Archive for October, 2009


Hitting the Wall

Interrupted only by the occasional group of neighborhood kids looking for free candy I’ve been plowing through the Halloween episodes this evening.  I started at “Treehouse of Horror I” and just kept going.  They’re a very accurate microcosm of the show at large in that they get a little bit weaker, but still outstanding in general, around Season 7 or 8 and go downhill from there.  By Season 9 (where Homer’s the last man alive, Bart turns into a giant fly, and they do the story of the witches) things are undeniably different for the worse, and beyond that they’re more Zombie than Simpsons. 

None of this is exactly news.  But even after all these years I continue to be struck by just how quickly things went to hell.  There you are in Season 8 laughing your ass off with “The Genesis Tub” and “Citizen Kang” and just two years later – barely the blink of an eye in the long history of the show – and you’re looking around for something else to do during the drawn out action sequences in “Hell Toupee”.  That one’s got some good lines, but you’ve got to pick them out between all the meandering exposition and “action”.  The endings get less clever, the parodies get thinner and just like that you’re on your way to that awful fake musical they broadcast two weeks ago.

Like I said, this isn’t news, hell, it’s the entire premise of this blog.  But having it happen right before your eyes in just an hour or so is always jarring. 


Season 20 Releasing on January 12th

Per Season 20 won’t be here in time for Xmas.  Instead, in what is sure to be a promotional shit storm that you won’t be able to escape, they’re releasing it two days before the big 20th anniversary special on January 14th.  Which I just noticed is a Thursday, so steel yourselves for that cloyingly enthusiastic FOX announcer to say something like “Get ready for The Simpsons triumphant return to Thursday!”

FOX is also putting the squeeze on Zombie Simpson fanboys to buy this things the day it comes out.  From the

In the past, season set DVD releases of The Simpsons are always chock-full of bonus material, including commentaries and featurettes and other items, including hidden gems.  However, this time the only extra supplement that Fox is mentioning – at least so far – is the Featurette "The 20th Anniversary Special Sneak Peek by Morgan Spurlock".

They’re putting a “Sneak Peek” of Spurlock’s special on a home video package that comes out two days before the special is broadcast.  Presumably the actual special will either be part of the Season 21 release or else be given its own stand alone package. 


Quote of the Day


“Mmmm, forbidden donut.” – Homer Simpson

Happy Halloween, everybody!


Reading Digest – Title Change Edition

Mr Lisa Goes to Washington2 “Hey Einstein, put down your reading, it’s lunch time!” – Lenny

Much like Sideshow Bob didn’t like that “bowel” thing, I’ve grown tired of this “dump” thing.  In line with our general policy to name everything after something from The Simpsons the Friday Link Dump will be henceforth be known as Reading Digest, where we take all the Simpsons content on the internet, filter out the crap, and leave you with something that fits right in your front pocket.  Today we’ve got math, some decent usage, a t-shirt I would totally buy if it existed, a non-stupid tidbit on Marge in Playboy, and a couple of people besides us and Harvey Fierstein who dislike Zombie Simpsons. 


Top 50 Cartoon Characters – What’s that, a pointless list designed to generate page views?  I’m shocked.  Homer checks in at #2, Bart is #4.  That is all.  (via Decent Community)

Chicago Bears as Simpsons Characters – Players and staff from the Bears matched up with Simpsons characters and created by a frustrated Bears fan.  Mildly amusing. 

P vs. NP – This is close to the upper bound of what I can understand in terms of math, but it’s interesting, clearly written and cites a Halloween Simpsons. 

Dead Simpsons Characters – A list of seven Simpsons characters who’ve died.  I had no idea they brought back Homer’s mom a couple of times; I was happier not knowing.  (via Norwegianity)

Krusty the Clown is God – I don’t think I can explain the background to this one, you’ll have to click the link.  Supposedly this is a letter Groening sent to a guy who had found some blasphemous knockoff Simpsons merchandise in 1990.  It doesn’t look fake, but even if it is it’s still amusing. 

