Archive for the 'Synergy' Category


Synergy Wears Down


Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user marwho.

“Homey, why don’t you lie down and relax.” – Marge Simpson
“No time, Marge, I think Mr. Burns wants me to do some long division.” – Homer Simpson

I think all those staff cuts at IGN are finally having an effect.  Last week I noticed that their fluff piece on “American History X-Cellent” was unusually short.  Now comes this week’s entry, and it’s even shorter.  Out of curiosity, I grabbed all the reviews from calendar 2010 and ran a word count.  Starting with “Thursdays with Abie” and running through “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed”, IGN averaged 650.5 words per week.  The highest was 720 and the lowest was 614, so the lengths were relatively stable.  Then last week’s checked in at only 473 words, and this week’s is a mere 420.  (I presume that’s a coincidence, but you never know.  I’d probably need to be high to write this kind of crap.)  IGN just can’t seem to muster the effort for a proper fellating of Zombie Simpsons. 

Anyway, this week’s is pretty typical: restate the plot, praise a few things, make positive reference to Three’s Company . . . wait, what?  Three’s Company?  And it’s a compliment?  Yeah, I’d say IGN is pretty worn down.  As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

April 19, 2010 – There was a lot nothing to enjoy in "Chief of Hearts." Pairing Homer with Wiggum had not been something overdone by the series [Ed Note: leaving that alone because it’s too screwed up to fix], so having the two at the center of the episode had a certain freshness to it has only been done two or three times over, instead of the usual five or six. The story, maybe not so much, but the pairing worked however, has been done so many times that it no longer matters who’s doing it.

It all started with Homer’s misinterpreted unfunny and wildly nonsensical armed robbery at the Springfield bank. I thought his hidden candy apple and his caramel-filled mouth were a great way to get the story rolling a good preview of the relentlessly boring antics to come. I also loved felt the same way about his rants against doing community service. "I want to go to jail. Free food! Teardrop tattoos! Library books that come to you! I’ll serve anything but the community!" That it was a cooler full of food that made Homer and Wiggum fast friends was no surprise just as unoriginal and dimwitted.

Their misadventures playground flirting together were entertaining was hacktacular and pointless. It was fun to learn about the versatility of police pants. Learning that Wiggum’s underwear is specially made by a village in the Ukraine was another standout way to make this barren scene take even longer. ("They call me Daddy Round Round.") I wasn’t expecting to see Chief Wiggum get shot, but Homer’s bedside vigil made for a satisfying gave them an excuse for a clock eating montage of boring bits. The episode took an interesting embarrassingly predictable turn as Wiggum became needy and their friendship hit the rocks, and then for some reason the pair needed to work together again to free themselves from Fat Tony. Overall, the story had an interesting staggered along a tired and trod path and there were a good number of successful bits throughout without anything to keep things entertaining and funny.

Bart’s "Battle Balls" storyline was also fun a black hole of pointless suck, even though there was absolutely nothing to it. It mainly consisted of a few well-placed television trope bits about Marge’s misinterpretations of things said about the Japanese game. In a very Three’s Company way, Marge began to think Bart was a drug dealer, it was just a dull in 2010 as it was in 1980. Just as funny  lazy were a couple great lines about why Bart couldn’t possibly be dealing drugs. First was Marge with, "He doesn’t have the math skills," and then later was Bart with, "Not until you raise my allowance."

An episode with Chief Wiggum as a central character means there’s a chance we’ll get a few Ralph bits to enjoy make the fanboys slap their fins, both directly and indirectly. Ralph’s bet with Bart during a game of "Battle Balls" was classic typical: "And if I win, you have to teach me how to play this game." And I loved Chief Wiggum sharing a couple of Ralph’s major worries: "What if the bed wets him," and "What if Superman decided to kill everybody." Those were a few of the bonus failed Ralph-isms were extra uninspired dreck in an enjoyably solid episode that consisted of nothing but.


Synergy Sees What It Wants to See

Five Riots and a Parade

One of these is not like the others.

