Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category

02
Dec
16

A Small Example of Typically Astonishing Dialogue from “Rosebud”

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“I’m so funny! This is gonna be great!” – Homer Simpson
“What are you doing?” – Marge Simpson
“I’m writing a delicious send up of Mr. Burns for his birthday party. Is “poo-poo” one word or two?” – Homer Simpson

The Simpsons wouldn’t be what it is without the acting, the animation, the music, the sound effects, and everything else, but ultimately it all derives from the writing, and the writing on the show was as finely honed as any artistic masterpiece. Consider this brief stretch of dialog from “Rosebud”:

Homer: “Ow. Where did I lose ’em? I’ll never wiggle my bare butt in public again.”
Lisa: “I’d like to believe that this time, I really would.”
Marge: “Bart, run down to the store and get a big bag of ice for your father.”
Bart: “Yes’m. Dad, I know you’re discouraged, but please don’t deny the world your fat can.”
Homer: “Don’t worry, boy, she’ll be ready for your Aunt Selma’s birthday.”
Lisa: “I knew it.”

If this exchange isn’t taught in screenwriting classes, it should be. The jokes start in the first line because Homer didn’t “lose” his audience, he never had them in the first place. (Going on after an announcement about the death of a small puppy, not unlike Lassie, will do that.)

From there Homer, profoundly dejected, declares that he’s going to keep his “bare butt” private from now on. Lisa’s response is three punchlines in one: 1) “like to believe”, because she clearly doesn’t, 2) “this time”, which means Homer has promised to stop showing his butt to strangers multiple times before, and 3) “I really would”, the resigned, melancholy sincerity of this means that not only does she not believe him, she’s so numb from being let down in the past that she can’t bring herself to believe her father even a little.

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Look how sad she is.

The next line is Marge advancing the plot (a/k/a exposition) which the show seamlessly blends in with the jokes. It fits snugly both with Marge’s character and the immediate situation. This kind of routine, quick, and sensible story advancement is totally beyond Zombie Simpsons.

Bart gives his mother a smarmy “Yessum”, as though he routinely does errands with no objection, and then immediately tries to cheer Homer up by telling him not to be “discouraged” about mooning strangers. Note that he doesn’t say it directly or even crudely, his appeal to Homer is downright noble in its phrasing: to not “deny the world” Homer’s “fat can”. Bart finds Homer’s ass as sincerely hilarious as Lisa finds it mortifying, and the wording perfectly conveys that without so much as a wasted syllable or stray modifier.

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Look how genuinely supportive Bart is of Homer’s penchant for mooning. It’s endearingly funny.

Because of that setup, Homer’s response can work on two levels: first, he instantly cheers up because, like Bart, Homer finds “wiggling his bare butt” in public to be the height of humor. He’s almost gleeful about it. Second, despite his earlier declaration to stop, he’s already got his next act of public nudity planned for his despised sister-in-law’s birthday.

Finally, the scene ends with a callback to Lisa’s multi-punchline from fifteen seconds earlier. The simple “I knew it” confirms her earlier skepticism, so not only did Lisa not believe her father, it becomes even funnier because she was right to do so.

The entire scene is less than thirty seconds long and contains only six lines of dialogue, but it moves the story along, shows off the entire family, and is packed not just with jokes, but with layered jokes. Scenes like this are a big part of why the show is so endlessly rewatchable: no screen time is ever wasted, and anything that can be funny is funny.

20
Nov
16

Sunday Preview: Dad Behavior

Homer finds a new app that makes his life much easier and outsources his father-son bonding. Meanwhile, Grampa finds that he is about to be father again.

Matt Leinart will be guest voicing tonight, as will Dan Fouts. This app apparently must have something to do with NFL quarterbacks, although why they picked a first round hall of famer and a man who was forgotten several years ago is beyond my ability to reason. Enjoy.

18
Nov
16

A Short Appreciation of “The War of the Simpsons”

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“Now, about last night, you might’ve noticed Daddy acting a little strange and you probably don’t understand why.” – Homer Simpson
“I understand why. You were wasted.” – Bart Simpson
“I admit it. I didn’t know when to say when. I’m sorry it happened and I just hope you didn’t lose a lot of respect for me.” – Homer Simpson
“Dad, I have as much respect for you as I ever did or ever will.” – Bart Simpson
“Aww.” – Homer Simpson

Even all these years later, the vast range of types of episodes the show managed to knock out of the park remains astonishing. Case in point, “The War of the Simpsons” was preceded by the heart crushing “Lisa’s Substitute” and followed by the pop culture romp of “Three Men and a Comic Book”, but it’s nothing like either one. (This is one reason I’ve always found it so hard to pick favorites or even stand-out episodes.)

It starts fast with Homer immediately becoming a drunken buffoon at Marge’s fancy party. But the scene isn’t just Homer being a jerk, we’ve also got Moe resenting Flanders playing bartender, Barney getting maced, Maggie tearing up money, Lisa wanting to hear the “witty banter of sophisticated adults”, and Hibbert telling Marge what to do “if” she wants Homer to live through the night. (She doesn’t do it.) This sets up Marge’s justifiable anger at Homer as well as her solo trip to church where we get the marriage encounter weekend set up.