Springfield Still Life – Speaking of bootleg Simpsons merchandise, this is one of the cleverest Simpsons t-shirt designs I’ve seen in years, too bad it doesn’t seem to exist (yet).  (via Twitter)

A week’s worth of beaches – This is a series of pictures at a beach in Scotland, scroll all the way down for a beach hut with Bart Simpson on it. 

Darine Stern: First Black Woman to Grace Playboy Cover in 1971 – This is exactly what I’m talking about when I complain about the explosion of “Marge in Playboy” crap.  It turns out Marge’s cover image was based off Darine Stern’s, the first black woman to be the cover girl, in October of 1971.  I’m glad I caught this because it’s mildly interesting, but it almost got lost amidst the deluge of “Hurr, Marge Playboy, chuckle chuckle [crappy Simpsons reference]”.  (via Prison Photography).

The Patriot Act: Looking back to 2001 – This is a point/counterpoint type debate about the execrable Patriot Act.  DHS gives the win to Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute for using Lisa’s tiger repellant rock as an illustration.

Susan J. Demas: Bishop-Granholm mutual assured destruction for schools – Decent usage. 

Seven Jokes That Came TrueThe Simpsons and The Critic with video?  Oh yeah, this gets linked. 

Family Guy Meets The Simpsons – This is a fan drawing of Marge leading Lois Griffin around in BDSM gear.  You read all that correctly. 

Sheldon Williams has been hitting the nerve tonic – Does Boston Celtics big man Shelden Williams look like Ken Griffey Jr. after his overdose of Brain & Nerve Tonic?  At least two people on the internet think so. 

Cartoon cronies: ‘Simpsons’ creator and pal coming to Chicago – Groening will be at the Chicago Humanities Festival on November 5th.

Things I Hate: The Simpsons – This would more accurately be titled “Things I Hate: Zombie Simpsons”. 

Fighting H1N1 with Spider-Pig – This is a sign that uses the Simpsons to tell people to chill out about swine flu already, and it was apparently made by The American University in Cairo Office of Student Development.  Neat.

Where Has The Simpsons Gone Wrong? – And finally I get to end the way I like, with another person who thinks Zombie Simpsons is shit.  There’s a lot of Zombie Simpsons hatred at that link, but this is my favorite part:

2: Try to pander to viewers – With the likes of Family Guy, American Dad & Southpark providing animated humour for adults, the Simpsons has had to change to try and keep up, except that without an adult twist, its unrepentant wackiness (Tomacco anyone?) has made it look like a middle age man trying to prove how cool he is (or once was).

Maybe we should call it Grandpa Simpsons instead of Zombie Simpsons?


Quote of the Day

“This is all the Simpsons’ fault.” – Woman

“Before I was just bored with their antics and their merchandise, now I wish they were dead.” – Man


Harvey Fierstein – Springfield Hero

Karl Book promotion seems to involve taking excepts from the book and repackaging them into headlines as a way to interest people in purchasing the thing.  In that vein I wanted to highlight one of my absolute favorite parts of Ortved’s book.  (Which you should think about buying, or at least getting from your local library where you can “borrow” books for free.)

Harvey Fierstein has solid Simpsons credentials.  He was the voice of Karl in Season 2’s “Simpson and Delilah” and Patty and Selma were stunned to learn that he was gay in Season 6’s “A Star Is Burns”.  Harvey Fierstein also thinks Zombie Simpsons is shit.  Well, he doesn’t say that in quite so many words, but he did say this to Ortved:

“Years later they contacted me when they wanted Carl to return.  But I didn’t really like their approach.  It had nothing to do with my character.  Homer and Marge have a fight, and she throws him out and he has no place to stay, and he runs into Carl, who sets him up with a pair of gay men.  All they needed me for was to introduce him to these gay guys.  But the script was basically just a lot of very clever gay jokes, and there wasn’t that Simpsons twist.  Jim Brooks and Matt Groening and those writers have always added that extra something beneath the surface, and it just wasn’t there.  Basically, Homer just had a lot of fun hanging out with gay men, and drinking in bars, and dancing at discos, and all that, and there was nothing – there was no commentary there.  Every restaurant had a silly gay name.  They gym had a silly gay name.  They were all double entendres, obviously.  And I said, “Anybody could do this.  You’re the fucking Simpsons.  Do something we have never seen before.”

