Posts Tagged ‘The Blue and the Gray


Crazy Noises: The Blue and the Gray


Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Sarah_Ackerman.

“Well, I guess it’s back to good old Springfield.” – Bart Simpson
“But I can’t go back, not after I’ve seen the bright lights of Capital City.  I’ll wither and die like a hothouse flower!” – Lisa Simpson

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (disturbingly enough, not on  “Pedobear”).

One of the things I’ve noticed about Season 22 so far is that Springfield resembles Hollywood more and more with each passing episode.  Just this season we’ve seen this humble Midwestern town acquire a massive private school, a big budget production of Wicked, and a seemingly endless supply of hopelessly trendy restaurants and upscale nightclubs.  It’s almost like Springfield is exclusively inhabited by a bunch of highly paid writers who think civilization ceases to exist south of Wilshire. 

[Note: Dave couldn’t join us again this week. He swears he’s going to have time for us soon, but we know better. It’s okay, we love him anyway.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get this unpleasantness over with?

Mad Jon: Yes.  Let’s begin

Charlie Sweatpants: Where to begin? There’s so much suck here.

Mad Jon: Was that Pie Man flying next to Bartman in the opening?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think so. I’ve never forced myself to watch that one.

Mad Jon: That was the eye opener for me.

Charlie Sweatpants: While I applaud their efforts to stock the opening with lots of changes each week, all they ever seem to do is reference older crap.

Mad Jon: That must have been season 13 or 14, I don’t know, but I remember I watched like half of it and it was like coming out of a coma.

I knew the Simpsons was no longer what it was, but I was most assuredly in a "It’ll get better right?" mode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, that never happened.

Mad Jon: I know that now, but back in the early 2000’s when I was no longer watching first runs regularly, I figured it was like boiling water.

Charlie Sweatpants: You just ignore it long enough and it’ll get there?

Mad Jon: Something like that.

Charlie Sweatpants: There were a lot of things that needed to be ignored for a long time in this one. I doubt it set any kind of record, but man there were a ton of jokes that took way too long.

Mad Jon: Yeah, that seems to keep happening

Charlie Sweatpants: The Cat Lady opening comes to mind, Homer repeatedly walking back into Moe’s, Homer tying his foot to the bed, the little cupids at the end, the kids freaking out about their hairlines, all of them and more just kept going.

Mad Jon: Remember that email I sent you last week? The one that said I could hear Moe crying already? 2:35.

  That’s how long it took.

Charlie Sweatpants: You were right in your e-mail.

  Dead right.

Mad Jon: Also the Pedobear.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the whole Bart freakout thing, what was that?

  It wasn’t even a plot, it was like two scenes!

Mad Jon: When Bart was looking for the nanny cam in Pedobear? I don’t know why the therapy with J Loren Pryor’s new voice was there.

  Although it did provide a second opportunity for us to see Supernintendo Chalmers.

Charlie Sweatpants: He lives at the school, I swear it.

Mad Jon: Well, he went to that pick up seminar as well. I have a note that says simply "Chalmers not in school!!’

Although Skinner and his conversation did involve the faculty in a way.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they have a real hard time having one without the other.

Mad Jon: I smell a spinoff!!!

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything but that.

Mad Jon: Seconded.

Charlie Sweatpants: That seminar scene was where the show went to plaid. It was bad before, but then seeing Homer and Moe succeed, and Marge go completely insane, guh, it was tough to take.

Mad Jon: I checked out when Bart and Lisa freaked out about the lack of hairlines.

  Which was another of your too long jokes, one that probably needs some discussion.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good move. It took them nearly a minute to turn Marge into the wicked witch.

Mad Jon: I thought they were going hillbilly the way they blacked out her tooth, but then, what do you know!

Charlie Sweatpants: But it didn’t stop there, they even got her a broom, and set it on fire! Hilarious!

Mad Jon: And the flying monkey.

There was a flying monkey. Mr. Teeny XIXIV I think…

Charlie Sweatpants: Well Burns used to have flying monkeys, of course that whole joke took about four seconds.

  But that was a very long time ago.

Mad Jon: I guess they actually did continue the research…

Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the subject of the painful nightclub scene . . . did Moe even say anything?

Mad Jon: Not the second time… I think he just smiled and nodded.

  The first time he had a pickup line that didn’t contain the line "I want to do you."

Which is a line that Moe would use. The real Moe at least.

Charlie Sweatpants: Real Moe’s been dead for a very long time.

Mad Jon: I know. I know.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you want to discuss the hairline thing? I kinda rolled you on that.

Mad Jon: I think we have to at least address it a bit, I don’t have anything mind blowing to say about it.

Charlie Sweatpants: There’s nothing mind blowing about it.

