Archive for the 'Crazy Noises' Category



07
Jun
12

Crazy Noises: Brother’s Little Helper

Brother's Little Helper1

“Fire can be our servant, whether it’s toasting smores or raining down on Charlie.” – Principal Skinner

For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes.  This year we’re doing Season 11.  Why Season 11?  Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show.  Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “Focusyn”).

Today’s episode is 1102, “Brother’s Little Helper”.  Yesterday was 1101, “Beyond Blunderdome”. 

[Note: Dave fled again, but I am assured that he will be back in custody soon.]

Charlie Sweatpants: This episode always bothers me a little, because I get the feeling that if it had been made just a season or two earlier it would’ve been pretty good.

Mad Jon: This would have been a top episode in season 10.

  I still think it is well above the bar for this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, it’s above average for Season 11, for sure, but I meant, if they had made it even just a year or two earlier I think a lot of the problems would’ve been eliminated.

Mad Jon: I would go so far as to say I generally like it.

  But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some issues with it.

Charlie Sweatpants: For example, they go back to Homer freaking out after eating the drugs twice. There was no need whatsoever for him to freak out a second time right before they go to commercial, and I really don’t think that would’ve been left in had this one been made earlier.

Mad Jon: Definitely a problem.

I also think they try to cram so much visual effect into the end that they water down the ending. Not to mention that the ending itself was subpar, minus a few choice lines.

Charlie Sweatpants: The ending is a perfect example of that kind of filler. Even if you spot them the tank (which you shouldn’t, but for the sake of argument), there’s the yammering Army guys, the useless suspense as Bart aims the turret at different things, his conversation with Marge.

  The scene goes on and on and yet doesn’t serve or advance the story and doesn’t make sense.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I am not a fan of the ending so much…

Charlie Sweatpants: This one either needed to take the time to make the A-plot much more coherent or it needed a B-plot.

Mad Jon: I agree.

  I think the opening is good. I would say great except for Homer’s dialogue in Skinner’s Office.

Charlie Sweatpants: I dunno, the opening with Bart flooding the gym strikes me as another thing that’s too exaggerated to actually be funny.

  Like Skinner standing there and saying all the equipment names for just Bart and Lisa. What sense does that make?

Mad Jon: Ok, I’ll spot you the gym floor, but look at the quality of the jokes. Lots of quick lines, standard Simpsons opening kind of scene, even a Chalmers-less school scene.

The fun poked at the ‘stop drop and roll’, nowadays you wouldn’t even have a fire to lead to the discovery that Bart took the fire house to flood the gym.

  Skinner’s explanation of the uses of fire….

  There is plenty to chuckle at here.

Charlie Sweatpants: "Raining down on Charlie" is funny, as its Ned and Maude’s ineptness (though the replacement Maude voice is really off putting).

But it’s like the Focusyn itself or Bart’s instant paranoia, it’s too wacky for it to really bite. Good Simpsons parodies are crazy and unexpected, but also recognizable and on some basic level plausible. This is just a little too zany, like it’s working too hard.

Like I said, these are the kinds of things I think would’ve gotten smoothed out had it been made a year or two before.

Mad Jon: You are probably right about that.

  And I agree with the general zaniness of the episode.

  And I agree that there are some bad habits showing up here, like the repeated Homer freakouts.

If you could take out Homer, I would be fine with this episode right up till Bart loses it. Then it gets pretty nutty.

  Although I always enjoy the realization that the MLB really is spying on them, pretty much around the clock.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s another perfect example though. Having Major League Baseball spy on them constantly is funny, it also doesn’t require a tank or a shot down satellite.

Mad Jon: No, no it doesn’t

Charlie Sweatpants: And, much like Gibson in the previous episode, the Mark McGwire jokes look a bit different in hindsight.

Mad Jon: Well, Big Mac wasn’t much of an actor, but that’s fine. And I think the current insanity of Gibson trumps McGwire’s issues.

  And I always wish they would have ended the episode at McGwire shoving the print out under his hat and them shifting his eyes about.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well yeah, but it’s just funny that McGwire made a joke about distracting people with "dingers" and then the people not caring, which is pretty much exactly what happened afterwards.

Mad Jon: True true.

Charlie Sweatpants: In general though, I agree that this is one of the better ones in 11, but it’s still frustrating to watch.

Mad Jon: Frustrating indeed, when watched as part of the Simpsons series. But this is as good as it gets till the end of this season, and although I probably haven’t watched this one since it was last in the cycle of syndication, which may have been 10 years ago by now, I still am partial to it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I feel the same way. There are enough things here that crack me up that I don’t mind it overall. When Sir Widebottom says, "Sure I’m alive, but why?", that always gets me for some reason.

Mad Jon: I also like the time burglar line, as well as the "I am now one of them."

I generally enjoy the scientists, as well as their demo of the hamsters.

Although it’s not about slavery…

Charlie Sweatpants: And Homer thanking Skinner for getting him out of work.

I use that pretty much any time I’ve ditched work.

Mad Jon: The Navajo boy, the trade scene when Milhouse has Claritin…. There are plenty of good chuckles thrown about.

"Uh-ohs"

  Bart’s thank you card for Marge.

I liked the Carboxyl group joke, until Homer started choking the model.

Charlie Sweatpants: As you said, the scientists in general are pretty good. When they go to incapacitate Homer and Marge it’s funny, then Homer gets the air shot for no reason.

  Still, there is a lot of good stuff here.

Mad Jon: Yeah, didn’t really need to stop his heart, valium would have been fine for both…

  But now we are asking a hamburger, though satisfying enough, to be a rib eye.

  Or whatever type of steak you would rather have.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed, it’s take what you can get in Season 11.

  Anything else here?

Mad Jon: Nah, I think we covered it.

You?

Charlie Sweatpants: Nope. I’m content to sit back and let the MLB’s marketing algorithms analyze this text and report back my need for more merchandise.

Mad Jon: Excellent, just try to keep your squalor index below 97 ok?

Charlie Sweatpants: No promises.

06
Jun
12

Crazy Noises: Beyond Blunderdome

Beyond Blunderdome1

“I don’t know, I think this movie was a big mistake.  All I do is talk for two hours, I don’t shoot anybody, what was I thinking?” – Mel Gibson

For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes.  This year we’re doing Season 11.  Why Season 11?  Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show.  Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “Pepperidge”).

Today’s episode is 1101, “Beyond Blunderdome”.  Tomorrow will be 1102, “Brother’s Little Helper”.

[Note: Dave fled again, but I am assured that he will be back in custody soon.]

Mad Jon: Perhaps we should start, eh?

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed, let us begin.

Mad Jon: Beyond Blunderdome?

Charlie Sweatpants: Crap title.

Mad Jon: Yep. I don’t really have any better suggestions though, and it does capture the Jerky Homer bit pretty well.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not surprising, half the episode is them kissing Mel Gibson’s ass, but still.

Mad Jon: Remember a time when the world didn’t know how batshit Mel Gibson is? Pepperidge Farms remembers.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah. Admittedly, Gibson’s subsequent implosion from beloved celebrity to hated celebrity does give this episode a different tenor than when it was first broadcast.

Mad Jon: That aside though I suppose…

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, it doesn’t make them look good in retrospect, but even without his late career, uh, image problem, there isn’t a whole lot going on in this episode besides them making some snarky Hollywood jokes that basically date themselves. I cite the Robert Downey Jr. thing.

Mad Jon: Which I always found amusing.

There isn’t much though, you are right. This is a great example of the Homer-centric insanity episodes we always bitch about.

Most of the 22 minutes is him doing something insane or easily convincing Gibson to do something against his better judgment.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much, it’s basically Jerkass Homer vs. Crazy (the fun kind) Mel Gibson.

Mad Jon: The only part of the episode I enjoy is the brief part after he wins the tickets and before he goes to Hollywood.

Charlie Sweatpants: There are four or five times when Gibson tries to pull back from Homer’s stupidity, only to give Homer an opening for some insane speech, which then sucks them both right back into whatever chase scene or other stupidity they’re rushing through.

Mad Jon: Seriously, Gibson has no ability to say no here.

Charlie Sweatpants: He really doesn’t, though he’s funny enough as is to make most of his lines work, I’ll give him that.

Mad Jon: There were some good lines here, and it was especially helpful that some of them belonged to a trained actor.

  As opposed to flavor of the week guest star like we have nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants: It does help. When he complains about people being super awesome to him, "It’s hell being Mel", it actually works, not because it’s the world’s strongest material, but because he delivers them really well.

  But most of the episode is just a mess, jumping from one lunacy to another.

Mad Jon: The John Travolta reference is another example of good delivery. The way he says he promised to help him move makes me laugh.

But you are right, the episode slides from one plot pile to the next.

Charlie Sweatpants: "Pile" is a good word to use there. None of it makes sense, and there are conflicts that just bubble up and dissolve away.

I mean, the point of that long ass chase scene is the movie executives getting the movie back, but when it ends with them crashing into Homer, that whole idea gets dropped like it never existed.

Mad Jon: Then all of the sudden it’s opening night, and apparently there was nothing anyone could do to stop the film from rolling.

Charlie Sweatpants: Back in Springfield, no less.

Mad Jon: For some reason.

Charlie Sweatpants: This can be said a lot about these, but this one really feels like a Family Guy episode. It’s just guest star hanging out for no reason, which gives them plenty of celebrity asides to make, and they clearly don’t care in the least about anything else as they meander along.

Mad Jon: Very Family Guy on that. Good call.

James Woods could have been here instead of Mel Gibson.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much. You can’t even really tell if this one was written before Gibson agreed to do the voice. Realistically you could replace him with half a dozen other movie stars, change a few of the specific jokes, and be all set.

He’s just playing "Likable Star", there’s no personality to him, his part, or this episode.

Mad Jon: Probably true.

Charlie Sweatpants: All that said, there are some other good jokes in here. I’m particularly fond of Homer’s sarcastic approach to the electric car lady and the way he says that Marge’s ring symbolizes that she’s his property.

Mad Jon: Both good jokes. I also like the scene when Mel reads Homer’s comments.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like you said earlier, the best parts of this episode are before Homer and Mel jet off to Hollywood.

Though even then things can go off the deep end, literally in the case of that electric car test drive.

  There was something that was actually too exaggerated to be funny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, there was always the threat of that kind of over doing it, but we knew it was coming, so it’s easier to spot. Although the car scene was especially flagrant, with all the killing of the fish and the mermaids and such.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed. There are a lot of things like that here. Not Adam West in the Batmobile, for example, didn’t need to be there twice. And the killing spree ending would’ve been funnier if they had just used the executives exasperated reactions instead of having us sit through the whole thing.

Mad Jon: Yeah, just more evidence of the slide from a few years earlier. But still not anywhere close to where it will be soon enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: True. That whole ending was the same idea as the "It’s a Wonderful Life" killing spree ending from Season 9, here they actually did it.

Mad Jon: Didn’t even think of that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Time to move on to Focusin?

Mad Jon: I am ready.

Charlie Sweatpants: Focused, even?

  Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Mad Jon: Focusyd I believe would be the spelling.

Charlie Sweatpants: There you go.

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.

17
May
12

Crazy Noises: Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend

Homer's Night Out3

“Alright, folks, show’s over.  No more to see, folks, come on.  Only sick people want to see my folks kiss.” – Bart Simpson

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 “haggard”).

Before we discard “Ned ’N Edna’s Blend” onto the forgettable slag heap of Zombie Simpsons, I’d like to point out two problems with the final scene that nicely expose just how vapid Zombie Simpsons is when it comes to character and humor.  After Flanders and Krabappel have their tiff at the reception, the next scene is Ned in the Simpsons’ kitchen learning something about not always being a perfect parent.  The scene after that is at the school where Ned and Edna reconcile.

Set aside any questions you may have about whether or not Ned was staying with the Simpsons, or what happened to Rod, Todd and Edna while he was there, or what happened to Rod and Todd generally, since neither of them is in the last two scenes.  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t care, neither should you.  Instead, just consider this last scene, where Flanders bursts into the auditorium and seizes the microphone to declare his love of Edna and willingness to change his ways.

First of all, what’s happening here is that Flanders is, very rudely, intruding into Krabappel’s workplace to make a grand show of love/forgiveness/whatever.  This is an official school function in the middle of the day, and Ned breaks in and hijacks it.  Neither Krabappel nor anyone else is the least bit upset by this, which is all the more ironic because (as discussed below) she actually apologizes for not respecting Ned’s “boundaries”.  What could be less respectful to someone’s boundaries than causing a massive disruption at your spouse’s workplace?  Like so many others, this scene has no characters, only props that look like people.

Second, there’s the reaction of the kids.  Even though Krabappel just told them she doesn’t care about children, they all clap and cheer wildly when she and Flanders kiss.  Not only is this out of character for the kids, but it’s also the opposite of funny.  Having them applaud is the kind of mind fogging schlock you’re more likely to find at the end of a low brow romantic comedy, it’s not a joke at all.

Now, if the characters had been acting like real people, that happy ending could’ve had meaning.  But with the characters acting like one dimensional nobodies, the happy ending and cheering children are just empty pandering, so there’s no reason not to at least try to make it funny.  And since the only possible joke there is to have the kids boo, Zombie Simpsons naturally does the opposite.  It’s a remarkable display of indifference to both character and comedy.

Charlie Sweatpants: You guys ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Yes sir.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well then, I thought this episode was terrible. Anyone care to disagree?

Mad Jon: No. No I do not.

Dave: Not particularly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then, I’d like to alert our affiliates that we will be ending our show early tonight.

Mad Jon: Good, they can switch to the end of another chat session about a shitty TV show.

Dave: Or use their time to wisely contribute to society in some meaningful way.

Mad Jon: There were many glaring issues with this one.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Pick one.

Mad Jon: Wasn’t Ned dating Kate Hudson or something? Also didn’t he have a relationship with that Christian music person?

Charlie Sweatpants: Hmm, I don’t know. The Christian rocker lady was like ten seasons ago. I really have no idea.

Dave: There was the Christian music woman. That much I remember.

I vaguely remember murmurs about Nedna.

Mad Jon: Hmm. This was completely out of the blue to me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Since last year’s publicity stunt, the weirdness of the relationship has worn off a little, but not much.

They just make a really odd couple, and the fact that Zombie Simpsons did a whole episode about them not fitting together just made it worse.

When Flanders cries out "This marriage isn’t perfect!", I was really wondering what the point was supposed to be. Were we supposed to think he thought it was perfect before that?

And if so, why would he think that?

Mad Jon: Yeah, that was a classic zombie statement. Say something Obvious!!!!

I can call it classic, because it has been going on for about a decade or so.

Dave: No joke, a decade of mediocrity

Mad Jon: At a minimum.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s best not to think about it.

But that mismatch between what they had the characters feeling and anything that could be called "making sense" was shot through the whole episode.

Under duress I guess I could buy Flanders and Krabappel getting into a fight at the reception, but why on Earth would he smooth things over in front of the entire school?

Mad Jon: It felt like all of the ‘dramatic’ scenes were just a needle with which to inject one of the core characters.

Not that this a new thing, but it was exceedingly apparent to me for this one.

Charlie Sweatpants: Worse than usual, I’d agree.

Mad Jon: For example, Krabappel is having an issue watching Rod and Todd, but don’t worry! Bart is standing at the open window!

Dave: Ready to cure the world’s ills.

Mad Jon: The hospital scene was both the most obvious and the most annoying.

Charlie Sweatpants: Apparently they think it’s cute to acknowledge how stupid everything is.

I’m of a different opinion.

Mad Jon: Well, I guess you are entitled to your own opinion. However drunken and Peoria-ish it may be, stupid commoner.

Charlie Sweatpants: It just bugs me that they know how sloppy their characters and story are, but don’t do anything about it.

Mad Jon: Agreed.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not like you couldn’t construct a decent story around two people as different as Krabappel and Flanders working things out. They just don’t give a shit.

Mad Jon: I think there are lots of TV shows based around this kind of arrangement. Some were even popular!

Great, now I have the theme to The Odd Couple stuck in my head.

Charlie Sweatpants: You have no one to blame but yourself for that.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: More to the point, the serious parts of this episode was particularly bad. The whole Marge and Homer argument in the kitchen in front of Flanders, for example.

I wonder if there was actually a segment blocked off in the script that said "This is where Flanders learns the lesson".

Dave: You mean the excuse for Homer to yell shit and get indignant?

Mad Jon: That just wouldn’t end. In all fairness I, correctly, prejudged how that scene would be and actually didn’t write anything down.

Looking back at the few, but hilarious, disagreements Maude and Ned got into, he didn’t technically have a perfect marriage back then either.

"You knew I had a temper when you married me."

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s my point. We know that both of them know what it’s like to be married, and yet the episode insisted on treating them like they were both love struck nineteen-year-olds.

Mad Jon: I do miss the Edna that just really, really didn’t care about making anyone else happy.

As opposed to the one who is taking advice from a ten year old on how to live with another man’s children.

Dave: She had a flicker of that in her snappy retort to the kids in the auditorium.

But then she returned to making up with Flanders.

Charlie Sweatpants: I miss the Edna who didn’t have to say things like, "Oh, Ned, I’m sorry too. I overstepped your boundaries."

Mad Jon: Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a combination of words Edna would be capable of saying.

Charlie Sweatpants: Beyond the half-assed and unbelievable sentiments, though, this episode also managed to step on pretty much all of its jokes.

Homer’s Twitter joke, the chip clips, pretty much everything the theater guy says, all of them over explain and exposit jokes.

Mad Jon: Yeah, most of the time it was beyond savage, as the jokes were crap to begin with. I cite the FSU/UF crying thing Homer did.

Charlie Sweatpants: Forgot about that one.

Mad Jon: But even the scene where Grandpa exclaims "Crucify Him!" after Homer says only his father can judge him seemed like it should have been funnier.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole play was Homer explaining a joke and then making it, for example, when he eats his crown of licorice thorns. Both Homer and Bart explain the eating thing as it’s happening.

Mad Jon: I forgot about that one. That was painful.

Charlie Sweatpants: The same was true in Flanders stupid stop-motion dream. They actually named everything they were showing as they showed it.

Mad Jon: The claymation nightmare was pretty bad. I really hate when cartoons do that kind of thing. I am not entertained because you all of a sudden try to use a different format. That is not funny, that is not good writing. It is just a different format, which usually means you have to further simplify the already terrible jokes you are making.

Dave: I feel like they’ve done the stop-motion nonsense before, but I haven’t the wherewithal to confirm it.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was that one where they made Gumby or whoever want to bomb Planned Parenthood. That was in Season 12, I think.

This was much worse though, for pretty much all the reasons Jon just stated. It’s cute, but it’s so incongruous and poorly written that mostly I just want it to be over.

