Archive for the 'Synergy' Category

05
Oct
10

Synergy Wants Its Job Back

Homer the Smithers1

“Ah, and my dear, dear Smithers, you’re no longer needed at all.  You’re fired.  Ta.” – C.M. Burns

We’re now two episodes into Season 22, and there has been nary a synergistic peep from FOX owned subsidiary IGN.  Last year, they “reviewed” the premier before it was even broadcast and had one of their puff pieces up each Monday after a new Zombie Simpsons aired.  This year, all they’ve got is the generic description text that FOX puts out, and the episode pages for both new ones do not have a link to a review. 

This means that the “Synergy” category is getting retired around here.  At least until I find another wholly owned FOX subsidiary offering theoretically independent but obviously sycophantic commentary on Zombie Simpsons.  Then I might bring it back. 

For the record, my mockery had nothing to do with this little cancellation.  I would’ve been shocked if it did, but IGN was also “reviewing” Family Guy last year, and those appear to have stopped as well.  I was going to check on some other shows but they were sending me to click through advertising pages with such frequency that navigating the site was just shy of impossible.  They didn’t use to do that.  So I’d guess this is general belt tightening over there, which is good because I’d hate to have cost some freelancer part of his ramen noodle budget. 

25
May
10

Synergy Can’t Go Along With This

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2c

“He crossed that line between everyday villainy, and cartoonish super-villainy.” – Waylon Smithers

Up until this week, IGN had been doing a bang up job of sucking up to its paymaster.  But the reeking desperation and overwhelming obviousness of making the season finale an American Idol commercial was too much, even for them.  FOX let IGN down, man, now they don’t believe in nothin’ no more.  IGN’s going to law school!

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

As a conclusion to one of the best worst seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons in the last few years, the series delivered another clunker. There was little to get excited about in "Judge Me Tender," an episode whose main storyline product placement focused on Moe and fellow Fox series American Idol. Had this been a half-hour stuck in the middle of the season, I it might not have been so disappointed passed relatively unnoticed, but choosing to end the year with it, especially after last week’s great Sideshow Bob episode, one can’t help but feel robbed that this embarrassment will be long remembered.

Besides, Lost was on.  [Ed note: No it wasn’t.  Lost didn’t start until 9:00pm]  The Simpsons didn’t hide the fact they were airing opposite an event night on ABC, specifically going up against the Lost retrospective. Bart’s chalkboard tried to spoil the whole thing for you: "End of Lost: It was all the dog’s dream. Watch us." But the episode they were trying to win you over with was less than compelling. If there were any bright spots, there weren’t, but if there were, it was would have been the first act. The Springfield Pet Fair offered up a number of great visual mildly clever gags and one-off bits. Drederick Tatum shopping for monkey diapers that wouldn’t upset his tiger’s stomach if the tiger ate the monkey was hilarious not one of them, instead dragging on much too long. "It’s a great time to be a tiger." Moe trying to find a seat at the Ugly Dog Contest was also a highlight took too long and wasn’t that funny to begin with.

The contest turned out to be the catalyst hackneyed set up for the remainder of the episode. Krusty’s unfunny commentary was outdone by no worse than Moe’s heckling, and but the “plot” demanded otherwise, and so Moe quickly became an in-demand local judge. This all worked up to this point, took quite some time and led to and I enjoyed the montage of different contests that Moe was asked to judge. But the moment Once Moe was approached by a Hollywood agent and offered a stint as guest judge on American Idol, the episode lost me went from run of the mill Zombie Simpsons crappiness to turbo-charged, unfunny network shill. The Simpsons are used to be great at taking swipes at Hollywood and parent company Fox, but the majority of bits fell very flat in "Judge Me Tender." The series has made (better) tepid jokes about AI in seasons past and very little new was offered here, except for the actual voices of Simon, Ellen, Kara, Randy and Ryan. But even these voice performances were wooden and unfunny and served to highlight just how bankrupt this show has become. Even Ellen disappointed, and she’s done the cartoon voice thing quiet well in the past, though that was with actual writing. Guess she’s better at playing a fish than herself.

