Posts Tagged ‘The Color Yellow


Crazy Noises: The Color Yellow

Lisa's Sax1

“Oh, I know this story.  The year is nineteen-aught-six, the President is the divine Miss Sarah Bernhardt, and all over America people were doing a dance called the Funky Grandpa!” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

In our continuing mission to bring you only the finest in low class, low brow, and low tech internet Simpsons commentary we’re bringing back our “Crazy Noises” series and applying it to Season 21.  Because doing a podcast smacks of effort we’re still using this “chatroom” thing that all the middle schoolers and undercover cops seem to think is so cool.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough not on “Eudora Welty”).

This episode has a ton of problems when considered just on its own.  There was the dropping of its main character, the bizarre backstory that eliminated a guy who looks like Homer from the family tree, a thirty second chase scene that is also dropped, numerous interruptions for pointless clock killing, and all that exposition.  But if you take a second to think about it in the larger context of the show the ending gets even stupider and more out of place.  “The Color Yellow” ends with Grandpa telling a story that, contrary to almost every other story he’s ever told, turns out to be true and make sense – and then the family believes him.  And this woeful excuse for a conclusion came all of four episodes after “Thursdays with Abie,” an episode completely predicated on the idea that Abe’s stories are nonsense.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get started? I’ve got a date with Eudora Welty.

Mad Jon: Nice

Dave: Yep let’s go

I’m reliving the nightmare as we chat.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, thoughts on the Magical Slavery Tour?

Dave: Bland, bland, bland.

Mad Jon: That was pretty boring. It wasn’t as bad as last week’s travesty but still bad.

And very boring. I really don’t like the history episodes.

Dave: Charlie and I sat in silence for virtually all of it. It’s like we were being punished.

Mad Jon: That makes three of us.

Charlie Sweatpants: If I had been really caught up in the characters or what they were doing I might not have been bored, but I didn’t care and so I was.

Dave: I don’t think there was a chance of that ever happening.

Mad Jon: I chuckled at the joke about Homer making less than his white co-workers, but that was because I was surprised he still had a job in this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ah, but that was followed up by him chugging a bottle of wine because even after all that exposition they were still five seconds short.

Mad Jon: Did you notice the chugging sound continued as the credits rolled?

Charlie Sweatpants: No.

Dave: Nope.

Mad Jon: And I wasn’t defending it, I just tend to chuckle at slightly racist humor.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem I have with that whole we’re 1/64th black thing is that it seems like that was the original premise of this and everything else was them working backwards to try and justify it.

How do we get them to have a black ancestor?

I know, 1860-Marge saves a slave!

Great! Does anyone know how to get us there? (crickets)

Mad Jon: That doesn’t surprise me

Charlie Sweatpants: But even the whole 1860-Lisa thing was thin, they had to keep padding it with things like the putting the book in the vent, the endless waltz scene, and the fact that every time someone did something they said they were going to do it three times beforehand.

Dave: You forgot about the library bit, but point well taken

Charlie Sweatpants: Were there two or three library bits? They kind of blur together.

Dave: They’re indistinct, certainly

I didn’t bother to keep count

Charlie Sweatpants: Lisa looking at the card catalog in “Lisa the Greek” had more jokes than all of them (however many there were) put together, of that much I’m certain.

Mad Jon: She used a laptop to give the presentation, but asks the librarian for info on her family.

Charlie Sweatpants: The laptop bit was amongst the worst, I’ve seen plenty of bland Power Point presentations in my life, why did I have to see that one?

Mad Jon: I gave one of those today.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shame on you.

Dave: Congratulations?

Mad Jon: Whatever keeps those paychecks rolling in.

Dave: I have no room to point fingers, actually.

Charlie Sweatpants: While we’re on the topic of wasted humor opportunities, why was Homer playing cards with Patty and Selma? And on top of that, why did one of them throw a card for him to choke on? Are you telling me that they couldn’t think of a single thing for Selma to say to Homer that was funnier than him choking on a playing card?

Mad Jon: And why was only one of them smoking?

That never happens.

Dave: Selma has a kid?

