Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category

15
Jan
17

Sunday Preview: The Great Phatsby

Mr. Burns plots revenge against the music mogul who conned him with help from the mogul’s ex-wife, rapper Jazzy James, Homer and Bart.

So tonight is an hour long episode of zombie simpsons, which means we are in for a treat. It is what I assume to be a cross promotional episode for Empire, as Taraji P Henson is guest voicing, along with the RZA, Snoop Dog and Common. Also Keegan Michael Key is allowing his fingerprints to be on this train wreck, which is unfortunate as I find him quite entertaining. 

Long and short of it is that tonight fox is going to show us what really happens when you try to shove 60 minutes of shit in a 30 minute bag.

09
Jan
17

Quote of the Day

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“Bart, I’ve noticed your birthday presents are a poor crop at best. I hope this turns the tide.” – Martin Prince
“Ooh, just gorgeous.” – Patty Bouvier
“Now we can be twins!” – Martin Prince

Happy birthday, Al Jean!

28
Dec
16

Quote of the Day

 

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“You’re as pretty as Princess Leia and as smart as Yoda.” – Homer Simpson

Goodbye, Carrie Fisher. We love you and you knew it.

 

23
Dec
16

Quote of the Day

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“Ninety seconds to core meltdown.” – SNPP Computer Voice
“Sir, there may never be another time to say: I love you, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Oh, hot dog. Thank you for making my last few moments on Earth socially awkward!” – C.M. Burns

Happy birthday, Harry Shearer!

17
Dec
16

Cruelly Bleak Simpsons Lines

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“I’m just wondering: what’s the point? Would it make any difference at all if I never existed? How can we sleep at night when there’s so much suffering in the world?” – Lisa Simpson
“Well . . . uh . . . come on, Lisa! Ride the Homer horsey! Giddy-up, weeee!” – Homer Simpson

The Simpsons always took a pretty dim view not just of human nature, but of human existence generally. Misdeeds are rarely punished, triumphs are rarely recognized, and justice is all but non-existent. After all, if there’s one thing Homer’s learned, it’s that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.

So, in honor of Simpsons Day, here are some of the show’s most existentially bleak lines. This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, so feel free to suggest your own in the comments.

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“Please don’t make me retire. My job is the only thing that keeps me alive. I never married and my dog is dead.”

We only ever see Jack Marley in “Marge Gets a Job”, and he breaks down sobbing at this short, horrifically bleak summary of his own life. Worst/funniest of all: later we see him not get his job back, which means that the reason we haven’t seen him again is probably because he died shortly thereafter.

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“Sir, six cinder blocks are missing.”
“There’ll be no hospital then. I’ll tell the children.”

The children – presumably very sick ones – who’ve been waiting for a new hospital so they can get better, will now continue to suffer and die because Homer Simpson wanted a crappy bookshelf. Truly, fate is cruel.

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“I’m trying to turn it off.”
“No, bear want to live!”

The first time I saw Rick & Morty‘s ultra-depressing butter robot, I thought of Frink’s doomed bear. It’s a sentient being staring into an unanswerable existential crises because it was somebody’s side project. At least the robots in Westworld are magnificent masterpieces, the bear and the butter robot are hopeless.

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“I used to be with it, then they changed what it was. Not what I’m with isn’t it, and what’s it seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you.”

Even youth cannot protect you from obsolescence and death. There’s a reason I see this line quoted all the time as one of the show’s best: it’s depressing when you’re a kid, and it just gets worse with each passing year.

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“Most of you will never fall in love and marry out of fear of dying alone.”

Happiness is only ever attained by a few people, and certainly not by you. Congratulations on your nuptials.

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“I guess one person can make a difference, but most of the time they probably shouldn’t.”

Your beliefs and activism are probably futile, and even if you succeed it won’t have the effect you wanted. Vote Trump.

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“Before we sit down to our delicious turkey puree, I have some happy news. The following people have relatives who wish they could be here today: Antonovsky, Conroy, Falcone, Martin, Thorson, and Walsh . . . oh, and Mrs. Spencer, you too.”
“Oh, I knew they wouldn’t forget me.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: nobody got it worse on this show than old people. This poor, lonely old lady has her heart warmed because the family that imprisoned her in the Springfield Retirement Castle (Motto: Thanks for not discussing the outside world) sent a fax. Forget just on The Simpsons, that’s one of the saddest things on television ever.

