Posts Tagged ‘138th Episode Spectacular


Reading Digest: Groening Appreciation Edition

Groening and His Work

“The Simpsons began as the brain child of cartoonist Matt Groening, the already famous creator of such comics as Damnation, Johnny Reb, and True Murder Stories.” – Troy McClure

This week we’ve got three links to articles about Groening, two of which are tied for Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week.  First there’s an old magazine article that’s a really nice time capsule of Groening perched on the cusp of worldwide fame, and then there’s a bunch of other cartoonists celebrating the rich bastard he became.  In addition to that we’ve got some cool fan made art, some evidence that rock may indeed have achieved perfection in 1974, an inventive and specific Bart costume, and English as a second language students learning from the show.

COMMENTING NOTE: For whatever reason, WordPress has been getting bombarded with spam comments of late.  It’s been ticking up for a couple of months, but just this week the number of comments in the spam queue went from around ten each morning to several hundred.  I usually sort through them in case something legitimate got flagged, which I know has happened to a few of you, but now there’s just too many for me to do that.  If you’re having trouble getting a comment posted, please e-mail me. 


1989 Matt Groening Profile in Mother Jones – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week (A) is this old article about Groening from right before the show premiered.  There’s a ton of great stuff in there, but I particularly like this description of the opening:

In the title sequence of The Simpsons, the camera descends into an animated American Anytown, meeting the family members at the close of their working day, sort of like The Flintstones.  This is not, however, the end of a Yabba-Dabba-Doo day.  Homer finishes his shift in a nuclear plant by accidentally carrying out of a bit of glowing nuclear waste; Marge the mom waits in a checkout line while the clerk unintentionally passes baby Maggie over the electronic product-code reader; sister Lisa stops band practice cold with her free-bop sax playing; and son Bart has been kept after school, forced to write various messages on the blackboard.  I WILL NOT WASTE CHALK, he writes at the beginning of one episode, and in another, I WILL NOT INSTIGATE REVOLUTION.  Finally the family converges at home, gathering before the TV set to watch, yes, The Simpsons.

It’s neat to read someone describe that extremely familiar sequence to an audience who had never seen it.  We’ve gotten inured to it over the years, but it really was unlike any other opening at the time, so much so that it takes an entire paragraph to explain.

PICKS OF THE WEEK: To celebrate ‘Life in Hell,’ cartoonists collaborate on a gift for Groening – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week (1) is this collection of cartoons by other cartoonists celebrating Life in Hell after Groening retired it.  Some of them are damn funny.

INK2012 Day 2: When Groening met Barry – And we’ve got a nice little writeup of Groening and his old cartoonist friend Lynda Barry at a conference together.

Reverend Lovejoy on Religion – Lovejoy has some good ones, including this.

What is the best Treehouse of Horror short? – The verdict here is “The Shinning”, but there are a lot of contenders.

Day 110: Global Handwashing Day – The woman who had that sweet Surly costume a while back today has dressed up like Bart Simpson, as he appears after Laura spits in his hand.  Awesome.

Top 100 Favorite Shows of All Time – 20-11 – The show comes in at #16 on this list, but you get the feeling that it’d be higher if not for Zombie Simpsons:

I’ll start by saying I don’t often watch The Simpsons anymore, and haven’t done so for years.

So How Much Would You Pay For This? – Does the middle of this very expensive painting look like Bart Simpson?  Enh, kinda.

Starbucks gives away Simpsons’ ‘Treehouse’ – Cool:

Starbucks, which has been offering free downloads of music, ebooks and apps at its coffee shops, has started giving away the original episode of "The Simpson’s’ "Treehouse of Horror," that originally aired in 1990 on Fox.

Episode will be available as a free iTunes download as Starbucks’ in-store "Pick of the Week" through through Oct. 23, according to a store manager in New York City. The cards started appearing in Starbucks stores today across the U.S. and Canada.

That’s certainly nice of them.  I wonder how much FOX charged?  (via)

Breaking Amish…In 10 Words – They’re still not fighting back!

Obama and Romney’s Second Debate…In 10 Words – No, dear, the card question’ll be fine.

THE WORLD’S BEST JACKET – It’s debatable, but it’s hard to beat Elvis and Marilyn.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out- Unlocking Witch Marge – Apparently there’s an expansion pack for that iOS game, and this is how you get some of it.

Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact. – In support of Homer’s point, a list, rather long, of all the great rock albums that came out in 1974. 

Previewing the 2012-13 Denver Nuggets – Extended excellent usage:

One of my favorite lines from episodes of The Simpsons is when Montgomery Burns opens up a Casino in Springfield – Homer Simpson gets a job there and Marge Simpson soon becomes attached to the gambling lifestyle. At the end of the episode, Homer and Marge have a heart-to-heart about Marge’s issue.

