Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category

11
Apr
20

Saturday Morning Cartoons

“Perhaps you’d be more comfortable talking to Snappy the Alligator.” – Mr. Smithers
“Maybe.” – C.M. Burns

The episode where Burns sells out to the Germans occurs halfway through Season 3. By this early point in the series we’ve already seen him gleefully cancel employee Christmas bonuses, run for governor, run down a child in his car, commit Homer (involuntarily) to a mental hospital, and rage scald Smithers with hot tea. As a human being he is comprehensively vile, uncaring about the pain his actions inflict and rich enough to cause damage on a scale most evil people could only dream about.

And yet . . . as Smithers himself says, “People think that because he’s rich and powerful and cruel he doesn’t have feelings like other men, but he does.”

This is part of what makes Burns such an enduring villain. Sure, he’s a grotesque; but there’s a logical (albeit vile) humanity to him. Like many an old person, he has regrets about how he could have spent his younger years, but his are about “wiping out nations with the stroke of a pen”. And as twisted as he is, he does have a tender side. Expressing it and indulging it just happens to destroy people’s lives, but to Burns that is incidental.

Enter Snappy the Alligator, a hand puppet Smithers uses to soothe his boss and coax him into revealing what he’s really feeling. It’s ludicrously childish, but it’s also funny as hell. A hundred million dollar decision upon which the fates and livelihoods of his workers depend comes from an old man talking to some green felt.

That’s Burns in a nutshell: bugfuck crazy, indiscriminately cruel, and deeply, deeply sad. Lucky for no one, his folk guitar class was cancelled and he bought the plant back. Capricious comedy at its finest.

05
Apr
20

Sunday Evening Cartoons: Brad Goodman vs. Rona

 

“Let’s look at the rainbow. What’s in there?” – Brad Goodman

I’ve never had much use for “best episode” or “favorite season” discussions. I always enjoy talking Simpsons, even when I’m drinking my chicory, but trying to definitely say this essentially flawless episode is better than that essentially flawless episode has never seemed fun to me.

That being said, I recognize that “Marge vs. the Monorail” will always top “Bart’s Inner Child” in terms of popularity. The song alone puts the monorail episode ahead. But the one and only thing I never liked about “Marge vs. the Monorail”, even as a kid, was that Lyle Lanley gets caught. I get the joke (“Where have I heard that name before?”), and it is funny, but it implies an improbable karmic justice that the show usually doesn’t indulge.

“There he is, seat 3F!”

Lanley is a con artist who happens to sell monorails instead of band uniforms or patent medicine, and he fits right in with the show’s love of the lowest of the low brow aspects of American business. The man is an obvious charlatan, full of shit from tip to toe and not the least bit shy about it. He’s great. But the only way the show can give him his comeuppance is to have his plane make an unscheduled stop in North Haverbrook. Again: it’s funny, but the need for a justice is a little teevee.

On that score, I’ve always preferred “Bart’s Inner Child” for the simple reason that Brad Goodman is a *much* better con-man than Lyle Lanley for one simple reason: he gets away. By the time the people of Springfield realize that his self help bullshit is actually bullshit, they’ve built him a statue and he’s five towns down the road telling another sold out auditorium about the Feel Bad Rainbow.

“God is angry. We’ve made a false idol of this Brad Goodman!”

Goodman was based on Tony Robbins and a bunch of other 80s/90s scam artists who specialize(d) in acknowledging that people’s lives are bad and then peddling false hope. And if you’re wondering how Brad Goodman would be doing in the age of corona, well, Tony’s Twitter feed tells you all you need to know:

As the plague descends on the entire world, he’s plugging a movie and linking to crazy winger bullshit that says coronavirus isn’t that big a deal. When the plague passes, Robbins and guys like him will be running the exact same scam because that’s what Brad Goodman would do:

We all suffered during coronavirus, but we’ve survived, and that kind of toughness can help you succeed in life and in business. In my new book, I chart the seven paths of excellence . . .

