Posts Tagged ‘Last Exit to Springfield

11
Mar
20

Quote of the Day

 

“Then I got this scar sneaking under the door of a pay toilet.” – Homer Simpson

24
May
19

Quote of the Day

“He’s a worthy foe. Look at him, Smithers, exercising away while the others are off at the candy machine.” – C.M. Burns
“Hey, Lenny, can you get this Sugar Daddy off my back?” – Homer Simpson
“Okay, but it’s the last time.” – Lenny

11
Mar
19

Quote of the Day

“My friends, tonight we unveil my most diabolical creation: swank. Ten times more addictive that marijuana! To human misery.” – Senator Mendoza
“Ice to see you.” – McBain

29
Aug
18

Quote of the Day

“Who is that firebrand, Smithers?” – C.M. Burns
“That’s Homer Simpson, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Simpson, eh? New man?” – C.M. Burns
“Actually, sir, he thwarted your campaign for governor, you ran over his son, he saved the plant from meltdown, his wife painted you in the nude.” – Mr. Smithers
“Doesn’t ring a bell.” – C.M. Burns

11
Mar
18

Quote of the Day

“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Bullseye!” – Karl
“Thanks a lot, Karl. Now I’ve lost my train of thought.” – Homer Simpson
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge
“Dental plan.” – Memory Lenny
“Lisa needs braces.” – Memory Marge

11
Mar
17

Quote of the Day

“And Gummy Joe, where would you be without the dental plan?” – Homer Simpson
“I wouldn’t have ol’ Chomper here, that’s for sure!” – Gummy Joe

05
Sep
16

Quote of the Day

Local643

“Welcome, brothers of Local 643, as you know, our president Chuckie Fitzhugh ain’t been seen lately. We’re all praying he’ll turn up soon, alive and well.” – Carl

11
Mar
16

Quote of the Day

WheresMyBurrito

“Where’s my burrito!  Where’s my burrito!  Where’s my burrito!  D’oh!” – Homer Simpson

08
Sep
15

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield16

“Maggie’s teeth are coming in crooked.  Has she been sucking on a pacifier?” – Dr. Wolf
“Uh, not to my knowledge.” – Marge Simpson
“Liar!” – Dr. Wolf

11
Mar
15

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield15

“How often do you brush, Ralph?” – Dr. Wolf
“Three times a day, sir.” – Ralph Wiggum
“Why must you turn my office into a house of lies?” – Dr. Wolf

29
May
14

Quote of the Day

Mirror

“The mirror . . . the mirror!” – Lisa Simpson

Happy birthday Danny Elfman!

03
Apr
14

Compare & Contrast: Homer the Incorruptible

Last Exit to Springfield14

"We don’t have to be adversaries, Homer.  We both want a fair union contract." – C.M. Burns
"Why is Mr. Burns being so nice to me?" – Homer’s Brain
"And if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." – C.M. Burns
"Wait a minute, is he coming on to me?" – Homer’s Brain
"I mean, if I should slip something into your pocket, what’s the harm?" – C.M. Burns
"My God, he is coming on to me." – Homer’s Brain
"After all, negotiations make  strange bedfellows." – C.M. Burns

For a simple and common act, bribery requires a surprising amount of finesse.  Whether the initiating party is asking for the bribe or offering it, when it comes to the exchange of money for dishonesty the presentation is always the tricky part.  You have to let the other person know that you’re willing to break the rules, but only in a way that both of you can later deny if necessary.  It’s a delicate thing, and the last person you’d ever want to see on the other side of it is Homer Simpson.

That frustrating situation confronts nuclear plant owner Monty Burns in Season 4’s "Last Exit to Springfield" as well as the nameless, central casting gangster in "You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee".  Both are trying to get Homer to roll over for cash, but the Homers they have to bribe are as different as they are.

There are four parties in these two attempted transactions.  In the first we have Burns and regular Homer; and in the second we have Gangster Guy and Zombie Homer.  Before we get to the actual bribery, however, let’s take a quick look at each one of them and why they’re doing what they’re doing:

  • The Burns of Season 4 is the very definition of ruthless.  Not only does he hate his employees, he’s willing to go to the mattresses over their dental plan out of nostalgic spite.  The money is important to him, but not as much as the principle of being able to wall one of them up whenever the urge hits him.  For Burns, bribing the head of the union to betray his fellows is just expediency, and when things don’t go well right away, he goes to hired goons out of habit.
  • The Homer of Season 4 is a working schlub everyman who doesn’t want to have to pay for his daughter’s braces.  In that sense, his motivation going into the negotiations is a lot like Burns’.  The difference is that Homer isn’t acting out of malevolence, he’s reacting to the evil of Burns and just trying to get back something he already had.
  • Gangster Guy has no background, he’s just a gangster.  Why does he want to fix the World Cup?  Because he’s a gangster.  Haven’t you ever seen any of their movies?
  • Zombie Homer is who he pretty much always is: a weirdly invincible superman.  Fly to Brazil to be (apparently) the only referee at the World Cup?  Sure!  Get bribed and threatened  by gangsters?  He’s cool, doesn’t perturb him a bit.  Fall completely to pieces because an eight-year-old called him her hero but didn’t do it in quite the right way?  Also sure.  He has no human center, so incomprehensibly random reactions are the norm.