And let me say that it was very flattering that they asked me to do it.  Jim Brooks said, “You know, you’re the very first voice we ever asked to come back and do it again.”  I was surprised.  I asked, “Why do they need me to introduce them to this gay couple?  Why wouldn’t he move in with Carl and his partner?”  Then I started thinking, Maybe [sic] they just wanted my stamp of approval on it because it was just a bunch of clichés.”

There’s more in the book, but the point is that Harvey Fierstein refused to be on Zombie Simpsons because it sucks.  Harvey Fierstein, you are my new hero.

[Edited to fix transcription errors on my part.]


Spurlock Update: Celebrity Checklist

Even by our low standards there isn’t much point in posting things from Spurlock’s Twitter feed, but I’m going to do it anyway:

had another Simptastic day – spoke to Mike Reiss, Hank Azaria and Fat Tony himself, Joe Montagnea – tomorrow: Hef at the mansion. Crazy.

Other than misspelling Mantegna’s last name there isn’t much of note here.  Reiss was there for all the good stuff and has been back lately to no real effect.  Azaria is, well, Azaria.  Mantegna is fucking awesome and Hefner guest voiced back in the before time, in the long long ago.  Will the Hefner interview center more on the worthless publicity stunt of “Marge in Playboy” or on his awesome guest appearance with scientist Playmates and his failure at the love tester machine? 


Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror II1

“I’ll make a wish that can’t backfire.  I wish for a turkey sandwich, on rye bread, with lettuce and mustard and-and I don’t want any zombie turkeys, I don’t want to turn into a turkey myself, and I don’t want any other weird surprises.  You got it? . . . Hey!  Hmmm, mmm, not bad, nice hot mustard, good bread, the turkey’s a little dry . . . the turkey’s a little dry!  Oh foul accursed thing!  What demon from the depths of hell created thee?” – Homer Simpson

Happy birthday Dan Castellaneta!


“Trilogy of Error” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Mother Simpson2

“Hey Mom, look at me, look at what I can do!” – Homer Simpson
“I see you Homer, that’s very nice.” – Grandma Simpson

Season 12 was nothing if not a pageant of the trans-mundane and this episode fits right into its dull kaleidoscope.  In case you’ve forgotten, this is the episode where they tell three weird stories that are happening concurrently and link them together in various ways.  Listening to the commentary it’s very clear that the people behind the scenes were quite impressed with how well all the disparate little events tied together, and they’re right about that.  Stringing together all of this stuff into a twenty-two minute show, and having it mostly make sense (from a strictly could-this-all-have-happened-in-this-sequence point of view) is a triumph of skill.  What they ignore is that this is akin to bringing an intricately designed monster truck to a regatta.

I can appreciate the effort and skill that went into melding all these things together, but that’s not what The Simpsons is supposed to be about.  These kinds of gimmicks would make for arresting television if they were used in an episode of The Sopranos or Battlestar Galactica, or some other show where dramatic tension was useful.  Here they just waste your time.

Ten guys on this one, including Al Jean and Matt Groening.

1:30 – Talking about cribbing the plot structure from the movie Go.

2:30 – This could’ve been worse, the original Lisa plot had her getting on the short bus with a bunch of disabled kids whose disabilities were actually super powers.

4:00 – “It’s a pretty crazy first act, and you don’t know that there’s a huge, dramatic conceit to the show.  And the viewer must be like ‘Wow, this is a crazy stream of really nutty things happening at a really fast pace.  Is this a regular episode?’ I hope they’re saying, I’ll find out after the commercial.”  Let’s review this statement:

– “huge, dramatic conceit” – Taken individually none of these three words describe good Simpsons, combine them and it’s even worse.

– “crazy stream of really nutty things happening at a really fast pace” – They lost most of the audience at ‘crazy stream’, but ‘nutty things’ and ‘really fast pace’ don’t help.

– “find out after the commercial” – because if there’s one thing great Simpsons was known for, it was its cliffhangers.

