Posts Tagged ‘They Saved Lisa’s Brain

20
Oct
17

Behind Us Forever: Whistler’s Father

“Look at those silk pillows! It’s like the set of some high class porno film.” – Marge Simpson
“No, no, it’s just our basement” – Homer Simpson
“Hold on, that’s our basement?” – Marge Simpson
“Yes, so? Come on, more kissing.” – Homer Simpson
“It looks so elegant! And all it takes are some lace curtains and a beaded lampshade. You’ve got to show me exactly what you did!” – Marge Simpson
“But I was gonna score!” – Homer Simpson
“No, you weren’t.” – Marge Simpson

NOTE: Sorry this is so late. Been one of those weeks. (And I just noticed I didn’t put up a quote for today, ugh.)

I’ve listened to enough of the DVD commentaries over the years to know how many different people work on these scripts and how many iterations they go through before they reach my TV. And while I have never worked on a TV show, there are times when I (or anyone else, for that matter) can plainly see that a script maybe went through the wringer a few too many times.

The story-ish substance of this one is twofold: 1) Homer is pushing Maggie to be a professional child entertainer because Maggie can whistle really well, and 2) Marge is working as an interior decorator for Fat Tony. So far, so ho-hum. The weird part is that both of them are apparently hiding their plotlines from one another. Why? No explanation is ever given or hinted at. It feels like an artifact. Homer and Marge keep secrets from each other was the concept, and, seventeen drafts later, that part has been forgotten except for a couple of scenes where they explicitly tell us they’re doing that.

– We open on Marge pacing the bedroom while, for the second week in a row, they do a Homer-can-talk-while-he’s-asleep bit. She eventually wakes him up to key us into the plot and get in the first shovel fulls of this episode’s metric tons of exposition:

Marge: Homer, wake up, please. I can’t sleep. I’m having friends over tomorrow. Luann van Houten…
Homer: …Backstabber.
Marge: Bernice Hibbert…
Homer: …Snob.
Marge: And Helen Lovejoy…
Homer: Okay, she’s pretty hot. I mean, hot for a reverend’s wife, but so judgmental.

Thanks to this, Homer gets stuck watching Maggie.

– Homer watches Maggie and very little happens (“what to do? what to do?” is a repeated line/joke/time filler).

– We see Marge with the gals and they are exceptionally hostile, right from the bat. They just insult Marge out of blue. No disagreement, no escalation, just straight to open insults. It’s really weird.

– Upstairs, Homer spends thirty seconds or so looking for a whistling sound before he discovers it’s coming from Maggie. This leads to a dream sequence where Homer is professionally whistling in an Uncle Sam costume.

– Her taste insulted by the other women, Marge resolves to decorate the “pick up waiting room” at the school the best she can. She’s gonna need a montage! Montage!

– At the newly decorated room, Fat Tony shows up out of nowhere to declare the room perfectly decorated and hires Marge as his decorator for an old post office he purchased. That was timely, unexpected, and hacktacular, all in one.

– At Moe’s, Homer has Maggie in a backpack and is pretending to whistle for the guys when Grampa walks in out of nowhere to exposit about how he used to be a professional whistler. He opens the door and says:

“Well, well, well, it looks like my no talent son can suddenly whistle. Tell me Homer, how’d you trill that high C with your lips in second position?”

It is then revealed that Maggie is whistling and that Grampa used to be a professional whistler, which leads to a narrated flashback. For those keeping score at home, we’re at the 7:30 mark and we’ve had a montage, a flashback, a dream sequence, and two characters bursting through doors to advance the plot.

– Grampa’s flashback ends badly when he tries to whistle three notes at once, which they animated thusly:

This isn’t quite popped eyeballs. But it’s not far off, either.

– That stunt broke Grampa’s lips, which leads to another flashback where he has to pay other guys to kiss his girlfriend:

I have no response to this.

– Grampa then declares that Maggie is gonna go into show business, which leads to him whistling with five holes in his mouth instead of three. Didn’t they just say he couldn’t do that? I am confused.

– Hey, look, a good sign joke:

– And we’re back to exposition with Grampa explaining that he and Maggie are there to hear songbirds.

– Over in Marge’s plot, Fat Tony is introducing Marge to the post office. Legs and Louie are there for some limp banter.

– At a talent tryout for kids, Grampa tells a bored looking guy that Maggie whistles. He replies by expositing how he feels and expositing what he’s going to do:

“This I gotta hear. Not because I am looking forward to it, but because it is my job.” [He smokes a whole cigarette. Maggie whistles.] “Fantastic talent. Now, move along. I have a heart attack at four o’clock. And here it comes.” [Has heart attack.]

