Archive for March, 2011


Crazy Noises: Love Is a Many Strangled Thing

Behind the Laughter1

“And that horrible act of child abuse became one of our most beloved running gags.” – Homer Simpson

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “engendered”).

There was plenty to complain about this week, but despite our relatively far ranging discussion there was something that really bothered me that we didn’t discuss. Homer choking Bart has always only really worked because the show was a cartoon. When the audience is made to contemplate what’s actually happening, all the fun gets sucked out of it because crushing the air out of child is sickening to contemplate.

That alone drained out whatever microscopic mirth existed in a number of scenes in “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing”, including the one where the therapist and the other dads act mortified at Homer. But right after making things serious, we get another case of Zombie Simpsons wanting to have its cake and eat it too. If strangulation is so terrible, why should we enjoy seeing it happen to Homer, first at the hands of all those big dudes and then from a noose? They want us to think it’s ghastly for one scene, but then take everything lightly for the rest of the episode.

[Note: No Dave again this week.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Anyway, shall we get started?

Mad Jon: Let’s get started.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll say off the bat that I didn’t hate the couch gag. It didn’t take long, and I will always have a nerd’s love of anything that even resembles ASCII humor.

Mad Jon: I agree, it was short and couch gag-y. Those don’t have to be out of the park, it is a simple bit.

Charlie Sweatpants: Now that that pleasantness is behind us forever, the rest of the episode was atrocious.

Mad Jon: Yes, almost immediately, starting with Burns running his balloon into a cathedral.

  Repeat, a cathedral.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, I know. There are a lot of ugly things on Zombie Simpsons, but there are few worse endemic problems than incompetent Mr. Burns.

  Turning Burns into this hapless waste instead of the pure evil he used to be still grates after all these years.

Mad Jon: A French speaking, incompetent Burns at that. Also an elk or a moose or something got to escape from Lenny’s car, maybe.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then Homer had to shoot down the balloon because Carl was crippled by drive by exposition.

Mad Jon: And so forth. It’s just another case of attempt to obfuscate the complete character changes of the last baker’s dozen worth of seasons with random acts of meaningless actions. Not that we haven’t said that 50 times already in these posts.

Charlie Sweatpants: We have, but the Burns ones rankle worse than the others.

Mad Jon: Oh, very much agreed. He may be my favorite T.V. characters of all time. Well, Burns, not Zombie Burns.

Charlie Sweatpants: I get that they’ve got a soft spot for Moe now and don’t want him to be the sleazebag he’s supposed to be. I don’t like it, but it’s kinda understandable. But how the hell does anyone think sensitive, incompetent Burns is funny?

Mad Jon: I don’t even think they mean to make him sensitive and incompetent for the sake of it. It really seems like Burns is just getting the parts that could be assigned to any character. Nothing he does is of any consequence to the idea of Mr. Burns. When was the last time he lorded his power over the serfs? I don’t think the time he has spent in the plant in the last ten years could be measured on a watch without a second hand.

Charlie Sweatpants: You may be right about that. Moving on, but staying on the theme of wildly out of character: Krabappel in the school, Wiggum in the school, Marge at the stadium.

Bart drives a fucking tractor into the school and Krabappel doesn’t do anything. Wiggum’s just there for some reason. And Marge egging Homer on during that eye meltingly bad jumbotron scene was beyond the pale.

Mad Jon: All very good examples.

Charlie Sweatpants: To have Marge set Homer up for a joke while Bart’s sitting there with piss in his pants, that’s beyond contempt for the audience.

Mad Jon: It was pretty bad. Also it seemed like Bart’s voice was cracking. But I digress.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve noticed the same thing about Bart’s voice.

  It’s becoming both deeper and slower.

Mad Jon: Well, that will happen if you spend a lot of time moderating teleconferences.

Charlie Sweatpants: Does Kavner do that?

Mad Jon: No. Bart apparently does it for Kearny and Jimbo though.

Charlie Sweatpants: Oh. That thing.

Mad Jon: Although, who knows maybe Kavner does it in her spare time as well.

Charlie Sweatpants: I should’ve added that to my out of character list. Kearney was in Paris because some overpaid genius noticed that "peeing" and "European" end with the same vowel sound.

  Kearney! The guy whose kid sleeps in a drawer.

Mad Jon: That kind of thing barely even registers with me anymore.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Europe thing wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part is the lifeless shrug of the shoulders they give nowadays when even they admit something doesn’t make sense.

Mad Jon: Like Homer not working and instead writing lines on the chalk board out of fear not being able to choke his small child?

Charlie Sweatpants: But it’s such a role reversal. Bart’s making someone else write lines!

Mad Jon: Right. I doesn’t make no sense.

