Archive for the 'Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry' Category

22
Aug
13

Today I Am a Clown Makes Baby Jesus Cry

 Mr. T and the Nancy Reagan

Image shamelessly yoinked from here.

“This is worse than your song about Mr. T.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
“I pity the fool who doesn’t like . . . he.” – Homer Simpson

This episode has a cavalcade of guest voices, several of whom are playing themselves, plus Homer gets a new job as a talk show host.  Happily, they spend most of the commentary ignoring the episode and telling stories about Mr. T, who is apparently exactly like his public persona when he’s recording voices.  It’s also worth pointing out that by this point in Zombie Simpsons, even the DVD commentaries are getting repetitive.  Three or four times someone will tell a story or note some piece of trivia after mentioning that they’ve said so many times before. 

Anyway, we start with ten people on this one, but Caroline Omine shows up late.  To begin we have Jean, Selman, Castellaneta, Tim Long, Joel Cohen, Don Payne, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Nancy Cruz, and Steve Moore.

0:40 – After Cruz says her name, she was ninth, someone asks “Is that it?” before Steve Moore describes himself as a “guest attendee”. 

1:00 – Jean asks Joel Cohen to discuss the origin of the episode.  It was originally pitched as a travel show where they could go to Israel for Krusty’s bar mitzvah, but it became just Krusty’s bar mitzvah. 

1:20 – Gammill asks Cohen, for the benefit of those who don’t know, what a bar mitzvah is, which leads to some insider Jewish humor, “You read from the Torah in front of friends, families and people with envelopes in their pockets.”  Ha.

2:15 – Jean asks Castellaneta if he knew Krusty was Jewish when he started doing the voice.  He did not, and then launches into the “he’s based on Rusty Nails” story, which he acknowledges has been told many, many times at this point.

3:00 – Discussing the nationwide franchising of Bozo the Clown.  Jean laughs about how the one in Detroit lost the rights and had to change his name to Oopsie the Clown when he was a kid.

3:30 – Cohen won a Jewish Image award for this, but didn’t win a Writers Guild award.

4:00 – Castellaneta did Rabbi Krustofski at the table read, and then does his Jackie Mason impression here.  It’s funny.

4:20 – On screen Homer just finished strangling Santa’s Little Helper, but no one wants to talk about that so Jean asks Castellaneta if he ever met any real TV clowns.  He has, in fact, met the son of the guy who played Bozo, Bob Bell.  They’re not discussing the episode at all, but so far this is a pretty entertaining commentary.

5:20 – Krusty’s mansion was done a little to look like Jerry Lewis’s place in The King of Comedy.

5:30 – Jean’s just killing time now, so after noting that it’s been on many commentaries before, he talks about how Krusty is just Homer with different hair.

6:20 – After another digression, Jean asks Long what it was like to direct Mr. T for this episode.  Mr. T was one of the most enthusiastic guest voices they ever had, which launches into a Rocky III story that Long says he’s told many times before. 

7:30 – Still discussing Mr. T, who comes in for very high praise for being fun to work with.

7:55 – Apparently, Mr. T’s recording session overlapped with Weird Al’s recording session, and the two met right in the room they’re using for the commentary.  Mr. T was “a little hazy” about who Weird Al was.  Again, nobody’s paying the least bit attention to the episode, but this commentary remains much more entertaining than most.

8:30 – Selman tries to keep the Mr. T thing going, and everyone just ignores him so Gammill can ask if the setting they’re in is supposed to be Washington Square Park.  Consensus: yes it is.

9:15 – Gammill recounts living near Washington Square Park for ten years.  They once found a body in his apartment building.  This leads to much joking and laughter.  Man, I wish they were always this entertaining when they ignore the episode.

10:00 – Gammill’s body finding story is still going on.  His elderly neighbor was murdered, and the rumor around the building was that she was involved in selling untaxed cigarettes. 

11:00 – Now they’re joking about getting Gammill to confess. 

11:15 – After that winds down, Jean breaks the silence by asking Castellaneta if Krusty’s voice or Homer’s voice is more natural for him.  Answer: not really.

12:00 – Trivia bit: Lisa jokes in this episode that her imaginary Jewish friend got into Brandeis.  A few weeks later, they got a fake acceptance package from Brandeis.

13:00 – After a long silence where they just ignore the fact that Homer is now a successful talk show host, Jean asks Cruz about how many changes there were after the animatic.  Cruz doesn’t think it was unusually bad. 

13:45 – Kind of interesting note about the actual episode: Cruz sees Marge talking as Homer’s on TV, and wonders what the original line was because her mouth movements are clearly animated for something other than what she says. 

14:35 – Long silence is broken by brief laughter after Chief Wiggum describes Homer as “always eating”. 

15:00 – Homer has a dream where he saves Abraham Lincoln, and Jean thinks comedy writers have a little obsession with that.

15:20 – Jean breaks that silence by asking, “Any other interesting stories about Mr. T”?

15:45 – Caroline Omine just showed up.  They get back to Mr. T very quickly, eventually asking Omine if she has any stories: “None that I can share”.  Heh.  She did once see him signing the Mr. T comic at a book store.

16:40 – Oh yeah, we’re still talking about Mr. T.

17:15 – Apparently, Gary Coleman wasn’t enthusiastic about doing his catch phrase, but Mr. T had no problems pitying the fool.  Omine again, “He said, I get up in the morning, I brush my teeth, and I go, ‘I wonder what fool I’m gonna pity today!’.”  This gets a huge laugh, and deservedly so.

17:30 – They were about to discuss the commandments of Mr. T, but the Beach Boys are on screen now and that distracted them.

18:00 – Mr. T is finally on screen, and he was game for reading lines in Hebrew.

18:40 – Long silence.

19:00 – Homer’s talk show gets cancelled, and to break the above mentioned long silence, Jean mentions that he heard of a show that actually got cancelled mid-taping once.

19:20 – Smelling the credits, Jean talks about a Dick van Dyke episode about an adult bar mitzvah.

20:00 – More compliments for Mr. T as he gets spun on a giant menorah.  They originally had it as a Star of David, but changed it.  Jean jokes that it’s now “all in perfect taste”. 

20:45 – Jean tells a story about Jackie Mason, who is a real rabbi and was so funny during his sermons that people told him to go on stage.

21:05 – And we end with on last mention of Gammill’s dead neighbor and one more Castellaneta Jackie Mason impression. 

15
Aug
13

Diatribe of a Mad Housewife Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Another Simpsons Clip Show1

“This romance is so full of heartfelt passion.  I can really identify with this corn fed heroine.” – Marge Simpson

At this point, Zombie Simpsons commentaries are a known quantity: there will be compliments on the animation, lots of digressions and tangents, and Al Jean will swoop in to rescue the conversation every time the rest of them just give up and go silent.  This one is no different.  Marge writes a novel, Homer gets a new job, and there are a lot of guest stars, a couple of which Jean forgets about. 

An even ten guys on this one: Jean, Mike Anderson, Matt Selman, Matt Warburton, Steve Moore, David Silverman, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Michael Price, Tom Gammill and Max Pross. 

0:30 – As we have neither the writer nor the director present, Jean starts us off with them. 

0:40 – We’re passing on tidbits about this episodes that someone read on Wikipedia.

1:10 – Selman comes on to actually tell us some of the backstory. 

2:30 – Selman is still telling this story. 

3:00 – Selman finishes up, and Jean, aware of how unfocused and dull that was, saves the day by joking, “That sounds convincing, but now I remember I based it on this story called . . .” and then he trails off into gibberish.  It’s funny.

4:00 – Someone, I think it’s Warburton but I’m not sure, says that he kept the TV Guide from this week because the only description was “Guest starring the Olsen Twins and Thomas Pynchon”.  Everybody laughs, presumably at the odd pairing, but I don’t think they realized that such a description isn’t exactly complimentary of their work.

4:15 – Jean, right after that: “Oh, wait, is this the one with Pynchon in it?”

5:10 – Warburton’s story is still going on.

5:40 – Pynchon’s son is a fan, and that’s why he did the voice.  Jean flew to New York to record him, and he’s just a generally nice, friendly guy. 

6:30 – Someone finally mentions the episode to credit a joke to Dan Greaney. 

7:15 – After a long silence, Selman comes on to inform us that this episode was at some point screened at a Nantucket film festival or something.

8:10 – After an even longer silence, someone comes on to remark about the way they finally showed the title of the painting in the living room.  This happened a minute and a half ago on the episode, much of which was silence on the commentary.

8:30 – Jean talks about Marge being attracted to Flanders, and religion on the show.

9:30 – They’re just running down products that have shipped them stuff after they were mentioned on the air.  Marge is fantasizing about Ned, but nobody talks about that. 

10:00 – Jean compliments Mark Kirkland the director as being good at backgrounds, which is why he gets flashback and travel episodes like this one.

11:15 – The bookstore was possibly based on a Border’s in Glendale.

11:45 – Discussing Marge’s dot matrix printer and the gradual evolution of technology on the show.

12:00 – Jean notes how Groening’s original concept had the family completely out of it (doing dances and with hair styles that hadn’t been popular for years), but that at some point they couldn’t have them typing on typewriters anymore because, “it doesn’t make any sense”. 

12:20 – Just as Jean is making that point (“it’s a thin line”), Homer walks naked into the backyard, which gets a chuckle from everyone and kinda undermines his point.

13:15 – With not much going on in the episode (Homer is supposed to be reading Marge’s novel), Jean just asks if anyone’s ever read a novel at the manuscript stage.  It’s book group time, here in Season 15.

13:40 – After a long silence and some nervous chuckling, Jean says, “I usually like reading cereal boxes” just to fill space.

14:00 – Still with nothing to talk about, Jean continues to play the dinner party host, asking “Do you guys get people applying to Film Roman where they go, ‘It’s been my dream to be a Simpsons director?’”. 

14:30 – And there’s Thomas Pynchon with a bag on his head.  The bag was their idea, he just didn’t want his face depicted.

14:40 – Jean: “Is that Charles Napier?”  Everyone else: “No, that’s actually Tom Clancy”.  Jean: “Oh, that’s right.” 

15:20 – And there’s Dr. Marvin Monroe, back from the dead, asking Marge to sign his book.  Jean attributes it to his very cartoonish look and Harry Shearer thinking the voice was too much like Otto’s. 

16:00 – Mostly just guys laughing at little jokes they’re cracking.  Very little in the way of actual commentary.

17:00 – See above.

17:20 – Jean: “And this is the Olsen twins”, which does get a laugh that he remembers them.

18:10 – We’re getting into the dregs now, Selman is trying to help Jean out in filling time. 

19:00 – Long silence as Marge’s novel finishes up with Homer harpooning Ned.

19:40 – And now we’re recreating the same scene in real life, which causes someone to sarcastically note, “Hey, this is very familiar”.

20:05 – “It’s a testament to a great show when everybody shuts up and watches”.  Well, that’s one way to explain all the silences.  Jean immediately retorts, “Yes, when they watch silently without laughing”.  That gets a big laugh.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these guys know these episodes suck. 

20:30 – Jean mentions that when he found out Ann Landers and Dear Abby were sisters that it blew his mind.

21:15 – There’s a brief discussion of when Homer started wearing his reading glasses.

21:40 – And we end, via the bag on Pynchon’s head, with Murray Langston, the Unknown Comic, who at least one of these guys follows on Twitter

27
Jun
13

Margical History Tour Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Bart's Girlfriend11

“Remember, Bart, I mean, Dances in Underwear, we take the white man alive.” – Lisa Simpson
“Alright, Thinks Too Much, it shall be so.” – Bart Simpson

As per usual with Zombie Simpsons commentaries, the actual episode is incidental to the conversation.  In this case, it’s one of those three part story episodes, the first is about Henry VIII, the second is about Sacajawea, and the third about Mozart.  They mostly discuss books and movies related to the actual historical figures rather than what’s going on here, but that’s to be expected since the actual episode is a parade of bad slapstick about which the less said the better. 

Nine guys on this one: Jean, Mike Anderson, Stewart Burns, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, and Brian Kelley.

0:30 – Jean starts off defending the trilogy episodes, half joking that he knew it was the only way they’d make it to 500 episodes. 

1:30 – They always have a hard time coming up with female stories that everybody knows, but this one was easy with Sacajawea. 

2:30 – The animators like these episodes because they finally get to draw the characters a little differently.

3:40 – To get the backgrounds for the castle they had interns photocopy stuff from libraries because there was no internet. 

4:00 – Jean’s continuing to praise the internet as a television writing tool, noting that it used to be a real pain to look stuff up.

5:10 – And just like that, they’ve gotten bored with the episode and are now discussing the novel Wolf Hall.

6:00 – Laughing at serial beheadings.

7:00 – Interesting animation note: before digital color they had like 19 colors that they had to use for the whole show. 

8:00 – Couple of desultory Sacajawea jokes.

9:30 – The Lisa/Sacajawea thing is going on, but they’re discussing a Sacajawea book and the actual Lewis & Clark trip.  Meanwhile, a log cabin just fell on Moe.

10:30 – With little to note of interest besides the animation, a small puddle reminds Jean of his favorite joke from The Flintstones, “They went to the Grand Canyon which was just this tiny little stream and Fred goes, ‘Well, it’s supposed to be big someday.’”.

10:45 – And we move right from that into, “Another thing in that book about Lewis & Clark . . .” 

11:45 – Tip for all you animators out there, if you’ve got something expansive and flat like a field of grass, put some patches of visible blades in it or some rocks or something.  Makes it look less flat.

13:00 – And after talking about those Sacajawea coins nobody uses for awhile, now they’re talking about all those state quarters. 