And speaking of bad writing, there was this “Well, we’re here to offer to throw you a little party in your honor”.

It’s a third person description of what’s going on, it’s not dialogue at all.

The same thing happened when Marge and Homer were in Flanders hospital room going back and forth about marriage.

Mad Jon: I don’t remember much of the dialogue from that part, so I’ll have to take your word for it.

All I really remember from the hospital scene is a very haggard Skinner pleading his case or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was that too.

Dave: I’m amazed you were both this attentive… I more or less checked out.

Mad Jon: I spaced in and out…

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s usually a good way to go. I could’ve been very happy not seeing the "extreme weddings", for example.

That was blatant filler.

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, that happened didn’t it.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was part of the not-quite-a-sub-plot thing between Marge and the other wives. Apparently they were staking out that bridal shop.

Mad Jon: That reminds me of the fact that everyone was video taping the reception to show how bad Marge is at wedding receptions or something. Did anything come of that?

Charlie Sweatpants: Not that I saw.

The episode ended with the over-explained payday loan guy and then that atrocious "rap" song.

Mad Jon: And was there any particular reason that the three marginally unrelated women were so angry at Marge?

Dave: Oh, that. Fan service with a twist.

Mad Jon: I don’t even remember who the two other than Mrs. Lovejoy were…

Charlie Sweatpants: It was Bernice Hibbert and Luann van Houten, but you are forgiven for forgetting. I’m not sure either one of them got a line.

And no, there was neither a reason nor a resolution to it.

Mad Jon: Why on earth would they even remotely care that Marge was helping her next-door neighbor plan a relatively impromptu wedding reception? Not that it matters I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: It doesn’t matter, I think they just needed to fill in a little more time.

Mad Jon: Thinking about this episode makes me feel more and more like the robot voiced by Alan Rickman in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Go on.

Mad Jon: I don’t really have anything insightful to add. Every comment I type makes me want to at "not that it really matters" or "not that anyone cares" or some other depressing statement.

I am even hanging my head right now.

I feel beaten.

Charlie Sweatpants: But now you’re not caring about not caring, which is great.

Mad Jon: So, is this the bottom? Can I finally start to rebuild?

Charlie Sweatpants: Perhaps. Anything else here?

Mad Jon: Any thoughts on the Itchy and Scratchy wedding?

Charlie Sweatpants: Not really.

Any thoughts on Flanders parents’ being at the wedding but not the reception?

Mad Jon: Not really, I think they forgot about them as the episode went on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Again, probably for the best.

Dave, anything to add?

Dave: Nope, other than I’m happy to put this behind us.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sounds good to me. If they keep the show on for another twenty years, maybe Flanders will get together with the crazy cat lady.

Mad Jon: We’ll always have that to look forward to.

08
May
12

Crazy Noises: The Spy Who Learned Me

Last Exit to Springfield6

“Ah, McBain, so glad you could make it.  Have a salmon puff.” – Senator Mendoza
“Alright.” – McBain

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 “Snuffleupagus”).

In general, “Stradivarius Cain” was not one of the better ideas to get barfed onto my television by Zombie Simpsons.  His only real trait is being an exaggerated version of James Bond, which is fine as far as it goes, except for the fact that there have been so many of those over the years that it’s hard to even count them all.  The first James Bond movie came out fifty years ago, and after five decades it doesn’t seem too much to expect that decent parodies need to be a little more than cartoonish villains and a hero who looks good in a tuxedo. 

The one dimensional nature of Cain is laid bare in the opening scene where we see his movie.  A bunch of goofy looking bad guys are having a meeting when one of them steps forward to ask about Cain:

Not Quite a Nazi Guy:  But are you sure we will not be bothered by the American master spy Stradivarius Cain?
Old Guy with Mustache:  Do not worry about Dr. Cain.  The last I saw him, my beautiful mistress was about to finish him off. 

That leads to the beautiful mistress doing one of those hokey old vaudeville overreactions where she’s surprised, then she realizes what’s happening, then she covers it up so poorly that anyone who’s half awake knows she’s lying:

Old Guy with Mustache:  You killed him, right?
Beautiful Mistress:  Yes.  He was the perfect lover . . . of being killed.
Old Guy with Mustache:  It’s a weird sentence, but let’s move on.

This is a great example of Zombie Simpsons just having no clue what its doing.  The scene as shown would be more at home in a slapstick comedy than a big action movie, but because Zombie Simpsons pretty much always goes for the cheapest possible laugh, they jam it in there no matter how strange or out of place it is. 

When The Simpsons did McBain, they played it straight ahead because they understood that the concept they were parodying was inherently funny.  They knew that just having McBain’s ludicrous arms punch their way out of the frozen Venus de Milo sculpture while he says “Ice to see you” as seriously as he can was already hilarious.  They didn’t have him slip on a banana peel or his enemy act the fool because that kind of humor would actually have detracted from the satire and made it dumb. 

Similarly, in a different McBain clip, when Mendoza asks if McBain is dead, his henchmen doesn’t stammer or roll his eyes, he acts like a normal henchman.  What’s funny is that McBain comes exploding out of the conference table and tosses Mendoza out a high rise window to plummet to his death and detonate a conveniently placed tanker truck labeled simply “Gasoline”.  When parodying terrible films like those insane 1980s/1990s action movies (and there have been a lot of terrible James Bond movies), you don’t need schtick.  They’re so nuts already that all you need to turn them from action to comedy is a bit of exaggeration.  And that one, from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, even manages its own little James Bond joke by showing the credits as Grampa and Jasper get up to leave the theater:

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou8

That one tag line, “You Have the Right to Remain Dead” is a far more inventive Bond satire than anything Zombie Simpsons did with Stradivarius Cain. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Let’s.

  I actually remembered to set my DVR to record an extra minute at the beginning, so I got to see the couch gag for once.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty sure it was a repeat again, but I didn’t check.

Mad Jon: Short and sweet is what my notes tell me. I don’t remember it, so that makes it new to me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Huh, Wikipedia says it was new. Yeah, I don’t have much to complain about there.

Mad Jon: Go social encyclopedia.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problems started right afterward though. That Stradivarius Cain movie at the beginning was awful.

It was like watching a reboot of McBain, but with none of the humor and all of the pandering taken seriously.

Mad Jon: Goddamn it that couldn’t have been worse. All I could do to fight the pain was to visualize the McBain movie where he pops out of the ice sculpture.

Charlie Sweatpants: My thoughts exactly.

  The fact that the villain’s girlfriend did the cartoony "uh, of course" kind of thing also ruined it.

McBain was funny because it was exactly like a real crappy action movie, this was like an imitation of one of those awful parody movies.

Mad Jon: The best part of those movies are that they are timeless. This was a social media version of the Star Wars movie parody where they got locked up in procedural amendments.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way to put it.

Mad Jon: It’s a sad day when so much of my attention is going to the opening movie which leads to Homer being a in-theater commenter, who, although beloved by his best friends for it, doesn’t do it again throughout the movie.

  But it does lead to him trying to be smooth for his wife and Tony Montana.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was like the movie scene from "Colonel Homer", minus everything that made it funny.

  The whole Lenny and Carl thing was just odd.

Mad Jon: Got to get them in there I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was a recurring theme. When Marge comes to the plant to drop off that basket for Homer, who should be standing outside but Lenny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, not much to say here. But anywhere Homer needed someone to further his fight with Marge, there was Lenny and Carl.

Charlie Sweatpants: That happened a lot as well. Homer needs to practice being suave, here’s half a dozen women patiently waiting their turn for him to talk to them.

Mad Jon: Yeah, where the hell was that bar??

Charlie Sweatpants: It kind of reminded me of the place Homer was asked to leave without making a fuss, but I’d chalk it up more to Springfield’s increasing resemblance to the nicer parts of Los Angeles.

Mad Jon: Well alright then.

Charlie Sweatpants: The second restaurant was even weirder.

Mad Jon: Was that a restaurant? I thought it was more like a garden party or something. It reminded me of the squid port opening.

Charlie Sweatpants: Homer called it a restaurant, but it was odd.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you notice that Not Bond was strapped into the kid seat?

Mad Jon: Yeah, I was waiting for that to, you know, be something. Other than awkward, of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s what was so strange. Why did he look all nervous and scared?

Mad Jon: He did look very strange for an imaginary friend.

But whatever. I guess that’s the price for getting to watch people make out?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s one of the things that didn’t make sense. He was into that a second ago. Of course, here I am trying to figure the motives of an imaginary character who was brought forth with one of the most trite cliches in television: the magic bonk on the head.

Mad Jon: An imaginary character who has apparently shared an imaginary woman with Snuffleupagus.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s best not to think about it.

Mad Jon: But other than that, probably not much to figure out.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, and in case there was, they helpfully explained everything every six seconds.

  This is a partial list of what’s in my notes, but I typed as I watched so these might be a bit off:

  “Stop saying what you’d call things”

  “Sir, that was your partner, you betrayed him to the cannibals”

  “I have eight weeks paid vacation and my family doesn’t know” – This one was right after they showed us exactly that.

  “Because I was up late lamenting the choices I’ve made”

  “Oh great, another documentary making me look like a scuzzbag.” – bonus points on this one for making no sense by having Krusty walk into the movie.

“Now that’s it’s after-noon”/”Hear your pathetic rationalizing through the door”/”Pack of raccoons” – That whole scene with Moe was them explaining what either just happened or was about to happen.

  “I thought I was making small talk, but it turned out to be big talk”.

  “The three of us are going to the most romantic restaurant in town”

I could go on. There were so fucking many of these, but I think I’ve made my point. So many words, so very little actually said.

Mad Jon: Indeed. The "The three of us…." one was the worst.

Only because even by zombie standards, that should have prompted a reaction from Marge.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m partial to Marge’s "Stop saying what you’d call things". She literally just could’ve said "Stop". Or they could’ve actually given her a joke or something.

Mad Jon: Well, in all fairness, they were all, just, terrible.

And on top of that, only one of those lines was from the ‘B’ plot.

We haven’t even stepped into the pile which was the almost a decade old lead in to the ‘B’ plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: By all means, let’s step.

  These new Italian loafers will make short work of it.

Mad Jon: I actually don’t have a lot of notes about it, because it wasn’t that in depth.

  Bart’s plan is to fatten up Nelson so he can’t beat him up, he accomplishes this, and then Nelson and Lisa get Krusty to make him a super bully, and then it is over.

Charlie Sweatpants: There wasn’t much there.

Mad Jon: That is literally all of my notes for the B plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, it did contain what may have been the most outdated joke I can recall them making in a while, the whole Alicia Silverstone was fat in that unwatchable Batman 4 movie.

  That joke expired in about 1998.

Mad Jon: I was going to say, how old was the average viewer when that made sense? 2? maybe 3?

Whatever, I often feel like boring is the methadone that helps me through these things.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but they made me think about Batman 4. That’s just wrong.

Mad Jon: Normal life, where I don’t have to watch Zombie Simpsons, of course being the heroin.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

Mad Jon: Just got to take it one Sunday at a time…

Charlie Sweatpants: What was pissy about the B-plot though was the fact that Krusty was wherever he was needed. He was in the documentary, he was there when Lisa and Nelson showed up, and then his personal trainer was too.

The entire thing was filler, so they just rushed it along.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that was kind of lazy, but that’s what happens when you write yourself into a corner.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like they didn’t have enough to make it a real plot, but they had too much to make it a one or two scene joke, so we got that.

Mad Jon: Anyone who has paid attention to my chat text from these things will know that I completely understand.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough.

Mad Jon: I don’t think I have thought about Morgan Spurlock since 2006, by the way… Who was sitting on that??

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, he did do that Simpsons special a couple of years ago.

  But Zombie Simpsons doesn’t generally like being with the times.

Mad Jon: Yeah, but I block those things out pretty quickly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Probably for the best.

  Anything else here?

Mad Jon: Not really, I am disappointed that there really wasn’t even 1 joke that I could consider noteworthy in a positive way.

But we’ve covered enough of the crap I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: I chuckled at the Oscar documentary form having Holocaust and non-Holocaust as checkboxes, but that was it.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I can almost see that, but meh. Sorry to disappoint you.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s okay, I’m long over disappointment.

Mad Jon: Good. Cause I’m not going to change for you.

Charlie Sweatpants: Works for me.

From Mad Jon via e-mail this morning:

On a side-ish note, I forgot to mention it last night, but did you notice the more-insane-than-normal sense of time that episode had?  Homer has eight weeks of paid leave, Marge finds out during week six, right?  At the same time Bart is trying to get Nelson to eat Krusty burger for a month, which actually lasts 2 weeks, and then he gets buff in what must have been three weeks, because at the very end Homer mentions he was supposed to be back at work last week.

I have been thinking about that all morning for some ungodly reason.  Work is bad enough, but my daydreaming is involving a zombiesode.  Oh well. 

01
May
12

Crazy Noises: A Totally Fun That Thing Bart Will Never Do Again

Homer's Phobia6

“Well, I never thought it would come to this, but I guess we’ll have to sell Grandma’s Civil War doll.” – Marge Simpson
“Oh, Mom, are you sure you want to sell a family heirloom to pay the gas bill?  I mean, what would your Grandma say?” – Lisa Simpson
“I’m sure she’d be proud that her descendant’s had piping hot tap water and plenty of warm, dry underwear.” – Marge Simpson

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 “Antarctica”).

When Zombie Simpsons sets the stupid as high as they did with “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again”, one of the side effects is often scenes that don’t make any sense in and of themselves, much less in the wider context of the episode.  To take but one example, before the episode gets to its main topic of showing off how awesome cruises are, Bart sells all of his worldly possessions to earn enough money to go on the cruise.  Here he is with his meager proceeds:

I Miss the Swear Jar

Good thing it says “Cruise” on there or I’d be lost.

After the scene at the dinner table, Bart goes up to his room and sleeps on his illogically bare floor.  Marge comes up and sees him.  In the next scene, which the show explicitly tells us is the following morning, Bart comes running into the living room with a jar full of money.  What follows is astonishingly hacktacular, even for this episode.

Starting with Bart and then moving to Lisa, Marge and finally Homer, each Simpson family member gets to monologue some terribly overwrought gag while the others stand by patiently.  The following transcript is complete, I’ve included everything they say:

Bart:  Mom, Dad!  I woke up and the money jar was full!  That means the Devil accepted my bargain, now to uphold my end of the deal.  Snowball II?

With Bart’s name safely marked off on the checklist, Marge exposits what’s going on (because showing us is counter to the Zombie Simpsons style guide):

Marge:  No.  We saw how much this cruise means to you, so we all sold something special.  And we made just enough for an economy cabin.

Everybody got that?  Good.  Now, the “jokes”:

Lisa:  I sold a couple of my rare jazz records.  After a while they all start to sound the same.  Still love the genre, of course, not even close to getting sick of it.

Thanks, Yeardley.  Julie, you’re next:

Marge:  And I sold our good china.
Bart:  Really?  But that’s been in your family for generations.
Marge:  Yeah.  Actually, my Mom stole it from a woman she cleaned for.  Took her years to get the whole set.

Rim shot!  Okay, there’s only one family member left.  Dan, if you please:

Lisa:  And Dad donated something too.
Homer [Entering from off screen]:  What happened to my mini-pool table?  I was training to be a mini-pool hustler!

At this point you can almost hear the whistling and hooting as Homer bursts into the scene and hits his mark.  Everyone got their line, so it must be time for more exposition:

Marge:  We sold it to pay for a family cruise.

Thanks, writing staff.  I hadn’t been reminded of that in almost thirty seconds.  It goes on from there, with Homer doubling down on the mini-pool idea and more exposition from Bart.

This is writing so blandly dutiful it hardly qualifies as bad.  It’s similar to those songs on a commercial pop album that have no chance of becoming singles, but have to be there because no one’s going to buy the whole album if it’s only got three tracks.  The hooks are weak and the lyrics are forgettable, but nobody cares because everyone knows that they aren’t really that important.  And this episode is full of scenes like this one: Bart’s garage sale, the upgrade lady, pretty much every scene with Lisa and the other smart kids, the list goes on and on.

[Note: This may be even less coherent than usual as we had some technical problems toward the end.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to set sail?

Dave: We are.

Mad Jon: My DVR spared me the couch gag and skipped to Bart being bored. I assume I didn’t miss much…

Charlie Sweatpants: No, the couch gag was mercifully short.

Dave: To my bitter self, it was one of the least offensive couch gags in memory

Just some text

Some font variety

5 seconds, done.

Charlie Sweatpants: But it was also a repeat.

Mad Jon: Oh, well, I might have enjoyed that.

Dave: Oh, didn’t know that.

Also that was followed by Hot Chip

So for about 1.5 minutes I wasn’t so grumpy with the show

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll grant that was cleverer than most of their montages, but it went on much longer than it needed to.

The commercial for the cruise line was kind of the same way, not terrible.

Dave: Yep, bingo.

Mad Jon: Agreed

Dave: It was almost reasonable.

Mad Jon: Unlike the following Mr. Steak discussion.

Charlie Sweatpants: But then they took it seriously. I thought having it say that the visuals of the commercial “if anything underplay” the actual experience was a joke. Turns out they were serious.

Dave: Prior to that nonsense I will admit to chuckling at the Magazine Hater magazine

Mad Jon: I didn’t catch the Mila Kunis tag line.

Dave: and I do have a soft spot for Homer’s reading glasses. Other than that, it was bloody awful.

Dave: something about her being America’s sexiest magazine hater

Mad Jon: Good for her!

Charlie Sweatpants: From there the episode went into Bart freaking out and selling stuff, and from there he freaked out some more and the rest of the family sold stuff.

All on its own, that doesn’t sound too terrible, but they only know how to take things to extremes.

Mad Jon: There was some good Xanax product placement spots there…

Charlie Sweatpants: So Bart’s whole room gets emptied without anyone noticing, and then the next morning the rest of them have sold something and stuffed cash in his jar. It’s childishly simplistic storytelling.

Mad Jon: Cut to the chase and all that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that. Either make them all selling stuff a real plot point or don’t. Instead they dither with it for a long time and still end up doing nothing but having them exposit about what they sold.

Dave: It’s an effective strategy when you have nothing to write about.

Charlie Sweatpants: True enough. This episode had a lot of filler.

The single-double-triple upgrade thing comes to mind.

Dave: Um yeah.

I was convinced they were going to steal home.

Charlie Sweatpants: So much of the middle of the episode was just them saying “Look how cool we made this ship! Don’t you want to go on a cruise like this?”

There are a lot of shots that are basically brochure porn.

Brochure Porn

Our courteous staff, gorgeous views, and convenient shopping are there for you 24-hours a day.

