Archive for September, 2010


“Sweets and Sour Marge” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Lisa's Rival5

“But the grocery store sells sugar for thirty-five cents a pound.” – Marge Simpson
“And it doesn’t have nails and broken glass in it.” – Lisa Simpson
“Those are prizes!” – Homer Simpson

This episode is terrible, no two ways about it. It begins with Homer attempting to win a world record (including a bit where all the townspeople roll through town in a giant ball), has a middle with Marge as a moral crusader against sugar, and ends with Homer as a smuggler. It makes no sense, and what few jokes exist are basically stapled to the story as it races along from one dull idea to the next. Nor will this commentary enlighten you at all as to why they thought any of this was funny. So far, that’s all very standard, for Season 13 and its commentaries.

However, this is one of the rare commentaries I can recommend. It’s basically the Mark Kirkland hour, and he’s great. Kirkland’s directed plenty of both The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons, and he talks a lot about both old fashioned and modern animation, how they shoot things, and what kind of gear they use. There is some downside, as you’ll see below. But Kirkland (who, based on the crosstalk, sounds like he’s not in the same room with the rest of them) is easily half of the commentary.

Seven people here, including Caroline Omine as the token female.

0:10 – Jean gives the original airdate here as 20 January 2002, then adds “President Bush had been in office for a full year” with a sort of menacing tone in his voice. Too bad the show never made fun of him.

0:25 – This was the first episode they did after the voice cast re-signed, and there was a lot of talk about how they wanted to refocus the show on the family. Which is naturally why this one involves international smuggling.

1:30 – This episode was born of a mixture of smokers suing the tobacco companies and a realization of how many fat characters they have. That leads to a long discussion about how many fat characters they have.

2:15 – Still discussing fat people in Springfield.

2:25 – Someone, sounds like Selman, brings up the fact that the show is now in the Guinness Book of Records and all but begs Jean to expound upon it. I have never met Matt Selman, I do not know Matt Selman, and the voices aren’t always easy to tell apart on these commentaries so I may be confusing him with someone else. But somebody who sounds an awful lot like him spends a lot of time on these commentaries kissing up to Jean.

2:30 – Heh. Tom Gammill, who has one of the most distinctive voices on here, sneaks in a genuinely funny aside as Jean is beginning his Selman requested monologue. As Jean starts talking about the real records the show holds, Gammill offers “Fattest writing staff.” Jean ignores him and continues, but it was funny.

3:00 – Jean tosses things to Mark Kirkland, who directed this, asking him about the effects they used on the giant pyramid of people and the giant ball of people. On-screen, Homer is freaking out pretty much this entire time.

This goes on for the next four odd minutes and is pretty interesting. To do the ball of people, Kirkland took an old globe from his house and painted it white and then they put the town on it and photographed it sequentially. I’m not going to even try and transcribe it all, but if you’re interested in outdated spherical animation techniques, this is your one stop shop. It goes almost without saying, but it ends with the usual statement of how doing it on a computer nowadays would be a snap. Painted globes are cooler.

7:45 – Still talking about how it’s not hand colored anymore.

8:25 – Talking about how many cels they used to have and how much they were theoretically worth.

9:10 – Reminiscing about the fact that they make a Butterfingers joke in this episode and how ungrateful they are since Butterfingers helped keep them in business those first shaky years.

10:15 – Oh crap, Selman and Warburton (I think) are joking about how when they had Ben Stiller in they gave him the ideas for all his subsequently successful movies. They’re just riffing back and forth and, wow, they are terrible.

11:00 – This was the debut of Count Fudgula.

11:30 – Still talking about breakfast cereals.

13:15 – Warburton identifies himself before asking Kirkland a question. I guess Kirkland is in another location. Anyway, he asked what’s still difficult even with difficult animation and Kirkland replied simply, “Making computers work.” This leads to thrilling tales of calling tech support.

14:00 – Still talking about how even with digital animation things can still be hand drawn on those Cintiq tablets and the software involved. As per usual, little to nothing of what’s going on in the episode is being mentioned.

15:15 – See above.

15:40 – Drawing pupils is apparently hard on the computer.

16:10 – Another interesting animation tidbit: with digital it’s very hard to pull out from a close up because the lines on the background will get fuzzy and not look right. They’ve actually stopped doing a lot of those kinds of shots for precisely this reason.

17:00 – Backgrounds have to be more detailed in HD because everything shows. Also, Homer’s about to become a smuggler with three minutes left in the episode.

18:00 – The animators work mostly in black and white and then it gets colored. This leads to a discussion of digital coloring, which is easier, but not as easy as it was advertised as being.

19:20 – Further discussion of Count Fudgula with more spontaneous genius between Warburton and Selman. Maybe they just got out on the wrong side of the bed that morning, but listening to this you would not peg either one of them as a professional comedy writer.

20:15 – Al Jean endorses Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.

21:00 – Still discussing hand drawn animation and Disney.

21:30 – Discussing Cal Arts as an animation school.

22:00 – And it ends with a little playful animator vs. writer banter.


Quote of the Day

“And who are you little boy?” – Mayor “Diamond” Joe Quimby
“I’m one of your nephews you don’t see very often… Bart-Bart.” – Bart Simpson


Compare & Contrast: Camp Songs

Kamp Krusty5

Someday I may run out of examples of how Zombie Simpsons is watery gruel compared to the hearty, nourishing comedy stew that was The Simpsons, but not today.  I’d like to compare the camp song in “Elementary School Musical” to the one in “Kamp Krusty”.  Both songs take about fifty seconds of screen time, with the one from Zombie Simpsons being a little bit longer.  Here are the complete lyrics of the song from Zombie Simpsons:

Lea Michele: I, I love the elegant pearls you wear.

Cory Monteith: And the starfish shape that constitutes your hair.

Amber Riley: You’ll be staying in cabin twelve

Cory Monteith: And we think that you’ll be very happy there.

All: You’re gonna like arts camp, Lisa.  Marge paid with her debit Visa.

Lisa:  Arts, arts, arts, and education.

Lisa and “All” then repeat their lines for the next twenty five seconds, or half of the time the song takes.  This may be a bit reductive, but let’s count the jokes.  I see one, and only one.  Line by line:

I, I love the elegant pearls you wear. [Not a joke.]

And the starfish shape that constitutes your hair. [Almost a joke, but recycled from Season 7 so it doesn’t count.]

You’ll be staying in cabin twelve [Again, not a joke.]

And we think that you’ll be very happy there.  [See above.]

You’re gonna like arts camp, Lisa.  Marge paid with her debit Visa.  [The one joke.]

Arts, arts, arts, and education.  [Not a joke.]

While Lisa and a cast of thousands repeat the harmony over and over again, are there any visual gags?  Not really, there’s just a bunch of animated choreography:

Spontaneous Choreography

I said “Step pause turn pause pivot step step”, not “Step pause turn pause pivot step pause!”

