Posts Tagged ‘Elementary School Musical


Compare & Contrast: Camp Songs

Kamp Krusty5

Someday I may run out of examples of how Zombie Simpsons is watery gruel compared to the hearty, nourishing comedy stew that was The Simpsons, but not today.  I’d like to compare the camp song in “Elementary School Musical” to the one in “Kamp Krusty”.  Both songs take about fifty seconds of screen time, with the one from Zombie Simpsons being a little bit longer.  Here are the complete lyrics of the song from Zombie Simpsons:

Lea Michele: I, I love the elegant pearls you wear.

Cory Monteith: And the starfish shape that constitutes your hair.

Amber Riley: You’ll be staying in cabin twelve

Cory Monteith: And we think that you’ll be very happy there.

All: You’re gonna like arts camp, Lisa.  Marge paid with her debit Visa.

Lisa:  Arts, arts, arts, and education.

Lisa and “All” then repeat their lines for the next twenty five seconds, or half of the time the song takes.  This may be a bit reductive, but let’s count the jokes.  I see one, and only one.  Line by line:

I, I love the elegant pearls you wear. [Not a joke.]

And the starfish shape that constitutes your hair. [Almost a joke, but recycled from Season 7 so it doesn’t count.]

You’ll be staying in cabin twelve [Again, not a joke.]

And we think that you’ll be very happy there.  [See above.]

You’re gonna like arts camp, Lisa.  Marge paid with her debit Visa.  [The one joke.]

Arts, arts, arts, and education.  [Not a joke.]

While Lisa and a cast of thousands repeat the harmony over and over again, are there any visual gags?  Not really, there’s just a bunch of animated choreography:

Spontaneous Choreography

I said “Step pause turn pause pivot step step”, not “Step pause turn pause pivot step pause!”

Aaaaaand scene.  Now, let’s look at the song from The Simpsons.  Again, lyrics first:

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, by the shores of Big Snake Lake

Though your swings are rusty, we know they’ll never break

From your gleaming mess hall to your hallowed baseball field

To your spic and span infirmary, where all our wounds are healed!

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, below Mount Avalanche

We will always love Kamp Krusty, a registered trademark of the Krusty Corporation, all rights reserved

First of all, this is much better, musically.  All the lyrics work within the rhyme scheme and nothing gets repeated ad nauseum.  It also actually sounds like a camp song, and is a much denser piece of writing.  Let’s count the jokes:

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, by the shores of Big Snake Lake [“Big Snake Lake” doesn’t exactly sound friendly, and you could argue that it’s a joke, but I’ll let this one pass.]

Though your swings are rusty, we know they’ll never break [Joke.]

From your gleaming mess hall, to your hallowed baseball field [Two jokes, for a total so far of three.]

To your spic and span infirmary, where all our wounds are healed!  [Joke.  Total = 4.]

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, below Mount Avalanche  [Joke.  Total = 5.]

We will always love Kamp Krusty, a registered trademark of the Krusty Corporation, all rights reserved  [Joke.  Total = 6.]

Not only does the song work better, but it’s also got a joke pretty much every line.  And that’s if you don’t count the meta joke of the kids (who already hate Kamp Krusty) being forced to sing the camp’s praises as a recreational activity.  Then, of course, there’s the accompanying imagery.  The “gleaming mess hall”, “hallowed baseball field”, and “spic and span infirmary”:

Summer Wonderland

Which is followed immediately by the triple visual gag of “Mount Avalanche”:

Mount Avalanche

Which is followed by the finale, when the one semi-wholesome camp image in the whole song literally collapses:

Kamp Krusty6

Nothing’s funnier than injured children.

And, of course, there’s the further joke of the bullies making them sing, including Kearney shouting at them to be “Louder! Faster!”.  Depending on how you want to count, that means that in the same amount of screen time, in the same format, and in a very similar setting, The Simpsons fit in roughly ten times as many jokes as Zombie Simpsons.  Zombie Simpsons isn’t watery gruel, it’s imitation watery gruel.


Crazy Noises: Elementary School Musical

Moaning Lisa4

“Now, Miss Simpson, I hope we won’t have a repeat of yesterday’s outburst of unbridled creativity.” – Mr. Largo
“No, sir.” – Lisa Simpson

There are two horrible, glaring problems with this episode that we didn’t cover at all in the discussion below.  The first is that while the Conchords provide what little levity this episode has, they also make no sense, and that’s before they fly off the roof at the end.  (Lucy Lawless did that, let me check, eleven seasons ago . . . in a Halloween episode.  Bravo for originality.)  The idea is that they’re poor artists, fine; but aren’t they also camp counselors?  Maybe they made an aside about how that’s their other job or it doesn’t pay the bills or something and I missed it (and there’s no way I’m watching it again to check), but I don’t think so.  Once again, plot problems that could be solved by the insertion of a joke or a quick aside are simply ignored because they just don’t care. 