Mad Jon: Yeah, but I did like the line about having “before you were born fun.”

Dave: There was that “Life Aquatic” ripoff too.

Mad Jon: Was the cruise director someone famous or something?

Charlie Sweatpants: It was Steve Coogan. He’s much more famous in Britain than he is here, but you’d probably know him if you saw him.

Mad Jon: Meh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, like most guest spots it was a waste. His lines were pretty much all descriptions of what was going on at the time, combined with the word “fun”.

Even the song was crappy.

But pretty much the entire thing on the ship was like that. We’ve got some idea that’s almost a joke, and we’re going to run it into the ground.

Lisa’s little elite playgroup, Marge and Homer’s canoodling, even all the cool stuff Bart did, for all the bright colors it was all one note gags repeated over and over.

Mad Jon: Yep.

Jokes aside, the plot was basically Bart trying to worm out of his panic attacks. Which may or may not actually start at 10 nowadays. I can’t be sure.

However, realistic or not, panic attacks aren’t really that entertaining.

Dave: That didn’t stop them from trying though, did it?

Mad Jon: Never does.

Charlie Sweatpants: And don’t forget that Bart, for whatever reason, is basically immune to noticing how crappy the ship got all of a sudden.

Mad Jon: Especially for 12 extra days.

Dave: Yeah, he’s still having a blast.

Charlie Sweatpants: If they’d included something about how he was in denial or whatever, that would’ve been a sop to making sense. But instead he’s happy as a clam even though all the things he loved about the ship are suddenly gone.

Mad Jon: But the best is still that in the -30 degree weather, when everyone was walking about in their normal clothes, Bart explained that he did it for everyone else, and then they played with penguins and learned a lesson.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you notice that they suddenly were back in their regular clothes after no being in them for the rest of the episode? That doesn’t even make page one of the list of things that were weird about it, but I thought it was telling.

The scenes really are barely connected to one another.

Mad Jon: True, they were in boatware before that, Homer in the Hawaiian shirt, Bart was wearing a suit or something, and then they are in Antarctica, next to a sign denoting the research station was 3 miles away, wearing their everyday clothes and sledding.

Charlie Sweatpants: The ending was impressively batshit, even by their standards.

The penguin thing came completely out of nowhere, and then all of a sudden everything was okay with a flashforward to Bart’s death many decades from now.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that happened

Charlie Sweatpants: If this was a video installation at a modern art museum it’d be so confusing that people might think it’s good.

As a half hour of supposed comedy, however . . .

Mad Jon: My DVR ended at that, but I assume nothing much happened after the pictures from the future part.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, that was it.

There were a lot of things that could’ve been funny, but none of it was thought through enough to pan out.

A lifeguard as a cult leader, for example, isn’t terrible, but just saying that and then repeating it leaves it half formed.

Mad Jon: Minus the stupid incongruities, such as the clothing from the end, this one was one of the “more boring than stupid, but still pretty stupid” zombiesodes.

I probably would have liked the lifeguard thing if a lifeguard thing hadn’t just happened a few weeks ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: There’s that. But what I meant is, they had this weird post apocalyptic society on the ship and having a lifeguard in charge of a cult there could’ve been funny if they’d developed it a little. Instead, they just race through it as nothing more than a punchline.

They could’ve done more with that idea, but they had to get to Antarctica, so they just leave it there, not quite part of the plot, but also not small enough to just be a joke.

The pacing on this show is non-existent. Things seems to slow down and speed up with no discernable logic.

Mad Jon: I didn’t really notice that, but I wasn’t paying that close of attention.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not that important.

Mad Jon: I just saw a panicked Bart start some shit, and then watched that shit fall apart and end up at the south pole.

Charlie Sweatpants: Bet that’s not something you were expecting to type at this time yesterday.

17
Apr
12

Crazy Noises: Beware My Cheating Bart

Duffless8

“Bart, could you go get the cupcakes?” – Marge Simpson
“Cupcakes?  Cupcakes.  Yes.  Sweet cakes for all.” – Bart Simpson

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 “water weenie”).

In one of the more telling segments of “Beware My Cheating Bart”, all manner of thinly mammary-related foodstuffs are paraded before the audience.  First there’s a suspiciously round mound of mashed potatoes, then Grampa calling Bart a “boob” and talking about chicken “breasts”, and finally Marge bringing over a plate of round cookies with little chocolate nipples in the middle.  The premise of all of this can roughly be translated as, “hurr, boobz funny”.

Now, plenty of people (myself very much included) have a healthy inner 9-year-old that will usually find something like that at least mildly amusing.  There aren’t many parts of the human body that aren’t at least kinda goofy, and there’s certainly no harm in the occasional cheap laugh.  What’s so amazing about Zombie Simpsons is that they managed to screw up even this most basic form of comedy. 

Hershey kiss nipples and noting that chickens also have a part on them called “breasts” are silly and juvenile, but the scene where they do this is anything but.  It gets introduced with a shocked looking Bart accompanied by the string music of suspense, and that’s before Marge and Grampa proceed to inadvertently traumatize him.  Bart spends the whole scene genuinely freaking out, which makes me, the audience member who likes to indulge his inner 9-year-old, unsure how to react.  I can’t giggle playfully because Bart is losing it, but there’s no deeper humor or satire either. 

When Bart goes for the cupcakes in “Duffless”, he’s also traumatized, but there it’s a call back to earlier in the episode as well as a wonderfully salacious Kubrick parody.  Bart’s freak out is part of the gag instead of a distraction from it, so there’s no mismatch between what’s going on and what’s supposed to be funny. 

It’s also worth pointing out that, in the previous scene, Zombie Simpsons resorted to the ye olde tyme movie/television shortcut of we’ll-show-the-girl-from-the-back-because-we-can’t-show-her-from-the-front whereas The Simpsons had a mentally conditioned 10-year-old reach for actual sugar tits on network television.  One of those displays a great deal more creativity than the other.

Duffless3 I still can’t believe they got away with this.  The Standards & Practices people are not the sharpest knives in the network drawer. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to begin?

Mad Jon: Oh sure

Dave: Indeed

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we quickly dispense with the couch gag? I thought it was cute, but it went on too damn long.

Mad Jon: And weirdly depressing, even with the happy ending. Nothing like watching a cartoon couch kiss it’s child goodbye before committing garbage-cide to get me in the mood for a comedy

Dave: Having had the pleasure of ignoring much of this season, I did think the gag was, as you say, cute.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the idea of Homer actually having sex with a piece of furniture is a little odd. I confess myself slightly impressed that they got that on television, but about halfway through I was pretty much ready for it to be over.

Mad Jon: It did drag on.

  But that’s pretty standard nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed it is. Witness the "flame war" between Shauna and Comic Book Guy.

That could’ve been kinda funny, instead they dragged it out way too long, and had them dancing around each other instead of just standing there ignoring each other before one of them declares victory or something.

Mad Jon: I suppose that’s how it ended. I couldn’t tell what CBG was rattling on about.

Or why he let them in and acted un-CBG before calling Jimbo.

Charlie Sweatpants: Or why Bart would think to go there in the first place.

Were they planning on hanging out there all night or something?

Mad Jon: Perhaps.

  Why Bart thought that CBG would allow that at all is also confusing.

Charlie Sweatpants: I dunno, though since the entire Bart falls in love with a teenage girl thing was beyond nuts, I guess I shouldn’t nitpick.

Mad Jon: This is a romance that started with Bart commenting on how he wasn’t ready, then led to a makeout montage.

Dave: It happened already. With another one of Jimbo’s girls. Better the first time.

Mad Jon: This one was slightly more graphic.

Charlie Sweatpants: And made less sense.

Mad Jon: I dunno how I feel about Bart seeing boobs.

Dave: In what sense?

Charlie Sweatpants: The thing is, they didn’t even need the romance angle. Bart and her could’ve just become friends, like he’s the kid brother who tells her Jimbo’s no good for her or something. The whole romance/make out/visual second base thing just makes it weird and less believable without being in any way funny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, probably

Charlie Sweatpants: Jon, was there more to your boob thought, or was that it?

Mad Jon: Not really, it just felt a bit greasy.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole thing was greasy. Real greasy.

Mad Jon: What really agravazes me, was the mall shoplifting scene.

Not only was that idea a whole plot in the worst episode ever, he has no fear of shoplifting, defying the guard, and then blowing up the mall jail somehow. All with absolutely no consequences.

Other than then getting to see boobs.

Charlie Sweatpants: All true, but Bart’s behavior throughout this episode see-sawed back and forth between little kid and capable adult.

He’s terrified of getting back to his house because the bullies are in it, then he’s in the treehouse and they’re down in the yard. He’s nervous around Jimbo, then he’s suddenly telling Shauna what to do. If this episode was the only thing you knew about him, you’d think he was bipolar.

The mall security guard was annoying because, well, everything here was annoying. They created an unnecessary situation, then literally blew it up when they couldn’t think of another way out of it. Quite frankly, I think the whole thing was to get the Segway in there, but that’s just a guess.

Mad Jon: I can see the Segway angle.

Charlie Sweatpants: And while we’re on the subject of jokes and one scene characters that sucked and went on too long: the lifeguard.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that happened didn’t it?

Dave: I’m shocked they bothered to write a series of jokes about that at all, seeing as the first wasn’t particularly funny.

Mad Jon: Low hanging fruit I guess. As rotten as it may have been.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know where they were, I don’t know who he was supposed to be, I don’t know how Bart escaped after they had him tied up with water weenies, the whole thing stunk out loud.

Mad Jon: Yeah, why Dolph and Kearney let him go made no sense. But meh.

Charlie Sweatpants: Why Marge had them hang up the laundry also made no sense. I’m not honestly sure there isn’t a single scene in this episode that did make sense.

  For example, even at the very beginning, I can think of no earthly reason Bart would actually go see the little elves movie. Not a single one.

That goes for the Marge and Homer plot too. The whole Lost thing was lame, and Marge not knowing what Homer was doing defied even this show’s standards of stupid.

Mad Jon: So what? Marge and Homer’s marriage was threatened by a TV show that was cancelled years ago?

Charlie Sweatpants: It was more Marge was mad at Homer for lying to her, though since she has to have an IQ of about seventy to not have known he was lying, it didn’t have much kick to it.

Mad Jon: What do you think he did with the treadmill after he got caught and it disappeared?

Charlie Sweatpants: Um, treadmill gnomes? I don’t know.

Mad Jon: Did you guys realize that the first horn music showed up when he got the fortune from the cookie?

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

There was plenty of that kind of fake suspense throughout. Like, what was with Lenny, Carl and Moe at their house near the end?

Mad Jon: At the discussion group that ended in an armed standoff?

Charlie Sweatpants: I get that none of them even remotely resemble real people anymore, but they treated that like it was normal. It was just weird.

  Did we lose Dave?

Dave: No I’m here

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, good.

Dave: Just not contributing as much as I ought to be

Charlie Sweatpants: Enh.

Mad Jon: I wouldn’t feel bad about that if I were you.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nor I.

Dave: Ha. Thanks.

Charlie Sweatpants: Honestly, I don’t think there’s much left to talk about. I mean, the A-plot was weird and only really had one element, Bart and Shauna getting into trouble. The B-plot was rankly stupid and only had one element, Homer freaking out about their terrible Lost takeoff.

There just isn’t much more here. Even by their standards, this one is hollow and simplistic. It’s not even manic enough for there to be some really insane things happening.

Mad Jon: Ralph did crash a cop car into a tree under the supervision of the Chief of Police.

But again, that didn’t really shock me.

  By the way, was the make out in disguise montage something I should have recognized?

  You know, the one that had Bart driving a nice car around?

Charlie Sweatpants: There was one bit that I think was supposed to be Rain Man, but other than that I’m not sure.

Mad Jon: Oh well.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wow, I just realized that this episode so numbed my brain I didn’t even notice Bart or Ralph driving cars.

Mad Jon: One led to the other, but it doesn’t really matter.

Dave: If I saw that, I’ve since suppressed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Best to keep it that way.

  Anything else?

Mad Jon: I got nothing. That was an unhappy 22 minutes for me.

Dave: It happened, and now it’s done. We get to move on again. For a little while.

Charlie Sweatpants: How Zen.

20
Mar
12

Crazy Noises: Them, Robot

Robot Workers

“Crush, kill, destroy.” – 100% Loyal Robot Workers

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 “poisoning”). 

Zombie Simpsons makes no secret about the way the front of the episode is often completely unrelated to the rest of it.  (It’s the sort of thing they’ll nervously joke about on commentaries.)  Things often take rather severe turns at or around the first commercial break, usually because the opening is more of a self contained sketch than setup for the rest of the plot.  For the most part I’ve grown numb to that, but “Them, Robot” took this to a new level of story indifference. 

The opening of the episode is Homer on an alcohol free weekend because the plant is having a drug test on Monday.  When the drug test finally got around to happening, after Jerkass Homer went to a nice restaurant and spat in other people’s food (naturally, they applauded), I thought that was going to be the reason Burns used to fire all the employees.  After all, if every employee flunks the drug test, why not hire robot workers?  Zombie Simpsons being Zombie Simpsons, they didn’t do that.  Instead they had a guy we don’t know suffer from radiation poisoning and die, a plot element that wasn’t mentioned again, and which had nothing to do with the finale when Burns rehires all his old workers. 

That kind of rank plotting isn’t unusual for them.  (And, as you can see above, The Simpsons managed to do this whole story better in three words, two scenes, and ten seconds.)  But in this instance they had a simple way to make the story (such as it was) kinda work, and they still didn’t do it.  From my humble vantage point at the receiving end of the chattering cyclops, I have no idea how they manage to produce episodes this consistently sloppy.  But things like this do make one wonder if they don’t need to put some caffeine in the water cooler down there at 1 Zombie Simpsons Plaza. 

Note: Dave and Mad Jon have both gone intercontinental this week.  Fortunately, Magdalena from Lenny Tunes and Mike from Me Blog Write Good were kind enough to join me. 

Mike: So Charlie, you wanna kick off, or what?

  However you normally do this.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m ready to get started if you two are.

Lenny: Sure.

Mike: Yeah, I’m ready.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then, anyone want an opening tirade?

Lenny: The worst part for me was the brunch scene.

Mike: Wait, before we get to the episode

  Can someone explain to me what the point of that couch gag was

Charlie Sweatpants: More self congratulation, I think.

Lenny: That’s what I thought. I felt like you should either try to be political or make it all about you, but both? It was weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: Might have just been a leftover idea from the 500th episode.

Mike: It was political "commentary" with a random Simpsons timeline thrown in.

Lenny: Exactly.

Mike: With appearances of such classic characters as Lisa’s dance instructor and that weirdo Willy Wonka guy who sold Bart’s T-shirts

And it was only every other year for some reason.

  It kind of set the stage right there that the writers seem to not give a shit anymore if things make sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: I just assume that, these days.

The brunch scene being a case in point. That was Jerkass Homer to a T.

  And yet everyone else there treated him like he was normal or something.

Lenny: Everyone besides Homer was just completely vacant.

  Marge and Lisa apparently just sat there while he ordered and drank six mimosas?

Mike: Yeah. Patty and Selma just sat there, no commentary at all.

Lenny: Patty and Selma not saying anything is annoying enough in of itself, but it’s especially terrible when you consider that them being their usual selves would be an organic way to drive Homer to drinking.

Charlie Sweatpants: It went beyond them as well. All those other people, staff and customers, actually applauded him.

Mike: Exactly. They could have built a little bit of tension, but instead stuck to dumb jokes.

Lenny: And Marge just sat there when Homer drank either five or six mimosas (the animation wasn’t consistent), but then suddenly she has the all-knowing power to tell that coffee has alcohol in it just from glancing at it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say they were more antics than jokes, but I may be splitting hairs.

Mike: Yeah, jokes imply there’s humor present.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then they ran that into the ground by repeating just about anything that involves alcohol, more or less as a list.

Lenny: Yeah, I don’t know if let’s-see-how-many-things-with-alcohol-in-them-we-can-name quite counts as a joke.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. There wasn’t so much as a comment about how all these brunch foods have booze in them.

Mike: But let’s go bigger picture here: apparently this is a science fiction universe where there are these hyper sophisticated robots.

That Burns bought from God knows where.

Charlie Sweatpants: That would be the episode’s Achilles everything, all right.

Mike: That and for some reason it spring boarded to the entire town being unemployed.

  I thought I spaced out and missed a few scenes.

  Does everyone in Springfield work at the nuclear plant?

Charlie Sweatpants: Just to make things consistently annoying, the episode can’t even be consistent about what the robots can and can’t do. They go from tough to fall apart in no time flat.

Lenny: That was annoying because even throwing in a quick line from Smithers like "one solution that’s very popular" would give you some warning that this would affect more than just the plant.

Mike: There was absolutely no connection between the robots and the unemployment.

  None.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s like they’re trying to do both too much and not enough at the same time. The town falling apart because of robot workers is a rather big story, but it barely rates more than a couple of scenes, probably less screen time than Homer playing baseball with the robots.

Mike: Well that was a laugh riot.

  Especially when all those robots got hit by traffic.

Charlie Sweatpants: That just kept going.

Mike: There’s just so much padding… That, the loud "D’oh," and the endless "working hard or hardly working"

  Which features Homer at his loudest and most obnoxious.

  And getting hurt.

  A veritable Jerkass trifecta

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed.

Lenny: Another moment that stuck out to me as being particularly bad was Homer slicing his head, because it was simultaneously too violent and not violent enough.

  Him actually getting his head sliced open seems like overkill, but then the fact that there’s no blood or even a noticeable scratch afterwards made it absurdly tame.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way of putting it. He had a pretty big chunk missing, but there was no blood, nothing. It was just off-putting.

Lenny: Same with him getting part of his mouth ripped out by the paperclip.

Mike: I forgot about that.

  Holy shit, man.

Charlie Sweatpants: Of course, the robots’ buzzsaw hands disappeared shortly thereafter, so who knows?

Speaking of that paperclip scene, Homer can apparently turn off power to the city while asleep now. It’s yet another thing that’s been done before (Colonel Homer) that has no impact here because of how poorly it’s done.

Mike: And it’s treated as a goof by Marge and Lisa.

Lenny: This episode had a lot of admitting that Homer’s the only person in the universe who matters. The power’s out so Marge knows it’s him, the robots who are programmed to preserve life endanger drivers to save Homer, etc.

Everyone besides Homer is a prop in this universe.

Mike: Yeah, right.

If it had been treated with some severity, it could have springboarded to Burns wanting to eradicate human incompetence by getting the robots.

Lenny: That would make a lot more sense than "the federal government considers alcohol a drug."

Mike: I mean, Smithers could have taken the only human position.