Hacktacular!

– Marge is at a hardware store with Fat Tony and the gang. She is now dressed as an “interior decorator” which means a brown suit dress and sunglasses. This is another one of those scenes where the writers seem to think its relateable when interior decorators pitch expensive indoor fountains at you. They must hate that almost as much as when their butlers wash their sock garters but they’re still covered in schmutz.

– Next scene, Homer and Marge are in bed and Marge wonders what that whistling is. They then both ask how the other would feel if they kept a secret from each other. This forces me to wonder why in the hell (or how, for that matter) either of them is keeping their plot lines a secret. This is the first we see of it and we’re well past halfway. Even by Zombie Simpsons standards it feels dropped in.

– Because Lisa hasn’t really been in this episode, we get a thirty second filler scene where she freaks out about Maggie being talented. No, I don’t know why. Maybe that’s a secret too.

– Homer and Maggie are now watching a TV special about an entertainment baby that went to prison. I guess it’s supposed to be a “Behind the Music” type thing, but it’s mostly just narration. It leads to Homer expositing out loud about his motivations for pushing Maggie to be a whistling star. Nothing about it needing to be a secret, or why Marge might care. I guess it’s nice that they are neither showing nor telling, but since they’re expositing something unrelated instead, I don’t think it qualifies as an improvement.

– Marge has finished decorating the post office for Fat Tony. Turns out it’s a brothel, which we learn when Quimby appears from nowhere to ask if he can bang Marge. Kent Brockman then bursts into the hall to tell Fat Tony and Marge that they didn’t see him. The door was closed. He wasn’t being seen. Even by cartoon standards this is dumb.

– At the baby talent show, Homer explains that he is disturbed by what the other showbiz parents do to their kids. At the post office/brothel, Marge is ashamed of what she’s done. No sooner has she told us this than Helen, Luann, and Bernice walk in from outside – once again for no damn reason – to start attacking Marge again. The brothel ends up getting burned for insurance money after Marge exposits that Fat Tony’s mom used to have a PO box there. Remember what I said above about this script going through the wringer too many times? Weird crap like this is why.

– At the talent show, Maggie fails because she can’t whistle anymore with a tooth coming in. (Actual dialog: “Look she’s got a tooth coming in!”, which is said by Bart who has just wandered on stage.) Mel then exposits all of this from the audience because they like having Mel yell shit. God I’m bored.

– Homer concludes the scene and the plot by telling us, “The only thing that’s been worth it about this experience is that I got to spend time with this little girl. And that’s the tooth.” Please, someone, take me to a dentist’s office and leave the gas on.

– And we end on Marge and Homer in bed recounting each other’s storylines and promising “no more secrets”, which, again, has nothing to do with anything we’ve just seen.

– Small bonus: End theme is a whistle version by what I assume is a professional whistler named Nick Fascitelli. It’s not worth sitting through this, but I am a sucker for versions of the theme song.

– Other credit note: regular “Music By” credit for Clausen.

Anyway, the numbers are in, and with no late FOX NFL game this week, they’re back to the darkest corner of the basement. Last Sunday, just 2.90 million people didn’t tell anyone they watched Zombie Simpsons.

09
Sep
17

Quote of the Day

“You want me to join Mensa? Oh, that’s wonderful! But don’t I have to take some sort of IQ test?” – Lisa Simpson
“No, Lisa, you’re more than qualified. I’ve shared all your standardized test scores with the other members.” – Principal Skinner
“Aren’t those supposed to be confidential?” – Lisa Simpson
“Welcome to Mensa!” – Principal Skinner

06
Sep
16

Yahoo Is Looking for a “SuperFan”

They Saved Lisa's Brain11

“You have robbed us of our dignity!” – Lenny

As usual, I am way behind on everything, but a couple of weeks ago I got an e-mail from a producer at Yahoo SuperFan:

With the Simpsons 600th episode coming up this fall, we’re looking for a Simpsons fan with the wildest collection of memorabilia. The ideal person would have amazing cosplay costumes, possibly Simpsons tattoos, maybe a child who they named Homer or Marge, and of course, a massive collection of toys and other memorabilia.

If you or someone you know fits this bill, drop it in comments.

09
May
16

Quote of the Day

They Saved Lisa's Brain10

“The winner is: me, for being seen with you freaks.” – Rainier Wolfcastle

Happy birthday James L. Brooks! 

25
Apr
16

Quote of the Day

They Saved Lisa's Brain9

“Booo!” – Crowd
“But it’s me: Moe! Wearing a sailor suit! Moe, with a lolly! It’s so out of character! Ain’t that worth nothing?” – Moe
“Booo! Next!” – Crowd

Happy birthday, Hank Azaria!

