Posts Tagged ‘Dangers on a train


Behind Us Forever: The Saga of Carl & Dangers on a Train (And Season 24!)

Lisa the Vegetarian11

“So long, suck-ahhh!” – Bart Simpson

Because FOX sucks at scheduling, how about a two episode season finale?  Why not!:

  • After a clumsy introduction they’ve convinced themselves that repeating the phrase “Ki Ya” over and over again is funny.  Also, why is Marge bathing Bart?
  • This video with Pascal, in a voice that sounds like Azaria trying to keep himself awake, is just as boring as a real museum exhibit.  I miss the zinc filmstrip.
  • “Because people always laugh when you say sixty-nine.  No one knows why.” – I bet this line got a big laugh in the screenwriting elective at Hollywood Upstairs Film College.  
  • Even before the show fell apart, Marge was usually a secondary character to Homer, but this is ridiculous.  Here are her lines, in order, from the dinner table scene:
    – “I still can’t believe it was Carl who took your winnings.  I thought it would’ve been you, or you, or you.”
    – “Maybe he had a reason to give you the ultimate screw over.”
    – “You don’t know where Carl is from?”
    – “Maybe if you talked less about guy stuff you’d know more about your so-called friend.” – She just repeats the crappy jokes as exposition in case anyone who was dozing missed them the first time.
  • Homer and Marge are discussing him going to Iceland (just in case anyone in the audience needed to be told a third time).  At first, it’s just the two of them.  And then, just like that, Bart and Lisa are sitting in their parents room . . . right until six seconds later when they aren’t.
  • Okay, “Hodor’s Travel Guide” is pretty good. 
  • Ooh, the exciting Sigur Ros background music scene!  That needed to be there.
  • Now comes the exciting foot chase component to the car chase we just sat through. 
  • They catch Carl, and are immediately transported to a restaurant without having discussed anything in the interim.  Seamless! 
  • Carl’s little soliloquy on friendship is about the third time they’ve discussed this so far.  It won’t be the last.
  • Um, are they on a bus now?
  • Yes, they are.  Also: more pointless montaging!  It was almost three minutes since the last one.
  • “I know Carl did you wrong, but is destroying something he cares that much about really going to make you feel good?”  It goes on like this.
  • Now it’s an exposition flashback.  Jebus, this episode is a mess.
  • Naturally, a learning Icelandic montage needed to be here. 
  • And now it’s multiple exposition flashbacks to finish the episode. 
  • “That’s for teaching me the true meaning of male friendship.”  Surprisingly enough, this is not an episode of the G.I. Joe cartoon from the 1980s.
  • And now you know not to use beer kegs as swimming pools . . . and knowing is half the battle.

Destination episodes sometimes provide a little humor here and there, if for no other reason than the writers finally have something to talk about that hasn’t already been done half a dozen times.  “The Saga of Carl” managed to nullify even that small advantage by making the whole thing about a drama-free discourse on friendship from four well known characters.  (And that’s before we get into the weird flashbacks.)  That’s a tough act to follow in terms of sheer Zombie Simpsons failure; let’s see if “Dangers on a Train” is up to the task:

