Archive for the 'The Simpsons' Category



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.

09
Dec
16

New Simpsons Blog Dedicated to Those Longer Shots

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“You will notice, my new best friend, that we are pretty casual around here.” – Scorpio
“Yes, sir. I will notice that.” – Homer Simpson

A few weeks ago I got an email from a new Simpsons blogger who’s got a novel idea for looking at the show. You know those long shots the show uses to scroll wider or taller than a single scene allows? He stitches them together far better than I’ve ever managed:

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This is less encouraging.

You can see more at By the Big Cooling Tower. (It’s on Tumblr, so if you are too, drop him one of those notes or however it is Tumblr works.) Some other excellent example include, all the wonderful things Mr. Burns has:

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If you ask me, they should’ve finalized things with the “Suckers” version.

Reflective McClure:

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Narcissus himself.

And a street scene from Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport:

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America’s scrod basket!

Each one comes with a description of how the scene is set up and some details that you might not have noticed otherwise. It’s a novel and insightful way to look at the show, and I highly recommend it. Thanks, Steven, and keep it up!

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.




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