Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category


Simpsons Has Warped My Brain

“Marge, this is Andre.” – Patty Bouvier
“Hello.” – Andre
“I think you two would make a lovely couple.” – Patty Bouvier
“My husband is still alive!” – Marge Simpson
“Oh. Thank God. I hope he pulls through.” – Patty Bouvier
“Not me.” – Andre

I’m sitting in a hospital waiting room right now while my Dad has (long overdue) hip replacement surgery. It’s about as low risk as getting cut open and having the top of your femur cut off comes, so I’m not really worried, but I can’t get the above quote out of my head. Like so many Simpsons jokes, it works in about five different ways: Patty and Selma’s utter loathing of Homer, the complete sleaziness of Andre (down to the visible chest hair and chains), the wild inappropriateness of him being in the waiting room, his blase dirtbag delivery on “Not me”, Patty’s deadpan sarcasm as she hopes Homer pulls through, and I think I’m forgetting a couple.

Now, hospital waiting rooms are grim places. Nobody wants to be here, everyone’s bored, and a lot of people are seriously tense. There’s a kind of quiet decorum to it where any activity that passes the time is acceptable, but having fun in any way is not. And I keep chuckling to myself about Andre, the couple making out in the surgery viewing room, and Dr. Nick smelling gas. When they let us back to see my Dad pre-op, the first thought I had upon walking in the room was “bed goes up, bed goes down”.

Times like this are when I don’t feel the least bit wasteful having dedicated significant chunks of my brain to remembering the show. What other program could de-stress me two decades after the fact? A stray line or joke, that’s easy. The Simpsons has whole scenes and episodes that amuse me wherever I go.



Rock Us, Dr. Zaius

“I hate every ape I see, from chimpan-A to chimpan-Z!” – Troy McClure 

This afternoon, Vulture published an oral history of Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!, featuring interviews with Alf Clausen, David S/X Cohen, Chris Ledesma, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Mark Kirkland. (Dana Gould too, but, you know, why?) The whole thing is well worth a read, but I thought I’d highlight a few pieces:

Oakley: Our goal when we took over was to copy season three. Season three of The Simpsons — which we didn’t work on by the way — was the best season of any TV show of all time. When we took over, we said, “What was it about season three that made it so good?” We reverse-engineered it and said, “Well, a lot of the stories were pretty grounded, but they took a couple of crazy leaps out into space with like, ‘Homer at the Bat.’” They did seven Homer episodes, three Lisa episodes, a Sideshow Bob, an Itchy and Scratchy, so we did exactly the same thing. Now as far as the Selma episode, there was an episode in season three where she’s going to marry Sideshow Bob.

I’ve heard Oakley and Weinstein talk about their (justified) love for Season 3, but I never knew they followed it that closely.

On one of the most memorable lines:

Cohen: The reason I remember the moment at all is that it got a big reaction in the room from the other writers, much better than I had expected. So into the script in went. To overanalyze it a little, the question is what, if anything, makes the line better than a run-of-the-mill pun on the word “chimpanzee.”  The fun of it I think is that you get the joke prematurely during the contrived setup, without even needing to get to the pun part. It’s a slightly weird line in that sense.

I used to use that line as the ringtone for a friend of mine who had a (legit) job giving cocaine to monkeys.

On Homer and Bart’s love of “legitimate the-a-ter”:

Mark Kirkland (director for The Simpsons, 1990–present): It was a script that made me laugh a lot to begin with. The thing that struck me was the satire of those classic movies being made into Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, like The Phantom of the Opera and Sunset Boulevard. I caught both of those in the theater so I knew what we were trying to do based on those.

My favorite lines were the one is when Bart says, “This play has everything!” and Homer goes, “Oh, I love legitimate the-a-ter!” The saying we talk about in art and drawing, but it comes from food preparation: A good salad doesn’t have everything in it, and here they are enjoying it because it does. They don’t know how bad it is! It’s a critical success.

That is such a wonderful Simpsons joke, packing so much meaning into two lines and some (expertly) mispronounced syllables by Castellaneta.

