Posts Tagged ‘American History X-Cellent


Compare & Contrast: Nude Burns

“Hey Mom, did he have those spots all over his body?” – Bart Simpson
“I heard that!” – C.M. Burns

One of the few genuinely interesting things I learned while tormenting myself with the Season 12 commentaries was that Zombie Simpsons isn’t allowed to show ass crack.  (Of course, The Simpsons was so fond of cartoon nudity that they had enough for an entire ending credits montage of it by the middle of Season 7.)  Now, all shows labor under some burden of censorship, that’s just the way of the world.  But Zombie Simpsons doesn’t even try to get clever with it.  Burns isn’t wearing some kind of special rich guy underwear, nor a drab prison pair, just sparkling clean tighty-whities.

But even if we set aside childish squeamishness about fleeting nudity, the HD animation still looks dry and dismal when compared with the genuine article:

Nude Burns

Look how much more desiccated Burns appears in Season 2.  He’s got the liver spots all over his body, instead of just on his head, and the bags under his eyes are much more pronounced.  His spine is an unbroken ridge indicative of a man with, in his own words, “a mighty hump”.  The lines in the Season 21 drawing are certainly cleaner, but that only serves to highlight the lack of detail.  Look what happens when we zoom out and take in the full images:

Sterile Background

Look at how sterile and lifeless the background is.  Most of the coloring looks like it was done with the “fill” command (which it probably was).  There’s no cynical work posters, no frightening prison cavity search implements, nothing.  It’s just a nameless, character-less guard and Burns.  Now, look at the scene from “Brush with Greatness”:

Brush with Greatness4

Here a lot of thought and care have been put into both the background and the other characters.  All the accouterments of an upper-lower-middle class bathroom are present: the hamper, the fuzzy toilet seat cover, even the stick-on wall fish.  Marge is holding a laundry basket so we know she has a reason to enter the bathroom, and Smithers is eyeing Burns’ crotch.

In Season 2 we see something that was put together with an eye towards quality, in Season 21 it’s just cookie cutter mass production.  And, by the way, some of the distortion on the Season 2 images comes from the fact that I grabbed them from my ripped .avi files, not from the DVDs themselves.  So even at a compression handicap, The Simpsons still blows Zombie Simpsons away.

Special thanks to commenter Derp for reminding me a while ago that I needed to do an animation post.


Crazy Noises: American History X-cellent

Possibilities“Don’t worry honey, I’m sure your father is . . .” – Marge Simpson
“Maybe . . . No . . . That’s a long shot . . . Bingo.” – Marge’s Brain
“Don’t worry, he’ll be here.” – Marge Simpson

In our continuing mission to bring you only the finest in low class, low brow, and low tech internet Simpsons commentary we’re bringing back our “Crazy Noises” series and applying it to Season 21.  Because doing a podcast smacks of effort we’re still using this “chatroom” thing that all the middle schoolers and undercover cops seem to think is so cool.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “carnivorous”).

Dave couldn’t make it this week.  He was in a bar letting strange men buy him drinks, apparently that’s more fun that reliving the 22-minute wasteland of “American History X-Cellent”.  I can’t say I blame him.  Minus one third of our complement we only went for about half our usual length.  Does that mean Dave is responsible for more chat than we are?  Or does it just mean we’re lazy?  You decide.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, so ready to get started?

Mad Jon: ready enough

Charlie Sweatpants: Without using the words "awful", "reprehensible", or "tortuous", describe this episode.

Mad Jon: Carnivorous

Charlie Sweatpants: Good one.

Mad Jon: My soul has been left half eaten and cold on a cheap paper plate

Charlie Sweatpants: Bummer.

Mad Jon: I don’t even know where to begin. This was not only boring, and unoriginal, but also unorganized and almost offensive to gays, there I said it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Because of Smithers?

Mad Jon: More of because of the bar scene where homer was flashing Smithers. Also Smithers was terrible on his own.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh man, I forgot about the flashing thing, that was horrible.

