Posts Tagged ‘A Milhouse Divided

01
Dec
19

Quote of the Day

“Bart, greet our guests and take their coats.” – Marge Simpson
“Mom, Reverend Lovejoy doesn’t have a coat. Should I let him in?” – Bart Simpson
“My coat was stolen at last week’s interfaith banquet. So I helped myself to a few of the better umbrellas.” – Rev. Lovejoy

01
Dec
18

Makeup Quote of the Day

“I will now read the special vows which Homer has prepared for this occasion. Do you, Marge, take Homer in richness and in poorness, poorness is underlined, in impotence and in potence, in quiet solitude or blasting across the alkali flats in a jet powered, monkey navigated . . . and it goes on like this.” – Rev. Lovejoy

04
Aug
18

Quote of the Day

“It could not be more simple, Luann. You want me to show this to the cat, and have the cat tell you what it is? Cause the cat’s gonna get it.” – Kirk van Houten
“I’m sorry, I’m not as smart as you, Kirk. We didn’t all go to Gudger College.” – Luann van Houten

01
Dec
17

Quote of the Day

“You’ll do fine. My divorce was tough on my kid, but he got over it.” – Kearney
“I sleep in a drawer.” – Kearney Jr.

31
Aug
17

Alf Clausen Fired

“So that’s it, after twenty years: so long, good luck?” – Kirk van Houten
“I don’t recall saying good luck.” – Cracker Factory Manager

Last night, Variety broke the news that longtime Simpsons music guy Alf Clausen will no longer be working on Zombie Simpsons:

Clausen told Variety that he received a call from “Simpsons” producer Richard Sakai that the company was seeking “a different kind of music” and that he would no longer be scoring the longtime Fox hit.

First of all, condolences to Clausen. Getting fired is rarely fun, and getting fired by the boss’s assistant, over the phone, from a job you’ve had for a quarter of a century, and just four weeks before the next season starts is especially crappy.

The Simpsons wouldn’t have been The Simpsons without him and his orchestra. Vulture put up a nice little package of YouTube videos of some of his more memorable contributions (there’s a tiny bit of Zombie Simpsons at the end, but who cares?), but for my money it’s the smaller musical cues that are what elevated the show.

To take just one example: the end of “Old Money”. The music gets heroic as Grampa quotes Kipling, then gets taught as Homer keeps him from betting, then resolves happily after the bet would’ve missed, and finally flows seamlessly into a sweet and uplifting number as Grampa uses Bea’s money to give the old folks some dignity (and a giant TV for watching cartoons!). It’s genuinely beautiful music and the episode would end with a thud without it.

And, of course, there’s all those other moments: the few Karate Kid-esque notes when Bart is training in “Dead Putting Society”, the heavy gloom of the endless line of mail trucks in “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge”, the seemingly infinite variations on “Baby Elephant Walk” in “Dancin’ Homer”, the dramatic campaign montage from “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish”, and, of course, the dual endings of “Lisa’s Substitute”, first when Mr. Bergstrom leaves and then when Homer patches things up with his heartbroken daughter. Oh, silly me, I just cited examples that are only from Season 2. Clausen kept up that kind of work for years.

Variety points the finger squarely at the cheapskates at FOX:

Speculation about Clausen’s dismissal involves cost-cutting measures, which have been ongoing at “The Simpsons” in recent years, despite its massive profits for Fox and executive producer James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films.

Clausen uses a 35-piece orchestra every week — something that “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening insisted upon from the start of the show. Including costs of musicians, recording studios, and orchestration, expenses routinely run into the millions of dollars per year.

The sourcing on that is obviously less than ideal. (It’s not even an anonymous source, it’s anonymous speculation.) But it does fit overall with the direction of the show these last few years. Ratings are down, and presumably the ad rates are down along with them.

I have no idea what Clausen himself was getting paid, but 35-piece orchestras aren’t cheap. Whether or not it’s actually in the millions per year doesn’t really matter. The team of monkeys that runs FOX made a purely mercenary decision, and, from their point of view, it’s probably the correct one. How many viewers who haven’t turned the show off already are going to care if the live music gets replaced by two guys and a synthesizer? The only immediate question is whether Clausen is done right now, or if he’s staying on through the current WABF production run, which has seven episodes left.

As for what this means for the future of Zombie Simpsons, who knows? A move like this is not the behavior of a healthy production, but we knew that already. Clausen’s involuntary departure, while bad for him and the show, pales in comparison to what would’ve happened if they’d followed through on replacing Harry Shearer two years ago, and by all accounts they were dead serious about that. FOX has already picked up Zombie Simpsons for two more production runs, which will take it through a full Season 30 and into at least a partial Season 31 in the fall of 2019. Whether or not this is a harbinger of the end won’t be known until next fall at the earliest.