Finally (and as usual I don’t mean to pick on anyone with these), there’s another tacit admission that Zombie Simpsons ain’t The Simpsons:

Ledesma: Fans talk so lovingly about “the golden era” from seasons one to eight, this falls right in there, and I think it’s also part of the golden era of the show’s music as well. This is not to say that the show’s music has declined in any way, but the show is different.

Indeed it is.

Anyway, read the whole thing. It’s pretty long and worth every word. Oakley called it a rare visit from the joke fairy.


Quote of the Day

“Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday, overlooked middle child. Happy birthday to me.” – Lisa Simpson

Happy birthday Yeardley Smith!


Ad Hoc Beer Marathon

“Hey, Homer, you busy?” – Lenny
“Yes.” – Homer Simpson

I used to do these with more preparation, but it’s Saturday, I’m sick and tired of being responsible, and my fridge has a lot of beer in it. May the Lord bless and keep the VLC random play function…

The Last Temptation of Homer

– Bart’s parking line prank is one of his best. Especially since the punchline is the psychological frailty of the faculty.

– Look how bored Burns is when Charlie describes the fake emergency exit. He’s not even mad yet, and he’s always kinda mad.

– That plane crashed on his property!

– “Your appearance is comical to me.”

– “Hey, Joey Joe Joe!” Great throwaway joke.

– There’s such wonderful layers to Homer’s “Foul temptress! I’ll bet she thinks Ziggy’s gotten too preachy too!” It’s eleven words, moves the plot, and there’s like three jokes.

– God I miss Phil Hartman. He has one line in this whole episode, and it’s perfect.

– Fucking Season 5, I could write a whole post about almost every scene.

– Stewart callback!

– There’s no way to do the porter’s many sex sounds in text. You can’t even really quote it well. But it’s awesome.

– “Hey, kids, did anyone pray for giant shoes?”

– Simpsons Did It

– I love the immediate and unbridled hostility of the energy convention MC’s “No” when Homer asks if he can get out of dinner with Mindy.

– The ending of this episode is a great example of how the show handled real conflict and emotion with speed and humor. We get right up to Homer thinking he might cheat on Marge with Minday (who’s in the room), which cuts immediately to the reveal that it’s actually Marge in his room, which cuts immediately to her noticing that there’s a turkey behind the bed. On Zombie Simpsons that would take a minute and a half and Homer would explain how he’d been thinking about cheating on her.

Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily

– Love the 1960s Batman sound when Marge wraps the sandwiches. #RIPAdamWest

– Count Homer’s test drive would be so much worse on Zombie Simpsons. They’d probably make it a montage instead of just using “gently massages your buttocks” as a punchline.

– “See you in hell, you wingless bloodsuckers!” (Also more great sound effects with the lice squeaking pathetically as they’re incinerated.)

– Stupid baby

– Now that’s a quick sign gag.

– The “turn tape over” gag is a piece of history now.

– “I don’t judge Homer and Marge. That’s for a vengeful God to do.” Maude Flanders was really an awful human being and it made her a great foil for Ned.

– This isn’t the goriest Itchy & Scratchy, but it is one of the most straight up horrifying. “Why? Why? My only son.”

– Homer in front of the judge is hilarious. He actually does love his kids, but way, way less than he’s annoyed by them. His unthinking default is that he doesn’t want to be around them.

– “I want wintergreen!”, “Unflavored for me.”. On a related topic, I’ve been watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Mrs. Mad Jon’s Hulu login.

– “Put your garbage in a garbage can, people. I can’t stress that enough.”

– The scene where Bart and Lisa watch the Flandereses put Maggie to bed is another example of how ruthlessly efficient the storytelling used to be. It sets up Maggie as the one Simpson who might like it next door, has several jokes, and shows us how much Bart and Lisa both hate it there and miss home. It takes like ten seconds.

– The Vulgate of Saint Jerome! That’s The Simpsons, an obscure, fourth century bible translation as a punchline.

– “Ned, have you thought about one of the other major religions? They’re all pretty much the same.”

– More great storytelling, the way Maggie instantly bails on the pond soaked Homer, Bart, and Lisa for the Flandereses, only turning aside when Marge shows up. It’s perfectly in character and fast.


