Posts Tagged ‘Thursdays with Abie

06
Jan
10

Synergy Enjoys the Banality

Bart the General2

“Dear advertisers, I am disgusted with the way old people are depicted on television.  We are not all vibrant, fun loving sex maniacs.  Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when entertainment was bland and inoffensive.” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

When last we left IGN’s Zombie Simpsons reviews they were swooning and drawing little hearts on their notebooks because the writers dragged the Plow King out of retirement for a joke free cameo.  This week there’s some danger they’re just going to straight up overdose on nostalgia.  Yes, Grampa Simpson has told some enjoyably batshit stories in his time, but those times are long past (as even FOX tacitly acknowledges).  Instead we get classic Zombie Simpsons, taking a good idea real Simpsons used sparingly and stretching it to the point of mutilation in order to fill an episode.  As always I’ve edited out the synergy.  Enjoy

January 4, 2010 – "Thursdays with Abie" put a murderous twist on Tuesdays With Morie and the result was a fun dull and funny dimwitted start to 2010 for The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons. The episode used Abe Simpson’s talent for telling tall tales as the starting off point central conceit and threw in Homer’s jealously to move the story towards it’s eventual, kind of sentimental witless ending.

Of course, like many good Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episodes, we began in a place that had very little to do with the remainder of the half hour. The water park jokes at Wet ‘N’ Wack World (formerly the John F. Kennedy Naval Museum) were right on the mark drawn out to the point of exhaustion. Homer: "Sure, they have worse rides than amusement parks and less fish than aquariums, but the parking is ample." The extended bit with Slimu (the octopus version of Shamu) was also quite successful at taking up time and boring me to tears. While the family was enjoying their water show, Abe was left alone on a shark bench until Marshall Goldman Scooby Doo Villain arrived. Goldman Villain was a reporter specializing in human-interest stories, and he was happy to listen to Abe tell one of his nonsensical, unbelievable stories. ("Someone’s listening to me! Now I know how a radio feels.")

Abe’s ramblings, of course, have been running gags for The Simpsons entire 20 years, and just like everything else they didn’t used to suck. Usually we would just get snippets of a story before Grampa Simpson fell asleep, or before whoever was with him interrupted him. These bits are generally fun, with the more successful ramblings coming from the more successful episodes of the series. One of my favorites has always been, "We had to say ‘dickety’ because the Kaiser has stolen our word ‘twenty.’" Extending the stories here could have been was a big misstep, but and the writing was sharp plodding and funny humorless. And it was also helpful also helped eat clock to have Abe’s stories (true or not) presented in flashbacks. The flashbacks added some very funny visual gags to Abe’s already chuckling inducing tales showed why some things are best alluded to rather than spelled out explicitly. The newspaper headlines during his story about the Tinsel Town Starliner stood out the most: "Curly to Shemp: You’re Out" and "Bike Wheels Now the Same Size."


Tuesdays With Morie writer Mitch Albom did a fine pointless guest spot in this episode parodying plugging his book. He showed up to try and steal Abe for his own book, but decided instead to follow Ralph Wiggum around after hearing him state, "Clouds are God’s sneezes." Goldman’s articles were received well, causing Homer to become jealous of the fact his father had never shared these stories with him for some reason. Homer’s computer-themed explanation of why he has no recollection of the countless times Grampa did share his stories was cute another way to kill time, but I prefer seeing Homer’s brain monkeys. Still, his anger led him on a funny hackneyed path. First he tried to proved to Marge that he could never be angry with himself and the resulting mirror bit was classic Jerkass Homer, bi-polar, unfunny and drawn out. Next he set out to find a surrogate father, for some other reason, which turned out to be Mr. Burns, for yet another unknown reason. This was another great nonsensical segment and included a hysterical recycled reference to another long running gag in The Simpsons. Having had enjoyed himself with Homer, for a final unstated reason, Mr. Burns chose to only release a hound.