“Wait, I’m confused about the movie.  So the cops knew that internal affairs was setting them up?” – Homer Simpson
“What are you talking about?  There’s nothing like that in there.” – Movementarian Guy
“Oh, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie.  I have a very short attention span.” – Homer Simpson

This week, IGN pulled its usual stunt of disparaging Zombie Simpsons while still giving it a ridiculously high numerical score (6.9).  I had to make a surprisingly small number of changes to edit out the synergy, and many of those were me replacing faint praise with no praise.  There were quite a few whole sentences that came synergy free. 

Entertainingly, the one part of the episode IGN genuinely enjoyed never actually happened: the riot.  Moe and Marge both use the word “riot”, but no riot ever broke out.  When Springfield riots you see torches and pitchforks; cars are turned over, fires are lit, and stores are looted.  All that happened here was some people throwing fruit at Burns, and even that we mostly didn’t get to see.  No riot occurred, and yet IGN specifically praises the riot scene.  High comedy.

April 12, 2010 – There really hasn’t been a memorable Mr. Burns-centric episode of The Simpsons during the last few seasons. Nothing immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately Fortunately, "American History X-cellent" will quickly fade from memory as well. It could have had potential ten years ago, but that all faded away the deeper into the episode we got long ago.

Any episode focusing on Burns has used to have potential. He’s the billionaire curmudgeon we love to hate. When the episode opened showing Burns locked away in Springfield Penitentiary, and then flashbacked to show us how we got there, the field was wide open for what could be coming. It was good sad to see Burns characteristically wielding his power and exploiting his nuclear plant employees by making their Fourth of July picnic solely about him instead of something actually evil. I also enjoyed how wondered why Burns was carted away in an actual donkey-drawn cart when he was arrested for stealing a painting. The nonchalance of the town riot was also very could have been funny if there had actually been a riot. The folks in Springfield used to riot a lot, so it was would’ve been smart and funny to see Moe selling "stuff to throw" and Marge taking advantage of the empty malls if one had taken place.

The main plot of the episode, however, was tired and mostly unfunny. C. Montgomery Burns was finally thrown in prison ("After all my years of stockjobbing, gun running, attempted murder, successful murder and tom peepery, they get me on a petty, multi-million dollar art theft."), but instead of watching him become the power hungry king of the yard, we got old references to The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Burns’ narration was inconsistent, unfunny and unnecessary. In a week, there will be little you’ll remember of Burns’ time in prison because there really wasn’t anything to it. Had a better story been developed, things could have been much funnier. Instead, the episode was filled out with two other underdeveloped ideas.

The first was a complete waste, as Bart and Lisa bonded over their failure to raise an ant farm. There’s little to say about it because it was as exciting and funny as actually raising an ant farm. The other storyline would have been served better with more screen time. With Burns in the big house, Smithers was left to run the power plant. His transition from good boss– introducing a medical plan that covers illness– to worse than Burns– instead of releasing the hounds, he released wolverines– was a very fun decent idea. Cutting the ant story and expanding on this could have made the episode a hundred times better slightly less intolerable.

Though the potential was there, "American History X-cellent" failed to deliver a would-be classic a decent Mr. Burns episode. His time in prison was too mundane. Evil Mr. Burns is always more fun than a kindhearted Mr. Burns, and new and original ideas are always better than tired Shawshank references. Maybe we’ll get an old school Mr. Burns episode next season in the parallel universe where this show doesn’t suck.


Synergy Doesn’t Learn From Its Mistakes


Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user iotae.

“You gotta give her up.” – Lisa Simpson
“No, no, wait, hear my plan: put up with her for seven more years.  Then we’ll get married, once the first baby comes along she’s bound to settle down and start treating me right.  After all, I deserve it.” – Bart Simpson

This week’s edition of IGN’s “corporate fanboy” writing was a mixed bag of praise and criticism.  (It still scored a 7.3, of course.)  The most direct criticism is of Sacha Baron Cohen and the way this episode didn’t live up to IGN’s expectations.  Apparently, every time a comedian of some recent popularity is announced as a guest voice, IGN pees itself in anticipation: Seth Rogen is a genius!  This is going to be a GREAT episode!  Ricky Gervais made The Office!  His episode is gonna be hilarious!  And yet every time this happens, Zombie Simpsons drops the ball and IGN is left disappointed.  (And never mind that they gave Rogen’s episode an 8.6 when it came out, some time for reflection has apparently taken the shine off of it.)  The natural response to repeated disappointment is to stop getting your hopes up, but when the one who’s constantly disappointing you is the same one who’s signing your paychecks that may not be an option. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

