Posts Tagged ‘Grift of the Magi

19
Dec
18

Quote of the Day

“Please, sir, put some shoes on.” – Principal Skinner
“What, you don’t like my bags?” – Moe

19
Dec
17

Quote of the Day

“The good news is, we need no longer fear vicious mob reprisal.” – Principal Skinner

14
Dec
16

Behind Us Forever: The Nightmare After Krustmas

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“Let’s just agree that the commercialization of Christmas is at best a mixed blessing.” – Lisa Simpson
“Amen.” – Gary Coleman

Annual or near annual Christmas episodes were never a hallmark of The Simpsons. The premier episode was a Christmas special, but that was the last time the show did a Christmas episode until Season 7’s “Marge Be Not Proud”. That five season gap has never been repeated. The show went back to the tinsel well in Seasons 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 17, 18, 22, 23, 25, 26, and now again in Season 28. (And I might have missed one because a lot of those seasons blur together.)

This year’s entry in that sad parade was several pieces of fractured nonsense mashed together into an episode. There’s a bit about Krusty connecting with his estranged daughter, who’s apparently a devout Christian. There’s also a bit about Reverend Lovejoy needing more converts, which leads him to lean on Krusty, which leads to Krusty making his show dull and then almost drowning in a frozen river. There’s also a C plot about Maggie being afraid of an Elf on the Shelf type thing called the Gnome in Your Home. It involves lots of exposition and an extended dream sequence in which nothing happens except a completely pointless cameo by Wayne Gretzky.

As per usual, Zombie Simpsons seems blissfully unaware of its own story even as it unfolds. Early in the episode we see Lovejoy get pressured from his superiors to get more converts. It’s dumb (and more and higher ranking reverends keep walking into the scene for no reason), but whatever, it’s a decent enough start for a plot. Lovejoy eventually bumbles into Krusty while both are at Moe’s, which is odd but I guess still sorta makes sense. We next see Krusty at church singing an off lyric hymn on stage while his daughter is for some reason sitting with the Simpsons, which doesn’t make sense on multiple levels, but is at least still moving the story forward.

From there things get utterly incoherent as one of Lovejoy’s bosses shows up again to say that Krusty needs to be baptized right away for no particular reason. Lovejoy states Krusty’s reasons for wanting to wait, which are then immediately dropped so Krusty can get baptized in a frozen river. Krusty then falls into the river, has a near death experience, and comes out apparently still a Christian, until – with not even a single line of dialogue to explain it – he sits next to a Jewish ambulance and is immediately Jewish again.

All this makes so little sense that in an unrelated sequence after the story ends, they show regular God next to a Jewish version of regular God (no, it doesn’t make any sense) arguing over which one of them gets credit for Krusty. I understand that the show has a kind of “rubberband” reality where things can get stretched, but it shouldn’t be too much to ask that the rubberband not get stretched, released, and then broken several times during the same story, sometimes even during the same scene. Case in point: Krusty’s near death experience under the ice is treated as serious even though Jasper catches him on an ice fishing line and Reverend Lovejoy pulls him out of the water, after which Krusty is fine.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be low and meaningless. On Sunday, just 5.60 million viewers wondered how many Christmas episodes Zombie Simpsons has done by now. That’s about where the ratings were last December, which is both bad in terms of overall viewers and irrelevent since the show will be with us for at least two more seasons anyway. That should result in at least one more bland and immemorable Christmas episode.