Mad Jon: But c’mon, the hair has never been mentioned, and all of the sudden it’s a 25 second throwaway joke.

  Baby and the bath water I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, they’ve made jokes about the hair before, and I wasn’t immediately sour on it. But I’ve learned that whenever I find myself thinking "that’s kinda funny" to wait and see how long they go at it. This one was excruciating. Any time you end up with Lisa looking like Baby Gerald that’s not good.

Mad Jon: Pretty bad. Pretty bad.

Charlie Sweatpants: This is minor, but it really bugged me. Twice we get the exterior shot of the grocery store, right? But did you notice what wasn’t there?

Mad Jon: Cars?

Charlie Sweatpants: The shopping cart rolling into the street!

Mad Jon: Ahhhh.

Yeah, I was looking up side boob pics at the same time the show was on. Sorry.

Charlie Sweatpants: I always liked that as a running joke, and for a show that loves naked nostalgia and fan service as much as Zombie Simpsons, I thought I could at least count on that.

Okay, anything else here? The only thing we haven’t really talked too much about was that vile self help guy, but I’ve said my piece about that.

Mad Jon: Nah, we would do Brad Goodman disservice by the mere discussion of what’s his name.

Charlie Sweatpants: In that case, I’ll be a human going.

Mad Jon: Do what you feel.

  We like Roy.


Yeah, They Copied “Family Guy”

“Look Maggie, they have a baby too.” – Homer Simpson
“It’s like they saw our lives and put it right up on screen!” – Bart Simpson

I have no real use for the perpetual “Simpsons vs. Family Guy” debate for the obvious reason that I don’t consider The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons to be the same program.  Nor do I know whether or not Family Guy was originally intended as a low cost replacement for The Simpsons.  I do know that the format of Family Guy resembles that of The Simpsons pretty closely.  I also know that Zombie Simpsons sucks for a lot of reasons and, as of this week, we can officially add aping Family Guy to the list.

Family Guy, “Love Thy Trophy” (Broadcast 14 March 2000):

Peter's Brain

Zombie Simpsons, “The Blue and the Gray” (Broadcast 13 February 2011):

Zombie Homer's Brain

It’s funny because they’re exactly the same.


Compare & Contrast: Self Help Charlatans

“You know, my course can help you with every personality disorder in the ‘Feel Bad Rainbow’.  Let’s look at the Rainbow, what’s in there?  Depression, Insomnia, Motor-mouth, Darting Eyes, Indecisiveness, Decisiveness, Bossiness, Uncontrollable Falling Down, Geriatric Profanity Disorder or GPD, and Chronic Nagging.” – Brad Goodman

Back when the show still had heart and soul, one of the things they liked to do was make fun of the seedier ends of American capitalism.  Sometimes this was Dr. Nick hawking his shabby inventions; sometimes it was the customer contemptuous likes of Stern Lecture Plumbing or Ex-Con Home Security.  Then one time, it was Brad Goodman, and all the bright, shiny self help scams for which he stood. 

Bart's Inner Child3

Before. . .

Goodman was the perfect embodiment of the low-rent hucksters who ply the airwaves at the most non of non-primetime television hours looking to make a buck from people Homer famously described as, “alcoholics, the unemployable, angry loners”.  Though the specifics varied, each one of them had a system that was pitched at one basic concept: a richer, happier you.  Their systems usually came with scientific sounding jargon, a couple of catch phrases, and lots of numbered points (the better to seem more organized).  The main thing they all had in common was that you paid up front (for a book, a video, whatever) in the hopes that this valuable information could change your life for the better. 

Bart's Inner Child4

. . . and After.

The other thing these “impr-U-vement” scams had in common was that no one who wasn’t already desperate took them the least bit seriously.  Goodman charged peopled real money for pithy advice Lisa accurately described as “easy answers”, but if you’re enough of a sucker to pay for his advice then you’re also too much of a sucker to be able to call him on it.  That’s why The Simpsons made Goodman such an obvious conman, but still let him get away with the cash.  The people of Springfield regretted their decision almost as soon as they started practicing what he preached, but by then he was long gone. 

What makes “Bart’s Inner Child” so great is that the jokes and the scorn are heaped both on Goodman (using “important celebrities” like Martha Quinn and Troy McClure) and on the people he scammed (“We’ve made a false idol of this Brad Goodman!”).  Goodman may be a successful charlatan who got away with it, but he’s still very obviously a charlatan the show holds in utter contempt. 

