Posts Tagged ‘The Critic

18
May
12

Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?

Buy My Book

“I’m not some dizzy starlet who can’t string two words together!” – C.M. Burns

It is my great relief to announce a project that has been the better part of a year in the making: “Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead”.  It’s a mini-book (~22,000 words) that is as close as I can come to a definitive statement on how The Simpsons became Zombie Simpsons.  Table of contents:

Part I – Putting the Spring in Springfield
1 – What Is Zombie Simpsons?
2 – The Terrible World of 1980s Television
3 – The Most Anti-Authority Show Ever
4 – You’re Watching FOX, Shame on You

Part II – Show Business Is a Hideous Bitch Goddess
5 – The Retirements
6 – The Deaths

Part III – Stories of Degradation and Humiliation
Season 7 – A Very Special Episode
Season 8 – Frank Grimes and the Phony Kidnapping
Season 9 – Armin Tamzarian and the Death of Story
Season 10 – Jerkass Homer Gets a Job
Season 11 – The Destruction of Springfield
Season 12 and Beyond – Zombie Simpsons

Appendices
Appendix A – A Note on the Term Zombie Simpsons
Appendix B – Episode Numbers vs. Production Numbers
Appendix C – December 17th: Simpsons Day
Appendix D – A Defense of Mike Scully
Appendix E – Yeah, It Was That Good (1,000,000 A.D.)

You can read the first two chapters right here, right now.  And though the entire text will eventually be available for free on-line, before that happens we’re going to conduct an experiment in the strange new world of digital publishing.  If you want to read the entire book today, you can purchase it from Amazon’s Kindle store for $2.99.  (Why $2.99? Because that’s the minimum price Amazon demands for only taking 30% of the gross instead of 65%.)  It will remain available in that format and at that price indefinitely; meanwhile, it will be published in chunks here at Dead Homer Society until every dot, tittle and citation is on-line for anyone to read whenever they like.

The thinking behind this is that some people (especially the kind of people with the disposable income to own Kindles and iPads) are willing and able to pay for words if the price is reasonable and the payment is easy to make.  At the same time, making it available only in a paid version is self defeating and stupid.  Not only do fewer people read it, but using digital rights management and other convoluted anti-“piracy” measures to police the internet is a fool’s errand.  Therefore, the only sensible thing to do is make it easy for people to purchase and easy to get for free, however odd that may seem at first glance.  We’ll see how it goes.

You can purchase the book from Amazon right now, or you can read the first two chapters by clicking the new “Zombie Simpsons” button in the navigation bar at the top of this page.  This is the current schedule:

Today: Chapters 1 & 2
Tomorrow: Chapters 3 & 4
Sunday: Chapters 5 & 6
Next Week (Probably Thursday): More

One final note, I am not the least bit above making revisions should any of you fine Simpsons fans out there discover that I’ve made any factual errors.  My sources are all stated plainly, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t made an unfounded assumption somewhere or screwed up some part of the history of the show.  If you (yes, you!) come across something where I’m just flat out wrong and you can point me to some credible evidence of my wrongness, please tell me.  It’s the only way I’ll learn.

Buy from Amazon

Read Chapters 1 & 2 On-Line

15
Oct
10

Sorry Everyone, The Banksy Thing Is Lame

Fifteen years ago, when The Simpsons was still on the air, The Critic had a scene set in the “Oliver Twist Preschool”.  Skip to the 4:30 mark:

For anyone who can’t get the video, here’s the important part:

Adorable Child Laborer: Sir, have we made enough Simpsons merchandise yet?
Cruel Workhouse Guy: Never!

Never, indeed.  Three years before that, The Simpsons itself made fun of its own production process:

Again, for anyone who can’t see the video (or in case it gets pulled):

Kent Brockman: I’m here live in Korea to give you a first hand look at how American cartoons are made.

Those two things and the overwrought sixty second opening from Zombie Simpsons, kinda the same or exactly the same?  I’d lean towards exactly, but that’s just me.

I found that second YouTube video via a smart post by Jaime Weinman at Macleans.ca, which was far and away the best take on this thing I saw:

Still, maybe it’s because I’m used to the Simpsons era where a long couch gag was just a sign of an episode that ran short (remember the dancing/circus one that was intended to be the longest ever? Now it’s not even close), but I’m not always blown away by these long gags. Mainly because they are just that, long, and I like The Simpsons best when it’s most concise.

[…]

But they already did essentially the same gag in the fourth season episode “Itchy and Scratchy the Movie,” and they did it in only a few seconds. The great thing about The Simpsons in its prime is that it could pack a tremendous amount of satire into a very short joke. Just as they could sum up all the absurdity of the entire MacGyver series with one line of dialogue (“Don’t thank me, thank the moon’s gravitational pull”), one shot and one line from Kent Brockman could say about five different things about the outsourcing of American animation to overseas studios.

Exactly.  The opening lingers on each of its little cruelties long after you’ve gotten the joke because for all its style there isn’t much substance here.  Yes they’re using cats to make stuffing for Bart Simpson dolls, yes they’re using a dolphin’s head to seal boxes, yes they’re animating in a sweatshop, but instead of moving along quickly and trusting the audience to follow things, they stop repeatedly and bash the joke into your face.