The second massive problem here is the numerous missed comedy opportunities that demonstrate just how little they’re really trying.  They go to all that trouble to pack Krusty’s trial with as many European stereotypes as possible, and then when they show him in prison it’s not some nice, cushy Euro-jail, it’s a boring old regular prison yard.  (The fact that it took them about a minute to make a DVD region joke didn’t help either.)  They bothered to create an arts camp, and then did basically nothing with it.  There isn’t all that much of the real Brooklyn left that looks like Not Brooklyn, but instead of satirizing gentrifying artsy types, they went with the thirty-year-old ghetto stereotype and even dropped that pretty quick.  It’s almost like they think developing ideas is beneath them.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get on with it?

Mad Jon: Sure.

  Do either of you or have either of you ever watched Glee? I have not and have no idea about the show.

Dave: I’ve not watched it; I’ve heard enough about it to know I’d hate it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I also have not watched it, so I don’t really have an opinion. But the Glee kids were hardly in this episode. Like most of the non-Simon Cowell judges from the American Idol episode, they were here for the briefest of cameos and then they vanished.

Mad Jon: So the ‘artists’ weren’t glee cast members?

Dave: They played some of the other campers I think.

Mad Jon: Ahh.

Dave: The whole episode felt like a bad Flight of the Conchords episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they were those other kids.

I was never a big Conchords fan for the simple reason that it always felt very hit and miss. A lot of the time you’d be bored for eighteen of the twenty two minutes. Those other four minutes could be hilarious, but they were capable of missing entirely, which they surely did here.

Dave: Fair enough. It was a love or hate it kind of thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even having said that though, they were easily the best part of this episode.

Mad Jon: Who? The Glee members?

Charlie Sweatpants: No, the Conchords.

Mad Jon: Ahh.

Dave: They were, basically because they stayed in character and did what they always do.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Glee kids, like pretty much the whole camp scene, were so fleeting that it’s hard to have a strong opinion.

Dave: Yeah, it didn’t turn out to be the Glee-lovefest I thought it’d be.

Mad Jon: They didn’t really do anything except sing about being at camp did they?

Charlie Sweatpants: That was it, and then they were gone.

So that Lisa could . . . do what, exactly?

  Lisa feels creatively stifled at school is not something you can hang a plot on in your twenty second season.

So they invent this whole Not Brooklyn thing, where she does . . . nothing.

Dave: Except pout.

Mad Jon: Doesn’t she learn a lesson about artists and how you shouldn’t be one, but then you do?

  And work at Not Subway?

Dave: There was a singing falafel sandwich.

Mad Jon: That is true.

  There was a lot of singing, but no Lee Marvin. Not that he could have done anything, at least based on our discussion a few months ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: True, but the songs sucked too, especially that one at the camp.

Mad Jon: They were at best forgettable, I can’t even think of the tune, let alone the words.

And I watched this thing like 2 hours ago.

Dave: 30 minutes. Beat that.

Charlie Sweatpants: This is a cruel comparison, but when you stack that song up against "Hail to Thee Kamp Krusty" it’s not even a contest.

The Kamp Krusty song is nothing but jokes, and it makes sense in context. The arts camp song was a full on musical number that had one joke that I can remember, the one about Marge paying with her Visa. The rest was just cartoon dancing and repeating the refrain.

Mad Jon: That would be a low blow. But it would be deserving. Although you are comparing a Ferrari to a broken down Pinto used as a toilet by drunken bums.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it goes on for, let me check, almost a whole minute.

The refrain is "You’re gonna like art camp Lisa". Is there a word that’s the opposite of clever? Because that lyric is that word.

Mad Jon: I was just asking my wife for the proper opposite of memorable.

Dave: Tedious.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, that would be forgettable.

Mad Jon: That’s what she said, and that’s what I typed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which they could’ve made a joke with when they brought out the "Roofi" CD, but didn’t.

Mad Jon: Didn’t he get his own plot line like 5 seasons ago?

Dave: Yep.

Something resembling a baby-filled Woodstock.

Mad Jon: Wow, this is the show that keeps on giving!