4:35 – It gets worse.  They’re still discussing just how neat and peachy keen this plot structure is and then, “We went back and forth a lot on how much, at the beginning of each act, when you’re restarting the story, how many of the same jokes do you show again and again, they’re not going to be funny the second time, but they’ll say, ‘Hey viewer, loot at this, something’s up, you’re seeing this again!’”  I understand that it can’t have been easy to come up with a plot structure like this, at the same time, why would you do this?  This is the very definition of a gimmick.  Also, jokes on The Simpsons are funny the second time, and the third time, and the hundredth time, these can’t pass muster once.

5:45 – Still discussing how cool this plot is while more or less ignoring the fact that it’s mostly action and almost completely joke free.

6:50 – “It’s hard to make shows that are almost all plot funny.” I did not make that up.

7:30 – They’re really impressed with how gross the severed thumb looks.

7:45 – Robot head flies through sky: “This has to be surprising for the viewer at this point.” No, we’ve learned to just go limp through shit like this.

8:15 – These guys just laughed heartily at Marge yelling “Breakfast!”  I have no idea why.

10:00 – Patting themselves on the back, yet again, for how interconnected the plots are.

11:45 – Cross promotion with the kid from Malcolm in the Middle.

13:00 – Discussing the merits of Go versus Run, Lola Run, versus this.  Really, that’s all they seem to care about.

15:00 – Discussing how there aren’t any major continuity gaffs here and that “the internet” really loves this one.

16:30 – Devolving into silence as the Bart plot meanders around.

18:40 – Laughing at the stupidity of Bart’s wire.

20:30 – Long silence as whatever it is that’s the solution to this unfolds.

21:30 – Talking about how Mantegna is such a loyal voice over guy, he always wants to do the voice.  Sigh.  I wish Mantegna was here.

22:10 – They’re literally applauding themselves as the credits roll.  


Quote of the Day


“Homer, I’m impressed. You’re taking this quite well.” – Marge Simpson
“I’ll kill you! I’ll kill all of you!” – Homer Simpson


Ricky Gervais Tries to Praise Zombie Simpsons, Unintentionally Contradicts Himself

This interview with Ricky Gervais is exactly the kind of incestuous entertainment industry fellatio that has helped allow Zombie Simpsons to stagger forward year after year.  Here’s the opening paragraph, in which he employs perhaps the most cliched defense possible for why Zombie Simpsons should still be on the air:

The Simpsons is quite simply one of the best TV shows of all time. When people nitpick and say, "That wasn’t a very good season", I want to go, "No, it wasn’t the best season. But it was still the best thing on TV that year".

Ah, the old “it’s still better than other TV” excuse, that one will be with us forever.  Even if we’re willing to grant that Zombie Simpsons was one of the best shows on television last year (and quite frankly I don’t think there are a lot of people left who would say that), so what?  Television is almost entirely shitty, being the best piece of shit isn’t exactly cause for celebration. 

But wait, it gets better.  Right after saying that, Gervais goes on to discuss how great The Simpsons is by talking extensively about “And Maggie Makes Three” (Season 6) and “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” (Season 5).  That’s it.  He sings the praises of Zombie Simpsons and then immediately undermines his own statement by citing not one but two episodes from the before time and not mentioning anything from the last fifteen seasons

Obviously Gervais is speaking extemporaneously here, it’s not like this is something on which he spent a lot of time or thought.  But it’s still very telling that when he chose examples of why the show is great he reached back to the olden days.


Quote of the Day


“There were monsters on that ship, and truly we were them.” – Lisa Simpson
“Lisa, see what we mean when we say you’re too smart for your own good?” – Marge Simpson


DHS Book Review: The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

Ortved Book Cover “Marge, I’m bored.” – Homer Simpson
“Why don’t you read something?” – Marge Simpson
“Because I’m trying to reduce my boredom.” – Homer Simpson

In countless discussions with other Simpsons fans over the years the one question that always seems to come up is “Why?”, as in “Why did the show get so bad?” I’ve heard a lot of different theories which always seem to boil down to something overly simple, ‘this guy left’, ‘that guy took over as show runner’, ‘they just ran out of topics/ideas’. The reality, as John Ortved documents exhaustively in his new book “The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History”, is that it is a question without a straight line answer. No one decision ever set the show irrevocably on a course for mediocrity. Nor was there one incident or feud that destroyed whatever it was that made The Simpsons unique. It was a wild and chaotic ride from the start and the real miracle isn’t that the show has lasted for two decades; it’s that it was as good as it was for as long as it was.