What ideas there are, up to and including the unicorn and the North Korean FOX logo, were from Banksy.  The wretched pacing and enormous length were all Zombie Simpsons.  Here’s Al Jean, revealing perhaps a little more than he should in his congratulatory interview with The New York Times:

Q. How did you find Banksy to do this, and now that it’s done, how much trouble are you in?
A. Well, I haven’t been fired yet, so that’s a good sign. I saw the film Banksy directed, “Exit Through the Gift Shop,” and I thought, oh, we should see if he would do a main title for the show, a couch gag. So I asked Bonnie Pietila, our casting director, if she could locate him, because she had previously located people like Thomas Pynchon. And she did it through the producers of that film. We didn’t have any agenda. We said, “We’d like to see if you would do a couch gag.” So he sent back boards for pretty much what you saw.

Jean also talks about how little it changed from the original ideas he gave them.  What he’s essentially saying is that someone else came up with all the concepts, they just animated it and stretched it out to be about three times longer than it should have been.  Of course, Jean takes his usual talking points out for a spin as well:

Obviously, the animation to do this was pricey. I couldn’t have just snuck it by Fox. I’ll just say it’s a place where edgy comedy can really thrive, as long as it’s funny, which I think this was. None of it’s personal. This is what made “The Simpsons” what it is.

Jean’s done this kind of interview so many times I think he can do it in his sleep.  He even managed to compare Zombie Simpsons to Mad Men, a show the wider world actually cares about.  I thought that was a nice touch.

What makes this interview dumber than most is that the reporter, Dave Itzkoff, basically wets himself with fear about corporate backlash.  The whole thing only runs to eight questions, and four of them are about FOX and whether or not they were mad.  He says that he’s aware of the show’s history of mocking FOX, but I’m not so sure.

Compounding the misguided awe that this was somehow brave is the idea that anyone would care about this if it didn’t have the name “Banksy” attached to it:

Last night’s Banksy-directed "couch gag" that opened The Simpsons has been making waves on the internet today—not just because it was Banksy, but because the show basically eviscerated its own brand in the span of a few minutes.

I’m actually quite sure that it was “just because it was Banksy”.  This is the show regurgitating a concept from nearly twenty years ago.  If it hadn’t had his name on it no one would’ve cared outside of No Homers and the other Simpson parts of the internet.

Boiled down, this is typical Zombie Simpsons. They’re:

  • Repeating something that was done better a long time ago.
  • Leeching off someone else’s celebrity to remain relevant.
  • Stretching things out to fill time.
  • Masquerading gentle humor as actual satire.
  • Unironically patting themselves on the back for all of the above.

Thanks to Dave for help with the links, and to reader Eric for e-mailing in the Macleans thing.

29
May
10

Phil Hartman Videos

The humane but determined boys down at No Pun Intended have put up a fantastic Phil Hartman tribute that is chock full of video, with everything from Simpsons to Saturday Night Live to Newsradio.  Many of these are famous, but some of them are quite obscure.  Sadly, Hulu does not have one of my all time favorite Hartman as Clinton skits, Real Stories of the Arkansas Highway PatrolCOPS has become such a part of the culture that we now call men’s undershirts “wifebeaters”, but back then it was all new.  Seeing Hartman as the abused husband, in a wifebeater, was really funny at the time.  As with all old SNL skits, I’m not sure how well it has aged, but the transcript reads pretty well:

State Trooper Glenn McRae: Alright, ma’am, everything seems to check out fine. Would you be interested in going back to the patrol car, and performing a sex act on the governor?

Which brings me to Hartman’s episode of The Critic, “Eyes on the Prize”.  Skip to the 6:40 mark to hear Hartman as Adolf Hitmaker, personal image consultant:

Hartman also did Jay’s agent, the raucously slimy Bernie Wasserman, it’s right at the beginning.  Watch a littler further and Hartman shows up again as Jay’s old teacher Professor Blowhard:

Heh heh, “green peaness”.  That always gets me.

17
Jun
09

Zombie Simpsons and Zombie Doris

Lisa vs Malibu Stacy1

“I can feel death’s clammy hand on my shoulder!  Wait, that’s my hand.” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

This list is a pretty impressive display of Simpsons trivia.  It’s real deaths of real people that changed the way The Simpsons went.  Doris Grau and Phil Hartman I knew about, but the other four were news to me.  Go read the whole thing, it’s quite good.

This deserves special notice as a further illustration of how horrifyingly soulless Zombie Simpsons truly is:

Doris Grau died from lung cancer (who could have guessed?) on December 30, 1995, a scant eight days before the aforementioned “Team Homer” aired. The episode was dedicated to her memory and the character of Lunchlady Doris was retired out of respect…until 2006, when “The Simpsons” was so desperate to be good again they let Tress MacNeille take a crack at Doris’s smokey voice.

Zombie Simpsons brought back Lunchlady Doris in 2006?  They are fucking evil, no two ways about it.

Everyone should love Doris Grau.  In addition to Lunchlady Doris she also voiced regular Doris on The Critic and was one of the nice old Jewish ladies who ran Eddie Murphy for Congress in The Distinguished Gentlemen:

(Skip to the 6:20 mark and you can see her make an Alzheimer’s joke and scold Murphy in Yiddish.)




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