Charlie Sweatpants: While I’m on the subject of pointless things that happened in the car, they actually got Ira Glass and they still couldn’t make fun of something that’s crying out to be made fun of, like "This American Life".

Mad Jon: They tried.

Mad Jon: Having actually heard a few "This American Life"s, it was pretty close to the truth.

Charlie Sweatpants: But that’s part of the problem.

You can’t get Ira Glass and make fun of "This American Life" in anything but the most gentle terms.

Mad Jon: Fair enough. That’s that intelligent humor I guess, "Oh look I’m a playful radio hipster who knows people think I have a monotone boring public radio show, but I’ll show them! I can laugh at myself!"

  Unless, it’s a meta-joke by Glass, about how even his jokes about himself are funny on the pretentious side.

  But now I’ve gone too far….

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, you did. That’s giving both him and Zombie Simpsons far too much credit.

Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh got skewered, Ira Glass got to make a cameo.

  Just saying.

Dave: Instead of talking about Ira Glass, let’s talk about the terrible Krusty b-plot.

Mad Jon: Please.

Dave: I didn’t expect the stupid twist, and it was just that and nothing more, stupid.

Charlie Sweatpants: The B-plot was a complete waste of time.

Mad Jon: Yes, with the Nobel prize that wasn’t

Dave: And the trial that wasn’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: It has nothing to do with anything, and isn’t even a plot, B or not.

Mad Jon: But somehow Krusty’s diva-crap ended apartheid?

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s an excuse for them to show Krusty clips that also weren’t funny. That Electric Company thing dragged on forever.

  And Bart and Homer were there in yet another, "Hey, we know this is stupid but we’re doing it anyway."

Mad Jon: They must have used their ‘A’ material in Israel.

Dave: Something like that.

Mad Jon: Or they’re saving it for New Brunswick, or where ever they’re heading in a week or two.

Dave: No more bringing up future episodes. It hurts my head.

Charlie Sweatpants: Actually, I think they used their A material twenty one seasons ago. What are the plots of this episode? Bart saves Krusty from jail, and Lisa is frustrated in music class during "My Country Tis of Thee"

Dave: Nailed it.

Mad Jon: Not in the mood for my not thought out sarcasm tonight are you Charlie…

  But you are very correct.

I wondered out loud how many frustrated Lisa episodes there have been already…as well as Bart saves Krusty… I can think of a solid handful of each, and they would all be in the first 12 or so seasons.

Charlie Sweatpants: The entire "Lisa is frustrated" thing at the school was completely phoned in. And yet another instance of them not giving a shit about anything. She’s at a summer camp, now she’s at school, Bart’s in Europe the whole time but it’s never mentioned.

Honestly, you could’ve showed Act 4 first and Act 2 third and it would’ve made just as much sense.

Mad Jon: I didn’t even pick up on that but you’re right again, absolutely no continuity for Lisa. How long was she in Sprooklyn?

Charlie Sweatpants: Long enough for the Conchords to kill some more screen time.

Dave: 2, 3 songs?

Charlie Sweatpants: About that.

Mad Jon: That’s probably a fault of the algorithm the ‘writers’ put into the iPad app they used to write the script.

  You know, to balance the equation. Or something.

2 songs probably equals homer laughing for 30 seconds.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nah, say what you want about Apple, but they take pride in their work. Zombie Simpsons, not so much.

Mad Jon: Well, I wasn’t trying to ding Apple. Just the writer’s laziness.

Charlie Sweatpants: I understand, I just don’t think Apple would be this apathetic about the quality of the finished product.

Mad Jon: I agree. You don’t get to wear a black turtleneck every day if you aren’t willing to put in the time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

  I have only other thing to add, then I’d like to be done. Harry Shearer can’t do Otto’s voice any more. This is not his fault, he is in his late sixties, but it’s true.

Mad Jon: I was wondering about that.

It sounds too much like him not to be Shearer, but something was definitely wrong.

Dave: Time for a 23 minute episode to kill off Otto.

  I’m sure it will be miserable.

Mad Jon: Maybe they’ll let Katy Perry’s boobs do it.


Getting Colder

Chalkboard - Elementary School Musical

“It was an unusually warm February 14th, so the children walked home without jackets.” – Lisa Simpson

In all its manic motion – to Europe!, to camp!, to Not Brooklyn! – Zombie Simpsons never stops to develop a character, tell a story or, heaven forbid, make sense from one scene to the next.  To take just one example, Lisa rides her bike to hang out with the Conchords in what she imagines is their cool artist abode.  She’s wearing just her usual red dress.  Once she gets inside, they have her shiver and complain that it’s cold (because they have no heat), but she’s wearing the same thing she had on outside. 