The story was given coughed up its conflict when Homer learned that Goldman Scooby Doo Villain was going to kill Abe in an attempt to bring a touching ending to his planned book and bid for a Pulitzer Prize this mess of a plot to a conclusion. Like most great Simpsons shitty episodes, the lunacy found room for went hand in hand with schlock sentimentality as Homer saved his dad and was then given the floor to tell his very own rambling, time wasting tale. This was actually an unexpected sweet moment boring as hell as Grampa Simpson passed the torch to his son… in a truly Simpsons Zombie Simpsons fashion, long on time, short on humor. The secondary story with Bart caring for a class stuffed lamb over the weekend was effective at getting the episode to 22 minutes despite the thinness of the A-plot and had a few great parts. The best most out of character of these anyone was how much Nelson loved that little lamb: "Nelson loved a little lamb/He kept me nice and sane." Overall, the episode was a success crushingly boring, using bastardizing one of the best Simpsons running jokes to tell an engaging and even sentimental a sloppy, cliched tale.

05
Jan
10

Crazy Noises: Thursdays with Abie

Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy5

“You want me to spend more time with Dad?  What about my New Year’s resolution?” – 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 “anesthesia”).

Mitch Albom voiced himself in this episode.  He’s sort of the Cory of sports writing: bland, non-threatening, and old people like him because he’s got such a great attitude.  He is also a massive, well documented hack.  In short, he is the epitome of an entire genre of writing that is crying out to be satirized.  But did Zombie Simpsons do that?  Nope.  They fluffed him and his medium for twenty-two minutes with nary a joke at the expense of the cheap, pre-packaged emotion Albom and others like him shamelessly exploit. 

I guess it’s understandable, making hay out of formulaic, paint-by-number style writing might hit a little close to home. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Is it time to wade into this mess of an episode?

Mad Jon: Yep I suppose it is

Dave: Let’s do it

  I’m playing a bit of catch up

  5 minutes left

  Not impressed

Mad Jon: Let me sum the ending up for you…. THHHHHHBBBBBTTTT

Charlie Sweatpants: You mean you haven’t even finished it? I’d stop now.

Dave: On that sound advice… I’m clicking close

Charlie Sweatpants: Although, the only thing I thought was funny was right near the end.

Dave: What bit was that?

Charlie Sweatpants: Have you gotten to the part where Lenny and Carl are on top of the train for some reason?

Mad Jon: What on earth was funny about that?

Dave: Yep

Mad Jon: I must’ve missed something

Charlie Sweatpants: I laughed at their exchange about yoga class.

Dave: I stopped a bit after they had that conversation

  But didn’t stick around long enough to see the result of the fight

Charlie Sweatpants: And please remember that I hate Lenny and Carl’s weird relationship, and I know there was no reason for them to be on top of the train, but when Lenny said as he was being carried away "As long as it’s not a dude!". I laughed.

Mad Jon: Ahh, well, that wasn’t super terrible, but the yoga exchange was a classic Zombie attack on their friendship

  The only smile I had was at the expensive of "The Yangtze swallows all secrets."

Not the whole situation, just Burns’ line

Charlie Sweatpants: That was probably my #2. Though again, why the fuck was Homer at Burns’ house?

Mad Jon: To try and get stories from him since he couldn’t get any from Abe

Charlie Sweatpants: Similar structure: the scene sucks, it makes no sense, but there was one decent line of dialog.

Mad Jon: And it would have been way funnier if Monty just released all the hounds instead of just one. That was pretty stupid.

Charlie Sweatpants: It speaks to a larger problem with Zombie Simpsons though, doesn’t it? You get that many people in a room and sure they’ll come up with a decent joke or two. But the rest of the episode is stochastic to the extreme.

Dave: Why does Homer chase after the train in a Segway?

Mad Jon: For the same reason they made jokes about the housing crisis, the fall of newspapers, etc… Because they think current pop culture has a place on the Simpsons.

Charlie Sweatpants: But again it was reference not satire.

Mad Jon: That wasn’t actually Mitch Albom’s voice was it? I fucking hate that plagiaristic chicken head.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, it was him: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1572119/

Mad Jon: I don’t care that he got caught reusing other people’s works, I just hate everything he has and will ever stand for.

