Posts Tagged ‘Clown in the Dumps

01
Oct
14

Compare & Contrast: Krusty’s Struggles

Like Father, Like Clown13

“Hi, kids.  Today’s show is gonna be the funniest, side-splittinest, cavalcade of . . . ah, the hell with it.  Roll the cartoon.” – Krusty the Klown

There are a lot of big, flashing similarities between “Like Father, Like Clown” and “Clown in the Dumps”, most prominently that both are about Krusty and his father, and, even moreso, about Krusty missing his father.  But there are also a lot of small, individual scenes and jokes that are very similar.  So let’s consider one of the former and then one of the latter.

For our overarching theme, just look at how each episode handles Bart and Lisa.  In Season 3, Bart and Lisa have a reason to meet Krusty (their saving him in “Krusty Gets Buster”), and then we follow them as they set out to help him.  We see them asking Reverend Lovejoy how to find a rabbi, we see them meet Rabbi Krustofsky, get rejected, and then their attempts to win him over.  (The Simpsons being The Simpsons, Sammy Davis Jr. succeeds where the Talmud fails.)

Meanwhile, the episode checks in on Krusty as we see him wallowing in depression: watching a TV movie in a bus station, cracking up on his own show, and dialing his father over and over again.  It’s genuinely sad, but it’s still funny because the movie is Hercules vs. the Martians and Krusty’s on-air break down is his touched response to a particularly brutal and gory Itchy & Scratchy.

Like Father, Like Clown12

“And didn’t Scratchy Jr. look happy playing with his Dad until they got run over by the thresher.”

By contrast, in the blasted wasteland of Season 26, Bart and Lisa are just sort of there for the ride.  Lisa because she was shunted off to an unrelated (and very repetitive) B-plot; and Bart because we don’t see him do anything except show up and explain to us the stuff we didn’t see him do.

In addition to this not making sense, it sucks out a lot of the fun.  Instead of getting to see Bart and Lisa as active characters who get to do things like lie to Reverend Lovejoy about liking his radio show and dress up in curls and a hat to argue Jewish philosophy, we watch Bart talk to Krusty, talk to Krusty, and then talk to Krusty again.

ThrillingConversation

Great, good conversation there.

And it’s not like what we do get to see is any better.  Krusty bounces from one manic episode to the next, but they fall flat over and over again, which brings us to our individual scene of wretchedness, Krusty hosting his show and airing what I almost hesitate to call an “Itchy & Scratchy” cartoon.

Things open with Sideshow Mel helpfully expositing everything that’s happening:

“Boys and girls, you know that we’ve been dark for a couple of days because of a tragic loss in the Krustylu family.  Now, put your hands together for the man who’s falling apart before our eyes, Krusty the Klown!”

That is quintessential “tell don’t show”: not a single word of that needs to be there.  It’s filler from start to finish.  We already know what’s going on, and while there’s something to be said for a dry description of the obvious from time to time, Zombie Simpsons uses it so much that it’s impossible to tell if they’re even trying to be funny with it.

The really bad part, though, is that they’ve become so bad at showing things, they almost have to resort to this sort of thing.  After Krusty appears and tells them to roll the cartoon, we see a very short Scratchy cartoon (Itchy isn’t in it), and then this:

MildlyUpsetKrusty

Krusty, looking a little miffed.

Krusty is kind of upset, but he looks completely normal, and his dialogue is just him setting up a rimshot worthy punchline:

Oh, my God, who made this monstrosity?

Which is immediately followed by a recording of him on the TV claiming credit (rimshot), then more exposition:

Kids, I’m experiencing a crisis of conscience.

It goes on from there while he explains each joke as it happens and tells us what he’s going to do.

Compare that to Krusty also barely holding it together in “Like Father, Like Clown”.  For one thing, we get a real Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, one of the bloodiest and most violent ever, “Field of Screams”.  Just like in Zombie Simpsons, it starts with Scratchy playing with Scratchy Jr..  Since Zombie Simpsons ends it right there, that’s where the similarities stop.  “Field of Screams” has Scratchy and Scratchy Jr. run over by a mechanized thresher driven by Itchy and Itchy Jr., whom we then see playing catch with Scratchy’s head.  There’s a lot of blood, Bart and Lisa (watching from home) laugh uproariously, and then we see Krusty:

Like Father, Like Clown11

 Now that’s sad, and he didn’t even need to tell us what he’s feeling.

Take a look at those two images.  In one, we see Krusty acting perfectly normal (or what passes for it for him), in the other one, we see a broken man just barely holding it together who chokes up and starts crying as he desperately tells them to go to commercial.  The Simpsons doesn’t need to have Krusty tell the audience how he’s feeling because we can see it plainly on his face.

Both episodes have the exact same scene (Krusty bombing his show because he’s upset about his father), but the version from The Simpsons has no gratuitous exposition, a much better Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, and enormously more emotional punch, all while letting the jokes speak for themselves instead of explaining or pre-explaining them.  Furthermore, that incident is what prompts Bart and Lisa to go in search of Rabbi Krustofsky.  They can see Krusty is in pain, and they try to do something.  In Zombie Simpsons, Bart just kinda shows up from time to time.