Meanwhile, Zombie Simpsons has managed to get even worse than it already was. Given that it’s already unwatchably dull, this at least qualifies as somewhat impressive.

Good luck, Alf. We love you and your work and we always will!

Update: Clausen confirms on Twitter that the orchestra has also been fired. We now bring you an exclusive sneak peak of the new musical coordinator for Seasons 29 and 30:

Update 2: In a move that shows they’ve learned the importance of weaseling out of things, the show has released a very weaselly statement:

“We tremendously value Alf Clausen’s contributions to the Simpsons and he will continue to have an ongoing role in the show,” producers said in a statement provided to Deadline. “We remain committed to the finest in music for the Simpsons, absolutely including orchestral. This is the part where we would make a joke but neither Alf’s work nor the music of the Simpsons is treated as anything but seriously by us.”

It’s not clear what his ongoing role will be.

Jean tweeted out the link, so this is official. It’s also about as vague and non-specific as it’s possible to be in English. There’s nothing definite, no denial of the earlier report that Clausen and the orchestra are gone, and no concrete replacement offered. 

At best this could set the stage for a triumphant reunion like what happened with Shearer two years ago. More likely this is a cover-your-ass publicity move that doesn’t change a thing. 

01
Dec
16

Quote of the Day

non-stickcoating

“Hey, Lis, check this out: non-stick coating.” – Bart Simpson

14
Nov
16

Quote of the Day

forgeteverything

“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!

20
May
16

Reading Digest: Cake and Stupidity Edition

WhaleOfAWife

“See? You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a first class wedding reception.” – Homer Simpson

Zombie Simpsons had a gimmick last Sunday, which was Castellaneta taking live calls while very little happened on screen. It was novel but pointless, so as far as the desperation of their publicity stunts go, this ranks somewhere in the middle. Marketing and pageview desperation being what they are, plenty of people on the internet wrote it up. There’s a couple links below, though none of it is really all that interesting. The tl;dr version is that they used thinking machine super computers. In more savory and less advertised news, we also have two links to Simpsons cakes.

Enjoy.

Celebrating 25 Years Of The Simpsons With Cake – This is fantastic, custom baked cakes with Simpsons characters based off of other art and images. Fair use has never been this delicious.

Cooking The Simpsons: Whale of a Wife Cake – More cake! (And this one includes step-by-step instructions.)

15 Simpsons Coffee Gifs You Need In Your Life – Sprudge – These are great (thanks again, Frinkiac!), and there’s nary a trace of Zombie Simpsons.

The Simpsons live – how you can do it yourself – This is kinda neat in and of itself, but there’s no getting around the fact that it looked awful. I remember when Forrest Gump came out, there were stories on the news about all the fancy computer machines they used to make the various Presidents mouth movements from old footage. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, all of them looked like crap then and still do now. So does this.

Woo Hoo! The Simpsons TV Show and Adobe Make Live Animation Television History – For the curious, here’s Adobe’s official explanation of it.

How ‘The Simpsons’ Will Pull Off a ‘Live’ Episode – Speakeasy – WSJ – Jean doing publicity. He’s a trooper.

The Simpsons: “Simprovised” Review – IGN – Reader Noah B sent in this link and reminded me of the old “Syngery” segment I used to do here. For those who haven’t been reading this blog since 2010, IGN (which was owned by FOX at the time) used to write these fawning reviews of Zombie Simpsons, and I used to fisk them. This isn’t nearly as bad, but is still desperately scratching for nice things to say:

The seminar itself was fairly entertaining. Having had his one and only ice-breaker stolen by Mr. Burns, Homer had a complete and total meltdown on stage. It was there we learned that Mr. Burns keeps a group of therapy hounds on call for just such a situation. Sadly, like so many episodes in recent years, the writers never managed to follow through on their initial premise.

Office workers start a Post-it war, and stick with it – Marge and Maggie made with post-it notes in a window. It’s great, they even got he pearls right.

‘The Simpsons’ Recap: 9 Truths (and 5 Lies) in Live Comedy – Here’s a fawning recap of their latest dumb publicity stunt.

America’s trendiest new bar is your living room – There are fewer bars and more liquor stores than there used to be. Since I am pro bar and pro liquor store, I don’t know how to feel about this, but here’s a nice quote from a scientist:

The local bar is a classic “third place” in American life — after work and home, it’s a place where people can go to relax, catch up on local news and above all, connect with friends and neighbors. Think of Moe’s from “The Simpsons” or Cheers from, uh, “Cheers.” Third places “are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, but sadly, they constitute a diminishing aspect of the American social landscape,” sociologist Ray Oldenburg has written.

The Eerie Unsolved Mystery of THE SIMPSONS’ Infamous “Dead Bart” Episode – This is clickbait to the point that I almost don’t want to link it. Do people actually think this is a thing? The YouTube video they link is obviously footage from other episodes layered under a bunch of dumb video effects. Anyway, it’s not true.