March 29, 2010 – I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a pretty funny guy. When I heard he’d be doing a guest voice on The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, I was excited indifferent. I thought that would be a fantastic match he’d be wasted just like every other celebrity on the show in the last decade or so. Of course, I thought the same thing when I heard Ricky Gervais was going to guest star. And Jack Black. And Seth Rogen. Unfortunately Exactly as I expected, none of those episodes lived up to what I thought the combination of guest actor and series would be were any good. None of those episodes were outright failures, but the The name recognition had raised my expectations nothing to do with the crappiness of the episode. The same goes for "Greatest Story Ever D’ohed." My preconceived notions were let down by what was still a fairly decent episode were confirmed, guest stars are irrelevant, this show just sucks.

The opening act was my favorite the least stupid segment of this half hour. Looking back, I think this was due to the fact that it didn’t involve exotic locales and swanky guest stars, though, it still sucked. It was just your standard (and funny) Jerkass Homer-annoys-Ned neighborly in stupid, unfunny ways affair. While Ned was trying to entertain his bible study group, Homer and the kids were within view enjoying a slip-and-slide in their backyard. It’s these bits that I continue to enjoy because they are were once at the heart of what The Simpsons is was: a family sitcom. Now, they’re just further proof that the show has run out of ideas, So the bits with Homer at home frustrating his do-good neighbor will always be enjoyable, so long as the even these jokes can’t remain funny. And the bits were quite enjoyable in "Greatest Story."

The best last moment in the opening came after Ned had decided to make an effort a plot conceit to save Homer and bring him some redemption in the eyes of his savior. Ned invited the suddenly grass-skirt-wearing Homer and his family to join him on a trip to The Holy Land for some reason. The exaggerated response was classic Homer could’ve been funny: "Hmm, let me think. Take my family to a war zone, on a bus filled with religious lame-o’s, in a country with no pork, in a desert with no casinos. Ooh, where do I sign up?!" Marge’s entry to the scene was also quite funny nearly pointless: "Homer, I can hear you sarcasm from inside the house. And the dishwasher is on." After committing to the trip despite it being expensive and a terrible idea, the act ended after pointlessly increased groaning from Jerkass Homer, with Lisa saying of her father my favorite line from the episode: "The man hates pants."

The middle of the episode didn’t entirely do it for me was where this descended from ordinary mediocrity. It’s become fairly standard to have at least one episode per season take the Simpson clan to some far off land, whether it is Australia, Brazil, London or Africa. [Ed Note: All of those episodes are at least six years old, even IGN can’t be bothered to remember much of Zombie Simpsons.]  These episodes can be hit or miss, with installments from later seasons being more often on the miss side. "Greatest Story" had a few good gags while did its missing in Israel, but and nothing stunningly hilarious funny happened. For a time, Anything that could be called storytelling was forgotten to fit in as many funny and not-so-funny dull references to where they were as they could.

I was underwhelmed with Sacha Baron Cohen’s voice work as the groups tour guide. He was like a sped up Borat and was actually a bit difficult to understand at times. The few jokes that did get through were only okay hyperactive and less than clever, like the repetitive "Shut your face." Also standing out as ineffective was Bart’s fight with the tour guide’s daughter, played by singer Yael Naim. Instead of being humorous, it seemed to just be an excuse to include the Israeli combat style of Krav Maga mention things that aren’t funny and have no relevance. Things got a bit funnier even duller once Homer found himself lost in the desert for some reason and had a vision of VeggieTales characters telling him he was the chosen one. Homer’s final speech to try and unite all the faiths made no sense, though who’s going to listen to Homer Simpson? it did push the episode over the finish line.