Mad Jon: I had the feeling that this episode was originally written for season 20, for some reason it has that kind of feel to it, but then they decided it was too awful, and canned it. Only to bring it back now.

Charlie Sweatpants: That whole scene was a mess. I mean, Smithers ducks out for a phone call and they get caught talking about him? Soap Operas have more realistic turning points.

Mad Jon: And better reactions to drama

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t really tell Season 20 and 21 apart.

  Second that.

(about the reactions to drama)

Mad Jon: I can. 20 has a distinct flavor that to me tastes like the ashamed feeling I had the first time I got caught peeling one off.

Charlie Sweatpants: And 21?

Mad Jon: 21 feels more like I’ve been a hooker for 5 years… I’m still young and could probably turn my life around at a community college, but we all know it’s too late. And that’s the saddest part of all.

But I digress.

  There is a lot more anger as opposed to confusion with 21.

Charlie Sweatpants: And you’ve only been watching the last couple seasons of Zombie Simpsons, I hate to think what you’d feel like if you’d sat through all of 12+.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that’s an ugly thought.

Charlie Sweatpants: But we digress…

  Bringing us back to the topic of sudden, pointless character changes, they’re getting really clumsy at swapping Burns from good to evil and back again.

Mad Jon: I can’t even tell anymore. I think he is a new type of thing. Some sort of evil good guy.

  Like when Jesus ran that ponzi scheme.

Charlie Sweatpants: They do it at the end of "Rosebud" with about three lines of dialog, by the end of "Team Homer" it’s a quick change of heart. Now he has to get green electro-puke sucked out of him so he can be good for about six minutes.

  Jesus would like to assure you that this is not one of those shady pyramid schemes you’ve heard about. His model is the lower case "t".

Mad Jon: Was that the same guy who was the big black dude in the green mile? It didn’t sound like him, but who knows what that dude’s up to nowadays.

  "t" for time to leave…

Charlie Sweatpants: Michael Clarke Duncan was the guy in Green Mile, but IMDB says he’s never been on Zombie Simpsons.

Mad Jon: I think he even points it out in the end of Team Homer. If I only knew then what I know now…

Charlie Sweatpants: But the whole Burns in prison thing was a waste.

  Burns gets saved, Burns has a small montage, Burns immediately turns evil again.

Mad Jon: Well, they had to start and end and have a middle of the episode somewhere. I think your opening to this weeks Synergy was dead on.

Charlie Sweatpants: If they had any sense of pacing left they’d have done all that in about thirty seconds.

  The whole "Smithers as tyrant boss" was a complete waste as well.

They only showed them working for one scene (which was shorter than the oh so clever reveal in the bar) and they weren’t doing anything.

Mad Jon: I definitely had even more of a "c’mon lets move on" feeling than I usually do with zombie episodes.

Charlie Sweatpants: The "asbestos" joke took forever, and had been done twice between Seasons 2 and 6, and much better.

Mad Jon: Remember the days when Lenny was put in charge by the Germans? ahh, sweet memories.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, that was the bank.

Mad Jon: Oooh, you’re right. Where am I?

Charlie Sweatpants: Three beers deep?

Mad Jon: Three?

  Anyway, I didn’t catch the Asbestos joke the first time since I stopped paying attention 20 seconds in.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, there really isn’t much else, unless you want to talk about the B plot with the ant farm.

Mad Jon: Wait, the part where Bart and Lisa have ants and then don’t?

Charlie Sweatpants: All that happens in this whole episode is Burns has a dumb Fourth of July party (total waste), Burns goes to jail, Burns gets out of jail.

Mad Jon: I guess that was a plot wasn’t it

Charlie Sweatpants: Plus the B plot. There just wasn’t much here.

Mad Jon: And what was here was in no way organized other than Burn’s getting keen on Jesus.

Charlie Sweatpants: What was with the keen on Jesus thing, anyway?

Mad Jon: I meant to say, Burn’s was evil, then he got keen on Jesus, then he was in charge again.