Charlie Sweatpants: Or the fact that the drug test itself was dropped like a hot potato. The actual reason Burns hired the robots was because the random guy got radiation poisoning.

Mike: So Homer’s sobriety meant nothing.

  Just more filler.

  Great jokes like Homer reading the voter’s guide and Gil getting killed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Same with Homer’s attempts to bond with the robots. It’s all filler because the only thing they know how to do is wind up Homer and let him loose to act like an asshole.

Mike: I just really don’t understand where there were going with a lot of this stuff.

  Homer befriends the robots, but why?

Charlie Sweatpants: I would be curious to read the first draft of one of these scripts some time. Did it make sense once upon a time and all that got stripped out in favor of Luigi standing there with pizza boxes, or was it always this messy?

  I honestly have no idea.

Mike: I have no clue.

  I just need to reiterate: there was NO connection between the robots and the town becoming unemployed.

There has to be a version of this episode where there was.

Lenny: Yeah, I mean, they highlighted unemployment with…Barney? Like him being underemployed is this big shift?

Mike: Here, it makes no sense.

  Yeah.

  Also, his voice sounded off. His and a few others.

Lenny: That might be why Patty and Selma didn’t have any lines, actually.

Mike: I haven’t watched new episodes in a few years, is this common?

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought Kavner was having a really hard time with Marge in this one.

Mike: Burns was off at a few points. Smithers sounded fine.

Charlie Sweatpants: And yeah, I’ve long suspected that we see much less of Patty and Selma (and nothing of their mother) because she just can’t do that rasp any longer.

Mike: Speaking of Burns, I guess it’s a joke that he’s reading Tina Fey’s book.

  I guess?

  Free promotion?

Lenny: The Tina Fey book and the fact that they made their third or fourth Angry Birds joke made me feel like they’re just desperate to be cool.

Mike: You really think that’s it? A desperate attempt to seem relevant and modern after all these years?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say it’s more of a reference than a joke. For it to be a joke they’d have needed to make up something that was like Bossypants but not actually it.

Lenny: Maybe I’m misreading it, but stuff like that always makes me feel like my high school teacher is trying to prove he’s still with it or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s definitely the feeling I get.

It was like that Chris Christie thing a few months ago, they try to stay relevant by putting in things that can be done late in the process. The book title could’ve been anything.

Mike: Yeah. It’s just Insert Reference Here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Precisely.

Though even then they screw things up. They made a joke about Rudy not being that inspiring a story, but failed to note that he got convicted of bilking investors in a stock scam.

Mike: Then we end with Burns and Homer teaming up against the robots, for some reason, and the townspeople miraculously being there to save the day.

Lenny: After the robots somehow know where Mr. Burns lives and go straight there because Homer messed with them using a screwdriver.

Mike: Well they followed Homer, to be fair.

Lenny: Oh, guess I missed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: But why did he go there?

  Did he know he’d be able to get in?

Mike: Because he bought the robots.

I guess he thought it was his only option.

  I won’t gripe that point, it was one of the few things here that made sense.

  But Burns would absolutely not let him in.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know I mentioned this above, but the ending was another place where they really expect you to not remember anything from even just a minute or two before. The robots were ultra-deadly, and then all of a sudden, they had no buzzsaw hands and were easily defeated by basically unarmed people.

Lenny: And it drove me crazy that Homer assumed he’d be able to reprogram sophisticated robots by shoving a screw into them and it somehow worked.

  And Mr. Burns then learned he needs human employees even though his only human employee was the one who screwed everything up.

Charlie Sweatpants: To be fair, this is like the fourth time they’ve shown Homer tinker with robots since about Season 12.

None of those made sense either, but they are being consistent.

Lenny: I just remember "See all that stuff in there? That’s why your robot never worked."

Mike: Linguo, the battle bots one…

Charlie Sweatpants: Wasn’t there one he threw out of his garage half built, as well?

  They kinda blur together.

Mike: Oh yeah, right.

  "Father!"

Lenny: Well, obviously I am out of my element after season 8. That is weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: But Lenny’s right, Burns had no real motivation to hire everyone back except that it was the end of the episode.

Lenny: And because they beat the scary robots with corn dogs, which is impressive.

Mike: Yeah. Those robots are total weaksauce, man.

Charlie Sweatpants: And about half of their lines were pointless exposition that even Cmdr. Data himself couldn’t sell.

  I mean they actually had him say, “Our programming restricts our movement to yellow guidance lines”. They had half a dozen chances to show us that, then they told it to us instead, then they ignored it for the rest of the episode.

Mike: They ignored it immediately when they showed Homer painting the baseball diamond, then we immediately see robots standing off the line.

Lenny: I guess the animators did their best with a script that called for completely contradictory visuals.

Mike: I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: They stick the animators with a lot of impossible tasks.

Mike: Poor bastards.

  Wishing they worked for Bob’s Burgers instead.

Lenny: Indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not their fault the script called for Homer to pick up Mr. Burns and swing him around for a second before putting him back down like nothing happened.

Lenny: Or called for Luigi to use pizza boxes like a flip book.

  I hated the scene where Mr. Burns uses the robot as a foot rest because I thought I knew where it was going and then not only did they not do what I thought, they didn’t really do anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it took them a long time to not do it, as well.

Mike: What did you expect?

Lenny: I thought it would be about Smithers being like "I could do that!" and being way too giddy about being Burns’s foot rest, leaving them both uncomfortable.

Mike: Oh, I see.

Lenny: Which would at least be a joke based on character instead of…visual gags seems too strong, but visuals, I guess.

Mike: Harry Shearer making orgasm noises. That would have at least been interesting.

Lenny: Haha. And would have been a better and more subtle sex joke than Barney holding that hat up, which they thought was way funnier than it was.

Charlie Sweatpants: Forgot about that. Guh.

Mike: Forgot that too. In front of children, no less.

Let me just ask, was there anything about the episode you all liked?

Lenny: I thought some of the robots’ material was okay.

Charlie Sweatpants: I did like Spiner’s delivery on "We do vent nitrogen once a year. You do not want to be around for that."

Mike: I think I smirked at the Rudy line, but that’s it.

Lenny: Yup, those are the two that got me.

Mike: Like, honestly, I was stunned at how poor this episode was.

I’ve seen maybe four episodes in the last three years.

  The last being that Xmas show from this season, since everyone was jizzing their pants over it.

  At least on No Homers

Lenny: Ah, I’ve seen everything this season and I think I would put this towards the top. The Christmas one is definitely at the top for me, being a solid 4/10.

Mike: But man, I’m dumbstruck.

  I’m not even trying to be funny, are they always this bad, Charlie?

How would you rank this with the rest of the season

Charlie Sweatpants: This was par for the course, yeah.

Lenny: I thought the last two we’ve had were worse.

Charlie Sweatpants: Honestly, I’m consistently amazed people can differentiate these that much. There are notably worse things here or there, but was this overall any less nuts than the magic bar rag, or Lisa’s overnight social network? Or Homer becoming a famous talk show host and political power broker? None of them make sense.

Mike: Yeah, that’s the overriding feel I got.

Nothing made sense.

No overarching theme, no consistent character stuff, no emotional arc

  Just a bunch of random shit that sort of related to each other. Sometimes.

Lenny: For me there’s just a slight difference between the ones that I can’t stand while I’m watching them and the ones that I’m able to stomach and then upon reflection I realize how bad they are and I’d put this in the latter category, which puts it towards the top of this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: Low bar, huh?

Lenny: Oh yeah.

Mike: Those are some standards.

Lenny: For instance, this one didn’t have a scene where Homer tried to have sex with Marge while wearing a diaper, even though everyone in the history of adult diapers has realized there’s a pretty simple system of have sex, then put on a diaper, then go to sleep. Low points like that are what make the difference for me.

Mike: …I don’t even want to know what that’s about.

Lenny: It was terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Last week. And yeah, don’t bother.

Mike: But in summation, I can at least say this episode makes me appreciate season 9 a hell of a lot more.

  I was bumming a little bit rewatching the season, but this…

Lenny: That’s exactly how I feel about looking back on 9 and 10.

Mike: My goodness.

  We could only be so lucky to get that quality again.

  At least they told stories. And had humor.

Charlie Sweatpants: I had the same experience with Season 10 last summer. Season 10 is unbelievably good compared to these. Plenty of them suck, but there’s still some heart, logic and good ideas, even if they don’t work.

This is just a bunch of random crap that hardly seems to have had any thought put into it.

Mike: So anything else to be said about this pile? I have to go pour bleach on my mind after visualizing Homer having sex in a diaper.

Lenny: Yeah, you’re lucky you didn’t get the actual visual from the episode. I think that’s all I got for this one.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think we’re going to get lower than giant diaper.

  Let me just say thanks to both of you for joining me this week.

Lenny: Thanks for the invite!

Mike: Wait, let’s end on a positive note.

  With Barney in a diaper on the street.

  A man of quiet dignity.

Charlie Sweatpants: He knows you can hear him!

Lenny: That is fine hardcore nudity.

Mike: Indeed.

14
Mar
12

Crazy Noises: How I Wet Your Mother

Radio Bart13

“You know, Bart, I don’t think this is such a bad present.  Maybe you just shouldn’t talk into it as loud as your father does.” – Marge Simpson

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 “nightmarish”).

I’ve mentioned already, and do so again below, that this episode was thick with wretchedly unneeded exposition.  There were plenty of examples, but one that struck me as both particularly illustrative of Zombie Simpsons and especially pointless came near the beginning when Homer was wrapping up his stupid apology party.  Here’s Homer asking the crowd if they forgive him:

Working Microphone

The crowd cheers, and then they cut to Carl who says, “Ain’t no problem that free food and free booze won’t fix.”  They immediately cut back to Homer:

Non-Working Microphone

Standing right next to the microphone, Homer says, out loud, “Free?  Uh . . .”.  Naturally, no one hears this.  The next time Homer speaks . . .

Working Microphone (Again)

. . . everyone can hear him again.  Homer’s next line is yet another expository word evacuation about his sheets being dry now, though at least for this last one they bothered to get rid of the microphone:

Missing Microphone

Not only is this another example of Zombie Simpsons forgetting that people who aren’t in a shot are still in a scene, but both of the lines no one managed to hear didn’t tell the audience anything we didn’t already know.  Zombie Simpsons: making scenes unbelievable for lines that don’t need to be there.

Mad Jon: Do you want to get started on this?

Charlie Sweatpants: No point delaying things.

Mad Jon: I guess not.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d like to begin by asking a simple question. When did they start treating Frink’s insane inventions seriously?

Mad Jon: I suppose when it became convenient.

  I couldn’t tell you the exact point in time however.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like everything else, I assume it was a slow process.

Mad Jon: It happened so gradually, I didn’t even notice.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Death Ray prototype was funny, the Gamble-Tron was funny. Then at some point it was self tapping shoes, and from there it’s just gotten worse.

In Season 9 he invented a teleporter, but that was a Halloween episode.

By my count, this was the second time he’s invented a machine that let Homer probe the depths of his unconscious.

But without actually looking things up, I guess I’d have to go with the self tapping shoes. Though at least in that episode they took a stab at it making sense that he would run into Lisa. Here he literally fell from the sky.

Mad Jon: Literally.

Charlie Sweatpants: Greek myths make more sense than that.

Mad Jon: The thing that bothered me the most was that Marge wasn’t really surprised. Here’s Frink, out of nowhere, and now he’s got an idea to solve a problem he already knows about that is affecting her sex life, and they go right to it. There wasn’t any attempt at a decent plot progression. They went right for the gratification.

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t even notice that, but you’re right.

Mad Jon: But that kind of story telling has been the norm for a while, so meh. I believe there are worse problems here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Many.

Hell, in that same vein, why in the name of Christopher Nolan did the cops show up and break into the Simpson house?

Mad Jon: That was a big problem. Not only is it apparently illegal (for some un-disclosed reason) to use a machine on willing subjects to probe their dreams, it is also immediately detectable by all three local police officers.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was one of those things that was so blatant that I sat up and noticed even through my usual Zombie Simpsons stupor.

Mad Jon: I even stopped playing on my phone!

Charlie Sweatpants: And that was before he and Frink got into a fight which mattered for a second before being dropped entirely.

Mad Jon: A slow motion fist fight.

Charlie Sweatpants: We’ll just add that to the list of shit that made no sense. I think they had an "Inception" bingo card they were trying to fill out.

Mad Jon: Hopefully somebody won a beating.

Charlie Sweatpants: Not likely.

Though, to be fair, there were plenty of things that had nothing to do with anything. For example, why was Death normal, and then it had a jetpack, and then it was Homer’s mom?

Mad Jon: Is that how she got there?

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, that’s what I’m confused about. If she was there the whole time, why did nothing happen earlier. But if she wasn’t there the whole time, then how did she get there?

Even if it was just Homer’s mom in that final dream, why was she dressed as Death?

And, yes, I realize I’m asking questions that no one bothered to come up with an answer for.

Mad Jon: I suppose we could find this answer along with a real explanation of why all that crap had anything to do with Homer wetting the bed.

Absolutely no foreshadowing at all. All of the sudden he’s wetting the bed. And after a nightmarish (for me) adventure through everyone’s dreams or something, we find out he wants his parents to be together?

  Seriously?

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh no, that has an answer. It was about fish and a marriage and Cletus and possibly the Alan Parson’s Project, which I think was some sort of hovercraft.

But even that didn’t make sense, since going fishing was apparently what triggered everything.

  I’ll include my usual I-don’t-care-about-inter-episode-continuity disclaimer, but it’s not like we’ve only ever seen Homer go fishing once or something. The man likes fishing.

Mad Jon: Was it? I never really understood the trigger.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was also unclear, because it didn’t make any sense even within this episode, but they did at least say that was the reason.

Mad Jon: I though at the end they were going to switch from the Inception type episode to the end scene from that Leonardo DiCaprio movie where he was an insane guy who thought he was a cop.

Charlie Sweatpants: J. Edgar?

Mad Jon: No, it was about an island or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Mad Jon: The thread that would bind that episode would be Leonardo DiCaprio, which is more of a thread than usual.

Charlie Sweatpants: True enough.

Changing the subject slightly, this is a direct quote from the middle of the episode, and might not even be in the top five for most grotesque exposition:

"Deep down I must be feeling guilty about getting my friends in trouble."

  And that wasn’t even the time Homer exposited while standing in front of a live microphone in front of all of his co workers.

Mad Jon: I have a note on my paper when that quote happened:

– Possibly worst plot forwarding dialogue this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: I made a note as well, "Hello, exposition police, there’s been a homicide."

Mad Jon: …. it made more sense to me when it happened.

Charlie Sweatpants: So did mine.

Mad Jon: There has been some serious explanatory dialogue this season, but this may be the most obvious piece of evidence that the writers either don’t care or really think that their remaining viewers are complete idiots.

  Possibly both.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d vote both. I mean, despite all the "let us tell you what’s happening while you watch it", there were still a bunch of things that wouldn’t have made sense if you hadn’t seen Inception or at least knew a little about it.

Mad Jon: That’s usually a bad thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah. Here it was more of a lateral move.

Mad Jon: I guess they felt the need to go deeper.

Charlie Sweatpants: I felt I needed a stronger sedative.

Mad Jon: Touche salesman.

Overall, however, I feel the most bothersome part was that the plot as a whole was devoted to Homer as a bedwetter. I think he even mentions towards the beginning that this is the last embarrassing thing he had never done or something. When I read the description on my DVR, it elicited a "Sigh…. Ok."

  This is what it’s come to. This.

Charlie Sweatpants: There is a steep and undeniable decline between relatively oblique references to Milhouse and Ralph being bedwetters and it being the main element in a plot about Homer.

Mad Jon: In the way there is a steep and undeniable decline between a can of Pringles, and an empty can of Pringles that your brother has shit in, yes.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

Can I assume you have some equally feculent vitriol stored up about the brief but wholly dumb scenes at the power plant?

Mad Jon: I dunno, that took a lot of effort.

  However, I do have thoughts.

I thought the only serviceable line happened there. When Carl stated that he was pretty sure the referee they beat up was actually a kid who works at Foot Locker.

  I didn’t necessarily laugh, but it was short and sweet.

Charlie Sweatpants: I did like that line, but it felt like the kind of thing that could’ve been done better.

Mad Jon: Of course, but the hindsight of the last few years tells me that it could have been much, much worse.

Charlie Sweatpants: Also true. It just bugs me when the best things are those cheap setup-setup-punchline type gags.

Mad Jon: True enough.

Other than that, I was a little bothered that Homer’s first trip to that particular employer in sometime was only a lead-in to part of the plot about bedwetting that made him think he has wronged his ‘friends’.

And didn’t another car get out before Homer did?

Charlie Sweatpants: It looked like it. But it also looked like Burns was staring right the fuck at Homer when he was getting pissed off, and they dropped that like it never happened.

Mad Jon: Oh well.

Charlie Sweatpants: The fact that Burns had him up on the stage was also particularly annoying. I know Burns is incompetent now, but after having him watch Homer steal stuff, putting him up there as an example was particularly galling.

Mad Jon: And how does he know Barney doesn’t work there?

Charlie Sweatpants: And why would Barney think he does work there?

Mad Jon: Equally valid question.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here? As usual, I have a small list of little things that sucked but were so unrelated to anything that they can only qualify as minor: Bart dancing in the sky, the way Marge didn’t notice the bed wetting, the ending that hailed for no reason. But I don’t have much to say about them other than that they made no sense and weren’t funny, which isn’t the world’s most insightful commentary.

Mad Jon: Yeah, there were a bunch of little things, but as you have stated, most do not warrant discussion, even from someone as petty as I.

  I don’t have anything else constructive or otherwise to add.

Charlie Sweatpants: That, at least, is in keeping with the spirit of the episode.

06
Mar
12

Crazy Noises: Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

Bart the Lover9

“Can you believe it?  Pretty soon I’ll be able to quit my job and live off the boy.” – Homer Simpson
“What?  Name me one person who’s gotten rich by doing yo-yo tricks.” – Marge Simpson
“Donald Trump?  No.  Arnold Palmer?  No.  Bill Cosby!  No.” – Homer’s Brain
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

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 “terminology”). 

Zombie Simpsons’ ongoing “instant professional” problem was brought up in comments yesterday, and it goes almost without saying that I agree.  The show seems incapable of making fun of anything without having one of the Simpson clan become instantly good and insanely popular at it.  Whether we’re talking about them faking a children’s book, Marge becoming a food blogger, Bart and Martin designing a robot toy, or Lisa’s social website, the people in Springfield frequently become widely recognized world class professionals at just about anything.