The episode was padded out with Homer being forced to spend more time at home because of Moe’s Tavern being temporarily closed. Marge becoming annoyed by Homer’s presence was wholly expected and not given many any fun twists. Homer screwed up the kitchen? Oh, my! Homer took apart the washer unsuccessfully? Who knew?! It was predictable and weak. Even the The ending to the American Idol storyline was a bit transparently telegraphed. Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox, has been the butt of countless jokes on The Simpsons, but nothing great came of his guest appearance on this episode. It was just too safe. In fact, the whole thing kind felt like was a network ordered crossover to help promote the ailing AI. Whatever the case, Even for the hollowed out husk that is Zombie Simpsons, this was a terrible way to end an otherwise fantastic another terrible season.

23
May
10

Sunday Preview: “Judge Me Tender”

Synergy, synergy, synergy! At long last, we’re at the end of Season 21 with “Judge Me Tender,” which for all intents and purposes seems to be a tacky commercial celebrating the Fox Network.  My memory’s a bit hazy – I seem to recall Zombie Simpsons spoofing – by which I mean not ridiculing and using wholesale – an “American Idol”-like concept before, but I can’t be bothered to look it up.  Anyway, the show’s saved its big guns for the finale with guest stars aplenty, including Rupert Murdoch.  Here’s Simpsons Channel with the description:

Moe discovers a talent for judging contests and is invited to appear on alongside Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, and Simon Cowell. Ryan Seacrest will also be on hand as the host.

Yeah, whatever. I’d like to remind our readers that this is apparently the same show whose previous crossover antics with “The Critic” in Season 6’s “A Star Is Burns” so reviled creator Matt Groening that he demanded his name be pulled from the opening credits. Fifteen seasons later, to hell with principals and integrity, there’s money to be made!  Folks, if ever there was any doubt, it’s clear now that the apple has been flung far from the tree, squished, and thrown into the compost heap.

19
May
10

Synergy Develops Stockholm Syndrome

The Simpsons Spin-off Showcase1

“Ahh, the boy is fine, so far.  I taught him to play the spoons.” – Charles “Big” Daddy

I think IGN is beginning to yearn for the freedom of summer.  This week’s corporate fanboy rant is really a stunner, even by their standards.  It’s not just high praise, it’s a justification, a plea that yes, Zombie Simpsons is indeed good.  Most of these reviews eagerly lap up whatever Zombie Simpsons left on the rug, but this wants to argue that it’s a good thing to shit on said rug:

A lot of the best moments from "The Bob Next Door" came from our familiarity with the character, his love of operettas being just one.

For IGN, it’s not enough to say that all the drawn out and recycled jokes were great, it’s that the very act of drawing out and recycling jokes makes them great.

Anyway, I had to do some serious synergy exorcising on this one, but I think I got it all.  Enjoy.

Now this is the Bob we’ve know and love come to expect. His last two major appearances, 2005’s "The Italian Bob" and 2007’s "Funeral for a Fiend" did not live up to the standard set by so many other great Sideshow Bob episodes. "The Bob Next Door" was a funny obliterated those standards in a black hole of suck that proves that this show will never return to form and that proved there’s still a lot to enjoy when new ways for The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons to pit exploit the once awesome idea of Bob and Bart against each other.

The episode, of course, didn’t come right out at the beginning and make it all about Bob advertise just how bottom dredgingly awful it would be. The majority of the first act gave us the Simpson typically lifeless Zombie Simpson spin on the current economic crisis. Like many local governments, Springfield was in major financial difficulty. Homer’s vision of Mayor Quimby’s "cooked books" and "fudge numbers" was the best misrepresentation of what he heard since kind of drawn out, clock eating “joke” that’s replaced quick lines like his take on Mr. Burns’ "open-faced club, a sand wedge" request. Other references also brought laughs reeked of runtime desperation, including Krusty Burger taking up where the city’s road kill pick-up left off, and folks leaving Springfield to find a better life in Detroit. And then Iceland blamed Homer for their financial collapse; this too made no sense, involved pointless exposition and took much too long. "At least we’ll always have Beowulf." "That’s not us." "No! No!"