5YJevvW.jpg (JPEG Image, 750 × 897 pixels) – Scaled (82%) – The kids are alright.

Vtg 90’s Bart Simpson Cropped Stonewash Denim Jacket-JKL1042 – Swanky.

Student turns Raspberry Pi into epic Simpsons episode shuffler – This is a wonderful use of technology.

Here’s how old The Simpsons family would be if they aged in real time – If we were only so lucky.

The One TV Show To Watch With Your Mother Isn’t One You’d Expect | Bustle – Via our old friends Denise and Karma, comes this belated Mother’s Day link.

Homer Simpson celebrates his 60th birthday today – Homer’s driver’s license in “Duffless” puts his birthday on May 12th, 1956. I’ve said this before and I’ll probably say it again, but part of what makes Homer (and Marge) great is that they are perfect caricatures of late model Baby Boomers.

Man Getting Hit By Football (Film) – TV Tropes – There is important stuff on the internet.  (Thanks, Noah B!)

Mike Reiss, CoCreator Of The Simpsons, Gives Us 10 Quotes So Funny Youll Be Rolling On The Floor – They’re not that funny, but they’re kinda funny:

“Donald Duck is a character right out of gay porn. He wears a sailor’s suit and no pants!”

The Simpsons Autographed Movie Poster – This is a Craigslist post:

This is a 27 x 40 “Simpsons” Movie Poster Hand Signed by Yeardley Smith, Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Cartwright, and Julie Kavner Albert Brooks, Minnie Driver, Kelsey Grammer, Pamela Hayden, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Joe Mantegna, Maggie Roswell, Russi Taylor, Matt Groening

All signatures are hand signed and Guaranteed to be Authentic.

Minnie Driver?

‘Family Guy’ was renewed and hardly anyone noticed – Family Guy got renewed. The dusty remnants of FOX’s animation Sunday will remain on the air for another year at least.

Admirable Animation #47: Homer Badman [The Simpsons] – YouTube – Reader Toadat sends in this YouTube video that accurately points out that “Homer Badman” and its vicious portrayal of scandal media has aged very, very well.

How the Simpsons are helping Derby Uni students learn about handwriting – This is nice and all, but I thought handwriting analysis was dismissed as quackery a hundred and sixty years ago.

The Simpsons isn’t really very funny anymore: everything we learned from Homer’s live chat – And finally, I get to end with someone who agrees with us, even about Zombie Simpsons’ most recent stunt:

1) Live is a magic word

2) Homer didn’t exactly bomb, but he ’s better with a script.

3) The Simpsons isn’t really very funny anymore

Yup.

01
Dec
15

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided22

“Man, that is flagrant false advertising!” – Otto

04
Jul
15

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided21

“It’s just not a dinner party without a melon baller.  And we’ll need a citrus zester, a ravioli crimper,…ooh, an oyster mallet!  Made in USA?  No, thank you.” – Marge Simpson

19
Jun
15

Reading Digest: Why Yes, It Is Time for Zombie Simpsons To End Edition

A Milhouse Divided20

“Homey, I know you love me.  We don’t need to get married again.” – Marge Simpson
“Yes we do!  I got us a divorce this afternoon!” – Homer Simpson

The internet was still digesting the fact that Homer and Marge are not getting divorced for part of this week as the news slowly filtered down to small town paper blogs and other low traffic sites that aren’t very swift on the uptake.  We do have a couple of links from people taking the story as a starting point to advocate for the show finally being sent to a farm upstate, however, so it’s not all bad.  In addition to that, we’ve got Castellaneta singing, fan art, fan food, several lists, the staff doing something nice, and a new podcast.

Enjoy.

17 ‘Simpsons’ Cultural References Explained for Younger Viewers – Great list (no Zombie Simpsons), and I learned to Lupe Velez was.  (via @DailySimpsons)

▶ Two Lips (Dan Castellaneta) : Dog Who’s Chasing After A Ball – Reader Adam S. writes in:

did you know Dan Castellaneta released a very excellent Beatles – sounding album under the name of ‘Two Lips’ a few years back?

I did not know that.  Sample is above, full album link is here.  Castellaneta is a true renaissance man, and I say that not even knowing how many different types of meat he’s eaten today.  Thanks, Adam!

Is it time for The Simpsons to end? – Yes, it is.  This goes into more detail than that. (Again, via @DailySimpsons)

Top Ten Simpsons Episodes – Part One – An excellent half a list, with no Zombie Simpsons and “Homer the Vigilante”, which I don’t often see on top ten lists.

Five Times ‘The Simpsons’ got to Real for Us – There’s one Zombie Simpsons on here, but the rest are excellent choices, especially “The Way We Was”.

Jurassic World…In 10 Words – Saw this on Wednesday.  It’s better than the other sequels, but nobody’s going to care about it in twenty-two years, either.