Down in Brazil, our prop store gangster tries to bribe that fickle lunatic because that’s why prop store gangsters do, and Homer refuses because he’s been perfectly incorruptible for three whole minutes, so it’s now basically his only trait.  There’s no depth to what either of them is doing, which means that the only kind of humor they can go for is repetitive silliness.  They offer him money in outlandish ways, he refuses, and that’s it.  They do it so many times that they have an entire montage of nothing but.  Anyone is free to think that’s funny, of course, but there’s no denying that it’s simplistic and one-dimensional.

Bribery Montage

Over and over and over and over . . .

Compare that to Burns’ repeated attempts to bribe Homer.  Things start out with with the two of them meeting in Burns’ office and Homer completely misunderstanding Burns’ innuendo:

Last Exit to Springfield13

Sure, he’s flattered, maybe even a little curious, but he doesn’t go in for those back door shenanigans.

From there, Homer’s guileless stupidity continues to be misunderstood by Burns as an iron willed resolve and negotiating brilliance.  Homer’s too dumb to be intimidated by hired goons.  The he has to pee too bad to listen to Burns’ offer.  Finally, he inadvertently triggers a strike while trying to resign.  It’s as far as you can get from one serially repeated joke because each of them brings more than just one thing to the table.

There’s an almost ye olde Vaudeville aspect to them, with Burns playing the straight man who just cannot get anything through the thick skull of the yutz who won’t take his money.  Since this is The Simpsons, the straight man is wildly evil and his frustrations quickly rise to trying to destroy the town instead of just demanding to know who’s on first, but the basic comedy of misunderstanding allows the show to employ all manner of topics and tricks.

What gives everything that extra twist is the fact that, right before the first commercial break, the show lets us know that Homer, in fact, would love to be bribed:

“Hey, what does this job pay?” – Homer Simpson
“Nothing.” – Carl
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
“Unless you’re crooked!” – Carl
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

If Burns had just offered to pay for Lisa’s braces, Homer would have eagerly accepted and the dental plan would be no more.  But that was never going to happen because the two of them are far too different to ever be able to communicate.  Burns, hater of unions, thinks Homer is as conniving and cutthroat as he is.  Homer just really doesn’t want to be there.

What plays out between them is far too rich to ever be shown as a one note montage or a repeated series of offers and exposition.  Between who they are, what they’re trying to do, and their actions and reactions (often inadvertent) towards one another, playing some music and showing a bunch of people handing Homer cash simply wouldn’t work.  Something that thin would be overwhelmed by story, jokes and the like.  In Zombie Simpsons, however, it’s more than enough.

23
Nov
13

Compare & Contrast: Strikes and Strikebreakers

Last Exit to Springfield11

“Goodbye, Springfield, from Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!” – C.M. Burns

The line everyone knows from 1987’s Wall Street is, “Greed is good”.  Of course, Michael Douglas doesn’t quite say that; his actual line is “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good”.  Either way it’s not the best line in the movie.  That honor goes to Martin Sheen, playing the skeptical head of an airline mechanics union.  Sitting in Gordon Gekko’s excessively 1980s penthouse as the iconic bankster of the time licks his chops over wage cuts now for theoretical profit sharing tomorrow, Sheen sagely notes:

“The rich been doing it to the poor since the beginning of time.  The only difference between the Pyramids and the Empire State Building is the Egyptians didn’t allow unions.”

The fight between labor and management is as old as the hills, and labor has only one weapon: organizing.  Not that unions are all smiles and sunshine.  They can be every bit as corrupt, short sighted, and greedy as their opponents, and the conflict between the two are often complicated, messy and painful.  In other words, the whole thing is fertile territory for satire, parody and general yuk-yuks.

Like many rich comedy veins, whether fart jokes or mocking those clowns in Congress, taking a swing at employers, employees and their eternal struggle against one another can be done with verve, insight and wit, or it can be done quickly and cheaply with the barest minimum of thought or humor.  Not being particularly fond of either thought or humor, Zombie Simpsons went with the second option.

Lisa’s cheerleader union plot begins after she is twice magically transformed by the cheerleaders into and out of a cheerleader outfit, so things don’t exactly get off to a good start, but they do manage to cover the bare minimum of "strike" plot points.  Basically these:

1.  The need to strike

2.  The decision to strike

3.  The strike itself

4.  Management’s counter moves

5.  The resolution

All of these have been done by The Simpsons, of course, most completely in "Last Exit to Springfield".  Obviously the B-plot for “Labor Pains” has much less screen time than the A-plot of “Last Exit to Springfield”, so instead of comparing them in whole, just consider those five scenes that they have in common. 

1.  In Zombie Simpsons, Lisa discovers how poorly compensated the “Atomettes” are when the Rich Texan walks over to them and pays them their meager wages, helpfully expositing the amount just in case anyone wasn’t paying attention.  It’s perfectly hacktacular, with characters walking on and off as needed, repeated explanation, and no real connection to anything we’ve seen so far.  (And nevermind pulling a theoretically 8-year-old girl out of the crowd and putting her in a skimpy costume to dance around in front of a bunch of drunken dudes.)