  • And we open on a flashback to nine years ago when Bart is in a stroller and Homer has hair.  I continue to not care about inter-episode continuity too much, but this is atrocious.  They want to have the backdrop of Homer knocking Marge up accidentally, which we know happened in 1980, but change a bunch of other stuff.  It’s really disorienting. 
  • Flanders is there, because of course.
  • Okay, “Bikini Atoll” is pretty good.
  • I realize they have to set up the episode somehow, but is Marge really supposed to be unable to tell the word “Dolly” from the word “Sassy” when they’re in forty-point font in the middle of the screen?  (And she’s been to the site before?) 
  • So, Lovejoy is helping them because . . . what, the faulty database program that wrote this for them saw the word “train” on his character bio? 
  • I complain a lot about exposition that is useless at everything except killing time, but what else am I supposed to do with things like Homer saying this after he runs out of the kitchen away from Marge, “The surprise is safe.  The expression on her face will be priceless”?  We just fucking saw that! 
  • The phone rings, Marge answers it, and it’s Homer talking to Moe because they thought Marge didn’t have enough reason to continue talking with MacFarlane, or something?  It’s a twofer: it’s unnecessary and doesn’t make sense.
  • They can’t even have Homer talk to his brain without it breaking into screaming anymore.
  • Marge having coffee with MacFarlane is about the third time she’s shut down conversation with him and then immediately lapsed.  I sure enjoy watching someone repeat their actions over and over for twenty minutes. 
  • During their conversation, Marge mentions that her 11th anniversary coming up.  Head, please meet desk.  The opening titles told us, “Almost nine years ago . . .”, which introduced a scene showing their first anniversary.  That would make the current events their 10th anniversary since 9 + 1 = 10.  We’re not even halfway through this, so there’s no way those two things could be more than about fifteen pages apart in the script.  This is unconscionably lazy editing.  Two dozen professional writers are responsible for this script and have the better part of a year to work on it, and it contains the kind of sloppy mistake you’d expect on a high school paper that was begun a 3am the day it was due.  That’s amazing.
  • Honestly, I’m starting to think the exposition, especially Marge’s, is some kind of involuntary tic.  As soon as the obviously wealthy old lady comes on their slightly renamed Downton Abbey thing, they cut to Marge to say “The dowager grandmum!”.  People who watch that show obviously know who she is, and everyone else can figure out who she is by, you know, watching her.  This one barely even counts as filler since it was so short.  It makes no sense.
  • Does it count as fan service if they stop MacFarlane from singing?  Follow up question: whose fans?
  • “Do you think we’ll last twenty-five years?”  “Nothing should.”  Well, that was thoughtful.
  • Hey, look, they decided to have MacFarlane burst in at the end because the A-plot, even with all the exposition, fell woefully short of filling the prescribed runtime. 
  • And we end on two different dumbass musical numbers.

This episode is a prime example of why it’s not a good thing when the A-plot is barely B-plot in scope.  This is theoretically about Marge thinking about cheating on Homer with Peter Griffin, but every time we see Marge interact with MacFarlane, she shuts it out as inconceivable.  (Nevermind that just three seasons ago they had her all but fall in love with Flanders.)  So Marge’s story in this episode basically goes like this: Homer makes me mad, I’ll spend some time with this guy, I’ll never cheat (repeat 3-5x).  Her attraction to him doesn’t build on itself or deepen, it’s just the same damn thing over and over.

Meanwhile, Homer’s friends from Moe’s (and Reverend Lovejoy, because fuck it) are all working (apparently around the clock) on his big anniversary gift for her.  For a split second, when they cut to the train being demolished accidentally, I thought something might be happening.  Would Homer’s gift be destroyed and Marge’s suspicions about his forgetting get a little bit interesting?  Of course not!  The next time we see the train it’s all refurbished and good as new. 

So, this story has two potential points of conflict: Marge cheating, and Homer’s anniversary gift failing.  Neither one is ever seriously presented, and at the end – surprise, surprise – neither happens. 

If funny stuff was happening along the way, you could maybe overlook some of that.  Instead we get drawn out Downton Abbey scenes like “Bless it all, Polly, I love you.  And we shall be wed by Boxing Day Eve, aka Christmas”.  And the regular dialogue is no better, it’s godawful sitcom banter:

“Homey, I bet you’re wondering why I stayed on the computer until four am.”
“Hey, those Yelp reviews don’t write themselves.  Did you know a well placed one-star can destroy a mom and pop hardware in nothing flat?”

Nothing says sparkling writing like naturally flowing setup-punchline combos that end with mildly topical references!  It’s just like how me and my friends talk.

All told, both of these episodes have stories that don’t go anywhere and don’t make sense, feature wretched writing from start to finish, and seem to be comprised mostly of time wasting filler.  If nothing else, it’s a fitting send off for yet another forgettable season.


Hey, Everybody, Season 24 Is Over

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge13

“Hi, kids! . . . What the . . . is this Saturday?” – Krusty the Klown

I’m still going to do Behind Us Forever for this week’s episodes, but the last two days have not been kind in terms of free time.  In the interim, how about a little ratings schadenfreude?