The situation only got better managed to get worse when Bob arrived. Or was it Bob? A new neighbor moved in next door to the Simpsons and everyone was smitten except for Bart and the audience. He We recognized the man’s voice as the one and only Sideshow Bob. I thought Homer and Marge rationalizing the familiar voice was a fun shout out to Kelsey Grammer pathetic attempt to cover up for such a terribly weak set up: "A lot of people sound like Sideshow Bob. Like Frasier on Cheers." "Or Frasier on Frasier." "Or Lieutenant Commander Tom Dodge in Down Periscope." Bart’s attempts to catch Bob in his lie were fun pointless and clock eating, especially the Gilbert and Sullivan bit. A lot of the best most blatantly recycled moments from "The Bob Next Door" came from our familiarity with the character, his love of operettas being just one.

One of the many, many factors that made the last two Bob episodes such letdowns was that Bob’s plan (or lack thereof) to kill Bart was very weak. This was not very much the case with Sunday night’s episode. Bob’s plan was incredibly elaborate, and that wasn’t a good thing since the episode felt the need to spell everything out in painfully unfunny exposition, starting with trading faces with his soon to be released cellmate: "Why do you keep measuring my face?" Everything about the face transplant operation and then the faces later coming off was a treat treated as suspenseful, clever, and funny when it was anything but. Once he had attained Bart, Bob’s plan to commit the crime at Five Corners, shooting the gun in one state, hitting him in another and Bart dying in yet another was evil genius pointlessly elaborate and needlessly exposited over and over again. A bonus appearance by Bob’s other arch-nemesis, the rake, was also fun another awkward reminder of when this show was creative. The only let downs continued with was Bart’s counter plan. A simple phone call to the police, needlessly exposited like everything else, wasn’t nearly as fun as the many other ways Bart has foiled one of Bob’s plots.

Overall, this was a great return to form for an total waste of an appearance from Sideshow Bob. The vengeful character has been let down by recent episodes, but "The Bob Next Door" has reminded us what makes Bob so much fun just how exquisitely terrible this show can be.

11
May
10

Synergy Has a Small Suggestion

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1b

“There’s some candy right here, sir.  Why don’t we eat this instead of stealing?” – Mr. Smithers

IGN is finishing the season strong.  Not only does this week’s agitprop praise transparently hackneyed story shortcuts (see: Moe’s interactions with the Lovejoys and the Nahasapeemapetilons), but goes so far as to offer a suggestion about how it could’ve been even better!  IGN couldn’t ignore the stupidity of using an elopement with Moe as the plot fulcrum, but rather than ignore the awful fake tension it put on the rest of the episode, they offered up a little change and called it a day.  IGN, it’s not sycophantic criticism, it’s constructive sycophantic criticism.

I’ve edited out the synergy, though I left the last paragraph largely alone.  Enjoy.

The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons has been on quite a run. The last several episodes have been some of the best worst we’ve seen in recent seasons. And the run continued with "Moe Letter Blues." Sunday’s episode was a nice hacktacular stab at a Mother’s Day treat, told through long winded narration and goofy, cliched flashbacks, all while scoring whiffing big with on the laughs.

The storytelling in "Moe Letter Blues" was what stood out first. Things started with Moe narrating, and then moved on with flashbacks from Homer, Apu and Reverend Lovejoy as they tried to figure out which of their wives might be running off with Moe. This could have been was clunky and unnecessary, but and the writing made it work even worse than it had to be. The flashbacks flowed were tied together well haphazardly and made sense only from an omniscient Moe’s point of view. The episode even wisely made failed to make fun of its own set-up. While Moe was easily in place to witness the troubles between Homer and Marge and Apu and Manjula, he was comically shoehorned into the flashback for the Lovejoy’s and Apu and Manjula. There, Moe randomly poked his head out from behind the church to witness the turmoil and the Nahasapeemapetilons stopped at Moe’s for some reason.