13:30 – Once the quarter discussion dies down, it’s time for Jean to note that the third segment involves Mozart which means they didn’t have to pay for the music.

14:00 – While Bart picks up the piano and plays it with his teeth, Jean notes that the movie Amadeus wasn’t very historically accurate.  Discussion wise this is more interesting than most of these commentaries, but it has very little to do with what’s actually happening in the episode.

14:30 – There’s a new Mozart book coming out! 

15:40 – “The other thing that was not true about Amadeus . . .”

17:10 – Jean with the helpful note that the melody is Eine kleine Nachtmusik.

17:45 – When you have crowd shots with people moving independently, that’s a real pain to animate.

18:45 – They’re very bored now.  Dr. Nick just showed up to put leeches on Bart, and Jean starts talking about how that really did kill people if they let out too much blood.

19:10 – To get the candles to glow you animated the centers independently and do a pass over it two or three times. 

20:10 – Jean jokes that they go through “four, maybe five ideas” before getting the three they do.  Heh.

21:20 – And now, because Mozart was in Animal House and this episode did a brief “here’s what happened” thing, we’re talking about how brilliant Animal House was and how endings like that got overused for a while. 

12
Jun
13

I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Lisa the Skeptic4

“Why, why was I programmed to feel pain?” – Robot

As far as Zombie Simpsons commentaries go this one is typically dull, right up until they do something actually worth listening to near the end.  (Spoiler alert: Jean and Groening both hate “The Principal and the Pauper”.  Cool.)  Before that is the usual meandering conversation and basically ignoring the episode, which is a good thing because this episode is awful.  It makes no sense, is full of fake drama and tension, tries to change something and then ignores it, and relies on Homer getting hurt in pretty much every scene.  With the exception of the animation (which they justifiably compliment in places), this one would’ve fit in seamlessly with Season 24. 

Whoa, eleven people in this one: Jean, Allen Glazier, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Matt Warburton, Nancy Cartwright, Lauren MacMullan, TV critic Alan Sepinwall, and a very late arriving Groening.

0:30 – And we begin with everyone jokingly wondering why Sepinwall is here.

0:45 – This was just a regular pitch, but apparently people thought it was based off of a Twilight Zone episode.  This is what happens when people give Zombie Simpsons too much credit.

1:15 – Jean compliments MacMullan, who directed, on how good the episode looks.  She says “thank you”.  That’s it. 

2:00 – Jean asks Sepinwall how they’re doing on the commentary.  Sepinwall laughs and changes the subject to what’s actually going on in the episode.  Clearly he has not listened to many Zombie Simpsons commentaries.  Nobody wants to watch the episode.

2:30 – Jean asks MacMullan how much drawing the director actually has to do: some but not much.  They had a new artist on this one who had to do a lot of the crying. 

3:30 – Long discussion of how hard it is to get tears to look like real water.  Also, Snowball II just got run over. 

4:00 – Jean’s talking about how this was loosely based on his daughter, who had three cats die on her in quick succession.  He jokes, “Like any writer I didn’t consider what her feelings might be, I just said we should do this”.  It’s funny.

4:40 – Oh, fuck, Selman’s natural ass kissing reflex has kicked in and he’s buttering up Sepinwall. 

5:00 – Apparently Selman and Sepinwall went to college together.  There you go.

5:40 – Everyone’s cracking up as Bart crashes his bicycle. 

6:20 – After a brief silence, Jean asks about the models for the fighting robots.  Some of the guys on the show- were into fighting robots.

7:00 – Gammill, trying to fill a void, points out that MacMullan and a couple of the writers also went to college together.  Meanwhile, nothing is happening in the episode.

7:40 – While Homer sets himself on fire a couple of times, MacMullan describes how they tried to make some of the uglier characters uglier in a more traditional way.  This prompts Cartwright to do Nelson’s voice in protest.  As usual, these commentaries are at their best when people are just hanging out and having fun and not really paying attention to what’s going on.

8:30 – Jean makes a very half assed defense of the emotions on the show that I don’t think even he believes.  It peters out into total silence.  Kinda awkward.

9:00 – Now they’re laughing about all the horrible things that happen to Homer here, meanwhile, another cat just died.

10:00 – There’s robot fighting going on now, and Jean has decided to change the subject completely by asking Sepinwall about Modern Family.  His response is that some people take that show “weirdly sensitively”. 

11:30 – Still going with Sepinwall about which shows he likes to criticize, whether or not anyone pays attention, etc.

12:00 – Another cat just died, and the only real comment anyone has is to note that they originally had a shot of the cat (which leapt to its death) falling toward the camera, but that it was “too much”.

12:20 – After a brief silence, Jean decides to keep things going by complimenting Cartwright on her ability to do voices for ten-year-old boys.

13:30 – Cartwright still recounting how she often got auditions for boy voices.  Meanwhile, Homer is being shot at by a Ralph Wiggum robot.

14:20 – Groening just showed up.

14:45 – Selman pops up to say that the song they used during the robot montage sounds like a real song but was actually something they made up.  Everyone immediately corrects him as it is, in fact, a real song (and they had used it way back in Season 3).  I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: I have never met Matt Selman and I have nothing against the guy, but he really doesn’t come off well in these commentaries. 

15:45 – The great song debate finally ends, and Jean fills the void by complimenting MacMullan on the animation again.  He’s not wrong.  As bad as this episode is – and it is unwatchable – the animation is noticeably less ham-handed than today. 

17:00 – They had to cut more than usual with this episode. 

17:35 – Sepinwall asks about the Armin Tamzarian joke in this one.  (Lisa says that the new cat will be called Snowball II and that they’ll pretend none of this ever happened, after which, in a very Zombie Simpsons move, Skinner mysteriously walks by to note that’s a cheat and have Lisa call him “Principal Tamzarian”.)  Jean explains that he put the joke in, and that he wasn’t running the show when they did that most infamous of episodes, and that he “never got that Tamzarian thing”.  Since he’s ever the pro, Jean casually notes that it was a great year for the show even as he’s taking a dump on it.  (There’s an alternate universe where Jean is the world’s most effective PR spokesman and he’s even richer than he is here.) 

18:05 – Groening, in outrage that may or may not be mock, says he didn’t like it but was assured that it would be good. 

18:10 – Wow, this is way more interesting than this episode.  Jean recounts, “Then when I investigated afterwards, I said to Scully, did you like it?  He goes, no.  Did Matt Groening?  No.  Did George?  No.  Did Jim?  No.  It’s like, how did it go through?  Every box had to be checked no.” 

18:35 – And they’re still bagging on “The Principal and the Pauper”.  This is great.

19:30 – After laughing at the fact that Homer’s butt was on screen, we get back to complimenting the animation because there really isn’t much else to talk about here.

20:45 – With nothing else to discuss, Selman asks Sepinwall if he has any feuds with any show runners.  The answer is yes, Veena Sud, who runs The Killing, is/was pissed at him.  A reminder: this is theoretically a Simpsons commentary.

21:25 – And we end with Jean asking Sepinwall if he thought Tony Soprano was alive after the last episode.  Sepinwall says yes, Jean thinks no. 

28
Aug
12

Alone Again Natura-Diddily Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Bart of Darkness8

“But I distinctly heard you say that Maude was with God.” – Bart Simpson
“Oh, that’s right, I was at Bible camp. I was learning how to be more judgmental.” – Maude Flanders

Much like the commentary for the Jockey Elves episode, the commentary for the death of Maude Flanders mostly dances around the actual events on screen and their larger implications for the overall history and health of the show. Also like the commentary for the Jockey Elves, George Meyer is here quietly commenting on things without doing any of the stammering defense/non-defense of the indefensible crap that’s occurring on screen.

What’s most interesting here is that they actually do acknowledge that Flanders starting to date people might have been premature, that Rod and Todd were too much of a bummer to do much with, and that death is awfully difficult to handle on a show like this. They don’t really say much beyond that, and it’s cold comfort knowing that they’re aware of the problems here, but it’s something.

Six guys on this one, though Jim Reardon recorded from Oakland, where he was working on WALL-E.

1:20 – Here’s an artful elision: “Maggie Roswell, the actress who played Maude Flanders had decided to leave the show for awhile.” Well, that’s one way of putting it, and I don’t even blame them. FOX really, really doesn’t like people talking about salaries, and that the subject was a no-go on a commentary doesn’t surprise me in the least.

2:15 – Scully chuckles as Homer sprays his crotch with bug repellent.

2:30 – The NASCAR drivers all turned them down for voices.

3:20 – Maxtone-Graham denies that it was supposed to be his name in giant letters, says he originally wrote it as Reardon.

4:30 – Long silence here broken by someone asking if that was another actress doing Maude, which, of course it was.

5:30 – FOX, which was broadcasting NASCAR, didn’t care about their crash heavy portrayal.

6:30 – Scully’s rambling about how they got to the death scene and how they didn’t want it to be “horrifying”. He seems nervously defensive, which I suppose is understandable.

7:00 – Reardon complains that the camera was supposed to pan right to show Maude as she went off the edge but instead it went left and cut her out of the shot. Calls it a “clerical error” that never got retaken.

7:30 – Meyer jumps on to try and explain what they were going for on the act break and admits that it didn’t work out and “just seemed grim”. As usual, I’m glad he’s here. As soon as he’s done, Scully, Maxtone-Graham and the rest of them go back to nervously laughing and explaining things.

8:00 – They wrote a scene where Ned talks to the boys about Maude being dead, but it was too sad so they cut it.

8:40 – That’s followed by more rambling defense of this as having a lot of “heart”.

9:20 – Selman brings up how dumb FOX’s promotional material was for this episode, where they teased characters like Homer or Bart dying when everyone knew it was going to be Maude.

9:35 – Meyer comes on to explain that death is really tricky to do, whether you’re doing a one off character like Frank Grimes or a long running one like Maude. He concludes, again without really defending the episode, by saying that “People just don’t like death, and I’m going to remember that.”

10:50 – After the scene with Bart and the Flanders boys playing video games, someone says, “So they’re over it, that’s good”.

11:00 – Selman’s just rambling along here for no real reason.

11:30 – Still going. Meanwhile, Homer just kissed Flanders on the forehead.

11:45 – Someone finally comes on and asks, “Are you waiting for us to get you out of this?”

12:30 – After some banter with Reardon, Selman actually asks him if he gets free iPhones working for Pixar.

13:00 – Wondering why they went right to Flanders dating and if that might seem like it was too sudden. That’s followed by an awkward silence before someone finally says it’s okay because it’s Homer doing it.

14:15 – Actually interesting trivia: Flanders ATM code is 5316, which is short of John 3:16 (the J being on the 5 on a nine digit keypad).

14:20 – Scully asks Reardon about how far they should go with Flanders’ pixilated horse cock, Reardon doesn’t miss a beat: “Yes, you guys seemed to have a real interest in looking at those model shoots.”

15:15 – A long silence leads to the generic “Shearer did a great job in this episode” comment.

15:35 – Smattering of laughter as Homer’s in the mailbox for some reason.

16:30 – Mostly silence, some commentary that they should check with the Bob Hope and Charles Nelson Riley estates before doing those “grr” growls.

17:10 – More long silence.

17:30 – Quickly noting that Flanders apparently took the park swan boat all the way home, then more silence.

18:15 – The framed picture of God that Flanders turns around had to be approved by the writers. Not much else is going on here.

19:00 – Oh, hell, Selman’s off on a rant again. This time it’s about how Ned is like Job. Mercifully, someone cuts him off after only twenty seconds or so.

20:00 – Reardon points out that when you have a long song you can’t just park the camera somewhere, you’ve got to move things.

21:05 – Now they’re discussing the fact that, yes, Hot Christian Singer Babe (whose name they couldn’t remember either) did come back in a later episode.

22:10 – Maxtone-Graham: “Let me just say that I’m a little sorry we killed her and I’ve been trying to think of ways to bring her back and think of what she’s been doing all this time and hiding out, but then we did an episode where we showed her up in Heaven with God, so I guess she’s really dead.”

22:20 – And we close with them chuckling about having Ned remarry someone a lot like her with the same name. Ugh.

15
Aug
12

Saddlesore Galactica Makes Baby Jesus Cry

The Principal and the Pauper5

“Come on, get to the part where you steal his identity!” – Bart Simpson
“I’m trying to explain how emotionally fragile I was.” – Armin Tamzarian
“Oh, it’s one of those stories.” – Bart Simpson

The collapse between Season 9 and Season 11 seemed long and painful while it was happening, but looking back over the (now very long) history of the show, it was almost the blink of an eye. Case in point is the commentary for this episode, which is stunning for how closely it tracks later Zombie Simpsons commentaries yet is totally unlike those from just a few seasons before. They know that this episode is reviled by fans, but instead of opting for the Oakley-Weinstein-Keeler approach and taking the criticism in stride while attempting to explain what they were doing, they just sit there and endure it, offering nervous laughter, empty self deprecation, and “well, I like it” type statements all the way through.

Having listened to both commentaries, I can only think that it’s because while “The Principal and the Pauper” was really dumb and boring, it also had a great deal of thought put into it. Keeler and company state repeatedly that they had a lot of stuff that got cut for time, and Keeler clearly had some bigger ideas he was trying to get across. But “Saddlesore Galactica” is just dumb filler that happened to cross lines of audience tolerance that the writers weren’t even aware existed. Keeler was consciously challenging the audience and fell short; by contrast, they not only thought they were going to disappoint their audience and didn’t care, they couldn’t even correctly identify the audience’s main problem with it.