Charlie Sweatpants: That made even less sense than the way Homer and Marge kept discussing pressing issues in bed. Marge calls the therapy place in the middle of the night, and then Homer wakes up from his montage-tacular dream sequence and Marge brings up the events of the day.

I almost admire the commitment to apathy it takes for them to have Marge bring that up then instead of just making it a scene the next morning. That shows real dedication to not giving a shit (if such a thing be possible).

Mad Jon: Still pales in comparison to the complete middle finger that was Marge and Lisa’s horse movie mini-plot,

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, what was that? B-plot feels like too strong of a term. C-plot too. "Interlude" almost fits the bill.

  Plot sneeze, perhaps?

Mad Jon: It really fits the pattern of needless scene change minus transition.

A transition such as "Now here’s Roy" would be better than this.

Charlie Sweatpants: Roy had the advantage of being intentional.

Mad Jon: And I like plot fart better than sneeze.

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m staying with sneeze. It’s much easier to hold in a fart than it is to hold in a sneeze. That felt almost involuntary.

Mad Jon: Dealer’s choice.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was going to ask if there was anything left, but we haven’t talked about the celebrity voices.

Mad Jon: Oh yes, Paul Rudd. I feel like he’s been in other episodes recently.

  What movie is he pitching?

Charlie Sweatpants: You’re thinking of those other guys who are in all the same movies and play all the same parts.

Mad Jon: Ohhhh, THOSE guys.

  Yeah probably.

Charlie Sweatpants: We haven’t had this much of a surfeit of slightly cute, slightly pudgy comedy dudes since at least the early 90s.

Mad Jon: I will admit that I did like Kareem’s under-the-breath comments about modern basketball players. Although it was unfortunate how we got there, and how long the choking scene lasted after that…

Charlie Sweatpants: I kinda like the line about Kareem being the only Laker he could trust, but whatever affection that engendered dissolved during the many dream stranglings or that ending scene. I forget which.

Mad Jon: That was also a good line. But good money after and before bad.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed. The desert thing (again with the desert) didn’t so much need to end sooner as it did never to start.

Mad Jon: Hmmm. Yes. Well there are a lot of cacti in the desert. Otherwise they would have to go to a cactus farm to poke Homer.

Charlie Sweatpants: But then what would they hang him from?

Mad Jon: I assume there would be a reason-less tree on the cactus farm.

I am sure it will be in a plot in the next few seasons. Let’s let the zombie writers figure it out for themselves.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s a tall order. Six months from now they won’t remember this episode any more than we do.

Mad Jon: Your prediction is most just.

Charlie Sweatpants: For real this time, anything else?

Mad Jon: Other than the fact that Paul Rudd gets to tell his friends he voiced a guy that grabbed Homer’s penis? No. Nothing else.

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t think of anything witty, so let’s end on that.


Quote of the Day

Much Apu About Nothing5

“You want to pick on immigrants?  Then pick on Willie!” – Groundskeeper Willie
“Willie, please, the children want to pick on someone their own size.” – Principal Skinner


Compare & Contrast: Big Screens and Ballgames

“Homer!  Homer!  X-Y-Z.” – Marge Simpson
“Examine my zipper, why?  Whoops.” – Homer Simpson

Zombie Simpsons is nothing if not a heartless and brainless imitation of The Simpsons.  Unfortunately for those charged with doing the imitating, the real thing left very few topics uncovered during its run.  Consequently, Zombie Simpsons is forced to dig up old ideas, slap a more modern theme on them, and pretend that they’ve done something new.  This happens in ways small and large. 

For a small one, look at the awkward way “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing” dredged up Bart’s crank calls to Moe.  Times have changed and crank calling doesn’t really exist anymore, but that didn’t stop Zombie Simpsons from haphazardly trying to cram its bloated, rotting foot into the glass slipper.  Not only would Moe be able to instantly identify Bart as the sender (as anyone who’s ever used a cell phone knows), but why does he read it aloud?  When it was a phone call looking for someone at the bar, he called out the name like a person in his position ordinarily would.  Now that it’s a text message, there’s no reason for him to say it out loud, even if it had been a mildly plausible fake name. 

The scene was just Moe saying “I. M. A. Wiener” as though he was reading from a cue card.  “Mike Rotch”, “Jacques Strap”, “Seymour Butz”, the whole gag is that these are names that are actually jokes.  What’s “I. M. A. Wiener”?  Not a single part of this works.  It’s like that kid from grade school who told a joke and got a laugh, and then kept telling the same joke long after everyone else had moved on. 

