Posts Tagged ‘Homerland

16
Oct
13

Compare & Contrast: Suspense Show Takeoffs

The Springfield Files14

“For the love of God, help me!  I’ve been here for four days and a turtle’s got a hold of my teeth.  There he is!  Come back here, you.  Slow down!  I’ll get yeh!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“This is the worst assignment we’ve ever had.” – Agent Scully
“Worse than the time we were attacked by the flesh eating virus?” – Agent Mulder
“Ow!  He bit me with my own teeth!” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson
“No, this is much more irritating.” – Agent Scully

Whether it’s shadowy terrorist networks and shady politicians, a government conspiracy to collude with aliens, or any other formula for dramatic mystery, people like to be in suspense about what’s going to happen next.  What nefarious plots will the heroes uncover?  What dastardly twists do the villains have up their sleeves?  Will the leads fall in love and kiss (or possibly get naked) on screen?

All of these things are a rather far cry from the reasons people watch animated comedies.  So when it comes time for a parody, it helps tremendously to know that you’re here to poke fun at your source material and not merely repeat it.  For a good example of the former, there’s “The Springfield Files”.

The X-Files became a parody of itself toward the end as the conspiracy kept getting strung out and strung out (and strung out) because it was one of FOX’s few hit shows and they couldn’t bear to let it die.  (When Troy McClure shows the FOX “Programming Chart” later in Season 8, they weren’t kidding when it was just that, The Simpsons and Melrose Place.)  But in its prime, The X-Files was a popular critical darling that kept audiences’ rapt attention with inventive monsters of the week and a nefarious global conspiracy that unfolded ever so slowly.

The Simpsons took The X-Files and made fun of all of it: the inherent goofiness of the FBI investigating “paranormal” crimes and creatures, the endless breadth of conspiracy theories, and the unusually drop dead sexiness of that pair of agents.  It wasn’t mean about any of it, a show as silly and relentlessly serious about itself as The X-Files isn’t exactly a hard target for satire, and the two lead voices were happy to show up and have a little fun at the expense of their meal ticket.

But “The Springfield Files” never feels like an X-Files episode or even tries to copy one.  Mulder and Scully are there, of course, but they’re hardly the protagonists and they basically disappear as soon as they ascertain that Homer’s a drunken idiot who shouldn’t be taken seriously, which doesn’t take long at all.  The “alien” turns out to be Mr. Burns, which the Springfield mob understandably tries to kill anyway.

Even the quick departure of Mulder and Scully laughs at The X-Files.  Scully tells Mulder that they have to go since this is obviously not an alien, and then she gets annoyed and just walks off in boredom as he launches into his elaborately insane “truth is out there” speech.  Meanwhile, real crime, Moe smuggling exotic animals, is happening right in front of the FBI.  Along the way they have time to throw in Leonard Nimoy parodying himself and his lesser television accomplishments, FOX, and Friday nights.

The Springfield Files13

That’s not Leonard Nimoy!

“Homerland” manages none of that, and instead seeks to recreate, more or less as closely as possible, scenes and characters from Homeland.  For starters, there’s the opening, which like their Dexter parody from a couple of seasons ago, basically requires you to have seen a relatively obscure cable show to get what’s going on since it’s little more than a remake with Simpson characters substituted for the regulars.  The plot and even the musical cues are more or less direct copies, and poor Kristen Wiig is asked to do little more than alternate between being crazy and being suspicious in a Claire Danes role that has just that one joke that they repeat over and over again.

They’re so concerned with faithful reproduction that the scene where Lisa catches Homer “praying” is practically a shot-for-shot duplicate of one on Showtime, except that Homeland didn’t have the daughter exposit needlessly.  You don’t need to be a fan of Homeland, or even really know anything about the show, to know that’s a bad idea.  This is some of Lisa’s actual dialogue:

Lisa:  It looks like he’s praying . . . to the East.  The Middle East!  Mecca.

As a feat of bad writing that’s kind of impressive.  It’s quadruple expositive, including explaining one thing thrice over, and for that extra special Zombie Simpsons kick it involves Lisa acting uncharacteristically suspicious of Muslims.

What’s going on around all that crappy dialogue isn’t helping.  Shows like Homeland and The X-Files, which rely on twists and discoveries and secrets, set up those kind of scenes carefully.  Zombie Simpsons just tossed this one in with no explanation because, hey, there was one like that on Homeland.

Making matters yet more incoherent, Zombie Simpsons asks scenes like this to be treated as part of a serious mystery – hence Lisa’s shocked reaction to seeing Homer “pray” – but doesn’t treat anything else with even a scrap of care.  Things are whispered to and around Homer in scenes where other characters are standing right next to him, he keeps muttering his plot in case anyone had forgotten (the audience included), and the ending – which falls well short of the full runtime despite all the repetitive flashbacks – is unironically happy and just, with Burns being a complete idiot and getting arrested.

