Posts Tagged ‘Behind the Laughter


Quote of the Day

“Okay, the material was a little corny, but Homer and I had real chemistry on screen.” – Marge Simpson
“Every day I thought about firing Marge. You know, just to shake things up.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

“Where did the money go? Marge lost much of the family fortune investing in birth control products.” – Behind the Laughter Announcer
“I learned something. When people reach for their diaphragm, they don’t want to see my picture.” – Marge Simpson

Note: Sorry for the late quote of the day. Should have a Behind Us Forever for whatever dreck their using as a season finale tomorrow.


Behind Us Forever: Pork & Burns


“They can’t take our house! My pot-bellied pig is in there! Oh, Mr. Porky, no!” – Homer Simpson

It has long been true that just about the only thing anyone remembers from the bloated mess that was the movie (itself now almost ten years old) is Spider-Pig. In this episode, Spider-Pig comes back as a kind of Mojo-the-Helper-Monkey replacement. Wacky hijinks ensue. In the B-plot, Marge becomes obsessed with de-cluttering her house, which leads Lisa to get rid of her saxophone until it turns out Marge had it all along. No, it didn’t make any sense in the episode either.

Here are some typically brainless scenes:

  • The couch gag has dialogue again. This seems to be happening a lot more lately. I guess they’re finally giving up on maintaing them as a short, silent pre-show joke. Can’t say I blame them. Every part of this show is beyond the point of exhaustion.
  • There’s a book called “The Japanese Warrior Monks’ Guide to Tidying Up”, which would be okay as a throwaway gag, but turns into an entire storyline, complete with Marge reading the whole title aloud after we’ve already seen it three or four times. Delayed exposition, huh.
  • The writing on this show has gotten so sitcom-y over the years that I don’t even notice it most of the time, but this was particularly bad: “Think of the kids! The kids working in overseas factories to make this crap!” Setup, beat, punchline.
  • Characters who weren’t in the room suddenly appearing in the room: Milhouse & Grampa so far, I’m sure there will be more.
  • Homer makes a “reuse this calendar” joke. Sure it’s not 1985 right now, but who knows what Season 30 will bring?
  • So, uh, Spider-Pig is back for some reason.
  • gimpvan
    Homer just attempted to give Spider-Pig away in a darkened parking lot at night, which lead to a lot of shallow “creepy van” jokes that ended with a guy in a gimp costume in the back of one. Do things like this really get laughs at table reads? And, if so, has anyone checked for a gas leak in that room?
  • There’s a Dr. Nick scene. About half of it is him counting to five in Spanish.
  • In one of their more bizarre scene set ups, Marge and Homer have a confrontation about Homer keeping Spider-Pig while they’re standing in the front door. How did they get there? Why are they there? No idea. The scenes on either side have nothing to do with it. I know they don’t care about things like this, but nobody actually seems to live in this universe anymore, they’re just cutouts standing in front of backdrops waiting for the next skit to start.
  • Homer and Lisa are now duel expositing about their feelings at the dinner table. Really badly:
    Homer: Oh, that is really, really sad.
    Lisa: Wow you understand how I feel?
    Homer: Yes, because I feel about my pig the way you used to feel about your honk-a-ma-flute.
  • “Homer, those kids hands are covered in barbecue sauce”, um, okay.
  • “Dad, no, that’s a snake from the petting zoo!” – The context for this line is that Homer is going to spray the hounds with a hose. There is no petting zoo. This show makes more sense when you pretend there’s an invisible box marked “Props” that follows everyone around.
  • unwoundedpig
    So . . . Mr. Burns’ hounds attacked Spider Pig, with lots of growling and tearing. Then they get pulled off and Spider-Pig is . . . fine. Looks a little sad, but fine. Homer then freaks out because he needs to or something. The whole scene is awkward, because they want it to simultaneously be a vicious dog attack, but they also don’t want to show any blood or gore because this is still supposed to be a comedy.
  • Now there’s a pig doctor treating Spider-Pig, and now Mr. Burns is going to put him into pig rehab because he just exposited about his insurance for some reason.
  • Homer is having a dream about the Mayo Clinic being doctors who are mayonnaise jars. Worse, the mayo jars spend the whole dream expositing what they’re doing.
  • Pig vacation montage. There’s three words I wasn’t expecting to type when I started this episode.
  • Let’s end on some more clunky exposition: “Now what’s wrong?”, “My joy’s returned  but my passion’s gone.”
  • They must’ve really liked that mayo doctor things, because they’re killing the last twenty seconds of contract mandated runtime with an ER parody. Timely.