Ortved calls his book an “oral history” and that’s as good a description as any. He’s done an enormous amount of interviews with people who were instrumental to the show, from writers to animators to people who knew James L. Brooks and Matt Groening way back when. For the folks he couldn’t interview, Groening and Brooks included, he combed through old interviews they had given to other media outlets and quotes them within the context of what he’s asking. This tactic, while understandable and effective, creates some odd juxtapositions. It doesn’t quite flow to have a quote from Groening (or someone else who wouldn’t grant an interview) that was uttered when the show as in its infancy right next to something someone may have said in 2007 or later. I don’t see any way this could have been avoided, but it does make for strange reading from time to time.

The interviews Ortved has conducted are absolute gold though, and they make up the bulk of the book. Here are the first hand accounts of how the animation process was begun, how the people who worked on The Tracey Ullman Show thought the Simpsons stacked up against the other bits, how the writing staff viewed what they were doing. It’s a treasure trove of information, gossip and hilarious war stories.

Ortved has divided his book into eighteen chapters, but it breaks relatively cleanly into three main sections. The first and, for me at least, the most informative is about the deep background of the show. This includes sections on Groening’s “Life in Hell” comic strip, the chaotic beginnings of the FOX network and the pre-Simpsons history of James Brooks’ Gracie Films. The ramshackle and frightfully coincidental nature of the earliest Simpsons work is on full display and it really makes one appreciate just how lucky we really are to have ever gotten The Simpsons in the form we did. The number and variety of unrelated elements that all had to fall into exquisite place and click together is astonishing.

The second part of the book is by far the funniest for the simple reason that it recounts what Ortved refers to as the “golden age” of the show (by his count roughly Seasons 2-8). It should come as a surprise to no one that for that much brilliant, insane and funny stuff to show up on your teevee a great deal of brilliant, insane and funny stuff had to happen behind the scenes. The highlights of this part, and really of the whole book, are the chapter about Conan O’Brian and the chapter about George Meyer and John Swartzwelder. There are multiple stories contained in those chapters, and a few in the ones around them, that are so funny I had to put the book down for a moment to get a hold of myself.

But, like the golden age of the show itself, the good times can’t last and sure enough the story becomes considerably less enjoyable, though no less informative, as it begins to wind to a close. Ortved dutifully recounts contract negotiations with Fox, gives a run down of various guest stars that have appeared on the show and takes a look at the show’s place in history. These chapters aren’t bad reading, they’re full of interesting stories and Ortved keeps things moving briskly, but they’re a definite come down from the highs in the middle of the book.

This part is also about as close as we’re ever going to get to answering the question of “Why?” and the short answer is that things change. More and more of the old hands burned out or left for other pastures, some on good terms some less so. What the stories make clear, especially when you read them all together like this, is that it never could’ve lasted. Even if there’d never been a disagreement over money, even if tempers had never run high in the writers’ room, even if everyone from Season 2-6 had stayed indefinitely, it still would’ve gone downhill. Creating it in the first place was a borderline miracle, sustaining it forever was never possible.

The book does have two real flaws, and while both of them are minor they need to be brought up. The first is that it does whiff occasionally on basic Simpsons info, the most glaring of which is the misspelling of Mr. Smithers first name, which is “Waylon” not “Wayland” as it appears repeatedly in the text. But there are also times when the book misidentifies in which season an episode occurred and other small missteps. These things aren’t important, but if you’re a serious Simpsons fan (and I’m not sure who else would be reading this book) encountering one does knock you out of the narrative a little.

The second problem, and though it only occurs a few times it is much more distracting, is when Ortved strays from The Simpsons to try and discuss some of its successors. There are long discourses on The Critic, Futurama, Family Guy, and even South Park that read like the kind of third rate television criticism you’d see in TV Guide or Newsweek. When Ortved writes similar tracts about whatever aspect of The Simpsons he’s discussing they tend to be about very specific topics and involve a lot of quotes from the people who were there. These, on the other hand, are mostly just him opining on each show’s relative merits.