The grift must go on. That’s what high hats like Goodman and Robbins believe, that there is no problem people face that cannot be solved by them giving you money.

In less immediately trying circumstances, this is the kind of admirable crookedness upon which fortunes are founded. In this perilous moment, it is, to quote the inimitable Al Swearengen, “Sick fucking ghoulish thinking.”

“What a type you must consort with, that you not fear beating for such an insult.”

A lot of people are going to die. No getting around that. But past the millions of sudden and unnecessary deaths that will traumatize populations the world over, there are the shitheel cockdents that believe they will get away with it. And they’re probably right.

Fuck them. Let’s go to the old mill anyway. Get some cider.*

(*2m social distancing still applies.)

 

 

02
Apr
20

Thursday Evening Cartoons

“We need a cure! We need a cure!” – Mob
“Why the only cure is bedrest. Anything I give you would only be a placebo.” – Dr. Hibbert
“Where do we get these placebos?!” – Panicked Woman
“Maybe there’s some in this truck!” – Panicked Man

Howdy, campers, how’s everyone doing with the ongoing unpleasantness? My life has certainly been turned upside down, though I’m on team “Stuck At Home” not team “Doing All the Real Work”, so I’ve got it fairly easy. And while there are a lot of people that I love and care about who are at risk or already suffering, so far nobody has died or lost their home. Don’t know how long that’s going to last, but [fingers crossed].

I have been knocked off my tram lines on doing Quotes of the Day. Those got shaky a couple years ago and moreso of late. Then with the “wait, what day is it” experience of the last three weeks, I finally fucked it up and let it lapse all the way. I guess eleven years and change will have to suffice for now.

Instead, let’s take a look at a timely Simpsons episode, the first act of which has nicely captured our real life episode of Love in the Time of SARS-CoV-2, or, more festively, SARS 2: Corona Boogaloo.

The “Osaka Flu” opening of “Marge in Chains” goes from Homer ordering useless junk off the TV to the town being abandoned by its rich and powerful to irresponsible media coverage and panicked mobs run amok in search of any protection (no matter how ineffective). About the only thing the episode wasn’t cynical enough about was that nobody blamed Akira for it, though, given that it was written at a time when the federal government was trying to make amends with Japanese-Americans and seemed to be progressing in many areas, that’s at least understandable.

But for the most devastatingly on the nose from a quarter century ago, we have Ned Flanders’ lament. A wealthy, white, Evangelical father of two who almost certainly would’ve voted Republican in 2016, Ned cries out, “Oh, the network slogan is true! Watch FOX and be damned for all eternity!”.

 

15
Feb
20

Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?

“Hey, hey! I’ve been in Reno for six weeks, did I miss anything?” – Krusty the Klown

Back on Simpsons Day I mentioned a gigantic side project. Well, here it is.

“Global Warming: What’s In It For You?” is a (semi-illustrated) guidebook for climate change. It begins with the historic and scientific background, moves through the denier campaign and all the damage it has wrought, and debunks a lot of pretty myths and widespread misperceptions. It also affords me several opportunities to take big dumps on some truly vile people and conglomerates, including Exxon, InBev, and Disney.

Basically, I tried to make sense out of global warming the same way I tried to make sense out of Zombie Simpsons, by starting at the beginning and examining why it works the the way it does. Despite two years of trying, my agent and I have been unable to find a publisher for this would be book. Apparently, I lack a “platform” to credibly discuss the ur-issue of our time.

To build such a “platform”, I’ve published the first nine chapters on-line at

www.GreenNewDeal.Fun

(Shockingly, .com and such were taken, but .fun is growing on me.) Just like the Zombie Simpsons ebook, it’s released under a creative commons license and you can read it for free. There’s even PDF and eBook versions you can download for free.