Charlie, they couldn’t. There, I said it.

Mad Jon: Still?

Dave: I don’t think the kid has been seen lately, but yeah

Charlie Sweatpants: Whether or not she has a kid, she should still be able to insult Homer.

Mad Jon: And smoke.

Dave: Of course.

I wasn’t defending her inaction, just tossing out a possibility

Charlie Sweatpants: Sadly Dave I think you’re right, they couldn’t think of a single insult that was better than the card choking. If it weren’t for this episode’s other multitude of problems that would be a damning indictment.

Mad Jon: Did Grandpa’s voice seem different to you guys?

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t notice anything, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

Dave: I’m listening to it now, I can’t pick up anything noticeably different

Mad Jon: I thought it did. I sounded like someone was doing an impression of Grandpa.

Charlie Sweatpants: Was there anything specific Jon?

Mad Jon: There was one scene in particular, but I am not planning on going back to look for it right now.

Charlie Sweatpants: We’ll just assume you’re right then. I mean, the number of voices that sound off can only go up.

Dave: Ageing is a bitch.

Also, the Flint, MI joke wasn’t as good as the one in “Bart Gets A Job”

Charlie Sweatpants: Not even close.

Mad Jon: Thirded

Charlie Sweatpants: On an even more trivial note, did anyone notice 1860-Lisa’s costume when she went to meet Virgil in the barn? (Let’s not talk about that time killing owl.)

Dave: What was up with the costume?

Charlie Sweatpants: 1860-Lisa snuck away from the ball, and then in the next scene, separated only by about a half second dissolve, she’s wearing a red riding hood cloak.

I know there have been animation goofs going back to forever, but these should’ve been right next to each other on the storyboard. There was nothing else going on, no other characters in the scene, and one shot immediately followed the other. It just reeks of laziness.

Mad Jon: Once again, I am not surprised by this revelation.

Dave: The writers were probably doing blow.

Charlie Sweatpants: I almost blocked it out since it was followed by that useless chase scene that, much like 1860-Lisa, had no ending and was simply dropped once it was inconvenient.

Mad Jon: Also, the only Burns Ancestry I will recognize is his grandfather who owned the atom smashing plant.

Bah, flimshaw

Charlie Sweatpants: Was that the same guy with the limo in “Rosebud”? I always kinda figured it was.

“Twisted loveless billionaire”, oh how I miss the real Burns.

Mad Jon: Works for me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else we need to discuss here?

Mad Jon: Not in regards to this episode, no.

Dave: No sir.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good, because Eudora’s waiting. Maybe I can convince her to stay in and watch “Rosebud”.


Synergy Wasn’t All That

Brush with Greatness3

“Alright family, I want the truth.  Don’t pull any punches.  Am I just a little bit overweight? . . . Well, am I?” – Homer Simpson
“Forgive us Dad, but it takes time to properly sugarcoat a response.” – Lisa Simpson

This was one of those rare weeks where the Zombie Simpsons episode was so bereft of humor, or even just attempts at humor, that even wholly owned News Corporation subsidiary IGN couldn’t gin up too much praise.  It concludes by saying:

“The Color Yellow” just wasn’t all that worth it.”

Of course the numerical score is still a 6.4, but that’s because IGN sucks at math.  Speaking of “wasn’t all that”, it’s IGN’s Faint Praise Phrase of the Week.  Instead of just coming out and saying that it wasn’t funny IGN used a lot of wobbly kneed qualifiers of which “wasn’t all that” was the favorite.  Fortunately, all you’ve got to do is drop the “all that” and a quivering synergy sentence becomes a nice, clean statement, though it may not be one the higher ups would find pleasing. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

February 22, 2010 – You know something? If a television series stays on the air for two decades, eventually you’ll get around to a jumbled and ham fisted storyline involving slavery. It’s just a fact. And so we have Sunday night’s The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, where we were taken back to the 1860s to learn about the history of the Simpson family tree though the use of cliffhanger flashbacks. Though the episode contained this sensitive subject matter, they avoided the kind of shock humor other animated series are known for. Unfortunately, the episode also seemed to be avoiding avoided the laughs. Putting more effort into the roundabout telling of the story would’ve been a good idea, but even so "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that funny.