But those parts are brief and shouldn’t detract from what has been done here, which is to tell the tale of The Simpsons about as well as it can probably be told. As Ortved notes at the beginning, there’s no way to ever know the “true” tale of how the show came to be. Everyone remembers things a little differently and it’s not like anyone was taking minutes in the writers’ room. But this is the next best thing.

What it is, as I said a few weeks ago, is a book that’s mostly awesome. The amount of detail is astonishing and while none of the big names come out smelling like roses the simple fact is that everyone involved did at least something right because The Simpsons was much greater than the sum of its parts. No one is going to revoke your Simpsons fandom if don’t read this book, but it’s a hell of a lot more entertaining than Zombie Simpsons. In fact, if you’re planning on buying the upcoming Season 20 set, or if you know someone who is, save some cash and buy this book instead. As of this writing Ortved’s book on Amazon is barely half the price of Season 20 on DVD and having been through both of them I can tell you that the book is much, much funnier.


Spurlock Update: Enter Stan And Kyle

Kyle & StanVia Spurlock’s Twitter feed we find that yesterday he interviewed Matt Stone and Trey Parker.  There’s no specific word on whether or not this is for the Simpsons special, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned following Spurlock these last few months it’s that he’s involved in an enormous number of projects.  But it seems unlikely that he’d be interviewing the creators of the most successful non-Simpsons animated show for something other than his upcoming Simpsons thing.  So get ready for the obligatory quotes from Stone & Parker about how much The Simpsons meant for them, how it opened doors, how influential it’s been, etcetera. 


Quote of the Day


“But what to do with poor Hugo? Too crazy for Boys Town, too much of a boy for Crazy Town. The child was an outcast. So, we did the only humane thing.” – Dr. Hibbert


“We chained Hugo up in the attic like an animal and fed him a bucket of fish heads once a week.” – Homer Simpson

“It’s saved our marriage!” – Marge Simpson


Quote of the Day

Treehouse of Horror III3

“From A-apple to Z-zebra, ‘Baby’s First Pop-up Book’ is twenty six pages of alphabetic adventure.” – Bart Simpson
“Bart, do you mean to tell me you read a book intended for preschoolers?” – Mrs. Krabappel
“Well, most of it.” – Bart Simpson

Happy birthday Nancy Cartwright!


“Simpsons Tall Tales” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Brother from the Same Planet2

“Ughhh, this goes on for twelve more minutes.” – Krusty the Klown

“Trilogy” or “storytelling” episodes like this one, where they have three independent segments, have always been maligned, even by people who think Zombie Simpsons doesn’t suck (check out the ratings, poll, and comments here if you don’t believe me).  I’ve always thought the reason for this is that there are no genuinely good trilogy-type episodes.  They didn’t do the first one until Season 10 (“Simpsons Bible Stories”) long after the show had begun transforming into Zombie Simpsons and so there’s no well of built up good will from which they can draw.

This is the second entry in the series and it’s no winner, although I think it’s noticeably less boring that most of the rest of Season 12.  Which is to say that it’s got a small handful of decent jokes as opposed to the one, two, or none that’s more typical of 12.  Of course, to get to those you need to wade through painfully unfunny stretches like the hobo making out with himself, the ineffective derringer fight, and the horrifying second segment (where they shoot all the buffalo).  The buffalo bit in particular reminds me of nothing so much as the fake SNL skit The Big Ear Family from “Brother from the Same Planet”.  There’s a single joke (buffalo die easily!) and then it goes on for four awkward minutes with nothing but exposition to accompany it.

Nine guys on this one.

1:25 – “That couch gag, that was one of my favorites, and I’d completely forgotten it and this was at a time when it was really hard to come up with those couch gags unlike in Season 20.”  General laughter.  For the record, the couch gag for this one has the family jumping on the couch in a subway station, the train pulls up and then leaves and the Simpsons are gone.  If that sounds familiar it’s because it’s almost identical to the couch gag from “Homer the Whopper”.