For a larger example, we turn to family sports outings.  In both “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing” and “Dancin’ Homer”, the family Simpson takes a trip to a ball game courtesy of Charles Montgomery Burns.  The differences start to pile up before the family even arrives at the stadium.  In “Dancin’ Homer”, we hear that the family is there because it was “Nuclear Plant Employees, Spouses, and No More Than Three Children Night”.  This setup takes just a couple of seconds, is perfectly consistent with Homer’s role in life as a faceless blue-collar slug, and even sneaks in a joke about how cheap Mr. Burns is, all in a single line of dialogue.  (And it’s immediately followed by Otto’s fantastic two birds with one stone line.) 

Zombie Simpsons is incapable of such a quick and well crafted opening.  Instead it serves up more than two minutes of Burns and Smithers in an old time hot air balloon, all the plant employees just hanging out in the parking lot (with rifles), a cathedral that materializes out of nowhere and then vanishes just as suddenly, and Burns personally rewarding Homer.  It’s everything The Simpsons never was: overwrought, drawn out, illogical, you name it. 

Things get worse when Zombie Simpsons finally gets to the stadium.  In a repeat of their meandering trip to the desert a few weeks ago, they proceed immediately to a series of disconnected set pieces that aren’t related to one another or to the episode as a whole.  There are four skits here, the “Museum of Tolerance”, the masseuse store, the mascot zoo, and the guys who don’t like sports.  Just like last time, they could’ve been placed in any order whatsoever without a single change to the dialogue. 

Bad Sketch ComedyThese scenes have been rearranged.  Don’t feel bad if you didn’t notice, neither did the script supervisor.

“Dancin’ Homer” suffers from none of that aimlessness.  Each scene, each line of dialogue, is precisely positioned to lead into and build up the next one.  First there’s Homer and Bart’s discussion of the nature of minor league baseball (“Aren’t we gonna see any washed up major leaguers?”), Lisa’s ode to the Americana of the “old ball yard”, and Homer reminding her that it includes beer in “seventy-two ounce tubs” and heckling the umpires. 

In a few joke addled lines we see everything we need to see to setup the remaining time at the ball park: Homer’s happiness at being able to get drunk at the game, Bart’s love of faded athletes, and Homer’s nervousness around Burns (the one thing that can spoil his fun).  All that while they’re making fun of everything in sight.  From Flash Baylor hitting on Marge to the overlong national anthem to advertising for “$pringfield $avings” (Safe From 1890-1986, 1988-) and “Royal Majesty” (Clothing For the Obese or Gangly Gentleman), there’s nary a moment wasted.  And all without shoehorning in any unrelated or ill fitting set pieces.  When Burns sits down next to the Simpsons, we can feel Homer’s disappointment because up to that point he’d been having such a good time. 

Right before that happens we get a scene that, more than any other here, really illustrates the yawning chasm between the satirical joy of The Simpsons, and the crude freak show of Zombie Simpsons.  Homer finds himself up on the jumbotron, unaware that his fly is open until after he’s waved to the crowd and identified himself.  Since he’s in the previously established good mood, he takes the gentle ribbing in stride and everyone keeps having fun.  It’s short, simple, and good natured, the kind of thing that might happen to a real person at a real stadium.

Dancin' Homer5

Lisa’s embarrassed.  Bart thinks it’s funny.  Homer laughs it off.  Everyone’s in character.

By contrast, when Bart gets put up on the video board in “Love Is a Many Strangled Thing” the jumbotron lingers on him long past the point of anything being funny.  It’s not a grown man with his fly down, which he can quickly correct and is basically harmless.  It’s leering at little kid who wet his pants, which he’s stuck with.  Worse, the tickling alone takes thirty seconds; the scoreboard operator seems to know, almost by magic, that Bart and Homer are important and he should leave them up there forever.  It becomes ugly and uncomfortable long before Bart pisses himself, and then it manages to become even dumber. 

Jumbotron Stupidity

Lucky they had that graphic ready. 

Once again Zombie Simpsons shows its complete inability to tell a story or make a point without battering its audience in the face.  The entire scene takes more than a minute, and to make it abundantly clear that these are not characters with whom the audience can identify but rather one dimensional caricatures, Marge does nothing.  She doesn’t castigate her husband.  She doesn’t act to help her child in any way.  Unlike in “Dancin’ Homer” she just sits there like a comedy prop and sets up Homer for his next little bit about doing the wave.  None of them are the least bit human anymore, which makes the show’s clumsily heavy handed stabs at emotion, in this case Bart’s embarrassment, completely meaningless.  Hell, Family Guy handled a similar situation with far more realism and humor.

The stadium scenes are reflections of their respective programs.  On The Simpsons, a recognizable family goes to a recognizable event, and the show has fun at their expense and that of the world around them, all while telling a single story.  (One in which, I might add, Homer’s a lucky amateur and not an instant professional.)  On Zombie Simpsons, some hardened, bitter television characters act through some set pieces, all the while talking like narrators and comedy writers. 