It began with Miss Hoover randomly assigning her class the project of researching their family tree. Lisa was hoping to find something noble in her family’s history, but only came across thieves, killers and alcoholics, any one of which would’ve been more fun than this. Looking through heirlooms in the attic, Lisa uncovered the diary of Eliza Simpson dating from the 1860s. Lisa thought she found her noble spark, until Eliza wrote of being happy that "tomorrow I get my first slave cliffhanger flashback." This line, and the accompanying gasps from the Simpson family, ended the first act. Except for Groundskeeper Willie’s battle with a tree stump, the majority of Everything in this opening was a dud.

The edgiest line of the episode came in the early moments of the next act. Learning that an ancestor might have owned a slave, Homer quipped, "For once, the Simpsons were in management." This was as shocking as the episode really got, and it was worth it for an unexpected laugh tame and boring and not the least bit funny. From there, the episode eased the slavery issue by revealing Eliza and her family were a stop on the Underground Railroad Flashback Cliffhanger Express. Learning that the Underground Railroad had no trains and wasn’t underground, Bart stated it should have been called "The Above Ground Normal Road." And it was uninspired jokes likes this that peppered the episode.

The majority of the focus, and the only really interesting thing to watch in the episode, was the pieced together way the story of what happened with Eliza and her slave were revealed. First it was the diary, but that only revealed so much before the pages turned to cliffhanger dust. Next there was an out of place cliffhanger footnote in Eliza’s mother Mabel’s cookbook, and then Milhouse read from his relative’s cliffhanger journal showing another side of the story. This was a clever time consuming way to reveal the story, but more funny any jokes would have been a better way. There were a few standout truly pointless bits, but none were enough to lift the episode’s ranking out of place in Zombie Simpsons. Colonel Burns demanding that the waltz change its time signature was funny took at least thirty seconds, as were did the riffs repetitions on the Simpson motto, "Quit while you’re ahead." Learning that Marge had stopped watching Carrie just as she was named prom queen was great a stretch even by Zombie Simpson standards.

But the episode as a whole just felt was flat and boring. I guess it’s difficult to find the humor in slavery, even for The Simpsons and it’s well beyond the capabilities of Zombie Simpsons. The big  way out of place twist ending was revealing that the rescued slave and Mabel Simpson started a life together in Canada, and that the rest of the Simpson clan were descendants of the pair. This made our favorite animated family one sixty-fourth black. Bart: "So that’s why I’m so cool." Lisa: "That’s why my jazz is so smooth." Homer: "And that’s why I earn less than my white co-workers." Will this historical fact ever come up again in future seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons? Most likely no. So it makes you wonder, "Why bother?" The episode wasn’t all that funny, the storyline not that shocking was hopeless beyond repair, and the reveal of the Simpsons having African-American roots will likely never be referenced again. "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that worth it.


An Unmitigated Crime Against Storytelling

“What happened to Mindy?” – Bart Simpson
“Yes, what did happen to her?” – Marge Simpson
“Enh, she hit the bottle pretty hard and lost her job.” – Homer Simpson
“Hm, good.” – Marge Simpson

I am not a big fan of Season 12’s “Trilogy of Error”.  (In case you’ve blocked it out that’s the one where Lisa invents the robot, Homer gets his thumb cut off and three different stories all unfold at once.)  But I do recognize that it took a lot of skill to weave three stories together like that.  Getting all those little elements to drop into place couldn’t have been easy.  So while I think those things were largely out of place in a Simpsons episode (where suspense and dramatic tension should never be the primary goal) I can at least see that some care went into creating it. 

Then we have this week’s “The Color Yellow”, which incorporates the worst parts of “Trilogy of Error” while not even pretending to care about its story.  Just look at the ending.  Lisa spent the entire episode obsessing over her 1860-self and her efforts to help free a slave, Virgil.  But then 1860-Marge is the one who actually helps Virgil get to freedom wherein she marries him and settles down.  Except that to do so she abandons the kid she already has.  This is awful in at least three ways. 