Aaaaaand scene.  Now, let’s look at the song from The Simpsons.  Again, lyrics first:

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, by the shores of Big Snake Lake

Though your swings are rusty, we know they’ll never break

From your gleaming mess hall to your hallowed baseball field

To your spic and span infirmary, where all our wounds are healed!

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, below Mount Avalanche

We will always love Kamp Krusty, a registered trademark of the Krusty Corporation, all rights reserved

First of all, this is much better, musically.  All the lyrics work within the rhyme scheme and nothing gets repeated ad nauseum.  It also actually sounds like a camp song, and is a much denser piece of writing.  Let’s count the jokes:

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, by the shores of Big Snake Lake [“Big Snake Lake” doesn’t exactly sound friendly, and you could argue that it’s a joke, but I’ll let this one pass.]

Though your swings are rusty, we know they’ll never break [Joke.]

From your gleaming mess hall, to your hallowed baseball field [Two jokes, for a total so far of three.]

To your spic and span infirmary, where all our wounds are healed!  [Joke.  Total = 4.]

Hail to thee Kamp Krusty, below Mount Avalanche  [Joke.  Total = 5.]

We will always love Kamp Krusty, a registered trademark of the Krusty Corporation, all rights reserved  [Joke.  Total = 6.]

Not only does the song work better, but it’s also got a joke pretty much every line.  And that’s if you don’t count the meta joke of the kids (who already hate Kamp Krusty) being forced to sing the camp’s praises as a recreational activity.  Then, of course, there’s the accompanying imagery.  The “gleaming mess hall”, “hallowed baseball field”, and “spic and span infirmary”:

Summer Wonderland

Which is followed immediately by the triple visual gag of “Mount Avalanche”:

Mount Avalanche

Which is followed by the finale, when the one semi-wholesome camp image in the whole song literally collapses:

Kamp Krusty6

Nothing’s funnier than injured children.

And, of course, there’s the further joke of the bullies making them sing, including Kearney shouting at them to be “Louder! Faster!”.  Depending on how you want to count, that means that in the same amount of screen time, in the same format, and in a very similar setting, The Simpsons fit in roughly ten times as many jokes as Zombie Simpsons.  Zombie Simpsons isn’t watery gruel, it’s imitation watery gruel.


Crazy Noises: Elementary School Musical

Moaning Lisa4

“Now, Miss Simpson, I hope we won’t have a repeat of yesterday’s outburst of unbridled creativity.” – Mr. Largo
“No, sir.” – Lisa Simpson

There are two horrible, glaring problems with this episode that we didn’t cover at all in the discussion below.  The first is that while the Conchords provide what little levity this episode has, they also make no sense, and that’s before they fly off the roof at the end.  (Lucy Lawless did that, let me check, eleven seasons ago . . . in a Halloween episode.  Bravo for originality.)  The idea is that they’re poor artists, fine; but aren’t they also camp counselors?  Maybe they made an aside about how that’s their other job or it doesn’t pay the bills or something and I missed it (and there’s no way I’m watching it again to check), but I don’t think so.  Once again, plot problems that could be solved by the insertion of a joke or a quick aside are simply ignored because they just don’t care. 

The second massive problem here is the numerous missed comedy opportunities that demonstrate just how little they’re really trying.  They go to all that trouble to pack Krusty’s trial with as many European stereotypes as possible, and then when they show him in prison it’s not some nice, cushy Euro-jail, it’s a boring old regular prison yard.  (The fact that it took them about a minute to make a DVD region joke didn’t help either.)  They bothered to create an arts camp, and then did basically nothing with it.  There isn’t all that much of the real Brooklyn left that looks like Not Brooklyn, but instead of satirizing gentrifying artsy types, they went with the thirty-year-old ghetto stereotype and even dropped that pretty quick.  It’s almost like they think developing ideas is beneath them.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get on with it?

Mad Jon: Sure.

  Do either of you or have either of you ever watched Glee? I have not and have no idea about the show.

Dave: I’ve not watched it; I’ve heard enough about it to know I’d hate it.

Charlie Sweatpants: I also have not watched it, so I don’t really have an opinion. But the Glee kids were hardly in this episode. Like most of the non-Simon Cowell judges from the American Idol episode, they were here for the briefest of cameos and then they vanished.

Mad Jon: So the ‘artists’ weren’t glee cast members?

Dave: They played some of the other campers I think.

Mad Jon: Ahh.

Dave: The whole episode felt like a bad Flight of the Conchords episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, they were those other kids.

I was never a big Conchords fan for the simple reason that it always felt very hit and miss. A lot of the time you’d be bored for eighteen of the twenty two minutes. Those other four minutes could be hilarious, but they were capable of missing entirely, which they surely did here.

Dave: Fair enough. It was a love or hate it kind of thing.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even having said that though, they were easily the best part of this episode.

Mad Jon: Who? The Glee members?

Charlie Sweatpants: No, the Conchords.

Mad Jon: Ahh.

Dave: They were, basically because they stayed in character and did what they always do.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Glee kids, like pretty much the whole camp scene, were so fleeting that it’s hard to have a strong opinion.

Dave: Yeah, it didn’t turn out to be the Glee-lovefest I thought it’d be.

Mad Jon: They didn’t really do anything except sing about being at camp did they?

Charlie Sweatpants: That was it, and then they were gone.

So that Lisa could . . . do what, exactly?

  Lisa feels creatively stifled at school is not something you can hang a plot on in your twenty second season.

So they invent this whole Not Brooklyn thing, where she does . . . nothing.

Dave: Except pout.

Mad Jon: Doesn’t she learn a lesson about artists and how you shouldn’t be one, but then you do?

  And work at Not Subway?

Dave: There was a singing falafel sandwich.

Mad Jon: That is true.

  There was a lot of singing, but no Lee Marvin. Not that he could have done anything, at least based on our discussion a few months ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: True, but the songs sucked too, especially that one at the camp.

Mad Jon: They were at best forgettable, I can’t even think of the tune, let alone the words.

And I watched this thing like 2 hours ago.

Dave: 30 minutes. Beat that.

Charlie Sweatpants: This is a cruel comparison, but when you stack that song up against "Hail to Thee Kamp Krusty" it’s not even a contest.

The Kamp Krusty song is nothing but jokes, and it makes sense in context. The arts camp song was a full on musical number that had one joke that I can remember, the one about Marge paying with her Visa. The rest was just cartoon dancing and repeating the refrain.

Mad Jon: That would be a low blow. But it would be deserving. Although you are comparing a Ferrari to a broken down Pinto used as a toilet by drunken bums.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it goes on for, let me check, almost a whole minute.

The refrain is "You’re gonna like art camp Lisa". Is there a word that’s the opposite of clever? Because that lyric is that word.

Mad Jon: I was just asking my wife for the proper opposite of memorable.

Dave: Tedious.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, that would be forgettable.

Mad Jon: That’s what she said, and that’s what I typed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Which they could’ve made a joke with when they brought out the "Roofi" CD, but didn’t.

Mad Jon: Didn’t he get his own plot line like 5 seasons ago?

Dave: Yep.

Something resembling a baby-filled Woodstock.