It’s difficult easy to keep your expectations in check when you hear about an upcoming guest star, and that likely affected my perception of this episode they’re all the same. But that it is what it is – Zombie Simpsons. Perhaps subsequent viewings, if I felt like torturing myself, will would let me find me enjoying this more more specific ways this one sucked, but for now, "Greatest Story Ever D’ohed" was just this side of good par for the course for boring travel episodes with forgettable guest appearances.


Synergy Feasts on Crumbs

Girly Edition3

When it comes to “reviewing” Zombie Simpsons, IGN basically has two tools at its disposal: low standards and positive spin.  This week’s sycophantic drivel is heavy on the latter.  These aren’t recycled ideas that have been done much better in the past, they’re “variations of themes”.  Sarah Silverman’s character (hereafter referred to as “Girlfriend #8”) isn’t a one dimensional character who exists only to kiss and longboard, she’s a “female version of Bart”.  Skinner and Willy kissing for hours isn’t wholly unnecessary filler, it “was probably funnier on paper”.  It can’t be easy to suck stale crumbs off the floor and call them delicious, but IGN’s (still) on the job. 

As always, I’ve edited out all the synergy. 

March 22, 2010 – I have a soft spot particular dislike for episodes of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons that center around the elementary school in some way. Of all the locations in Springfield, it’s the elementary school that has the highest concentration of great supporting characters should’ve changed the least. The nuclear power plant is a close second, but the variety of characters at the school edges them out in terms of sheer wasted comedy opportunities. And the kids are definitely more fun resistant to character drift than the gang at Moe’s Tavern. So when "Stealing First Base" established that it was going to be school-centric, it already had a lot going for itmassively aggravating” written all over it. And overall, it didn’t disappoint.

The storylines, as can be the is often the case with The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons after so many episodes, were variations of recycled themes we’ve seen a number of times before. Bart was once again struck by love and the results were quite entertaining pretty much the same as they always are. Mrs. Krabappel’s absence forced Principal Skinner to combine the two fourth grade classes at Springfield Elementary into one class for some reason. The setting that we never saw again gave us a number of great throwaway lines from some of our class favorites characters that used to be funny, including Milhouse, Martin, the twins and Nelson. Nelson had the best only minor storyline in the episode after getting paired with a blind student in the other class. Throughout the episode, we returned to the duo and saw how Nelson was taking the kid under his bully wing acting out a particularly hackneyed after school special. And this is precisely why I so enjoy loathe these school-based episodes. There’s plenty to work with to fill the episode with extra laughs The reanimated corpses of characters I used to enjoy acting nothing like themselves pisses me off all over again.

Doubling up at the desk introduced Bart to Nikki Girlfriend #8. Essentially a female version of Bart few lines of dialogue that happened to skateboard, Nikki Girlfriend #8 was the closest thing Bart has gotten to finding true love since Greta Wolfcastle.  [Ed Note: I’ll take his word for that.]  Voiced by guest Sarah Silverman, Nikki Girlfriend #8 turned out to be a fun and memorable one dimensional and rather boring character. And since she’s theoretically a regular student, the possibility remains overwhelming likelihood that we may see will never hear her again someday makes her nonsensical introduction that much stupider. After Bart stole a kiss, urged on by a banana-eating Grampa Simpson, Nikki’s Girlfriend #8’s parents threatened a lawsuit for some reason and were granted an "affection-free environment" on school premises never heard from again. Unfortunately Predictably, this concept was not played up as much as I had hoped it would be at all. Out Because of it we did get suffer through a "skit, or sketch" defining what was inappropriate, but watching Groundskeeper Willie and Skinner kissing for longer than they should be was probably hopefully funnier on paper because in execution it was boring and long.

Regardless of the affection ban, Bart continued a relationship with Nikki Girlfriend #8, who’s only purpose was to showed Bart that women are entirely impossible to figure out. My favorite line of the episode One of the hacktacular lines that would’ve fit better in a low budget romantic comedy came when Nikki Girlfriend #8 told Bart he should know what she wants: "I want you to act the same way two days in a row!" I also loved the The montage of famous "kisses" that played as Nikki Girlfriend #8 was giving Bart CPR (for some reason) also dragged on far too long. The clips started as you might expect, with some of the most famous, passionate kisses in cinema, but then added the unexpected that didn’t take enough time. So they added in The standouts for me were the alien smooching Ellen Ripley something they stole from “The Critic” and Sammy Davis Jr. laying one on Archie Bunker.

