Posts Tagged ‘Blazed and Confused

19
Nov
14

Compare & Contrast: Pranking the New Teacher

The PTA Disbands16

“Kids have been doing that one since my day.” – Marge Simpson

Rather than get into the nonsensical pageant of the transmundane that was the last third of “Blazed and Confused”, I’d like to take a look at a small moment from the beginning that illustrates the general shallowness of this episode.  Specifically, the way that Bart’s closet/skeleton “prank” fails as both a prank, a joke, and as a part of the rest of the episode, especially when compared with Bart’s similar actions in “The PTA Disbands”.

While the backstories differ considerably, the immediate situation in both episodes is remarkably similar.  In each one, the kids have a new teacher about whom they know basically nothing other than, as Bart says, “They’re trying to teach”.  Also in each, Bart has prepared an elaborate booby trap to welcome the newly unfortunate teacher.  This is where the two episodes diverge.

In “Blazed and Confused”, Bart has hidden a remote control car and a skeleton in the closet at the back of the room.  His plan is to bump the car into the door a couple of times to get the teacher to investigate; when the door is opened, the skeleton drops from the ceiling, presumably frightening the teacher.

JustConfusing

This is, to put it mildly, a very pedestrian prank.  It wouldn’t be all that hard to set up in real life.  Unless the person involved was very high strung or this was being done late at night on Halloween or something, it probably wouldn’t frighten anyone so much as briefly puzzle them.  For proof, look no further than “Bart Carney”, which did the exact same thing as an example of something that was indefensibly lame.

Bart Carny5

“That was just confusing.”

To be fair to Zombie Simpsons, upon seeing Bart’s hapless skeleton trick, Milhouse says that it’s only kinda scary.  So they’re aware that this is not one of Bart’s masterpieces.  But they still have him go through with it, thinking it’ll work.  It’s Bart doing what so many characters do in Zombie Simpsons: act contrary to who he is.  Similarly, later in the episode, Marge will blindly trust Homer to do something that the Marge of Season 6 would never blindly trust Homer to do.  The situations and story requirements are so dumb that they require the characters to act like lifeless versions of themselves just to get from scene to scene.

Bart’s prank, which they show us twice, is something the Bart of “The PTA Disbands” would scoff at.  He’s the kid who hung a giant log from the ceiling to smash some unsuspecting teacher back into the blackboard.  It would probably be fatal in real life, but that doesn’t matter because this is a cartoon and nothing bad actually happens.  Bart leaps to his mother’s rescue, and she, having nearly just killed, fondly intones that kids have been attacking their teachers Ewok-style since she was in school.

This is one of those multi-layer jokes that made this show so damned funny.  There’s 1) the over the top violence of it, 2) the fact that little 10-year-olds are vicious enough to plan it, 3) that 10-year-olds have always been doing that, and 4) that all of this is considered so normal that nobody is even upset.  And none of that even takes in the context: Bart having to be reminded of them by Milhouse, the list of already dispatched teachers, and Bart suffering the beginnings of the perpetual embarrassment of being one of his earnestly uncool mother’s students.

The PTA Disbands15

And Milhouse didn’t even have to stick his nose through the hole.

The blackboard shattering impact of the log isn’t any kind of stand alone joke or punchline.  It’s a fast and necessary part of a complete scene where each element complements and exaggerates every other.  The last line before it comes crashing down is Milhouse’s, “I meant the other bobby trap!”, a statement that wouldn’t make sense if we hadn’t already seen Bart brush the thumb tack off Marge’s chair, or rush up there in a panic, or the rest of the scene that explains what they’re doing.

By contrast, the last line before Season 26 Bart starts his effort at teacher warfare, is Bart saying, “I will not.  Anything to delay a spelling test”.  What spelling test?  What is Bart hoping this hapless thing he once saw in a broken down carnival ride is going to accomplish?  Cause this guy to run off screaming?  Prime him for the most traumatic hose soaking of his life?  We sure don’t know.  He’s trying to get out of something the audience neither knows nor cares about, and what he’s doing wouldn’t work anyway.  In and of itself, the prank is dumber and weaker, and outside of that it dangles (literally) in the middle of the scene with hardly a connection to outside events.