Mad Jon: Wow, this is the show that keeps on giving!

Charlie Sweatpants: While I’m on the subject of pointless things that happened in the car, they actually got Ira Glass and they still couldn’t make fun of something that’s crying out to be made fun of, like "This American Life".

Mad Jon: They tried.

Mad Jon: Having actually heard a few "This American Life"s, it was pretty close to the truth.

Charlie Sweatpants: But that’s part of the problem.

You can’t get Ira Glass and make fun of "This American Life" in anything but the most gentle terms.

Mad Jon: Fair enough. That’s that intelligent humor I guess, "Oh look I’m a playful radio hipster who knows people think I have a monotone boring public radio show, but I’ll show them! I can laugh at myself!"

  Unless, it’s a meta-joke by Glass, about how even his jokes about himself are funny on the pretentious side.

  But now I’ve gone too far….

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, you did. That’s giving both him and Zombie Simpsons far too much credit.

Paul Harvey and Rush Limbaugh got skewered, Ira Glass got to make a cameo.

  Just saying.

Dave: Instead of talking about Ira Glass, let’s talk about the terrible Krusty b-plot.

Mad Jon: Please.

Dave: I didn’t expect the stupid twist, and it was just that and nothing more, stupid.

Charlie Sweatpants: The B-plot was a complete waste of time.

Mad Jon: Yes, with the Nobel prize that wasn’t

Dave: And the trial that wasn’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: It has nothing to do with anything, and isn’t even a plot, B or not.

Mad Jon: But somehow Krusty’s diva-crap ended apartheid?

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s an excuse for them to show Krusty clips that also weren’t funny. That Electric Company thing dragged on forever.

  And Bart and Homer were there in yet another, "Hey, we know this is stupid but we’re doing it anyway."

Mad Jon: They must have used their ‘A’ material in Israel.

Dave: Something like that.

Mad Jon: Or they’re saving it for New Brunswick, or where ever they’re heading in a week or two.

Dave: No more bringing up future episodes. It hurts my head.

Charlie Sweatpants: Actually, I think they used their A material twenty one seasons ago. What are the plots of this episode? Bart saves Krusty from jail, and Lisa is frustrated in music class during "My Country Tis of Thee"

Dave: Nailed it.

Mad Jon: Not in the mood for my not thought out sarcasm tonight are you Charlie…

  But you are very correct.

I wondered out loud how many frustrated Lisa episodes there have been already…as well as Bart saves Krusty… I can think of a solid handful of each, and they would all be in the first 12 or so seasons.

Charlie Sweatpants: The entire "Lisa is frustrated" thing at the school was completely phoned in. And yet another instance of them not giving a shit about anything. She’s at a summer camp, now she’s at school, Bart’s in Europe the whole time but it’s never mentioned.

Honestly, you could’ve showed Act 4 first and Act 2 third and it would’ve made just as much sense.

Mad Jon: I didn’t even pick up on that but you’re right again, absolutely no continuity for Lisa. How long was she in Sprooklyn?

Charlie Sweatpants: Long enough for the Conchords to kill some more screen time.

Dave: 2, 3 songs?

Charlie Sweatpants: About that.

Mad Jon: That’s probably a fault of the algorithm the ‘writers’ put into the iPad app they used to write the script.

  You know, to balance the equation. Or something.

2 songs probably equals homer laughing for 30 seconds.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nah, say what you want about Apple, but they take pride in their work. Zombie Simpsons, not so much.

Mad Jon: Well, I wasn’t trying to ding Apple. Just the writer’s laziness.

Charlie Sweatpants: I understand, I just don’t think Apple would be this apathetic about the quality of the finished product.

Mad Jon: I agree. You don’t get to wear a black turtleneck every day if you aren’t willing to put in the time.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

  I have only other thing to add, then I’d like to be done. Harry Shearer can’t do Otto’s voice any more. This is not his fault, he is in his late sixties, but it’s true.

Mad Jon: I was wondering about that.

It sounds too much like him not to be Shearer, but something was definitely wrong.

Dave: Time for a 23 minute episode to kill off Otto.

  I’m sure it will be miserable.

Mad Jon: Maybe they’ll let Katy Perry’s boobs do it.


Quote of the Day

Bart the Lover5

“We now return to ‘Two for Tunisia’ on Colorization Theater.” – TV Announcer

Happy Birthday Gabor Csupo!  (He did a lot of the early animation and character models.) 


Somebody Please Pay Attention To Us!

Krusty Gets Kancelled7

“So, you want ventriloquism do you?  Alright, watch this!” – Krusty the Klown

It has been a very long time since I was a regular Sesame Street viewer, even various junior family members I’ve babysat over the years have now outgrown it.  On top of that, I have an almost physical revulsion to celebrity “news”.  I go out of my way to avoid knowing about the latest brouhaha surrounding famous people of every stripe which, given the pervasiveness of such information, is itself something of a chore.  My apathy about this subject typically extends to announcements about the latest celebrity voices to make appearances on Zombie Simpsons.  I rarely report them because the cameos themselves long ago became indistinct and pointless and, besides, there are plenty of other Simpsons websites for that kind of second hand promotion.  So please understand that I have no insight or opinion about aspects of this story that do not involve this rather novel publicity stunt by Zombie Simpsons. 

That preamble concluded, singer Katy Perry has apparently been in the news lately because a guest spot she did on Sesame Street got scotched.  I’ll let The New York Daily News give you the details using one sentence paragraphs:

Perry, whose duet with Elmo was cut from Sesame Street after parents complained the singer showed too much skin, will get a second chance to sing with puppets this winter as a guest-star on "The Simpsons."

Though celebrities are usually given the cartoon treatment for "Simpsons" cameos, this time Perry’s much-maligned cleavage will be on full display.

The pop star will appear as herself in an unusual live-action segment, alongside the other Simpsons characters who will be transformed into muppet-like puppets.

In the episode, due to air Dec. 5, the "Teenage Dream" singer reportedly plays crusty bartender Moe’s girlfriend, and leads the gang in a rousing rendition of the "The 39 Days of Christmas."

If you want to see a picture of the puppets, you can click the link.  The whole family is there, plus Moe and, oddly enough, Burns; they all look very Muppet-like.  Much like the Kesha opening from last season, this will no doubt result in a very short Reading Digest the Friday before it’s broadcast.  It will then suffer the same fate as all obscure pop culture moments, popping up on-line from time to time until the heat death of the internet. 

In terms of what this means for Zombie Simpsons, all it tells us is that their desperation to stay relevant using the popularity of others is still redlining.  But we knew that already.


Quote of the Day

“This was the happiest time of my life. I’ll never forget you guys — especially you, Joey.” – Homer Simpson

“See you around, Mr. Homer.” – Joey

“Don’t worry Joey, we’ll make it to California someday.” – Homer Simpson

“Sure we will Mr. Homer, sure we will.” (coughs violently) – Joey

Loyal Stonecutter’s Note: No, they won’t. The pessimism of this exchange in Homer’s otherwise bittersweet parting moment is cruel, borderline cold, and entirely brilliant.