19
Dec
15

Quote of the Day

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“Wow, only twenty-two seconds from muttering to door smashing.” – Jim Hope
“That projects to a profit of three-hundred-seventy million dollars.” – Lindsey Naegle
“I’d still sleep a little easier if I saw some trampling.” – Jim Hope

19
Dec
14

Quote of the Day

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“I am so bored!” – Bart Simpson
“Oh, I can’t wait till we’re teenagers.  Then we’ll be happy.” – Milhouse van Houten

10
Aug
14

Quote of the Day

Grift of the Magi2

“Ralph, there are no right or wrong answers.  But if you don’t pipe down I’m giving you an F!” – Kid First Industries Teacher
“The before teacher yelled at me too.” – Ralph Wiggum

19
Jul
12

Compare & Contrast: Children Perform for Burns

Audition Rejection

“Ow!” – Bart Simpson
“Excellent.” – C.M. Burns

To say that the evil and charismatic Mr. Burns enjoys having people perform for him is something of an understatement.  This is a man who has crippled an Irishman for his own amusement and tied a bundle of cash to a string to taunt an eight-year-old girl.  He kidnapped Tom Jones and made him sing while shackled to the stage.  The Burns we all know and love to hate likes to see people squirm under duress, preferably duress that he’s causing.

You can see this trait in spades in “Burns’ Heir”.  In this episode alone, we see Burns fire a pistol at a man’s feet to make him dance, laugh as Homer is plunged into an industrial smokestack, and drop Lenny into a pit while he was pleading for his job.  In keeping with his cruel and callous nature, Burns summons many of the town’s children to his mansion so that they can try to impress him and win his money.  Since he doesn’t really tell them what he’s looking for (other than no girls and no geeks), the entire idea is borderline sadistic.  Young kids have to stand on a stage so that all of their insecurities and shortcomings can be picked apart by an old man who plainly despises most of them.  True to form, Burns proceeds to humiliate the ones he doesn’t like and either applauds or instigates physical violence against the ones who really displease him.

Burns' Heir8

Give the bully an extra point.

The entire scene is exactly what we expect from Burns.  He’s evil, in charge, and taking out his frustrations and fears on people who are hopelessly weaker than he is.  The only kid who even kind of impresses him is Nelson, and that’s because Nelson’s the one who shares Burns’ contempt for the rest of them.  This is Burns wallowing in his own crapulence with no one to stop him or even mitigate his actions.

The opposite of that scene occurs in “Grift of the Magi” when Skinner takes some of the kids to Burns Manor to beg for help for the school.  In both cases, the kids are there because their adults want money from Burns, but that’s where the similarities end.  Consider, just for a minute, how everyone got there.  In “Burns’ Heir”, it’s made explicitly clear that these children are there only on the sufferance of Burns.

Burns' Heir7

See, Zombie Simpsons?  Sign gags can be in service to the plot.

By contrast, in “Grift of the Magi”, the kids just show up and start putting on a show which Burns, for some unexplained reason, sits patiently and watches.  Having the episode skip over the how and why of Skinner and his charges getting into Burns Manor, as well as the how and why of Burns paying attention instead of instantly releasing the hounds, is yet another example of the declining give-a-shit level of the show as it became Zombie Simpsons. 

It wouldn’t have been hard for them to come up with some kind of excuse or joke for how they all got into Burns Manor or why Burns is listening to them.  Maybe they poisoned the hounds, maybe the security guards are all illiterate, who knows?  Anything would’ve been better than the nothing they actually did.  No sooner has this episode said that it’s impossible to get into Burns Manor than Skinner and the kids just appear, and Burns is fine with it.  They don’t even care enough to give us a single line (from Burns, Skinner, anyone) that makes light of the fact that they just skipped over a gaping plot chasm and contradicted one of the most well established traits of one of their best known characters.

Somewhat impressively, things manage to get even worse once the little production actually starts.  Skinner’s play is predictably stupid and cut rate, nothing wrong with that, but then Burns falls for it, not realizing it’s for charity until the very end.  This is a man who wanted to drive on after he hit Bart with his car, a man who kidnapped a Brazilian soccer team to work in his nuclear plant, a man who was once accurately described by Judge Snyder as having an, “unbelievable contempt for human life”.  No part of the real Burns would ever be so gullible as to find Skinner’s toddling morality play plausible or so empathetic to care that someone might be served rat poison:

Nelson:  Hmm, which one of these is the salt?  Too bad I’m an idiot cause my school closed.  Oh, well.
Burns: No, that’s the rat poison!