This episode isn’t any more watchable than “The Principal and the Pauper”, but that episode at least had enough thought put into it that the commentary could be interesting and relevant. This commentary is just the standard Zombie Simpsons evasions, half-hearted defenses, and general boredom.

Here’s another similarity with Zombie Simpsons commentaries, way too many guys. Eight, in this case: Tim Long, Tom Martin, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Matt Groening, Matt Selman, Ian Maxtone-Graham, and Lance Kramer.

1:00 – They’re giggling about the title, and this already feels far more like Season 13 or 14 than it does 8 or 9.

1:25 – Mentioning “fan reaction”, goes with “it seems to be divided” and Long goes on to joke that the third act was based on an experience of his. This is not getting off to a good start.

1:50 – That leads to them saying how funny they thought it was when they rewatched it for the commentary.

2:20 – Defending the Jockey Elves by saying it’s the kind of thing a lot of other shows do now. That is, uh, not an actual defense.

2:50 – Meyer breaks in and says that since the crazy twist happens so close to the end, “it’s kind of an odd place for it”. Indeed, it is.

3:00 – And Groening, the only other guy on here besides Meyer from the beginning, claims to have never seen this episode. I think both of them are a little ashamed of this.

3:50 – Scully (I think) comes on to note that he doesn’t know how many set pieces they’ve done at various fairs, amusement parks and the like.

4:15 – “Oh, here’s Bachmann Turner Overdrive, who we were thrilled to have on the show.” Remember everyone, their stated reason for releasing the DVDs so slowly is that the commentaries take a long time. Scintillating insight like that is why.

4:50 – Desultory compliments for Homer’s dancing after he yells at the band.

5:40 – Someone wonders how they picked “Living in America”, which causes Meyer to joke that it was Michael Dukakis’s campaign theme song so that it certainly has hip credentials.

6:30 – Not much by way of backstory for the diving horse. They did have a story and photo of a real diving mule, but that was it.

7:00 – Understatement of the entire commentary: “This little b-story about Lisa’s outrage over the other team cheating kind of gets lost amid jockey brouhaha.”

7:45 – As Duncan comes on screen, someone points out that there was a Disney movie about a diving horse, but they’d already used the title “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken” for a different episode.

8:00 – Duncan struggling to get to the side of the pool gets a big laugh.

8:15 – Larry Kramer is on talking about how they took the time to learn how horse’s ankles work so that everyone would know how to properly animate the horse. That was nice of them, but a realistic looking horse isn’t exactly an asset to this episode.

9:00 – For the Comic Book Guy segment: “We thought the best thing to do was just cop to it.” “That’s one of the reasons the show has earned such enmity.” The lack of self awareness is pretty amazing.

10:00 – Nervous laughter during Homer’s pearl fantasy. Someone even calls it “disturbing”.

11:00 – More or less the same as we see Marge use her fire extinguisher for no reason.

11:30 – Long silence until Moe’s heart finally starts pounding out of his chest.

12:00 – Meyer informs us that they do actually ride clockwise in Europe. I’m glad he’s here.

12:25 – The race track announcer is a real race track announcer.

13:00 – Generic compliments for the race track announcer guy.

13:45 – Nice backhanded compliment from Groening there as he compliments the emotion of the episode and says he’s looking forward to where this goes. Nervous laughter all around.

14:00 – Meandering small talk as Duncan shows up with his nose ring.

15:00 – Monocle joke doesn’t get much of a laugh.

15:40 – Comic Book Guy’s second appearance just gets noted as one of an unusual number of callbacks in this episode.

16:00 – As Duncan crashes the other horses, Scully (again, I think) says “Watching it last night I couldn’t help but notice the flagrant rule violations”, which gets a bigger laugh than anything in a while.

16:45 – Tom Martin apparently went to high school with the trumpet player from Cake, but they didn’t use the original song for the montage and then apparently they went back and redid it with the real song instead of a sound alike. That discussion takes us to the jockey elves.

17:05 – Someone calls it the emotional heart of the season.

17:20 – After some tepid defense and nervous laughter, they blame it on Donick Cary before half-assedly saying, “I’m really proud of this, I think it turned out really funny”.

17:50 – Nervous laughter and silence as the elf song goes on. The contrast with the commentary from “The Principal and the Pauper” is stark as hell.

18:05 – “Oh, there’s the Bart elf” gets a round of relieved laughter.

18:55 – “I think Homer’s fear of having his brain eaten by jockeys is . . . solid.” They aren’t even trying to defend this. Every once and a while they just say that it’s great or make slight fun of themselves. They know.

19:20 – “Boy, you guys really had to draw a lot of racing scenes.” This is what passes for commentary by Season 11.

20:00 – The announcer speculating about the “terrifying planet of the horses” gets a legitimate laugh.

20:20 – As the jockeys light the cannon: “They’re not really making any effort to be furtive anymore.” Lotta that going around.

20:50 – Apparently Homer’s pre-flight line about a “moral sewer” was the thing Steve Allen said about the show. That prompts a kinda sad, “Is that true?” from Groening (who has been pretty quiet even by his standards). He then says that Ray Bradbury knocked the show as well. This relieves them of having to talk about the chase scene.

21:55 – The credits roll as they apologize to Clinton by saying that they had no idea what was coming. Of course, Bush the Younger never really got touched by Zombie Simpsons, but commentaries are safer places to express opinions.

22:20 – Groening thinks the jockey thing was great. I honestly can’t tell if he’s being sarcastic, but there’s not enough time left to tell if he was or not.

08
Feb
12

“The Dad Who Knew Too Little” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Actually Funny Detective

“Now, don’t you fret.  When I’m through, he won’t set foot in this town again.  I can be very, very persuasive. . . . C’mon, leave town.” – Crappy Private Detective
“No.” – Sideshow Bob
“Aw, I’ll be your friend.” – Crappy Private Detective
“No.” – Sideshow Bob
“Oh, you’re mean!” – Crappy Private Detective

They make a lot during this commentary of the fact that there’s an emotional core to this episode, namely Homer trying to connect with Lisa. But whenever they’re trying to push that you can’t help but notice that the stuff going on in the episode is batshit insane and unbelievably dumb. This includes, but is not limited to, Homer hiring a private detective to stalk his daughter, a phony break in at an animal testing lab, them running from the police after being framed by said private detective, and a chase/fight scene at a traveling circus. Homer working two jobs to get Lisa a pony this is not. Hell, this isn’t even Homer’s magical mystery sensory deprivation tour through the repo process.

Nine people here, including Yeardley Smith and Weird Al Yankovic.

0:30 – Apparently Selman won a Writers Guild award for this, which he had to accept from the twelve year old from “Whale Rider”. Apparently he made a “Whale Rider” joke about Marge humping Homer that didn’t go over well.

2:00 – The story about the awards ceremony and the girl from “Whale Rider” is still going on.

2:15 – Jean brings things back by mentioning that among the things that already happened was a parody of MTV’s “Cribs” with Elliot Gould playing himself. Apparently Gould had written them a nice letter when he was mentioned in “The Way We Was”, though Jean misremembers it as Marge thinking he was attractive when it was that girl with the glasses Barney asked to the prom.

3:00 – Selman launches into a long story about where an idea for this episode came from, gets lost, and has to end it by again mentioning his awards show joke.

3:45 – Jean again brings things back by complimenting Smith on her Lisa and how much he likes doing Lisa episodes. Jean asks Smith how she’s most like Lisa and she says that they have a similar sense of humor.

4:45 – There’s an intentionally crappy animation of Rod Flanders as a spaceman here, and Mark Kirkland gets complimented on his ability to make crappy look authentically crappy.

5:15 – That leads to Jean saying that the one thing they have a hard time doing is getting their orchestra to sound like a crappy school band.

6:00 – Finally, some interesting trivia from Weird Al. He gave Tress MacNeille one of her first jobs after she got to Hollywood as a Lucille Ball look-alike/sound-alike for his video for “Rickey”. Sadly, I couldn’t find it on YouTube just now.

6:25 – David Silverman worked on the Dire Straits parody video in UHF.

6:50 – Selman just followed up the stories about MacNeille and Silverman by interjecting himself and saying “I have a connection to Weird Al too in that Weird Al taught me what funny was.” This isn’t as bad as the time he complimented Stan Lee on his physique, and I’ll repeat my glass houses caveat from that post: I’ve never met anyone I’m a serious fan of, so there’s a decent chance I would make a colossal fool out of myself in a similar situation. But Selman really comes off as a cloying brown nose when he does things like that.

7:15 – Selman’s ass kissing leads to an awkward silence, which he then breaks by pointing out that the electronic diary in this episode is based on a real product. Apparently Joel Cohen’s daughter had a diary with a voice activated electronic lock. The password was “girls rule”, but it didn’t work very well, so he’d hear his daughter in her room saying “girls rule” over and over again. Everyone laughs, though Jean is forced to wonder why they didn’t use that in the episode. It is pretty funny.

8:00 – Smith asks why Carl is the same color as the bar, Jean tosses it over to Mark Kirkland who ignores the question and goes on a long explanation of how he likes noir films and such.

9:10 – Compliments for Azaria as the voice of the private eye.

9:40 – Selman really signed up for Homer’s chunkylover53@aol e-mail address. Apparently for a while he was trying to answer e-mails to that address. He’s long since stopped.

10:45 – Jean breaks a silence by bringing up more Weird Al-Simpsons trivia. He was one of the first other artists to sample the Simpsons and actually pay for it.

11:15 – Not much going on, commentary wise. More people are impressed with Azaria’s impression of Robert Stack as the detective, which leads to people talking about Stack in general.  Jean loves his delivery at the end of Airplane! when he’s asked if they should turn on the search lights and he says, “No, that’s just what they’ll be expecting us to do.”. 

12:00 – Smith asks Selman how he came up with this, and it was all based on the feeling a kid gets when their parents inadvertently reveal that they really don’t understand their children.

13:00 – Now they’re talking about how many of them have daughters, and some random guys they know who also have daughters.

14:00 – Compliments on the animation as Homer runs out the window of the detective’s office. Kirkland credits some of the animators, Josh Taback, Matt Faughnan.

14:30 – Laughing at the way that Lou and Wiggum mocking each other is actually Azaria insulting himself.

15:00 – Jean mentions that this is the episode that came up with “Ariel Ponywether”, which is the pseudonym of someone who reviews Zombie Simpsons on Firefox News.

15:20 – When Homer acts guilty for hiring the detective, they were channeling Phil Silvers.

15:45 – And we come back from the act break to a car chase and Selman saying, “I can’t believe Weird Al is here. This is so great.”

16:00 – That leads Jean to explain that they do two commentaries in an afternoon, and Yankovic was just sticking around from “Three Gays of the Condo”.

16:15 – Selman’s kissing Weird Al’s ass again.

17:15 – Jean breaks into the Weird Al lovefest to point out that a joke about Homer painting on his eyebrows was Tom Gammill’s. Apparently that reminded of comedians from the 1930s named Clark and McCullough, one of whom painted on his glasses.

17:40 – That leads to a discussion of Groucho Marx’s mustache, and Weird Al asks if it was an urban legend that he painted it on because he couldn’t really grow one. Apparently that is an urban legend. Marx did later grow a real mustache.

17:50 – Smith asks if this was when they still had three acts, and it was. Jean then explains that they went to four breaks so they could cram in more commercials and people were more likely to see at least the first or last commercial break. Jean concludes, “But I always figured, ultimately, people will see them on DVD or on-line so it doesn’t really matter.” This sounds like an objection to the four act style (which does indeed suck), but someone breaks in to ask whether or not Homer painting teardrops on his face means he killed three people, so he doesn’t get to finish his plot. Damn you, Zombie Simpsons! One of your crappy jokes interrupted an explanation for one of the reasons you suck.

19:00 – Irony alert here. Kirkland goes off on a long spiel about how you need to establish the emotions of an episode early and how much working on the show taught him about properly anchoring feeling like that. Meanwhile, on screen, an enraged private detective is firing a stunt man out of a cannon at Homer.

19:50 – That prompts Jean to say that after the table read he always wants to be able to give James L. Brooks one sentence of what the show’s “emotional through line” is about. I’ll give Jean credit, he says they don’t always live up to that.

20:00 – Homer’s battling the detective in a hall of mirrors now, Kirkland again gives credit to Matt Faughnan.

20:45 – The scene concludes with Lisa blinding the guy with a laser pointer, which Smith is kind of upset about. I don’t think she realized how bloodthirsty the show can get. It’s endearing.

21:30 – And we end on more compliments for the mirror animation.

24
Jan
12

“The Great Louse Detective” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Black Widower6

“This is one more Emmy than you’ll ever win you bantering jack-in-the-box!” – Sideshow Bob
“Just don’t drop that thing in the shower, Bob.” – Krusty the Klown
No talent shill!” – Sideshow Bob
Second banana!” – Krusty the Klown
Panderer!” – Sideshow Bob
Bore!” – Krusty the Klown

This was a very above-average commentary by the standards of Season 14. In this case it actually helped that they had a lot more guys than usual because there’s only a few times when no one’s talking at all. It also helps that this is a Sideshow Bob episode, which gives them plenty of excuses to bring up old episodes and other (mostly) unrelated stories. To be sure, there are still lots of tangents and the occasional moment where you can tell they aren’t real proud of what’s going on, but for the most part they did seem to enjoy both the episode and commenting on it.

The episode itself is still terrible, of course. It doesn’t make sense, involves a lot of bad slapstick and action, and tries to make up for that with unrelenting hyperactivity. This includes Sideshow Bob getting repeatedly electrocuted, a blatant piece of musical filler at the end, and lots of fake tension and suspense. The main plot concludes with a stilt chase because, you know, stilts.