In Marge We Trust

– Late 90s French nuclear weapons test were a gift from God to the Simpsons writers room

– “In that case, he should’ve made the week an hour longer. Lousy God.”

– As someone who spent far too many weekend hours in un-air conditioned churches, I really identify with Lovejoy’s constancy sermon.

– “No, no, I don’t feel like going to a trash pile today.”
“It’s your life.”

– Season 8 isn’t the first time we see A and B plots that are completely unrelated, but it does seem like where it becomes kinda standard.

– “Do you know thanks to you I’ve rediscovered a form of shame that’s gone unused for 700 years?”

– Lovejoy’s decades long irritation with Flanders is a pretty solid foundation for an episode. “I think I may be coveting my own wife.”

– “Hi, it’s me again. I got another problem. This one’s about my cat.”

– Great fourth wall joke with Marge insisting that nobody is watching them right now.

– Gotta love the librarian as Homer starts clearly dialing Japan.

– I don’t know if “You’re just lucky God isn’t here” is a George Meyer line, but it feels like one.


– “Awesome power”

– I love Season 8, but it has a bad tic of weird endings, the ape fight in this one definitely included. (See also: fan man, phony kidnapping, rocket house, The Eliminator…)

– “She taught me that there’s more to being a minister than not caring about people.”

– And then it ends on a much more entertaining, but completely a-religious sermon. It’s the little things that make this show so rewatchable. (Eat me, spellcheck, “rewatchable” is too a word.)


The Springfield Connection

– Upper lower middle class types. Heh.

– “You’re giving three card monty a bad name!”, mumbled punchlines are a great way to say something really stupid and make it even funnier than it otherwise would be. The finger thing means the taxes.

– Homer just assuming Marge is a hysterical woman saved by the police is typical of how the show made fun of sexism without getting preachy like Ziggy. At it’s most basic, sexism is stupid, and Homer is it’s perfect unthinking adherent. Look at her face here!

– Ditto the cops laughing when she says she wants to be a police officer.

– “Forget about the badge, when do we get the freakin’ guns?!”

– I think I mentioned this on the Season 6 beer marathon, but I’ve never been able to get those Magic Eye things to work.

– I watched Zootopia recently. Great movie co-directed by Simpsons alum Rich Moore. The police briefing scene there is a lot like the one here. I mean, police briefing scenes are pretty well trod ground (and this whole thing is a Hill Street Blues parody), but the way the jokes flow is very similar here.

– “This padding’s so easy on the knuckles, I could punch all day.”

– Homer and the police tape. It builds and builds and builds right up to Flanders nearly cracking as Homer wallows in his own crapulence.

– The extremely bleak politics of the show shines through when Lisa asks Marge about the police enforcing the status quo for the wealthy elite. That’s “woke”.

– Love the light flicker after Moleman gets executed.

– Poor Antoine Bugelboy

– Homer’s reflexive sexism pops up again when he tells Herman to “leave the girl out of this!”.

– The show even sneaks in a quick parody of the end of all those detective and mystery shows when Homer asks Marge how she figured it out.


Brush With Greatness

– Minor point, but Bart and Lisa holding hands about what a “great week” it’s been is pitch perfect in the way networks/channels try and get people to believe they were there for something.

– I wanna go to Mount Splashmore. Take me take me take me take me now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!

– Another wonderful Homer moment when his first reaction to Marge’s heartfelt tale of quitting painting and going to art class is, “Do I have to do anything?”.

– Only 35 calories . . .

– Jon Lovitz never had a Troy McClure or Lionel Hutz, but he was one of the greatest recurring guest stars. He nailed every voice.

– Case in point: “Marge, please, I don’t take praise very well!”

– “And as the wife of an employee she’ll be easily intimidated.”

– Carl with Lenny’s voice, ah, Season 2.

– Ringo on “Gear!”, remember when the show gave celebrities fun things to say?

– “Thank goodness. Another day in this suburban nightmare and I would’ve needed half a white Valium.”

– Marge’s brief painting montage is another little moment of character display. We see her painting, but we also see 1) the whole family watching, then 2) only Lisa and Maggie watching (and Lisa yawns), and finally 3) just Maggie there, asleep in the background.

– He’s no art critic, but he knows what he hates.


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.


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