Quote of the Day

The Old Man and the Lisa5

“If I did agree to help you, you could only earn money by doing good, socially responsible things.  Nothing evil.” – Lisa Simpson
“Nothing evil.  That’s exactly the kind of radical thinking I need.” – C.M. Burns


Quote of the Day

Marge Gets a Job3

“She must think you’re after her eggs!” – Not Joan Embery
“I only ate one!” – Krusty the Klown


Use It or Lose It

Chalkboard - Love Is A Many Strangled Thing

“There’s something I used to do in this situation, but . . . can’t . . . remember.” – Bart Simpson
“Ha-ho?” – Nelson Muntz

Atrophy is a merciless bitch.  Similar to entropy, it’s the rule that says every living thing, from people to protists, have to keep doing stuff to avoid becoming dead.  If you stop using your legs, because of laziness or injury, pretty soon they’ll wither to nothing.  Ask anybody who’s ever had to wear a cast about how quickly debilitation sets in. 

The same principle applies to creative endeavors like television shows.  If you stop doing something, pretty soon you lose that ability.  I think this is basically what happened to Zombie Simpsons over the last decade.  The show kept doing less and less and gradually came to the state it’s in now where it’s only really capable of two things: hurting Homer and celebrity guests (often as themselves).  Everything else has been ignored for so long that they’ve lost the capacity to do things like tell a story or introduce characters to a scene. 

Take the scene at the school in “Love Is A Many Strangled Thing”.  First, Bart rides a tractor into the school, which is itself stupid and nonsensical.  Just because Homer’s letting Bart do whatever he wants doesn’t mean that Skinner and Krabappel would be similarly constrained.  But things get worse immediately as first Homer and then Chief Wiggum appear at the school.  Why are they there?  How did they get there? 

This isn’t something most shows have trouble doing.  If a character is going to be in a scene, s/he is either introduced by walking in and saying hello or it’s someplace we expect them to be naturally.  But neither Homer nor Wiggum resides or works at the school, nor is any story reason given why they should be there.  Zombie Simpsons stopped caring about the integrity of its scenes, and now they’re unable to create scenes that make sense.  Stretched over an entire episode this leads to things like that mysteriously appearing and disappearing cathedral at the beginning, Lisa and Marge’s bizarre horse movie scene, and the hapless video chat with Jimbo and Kearney. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are as bad as usual.  A mere 6.14 million people forgot how to use their remote controls last night.  That’s the third lowest all season, but it isn’t quite low enough to drag Season 22 below Season 20’s average.  Oh well.


Bonus Quote of the Day

Songs in the Key of Springfield Go Simpsonic with The Simpsons
Both images taken from Wikipedia.

“If there’s a task that must be done/
Don’t turn your tail and run/
Don’t pout, don’t sob/
Just do a half-assed job!” – Shary Bobbins

Happy birthday Alf Clausen!


Quote of the Day

Old Money3

“Here’s the deal, Grampa, a guy I think was an explorer left this in the bar one night.  It may be a map to ancient treasure, or directions to some guy’s house, but to find out we’ll need money, we’ll need provisions, and a two man diving bell.” – Moe
“It’s pretty stupid, but so far you’re the front runner.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Old Money”!  Original airdate 28 March 1991.

[Edited to fix incorrect punctuation.]


Sunday Preview: “Love Is A Many Strangled Thing”


Dave’s on the road today, but he took the time to improve the promotional image for tonight’s disgrace.  Courtesy of Simpsons Channel, the wretchedly auto-erotic company line:

When Homer inadvertently humiliates Bart in front of a stadium crowd, Marge encourages Homer to enroll in a fathering enrichment class taught by therapist Dr. Zander (guest voice Paul Rudd). Shocked to learn that Homer often strangles Bart for mischievous behavior, Dr. Zander conducts a series of treatments with the help of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (guest-voicing as himself) to teach Homer what it feels like to be young and small.

“But when Bart learns that the therapy sessions have transformed Homer into a pushover, he takes advantage of Homer and becomes a school bully. Hoping therapy could also cure Bart of his bullying habits, Marge enlists Dr. Zander’s help to patch their relationship.”

That is an awful lot of words to convey the same impression made by a single one: crappy.  I suggest we all agree to remember non-basketball Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for his contribution to Airplane!:


Quote of the Day

Homer the Heretic6

“Thou hast forsaken my church!” – God
“Well, kind of, but-” – Homer Simpson
“But what?” – God
“I’m not a bad guy, I work hard, and I love my kids.  So why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I’m going to Hell?” – Homer Simpson
“Hmm, you’ve got a point there.” – God

Happy birthday George Meyer!


