Posts Tagged ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?


Quote of the Day

“Welcome to the Springfield Shopper, established in 1883. The newspaper was founded by Johnny Newspaperseed, a fourteen year old boy who roamed America, founding newspapers.” – Newspaper Tour Guide
“If he’s so smart, how come he’s dead?” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

“I hope you all enjoy your ride to and tour of the Springfield Shopper newspaper. Groundskeeper Willie and I will stay behind to remove all traces of asbestos and the word ‘evolution’ from our school.” – Principal Skinner
“Next stop: Margaritaville! . . . Oh, they’re still here.” – Groundskeeper Willie


Behind Us Forever: The Great Phatsby


“What can I say except thanks for the predictable champagne, pizza that’s hardly ‘numero uno’, and ice cream cake which reminds us why make thirty-one flavors when you can’t get vanilla right?” – Retiring Food Critic 

Every once and a while, Zombie Simpsons puts its nose to the grindstone and actually tries to make an interesting episode. The Lego episode wasn’t very good, but it was at least visually interesting and ambitious. That “Kang and Kodos are real” episode was maybe gonna be the second movie and actually had some ambition to it. “The Great Phatsby” was certainly promoted like it was going to be something out of the ordinary, a one-hour episode! They put on the full publicity press, getting written up for their [Drudge Siren]FIRST HOUR LONG EPISODE[/Drudge Siren] in publications as diverse as USA Today and Billboard.

Problem is: they didn’t deliver. This is a very normal episode of Zombie Simpsons that got ballooned to twice its runtime. Consider this, from that Billboard link:

Beanz, whose past collaborators include Britney Spears and Timbaland, created about 18 songs for this episode. Executive producer Matt Selman has said that’s more than any other guest composer he’s ever worked with. Part of that prodigious output included fun collaborations with Snoop, Common and RZA.

I watched all forty-two bloated minutes of this thing, and even if you stretch the definition of the word “song” until it tears apart you aren’t going to get anywhere near eighteen of them. By my count, there were three: one during the Burns spending montage, one to exposit how the evil rap mogul had tricked Burns, and part of one near the end that was gonna be the Burns revenge diss track. I guess if you want to count the instrumental remake of the theme song over the end credits that’d get you to four, but that’s still a lot less than eighteen. For comparison sake, in the regular twenty-two minute Shary Bobbins episode, there were five full songs, six if you count the end credits theme song.

So if there were only a few songs, what the hell was in all that screen time? The same garbage that’s in most Zombie Simpsons episodes: montages, nonsensical plots and subplots, and exposition galore. They had two separate B-plots, one for the first half of the episode (Lisa gets a rich boyfriend, then betrays him to comb a pony) and one for the second half (Marge opens a knicknack shop, which is hilarious to everyone who’s ever spent a lot of time in the Hamptons – relatable comedy!). If you’re wondering how well that worked, go back and watch those straight-to-DVD Futurama “movies” that did the same thing. It’s just as bad.

Perhaps my favorite moment, and further evidence that they put as little effort into actually writing/editing this as they do for their regular dreck, came when Homer meets a goose. First, we see the goose swallow a shrimp whole:


That is immediately followed by Homer saying, “He eats the way I do! Without swallowing.” Chewing. The word they were looking for is “chewing”. So not only is this a repeat of a joke from “Homer’s Enemy”, they got first-grade vocabulary wrong.

The rest of the episode is just as dumb. Near the middle, after Burns has lost all his money, Homer begins expositing that Burns is sad. Then Burns starts to cry and Homer, in voiceover, exposits that as well. Then Burns tears his shirt open. Helpfully, Homer exposits that too. It goes on for forty(40!) seconds. The good news is that I don’t need to screencap it because Homer explained everything:

Homer (VO): The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they’re watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly. Oh, no, wait, he’s crying now. That’s worse. Now he’s really sobbing heavy. Oh, now he’s gone to his knees and he ripped his shirt open. All of his buttons fell off of his shirt. Now he’s kicking his porch. Oh, he hurt his foot and he’s hopping around! He tripped over a dog. That’s way worse. Montgomery Burns had hit rock bottom.