1:45 – Remembering that the Delaware thing was a call back to “Behind the Laughter” episode about how lame their ideas were.

2:15 – Talking about hobos as a way to avoid the episode.

4:00 – Talking about how now they’re on a “new” four act structure and that’s going to spell the end of these.  Gotta pay for that HD animation somehow.

4:30 – Long discussion of how great the animation looks.  I don’t think that’s ever been disputed, but who cares?

6:00 – Someone points out that the Paul Bunyan story doesn’t make sense, but then someone else reminds them that it’s okay because they have Lisa point that out.

8:00 – Very little going on right now.

8:45 – They can’t remember if they had to delete some stuff but the trilogy episodes always come in long.  Then someone else says “This segment already seems pretty long.”  They chuckle.

9:15 – More discussion of how they can’t show butt crack any more.

10:00 – Long silence on the hobo’s craziness as he talks to himself, then as the silence becomes embarrassingly long and the hobo is writhing on the ground, someone deadpans, “I’m surprised we never called this character back.”  Indeed.

12:00 – Once again not talking too much about what’s actually going on in the episode, instead discussing how the design is like a Halloween episode and how this got shown at somebody’s kid’s school.  Also, silences.

13:20 – Long silence as Homer freaks out.

14:00 – Long, long silence as the cannibalism ending plays out really slowly and then fades back to the Hobo’s list of apple stuff.

15:00 – More discussion of hobos in general.

15:35 – Discussing how great the outfits are.  Again with the outfits.

16:50 – Marveling at their ability to swap Nelson for a pig.  I realize that some of the guys commenting have done a lot of really funny stuff, both on the show prior to this and in other places, but on these commentaries all they ever seem to be is pleased with themselves for not being able to tell a coherent story or come up with decent jokes.

18:15 – Silence as things get strange again.

19:15 – More silence and uncomfortable non-laughter as Bart and Nelson are fired into the sky and then into the riverboat saloon.  It goes all the way through to when the guns get pulled and then someone compliments the animation and then more mostly silence for the ineffectual gun fight.

21:00 – Mostly silence as it gets weird again for the end.


Saturday Morning Cartoons

Of all the many things that limit commercially supported television programs, the need to cram the story into a defined schedule, complete with rigidly timed advertising breaks, may be the most restrictive.  It’s not easy to tell a story in a such a specific amount of time, much less with the need for a small cliffhanger every six to eight minutes.  Naturally The Simpsons always handled this with aplomb and one of the cleverest instances of it comes from Season 3’s “Dog of Death”. 

Just after the family’s lottery hopes are dashed, and they are put through the cruel wringer of witnessing a man already fabulously wealthier than them winning it right in front of their eyes, Grandpa announces “Hey, the dog’s dead.”  There’s a startled gasp from the family, a few notes of sad horn music, and a shot of a lifeless Santa’s Little Helper.  Cut to commercial.

The show returns to a shot of the dog clearly breathing.  Bart and Homer object to Grandpa’s pre-act break diagnosis.  Then Lisa finishes it off, rather angrily, with “It’s not fair to toy with people’s emotions like that.”  That line is perfect; it’s quick, subtle, and it makes fun of the format, the writers and their contempt for the audience.  It doesn’t slow the program down at all, as soon as it’s uttered Grandpa begins insisting (shades of reverse Monty Python) that contrary to all evidence the dog is indeed dead. 

That brief exchange, which lasts less than ten seconds, is a masterpiece of television comedy. 


Quote of the Day


“Wait! Doesn’t my father have the right to a fair trial?” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh, you Americans with your due process and fair trials. This is always so much easier in Mexico.” – The Devil


Friday Link Dump – Video Clips Edition

Video Clips Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user fo.ol.

“Is a coma painful?” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh heck no, you relive long lost summers, kiss girls from high school, it’s like one of those teevee shows where they show a bunch of clips from old episodes.” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

The stuffing of my inbox with “Marge in Playboy” crap continued apace this week.  Hopefully it’ll die down soon.  In the meantime the Ortved publicity machine continues to roll, there’s a recipe for squishies, one piece of absolutely excellent usage and a ton of links with time wasting video clips.