It’d be one thing if Zombie Simpsons was just repeating things.  Twenty-six seasons is a lot of stories, after all.  But they can’t even repeat things competently, and the way they bungle characters, scenes and even jokes over and over again gives the distinct impression that they don’t care enough to try.

30
Sep
14

Behind Us Forever: Clown in the Dumps

Homer Goes to College15

“My first day of college.  I wish my father was alive to see this.” – Homer Simpson
“Hey!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“How long have you been back there?” – Homer Simpson
“Three days.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

(Sorry for not getting this up yesterday.  The day got away from me.)

Season 26 picked up right where season 25 left off: a time eating guest couch gag, many needlessly self voiced celebrities, characters explaining how they feel and what they’re doing, and plenty of other boring nonsense.  The A-plot was about Krusty being sad and involved the much hyped character death, which turned out to be the nothingburger we all expected.  (The fact that the media is so easily and repeatedly trolled by Zombie Simpsons may be the funniest thing about the show these days.)

The B-plot was about Lisa being worried about Homer’s health all of a sudden.  We know this because she basically narrates the whole thing for us, including how she’s feeling and the ending that was already nonsensical before the school bus crashes into the Simpson back yard.

– Count me among those who generally like the guest couch gags.  It’s nice to get something new and interesting, and since the writing staff doesn’t have to do any plot or dialogue, they’re often very decent.  But this one was pretty bad.  It was a decent concept and had a neat look to it, but it took way too long given how little actually happened and how repetitive the images were.

– This popcorn thing is really dumb.  It was also done much, much better in “Realty Bites”.

– “Cheap to Produce” was at least quick.

– Ugh, this Wiggum crime photo thing.  I thought the Family Guy stuff was going to be during their episode.

– Hey, look: crappy jokes, self voiced celebrities, and canned laughter.

– “Nobody warned me this roast would treat me the same way as every roast I’ve seen and laughed at.” – Unnecessary exposition rolled up with a cheap excuse for the idiot nonsense they just made us sit through.  Stuff like this really demonstrates how much the show has deteriorated.  Krusty knows what a roast is.  It’d be fine to have the roast get to him, bum him out, etc.  Instead, he acts depressed and surprised from the get go because Heaven forefend characters and the story might move along in reaction to what happens rather than just because.

– That swapper joke could’ve been funny if it had made sense.

– Hey, look, Bart just showed up out of nowhere to tell Krusty what to do.  Seamless.

– This is certainly a pointless death scene.

– And now it’s time for a funeral that improbably includes the Simpson family.

– Hey, the B-plot showed up.  I’ll let Lisa explain, “Dad, I’m worried about your health.  I don’t want to lose you.”

– Remember when they only included Sideshow Bob when they had something really great and fun to do?  Long time ago, that.

– “No mimes!” is a decent sign gag.

– And “The elephant and I had our differences” is pretty good.  It’s also short, understated, and unexplained.  Not a coincidence.

– Is it technically an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon if Itchy’s not in it?

– Oh, for fuck’s sake, “Kids, I’m experiencing a crisis of conscious.”

– This is a cruel waste of Maurice LaMarche as the TV critic.

– Lisa’s back to explain what’s happening in the B-plot again.

– Did David Hyde Pierce just wander past the recording room one day?  That might have been even more pointless than the Sideshow Bob cameo.

– Past Krusty shows were a lot better when they were about collective bargaining agreements.

– Similarly, Krusty’s binges used to be more fun.  They even had the Stanley Cup.

– “Krusty, have you fulfilled the promise you made to your father in the dream you never told anyone about?”  Even by their cheat standards that’s lazy.  They weren’t even painted into a corner or anything, they just can’t move things forward without explicitly telling us what’s going on.  Then Bart appeared out of nowhere.

– And now Homer is wrapped in bubble wrap, then there was a car crash and then Lisa explained, out loud, how she was feeling for the fifth time or so.  Mercifully, this B-plot is now over.

– Bart apparently knew who Krusty’s dad’s favorite rabbi was.  No, it doesn’t make any sense.  But at least it was short.

– Oof, the “Jewish Heaven” song is really weak.  There are like three lyrics, most of which are just “Jewish Heaven”, and the rest is just visual references of famous Jews.

Anyway, the ratings are in and they are much improved.  Last night, 8.50 million people lost hope after the FXX marathon reminded them how good the show once was.  That’s way up from last year’s premier, though at least some of that is attributable to the Eagles-49ers game.  It’ll be curious to see whether or not that holds up next week when FOX doesn’t have a late NFL game.  Was it mostly football, or did all that hype actually make a few million people want to start watching the show again?

28
Sep
14

Sunday Preview: Clown in the Dumps

Clown_in_the_Dumps_promo_2

A Springfield resident dies. Also, Krusty retires after he’s offended by a comedy cable channel roast of him, and Lisa tries to protect Homer from getting hurt.

Welcome everyone to season 26. We are going to kick off with the much talked about ‘death of a recurring character who is voiced by an actor who won an Emmy for the character but it’s not anyone important blah blah blah’ episode for which we have all been waiting.  Also some other things are going to happen. I can’t decide what thing I care less about, but that’s because they are all equally meaningless to me.

Also tonight is the Family Guy / Simpsons Crossover, which is technically a Family Guy episode, so I am not obligated to write anything about it here.

 

 




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