Obviously this is not a huge problem (this episode has many far larger ones), and careless things like it are par for the course for Zombie Simpsons.  But it shows how lightly the people behind the show regard their own work.  No one, writer or animator, thought to put a jacket on Lisa; no one thought that a girl leaving home in the dead of night on a bicycle might be cold, even though her being cold is on the next page of the script. 

In his oral history of The Simpsons, John Ortved recounts a scene in the parking lot of the studio during the early years of the show.  One of the writers, frustrated with an episode that they couldn’t quite get right, actually drop kicked the script and sent the pages flying all over the place.  I’ll bet you anything no one kicked the script for “Elementary School Musical”. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are historically bad.  Even the interior demographics, long the silent strength of the dismal top line numbers, were weak:

The Simpson’s 3.7 adults 18-49 rating was down 14% from last season’s premiere (9/27/09).

Overall, last night’s poorly plotted excuse for cross promotion was endured by a mere 7.76 million viewers.  That’s the lowest rating for a season premier ever.  But wait, it gets better.  The Season 21 premier, “Homer the Whopper” was watched by 8.21 million people, and while that too was an all-time low for a season premier, it was also the fifth highest rated episode of the entire season.  And Season 21 was massively aided by the “20th Anniversary!” and “Live Nude Marge!” things, advantages Season 22 will not have.  If 7.76 million is the best Zombie Simpsons can do with a heavily promoted season premier and all the star power of Glee behind it, Season 22 is going to be embarrassingly terrible, ratings wise. 


Sunday Preview: “Elementary School Musical”

Look at the children, they're so happy.

As I conjure up this post on a beautiful Sunday morning, I am filled with a sense of loathing and revulsion. This isn’t “The Simpsons.” This is a tired, miserable, train wreck of a television series grasping at straws that don’t exist to stay relevant to people who don’t care. The description of the Season 22’s opener, “Elementary School Musical,” isn’t pretty:

When Krusty the Clown is announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Homer invites Bart to accompany him on a trip to Oslo for the ceremony. Sensing that Lisa would feel left out, Marge surprises her with a week-long retreat at performing arts camp, where she is greeted by her artsy counselors Ethan and Kurt  and fellow musically inclined campers, who inspire her to embrace her creative side. After she returns to Springfield, Lisa becomes restless with her ho-hum suburban lifestyle and sneaks off to Sprooklyn in hopes of connecting with her inner hipster, but she soon realizes that the city is not the same as camp. [Editor’s note: Guest staring some shitheads from “Glee” and a couple Kiwis.]

Glossing over the fact the chain of events leading to Krusty’s Nobel Peace Prize will, in fact, be contrived and ludicrous, we can consider “Elementary School Musical” from a few perspectives. There’s synergy: no doubt FOX is hoping that some of the rabid, misguided, juvenile “Glee” fanbase will flock to the season opener in spades, temporarily propping up viewership and ad dollars. There’s cross-promotion, though the much loved “Flight of the Conchords” hasn’t had a show in well over a year. And finally there’s precedent: pseudo-rival “South Park” already did it. It was even called… wait for it… “Elementary School Musical.” Zombie Simpsons has had nary an original idea in years and it was only a matter of time before it caught up to the competition, figuratively and literally.

I actually prefer a less analytical approach. The onus is on Zombie Simpsons not to suck. They haven’t had a winner in years and no amount of singing or neologisms (seriously, Sprooklyn?) will reverse that course. Why on Earth would the show’s producers and writers want to make something good when they’ve committed bloody murder for thirteen years straight?


Zombie Simpsons: Only Two Years Behind South Park

A little while ago it came out that some of the cast of Glee was going to do voices for an upcoming Zombie Simpsons episode.  “Ho-hum and on to the next item”, I thought to myself.  But eagle eyed reader Alice noticed something else:

‘Elementary School Musical’, which airs Sunday, September 26, sees Lisa attend performing arts camp, where the Glee stars are fellow campers.

Where have I heard that title before?  Oh, right.  Calling something “Elementary School Musical” isn’t the world’s most cunning play on “High School Musical”, but at the same time, South Park did it two years ago.  Either Zombie Simpsons didn’t notice, which means they’re disconnected from the culture they’re supposed to be parodying; or they did notice and don’t care, which means that they’re lazy and apathetic.  It’s not like “Elementary School Musical” is the only play here.  “Grade School Musical” is the same joke without making you look like a bunch of disconnected hacks. 

Thanks Alice! 


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