Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category


Sunday Preview “Treehouse of Horror XXVII”

In this annual Halloween-themed episode, Mr. Burns holds a Hunger Games-style contest in which the children of Springfield battle each other. Also, Lisa’s imaginary friend becomes jealous of her real friends, and Moe tells Bart that the bar patrons are really covert agents.

When I was a kid, THOH was a close to Halloween as possible. This 2 week out crap is a crock. Why even do it? No one would notice if you stopped kicking the corpse of what was (albeit 20 years ago) a holiday institution for people my age. Also it sounds like it is going to suck anyway. Probably. I didn’t actually read the episode description that I cut and pasted above.


Quote of the Day


“Basic ceremony’s twenty bucks, here’s your license. Be sure to get this punched every time. The tenth wedding’s on the house!” – Shotgun Pete’s Receptionist
“Hey, this marriage is gonna last forever!” – Homer Simpson
“Haha, no matter how many times I hear that, it always makes me laugh.” – Shotgun Pete’s Receptionist

Doris Grau would’ve been 92 today. Happy birthday.


Quote of the Day


“It’s so unfair! Just because he’s different…” – Homer Simpson


Sunday Preview “The Town”

Homer plans a family “hate-cation” trip to Boston in an attempt to show Bart that Boston is a terrible city.

I guess Homer catches Bart rooting for a football team that is not Homer’s favorite, so it is time to crap all over Boston the way only zombie Homer can. Maybe this time they will spring for the bus with bathrooms, unlike the time Homer hated on a major US city 19 YEARS ago. But I digresss.


Compare & Contrast: Marge Gets Jealous


“Lurleen, we’re gonna have to cut you off. We’re getting some kind of grinding noise on the track.” – Hicksville U.S.A. Recording Producer 

NOTE: I will be at Classic Simpsons Trivia in Brooklyn tonight. If you’re there, feel free to look for the tall, gumpy white guy in this t-shirt and say hello. 

“Friends and Family” provided an embarrassment of riches for Compare & Contrast material. This is a partial list of topics I considered:

– The family going to live with Burns the same way Bart did in “Burns’ Heir” – In the original, Bart had to be convinced to live there by Burns, lied to about his family, and ultimately saw through it. Now, the whole family just goes there and stays because . . . uh, look over there, isn’t it wacky that they’re wearing motion capture suits and have weird heads?

– Burns wanting a family – This would also be to “Burns’ Heir”, but instead of demonstrating how out of character the family was behaving, it’d be Burns: pining for love instead of wanting a son who could continue his evil after he was gone. Also: there was a scene with kids trying out and Milhouse getting rejected was a lot better the first time.

– Homer being alone in the house – This one is a twofer, since I could compare the goofy montage in Zombie Simpsons to “Homer Alone” or “Bart After Dark”, both of which saw Homer inhabit the house in clumsy ways instead of running the lawnmower in the living room.

– Homer meeting a very Homer-like woman – “The Last Temptation of Homer” did this far better, including showing Homer’s resistance to being attracted to Mindy until even Colonel Klink forsakes him. In particular, both episodes feature Homer at a romantic restaurant with Marge’s would-be competition, the big difference being that on The Simpsons they got forced to go to a Chinese restaurant that was nice enough to make them cheeseburgers, whereas on Zombie Simpsons Homer and his platonic friend – who’s supposed to like sitting on her duff and drinking beer just like him – go to a fancy restaurant so they could do yet another Lady and the Tramp spaghetti scene.

– Jewish funerals – Krusty’s was a lot more fun than the one for that guy who was Burns’ therapist for two minutes.

Ultimately, I couldn’t resist this episode’s finale, a bizarre, senseless, and out of left field rant from Marge when she returns home to find Homer – gasp – talking to a woman on the phone. It gets weird fast and stays that way, so I’ll quote it extensively. To start, Homer is sitting on the couch and has just gotten off the phone when Marge and the kids walk in for what would seem to be the first time in weeks or months:

Homer: Hey, guys, good to see you!
Marge: Good to see you. Who were you talking to?
Homer: My friend Julia.
Lisa: Juli-a? Like a girl?

Let’s pause for a second to note how unnatural this dialogue is. We can maybe spot them Homer being so blase about seeing his family for the first time in a good long while, but Marge just coming back with “Good to see you” sounds nothing like her. And right after that we have “Who were you talking to?”, which not only doesn’t sound like her, but would also be about the last thing on her mind. It’s a screenwriter shortcut: have one character ask another the exact question needed to push the plot along.