How to make a super squishy…. – A recipe for a Super Squishy with unrelated YouTube!  Also there’s this:

I had one of these during the BIG SIMPSON MOVIE (frankly that movie was overrated) They have been on air for 20+ years, the movie should of been made in their first or second season!

Indeed. (via Twitter)

Week 23: Pageant of the Transmundane – Click here for a picture of a wonderfully gory tattoo of Zombie Homer on someone’s foot.  Seriously, click

Simpsons Chilled Water Dispenser – Careful, that water gets incredibly hot if you leave it plugged in.  (via Twitter)

Lisa Simpson Or Apu-Who Would You Rather – This is an internet poll for vegetarians as in, “Who would you rather have vegetable lunch with?”  We posted this on Twitter but I thought it deserved a second look.  Lisa is killing Apu right now, which I don’t get.  A worldly guy like Apu seems like he’d be better conversation than a know it all eight year old, but that’s just me. 

Stefan Bucher’s Daily Monster #76 – This is a rather fascinating video of a guy drawing a monster.  Why should you care?  Well, you shouldn’t, except that it’s a hover monster and he describes it thusly:

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, "Grand Funk Railroad paved the way for Jefferson Airplane, which cleared the way for Jefferson Starship. The stage was now set for Monster 76, which I believe was some sort of hovercraft."

Excellent, excellent usage.

Eddie Van Halen Totally Looks Like Crazy Cat Lady – You know what, he does kinda look like the cat lady, though I’m guessing she’s done less cocaine than him. 

Video: “An Amendment to Be” makes learning fun – Pretty much exactly what it says, be careful though, the video plays as soon as you open the page.  It’s not like you’ve got anything better to do with the next 90 seconds of your life.

Readers’ Favorite ‘Simpsons’ Lines: ‘You Don’t Win Friends With Salad’ – That New York Times Arts Beat blog just can’t get enough, can it?  Most of the quotes are pretty accurate, though this is terrible:

Homer toasting: “Alcohol, the answer to, and cause of, most of life’s problems.”
— Tom

His heart’s in the right place but, wow, that isn’t even close.  Anyway, I’m just linking it today to point out, once again, that the overwhelming majority of the quotes, in the post and in the comments, pre-date Zombie Simpsons. 

The Story Behind The Simpsons – Total Film has this little history of the Simpsons piece up.  It’s nothing you don’t know or haven’t seen, but there are clips and they’re nice enough to acknowledge that it sucks now.

The six best ‘Treehouse of Horror’ segments from ‘The Simpsons’ – This is most assuredly not the six best.  #6 is the dolphin segment from Season 12 and #5 is the Xena segment from Season 11.  While I’d agree that those two are amongst the cream of the later seasons (the dolphin thing, while lousy overall, is better than pretty much everything else in Season 12) they just aren’t up to par.  On this list they look like tokens, sops to get something from the double digit seasons included.  Happily #s 1-4 are much better, and they have clips! 

Ottawa International Animation Festival (Part 3) – David Silverman, who directed many episodes in the before time, in the long long ago, gave a talk at this animation festival.  Here’s a recap. 

The Awl Bookmobile: John Ortved’s "The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History" – It’s another excerpt from Ortved’s book, this one’s about acrimony over the division of the lucre. 

An insider’s look at The Simpsons – Yet another write up the book.  I will read and link to 10,000 of these before I click on one more fucking thing about Marge being in Playboy.  The book is about The Simpsons, Marge being in Playboy is a desperate publicity stunt for two franchises that are long past their primes. 

Kid Robot X The Simpsons (Ralph Wiggum) – Krusty Brand Seal of Approval on this little Ralph Wiggum doll. 

Pic of the Day: Blinky the Radioactive Fish – I don’t think this needs any explanation from me.  The tear is a nice touch. 

TOP 5: Americana. – A cool sidewalk chalk drawing of Homer eating hot dogs/sausage links is #3. 

11 Ingenious Signs On The Simpsons – Finally is this extremely solid list of background signs from the show.  And yes, there isn’t a single one from after Season 11.  (via)


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