Anyway, the ratings are in and the annual Zombie Simpsons NFL Playoff lead-in has once again produced their best number of the year. On Sunday, 8.19 million people left their televisions on after the Giants-Packers game. To my surprise, FOX is also getting a late playoff game this Sunday, so that’ll help Zombie Simpsons next week as well.


Quote of the Day

Behind the Laughter7

“Then we figured out we could park them in front of the TV. That’s how I was raised, and I turned out TV.” – Homer Simpson


Shearer Not Gone After All

Behind the Laughter6

“In that family, nobody trusted nobody.  They even brought their lawyers to Thanksgiving dinner.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

Harry Shearer has decided to keep doing voices for Zombie Simpsons:

Harry Shearer returning to The Simpsons

You don’t really need to click that link, it’s mostly nothing and even repeats the dubiously sourced $300,000 per episode number, but it’s been confirmed by a couple of other outlets.  The article also says that Shearer signed the same contract as the other five cast members, which (if true) means that money really wasn’t the issue and Shearer really did think the show was preventing him from doing other projects.  Jean took to Twitter to explain:

I would like to clear up a misunderstanding. I have recently been told that during a period where Harry Shearer believed he had a five week free period from the Simpsons, I was unaware of this fact, and did in fact request material from him. If so, my bad. I am truly glad he is returning to the show.

This is the public explanation for Shearer’s abrupt “I’m leaving” announcement in May, that Jean had asked Shearer to work during a time Shearer thought he was on break, so he balked at signing an extension.  If it seems a little bizarre that it took them eight weeks to sort out something as simple as that, well, that’s because it is bizarre.

Maybe relations between Shearer and the show are strained to the point that it really did take them this long to clear up something that can be described in two and a half Tweets (Shearer’s original announcement quoted a letter from a lawyer, so they may indeed be at the “acrimonious divorce” stage of communication).  Maybe there was a negotiation, and while Shearer may be getting the same money he also now has a better deal in terms of hours and flexibility.  Maybe Jean’s telling the truth, and it really was just an honest mistake.

Whether Jean is spinning for his bosses or accurately describing this whole big saga doesn’t really matter, however.  Shearer will continue to phone in his voices, and Zombie Simpsons will continue its mediocre ways.


Quote of the Day

Behind the Laughter5

“I want to set the record straight: I thought the cop was a prostitute.” – Homer Simpson


Behind Us Forever: The Man Who Came to Be Dinner

Behind the Laughter4

“Are you going to need us tonight?” – Kang
“I had ballet tickets!  Not that they’ll do much good now.” – Kodos 

It’s now clear that Al Jean and David Mirkin (who co-wrote), and David Silverman (who directed), would much rather be working on Futurama than Zombie Simpsons, and I don’t blame them.  Like various Star Treks, that show gave its writers and directors a functionally unlimited amount of creative leeway.  Need to make fun of something?  Make up a new planet or a new species or a new anything and there you go.  Zombie Simpsons, on the other hand, is rigidly straight-jacketed by twenty plus seasons of stories and the need to keep the show basically the same as it’s always been lest habitual viewers lose interest.  The very existence of Futurama is a testament to the fact that Groening and company were getting bored with The Simpsons after ten seasons; and now, after sixteen more years, Jean and Mirkin seem to feel the same way.

