Posts Tagged ‘There’s No Disgrace Like Home


Quote of the Day


“I don’t know who to love more, my son Joshua who’s captain of the football team, or my daughter Amber who got the lead in the school play. Usually I use their grades as a tie breaker. But they both got straight ‘A’s this term, so, what’s a mother to do?” – Humble Brag Mom
“Well, I sense greatness in my family.” – Marge Simpson
“Your family?” – Skeptical Mom
“Well, it’s a greatness that others can’t see. But it’s there. And if it’s not true greatness we have, we’re at least average. . . . I don’t want to alarm anyone, but I think there’s a little al-key-hol in this punch.” – Marge Simpson


Quote of the Day

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“Alright, time for a family meeting.” – Homer Simpson
“Why can’t we have a meeting when you’re watching TV?” – Lisa Simpson


Quote of the Day

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“Evening, Moe.” – Eddie
“Want some pretzels?” – Moe
“No, thanks, we’re on duty.  Couple beers’d be nice, though.” – Eddie
“That’ll be two bucks, boys. . . . Just kidding.” – Moe


Quote of the Day

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“Boy, someone’s really gobbling up the juice, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Excellent, excellent.  Perhaps this energy conservation fad is as dead as the dodo.” – C.M. Burns

Happy Birthday Al Jean!


Permanent Record: Burns Manor

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“There it is, kids, stately Burns Manor, heaven on earth.” – Homer Simpson

Watching Season 1 episodes with the knowledge of what the show was going to become can often blur out just how well formed many of the show’s ideas were, even before the voices and the animation had developed.  Burns, and the palatial estate on which he lives, illustrate that well.  “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” is the first time we get to see Burns Manor, and while it would be revised and updated in Season 2 and later, the fundamental ideas of it are all right here.

The image at the top of this post is the establishing shot, and right away we know that a) it’s luxurious to the point of absurdity (note the string music in the background when the family walks in), and b) the Simpsons (and by extension, you) are not the least bit welcome.  On only one day per year does Burns allow regular people into his perfect world (the warning sign doesn’t say that “Trespassers” will be shot, it says “Poachers”), and even then it’s only so his employees can bow and scrape before him.  The sack race is mandatory (and Burns must be allowed to win), the father whose kid didn’t want to be there is not only getting promptly ejected from the party, he’s being fired permanently.

But the mansion itself is just as important, particularly vis-a-vis the rest of Springfield.  Besides the Simpson home, there are only three other real settings in this episode.  There’s Moe’s, a dingy bar that doesn’t even have a color television, the pawn shop, and Dr. Monroe’s clinic, which is hardly a top notch medical facility since, as Lisa points out, he advertises it during boxing:

Dumpy Springfield

The bar is dirty and dingy, the pawnshop is a pawnshop (and has cracks in its walls and ceiling), and the rather grandly named “Family Therapy Center” is just some rented office with a dumpster right where you can see it on your way in.  Burns Manor, on the other hand, is the only really nice place in the entire town:

Opulent Burns Manor

It’s got a foyer worthy of Versailles, classical architecture, and enormous grounds decorated with fountains and gazebos.  Unlike Springfield, which is kind of a mess, Burns Manor is polished and perfect.

We’re still years away from Bart having the train that disappears for hours and one time came back with snow on it, or the band shell where a captive Tom Jones performs for Marge and Homer, or the guards who sing that all they own they owe, but Burns Manor is already recognizable as a place that is both very rich and very cruel.  Moreover, it’s already a place that highlights all the things the Simpsons don’t have, and really can never have.  Homer’s place is at Moe’s with the passed out drunk on the bar; Marge has the house that Bart describes as a “dump” when he thinks its someone else’s.  Even the perfect family Homer sees leaving Burns Manor at the beginning is stuck at Dr. Marvin Monroe’s run down clinic.  Burns Manor, on the other hand, stands literally up on a hill, looking down on them all.


Quote of the Day

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“But now it’s time to say good bye.  Please get off my property until next year.  I suggest you don’t dawdle!  The hounds will be released in ten minutes.” – C.M. Burns


Compare & Contrast: Family Therapy and Meta Commentary

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“Wait a minute, these mallet things are padded with foam rubber.  What’s the point?” – Homer Simpson
“They’d work much better without the padding, Doc.” – Bart Simpson
“No, no, that’s not true.” – Dr. Marvin Monroe

Shortly after Frink fell out of the sky and “How I Wet Your Mother” took its disastrous Inception turn halfway through, one of the scenes the family quantum slept into was a callback to an old Tracey Ullman short called “Family Therapy”.  (The original is about the family going to a therapist whom they torment until he throws them out of his office.)  But it’s also reminiscent of the ending of Season 1’s “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”.