I certainly hope everyone who still checks this site enjoys it. More importantly, though, tell someone else about it. The purpose of the book is to put climate into an understandable context, so that when you see stories about record heat in Antarctica, record fires in Australia, and record storms everywhere, you’ll know how they fit into the wider context of what we’ve done to the atmosphere – and why we continue to do it.

That said, it’s not all doom and gloom. Hell, it isn’t even mostly doom and gloom. The best kept secret about global warming is that the only people whose lives need to get worse are the kind who fly in private jets. Everybody else will/could be better off.

So please click through, and hopefully you’ll learn a few things that will help you make sense of the news and let you sleep a little easier. As a taster, have a look at the chart below, which appears in Chapter 1:

(That font is just one of hundreds of radical pro-Simpsons messages I sneak into every chapter.)

17
Dec
19

Happy Simpsons Day!

“Oh, Springfield Elementary, I will have you back again! After all, tomorrow is another school day!” – Principal Skinner

Happy Simpsons Day, everybody! Today marks the 30th anniversary of “Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire” and the beginning of the best ten-ish year streak in television history. I’m sure there are a lot of retrospective pieces up around the internet today, but as you can tell from the near total lack of substantive posts around here, I don’t think there’s much left to be said, so you’re on your own for finding them.

About that total lack of posts: I was hoping to change that starting today, but deadlines are made to be blown. I’m currently in the middle of a rush of real job work, getting over a major hump in my gigantic side project, and moving at the end of the month. So time is scarce.

However, I’ve been plotting a renewed DHS for long enough now that I don’t feel entirely silly disclosing the rough plan. For starters, the site is going to get a facelift. Ten years on the same WordPress theme seems like enough.

As far as actual posts go, I have two ideas that I think would be fun and sustainable as far as time and effort go. The first is to get back into doing Spews Truth From Every Orifice, where I write up the DVD commentaries from good seasons. I’ve only ever listened to maybe a third of them myself, and I figure there’s enough to eat up several more years of this blog’s lonely existence on this has-been planet orbited by a cold indifferent sun.

The second is something I was vehemently against when we started this blog back in 2009: lists. Listicles have a deservedly poor reputation for the simple reason that they’re easy to do and hence mostly thrown together as filler. While I want to avoid warmed over drivel like top episodes or funniest quotes or “times the Simpsons predicted the future”, I think there are commonalities between episodes that lend themselves well to listing, plus it spares me from having to come up with transitions between topics/episodes/whatevers.

Finally, if and when I get some Simpsons posts up around here, I’m also planning to vent regularly about movies and other TV shows, old and new. Some of this will be the hottest of hot taeks about stuff that’s already had too much commentary (the new Star Wars is probably going to be bad, HBO Watchmen fell apart badly in the last three episodes and I don’t know why it’s getting universal praise, and the real reason the Marvel movies are forgettable ephemera: weak villains), some of it will be meta-criticism about the shitty state of movie and TV criticism itself (or at least the stuff I see), and some of it will be praise (fulsome and otherwise) of lower profile stuff I stumble across and end up liking.

So, it’s my usual promise: more posts! And my usual disclaimer: but not now! However, this time there is a plan (sort of).

In the meantime, please go enjoy some ye olde Simpsons on this Simpsoniest of days. Or just re-read my loving take on that very first episode. Happy Simpsons Day!

17
Nov
19

Quote of the Day

“I think we’ve heard enough about Larry Burns for one evening.” – Marge Simpson
“Why? It’s not like anything interesting happened to anyone else today?” – Homer Simpson

22
Aug
19

Quote of the Day

“Bart! Lisa! If you don’t behave we’ll turn this car right around and go home!” – Marge Simpson
“But, Marge, I want to see my brother!” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, for God’s sakes, Homer, it’s an empty threat.” – Marge Simpson

16
Jul
18

Quote of the Day

Lisa on Ice2

“Oh yes, we won!  We won!  We won!  Um, unfortunately, since I bet on the other team, heh . . . uh, we won’t be going for pizza.” – Chief Wiggum