So, what was this thing?  Well, it was either a relatively creative episode of Zombie Simpsons or a relatively weak episode of Futurama, depending on how you look at it.  To give you an example, near the end, Homer uses the same Dickens quote that Shatner does at the end of Star Trek 2.  It’s not even trying to be funny or anything, but as a Star Trek reference, it’s outstanding and a very Futurama thing to do.

None of this story needed the Simpson family to be there, and the whole thing would’ve been less awkward generally with the Planet Express crew than residents of Springfield, but what are you gonna do?  That show got cancelled, this one is still on, and it’s not like having Kang and Kodos in a regular episode is going to lower anyone’s respect for the show or defile it’s history.  That damage was done long ago.  Tacitly acknowledging that by discarding all the rules for an episode about a weird alien planet that’s crammed full of sci-fi references and sign gags is fine by me.  I’ll even go so far as to say that this is the best episode of Zombie Simpsons since probably “Trilogy of Error” back in Season 12.  It’s weird and chaotic, but for once those things are intentional.  Well done, Messrs Jean, Mirkin and Silverman.

– Couch gag is relatively brief, always a plus, and actually works with “Pictures at an Exhibition”.

– I understand that the “Are We There Yet” scene is meant to be a callback, but there’s way too much drawn out Homer aggravation.

– Ethnic Princess section is pretty good, but didn’t need Marge to exposit it.  This will be a repeated problem.

– As a counter example to the above, the State of Mickey (or whatever) with a sign advertising $7 pretzels only works because nobody read it out loud.

– The bug scene wasn’t bad, and there is a certain catchiness to “Certain death awaits if you get off the bug”.

– As usual, the pre-explanations of the jokes never help.  Yoda saying “Purchased for $4 billion, I was” is just fine on it’s own without first reminding everyone that Disney owns Star Wars now.

– The busty figurehead reading “Our Bodies, Ourselves” and the rest of the politically correct Pirates of the Caribbean ride is the same.  Really didn’t need Lisa explaining it when they already had a sign that said “Politically Correct”.  One is enough.

– Look, a sign gag that works and didn’t have anyone explaining it:

No Shareholder Questions

– This thing with everyone getting melted in the Cool Zone is very Futurama-ish.

– Ditto the screams of terror from the people on the “Let-Go Loop”.

– The sign gags are actually decent:


– “The kind of fun that attractive families have in commercials” isn’t bad.

– And the “Continue Spending” sign being pulled by the plane during the cutaway to the bench line works too.

– And we’re going into space on a flying saucer.  When they disconnect the rest of the episode from the opening these days, they really disconnect it.

– And in the first of what will be many, many, many Star Trek references, there’s the bridge noise from the original series.

– “This isn’t Halloween!”, we know.

– Okay, it was a little expository, but I did like “easily reassured fool”.

– Oof, this potato chip scene with the Blue Danube playing goes on way too long for a callback to Season 5.

– Stuff like flying past a game of Asteroids, also very Futurama-y.

– Though I could’ve done without Homer repeatedly chopping off his own hand, and then growing one on Marge’s head.

– I’m going to assume the symbols on those animated billboards (“Have your cups lost their suck?”) is also a Star Trek reference.  Klingon, maybe?

– So, that was a little weird.  The lights just went out and Kodos turned on a flashlight, then the lights were back on.

– “We have federal rebates for the panels, but few take advantage of them.”

– The multi-birth thing, feh.

– Further cementing my suspicion that this is actually an episode of Futurama, the family is now the attraction at a zoo.  Where have I seen that before?

– More good sign gags that (gasp) didn’t have themselves exposited:


– There’s even an alien doctor who doesn’t know basic human anatomy. Why not Zoidberg?

– Seriously, there’s a FORTRAN joke!  Jean didn’t have FOX goons kidnap David X. Cohen and Ken Keeler, did he?  Have people seen them recently?  Are they okay?

– Putting it to a vote seems like a very un-Marge thing to do.

– And the voting scene goes on too long generally.  Though it was kinda funny that Homer wrote “The Boy”.