Then we get Lisa chiming in, both surprised that it’s a girl, and with that weird pause before the “a” in Julia. Now, there are a lot of male names that can be feminized with an -a, George becomes Georgia, Claude becomes Claudia, Will becomes Willa, etcetera. But Julia isn’t one of them. Julian (one of our toughest names) is the closest, but the “a” is still there, so Lisa’s surprise at it remains off kilter. It’s not a huge thing, but it’s yet another way that the writing is just plain lazy. They want Lisa to express surprise, but instead of writing a line that lets her do so, they just have Yeardley Smith do a weird pronunciation. Moving along:

Homer: She’s not a girl, she’s three years younger than your mother. [Marge makes a noise of disapproval here] Marge, it’s cool. All we do is share our deepest thoughts and feelings.

Even by the standards of Zombie Homer this is painfully bad exposition, which is how you can tell its another hacktacular screenwriter shortcut. Homer is trying to get himself into trouble, which is the opposite of the Homer we know and love. To see how, compare it with more or less the exact same conversation in “Colonel Homer”:

Marge: It’s nice, but who is this woman?
Homer: Well, right now she’s an out of work cocktail waitress, but she’s going to be a country music superstar! Like, uh, that jerk in the cowboy hat, and that dead lady.
Marge: I don’t like you hanging around some cocktail waitress.
Homer: Marge, you make it sound so seamy. All I did was spend the afternoon in her trailer watching her try on some outfits.


Marge is annoyed, Homer is (truthfully) playing dumb.

First of all: jokes! Despite trying to create a country star, Homer can’t name a single one. Just as importantly, his intentions towards Lurleen are so innocent that he can’t begin to understand why his wife might not like him trying to help her career. This is Homer at his best: he’s being stupid and insensitive in the extreme, but he’s completely unaware of it. Moreover, he’s describing a concrete thing he did (watching Lurleen try on outfits) rather than describing an abstraction that is designed to piss Marge off.

Artificially pissed off, Marge then goes on a tear:

Marge: Kids, could you leave the room, please. . . . Faster!

Bart, Lisa and Maggie then jump into a nearby heating grate because that’s funny, right?


Drop of the hat rage: there’s the Marge we all know and love.

Homer: Marge, it’s nothing. She’s just my new best friend. [Marge knocks over Homer’s TV tray, so this gets to violence real quick.] Why are you mad at those eggs? They didn’t do anything!
Marge: Homer Simpson! After all I’ve put up with for all these years, if I’m not your best friend then what is this marriage about?


It goes on for a really long time.

This all happens as Marge is chasing Homer around the room and slapping at him. Homer cowers and runs away while Marge follows him – including through a closet door – as he makes excuses:

Homer: Okay, okay you’re my best friend! She’s just somebody I call when I’m mad at you. I mean, I’m never mad at you. Well, sometimes I’m mad at you, a little bit, but I shouldn’t call her, I should just drink it off at Moe’s. You’ll never hear the name Julia again.

Let’s pause again here and note how out of control this is. Stuff is getting knocked over, Homer’s fallen down several times, if it were real life it’s about where you’d think the cops should get called, and there’s nary a stab at humor other than Marge’s increasingly blinding rage, which is precisely nothing like her. And, since Zombie Simpsons is utterly predictable and shallow, as soon as Homer finishes, Julia walks in for no reason whatsoever:

Julia: Hi, I’m Julia! [Marge screams.] I just wanted to introduce myself and tell you you’ve got a great husband.


Screaming incoherently at a stranger, classic Marge.

Again: only hack comedy writers talk like this. Marge then compares Homer to a bike, which Julia denies wanting to “ride”. Then Julia walks out as suddenly as she walked in. It’s as hamfisted as it could possibly be: serious emotional meltdown coupled with a character appearing and disappearing as though no such thing is happening. None of the three of them are even remotely acting like real people, and Homer and Marge are so far out of character that they might as well not be themselves.

Homer and Marge then have an exposition filled conversation that makes things perfectly alright just as suddenly as they became divorce level bad:

Marge: I’m sorry, apparently you didn’t do anything wrong, but I’m not wrong for getting mad at you either!
Homer: Marge, Julia taught me lots of stuff that could help us. For example, I realize that when you see me doing something stupid and you don’t say anything about it, you do know, and you’re just being nice.