Eleven (eventually twelve) guys on this one, including Castellaneta and Groening, the latter of whom might have said ten words the entire time.

0:35 – The whole idea here was for Sideshow Bob to not be the criminal. But it’s getting harder for them to come up with things for him that aren’t just “straight out murder”. There haven’t been a lot of Bob episodes since this one.

2:00 – David Silverman talks about how the original design of Bob was non-descript because he was just Krusty’s silent, background sidekick. Brad Bird spiced it up after hearing Kelsey Grammer’s voice for “Krusty Gets Busted”.

3:30 – Silence broken by uncomfortable laughter as Homer is in a steam room with a naked Rainier Wolfcastle.

4:30 – Here’s a perfect moment of Zombie Simpsons commentary. Jean invites Steven Dean Moore to talk about how he did the animation for the door of the sauna. While he’s doing that we see Homer’s badly desiccated body collapse out of the room. That part doesn’t get mentioned.

5:15 – Long silence here broken by a discussion of whether or not this is a real Sideshow Bob episode and how FOX often has slightly misleading ads for what the episode is about. The time they billed the episode as “The Simpsons are going Canada!” but only had about two minutes of Canada in it is mentioned as another example.

6:00 – Long tangential discussion about “Silence of the Lambs” and whether or not real criminals are used to catch other criminals like they’re doing here. This gets to other movies and prison snitches quickly.

6:40 – Long silence broken by Jean asking why Sideshow Bob’s skin is a lighter color. Nobody seems sure other than, “that’s probably how Brad did it”.

7:00 – Generic praise for Grammer as a guest voice.

7:30 – That leads to an interesting note from Silverman, that for “Black Widower” he added more mouth shapes for Bob because of Grammer’s nuanced pronunciation.

8:00 – And we’re off on a tangent about other guest voices and celebrities they’ve made fun of. The widow of Mr. Rogers apparently once ran into Jean and knew they’d made fun of her husband.

8:50 – They were still talking about Mrs. Rogers when someone broke in to talk about the episode (pointing out that they’re referencing “Krusty Gets Busted”) and it took them a second to stop interrupting each other. It was actually surprising that someone wanted to talk about what’s going on. Ha.

9:30 – Laughing about the first open appearance of Frank Grimes Jr., the real villain here.

10:10 – Jean: “The Simpsons are awfully friendly with a man who chased Bart around with a machete.” Meanwhile, Bart is needlessly electrocuting Bob.

10:30 – Guys keep laughing every time a character comes up and whacks a Homer dummy Bob set up. A lot of the time on things like this the laughter sounds nervous or forced, but they really seem to think this is hilarious. Can’t say I agree, but these are always better to listen to when they’re having fun.

11:15 – Boredom sets in again quickly though as someone wonders why Moe’s sometimes has a pool table and sometimes doesn’t.

12:30 – Not much is happening so they’re talking about the song at the end of this episode. These days they have a harder time getting song parodies cleared.

13:00 – I guess they got nominated for an Emmy with that song. Someone remembers peeing in the men’s room with Alf Clausen after they lost. It’s actually funny.

13:30 – Now it’s time for more Emmy tales. Apparently that year if you went to the bathroom they wouldn’t let you back into the auditorium.

14:40 – Tim Long just showed up, so that puts us to twelve guys.

15:15 – Homer’s on a parade float now, and they’re mentioning the usual difficulty of animating crowds.

15:50 – Now they’re talking about a crowd scene in the movie. Homer’s running people over on his parade float, but that doesn’t come up.

16:30 – Laughing about “The Museum of Swordfish”.

17:00 – Long silence as Bob, Duffman and the Duff Blimp save Homer.

17:40 – Interesting tidbit here as everyone’s ignoring the stupid chase scene that’s happening. They had a lot of trouble with pullouts (i.e. zooming back from a shot) when they switched to digital color because it made the thickness of the lines go screwy so it didn’t look like it was the same drawing. They prefer to do cuts.

18:15 – Silence broken when everyone laughs at Homer’s inability to remember Frank Grimes.

18:30 – They do a flashback to “Homer’s Enemy”, and talk a little about how you can see the difference between the animation from Season 8 to Season 14.

19:00 – Mostly silence here, with the brief mention of “Homer’s Enemy”.

19:30 – Now we’re back to more typical desultory laughter.

20:00 – Sideshow Bob’s trying to stab Bart now. Jean’s laughing because no matter how many of these they’ve done it never is the last one.

20:30 – And now they’re discussing the next Bob episode. Meanwhile, Bob is singing and no one’s paying attention.

21:30 – They’ve spent the last minute telling unrelated stories.

22:00 – The original ending was going to be Bob getting hit by rakes as he leaves the Simpsons’ yard. They decided against it.

22:20 – And we end on them joking about being in a sauna like at the beginning of the episode.

05
Jan
12

“Pray Anything” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Treehouse of Horror VIII6

It’s a pity that I don’t have a way to tabulate just how much time they spend off topic in these Zombie Simpsons commentaries, because this one might have set a record. Even by their standards there are several impressively long tangents about things that are only connected to the episode by the thinnest of threads. I think my favorite might be when they talk about how you can’t actually swim around in a flood.

Tron Lovejoy Speaking of floods, this episode ends with one. Homer has blasphemed the church such that the entire town floods up to roof level, at which point Lovejoy shows up in a helicopter with a blue glow that makes him look like an extra in a Tron movie. If you’re thinking to yourself that all of that sounds stupid and that they ended the show with a flood in Season 10, well, yeah, it was and they did. As usual, it’s best not to think too much about these.

Eight guys on this one.

0:45 – Original pitch was based off an NPR story about the “gospel of prosperity”. Oh man, you picked those sleazy Bakker acolytes who run prosperity gospel scams and came up with this hunk of shit? Shame, Zombie Simpsons, shame. They don’t come much slower and fatter over the plate than prosperity gospel scammers.

1:30 – This one opens with a WNBA game because all the NBA guys had turned them down for a guest spot a couple of years ago.

2:30 – Still talking about the WNBA.

3:00 – Wow, boredom has set in awfully quickly here. Mike Scully’s name appearing in the credits prompted someone to break a long silence by saying, completely out of the blue, “We were just at Mike Scully’s lifetime animation award ceremony last night. And there’s his name.” That causes everyone to laugh at how off topic it is.

3:45 – Marc Wilmore won a basket shooting contest in a game once. This thrilling story is keeping them nicely distracted from the glacial pace of the episode, in which the Rich Texan is now dancing for no reason.

4:10 – “Me and Marc were actually at a Clippers game thanks to Al giving us his tickets . . .” The story keeps going from there. Homer is crying and yelling on screen now.

4:45 – Omine is now telling a story about taking her kid to a Clippers game.

5:10 – Holy crap, it’s the third basketball story in a row. Al Jean’s wife went to a game once and they put her on the kiss-cam with a dude that she didn’t know who just happened to be sitting next to her.

5:30 – Another kiss-cam story.

5:45 – After a quiet period after the second kiss-cam story, Jean finally says something about the episode. Pointing out that when they show things on television with the image of the outside of the TV there it’s called a “TV matte” or “mat”, I don’t know. That segues nicely into Jean complaining that Ken Burns’ “Baseball” documentary was too New York centric.

6:20 – Still talking about Ken Burns.

6:50 – See above.

7:05 – Jean breaks the post-Burns silence by asking Michael Polcino, who directed this, how they animated the lenticular card. It was two images cross dissolved with white lines interspersed. Polcino’s explanation is so short and business like that everyone laughs at how short and business like it is.

7:30 – Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I think Jean was hoping Polcino would eat up a bit more time. There was a whiff of Vaudeville straight man to Polcino’s succinct response. To keep things going, Jean asks how the candle flames were done.

8:00 – There wasn’t much to that story either, but it did lead to the usual but-things-are-different-with-computers-now conclusion that happens every time they talk about the animation on these episodes. On screen Homer just caused two trucks to crash into one another.

8:30 – Jean breaks a long silence as Homer goes to unclog the sink through prayer. He wonders about the efficacy of prayer, which causes someone else to jokingly ask if there’s a message to this show. That leads to some casual banter about the unlikeliness of any deity caring about strikeouts or made free throws.

9:30 – As the God-as-Sportsfan discussion winds down, Selman chimes in with a Ricky Gervais joke on that subject.

9:45 – After a silence, we’re still talking about old Gervais routines.

10:15 – Homer just fell down, which prompts a rare comment about the episode. Apparently Castellaneta did a longer falling noise at the table read that was really funny.

10:30 – Jean mentions that with Hartman and therefore Lionel Hutz gone, it was always tough to introduce a new lawyer into the show. Sounds like a reason the show could’ve ended to me.

10:50 – I’ll give Jean credit, he’s doing his best to make this interesting. As Homer proceeds with a lawsuit against the church, Jean talks about how many Catholic churches have been sued since this episode came out and jokes about one that became Greek.

11:30 – Jean again, joking about how they’re still using VHS tapes here.

12:00 – Jean mentions that they’re aware of Jerkass Homer, but then fails to understand the concept by saying that the first time his mom thought Homer was an asshole was “When Flanders Failed”. Jerkass Homer is most definitely not on display in “When Flanders Failed”, because there all he does is not tell people about the Leftorium. Jerkass Homer is when he goes crashing into people and screaming and generally acting out.

12:30 – Someone says, “They criticize Jerkass Homer, but they never praise Niceass Homer”. To which Selman says, “They never praise anything”. To which I say, not true. Read just about any post on this site that mentions an episode prior to Season 10 or so and you will see bounteous and florid praise. Hell, I even say nice things about new episodes every once and a while.

13:00 – They had a fight with the standards and practices people over Homer dancing around the church in his underwear. I would only point out that they did that – in a Halloween episode – five seasons before this.

13:45 – A question about whether or not they’d be allowed to do stuff like this today leads to a long discussion about censorship on the show and who it is they’re trying not to offend. Jean’s opinion is that the censor fights they don’t win anymore are the ones about vulgarity, butt cracks, and the odd politically correct things like not wanting Lisa to have wine at dinner when they went to Italy.

14:30 – Reverend Lovejoy is trying to preach in the bowling alley, which leads both Jean and Omine to jokingly point out how poor a choice this is for the new church. That in turn leads to a long discussion of bowling alley quirks and etiquette. Seriously.

15:10 – Now they’re discussing the claw machines often found in bowling alleys.

15:30 – Jean follows the claw discussion by asking Polcino about the lighting of the sky in afternoon/evening. Up to this they hadn’t done as much graduated shading because you had to draw it, now it’s five seconds on the computer. That’s one of the reasons he likes digital over the hand painted, because you get so many more color and shading options.

17:00 – Still talking about hand painted versus digital. Flanders is praying to pool cues.

18:00 – They’re still talking about the disadvantages of hand painting things, among them noxious fumes and toxic chemicals.

18:40 – Discussing how they do the rain drops. Meanwhile Homer is being struck by lightning.

19:05 – Flanders just drove a rather large boat out of his garage, which prompts Jean to ask “Now where was this ark stored?” to general laughter.

19:30 – And now we’re discussing floods. Not the flood in this episode. Just floods in general.

20:00 – See above.

20:30 – Now they’re joking about whether or not they won a religious award for this one.

20:55 – Colonel Sanders is on a cloud at the end here, which prompts Selman to let us all know that he and the Colonel have the same birthday, September 9th.

21:15 – And we end with Polcino calling it well written, with which I must respectfully disagree.

03
Jan
12

“Strong Arms of the Ma” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

The Springfield Connection6

“Homer, there’s no reason for you to feel threatened.  You’ll always be the man of this house.” – Marge Simpson
“Aww, thanks honey.” – Homer Simpson

These Season 14 commentary posts might be a little strange because I haven’t seen more than a handful of these episodes before. I gave up on the show in Season 12, but I saw about half of Season 13 when it was on the air, mostly out of habit and boredom. The only Season 14 episode I’m sure I’ve seen all the way through is the Halloween one, which I mistakenly gave a chance the night it was broadcast.

Just having watched this one with the commentary on, I’m glad I never sat through it the first time. From start-to-finish it’s filled with common Zombie Simpsons problems.  Characters appear at random, there’s a lot of recycling going on (pretty much the whole plot is a thoughtless rehash of “The Springfield Connection” with the zany turned to 11), and things make so little sense that they actually acknowledge it several times during the commentary. On the plus side, I did learn something I never knew about the Rocky theme, so there’s that.

Seven people on this one.

0:40 – How the sausage gets made: Omine originally pitched Homer getting mugged and then becoming agoraphobic, and that got changed to Marge getting mugged, which even they admit gets kinda dark and less than fun.

1:45 – Here’s a nice reminder about the inherent dishonesty of marketing Zombie Simpsons. This was the actual 300th episode, but FOX wanted to use the 300th on a different date, so they just straight up lied about which one it was. Since the episodes are conveniently listed all over the place, they got called on it instantly. It’s not the world’s most damaging lie or anything, but it’s a nice reminder of a) how little they give a fuck about their audience, and b) that you cannot trust a damn thing FOX says about this show.

2:45 – The Rainier Wolfcastle garage sale scene was based on a time Jean and his wife went to a garage sale for Shirley Jones. I’d like to point out that if you think back to “Bart the Fink”, she was the one who hosted the New Year’s Eve parties that Krusty was going to miss.

3:20 – Reminiscing about another celebrity sale, this time for some of Elton John’s costumes. Now they’re discussing Elton John’s career. Meanwhile, Homer has broken into Wolfcastle’s bedroom, and Wolfcastle doesn’t seem to mind.