Compare that rather harsh treatment to the fawningly sympathetic portrayal of the “pick up artist” conman odiously named “Dr. Kissingher”.  (Since I flat out refuse to type that name several more times, he shall henceforth be known as Pick Up Kissingher, or “Puke” for short)  With the tiny exception of having to announce his own introduction, Puke escapes from the episode completely unscathed.  He’s shown as being sympathetic and kind to his dimwitted clients, and is even given a tongue bath in the form of recurring appearances as an omniscient, floating pop-up head.  All by itself that’s a pretty big blown comedy opportunity, but the bigger failure is the credulous way the show treats Puke’s highly dubious advice. 

Do Homer or Moe suffer for following Puke’s retrograde self help canards?  Nope, quite the opposite.  Moe spends the rest of the episode with ridiculously attractive women on his arm, and Homer (though we don’t actually see why this happens) becomes the object of affection of every pretty young thing in Springfield.  Late night infomercials would be hesitant to show that kind of wild success for fear that it would be too incredible even for an audience sleep deprived into total gullibility. 

Pick Up Artist Extraordinaire

Nine women and not a fatty in the bunch!  Order now!

If you want to see what this stuff looks like in the real world, Google “pick up artist” and hold your nose, for the foul stench of scamming the clueless and the desperate will immediately waft from your browser.  This is from the first page of Google’s results

What is PUA Training "System"

The System represents the evolution of the pick-up arts, a new frontier that for the first time builds on established principles and methods and adds in the latest cutting edge techniques. Five years in the making. Drawing on the entire Pick Up Artist / PUA universe of knowledge as well as body language, psychology, and the experience of talking to thousands of beautiful women, we deliver the first complete proven system for building a better you. Only a select few will learn these powerful techniques. Those that have are already seeing huge results.

That is exactly the kind of garbage that The Simpsons so brutally attacked in Brad Goodman.  It sounds science-y (“evolution”, “cutting edge techniques”, “psychology”) and promises that a “better you” is only a few dollars away.  The sole difference is that “beautiful women” have replace “self improvement” as the glittering prize.  Not only did Zombie Simpsons decline to make fun of this blatantly misogynistic shit, it swallowed it hook, line and sinker.  Here’s the first thing Puke says from his narrator bubble:

Jumping on the grenade.  The wingman engages the less attractive friend, isolating the target.

And here’s the “PUA Dictionary” (this is also from the first page of the Google results):

For instance, if I see a less than attractive woman, I would never want to hurt her feelings, so in a very low voice I might tell my wingman she is a UG (Ugly Girl).

It almost couldn’t get any lazier.  Zombie Simpsons has given up on satirizing society’s foibles in favor of copying and pasting them. 

On The Simpsons, was the Juice Loosener really whisper quiet?  Did Homer get rich thanks to that guy with the trapezoid scheme?  Did everyone in Springfield live happily ever after once they knew how to use the Feel Bad Rainbow?  Of course not!  But in Zombie Simpsons, did Homer and Moe start scoring babes left and right once they knew Puke’s secrets?  And how!  To make things even worse, Zombie Simpsons bought into the skin crawlingly awful and boldly stupid bullshit of the “pick up artist” scammers.  The whole thing is disgracefully dumb and blatantly anti-woman, on a show that didn’t used to be either. 


Going Gray

Chalkboard - The Blue and the Gray

“I guess I expected something different from your photo.” – Mrs. Krabappel
“Don’t let my age fool you.  Just ’cause there’s a little snow on the roof . . . I forget how the rest of that goes.” – Jasper

Intentionally or not, there is an interesting undercurrent to “The Blue and the Gray”, Zombie Simpsons’ latest affront to quality television.  Confronted with the unpleasant fact that she’s not quite what she used to be, Marge flips out and returns to the comforting fiction that cosmetic similarities mean she’s just the same as she always was.  Remind you of anything’s writing staff? 

That’s not the world’s closest comparison.  A person’s hair color is largely irrelevant to who they are, whereas the writing of a television show is vitally important to how good it is.  But I do enjoy the idea that Zombie Simpsons can’t handle the truth about itself, and chooses to wallow in toxic, self deceiving hair dye instead. 

Anyway, in between rickety side plots with Moe and Bart, the episode is ostensibly about Marge trying to come to terms with the harsh reality that letting her natural hair color show will change the way other people react to her.  Somewhere there’s probably a decent story to be told about that, one that provides plenty of opportunities for satire and comedy about double standards, about the impossible quest to remain young, about beauty lies we’ve all agreed upon.  This was not that story, nor did it contain any of that comedy.  That might have required some thought. 

The numbers are in, and they are terrible.  Last night’s noxious goo was rinsed from the scalps of a mere 5.62 million people.  That’s a new low for Season 22, as well as the fourth lowest rating of all time.  To put it another way, “The Blue and the Gray” is the 477th episode of the show, and 473 of those episodes were viewed by more people. 


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