It goes on from there, but you get the idea. With just a little more exposition, all is well. This mess of a scene goes on for two whole minutes, which is a tenth of the entire episode and feels even longer since it’s all one big, continuous clusterfuck.

Compare that melodrama to the way Marge’s jealousy and Homer’s slow realization of the harm he’s causing builds across the entirety of “Colonel Homer”. The next time we see Homer and Marge after the above quoted scene is after Lurleen buys Homer his Colonel Tom Parker suit:

Homer: Marge, look at me!
Marge: I don’t want to, I’m mad at you. I’m sick of that waitress and all the time you’ve been spending with her and this whole country music thing.
Homer: Uh, then maybe you better not look at me.


Emotional reactions that make sense and advance the story. It really isn’t that hard, Zombie Simpsons.

This is the two of them perfectly in character. Homer is completely selfish and happy with how well things are going, utterly oblivious to Marge being upset until she tells him. Marge is putting up with it, but very unhappy to be doing so. From here we get Homer haplessly trying to deny that Lurleen bought him the suit, and then we get into one of the show’s old, classic running jokes: Homer justifying his current stupidity by saying it’s his boyhood dream.

From there we get the recording scene, where Homer has lied about Lurleen being overweight and through which Marge literally grits her teeth. Then Homer – now aware of Marge’s pain but still completely unaware that Lurleen is desperately trying to seduce him – goes off to the television show taping where he realizes what he’s doing. Going through all that – coupled with Lurleen’s on-air song about how lucky Marge is to have Homer – makes their eventual reconciliation both funny and heartfelt:

Marge: Homer?
Homer: Is there any room in that bed for a dad-burned fool?
Marge: Always has been.

On The Simpsons, Marge’s concern over Homer and another woman builds over the course of the episode as one of many story threads that all work together in the end. On Zombie Simpsons, it drops from the sky to the exclusion of all the other disconnected crap that was going on and sees her act like a ranting and raving lunatic. That makes their inevitable reconciliation just as sudden and nonsensical. The original was a lot better…



Quote of the Day


“And I want a bike, and a monkey, and a friend for the monkey…” – Ralph Wiggum
“You’re not gonna start any fires, are you?” – Hosey the Bear
“At my house we call them Uh-Ohs.” – Ralph Wiggum

Happy (one day late) Birthday Mike Scully!


Compare & Contrast: Burns’s Childhood Trauma


“Wait, you forgot your bear! A symbol of your lost youth and innocence!” – Papa Burns 

First, a brief update: I have been pedaling around the Midwest for a couple weeks now. After six days on the road, I departed my home state of Michigan on a ferry to Wisconsin, then went south through Chicago, across Indiana, and made it into Ohio last Saturday. For the last few days I’ve been staying with Mad Jon and his wife here in Cleveland.

The most obvious mistake I made in planning this trip was to massively over-estimate how much free time I would have. It turns out it’s not just the biking itself that takes a while, it’s also things like making and breaking camp, finding food on the road, and simply figuring out where to go and how to get there. Add in an hour or two per day spent remoting into my useless real job and my fantasy of watching Simpsons episodes in sunlit parks died a harsh death on the road. It didn’t help that the bicycle mode on Google Maps is the best route to your destination . . . not always.

Yesterday I did make time to watch the season premier of Zombie Simpsons, “Monty Burns’ Fleeing Circus”. It is every bit as boring and formulaic as we’ve come to expect. There’s lots of pointless exposition, jokes that get explained and pre-explained, characters that act nothing like themselves, and lots of loose plot threads. For those of you with the good sense not to have watched it, a brief synopsis follows.

The town is destroyed by a laser like sunbeam that somehow reflects off of a concrete sculpture. The Simpson family then goes to Burns Manor to beg Mr. Burns to rebuild the town. He agrees to rebuild on the condition that he can stage a variety show at Springfield Bowl. (Why he wouldn’t be able to just do this anytime is never explored.) Over the course of about half a dozen flashbacks, we see that Burns himself had performed at the Bowl as a child and been humiliated, and this new show is some kind of redemption, or something. Meanwhile, since no one is in charge at the nuclear plant, the employees throw a days long party and it explodes.

There are, naturally, a lot of plots and stories that get swiftly forgotten as soon as they’re off screen. First and foremost is the aforementioned destruction of the town. We see it in rubble, and then never again, though apparently the school and the Simpson home were unaffected since we see them. Further, “wait, what?” type moments include the apparently harmless explosion at the plant, characters like Lenny both being in Burns’s show and partying at the plant, and the complete disappearance of the audience at Burns’s show, which was such a whopper that they actually felt compelled to mention it:

Lisa:  Wait, where did they go? How did 15,000 people leave so fast? Hey, uh, wanna see me do a cartwheel?

