Posts Tagged ‘The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show



01
Jul
10

More Friends, More Allies, More I Say!

The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show3

“You kids don’t know what you want!  That’s why you’re still kids, cause you’re stupid!  Just tell me what’s wrong with the freakin’ show!” – Roger Meyers Jr. 

I just did something I didn’t think I’d ever do: put The Simpsons Movie back on my Netflix queue.  Prior to now, I’ve seen it two and a half times.  The first was in the theater, and I was disappointed.  The second was a few days later when, out of respect for one of the few genuinely clever jokes, I downloaded it illegally and watched it with a couple of other real Simpsons fans (Mad Jon included).  They were about as disappointed as I was.  The half time was when I got it from Netflix shortly after it came out on DVD and tried to give it a second chance.  I turned it off.  Twice, it turns out, was more than enough. 

What caused me to want to wade back in was this two year old piece from Bob Mackey (not the original):

Listening to the commentary, it wasn’t shocking to hear current showrunner and head writer Al Jean explicitly state, "We made this movie for people who don’t watch the show," nor was I surprised when the discussion of every joke and scene eventually led to a discussion of said joke/scene’s effect on test audiences (and in some cases, which specific test audience liked or didn’t like certain things). Most filmmakers despise the idea of test audiences, as they often force movies to be dumbed down for the lowest common denominator; on The Simpsons Movie, however, the writers embraced the idea of the test audience.   

The commentary discussion made the writers’ relationship with test audiences sound like an elaborate courtship ritual: they would change joke after joke after joke until test audiences stopped thinking things were "too scary," or when certain jokes were too subtle to make anyone laugh. And from the obscenely self-congratulatory tone of the commentary, it didn’t seem like the writers cared that they had to rewrite jokes multiple times–often getting rid of funnier alternatives–in order to win the favor of fickle test audiences. Oh, and surprise, surprise; test audiences laughed the hardest at pain jokes, which explains why the movie is full of so many uncreative, unfunny instances of "Man fall down… funny."

Prior to reading those paragraphs of horror, I had no interest in ever seeing the movie again.  But Lies Make Baby Jesus Cry, and now I have no choice but to document the atrocities.  It ought to be up sometime next week. 

Mackey, who writes under the screen name bobservo (I love his brother Tom), was kind enough to literally flatter us with a link.  In that post he adds further weight to the idea that the continued production of Zombie Simpsons is primarily motivated by merchandising dollars:

I’ve always held a somewhat reasonable conspiracy theory that his return to the show in 2001 was for the sole purpose of making The Simpsons "softer" and more marketable. After all, the beginning of the last decade marked the second big boom of Simpsons merchandise (I worked in retail at the time and we were absolutely flooded with Simpsons crap), a trend that hadn’t been seen since the early 90s — which was parodied by the show itself.

I’ve always had the suspicion that there was a second wave of crappy merchandise around the time the show really started going to hell; it’s nice to have a little supporting testimony.  When the show was very young you’d see t-shirts and there were a couple of video games, but it wasn’t until the late 90s/early 00s that you began seeing them aggressively move into the tchotchke/underwear/everything markets.  I have no sales data to back that up, it’s just the impression that I got as an American of desirable demographic traits. 

Finally, not that there’s any doubt after the above, but Bob’s head is in the right place:

This movie is not for the Simpsons fan. Those looking for a last gleam of life in the eyes of this zombielike franchise should look elsewhere. The greater your degree of Simpsons fanaticism, the more you will hate The Simpsons Movie. It’s the culmination of all the recent seasons’ flaws that we Comic Book Guys like to point out: lazy writing, pandering, and a supreme feeling of “Eh, it’s good enough.”

And to makes things worse, The Simpsons Movie takes these flaws and adds a whole lot of dumb humor. Homer getting hurt can be funny, but not when it happens every 30 seconds over the course of an hour and a half.

Tee-hee, “zombielike”. 

22
Mar
10

Out of Frame, Out of Mind

 The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show2

“I have to go now, my planet needs me.” – Poochie

There is a lot to dislike about last night’s craptacular Zombie Simpsons.  But I’d like to draw your attention to what may be it’s most persistent conceit: the dropping of characters, sometimes right in the middle of a scene. 