Ned Flanders: Party Guy

“That was Edna Krabappel.  You only get one chance with Edna Krabappel.” – Sideshow Bob

Via comes an interview with Marcia Wallace.  She talks about her career, how she got started and, naturally, Mrs. Krabappel.  It’s a neat little read, but there’s also this nauseating bit about an upcoming episode of Zombie Simpsons:

Carol had better luck than poor Edna, she is looking for love in all the wrong places. I just did an episode last week where I have a romance with Ned Flanders. And there is going to be an online poll to ask America whether they should get together.

The only question I have is whether or not this is going to be more teeth grindingly painful to watch than the time they awkwardly shoved Marge and Ned together.  Since Zombie Simpsons is nothing if not adept at disappointing its audience, I’ll withhold judgment until I’ve seen it.  The online poll is a nice touch, albeit one that reeks of desperation to still be relevant. 

As much as we loathe Zombie Simpsons around here, we do love Marcia Wallace.  The interview is to promote an appearance by her and some other actors in Chicago this weekend (today and tomorrow).  It’s mostly people like her, recognizable actors who never become big stars.  The guy who played Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos and told Joe Pesci to get his shine box in Goodfellas will be there, as will Cindy Morgan of Caddyshack and TRON fame.  So if you’re in Chicago and don’t have plans for the weekend, you could do worse. 


Quote of the Day

The Springfield Files3

“Hello, I’m Leonard Nimoy.  The following tale of alien encounters is true, and by true I mean false.  It’s all lies, but they’re entertaining lies, and in the end, isn’t that the real truth?  The answer is no.” – Leonard Nimoy

Happy birthday Leonard Nimoy!


Reading Digest: Coincident Birthdays Edition

The Springfield Files4

“I can’t believe it, I’m being mocked, by my own children, on my birthday.” – Homer Simpson
“It’s your birthday?” – Bart Simpson
“Yes, remember?  It’s the same day as the dog’s.” – Homer Simpson
“Santa’s Little Helper, it’s your birthday?  We gotta get you a present, yes we do, yes we do.” – Lisa Simpson
“We love you, boy.” – Bart Simpson
“Good doggie, good doggie.” – Marge Simpson
“Lousy loveable dog.” – Homer Simpson

Our friend Steve at “In 10 Words” put up a post to celebrate his 24th birthday on Wednesday . . . the same day long time Simpsons animator David Silverman tweeted this:

Silverman Tweets the Birth of The Simpsons

Assuming Steve isn’t making this up, that’s damn cool.  I wish I was born on the same day as the Simpsons.  In addition to that, we’ve got some Elizabeth Taylor related YouTube, a couple of fan made drawings, a real life sun blocking machine, another new Simpsons Tumblr, and an epic video about the comedy influence of many things, including The Simpsons


“The Simpsons” Celebrate an Anniversary Today – Smooth Charlie’s Links of the Week are these images from David Silverman of some of the very earliest Simpsons drawings.  Here’s Bart belching, Bart and Lisa sitting on an invisible couch (from the second week of production), and Maggie sticking a fork into an electrical outlet.  Silverman thinks that last one may have only aired once.  Given how paranoid television can be about giving kids bad ideas, I’m amazed it even did that. 

The 55 Best ‘Simpsons’ Headlines – Via everyone on Twitter, Funny or Die posted a list of newspaper headlines from the show last weekend.  It’s content farming link bait at its finest, most of the images were just grabbed from Simpson Crazy, but it’s worth a chuckle or two.  There’s more Zombie Simpsons here than normal, but it’s still heavily tilted towards when the show was itself. 

Remembering Elizabeth Taylor as Maggie Simpson – For the reason explained here I’ve never been clear on whether or not that really is Taylor’s voice at the end of “Lisa’s First Word”, but this has YouTube of it. 

homie brown. – Fan made drawing of Homer as Charlie Brown, or Charlie Brown as Homer.  I’m not really sure. 

Lisa Simpson Hat – Even if you don’t have a toddler in your life or live in Britain (where this was made), click on this.  That is excellent, and I kinda want one. 

My 24th Birthday…In 10 Words – Happy birthday, Steve.  Do you really have a stamp collection?

#1 The Simpsons vs. #4 The Family Guy – Lots of good Simpsons love here. 

‘Simpsons’ Vs. ‘Family Guy’: Who Stole Which Jokes? – Speaking of comparisons, here’s a list of some jokes Family Guy stole from The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons, and some jokes Zombie Simpsons stole from Family Guy (via @springfieldx2). 

DYMO Plug and play Label maker: To label me isn’t to negate me – This is a review of an office supply product and it is yet more evidence that once something has been on The Simpsons, it will never be the same:

If, like most people of my generation, you use the first ten seasons of the Simpsons as a reference guide for life, you will hear the phrase “label maker” and instantly think of the Radio Bart episode in season three, where Bart is given a label maker as an awful gift and, in a fit of boredom ends up pretending to trapped down a well.