  Jesus, why would he want to do that? It wasn’t funny and it pointed out how much of a douche bag he is.

  God I hate Mitch Albom

Charlie Sweatpants: But that’s exactly why he would do it.

Mad Jon: I hate everything he is. When his voice comes on the car radio it makes be want to turn into oncoming traffic.

Dave: Don’t do that, FYI.

Charlie Sweatpants: The bite went out of Zombie Simpsons a long time ago. Proof: Mitch Albom, as ripe a target for devastating satire as has ever walked the earth, felt safe enough to come on the show.

Mad Jon: I hate him even more than I hate Reilly.

Sorry. That had to happen

Charlie Sweatpants: No worries.

All I’m saying is that Albom is one of the most eminently mockable people on Earth, and he works in an industry – sports schlock – that is just as bad. But there was no attempt to make fun of him, or satirize the crap he peddles.

One of the best things Ortved wrote in his book, and I don’t remember exactly where it is, was when he pointed out that the show has become such a part of mainstream culture that no one finds it threatening any more.

Mad Jon: Good point.

Charlie Sweatpants: He cited that episode where they basically did a commercial for Kiefer Sutherland’s meal ticket (24).

Dave: No Charlie, that was synergy

  Didn’t you get the memo?

Mad Jon: Oh yea, I remember that one.

Charlie Sweatpants: I set my gmail to "Memo-block".

Mad Jon: Funny story, I watched Thursday’s with Abie on Hulu, and the commercials were for an ABC show.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s all one big circle jerk.

Mad Jon: Fair enough.

Was there anything even close to resembling entertainment in the other plot?

Dave: Slimu was hilarious

Charlie Sweatpants: Dave, tell me you’re kidding. Do they make an emoticon for sarcasm?

Dave: They don’t, which is why my online attempts at it seem to regularly fail.

Mad Jon: Was I supposed to get something out of the lamb deal?

Charlie Sweatpants: The stuffed animal thing, I don’t even know where to begin.

Mad Jon: Nelson gets worse every episode. If I see that kid have one more psycho nervous breakdown I’m gonna have one of my own.

Dave: Nelson’s on his way to becoming an ineffable nutjob for some reason

Charlie Sweatpants: Nelson, like Moe, Barney and many of the other basically unlikeable characters went to shit a long, long time ago.

Mad Jon: I know, but I choose to still complain about it.

Charlie Sweatpants: More power to you.

Nelson in this episode is basically acting the way he is because the writers were flipping through "Plot Motivations for Dummies" and found that Bart needed a reason to care about the stuffed lamb.

  That it made no sense for Nelson to care about it didn’t register.

Mad Jon: I guess I understand.

  As far as insanity can be understood by the sane.

Charlie Sweatpants: Insanity would be preferable, this was just lazy. Say what you want about the certifiable, but they tend to be motivated. At this point Zombie Simpson scripts read like Mad Libs.

Dave: That’s pretty fair, I’d say

Charlie Sweatpants: Homer is worried over a (Noun), meanwhile Bart tries to (Verb) a way for his (Adjective) (Noun).

Mad Jon: I must have missed it but, was there a reason for Homer getting jealous over Grandpa telling the writer stories? I understand it was a convenient plot point, but what was his motivation?

Charlie Sweatpants: Convenience?

Mad Jon: Well then

I just figured they may have given a half-assed reason for it, that’s all.

Charlie Sweatpants: Remember what Dave said about the emoticon for sarcasm? Well I couldn’t find it either. I have no idea what his "motivation" was, but neither does anyone else.

It kinda fits in with Jerkass Homer, jealousy over not being the center of attention would be one of his character traits if he had any.

Dave: Would motivation have made a difference? Probably not. There’s no grounding to the characters anymore, primary or background.

Mad Jon: I guess I understand….

Charlie Sweatpants: Not true, they’re grounded in the need to fill up 22 minutes of screen time.

Dave: Touché

Mad Jon: Damn it. There isn’t an emoticon for quoting Cartman either. Which in itself would have been an emoticon for sarcasm before beating a boy an inch from his life.