As usual when Zombie Simpsons recalls something The Simpsons already did, even a quick glance at the two scenes shows the yawning difference in humor and craftsmanship between the two shows.  On The Simpsons, the therapy office is the culmination of the entire story about Homer wanting his family to be postcard perfect despite the fact that he’s the biggest (but by no means only) reason they aren’t and never will be.  There are jokes about family life, bargain basement therapy, pawn shops, poverty, energy conservation, and television itself mixed in with physical gags and genuine feelings.

On Zombie Simpsons, the therapy office is little more than a random sketch among many, each of which features five empty and emotionless comedy troupers doing whatever zany things come to mind.  The only thing in it that had anything to do with the rest of the episode was a coffin that was filled with fish, so even if this scene absolutely, positively had to be a based on a Tracey Ullman short, they could’ve dropped that particular prop into any one they liked.  The contradictory and skeletal framework Zombie Simpsons passes off as a plot didn’t require them to be there or add anything to the scene.

Seein Double Here - Four Therapists

It’s not the real Simpsons, but an incredible simulation!

Of course, it wouldn’t have mattered if Zombie Simpsons had bothered to tie the therapy office to the rest of the episode, because the underlying story was the kind of meandering nonsense you might hear from a five-year-old: See, Homer wets his bed [giggles], and then he’s got skis and there’s a coffin [sips from juice box], but then he falls off a cliff, but then they find the coffin in this room [wipes nose on sleeve], and then the coffin, um, the coffin is full of fish [gets distracted when sibling runs by].  You don’t mind this kind of stuff from the five-year-old because, hey, five-year-old.  Zombie Simpsons doesn’t have that excuse (and stopped being cute a long time ago).

Beyond their places in each episode, though, both scenes also offer an informative meta-statement about the nature of their respective series, not only their specific places on television, but also in popular culture more generally.  The overarching theme of “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” is about the Simpsons being a dysfunctional family, one that will never live up to the ideals of domestic bliss so common in popular portrayals of American families.  That means one thing for the characters within the fictional universe that’s centered on Springfield, but it also means that the show itself, in the real universe of television, was rejecting the normal way of doing things and offering a critique of programs where the kids hardly fight and the dad always wears a nice shirt to the dinner table.  Having the family embrace its shortcomings rather than strive for highly idealized fiction marked The Simpsons as a show apart, something distinct and innovative.

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Very few programs feature electrocuted infants.

The throwback therapy scene in “How I Wet Your Mother” can be read in a similar way, albeit with vastly different implications.  Not only did it occur as part of yet another tired movie takeoff episode, but its only discernable purpose was empty nostalgia.

As a movie, Inception had already been parodied to death long before Zombie Simpsons got anywhere near it.  There have been so many trailer mashups, alternate endings, and inside jokes, that a quick search for “Inception Parodies” not only turns up a ton of them, but a ton of collections of them as well (‘Inception’ Parodies and Remixes Invade the Web (Videos), Top 10 Inception Trailer Parodies, "Inception" Guides and Parodies).  There just isn’t much left to be said about it.


This came out in October of 2010, and even it was a ripoff.

And while it’s true that Zombie Simpsons hadn’t yet gotten in on that feeding frenzy, that’s hardly an excuse.  If Zombie Simpsons and its slow production cycle want to be a respected part of popular culture, then they have to do something more creative than just having Simpsons characters act out a movie that’s nearly two years old.  That sort of blandly derivative stuff worked for low budget web videos that came out while Inception was still in theaters.  It doesn’t work when you’ve got months to think, write and prepare, plus millions of dollars to animate and present.  Those are advantages that a better show could use to offset the time lag, but Zombie Simpsons doesn’t even try.

That huge problem is magnified when, as part of that hacktacular “parody”, they did a piece of desperate fan service using ye olde tyme animation and voices for no reason other than to remind people of better times.  It’s a double whammy, not only are they failing to keep up with today, they’re also making a base appeal to their few remaining viewers to remember them as they were rather than as they are.  I’ve long said that the only thing that makes Zombie Simpsons special is the fact that it came from The Simpsons.  This is them tacitly agreeing with me.

There’s nothing new or interesting on offer in “How I Wet Your Mother”.  The entire Inception part of the episode is things that have been done before and done better, either by The Simpsons or by others.  When Zombie Simpsons goes to the family therapy center, there’s no point to it other than as a reminder of things the show used to be.  Worse, by using its contribution to the already saturated Inception-parody genre to do nothing more than reference itself, Zombie Simpsons highlighted its own creative bankruptcy.  By contrast, “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” used its trip to family therapy to mock a diverse array of topics and declare its independence from the kind of shows that were typical of its time.  Where The Simpsons stood out and did things no one had ever seen before, Zombie Simpsons limps after trends, never getting there on time.


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