Meanwhile, Lisa was going through her 100th crisis of "being smart ain’t all it’s cracked up to be." It started with her suddenly becoming popular after receiving a failing grade on a test for some reason. But once that situation was cleared up (Ralph: "I cheated wrong. I used the Lisa name, but the Ralph answers."), Lisa went right back to being an outcast. In a very roundabout way, This was supposed to have something to do with First Lady Michele Obama came coming to the elementary school to give Lisa some support and herald overachievers. Angela Bassett was good as the voice of Obama, but the whole thing felt odd massively out of place and very forced. Still it It did give the opportunity an excuse for Superintendent Chalmers to state, "He’s our Joe Biden," about Principal Skinner.

Again, any episode set in the elementary school will always be worth your time remind you of how bad this show has become. Although "Stealing First Base" fed us some old very stale ideas, and it did so with a lot of great bits drawn out time filler (the Itchy and Scratchy 3-D movie, The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and some very strong utterly pointless guest voices.


Synergy Agrees With Me About One Thing


Image taken from Wikimedia commons.

“It’s true, and we’ll all live in cities on the moon!” – Marge Simpson

IGN was in mid-season form this week, slobbering all over lame jokes and unabashedly praising the repetitive nature of the plot.  But let’s set aside the fussin’ and the feudin’ and talk about something we can agree upon.  The opening of the Zombie Simpsons episode was a reference to old Tex Avery cartoons and IGN thinks that if you’re a young whippersnapper you ought to look them up on your fancy YouTube machine.  But IGN doesn’t provide a link, I’ll provide two.  Here’s a link to a search with lots of videos, and here’s one about futuristic televisions that I just watched.  Ah, memories I used to watch these when I was a wee lad, and that was thirty odd years after they were broadcast.  All hail old cartoons! 

Other than that this review sucks, but it sucks less with the synergy edited out. 

March 15, 2010Though Sunday night’s episode of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons was your basic Bart-takes-part-in-stupidly-conceived-because-they-ran-out-of-ideas-long-ago-mischief storylines, I quite enjoyed it. The writers are still unable to work a little something new any life at all into this tried  tired and true trite staple, and "Postcards from the Wedge" was no exception. From the stylized clock killing opening to Bart’s ham fisted manipulation of his parents’ marriage, the episode delivered laughs yawns along with its tediously unfunny familiarity.

The "Springfield of Tomorrow" opening was fantastic had potential. I absolutely loved Tex Avery’s "..Of Tomorrow" shorts as a kid and this segment brought me right back to that joy. The voiceover and art style was a great nod (with hints of The Jetsons) to those classics, and the bits were equally funny unfortunately the jokes were clumsy, obvious and drawn out. If you’re unfamiliar with those shorts from the ’50s, I hope the opening to this Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episode encourages you to check them out on YouTube. The transition out of this opening was also funny repetitive and obvious as it was revealed we were watching a film in Bart’s class and Mrs. Krabappel stated, "Well, that concludes… I don’t really know what that was." Neither did we.

From there we learned that Bart is a full month behind on his homework assignments, which he suddenly cared about for some reason. Also bringing back memories from childhood was Principal Skinner’s joke free list of undone assignments: "worksheets, math jumbles, dioramas, topic sentences, conclusions…and one Thanksgiving hand turkey. This led Homer to get strict on Bart for some other reason and force him to do nothing but catch up on his assignments. Marge started to feel like this might turn Bart off of school and wanted to go easy on him. Homer’s sarcastic response: "Oh, my! A child who doesn’t like school? Hello? Hollywood! You want to buy the movie rights to this incredible story?!" This was the best moment in the show as for one brief moment Homer was as bored as we were.  I could’ve liked that Homer and Marge’s viewpoints were the opposite of what we might have expected if it had been handled with even a little bit of care instead of having both of them start acting weird. Surely Homer would have been more laid back about it, and Marge stricter, but the episode mixed it up and assumed no one would notice because these characters were destroyed years ago. This was could have been a refreshing take on their dynamic and a very welcome one but instead it was as lazy as everything else.