Getting Colder

Chalkboard - Elementary School Musical

“It was an unusually warm February 14th, so the children walked home without jackets.” – Lisa Simpson

In all its manic motion – to Europe!, to camp!, to Not Brooklyn! – Zombie Simpsons never stops to develop a character, tell a story or, heaven forbid, make sense from one scene to the next.  To take just one example, Lisa rides her bike to hang out with the Conchords in what she imagines is their cool artist abode.  She’s wearing just her usual red dress.  Once she gets inside, they have her shiver and complain that it’s cold (because they have no heat), but she’s wearing the same thing she had on outside. 

Obviously this is not a huge problem (this episode has many far larger ones), and careless things like it are par for the course for Zombie Simpsons.  But it shows how lightly the people behind the show regard their own work.  No one, writer or animator, thought to put a jacket on Lisa; no one thought that a girl leaving home in the dead of night on a bicycle might be cold, even though her being cold is on the next page of the script. 

In his oral history of The Simpsons, John Ortved recounts a scene in the parking lot of the studio during the early years of the show.  One of the writers, frustrated with an episode that they couldn’t quite get right, actually drop kicked the script and sent the pages flying all over the place.  I’ll bet you anything no one kicked the script for “Elementary School Musical”. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are historically bad.  Even the interior demographics, long the silent strength of the dismal top line numbers, were weak:

The Simpson’s 3.7 adults 18-49 rating was down 14% from last season’s premiere (9/27/09).

Overall, last night’s poorly plotted excuse for cross promotion was endured by a mere 7.76 million viewers.  That’s the lowest rating for a season premier ever.  But wait, it gets better.  The Season 21 premier, “Homer the Whopper” was watched by 8.21 million people, and while that too was an all-time low for a season premier, it was also the fifth highest rated episode of the entire season.  And Season 21 was massively aided by the “20th Anniversary!” and “Live Nude Marge!” things, advantages Season 22 will not have.  If 7.76 million is the best Zombie Simpsons can do with a heavily promoted season premier and all the star power of Glee behind it, Season 22 is going to be embarrassingly terrible, ratings wise. 


Quote of the Day

Whacking Day4

“Any experience?” – Olde Springfield Towne Casting Director
“Yes, I played Panicky Idiot Number Two in The Poseidon Adventure.” – Actor
“Sorry, we’re looking for more of a ‘duh duh’ idiot.” – Olde Springfield Towne Casting Director


Sunday Preview: “Elementary School Musical”

Look at the children, they're so happy.

As I conjure up this post on a beautiful Sunday morning, I am filled with a sense of loathing and revulsion. This isn’t “The Simpsons.” This is a tired, miserable, train wreck of a television series grasping at straws that don’t exist to stay relevant to people who don’t care. The description of the Season 22’s opener, “Elementary School Musical,” isn’t pretty:

When Krusty the Clown is announced as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Homer invites Bart to accompany him on a trip to Oslo for the ceremony. Sensing that Lisa would feel left out, Marge surprises her with a week-long retreat at performing arts camp, where she is greeted by her artsy counselors Ethan and Kurt  and fellow musically inclined campers, who inspire her to embrace her creative side. After she returns to Springfield, Lisa becomes restless with her ho-hum suburban lifestyle and sneaks off to Sprooklyn in hopes of connecting with her inner hipster, but she soon realizes that the city is not the same as camp. [Editor’s note: Guest staring some shitheads from “Glee” and a couple Kiwis.]

Glossing over the fact the chain of events leading to Krusty’s Nobel Peace Prize will, in fact, be contrived and ludicrous, we can consider “Elementary School Musical” from a few perspectives. There’s synergy: no doubt FOX is hoping that some of the rabid, misguided, juvenile “Glee” fanbase will flock to the season opener in spades, temporarily propping up viewership and ad dollars. There’s cross-promotion, though the much loved “Flight of the Conchords” hasn’t had a show in well over a year. And finally there’s precedent: pseudo-rival “South Park” already did it. It was even called… wait for it… “Elementary School Musical.” Zombie Simpsons has had nary an original idea in years and it was only a matter of time before it caught up to the competition, figuratively and literally.

I actually prefer a less analytical approach. The onus is on Zombie Simpsons not to suck. They haven’t had a winner in years and no amount of singing or neologisms (seriously, Sprooklyn?) will reverse that course. Why on Earth would the show’s producers and writers want to make something good when they’ve committed bloody murder for thirteen years straight?


Quote of the Day

I Love Lisa5

“Go ahead, water it down some more.” – Principal Skinner

Tonight on FOX, the stagnant backwash of the greatest show in history.  Animation Domination!


Quote of the Day


“Back then we didn’t care what anyone thought, and the chicks found that irresistible.” – Homer Simpson
“I think you’re cool, Homer Simpson.” – Sandra
“Sandra, that was mean.” – Sandra’s Hot Friend


Reading Digest: “Season 22? What Season 22?” Edition

The Springfield Connection3

“I’ll just be a second, Marge.  I’m going to get some beer for those kids over there.” – Homer Simpson
“I’m gonna pretend that I didn’t hear that.” – Marge Simpson

Lots of good links this week, we’ve got some Simpsons love from both a vegetarian site and a vegan site, scientists with cunning marketing skills, someone who’s never actually watched the show, some excellent usage, and a couple of musical links.  Oh, is there some worthless cross-promotional stunt happening on Sunday?  I hadn’t noticed. 


The Simpsons: Saying a lot with a little – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this interesting take on the show, especially the opening sequence, from someone who never watched it growing up and is coming to it fresh: 

And then I met my husband.  If I’m a total Star Wars fanatic, he’s a total Simpsons fanatic (and I’ve got a giant X-Wing tattooed on my leg).  We’ve made it through two seasons of the show so far, and are working our way through the third.

I love it.  It’s smart, funny, socially conscious, emotionally touching and self-aware.  Of course me liking it makes my husband happy and gives us something to do when we want to relax.  And there are like, 37,589,042 million seasons, so we’ll probably never run out of episodes.

Unfortunately, you will.  All those things (funny, socially conscious, etc.) are going to come crashing down around you.  A little further down is one of the many reasons why:

The show doesn’t rub anything in the viewer’s face or shout “HEY LOOK AT ME I’M SELF-AWARE!” or judge the viewer for watching TV.  It says what it needs to say, and that’s that.

“HEY LOOK AT ME I’M SELF-AWARE!” is a great deal of what Zombie Simpsons passes off as humor.  The whole thing is worth a read. 

Powerglove – The Simpsons (Feat Tony Kakko) – Your speed-metalish musical accompaniment for the rest of this week’s Reading Digest (via):

Back in the Day, Sept. 19, 2010: ‘Whacking Day’ – This is kind of like “Man Bites Dog”, but more “People Kill Snake” in its particulars. 

Free Ice Cream Around NYC All Weekend! – I’m not recommending you watch Zombie Simpsons, but free ice cream is free ice cream. 