4:00 – Still talking about Elton John.

4:15 – Homer folds the family into the car a la Tetris, which leads to an extended discussion about how much people used to play Tetris.

5:00 – Here’s a nice milestone, Jean thinks this may be the first time they “referred to the smell of Maggie’s poo”. I disagree. Homer hands Maggie back to Marge in “Homer’s Triple Bypass” because she’s got stinky pants.

5:30 – And we are completely off topic again. Now they’re talking about car seats and the lack thereof in their youth.

6:00 – After the car seat tangent, Jean gets things back on track by talking about how powerful the Marge-gets-mugged scene is.

6:15 – That leads someone (can’t tell who) to ask why the mugger was wearing a Goofy hat. It apparently didn’t pay off as well as they wanted it too.

6:45 – Jean discussing how when characters go off model, like Marge on steroids, it always throws people off.

8:00 – A long silence is broken during a Marge hallucination so the animator guy can talk about how he did the swirling vortex. They drew a fish eye without using a real fish eye lens. Huh.

8:15 – The animation thing didn’t take long, so Jean mentions that the mailman being trapped under the car was a reference to the Twilight Zone episode where the guy is the last man alive but breaks his glasses so he can’t read. That goes on for a while.

9:00 – Back to talking about how Marge is off model, now with lines under her eyes to show how stressed she is.

9:30 – Jean’s now talking about agoraphobia in general and people he’s known who had it.

10:15 – Long silence here.

10:20 – And back to agoraphobia. Apparently Emily Dickenson was agoraphobic.

10:45 – And now we’re talking about Emily Dickenson some more.

11:15 – Complimenting the animation on an air hockey table that’s in the basement.

11:50 – And everyone “hmms” thoughtfully as Marge picks up the weight set.

12:00 – When drawing a character lifting weights, it’s kinda tricky to get the distance right, i.e. Marge is on her back pushing up the bar, so getting the bar and her hands to look closer to the camera is kind of a pain.

12:40 – Animation guy votes strongly in favor of using hand coloring over digital.

13:20 – Discussing Marge beating up her mugger in a scene that’s the same as when Sonny beats up Carlo in The Godfather. This leads to a longer discussion of the original scene, and while that’s happening Homer and the kids all mysteriously appear even though Marge was off on her own a second ago.

14:00 – Still talking about Godfather.

14:20 – This leads to a discussion about the short lived Comedy Central show Kid Notorious, which had Robert Evans of Godfather fame.

14:40 – Interesting tidbit from Jean. The fanfare from Rocky, not the whole thing, just the fanfare, is apparently an older tune that’s public domain. The “Gonna Fly Now” part is newer so that’s copyrighted. But those opening bars are free so that’s why you hear just the opening so often.

15:00 – Long discussion about how they’ve won awards both from anti-drug and pro-drug people. Hooray?

15:40 – Jean’s talking about Marge’s increasingly muscular and off model physique, right as she catches the school bus from behind and lifts it up. I don’t think he remembered it, because he interrupted his own sentence to note that was a “little crazy”. Ha.

15:55 – After some nervous laughter about Marge lifting the bus, someone else jumps in, “If we’re still talking about Robert Evans . . .”. Sure, why not? Marge just ripped the bumper off the bus, but we’re clearly past that.

16:20 – Still talking about Robert Evans, but now Larry King is involved as well.

16:30 – Roid rage Marge straight up rapes Homer, which cuts to a scene of him looking disheveled and traumatized in the kitchen. Was this before or after Family Guy did the exact same thing? Wikipedia says well after. Jebus, Zombie Simpsons, have some dignity.

17:00 – This leads to a long discussion of funny pictures of real women body builders and their out of place looking husbands.

17:30 – Still discussing real life female body builders.

17:45 – Interesting animation note. When the characters talk through their teeth, they have a chart for how to draw the lips and teeth for each letter.

18:20 – Things called “twister mouth”, when the top of the head goes the opposite direction of the mouth, (which I remember) and “trumpet mouth”, which I’m not sure what it is, have apparently been phased out by this time.

18:40 – Jean says they got rid of “twister mouth” because it distorts reality too much, but as a muscled up Marge is preparing to fight an entire bar’s worth of people, he kinda laughs and says “unlike this reality”. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, they know how weak these episodes are, they just don’t care.

19:00 – Lots of nervous, forced sounding laughter as Marge kicks the hell out of everyone.

19:40 – Mostly silence, broken by the occasional awkward comment. On screen Marge is standing in a destroyed Moe’s, threatening to throw Lenny at Homer.

20:00 – After Marge realizes her rage problem, she shrinks on screen instantly. Jean points out that she seems to have reduced in size already, calls it “sort of a Hulk-ish quality”. Again, they know.

20:30 – More nervous laughter as Marge throws her weight set into the furnace, and Jean says “there’s about twelve things wrong with that”.

21:00 – And we end on them congratulating each other after just having winced and ignored their way through the last third of the episode.

28
Jul
11

“The Blunder Years” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

“When are we going to get to my first word?” – Lisa Simpson
“Your what what?” – Homer Simpson
“My first word!” – Lisa Simpson
“Ah, you don’t want to hear that story. I know, I’ll tell you about the time I got locked in the bank vault with Mr. Mooney. It was another one of my harebrained schemes.” – Homer Simpson
“Dad!” – Lisa Simpson
“Wait a minute, that was The Lucy Show!” – Homer Simpson

I like to point out how they frequently ignore the episode during a lot of these Zombie Simpsons commentaries, but for the actual listener it’s maybe the best part. Toward the end of this one, Al Jean tells some stories about his time writing for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, and it’s both funny and interesting. The episode flat lined well before he got off on this tangent, so nothing of value was lost.

Nine people on this one, including Carolyn Omine as the lone woman.

0:30 – During the introduction, Jean mentions that he wasn’t the show runner yet, but was lurking. This leads to some pointless banter between him and Scully.

1:40 – The original title here was “Smithers’ father’s apparent murder”.

2:40 – Mike Scully’s in a different room because he’s working on Parks & Recreation.

3:00 – Jean finally starts talking about the episode by helpfully informing us that the paper towel guy “Burly” is a parody of “Brawny”.

3:30 – Paul Newman called in his part over the phone from a movie he was working on.

4:10 – Long silence.

4:20 – Tragedy of tragedies, they changed the real “Brawny” logo a year after this. Meanwhile, Homer and Bart have broken into Flanders house for some reason.

5:10 – After much paper towel discussion, someone mentions that he’d lost the DVD they sent him of this episode so he tried to watch it on-line on some website, but a sex quiz came up after it started playing.

5:40 – Jean tries again to bring up the show, but instead of talking about what’s actually going on, which is boring, he opts to talk about how when they first did their flashbacks to the 1970s Brad Bird advised against it. He said they tie themselves in knots if the show ran ten years. Everyone laughs.

6:20 – Harry Shearer’s wife Judith Owen does the singing here, and they take a minute to plug her albums.

6:40 – This was the first time they’d used the Pimento Grove as a setting since the early seasons, so they had to update the look.

7:00 – Quick story about how Hank Azaria got to meet Jerry Lewis and it was the rare case where the celebrity lives up to your expectations.

7:20 – Now they’re talking about all the old characters who have portraits on the walls in the background.

7:30 – Jean recalls a time Mike Reiss got invited on stage by a hypnotist, and the guy leaned into Reiss and whisper yelled “Just do what I say!”. I can’t do Jean’s delivery credit, but he told it really well. Everyone on the commentary laughed and so did I.

8:30 – After a brief discussion of Smithers foreshadowing Act 3, there’s a pause before they pick up talking about the guy who drew a lot of this. He’s working in video games now.

9:00 – Homer’s just screaming now. Jean recalls that it got a big laugh at the table. I’ll bet it did.

9:15 – Points for consistency, they’re cracking up as Homer continues to scream.

9:40 – See above comment.

10:20 – After a long silence, Jean mentions that while he’s sure most people know this, the title is a play on The Wonder Years.

10:45 – After a quick flashback to Homer falling down the cliff in “Bart the Daredevil”, they mention that they kept the clip short because they didn’t want people to think it was about to turn into a clip show.

12:00 – Not much commenting going on other than the occasional desultory laugh.

12:20 – Jean enjoys the television absurdity of how everyone remembers flashbacks even though they’ve never remembered it in any other episode.

12:30 – They compliment a joke that’s coming up, and then nobody laughs at it when it happens. Weird.

13:30 – Long silence.

13:40 – Silence broken when someone asks if anyone had any good procrastinations when they were supposed to be writing this episode. No one responds and it’s back to silence.

14:10 – General discussion of who was the first one to come up with the idea of someone remembering things and then narrating over them.

14:30 – Finally talking about the episode again, flashback Homer just found a corpse and they’re recalling the debate over how gruesome to make it.

15:20 – Ian Maxtone-Graham’s dad writes books about ocean liners. That fact came up after a good thirty seconds of “huh?” type conversation.

16:10 – Talking about how they should bring “Mesmerino” back. Why would they do that?

16:20 – Someone asks Jean if he ever wrote a Carnac the Magnificent bit when he was writing for Johnny Carson. Jean recalls that the best one they ever wrote they sold to Alf: The answer is “St. Elsewhere” and the question is “What is the message on Mother Teresa’s answering machine?”. Another answer was “Red Square”, and the question was “What’s that spot on Gorbachev’s head?”, which they accidentally used twice and didn’t realize it.

17:05 – Still talking about Carson. This is far more interesting than the episode, which is now looking for a body. I would happily listen to Al Jean talk about The Tonight Show for at least an hour.

18:00 – Complimenting themselves for bringing back the ultra absorbent towels from the beginning to drain the water out of the basin to find the skeleton.

18:30 – A lot of compliments for the set here, from the shape of the skull that Bart apparently brought with them to the trap door under the bear in Burns’ office.

19:10 – Discussing the difficulty of getting mystery stories right, specifically mentioning “Who Shot Mr. Burns”, which seems to me to be the first mystery. Huh. Oh, and Burns is now conveniently showing them a movie in his office, but no one’s talking about that.

19:30 – Much laughter as they joke about how they were originally going to show this as security camera footage, but then didn’t. As usual, no one is talking about what’s going on in the episode.

20:30 – Here’s an interesting tidbit, they have three models for 1970s Burns that they use.

21:30 – Hank Azaria improvised a lot of the filler at the end, and was apparently very happy with it.

22:10 – As the credits roll, they’re discussing an alternate ending that didn’t make it where Homer kept screaming.

22:30 – And we close with Homer screaming over the 20th Century FOX logo. They laugh.

18
Jul
11

A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Marge Gets a Job5

“That woman, she’s so captivating! Smithers, my heart’s pounding like a jackhammer.” – C.M. Burns

I occasionally see people make the argument that the show recovered somewhat once Al Jean took over as show runner from Mike Scully, but I’ve never agreed with that. This episode was one of the very last of the Scully era, and it’s wall-to-wall with things that have become tropes during Al Jean’s now decade long run with Zombie Simpsons. You have the totally unrelated Act 1, the complete wussification of Burns, Homer getting hurt worse than Daffy Duck ever did, and characters inexplicably appearing and disappearing from scenes. Except for the HD, you could drop this episode into Season 15 or 22 or anywhere else and no one would notice.

Seven guys on this one.

1:00 – And we open with playful banter between Jean and Scully as Jean is heaping praise on Julia Louis-Dreyfus who plays Burns’ girlfriend in this one.

2:15 – We’re still talking about Louis-Dreyfus.

2:40 – Fun tidbit from Selman, George Takei lives on his street and will come out in his Star Trek uniform on Halloween.

3:05 – Jean recounts a time Takei was on a UK documentary about the show. Jean does a Takei impression and says, “They are seditious, malicious, all of the icious except delicious.” It’s funny.

3:30 – Following that enjoyable (and semi-related to the episode) tangent, we’re off on our first unrelated tangent about what Bob Hope used to give out for Halloween.

4:15 – Now we’re off on a Woody Allen tangent. Newsflash, he hasn’t been on the show.

5:50 – Here’s a fun Zombie Simpsons note. They’re discussing how the character model for Burns is shaped like a vulture, but in this episode he’s often smiling and worried so they had to redraw the way he looks to make him more friendly. “He’s designed to look evil all the time and we had to kind of wing it when he’s always supposed to be happy through the whole show.” Eat it, Zombie Simpsons.

6:30 – A long time dictum of from Groening is to keep the number of lines on each face down.

7:30 – Fun animation note, when drawing facial expressions or left handed things a lot of the artists will look in a mirror to get it right. In the episode, which they’ve been studiously ignoring as per usual, Burns has just fallen in love with a meter maid and is now at the carnival with her.

8:30 – Burns and his girlfriend are talking on a Ferris wheel, and that was both a) hard to do and b) would be easier now with the computer machines.

9:30 – The meter maid used to drive some kind of food truck before it got changed. No one remembers why, but on screen Homer just went chasing a dog past Burns’ mansion and is now having a private conversation with Burns while whats-her-face waits patiently. I don’t know the precise scene or moment when this show stopped caring about who was in what scene, but they’ve clearing done it by now.

10:50 – Someone mentions how the first thing they do when they have a supporting character episode is think how to get the family involved. Here it means Burns has decided to take Homer with him as a third wheel on all his dates. Brilliant.

12:35 – Quick aside to note that Carl just got fired but that he’ll be working there again next week.

12:50 – There’s a montage of Homer going on dates with them, and occasionally reviving Burns with a needle several times. They seem to think this is hilarious.

13:10 – Wondering if this one had a different third act before the “jailbird” one. The response: “Perhaps”.