WATCH: The Top 10 Treehouse Of Horror Segments – According to two Australian guys.  One item from Zombie Simpsons, but it’s not terrible or anything.  These guys also have some podcasts discussing old episodes.

Faberge Egg Salad – Some real recipes from the show, courtesy of our new friends at Xtapolapometal.

Photo Gallery Of The Simpsons Characters Re-Voiced Sans Harry Shearer – Don Draper would be an excellent Reverend Lovejoy.

10 business lessons from The Simpsons – Reader Robert sends in this YouTube heavy list of business tips he wrote.  I particularly like #2, “Don’t break the law”.  Heh.  Thanks, Robert!

I’m not commodity – A real life recounting of the “Lawyer Bird” test.

You Can Now Play Video Games Featured On ‘The Simpsons – I downloaded but have not actually tried these yet.

10 times Marge and Homer Simpson weren’t exactly winning any parenting awards – A little bit of Zombie Simpsons here, but there’s some good YouTube and a .gif of Homer running gleefully around the overturned beer truck.

Round 1, Battle 26 – (S.1 Ep 3) Homer’s Odyssey vs. (S.6 Ep. 20) Two Dozen and One Greyhounds – Season 1 is probably doomed here, but both of those are great.

Fish weirs, Doctor Who and Fort Knox – things you didn’t know about Magna Carta – But I did know this one!:

4 – Lisa Simpson sang a song about Magna Carta in episode 187 of The Simpsons cartoon series.

US Outlook: Set banks free to stop another crisis? A successful man can be stupid too – Moderate usage:

There is an old episode of The Simpsons in which Homer is falsely accused of sexual harassment after reaching for a gummy bear that is stuck to a lady’s backside. At the end of the episode, Marge asks Homer what he has learnt from his experience. Homer replies: “Marge, I haven’t learnt a thing.”

Homer actually says, “Marge, my friend, I haven’t learned a thing”, but that’s pretty close.

Car dealer and Rotary team to distribute Little Free Libraries – This was nice:

On Monday, the Little Free Library headquarters in the town of Hudson received a Little Library designed and painted by the artists of “The Simpsons” television show.

“It’s got all the Simpsons characters on it — Bart and Lisa — and is signed by Matt Groening,” Bol reported.

“He’s a friend of ours,” Bol said of Groening, the creator of “The Simpsons.”

The show’s artists made the library for Bol to use to raise money for the Little Free Library organization.

Homer Simpson on Temperament – Heh.

10 | Texts From A Stoner – Heh again.

Geek Art for the masses – The Van Gough Willie painting is on here, along with some other very good ones.

The Simpsons House – Not sure who the original artist is here, but this is pretty good.

New trending GIF tagged the simpsons homer simpson… – Precious Venus…

TV Pick of the Day – You could do a lot worse than “Lisa the Iconoclast”.

The Simpsons – “Kill the Alligator and Run” – Like this one, which the author has the good sense to pick apart.

The Anti-Love Story of Homer and Marge – And finally, I get to end the way I like, with someone who agrees with us, in this case in a long essay about the hopelessness of the ever continuing Zombie Simpsons.

 

 

01
Dec
14

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided19

“You can’t keep blaming yourself.  Just blame yourself once and move on.” – Homer Simpson

14
Aug
14

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided18

“Hi, Dad . . . you know, there’s buns in the cabinet.” – Lisa Simpson

15
May
14

Compare & Contrast: Adult Game Night

A Milhouse Divided17

“Oh, I hate having parties.  The toilet always gets backed up.” – Homer Simpson
“I don’t care if the sink shoots sludge, we’re having a party!” – Marge Simpson

There’s an inescapable lameness to those adult games that get broken out after dinner parties.  When kids get together, they can easily make up games on the fly (you’ve got to reach home base at the couch, the lava starts at the edge of the carpet, etcetera), but grown-ups tend to need a little more structure, especially if they’re playing against people they don’t know that well.  Trivial Pursuit, Scattegories and similar games provide a blandly safe sense of fun to social situations that might otherwise be too uptight, awkward or flat out boring.  Carefree kids don’t need that help, but adults do, and that’s uncool and old any way you slice it.

The proof of that is the fact that so many of these games get bought, maybe used once, and then stuffed onto some shelf where they might as well have a sign on them that says “Break Glass In Case of Extreme Boredom”.  That inherent lameness, however, does have the benefit of making them nice, soft targets for comedy.  And while Zombie Simpsons swings and misses at just about everything, The Simpsons smacked those games dead square in the Parker-Brothers logo.

In “A Milhouse Divided”, Marge and Homer throw the quintessential middle class dinner party.  The house gets gussied up a bit, the dinnerware is a cut above normal, and everyone’s dressed just a little nicer than they’d normally be.  Things end badly when the van Houtens boil over at each other over Pictionary, but from Marge’s initial desire to throw the party through Kirk’s awkward goodnight, the entire thing feels like something she would have done with the best of intentions.

