God looks like a headless schmuck in a bathrobe.

Here’s Satan in “Treehouse of Horror XXII”:

Zombie Satan

And here’s Satan in “Treehouse of Horror IV”:

Simpsons Satan

Scarier, yes?  Better animated, yeah?  Okay, I’m cheating a little bit there because that’s Satan when he’s pissed off.  Here he is in more conversational forms, from “Treehouse of Horror IV” and “Bart Gets Hit By a Car”:

Simpsons Satan (Conversational)

I stand by “scarier” and “better animated”.  Not only do these Satans actually match the character model, but they keep with the best traditions of Satan-as-a-character.  He isn’t nearly as menacing when he’s some huge, muscular Fabio of the Netherworld as he is when he’s just a little guy, offering you a deal.  The one from Zombie Simpsons looks like the cheap cartoon you’d see on a pair of plastic devil horns, the ones from The Simpsons look like a guy who really does want to see you burn forever.

Note: Our old friend Stephen “Friz” Frizzle stayed up late and joined us all the way from England. 

Friz: Good evening sir. Good morning sir. It passed midnight when I was speaking so that was technically accurate.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha. I love it when technology actually works.

Mad Jon: Very nice

Charlie Sweatpants: Friz, thanks for joining us here tonight/this morning.

Friz: You all look lovely this evening. Have you decreased in mass?

Shall we go in order of segments, or just attack it from all sides?

Mad Jon: Normally I would say attack wherever, but THOH is always the oddball when we chat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, let’s start with the opening and see where things go.

Mad Jon: I would like to say that I missed the couch gag and the first10 seconds of act I, so if there was anything worth mentioning, I’ll need to be brought up to speed.

Friz: Well, I’ll state my main point. James L Brooks’ scary name was James L “what isn’t scary?” Brooks. And that seemed to be the main driving force behind it

As if any suggestion would be appropriate for Halloween.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon, there wasn’t a couch gag, near as I could tell anyway.

Friz: “Avatar parody? Yeah… I guess that’s scary-ish. That’ll do”

Mad Jon: Oh good.

The first one was somewhat a parody of that movie I didn’t see with James Franco right?

Friz: 127 Hours. Yup.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know it’s common shorthand, but I don’t think “parody” is the right word there.

Mad Jon: Well please correct me sir.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, he bit his arm off, but he spent most of the segment driving through Springfield and running over rocks.

Friz: Kids went trick or treating, Marge dressed as a witch to swipe their candy for toothbrushes, Marge gave the candy to Homer, who climbed on top of a mountain, who fell down a canyon.

And, boy, I’m not even halfway through

Mad Jon: Important part being that he spent a solid two minutes chewing off random body parts and then reattaching them somehow for a vegetable prize.

Friz: Didn’t even mention the Hitchcock music that was left over from THOH XX.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought they’d used that before.

Mad Jon: I can’t tell the THOH apart after the first half dozen or so.

Friz: I have a soft spot for THOH XX. But we’re not talking about that one.

Charlie Sweatpants: We’ll stow that for another time then.

Friz: Weirdly, when Homer screams “Noooo” from the canyon, the perspective is god awful.

It’s as if he’s as big as the canyon itself

[Ed note: Image goes here:

Giant Homer, Tiny Canyon

.]

Charlie Sweatpants: For this opening however, I thought a telling problem was the way he first bit off his other arm, then his leg, then they actually had to do a quick jump in time to get things moving again.

Friz: Not to mention that joke was done in the Saw parody bit of Scary Movie 4

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll admit that I did not make past Scary Movie 2, but I’ll take your word for it.

And I noticed that weird transition when he fell down the canyon. He just sort of shrank, it didn’t look right at all, even on a first viewing.

Friz: Were they trying to mimic the gorge fall from Bart the Daredevil?

Mad Jon: I didn’t notice that, but I only watched it once.

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely.

Mad Jon: Although it did seem to be a shallow canyon, now that I think of it…

Friz: Aron Ralston’s cameo was well worth the nine words he got paid.