Homer, "You have a gambling problem."

Marge, "That’s true. Will you forgive me?"

Homer, "Sure. Remember when I got caught stealing all those watches from Sears? Well, that’s nothing because you have a gambling problem. And remember when I let that escaped lunatic in the house because he was dressed like Santa Claus? Well, you have a gambling problem."

It’s a long quote, and while Homer does have an “Oh” in front of “Sure”, that’s a long quote that’s done right.  Excellent. 

My best pick-up line – Heh.

Deja Vu? – More heh, this time with jagged metal cereal.

Dying for a BBQ? – Fugu for real:

Despite the reputation, a small number of poisoning cases are recorded every year (Up to 40 cases, and very few of these are from restaurants, but rather fishermen eating their own catch) and the fatality rate is actually very low, at about 7%.  And despite the famous Simpsons episode in which Homer is told he will die from fugu poisoning, the effects would take hold and kill you quickly without the intervention of a respirator.  So, the Simpsons lied to me about fugu and Annual Gift Man, and I have yet to see Homer’s face on the box of a household cleaning product for Mr. Sparkle.  Is there no end to the lies TV will tell you?

I know it doesn’t seem possible, but I guess TV can betray you.

Day 12: A song that you want played at your wedding(or was played) – A cut off of Simpsons Sing the Blues, with YouTube.

And Now for Something Completely Different – A Simpson chess set that, sadly, got stolen.

1- I LEARNED FROM ‘THE SIMPSONS’ SERIES… – There are four of these, and they’re being reblogged by a Brazilian English language school.  Cool.

Just ‘Cause 5 – Animated .gif of Bart riding the pig from “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”.

Athletic Misadventures – Moderate usage:

There is an episode of The Simpsons where Lisa enrolls at a military school.  After a few weeks of pushups, obstacles courses, and formation drills, she finds herself intimidated by the physicality required of the students.  Lisa bemoans her situation to Bart who questions “I thought you wanted a challenge?”  Lisa responds with “Duh, a challenge I could DO.”

That is precisely how I felt yesterday attempting to complete the Flagstaff Extreme course.

Bart actually says, “I thought you came here looking for a challenge”, but the Lisa half is dead on.

Transformations 18 – Fan made crossover drawings, including one of Lisa.

Journey Through the Past: The 1990s – And finally, our old friend Philip J. Reed has written an appreciation of some 1990s cultural artifacts, including this excellent take on “22 Short Films About Springfield”:

Coming at a time when The Simpsons could genuinely do no wrong, “22 Short Films About Springfield” reads like a time-capsule today. It’s a relic — and a loving, fascinating, and clever one — of a time when Springfield was more than just a sea of caricatures and types; it was a place, fully functional in and of itself. One operating under its own logic and impossible to mistake for the real world, but real in its own way all the same.

It was nice when Springfield was a place that was real enough to be funny instead of the bottomless prop closet they have now.


Quote of the Day

Bond & Blofeld

“Well, at least tell me the details of your plot for world domination!” – Not James Bond
“Oh, ho, ho, I’m not going to fall for that one again.” – Not Blofeld


Compare & Contrast: Cliffhangers & Cultural Relevance

“This past summer, all of America was trying to solve the mystery of who shot Mr. Burns, then they found out it was the baby.” – Troy McClure

Twas the summer of 1980, and America was atwitter over a television cliffhanger about who had shot a character named J.R. on a primetime soap opera called Dallas.  T-shirts were produced, bets were placed, and, if the Wikipedia article titled simply “Who shot J.R.?” is to be believed, that year’s presidential contest even got into the act with jokes and buttons.  When the shooter was revealed that autumn, it became one of the highest rated events in television history.  Dallas was already a hit, but after the shooting stunt it would reach new heights, becoming the #1 show in America for three of the next four seasons.

I Married Marge6

Fifteen years later, The Simpsons ran a parody cliffhanger, replacing J.R. with their own Charles Montgomery Burns.  The summer of 1995 saw the country flooded with advertising sporting the image of Mr. Burns and his potential assailants, though the ads themselves had basically nothing to do with who had shot him.  (The late 1990s advertising boom for collect calling services remains puzzling to me.  I’ve never been able to figure out who was making so many collect calls that national ad campaigns were worth the expense.)  The parody, though just an echo of the original, was big enough to merit its own exhaustively footnoted Wikipedia page

Sixteen years later, Zombie Simpsons has brought us a different kind of cliffhanger, one that doesn’t manage to parody anything and is altogether more boring, more hapless, and less interesting.  Instead of cooking up a satire or turning the whole endeavor into a joke, they plopped down an improbable romance and a half assed web page (which I will not link).  Their marketing tie in isn’t a series of nationwide commercials, it’s a handful of downloadable images that a few people will put on their Facebook pages for a day or two.  How the mighty have fallen.