By contrast, in “Pay Pal”, the evening is preceded by whole scenes worth of exposition from Marge and quickly devolves into a fight between Homer and John Oliver that comes right out of the blue.  Aside from the initial setup, no part of it makes any sense and most of what passes for jokes are weak one-liners instead of actual dialogue.  Like so much of Zombie Simpsons, they aren’t really concerned with satirizing anything or even telling a story, they’ve just got a short list of things they hope are funny, and they would appreciate it if you would sit still for a half-an-hour while they read it aloud.

The two at least start similarly.  In both cases, Marge is trying to be a little more social.  But even at this early stage you can see an immediate difference in how solid her character and motivations are.  Season 8 Marge wants to inject a little class into her life after seeing too many of the dinners she cooks pass in silence in front of the television.  In bed the night after having her son suggest that they start eating dinner out of a trough, Marge remarks to Homer:

Marge:  Homer, is this the way you pictured married life?
Homer:  Yeah, pretty much, except we drove around in a van solving mysteries.
Marge:  Well, I pictured cocktails and candle lit dinners.  I pictured napkins!  Homer, I want to throw a dinner party.

A Milhouse Divided16

A married couple having a conversation in private and no one bursts into their room.  Huh.

Homer and Marge aren’t talking to the audience, they’re talking to each other.  And within that dialogue we have jokes that fit seamlessly into their back and forth.  Homer’s inane Scooby Doo fantasy and Marge demanding the civilizing touch of napkins aren’t setup-beat-joke sitcom punchlines, they’re Homer being his doofus self and Marge, the master of repressing her own desires, just wishing for the barest level of class in her own home.

Compare that with pretty much the exact same scene in “Pay Pal”:

Marge:  Why don’t we have any couples friends?
Homer:  Because, couples friends are a myth, started by restaurants with tables for four!

This is a setup-beat-punchline sitcom joke, and a very poor one at that.  It’s aimed at no one and makes no sense (are there any restaurants that don’t have “tables for four”?), so much so that you can practically hear where the recorded laughter would go.  Continuing:

Marge:  I want friends!  Any friends.
Homer:  Okay, sweetie, I’ll call the van Houtens.
Marge:  Not the van Houtens!  They’re always bragging about their trip to Rome.  It was twelve years ago, and it was a layover.  I want new friends.

Woof, here we’ve got Marge repeating the same piece of exposition twice, with another hapless (and overlong) sitcom joke smashed in the middle.  But things are about to get so much worse, because Zombie Simpsons is about to have Lisa appear in the door for no reason other than the shallowest form of plot expediency:

Lisa:  Can I make an observation?  I’m okay with no friends.  It’s easier to focus and it’ll give me great material for whatever art form I choose.  Right now I’m thinking long novella.  Good night.

Hacktacular!  Let’s have a character show up quickly, spout some expository nonsense, and then depart before even waiting for a response from the people she was supposedly speaking to!  Along the way they have Lisa tell the audience exactly what she’s thinking (even though it’s not something we’d normally hear from her), then explain the joke she’s about to make, then make that joke, then disappear as quickly as she arrived.  But wait, there’s more!:

Marge:  Okay with no friends?  That’s the saddest thing I can imagine my daughter saying to me.

Note that Marge is now also basically talking to no one except the audience.  She’s not interacting with anyone else around her, she’s repeating things Lisa just said and then telling us precisely how she feels.  And because two hapless monologues deserve a third, Bart then shows up just as suddenly as Lisa did:

Bart:  I can think of worse.  The saddest thing would be if you were driving and texting Lisa, and you hit her, and the last thing she texted before she died was, ‘I got your message’.  Good night.

One last time: this isn’t dialogue.  These characters aren’t discussing anything, they’re spouting lines that bear no resemblance to conversation while physically appearing and disappearing at random.  Bart’s little sad scenario isn’t even trying to be funny.

Open Door Policy

Come, children, monologue at your parents before bed.

From there, the two episode continue in their own way.  Season 8 takes us briskly to the flagrantly false advertised Stoner’s Pot Palace and shows us Marge’s insanely detailed dinner party preparations, which include glazing the ham to the point of luminescence and putting the toilet seats through the dish washer.  Season 25 staggers forward by having Marge spend the next few scenes in yet another extended monologue, this time admonishing Homer about what he should and shouldn’t do for half a minute.  Once again, this is them butchering the single simplest, anyone-can-understand-it, fundamental tenet of good screenwriting: show, don’t tell.