Charlie Sweatpants: While I’m on the subject of filling screen time, did Homer’s various freakouts seem unusually drawn out?

The thing in the mirror took forever and a day.

Mad Jon: It sure did.

Dave: Everyone seemed to be a little, um, more emotional this time around

Mad Jon: Kinda of like a temper tantrum wasn’t it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I always thought temper tantrums had a purpose (e.g. I want that, no I won’t go to Grandma’s house), this just kinda flailed around out of pique. I cite the stuff in the sewer.

Mad Jon: Like an autistic temper tantrum?

Charlie Sweatpants: You lost me there.

Mad Jon: Meh, failed joke. Hey, I should write for The Simpsons!

Charlie Sweatpants: Please, The Simpsons went off the air ten years ago.

Mad Jon: Don’t I know it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Dave, since you just finished watching this turd, any immediate reactions?

Dave: I didn’t finish, remember?

Charlie Sweatpants: Can you describe the foul taste in the back of your throat?

Mad Jon: Salty isn’t it.

Dave: It tastes like burning.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, I figured you still had it on.

Dave: No I actually stopped. I had two experts telling me not to finish.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay then – spoiler alert – everything works out fine and all the "action" and "suspense" sequences were just filler.

Mad Jon: No, that’s a lie. The last thing that happens is that Homer goes on is very first ‘old guy’ rant.

Dave: You should see the look of surprise on my face.

  He does what now?

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh fuck, I forgot about that.

Mad Jon: No, you’re brain blocked the pain out. Just like when you have surgery without anesthesia.

Charlie Sweatpants: Basically, out of gratitude for Homer saving him from the "Scooby Doo"-esque "villain", Grandpa invited Homer to ramble. Godzilla was involved but it had none of the wit and sparkle of one of Grandpa’s rants.

Mad Jon: I vomited in my mouth a bit

Charlie Sweatpants: Also, it went on for about thirty seconds.

Dave: I dodged a bullet then

Charlie Sweatpants: You did.

  Anything else?

Mad Jon: No, I’m all out of vomit.

Dave: Dig deep friend, there might be a tiny bit left.

04
Jan
10

Marketing Campaign Effective Despite Awful Content

Chalkboard - Thursdays with Abie

“I just ripped the head off Mr. Honeybunny.” – Bart Simpson

The numbers are in and Zombie Simpsons pulled a disappointingly decent one.  Last night’s affront to the comedy gods was watched by 8.65 million people.  That makes it the fourth highest rated episode all year and raises the average for Season 21 to 8.23 million.  It throttled The Cleveland Show (6.96 million) and even beat Family Guy (8.10 million).  I’d say all the 20th anniversary propaganda is having its intended effect. 

Next week we’ll probably see an even bigger number with the Spurlock special and all the attendant anniversary hoopla.  It’s also the 450th episode, which strikes me as an absurdly unSimpsons thing to celebrate.  This is the show that once all but ignored its own 100th episode, but now every time they mark another fifty (which is only a little more than two seasons) they throw a party

03
Jan
10

Zombie Simpsons Follows the Formula

Let’s do the checklist:

  • An opening that’s completely unrelated to everything and eats clock with things that have nothing to do with each other or the rest of the episode (the two most time consuming being the octopus and Marge looking at intentionally boring photos on her digital camera). 
  • Homer flipping out repeatedly (and crying).
  • Other characters flipping out and acting crazy in a humor free B-plot (Bart, Lisa and Nelson).
  • Celebrity guest as himself in a way that has nothing to do with anything else.
  • A recycled idea (Homer tries to write for newspaper).
  • Lunatic plot twist that allows for plenty of “action” and “suspense”.
  • Employs cliché that the show used to make fun of (eyes shifting back and forth on villain).

Yeah, that’ll do for right now.  What a clusterfuck.  Plus this one gets bonus fecal points for having two action sequences going at the same time.  The last day of the football season might give this one a stronger than usual ratings lead in, but let’s hope not.  It’d be nice to get a low number before next week’s great promotional circle jerk. 




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