Bart soon realized was told through pointless exposition that he could play his parents against each other to get out of doing any homework at all. This led to the pair arguing to the point of putting their marriage in fake, unbelievable danger. When Marge threatened to withhold sex from Homer, his obvious angry and less than clever response was, "You can’t sex fire me! I sex quit!" Being so much in love under contract, the fighting didn’t last and the duo decided to let Bart be Bart for the sake of their marriage. Heeding Nelson’s advice — "If no one’s getting mad, are you really being bad?" — Bart decided to pull one large prank that would bring Springfield Elementary tumbling down for some reason. This is where the seemingly stand-alone "Springfield of Tomorrow" opening tried to tied in with the rest of the episode. In the film, the voiceover mentioned Springfield’s cramped subway system which it then dragged out for twenty seconds, and which Milhouse and Bart had stumbled upon for one off plot purposes. Running the subway cars around the ancient tracks was causing the school to crumble for some final reason and Bart was set to send the train around one more time to finish the place off.

Overall, there was nothing too surprising the least bit interesting about the story itself. We’ve seen Bart cause trouble and Marge and Homer fight numerous times before. But even those tired ideas couldn’t fill a whole 22 minutes and so the jokes were good drawn out as long as possible, including some standout epically long bits. There was Martin’s over-the-top Hopi Indian pueblo. The "gets an A" sight gag was stellar coming a full thirty seconds after it started. I also loved the The House-referencing "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoon, which ended with Scratchy giving birth to his own head, took so long that I felt bad for the cat. Patty and Selma depressing Marge and Maggie was great also went forever. And being the parent of a toddler, I also thought the Sir Topham Hatt joke was pretty funny more pointless, humor free referencing. Again, the story was nothing entirely new, but the and what passed for jokes were smart and fun overly long and painfully unfunny and worth sitting on the couch for a half-hour.


Synergy Wasn’t All That

Brush with Greatness3

“Alright family, I want the truth.  Don’t pull any punches.  Am I just a little bit overweight? . . . Well, am I?” – Homer Simpson
“Forgive us Dad, but it takes time to properly sugarcoat a response.” – Lisa Simpson

This was one of those rare weeks where the Zombie Simpsons episode was so bereft of humor, or even just attempts at humor, that even wholly owned News Corporation subsidiary IGN couldn’t gin up too much praise.  It concludes by saying:

“The Color Yellow” just wasn’t all that worth it.”

Of course the numerical score is still a 6.4, but that’s because IGN sucks at math.  Speaking of “wasn’t all that”, it’s IGN’s Faint Praise Phrase of the Week.  Instead of just coming out and saying that it wasn’t funny IGN used a lot of wobbly kneed qualifiers of which “wasn’t all that” was the favorite.  Fortunately, all you’ve got to do is drop the “all that” and a quivering synergy sentence becomes a nice, clean statement, though it may not be one the higher ups would find pleasing. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

February 22, 2010 – You know something? If a television series stays on the air for two decades, eventually you’ll get around to a jumbled and ham fisted storyline involving slavery. It’s just a fact. And so we have Sunday night’s The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, where we were taken back to the 1860s to learn about the history of the Simpson family tree though the use of cliffhanger flashbacks. Though the episode contained this sensitive subject matter, they avoided the kind of shock humor other animated series are known for. Unfortunately, the episode also seemed to be avoiding avoided the laughs. Putting more effort into the roundabout telling of the story would’ve been a good idea, but even so "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that funny.

It began with Miss Hoover randomly assigning her class the project of researching their family tree. Lisa was hoping to find something noble in her family’s history, but only came across thieves, killers and alcoholics, any one of which would’ve been more fun than this. Looking through heirlooms in the attic, Lisa uncovered the diary of Eliza Simpson dating from the 1860s. Lisa thought she found her noble spark, until Eliza wrote of being happy that "tomorrow I get my first slave cliffhanger flashback." This line, and the accompanying gasps from the Simpson family, ended the first act. Except for Groundskeeper Willie’s battle with a tree stump, the majority of Everything in this opening was a dud.