13:40 – Long silence here.

14:05 – Someone, can’t tell who, “I love when Homer acts like a teenage girl.” When was the first time he did that, I wonder? Season 9? 10?

15:05 – Discussing how man times they’ve had Gloria back on as Snake’s girlfriend.

15:50 – Lots of silence here, broken by the occasional bout of real laughter and nervous laughter.

16:50 – See above comment.

17:50 – See above above comment. Homer’s getting hit by Snake while we get lame relationship dialogue.

18:00 – Jean points out how Homer just got smashed in the jaw with a gun, which would be the worst thing that’s happened to most of them, but he’ll be fine in the next scene. I can’t quite tell if they know stuff like that detracts from the show (especially when it’s paired with the string music of suspense like it is here) and don’t care, or if they just don’t know.

18:20 – More of the nervous laughter, and now Lisa is at the hostage scene for no reason. They acknowledge this, but just laugh at it.

19:10 – Long silence here as the world’s most boring hostage stand off continues.

19:25 – Total silence continues as Homer’s crotch catches on fire.

19:45 – First noise from the commenters in quite a while is one (1) guy nervously laughing.

20:00 – They’re complimenting the backgrounds now. Not much in the way of commentary about Burns breaking into a flaming cabin.

21:00 – Wondering about Burns sudden strength, Jean asks if they had Burns accidentally taking his medicine from earlier. They think so, but no one can remember why they took it out. Thrilling insights like that one make me glad I got this disc from Netflix instead of paying for it.

21:40 – And now the whole family is at this random cabin way out in the woods. This merits a brief mention on the commentary, but that’s all.

22:00 – We close on someone plugging Swartzwelder’s novels and then praising Julia Louis-Dreyfus again.

04
Jan
11

“Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Homer the Vigilante2

“Dad, don’t you see you’re abusing your power like all vigilantes? I mean, if you’re the police, who will police the police?” – Lisa Simpson
“I dunno, Coast Guard?” – Homer Simpson

Oh, Joe Mantegna, I wish you were on every commentary. In case you’ve forgotten, in this episode Homer becomes the police force for Springfield and then Fat Tony tries to assassinate him, and then Maggie shots Fat Tony, and then it ends. If that sounds like a weak mashup of “Homer the Vigilante” and “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” with a dash of “Who Shot Mr. Burns, Part 2”, that’s because that’s largely what it is. Fortunately, the commentary only rarely takes notice of the episode, and instead kills time with discussions of The Sopranos, Don Knotts and Dean Martin, it also finds time for funny stories from Mantegna and others.

Only six people on this one, including Caroline Omine and Mantegna.

1:00 – The idea for this episode came when someone had to get one of those private security systems installed.

2:00 – Rehashing the origin of a joke about a fake monster’s wallet that shows up later. This leads to general banter of a not particularly remarkable kind.

3:00 – Mantegna was once in Australia shooting a mini-series, and interviewers kept asking him about Fat Tony and Simpsons.

3:20 – That leads to talk about the time Mantegna played Dean Martin.

4:00 – And that leads to a Dean Martin story about a time he called the cops on a party at his own house.

4:45 – Jean’s telling Mantegna that they’re going to kill Fat Tony and have him replaced by Fit Tony. I guess they were working on that worthless “Donnie Fatso” episode around this time.

5:05 – Mantegna’s talking about his Uncle Willie who was the basis for the Fat Tony voice. It’s funny.

5:50 – Following up on that, Omine and Jean talk about how sometimes people in real life think things on the show are based on them when they really aren’t. I guess Wikipedia used to say that Homer was based on Jean’s dad, but that isn’t true so he deleted it.

6:30 – Generalized discussion about how quickly the town riots. Jean then recounts how there were huge disasters in Southern California seemingly every three weeks in the early 90s.

7:20 – Apropos of nothing, Jean just asked Gould to do his Don Knotts impression. This leads to a story about meeting Don Knotts.

8:40 – Actual note on the show: sometimes the cast is kind of protective of their characters, so in this scene Bart is being eyed suspiciously by Homer for eating an apple instead of Lisa because Yardley Smith thought it was too Jerkass Homer (not her words) for him to be mad at Lisa.

9:35 – Selman’s telling a story about a time he called his security company because he heard a noise that turned out to be an ice machine. They told him he was supposed to just call and not be embarrassed, but he felt stupid anyway. Meanwhile, Homer just threw boiling hot nacho cheese on Snake.

10:30 – The scene where Homer recounts all of the jobs he had is about forty-five seconds long. Jean jokes that if they did this now it would be like three minutes.

11:40 – No one remembers how they did the shot of Homer in front of the scared old lady in his security company commercial, where he has a shadow like he’s talking in front of a screen. This was pre-digital, and Jean mentions that one of the reasons they switched was because there just weren’t enough qualified people to do the hand painted cels.

12:25 – The joke where the monster in Homer’s commercial takes Homer’s business card and says “Monster put in wallet.” was a big deal for them. They talked about it way back at the beginning of the commentary. I’m not really sure why.

12:50 – Jean wants to give credit to Tony DeSena, which is this guy unless I’m spelling it badly wrong, for originally coming up with the idea of putting Homer into The Sopranos opening for a special he was doing. He was just going to use clips from old shows, but that gave them the idea to write new jokes and animate the whole opening themselves, and it’s become one of those insanely popular pop-culture crossovers.

That leads someone else to joke that instead of writing new jokes and animating it themselves, they just animated it.

13:40 – Selman asks Mantegna if he was a Sopranos fan. Mantegna wasn’t really, he thinks that’s because he’s done so many of those characters and the fact that he didn’t have HBO at the time on account of he had little kids and was afraid of what they’d watch.

14:30 – Still talking about Sopranos.

15:20 – Selman asks Mantegna if people ever think he was on the Sopranos. They do, also Goodfellas.

15:30 – Prompted by virtually nothing, Gould brings up a link someone sent him to Ain’t It Cool that said he had to go. He laughs at this because he is, indeed, gone from the show.

16:00 – I think they’ve mentioned this before, but when Homer has to do something like make up his own lyrics to a song, it’s often Castellaneta improvising.

16:15 – This scene in church is kinda based on High Noon, which leads to a longer discussion of High Noon and how editing out the bad parts of something is often just as important as adding in good ones. Then Jean red-lines the unintentional irony meter by saying, “This is true with comedy, editing is the best thing you can do: taking things out that don’t work improves things more than you would ever dream.”

17:40 – They’re still talking about the wonders of editing, when the Sopranos-style opening starts up.

18:35 – As the opening winds down, Jean drops some Sopranos trivia, namely that David Chase wanted to do a different song every time, but HBO insisted that they use the same song since that would get the audience more excited.

19:00 – The ending, that Maggie saves Homer by shooting everybody, was apparently Jim Brooks’ idea.

19:35 – Mantegna is involved with some big Italian-American groups, and he likes to bring up Fat Tony as a way to tell them to lighten up about things.

20:35 – Jean then brings up the fact that the show likes to embrace every stereotype it can get its hands on.

21:05 – Talking about the positives of laughing at stereotypes continues until someone, sounds like Selman but I’m not sure, jokes, “But I do think all Italians are in the mob.” Mantegna doesn’t miss a beat, “Well, speaking for myself, yes.” Everyone laughs, and it was funny.

21:15 – And we go out joking that the show will finally end with Homer in a diner and then a black screen, just like The Sopranos.

30
Dec
10

The Frying Game Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo1

“Before I go I want to say something. Game shows aren’t about cruelty. They’re about greed, and wonderful prizes like poorly built catamarans. But somewhere along the line you lost your way. For shame.” – Homer Simpson

This is the final sentence of the plot summary on the Wikipedia entry for “The Frying Game”:

Carmen Electra tries to explain, but Homer is too busy looking at her chest.

Nothing further need be said. There are nine people who felt the need to commiserate though, including Groening and token woman Deb Lacusta.

0:50 – The “Screamapillar” was Swartzwelder’s idea. And it was Castellaneta who did the screaming, so they had to be mindful of not wearing out his voice. Jean casually mentions that there was a lot of screaming in the movie. Yeah, we know.

2:00 – Lacusta was about to tell a story about when she knew Swartzwelder back in Chicago, but then the Screamapillar appeared and they all stop to listen to Castellaneta’s yells.

2:30 – Lacusta’s story resumes. She use to work at an advertising agency with Swartzwelder, and he almost never came out of his office, but was still kind of the star of the office.

3:30 – This leads to general reminiscing about Swartzwelder and how he got to write from home eventually.

5:00 – Still going on about Swartzwelder. It’s fun. Someone asked of he was conservative, but Jean didn’t really think so. During the Clinton Administration he would talk about how he thought Clinton would end up being hung from a tree while he was President, but Jean didn’t think he was trying to do anything other than piss off the mostly liberal writing staff.

6:00 – The episode is falling apart on screen, but everyone’s still joking around about Swartzwelder. Before he got started he would write letters to celebrities asking if he could have a thousand dollars. Nobody ever responded, but he didn’t think it hurt to try.

6:45 – Long silence.

7:00 – Laughing at the improbability of their goofy game show setup and how seriously people took the ending.

7:45 – Another long silence.

8:30 – They’re telling a story about Dana Gould and Vampira. Apparently he helped her out in her final years and even helped pay for her funeral. This leads to much laughing about the complication of vampire funerals.

9:10 – Tom Gammill, who is easy to like on these commentaries because he comes across like a true goofball, asks Lacusta how she and Castellaneta met. It was an improv class in Chicago. Castellaneta was wearing brown plaid polyester and she thought she could work with that.

10:15 – As Lacusta’s story winds down, Jean picks up the thread and says that Mike Reiss’s wife met him similarly. The first time she saw him he was on stage hosting a talent show. On screen, there was just a phony murder.

10:45 – More fun personal facts while Homer and Marge are being ham handedly framed for murder. Castellaneta doesn’t lapse into Homer’s voice when he’s mad, but Lacusta finds it amusing that “D’oh!” is part of the vernacular now.

11:20 – Castellaneta once recorded an answering machine message for a friend in Homer’s voice, but it instantly filled up with people making Simpsons jokes.

12:00 – Bored with the episode, they’re laughing about getting GPS direction in Homer’s voice.

12:10 – Jean’s recounting tales of Nancy Cartwright surprising people with the Bart voice.

12:40 – Jean remarks that once, in a different episode, they cut a joke of Lovejoy driving past the church marquee and commenting on how he never sees those messages on it.

12:55 – More tangentially related tidbits. In Hollywood you really can take a tour of places people are buried just like Otto is doing on screen right now.

13:30 – Still talking about all the tours of places people died or are buried, which leads to thrilling tales of whose in-laws were in town while this was recorded. That last part is not a typo.

14:10 – After a small silence and the realization that the commentary had completely left the orbit of the episode, Jean asks director Michael Polcino if he has anything to add. He doesn’t, though it then comes up that Polcino has never met Swartzwelder.

14:40 – Jean takes the opportunity to recount and deny the old rumor that John Swartzwelder was a made up name that the staff used whenever they had written an episode together.

15:15 – That leads to more Swartzwelder stories. I guess he has sometimes rented out the Mariners stadium in Seattle so that he and his friends can play baseball in a Major League park. There is some debate as to whether or not they play by very old rules when they do this and discussion of Swartzwelder’s love of baseball history.

15:50 – Homer and Marge were just convicted of murder during a rather long silence.

16:30 – They notice the episode long enough to mention the priest versus minister fight.

17:00 – Now they’re talking about prisoners last meals and the death penalty in general. Jean’s opposed to it.

18:20 – There’s a very brief part that’s like The Green Mile here, and I guess Michael Clark Duncan was on the FOX lot that day for something else but didn’t want to come in and play himself. My affinity for Michael Clark Duncan just increased.

18:45 – That segues into Jean talking about that Stephen King book with the dome.

19:30 – The usual nervous laughter and bad excuses are being made as the ending twists.

20:00 – That leads to discussion of other reality shows and how bad they are.

21:00 – And then it ends.

29
Dec
10

I Am Furious (Yellow) Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Stan Lee

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user heath_bar. 

“How about if we tell you our problems with relationships?” – Principal Skinner
“Yeah, yeah, that’ll eat up some time.” – Homer Simpson

Stan Lee did a guest voice in this episode and they invited him back for the commentary. If you’ve read any of the previous installments in this series, or listened to any of these commentaries, you can probably guess what happens. This is basically twenty-two minutes of them shooting the shit with Stan Lee.

The episode itself is about as lazy and uncreative as they come, though that’s hardly unusual for Zombie Simpsons. In case you’ve forgotten, it involves Homer getting the shit beaten out of him for pretty much the entire episode. But thanks to Lee, they won’t have to talk about it at all.

Ten guys on this one, including Groening and Lee.

0:30 – Jean’s praising Lee like he’s introducing him in front of a Ladies Auxiliary or something.

1:05 – Lee’s answering a question about “Fantastic Four”.

1:40 – Selman is recounting the premise of this story by kissing up to Groening and Lee.

2:30 – Much self congratulatory chuckling going on.

3:10 – Jean’s asking Lee generic fanboy questions. It’s actually mildly entertaining, though I get the sense that Lee is giving a speech he’s given at conventions and in interviews several hundred times.

4:15 – Lee’s speech ends, and the questions about comic books continue.

4:45 – Lee’s recounting the story of how Wolverine got created.

5:40 – After some talk about various internet animation projects the writers were involved in, Stan Lee shows up on screen and everyone shuts up.

6:10 – After a long silence, they resume kissing Lee’s ass.