After that we finally get to the respective parties see once more how a poorly constructed, nonsensical one is a hell of a lot less fun than the opposite.  In “Pay Pal”, Homer and Marge show up, get greeted by John Oliver, and then stand there and listen to yet another monologue, the longest yet.  Even John Oliver can’t make this laundry list of mediocrity funny:

Oliver: That’s the spirit.  Wallace and I have found this game to provide a full evening of divertissement, building in suspense to a masterful climax.  We’ve rented costumes you’ll find accurate to period and conducive to character.  We will serve food and wine appropriate to period and palate.  We’ve programmed music to cover every dramatic event.  Hired a foley artist . . . I believe the mare has a slight limp . . . yes, yes!  So, for the next three hours, I welcome you to the moors of-

At that, Zombie Homer cuts him off, so for once at least his jerkass nature came in handy.  Then the fight starts and the scene comes to a mercifully abrupt end.  Literally the only other characters to speak do so with one liners (Sideshow Mel, Wiggum) or yet another monologue (Oliver’s wife).

Bored Foley Guy

The foley guy appears to be accurately representing both the audience and the animation staff.

Beneath the feeble stabs at humor lies the fundamental problem: they aren’t making fun of anything.  They aren’t even really trying.  Instead of satirizing the enforced make believe and jollity of a murder mystery party, they seem to think it’s rather cool, and wouldn’t it be cooler with someone like Oliver around to rent costumes and hire a sound effects guy?  Most of the scene, if it can even be called that, is one long speech about how awesome it’ll be; then it stops.  They can’t make fun of it because they don’t have any real people attending.

On the other hand, by the time “A Milhouse Divided” has its characters playing Pictionary, we’ve seen them be their normal, hilarious selves.  Hibbert has laughed at a couple of his own typically inappropriate jokes; Flanders, clueless as ever, said he likes Woodsey Allen movies except for “that nervous fella”, and Kirk and Luann are starting to reach the boiling point.  There’s no need for monologues and unexpected one-liners because the characters who sit down to play that game are capable of being funny without them.

So when it comes time for the Flandereses to correctly get “corn starch” based on six dots, there’s no need for them to look at the audience and explain what it means when they nuzzle over it being good for “keeping down the urges”.  If there’s one thing Maude and Ned would do, it’s eat something as bland and sinless as corn starch to keep themselves from getting horny.  We don’t need shouted punchlines or pre-joke explanations because we know who these characters are.  All they have to do to be hilarious is act like their normal, believably oddball selves.

After that, we see Luann finally lose it with Kirk over him being an asshole about his wonderfully incomprehensible rendition of “dignity”.  They’ve been sniping at each other literally since they walked in the door, and, as sometimes happens in real life, those harmless looking adult games provide just enough stress to push two people into an outright shouting match.  Sprinkled in there are gems like “Gudger College”, “Allied Biscuit” and Homer’s lightning quick misreading of the word “impotence” in “managerial impotence”.

Everything, from the party itself and the guests to Marge’s motivations and that divorce causing game, is treated as a source of comedy because in the right hands that’s what they are.  Zombie Simpsons just draws some people into a room, nevermind anything else, and hopes that the delivery on a word like “divertissement” brings a slight smile.

26
Mar
14

Compare & Contrast: Milhouse’s Parents Split Up

A Milhouse Divided15

“You know who the real victim is in all of this?  Milhouse.” – Marge Simpson

Zombie Simpsons excels at telling the audience what is happening rather than showing them, which is the script writing equivalent of being a bricklayer who doesn’t use mortar.  Show don’t tell is so fundamental to the job that you have to wonder how anyone could forget it, and the proof is in the piles of rubble that they try to pass off as finished work.  Case in point from this week’s dreary “The War of Art” was Milhouse’s reaction to his parents breaking up.

Thanks to Jerkass Homer’s energetic idiocy, Luann finds out that Kirk lied about not shacking up with anyone while they were separated.  This leads to Kirk getting kicked out (he ends up on the Simpsons’ couch despite their recent feud because whatever shutup), which means that Milhouse is once again caught in a fight between his parents.  The first time that happened was in Season 8’s divorce classic “A Milhouse Divided”, and the way each episode handles his reaction is the difference between building with bricks and mortar and just building with bricks.

Once Kirk and Luann are on the outs, Marge and Homer argue expositionally about the pain Homer’s plan has wrought, including on Milhouse.  Bart, casually listening in the doorway as though the show had no conception that he was there, chimes in right on cue to tell us exactly what we’re about to see:

Bart: He’s been playing Dancing Revolution for hours but the TV is off.

Exposited Sadness

He said it, you saw it, comedy genius!

That’s the entire scene.  But even as short as it is, it’s indicative of several of Zombie Simpsons recurring weaknesses.  For starters, Bart’s explicit pre-narration is worse than useless.  The above image would still be sad without it, but it would also be funnier since nothing ruins a joke more than explaining it before you tell it.  Beyond that, there’s also the fact that the previous scene was Kirk asleep on the couch.  Is he still there?  Is Milhouse visiting Bart or his father?  Who knows?  Kirk has nonsensically vanished from the Simpsons home even faster than he nonsensically appeared.  So not only has the hacktacular writing drained the scene of whatever humor it could’ve had, but its physical and story logic are a complete shambles.  Zombie Simpsons: dumb stories poorly told, lightly sprinkled with pre-chewed jokes.