Before we got this I was always finding Mad Jon’s stubble in my leg razor. 

From the Yellow Kid to Zippy, The Comics Salutes Historic Strips – The Bart Simpson of the 1890s?  Meh.

PERSONALIZED BART SIMPSON TOWEL – Get your kid’s name embroidered on a Bart towel from Australia.  They really should’ve used “Bort” instead of “Brock” for the example though.

TOOT TOOT! I have a list of my favourite pop culture road trips and I’m not afraid to use it – Young man acquires driver’s license, writes blog post to celebrate, includes this:

This is Bart’s episode through and through. My favourite moment (off-topic alert) is when Bart reads the title of a pamphlet outloud in class: ‘Go to Work With Your Parents Day?’ Suddenly, Principal Skinner answers him over the PA: ‘Yes, Go to Work With Your Parents Day.’ Gets me every time.

Excellent usage.

Simpsons-style hover-clouds ‘to block out sun at Qatar World Cup in 2022’ – Awarding a massive, summertime athletic event to Qatar means that the engineers have been tasked with blocking out the sun:

The mechanical clouds proposed would be made from lightweight carbon and hover high above an open-air stadium, shielding the sun’s rays in an attempt to control ground temperature.

Getting Richer, Not Poorer – The point, you have missed it:

On an ancient episode of The Simpsons, Lisa sets out to write an essay about what made America great. “What would Ben Franklin say if he were alive today?” she writes. “He’d say … find a better opening.”

Lisa’s edited effort did win the regional essay contest, but maybe she missed an opportunity. In a new book, “Poorer Richard’s America: What Would Ben Say” author Tom Blair channels Franklin and imagines the eldest Founding Father observing and commenting on our world.

Thank You Very Much Warren Christopher – Heh:

Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher died. While he has a long and important personal biography, for me he will always be the man who put an end to all wars and thus turned America’s youth gay.

There’s YouTube of Moe’s quote at the link.

Lisa Simpson by *xddx – Fan made drawing of Lisa, all grown up and looking like she’s either about to head out for a night on the town or just got back from one. 

‘Simpsonize me’…the best of the bunch – Burger King has apparently parted ways with the advertising agency that brought the world the (now sadly defunct) Simpsonize Me site. 

HOMER CAKES – I have no trouble believing that Tumblr is growing by two-hundred-fifty million pageviews per week because these Simpsons themed ones keep popping up (via @rubbrcatsimp).  As you can probably guess from the title, this one is about cakes of Homer Simpson, including some very elaborate ones. 

Top Comedic Influences – PLUS: Next Con Appearances – Serial tipster Sean sent in this video of That Guy With Glasses discussing his comedic influences.  The whole thing is nearly an hour long; the Simpsons part comes at about the 38:30 mark.  (Tip: You may want to let the whole thing buffer before you try to skip ahead.  It got all tied up when I tried to just move it along.)  He’s one of us:

“Like everyone I’m not a huge fan of the Simpsons now, I don’t really even watch it much anymore.  Sometimes you’ll get a laugh, but it’s mostly what are just sort of throwaway jokes.  It mostly just makes you remember the older Simpsons.”

Got that right.  Thanks Sean! 


Quote of the Day

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

Image yoinked from Gothamist.

“Well, sir, I won’t bore you with the details of our miraculous escape, but we desperately need a real emergency exit.” – Charlie
“Why that’s a fabulous idea.  Anything else you’d like, how about real lead in the radiation shields?” – C.M. Burns


Think of the (Future) Children!

“You just demonstrated applied knowledge; and due to the difficulty and relative obscurity of the reference, you deserve an extra point on your exam.” – Mrs. Krabappel

A couple of weeks ago, Matt Zoller Seitz wrote an article for Salon about the longevity of pop culture in general and The Simpsons in particular.  He was watching “Krusty Gets Kancelled” with his kids (aged 7 and 13), and he was concerned that they weren’t getting all the jokes.  They were laughing, but he worried that they weren’t enjoying it on as many levels as he was.  Being a well practiced columnist, he turned his parental fretting into written words and the result was “Will future generations understand "The Simpsons"?”.

The article had the good sense to differentiate between The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons, but it had enough internal contradictions to let the reader know that the question mark in the headline was no accident.  For example, first came this:

If the first half of "The Simpsons’" endless run has held up, it’s because of the characters and stories, the timing of certain lines and sight gags, and the phenomenal voice work. (When my daughter was an infant, Krusty’s voice used to make her laugh hysterically.)

