Archive for the 'Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry' Category


“The Great Louse Detective” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

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“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.


“Pray Anything” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

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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.


“Strong Arms of the Ma” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

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“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.


“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.


A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love Makes Baby Jesus Cry

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“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.


“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.


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.


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