All of that happens before the first commercial break. Plus there’s Bart patronizing Homer about how much respect Bart has for him, Homer’s fictional Algonquin Round Table flashback, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it callback joke to Homer ogling Maude where she checks her blouse buttons in church, and more.

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That music always sends a chill down their spines.

What makes all of it work so well is that everyone is perfectly in character. So, for example, Marge gives Grampa an overly-detailed list of numbers to call in case things happen. Marge being Marge, she then sneaks a number to the kids in case Grampa falls down in the bathtub (one of the episode’s many brutal old people slams). Directly after, Bart, having anticipated this move on his mother’s part, hands Grampa a list he made that allows the kids to run wild. Lisa is initially reluctant, but she’s still a kid and more than happy to go to the grocery store and buy nothing but ice cream.

Both stories then accelerate from there: Homer botches the marriage retreat, Marge gets her patience tested more than ever before, Bart runs too wild, Lisa begins to regret what they’re doing, Grampa gets increasingly overwhelmed. The whole family is showcased, and everyone’s funny just being who they are.

Even the non-family characters get to be funny as caricatures of real people. Reverend Lovejoy’s retreat is both shallow (“A marriage can’t be reconciled in a few hours, Homer. It takes a whole weekend to do that!”) and pathetic (“Three couples, our best turnout yet!”). The bait shop guy is a dead-on bait shop guy: not in any kind of hurry and master of local lore that only he (and Homer) could possibly think is important. And, of course, there’s John and Gloria, quite possibly the bitterest couple in television history. They’re only in one scene, but in just their handful of lines we get a technicolor picture of their years of mounting anger and resentment and frustration.

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Here’s your crown your majesty!

This is the show putting all of its considerable powers on display. The writing is dense with jokes and meaning, but flows so well that it’s hilarious no matter how rapid it gets. The art and animation can handle everything from intimate scenes between couples to Homer’s epic battle with General Sherman. And the voice acting is stand-out perfect in more places than I can count: Castellaneta’s sarcastic, “I also understand bowling expressions”, Cartwright’s resigned, “You’re great at a party, Lis. Really great”, and Kavner turning a simple “No, I’m not” into a repeated punchline.

Even the ending works perfectly. Homer and Marge get back together despite Homer’s continued idiocy because for all his flaws, he is supremely dedicated and loyal to Marge (“I gave up fame and breakfast for my marriage.”). And, best of all, Grampa finally gets one over on the kids who’ve been taking advantage of him all episode, which the show turns into one of its trademark anti-authority statements, with Bart declaring: “I’ll never trust another old person.”

Like so many episodes from the show’s golden years, there isn’t another one quite like this. But being so distinct doesn’t hurt it in the least. It’s still perfectly hilarious, it’s just perfectly hilarious in different ways that the others.

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16
Nov
16

Quote of the Day

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“Yeah, General Sherman, they say he’s five hundred pounds of bottom dwelling fury, dontcha know? No one knows how old he is. But, if you ask me, and most people do, he’s a hundred years if he’s a day.” – Bait Shop Owner
“And no one’s ever caught him?” – Tourist
“Well, one fella came close. Went by the name of Homer. Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks. And his eyes were like steel: cold and hard. Had a shock of hair, red, like the fires of hell.” – Bait Shop Owner

Happy birthday, John Swartzwelder!

14
Nov
16

Quote of the Day

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“I must say, Luann, you’re really handling this splendidly.” – Marge Simpson
“From now on, forget everything you thought you knew about Luann van Houten!” – Luann van Houten
“Actually, Luann, I don’t really know anything about you.” – Marge Simpson
“Forget it! She’s gone! Presto change-o, kaboom! Sweet Fanny Adams, bye-bye!” – Luann van Houten

Happy birthday, Maggie Roswell!

13
Nov
16

Sunday Preview: Havana Wild Weekend

When the Retirement Castle and V.A. Hospital can’t help Grampa with his health problems, the Simpsons decide to take a family trip to Cuba so they can get him some cheap medical care.

Perhaps the stars have aligned to allow zombie simpsons fans an opportunity to see this episode before president elect trump reverses any progress we made normalizing relations with Cuba… …but I digress. 

06
Nov
16

Sunday Preview: There Will Be Buds


Homer gets roped into coaching the kids’ lacrosse team with Milhouse’s dad, Kirk, who is in desperate need of a friend. When Kirk gets too clingy, Homer vents about how much of a loser he is. Kirk overhears his rant and disappears, right when the team needs him most: the championship game…

Joe Mantegna shows up tonight as Fat Tony, so I think we have to assume that Homer is a shitty coach but the team does well with Kirk at the helm, Homer places a bet on the championship game and needs Kirk to win it when he has a last second realization that he is not the reason the team has done well. Sorry for the runon sentence, but i am trying to finish the post as fast as possible so that I can go back to pretending that zombie simpsons has been cancelled.




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