Burns Oopsie

He actually says “Oopsie” here, like he’s a toddler in a paper towel commercial.

In “The Springfield Files”, the big Burns reveal matches the rest of the mystery in deliberate silliness and contains lines like “The most rewarding part was when he gave me my money”.  In “Homerland”, it’s Burns expositing himself into jail for no reason whatsoever and has lines like “Wait a minute, Burns.  You don’t have a functioning AC system at a nuclear plant?  That’s against the law!”.  As usual, where The Simpsons made sense and kept things fun, Zombie Simpsons produces an intermittently serious mess.

02
Oct
13

Behind Us Forever: Homerland

Chalkboard - Homerland

“Anybody lose their glasses?  Last chance.  Woo-hoo!  The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side.” – Homer Simpson
“That’s a right triangle, you idiot.” – Guy on Toilet
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

Season 25, here we go:

  • They start the year with their first joke of the season about how lame it is to be on after all these years.  That didn’t take long.
  • But the couch gag makes the same joke and does take too long.
  • The Homeland opening credits are well done, but remaking other people’s credit sequences has become something of a time filling specialty for them. 
  • Bart’s first line of the year is a direct repeat of Homer’s triangle joke from Season 5, so that really didn’t take long. 
  • Between Homer’s suitcase flying open and them all chanting the word “convention” they’ve eaten up a remarkable amount of time with nothing when we get to the hotel.
  • “Good Riddance Shriners” is pretty good, but the signs are about the only part that can retain even a little bit of the character of The Simpsons
  • As per usual, the show likes to lock itself into a cheap joke and just ride it into the ground: swag, Marge not wanting Patty and Selma (or Wiggum) to say frightful things, Kristen Wiig not being able to go more than one line without switching her behavior completely. 
  • Lotta heavy handed musical cues in this one, and that’s before you count the flashbacks.
  • And a lot of MacFarlane style unconnected cutaway jokes:
    Lisa: This is worse than when he went to New Orleans and came back with a southern accent.
    [Cut to Lisa remembering Homer in hillbilly clothes and a straw hat while he talks in a drawl.]
  • This scene with Lisa spying on Homer and then, ugh, imitating a cat, is just atrocious.  All of her dialogue is unneeded exposition which for some reason Homer can’t hear. 
  • Lunatrix – “For Bipolar Disorder” – A goofy drug that makes bipolar people act out isn’t a completely terrible idea, but Zombie Simpsons handling of it is so poor that it’s just insulting, not for what they’re trying to make fun of, but for being that cheap and unimaginative at doing so. 
  • I get that they’re working from a spy thriller type show, but the combination of drawn out tension and unbelievably stupid jokes and dialogue (Kristen Wiig’s Claire Danes character can’t get through one line of dialogue without saying something pandering and dumb) is really off putting.
  • I’m sure glad they have a scene where Homer explains everything we’ve already had explained three times so we can relive the hilarity of him passing on beer and kneeling down on a rug. 
  • The sitcom-y nature of the writing didn’t improve any over the summer: “There isn’t a prison made that can hold me!  Prisons are still made of mud and wattles, right?”  [Canned laughter]
  • And we end on Burns getting a security x-ray to reveal that he has a hamster in his chest.  When an episode runs short these days, it really runs short.

Season 25 is here, and it landed with Zombie Simpsons’ customary whimper.  There’s plenty of unnecessary exposition, scenes that make no sense, and a story “parody” so dumb that you’d barely be able to follow it if you weren’t at least a little familiar with the original material.  For added zany effect, they spent some time changing Homer’s character, tacked on a bizarre ending where the plant is closed and Burns is arrested, and had a post-script scene that also made no sense to the point that the sign at security has Burns peering up someone’s ass right as we see Burns step into the machine.  Even in one off scenes Zombie Simpsons can’t tell a consistent story.  

Anyway, the ratings are long since in, and they are bad.  Just 6.29 million people wished they were actually watching Homeland last night.  Not only is that down from last year’s premier, it’s the kind of number that would’ve been considered anomalously bad just three seasons ago.  Now they’re standard. 

29
Sep
13

Sunday Preview: Homerland

simpsons1

 

An FBI agent helps Lisa find out why Homer suddenly becomes polite after attending a nuclear power convention.

Welcome to a new season of Zombie Simpsons.  I hope you enjoyed your time off, but now it’s time to again sit down to a Simpsons takeoff of a show that is much better.  Kristen Wiig will guest start tonight.




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