29
Sep
15

Quote of the Day

StayYellow!

“We studied traffic patterns and found that drivers move the fastest through yellow lights.  So, now, we just have the red and yellow lights.” – Professor Frink
“C’mon, stay yellow!  Stay yellow!  Man, I’m making record time!  If only I had someplace to be.” – Lenny

Happy birthday Gabor Csupo!  

28
Jan
15

Compare & Contrast: Famously Smart Guest Stars

They Saved Lisa's Brain8

“I wanted to see your utopia, but now I see it is more of a Fruitopia.” – Stephen Hawking
“I’m sure what Dr. Hawking means is-” – Principal Skinner
“Silence!  I don’t need anyone to talk for me, except this voice box.” – Stephen Hawking

Celebrities voicing themselves has long been one of the most widely acknowledged hallmarks of Zombie Simpsons.  In truth, of course, the show had been using self voiced celebrities almost since the beginning.  What changed was the way those voices were used.  In Season 2, Ringo Starr voices himself, but responding to decades old fan mail, not arriving on the Simpsons’ doorstep.  In Season 3, an entire baseball team of Major League players voiced themselves, but that’s because they were all getting paid by Burns, not because they all suddenly decided to go to Springfield.  Self-voiced celebrities themselves aren’t inherently a problem, how they’re used is more important.

On The Simpsons, not only was there always a reason for some famous person to be there, but what they were doing was always a takeoff on who they were and/or why they were famous.  On Zombie Simpsons (in addition to being used far more often), the self voiced celebrities usually appear out of nowhere.  And once they are on screen, frequently don’t do much more than be their normal selves.  This is how famous street artists repeat their names and do nothing else and the entire cast of American Idol pops up just because.  It’s straightforwardly uncreative and almost always looks and feels like nothing more than a plea for attention.

All of those negatives apply to Elon Musk’s episode.  He literally drops out of the sky at random, and (like Lady Gaga) once he’s in Springfield he just kinda acts like an even more exaggerated version of himself.  Look, there’s drones and electric cars and friggin’ hyperloops!  Aren’t they funny?

LandingCraft

Too bad Kang and Kodos weren’t in there.

Even the episode’s attempts to show how his crazy ideas backfire falls apart.  Everything he does works, and Springfield becomes a futuristic utopia right up until Burns fires everyone.  Does Musk react to this?  Nope.  He disappears entirely as Springfield falls apart, showing up only at the end to act hurt that Homer doesn’t want to be his friend anymore.

They could’ve shown Musk as Shary Bobbins, a noble creature whose best efforts are eventually overwhelmed by the inherent crappiness of Springfield.  Or they could’ve shown Musk as an evil, Hank Scorpio-esque nutbar who loves his inventions more than people.  Or, with just a few tweaks, they could’ve shown a Musk vs. Burns battle for the soul of Springfield.  (Burns would triumph, of course, because good is dumb.)  But they didn’t do any of that.  They had Musk show up, then they drew some of his stuff into Springfield, then he vanished while everything fell apart.  This is about as shallow and pointless as it is possible to be given the enormous amount of screentime he got.

DisappearingAct

The episode manages to find him again, but only with binoculars.  He is apparently unaware that all of his improvements to the town have become failures.

Compare that with Stephen Hawking’s brief appearance at the end of Season 10’s “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”.  Now, by Season 10 the show was already falling apart, and Hawking’s sudden arrival isn’t without its share of problems.  Not only does he drive up with no warning whatsoever, but after he scoops Lisa up in his flying chair to save her from the mob, they land all of thirty feet away while the episode forgets completely that a riot was going on.

But Hawking still has both 1) a reason to show up and 2) is given some things to do.  He’s there because eggheads have taken over the town and he wants to check it out.  This still being The Simpsons, their efforts were doomed from the get go and he finds nothing of value in their little experiment.  Moreover, only on The Simpsons would Hawking be a bullying and arrogant dick who insults everyone and uses an extend-o-glove built into his chair to punch Skinner.  Yes, he is smarter than everyone else, but he’s a jerk about it, and that’s what makes it work.

They Saved Lisa's Brain7

Stephen Hawking: Face Puncher

Of course, The Simpsons also knew enough not to try and string that out for an entire episode.  Hawking is only in two scenes, one of which is an epilogue that doesn’t affect the story.  They don’t build the whole thing around him because even in Season 10 the show could still recognize the limits of a guest star.  In the filler laden wasteland of Season 26, weak guest ideas are asked to carry the entire runtime, and even a world famous inventor and entrepreneur can’t make that work.




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