First of all, she abandons her child.  Regardless of any other considerations it’s tough to have sympathy for a character who walks away from her kid without a second glance.  This is compounded by the fact that the ending is played as sweet and happy. 

Secondly, in terms of continuity within this episode this makes no sense whatsoever.  (Standard disclaimer: I don’t care much about backstory continuity between episodes, but it would be nice if the story within a single episode made just a lick or two of sense.)  So Lisa isn’t actually descended from 1860-Lisa?  And none of them are related in the least to 1860-Homer?  Did the family move away from Springfield and then move back?  Even this wouldn’t be so bad if the episode hadn’t spent all of its time being so relentlessly serious about how important its story was, but it did.  The whole premise here is local family history and then the ending completely undermines that. 

Have You Seen Me? Finally, and most atrociously, in terms of competent storytelling this goes beyond indifference, disregards camp, and sets up shop in the most hacktacular place imaginable.  We spend the bulk of the episode with Lisa see-sawing back and forth over whether or not 1860-Lisa managed to actually help Virgil.  But 1860-Lisa vanishes three quarters of the way through, never to be seen, heard from, or even mentioned again.  Up until the last commercial break she’s the central character of the story and then – poof – she’s gone. 

This is especially damning when you consider how much screen time this episode wasted on useless filler.  The attic scene, the whole diary in the vent thing, the completely unnecessary error messages on Lisa’s laptop when she’s trying to give her presentation, all of those things take time that could’ve been spent giving the story a real ending.  (The computer errors were especially wasteful seeing as how they were just “update” messages with nary a joke to be seen.)  “Trilogy of Error” may have wasted a lot of time doing things that weren’t funny for the sake of its overwrought narrative, but at least it had a narrative.  “The Color Yellow” wasted time on things that weren’t funny just because. 


Bad, But Not Bad Enough

Chalkboard - The Color Yellow

The numbers are in and last night’s flashback laden series of plot twists was watched by 6.08 million people.  That’s not a good number, it’s the third lowest all season and it’s below what Zombie Simpsons was averaging last winter.  But it’s above what Season 21 needs to keep its average viewership above the dismal 7.07 million viewers for Season 20.  As usual Family Guy pulled in slightly more (despite being a rerun) than Zombie Simpsons and both Family Guy spinoffs did slightly worse. 

Depending on how many episodes are left (there’ve been 13, Zombie Simpsons seasons typically have 20-22) the show would need to average between 5.00 and 5.50 million viewers to be worse than Season 20.  (Obviously the more episodes remaining the higher the average can be.)  We’ll see what happens, but that doesn’t seem too probable.  There’d need to be lots of episodes with numbers in the all time low range of “Million Dollar Maybe” to get us there. 


There’s No Mystery, Zombie Simpsons Sucks

For tonight Zombie Simpsons seems to have completely forgotten that it’s nominally a comedy program, instead it decided to be a mystery show.  Unfortunately it wasn’t even a good mystery show, with lazy “revelations” coming up like clockwork before each commercial break.  Despite the excess of plot twists there was more stalling and exposition than usual. 

Take, for example, Lisa’s trip to the attic at the beginning.  She got stuck with the attic door, Bart then took up a lot of time helping her.  Nothing funny was going on, but it did eat some clock.  Once she made it too the attic they took up more time by having her walk very slowly past stuff from old episodes.  The whole episode was like that, just phenomenally boring. 

Here’s hoping for a terrible ratings number. 


Sunday Preview: “The Color Yellow”

Tonight’s Zombie Simpsons will probably engage in a simplistic racial fairy tale that would make James Cameron blush, except that they don’t have any fancy graphics to make it all okay. Other than that, I don’t have much else to add, so here’s Simpsons Channel with the quickie description:

When Lisa discovers that her Southern ancestors helped a slave named Virgil (guest voice Wren T. Brown) escape to freedom, she presents her family’s story during Black History Month.

And here’s one HOMER-MANIACO Internet-orgasming over said description:


God help us all.


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