– And there’s our ultra obscure Star Trek 2 reference.  Shatner mumbles that line so badly that I didn’t recognize it for a long time and I doubt I’m the only one.

– A lot of the voices don’t sound like themselves anymore, but Shearer’s Vin Scully remains very close to the original.

– “His hobbies include, sitting, lying down, and reaching for things without success.”

– There’s been plenty of the usually “meh” Zombie Simpsons animation here, but this scene with the children’s choir is pretty neat.

– They can’t break all their bad habits, though, “A transporter beam, someone is trying to steal our sacrifice” is about as unnecessary as exposition gets.

– Tell me this doesn’t sound exactly like something Prof. Farnsworth would say, “Space Broccoli has the most advanced feelings of any creature in the universe.”

– This Matrix 2 joke isn’t bad, but didn’t need to be nearly that long.

– There are a lot of freeze frame sign gags here, way more than usual.  The only thing that was close recently was the end credits of the Futurama crossover:


That whole thing is on-screen for less than a second and it’s enjoyably sclerotic and absurd.

– “Seriously, are we listening to the same guy?”

– “Why do you care?  It’s just your sex mate and spermlings.”

– Here’s some good animation combined with more good freeze frame sign gags:


They pop in quickly enough that while you can see them, there’s no way you could read “The Complete Works of Shakespeare Made of Chocolate” without pausing.  Also, that is dead Rod and Todd there, which is way bleaker and darker than you normally see on Zombie Simpsons.

– And while this thing is really unevenly paced overall, it moves well here at the end.  Homer going back to save his family obviously isn’t going to work, but they don’t draw it out at all, just hard cutting to “All will be eaten”.

– The glaze thing, on the other hand, takes forever.

– This ending kinda drags, though.

– But on the good side, this “So it will be as if none of this ever happened” callback is the only one.  They don’t repeat it ad nauseum like, oh, say, “Everything fits together” yada yada.

– They’ve now dropped any remaining Star Trek subtlety, but it’s kinda fun.

– “Like three bean salad at a barbecue, we will remain untouched.”

– I try not to be a sucker for cheap fan service, but Clausen hits one out of the park with this Star Trek version of the ending theme.

– And posing all their characters in Star Trek scenes was a nice send off.

I mean what I said about “Trilogy of Error” above.  Like that one, “The Man Who Came to Be Dinner” is deeply unusual in a way that even their three-part “storytelling” episodes aren’t.  Aliens, melted tourists, a panoply of Star Trek stuff, it’s generally more bizarre than it is outright funny, but none of it is any weirder than, say, killer robots, talking bar rags, popped eyeballs, and the host of other assorted shit they’ve done.  At least this time they’re acknowledging it instead of asking us to take them seriously.

Helpfully, it is almost completely devoid of the string music of suspense and the weird seriousness that drags down so many Zombie Simpsons episodes.  They acknowledge right at the start that wacky and (appropriately enough for Star Trek) non-canon stuff is going to happen, so even when Homer or the family is in danger of getting eaten, it’s played as 100% silly with no pretending there’s any real danger or drama.

None of which is to say that it doesn’t have problems.  This is still Zombie Simpsons we’re talking about, so there’s the usual array of them: too much exposition, half-hearted slap stick, general filler, etcetera.  But like “Trilogy of Error” and unlike most Zombie Simpsons episodes, this one had a premise and stuck to it.  That premise may have been crazy and weird, but a lot more care and thought were put into this than most, and it shows.

Anyway, the numbers are in, and I can just let TV by the Numbers explain:

The Simpsons earned a adults 18-49 rating, up 59 percent from a 2.9 for its most recent original episode. It was the show’s highest rated episode since January 5, 2014, when it also followed a playoff game.

Last night, 10.51 million people wished Futurama had gotten another season.  This is why networks like FOX pay such ridiculous amounts of money for football.  Sadly for the numbers, however, both of FOX’s remaining Sunday games are early and won’t lead in to primetime.  But for once, the numbers are good, and even more unusually, there was something sort of worth watching.


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