Which is followed only a few paragraphs later by this:

Some of the most buzz-worthy TV comedies of the last 25 years have proved as sturdy as tissue paper. Even the great ones from the ’90s ("The Simpsons" and "Seinfeld") are starting to seem as era-specific as high-top fades and Koosh balls.

Well, which is it?  Has the show “held up”, or should we consign it to that box in the garage with the Koosh balls?  Seitz doesn’t quite offer an answer, but the rest of the internet jumped on it hard enough that he wrote a follow up piece based on all the reactions, “Should comedy worry about its shelf life?”.  The subtitle is “A Salon piece about how pop culture references date sitcoms sparks rebuttals — and "Simpsons" celebrations”.

Bart After Dark5

Mr. Seitz?  There’s an unruly mob to see you.

Without delving into all the specifics (the second article is well worth reading in its entirety if for no other reason than to see the wonderful number of ways people love The Simpsons), Seitz comes closest to answering his question from the previous article here:

But hopefully there’s something about the work that transcends the time in which it was created, otherwise it’s ephemeral, disposable. I probably singled out "The Simpsons" because it’s considered a pantheon series, a great and presumably lasting work. And during the first half of its run, it did have certain timeless qualities. The pop culture references were dense and sometimes deep, but there also frequent references to mythology, ancient history, biblical scripture, opera, Broadway musicals, painting and literature: Shakespeare, Vincent van Gogh, Gilbert and Sullivan, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, you name it. And the best episodes weren’t just a bunch of riffs strung together. There was a coherent, often scathingly funny vision of American life at the core of the series, as well as an intuitive, honest portrait of family and community and human nature; the gags were just wonderful embroidery. But in the last decade, the embroidery has taken over "The Simpsons" — and just about every other TV comedy of any profile that came after it.

(For more in this vein, about recent Zombie Simpsons and predating Seitz’s original piece by a couple of weeks, see TeleRevision.)

That’s a long way of saying something that we say a lot around here: The Simpsons is solid and well built, Zombie Simpsons is paper thin and rickety.  Solid and well built lasts longer.  But The Simpsons wasn’t the first well done television show, why is it the one that’s still generating all this discussion twenty years on?

Shows No One Talks About Anymore

Critically acclaimed ratings beasts that nobody but teevee geeks have talked about in decades.

In his reaction article, Seitz linked to a piece by Jaime Weinman at titled “Everything Gets Dated”.  Weinman writes:

I think, first of all, that almost everything is an era artifact to some degree or another. Animation is, or was, a possible exception. Many cartoons either make humans very generic in appearance and clothing (plus they wear the same clothes most of the time) or use funny animals instead of humans, which makes it harder for people — especially children — to see them as “old.” Dated jokes in The Simpsons stick out more because the early seasons don’t have a specifically early ’90s feel, whereas any live-action show from that period is stuck with the clothes and the hair.

It’s indicative of just how much The Simpsons changed television that, in all the pieces Seitz linked, the advantages of animation are only mentioned here, and briefly at that.  The rest of Weinman’s article focuses on referential longevity through the lens of the quality of the references, and he’s got a point.  If you want people to laugh ten years from now, then you’re better off mocking things that have already proved themselves durable than things that people happen to be chatting about at the moment.  But while he uses both live action and animated examples, Weinman short changes his own point a little.

Yes, being animated protects The Simpsons from the whims and disasters of fashion.  And yes, a show that mocks Gilbert & Sullivan is going to age better than one that mocks Edward & Jacob.  But there is something more to The Simpsons that pushes it into its own realm of longevity.

On top of its excellent animation, exceptional acting, and exquisite writing, The Simpsons also achieved a level of popularity that very few creative endeavors ever manage.  Weinman again, a few days later:

A comment on my earlier post rightly singled out Mystery Science Theatre 3000 as an example of a show that would toss out pop-cultural references from any era, including some very obscure ones. It was one of those shows whose fans would congregate online and collectively figure out where all the references came from; The Simpsons was another show like that, with its extended take-offs on discontinued comic strips Little Nemo or Dondi; Animaniacs still another, and there were many more.

Like Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Animaniacs, The Simpsons was a show that offered a lot of intellectual depth and rewarded pop culture awareness.  Unlike those two and many similar programs, The Simpsons became one of the most popular television shows of all time.  Some of that undoubtedly had to do with the media environment into which The Simpsons was born.  Being a network show meant more then than it means today, and FOX was willing to give it more creative freedom than most cable shows, then or now.  But even that plum spot and blank check didn’t guarantee anything.

What pushed The Simpsons over the top, what made it so popular then and so lasting now, is the way it seamlessly connects so many disparate elements into a polished whole that is far more than the sum of its parts.  It’s no mere two track entertainment, with some jokes for kids and others for adults.  It is not one of those smart-dumb comedies that mix witty observations with dick and fart jokes.  Nor is it a classical satire or a pop culture carnival.  The Simpsons is all of those things and more, blended together and set on fire.  The proof of its immeasurable popularity and enduing acclaim is in the reactions, this post and the web of articles, links and comments it references definitely included.