First, consider the scene where Lisa is briefly popular before Ms. Hoover illogically shows up on the playground to hand back her corrected test.  Is there any reason for Hoover to be on the playground at that moment?  Was this so critical that she ran screaming out of the teacher’s lounge after realizing her mistake?  Of course not, but the episode needed Lisa to get the test back then and there and so Hoover appeared as if conjured from thin air. 

Then this callous disregard for the audience is compounded as the other children surround and taunt Lisa.  That seems like the kind of thing Hoover would’ve stopped.  Was she still there?  Was she helping the other kids taunt Lisa?  Did she vanish back into thin air?  The instant her presence was no longer required, she disappeared. 

This exact same thing happens numerous times in this episode.  The entire “other” fourth grade shows up, and then they all vanish for the rest of the episode.  Not only do we never see most of them again (including the teacher), but we never even visit the classroom where the kids are force to share their desks again.  Yet another example is towards the end, Ralph shows up wearing a swimsuit so the show can attempt to make a joke out of “flotus”, and then he’s gone.  No explanation, no reason, just gone.

If your plot got dropped without resolution, you'd be surley too. But the most egregious example are the lawyer parents.  Their threat to sue the school is theoretically the point on which the entire A-plot turns, and yet it’s over in one scene.  They show up in Skinner’s office . . . and then are never heard from again.  We see them briefly at that clock eating assembly, but they don’t speak.  We never find out if they’re satisfied with the school’s response, we never see them with their daughter again.  Just like Hoover on the playground and the other fourth grade class, they’re gone in a flash once they are no longer needed. 

Family Guy takes a lot of flak for putting many of its jokes in flashbacks that are unrelated to the plot, or even to the scene at hand.  But what Zombie Simpsons is doing here (and this is far from the only episode in which they’ve done this) is even worse than that.  A flashback is a relatively well understood concept, one that’s employed in a lot of narrative fiction.  It can be overused, it can be used poorly, but the concept itself is sound.  But having characters appear and disappear at random?  Even a comedy sketch with no outside plot whatsoever wouldn’t do that. 

Individual scenes should never require these kinds of desperate storytelling shortcuts.  Keeping things coherent for two minutes or more isn’t much to ask, and yet Zombie Simpsons continues to fail.  And, let’s face it, if you can’t write a coherent two minutes, you have no business trying to write an entire episode. 

23
Jun
09

Crazy Noises: The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show

The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show1

Excuse me, but ‘pro-active’ and ‘paradigm’, aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important?  Not that I’m accusing you of anything like that.  I’m fired aren’t I?” – Itchy & Scratchy Writer

“Oh, yes.” – Roger Meyers Jr.

In an attempt to fill the summer with love, hate and pointless Simpsons commentary we at the Dead Homer Society are going to spend some time overthinking Season 8.  Why Season 8?  Because Season 8 is when The Simpsons really began to deteriorate into Zombie Simpsons.  That’s why.  Because we’re cutting edge and ultra-modern we’re using a newfangled, information-superhighway fad called a “chatroom” to conduct our conversation.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “scotch” and “crotch”).

Today’s episode is 814, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show“, and tomorrow is 820 “The Canine Mutiny“.

Charlie Sweatpants: I hadn’t seen the Poochie episode in years and there’s a reason. It’s bad.

Mad Jon: It had been a while since I last watched the Poochie episode too but I think the first 5 minutes are almost perfect

Dave: I might be the outlier here, but I enjoy the Poochie episode

Mad Jon: Right up through the writers meeting where they come up with Poochie

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I may be more down on this one than you guys. Though I’ll agree that the first part is the best part of the episode.

Mad Jon: But yeah, the rest is meh

Its like going to see a fireworks show where the finale is a bunch of autistic kids holding sparklers

Dave: I guess I just enjoyed the poking fun of the hardcore fans

i.e. us

Charlie Sweatpants: Those are some of the parts I did like, the nerds in the comic book store are funny, especially when the one gets put in his place and then quietly eats his candy bar.

Mad Jon: No, there is definitely a bit of self-defense/first strike stuff going on there

And once again Homer working but not in the nuclear plant is a crap-fest

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem I have is that the whole thing just feels too meta. They know Poochie isn’t funny, but they do it anyway and try to bring themselves in on the joke with Roy, but ultimately the whole thing is an exercise in not being funny on purpose and the fans just have to take it.

Mad Jon: And I have never been able to defend any tv show that ends an episode with the fuzz on screen

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, let’s not go nuts. Homer vs Lisa and the 8th Commandment ends with fuzz.

Mad Jon: Oh that’s right

Dave: Yeah, I didn’t mind the fuzz

Mad Jon: Sorry, sorry everyone

Still, weak ending

Dave: It’s heavy handed to be sure

See, I think the meta-ness is what works for me

Charlie Sweatpants: Go on.

Dave: We’re in on the joke and the combination of Poochie and Roy’s unfunniness comes together – think the rake gag with Sideshow Bob

ok, that was a half thought.

my point was that there’s so much of it, you can’t help but be amused

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess the reason the meta stuff pisses me off is that it doesn’t even work in Itchy & Scratchy, right? I mean the whole reason people hate Poochie is because literally nothing at all violent ever happens with him on screen. Itchy stops hacking at Scratchy with a chainsaw because Poochie is talking.

Mad Jon: yeah, I get the retroactive sense that they are stabbing the fog with a salad fork ’cause they couldn’t keep pulling the same number of viewers they were used to

On a side note all the Itchy and Scratchy bits were pretty good

Charlie Sweatpants: The last one with the acid and the bow & arrow is great.

Mad Jon: I almost spilled my gin on my crotch when that one came on today

Charlie Sweatpants: Thank goodness that horror was avoided.

Dave: Can’t say I’ve ever dumped gin on my crotch

Other alcohols, yes

Dave: Wasn’t the predictability of the violence the whole point?

Mad Jon: Funny is funny

Dave: The kids weren’t amused anymore, try something new?

Charlie Sweatpants: I see where you’re coming from on that, but the fact remains that they’re broadcasting things they know aren’t funny and are then daring people not to like it.

Mad Jon: If I was used to making a billion a year in products based on a hit tv show I think I would be pretty proactive in telling people they better keep watching, but I’m a pretty vindictive bastard when it comes to sales

Charlie Sweatpants: If you go back and look at alt.tv.simpsons, which was pretty much the only place to bitch on-line back in the mid-nineties, people started getting pissed off in like Season 4 and earlier.

Mad Jon: Anyone who was pissed in season 4 is the kind of person who would be mad at a subpar blowjob

Dave: I’m not someone who was bitching about the show circa season 4

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay fine, but doesn’t it display a lack of creativity, that the best we can come up with is a middle finger to people so obsessed that they dial up their 9600 baud modems to complain?

Dave: On some level you’re offended by the episode then?

Charlie Sweatpants: Not offended so much as disappointed.

Dave: Because it’s mean?

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh no, the Simpsons is supposed to be mean.

Dave: What could they have done to make it palatable?

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe it just rankles more than it should because the show has gotten so irredeemable in the interim.

Dave: Maybe that’s why it doesn’t bother me

Mad Jon: Bottom line is I completely lost interest at about 14 minutes. Something is fucked

I’d for sure take this over Lisa’s Date With Density

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, but consider this in the context of Season 8.

When 8 was on it was the first time I ever really heard people complain about the show, and I mean in real life not on usenet.

Mad Jon: Compared to the last view we’ve talked over, its ok

Fair enough

Dave: k, go on

Charlie Sweatpants: And then this kinda felt like piling on, like they were saying, “Yeah we know it’s not as good as it was, but what are you going to do about it?”

Mad Jon: I definitely get that feeling

Charlie Sweatpants: Obviously it’s gotten worse since then, but it was still true at the time.

Mad Jon: oh sure

Dave: Okay, I find that reasonable

Mad Jon: Did you guys notice the post-it on Krusty’s door when Roger Meyers came in?

Charlie Sweatpants: About the liquor not being for the cleaning staff?

Hell yeah, had to pause it, but yeah.

Mad Jon: Yeah. that was hilarious

Dave: Missed that one

Mad Jon: “Cleaning staff: The liquor is not for you”

Charlie Sweatpants: Yup.

Dave: We agree though that compared to stuff now, this episode is not the worst thing ever?

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed.

Mad Jon: Oh not even close

Seriously, the first Act could have been from season 4 or 5

Dave: Phew.

Charlie Sweatpants: I would not go that far.

Mad Jon: But It would have been a short episode

What on earth do you not like about the beginning?

Charlie Sweatpants: But yes, it starts stronger than it ends.

Dave: You two bicker about the beginning some more, I’m going to refill my scotch

Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough.

Mad Jon: Hmm, Scotch

*Scotch

I absolutely love the tv testing sceen

“One kid loves the speedo guy…”

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m on board with the focus group thing.

Dave: I love Ralph’s sad buzzer bit

Mad Jon: Yeah that’s great

The auditions were ok too

“What were you guys smoking when you came up with that?”

Charlie Sweatpants: But I’ll balk at it being total quality because it still has those weird moments like Bart and Lisa talking at the breakfast table and Krusty and Roger Meyer acting kind of out of character during their meeting.

Mad Jon: I can see the breakfast table bit being a bit suspicious, but I think the desperation of the meeting outweighs the character bit, especially with the back and forth on the language

Dave: What’s wrong with Bart and Lisa talking over breakfast?

Charlie Sweatpants: Well it just doesn’t quite fit, I don’t care that they’re eating breakfast at 4 in the afternoon or anything like that, it just seems a little too strange that they’d both be sitting at the table.

Marge telling Bart that she hugs him in his sleep is also a little bizarre, where’s the joke on that one?

Mad Jon: I am kind of bothered by the afternoon breakfast, but more because Homer isn’t complaining about going to work

I like the hug you in your sleep joke. That’s totally something Marge would do

Dave: yeah, didn’t mind the Marge joke either

Charlie Sweatpants: I didn’t hate it or anything, but it just doesn’t have that smooth good taste I’m accustomed to from quality Simpsons.

It’s those little non-sequiturs that build up as it goes along. Why is Homer the voice of Poochie? Why does there need to be all that drama about killing the character? Why is Homer so sensitive about people not liking the show?

Mad Jon: I agree with your points, but like I said the episode fails as it goes on. I was merely defending the beginning.

Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough.

Mad Jon: let’s just say it doesn’t make the cut on my favorites playlist

Charlie Sweatpants: I think we’ve got our relative positions staked out on this one, any favorite/least favorite lines or gags?

Dave: I liked Poochie’s fake Oakleys.

Absolutely fitting.

Mad Jon: I like the Truth Telling Contest “Two towns over.”

Dave: oh, have we moved on?

Mad Jon: Sorry, I’ve been drinking

Charlie Sweatpants: “Excuse me, but proactive and paradigm, aren’t these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important”. That is a great line written by someone who had to put up with a lot of corporate bullshit. That one’s a winner.

Dave: Reminds me of our conversation from earlier, Charlie – the reviewers on nohomers et. al trying to sound a bit more intelligent than they really are

Mad Jon: I like the fact that the Krusty Clock that gets incredibly hot if you leave it plugged in is on the shelf behind Krusty’s desk

Come back tomorrow for scintillating part two of three guys arguing about cartoon dogs.

02
Apr
09

Simpsons stamps to make life worthwhile


“The airplane’s upside down.” – Homer Simpson

Downtrodden philatelists rejoice – the United States Postal Service has heard your desperate, needy pleas and in an act of noblesse oblige, will finally loose a series of Simpsons-themed stamps for public comsumption. In conjunction with the Fox marketing machine, these stamps are obviously intended to be another salvo in what is sure to be a clusterfuck of a Simpsons 20th anniversary media onslaught later this year.

The 44-cent first class stamps will be previewed on April 9th; no word yet as to when they’ll be released into nerds’ greedy, greasy mitts. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll even get an episode where the stamps are featured in some dreadful cross-promotional plot. Hey, we can dream, can’t we?

Via Reuters.




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