“The Old Man and the Key” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Bart on the Road3

“What is this place?” – Nelson Muntz
“Branson, Missouri. My Dad says it’s like Vegas, if it were run by Ned Flanders.” – Bart Simpson

This episode has a lot of problems, most glaringly the heavy dependence on referencing pop culture, going so far as to have a truly dizzying array of guest voices all playing themselves. But that wackiness comes only at the end, by that point the episode has devolved into a nonsensical series of set pieces that have almost nothing to do with the fact that it slowly becomes a travel episode about Branson, Missouri. (Nevermind that they already went there in Season 7, the Zombie Simpsons people sure don’t.) Sorry for rambling, but there isn’t a coherent way to describe this.

What makes it all the more tragic/frustrating/sad is that there was the germ of a good episode in here. The very first moments of the commentary are spent discussing Jon Vitti, who penned this and a tiny number of other Zombie Simpsons episodes after he left the show in Season 7. Vitti had an idea for a plot about how old folks homes are vicious little nests of social squabbling that put junior high to shame. But that concept is dropped almost immediately so that Grampa can go on a weird adventure and then the family can follow him into the land of car chases, childish plot conceits, and celebrity guest voices.

Six people on this one, including Caroline Omine as the token female.

0:35 – Vitti wrote this, but had the good sense not to show up for the commentary. He read an article about how retirement homes are filled with cliques, cool kids and dorks and that was the basis for the first, oh, three minutes of this.

1:40 – “I wonder how many people were fooled by this opening? Where they really thought, ‘Are they killing off Grampa’?” Uh, no one?

2:00 – This is the episode that has “Old Man Yells at Cloud” which they point out is something that gets used a lot by other people.

3:30 – Jean points out that all these jokes at old people’s expense are getting closer and closer to their age bracket. Might be a good idea to stop then, eh?

4:10 – Discussing the “Yessss?” guy and Frank Nelson. Not really talking about much, just sort of informing each other about a character they all vaguely remember.

4:40 – Omine points out that they use the real Ray Jay Johnson here and how “we’d done” a joke about him earlier, presumably referencing “Krusty Gets Kancelled” in Season 4. For the record, Omine’s first credit is Season 10. Rest of the non-Jean commentary people on this episode:

Carolyn, fellas, The Simpsons used Ray Jay Johnson as an example of something that wasn’t funny. You used him straight up to be funny. Draw your own conclusions.

5:00 – Now Jean chimes in on that theme to talk about how he didn’t think that notorious recluse Mr. T would want anything to do with the show, but, here’s the kicker: he did want to be on the show! This has been another True Hollywood Story.

5:15 – Another straight up point: old people have high accident rates in cars. Just in case you didn’t know that.

5:35 – “Now, this was before Grampa and Selma got married.” Holy crap, did that actually happen?

5:45 – Slight giggles at “Old Man Yells At Cloud”.

6:25 – Discussing the fashionable history of the zoot suit.

6:30 – Long silence as Homer’s in the car on Grampa’s date for some reason.

7:00 – Jean breaks the uncomfortable silence by talking about how Branson, Missouri is a real place. They’re getting all defensive that people might not get some of the jokes because the entertainers they’re “satirizing” are so very old.

7:35 – They’re surprised they were able to do a Viagra joke. They’re so impressed with it that they sit silently at watch it for the twenty five seconds it takes to tell.

8:00 – That long, erectile silence is broken briefly to note that Grampa gets laid twice this season. That’s followed by more silence.

8:25 – Silence again temporarily broken to note that it’s unusual for Grampa and Lisa to fight. Now, back to the silence.

8:50 – Silence broken after Grampa runs up stairs for no reason, here’s the exact quote:

“Now, Olympia Dukakis, she’s related to governor Dukakis, right?”
“Yes, both Greeks form the Northeast.”

Coming up next week on another hilarious Zombie Simpsons commentary, obscure relatives of Barry Goldwater and Al Gore!