You can see this same isolation and lack of connection throughout “Blazed and Confused”.  The scene where Jason shows up to murder the park ranger was just a random thing dropped into the middle of the episode.  There are literally no characters at “Blazing Guy” other than Lassen.  Everyone else in attendance is just a one note blip, on and off the screen for whatever reason they happened to be there.  Lassen introducing himself in Skinner’s office hardly needed to be there.  And, given that his face cutting was probably the creepiest thing he did, the episode likely would’ve been better off without that entire scene.

Zombie Simpsons never bothers to weave a joke or a scene together with everything else.  They just stack a few things up and hope a couple of them land.  And if Bart’s prank doesn’t work, who cares?  Maybe the next thing will.  The Simpsons didn’t do that.  It made each part of the script, down to individual lines and words, aspects of a coherent whole that builds on itself.  That intrinsic context and support can make a murderous “prank” hilarious, just as not having context and support can drain the fun from great ideas, and leave bad ones hanging lifelessly from a thread.

17
Nov
14

Behind Us Forever: Blazed and Confused

Last Tap Dance in Springfield3

“Camp is gonna be great!  Seven days without parents, homework or ear medicine!” – Milhouse van Houten 

The best thing to say about this episode is that at least the designers and animators had some fun (including David Silverman, who even got a line!).  Other than that, this one was a cheerless, contradictory mess.  There’s a new teacher, who’s some kind of psychotic, rule crazy nutjob, but who nevertheless is a regular at “Blazing Guy”, a Burning Man parody so uncreative that they actually tried to make fun of themselves for it.  Nothing we see of this guy would indicate that he would want to be so much as near “Blazing Guy”, but he’s in line for the great honor of setting the big statue on fire.  Was Zombie Simpsons making a point about not assuming what type of people might attend Burning Man?  Of course not.  In their world, him being an uptight prick in the first half of the episode has nothing to do with the second anyway.

– Decent (and short) couch gag for once.

– This show has deteriorated to the point that Chalmers yelling is now considered a go to gag.

– This teacher swapping scene isn’t a terrible idea, but dear sweet Jebus is the execution dumb.  Chalmers yelling and being afraid of this teacher doesn’t make a lick of sense, precludes them from making actual jokes, and makes this guy’s introduction serious instead of, you know, comedic.

– Oh, look, Willem Dafoe is back.  Also, he just cut his face for no reason.  Hi-larious.

– Bart has constructed a prank in the closet with a remote controlled car and a skeleton.  Enjoy it, because this episode moves so slowly they’re going to show it to us twice.

– Now Dafoe is hassling Nelson, who is helpfully expositing everything.

– He just gave Bart a haircut, so naturally the next one minute of screen time (at the Simpson dinner table) will be a rehash of that.

– Marge says that Bart should’ve gotten a balloon with his haircut.  Bart then has a balloon.  Hacktacular!

– And here’s the big swerve.  Marge mentions that there’s a camping trip.  She also asked Homer to book a reservation.  This makes so little sense that the show has Marge weep and exposit it.

– Now the teacher just punched through the blackboard.  Don’t ask.

– Then Milhouse stuck his nose through the hole.  Please continue not asking.

– Bart just got electrocuted with lots of sad music playing.  It’s weird.

– Milhouse just plugged New Zealand’s film industry for some reason.

– Bart helpfully tells us that he set up a camera in the teacher’s lounge.  That leads Lassen (which is the name they gave this guy) to helpfully exposit that he wants to talk to Miss Hoover on-line.  Bart then exposits that he’s created a fake profile for Miss Hoover, which means they can now see Lassen’s profile.  Everybody got all that?

– Meanwhile, Homer is on the phone begging for a campsite reservation.  Then Jason from the Friday the 13th movies shows up, murders the park ranger Homer’s talking to, and listens while Homer describes his house and his “pretty wife”.  It’s also weird.

– Bart and Milhouse are now sitting outside.  After Nelson and Lassen show up real quick for no reason, Milhouse helpfully pushes the plot forward by telling us that photos of Lassen were taken at “Blazing Guy”.  He then asks what that is before saying “Oh, that’s convenient” as he clicks on a video that explains it.