6:50 – This is Chris Farley Show level. Jean literally just reminded Lee of a time he was in one of the comic books as himself and asked him how cool it was.

7:40 – Lee is at least game for having his ass kissed. It’s kind of entertaining, though I continue to get the feeling he can do this in his sleep.

8:40 – See above. On screen Homer just had a couch fall on him.

9:30 – I don’t know Matt Selman, I don’t know what he’s like in real life, and I don’t want to pick on the guy, but he really comes across as a brown nose in these commentaries. He just asked Stan Lee if he would win in a fight against Spike Lee, and laughed heartily at the response when most everyone else remained silent.

10:35 – Mildly interesting animation note here about how they did the computer animations for Bart’s comic. They were going to use Flash, but the Flash department at Film Roman couldn’t do it in time, so it’s faked Flash.

11:40 – Animation interlude over, it’s back to asking Lee questions.

12:20 – Selman asks Lee about which of the recent big comic book movies made changes that annoyed him the most. The winner? Spider-Man 3 and their gigantic Sandman. Holy crap that movie was boring.

13:10 – Whoa, irony alert. Lee’s criticizing the sloppy plotting of Spider-Man 3 and Jean agrees with him.

13:30 – Selman asks which character Lee wants to see get a movie. It’s Dr. Strange.

14:10 – Jean asks Lee when he knew Spider-man and such would be popular. Oh, and this episode is basically nothing but Homer getting hurt.

15:15 – Lee’s talking about how he likes to write standing up, which prompts Selman to compliment him on his figure. Lee actually gets a little embarrassed, but Selman keeps it up.

Look, I’ve never met anyone I’m a huge fan of, and I’d probably turn into a simpering pile of fanboy mush around a lot of people, but this is really out of hand. Selman is just relentless, filling even the tiniest opening in the conversation with some question or comment that flatters Lee. I feel bad for both of them.

16:20 – The commentary takes a brief second to notice the episode, but then quickly returns to the Mutual Admiration Society. Meanwhile, Homer just got hit with a piano.

17:20 – Reminiscing about how “Three Men and a Comic Book” was one of the first times a comic convention or any of that culture was portrayed on television.

18:30 – After a little talk about how it made sense when Homer turns into the Hulk, Lee says that one of the best things about the show is how logical and realistic it is, how “they are just like the people next door”. He was being sincere, but there was some laughter when he said it. Not everyone knew he wasn’t kidding because they know how crazy the show has gotten even if he doesn’t. Jean responds, “Would you mind going on-line and saying that?”.

19:15 – That leads to Jean asking how Lee heard from fans back in the day. They got letters, but I get the sense that most of them were positive. Meanwhile, the show is earning its Hulk moment by dragging Homer upside down through cactuses and diapers.

20:50 – True to form, they’re going out with more about how awesome Lee and his work are.

21:30 – A big part of Lee’s shtick is half-ragging on D.C. Comics, and that causes someone to say “D.C. is your Family Guy”. Okay, that’s kinda funny.

21:45 – And we end on applause.

03
Nov
10

“The Sweetest Apu” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

A Star is Burns6

“But first we have a special guest: Rainer Wolfcastle, star of the reprehensible McBain movies.” – Jay Sherman

I have very little memory of this episode. Turns out that’s a good thing, because it’s bad. And since the commentators didn’t bother to comment on it much, I’m not going to either. I will say that, unlike most of the times they just completely ignore the episode, this one could have been very entertaining. Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of Inside the Actors Studio. If I were, I would have found this fascinating. There’s a lot of information from Lipton about the beginning of the show, how it works, and even a story he’s never told before! You could footnote half a Wikipedia article from this commentary alone.

So, if you like Inside the Actors Studio, I can wholeheartedly recommend this. If, like me, you’re pretty meh about Inside the Actors Studio, I would find something else to do with your twenty-two minutes.

Seven guys on this one, including James Lipton (again) and Castellaneta.

0:30 – And we start off with Jean asking Lipton about how he got on Inside the Actors Studio. Lipton tries to demur, but everyone laughs and they go ahead with the story.

1:30 – Jean keeps the Lipton biography going with this probing question, “When did you realize you would be getting so many amazing actors to come into the show?”

2:30 – Lipton still droning on. If you’re really into Inside the Actors studio, this might be interesting to you. Remember, I said “If”.

3:00 – Lipton says that the two most popular episodes of his show were the one with the Simpsons people and Robin Williams. Jean thinks it was probably the only time the whole voice cast was interviewed together.

3:25 – Jean startles Castellaneta by asking him what it was like being on Lipton’s show. He wasn’t paying attention.

3:35 – Castellaneta liked being on.

4:15 – Someone else asks Lipton another question about his show. Now they’re talking about the various parodies.

5:20 – After Frink shows up with his giant mechanical spider, Jean helpfully points out that this is a “reference” to Wild Wild West.

5:45 – Still talking about Inside the Actors Studio, people ask all the time about why Julie Kavner disappeared in the middle. She had to catch a ferry.

6:45 – More celebrity stories about Inside the Actors Studio.

7:10 – Jean breaks in briefly to say that the long joke where Homer walks backwards was Swartzwelder’s idea. Then back to Lipton.

8:10 – Lipton still talking.

8:50 – Lipton’s at least talking about The Simpsons instead.

9:00 – Jean’s telling a story about Taxi.

10:00 – Lipton’s praising the show some more.

10:20 – Jean says that the sign humor, basically written stuff in the background, is the thing that takes the most time compared to the amount of time on screen. That must be why things like this happen.

10:55 – It impresses Lipton that the show has “fornication” in it.

11:35 – When Lipton was a kid he had to get his pornography in the form of outlaw comic books. Someone then pipes in that when he was a kid he jerked off to breast self exam advertisements.

12:00 – Jean’s describing how they got cracked down on for nudity after Janet Jackson again.

13:00 – Everyone gets quiet as the actual Lipton parts are on.

13:40 – Jean’s asking his standard question about how people reacted after they were on the show. Lipton got a lot of voicemails.

14:00 – Jean wants Lipton to reveal something about Inside the Actors Studio again. This time, he wants a story Lipton’s never told before. Have you ever heard the one about the priest and Charliez Theron’s mom? It’s a lot less dirty than I just made it sound and the story ends with “and nothing happened”.

15:45 – Lipton’s telling stories again.

16:45 – They’re actually talking about the episode here. They like the divorce lawyer.

17:30 – Jean always thinks the animators do a good job whenever they have to animate snow for a winter episode.

18:20 – Long silence.

19:00 – Hey, an actual piece of information. After Apu breaks up with his mistress on her doorstep, they were going to show that she had Chief Wiggum inside and was also having an affair with him. But they thought all that marital infidelity was too sad.

19:40 – Jean’s telling an unrelated story again, but this one is funny. When he was at National Lampoon they had a cartoonist who submitted a cartoon to The New Yorker with some erudite caption like “I say, it’s raining outside.” He then submitted the same exact cartoon to the Lampoon, the caption was “Blow me.”

20:30 – Jean explains that they didn’t set out to hire all Harvard guys, it just sort of happened. You need something written, and one Harvard guy calls a friend who’s funny. This is the real value of a first class education.

21:10 – After another long silence, Lipton’s yelling about how much he loves the show again.

21:35 – And it ends with a round of applause.

02
Nov
10

“Little Girl in the Big Ten” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1c

“It was naive of you to think I would mistake this town’s most prominent one-hundred-four year old man for one of my elementary school students.” – Principal Skinner

This is yet another of those Season 13 episodes that epitomizes the vapid hyperactivity of Zombie Simpsons. After becoming an accomplished gymnast in the span of about thirty seconds, Lisa accidentally befriends some college students who think she’s one of them. Yes, this is a massively stupid teevee trope (especially when it’s used seriously like this); no, the writers do not care.

Don’t worry though, worse things are coming. You see, Bart gets stuck in a plastic bubble and Milhouse and friends expose Lisa as a little kid to her college friends (just because) and right at the end Skinner has some kind of ceremony that has nothing to do with anything which Bart and Lisa (for some reason) crash and ruin. Got all that? Of course, the point of all that nonsensical motion is to give the writers something – anything – to crack jokes about. As per usual, it mostly doesn’t work.

Six guys on this one, including poet Robert Pinsky coming in remotely. Pinsky, you’ll no doubt be surprised to learn, shows up in this episode in a meaningless cameo as himself.

0:25 – Jean asks Pinsky how being a voice on the show changed his life. As usual, the answer is that it helps when he’s talking to kids.

1:15 – The above is still going on.

1:45 – Now they’re asking Pinsky what it’s like to be Poet Laureate of the US. Pinsky politely demurs as the other guys crack intern and bailout jokes.

2:30 – Trying to remember how they got Pinsky on. He had written something about the show which prompted them to ask him.

3:30 – Jean’s giving credit to Vitti and MacMullan who wrote and directed, respectively. MacMullan did the Itchy & Scratchy thing Lisa sees in her college class. Meanwhile, the show is displaying a Krusty sweatshop in China.

5:00 – Ian Maxton-Graham selected the Pinsky poem they use in this episode. Onscreen, Lisa has just become an accomplished gymnast in the span of about thirty seconds.

5:20 – Pinsky is talking about his poem.

6:00 – Poem discussion still going on, meanwhile, Lisa is pretending to be twenty.

6:45 – See above. Except now it’s about regional tics in the Pacific Northwest.

7:35 – Jean breaks in to mention the direction of Homer singing as Lisa exchanges Scooby Doo level exposition with the other gymnast girls.

8:05 – Still complimenting Lauren MacMullan and how she went to “Simpson Director Heaven, also known as Pixar”.

8:35 – Asked what other cartoons he watches, Pinsky thinks “the South Park guys are brilliant.”

9:20 – Here’s another telling example of lazy Zombie Simpsons editing. When Lisa gets to campus she compliments the outdoor study groups and kiosks and it feels like the usual “Rule of 3” joke set up. Except that there is no third thing, there is no punchline. On the commentary they note that and laugh at their own crappy editing.

9:40 – Here’s a tiny piece of trivia for you. Pinsky flew out of Boston on American Airlines Flight 11 on 10 September 2001 to do this voice.

10:30 – This prompts Jean to tell the more famous Seth MacFarlane story.

10:50 – Pinsky is doing his cameo now, and notes that his hair has only one streak of gray.

11:20 – Continuing the 2001 story, Pinsky got stranded in Los Angeles and the Simpsons people were very nice to him until planes started flying again.

12:00 – That prompts Jean to recall that in those bizarre days after the attacks people thought satire had died. Jean, to his credit, always thought that was stupid, and it was.

13:00 – Heartwarming tales of getting back to work and laughing on September 13th are still going on. In the episode Bart is inside a plastic bubble and is fighting the bullies by ricocheting himself off a wall.

13:40 – Someone finally cracks a joke about how after Lincoln was assassinated no one ever laughed at “Our American Cousin” again.

14:00 – Pinsky recalls that during his recording session he felt very humbled by being around that many funny voices. This leads to a generic Jean monologue praising the voice cast.

14:50 – Someone, sounds like Selman, is now telling a story about watching this Itchy & Scratchy (where Scratchy gets fed to a cow and digested four times) at an AFI event next to Nicole Kidman. He didn’t think she liked it.

15:40 – Onscreen Lisa is in a college lecture, and that leads to some low grade stories about when they visit colleges to talk about animation or the like.

16:15 – More praise for MacMullan’s directing.

16:40 – Boredom is setting in, so Selman asks what Pinsky has been up to in the last ten years. Pinsky happily takes the opportunity to plug a recent poetry anthology.

17:10 – Someone then asks about a book he wrote about small towns. Here’s that one.

17:30 – Boredom having completely set in, Jean asks Pinsky if he ever hangs out with other Poet Laureates. He does.

17:55 – Gammill cracks a joke, it’s not worth explaining, but he at least seems to be aware that this is boring. I like Gammill.

18:20 – Still discussing other poets.

18:40 – The line, “That’s not a sunset, that’s a bird on fire” was originally a plane on fire. You get three guesses as to why they changed it, but you really should only need one.

19:40 – Not a whole lot of commenting going on here.

20:05 – And we’re back to asking Pinsky random questions. Now he’s talking about the time he was on The Colbert Report.

20:25 – They’re slightly proud of themselves for “dovetailing” together the A and B plots.

21:00 – More praise for MacMullan’s animating as we fade to black for the credits.

21:30 – Pinsky asks if guest voices usually think their episodes are particularly funny. Jean replies that they don’t know because they very rarely speak to the voices after the fact.

27
Oct
10

“Half-Decent Proposal” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

The Front6

“Oh my god, it’s my old boyfriend, Artie Ziff.” – Marge Simpson
“Hello Marge, have you heard? I’m stinking rich. Jealous?” – Artie Ziff
“I’ll bet you’d trade it all for one night with my wife.” – Homer Simpson
“I would.” – Artie Ziff
“Homer!” – Marge Simpson

The crazy Act 3 plot swerve was one of the things that finally convinced me to give up on the show ever being good again. Once you get into the double digit seasons, crazier and crazier things began happening at the end of episodes. What had been a bizarre, albeit short and at least slightly self-referential, party ending in Season 8 became fighting rhinos and capturing the Loch Ness Monster in Season 10. By Season 12, the episodes are ending on remote island prisons or with naval ships attacking New York.

Here in Season 13 things got even more untethered. There’s the one that ends with Homer as an international smuggler, the one that turns into a Christmas episode with no warning, and the one that ends with Homer and Smithers using the corpse of Mr. Burns as a marionette. Other than being utterly bizarre, the one thing those endings have in common is that they all came straight out of left field and had little to no connection to what was going on in the episode before they happened.