If they were doing this every once and a while it wouldn’t be nearly as annoying.  But this happens in almost every episode.  All of the above examples are just from this season, and I didn’t even mention the time Homer turned into a prototypical “accounts man” or when he become a nationally syndicated talk show host overnight.  I understand why they take this particular shortcut so often; it makes it really easy to insert a few mildly snide jokes about whatever profession a particular Simpson has taken up this week.  But we’re long past the point of diminishing returns on these, and Bart’s street art from “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart” is unlikely to be the last one we see.

When Bart goes on his graffiti tear, he doesn’t just pick up a few spray cans like we’ve seen him do before.  Instead, he becomes an accomplished and very skilled artist in just a few seconds of screen time.  From there he plasters the entire city with so many pictures of Homer that the sheer scale of what he’s done is so over the top that it detracts from the story and the humor.  If he’d tagged a couple of buildings with his Homer “Dope” visage, he might have pissed off a few people and you’d have something at least mildly interesting to go on.  Instead, Zombie Simpsons starts piling one flight of fancy on top of another.  Not only is Bart super good at this overnight, not only does he coat the city in these things despite being a ten-year-old, but he also runs into some famous street artists and promptly holds a giant gallery show that brings in millions of dollars.  This is less satire or parody than it is wish fulfillment. 

Mad Jon: Well, perhaps we should start.

My DVR missed the beginning of the opening, but was the couch gag a copy of the opening to Game of Thrones?

Dave: Yeah, the intro was a Game of Thrones knockoff.

Charlie Sweatpants: Someone posted a quote from A.V. Club in comments that ripped it pretty good.

Mad Jon: I basically saw the pan up to the couch.

Charlie Sweatpants: Here it is:

  “The Game Of Thrones couch gag is indicative of some of the laziness of the latter-day Simpsons humor. It’s not satire, but an homage, as if to answer the unasked question: What would the Game Of Thrones opening sequence look like if it had The Simpsons cast in it? Now we know.”

  I don’t have anything to add to that.

Mad Jon: That pretty well covers it.

Dave: Nope. That’s as definitive as it gets.

Charlie Sweatpants: It clocked it at about a minute, which seemed to be the going rate for set pieces this week.

Mad Jon: 21 minutes more to kill.

Charlie Sweatpants: There was the goofy opening with Homer and Lisa, the fight with Apu, the chef lady’s rambling voicemail message. And that was all before the first commercial break.

Mad Jon: Starting with a birthday bit, complete with repetitive screaming.

  The 30+ second cocktail sword fight was especially awful.

Dave: I was convinced they were going to spend the whole episode at Trader Joe’s.

Mad Jon: That may have been better.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nah, they dropped that storyline like a bad habit.

Dave: I mean Swapper Jack’s. Whatever.

Is that satire?

Charlie Sweatpants: No. No it is not.

Mad Jon: There isn’t a proper definition for what the Simpson writers call satire or parody.

  Cause what they think those things are, isn’t what they’re doing.

But I don’t know enough English terminology to back that up properly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Neither do I. But the Monstromart, that was parody.

Mad Jon: Fair enough,

Charlie Sweatpants: Ditto the time they had the Euro-trash on to be fake art people.

Mad Jon: That guy was a photo copy. But without the, what am I looking for…. Soul, heart, meaning, something like that.

Dave: Let’s call it soul.

Mad Jon: I was actually a little impressed when the Euro Trash guy came on.

I really think that was a passing thought. "We’ve done this guy with a different voice and from a different country… Oh well."

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of "Oh well" moments in this one.

Homer repeating the word "one" over and over, the whole rabbit cage thing, Moe showing up at Trader Joe’s with a shotgun for no reason. Take your pick.

Mad Jon: The only thing that brought a smile to my face out of those examples was the cage thing. Only because the cage-fat-push-in thing actually ‘forwarded’ the ‘plot’ later on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Feh.

Mad Jon: It was an ironic chuckle. A drunken ironic chuckle at that.

The thing that actually made me think in this episode was the scene where Homer was driving and vocalized that he was driving to work. How many people who like the zombie episodes actually know he at least used to wok at SNPP?

Charlie Sweatpants: What makes you think he was driving to the power plant? For all you know, he could’ve been headed to the badlands or any one of a dozen other places.

Mad Jon: Exactly my point.

  I don’t know that. I only know he used to drive to the power plant in the morning.

I can’t even tell you the last time he punched the power plant’s clock.

Charlie Sweatpants: Been awhile. The more bizarre one was when he was walking the dog, the rabbit, and had Bart with him.

It didn’t make sense for a single one of them, people or animals, to be there. And that was before Milhouse showed up out of the blue to let Homer know he was in all the pictures. And that was before Homer cracked open a beer he apparently happened to be carrying.

Mad Jon: Which also immediately intoxicated him if I remember correctly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yup. I don’t think there was a single scene in this entire episode that made sense if you paid attention to it for more than about eleven seconds.

  The entire ending was like that. First it was a big gala show, then it was a bust, then it was a big gala show again.

Dave: So, crap bookended by nonsense.

Charlie Sweatpants: Basically, yeah.

Mad Jon: Yeah, the intended gravity of the ending was again too confusing to have any real weight.

Charlie Sweatpants: The other problem is that there were two endings. Smushed into the whole "catching Bart" thing was Homer getting his feelings hurt for about a scene and a half before he was fine again.

Mad Jon: That includes the scene where Bart used his graffiti to make everything better and tie those two things together.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was three consecutive scenes: Homer gets upset, Homer strangles Bart, Bart makes it up to Homer. I’ve seen fortune cookies with better pacing.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

  Also, was I supposed to know who the non-‘OBEY’ artists were? Are they real street artists or something?

Charlie Sweatpants: I would assume they are. I liked "Exit Through the Gift Shop", but that movie came out like two years ago.

And I haven’t exactly kept up with the Street Art world since then.

More to the point, who cares? They were hardly on screen, and none of them had any lines that weren’t self serving, disposable, or both.

Mad Jon: This was another case where the guest stars actually detracted from the episode.

  I am sure this goes a way back, but to me the tipping point came when Seth Rogan got to do his episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not even sure I remember which one that was.

Mad Jon: Since then, I can’t think of a non-unproductive guest star.

  And it has to be HARD to bring down a zombiesode.

Having famous names on for the sake of it runs way back into The Simpsons, but it wasn’t a regular thing. Think of the Hullabalooza episode. Even though Sonic Youth has the acting talent of a stuffed monkey, they didn’t take away from the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think back to "Mom and Pop Art", and they had a couple of actual artists on. But Jasper Johns wasn’t doing anything productive, he was just stealing shit and being a jerk. Here, the artists were basically being themselves. They add nothing, to the story or to any possible satire.

Mad Jon: Good call. In addition to being un-funny or anything else, these guys where part of the worthless ending.

These kind of guest stars make me miss Michael Jackson for more than his music.

Charlie Sweatpants: The ending was an extension of that scene in the alley. It didn’t follow from what else we’d seen, none of the characters there were behaving even remotely like themselves, and the guest stars were just sort of hanging out.

Mad Jon: And profiting from Homer’s former, or maybe not former, boss.

Charlie Sweatpants: That could’ve been funny. Instead it was one long exercise in explaining a very obvious joke.

Anything else here? This one sort of skipped around from one "huh?" type scene to another. Making marginally stale cultural references here and there was its idea of humor.

Mad Jon: It was a roller coaster of emotions, for sure.

No, I got nothing else productive. Again, take a few plot points, find some English dialog to tie it together, no matter how many times you have to have two characters repeat the same words in weird voices, throw in someone (or some people) of marginal fame who haven’t been on, sell 4 acts of ads, and cash the check.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nice work if you can get it.

Mad Jon: I imagine it is.

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.

14
Feb
12

Crazy Noises: The Daughter Also Rises

I Love Lisa9

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 “homunculus”).

We give Zombie Simpsons a lot of grief for repeating jokes, but “The Daughter Also Rises” contained a impressively craven double dip on that count.  Not only did they rip off one Valentine’s Day episode for another, they repeated an Itchy & Scratchy segment almost shot for shot:

“I Love Lisa” (1993)

“The Daughter Also Rises” (2012)

MyBloodyValentine1 RosesAreRed1
MyBloodyValentine2 RosesAreRed2
MyBloodyValentine3 RosesAreRed3
MyBloodyValentine4 RosesAreRed4

Zombie Simpsons upped the gore and lost the humor in the process, but other than that they slavishly copied Season 4.  Now, maybe nineteen years is long enough that a segment can bear repeating, but if you’re going to do that, why not just rerun the old ones on Sundays at 8? 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Yes

Charlie Sweatpants: Where shall we begin?

Mad Jon: The top is as ‘good’ a place as any.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the couch gag certainly took a long time.

Mad Jon: Indeed. But what a way to celebrate 499 episodes.

By pointing out that next week is the 500th. 500 is a large number, especially for a show that died 15 years ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: The emphasis on milestones like that is just another indication of how the show now exists for the sake of existing. Like Fry, existing is basically all it does. When they were still putting out good episodes they blew through 100 with just that chalkboard gag about NOT celebrating meaningless milestones.

Mad Jon: Yeah well, it was pretty much par for couch gags in the last few years.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh certainly.

Mad Jon: Anyway, brushing past the 56" HDTV in the living room, it was nice of Kirk Van Houten to show up for a few minutes, I haven’t seen him since the last time he and Luanne got back together/got divorced.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was pretty bizarre. Though why Bart and Milhouse would be opening valentines together is also beyond me.

Mad Jon: And why Bart would have so many. But whatever. Don’t you usually open those in class on Valentines Day? Are we that old that things have changed so much?!?

The important thing is that the lopsided valentines haul led to them having a Myth Busters thing to work with or something.

Every time they went to do something, I could hear Moses from the Super Friends South Park narrating the scene in my head.

  Um, then they, uh get candy cigarettes from the vending machine…

  Can you hear it now?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good comparison. The randomness was in full swing, what was with Homer and Bart having fun together?

Mad Jon: I don’t know.

  That’s a question.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Myth Busters thing kinda pissed me off, because that’s a show they could’ve actually made fun of. The insane stuff they do, the "myths" that nobody’s ever heard of and even fewer actually believe. There’s a lot to work with there, but instead they had Bart and Milhouse become junior detectives, or something. I wasn’t really clear on it, and I don’t think they were either.

And what was with that Nick kid? Was he a kid? Because he sure didn’t act like one. For a while I thought he might be a hallucination, especially after that cafe scene and playing the song from Inception.

Mad Jon: I think he was the Irish boyfriend from the movie, and his card just came back up, so they gave him a different voice and called it a day.

Except this guy went from nondescript to apparently troubled 8 year old writer.

  I didn’t understand that until it was spelled out for me in the end.

And I didn’t think they could come up with a new way to kill as much time as they did with the peripheral vision montage, but man, they found a way!

Charlie Sweatpants: That was a little head spinning. When he started falling apart I thought they were maybe going for a "Lard of the Dance" type thing, with a kid who acts more grown up than he really is. But that was too much to expect. Instead they just let everything peter out.

Mad Jon: It was like every teenage relationship a real girl would have rolled up into ~6 minutes of dialog.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, it’s always weird to see the kids having these adult relationships.

Mad Jon: And I also suppose that I was supposed to think that Marge and Lisa were growing apart, but again, I didn’t really get it until Marge actually voiced that.

Charlie Sweatpants: And while I don’t much care about inter-episode continuity, Lisa was acting like this was her first romance (or something, it was pretty vague), like kissing this weirdly under-grown kid was the biggest event in her life. That’s both very unlike her, and something we’ve seen her do like three times already.

Mad Jon: Yep. I was actually surprised that Nelson wasn’t involved out of jealousy.

Charlie Sweatpants: He and everyone else was too busy apparently following Bart and Milhouse around. Then they got upset with Bart and Milhouse. And then they weren’t upset with them anymore.

That entire thing with Groundskeeper Willie was just agonizing.

Mad Jon: Even in a zombie episode, I can’t for the life of me believe that someone allowed the writers to have Bart say "I just figured out how to make school cool again!"

  Truly, no one cares anymore.

Charlie Sweatpants: They really don’t. How else can you explain that long ass thing with the salad dressing?

Marge wants to protect the salad dressing, fine. But then we go into twenty seconds of churning and bubbling why? Was the episode that short?

Mad Jon: I was also surprised how short her freakout was during the post-bubbling period.

Charlie Sweatpants: That whole scene didn’t make sense. Just physically, trying to place them was tough. Was Moe supposed to be sitting at the same table as whatshisface? Because they appeared to be in the same crack.

Mad Jon: I guess. That was actually more believable than the Kirk part in the beginning. Who, by the by, was sitting with Luanne at the table on the other side of Lisa and Marge.

  And what was the deal with the three twins? Was that a horror movie take off that I don’t recognize?

Charlie Sweatpants: No idea. It was just bizarre.

Mad Jon: Ok then. I thought I was just more out of the loop than normal.

Charlie Sweatpants: The same thing was true when the kid came over to the Simpsons house. He’s sitting there, and then Marge starts talking to Lisa like he’s not there.

And later, when Lisa meets Marge at the sewing store, huh? How did she get there?

  This was like watching blind monkeys play chess. Shit just kept sliding around.

Mad Jon: Were we supposed to know that they were going to meet there?

Charlie Sweatpants: No idea. But Marge’s little speech about "I don’t want you to spend so much time with this boy, if you do it’ll mean you’re a separate person from me" was particularly aggravating from that perspective. Not only do they spell things out, they don’t even do it well.

Mad Jon: Yeah, it went along real well with the rest of the ‘have the actors say what they feel’ theme that was this episode.

  That makes me feel angry!

Charlie Sweatpants: And don’t forget the little historical flashback. I think that one may have gotten edited in from the rag episode accidentally.

Mad Jon: Was their love really as forbidden as the myth would have me believe? We had barely just been told that Marge was jealous of Nick, and all of the sudden Claire Danes has to kill herself.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. There was nothing standing in their way . . . truly a story for the ages.

Mad Jon: And it ended with Nick channeling his inner Niles Crane.

Charlie Sweatpants: And Marge letting a supposed eight-year-old row a boat back to land by himself.

Mad Jon: And then he disappears from the island and Marge and Lisa share water shoes while Homer SINKS A FAN BOAT.

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess the fan boat was there the whole time, but maybe not.

Mad Jon: Probably maybe not. Who knows.

Well, I don’t really have anything else positive or negative to add. Although I am sure I could come up with something if you want me to suffer further.

Charlie Sweatpants: No. I don’t think there’s much here. It was a confusing mess of an episode from start to finish. The Itchy and Scratchy thing was basically a gorier, less funny and longer remake of the one from "I Love Lisa".

It was kinda about Valentine’s Day, but not really.

Mad Jon: I guess it was, but not. Or what you said.

Charlie Sweatpants: They had about four or five potential themes but each one got dropped in succession.

Mad Jon: I miss Love Day.

Charlie Sweatpants: The guest star was wasted on a weird homunculus of a kid. And their parody of Myth Busters was called Myth Crackers.

Mad Jon: There was a guest star?

  Who the hell was it?

Charlie Sweatpants: That was Michael Cera.

Mad Jon: Well fuck a duck.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, it didn’t really sound like him, or anyone else for that matter.

31
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

Randomly Determined

Image shamelessly yoinked from here as a result of search for “randomly determined”.

“I’ll get the dictionary.” – Hugh Parkfield
“Why?” – Lisa Simpson
“You’ll see when you get there, the word ‘stochastic’.” – Hugh Parkfield
“Pertaining to a process involving a randomly determined sequence of observations!” – Lisa Simpson

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 “Michelangelo”).

This episode is such a patchwork of unrelated elements that it’s difficult to discern a structure or theme. Oh sure, there’s the rag, but the rag seems to move between kinda, sorta real history like Michelangelo and Vikings to fanciful tales like One Thousand and One Nights. (Speaking of which, and not that this episode needed more beheadings, but in the original tale the previous wives all get killed. Nice to know that’s where they draw the line.) Things made just as little sense back in Springfield, particularly when you remember that Milhouse produced Drederick Tatum from nowhere to punch Bart in the arm. I know things don’t tend to make sense these days, but this did seem like an especially “Fuck you, audience” effort on their part.

Charlie Sweatpants: Since I imagine you are very busy, want to get right to it?

Dave: Please let’s. Anagrams of "Jeremy Irons" are funnier than whatever the fuck it was that happened last night.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m at a loss for where to start with this episode. The A-plot wasn’t so much a plot as an excuse for whatever dumb historical situations they could come up with, and the B-plot was so undercooked and nonsensical that they would’ve been vastly better off just dropping it.

Dave: In two words: just terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shit sandwich.

Dave: Santorum rag.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

The structure of the whole thing was a contradictory mess. If the rag was in the "real world" of Springfield, how did a Homer look alike climb Mount Everest, break down that wall, etc.? If the rag wasn’t in the real world, then what the hell was all that stuff with Bart and Milhouse doing happening at the same time?

You can do a weird, historical sketch show, you can do a show about Bart and Milhouse having a fight. I don’t think you can do both at the same time, especially when the two stories have nothing to do with each other. If the rag had made and lost friends over the years, or if it had seen friendships wax and wane, okay then maybe there’s a connection or a theme. But there was nothing like that.

Dave: Stop it with that incessant logic of yours. You’re making too much sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: You don’t need a lot of logic to be confused by this, just a short term memory that lasts more than about ninety seconds.

More than once it cuts from the Bart-Milhouse thing back to the rag on the bar.

Which of course sends us back to Persia or Europe or whatever.

Dave: Everest. France. Whatever is right

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, what was with the back-to-back executions? Was that supposed to be the same time and place, or different?

Dave: I think the former? Who knows. It was tedious either way.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even back in Springfield it was tedious. Marge stole Moe’s rag, which he apparently sleeps with, and didn’t tell him . . . except that she must have told him because he ended up at the Simpson house.

Dave: Question. Why does Moe sleep at the bar?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know. Has he been doing that for a long time? Back in Season 6 and Season 9 he had a house.

Dave: That’s what I remember, too. I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

It was convenient for whatever sinister purpose the writers needed to advance the shred of plot they had.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though you’d think he’d lock the bar before he went to cot. Oops, there I go thinking again.

Dave: Definitely thinking too hard, that rag needed to be stolen.

Charlie Sweatpants: Moe’s panic at losing the rag was out of deep left field.

Dave: Yup.

Charlie Sweatpants: Here’s a head scratcher though, was it more or less out of nowhere than the ending with Santa’s Little Helper and Maggie?

Dave: More?

Why did Wiggum show up?

It was just nonsense end to end.

Charlie Sweatpants: I assume because that teargas joke killed at the table read.

Why were some of the historical scenes made up of Simpsons characters and others not? The monks weren’t regulars, but Homer was. The pope was a regular but Michelangelo wasn’t. It was all very strange.