Matt Groening, The Simpsons, spoken by the character Homer Simpson – Homer’s preamble to not winning friends with salad perfectly quoted but accompanied by an image from “Lisa the Simpson”.  Still, excellent usage. 

Doh! Scientists uncover Homer Simpson gene – Removing a gene that primarily affects the CA2 region of the hippocampus gave mice a greater ability to recognize objections that had been previously placed in their cages.  Okay, Homer’s stupid, but unless removing this gene also increases the mice’s lust for donuts and beer I think we can hold off on officially recognizing the name.  Points to the scientists for a clever bit of marketing gimmickry though. 

‘The Simpsons’ named top TV brand – Simpsons sells more shit than any other teevee show.  This concludes this week’s edition of Shit You Already Knew.

Is this the Devil in a fire – or Disco Stu from The Simpsons? – Pareidolia can be used for good as well as evil.  The photoshop with Stu really makes it. 

Bart Simpson statue stolen – A restaurant in Boston had a Bart statue sitting on a bench, and someone yoinked it.  I searched around a little bit, but I couldn’t find a picture of it before it got stolen.  I’ll just assume it was one of those movie promo ones

Nancy Cartwright, the Voice of Bart Simpson, Sued for More Than $260,000 – Yeah, there’s nothing good about this story. 

Obesity Focus of Latest Blackwell Talks – Not much by way of Simpsons content here, but I’m pretty sure this counts as excellent usage:

Roy, in her twelfth year at Longwood, began her presentation with a video from the popular television program "The Simpsons." The clip featured Homer Simpson, the overweight main character, at the doctor’s office receiving a body fat check. To administer the test, the doctor jiggled Simpson’s belly, a humorous scene that continued until the end of the clip and received laughs from faculty and staff in attendance.

Woo-hoo, look at that blubber fly! 

The Simpsons – ten snapshots of Season 6 – A bunch of Season 6 quotes and images (I didn’t check the quotes, but they look okay at a glance), with a nod to our friends at Eye on Springfield

Apu is a Vegan — So Where’s the Love? – Is Apu the world’s most famous Vegan?  I don’t know, maybe? 

The Simpsons Songwriting Appreciation Post. – Links to many Simpsons songs. 

supernintendo chalmers – Simple photoshop is often the best photoshop. 

Homer Simpson – So this is, like, a Homer wall sticker or something?  I can’t read Cyrillic characters. 

Analyzing Adam Brown’s TV ad – And finally, one more person who speaks the truth and expects to get flack for it:

I don’t get TV. Not as in “I don’t understand TV,” but I literally don’t get TV at my apartment. The Simpsons stopped being good when I was in middle school (direct your comments below), so what else is there?

That’ll do. 


Bonus Quote of the Day

Brad Bird

Image shamelessly stolen from his IMDb page.

“Krusty, I’m man enough to admit I was wrong, and I’m sorry I fingered you in court.  I sincerely hope that the horrible stories I heard about what goes on in prison are exaggerated.” – Homer Simpson

Happy Birthday to longtime Simpsons director/animator/whatever Brad Bird!


Quote of the Day

Marge on the Lam1

“Oh sure, like lawyers work in big skyscrapers and have secretaries, and look at him, he’s wearing a belt.  That’s Hollywood for you.” – Lionel Hutz

Phil Hartman would’ve been 62 today.  Happy birthday. 


“Gump Roast” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Rosebud5“Marge, the comedy roast is an American tradition. It’s what gives us the freedom to criticize our social betters. Hey Flanders, you smell like manure!” – Homer Simpson
“Uh-oh, better cancel that dinner party tonight. Thanks for the nose news neighbor.” – Ned Flanders

This one might set a record for ignoring what’s going on in the episode in favor of unrelated chit chat.  (Al Jean even tells another joke, though it’s more of a story.)  However, I can’t really blame them, this is a clip show and there just isn’t much here.  When they spend two minutes reminiscing about that fab trip to London, well, all they missed was a bunch of things from other episodes.

Eight people on this one, including Groening and Deb Lacusta, who is Castellaneta’s wife and co-wrote this episode with him.

0:35 – Deb and Dan wrote this script on spec. She thinks they were probably watching Forrest Gump on television and thought he was just as clueless as Homer.

1:25 – This is the last clip show they did, but Jean sort of thinks of the storytelling episodes in a similar vein as “format breakers”. Also, give Jean some credit for knowing the history at least. They already showed the clip where Homer’s in the womb and swims around to that short arrangement of “The Blue Danube”, and Jean instantly nailed it as being from “Homer the Heretic”.

2:05 – Tom Hanks hassled them when he came in to do his voice for the movie, poking fun at some dumb idea or another he saw them working on. Good for him.

2:45 – Lacusta’s telling the story of the first time Castellaneta did Homer’s voice. They used him and Kavner because they were already on the cast at the Ullman show and didn’t have to pay them any extra.

4:30 – Still reminiscing about the old days on The Tracey Ullman Show, they used to interrupt rehearsals of the main stuff when Castellaneta would yell as Homer in this little isolation booth behind the bleachers where they were working on the shorts.

5:15 – More fun with the olden days as Lacusta tells us that they used to play the Simpsons shorts for the audience before tapings of Ullman’s live skits and the crowd loved them.

5:30 – This is clearly turning into the “Interview Deb Lacusta” hour. She and Castellaneta used to write and do voice over stuff for Second City. They still do improv stuff.

6:35 – Talking about how improv helps comedy writing.

7:10 – Someone, sounds like Matt Selman, is telling a story about how they used to make fun of John Frink for acting out jokes during writers meetings.

8:05 – Now they’re doing that thing where they joke about how they haven’t said anything about the episode. Granted, this is a clip show so I’m not sure how much there is to say, but still.

8:45 – Long discussions about Friar’s Club roasts.

9:10 – They’re complementing Castellaneta’s made up songs for Homer and then Jean plugs a comedy CD Dan did.

10:00 – Now we’re telling a story about a time when they went to London. This is like listening in on some old friends getting together. I hope they’re drinking.

10:40 – Brief mention of Agnes Skinner wearing a dress modeled on one worn by Jennifer Lopez. It takes about two seconds and now they’re talking about London again.

11:10 – Jean has lapsed into “kill time in an interview” mode and is now discussing British guest stars.

11:25 – They’re showing the clip where Homer skis down the mountain and the snow mounds hit his groin. Apparently, this is one of the most replayed clips when they do events.

11:40 – Now they’re talking about how as you get older you feel more for cartoon characters when they get hurt. Then Jean starts talking about how he liked horror movies more when he was a kid.

12:10 – A brief joke about not slipping in the shower becomes a rather long joke/discussion about not slipping in the shower.

12:35 – As the old people discussion rolls on, Jean mentions how when they started they were sympathetic with Bart, then Homer and now they’re “trending towards Grampa”.

13:15 – Things got quiet after they mentioned Richard Appel and The Cleveland Show, but Al Jean is there with a joke about a guy in World War II.

13:45 – Quiet again before someone realizes that Flanders and Lovejoy are supposed to be doing a Smothers Brothers routine.