Compare that to the same scene in “A Milhouse Divided”.  To begin, there’s no exposition.  We already know that Milhouse’s parents are split (the episode, you know, showed it to us), so they can cut directly from Kirk getting fired (“I don’t recall saying ‘Good Luck’.”) to this:

A Milhouse Divided14

Look!  Action that hasn’t been announced ahead of time.  What a concept.

Before he says a single word we can tell that Milhouse is pissed off.  Just look at the above image: his hair is a mess, his teeth are clenched, and he’s destroying as much shit as possible.  When he does speak, he doesn’t say “I’m angry at my parents and breaking their stuff”, he says:

And the winner of the Milhouse 500 is . . . Milhouse!

His words don’t tell us what he’s doing, they elaborate and deepen what we’ve already seen.  The same goes for the rest of the scene:

Luann: Milhouse, are you sure you want to drive that inside?
Milhouse: Yes!
Luann: Okay, be careful, sweet, sweet treasure.

Milhouse is acting like an angry and spoiled kid because at the moment that’s exactly what he is.  His Mom doesn’t care what he does so long as he’s hers, and indulging Milhouse to the point of shattered lamps and smashed furniture is a small price for her to pay to get back at Kirk.  It’s classic Simpsons, taking a painful and sad subject, in this case a mother and son both behaving kinda self destructively, and somehow making it fun and funny.

On the commentary track for this episode, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein talk about how they didn’t want to do a “divorce” episode like the ones they had watched as kids where the d-word gets mentioned, but at the end everyone gets back together.  They tease the cliched, teevee ending with a slightly sweet music cue right before Luann has the common sense to say, “Ooh, no” after Kirk asks to get back together, but they don’t go through with it because doing so would neuter the rest of the episode.  Kirk’s collapse, Luann’s renaissance, and Milhouse’s sadness and anger, none of them would retain the same kick (comedy or otherwise) if it turned out it was all for nothing.

Zombie Simpsons, of course, not only went with the ending that was already a cliche forty years ago, it crammed everything into the last few seconds after the plot literally wandered off the mainland.  It didn’t make the scene with Milhouse any worse, but that’s only because it’s hard to see how it could get worse.  The Simpsons knew how to let a scene speak for itself and how to deliver an ending that doesn’t undercut what came before.

10
Jan
14

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided13

“My Dad left my Mom after she got hooked on cough drops.  By the end, her breath was so fresh, she wasn’t really my mother anymore.” – Nelson Muntz

06
Aug
13

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided11

“Come on, Luann, you know what this is.” – Kirk van Houten
“Kirk, I don’t know what it is.” – Luann van Houten
“It could not be more simple, Luann.  You want me to show this to the cat, and have the cat tell you what it is?  Cause the cat’s going to get it.” – Kirk van Houten
“I’m sorry, I’m not as smart as you Kirk.  We didn’t all go to Gudger College.” – Luann van Houten

08
Nov
12

Quote of the Day

A Milhouse Divided10

“If you really wanted us to be neater, you’d serve us out of one long bowl.” – Bart Simpson
“You’re talking about a trough.  We’re not going to eat from a trough.  And another thing, it’s only five-fifteen, why are you in your underwear?” – Marge Simpson
“Hey, this ain’t the Ritz.” – Bart Simpson

27
Jun
12

Quote of the Day

Family Food

“You’re letting me go?” – Kirk van Houten
“Kirk, crackers are a family food.  Happy families.  Maybe single people eat crackers, we don’t know.  Frankly, we don’t want to know.  It’s a market we can do without.” – Southern Cracker Executive

15
May
12

Compare & Contrast: Wedding Reception Guest Lists

A Milhouse Divided9

“Would you guys do a favor for a guy in love?” – Kirk van Houten
“Sure.” – Drummer
“Yeah.” – Doobie Brother
“It’s why we’re here.” – Keyboardist

“Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend” uses a lot of ideas, characters and jokes from earlier episodes.  There’s a religious school that’s more expository and less believably insane than the one in “Whacking Day”.  There’s Flanders calling a talking dog “the spawn of the devil” when we all know from “Bart the Lover” that it’s Todd who considers the idea of a talking dog “blasphemous”.  There’s even that poorly stereotyped theater guy, who’s not nearly as humorously delusional as the great Llewellyn Sinclair from “A Streetcar Named Marge”.  But for the starkest illustration of just how differently The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons approach the same kind of concept, there’s nothing better than looking at the way each portrayed a wedding reception hosted at the Simpson home.