08
May
18

Quote of the Day

“Eine minuten, eine minuten! . . . Ach! Das wagen phone ist ein . . . nuisance phone!” – Nondescript Elderly Argentinian
“Buenos notches, mein fuehrer.” – Charming Nazi
“Ja, Ja.” – Nondescript Elderly Argentinian

05
May
18

Quote of the Day

“You know, we’re kind of like the original Odd Couple. You’re the messy one, and I’m-” – Principal Skinner
“Shut up!” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, yes. Very well.” – Principal Skinner

04
May
18

Quote of the Day

“Then, on his eighteenth birthday, he was blown up in a silo explosion. During his long recuperation, he taught himself to hear and feel pain again.” – Kent Brockman

15
Apr
18

Quote of the Day

“Look, there’s only one reasonable way to settle this: rock, paper, scissors.” – Lisa Simpson
“Poor, predictable Bart. Always takes rock.” – Lisa’s Brain
“Good old rock, nothing beats that!” – Bart’s Brain
“Rock!” – Bart Simpson
“Paper.” – Lisa Simpson
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

27
Mar
18

Quote of the Day

“Mr. Simpson, I presume.” – Not Henry Morton Stanley

Happy birthday, George Meyer! 

15
Mar
18

Quote of the Day

“I read about what happens to kids whose parents no longer love and cherish each other. They go through eight separate stages. Right now, I’m in stage three: fear. You’re in stage two: denial.” – Lisa Simpson
“No, I’m not.” – Bart Simpson
“Yes, you are.” – Lisa Simpson
“No, I’m not!” – Bart Simpson
“Yes, you are!” – Lisa Simpson
“Am not! Am not! Am not!” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday David Silverman!

15
Feb
18

Quote of the Day

“Young man, you need to do some serious boning!” – Principal Skinner

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Das Bus”! Original airdate 15 Feb 1998. (Oh, and happy birthday to some guy name Groening.)

08
Feb
18

Quote of the Day

“Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-Leader! Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-Leader!” – Movementarian
“Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-Leader! Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-Leader! Leader! Leader!” – Suckers
“Batman!” – Homer Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “The Joy of Sect”! Original airdate: 8 February 1998

09
Jan
18

Quote of the Day

“Hey, kids, while Sideshow Mel mops up, let’s see the names of our Krusty Birthday Pals for today!” – Krusty the Klown
“Alright, here comes my name! . . . Wow! Best eight bucks I ever spent.” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday, Al Jean!

17
Dec
17

The Cost of Zombie Simpsons

I think it’s full, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“That’s ridiculous! The last tree held nine drums!” – C.M. Burns

NOTE: Back in September, in response to Alf Clausen’s firing, I posted what would be a new chapter for an expanded version of “Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead”. The book is still being shopped to publishers, and early responses have been mixed, in that some of them ignore it, and others reject it.

But it’s Simpsons Day, and I’m a long way from giving up on it, so here is another new chapter. It’s very loosely based off a post on this blog from 2010, so for once I’m repeating a quote intentionally instead of accidentally. 

Feel free to smile and nod and link and share this page [stomps on your foot]. The more traffic and attention it gets, the better chance it has of becoming a real, dead-tree book at some point in the future. Also, on your way out, if you want to post it to /r/TheSimpsons, it would help me a lot. 

Released in 1993, Jurassic Park is a classic movie, one of the most popular in the history of cinema. It’s enduring popularity has green-lit three sequels, all of which are forgettable summer pap and none of which grace “Best Ever” film lists. (A fourth is set for release in 2018.) Published in 1965, Dune is a science fiction masterpiece that was followed by five direct sequels, thirteen follow up spin-off novels, a television miniseries, and a 1984 feature film. None of them have ever lived up to the source material, but the original remains so popular that spinoff novels continue to be published and they’re making another movie adaptation right now.