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“Asa Phelps spent his entire life in Springfield except for four years service in World War II and one high school day trip. He worked at the United Strut and Bracing Works as a molder’s boy, until he was replaced by a molder-matic and died.”

A funeral with no guests, save two men who were waiting to profit from his death, now that’s bleak. A life spent entirely in Springfield, his only skill made obsolete, and then an unnoticed demise, Asa Phleps had it every bit as bad as Frank Grimes. At least Grimey’s funeral had mourners.

16
Dec
16

Dear Matt Groening, Are You Really Okay With Video Slot Machines?

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“Once something has been approved by the government, it’s no longer immoral!” – Reverend Lovejoy

Ever since Bartmania back in 1990, FOX has been keen to use licensed merchandise (often of dubious quality) to pad its bottom line on the Simpsons. This can be alarm clocks that eat batteries and can’t be plugged in, drink trays that misquote the show, or a seemingly endless number of “collectible” dolls and figurines. Tchotchkes and t-shirts may be soulless consumerism at its most blatant, but they’re also relatively harmless. The same cannot be said of video slot machines.

Video slots are (as those of you who’ve read my little ebook about The Simpsons: Tapped Out will already be aware) rigged games that are built to ensnare and bankrupt people. If you want to understand why and how, I can’t recommend Addiction By Design by Natasha Dow Schull strongly enough. But the very short version is that by employing sophisticated and well tested psychological concepts, slot machine companies can create a “game” to which some players will become medically addicted. So while most people who elect to play the machine will quickly lose a few bucks and then move along, a small percentage will get entranced, with losses running to tens of thousands of dollars and potential destitution, not to mention plenty of life ruining side effects (bankruptcy, eviction, etcetera).

The gambling industry goes out of its way to obscure this by offering token sops to gambling addiction programs and talking about “responsible gaming”, but the simple fact of the matter is that a huge percentage of their revenue comes from people who are diagnostically addicted. In other words: most of their money comes from inducing, exploiting, and fostering an illness. And now Matt Groening is joining them.

I’m singling out Groening for a reason. He supposedly has some influence or control over what gets licensed and what doesn’t. In the past, it’s been widely reported that he resisted licensing a real life Duff beer since the show remains (nominally) for children. The oft cited phrase (which I’ve seen countless times myself) is:

Groening has said he considered giving permission to make the beer a few years ago but pulled back over concern that it would encourage kids to drink.

That comes from a site called Joe Sixpack, and it’s the citation on the Wikipedia article about Duff Beer. Near as Google can tell me, that Joe Sixpack link and the Wikipedia article are the direct or indirect sources for that same quote everywhere else on-line, from the British newspaper The Telegraph to pop culture site The Mary Sue. Given such poor sourcing, I don’t know whether or not Groening ever actually shot down an official Duff license (I kinda think he mentioned it on a commentary once, but can’t find a source), but it does seem like the kind of thing he would say.

Of course, Duff is now a reality at both Universal Studio theme parks, but serving watery beer to tourists is a far cry from jamming casinos with deliberately addictive slot machines. A goofy and overpriced theme park snack isn’t going to turn anyone into an alcoholic, but a Simpsons video slot machine can and will cause real life people to become gambling addicts. A year or two after those machines hit the casino floor, there are going to be people at Gamblers Anonymous meetings who now have empty bank accounts because of something with Groening’s signature on the side of it.

Here (via Denise and Karma on Twitter) are the details:

A year ago, I wrote about Scientific Games’ “The Simpsons,” which created a big buzz at G2E 2015. But the game was held back and returned in a new version this year.

Why?

“Last year when we showed the game, our licencor saw it and they thought it was a great product, but I think they really wanted to make it stand out a little more,” Rosen explains. “The nice thing for us is they got their hands dirty with us and they created custom content for the entire product. They did all the animation. They did voice over sessions with Hank Azaria and Dan Castellaneta to do custom content. They had a writer write scripts for the game.”