It actually goes downhill from there, but in just that single exchange we can tell that Burns simply isn’t who he’s supposed to be anymore.  The smart and unlimitedly cruel Burns is gone, and in his place is a doddering fool who is dumb and caring.  As Bart and Ralph(!) get their turns on stage, this new Burns continues to lap up their transparent bullshit:

Skinner:  Now, who in Springfield will eat the poisoned broth?  It could be anyone, even Mr. Burns.
Burns: This play really speaks to me.

[…]

Ralph Wiggum: Hello, I’m Dr. Stupid.  I’m going to take out your liver bones.  Oops, you’re dead.
Burns: I never liked that Dr. Stupid.
Skinner: Mr. Burns, I’ll be honest.  We had a hidden agenda tonight. 
Burns: [gasps] No!

This is precisely the kind of weak, stupid, and generally helpless Burns that never existed during The Simpsons.  Compare that to the way Burns reacts to the kids who are auditioning to become his heir:

Milhouse: I have nothing to offer you but my love.
Burns: I specifically said no geeks!
Milhouse: But my Mom says I’m cool.
Burns: Next.
Nelson: Gimme your fortune or I’ll pound your withered old face in!
Burns: Oh, I like his energy.  Put him on the callback list.

This is the real Burns: mean, evil and with no patience for those who aren’t.  When he eventually settles on Bart for being “a creature of pure malevolence”, he does so because Bart is smashing his windows and decapitating his statues, actions that would presumably shock and horrify the feeble man in “Grift of the Magi”. 

On top of all that (of course), is the fact that in “Burns’ Heir” the scene with the performing kids is crucial to the overall story, whereas in “Grift of the Magi” it’s an unnecessary and time filling detour that has almost nothing to do with the main plot.  But plot irrelevance is par for the course in Zombie Simpsons.  The real damage here is to Burns, and by extension to the show, since turning him into a husk of himself destroys all the fun that comes with having a wealthy man who revels in the misery of others.

17
Jul
12

Crazy Noises: Grift of the Magi

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“So have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan.  Now a word from my god: our sponsor.” – Krusty the Klown

For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes.  This year we’re doing Season 11.  Why Season 11?  Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show.  Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “coccyx”).

Today’s episode is 1109, “Grift of the Magi”.  Tomorrow will be 1110, “Little Big Mom”.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get started?

Mad Jon: Let’s go.

Grift of the Magi?

Dave: Blech. Yes

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, this episode is all over the place.

Mad Jon: And right out of the gate too.

  It really didn’t screw around.

Dave: Pretty schizophrenic. And not particularly enjoyable either.

Mad Jon: No, I felt like Milhouse when he was being chased by the Christmas time ozone layer hole sunbeam thingy.

Charlie Sweatpants: The sunbeam from space is a little lame, but at least it doesn’t take long. And the kids hanging out around the house isn’t too bad. But once we head for the hospital, and then the school, and then Fat Tony walks out from behind the tree, things go to shit and stay there.

Mad Jon: Ditto the butt bone problem.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole Fat Tony (what, 2 minutes or so?) is just a waste of time and space.

Mad Jon: Although I did enjoy when everyone chuckled at "coccyx"

Charlie Sweatpants: From a story point of view, all they need to do is get the school poor so that the evil company can come in. They didn’t need to go through all the histrionics to get there.

Mad Jon: Agreed

Charlie Sweatpants: The play for Burns, for example, is particularly stupid, especially in that it has Weak/Stupid Burns instead of the always funnier Evil/Smart Burns.

Mad Jon: I can’t stand that scene.

How the hell did they get in?

Dave: Yeah. Excruciating.

Charlie Sweatpants: The "Rat Poison" one is the worst. This is a man who actually consulted his lawyers about whether or not he could poison a lazy employee with a donut.

Mad Jon: That is such a Simpsons joke. Charity, children, old people, nobody gets into Burns’ mansion.

But Zombie Simpsons? We’ll just let that go I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then they have this emergency meeting about closing the school, because apparently no one noticed all the construction.