– The neo-hippie in the video explains that “this year’s” guy who ignites the statue is Lassen.  While he’s doing this, the statue, already on fire, burns in the background.  Shit like this is why I call the writing lazy.  There’s no need for that.  It isn’t a “cheat”; it doesn’t move the story forward; it isn’t a joke.  It’s just sloppy.  Either nobody noticed or nobody cared, and neither speaks well for the quality of the show.

– Bart then exposits that if they go there and film him, he’ll get revenge.  This also makes no sense, and Lassen’s profile already has such pictures, but whatever.

– Marge and Lisa are packing for the camping trip that for some reason she still assumes is going to happen.  Bart and Homer then show up to stage whisper to each other about going to “Blazing Guy” instead.  Marge and Lisa are still in the room and might’ve noticed this, but Zombie Simpsons doesn’t care about that.

– In the car, Marge reminds everyone that she doesn’t know where they’re going.

– For no reason and with no consequences, the family tent just blows away.  Because this show has the attention span of an inch worm, we knew it was going to happen because a random guy popped up to tell us that it would first.

– And Marge just got high on tea offered to her by a stranger.

– And now there’s a new tent.

– Ugh, they just panned over a bunch of “Blazing Guy” musicians while Lisa narrated who they are.

– Here’s another example of how shallow and pointless all of this is.  When Lisa first sees where they are, she happily declares it, “A world of anarchic free expression!”.  A few scenes later, we see her playing her sax in a drum circle, where she is quickly joined by more musicians who it seems like might be stepping on her toes.  (This is also David Silverman’s cameo.)  But instead of adding some depth to “Blazing Guy” by saying that maybe all the anarchy can get annoying, or that Lisa actually loves it, or anything else, they just exit Silverman stage right and move on.  The sum total of the Zombie Simpsons take on “Blazing Guy” is that people dress and act weird.

– Remember the plot?  The episode just had Bart and Milhouse spying on Lassen, including Bart helpfully reminding us of what they were doing.

– Marge being stoned gives them their excuse to eat some clock with a trippy montage.  Not before Homer gets hurt in the crotch and Bart reminds us again of why they’re there.

– Oh for fuck’s sake.  Bart and Milhouse are wandering around and Bart finds some “fire retardant”.  He tells us what the cans are, even though it’s stenciled on the side of each one.  This is this episode’s “opens a box of flesh eating ants”.  Bart then explains how it will work.

– Unnoticed by anyone, Bart has now sprayed the giant statue with “fire retardant”.

– Oof, Lassen is now using David Silverman’s tuba to shoot fire at Bart and chase him around.  And then Homer fires himself out of a catapult to collapse the statue.

– Yet more evidence that Zombie Simpsons cannot sustain a thought for more than a few seconds, Marge is high again, and even asks when the tea will get out of her system.  Not two minutes ago we saw her sober and talking with Homer.  But, hey, they wanted to go back to trippy montage, so why not?

– We get one final scene where Chalmers and Skinner fire Lassen.  It too is exposited:

Chalmers: So, where do you go from here?
Lassen: A place where my talents will be appreciated.

Turns out he’s a prison guard now.  And Sideshow Bob is there for a very brief cameo.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they’re pretty much the same as last week’s.  Yesterday, just 6.64 million people wished they had whatever drugs Marge was on to get them through that snoozefest.  That’s in line with what we’ve come to expect from episodes with football lead ins.  Next week, the late national game is on CBS, so it’ll doubtlessly be much lower.

16
Nov
14

Sunday Preview: Blazed and Confused

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Zombie Simpsons (finally?) takes on Burning Man Blazing Guy in tonight’s assuredly half-assed “Blazed and Confused”. Also, for reasons, Willem Dafoe is in it. The synopsis-bot sez:

Bart faces a tough test at school when he gets a new teacher, Mr. Lassen (guest voice Willem Dafoe), who vows to crush his spirit in the all-new “Blazing Guy” episode of THE SIMPSONS airing Sunday, Nov. 16 (8:00-8:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX

Cool story, bro.




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