Charlie Sweatpants: They put Monty Burns in a prison, and all they could think to do was make him Christian for three minutes?

Mad Jon: What was the book title?

  I forget.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was Helter Skelter.

You know, because Charles Manson looks like Jesus.

Mad Jon: Is that a book I should be familiar with?

Charlie Sweatpants: Probably not.

Mad Jon: Good.

Charlie Sweatpants: So is there anything left worth complaining about here?

Mad Jon: I’m almost out of beer…

Charlie Sweatpants: No, I meant about the episode.

Mad Jon: Ahh, no.

  I am out of hate for tonight

Charlie Sweatpants: Good, it’s always bad when you run out of beer before you run out of hate.


Synergy Sees What It Wants to See

Five Riots and a Parade

One of these is not like the others.

“Wait, I’m confused about the movie.  So the cops knew that internal affairs was setting them up?” – Homer Simpson
“What are you talking about?  There’s nothing like that in there.” – Movementarian Guy
“Oh, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie.  I have a very short attention span.” – Homer Simpson

This week, IGN pulled its usual stunt of disparaging Zombie Simpsons while still giving it a ridiculously high numerical score (6.9).  I had to make a surprisingly small number of changes to edit out the synergy, and many of those were me replacing faint praise with no praise.  There were quite a few whole sentences that came synergy free. 

Entertainingly, the one part of the episode IGN genuinely enjoyed never actually happened: the riot.  Moe and Marge both use the word “riot”, but no riot ever broke out.  When Springfield riots you see torches and pitchforks; cars are turned over, fires are lit, and stores are looted.  All that happened here was some people throwing fruit at Burns, and even that we mostly didn’t get to see.  No riot occurred, and yet IGN specifically praises the riot scene.  High comedy.

April 12, 2010 – There really hasn’t been a memorable Mr. Burns-centric episode of The Simpsons during the last few seasons. Nothing immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately Fortunately, "American History X-cellent" will quickly fade from memory as well. It could have had potential ten years ago, but that all faded away the deeper into the episode we got long ago.

Any episode focusing on Burns has used to have potential. He’s the billionaire curmudgeon we love to hate. When the episode opened showing Burns locked away in Springfield Penitentiary, and then flashbacked to show us how we got there, the field was wide open for what could be coming. It was good sad to see Burns characteristically wielding his power and exploiting his nuclear plant employees by making their Fourth of July picnic solely about him instead of something actually evil. I also enjoyed how wondered why Burns was carted away in an actual donkey-drawn cart when he was arrested for stealing a painting. The nonchalance of the town riot was also very could have been funny if there had actually been a riot. The folks in Springfield used to riot a lot, so it was would’ve been smart and funny to see Moe selling "stuff to throw" and Marge taking advantage of the empty malls if one had taken place.

The main plot of the episode, however, was tired and mostly unfunny. C. Montgomery Burns was finally thrown in prison ("After all my years of stockjobbing, gun running, attempted murder, successful murder and tom peepery, they get me on a petty, multi-million dollar art theft."), but instead of watching him become the power hungry king of the yard, we got old references to The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Burns’ narration was inconsistent, unfunny and unnecessary. In a week, there will be little you’ll remember of Burns’ time in prison because there really wasn’t anything to it. Had a better story been developed, things could have been much funnier. Instead, the episode was filled out with two other underdeveloped ideas.

The first was a complete waste, as Bart and Lisa bonded over their failure to raise an ant farm. There’s little to say about it because it was as exciting and funny as actually raising an ant farm. The other storyline would have been served better with more screen time. With Burns in the big house, Smithers was left to run the power plant. His transition from good boss– introducing a medical plan that covers illness– to worse than Burns– instead of releasing the hounds, he released wolverines– was a very fun decent idea. Cutting the ant story and expanding on this could have made the episode a hundred times better slightly less intolerable.