The issues between the couples offered up a number of laughs teevee cliche couple arguments. Homer and Marge’s problems are nothing new to the series. Homer has offered up loads of relationship advice throughout the series’ Zombie Simpsons 400 200-plus episodes, and he added another great one bland stinker on Sunday: "Women don’t mean anything by anything." The most least fun, though, came between Apu and Manjula. Apu is best known as used to be the pleasant and chipper Kwik-E-Mart clerk, but some of his most memorable moments have come from an annoyed and angry Apu. His arguments with his wife in this episode were the standout bits a reminder that we liked the old Apu better, including their debate over the radio station ("Having a ‘Ma-Hot-Ma or Ma-Not-Ma’ contest is not a jape. It is sexist sacrilege."), and then later forgetting a ‘tuplet.

Along with the fun boring, interweaving main story, "Moe Letter Blues" was packed with a number of other great gags time killers. The barfly rodeo was fun way too long, especially Lenny as the rodeo clown which could’ve been funny if it hadn’t taken fifteen seconds. Weasel Island offered up a lot of no laughs, most from including the meta amusement park advertisement: "Warning: You many not be amused." The episode also included a fantastic slow paced Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, plus a brief but hilarious underwritten guest spot from the voice of Saturday Night Live, Don Pardo. When Moe wondered out loud in his narration what sort of dough Pardo made from voiceover work, his distinct voice chimed in with, "I make more than you can possibly imagine, and I’m making it right now."

One issue I did have with the episode was Moe’s, "I’m leaving town forever and taking one of your wives" statement in his letter. You know there’s no way Moe would ever be leaving the series or running off with any of these women, so the claim never held any drama. As the men returned home, you never expected to see that one of the wives had run off. It might have worked better if Moe had simply said he was going to sleep with one of the women. This would have been a little more believable in the realm of the series and certainly would have been more in line with Moe’s character. That aside included, however, the storytelling and humor relentless “suspense” of "Moe Letter Blues" delivered yet another great tired episode from a very strong yet another tired season of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons.

04
May
10

Synergy Salivates on Command

Skinner Box

Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

“And now boys and girls, here he is, the boy that says the words you’ve been longing to hear, like the salivating dogs that you are: Bart Simpson!” – Krusty the Klown

No two secondary characters are more associated with stereotypical Zombie Simpsons fandom than Ralph Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.  They went from uproarious diversions to main attractions, the one part of any episode the writers can be confident will cause well conditioned people to slap their fins together.  Synergy, being the corporate-fanboy id of Zombie Simpsons mentality, wallows in them:

We also got to see Ralph as a debate podium and listen to Comic Book Guy

Maybe I’m reading too much into what’s probably just another clumsy formulation written with one eye on the word count, but the phrasing of that jumped out at me.  “We” “got to”, like it’s some kind of treat, a fish you’ve been tossed as a reward for the good behavior of sitting through the rest of this crap: If you don’t turn the teevee off, we’ll make Ralph say something stupid!  We’ll have Comic Book Guy mention something geeky!  Like a broken down performer too deluded to know that there’s no shame in retirement, the show’s been reduced to promising to do the old tricks if you’ll just give them one more night at the old rate.

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

May 3, 2010 – Sunday night gave us another solidly crappy episode of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons. This wasn’t an episode as good as last week’s "The Squirt and the Whale," [Ed note: leaving that alone because, really, you’re writing professionally, at least read it over once before hitting “submit”.] but there was still a lot of laughs filler and a fun dull storyline. And the twist ending made so little sense that it fogged the mind and helped elevate the audience forget everything that came before it . The Lisa storyline was a bit of a bore, but even that had a great line or two was stretched horrible to fill time.