He’s the guy who actually fell down a canyon and had to saw off his arm. He was the 911 operator in the segment.

Mad Jon: Did not know that. So I have learned something here. Good for me.

Friz: And the phone call wasn’t even a joke. “an ambulance is on its way”

Charlie Sweatpants: I figured that was him on the 911 call when I first watched it. I don’t like the product Zombie Simpsons puts out, but let is never be said that they aren’t gracious when it comes to guest voices.

Friz: Not even a “please hold” gag followed by an inappropriate song

Everybody loves a clown, so why don’t you…

Mad Jon: Well, they needed a reason for Homer to freak out about not eating candy for 20 minutes.

Charlie Sweatpants: That would’ve helped.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

Friz: Why would Homer climb a mountain to eat candy anyway?

I mean, I know THOH isn’t canon, but that seemed weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s best not to ask those questions. The writers certainly didn’t.

Friz: Oh. To get him to fall down the canyon. Obviously.

Mad Jon: Even in Zombie THOH, I can usually find something worthwhile, but this segment did not have it for me.

Friz: THOH VII opens with Homer lighting a pumpkin. Then on fire. Bam, episode starts.

Mad Jon: Unless there was a good line in the first minute that I missed. But I doubt it.

Charlie Sweatpants: For them, the whole getting-to-the-canyon thing was a twofer: it gave them their tenuous connection to Halloween and killed two minutes in an episode that fairly reeked of coming in well short.

Friz: VI has Krusty throwing his head to the screen. Bam. Episode starts

Shall we get on to the actual episode itself?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, we’ve already spent more time on this intro than they did.

Friz: Doesn’t feel like it

So… Paralysed Spider Farts, or whatever the segment was called

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not sure the Paralyzed Spiderman segment was really one segment though. Even for Zombie Simpsons, bringing in a second spider was a hell of a curve.

Mad Jon: Something about a diving bell. I didn’t get it, but I am not all that cultured.

Charlie Sweatpants: But, you can only have Homer farting for so long.

Friz: I did a surprised guffaw at Homer farting out a web. But in the same way I laugh at Terrence and Philip. The humour was in the surprise

Charlie Sweatpants: It was a movie called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly about a guy who got paralyzed and could only communicate by blinking or something. He wrote a book, they made a movie, my Dad said it was boring, and I never saw it.

Friz: I also did like “my brain still brains” from his letter

But, yes. Boring.

Mad Jon: I liked Homer’s line about it being a normal Sunday morning when he woke up on the ground.

Charlie Sweatpants: That wasn’t terrible, but it doesn’t speak well of your less then five minute segment when you have to cut almost immediately to a flashback like that.

Friz: I did some research. The first time the word “fart” is said in the show is “Girlie Edition”. And we don’t hear a fart until Season 11.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

Friz: Unless I missed something

I’m sure someone in the comments will prove me wrong

Mad Jon: Interesting research.

Friz: It was basically me typing “fart” into SNPP

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t do any research other than thinking about it, but the first fart joke I could think of was “Smells like one of van Houten’s” from “Who Shot Mr. Burns Part I”.

Even if we’re missing something though, I think it’s fair to say that this was more fart jokes than Seasons 1-9 combined, and it’s not even close.

Friz: There was also a Season 15 episode where Homer played a Spiderman-esque character.

Charlie Sweatpants: Was that Pie Man? I’ve never bothered to watch that one.

Mad Jon: Oh god, that pie man crap?

Friz: Yup

Even had a kissing Marge scene

So that’s “Bart the Daredevil” and “Pie Man”. Two past episodes being ripped off for Halloween.

Also, where did the second spider come from? The fucking sky?

Charlie Sweatpants: Was there a point to the Spiderman thing other than their “Turn Off the Dark” joke?

Friz: I saw the pic from Compare and Contrast post earlier.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that bothered me. The spider, totally different from the first, just descends. Maybe its special radioactive power is sensing a plot losing momentum?

Mad Jon: They should keep that spider around then.