In The Simpsons, Burns decides he wants to cancel dental insurance for his workers more or less out of spite.  He remembers the good old days when you could wall up impudent employees and wants to get back to that.  He doesn’t specifically target the dental plan because it’s expensive or he needs the money, he just wants to screw his workers on the principle that workers should be screwed.  This being The Simpsons, the union doesn’t come off any better.  They almost accepted a keg of beer in exchange for dental coverage and then elected Homer as their leader.  Not only does all this mesh with the B-plot of Lisa needing braces, but it’s a lot more interesting and involved that some simple and heavily exposited pay dispute.  The conflict flows directly from the evil of Burns, Homer gets naturally caught up (instead of just happening to be there), and things can proceed.

Last Exit to Springfield10

“Unless you’re crooked.” “Woo-hoo!”

2.  From there, we see our two opponents, Burns and Homer, hilariously misunderstand each other, starting with Burns trying to bribe Homer and Homer thinking Burns is hitting on him.  Homer hates his new position so much that he goes to resign, but the hotheads in the union cut him off and assume he wants to go to war with Burns instead.  The whole strike is a farce, built on one comic misperception after another.  In "Labor Pains", Lisa and the Rich Texan both wander to cheerleading practice for another exposition and coincidence filled meeting that sees both of them going through the motions.

Cheerleader Padyday

I’m sure Jerry Jones has done some terrible things to Cowboys cheerleaders over the decades, but even he doesn’t pay their pittance  personally.

3.  Both episodes feature quick strike scenes and little montages, but all you really need to know is that The Simpsons wrote a strike song and had Lisa sing it whereas Zombie Simpsons grabbed an old Woody Guthrie song called “What Are We Waiting On”.  That’s pretty lazy, but it’s even worse than it first seems because while the song does contain the word “union”, Guthrie isn’t referring to a labor union, but rather the Union (as in the United States of America).  The song is about fighting Hitler, not fighting management.  So not only did Zombie Simpsons just buy a song, they picked a song by Woody Guthrie, most famous for singing about the lives of working people, that isn’t actually about working people.  Jebus.

Weak Scabs

Oh, Patty & Selma, remember when you were awesome and didn’t take shit from people?

4.  When Burns counterattacks the union, he goes with head busting strikebreakers, fire hoses, and robot workers.  His ideas are very Burns like: outdated and/or insane, but ruthless and at least theoretically effective.  The Rich Texan, on the other hand, makes just a single countermove: hiring Patty, Selma, Nelson’s mom, and the Crazy Cat Lady to replace the hardbodied twenty-somethings who make up his usual cheer squad.  Say what you want about the robot workers, but the box did say they’d be “100% Loyal”.  It could have worked.  Crazy Cat Lady in spandex, on the other hand, is weak tea gross out humor that nicely demonstrates just how empty this conflict really is.

Last Exit to Springfield12

The kind they had in the 30s . . .

5.  And what happens at the end?  Well, the Rich Texan goes to the Simpson house (which is where the strike is being organized because shut up that’s why) and concedes because apparently it never occurred to him to hire more hardbodied twenty-somethings.  Compare that meek surrender to Burns, who deliberately blacks out all of Springfield (even the red light district and the fake vomit factory) while quoting Captain Ahab’s speech from the end of “Moby Dick”.  Having tried to destroy the entire town rather than surrender, Burns finally admits defeat.  The Rich Texan went down with hardly a peep.

Tried Nothing and I'm All Out of Ideas

Ladies, I’m here to wrap up this B-plot because the A-plot has scenes even worse than this coming right up.

The Simpsons mocked both labor and management to within an inch of reality and let the good guys win only because the bad guy is irredeemably insane.  Zombie Simpsons had some cheerleaders giggle and shake their stuff.

The tragedy of all this is that “cheerleader union” is a fantastic idea.  Real NFL cheerleaders are basically paid in pompoms, and an actual Simpsons episode about them unionizing or just getting something more than a token salary (most make well under $100 per game, and they have to do lots of uncompensated non-game stuff as well) could be hilarious.  Instead we got this.  Oh well.

02
Sep
13

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield10

“I move that Homer Simpson be our new union president!  All in favor?” – Carl
“Aye!” – Nuclear Plant Workers
“All opposed?” – Carl
“Nay.” – Mumbly Guy
“Congratulations, Homer!” – Carl
“Hey, what does this job pay?” – Homer Simpson
“Nothing.” – Carl
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
“Unless you’re crooked!” – Carl
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

15
May
13

Quote of the Day

Dr. Joyce Brothers (The Naked Gun)

“Tonight on Smartline, the power plant strike: argle-bargle or foofaraw?  With us tonight are plant owner C.M. Burns, union kingpin Homer Simpson, and talk show mainstay Dr. Joyce Brothers.” – Kent Brockman
“I brought my own mike.” – Dr. Joyce Brothers

01
May
13

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield9

“What do we want?” – Carl
“More equitable treatment at the hands of management!” – Striking Workers
“When do we want it?” – Carl
“Soon!” – Striking Workers

11
Mar
13

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield8

“Who is it?” – Homer Simpson
“Goons.” – Goon
“Who?” – Homer Simpson
“Hired goons.” – Goon
“Hired goons?” – Homer Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary “Last Exit to Springfield”!  Original airdate 11 March 1993.