Dave: Wasn’t Michelangelo one of the gays?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe? Of course, I wouldn’t have had time to notice all of that if there’d been some, you know, jokes. But those were few and far between.

Dave: i.e., regular by Zombie Simpsons standards

There were jokes?

Do tell.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I guess it counts as a joke when medieval Wiggum got hit in the crotch and then went over to do cave paintings, because that’s what they did in medieval times (<– may not be true).

Dave: Go on.

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of those. Like the fact that the tapestry was made in medieval France, but then found its way to Persia where they’d never heard of Christians.

I’ll admit that’s nitpicky, but damn it, if you’re going to do an episode where a rag travels through historical times, shouldn’t you maybe put a tiny bit of effort into your history?

Dave: You’d think so. But then again, you’re thinking.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know, bad habit.

But I didn’t need to think too hard to wonder why Homer was walking up the wall and onto the ceiling at the beginning.

Dave: Oh right, the dance off.

I’d nearly forgotten.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I didn’t need to think to know it made no sense for Lisa to be standing right behind Bart as he read the thing she supposedly wrote to Milhouse.

Dave: Don’t forget, Maggie was there too.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I didn’t need to be thinking to wonder why Bart was on the mountain filling balloons with oxygen while Comic Book Guy floated by.

Dave: I don’t remember that. Probably a good thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely. I don’t think there was a single scene here that made sense, even just considered on its own. Burns falls off a giant cliff and then everyone decides to beat him with sticks. Why?

Dave: Because, ha ha, the French are cowards?

Look, ripping on the French is fun. But what transpired wasn’t even close to being funny.

This from a show that has a wonderfully rich history of doing just that.

Charlie Sweatpants: But like most of this episode, that stuff is all in the past.

Dave: Indeed. What a waste of my time, Jeremy Irons, electricity, and so on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else catch your eye here?

Dave: Nope. To quote the rag, "I’m in hell."

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the rag was kind of a pain in the ass wasn’t it/he?

But it’s okay because after all that it was happy with the dog. Or something.

19
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: The D’oh-cial Network

Radio Bart12

“I’m here for my free birthday sundae.” – Bart Simpson
“Eat it and get out.” – Phineas Q. Butterfat Clerk

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 “Jeeves”).

It wasn’t worth doing an entire post about, but there was one scene in “The D’oh-cial Network” that I thought perfectly illustrated the gaping philosophical and humor differences between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons. During that extended bunch of set pieces at the mall, Homer takes a gift card into “Cinnabun”. Note that, per standard Zombie Simpsons operating procedure, this is just a slight misspelling of a real place, not an actual parody.

You Can't Buy This Kind of Publicity

I hope they got some complimentary pastries in exchange for that kind of free advertising.

Once inside, Homer walks up to the Squeaky Voiced Teen, hands him the card, and tells him to just start rolling the giant confection into his mouth. The kid complies, drawing the blinds and closing down the entire store while Homer sucks this thing down.

Hell Labs Franchise

I never get service like this when I redeem a gift card.

Set aside the fact that The Simpsons did this exact thing with the Ironic Punishment Division in “Treehouse of Horror IV”, it’s also eerily reminiscent of Bart’s free birthday sundae in “Radio Bart”. Both scenes have the character come in and expect free goodies. What makes it eerie is the way you almost couldn’t draw up a better example of the world spanning differences between the philosophy and humor of The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons.

Zombie Simpsons has Homer go to a thinly veiled real store and get treated like a VIP. Not only does he get exactly what he asks for, but the clerk even closes the store so he can gorge himself in private. (Remember, this is the man who once exhorted his wife to not be ashamed while he was being used as a freak show attraction for an all you can eat seafood buffet.) The only joke is that Homer is fat.

The Simpsons has Bart go to a store they made up whole cloth. It isn’t an advertisement for a real chain, it’s a rather mean satire about the fake nostalgia and dishonest advertising real ice cream stores employ.

Radio Bart11

Everything implied or stated is either misleading or an outright lie.  That’s funny.

When Bart gets there, he isn’t treated like a star; he’s treated like an unwanted moocher. The birthday sundae is pitifully tiny, the guy behind the counter is a jerk to him, and there isn’t so much as a whiff of the old time whimsy the coupon promised. Phineas Q. Butterfat and his brand of wholesome fun are all lies. It’s just a crappy ice cream place with surly employees and tiny portions.

The Simpsons sees a world that kinda sucks, in which you will get lied to and yelled at and are treated poorly. Zombie Simpsons sees a world that’s awesome, in which perfect strangers will treat you like royalty and carry out your every desire, and if they can throw in a nice mention for a real store in the process, why not? It’s not like they’re here to satirize anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get to the depressing task at hand?

Mad Jon: Yeah, I was hoping you would forget that we had to do this, but let’s go for it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I haven’t been drinking that much.

Mad Jon: Maybe a slight electrocution or something, I dunno.

  Not enough to kill you, just to kill some of your short term memory

Charlie Sweatpants: If my short term memory had been injured, I might have enjoyed this episode.

Mad Jon: Doubtful.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, some kind of brain damage anyway.

Mad Jon: Was this the first time that there was a nameable person actually in the couch gag?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe?

  One wonder’s why Letterman went for it. Boredom, I suppose.

Mad Jon: I haven’t watched Letterman in years, has it gotten that hard to get late night ratings that he needs the ~ 4 million Zombie Simpson viewers to help him out?

Also, it seemed like this episode decided to forgo the normal activity that leads to the plot line, and just dove right into it.

  And by ‘it’ I mean the 4/5ths of the episode that was a flashback.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t know if I should give them credit for having the lawyer make that joke about the opening being unrelated, or if it should aggravate me because it means they’re perfectly content to waste their time and mine.

Mad Jon: Why bother sugar coating it if you don’t care how the person feels about the taste?

Charlie Sweatpants: Something like that. I’d add that the outdoor mall thing is yet another example of the wealthy-Southern-California setting they seem intent on inserting into every third episode or so.

  It’s nice that you get to shop at places that take their decor from Disneyland’s Main Street USA, but the rest of us don’t give a fuck.

Mad Jon: Yeah, we got one of those around here, but I can tell you that there aren’t any upper-lower middle class families shopping there with gift cards.

And the condos there cost more than my house.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly. I pine for a day when Lenny, a blue collar bachelor if ever there was one, begged Marge not to tell people how he lived.

Mad Jon: I was just about to ask if you remember the difference between a Lenny begging Marge not to tell people how he lives and a Lenny begging the Simpson family to spend time with him.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, I do. And scenes like that weird and kinda Pedobear thing with Lenny and the dolls make it impossible not to remember.

Mad Jon: That was tragic if nothing else.

Charlie Sweatpants: And creepy.

Mad Jon: Very much so.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though that was before Otto rode a greased up Bart like a skateboard.

Mad Jon: Also, did you feel as depressed as I did watching the McBain scene? That was bad even for a character that hasn’t had a meaningful presence in a decade.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was terrible. It’s a mark of how low the show has fallen that they can’t even kick Schwarzenegger when he’s down.

Mad Jon: Well, luckily this scene led to Lisa being shunned by her friends so the writers could copy a movie that I’ve never seen.

Charlie Sweatpants: A copy would’ve been an improvement.

Mad Jon: I just assumed. Like I said, I didn’t see the movie, so I have no idea.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, they tried to copy it. But nobody told them that just recreating a scene or two and putting in the same music wouldn’t get them all the way home.

  I bitched about this in Compare & Contrast, but I don’t think a single plot point in this episode actually made sense.

Mad Jon: Yes indeed.

Most of the rest of my notes are things like "nothings happening, nothings happening" "Homer and Grandpa argue for a while", "Skinner and Chalmers are talking" and "It’s over, everyone looks pissed"

Charlie Sweatpants: Lisa signs on to a Springfield school chat site that already fucking exists, and that . . . what? . . . inspires her to create a Facebook clone because huh?

Mad Jon: Yeah the using the social site to make a social site was a quick way in.

Charlie Sweatpants: And apparently she doesn’t have a computer, and Facebook doesn’t exist there, and smart phones are all new, and no one’s ever used text messaging before.

The episode assumes that you both get the reference and have no idea what it is. It’s really annoying.

Mad Jon: I think what gets me the most is that, again, 4/5 of the episode is a flashback that leads to the last 1/5 which is pretty much just a reason to play the bad Radiohead cover that is, I assume, related to the movie whose preview I saw that had the same music. Then it ends 2 minutes early.

Charlie Sweatpants: Not a bad summation.

Mad Jon: You were willing to stuff the first 20 minutes with crap that was not only non-relative, but on-running and not funny, are you telling me you couldn’t keep going for another 120 seconds? Did you not cut anything out of this episode?

Charlie Sweatpants: That was another thing I bitched about in Compare & Contrast. They jump from one item to another with no connection whatsoever, and that was after they took until nine minutes into the episode to start the A-plot.

Mad Jon: Again indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: At least show us why this thing is so popular, or why Lisa created it after seemingly being happy on an already existing site. They do none of that.

I mean, they couldn’t even squeeze in a joke about why "SpringFace" was so popular only in Springfield.

Mad Jon: Well, I assume that just like their TV stations, the Springfield internet only works in Springfield.

Charlie Sweatpants: I suspect that’s more thought than the writers put into it.

Mad Jon: I am sure you are right.

I guess 1000 friends for Lisa is equivalent to 500 million for Zuckerberg.

Charlie Sweatpants: She would know, she talked to him last season.

Mad Jon: Jebus I forgot about that.

Then again, I don’t think I could give you more than 2 or 3 coherent recaps of last season, let alone a list of guest stars.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the kind of short term memory loss I’m envious of.

Mad Jon: Drink more, my friend. Drink more.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, indeed.

What bugged me more here was the way that people glommed onto "SpringFace" for no reason. Skinner got upset that Bart – BART! – unfriended him. Marge was totally cool with Homer driving and looking at his phone. Lovejoy just threw in the towel and starting using his phone during church.

Lovejoy actually says "If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em", and then goes all random internet. At the very least he could’ve used "SpringFace" to connect with the people who weren’t looking at him.

What is the point of having a website that everyone in town is using to communicate with one another if you never – not once – use it to show people communicating with one another?

Mad Jon: Yep, good point.

Lovejoy could have posted his sermon, or you know, been Lovejoy and hit the "Bird Button" to get people to listen to him.

I am sure that not having anything resemble Facebook was part of the deal or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’d have been better, but, again, that would require far more thought than they put into this.

Any other specific lowlights?

Mad Jon: I didn’t understand the Olympic crew scene, but I assume that was because I didn’t watch the movie.

  I didn’t understand the strangely animated short at the end, but that should have never happened anyway.

  So specifically, no.

Charlie Sweatpants: The rowing thing was indeed from the movie. Zuckerberg got sued by a couple of crew team blue bloods who thought he stole their idea. The guy who played them in the movie did the voice.

Mad Jon:   Oh wait.

I was going to point out that the "Ask Jeeves" thing made me chuckle as he walked out of the court pew, until they kept going of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought the same thing.

Mad Jon: Ok, the crew thing makes slightly more sense then. Did they actually get $65 million or whatever to add to their already existent fortune?

Nevermind, I don’t care.

Charlie Sweatpants: I think so. I don’t care enough to know the actual history of Facebook, and while the movie was better than I was expecting, I don’t think it had all that much to do with the actual history of Facebook either.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: For specific lowlights, I’ve got three. In no particular order, there was the Homer-hitting-Moleman-with-his-car thing, which was really dumb, but actually better on the commercials that were airing during the Giants-Packers game because there they cut out the extended car crash that piles up behind Homer. It took longer and was dumber in the episode.

Mad Jon: When that happened I thought that was why they were in court….

Charlie Sweatpants: There was also Brandine lighting up her meth pipe in court. Is that even a joke? If a bailiff had looked at her and shrugged, then maybe it’s a joke. As it happened, I don’t know what that was supposed to be other than "Methamphetamine, hurr hurr".

Mad Jon: So it’s come to this….

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah.

Mad Jon: The third?

Charlie Sweatpants: The Nelson/Angry Birds thing. They made the exact same joke outside of the electronics show earlier this season. They repeated a joke from about five episodes ago, and the first time wasn’t that good to start with.

Mad Jon: Excellent.

In fact it was so unmemorable the first time that I don’t remember it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d forgotten about it until this. Upon seeing it, I almost didn’t believe it. That’s some seriously hacktacular crap right there. That joke was two years out of date the first time.

Mad Jon: …Probably should have said unmemorable or something. But I am several beers past caring about my grammar in this chat room.

  But you are right. I think I finished that game about 18 months ago, and they have so many ‘holiday versions’ that I don’t even bother playing anymore.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else? I’m perfectly content to end on video game apathy.

Mad Jon: Apathetic is our calling card.

Charlie Sweatpants: This site’s word count would argue against that, but in general, yes.

Mad Jon: Touche Pants. But that is mainly your fault.

Charlie Sweatpants: Meh.

10
Jan
12

Crazy Noises: Politically Inept, With Homer Simpson

Range of Emotions

“You know, Homer, when I found out about this I went through a wide range of emotions.  First I was nervous, then anxious, then wary, then apprehensive, then kind of sleepy, then worried, and then concerned.  But now I realize that being a spaceman is something you have to do.” – Marge Simpson
“Who’s doing what now?” – Homer Simpson

This episode suffered from a severe case of plot whiplash more or less from start to finish. Homer goes through so many different phases here that the episode itself got confused toward the end. After the plane freakout, the YouTube fame, the talk show guest spot, and finally him getting his own Glenn Beck-lite style show, I think they just sort of lost track of what Homer was supposed to be doing and feeling at any given moment.

Right after he starts his gravy thing, Lisa gets cold feet (yes, she was on set with him, why do you ask?), to which Homer replies:

Don’t worry, sweetie, I think I know how to whip up an audience just short of a frenzy.

Once his gravy boat thing takes off, Marge and Lisa complain, to which he replies:

I’m an entertainer. And you can’t entertain and inform at the same time.

So, wait, what is Homer doing now? Does he think he’s just an entertainer, or does he think he’s seriously advocating things? In the first quote he sounds serious, in the second not so much, and keep in mind that he says the second line on his way to Republican Party headquarters.  A bit later, after he finds out that his obviously fake dream was fake, Homer tells Lisa:

I’m so mad, not only will I endorse Ted Nugent, I will call for an end to the direct election of Senators!

And like that, he’s moved onto another new position: serious but angry. That lasts for all of one minute before he fails to cry and Lisa (again out of nowhere) tells him:

Maybe it’s because deep down you don’t believe in what you’re doing.

Homer agrees with that and the episode peters out, which only serves to make things even more contradictory and convoluted. Now that he’s serious again he can’t cry because he doesn’t really believe in what he believed two scenes ago, which was when he was serious and able to cry on command. Wait, what? The whole ending is predicated on the idea that Homer can’t cry unless he seriously believes what he’s saying, but he already admitted earlier that he can cry when he’s not serious. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get to the odious task at hand?

Mad Jon: Please.

The sooner we start, the sooner I can die from it.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a good way to look at it.

  Though it is taking a more long term approach to this whole thing than they were.

Mad Jon: You are probably right.

Charlie Sweatpants: This episode is going to age worse than almost anything. It’s like a Leno or Letterman monologue preserved in animation.

Mad Jon: Keen observation.

Just as a beginning overall observation, I have to say that most Zombie episodes have at least one or two good lines, or at least a funny sign somewhere, or, failing that, a good line that is trashed by its inability to end. This episode had none of these things.

  It was truly boring and strange.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, for all the text on screen, there wasn’t much there that rose even to chuckle worthy.

  There was that news ticker, but it had lines that would’ve been rejected by the Onion News Network guys.

Mad Jon: Apparently it’s not too soon for Steve Jobs jokes.

  I haven’t watched any ONN stuff, but I take it by your comment that I am not missing much.

Charlie Sweatpants: They’re great from time to time, but my point was more than this is something that is actively being done far better by people other than Zombie Simpsons.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: I mean, Glenn Beck? He ain’t been popular since aught nine, dagnab it.

Mad Jon: I thought I asked you to stop chatting like a grizzled early century blogger…

Charlie Sweatpants: Consarn it.

It just feels like the expiration date on Arianna-Huffington-has-a-funny-accent jokes was several years ago.

Mad Jon: Agreed. This would have felt fresher 4 years ago, but whatever. Fresher doesn’t mean better I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, but South Park nailed Beck to a wall two years ago when it was still funny, and they did a much better job. Ten years from now when I’m try to explain to someone who Glenn Beck was, that’s the episode I’m going to show them.

Mad Jon: Good idea, that was funny. This was not. Also it was at best a poor imitation, filled with lots of meaningless sobbing.

Charlie Sweatpants: I suppose that goes to your point about there not being any decent lines here. This time instead of taking something good and repeating it into the ground, they took something dumb.

Mad Jon: Oh sure.

Sort of like the beginning of the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that just kept going.

Mad Jon: That wasn’t so much satirical as it was just stupid. That was them doing the things you do when you go to the airport.

  Then Homer started ranting.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t forget the exploding luggage.

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, the things that weren’t accurate were so off base that they missed whatever non-slapstick humor they were going for.

Anyway, it was long and boring, and ended in a stupid rant that led to a creepy t.v. show for a guy who cries for attention.

Charlie Sweatpants: The slapstick was on overdose here.

  When Nugent shot Flanders in the forehead, I half expected him to turn his head sideways so we could see that the arrow really went through, like it was “Hee Haw” or something.

Mad Jon: I sort of flinched when that scene happened, and I don’t think the glare left my face for the rest of the show.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was pretty much every time Nugent was on screen. Unlike so many other guest stars, he was in more than two scenes. Like so many of them though, he only had a few lines which he kept repeating. Bows are awesome! I’m hardcore!

Though I will say, the only highlight of the episode for me was his little song at the end. I don’t know if he wrote it or they did, but "I’ll move the White House to Kalamazoo" is funny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, but only in hindsight for me, as by then I was too busy actively forgetting what had happened for the previous 21 minutes.

  What is he pitching anyway?

Charlie Sweatpants: Got me. Himself, I suppose.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: But before we even get to Nugent, think of all the other shit that goes on here.

Homer leaps off the airplanes wing to get beaten by security guards, which led to a guest spot on a talk show in Washington . . . which immediately led to him having his own show apparently back in Springfield.

  That’s a hell of a lot of ground to cover, and I think at some point even they weren’t sure where they were supposed to be.

Mad Jon: Yeah that’s a good point, not that it’s a new development or anything. But he was in DC gets, a show, and then starts a political movement in his hometown where the show is filmed apparently.