14:30 – Now they’re remembering the time the Smothers Brothers actually came in. I’ll save you the suspense: they were very nice and everyone loved them.

14:50 – Laughing about the sudden appearance of Kang and Kodos.

15:45 – Talking about their parents now. Seriously.

16:45 – Groening thinks the first time Homer choked Bart was during the shorts.

17:40 – Still discussing how it’s okay for Homer to choke Bart because it’s a cartoon.

18:15 – They just showed the Liz Taylor “Daddy” clip from “Lisa’s First Word”, and Lacusta noticed it. This diverted them from their previous tangent to say that “contrary to rumor” Taylor was great. She didn’t storm out or anything.

18:45 – Long silence after they stopped talking about Liz Taylor. On screen it’s a montage of guest voices.

20:00 – Now they’re complaining about the lack of food at the People’s Choice Awards.

20:30 – The Billy Joel parody took Selman forever to do, and was originally more elaborate as he was trying to match the whole song.

21:10 – After another long silence, they ask Frink to do some improv to fill the last ten seconds. Frink demurs. It ends.


Quote of the Day

“Well it’s Bart Simpson! Come on in, you’re just in time for ‘Sponge Bath The Old Folks Day!'” – Ned Flanders
“Help yourself, but stay above the equator!” – Jasper Beardly

“Ahhhhhh!” – Bart Simpson


Crazy Noises: The Principal and the Pauper

The Principal and the Pauper1

“Oh, yes.  Oh, yes.  Capital City’s nakedest ladies.  They’re not even wearing a smile.  Nod suggestively.  Yes, six, count ’em, six gorgeous ladies just dying for your leers and catcalls.  Yowza.  Yowza.” – Whatever the Hell His Name Is In This Episode

There’s new Zombie Simpsons Sunday, so this is the last of our summer series overthinking Season 9.  Why Season 9?  Because we did Season 8 last summer, and Season 9 was when the show started becoming more Zombie than Simpsons.  Since we’re too lazy to do audio and too ugly to do video, we’ve booked a “chatroom” (ours is right between the one with the sexy seventh graders and the one with the bored federal agents pretending to be sexy seventh graders).  So log on to your dial-up AOL and join us.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “bludgeoning”).

Today’s episode is 902 “The Principal and the Pauper”.  Yesterday was 918 “This Little Wiggy”.  In a return visit, Bob Mackey joined us this week.

Charlie Sweatpants: I had not seen this one in many years, maybe a decade or more, and I was hoping that there was some redeeming value to it. But there isn’t. The terrible plot is 95% of the screen time.

bobservo: Well, this might get me kicked out the The Simpsons Cool Kids Club, but I love Principal Skinner and I didn’t hate this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: There’s your shocking revelation, kids.

Dave: Uh oh.

bobservo: I’ll admit that it has some problems, but I never viewed it as some sort of awful turning point or notorious or anything like that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Let him explain, then we’ll kick him out of the Simpsons Cool Kids Club.

bobservo: But I can fully understand why people don’t like it.

Mad Jon: In fairness to Bob, Skinner is the brightest star in this particular sky. Even though the plot is completely from a different ball game, changes many, MANY things I know and love about him, and is impossible not to think about when he does/says anything from now on that references his past, Skinner pulls it off as Skinner, not a shell of him, like most Zombie characters become.

bobservo: My take on this episode is that it doesn’t change who Skinner is one bit; sure, they build a little onto his history, but it helps to better explain his character and possibly his relationship with his mother. I’ll admit that this story wasn’t at all necessary, but I enjoyed it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Disagree. If Skinner were himself, why did he go back to Capital City? Why did he abandon Krabappel?

The "changing Skinner" thing isn’t the main problem. The main problem is that this one devotes such an enormous amount of time to revelations and awkward scenes that are not the show’s strong suit.

bobservo: Also, much like Homer’s Enemy, this is secretly a show about television. If you listen to the commentary, Ken Keeler wrote it fully intending to tackle the subject of how TV audiences deal with change. It’s pretty interesting when viewed through that lens, and it probably worked a little too well in that respect.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the opening, before Martin Sheen’s cardboard cutout of a character arrives, is almost joke free. It’s one long extended audience bludgeoning about how much everyone loves Skinner.

  I’ve heard about Keeler’s commentary, have not listened to it, so maybe I need to do that.

But whereas I can buy "Homer’s Enemy" as a comment on what came before it, this one doesn’t have a scene like Homer showing off his Grammy that has that wink to the audience.

bobservo: Well, I agree that his commentary was too subtle.

I didn’t even realize what the episode was trying to say before listening to the commentary track.

Charlie Sweatpants: Not a good sign.

Mad Jon: There is definitely an issue when I have to watch commentary to enjoy the episode. Ugh.

bobservo: But I guess in retrospect I enjoy this episode because it’s nice to see Skinner at least afforded a little dignity — in a handful of years he’d literally be making out with a corpse.

Mad Jon: Not that commentary from God himself could make me enjoy this one.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wow, when did he make out with a corpse?

bobservo: Also it’s kind of alarming to see an episode confident enough to have a single plot, and able to lapse into sentimentality without being cloying.

In the later years they took a full shotgun-to-the-face approach to sentimentality, and it always felt like a cheap attempt to copy James L. Brooks.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’d say it started before this, but my feelings on "Marge Be Not Proud" are well documented.

Dave: They certainly are.

Mad Jon: In some legal documents as well I believe.

Charlie Sweatpants: But it was a downward trend. It’s remarkable how quickly they used to wrap up "I love you guys" plots and how long it takes them now.

Getting back to why this doesn’t play for a second, Grimes works on a basic level because even the first time you see it you recognize that he’s the opposite of Homer. The real Skinner, on the other hand, is hardly a character at all. The greatest crime he commits is borrowing his mother’s car keys.

The town’s rejection of him is just another in a series of far fetched overreactions.

bobservo: Well I agree that the commentary is far too subtle to work effectively.

Mad Jon: Until I watched it earlier, I couldn’t remember how he wound up at the celebration to begin with. I thought he just showed up for no reason whatsoever.

bobservo: And there should have been some greater realization as to why they needed the real (fake) Skinner back.

Dave: Other than a wholesale way to tie up loose ends, you mean.

Charlie Sweatpants: But what is it a commentary on? Granted I haven’t heard Keeler’s defense, but characters developing is one thing, inventing a whole backstory only to drop it in another "hey aren’t we lazy and isn’t that funny" ending is quite another.

bobservo: I would definitely listen to it.

  It probably won’t make you like the episode, but it’ll give you a different perspective on it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Possibly. I do try to keep an open mind. However, it won’t change the fact that most of this episode is revelation. Maybe I’m not in on the arch-joke, but the complete lack of regular ones hardly means that there can’t be an underlying theme.

Mad Jon: Even a decent meta statement can’t make up for a comedy episode with no jokes.

Charlie Sweatpants: It just feels like they locked themselves into this weird story and telling it took so much time that they didn’t have anything left.

bobservo: It is a quieter episode, but I think it shows a lot of self-control in that they didn’t have a B-Plot with Homer inventing a time machine or some such garbage.