31
Aug
12

Quote of the Day

Last Exit to Springfield7

“Now, stay tuned for professional wrestling live from the Springfield grapplearium.  Tonight, a Texas death match, Dr. Hillbilly versus the Iron Yuppie!  One man will actually be unmasked and killed in the ring!” – Wrestling Announcer
“I hope they kill that iron yuppie, thinks he’s so big.” – Homer Simpson

08
May
12

Crazy Noises: The Spy Who Learned Me

Last Exit to Springfield6

“Ah, McBain, so glad you could make it.  Have a salmon puff.” – Senator Mendoza
“Alright.” – McBain

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “Snuffleupagus”).

In general, “Stradivarius Cain” was not one of the better ideas to get barfed onto my television by Zombie Simpsons.  His only real trait is being an exaggerated version of James Bond, which is fine as far as it goes, except for the fact that there have been so many of those over the years that it’s hard to even count them all.  The first James Bond movie came out fifty years ago, and after five decades it doesn’t seem too much to expect that decent parodies need to be a little more than cartoonish villains and a hero who looks good in a tuxedo. 

The one dimensional nature of Cain is laid bare in the opening scene where we see his movie.  A bunch of goofy looking bad guys are having a meeting when one of them steps forward to ask about Cain:

Not Quite a Nazi Guy:  But are you sure we will not be bothered by the American master spy Stradivarius Cain?
Old Guy with Mustache:  Do not worry about Dr. Cain.  The last I saw him, my beautiful mistress was about to finish him off. 

That leads to the beautiful mistress doing one of those hokey old vaudeville overreactions where she’s surprised, then she realizes what’s happening, then she covers it up so poorly that anyone who’s half awake knows she’s lying:

Old Guy with Mustache:  You killed him, right?
Beautiful Mistress:  Yes.  He was the perfect lover . . . of being killed.
Old Guy with Mustache:  It’s a weird sentence, but let’s move on.

This is a great example of Zombie Simpsons just having no clue what its doing.  The scene as shown would be more at home in a slapstick comedy than a big action movie, but because Zombie Simpsons pretty much always goes for the cheapest possible laugh, they jam it in there no matter how strange or out of place it is. 

When The Simpsons did McBain, they played it straight ahead because they understood that the concept they were parodying was inherently funny.  They knew that just having McBain’s ludicrous arms punch their way out of the frozen Venus de Milo sculpture while he says “Ice to see you” as seriously as he can was already hilarious.  They didn’t have him slip on a banana peel or his enemy act the fool because that kind of humor would actually have detracted from the satire and made it dumb. 

Similarly, in a different McBain clip, when Mendoza asks if McBain is dead, his henchmen doesn’t stammer or roll his eyes, he acts like a normal henchman.  What’s funny is that McBain comes exploding out of the conference table and tosses Mendoza out a high rise window to plummet to his death and detonate a conveniently placed tanker truck labeled simply “Gasoline”.  When parodying terrible films like those insane 1980s/1990s action movies (and there have been a lot of terrible James Bond movies), you don’t need schtick.  They’re so nuts already that all you need to turn them from action to comedy is a bit of exaggeration.  And that one, from “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, even manages its own little James Bond joke by showing the credits as Grampa and Jasper get up to leave the theater:

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou8

That one tag line, “You Have the Right to Remain Dead” is a far more inventive Bond satire than anything Zombie Simpsons did with Stradivarius Cain. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to get started?

Mad Jon: Let’s.

  I actually remembered to set my DVR to record an extra minute at the beginning, so I got to see the couch gag for once.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty sure it was a repeat again, but I didn’t check.

Mad Jon: Short and sweet is what my notes tell me. I don’t remember it, so that makes it new to me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Huh, Wikipedia says it was new. Yeah, I don’t have much to complain about there.

Mad Jon: Go social encyclopedia.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problems started right afterward though. That Stradivarius Cain movie at the beginning was awful.

It was like watching a reboot of McBain, but with none of the humor and all of the pandering taken seriously.

Mad Jon: Goddamn it that couldn’t have been worse. All I could do to fight the pain was to visualize the McBain movie where he pops out of the ice sculpture.

Charlie Sweatpants: My thoughts exactly.

  The fact that the villain’s girlfriend did the cartoony "uh, of course" kind of thing also ruined it.

McBain was funny because it was exactly like a real crappy action movie, this was like an imitation of one of those awful parody movies.

Mad Jon: The best part of those movies are that they are timeless. This was a social media version of the Star Wars movie parody where they got locked up in procedural amendments.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way to put it.

Mad Jon: It’s a sad day when so much of my attention is going to the opening movie which leads to Homer being a in-theater commenter, who, although beloved by his best friends for it, doesn’t do it again throughout the movie.

  But it does lead to him trying to be smooth for his wife and Tony Montana.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was like the movie scene from "Colonel Homer", minus everything that made it funny.

  The whole Lenny and Carl thing was just odd.

Mad Jon: Got to get them in there I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: It was a recurring theme. When Marge comes to the plant to drop off that basket for Homer, who should be standing outside but Lenny.

Mad Jon: Yeah, not much to say here. But anywhere Homer needed someone to further his fight with Marge, there was Lenny and Carl.

Charlie Sweatpants: That happened a lot as well. Homer needs to practice being suave, here’s half a dozen women patiently waiting their turn for him to talk to them.

Mad Jon: Yeah, where the hell was that bar??

Charlie Sweatpants: It kind of reminded me of the place Homer was asked to leave without making a fuss, but I’d chalk it up more to Springfield’s increasing resemblance to the nicer parts of Los Angeles.

Mad Jon: Well alright then.