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought the scene with the television executives was particularly crappy in that regard.

Mad Jon: Also where Lisa can just show up on set in the middle of filming.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, first Marge and the kids beam into the scene, then those two executive exposited about three plot problems into existence in about thirty seconds.

And that’s before we get to Burns(!) and the rest of the Republicans letting him pick their guy.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that was especially random.

  And rehashed. I miss Sideshow Bob.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s just an unbelievably lazy thing to do. Okay, the Republican bosses want his help or something, or want to bribe him to endorse someone, sure, that I’ll buy. But instead Ted Nugent appears out of nowhere.

That’s so many gaping leaps of logic in such a short time that I’m still tired from watching them.

And all that was before everyone got in on a conspiracy to make Homer think he received a vision from the Founding Fathers.

Mad Jon: Oh Jesus, I almost forgot about that.

  How unnecessary was that?!?!

Charlie Sweatpants: All the unnecessary. All.

It was shockingly dumb and boring, even by the towering standards of Homer becoming a nationally famous talk show host. (And wouldn’t that make him a millionaire?)

The stupidities compound one another.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I still can’t get over some of the scenes. Especially the rants. Those rants are not how Homer rants.

Charlie Sweatpants: But then he decided he was just playacting, or something.

Mad Jon: I guess. That’s a little too deep for me.

Charlie Sweatpants: They hinted at it, but then ignored it. Like everything else it was more confusing than anything.

Mad Jon: You know what else really gets me? It’s a small thing, but it’s indicative of a larger issue. Why does Homer go to the Quickie Mart in disguise? He knows the viral video has millions of hits, but has no idea people like him for it? And he doesn’t discover this until he goes out to by a six-pack?

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, I thought the costume was weird, but what wasn’t? Sideshow Mel and Rainier Wolfcastle were just standing there.

Mad Jon: That’s all. I just couldn’t stop thinking about that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here?

  There was the whole wearing a gravy boat on your head thing, but I figure the less said about that the better.

Mad Jon: Nah, except we should also probably point out that Bart tags the video with "Classic Simpsons" which must be some joke about how un-classic it was, but probably not, but whatever. I disliked it, but not enough to make any further mention of it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I caught the "Classic Simpsons" thing too. It’s not like they’re unaware.

15
Dec
11

Crazy Noises: Holidays of Future Passed

Lisa's Wedding10

“Hey, I remember you.  Mayor Quimby, right?” – Lisa Simpson
“I, uh, er, ah, no.  Look at this license: Mohammed Jafar.” – Mohammed Jafar

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 “inconsequential”).

There were a lot of pointless scenes in “Holidays of Future Passed” that were nothing more than Zombie Simpsons checking in on various characters to see how they were doing in the future.  One in particular, Homer throwing a rock at Burns Manor, stands as a good example of why even the ones that were funny fall flat. 

First, think about what’s going on.  Homer is watching Bart’s kids and decides, apropos of nothing, to take them “downtown”.  In this case, “downtown” means the Kwik-E-Mart and walking by Burns Manor.  That’s it.  The entire trip is the flimsiest possible excuse for the episode to work in Apu, who gets into a giant gunfight, and Burns. 

What happens when Homer and the boys walk past Burns Manor?  Homer chucks a rock through Burns’ window:

Sober Vandalism

That’s a hell of a throw.

We’re two seconds into this scene and it’s already fallen apart.  Remember, the whole premise of Homer in this episode is that he’s sober and responsible now.  That’s the reason he’s watching Bart’s kids.  So even if we set aside the fact that they just walked out of the Kwik-E-Mart and decided to stroll past the corner of Croesus and Mammon, what possible reason is there for Homer to hurl a rock through Burns’ window?  Kicks?  Anger?  He never says a word, and neither do Bart’s usually stuck up and responsible kids. 

Right after that, Burns pops up in the broken window and tells someone, it’s not clear who, to release the hounds.  That prompts Smithers, who must’ve just been waiting by the gate, to appear stage left:

Patient Smithers

Being eight feet away, he naturally didn’t say anything before Homer threw the rock.

Smithers, who hasn’t aged much in thirty years, dumps out a box of bones, Homer imitates the audience and shrugs, and the scene ends.  No part of the setup, the action, or the punchline make any sense or fit in with each other.  And while I understand that it’s just a cheap throwaway joke (dog bones, ha ha!), the episode is wall to wall with scenes like this one. 

Flanders appears unprompted at an open window to discuss his love life.  Patty and Selma do the same.  Skinner’s there for a tiny cameo as Bart’s landlord.  Krusty shows up to act painfully unfunny as Andy Rooney (which Bart was surprised by for some unfathomable reason).  These scenes are clumsy, they distract you from what’s going on, and they involve the usual Zombie Simpsons nonsense of people appearing out of nowhere and acting dumb. 

Zombie Simpsons is clearly going for that “Lisa’s Wedding” feeling, but there’s nothing here that tracks with what we know of the characters.  Quimby getting indicted and having to drive a cab?  That fits and it’s funny.  The same goes for Milhouse rising to his natural rank as a bitter middle management type, and a frozen Burns sporting seventeen stab wounds in the back.  “Holidays of Future Passed” doesn’t have that, it just serves up cheap throwaway jokes, one after another.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Dave: Sure

Charlie Sweatpants: This episode made me wonder if the Zombie Simpsons people are swapping ideas with the people behind the new Futurama episodes.

Dave: In the sense of "what might be?"

Because there was a whole lot of future-silliness going on

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much, things like joking that Google had enslaved half of humanity, or have Kearney say "do it the old fashioned" way when his magic gloves drove the taxi.

Both of those felt very Futurama-y to me.

Dave: I can see that

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of things like that, some of which worked better than others.

Dave: Yeah, I don’t know if I was in a generous mood or if my lack of sleep was clouding my judgment, but I found much of the episode not reprehensible.

It wasn’t good, let’s be clear. But it wasn’t the unrepentant shitshow these have usually been

Charlie Sweatpants: I sort of agree. This one was basically one of those episodes where they tell three unrelated stories: Lisa and her daughter, Bart and his kids, and Maggie having a baby. None of them made any sense in the least, but along the way there were some decent, as I said, Futurama-type gags.

Dave: Exactly right

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem is that way too many of them didn’t land. The Lenny-Carl thing was just awful, and that was before they kept it going so the two of them could exposit about how weird things got.

Homer breaking Burns’ window and Smithers walking over to dump a box of bones was also long and lame.

To be sure, there were some good things, but mostly they were background stuff, Church of Lard Lad is the first thing I’ve out and out laughed at all season.

Dave: Yes, I enjoyed that greatly

Agreed that some of the gags felt strained (nothing new there), but as you say they were essentially inconsequential.

Charlie Sweatpants: Flanders and Maude’s ghost, Patty & Selma’s love bots, the repetitive freezing and unfreezing of Grampa, there were a lot of them that either went on way too long or just plain didn’t work.

Dave: The freezing of Grampa definitely went on about a minute too long

We knew they were going to wrap it with a bow (sorta) so why delay the inevitable?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s about the size of it. Same with Lisa’s daughter. As soon as she goes into the computer (again, Futurama much?) you know they’re going to have some goofy reconciliation.

Dave: Oh sure. I’d be shocked if someone didn’t see that coming

Charlie Sweatpants: Did any of the little set pieces other than Lard Lad jump out at you as particularly good (or bad)?

Dave: I sort of enjoyed the airport/airplane bit

It went on too long, but seemed to accurately convey the dystopian hell in which I spend much of my life.

Charlie Sweatpants: The airplane thing wasn’t bad, though you’re right it did go on too long.

Much like an actual airplane flight, I suppose. Though that’s not the world’s most complimentary comparison.

Dave: Nope.

Charlie Sweatpants: Overall though, there are some decent bits, but there are just as many dumb ones, and to get through it all you’ve got to sit through scenes like the one where Bart and Lisa get drunk and complain at each other, as well as Bart pining for his ex-wife and Marge resenting Lisa, which goes nowhere.

It’s a very bumpy road. Much better than the gaping chasm of most of Season 23 so far, but that doesn’t say much.

Dave: That’s the long and short of it, yep.

All the same, glad it’s over with and that we don’t have to deal with another episode until January.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a future I can believe in.

06
Dec
11

Crazy Noises: The Ten-Per-Cent Solution

Bart Gets Famous5

“Ladies and gentlemen, the clown show has been put on hiatus for retooling.” – TV Announcer

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 “continuity”).

Zombie Simpsons ran out of stories a long time ago, so that’s not exactly news.  Still, one does wonder how many times they can kill and resurrect Krusty’s career.  I understand that Krusty was a good vehicle for making fun of the entertainment industry, but he’s been on and off television so many times now that watching him do it again is like asking the audience of a Fast & Furious movie to be surprised that there’s a car chase and bad acting.  This is an idea that was already showing its age in Season 9, and since then they’ve had Krusty quit, retool, or reboot his show, what, like six more times?  This is from Wikipedia’s Season 21 episode summary:

The Krusty the Clown Show is once again reconstructed. This time, in a bid to get girls to watch the show, a princess character named Penelope is hired as Krusty’s latest sidekick.

At this point, “Krusty Changes His Show” should probably be placed up there with “Homer Gets a New Job” and “The Simpsons Are Going to X” as creative dry holes that the writers insist on drilling yet again.

Mad Jon:  Want to jump on it then?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Let’s.

I don’t think I can sum up the stupid here any better than when they meet Krusty at the Krusty Burger and Lisa informs him "We met a ten percenter today."

Mad Jon:  Yeah, that was pretty stupid. 

Charlie Sweatpants:  I know they’ve got to work in the family somehow, and I maybe could’ve swallowed one improbable coincidence, but two, and in about a sixty second span?

Mad Jon:  I especially agree when I think about how the family ended up with those coincidences – the whole "let’s have an adventure" bit that seemed relatively forced.

Charlie Sweatpants:  The entire thing was like that.  The middle of the episode was Joan Rivers narrating a flashback for them.  You know, because they’re all bosom buddies despite having known each other for about a day, if that.

Mad Jon:  Jesus that was Joan Rivers?

I am pretty terrible with voices.

My wife even walked by and said "So what, is Joan Rivers their friend or something?" as I was watching it.

Charlie Sweatpants:  An admirably accurate summary.

You can really see the sloppiness in that she initially asks Homer if he can play a corpse, but then that whole idea gets dropped so we can get her and Krusty on screen together.  Their apathy for story, even improbable story, is consistent.  I gotta give ’em that.

Mad Jon:  You would know quality apathy when you see it.

Charlie Sweatpants:  We can smell our own, which is good because you don’t have to expend too much effort to smell.

Mad Jon:  Also, I agree. There were not a lot of what we would call ‘transitions’ here.  More or less things happened and then other things happened.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yup, beyond the paper thin excuse for a plot, this episode was nothing but weak TV sketches, when they were even that.

Mad Jon:  Even the flashback was blocky, for lack of a better word.

And did Kevin Dillon already spend all of his HBO money?

Charlie Sweatpants:  It would be funny if he had, but I think this was just a happy meeting of a show and an actor who are both long past the point where anyone cares about them.

Mad Jon:  Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I never know how much to read into these sorts of things, but this one was written by Castellaneta and his wife, who both came from sketch shows.  So it would make some sense that this is nothing but them ogling their favorite old and new shows.

Mad Jon:  I could see that.  But how does that explain Krusty spending 20 seconds bitching about how the show parodies are old for this or that reason? That really bothers me.

I hate when they point out that they suck. That’s not funny.

Why can’t you just be more funny?

Charlie Sweatpants:  I don’t know, probably because they learned long ago that being funny has basically nothing to do with whether or not they stay on the air.

Mad Jon:  Again, your observation is good.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I do think they still have a Vader-at-the-end-of-Jedi spark of humor left in them.  Easily my favorite line of the episode was when they had the HBO executive say "And we pay for everything with soft porno and boxing".  Which is true.  I mean, have you seen True Blood or Spartacus?  There are a lot of, shall we say, potential one handed scenes in there.  The thing is, as soon as he said that I also knew they were going to run it into the ground, which they immediately did by having Krusty yell that there’s soft core porn.  As though the man who orders Gigantic Asses doesn’t know about the full panoply of porn.

Charlie Sweatpants:  My point is that despite what things like having Krusty fired back and forth between two cannons would have you believe, they can still recognize a decent joke.  They can’t leave it alone, but they do know when they’ve got something more than their typical dementia.

Mad Jon:  Good point, I can’t think of a line in one of these chats that we’ve had in the last few years where someone mentions "I liked this line" without hearing "But…"

Charlie Sweatpants:  There is very often a "but".

Mad Jon:  And that but is almost always them running it into the ground and then some.

I also chuckled when Moe admitted to faking his way through Wire discussions.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Feh.

Mad Jon:  But I love The Wire and everything that touches it’s shadow.

So whateves.

Charlie Sweatpants:  But the Moe thing was another example of them just cramming things in that didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Mad Jon:  The agent’s line about "On time or sober" would have been good as well, had she not had to explain it to me.

Charlie Sweatpants:  The explanations are tedious, that’s for sure.  There are few things they won’t just let go.  Krusty actually telling us "now I’m strung out in a ball pit" when we can plainly fucking see that he’s sitting in a ball pit springs to mind.

Mad Jon:  Yep. That was indeed tedious.

Mad Jon:  I know I say this every week, but I think that the ending was even less of an ending than ever before.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I disliked the happiness of it.

Mad Jon:  There was so little resolution, that I think it actually moved backwards.

Charlie Sweatpants:  That too.  One second there’s a conflict, then they just dropped it to move into another set piece.  Old people screwing!  Ha!  Does their withered visage remind you of the grim specter of death?

Mad Jon:  Of course I expect zero continuity, but endings like this always remind me of the Family Guy episode about Petoria, where at the end the kid is like "So can they understand the baby or what?"

Charlie Sweatpants:  I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a decent comparison.  There’s no prelude to her going nuts, there’s no resolution after she does, that’s a kind of continuity isn’t it?

Mad Jon:  Is this like a lack of continuity is the continuity kind of thing?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Something like that.

Mad Jon:  Cause I don’t much appreciate that kind of dangerous thinking.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Anything else here?  There were some Itchy & Scratchy episodes, but they were the same as everything else: lame entertainment love notes.

Mad Jon:  My heart always jumps a bit when the I and S music comes on, but like when I have watched so many Cinemax softcores, I always end up frustrated and slightly ashamed.

Charlie Sweatpants:  They just felt awfully flat compared to things like "Guest Director, Oliver Stone" where Itchy-Ruby shoots Scratchy-Oswald and the whole thing is over in about two seconds.  That’s a parody.

Also, I didn’t get the Hitler joke.

Mad Jon:  I think it was just so Maggie would salute the Reich.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Well yeah, but that’s pretty weak sauce.

Mad Jon:  But I could be wrong. There isn’t much to go on.

Charlie Sweatpants:  True enough.

Mad Jon:  We done then?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yeah, let’s be done.  It’ll be our continuity.

30
Nov
11

Crazy Noises: The Man In the Blue Flannel Pants

Fear of Flying7

“Sammy, you’re too old to go on a date with two twins on the same night you’re supposed marry Diane without Rebecca knowing.” – Carla
“Okay, Carla, I’ll make you a bet.  If this affects my Major League comeback I’ll sell the bar.” – Sam

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 “lingerie”).

The end of “The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants” is so hoary and cliched I can just quote TV Tropes:

Character schedules dates with two different people at the same time. The character tries to keep both, going back and forth between the two dates without letting either know what’s going on. Hilarity allegedly ensues.

Can also apply to other scheduling conflicts, where the character tries to juggle an event that he’s responsible for attending, versus a more personal event that he really wants to attend.

You may recognize that from every crappy sitcom in the history of canned laughter.  Though most live action shows don’t feature the main character jumping overboard and swimming back and forth between two rafts. 

Beyond that there was one other scene I wanted to highlight for its particular stupid.  Between the time Homer fully becomes an accounts man and that boring as hell montage, there’s a brief scene at the Simpson home.  Homer returns from his new job to find Marge in a nightie holding a martini.

Honey, the Plot's Home

Flats?  June Cleaver and Betty Draper scoff at flats.

This is clearly supposed to be Marge’s 1950s teevee housewife routine.  On its own this could’ve kinda worked.  It’s dumb, sure, but you could put Marge through the same transformation that Homer goes through, hating her alienated life.  They don’t, of course.  The next time we see her she’s back to her normal self as if this never happened and no explanation is offered.  So it’s twofer, a wasted comedy opportunity that also doesn’t make sense. 

Compounding the problem, immediately after this, Bart and Lisa show up, ready to go to bed.  Marge doesn’t act at all like herself, she just dismisses them the same way Homer does.  That leads to Bart and Lisa imitating Marge in acting totally out of character.  Why on Earth would either of them want Bart to read a story to Lisa?  Is that supposed to help Lisa fall asleep, having her bullying brother sitting on her bed?  And why would Bart go through with it?  What does he care?  Again, no explanation is given, and when Lisa finally does get Bart reading, the story basically ends. 

Like Marge doing a Donna Stone impression, Lisa and Bart as book buddies could’ve, maybe, sorta kinda worked.  Again, it’s dumb, but there’s a story with at least a few jokes to tell there.  Instead we got an amputated B-plot while Marge went back to her old self after one brief, inexplicable scene.  Could someone please stop by the Zombie Simpsons office with some staples or paper clips?  I’m convinced these scripts are just loose pages that never get read in chronological order. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: I am

Charlie Sweatpants: Where to begin? The unconnected opening, or the mini-unconnected opening that opened the unconnected opening?

Bart and Milhouse’s little conversation/wedding cutaway was odd, but then it cut to a completely unrelated Krusty thing, which was itself basically unrelated to the rest of the episode.

Mad Jon: Yeah, the unconnected opening was probably my least favorite part. Followed by the mini-unconnected one. But that’s just me.

  It just kept re-running the same joke about Krusty not wanting to drink his own brand of vodka.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which didn’t show up again for the rest of the episode.

Someone noted in comments that Homer’s supposedly downing martinis left and right and they didn’t bring back the vodka that made up the first five minutes.

Mad Jon: They did use the joke enough for even a whole Zombie season, so maybe the writers got tired of it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Very possible. But that just leads us to Krusty picking Bart out of the crowd for no reason, which led to a fancy party at Marge and Homer’s for no other reason.

Mad Jon: I imagine that the reason was so they could have that mind-numbingly stupid karaoke scene that I guess led to Homer being a mad man. Which may be the worst scene I’ve seen in a long time. Why does Homer think that karaoke would save the party? Who knows. How did it actually work? Even better question.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole party was aggravatingly dumb. By my count, even before Burns showed up there was Kent Brockman, Krusty himself, Rainier Wolfcastle, the Rich Texan, Bumblebee Man, and Drederick fucking Tatum. Are any of these people supposed to be people anymore?