Like “Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend”, Season 8’s “A Milhouse Divided” takes marriage as its inspiration, and both episodes end up with a small party on Evergreen terrace to celebrate recent nuptials.  The differences arise when you begin to consider not only who is at these parties, but why they are there and what they do.  In the case of Zombie Simpsons, the event is less of a real party and more of a roll call of wacky characters:

Odd Party

I’m mildly surprised by the lack of Bumblebee Man.

I only count two strangers in that image (the anonymous couple underneath Moe); other than that everyone is a recurring character (and I’m pretty sure that’s supposed to be Helen Lovejoy behind the bush to the right of Disco Stu).  Here’s the guest list as of this establishing shot:

  • Bride:  Groundskeeper Willie, Superintendent Chalmers, Mr. Largo, Miss Hoover, Lunchlady Doris, and (I guess) the van Houtens.
  • Groom:  The Lovejoys and (I guess) Homer and Marge. 
  • ??????:  Moe, Lenny, Carl, the Nahasapeemapetilons, Cookie Kwan, Disco Stu, and Sideshow Mel

Half the guest list has no discernable reason to be there and we haven’t even gotten to the bizarre sequence with Captain McAllister and Lindsey Naegle.  For characters like Disco Stu and Cookie Kwan, neither of whom gets a line, there’s no reason to have them there at all.  What’s more, even the characters who have a plausible reason to be there don’t do anything.  Miss Hoover, for example, doesn’t get a word in even though we know that her and Krabappel are work friends who’ve hung out in the past.  Almost everyone in that shot is simple background filler, they don’t have anything to do with the story outside of this party, nor do they do anything in this scene.

By contrast, here’s the guests at Homer and Marge’s second wedding:

A Milhouse Divided8

Hey look, people who have reasons to be there.

Here the only people we have are Marge’s mother and sisters, Homer’s father, and the other couples that were at the dinner party that begins the episode.  There aren’t any random celebrities or Springfield eccentrics who have no connection to these people or their lives.  Not only does this make the story seem more realistic and relatable, but it also means that when it comes time for people to crack jokes and act funny, we don’t have to just drop in random characters for no reason.  Instead we get Lovejoy’s exasperation at Homer’s vows, the hip rock & roll combo with one Doobie Brother, and Kirk’s hilariously pathetic failure to re-woo Luann, including asking for his shirts back and his meek acceptance of being ejected at the hands of her vastly superior new boyfriend.

Compare that with what passes for comedy at the Flanders-Krabappel reception.  Since none of the secondary characters who should be there have anything to do with the rest of the plot, the only thing Zombie Simpsons can do is paste in McAllister and Naegle hooking up and Moe and Lisa staring dumbly at the fourth wall.  Marge breaks up the former for reasons that don’t make any sense (I fail to see how it reflects poorly on the host when two people get together at a wedding reception), and the latter is yet another attempt by Zombie Simpsons to deflect how badly the move to a four act structure has affected the show.

The entire reception scene in Zombie Simpsons is hollow.  It goes on for two minutes after the shot I grabbed above, and yet the only event that’s even vaguely plot related is Flanders and Krabappel getting into a big fight over Rod and Todd.  The rest of the space has to be filled with the out of place antics of other secondary characters (pretty much all of whom come from Season 9 or earlier) because there’s simply nothing else going on.  This is bad enough on its own, but consider what a staggering failure of imagination it represents.

This show had two characters fall in love and get married, and not just any two characters.  Flanders and Krabappel have both been with the show since Season 1; not only do they come from very different social spheres, but they’ve had countless interactions with other characters over the years.  That much history should open up all kinds of possibilities, everything from secular-religious conflicts and accommodations (which the episode barely touches) to quick and simple jokes about the backstory of some of the other characters.  Just between Hoover and Reverend Lovejoy you’d think they could come up with at least one line that was relevant and funny.  But with all those untapped ideas and rich character bios at its fingertips, Zombie Simpsons went with random flirting between two characters who are unrelated to what’s happening and unrelated to one another. 

The empty nature of the thing is another example of the way Zombie Simpsons treats Springfield and its citizens as flat, lifeless background ornamentation.  They’ve lost any interest in using the characters as characters, and instead just see them as a collection of traits that can be trotted out at any time and for any reason.  (“The sea captain gets with the business lady?  Outrageous!”)  The Simpsons never needed to resort to those kind of cheap shortcuts because it treated its characters like real human beings (even the nameless musicians have lines and motivations), and the scene is tremendously smarter and richer because of it. 

Kirk asking for his shirts back is kinda funny on its own, but it’s made so much better because of who he is and of how pitiful it is for him to still be caught up on some old shirts that we saw Luann burn much earlier in the episode.  Zombie Simpsons never does that kind of thing, and the result is weird scenes where characters act with little to no motivation and the jokes have nothing to do with the story.  In The Simpsons, as in real life, it matters who’s on the guest list.  In Zombie Simpsons, it doesn’t. 




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