Sequels, spin-offs, reboots, and remakes are unfortunate side effects of the economics of modern media. Familiar franchises (or “IP”, a/k/a “intellectual property”) are safe economic bets for studios that care far more about the quarterly earnings of their conglomerate owners than they do about artistic merit or simple quality. This is the reason that American multiplexes average a new actor playing Spider-Man every five years, a new Batman every six years, and a new James Bond every nine years.

The acceleration of this trend in recent years is a triumph of what the marketing ghouls call “mindshare.” Basically, the more people that are aware of something (a character, a celebrity, a franchise, etcetera), the more “mindshare” it has. For example, Star Wars has approximately 100% mindshare, since there’s almost no one who hasn’t heard of it.

Once a property or format has proven itself popular, the mindshare that popularity creates means that something similar is more likely to find an audience than something new. This is why NBC has broadcast five versions of Law & Order, why CBS has had four different CSI variants, and why ABC has had more seasons of Dancing With and Bachelor shows than is mentally healthy. Put simply, a new show with an existing audience is more likely to attract large enough ratings to be profitable than a new show that has to start from zero. Zombie Simpsons is simply an extreme case of this widespread miasma.

The enormous and unprecedented popularity of The Simpsons means that there are hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people all over the world whose brains have a few neurons dedicated to Homer, Bart, and the rest of the family. So what critics or fans think of the last twenty years of the show is a lot less important than the rump audience that will tune in out of habit or familiarity. This unfortunate confluence of behavioral psychology and modern economics has been very good to FOX’s (and News Corp’s) bottom line, but it has done terrible damage to the once impeccable reputation of The Simpsons itself.

For anyone born in the mid 1980s or after, The Simpsons has been a background presence their entire lives. But as the new episodes got worse at the end of the 1990s, and then as the pool of syndicated reruns gradually became polluted with Zombie Simpsons, watching the show became more and more difficult. In 1995, you could catch a great new episode on Sundays, then watch two or more classic episodes every weekday on syndicated reruns. By 2005, the new episodes had been bad for half a decade, and the syndication runs were 50-50 with Zombie Simpsons.

The episode catalog has only degraded since then. There are now more than twice as many episodes of Zombie Simpsons as there are of The Simpsons. As a result, a new or casual fan has to go out of their way to see the good ones. Because all of them are billed and sold as “The Simpsons,” there isn’t the kind of easy distinction that there is between Jurassic Park and its many sequels, or Dune and its lesser iterations.

While there are no general social surveys about the state of Simpsons fandom, there is ample anecdotal evidence that nearly two decades of Zombie Simpsons has profoundly damaged The Simpsons in terms of cultural reputation, pop culture standing, and even simple popularity. On the enormous web of message boards which are such a big part of modern fandom, it’s easy to find huge threads about the show being overrated, or having been bad for so long that maybe it wasn’t that good in the first place. Facebook teems with teens and twenty-somethings who know the show only as a cultural totem that gross old people revere for some reason. A sadly large portion of Reddit’s trigger-happy cadre of fanatics are all too happy to dump on Zombie Simpsons without making the distinction between old and new, good and bad.

Statements like the above have to be made with caution because Simpsons fandom is so vast, ancient, and iterative that it would take half a department of sociologists just to catalog it, much less understand it. But the clearest example may have been in August of 2014, when the FXX channel broadcast every episode of the show in order, starting with Season 1. That was the first time since the syndication pools became tainted that so many of the classic episodes were made so easily available to a wide audience, and the reaction was overwhelming.

Promoted and organic hashtags were flooded with people remarking on how smart, incisive, and dark the old episodes were. More than just appreciating it, however, a very common sentiment was people who’d forgotten what the old episodes were like:

  • Wow, I forgot how great the Simpsons was in its early years.

  • Loving the #EverySimpsonsEver marathon. Forgot how good the old episodes are.