Charlie Sweatpants: The second restaurant was even weirder.

Mad Jon: Was that a restaurant? I thought it was more like a garden party or something. It reminded me of the squid port opening.

Charlie Sweatpants: Homer called it a restaurant, but it was odd.

Mad Jon: Ah.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you notice that Not Bond was strapped into the kid seat?

Mad Jon: Yeah, I was waiting for that to, you know, be something. Other than awkward, of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s what was so strange. Why did he look all nervous and scared?

Mad Jon: He did look very strange for an imaginary friend.

But whatever. I guess that’s the price for getting to watch people make out?

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s one of the things that didn’t make sense. He was into that a second ago. Of course, here I am trying to figure the motives of an imaginary character who was brought forth with one of the most trite cliches in television: the magic bonk on the head.

Mad Jon: An imaginary character who has apparently shared an imaginary woman with Snuffleupagus.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s best not to think about it.

Mad Jon: But other than that, probably not much to figure out.

Charlie Sweatpants: No, and in case there was, they helpfully explained everything every six seconds.

  This is a partial list of what’s in my notes, but I typed as I watched so these might be a bit off:

  “Stop saying what you’d call things”

  “Sir, that was your partner, you betrayed him to the cannibals”

  “I have eight weeks paid vacation and my family doesn’t know” – This one was right after they showed us exactly that.

  “Because I was up late lamenting the choices I’ve made”

  “Oh great, another documentary making me look like a scuzzbag.” – bonus points on this one for making no sense by having Krusty walk into the movie.

“Now that’s it’s after-noon”/”Hear your pathetic rationalizing through the door”/”Pack of raccoons” – That whole scene with Moe was them explaining what either just happened or was about to happen.

  “I thought I was making small talk, but it turned out to be big talk”.

  “The three of us are going to the most romantic restaurant in town”

I could go on. There were so fucking many of these, but I think I’ve made my point. So many words, so very little actually said.

Mad Jon: Indeed. The "The three of us…." one was the worst.

Only because even by zombie standards, that should have prompted a reaction from Marge.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m partial to Marge’s "Stop saying what you’d call things". She literally just could’ve said "Stop". Or they could’ve actually given her a joke or something.

Mad Jon: Well, in all fairness, they were all, just, terrible.

And on top of that, only one of those lines was from the ‘B’ plot.

We haven’t even stepped into the pile which was the almost a decade old lead in to the ‘B’ plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: By all means, let’s step.

  These new Italian loafers will make short work of it.

Mad Jon: I actually don’t have a lot of notes about it, because it wasn’t that in depth.

  Bart’s plan is to fatten up Nelson so he can’t beat him up, he accomplishes this, and then Nelson and Lisa get Krusty to make him a super bully, and then it is over.

Charlie Sweatpants: There wasn’t much there.

Mad Jon: That is literally all of my notes for the B plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, it did contain what may have been the most outdated joke I can recall them making in a while, the whole Alicia Silverstone was fat in that unwatchable Batman 4 movie.

  That joke expired in about 1998.

Mad Jon: I was going to say, how old was the average viewer when that made sense? 2? maybe 3?

Whatever, I often feel like boring is the methadone that helps me through these things.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but they made me think about Batman 4. That’s just wrong.

Mad Jon: Normal life, where I don’t have to watch Zombie Simpsons, of course being the heroin.

Charlie Sweatpants: Heh.

Mad Jon: Just got to take it one Sunday at a time…

Charlie Sweatpants: What was pissy about the B-plot though was the fact that Krusty was wherever he was needed. He was in the documentary, he was there when Lisa and Nelson showed up, and then his personal trainer was too.

The entire thing was filler, so they just rushed it along.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that was kind of lazy, but that’s what happens when you write yourself into a corner.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like they didn’t have enough to make it a real plot, but they had too much to make it a one or two scene joke, so we got that.

Mad Jon: Anyone who has paid attention to my chat text from these things will know that I completely understand.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough.

Mad Jon: I don’t think I have thought about Morgan Spurlock since 2006, by the way… Who was sitting on that??

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, he did do that Simpsons special a couple of years ago.

  But Zombie Simpsons doesn’t generally like being with the times.

Mad Jon: Yeah, but I block those things out pretty quickly.

Charlie Sweatpants: Probably for the best.

  Anything else here?

Mad Jon: Not really, I am disappointed that there really wasn’t even 1 joke that I could consider noteworthy in a positive way.

But we’ve covered enough of the crap I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: I chuckled at the Oscar documentary form having Holocaust and non-Holocaust as checkboxes, but that was it.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I can almost see that, but meh. Sorry to disappoint you.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s okay, I’m long over disappointment.

Mad Jon: Good. Cause I’m not going to change for you.

Charlie Sweatpants: Works for me.

From Mad Jon via e-mail this morning:

On a side-ish note, I forgot to mention it last night, but did you notice the more-insane-than-normal sense of time that episode had?  Homer has eight weeks of paid leave, Marge finds out during week six, right?  At the same time Bart is trying to get Nelson to eat Krusty burger for a month, which actually lasts 2 weeks, and then he gets buff in what must have been three weeks, because at the very end Homer mentions he was supposed to be back at work last week.

I have been thinking about that all morning for some ungodly reason.  Work is bad enough, but my daydreaming is involving a zombiesode.  Oh well. 