In "To Surveil With Love," Springfield found themselves the victims of what they believed to be a terrorist attack that was never mentioned for the rest of the episode. That it was actually the result of Burns trying to secretly dispose of plutonium for some reason, and Homer’s love of mac and cheese was quite fitting typically lazy and even a not the least bit funny. The town’s overreaction plot conceit was to bring in a consultant from London who then covered the city with surveillance cameras. Eddie Izzard voiced the consultant page or two of dialog. This was a rather bland role, one that I wasn’t even sure was a guest voice until the closing credits made it clear how much of waste it truly was. It’s too bad that more something couldn’t have been done with the character since it was being voiced with someone with a reputation such as Izzard’s.

Still, the surveillance storyline was fun an excruciatingly dull grind. It made sense that Chief Wiggum would ditch the duties of monitoring the video to the town buttinskis, like Marge, Ned, Helen Lovejoy and others, but only Ned and Marge ever said anything, and only Ned ever did anything. Wiggum said they were the best picks because they were "prying, not pervy.", a description which for some reason applied to Kirk van Houten.  Once Ned learned that, for plot purposes, you could talk to those you’re monitoring, he became the local voice of god. I loved how Bart used his backside to discover the blind spot in his backyard and killed a lot of screen time doing so, and that he and Homer took full advantage of it to kill even more time. Best Most pointless was seeing Superintendent Chalmers wearing a dress and spinning nunchucks: "This used to be a tiny part of me." Homer showing Ned the problems with all the surveillance, and the two going around town destroying the cameras was a bit brain meltingly obvious, so it was nice that we got and could not be saved by a little twist. The cameras were actually broadcasting England’s number one reality series, "The American Oafs."

The B storyline with Lisa having issues with how blondes are perceived was the weak link in the episode and is the reason "To Surveil With Love" doesn’t score a bit higher just as formulaic and obvious. But even with this blah story, we got a few great lines they had a lot of time left to fill. I loved Bart explaining the blonde boys aren’t dumb, they’re evil: "Like in The Karate Kid and World War II." ate some clock. We also got to see Sensing how weak the whole thing was, they fell back on their old standbys and had Ralph as a debate podium and listen to Comic Book Guy explain his general malaise: "Would you be jolly if you thought Comic Con was moving to Anaheim?"

Overall, "To Surveil With Love" was a fun another wasted episode, hurt only by the uninteresting filler of Lisa dealing with blonde stereotypes that occupied almost its entire runtime. But And even that delivered its share of unmemorable quotes offenses to comedy. If the past few episodes are any indication, this season may will go out on a very high note as another disgrace to this once funny series.

28
Apr
10

Synergy Confuses Fiction and Reality

The Boy Who Knew Too Much1

“Oh no, Willie didn’t make it, and he crushed our boy.” – Movie Mom
“Ugh, what a mess.” – Movie Dad
“Oh, I don’t like this new director’s cut.” – Homer Simpson

IGN did two things I appreciate with this week’s corporate fanboy ode to Zombie Simpsons:

1) Kept things ridiculously positive – It’s a lot easier to edit out the synergy when I can replace words like “best” with “worst” and leave the underlying sentence structure untouched.

2) Exposed the shallowness of its sycophancy – This is a little more subtle, but I like how the comedy free tear-jerker part of the episode, which accounted for most of the run time, isn’t even mentioned until the fourth of five paragraphs.  It also shows up in other things, like the sentence I couldn’t figure out:

But this was the right path to take, as moving Bluella the whale proved too daunting for the community.

I’ve read that sentence ten times and I still don’t know what it means.  I get that IGN is praising Zombie Simpsons, but I can’t figure out for what.  I think what IGN’s trying to say is that if the townspeople had saved the whale, then the whale would’ve been saved . . . except that it’s fiction . . . so the townspeople’s actions were chosen by the same people who put the whale on the beach in the first place . . . so the decision to kill the whale couldn’t have anything to do with the townspeople’s actions . . . and now I’m confused again.  IGN knows that the whale died because the writers chose to kill it, not because the townspeople failed to save it, right?