Mad Jon: A catered meeting at that

  Delicious.

Charlie Sweatpants: And why the hell is Moe there?

Mad Jon: Gutsy question.

  You’re a shark.

Charlie Sweatpants: Then allow me to revolutionize outside the box for a second. As a "huh?" type moment, it’s pretty minor for this episode, but it’s still too weird not to be noticeable.

Furthermore, it’s part of the show’s overall devolution into Zombie Simpsons, where characters who have no business being places be there because . . . well, because we had a joke we kinda liked and were too lazy/apathetic to come up with something that fit in with the story, the characters, or Springfield as we know it.

Dave: That more or less sums it up.

Mad Jon: But the scene did give Homer a chance to stuff his pants full of free appetizers.

  So we got that going for us.

Dave: Lindsay Naegle, in her various incarnations, shows up way too much in this and in future episodes.

Mad Jon: She does show up a bunch in this epoch of seasons…

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve always thought she’d have been a great character if she’d been introduced in Season 6 or 7. As it is, she came along too late. She’s got some decent lines in a few episodes, but she never had that one killer introductory episode where she became a real part of the show.

  More specifically to this episode, there’s just too damn much going on here.

Mad Jon: I know, look at all the insanity to this point, and we aren’t even to Gary Coleman.

Charlie Sweatpants: You could have a toy company that infiltrates the school, fine. You could have a for-profit school, fine. You could have a must-have robot toy, that’s okay. But to have all those things, plus killer robots, Gary Coleman, Homer breaking into houses, the list goes on.

Things just keep getting further and further out of hand until they actually have to have a narrator come on to squeeze everything in.

Mad Jon: If Funzo is designed to kill other toys, why don’t the Funzos try to kill each other?

  Then we could have a Funzo fight club or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t give them any ideas.

Funzo could’ve been a decent idea if all it did was suggest to kids that they buy more Funzo crap.

Mad Jon: I am just saying. There were 30 of them in the bag that Homer had….

Charlie Sweatpants: Instead they stretched it long past the breaking point by having it snap Malibu Stacey in half and toss her into the fire.

Mad Jon: Don’t forget the two heads on pencils.

  That was creepy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the burning, melted kinda gross one that Coleman fights was my personal "wow this is really not like Simpsons at all" moment.

Mad Jon: Just couldn’t help themselves, I guess. Had to throw one more visual gag in there.

  Also it got Gary out of the shot, so he could stand by himself before the dinner invite.

Charlie Sweatpants: Stuffing this one with anything and everything with little to no regard for editorial control did seem to be the order of the day here.

I do like Krusty’s non-denominational holiday special, especially his "Now a word from my god, our sponsor" as he bows down.

That’s some enjoyably old school Krusty shilling, right there.

Mad Jon: That was funny. I also liked the court room show. "Donde Esta Justice" was a good name.

Dave: Donde esta justice was the highlight of the show for me

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. But for everyone one of those, there were five total wastes of time, like that odd discussion Homer and the kids have with Coleman, or Lenny for some reason wanting a Funzo even though he doesn’t have kids.

Take the end, for example. It’s kinda funny that Burns went through "A Christmas Carol" and Moe did "It’s a Wonderful Life" (the "No Funeral" sign on his back is good). But why did they have to rush over to the Simpsons house?

Mad Jon: Yeah, agreed.

  Forcing more wrap up style stuff.

Dave: Yep, they found a loose thread and had to either snip it or put it back in place

Charlie Sweatpants: I like the idea that Fat Tony’s construction company is called Valdazo Brothers Olive Oil, but that doesn’t mean I needed to see him work on the school right away.

Dave: Yeah that happened absurdly quickly

  Not that the benefit of additional time would’ve improved things

Charlie Sweatpants: Same old. For every thing that’s good here, there’s a lot more that’s bad, and many of the good things get stretched much too far.

Shall we move on to fake leprosy? (There’s something I never thought I’d have to say again.)




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