20
Mar
12

Crazy Noises: Them, Robot

Robot Workers

“Crush, kill, destroy.” – 100% Loyal Robot Workers

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “poisoning”). 

Zombie Simpsons makes no secret about the way the front of the episode is often completely unrelated to the rest of it.  (It’s the sort of thing they’ll nervously joke about on commentaries.)  Things often take rather severe turns at or around the first commercial break, usually because the opening is more of a self contained sketch than setup for the rest of the plot.  For the most part I’ve grown numb to that, but “Them, Robot” took this to a new level of story indifference. 

The opening of the episode is Homer on an alcohol free weekend because the plant is having a drug test on Monday.  When the drug test finally got around to happening, after Jerkass Homer went to a nice restaurant and spat in other people’s food (naturally, they applauded), I thought that was going to be the reason Burns used to fire all the employees.  After all, if every employee flunks the drug test, why not hire robot workers?  Zombie Simpsons being Zombie Simpsons, they didn’t do that.  Instead they had a guy we don’t know suffer from radiation poisoning and die, a plot element that wasn’t mentioned again, and which had nothing to do with the finale when Burns rehires all his old workers. 

That kind of rank plotting isn’t unusual for them.  (And, as you can see above, The Simpsons managed to do this whole story better in three words, two scenes, and ten seconds.)  But in this instance they had a simple way to make the story (such as it was) kinda work, and they still didn’t do it.  From my humble vantage point at the receiving end of the chattering cyclops, I have no idea how they manage to produce episodes this consistently sloppy.  But things like this do make one wonder if they don’t need to put some caffeine in the water cooler down there at 1 Zombie Simpsons Plaza. 

Note: Dave and Mad Jon have both gone intercontinental this week.  Fortunately, Magdalena from Lenny Tunes and Mike from Me Blog Write Good were kind enough to join me. 

Mike: So Charlie, you wanna kick off, or what?

  However you normally do this.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m ready to get started if you two are.

Lenny: Sure.

Mike: Yeah, I’m ready.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then, anyone want an opening tirade?

Lenny: The worst part for me was the brunch scene.

Mike: Wait, before we get to the episode

  Can someone explain to me what the point of that couch gag was

Charlie Sweatpants: More self congratulation, I think.

Lenny: That’s what I thought. I felt like you should either try to be political or make it all about you, but both? It was weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: Might have just been a leftover idea from the 500th episode.

Mike: It was political "commentary" with a random Simpsons timeline thrown in.

Lenny: Exactly.

Mike: With appearances of such classic characters as Lisa’s dance instructor and that weirdo Willy Wonka guy who sold Bart’s T-shirts

And it was only every other year for some reason.

  It kind of set the stage right there that the writers seem to not give a shit anymore if things make sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: I just assume that, these days.

The brunch scene being a case in point. That was Jerkass Homer to a T.

  And yet everyone else there treated him like he was normal or something.

Lenny: Everyone besides Homer was just completely vacant.

  Marge and Lisa apparently just sat there while he ordered and drank six mimosas?

Mike: Yeah. Patty and Selma just sat there, no commentary at all.

Lenny: Patty and Selma not saying anything is annoying enough in of itself, but it’s especially terrible when you consider that them being their usual selves would be an organic way to drive Homer to drinking.

Charlie Sweatpants: It went beyond them as well. All those other people, staff and customers, actually applauded him.

Mike: Exactly. They could have built a little bit of tension, but instead stuck to dumb jokes.

Lenny: And Marge just sat there when Homer drank either five or six mimosas (the animation wasn’t consistent), but then suddenly she has the all-knowing power to tell that coffee has alcohol in it just from glancing at it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say they were more antics than jokes, but I may be splitting hairs.

Mike: Yeah, jokes imply there’s humor present.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then they ran that into the ground by repeating just about anything that involves alcohol, more or less as a list.

Lenny: Yeah, I don’t know if let’s-see-how-many-things-with-alcohol-in-them-we-can-name quite counts as a joke.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. There wasn’t so much as a comment about how all these brunch foods have booze in them.

Mike: But let’s go bigger picture here: apparently this is a science fiction universe where there are these hyper sophisticated robots.

That Burns bought from God knows where.

Charlie Sweatpants: That would be the episode’s Achilles everything, all right.

Mike: That and for some reason it spring boarded to the entire town being unemployed.

  I thought I spaced out and missed a few scenes.

  Does everyone in Springfield work at the nuclear plant?

Charlie Sweatpants: Just to make things consistently annoying, the episode can’t even be consistent about what the robots can and can’t do. They go from tough to fall apart in no time flat.

Lenny: That was annoying because even throwing in a quick line from Smithers like "one solution that’s very popular" would give you some warning that this would affect more than just the plant.

Mike: There was absolutely no connection between the robots and the unemployment.

  None.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s like they’re trying to do both too much and not enough at the same time. The town falling apart because of robot workers is a rather big story, but it barely rates more than a couple of scenes, probably less screen time than Homer playing baseball with the robots.

Mike: Well that was a laugh riot.

  Especially when all those robots got hit by traffic.

Charlie Sweatpants: That just kept going.

Mike: There’s just so much padding… That, the loud "D’oh," and the endless "working hard or hardly working"

  Which features Homer at his loudest and most obnoxious.

  And getting hurt.

  A veritable Jerkass trifecta

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed.