“Half-Decent Proposal” does much the same. Just when you think it’s a tale about Marge risking a weekend with her old boyfriend, and with only about three minutes to go, Homer runs away to work on an oil derrick which promptly catches fire, prompting him (and Lenny, who’s also there for some reason) to need to be rescued by helicopter. As an audience member, you’re left scratching your head because it’s jarring as hell and the show never used to do that.

Nine people on this one, including Castellaneta, James Lipton, and lone female Lauren MacMullan, who directed this one.

1:20 – The concept of Marge going off with Artie originated with James L. Brooks.

2:00 – The snoring thing came about because one of the writers was keeping his girlfriend up with his snoring.

2:20 – MacMullan is in another room, and hasn’t seen this in forever, but seems to recall that this one ran very long. Apparently we were spared a section in Las Vegas.

3:30 – More banter with MacMullan. She drew one of the act storyboards for this one.

4:40 – MacMullan recalls that Jean wanted a lot of close ups during the Sex and the City bit. Jean then wins the unintentional irony award by saying, “The way the show was, you’d just try to milk the laugh ridiculously.” Pot, this is kettle; kettle, I’d like you to meet pot.

5:05 – General laughter at their own laziness, their word, at calling their HBO parody BHO.

5:40 – A guy Selman went to college with liked this episode. Now you know.

6:30 – Long bit from MacMullan about how many unusual shots there are in this episode (Marge’s flashback and panning over all the computer wires).

7:15 – Castellaneta isn’t sure if he’s mentioned this before, but Artie Ziff was the only character he ever designed. He was doodling on his script, and drew a guy from high school, and David Silverman was there while they were recording and liked it.

8:00 – When Castellaneta finishes, someone jokes about that being “actual useful information” on a DVD commentary. That was nice.

8:05 – Jean, trying to keep the useful information coming, says that “Sam”, presumably Sam Simon, named Ziff. But Jean wasn’t sure if it was someone he knew or if he just liked it because the initials were AZ.

8:45 – According to Jean, in real life people think Lovitz is short and bald, but in fact he’s neither.

9:30 – Jean makes a decent point that there’s nothing wrong with them parodying a movie that, at the time, was already eight years old.

10:30 – Movie trivia tip, MacMullan directed many of the Alaska scenes, including the Disney style foreplay scene, for which they brought in some old Disney animators.

11:00 – That leads to a discussion of how animators always seem to live a long time.

12:05 – Jean: “I always like in this, and in the movie, that they don’t realize the consequences ’til right after they make the deal.” That certainly helps explain why storytelling isn’t much of concern any more.

13:30 – Things have kinda slowed down now that we’re at the fake prom. There’s some chuckling.

14:40 – Still not much going on. Someone’s making note of how odd it is when Marge wears lipstick on account of none of the characters really have lips. Also, the characters are wearing clothes.

15:25 – Artie Ziff is break dancing and everyone is still wearing 70s clothes.

16:00 – At one point, Homer was going to fly to Silicon Valley in the wheel well of a jet because someone had done that on the news.

16:30 – The writers really love Baron von Kissalot.

16:50 – Ah, now that we’ve reached the latest bizarre turn, it’s time to start asking MacMullan random questions about Pixar (where she works).

17:20 – Someone’s jokingly ragging on Up for not making sense.

17:55 – Well, at least someone mentioned that this is the episode that turned Lenny and Carl into . . . whatever the hell it is they are now. Jean notes that this made “the internet” angry. I’m going to go with “confused”, but that’s just me.

18:30 – Laughing about an explosion that didn’t make it into the final episode.

19:20 – Chuckling at the idea of “friends with privileges”.

19:40 – A mixture of stunned silence and nervous laughter as ants catch fire. There was a debate about whether or not the ants could talk.

20:30 – They’re still talking about talking ants. On screen there’s the world’s slowest helicopter rescue and some kind of emotional closure, and wow, I had forgotten what a giant mess this one is.

20:55 – “That’s where we lost the internet’s sympathy.” No, it was a while ago.

21:30 – Lipton (I think), apropos of nothing, asks the assembled company how many episodes are about Marge’s “nether regions”. That was . . . odd.

21:55 – Lipton (again, I think): “Do you think Marge is sexy? I do.” Again, kinda odd.

22:05 – Every thanks Lipton and MacMullan and we can get out of here.

26
Oct
10

“Jaws Wired Shut” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Radioactive Man4

“Excuse me, you didn’t answer me. You just trailed off.” – Kirk van Houten
“Yeah, yeah, I did kinda trail off there, didn’t I?” – Chief Wiggum

I had such high hopes for this commentary. It has Joe Mantegna, a man with a proven ability to rescue Zombie Simpsons commentaries from their ordinary mediocrity. Sadly, although Mantegna was here, he barely spoke. The commentary was actually worse than normal, in no small part because the third act of this episode is so wretchedly bad that Al Jean and company basically admit it sucks and then talk about anything else that occurs to them. And, as you’ll see, I mean anything else that happens to pop into their heads: people they saw at the coffee shop, Anthony Hopkins, what their wives do in their spare time.

Seven people on this one, including token female Caroline Omine and Joe Mantegna, even though Fat Tony isn’t in this episode.

1:30 – In discussing the concept for this episode, Selman talks about how having Homer unable to speak makes things a lot more difficult because he’s their best character. Things are a lot harder for them when they can’t have Homer acting crazy all the time. Jean then jumps in and talks about how this is a bit of a departure because Homer realizes that Bart has feelings. Basically, they admit that without Jerkass Homer they’re kinda lost. Zombie Simpsons, everyone.

2:15 – Short discussion about coming up with fake movie titles. It’s fun to do.

3:00 – Reminiscing about Simpsons things that used to be on before movies. There was a Dolby sound thing with Grampa and they put some of the Ullman shorts before some movies.

4:05 – They think this may have the most boner jokes of any episode.

5:00 – Homer takes his shirt off a lot in public, according to Jean.

6:00 – Discussing the realities of having one’s jaw wired shut. Apparently it happened in real life to one of the writers.

6:30 – General laughter when Homer inhales a piece of steak up his nose and Jean says that this would kill him in real life. Mantegna’s only said like two things, why won’t they just let him monologue?

6:55 – More chuckles at how scenes are just kind of smashed together here.

7:35 – Here’s a fascinating story: at the coffee shop that morning one of the writers saw someone with a tattoo. The end.

8:15 – Trying to remember where they got the chalkboard idea leads to joking about Anthony Hopkins movies.

9:05 – Interesting animation note about trying to keep things consistent between close ups and other shots. On a close up the camera is so much closer to the artwork that it makes the lines seem thicker.

10:00 – Long, post-animation discussion silence is broken by someone basically rehashing the premise and telling a story about the time he had to use a pad to write notes to people after he had throat surgery.

10:55 – Helpful tip from Al Jean, if you’re doing something with a mirror reflection, lighten up the yellow a little bit in the reflection.

11:15 – More discussion about the “man yells at cloud” thing and how often that gets used.

12:30 – Okay this was actually funny. Someone points out that Homer and Marge are at an awfully formal looking event, and Jean cracks that it’s because “The Blue Danube” is free.

13:20 – The episode just went to its second commercial break, and Jean comments that everything at the read through went well right until here.

13:45 – More chuckling at their dirty jokes.

14:40 – Jean’s helpfully explaining that this is a parody of The View.

15:05 – Still discussing the cast of the view.

15:10 – Finally, Mantegna gets a word in edgewise and it’s a crack on Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Heh. Keep it up, Joe. We’ve only got seven minutes to go.

15:45 – Uproarious laughter at Homer fighting an ostrich.

16:30 – Someone notices a long silence.

17:05 – Commentary’s going downhill here, lots of chuckling but little actual commentary.

17:15 – I think they’re kinda embarrassed at how dull this is. Jean’s rambling about how much tougher it is to be funny when Homer is being intentionally boring.

17:40 – We’re talking about people’s personal lives now.

18:40 – Selman is plugging his wife’s store. Meanwhile, there’s a demolition derby going on.

19:10 – See above. They just got done arguing about where the store is.

20:00 – About twenty seconds ago Jean nudged things back to the episode, and then it got instantly quiet again.

20:40 – Homer’s little Popeye impression means they can talk about Popeye now.

21:30 – Still talking about Popeye.

22:00 – And we end on them plugging things their wives do.

20
Oct
10

“Weekend at Burnsie’s” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Bonus: crazy backwards Spanish version.

I was sort of looking forward to watching this episode. I honestly had not seen it in seven years or so and I remembered not completely hating it. Turns out it sucks, and the few good weed jokes are stranded in Act 2. Act 1 is Homer gaining the ability to control crows; Act 3 is the lifeless body of Mr. Burns being used as a puppet in an homage to the cinematic and comedy genius of the “Weekend at Bernie’s” franchise.

To my surprise, however, the commentary was pretty good. They actually talked about what was going on and told some funny stories. Jon Vitti was there, which helped. But things fell apart at the end when Jean launched into another of his unprompted defenses of why they never made fun of Bush the Younger, and this one was the worst yet. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Nine guys on this one, including the above mentioned Vitti and Groening.

0:45 – Jean’s telling the story about how they expected this one to be all controversial, but after it aired nothing happened. Then the next week they aired the Brazil episode and it turned into this giant flap. If you’re keeping track, this is the exact same story he told at the beginning of the commentary for the Brazil episode.

1:30 – After Jean finishes his story, it comes up that no one in the writers room actually had any problem with genetically modified food. Which leads to a general disclaimer that they often take stands on the show that none of them actually believe in.

2:00 – Now it’s Jean’s turn for story time again. The “crow bar” joke was Selman’s and every time Jean hears the Donovan song that was playing, he thinks of Homer bleeding rainbows. I’ve got to admit, that is kinda funny.

2:45 – Jean laughs at the episode structure, namely that Acts 1 and 3 have nothing to do with Act 2, which is the marijuana part.

3:00 – The writers offices are “besieged” by crows in real life.

3:40 – Still laughing about the crows in their office.

4:00 – Long discussion about how basically none of the writers smoke pot, this leads to someone calling it one of the most sober writing staffs they’ve ever seen.

4:50 – Jean’s off on some long tangent about how to animate Homer so that the audience maintains sympathy for him. It’s not that interesting.

5:40 – One of the writers was in San Francisco the day this aired, and there was a young hippie who said, “Tonight Homer smokes pot! This is what my life has been building to.” Everyone laughs. (It was funny.)

6:15 – If you’ll notice, Homer’s lips never actually touch the joints. FOX didn’t want them showing kids how to smoke weed, and they all laugh about how dumb that is.

6:55 – Talking about how many actual medical marijuana dispensaries there are in L.A. now.

7:40 – Vitti’s sister-in-law’s kids watched this episode and she called him up and told him to answer all their awkward questions.

8:15 – They won a weed award from High Times, which makes them one of the few shows to win an award for alcohol awareness and weed.

9:10 – More discussion about toeing the line on broadcast standards.

10:00 – More marijuana tales from the writers’ room. This episode took longer than usual to rewrite on account of everyone sharing their pot smoking stories.

10:45 – Interesting tidbit: they showed one of the Ullman clips before “Weekend at Bernie’s 2” and it got a positive response.

11:25 – Jean is again pointing out that Homer never smokes it illegally, and someone finally tells him to relax about the broadcast standards already.

11:45 – Laughing about how many things in this episode are repeats.

12:00 – Al Jean’s mom loves Jon Vitti ’s writing.

13:05 – Jean wants to be clear: this is Phish. We know.

13:40 – Talking about Phish and how they played the Simpsons theme during a show. This leads to Jean talking about the time he was in London at a “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” musical and there’s a Simpsons joke at the end. Jean calls it “freaky” on account of how universal the show is.

14:50 – Big laugh at the fact that there’s a newspaper machine on stage for no reason.

15:10 – Jean does my job for me by saying that he found out years after the fact that the “they’re called fingers but they don’t ‘fing’” joke was originally on The Critic. He then says that they try not to repeat jokes, but they don’t have a database or anything so it does happen. We know that too.

15:40 – Jean’s talking about how the writers have basically no regard for the animators when it comes to making things make sense.

16:30 – Long silence as we leave the weed part of the show for the idiotic “Weekend and Bernsie’s” thing.

17:40 – Laughing at how long it takes to set up the ending.

18:15 – Nervous laugher as they have Burns deliberately not being funny.

19:05 – Laughing at Smithers new, post-weed outfit and wondering why he changed.

19:15 – Burns drowning in the tub while people smoke weed was apparently a reference to an old Dragnet episode where some people got high and a baby drowned in a tub. Over the top anti-drug propaganda is really an underappreciated art form.

19:30 – I’ve listened to enough of these to know that any time there’s cartoon nudity someone will mention that they can’t do that anymore. And right on cue, it happens here.

20:00 – Speaking of things that are in a lot of these commentaries, here’s the part where they try to explain why they never made fun of Bush the Younger. This time they’ve brought two lame excuses. First, that since they work a year in advance they never knew how to mock him since people’s opinions changed so much. Again, I’m calling massive bullshit on that as he was disastrously unpopular from 2005 on.

Next up, and this one is really damning, is that they never came up with something funny. Seriously, Jean actually says, “It wasn’t easy to make it light.” Bush is unbelievably easy to make fun of: he tried to walk through a locked door, he hurt his face choking on a pretzel, he fell off a Segway, he gave the German Prime Minister an impromptu shoulder massage for fuck’s sake!

21:05 – Wait, make that three. Jean’s trotting out “we didn’t have someone who could do the voice” again. To think I was kind of enjoying this.




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