  Again, I don’t think it’s a perfect episode, and I don’t watch it that often, but I don’t hate it.

  And I’ll go out on a limb here and say that Skinner may be my favorite character.

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t give them credit for leaving out a B-plot when they could barely cram all the back and forth into the A. The whole thing is so serious that even the aside jokes don’t play. It’s like putting a wacky roommate into Sophie’s Choice or Cider House Rules.

bobservo: It was really after the Scully years that he was only trotted out for episodes with Edna, and they did an excellent job of ruining that.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll agree with that.

I’m a big believe that "Principal Charming" is a massively underrated episode.

bobservo: So my lack of hate for this episode could just be that I miss Skinner.

  But I was never outraged at the time.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll admit that I was.

Mad Jon: I don’t remember being outraged either. But I do recall feeling confused and ashamed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Season 8, which looks so good in hindsight, felt very hit and miss at the time. And when this was the second episode of the next season, it did have that death knell feeling.

Jon’s right, outrage isn’t right, confusion and shame are definitely the standard Zombie Simpsons emotions.

bobservo: Well, I kind of get the feeling that O&W were generally trying to tie things up.

Charlie Sweatpants: This one just felt bad, like, "How low are they going to go?"

Agreed with tying things up.

bobservo: In that they thought they show couldn’t go on for much longer, so why not experiment.

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

bobservo: Of course they might have gone too far with this one.

Mad Jon: Well, you might as well swing for the fences, but if you strike out you generally have to go back to the bench.

Charlie Sweatpants: We’ve come to that point a lot in these Season 9 discussions. If this had been the last or even penultimate season, a lot of bad feelings would’ve been spared.

bobservo: But if you listen to their commentaries, they openly admit they felt they show would be ending soon.

  A lot of their episodes really dole out Springfield and character mythology.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s impossible not to watch things like this without the knowledge that it’s gone on for thirteen more years and counting, to no real purpose other than the greater glory of merchandising rights.

bobservo: Like Jebediah was a fraud, Roger Myers didn’t really create Itchy and Scratchy, etc.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve never thought of it that way, but I can see that.

bobservo: I think this episode was an extension of that, but maybe they were toying with too beloved of a character.

Charlie Sweatpants: "Lisa the Iconoclast" is one of the most huggably cynical episodes they ever did. This one doesn’t seem to have any greater point.

bobservo: I guess also in Iconoclast Lisa saw people were happier with the lie; I guess that’s the same basic point in Pauper.

  Though it could have been done much better.

Iconoclast is one of my favorite episodes, so I could be biased.

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think this one could’ve been done better. "Lisa the Iconoclast" took someone who wasn’t really a character but more of a beloved symbol and tore him apart. Tearing apart sacred cows is what this show did best.

Skinner was a fully formed character and that’s why it doesn’t play as well. They’re laboring under all that history, including his being a Vietnam vet and his time at the school, whereas with Jebediah they had an almost blank slate with which to work.

bobservo: Well I agree with that; they probably didn’t realize Skinner was so beloved.

Mad Jon: And the aftermath with Jebediah is a drop in the bucket compared to what they would have to work with in future Skinner.

bobservo: Also, Oakley and Weinstein wanted to get rid of a character on the show permanently.

Mad Jon: Like a snuff episode?

Charlie Sweatpants: Were they going to do that here and chickened out after it had already been animated?

bobservo: For Who Shot Mr. Burns, they wanted to make the killer Barney and take him out of the show after that (presumably in jail).

Charlie Sweatpants: Never heard that, but I’m a late comer to the behind the scenes stuff.

bobservo: Though that could have been a case of "we’re running out of drunk jokes."

  Again, commentaries.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ah.

bobservo: So I think they loved experimenting, shaking things up, etc.

More in their first season than in their second.

  But I still respect them for trying.

  FYI I found the end of Skinner and Edna’s relationship was far more insulting and infuriating than this episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay . . .

Mad Jon: That episode where she almost marries Comic book guy?

bobservo: If I remember correctly, I think she did.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wait, that was Agnes, not Edna.

Mad Jon: No, Edna did it first.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

bobservo: No, it was called "My Big Fat Geek Wedding."

Mad Jon: That was the episode where he uses Klingon to say " I would kill the children of a thousand planets just to see you smile."

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, but that was Season 15.

  Who cares?

Mad Jon: You must have looked that up.

bobservo: Yeah, and then Grandpa married Selma?

Charlie Sweatpants: I have the internet on my computer.

bobservo: I just like to bring that up because people think it’s not real.

Charlie Sweatpants: Guh. I’m so glad I haven’t seen all of those.

Mad Jon: Wedding, after wedding after wedding!

bobservo: Yep.

Mad Jon: And did somebody say long lost triplets?

Charlie Sweatpants: And a tiny green alien named Ozmodiar that only Homer can see?

bobservo: Wait for season 24.

Charlie Sweatpants: But none of those later atrocities change the fact that they really stepped in it here. The Vietnam flashback was as rote as any Vietnam flashback in television history: times were tough, but I learned something.

Compare that to – again – "I Love Lisa" where Bart breaks Skinner’s brain. That was a subversive flashback. This one was routine.

bobservo: I agree, it would have been nice to see Skinner develop some of his fastidiousness back in ‘Nam.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I’ll admit that I’m just pilfering my notes now, but for one more example of the weakness of the non-plot humor, Brockman has that scene where he gets flustered by technical screw ups, and it’s not nearly as good as the one from "Lisa the Beauty Queen" where he walks off and tells them to get the weekend guy.

Mad Jon: That was quite unnecessary. I was definitely waiting for the follow up joke.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then there’s Skinner, riding off to Capital City yelling "Up yours children" instead of "Eat my shorts, young man"

bobservo: I don’t really know about the production history of this episode, but even though it was held over it might have come in too late for anyone to care.

I do agree that it needs some punching up

Actually, Homer only has a few lines in this one, and they’re completely disposable.

Charlie Sweatpants: His are some of the few I enjoy. His love of cake and pornography is a ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day.

Okay, I think we’re kinda spent, and the only conclusion I’ve come to is that I need to listen to the commentary.

bobservo: So, am I now banned from DHS?

Charlie Sweatpants: Not at all.

bobservo: …for three months?

Charlie Sweatpants: Excellent usage.

bobservo: Okay, whee.

Charlie Sweatpants: Though now I do have to listen to another commentary on account of you.

  Maybe one month.

bobservo: That’s fair.

  But I regret nothing.

Mad Jon: Good, your insight is much more stimulating than my bitching.

  Although I do enjoy bitching.

bobservo: I do what I can.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I guess that’s it. Bob, thanks again. Your dedication to actually studying this show before publicly lambasting it has once again provided an example I shall strive to ignore.

bobservo: Glad to be of service.