Sunday’s episodes both scored dismal ratings, with the first one (“The Saga of Carl”) coming in at just 4.01 million viewers, and “Dangers on a Train” bumping up a bit to 4.52 million.  The former is good for #2 on the all time least watched list, with even the higher rated second episode coming in at #10.  Here is the current bottom twenty in terms of viewers:





Episode Title

1 23-21 13-May-12 4.00 Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend
2 24-21 19-May-13 4.01 The Saga of Carl
3 24-20 12-May-13 4.05 Fabulous Faker Boy
4 24-17 14-Apr-13 4.07 What Animated Women Want
5 24-12 10-Feb-13 4.19 Love Is a Many-Splintered Thing
6 23-13 12-Feb-12 4.33 The Daughter Also Rises
7 24-8 16-Dec-12 4.41 To Cur With Love
8 24-19 6-May-13 4.43 Whiskey Business
9 24-18 28-Apr-13 4.48 Pulpit Friction
10 24-22 19-May-13 4.52 Dangers on a Train
11 24-13 17-Feb-13 4.57 Hardly Kirk-Ing
12 24-14 3-Mar-13 4.66 Gorgeous Grampa
13 23-20 6-May-12 4.75 The Spy Who Learned Me
14 23-22 20-May-12 4.79 Lisa Goes Gaga
15 24-15 10-Mar-13 4.85 Black-Eyed Please
16 23-18 15-Apr-12 4.86 Beware My Cheating Bart
17 24-16 17-Mar-13 4.89 Dark Knight Court
18 23-16 11-Mar-12 4.96 How I Wet Your Mother
19 22-18 10-Apr-11 5.00 The Great Simpsina
20 23-19 29-Apr-12 5.00 A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again

Of those twenty, nineteen are from Seasons 23 or 24, with the lone exception being from Season 22.  Every single episode broadcast since February of this year has made the list.  And not a single episode in all of Season 24 was viewed by more than 10 million people, the first time that’s ever happened.  (The only one even close came after an NFL playoff game.)

In terms of average viewership, Season 24 ran away with the title of least viewed ever.  After bumping along in the low seven million range from Season 20 through 22, last season fell down to just 6.13 million viewers on average.  Season 24 sunk even further, averaging just 5.47 million viewers over its twenty-two episodes.

Now, the usual caveat about these ratings: these are just the overnight numbers.  When there are significant changes to them (usually because a sporting event runs long), I make those updates, but these are not the fancy pants final numbers that take into account demographics, DVR viewers, and whatever else advertisers complain about.  Nielsen only makes very limited data available to the public (at least, as far as I can tell), so these are the numbers I use, but don’t try reading anything into these in terms of “Will the show get cancelled?”.

The thousand monkeys at a thousand Blackberries who run FOX will be looking at those more detailed ratings as well as factoring in all kinds of things like whether or not a replacement would provide the same lead-in numbers for the rest of the Sunday lineup, how expensive said replacement would be, and how much Jean and company react when feces are thrown at them during meetings.  (MacFarlane doesn’t even flinch.)  Given the production lead time, we should be hearing something about a renewal beyond the current contract (on which there are 29 episodes left) sometime in calendar 2013, but that’s about all that can be said right now.

[Update 6:45pm EDT: Just saw this: CBS Takes Key Ratings Crown for First Time in 21 Years.  FOX lost the battle for the nuts and gum people to CBS this year and their overall viewers were third at 7.0 million.  No idea what the monkeys will think of losing to the old people network and having Zombie Simpsons dragging down their overall number, but it seemed worth mentioning.]


Sunday Preview(s): The Saga Of Carl and Dangers On A Train


In “The Saga of Carl”, Homer, Moe, Lenny and Carl win the Springfield Lottery. But when Carl takes off to Iceland – his Homeland – with all the winnings, the guys embark on a Nordic adventure to rescue the cash.

In “Dangers on a Train”, looking for a cupcake website, Marge mistakenly ends up an online dating site for married people to arrange affairs. There she encounters Ben, who tries to seduce her based on their mutual love of TV series Upton Rectory, mostly over the phone.

Oooohh!  Double Feature!!  I can’t recall The Simpsons ever trying to end a season as fast as possible like this before, so that’s new.  Also Seth MacFarlane and Lisa Lampanelli are both guests tonight. I wonder if Fox realizes that the people who still enjoy this show are either too young or too out of it to know who Lisa lampanelli is? Not that I care, although now I may spend my time from 8-9 pm tonight listening to her standup instead of watching this 60 minute void.


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