Lenny: Another moment that stuck out to me as being particularly bad was Homer slicing his head, because it was simultaneously too violent and not violent enough.

  Him actually getting his head sliced open seems like overkill, but then the fact that there’s no blood or even a noticeable scratch afterwards made it absurdly tame.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way of putting it. He had a pretty big chunk missing, but there was no blood, nothing. It was just off-putting.

Lenny: Same with him getting part of his mouth ripped out by the paperclip.

Mike: I forgot about that.

  Holy shit, man.

Charlie Sweatpants: Of course, the robots’ buzzsaw hands disappeared shortly thereafter, so who knows?

Speaking of that paperclip scene, Homer can apparently turn off power to the city while asleep now. It’s yet another thing that’s been done before (Colonel Homer) that has no impact here because of how poorly it’s done.

Mike: And it’s treated as a goof by Marge and Lisa.

Lenny: This episode had a lot of admitting that Homer’s the only person in the universe who matters. The power’s out so Marge knows it’s him, the robots who are programmed to preserve life endanger drivers to save Homer, etc.

Everyone besides Homer is a prop in this universe.

Mike: Yeah, right.

If it had been treated with some severity, it could have springboarded to Burns wanting to eradicate human incompetence by getting the robots.

Lenny: That would make a lot more sense than "the federal government considers alcohol a drug."

Mike: I mean, Smithers could have taken the only human position.

Charlie Sweatpants: Or the fact that the drug test itself was dropped like a hot potato. The actual reason Burns hired the robots was because the random guy got radiation poisoning.

Mike: So Homer’s sobriety meant nothing.

  Just more filler.

  Great jokes like Homer reading the voter’s guide and Gil getting killed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Same with Homer’s attempts to bond with the robots. It’s all filler because the only thing they know how to do is wind up Homer and let him loose to act like an asshole.

Mike: I just really don’t understand where there were going with a lot of this stuff.

  Homer befriends the robots, but why?

Charlie Sweatpants: I would be curious to read the first draft of one of these scripts some time. Did it make sense once upon a time and all that got stripped out in favor of Luigi standing there with pizza boxes, or was it always this messy?

  I honestly have no idea.

Mike: I have no clue.

  I just need to reiterate: there was NO connection between the robots and the town becoming unemployed.

There has to be a version of this episode where there was.

Lenny: Yeah, I mean, they highlighted unemployment with…Barney? Like him being underemployed is this big shift?

Mike: Here, it makes no sense.

  Yeah.

  Also, his voice sounded off. His and a few others.

Lenny: That might be why Patty and Selma didn’t have any lines, actually.

Mike: I haven’t watched new episodes in a few years, is this common?

Charlie Sweatpants: I thought Kavner was having a really hard time with Marge in this one.

Mike: Burns was off at a few points. Smithers sounded fine.

Charlie Sweatpants: And yeah, I’ve long suspected that we see much less of Patty and Selma (and nothing of their mother) because she just can’t do that rasp any longer.

Mike: Speaking of Burns, I guess it’s a joke that he’s reading Tina Fey’s book.

  I guess?

  Free promotion?

Lenny: The Tina Fey book and the fact that they made their third or fourth Angry Birds joke made me feel like they’re just desperate to be cool.

Mike: You really think that’s it? A desperate attempt to seem relevant and modern after all these years?

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say it’s more of a reference than a joke. For it to be a joke they’d have needed to make up something that was like Bossypants but not actually it.

Lenny: Maybe I’m misreading it, but stuff like that always makes me feel like my high school teacher is trying to prove he’s still with it or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s definitely the feeling I get.

It was like that Chris Christie thing a few months ago, they try to stay relevant by putting in things that can be done late in the process. The book title could’ve been anything.

Mike: Yeah. It’s just Insert Reference Here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Precisely.

Though even then they screw things up. They made a joke about Rudy not being that inspiring a story, but failed to note that he got convicted of bilking investors in a stock scam.

Mike: Then we end with Burns and Homer teaming up against the robots, for some reason, and the townspeople miraculously being there to save the day.

Lenny: After the robots somehow know where Mr. Burns lives and go straight there because Homer messed with them using a screwdriver.

Mike: Well they followed Homer, to be fair.

Lenny: Oh, guess I missed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: But why did he go there?

  Did he know he’d be able to get in?

Mike: Because he bought the robots.

I guess he thought it was his only option.

  I won’t gripe that point, it was one of the few things here that made sense.

  But Burns would absolutely not let him in.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know I mentioned this above, but the ending was another place where they really expect you to not remember anything from even just a minute or two before. The robots were ultra-deadly, and then all of a sudden, they had no buzzsaw hands and were easily defeated by basically unarmed people.

Lenny: And it drove me crazy that Homer assumed he’d be able to reprogram sophisticated robots by shoving a screw into them and it somehow worked.

  And Mr. Burns then learned he needs human employees even though his only human employee was the one who screwed everything up.

Charlie Sweatpants: To be fair, this is like the fourth time they’ve shown Homer tinker with robots since about Season 12.

None of those made sense either, but they are being consistent.

Lenny: I just remember "See all that stuff in there? That’s why your robot never worked."

Mike: Linguo, the battle bots one…

Charlie Sweatpants: Wasn’t there one he threw out of his garage half built, as well?

  They kinda blur together.

Mike: Oh yeah, right.

  "Father!"