The edgiest line of the episode came in the early moments of the next act. Learning that an ancestor might have owned a slave, Homer quipped, "For once, the Simpsons were in management." This was as shocking as the episode really got, and it was worth it for an unexpected laugh tame and boring and not the least bit funny. From there, the episode eased the slavery issue by revealing Eliza and her family were a stop on the Underground Railroad Flashback Cliffhanger Express. Learning that the Underground Railroad had no trains and wasn’t underground, Bart stated it should have been called "The Above Ground Normal Road." And it was uninspired jokes likes this that peppered the episode.

The majority of the focus, and the only really interesting thing to watch in the episode, was the pieced together way the story of what happened with Eliza and her slave were revealed. First it was the diary, but that only revealed so much before the pages turned to cliffhanger dust. Next there was an out of place cliffhanger footnote in Eliza’s mother Mabel’s cookbook, and then Milhouse read from his relative’s cliffhanger journal showing another side of the story. This was a clever time consuming way to reveal the story, but more funny any jokes would have been a better way. There were a few standout truly pointless bits, but none were enough to lift the episode’s ranking out of place in Zombie Simpsons. Colonel Burns demanding that the waltz change its time signature was funny took at least thirty seconds, as were did the riffs repetitions on the Simpson motto, "Quit while you’re ahead." Learning that Marge had stopped watching Carrie just as she was named prom queen was great a stretch even by Zombie Simpson standards.

But the episode as a whole just felt was flat and boring. I guess it’s difficult to find the humor in slavery, even for The Simpsons and it’s well beyond the capabilities of Zombie Simpsons. The big  way out of place twist ending was revealing that the rescued slave and Mabel Simpson started a life together in Canada, and that the rest of the Simpson clan were descendants of the pair. This made our favorite animated family one sixty-fourth black. Bart: "So that’s why I’m so cool." Lisa: "That’s why my jazz is so smooth." Homer: "And that’s why I earn less than my white co-workers." Will this historical fact ever come up again in future seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons? Most likely no. So it makes you wonder, "Why bother?" The episode wasn’t all that funny, the storyline not that shocking was hopeless beyond repair, and the reveal of the Simpsons having African-American roots will likely never be referenced again. "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that worth it.


Synergy Skips to the End

Lackey Monkeys

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Rose Robinson.

“I’m sorry, but my mother always said if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” – Marge Simpson
“Will that hold up in court?” – Homer Simpson
“No, I’ve tried it before.” – Lionel Hutz

On previous occasions I have described IGN’s Simpsons reviews as being written in a style known as “corporate fanboy”.  It has the same willful blindness to mediocrity that characterizes fanboy screeds, but there’s an air of discomfort about it that its formality cannot fully conceal.  Case in point, this week’s review of the curling episode.  It is five paragraphs long, the first three of them detail events that occur before the eight minute mark (or what would’ve been the first commercial break if the show still only had three).  The fourth paragraph, a mere 20% of the “review”, breezes through the bulk of the episode (the multiple curling sequences, several of the montages, the Agnes/Skinner melodrama, and the self serving Bob Costas cameo).  The fifth paragraph covers Lisa’s skeletal subplot and pronounces everything awesome.

See what they did there?  Rather than try to praise the horrifyingly thin final 2/3 of the episode they simply skipped it.  A real fanboy would’ve taken the worst parts and lauded them unconditionally (e.g. the comment from Maddox at Simpsons Channel, “I really loved this episode and all of the jokes in it were great!”).  IGN can’t quite bring itself to that level and simply ignores what it doesn’t like hoping that no one will notice.  As always I’ve edited the synergy out of the review.


February 15, 2010 – Often with animation Zombie Simpsons, due to the lengthy production process, it’s tough to be topical. Because of that, The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons usually steers clear of of-the-moment humor references. When a topical reference does get through, it will often bomb, or at the very least date when production on the episode likely took place display how out of touch the show has become. If When they do get topical, they do so in broad, clumsy strokes, like in Sunday night’s "Boy Meets Curl." It was an episode about the Winter Olympics, just days after the opening ceremonies in Vancouver. It was a safe bet the scheduled start date of this major sporting event would not change, and The Simpsons took advantage Zombie Simpsons proved that while it can’t make good television it can read a calendar.