That’s how you eat up two episodes worth of screen time. It also places a somewhat different character on this quote from Matt Selman:

For all the hype about “The Great Phatsby” being The Simpsons’ first-ever hour-long episode, and the understandable skepticism about its description as “a rap-flavored parody of The Great Gatsby,” the episode’s origins are decidedly more modest. “This was just going to be a regular episode, but the table read went so well, in a fit of passion and excitement and ambition and excess, we decided to supersize it,” is how Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman puts it, and that makes sense when looking at the final product.

Did that table read include such gems as these:

Carl: If there’s no more money, we’ll take our personalized bowling balls, fold up bicycles, and go. [Guess what happens then! Go on, guess!]

Bart: What kind of crazy flavors are these? Quince jelly and pepper? Market greens? Bone broth brittle? I don’t know what this place hates more, kids or ice cream. [All of those flavors, by the way, were on a sign behind him.]

Old Guy: Well, before long another aimless soul will open another adorable store here. And when they do, old Sam the Sign Hanger will be ready with his level and his ladder. Oh, why here comes one now. [At that, two people show up. But you knew that already.]

On the plus side, there were a few good sign gags that didn’t get read out as dialogue. At one point while Burns is in his family crypt (don’t ask), there’s one that reads “Ebenezer Burns: The Ghosts Taught Me Nothing”. Heh. The opening line also wasn’t bad:

Homer (VO): In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice. He said the laziest way to tell a story is through voiceover narration.

That was supposed to be self-irony. Turned out to be the regular kind.

Anyway, the ratings are in and getting a huge lead-in from football helps as always. That sorry excuse for a hip-hop Gatsby parody was seen by 14.08 million viewers. That number will probably get revised downward somewhat (there was another football game on opposite the show), but it’ll still be there biggest number in a while.


Quote of the Day


“I’ve given out my share of bad reviews.” – Homer Simpson
“The only bad review you gave was to a slice of pizza you found under the couch.” – Daphne Beaumont
“It lost some points cause it had a Hot Wheel on it.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner9

“Welcome to Planet Springfield, the restaurant owned by me, Chuck Norris, Johnny Carson’s third wife, and the Russian mafia!” – Rainier Wolfcastle


Reading Digest: Cranky with the Media Edition

Bustling Newsroom

“Wow, a bustling metropolitan newsroom, funneling scoops from all over the globe.” – Lisa Simpson
“Hi, are you interested in a subscription to the Shopper?” – Sales Dude
“Low introductory rates.” – Sales Lady
“No, please, you gotta help old Gil.  What’s it gonna take to keep you on the phone?  Dance for you?  But you wouldn’t even see it.  Alright, I’m a dancin’!” – Gil

This week, I make only tangentially relevant complaints about several linked articles: lazy sourcing, inappropriate pageview whoring, and two instances of recycled content that sort of, somehow had something to do with the show.  Happily, we’ve got a lot more stuff as well, including more Season 2 breakdowns, a couple of great pieces of fan art, Lego Grampa, and a real life electric hammer.


Snowpiercer: “Sorry Mom, the Mob has spoken!” – How would you cast a dystopian train movie with Simpsons characters?  Start with Mr. Burns taking Ed Harris’s part and work backwards.  (Thanks to JRC & Diana for e-mailing their post in.)

Bart Vs. Thanksgiving – Our buddy Noah continues his adventures through Season 2.

Dead Putting Society – This is the episode that really turned Flanders into Flanders.  It’s not just that he’s richer, nicer, and more popular than Homer, there’s a real guy under there, one who can get pissed off but who’s still relaxed enough to not care about mowing the lawn in his wife’s Sunday dress.

Dancin’ Homer – The original story of degradation and humiliation.