Lenny: Well, obviously I am out of my element after season 8. That is weird.

Charlie Sweatpants: But Lenny’s right, Burns had no real motivation to hire everyone back except that it was the end of the episode.

Lenny: And because they beat the scary robots with corn dogs, which is impressive.

Mike: Yeah. Those robots are total weaksauce, man.

Charlie Sweatpants: And about half of their lines were pointless exposition that even Cmdr. Data himself couldn’t sell.

  I mean they actually had him say, “Our programming restricts our movement to yellow guidance lines”. They had half a dozen chances to show us that, then they told it to us instead, then they ignored it for the rest of the episode.

Mike: They ignored it immediately when they showed Homer painting the baseball diamond, then we immediately see robots standing off the line.

Lenny: I guess the animators did their best with a script that called for completely contradictory visuals.

Mike: I suppose.

Charlie Sweatpants: They stick the animators with a lot of impossible tasks.

Mike: Poor bastards.

  Wishing they worked for Bob’s Burgers instead.

Lenny: Indeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not their fault the script called for Homer to pick up Mr. Burns and swing him around for a second before putting him back down like nothing happened.

Lenny: Or called for Luigi to use pizza boxes like a flip book.

  I hated the scene where Mr. Burns uses the robot as a foot rest because I thought I knew where it was going and then not only did they not do what I thought, they didn’t really do anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it took them a long time to not do it, as well.

Mike: What did you expect?

Lenny: I thought it would be about Smithers being like "I could do that!" and being way too giddy about being Burns’s foot rest, leaving them both uncomfortable.

Mike: Oh, I see.

Lenny: Which would at least be a joke based on character instead of…visual gags seems too strong, but visuals, I guess.

Mike: Harry Shearer making orgasm noises. That would have at least been interesting.

Lenny: Haha. And would have been a better and more subtle sex joke than Barney holding that hat up, which they thought was way funnier than it was.

Charlie Sweatpants: Forgot about that. Guh.

Mike: Forgot that too. In front of children, no less.

Let me just ask, was there anything about the episode you all liked?

Lenny: I thought some of the robots’ material was okay.

Charlie Sweatpants: I did like Spiner’s delivery on "We do vent nitrogen once a year. You do not want to be around for that."

Mike: I think I smirked at the Rudy line, but that’s it.

Lenny: Yup, those are the two that got me.

Mike: Like, honestly, I was stunned at how poor this episode was.

I’ve seen maybe four episodes in the last three years.

  The last being that Xmas show from this season, since everyone was jizzing their pants over it.

  At least on No Homers

Lenny: Ah, I’ve seen everything this season and I think I would put this towards the top. The Christmas one is definitely at the top for me, being a solid 4/10.

Mike: But man, I’m dumbstruck.

  I’m not even trying to be funny, are they always this bad, Charlie?

How would you rank this with the rest of the season

Charlie Sweatpants: This was par for the course, yeah.

Lenny: I thought the last two we’ve had were worse.

Charlie Sweatpants: Honestly, I’m consistently amazed people can differentiate these that much. There are notably worse things here or there, but was this overall any less nuts than the magic bar rag, or Lisa’s overnight social network? Or Homer becoming a famous talk show host and political power broker? None of them make sense.

Mike: Yeah, that’s the overriding feel I got.

Nothing made sense.

No overarching theme, no consistent character stuff, no emotional arc

  Just a bunch of random shit that sort of related to each other. Sometimes.

Lenny: For me there’s just a slight difference between the ones that I can’t stand while I’m watching them and the ones that I’m able to stomach and then upon reflection I realize how bad they are and I’d put this in the latter category, which puts it towards the top of this season.

Charlie Sweatpants: Low bar, huh?

Lenny: Oh yeah.

Mike: Those are some standards.

Lenny: For instance, this one didn’t have a scene where Homer tried to have sex with Marge while wearing a diaper, even though everyone in the history of adult diapers has realized there’s a pretty simple system of have sex, then put on a diaper, then go to sleep. Low points like that are what make the difference for me.

Mike: …I don’t even want to know what that’s about.

Lenny: It was terrible.

Charlie Sweatpants: Last week. And yeah, don’t bother.

Mike: But in summation, I can at least say this episode makes me appreciate season 9 a hell of a lot more.

  I was bumming a little bit rewatching the season, but this…

Lenny: That’s exactly how I feel about looking back on 9 and 10.

Mike: My goodness.

  We could only be so lucky to get that quality again.

  At least they told stories. And had humor.

Charlie Sweatpants: I had the same experience with Season 10 last summer. Season 10 is unbelievably good compared to these. Plenty of them suck, but there’s still some heart, logic and good ideas, even if they don’t work.

This is just a bunch of random crap that hardly seems to have had any thought put into it.

Mike: So anything else to be said about this pile? I have to go pour bleach on my mind after visualizing Homer having sex in a diaper.

Lenny: Yeah, you’re lucky you didn’t get the actual visual from the episode. I think that’s all I got for this one.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think we’re going to get lower than giant diaper.

  Let me just say thanks to both of you for joining me this week.

Lenny: Thanks for the invite!

Mike: Wait, let’s end on a positive note.

  With Barney in a diaper on the street.

  A man of quiet dignity.

Charlie Sweatpants: He knows you can hear him!

Lenny: That is fine hardcore nudity.

Mike: Indeed.




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