  And then Homer switches back and forth from blitheringly dumb to suave and charming in the space of a single scene.

Mad Jon: Yep.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then Burns shows up alone, is awkward with everyone, and then once they’ve had their karaoke party and things are (I guess) cool, Smithers appears just because. Was he there the whole time? No. They just needed him not to be there right until they did.

Mad Jon: Yep again.

But don’t worry, that allows Smithers to utter the joke about Homer setting the world on fire, and then Homer becoming an accounts man.

  Which leads to a take off episode, which is only what, 5 years late?

It was even late for the major network’s mirror series failure.

Charlie Sweatpants: Speaking of the accounts man, he also just appeared. First Homer was alone in Burns’ office, then there was a guy with a drink and a cigarette.

Mad Jon: Transitions are not an account man’s strong point I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: Take off is about right. It wasn’t satirizing Mad Men, it wasn’t even satirizing working too much, drinking on the job, or anything else. It was just Homer going through a few motions until he stopped.

I did think John Slattery got in a few okay lines, particularly his regret about not seeing his secret other family, and there were some little things like him pointing to his nose to Quimby so they could go do coke in the bathroom, but that was about all this episode had to offer.

Though, as usual, even the decent stuff was taken too far. When Marge goes to visit him and they’re suddenly in the bedroom: kinda funny. When they keep doing it: less and less so.

Mad Jon: I agree about Slattery, and I agree about the ongoings.

He was a bright spot in black hole. Unfortunately I couldn’t see past the event horizon.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the rest of it was just so damn bad. I guess I have to hand it to them, I didn’t see sitcom-river-rafting coming as an ending.

As soon as I realized what they were doing I just shook my head. Inviting two groups of people to the same place at the same time? They made fun of that back in "Fear of Flying". Now they’re actually doing it.

Mad Jon: That was out of left field. But it was equally as improbable as any other crazy ending that was most certainly guaranteed, so I can’t be too angry about it.

Charlie Sweatpants: The sheer physical dumbness of it was exceptional though, even for them.

  They were going down parallel rivers, couldn’t see one another, and no one in either boat wondered why Homer was constantly jumping overboard? The fuck?

Mad Jon: The fuck indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Is everyone supposed to be rock bottom stupid here? Because I’m out of other explanations.

Mad Jon: Look, do you want to see Homer poke himself in the eye for 20 seconds and piss in a bush or what? These things don’t happen on their own, you have to have a crazy lead in or these bits just don’t work.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d be inclined to say they don’t work anyway, but that’s just me. And then there was the freaking waterfall.

  Which, again, the fuck?

Mad Jon: Oh yeah. Homer went over the fall didn’t he?

Also he found some gold too didn’t he?

  Also some government guys died there too, eh?

Charlie Sweatpants: But that was after he was able to push his entire family to safety. I think he went over because, as Chekhov once said, if you see a waterfall two minutes before the end of the third act, the main character will go over it in one minute. Or something.

Mad Jon: Close enough.

Still not as bad, however, as the throwaway Maggie DUI scene.

  TV doesn’t usually ‘bother’ me. I am pretty desensitized in general, and pretty hard to shock. But that scene scarred me on several levels.

Enough that the van Houten sex scene didn’t even register with me for quite a bit.

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t pay it that much heed. I mean, you could see it coming a mile away.

The van Houten thing was just lame. Like it’s supposed to be a shock joke, only they have to have Kirk pipe up just to make extra sure we get it.

  That’s one of those instances where less is more, and they went with more and then some.

Mad Jon: It bothered me. That’s all. A lot.

  Also there was a b-plot wasn’t there?

Charlie Sweatpants: Half of one.

  Bart reads to Lisa, Lisa reads to Bart, Bart reads to bullies who promise to see him again . . . and then it ended.

  Really weird.

Mad Jon: It turns out Bart can’t read well. And Lisa can help, and absolutely no lead in was necessary.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t sell them short. There was the lead in where Homer got home from work and Marge was already in some kind of lingerie and that meant that Bart and Lisa had to spend time together.

Of course, that whole twenty seconds or so is like one unbroken string of out of character weirdness, so . . . maybe you’re not selling them short by not bringing it up. The sooner humanity forgets about it the better off the species will be.

Mad Jon: I think we’re through the looking glass on this one buddy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but I’d rather not be.

22
Nov
11

Crazy Noises: The Book Job

The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show4

“It’s not your fault, Homer, it’s those lousy writers.  They make me madder than a, um. . . yak in heat.” – Marge Simpson

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 (shockingly enough, not on “pastiche”).

In comments and on Twitter there have been more generous appraisals of “The Book Job” than is usual for Zombie Simpsons, as well as some eye rolling at my typically harsh appraisal of it.  And while I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I do think I understand that.  “The Book Job” had a bit more life to it than most Zombie Simpsons episodes, but I’m also of the opinion that most of that was the same kind of cheap pandering that we got last week, the only difference is that it was fiction books in place of video games and celebrity chefs.  In other words, the package here is a little shinier than usual, but there’s still a turd under the wrapper.

Consider this exchange near the end between the gang and Neil Gaiman (who, let us not forget, is voicing himself and just showed up out of thin air):

Patty: How could they do this to our book?
Skinner: It was the singular vision of seven people.
Moe: No way!
Gaiman: What you’re feeling is called ‘pride of authorship’.  You thought you only cared about money, but you actually care more about what you’ve created together.
Homer: British Fonzie is right, our story is actually more important than money.

This is them literally restating the plot and telling us (not showing us, but telling us) how they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it.  This is exactly the kind of hacktacular crap they were mocking in “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” when Marge says that those lousy writers make her feel madder than “a yak in heat”.  Or, to grab from another show for a moment, this is what the Robot Devil was talking about when he told Fry his opera sucked because “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel!”.

And that is far from the only example.  Here’s the scene where they plot out their book:

Patty: The heroes are all orphans.
Skinner: And they’re set in a place kids relate to, say, a school, but it’s actually magic.
Frink: And, the protagonist always discovers that he is supernatural.
Homer: Okay, our book will be about an orphan who goes to a magical school where he discovers he’s a vampire.

From there they repeat the word “vampire” about seventeen times, with Frink actually saying “So many vampires!”.  This is the book equivalent of “Gamestation” and “Guts of War”, they’re not poking fun at anything, they’re just restating things.  From there we’re treated to their exposition-tastic creation of their troll idea, which is basically the exact same thing as the above.  This includes the poorly animated thought bubble background which is just to make super-duper-sure that the audience gets it:

Creative Failure

I’m so glad they were able to find clipart of bridges and trolls.

Nor was the shoddy animation limited to their shared dream sequences.  Check out Homer in the bookstore, here:

Strange Wallpaper

So many blank books!

For an episode that clearly took a lot of pride in its background stuff, making all the books single color with no evidence of writing on them is all the more revealing.  They don’t even look like books, more like kids play blocks.  Then there’s the mysteriously appearing printer.  Here’s Lisa in front of her desk:

Mystery Laptop

Nice laptop, shame it’s about to be sucked into another dimension.

And here’s Lisa just a few seconds later:

Mystery Printer1

Is fifteen seconds of object permanence too much to ask?

The laptop is gone, the printer has appeared, Lisa managed to move to the other side of the desk, and the entire room shifted.  This isn’t one or two small mistakes, this is them drawing the room completely differently for shots that are only a few seconds apart.  But wait, there’s more!  Note the pages streaming off the printer:

Mystery Printer2

Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are everyone’s friend.

Notice that not only do the pages behave nothing like actual paper, but they are also identical to one another.  They couldn’t be bothered to move the text around or even just rotate the damn images.

The entire episode is filled with bland, expository dialogue and wildly uneven animation like this.  And that’s before you even get to things like the story not making sense, the characters acting nothing like themselves, and all the usual Zombie Simpsons crap.  That Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright were doing decent impressions of George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s repartee isn’t nearly enough to save this.

Charlie Sweatpants: Where do you want to start?

Dave: Near as makes no difference. It was a haze of mediocrity.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed it was. And while there were a lot of small problems, the overarching one is that this was just so damn gimmicky.

Dave: Yeah. Just a pastiche of dumb shit. Though I did chuckle at Ralph wanting to go back into Sarah’s womb.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was okay with the Ralph thing until he actually, you know, climbed under her dress.

Dave: Well yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole dinosaur opening was annoying. Did we need to get to the screaming and the running so fast?

Dave: No, we did not. But they didn’t waste a second.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s just another example of how they can’t go even a few seconds without not making any sense.

And that was before Homer and the kids just walked backstage like they owned the damn place.

Dave: Yeah. But how else could they have started the whole crime heist nonsense?

Logically started, anyway.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s my overarching problem that spoiled the whole thing for me. Maybe I’m overreacting, but after last week’s food blogger thing and now this Ocean’s Eleven thing I’m sick and tired of one-note episodes.

Not only are they unimaginative, but they’re so transparently pandering. Food blogging, people like that right? Ooh, teen lit, there’s something that’s been in the New York Times style section lately.

Dave: The alternative is 2-3 plots that collectively don’t make any sense. Pick your poison. In this case teaming up Homer, Bart, Skinner, Moe, etc. and tossing in a celebrity felt just about right.

But teen lit is so topical. And werewolves, c’mon.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the problem. They’re so completely bereft of actual ideas that they’re leaning on cheap topicality. Except it takes them a year to make an episode so by the time they get around to something it’s usually already played out.

South Park does a lot of topical episodes, and they tend to be the ones that don’t age very well because they’re only really funny in that moment. But for South Park you at least get that moment. Making fun of Harry Potter-Twilight-Etcetera was current, what? Three years ago when the first Twilight movie came out?

Dave: Something like that. I tend not to pay attention to those sorts of things.

Charlie Sweatpants: Look at it this way, they can’t figure a way to just do something with the Simpson family or with Lisa loving a series of books. So they have to set everything to 11, make a boring and predictable caper plot, and end up having Homer break into some heavily defended skyscraper.

Dave: Are you sure you’re not secretly moonlighting for them?

Charlie Sweatpants: Ouch. What did I do to deserve that accusation?

Dave: That was harsh and unnecessary. I take it back.

Your summary was just very on point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, I may be overreacting because they’ve done two of these in a row now, but all of the annoying things that were there last week are here this week in spades.

Characters acting unlike themselves, lame “parodies” that amount to little more than misspelling things, a story that doesn’t make any sense, all they want to do is make some bad pop culture jokes and the rest of the episode is poorly done window dressing around that.

They actually had Moe say he didn’t want to get involved with another of Homer’s “hare brained schemes”. If that’s not an admission of, like you said, mediocrity, I don’t know what is.

Dave: So what’s to be done?

They could stop. But they won’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, bitching on the internet is something, isn’t it?

Dave: Better than the alternative, which is pretending the show’s still good and/or relevant.

Charlie Sweatpants: Better than nothing, I suppose.

As for individual problems this one had, where to begin?

I was sick of that music and title card thing by about the third one, and then they kept on coming.

There was an excess of their usual pointless and boring bloodshed.

Homer being super slick and competent all of a sudden. Props and characters appearing and disappearing at random.

There were also a couple of times where the animation really seemed phoned in. Like last week they had a lot of background stuff in some scenes (though most of them were lame for the previously discussed reasons), but when they weren’t showing a bunch of book titles, everything was really stale and repetitive.

When the printer in Lisa’s room starts spitting out pages, all of them are identical. The books in the bookstore are just flat, monochromatic rectangles.

Dave: I didn’t even notice that, honestly.

I was more put off by the poorly done homages to the Oceans movies.

Charlie Sweatpants: I generally only notice the animation if it’s really bad or really good, and this was really bad.

It really was Homer Simpson and the Springfield Variety Players bring you Oceans 15 or whatever.

Dave: They may as well have had Duck President.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you notice that Marge didn’t have a role in the caper, so she basically disappeared right after the opening?

Dave: Now that you mention it, yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: There just wasn’t any space for her, I guess.

Dave: Well, last week we had too much of her. Maybe they thought a break was in order.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s also possible they just ran out of time with all of the flashbacks and thought bubble expositions.

They had to keep explaining what things were going on and illustrating the story with crappy animated icons.

Dave: The show is layered beast, too dense for the average television viewer. Be glad we had our hands held.

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe you’re right and I should be grateful they only explain things three or four times instead of five or six.

Dave: That’s what they’ll resort to next season.

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t wait.

Anything else here?

Dave: Nope. I can’t believe we’re only 6 episodes in. Feels like an eternity already.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know the feeling.

16
Nov
11

Crazy Noises: The Food Wife

Bart's Comet5

“And you’ve never found anything?” – Bart Simpson
“Once, but by the time I got to a phone my discovery had already been reported by Principal Kohoutek.  I got back at him, though, him and that little boy of his . . . anyway, that’s why I always keep a cellular phone next to me.” – Principal Skinner

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 “bicuspid”).

I mention this briefly below, and I’ve brought it up a couple of times before, but another one of those recurring annoyances about Zombie Simpsons is the way they deal with modern technology.  Like it or not, it’s a lot easier to communicate from just about any location than it used to be.  This poses a lot of problems for screenwriters for the simple reason that it’s harder to have characters be either isolated or misinformed.  (If Romeo and Juliet had been able to text they’d have been fine.)  Zombie Simpsons, in its infinite apathy for things making sense even for just a few seconds, takes this to new lows by having the characters alternately be perfectly informed, and then suddenly forget that they’re carrying a cell phone.

This happens in a particularly galling way at the end of “The Food Wife” when Marge sends Homer to the wrong side of town.  That Homer wouldn’t think to check the address doesn’t bother me.  What bothers me is that Marge gives him the wrong directions and then neither of them has a cell phone right up until the plot needs them to have a cell phone, at which point she gets a panicked message and knows to go teleporting herself to the meth lab.  Either they’ve got cell phones and there was never a chance her plan was going to work (because he’d be able to reach her once he knew he wasn’t at the restaurant), or they don’t have cell phones and her plan to ditch him might work (because he won’t be able to reach her).  Only on Zombie Simpsons can it be both.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Dave: Yep. I want that 21 minutes of my life back.

I freely admit that "foodies" are ripe for parody

Charlie Sweatpants: But this wasn’t really it, was it?

Dave: Exactly. In the clumsy hands of the animators and writers they just made unbearably not that.

Charlie Sweatpants: I could do with the Tim and Eric song. It wasn’t a standout piece by their standards, but it was good. The rest of it was pretty lame.

Dave: Yeah, I’ll give you that wasn’t terrible

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m also struggling to come up with a way this wasn’t an episode of Family Guy, but I can’t quite do it. Everything from Homer screaming and crying to zooming in to show Marge’s tastebuds felt very MacFarlane.

Dave: Oh sure

And in Family Guy fashion, they lacked the restraint to show that stupid tastebud thing only once

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh yeah, you knew that was making a comeback. As soon as I saw that, the first thing I thought was "Bicuspid, we meet again!".

Dave: Bingo.

Charlie Sweatpants: More generally, there were a few decent toss off jokes here, but this episode needed a B-plot badly. In comments someone mentioned that Matt Selman took to Twitter and said they had to cut a bunch of stuff for time, but if that’s true then they need to get a new editor. You could’ve saved a minute or more by reducing the number of times Marge whined about not being fun from a hundred to a mere fifty.

The story here is just desperately thin, and they bash us in the face with it over and over again.

Dave: I’m not sure they could’ve driven the point home only doing it fifty.

But that’s just me and my general lack of perception and need for hand holding.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah. I mean, the dream sequence? You couldn’t trim that hobo parade to a lean twenty?

She’s jealous of Homer. We. Get. It.

And while I’m making comparisons, is it just me or was this about 1/100th as rough on the celebrity chefs as South Park was a couple of years ago?

Celebrity chefs are ripe for parody, but Zombie Simpsons just brings them on to fellate them and piggyback off their popularity.

Dave: Oh South Park was not only more on point, they absolutely skewered celebrity chef/foodie culture

That was also the episode that gave us Shake Weight. Whatever was on last night didn’t come close.

Charlie Sweatpants: No it didn’t. But it did involve a gunfight, a flaming meth lab, and a Springfield that resembles the nicer parts of Los Angeles more and more all the time.

That’s what this basically was: The Simpsons are going to Santa Monica!

Dave: They were overdue for another schtick-y travel episode, weren’t they?

Charlie Sweatpants: It was about time, yeah.

Dave: I think what bothers me more than anything is the lack of subtlety.

At E4 or whatever the hell it was, they weren’t comfortable leaving the parody game titles in the background as they once may have been. Instead we have Bart rattling off virtually every sign, one by one, effectively as a show of contempt for the audience.

Charlie Sweatpants: The video game stuff was so weak I almost felt bad for them. Here’s Homer in a first person shooter being a jerk. Here’s Lisa telling us dumb marching band stuff. Here’s Angry Birds! It feels transparently like they’re trying to get people to say nice things about them on-line, like when you get a cat picture e-mail from your elderly relatives.

Dave: Yeah, humor in the lowest common denominator

Charlie Sweatpants: And once that ran out of steam, they were left with that one note story and a lot of celebrity voices.

Dave: In other words, everything we’ve come to expect from the show these days.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much. Let’s see, there was a) Homer screaming

b) people appearing and disappearing

c) most of the jokes in random cutaways

d) scenes that make no sense, like having Sideshow Mel and Comic Book Guy just start eating with them.

Dave: e) celebrities aplenty

Charlie Sweatpants: Lots.

Dave: f) shallow pop culture references with no real attempt to parody

Charlie Sweatpants: g) lots of fake violence and fake danger

h) wanting to have it both ways in terms of technology

We don’t talk about that one as much, but this episode has it in spades.

Homer gets to the meth lab and thinks it’s a restaurant. Whatever. But then, when he’s in danger, suddenly he has a cell phone, which he didn’t use earlier.

Dave: i) to build off that, flat, lifeless "HD" visuals

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a couple of scenes, like Homer and Marge talking in the bathroom and at the amusement park, that stood out as lifelessly animated.

I think it’s the straightness of the lines. The backgrounds look like an example drawing in Photoshop or something.

Dave: They haven’t taken the cues from other animated shows that benefit from HD, namely warmth and character. See: Archer

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed.

Dave: You can be crisp without being crappy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Again, agreed. Anything else here? I don’t think there’s much left. Lots of internet friendly stabs at humor, but overall the whole thing is weak and shoddy. Oh, and the best part was done for them by someone else.

Dave: That’s a solid recap.

Charlie Sweatpants: Thanks. Too bad it was a mushy episode.




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