The truly hacktacular part of this episode was Burns’s childhood trauma. It’s the ostensible reason he’s putting on this convoluted variety show, but despite all the time they spend expositing about it and flashing back to 1913, Burns’s motivations are left remarkably vague. To see what I mean, consider the flashbacks in sequence.

1. Child Burns backstage, wordless and expectant:


2. Later, during auditions that involve the Crazy Cat Lady being carried around by her cats, Burns says, “This isn’t right. This isn’t how it was at all. I remember that night so vividly.”:


We then see Burns’s mother tell him it’s time to go on stage, he says he won’t let her down, and then she licks his face extensively. It’s weird. Then Burns declares he wants everything like it was back then.

3. The next flashback is Burns yelling at Lisa, “And what part of what I’ve never told you don’t you understand?”:


We then see Burns getting laughed at, looking sad, and being told by Mommy Licks-a-Lot that he’s a “laughingstock”.

4. After Lisa visits Burns Manor, Smithers shows her an old time film reel where we see Burns’s performance. His pants fall down:


After that we see Burns looking at an old time movie projector to see title cards of people laughing at him, and there might have been another one but I don’t care enough to look again.

Back in the present, Burns eventually goes on stage himself and . . . has his pants fall down, rendering the entire story pointless. It’s not as weird as Burns’s mom licking him for ten seconds, but it’s pretty weird.

Compare that hamfisted mess to the two quick flashbacks we get in “Rosebud”, which not only shows us a childhood trauma far faster, but only one of which even involves Burns. Instead of wasting time destroying the town and then forgetting all about it, “Rosebud” opens with Burns dreaming about the day he lost Bobo:

Young Burns: Tralala-lalala, tralala-lala, I’m the happiest boy there is! Aren’t I Bobo?
Ma Burns: Happy, come here, happy!
Young Burns: Yes, Momsy?
Pa Burns: Happy, would you like to continue living with us, your loving, natural parents? Or would you rather live with this twisted, loveless billionaire?”
Young Burns: Let’s roll.


After that, we see Pa Burns run after the limo and describe Bobo as, “a symbol of your lost youth and innocence!”, which is the kind of functional, meta-joke exposition that is well beyond the skills of Zombie Simpsons.

Not only is this scene shorter and more contained than the sprawling collection of flashbacks Zombie Simpsons does, but it also uses Burns the kid to explain Burns the adult. Burns didn’t become a twisted, loveless billionaire because of some trauma or accident, he actively chose it, instantly dropping his beloved bear without so much as a second thought. Even at this tender age, Burns was always more interested in money and power than happiness, he just later wanted his bear back.

Contrast that with Zombie Simpsons, where Burns gets humiliated as a child and then for some reason decides that the way to heal this decades after the fact is to take all the townspeople he hates and put them in a similar show. Even on a surface level it doesn’t make any sense. But it really falls apart when they stoop to explaining it:

Lisa: I think you’re trying to make up for what happened to you then by putting on a perfect Bowl show now.

Four flashbacks deep, they take the time to spell out exactly what was painfully obvious from the first one. And that’s not even the final, expository reveal of this nonsense. After Burns’s pants fall down on stage in the present, he finishes up by negating everything we’ve seen so far:

Burns: I can’t stay mad at you. At my age I can’t stay anything at anybody. Oh, and you know what, the laughter in my head is gone.

Zombie Simpsons sets the bar pretty high for hack writing, but this is up there with their worst. First it contradicts everything we just saw (he stayed mad about this for decades), and then it wipes it all away as though it never happened (the laughter in his head is gone because his pants fell down a second time?). The episode didn’t make sense before he said this, but this line goes beyond that by admitting that it was pointless even if it had made sense. If they cared in the least about what they were doing, the completeness of its incoherence would almost be impressive. As it is, they just needed a little more filler to wrap things up.

The Burns of “Rosebud” wants his bear back, and is willing to torment the entire town to get it. When he finally gets what he wants, he ever so briefly becomes happy before quickly returning to his old self. The Burns of Zombie Simpsons goes through an elaborate melodrama, involves people he doesn’t like for no reason, and then declares himself happy after re-living the thing that crushed him in the first place.


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