Charlie Sweatpants: They could name it Roy.

Mad Jon: I regretted that as soon as I hit enter…

Friz: The animation of the second spider crawling around was just…ugh

Homer’s orifices appear to have Portal-esque portals

Mad Jon: That’s just zombie animation. I’d say you get used to it, but I haven’t yet.

Friz: I miss the animation of Homer going crazy in The Shinning.

Having Homer paralysed just gave the excuse to animate even less

Mad Jon: True enough.

Friz: So, shall we move onto Radio Bart?

Shit! A third episode plot point!

Charlie Sweatpants: The next segment was where I really noticed the animation’s shortcomings. I don’t know if we want to move on already or not, but the complete lack of blood or anything even vaguely lively in the Dexter thing really bugged me.

They don’t even bother to animate God or Satan well anymore.

Friz: Yes. Flanders’ decapitated head was a very good contrast.

I have one line I liked from this segment, which is when God is referred to as “the star of the Bible”.

But, sadly, that’s it. Why Homer would have a grudge against Quimby, I’ve no idea.

Mad Jon: I was partial to the scene where Ned drops a boulder on Patty and Selma, but I sure love Looney Tunes.

Friz: But, it’s been done so much better. “Homer Alone”.

Charlie Sweatpants: I disliked that, mostly because I thought it was disrespectful to Looney Tunes.

Friz: “Bart’s Inner Child”.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yes to both.

Friz: “If this were a cartoon, the cliff would break off right now”

Mad Jon: Noted, but don’t care.

Friz: Ha

Charlie Sweatpants: That always cracks me up.

Friz: This segment simply ends.

Mad Jon: Yeah, in that it didn’t really end.

Another Zombie hallmark.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s a lot like the Spiderman thing like that. They’re completely out of steam, so they just drop whatever popped into their heads in as an ending.

Friz: It’s like they envisaged the Dexter segment to be the driving force of the whole thing.

And then wrote around that.

Charlie Sweatpants: It would’ve been better if they’d made it more like Dexter, quite frankly.

If Flanders wanted to kill Homer for his own reasons or something, that could’ve worked.

Mad Jon: Agreed. I thought that even for a zombie THOH, a Dexter thing may have had some promise.

Friz: Yeah. If Dexter killed seven people every episode, I’d get bored.

Charlie Sweatpants: Instead we got the whole “Bible with a radio transmitter in it” thing.

Friz: Flanders has fallen for something similar. “Keep Gaming”.

Mad Jon: But then a speaker that needed no wires or anything appeared in Ned’s most beloved belonging.

Friz: But at least that transmitter was actually above his fucking head.

Mad Jon: It means gambling. Keep gambling.

Friz: Which is why he might have thought it was from God.

Apologies for swearing.

Mad Jon: Not necessary, but thanks for your candor.

Fuck Shit Piss.

Charlie Sweatpants: But even the brief chronology was weird. Was the seedy underbelly of Springfield supposed to be a prologue before the opening, before he kills Burns? Because they make it seem like Burns is the first person he kills, which makes no sense as you see him stuffing that corpse in a bag.

Hell. Damn. Bitch. (Sorry, wanted to fit in.)

Mad Jon: Wasn’t that Quimby in the bag first?

Very nice.

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe?

Does it matter?

Mad Jon: No, I guess not.

Friz: It’s all bloodless hacking.

Charlie Sweatpants: He got all conflicted about offing Burns . . . but that was after we’d already seen him with a body.

Mad Jon: Especially after he seemed so content to murder for wholesome reasons.

Charlie Sweatpants: They cannot sustain a story, plot or idea for more than about a minute fifteen. I know I complain about this a lot, but that’s because they do it a lot.

Friz: Aye. They decide to end the story, and have two minutes of God vs Satan.

Mad Jon: Maybe their synergy research tells them that’s a good time limit.

Friz: They know that THOH isn’t canon, so they decide to just try and work any plot and any story and any scene.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wouldn’t surprise me. But the God and Satan thing was so bizarre. Why did Satan reheat his coffee? Was there any reason besides misguided fan service to put Maude there?