Worse, Zombie Simpsons has bumbled into the desperate trap of so many flailing comedies: manufactured romance.  Teasing audiences with unresolved sexual tension, even the comedic kind, has been a survival instinct of television shows since the days of vacuum tubes and Newton Minnow.  Vicarious frisson and suggestive endings are trotted out in the hope that they’ll create the kind of curiosity that can withstand an entire summer’s worth of commercial interruptions.  So what Zombie Simpsons has done is take two worn concepts and attempted to rub them together, hoping for a little spark of attention, or at least a fleeting second of pop culture relevance.  But the cliffhanger and the contrived love story they’ve produced are too threadbare to do anything but disintegrate against one another. 

The problem isn’t that Zombie Simpsons is engaging in a publicity stunt.  The shootings of J.R. and Mr. Burns were just as shameless.  The problem is that Zombie Simpsons is engaging in a publicity stunt that’s doomed to fail and be instantly forgotten.  The people who cooked up “Who shot J.R.” succeeded beyond their wildest dreams, and the parody of it on The Simpsons is probably remembered by even more people than the original here in 2011.  Both were noticed, and commented on, and talked about by people far outside the scope of the usual audience.  In these nosier times, this far more timid and cliched stunt doesn’t stand a chance.  There will never be an – ugh – “Nedna” Wikipedia article, at least not one that isn’t swiftly nominated for deletion for falling pathetically short of even the most generous definition of notability. 


Source Material

“They haven’t changed a bit, have they?” – Troy McClure

Apologies for the relative lack of posts the last few days.  I had a couple of ideas go south on me, and Google Alerts has been bone dry of interesting ephemera of late.  Today is the 24th anniversary of the premier of the shorts, and all the internet coughed up (that I saw, anyway) was a few “On this day” type things.  In honor of this momentous occasion, however, here’s part of the very first one (easily recognizable from its inclusion in “The 138th Episode Spectacular”) as it appeared on The Tracey Ullman Show:

That’s a 29-year-old Dan Castellaneta as the asshole ambulance victim.  There are many more at YouTube, or you can download all of them over at Simpson Crazy

Update: Damn, embedding disabled.  At least it’s only one click away. 


Quote of the Day

Life In Hell

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons.

“Yes, the Simpsons have come a long way since an old drunk made humans out of his rabbit characters to pay off his gambling debts.” – Troy McClure

Happy birthday Matt Groening! 


Collect the Whole Set!

“Maybe the drawings were a little crude, but all the characters were there: Itchy & Scratchy, Grampa Simpson, and Krusty the Klown.” – Troy McClure

Deviated Septum Krusty Look at this picture of a Krusty stuffed animal (it’s the same one I put on our half assed Twitter feed yesterday).  That has to be among the worst deviated septums in the history of stuffed animals.  His nose is above his eyes!  And let’s be clear, the people in charge of merchandising for FOX can’t blame this on shoddy manufacturing at whatever third world factory slapped this thing together for them.  The mouth and the eye pieces are just way out of proportion to the size of the head.  This is a design problem, an extremely lazy one that someone in a nice office didn’t care enough to fix.


Original Krusty That it bears more than a passing resemblance to the intentionally crude Krusty from the “138th Episode Spectacular” is surely coincidental, though no less damning for being so.  I doubt that the people who make this type of stuff even watch the show, much less that they’d either a) be clever enough or b) care enough to have made the connection.  But it can’t be denied.  What was once an exaggerated joke about the show’s cheap beginning has become a sad, polyester reality in its twilight.

Merchandise of this exceeding quality (Krusty: Now with Forehead Nose!) accounts for the vast majority of Simpsons related revenue and profit, and is the main reason Zombie Simpsons continues to exist.


Quote of the Day

138th Episode Spectacular3

“Can it be that the champion of child literacy can’t even read himself?” – Judge Snyder
“Is it a crime to be illiterate?” – Krusty the Klown
“Alright, alright, see this, Krusty?  This is a B, and this is Exhibit B: betting slips!  Obtained by this court, indicating you have lost substantial sums of money on sports gambling!” – Prosecutor
“Is it a crime to bet on sporting events?” – Krusty the Klown
“Yes, it is!” – Prosecutor
“Oh.” – Krusty the Klown

Happy birthday Sam Simon!


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