All these years later Seitz can sit down and watch an eighteen year old episode with a seven year old kid and a thirteen year old adolescent.  At the same time, it and the others like it are so densely packed with gags and references that even in all those years there probably isn’t a single person who’s ever gotten them all.  Is there another show that even approaches that level of audience adaptability?  Is there any other program that – two decades after the fact – would send a small army of people to their keyboards to refute the notion that future generations wouldn’t understand it?


1,000,000 A.D., apes are our masters and The Simpsons is still funny.

The Simpsons is a geek show that crossed over into the mainstream because people who don’t care what Dr. Who is can still laugh at a wheelbarrow full of tacos.  It’s a kids show that makes grown ups laugh because Bart knocks things over but Krusty owns the subsidiary rights.  It’s a timeless show, or as close to one as we’re ever going to see, because it’s animated and you don’t need to know the Cheers theme song to laugh at this:

When the weight of the world has got you down
And you want to end your life
Bills to pay, a dead end job
And problems with the wife
But don’t throw in the towel
Cause there’s a place right down the block
Where you can drink your misery away . . .


Quote of the Day

Bart the Murderer8

“What’s that guy doing here?” – Bart Simpson
“Lionel Hutz, court appointed attorney.  I’ll be defending you on the charge of, murder one?  Wow, even if I lose I’ll be famous!” – Lionel Hutz


Forty Square Feet of Awesome

“Our arts and crafts center is, in actuality, a Dickensian workhouse.” – Lisa Simpson

A guy named Kyle McCoy is creating a forty square foot image of Springfield from perler beads, which is a hell of a lot of work since an individual bead is less than a centimeter across.  Not only is this a fantastic idea, its author is a wise man when it comes to the topic of Zombie Simpsons:

“Now, I’m a big fan of The Simpsons.  Not the newer ones, so much (sorry Matt), but for its first eight seasons it was the best thing on television.  It’s rare for a television show to have eight seasons, much less eight seasons of gold.  But you don’t need me to tell you how good The Simpsons is . . . was.”

Here’s the video he made to get funding through Kickstarter.  You can see him assemble the Springfield Elementary School portion of his epic creation:

If you go to the Kickstarter page, you’ll see that the video was already successful, so you don’t even need to pony up any dough.  You can see many of the pieces on the main project page.  And here’s the best part, the complete work is going to be revealed next Saturday, April 2nd in New York City (specifically Forest Hill, Queens, according to Gothamist).  If any Dead Homer Society readers want to attend and send in pictures or accounts, I will gladly post them.  Great job Kyle, can’t wait to see the whole thing. 


Quote of the Day

The PTA Disbands5

“All this free time, I never thought I’d get sick of ‘Razor Fight II: The Slashening’.” – Dolph
“I probably should stop, my doctor says I have the wrists of an eighty year old.” – Kearney


Crazy Noises: A Midsummer’s Nice Dream

Homie the Clown6

“Yeah Dad, it was bad enough when you tried to pass yourself off as Tom Bosley, but Krusty?” – Lisa Simpson
“You weren’t complaining when I got you this close to Chachi.” – Homer Simpson
“What’s a ‘chachi’?” – Bart Simpson

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “showbiz”, which both Mad Jon and I managed to screw up).

As Mad Jon points out below, one of the more flashing neon indicators that the people behind Zombie Simpsons are truly committed to phoning in their show came at the resolution of Marge’s two scene B-plot. The Cat Lady, who got started as a throwaway joke back in Season 9 and probably should’ve stayed there, comes in and takes over the Simpson house. Dismissing the development, Homer says “We’ll deal with that later”. Of course they don’t even so much as mention it later, which makes this a novel kind of double apathy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we begin?

Mad Jon: Sure

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s been more than a week since I watched this thing, and it’s been much longer than that since I read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but other than the very end did anything in here have anything to do with the title of the episode?

Dave: Near as I could tell, no.

  That they attempted to do anything with the title at all is a little surprising.

Mad Jon: The way they crammed it in at the end was not surprising, however.

Charlie Sweatpants: That was par for the course.

Shall we tackle the hackneyed showbiz plot first or the hackneyed hoarders plot first?

Mad Jon: Let’s do the showbiz plot first.

  It actually works as a pretty decent flow chart on this legal pad I keep next to me to look important.

Cheech + Chong = Homer + Skinner

  Cheech + Homer = Chong + Skinner

And then Skinner and Homer mystically stop being part of their respective acts (Jon’s postulate of convenience)

  And Cheech + