Posts Tagged ‘The Squirt and the Whale


Crazy Noises: The Squirt and the Whale

Itchy and Scratchy Land2

“Ahhhh!  Shark-boy!” – Homer 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 (especially on  “environmentalists”).

A couple of weeks ago I pointed out how Zombie Simpsons is extremely careless when it comes to staging and continuity, even within a single scene.  Characters just appear and disappear based on whether or not they’re needed that instant.  Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck don’t do this, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck don’t do this, hell, Family Guy doesn’t even do this!  The reason they don’t is that it is extremely disorienting to have a constantly changing number of people involved in a scene.

Near the swirling mess that passed for the ending of “The Squirt and the Whale” we can see another example of this carelessness.  Homer falls into the water and the sharks immediately surround him:



The sharks circle Homer and it’s played for suspense.  Whatever.  But then they instantly vanish while he has a conversation with Lisa and the environmental props:


Is expositive dialogue is a shark repellant?  Or maybe their planet needed them.

No sharks are around him whatsoever, they just disappear.  They don’t go back to the whales, they don’t do anything else, they’re not wanted so they’re not there.  Until it comes time for a second installment of “suspense” about sharks circling Homer:


Where have I seen this before?  Oh yeah, twenty seconds ago.

Aaaaaand they’re back.  This goes beyond poor or lazy storytelling, or even poor or lazy staging of this single scene.  This is “we don’t give a fuck” at it’s purest.  Their ending hangs off of Homer being menaced by sharks and saved by a whale.  Instead of just leaving the sharks circling Homer while he talked with Lisa and the other two, they got rid of them so they would have an excuse to bring them back for a second dose of “suspense”.  They pushed the same feeble emotional trigger twice in one scene.

Anyway, here’s some more problems with this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, so anyone with initial thoughts on this one?

Dave: It was a trainwreck

Charlie Sweatpants: True.

Mad Jon: A lazy trainwreck

Charlie Sweatpants: Also true.

Dave: They assumed they could tell a Lisa-gets-emotional type story by filling in the blanks

Mad Jon: The A and B plot couldn’t even try to run concurrently?

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way of putting it.

Mad Jon: At least with 2 concurrent plots I can try to be distracted from each one by the other. There was no breathing room here.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though, I don’t think that thing with the windmill counts as a plot. Plots have, you know, conclusions.

Mad Jon: Ok, so one plot with a very long opening?

Dave: No the windmill was a classic-Zombie Simpsons lead in to the A plot

Charlie Sweatpants: And a very long closing.

From the time the whale dies, nothing happens up until what passes for the end.

Dave: I think we had two montages too

Charlie Sweatpants: Seriously, after the whale dies there’s a montage, Lisa being sad, that awful invisible dog joke, and then it’s time for Action Sharks.

Dave: Back to the dead whale a sec

Mad Jon: How did she know the first whale was a girl and the second was a boy?

Charlie Sweatpants: Of all the shit that was going on, that’s what you’re wondering about?

But Dave, you were about to say?

Dave: Lisa’s "It’s a whale" line was followed a massive pause, for what I assume was dramatic effect. It was shit

And lazy writing. Duh, it’s whale.

Charlie Sweatpants: And clearly the thing to do is run over to Jimbo and company.

Talk about lazy writing, "Hey, we need some of our stock characters here."

Dave: Right. And then Kearny and Milhouse…. ugh.

Mad Jon: Well, if you are looking for a meaningful complaint from me, and how dare you, I guess my next question would be – How on earth can you have an alternative energy expo and not include a showing of Monty Burns?

Charlie Sweatpants: He was there for a second.

Mad Jon: huh, I must have missed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: He didn’t say anything.

Mad Jon: Well then what’s the point.

Charlie Sweatpants: He was just carrying a sign. It wasn’t that funny.

The thing that pissed me off about the convention was the fact that, like the beach scene, it was half stock characters.

There’s Barney and Ralph!

Dave: Burp power and kid power, respectively. Give me a break.

Charlie Sweatpants: The guy from Fourth Reich Motors is spinning in his Israeli prison cell.

Mad Jon: This exhibit is closed!

Charlie Sweatpants: Dave, getting back to the Kearney/Milhouse thing, that scene was extra agonizing because not only was it repetitive and boring, but it was just another pun.

Dave: I seem to remember other bad puns in the episode but I’m at a loss to pick them out

Mad Jon: And an opportunity to beat up on Milhouse

Dave: But, yeah, lazy, bad, shit… I’m running out of adjectives here.

Charlie Sweatpants: The opening movie thing was pun-tacular, there was the "fan club", they just kept it up.

Rome-O and Julie-X, Tic-Tac-No, shit like that.

Dave: I forgot about that. I want that minute or two of my life back.

Charlie Sweatpants: But which two? Because if you opt out of that, you’re opting in to the invisible dog gag that went on forever, Bart and Lisa finding stuff at the beach, and that awful series where Lisa walked around town hallucinating about whale noises.

Dave: Well, going with that logic I want my half-hour back

Mad Jon: There you go.

Charlie Sweatpants: A much wiser request.

Dave: Everything was more insincere and contrived than usual.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, we’ve approached it and backed off now like three times, but I think we have to talk about the ending.

I’m sorry.

Dave: Go on.

Charlie Sweatpants: Where to begin?

Dave: Deus-ex-father whale?

Charlie Sweatpants: The environmentalists who show up for no reason, Homer being circled by sharks twice, and the whale ride.

Mad Jon: Environmentalists showing up to save the sharks but not the whale originally?

Charlie Sweatpants: The two times on the circling sharks thing was hacktacular even by their standards.

They played the same visual, one that’s been done a million times before – seriously – and then, ten seconds later, they played the exact same thing.

They might have been able to use some of the same animation cels it was so repetitive.

Dave: Oh and then there was that octopus crap!

Charlie Sweatpants: And there was the fucking whale ride! We get action shots of the shark, teeth out, racing at Homer, then the whale saves the day, then Lisa tells us who the whale is, and then Homer hops off the top of the whale and back into the boat forty feet below – and there isn’t even an attempt at a joke.

Mad Jon: Oh yeah, by then I was so checked out I wasn’t sure what the drawings at the credits were and had to go back and watch the last minutes again

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh fuck, I forgot about the octopus crap.

It was Homer’s second failed screen play of the episode.

Were they really that hard up for ideas?

Dave: It seems that way.

Charlie Sweatpants: It feels like we haven’t discussed much, but then again there just isn’t that much in this episode.

A lot of it is just them yanking on heartstrings as hard as they can.

Mad Jon: Although we have been wandering through a toxic mist for the last half hour, we definitely have had more structure than that episode did.

Charlie Sweatpants: Throw in the montages, the joke-less dream sequence, and the rest and there just isn’t much episode here.

Dave: But we did get four whales, one dead.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else?

Mad Jon: I have one more thing

The norm of the Zombie episodes is a staunch reliance on Homer’s physical comedy.

Although there were some instances here, like the blood in the water, it seems that they are even getting lazy about this trick in their bag.

Charlie Sweatpants: You mean the whole head-saw thing?

Mad Jon: I am talking about the scene with Homer and the tool belt.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, that was awful.

And it kept going and going and going . . .

Mad Jon: He waddled about for around a minute without getting hurt, and I bet they thought they had touched gold there.

Charlie Sweatpants: I guess "man pulls down pants" lost out in the script revision.

Mad Jon: It’s pretty bad when they can’t even hurt him to try for laughs.

But that’s all I have.

Dave: I think one of our commenters noted that there’s likely a large, sycophantic population that probably ate this up.

Charlie Sweatpants: Because it was "about the family" or whatever.

Dave: Yeah, it was family centric

Charlie Sweatpants: Except that it wasn’t.

Dave: If that’s the litmus test for success, well then fuck, I’m out.

Charlie Sweatpants: Bart and Marge are barely in it, all Lisa does is dream and mope, and Homer just gets hurt and acts dumb.

Mad Jon: And waddles.

Charlie Sweatpants: It can have more lines for the family members all it wants, if they don’t do anything I’m still not entertained.

Dave: Wise counsel.


Synergy Confuses Fiction and Reality

The Boy Who Knew Too Much1

“Oh no, Willie didn’t make it, and he crushed our boy.” – Movie Mom
“Ugh, what a mess.” – Movie Dad
“Oh, I don’t like this new director’s cut.” – Homer Simpson

IGN did two things I appreciate with this week’s corporate fanboy ode to Zombie Simpsons:

1) Kept things ridiculously positive – It’s a lot easier to edit out the synergy when I can replace words like “best” with “worst” and leave the underlying sentence structure untouched.

2) Exposed the shallowness of its sycophancy – This is a little more subtle, but I like how the comedy free tear-jerker part of the episode, which accounted for most of the run time, isn’t even mentioned until the fourth of five paragraphs.  It also shows up in other things, like the sentence I couldn’t figure out:

But this was the right path to take, as moving Bluella the whale proved too daunting for the community.

I’ve read that sentence ten times and I still don’t know what it means.  I get that IGN is praising Zombie Simpsons, but I can’t figure out for what.  I think what IGN’s trying to say is that if the townspeople had saved the whale, then the whale would’ve been saved . . . except that it’s fiction . . . so the townspeople’s actions were chosen by the same people who put the whale on the beach in the first place . . . so the decision to kill the whale couldn’t have anything to do with the townspeople’s actions . . . and now I’m confused again.  IGN knows that the whale died because the writers chose to kill it, not because the townspeople failed to save it, right?

Anyway, I’ve edited out the synergy.

April 26, 2010 – “The Squirt and the Whale” was an absolute gem turd. Like many of the classic Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episodes, it was hilarious boring and heartwarming melodramatic. In a time when many are saying the series has lost its magic, Sunday night’s episode proved that even the old-timers can show you how it’s done once in a while it.

The episode was great boring right from the start, beginning with opening credits. Bart’s chalkboard bit was a failed nod to the guys at South Park and their recent controversy with the depiction of Muhammad. “South Park– we’d stand beside you if we weren’t so scared.” Since The Simpsons opened the doors for shows like South Park, it was would’ve been nice to see the camaraderie if they hadn’t screwed it up. Follow that up with a clever and fun romp through the Springfield Shopper as the time wasting couch gag, and we had a few good laughs under our belt decent idea of just how bad it would be before the episode even started.

The first act of “The Squirt and the Whale” was as near-perfect wretchedly bad an opening segment the series as seen in many seasons. The trailer for the big-budget space adventure “Tic Tac Toe” was an absolute winner nothing but embarrassingly bad puns. Homer’s battle with the power company (his own employer) was full of great gags and one-liners Jerkass Homer non sequiturs. First there was the Power Expo (“Where there’s an expo, there’s free Frisbees.”) where we got to see they couldn’t think of anything original so they crammed in Ralph Wiggum’s “kid power” and Barney’s “burp power.” This was also where Homer bought a windmill to power his home for some reason that was dropped two minutes later, with the guarantee it will pay for itself “in 12 to 18 lifetimes.” The entire electricity storyline in this act was fantastic vanished after the commercial. My least favorite lines came when Homer realized wind power only works when it’s windy: “From now on, the Simpsons are living… intermittently!”

That act ended disappeared with the beginning of the rest of the episode, when Lisa discovered a beached whale. As Lisa would, she tried everything she could to save the whale, including enlisting her father to help, though she did not, apparently, call Sea Huggers. Homer’s ideas did nothing to help, and surprisingly, but did kill some time until the whale died on the beach . You usually don’t expect death in a sitcom, especially one that would break the heart of a seven-year-old, but this show stopped being a comedy a long time ago. But this was the right path to take, as moving Bluella the whale proved too daunting for the community. [Ed Note: I’m not sure what the preceding sentence is supposed to mean.] Equally unexpected dull was that the episode momentarily focused on the removal-by-dynamite of the whale from the beach to kill more time. This led to another great drawn out montage and a clock eating bit after Comic Book Guy bought a whalebone corset. The corset slowly gave way, changing CBG from slim to fat. His commentary exposition matching the various stages of Captain Kirk’s appearance with the movie/series he was on was a lot of fun took a lot of time, ending with the fattest version from Boston Legal.

Throughout this ordeal of an episode, Homer was trying to ease his daughter’s pain. This was best stated by the man himself done in typical Jerkass Homer fashion when Bart taunted the pair: “I’m trying to be a sensitive father you unwanted moron!” Homer’s bit with the invisible dog leash was pleasantly fun already going on too long, until it became uproarious even worse when the invisible dog dragged Homer along as he chased a car. The episode ended with Homer trying to help Lisa save the calves of Bluella from environmentally protected sharks (Homer: “Typical eco-jerks– using words to talk”) that showed up because the writers drew “sharks” out of the Plot Resolution Hat. After putting his life in danger in the most contrived and boring of ways, and winning the affection and respect of his daughter in another sappy melodramatic sequence, Homer said he’d do anything for “a sweet, intelligent mammal.” His daughter, of course, not the audience, who are less intelligent for having watched this. Very funny saccharine and appropriately sweet clumsy, “The Squirt and the Whale” was the best worst episode of the season thus far.


Zombie Simpsons Misses the Point

“And sure, he’s probably so insane with rage that he’d butcher you horribly if he could.” – Homer Simpson

Yesterday, it was noted in many, many different places that Zombie Simpsons mentioned the censoring of last week’s South Park in the chalkboard gag:

Zombie Simpsons Scared

There are two ways to look at this.  The first (and this seems to be the dominant on-line opinion) is to see it as a nice gesture from Zombie Simpsons, a show of support for South Park in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way.  The second (which I’m more inclined to take) is a lot less positive.

First, set aside all the other issues at play here, from war and torture to religious extremism and censorship.  What happened on South Park was a brave act (at least as brave as one can be making cartoons for a living), the point of which was to demonstrate that fear about showing Mohammed is overblown.  The “death threats” that got such wide press came from an obscure website run by a nobody with no connection to anything (scroll down to point 2 in the update here to see what I mean).  Everyone pitched a fit except Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who remained quite calm and basically said that they wouldn’t give in to hysteria.  The fundamental point they were making (last week and in 2006) is that such fear is unfounded, and that the real problem is the absurd overreaction to empty threats.

Yet there’s Zombie Simpsons, declaring themselves “so scared”.  I understand that they’re trying to be supportive in a funny way.  But what Zombie Simpsons actually did was reinforce and legitimize the overhyped fear that Parker and Stone were explicitly attacking.  They could’ve said “South Park-We Support You And Wanted To Say [Bleeeeeeeeeeeep]”, or “South Park-We’d Stand By You If We Thought It Mattered”, or anything that didn’t say that they were afraid.  Instead, they bought right into the hysterical framework that South Park was criticizing.

Like all Zombie Simpsons, it was well meaning but brainless, and they’d have been better off not saying anything.


Jumping Sharks and Riding Whales

Chalkboard - The Squirt and the Whale

“Now, Henry Winkler, there’s a father.  Listen to what he told a close friend, ‘I don’t always keep my cool like the Fonz, but my love for my kids has given me plenty of happy days’.” – Selma Bouvier

While Homer was being menaced by sharks this week, I couldn’t help but think of that most damning of cultural epitaphs: jumped the shark.  Isn’t falling into the ocean from a magically conjured motorboat, getting hit in the head by a bucket (why a bucket?), and then being saved from sharks by riding a whale at least as bankrupt an idea as having a leather jacketed stunt double on water skies jump over a pen that has stock footage of a shark inside of it?  At the very least it’s in the same category.  Sadly, Happy Days went on for six more seasons after that fateful episode, let’s hope this one doesn’t take as long. 

Before that unimaginably boring ending, however, the writers had to reach deep into their bag of tricks to fill that ever more onerous 20 minute minimum.  There was a long couch gag, a 45-second montage, a completely pointless dream sequence, and an “action” sequence that finds the cartoon trope of circling shark fins new and exciting.  And even that wasn’t enough, so they had to kill some more time by having Homer regurgitate ideas that were too stupid to even be animated.  Also, it’s generally not a good idea when the actual event you’re basing a scene on is funnier than your cartoon version. 

I’d also like to commend the writers for dumping their opening plot line in an unusually abrupt manner, even by Zombie Simpsons standards.  The opening segment is often totally unrelated to the rest of the episode, but they don’t usually completely abandon a giant plot conflict (the whole electricity thing).  I’m not sure what’s keeping them from dropping all pretense and doing those segmented mini-story episodes every week.  

The numbers are in and they’re almost identical to last week’s: 5.94 million people tuned in an hour early for Family Guy last night.  That ties the number for 11th worst all time.  Since the 20th anniversary crap wore off, Season 21 has been down an average of half a million viewers from the same period of Season 20.  I’m going to keep saying this until someone listens: the show is getting historically low ratings.  The 20th anniversary stuff will save Season 21 from being the least watched ever, but more people than ever are simply ignoring this show. 


Sunday Preview: “The Squirt and the Whale”

Happy Sunday, everyone. I’m afraid I have two pieces of bad news. First, there’s new Zombie Simpsons tonight. I know, I know, it hurts. Let’s get the description, courtesy of Simpsons Channel, out of the way:

The Simpson family erect a turbine in their back yard. When Homer realizes that some of the power from the turbine is directed for the local electric company, he removes their house from the grid. Meanwhile, a storm appears and Homer and Lisa try to save a 100-foot long whale, brought to shore by the storm.

Ha, “erect.” Seems to be a fairly obvious attempt to hop on the Earth Day gravy train (is there one?), because wind power is cool and like, everyone loves whales. I won’t even feign interest here; we all know it’s going to be dreadful, so why play coy?

The second piece of bad news is that Photoshop is being a piece of shit, so I can’t bloody up the promo pic per usual practice. Sorry, kind readers. You’ll have to live with an upside down promo pic instead. It’s truly a devastating day for all parties involved.


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