9:00 – Nervous giggling at Homer’s “switcheroo” with Grampa.

9:40 – Overly expensive leather jackets, like Branson Missouri, actually do exist. For about the third time this episode:


10:30 – Now they’re talking about how they have Simpsons jackets.

11:00 – Now they’re talking about the Christmas presents they got from the show this year. It’s the GPS with Homer’s voice that gets people lost.

11:45 – More half remembered reminisces about where else they’ve seen the other old guys.

12:00 – More nervous laughter at one of their “cheats” (since there’s no hill near the Simpson house). I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: they know this stuff is weak, and they do not care.

12:50 – Long silence again.

12:55 – After Jean describes Dukakis’ character in this scene as “senior sexy”, someone (can’t tell who) chimes in that Helen Mirren is sexy. After pointing out that has nothing to do with anything, they discuss Mirren in detail.

14:00 – Jean discusses the difficulty of doing “radio” jokes because you’ve got to be aware of what’s going to be on screen while you do it.

14:35 – Discussing repeated backgrounds in animation, like it’s an innovation.

15:15 – More laughing at the cheap nature of the plot.

15:55 – Discussing hobos.

16:45 – Talking about Branson. Like, talking about what’s actually there. With the exception of laughing at a joke or two, no one has said anything relevant about the episode in about two minutes.

17:55 – “Maybe I’m getting older, but this show actually seems pretty entertaining to me.”

18:20 – Discussing the former popularity of Ray Jay Johnson. At this point they’ve spent more time explaining jokes than doing anything else.

18:45 – Still talking about Ray Jay Johnson.

19:20 – More hesitant laughter.

20:00 – Long silence as the plot finally dies.

20:40 – Now I’m confused. In discussing what for all appearances is Yakov Smirnoff talking with Charlie Callas, they keep mentioning “Bizarro”. Then they get into this long discussion of how many ways “Bizarro” and Smirnoff could negate each other. Perhaps my pop culture knowledge is rusty/non-existent on the subject, but I don’t think Charlie Callas ever had anything to do with Bizarro. Google appears to back me up, although Callas did apparently once play Sinestro in a 1979 live action superhero teevee special. It’s just weird.

21:20 – The family waving over the credits is from The Beverly Hillbillies. As a fitting end to this awful episode and desultory commentary, Jean reminisces about the reunion episode of Hillbillies. From Wikipedia:

The film’s plot had Jed back in his old homestead in Bugtussle, having divided his massive fortune among Elly May and Jethro, both of whom stayed on the West Coast. Jane Hathaway had become a Department of Energy agent and was seeking Granny’s "White Lightnin’" recipe to combat the energy crisis. Since Granny had gone on to "her re-ward", it was up to Granny’s centenarian "Maw" (Imogene Coca) to divulge the secret brew’s ingredients. Subplots included Jethro playing an egocentric, starlet-starved Hollywood producer, Jane and her boss (Werner Klemperer) having a romance and Elly May owning a large petting zoo. The four main characters finally got together by the end of the story.

First, Colonel Klink! Second, there are at least three plots in there they could use for Season 22/23.

4 Responses to ““The Old Man and the Key” Makes Baby Jesus Cry”

  1. 31 August 2010 at 4:28 pm

    The ‘Aaronson and Zykowski’ bit just clicked… brilliant touch…

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      31 August 2010 at 10:17 pm

      WordPress recently added a “share” feature, and they were nice enough to let us rename it.

  2. 3 D.N.
    1 September 2010 at 6:04 pm

    I know I’ve seen this episode at least once, but I can remember practically nothing about it (which is probably for the best).

    • 4 Charlie Sweatpants
      1 September 2010 at 6:52 pm

      I was about two minutes into the commentary when I realized I had almost no memory of this one. I even briefly thought about watching it regularly first. Fortunately I came to my senses, red the summary on Wikipedia, and went on with my day. It goes from “enh” to “huh?” to “why?, WHY?” awfully quickly.

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