  • I forgot how touching these early episodes are. Better settle in for an all nighter

  • I forgot how much I loved the first Treehouse of Horror, my whole family always watched them together

  • Watching #TheSimpsons and I forgot how dramatic season one was!

  • Watching the #EverySimpsonsEver marathon on FXX. I almost forgot how good the old episodes are. Way better than the new ones!

All of the above examples came from only one hashtag, only on Twitter, and only from the first couple hours of the marathon broadcast. It went on like that for days, across all kinds of platforms and (presumably) in personal conversations and interactions that never reached the wider internet. As the good seasons were once again shown without the handicap of Zombie Simpsons, people remembered why The Simpsons really is the Best. Show. Ever.

Amnesia like the above isn’t at all surprising when you consider how much effort it takes to experience the show in its true form. Local syndicated broadcasters are under no obligation to run episodes in order, FXX always sprinkles Zombie Simpsons in with The Simpsons, and new episodes have been bad since Bill Clinton was our standard for what a lousy President looked like. (That The Simpsons predicted the orders-of-magnitude worse President Trump doesn’t help matters.) Watching them the way Jebus intended means either shelling out for the DVDs, buying them from a streaming service, or logging into and then navigating FXX’s kludge filled app. In the 1990s, new fans could simply sit down and watch The Simpsons. Today’s new fans have to work at it.

More motivated viewers will deliberately do so, but, inevitably, lots of casual fans will not. As a result, they often don’t understand what’s so special about The Simpsons. All they know is that it’s been on the air since before their parents met.

Television has never seen anything like what The Simpsons was at its beginning. It wasn’t just smart and funny, it was smart and funny week after week, year after year, never skipping a beat. Forget season finales or cliffhangers, ordinary new episodes were social events in bars, dorms, and homes all over the country. The day after a new episode, conversations in schools and offices brimmed with quotes, jokes, and phrases from the night before. But the magic of that incredible consistency gets lost when the old episodes are buried among the dung pile left by nearly twenty years of Zombie Simpsons.

This is why Zombie Simpsons needs to be criticized. Not because it’s a boring, mediocre television program (there are lots of those), but because each new episode eats away at the foundations of one of the most important and influential shows ever made. Every year a new batch of Zombie Simpsons spews into the rerun pools and episode guides, stealing scarce and easily diverted attention away from the good ones. And so each new batch of potential fans has to work a little bit harder to see the good stuff. Bit by bit, Zombie Simpsons is poisoning The Simpsons for future generations.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?

05
Nov
17

Sunday Preview: Grampy Can You Hear Me

Grampa gets a hearing aid and finally hears what everyone has been saying about him; Mr. Skinner discovers that his mother has kept a secret from him.

It’s been a while since I watched this show, but I am not sure what ‘everyone has been saying about him’. I am pretty sure one of the biggest things this show does is to illustrate the insane level of neglect the Simpson family bestows upon Grampa.

I can’t find who the guest star is this week, if there even is one, but I only spent about 8 seconds looking. Enjoy.

01
Nov
17

Quote of the Day

“What are you looking at, Bart? Are those naughty dogs back again?” – Mrs. Krabappel

Marcia Wallace would’ve been 75 today. Happy birthday! 




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Even though it’s obvious to anyone with a functional frontal lobe and a shred of morality, we feel the need to include this disclaimer. This website (which openly advocates for the cancellation of a beloved television series) is in no way, shape or form affiliated with the FOX Network, the News Corporation, subsidiaries thereof, or any of Rupert Murdoch’s wives or children. “The Simpsons” is (unfortunately) the intellectual property of FOX. We and our crack team of one (1) lawyer believe that everything on this site falls under the definition of Fair Use and is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. No revenue is generated from this endeavor; we’re here because we love “The Simpsons”. And besides, you can’t like, own a potato, man, it’s one of Mother Earth’s creatures.