Posts Tagged ‘You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee

03
Apr
14

Compare & Contrast: Homer the Incorruptible

Last Exit to Springfield14

"We don’t have to be adversaries, Homer.  We both want a fair union contract." – C.M. Burns
"Why is Mr. Burns being so nice to me?" – Homer’s Brain
"And if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours." – C.M. Burns
"Wait a minute, is he coming on to me?" – Homer’s Brain
"I mean, if I should slip something into your pocket, what’s the harm?" – C.M. Burns
"My God, he is coming on to me." – Homer’s Brain
"After all, negotiations make  strange bedfellows." – C.M. Burns

For a simple and common act, bribery requires a surprising amount of finesse.  Whether the initiating party is asking for the bribe or offering it, when it comes to the exchange of money for dishonesty the presentation is always the tricky part.  You have to let the other person know that you’re willing to break the rules, but only in a way that both of you can later deny if necessary.  It’s a delicate thing, and the last person you’d ever want to see on the other side of it is Homer Simpson.

That frustrating situation confronts nuclear plant owner Monty Burns in Season 4’s "Last Exit to Springfield" as well as the nameless, central casting gangster in "You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee".  Both are trying to get Homer to roll over for cash, but the Homers they have to bribe are as different as they are.

There are four parties in these two attempted transactions.  In the first we have Burns and regular Homer; and in the second we have Gangster Guy and Zombie Homer.  Before we get to the actual bribery, however, let’s take a quick look at each one of them and why they’re doing what they’re doing:

  • The Burns of Season 4 is the very definition of ruthless.  Not only does he hate his employees, he’s willing to go to the mattresses over their dental plan out of nostalgic spite.  The money is important to him, but not as much as the principle of being able to wall one of them up whenever the urge hits him.  For Burns, bribing the head of the union to betray his fellows is just expediency, and when things don’t go well right away, he goes to hired goons out of habit.
  • The Homer of Season 4 is a working schlub everyman who doesn’t want to have to pay for his daughter’s braces.  In that sense, his motivation going into the negotiations is a lot like Burns’.  The difference is that Homer isn’t acting out of malevolence, he’s reacting to the evil of Burns and just trying to get back something he already had.
  • Gangster Guy has no background, he’s just a gangster.  Why does he want to fix the World Cup?  Because he’s a gangster.  Haven’t you ever seen any of their movies?
  • Zombie Homer is who he pretty much always is: a weirdly invincible superman.  Fly to Brazil to be (apparently) the only referee at the World Cup?  Sure!  Get bribed and threatened  by gangsters?  He’s cool, doesn’t perturb him a bit.  Fall completely to pieces because an eight-year-old called him her hero but didn’t do it in quite the right way?  Also sure.  He has no human center, so incomprehensibly random reactions are the norm.

Down in Brazil, our prop store gangster tries to bribe that fickle lunatic because that’s why prop store gangsters do, and Homer refuses because he’s been perfectly incorruptible for three whole minutes, so it’s now basically his only trait.  There’s no depth to what either of them is doing, which means that the only kind of humor they can go for is repetitive silliness.  They offer him money in outlandish ways, he refuses, and that’s it.  They do it so many times that they have an entire montage of nothing but.  Anyone is free to think that’s funny, of course, but there’s no denying that it’s simplistic and one-dimensional.

Bribery Montage

Over and over and over and over . . .

Compare that to Burns’ repeated attempts to bribe Homer.  Things start out with with the two of them meeting in Burns’ office and Homer completely misunderstanding Burns’ innuendo:

Last Exit to Springfield13

Sure, he’s flattered, maybe even a little curious, but he doesn’t go in for those back door shenanigans.

From there, Homer’s guileless stupidity continues to be misunderstood by Burns as an iron willed resolve and negotiating brilliance.  Homer’s too dumb to be intimidated by hired goons.  The he has to pee too bad to listen to Burns’ offer.  Finally, he inadvertently triggers a strike while trying to resign.  It’s as far as you can get from one serially repeated joke because each of them brings more than just one thing to the table.

There’s an almost ye olde Vaudeville aspect to them, with Burns playing the straight man who just cannot get anything through the thick skull of the yutz who won’t take his money.  Since this is The Simpsons, the straight man is wildly evil and his frustrations quickly rise to trying to destroy the town instead of just demanding to know who’s on first, but the basic comedy of misunderstanding allows the show to employ all manner of topics and tricks.

What gives everything that extra twist is the fact that, right before the first commercial break, the show lets us know that Homer, in fact, would love to be bribed:

“Hey, what does this job pay?” – Homer Simpson
“Nothing.” – Carl
“D’oh!” – Homer Simpson
“Unless you’re crooked!” – Carl
“Woo-hoo!” – Homer Simpson

If Burns had just offered to pay for Lisa’s braces, Homer would have eagerly accepted and the dental plan would be no more.  But that was never going to happen because the two of them are far too different to ever be able to communicate.  Burns, hater of unions, thinks Homer is as conniving and cutthroat as he is.  Homer just really doesn’t want to be there.