Quote of the Day

“Oh, I only grew half an inch. I’m still too short.” – Bart Simpson

“Growing half an inch in one day is still pretty good, Bart.” – Marge Simpson

“Yeah that’s how fast Grampa is shrinking.” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh I’m as tall as I ever was.” – Grampa Simpson


Crazy Noises: This Little Wiggy

This Little Wiggy1

“Alright, alright, now, you’re over stimulated.  Let’s get some beer in you and then it’s right to bed.” – Marge Simpson
“Woo-hoo!  Beer beer beer!  Bed bed bed!” – Homer Simpson

There’s new Zombie Simpsons Sunday, so this is the last of our summer series overthinking Season 9.  Why Season 9?  Because we did Season 8 last summer, and Season 9 was when the show started becoming more Zombie than Simpsons.  Since we’re too lazy to do audio and too ugly to do video, we’ve booked a “chatroom” (ours is right between the one with the sexy seventh graders and the one with the bored federal agents pretending to be sexy seventh graders).  So log on to your dial-up AOL and join us.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “conceding”).

Today’s episode is 918 “This Little Wiggy”, tomorrow’s will be 902 “The Principal and the Pauper”.  In a return visit, Bob Mackey joined us this week.

Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, I figure we should start with "This Little Wiggy" in case we vent spleens on "Principal and the Pauper". Any objections?

bobservo: Sounds fine.

Mad Jon: none from me.

bobservo: I have opinions that may shock and disturb you!

Dave: Let’s go.

Charlie Sweatpants: Go for it. This is the first time I’ve watched all of Season 9 since it was on the air. I’m pretty numb to shocked and disturbed, but possibly not completely numb.

bobservo: Well, more on Principal and the Pauper.

I’m kind of lukewarm on this Ralph episode.

Dave: The episode certainly answers the question of "is there such a thing as too much Ralph?"

Mad Jon: I enjoy the beginning and the end of this episode. It’s that pesky middle where Bart learns something about himself and what his actions mean to other people that really sucks.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Knowledgeum is easily the best part of this one.

Mad Jon: For sure.

bobservo: I think Ralph over-saturation hit its peak with this episode.

Dave: No objections on that point.

bobservo: To the point where after this, any sort of random gibberish could pass as a "Ralph line."

Charlie Sweatpants: Definitely.

bobservo: Does he do something different in the opening credits every week now, or something?

Mad Jon: Couldn’t tell you.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sort of.

  Sometimes it’s different, sometimes it’s not.

Mad Jon: Yeah, I guess I’ve seen that, now that I am un-repressing memories of last fall…

bobservo: But I think at some point the writers decided that wheeling out Ralph was a cheap way to get laughs, so they kept doing it without much thought.

Charlie Sweatpants: The problem isn’t so much the total amount of Ralph here – it can’t be much more than "I Love Lisa" – so much as it is that it’s all Ralph punchlines.

bobservo: You hear Jean talk about this philosophy a lot with his idea that some people are satisfied just to see certain characters.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was all over the movie commentary.

bobservo: Right.

Dave: So what we have then is proof in action.

Charlie Sweatpants: They really did think just showing a character is enough.

bobservo: Well I think Ralph was a little different in "I Love Lisa;" more oblivious than retarded.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good way to put it. He also actually had a story arc, here he just kind of wanders around.

Mad Jon: I do like the visual when Marge opens the door and Ralph is just standing there with the melting fudgicle and the Chinese finger trap.

bobservo: Yeah, he really only dispenses punchlines throughout this story.

There are some good moments; I think it’s some good observational humor about having to hang out with messy/annoying kids growing up.

  And befriending those same annoying kids once you realize how much cool stuff they have.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the kernel of this episode, but it’s barely mentioned later.

Once Bart and Ralph go on their adventure that whole aspect of the story gets dropped in favor of a standard After School Special morality tale.

Mad Jon: Ugh, it’s really not good.

bobservo: That aspect really felt forced in a non-Simpsons kind of way.

Mad Jon: Knowing that part is coming up ruins what may have been a passable adventure with the key.

Charlie Sweatpants: That scene where Bart takes the key was written in about 1973 and all they did was change the nouns.

Dave: Yeah the morality bit is unsubtle to say the least.

Charlie Sweatpants: Jimbo and company are also much weaker here than they were previously. In "Telltale Head" you can buy a) why they hang out with Bart and b) why Bart misreads them.

Here it’s just straight up Bart does something he’s uncomfortable with and immediately feels guilty.

bobservo: And the show basically admits that the third act is garbage, but that doesn’t make it better.

Charlie Sweatpants:  You’re right about that, Quimby gives not one but two speeches about how improbable the ending is.

And those were just the final ones, there’s also the security guard giving them a chance to run, the bullies throwing away they key to "pick huckleberries" when they damn well would’ve kept it.

And the whole Lisa part at the end. It’s kinda funny that she doesn’t get credit, but they’re once again conceding that the whole thing makes no sense.

bobservo: Well that seems to me to be part of a trend that eventually made the show unwatchable: meta-jokes about how lazy the writers are being.

Charlie Sweatpants: It got old a lot faster than they thought it would.

bobservo: Actually if you watch some of the post-season-8 commentaries, the writers mostly make fun of the horrible logic of the episodes themselves — so that seems to be something they enjoy.

Charlie Sweatpants: They’re still doing it in Seasons 12 and 13, I can assure you.

bobservo: Where in older episodes they would subvert TV writing cliches, but not out of laziness alone.

Charlie Sweatpants: This is definitely one of those episodes where self awareness crosses the line from clever to lazy.

bobservo: There would usually be some commentary to go along with the subversion, back when they cared.


Charlie Sweatpants: There’s still some spark here, Chief Wiggum’s "forbidden closet of mystery" and much of the beginning work well (I’m especially fond of McClure’s disclaimer about your care being repeatedly broken into and Homer’s excited state coming out of Knowledgeum), but this is another one where it feels like they have some good jokes but have just given up on even trying to fit them into a story.

bobservo: The story does meander a bit before giving up on saying anything about anything.

Charlie Sweatpants: It has that coasting feeling, like some artist or musician who’s read too much of their own good press and thinks they can do no wrong.

Mad Jon: Yeah, there are once again several good lines. But I don’t really have a problem with good jokes being part of a beginning that doesn’t particularly relate to the plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: But the beginning didn’t force the rest of the plot to suck. I mean, why did they go to an abandoned prison?

  There had to be easier ways to let Ralph have a little triumph at the end.

Mad Jon: Well, you will receive no argument there, the episode slid down a giant hill once Marge set up the ‘play date’.

bobservo: A plot rat led them to an ending?

Charlie Sweatpants: Literally.

Dave: Convenient, no?

bobservo: When I was watching it, I forgot how finding the key led to the electric chair.

  And then I was very sad.

Charlie Sweatpants: And it was a corner they didn’t need to put themselves in in the first place. The Teevee Gods didn’t make them go to the prison.

Mad Jon: No, no they probably didn’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else here before we move on to the bitter heart of Season 9?

bobservo: I’m ready to go.

Mad Jon: Yep

Charlie Sweatpants: Very well. Steel yourselves; we’re going in.


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