Two Cars In Every Garage And Three Eyes On Every Fish – Heh:

The first time I saw this episode, I honestly thought Mary Bailey was a real governor (I was young, OK?), and I was wondering why the show was kissing this person’s butt so much.

But it’s “Not Just Another State”.

Abe Simpson – Click this.  It’s Grampa made out of Legos.

Gr8at: The Simpsons Jokes – Just some gags from the show.

29 Jokes Only “Simpsons” Fans Will Find Funny – This is a Buzzfeed link, so the headline is misleading clickbait and the actual post is mostly a rehash of stuff that’s been floating around forever.  That said, there were a couple I’d never seen before.

‘The Simpsons’ creator Matt Groening will attend Saturday screening of his father Homer’s films – The headline tells you pretty much what you need to know.  If you’re in or around Portland, tickets are $15.

My Favorite Simpsons Quotes – It’s a twofer, with YouTube.

The Top 5 Best Movie-Inspired Theme Park Rides – The Simpsons ride comes in at #3, but it’s worth the click for the aerial photo of the Harry Potter ride.  The castle the visitors see is dwarfed by the warehouse that actually has the ride.

One Image Shows Just How Talented The Simpsons’ Voice Actors Are – This old chart of who does the Simpsons voices was making the rounds this week.

TV’s best shows mostly exist because of crappy sitcom reruns – How reruns of The Simpsons and other shows pay for all those critical darlings.  I have no real objection to the article, but I must object to this:

FXX paid so much money — $750 million — for The Simpsons because it knew this, and because The Simpsons was one of the few remaining cash cows without a cable deal.

That link takes you to this:

The deal also is set to make TV history as the priciest off-network pact ever, expected to fetch at least $750 million, and the first one to include full digital rights. The enormous size of the deal — which some say could potentially reach $1 billion if the series keeps producing new seasons — stems from the staggering volume of Simpsons episodes available

Not only is the $750,000,000 number just “expected”, but it also doesn’t have a source.  It’s like numbers for how much each cast member makes per episode of Zombie Simpsons: a rumor repeated so many times that people take it as fact.  The reality is that nobody outside of News Corp really knows what’s in that deal or how much it’s worth.  I get that writers need to cite facts and stuff, but the entertainment press is really sloppy and lazy and publishing these numbers again doesn’t make them any more trustworthy.

Homer Simpson’s Electric Hammer Created In Real Life (video) – Good idea, but sadly it doesn’t appear to actually hammer nails very well.

Dudeoir Photography – Remember when Homer got Homerotic for that boudoir photo shoot?  Turns out there’s actually a term for that:

Dudeoir is Boudoir for men wrapped up in the “macho” phrase to make it more appealing to men who are insecure of their masculinity.

The Simpsons: three notes that pay composer Danny Elfman’s health insurance – Heh:

“Those are the three notes that kept me in health insurance for 25 years,” composer Danny Elfman says of the opening to The Simpsons theme music.

REVIEW: Mr. Burns a Post-Electric Play at Theater Wit – The Chicago version of the play gets a nice review.

Artist aleXsandro Palombo depicts The Simpsons as Jews in a concentration camp to mark 70th anniversay of Auschwitz liberation – This is that same Italian guy who’s been on a roll with these lately.  (Pro tip: if the word “Auschwitz” appears in the headline, maybe don’t make the related stories sexy celebrities and a bikini model so emaciated I can count her ribs.)

Mr Sparkle – Homer Simpson by Lucas Jubb – Fan made Homer, complete with sunshine, stars and those creepy eyes.

Five Questions For A Blogger. (3) – Including some Simpsons love and a .gif of Milhouse petting that nice doggy on the beach.

What I Watched: Week 2 (Jan 11- Jan 17) – This is wise:

The Simpsons is by far my favourite TV show of all time. I own the first 12 seasons and they’re definitely the most watched discs in my collection because I often grab a season and put in whatever disc. This week I was watching some of season 8 which features Homer’s best buddy Frank Grimes (or Grimey, as he liked to be called).