Though the potential was there, "American History X-cellent" failed to deliver a would-be classic a decent Mr. Burns episode. His time in prison was too mundane. Evil Mr. Burns is always more fun than a kindhearted Mr. Burns, and new and original ideas are always better than tired Shawshank references. Maybe we’ll get an old school Mr. Burns episode next season in the parallel universe where this show doesn’t suck.


Security at Burns Manor Has Really Gotten Lax

Chalkboard - American History X-Cellent

“Going somewhere?” – C.M. Burns
“That’s impossible!  How did you get here first?” – Bart Simpson
“Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for explanations later.” – C.M. Burns

Zombie Simpsons Writer #1: Have we ever had Smithers take over the power plant?
[10 second pause]
Zombie Simpsons Writer #2: I don’t think so. 
ZSW#1: How do we get rid of Burns?
[20 second pause]
ZSW#2: Could we send him to prison?
ZSW#1: Why not?  How do we get him out of prison?
ZSW#2: What if Homer broke in to prison?
ZSW#1: That’s stupid-
[Intern pokes head in door] Intern: Lunch orders?
[90 seconds pass as two sandwiches are ordered.  A twenty minute discussion of condiments follows.]
ZSW#2: So, Homer breaks Burns out of prison.
ZSW#1: Sounds good.  Where’s my sandwich?

One of my most frequent complaints about Zombie Simpsons is the flat out lazy nature of the storytelling.  Case in point from this week’s exercise in bland, we have Homer, Lenny, and Carl breaking into prison to get Burns out.  I cannot discern a single reason for this to have happened.  Not one.  They didn’t need it as an excuse to use voiceover narration, they didn’t need it to set up or resolve a conflict or confrontation, they didn’t even use it for comedy effect about how easy it is to break into or out of prison.  Burns goes to prison thanks to some expository dialogue from Lou; Burns is released from prison thanks to some expository dialogue from Lenny.  That’s it.  Nothing else happens, and they don’t even give us the perfunctory courtesy of winking at the camera while they do it. 

Of course, it’d be easier to look past all that if it was funny besides, or if there were even, you know, jokes.  Instead, you get things like thirty seconds of Homer not eating a rotten jack-o-lantern, and twenty seconds of Smithers answering a customer service call.  That second scene doubled as an exposition heavy turning point in what I suppose I have to call the “plot”.  It also made no sense for Smithers to be there, and contained foreshadowing dialogue that After School Special writers would consider overt. 

The numbers are in, and they are as awful as we’ve come to expect.  “American History X-Cellent” managed to benumb only 5.65 million viewers.  That’s good for fourth worst all time.  Of the seven episodes that have been broadcast since Spurlock’s special, six of them are in the ten least watched ever, and the seventh (“The Color Yellow”) is #13.  The 20th anniversary stuff will probably keep Season 21 from being the least watched season ever, but there’s no hiding the numbers: Zombie Simpsons is getting the worst ratings in its history and shows no sign of bottoming out. 


Sunday Preview: “American History X-Cellent”

After a blissful two-week reprieve, tonight we have fresh Zombie Simpsons to endure. This one’s called “American History X-Cellent,” a not-so-subtle twist on the feisty romp from 1998 that was “American History X.” While I don’t expect any scenes of graphic curb-stomping, I do expect that tonight’s episode will be equally difficult to watch. Here’s the lowdown from our friends at Simpsons Channel:

When the police are called to diffuse a rowdy crowd at Mr. Burns’ estate, one of the officers recognizes priceless stolen paintings on the walls, and the maniacal billionaire is taken downtown for questioning.

With Mr. Burns gone, Smithers takes charge of the power plant. But when employees take advantage of his good nature, he exacts revenge by forcing the employees to work night and day.

These unfair working conditions prompt Homer and his crew to devise a plan to bust out Mr. Burns.

While nothing about the description specifically incites pangs of revulsion, there’s hardly a chance that “American History X-Cellent” won’t be a hot mess. The plot is flimsy, nothing will happen, montages will be overused, and the whole thing will be laborious and ruthlessly unfunny. Years and years of precedent back me up and let’s face it, things aren’t just going to suddenly change overnight.


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