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

Grift of the Magi4

“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

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“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.

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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.

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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.




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