Monday has spoken… – Heh.

Simpsons at its finest – Heh.

Osteology everywhere: Graffiti – Explaining the lack of graffiti in Kazakhstan with “Lemon of Troy”.

That’s a Coconut Cake! Part 1 | You Can’t Have That One, That’s a Coconut Cake – Trying to recreate Agnes’ inviolable cake on a blog named after it.  Good luck.

An Open Letter to Great Indian Litterbugs – Never having been to India, I can’t comment much on the main subject here, but there is a .gif of Homer and Bart making garbage angels.


Unfortunately, Agreeing With Us Isn’t Enough

Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner8

“Well, what do you think?” – Homer Simpson
“This is a joke, right?” – Springfield Shopper Editor

Thought Catalog is one of those small, independent new media outlets that’s trying to make its place in this brave new on-line publishing world.  Their about page is full of noble sentiments and phrases like “an experimental media group”, “We believe all thinking is relevant”, and “help shape culture by empowering you”.  Their shtick is to be “value neutral” editorially, which means that you can publish a piece there about whatever the hell’s on your mind provided that you can string two words together.

This approach has its positives and its negatives, but inarguably manages to expose a wide array of viewpoints to the internet’s unflinching gaze.  So you’ve got Snow Days: The Ultimate Example Of White Privilege just a few spots down from Sluts With Daddy Issues And Stockholm Syndrome and Here’s How Porn Makes You A Rapist, all of which is interspersed with the near obligatory link bait parade of titles with numbers in them: The 8 Men Who Taught Me What I Don’t Want In A Relationship, 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Taco Bell, and 7 Artists You Should Absolutely Hear Now.

There is, of course, criticism of this method, expressed neatly in a post published there a couple weeks back, Dear Thought Catalog, I Still Love You:

Criticism of Thought Catalog and other similar websites is insightful. But I still love to read it.
Yes, you do have a moment. Just Google “Thought Catalog criticism”. The auto-detector spells it out for you before you finish typing the search term. You may find some interesting writers that argue against this forum.


Words are thrown about like: entitlement, over-privileged, hate-reading, trolling and best of all, smug.

And Google does indeed think of those as the prime critiques.  This one is from Gawker two years ago:

Me-centric angst dump Thought Catalog is like some superhuman internet time-wasting android, rotely performing ever more jaw-dropping feats of repetitive navel-gazing as we wait nervously for the moment that it will become self-aware and DESTROY US ALL.
Rest easy; self-awareness is not coming any time soon.

First of all, let’s just stop for a second and marvel at Gawker(!) criticizing anyone for time wasting, navel gazing, and a lack of self awareness.  Nick Denton’s occasionally impressive monstrosity doesn’t have half a pixel to stand on in any one of those categories.  That does not, however, mean that they are wrong about Thought Catalog and the things they publish being unaware to the point of self ruin.

Case in point would be a new Simpsons ebook by Justin Sedgwick titled “We Put The Spring in Springfield: Chronicling the Golden Era of The Simpsons“.  The ebook, an ambitiously priced five bucks at Amazon, is an earnest exploration of the best years of the show and what made it so popular and endearing.  It’s got chapters on some of the brightest and biggest guest stars, Halloween episodes, musical numbers, and all that other fun stuff.  It’s a little light on research (O’Brien, Reiss and Jean are the only writers mentioned in more than passing) and a little heavy on personal assertion for proving this or that the best thing the show ever did, but it’s a Simpsons geek unabashedly geeking, so neither of those are fatal flaws.

The problem is that whatever fun that can be had along the way is impossibly buried behind a seemingly endless stream of half formed sentences, gross misquotes, and other basic problems.  Some of the sentences, if that is the right word, are so hopelessly mangled that they read as if translated to Japanese and back again by Google.  A few random examples:

– “Last Exit” seemed as some sort of wonderful experiment in taking every single possible reference and offhand gag the writers could get their grasp on and blending it into a delicious Simpsons stew.