Now, I have no doubt that FOX and News Corp are comfortable with profiting from something as nakedly greedy and predatory as video slots. They even scotched the first version of this and paid Azaria, Castellaneta, and at least one writer to go in and make it catchier (i.e. more addicting). What I want to know – publicly – is if Matt Groening is comfortable with it as well. I know this blog gets read by at least a few current and former Simpsons staffers, as well as the occasional entertainment reporter, so: has anyone asked him?

The next time he’s on a panel, or taking questions from an audience, or doing a publicity thing, I would like someone to say, “Mr. Groening, video slot machines have been definitively linked to problem gambling; knowing that, are you comfortable with your name and your creation being used for video slots?”

I want to know because I like Groening, and I like his work, and this crosses the line between everyday villainy and cartoonish super-villainy. Maybe he doesn’t know about the harm video slot machines do and just signed off on this as one more project. Maybe he does know and doesn’t care. Maybe he doesn’t know and would care enough to squelch the project. I kinda doubt that last one, but it’s worth asking, because this is vile.

14
Dec
16

Behind Us Forever: The Nightmare After Krustmas

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“Let’s just agree that the commercialization of Christmas is at best a mixed blessing.” – Lisa Simpson
“Amen.” – Gary Coleman

Annual or near annual Christmas episodes were never a hallmark of The Simpsons. The premier episode was a Christmas special, but that was the last time the show did a Christmas episode until Season 7’s “Marge Be Not Proud”. That five season gap has never been repeated. The show went back to the tinsel well in Seasons 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, and now again in Season 28. (And I might have missed one because a lot of those seasons blur together.)

This year’s entry in that sad parade was several pieces of fractured nonsense mashed together into an episode. There’s a bit about Krusty connecting with his estranged daughter, who’s apparently a devout Christian. There’s also a bit about Reverend Lovejoy needing more converts, which leads him to lean on Krusty, which leads to Krusty making his show dull and then almost drowning in a frozen river. There’s also a C plot about Maggie being afraid of an Elf on the Shelf type thing called the Gnome in Your Home. It involves lots of exposition and an extended dream sequence in which nothing happens except a completely pointless cameo by Wayne Gretzky.

As per usual, Zombie Simpsons seems blissfully unaware of its own story even as it unfolds. Early in the episode we see Lovejoy get pressured from his superiors to get more converts. It’s dumb (and more and higher ranking reverends keep walking into the scene for no reason), but whatever, it’s a decent enough start for a plot. Lovejoy eventually bumbles into Krusty while both are at Moe’s, which is odd but I guess still sorta makes sense. We next see Krusty at church singing an off lyric hymn on stage while his daughter is for some reason sitting with the Simpsons, which doesn’t make sense on multiple levels, but is at least still moving the story forward.

From there things get utterly incoherent as one of Lovejoy’s bosses shows up again to say that Krusty needs to be baptized right away for no particular reason. Lovejoy states Krusty’s reasons for wanting to wait, which are then immediately dropped so Krusty can get baptized in a frozen river. Krusty then falls into the river, has a near death experience, and comes out apparently still a Christian, until – with not even a single line of dialogue to explain it – he sits next to a Jewish ambulance and is immediately Jewish again.

All this makes so little sense that in an unrelated sequence after the story ends, they show regular God next to a Jewish version of regular God (no, it doesn’t make any sense) arguing over which one of them gets credit for Krusty. I understand that the show has a kind of “rubberband” reality where things can get stretched, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that the rubberband not get stretched, released, and then broken several times during the same story, sometimes even during the same scene. Case in point: Krusty’s near death experience under the ice is treated as serious even though Jasper catches him on an ice fishing line and Reverend Lovejoy pulls him out of the water, after which Krusty is fine.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be low and meaningless. On Sunday, just 5.60 million viewers wondered how many Christmas episodes Zombie Simpsons has done by now. That’s about where the ratings were last December, which is both bad in terms of overall viewers and irrelevent since the show will be with us for at least two more seasons anyway. That should result in at least one more bland and immemorable Christmas episode.




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