Not that this episode needed to air during the actual Olympics, but it did help add a bit of knowing familiarity to the comedic references of the Canadian-based event desperation to be relevant again. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The episode began with Marge and Homer separately preparing for a night on the town, though no explanation is offered for why Homer is at the plant. Instead of making it on time, Homer got stuck at work for some reason. This opening act moved fast and had lots of laughs but the time they saved would be spectacularly wasted later. The fact that Homer prepared for date night in the same fashion as Marge was a good chuckle just a taste of the repetition we were in for. Funnier Blander still was their experience at the movie theater. Folks were so loud, Marge couldn’t even hear the ad telling everyone to be quiet (topical called from 2004, by the way). Homer declared, "We came here to enjoy the movie, and we’re going to enjoy the movie," until "starring Ben Affleck" appeared on screen and the couple walked out, right after topical called from 2003.

Homer and Marge made one last effort to salvage the night by stopping by an ice skating rink, only to discover it was closed for a curling plot event. That’s right, curling — the punch line of Olympic sports that didn’t get made fun of here. As it happened, the pair were naturals for some reason. Homer: "This is perfect for both of us. It has bowling for me, sweeping for you." and boredom for the audience.  They were asked to join the Springfield curling team with Agnes and Seymour Skinner, for some other reason. Soon after, they learned they’d be attending Olympic trials, because . . . you know. Two of my favorite the many dull and time eating throwaway bits of the episode soon followed. I found Homer’s image of the Winter Olympics — Santa high diving into a frozen pool with penguins as judges — absurdly funny took a little while. Funnier Longer still was the "Olympic Curly Trials" being held across the street from the curling trials. Anyone familiar with The Three Stooges should have found the Curly sight gags a lot of fun cheap and weak, and Moe ending the bit with his "wise guy" face-slapping was superb wasn’t even funny by the standards of Shemp.

The Olympic and Canadian humor montages of the episode was a lot of fun ate a lot of time, too. Heading to Vancouver, Homer stated, "We’re going to Canada’s warmest city." This was very funny accidentally topical but not funny in the least, especially since the actual Winter Olympics have found it necessary to truck in the snow. This was perhaps the most topical of the references the episode could get right. The Canadian Milhouse ("Milhoose") was fun pointless and derivative, as was Nelson’s "hoo-hoo" laugh. There was also a great montage cameo appearance of the medicine woman from The Simpsons Movie. Agnes Skinner as a former Olympic hopeful was also very funny took way too long and added some depth to her disdain for her own son more convoluted backstory to characters who’ve already been crushed beneath it. It was Seymour’s "involuntary pre-conscious" reflexive fetal kick that cost her the gold medal in third trimester pole vaulting. Adding to the fun topical desperation of this episode was Bob Costas as himself, commentating on the proceedings. His best line came after Marge injured her sweeping arm: "This is the sort of bittersweet melodrama Olympic coverage feeds on. I admit it — we’re vampires who suck on shattered dreams." which could’ve been clever if it wasn’t so hopelessly expository.

The episode was filled out inflated to fill the runtime with a story C-plot surrounding Lisa’s sudden addiction to Olympic pin collecting. This was an entertaining a humorless plot that was at least germane all but unconnected to the rest of the episode. Lisa’s "addiction" reached the point of trading in her pearl necklace for a rare pin. This labored scene set up a great line later in the episode when Bart started to help Lisa break her addiction. After admitting she had given away her pearls, Lisa tearfully declared, "Without my pearls, I’m just a big Maggie." Not surprisingly, Lisa was on her way back to normal by episode’s end, and Marge overcame her injury plot-related-incident to bring home the gold. With or without the timeliness of the story and setting, "Boy Meets Curl" was a fast and funny episode certain to be a highlight of the season hopelessly stretched and painfully unimaginative, even by the sewer level standards of Zombie Simpsons.


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