– But in “Stark Raving Dad”, Jackson isn’t voicing an animated version of himself or a stranger, but a fat white bald character who is so utterly convinced and convincing that he is truly Michael Jackson despite all the evidence contrary.

– Only until the family captures the doll do they realize that Krusty has been accidentally switched to the “evil” setting.

– “A Fish Called Selma” is the episode most divergent of common Simpsons storytelling but still arises to be one of the best.

In between great white whales of editorial fail like those are plenty of glaringly obvious grammatical problems: erratic capitalization, splattershot apostrophes and commas, near miss homophones, straight up incorrect words (“implore” instead of “explore”, “skimpy” instead of “skinny”) . . . and it goes on like this.  The carelessness is everywhere on display, including in numerous misquotes of the show:

– “Truckosaurus the movie, starring Marlon Brando as Truckosaurus” (Actual quote: “Coming soon, it’s Truckosaurus the Movie, starring Marlon Brando as the voice of John Truckosaurus.”)

– “Surely no man who speaks German could be evil” (Actual quote: “No one who speaks German could be an evil man.”)

– “the bee bit my bum, now my bum is big!” (Actual quote: “The bee bit my bottom, now my bottom’s big!”)

Those are perfectly understandable mistakes if you’re sitting around quoting the show with friends, but to publish them in a book for which you’re charging real dollars bespeaks a woeful sloppiness.  Nobody should have to pay to read things like this:

“When Burns finally surmises to the hands of Homer, he lets out a phrase that would sum up the inevitable mistake of all of Homer’s enemies in the future: “I’m starting to think Homer Simpson isn’t the brilliant tactician that I thought he was.””

That’s enough to make even the most embittered and alcoholic English teacher cringe, and that’s before you get to the mangled quote, which two minutes with a Simpsons DVD could’ve easily corrected: “Smithers, I’m beginning to think that Homer Simpson was not the brilliant tactician I thought he was”.  Even the most basic editorial review should catch sentences like that, but from the text it isn’t clear that anyone except the author actually read it before Thought Catalog (a publishing company complete with full time employees) slapped a price tag on it.

So, what’s underneath that thick carapace of typos, misquotes and middle school grammatical mistakes?  It’s hard to say for sure.  It’s a mildly interesting Simpsons book that would serve as a decent refresher course for a casual fan on some of the show’s highlights, but, with one exception, doesn’t touch on any topics that are likely to be new or terribly interesting to actual Simpsons geeks. 

That exception pops up at the beginning and end of the book: the way The Simpsons helps people relate to each other.  The first involves young Sedgwick as a fresh arrival in New York City making friends with shared Simpsons quotes.  The second is father-son bonding on Sunday evenings, even through the toughest of times.  They are moments of genuine affect that touch on heartfelt realities that should’ve been the core of the book.  More like them, and a broader look at why that happens between so very many people, would’ve been welcome.

Whatever those are worth, however, doesn’t begin to make up for the unreadable shambles that is the rest of the text.  In its current condition, this book isn’t worth five cents, much less five dollars.  It isn’t doomed to stay that way forever, of course, and really feels more like a first draft than a completed product anyway.  And that’s the beauty of ebooks, you can revise and edit and make updates, which is exactly what Thought Catalog and Sedgwick should do.  Put it through the wringer a couple more times (and fix all those grotesquely broken sentences) and they’d have something worth selling.

Or they could pull it from Amazon.  It’s their call, but leaving the book up for sale in its current condition is an all around shitty thing to do and would reflect even worse on author and imprint than the decision to go ahead with an obviously unfinished tract in the first place.  Sedgwick is a first time author, Thought Catalog is but four years old, both could have promising futures.  But they won’t if they keep trying to sell incomplete work like this.  After all, it’s okay to put yourself at the center of a story; it’s not okay do a half assed job of it.


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