Friz: Flanders seemed awfully calm that his wife was with Satan, but, you know, it’s not canon or anything.

Mad Jon: And that God worked for Satan as well. But whatever.

Friz: It’s like they’re trying to mimic Nightmare Cafeteria.

Mad Jon: I don’t know what that is.

Friz: It turns out it’s a dream, but there’s still a virus hat turns yo inside out

Mad Jon: Oh, the THOH Segment.

Gotcha.

Friz: Let’s end the segment without an ending and cut to something different.

Mad Jon: Perhaps some sort of Avatar deally?

Friz: Oh god, I have a big problem with this segment, but I’ll save it till the end unless one of you starts talking about the subject.

Mad Jon: My biggest problem was the segment itself.

Charlie Sweatpants: My biggest problem was that it wasn’t funny, had almost nothing to do with Avatar, and took too damn long.

But I guess that’s three problems, can we combine those into one or did we leave God back in the Dexter segment?

Friz: I liked the squirrel grenades.

Mad Jon: I as well.

Friz: But that was a 3 second joke in a go knows how many minute segment of animals doing things.

Charlie Sweatpants: Before we get to Friz’s big problem, does anyone have any idea what was up with Krusty’s head?

Mad Jon: It appeared to be on a strong body for some reason.

Friz: Is that in the film? I’ve not seen Avatar.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nope. The main bad guy is buff as hell, but he doesn’t have someone else’s head, and Chalmers was playing his part anyway.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I don’t get it.

Friz: Huh. Maybe a commenter can field that.

Mad Jon: I doubt even the writers have a good explanation.

Friz: Now, it’s not my big problem, but shall we discuss Bart having sex?

Charlie Sweatpants: Sure, but I didn’t really have a problem with that.

I mean, I guess when I think about it it’s weird, but that’s so minor compared to everything else I can’t really care.

Friz: The writers seem to love a good testicle joke in Zombie Halloween Simpsons

Mad Jon: Didn’t even notice it. But I guess the girl monster was pregnant.

Charlie Sweatpants: For about sixty seconds, yeah.

Then they forgot all about it.

Friz: And that’s where my problem lies.

Mad Jon: Yep

Friz: The girl monster.

Charlie Sweatpants: Hey, we guessed it! Good work, Jon.

Friz: One of the best jokes from all of The Simpsons is in THOH VII, Citizen Kang. Homer is beamed aboard. Kang introduces himself, as well as “my sister, Kodos”, who says hello in an equally booming voice.

And that is brilliant.

Charlie Sweatpants: That is hilarious.

Friz: So why, why, have Tress MacNeille do one of her three voices?

It was the grand midwife from Futurama this time.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s who it was. Nice catch. I knew it sounded familiar.

Mad Jon: Yeah good call.

Friz: So, apart from the 40-minute animal fight segment, anything else from this?

Or shall we skip to the ending straight out of THOH IV, sans Snoopy ending.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d like to complain for a second about the animal ending, if I may.

Friz: Go nuts.

Mad Jon: Please do.

Friz: (Oh – and another thing – Milhouse hitting his head and saying “stupid, stupid, stupid”. I know this has happened before but cannot for the life of me place it.)

Tell a lie – I do. Last year’s THOH.

Is that a new in joke?

Mad Jon: Not that I am aware, but I mainly keep to myself.

Charlie Sweatpants: The last quarter of this segment is the exact same joke over and over again. You both mentioned the grenade-squirrels, and that was probably the best one, but it was definitely of a kind. Whether it was the gun animals shooting shit out of their noses, the rabbits thumping the ground, or that goofy bulldozer that didn’t kill Chalmers, the entire fight is one joke: here’s a animal that’s kinda weird doing it’s weird thing to people you don’t know.

When Chalmers gives his little briefing, it’s all Springfield characters there, including some of the kids, Cletus, etcetera. But when the battle comes, in addition to the generic animals, we get generic soldiers.

