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.




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