Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category


Thursday Evening Cartoons: The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

“Big Daddy’s trademark calling card. See, it’s right here inside the skull.” – Skinny Boy

Note: Surgery yesterday went about as well as having someone deliberately cut you open and drill holes in you can go. My left collar bone has now been re-attached to my shoulder using ligaments from a cadaver, which means that it is technically a Zombie Shoulder. So if I suddenly start liking it when celebrities walk on screen from nowhere, I will blame my left (or sinister) hand. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of couch time ahead of me, and since I am semi-loopy on legal heroin right now, blogging about cartoons seems like the right thing to do. 

There are a lot of episodes in Season 8 that I didn’t like at first and later grew on me, but I always liked “The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase”. Similar to “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochy Show”, this was one of the last times The Simpsons took aim at fellow television programs before taking a few (sadly prescient) potshots at itself. (We have now seen plenty of magic powers, and I think Selma has gotten married at least three more times.)

The variety segment and the “Love-Matic Grampa” are both excellent parodies of their respective genres, but for me the standout here has always been “Wiggum P.I.”. Even as a kid I hated laughtracks, so I never watched a lot of sitcoms, and I was just a few years too young to get over-exposed to the likes of Osmond family variety shows. But I watched plenty of Magnum P.I.The A-Team, and Riptide (a swiftly cancelled bad idea that was cool to seven-year-old me because they had a big helicopter and a freakin’ robot). My hands down favorite was Airwolf, which had a Voltron style stock intro they used whenever they fired up the helicopter at the end to blow up whatever hapless kidnapper/smuggler/generic bad guy was on that week.

These shows were bad and dumb for a lot of reasons, but they’re near perfect parody targets because they were Swiss-watch level repetitive. Here in the days of serialized dramas it’s easy to forget that the thousands and thousands of episodes of those old detective and mystery shows were almost entirely one-offs. (A two parter with a cliffhanger was a once or twice a season exception.) Each story had to wrap up completely at the end of the episode so they could be syndicated out of order, which meant that they followed a rigid template.

First there’s a crime of some kind, or some “old friend” of one of the main characters (never heard from before or since) who needs help. From there we get a skirmish or two with the bad guys, which would usually end with someone or something that needed rescuing. That was followed by the required Act 2-3 break, which was very show specific. On The A-Team, they would make a plan and build some stuff while the theme music played, on Airwolf they would go get in the helicopter. Then there would be a chase or a fist fight, and then it would end.

“Wiggum P.I.” follows these guide posts to the letter. The bad guy gets introduced, then Wiggum gets the corked gator, then Ralph gets kidnapped, a few henchmen get dispatched, then there’s a chase and things are left to reset for next week. The source material was so easy to deconstruct that they could get the whole story into seven minutes of screen time.

That efficiency stands in marked contrast to that 30 for 30 episode Zombie Simpsons did earlier this year, or that American Idol episode they did a few years back, or that Portlandia one. All of those shows have their own repetitive quirks, and brisk seven minute parodies would work a lot better than trying to stretch things over a full twenty-two minutes. Any Zombie Simpsons attempt to parody them would probably suffer from the usual problems regardless of length, but even in Season 8 it would’ve been tough to build a whole episode around a concept with as few parts as 80s detective shows. Happily, they didn’t try.

End note: I think the above all makes sense, but, as mentioned above, milk of the poppy is coursing through my veins right now, so if it’s gibberish, I apologize on behalf of the opioids. 



Scrounging for Praise

“This is your great uncle Chet. Go ahead, Chet, tell her what you do.” – Homer Simpson
“I run an unsuccessful shrimp company.” – Chet Simpson
“Oh. But you run it, right?” – Homer Simpson
“Oh yeah.” – Chet Simpson

I’m aware that there was a new Zombie Simpsons this week, but I’m out here in the desert helping a friend put a roof on his (second!) kickass, off-the-grid solar house. That’s it in the above picture, and as you can probably guess by the remoteness, internet access here is spotty at best. So I’m probably not gonna get to “Caper Chase”.

Despite my relative isolation, I did catch this tweet from Al Jean the other day:

As you can see from the above, the linked article contains quite a few sign gags, which I’ve long said are about the only thing the show still manages to sometimes do somewhat well. But what really caught my attention was the introduction:

The Simpsons is the longest-running sitcom of all-time – now at 27 seasons (and counting). And, as most “classic Simpsons” fans will attest, the show lost its footing around season 10 and 11 and never recovered, turning into a pale imitation of itself.

They go on to say that Zombie Simpsons is “pretty hilarious”, which I obviously think is a massive overstatement. But I can’t help but find it funny that Jean is willing to twitter brag about an article whose very premise is that Zombie Simpsons isn’t nearly as good as The Simpsons.

Ultimately, this is obviously very minor, but I enjoy the way that the bar has been so lowered for Zombie Simpsons that “pale imitation” is now considered a kosher description by the people who put out the show.


Sunday Preview: A Father’s Watch

Marge turns to a series of parenting experts for advice when she becomes worried that Bart is destined for failure; Homer decides to open a trophy store; Grampa gives Bart a watch coveted by Homer.

Oh joy. An episode of zombie simpsons where inter-generational issues arise. Excuse me while I get a pen so I can jot down the issues that are similar to the ones I have with my father. Oh wait, never mind, I am not watching this crap. Have a day.


Sunday Preview:  22 for 30

Bart goes from delinquent with detention to the star basketball player at Springfield Elementary!

I don’t watch a lot of sports analysis on tv, but I do enjoy the occasional ESPN 30 for 30. I don’t know where this is going tonight, or why a short, fat, yellow kid from the suburbs is on it, but here we are.  Also apparently the mafia is the involved, so we got that going for us too.


Quote of the Day


“I’m sorry, did you just call me a liar?” – Principal Skinner
“No, I said you were fired.” – Superintendent Chalmers
“Oh. That’s much worse.” – Seymour Skinner


Sunday Preview: The Cad and the Hat

When Bart betrays Lisa, he has to deal with his guilt – literally. Meanwhile, Springfield is in awe when Homer is revealed to be a chess savant.

Sure, why not. Homer didn’t pass remedial science in high school, but he can play chess. Paton Oswald has decided to put his fingerprints on this murder scene, so hopefully that works out for him. Also apparently he is voicing Bart’s manifestation of guilt, which means we are probs going to hear a lot of guilty horn music. Well, you will, I am not watching.


Quote of the Day


“Only who can prevent forest fires? . . . You pressed ‘You’, referring to me. That is incorrect. The correct answer is you.” – Robotic Smokey the Bear

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Mountain of Madness”! Original airdate 2 February 1997.


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