Friz: This is kind of fitting in with a theory I had a while ago.

Mad Jon: I thought you hate the fact they never use generic characters Charlie?

Friz: Since, I’m going to say THOH 13, one segment is always practically “do some cool designs”.

Charlie Sweatpants: They just wanted to have their little bloodless, flash game looking fights, and leave it at that.

Friz: Whether it be Springfieldians as animals, Springfieldians as their costumes, giant board games or avatar-esque animals, and all of them appear in a not-particularly-Halloween story.

Charlie Sweatpants: Just create things and hope people use them on Facebook or message boards? Jebus that’s lame. I don’t think you’re wrong though.

Friz: “Design things for Flanders’ hell house” “animate some transformers”

Or quick toy designs

Charlie Sweatpants: That too.

Friz: I saw The Island of Dr Hibbert Playset in Forbidden Planet.

Mad Jon: Quite insightful, but scary indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, and Jon, I do hate the lack of generic characters in crowd shots. But a) this is a Halloween episode so it’s okay to put the characters out of character, and b) they just used generic designs here because all of their focus on their dumb action sequence was on their animals.

Friz: You mentioned it in the C&C, but Milhouse accidentally hurting things on the planet… I knew it’d be three times.

They always do things three times on Zombie Simpsons.

Homer chews a limb off three times

Marge has three hilarious replacements for candy

Spiderman Homer tries to get the robbers three times

Mad Jon: That’s the cycle eh? Again, more insightful than I am.

Charlie Sweatpants: They don’t care enough about making things funny to challenge the Rule of Three.

Friz: Sideshow Bob got raked via a rule of eight, no?

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that. But that was in the before time, in the long long ago.

Friz: So. THOH IV ending, sans Snoopy?

What’s their obsession with ending on a note?

Mad Jon: Gotta end somewhere, unless you are one of the earlier acts.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think it was that. I think they had a few jokes they couldn’t work in and thought that was a good way to use them.

Friz: Oh, and Jackie Mason appearing

Charlie Sweatpants: Meh.

Friz: Congratulating Bart on the sex.

Charlie Sweatpants: The funny thing about that is that it wasn’t the “you are holding your own tentacle” or whatever line that was on all the promos I saw during football.

I guess they were just dead set on him knocking that femalien up.

Friz: I like how none of us have mentioned that none of the segments were really Halloween-related. I think we just accept it now.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the intro kinda was.

Not much, mind you, and completely irrelevantly, but it did start with them in costume.

Friz: Yeah, that’s like saying Homer vs Patty and Selma is Halloween related

Charlie Sweatpants: True enough.

Mad Jon: Stupid THOH, wish we was trick or treatin’!

Friz: Haha

Charlie Sweatpants: I already bitched about it in Compare & Contrast, but I think it has a lot to do with the source material. At this point, they’ve basically exhausted everything that’s spooky, horror movie related, etcetera.

That’s not an excuse, it’s another reason this show should go off the air.

Friz: The costume one was a nice homage to Buffy. They should do more Buffy plots.

Mad Jon: I agree Pants. I agree.

Friz: I look forward to next years THOH, featuring parodies of The King’s Speech, Tintin and 30 Rock

Actually, there has been a plot leak of next years. Back to the Future parody.

That famous scary film, Back to the Future.

Mad Jon: Jebus.

Charlie Sweatpants: Tintin will have to wait, I guess.

Mad Jon: The autoplot writer forgot to password protect eh?

Friz: Don’t praise the machine…

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

Okay, anything else here, or can we declare this one dead until next year when the Doc and Marty travel back in time to warn Sam Simon about the future?

Mad Jon: Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll step on something.

Friz: I’ve said everything I can

So, who wants to steal some Ferraris?

Charlie Sweatpants: Sounds good. Stephen, thanks for staying up and joining us.

Friz: You’re very welcome. Homer sleep now.

Charlie Sweatpants: With that, I shall bid you fine gentlemen good night.

Mad Jon: Same to the twos of you.

Friz: Tata, folks.




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