What plays out between them is far too rich to ever be shown as a one note montage or a repeated series of offers and exposition.  Between who they are, what they’re trying to do, and their actions and reactions (often inadvertent) towards one another, playing some music and showing a bunch of people handing Homer cash simply wouldn’t work.  Something that thin would be overwhelmed by story, jokes and the like.  In Zombie Simpsons, however, it’s more than enough.

31
Mar
14

Behind Us Forever: You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee

Chalkboard - You Don't Have to Live Like a Referee

“I guess some people never change.  Or, they quickly change, and then quickly change back.” – Homer Simpson

Zombie Simpsons has enough systemic and repetitive problems that I would never try to identify one that really breaks it, but the way that none of the characters ever act like themselves is especially annoying.  Gaping plot holes, weak and joke free dialogue, lazy product parodies, characters appearing out of nowhere, these are all problems.  But when they take characters we all know and love and have them act like versions of themselves that have suffered personality altering brain injuries it really drives home just how different this show is from The Simpsons.

Just in this episode we see Skinner completely unable to run a school assembly, Marge be rude to strangers, Lisa easily fall to pieces, and Homer be athletic, overly sensitive, strangely smart, and competent.  I’m not sure who these people are supposed to be anymore.  Each and every one of them can act wildly differently depending on what specific scene they’re in, which means that almost no matter what they do it’s too random to be funny or interesting.  Security camera footage has better character consistency and development.

– Regular old, time killing Zombie Simpsons couch gag.  Feh.  Can we dig up Charles Schulz and have him do one?

– It’s not a big deal or anything, but real Skinner would never have put up with the kids shouting things from the stands while he’s talking.

– I was bored with the Lincoln-Douglas scene.  Then there was a mechanical backboard arm that looks like it should be in Futurama, and now I really just want it to end.

– Ooh, a joke about Subway Jared.  Timely.

– Watching incompetent Skinner flail about is really painful.  Not as bad as happy, incompetent Burns, but very bad.

– A Jerkass Homer montage, that’s what this episode really needed.

– So the contest wrapped itself up just as stupidly as it began with there being a tie.  I’m sure glad we spent a bunch of time on getting it set up.

– FIFA isn’t exactly hard to mock, but Zombie Simpsons managed to botch it with its usual methods of expository jokes and senseless scenes.  Well done.

– This scene in the airplane with the Marge’s tablet has it all: takes too long, joke free, and makes no sense.

– Ugh, if they’re going to repeat the joke from “Marge vs. The Monorail” where the whole town is empty and Snake robs it with Luxembourg, they could have at least made a Luxembourg-ish Snake.  Now it’s not just a direct repeat, it’s a nonsensical direct repeat.

– Homer has wandered out of a restaurant because the plot was getting bored with itself.

– The gangsters talking about just having “two very good ways” with money and guns was almost funny.

– Onto our second montage nice and quick.

– “Dad, is it hard for you to turn these bribes down?” – Thanks, exposition Bart.

– If they did these scenes where they try to be ironically detached about how cheap their plot turns are once or twice per season, that’d be one thing.  But they do this every damned week.  Bart and Homer might as well be looking directly at the camera to explain what’s going on.

– “Where are you going?”, Homer then describes exactly what he’s gonna do.

– Hey, here’s Lisa, whom we haven’t seen for the last ten minutes or so, to help wrap things up.

– And now we’re treated to a minute of them telling us exactly how they feel.

– Here’s Marge to protect Homer from the gangsters.  Where did she come from?  Did she know what was going on?  It’s best not to ask.

– And now that guy’s mother is there.  Plot conflict resolved!

– Despite all the drawn out scenes, they still came in way, way short, so we got treated to the family taking a random trip down the Amazon to see Krusty.  Yeesh.

Anyway, the ratings are in and they are just as bad this week as they’ve been since they came back with that double episode at the beginning of March.  Last night just 3.94 million viewers wished they were watching a 0-0 tie between Mexico and Portugal.  That’s almost identical to last week’s 3.93 and is good for fifth place on the all time least watched list.

This week’s historically terrible number has also pushed Season 25’s average total viewership to a mere 5.45 million viewers, which puts it just below Season 24’s 5.47 average.  I don’t feel like looking it up or anything, but my strong suspicion is that this is the earliest (just 16 episodes in) that any season has claimed that title.  Barring a miracle, Season 25 will continue the Zombie Simpson tradition of being the least watched season ever.  The only real question now is how low it will sink.  I doubt it’ll go below 5 million, but they are really hitting bottom this spring, so anything is possible.

30
Mar
14

Sunday Preview: You Don’t Have To Live Like A Referee

You_Don't_Have_to_Live_Like_a_Referee_promo_4

Homer gets recruited as a FIFA World Cup referee after Lisa praises youth soccer field in a Springfield Elementary speech contest. The Simpson family goes to Brazil where Homer’s honesty gets put to the test by one of the slickest South American gangsters in the soccer match-bribing business

I have often wondered what would happen if you took a nuclear safety inspector and had him referee world class soccer matches. Good thing these writers are always one step ahead of me.




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