Anyway, I’ve edited out the synergy.

April 26, 2010 – “The Squirt and the Whale” was an absolute gem turd. Like many of the classic Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episodes, it was hilarious boring and heartwarming melodramatic. In a time when many are saying the series has lost its magic, Sunday night’s episode proved that even the old-timers can show you how it’s done once in a while it.

The episode was great boring right from the start, beginning with opening credits. Bart’s chalkboard bit was a failed nod to the guys at South Park and their recent controversy with the depiction of Muhammad. “South Park– we’d stand beside you if we weren’t so scared.” Since The Simpsons opened the doors for shows like South Park, it was would’ve been nice to see the camaraderie if they hadn’t screwed it up. Follow that up with a clever and fun romp through the Springfield Shopper as the time wasting couch gag, and we had a few good laughs under our belt decent idea of just how bad it would be before the episode even started.

The first act of “The Squirt and the Whale” was as near-perfect wretchedly bad an opening segment the series as seen in many seasons. The trailer for the big-budget space adventure “Tic Tac Toe” was an absolute winner nothing but embarrassingly bad puns. Homer’s battle with the power company (his own employer) was full of great gags and one-liners Jerkass Homer non sequiturs. First there was the Power Expo (“Where there’s an expo, there’s free Frisbees.”) where we got to see they couldn’t think of anything original so they crammed in Ralph Wiggum’s “kid power” and Barney’s “burp power.” This was also where Homer bought a windmill to power his home for some reason that was dropped two minutes later, with the guarantee it will pay for itself “in 12 to 18 lifetimes.” The entire electricity storyline in this act was fantastic vanished after the commercial. My least favorite lines came when Homer realized wind power only works when it’s windy: “From now on, the Simpsons are living… intermittently!”

That act ended disappeared with the beginning of the rest of the episode, when Lisa discovered a beached whale. As Lisa would, she tried everything she could to save the whale, including enlisting her father to help, though she did not, apparently, call Sea Huggers. Homer’s ideas did nothing to help, and surprisingly, but did kill some time until the whale died on the beach . You usually don’t expect death in a sitcom, especially one that would break the heart of a seven-year-old, but this show stopped being a comedy a long time ago. But this was the right path to take, as moving Bluella the whale proved too daunting for the community. [Ed Note: I’m not sure what the preceding sentence is supposed to mean.] Equally unexpected dull was that the episode momentarily focused on the removal-by-dynamite of the whale from the beach to kill more time. This led to another great drawn out montage and a clock eating bit after Comic Book Guy bought a whalebone corset. The corset slowly gave way, changing CBG from slim to fat. His commentary exposition matching the various stages of Captain Kirk’s appearance with the movie/series he was on was a lot of fun took a lot of time, ending with the fattest version from Boston Legal.


Throughout this ordeal of an episode, Homer was trying to ease his daughter’s pain. This was best stated by the man himself done in typical Jerkass Homer fashion when Bart taunted the pair: “I’m trying to be a sensitive father you unwanted moron!” Homer’s bit with the invisible dog leash was pleasantly fun already going on too long, until it became uproarious even worse when the invisible dog dragged Homer along as he chased a car. The episode ended with Homer trying to help Lisa save the calves of Bluella from environmentally protected sharks (Homer: “Typical eco-jerks– using words to talk”) that showed up because the writers drew “sharks” out of the Plot Resolution Hat. After putting his life in danger in the most contrived and boring of ways, and winning the affection and respect of his daughter in another sappy melodramatic sequence, Homer said he’d do anything for “a sweet, intelligent mammal.” His daughter, of course, not the audience, who are less intelligent for having watched this. Very funny saccharine and appropriately sweet clumsy, “The Squirt and the Whale” was the best worst episode of the season thus far.




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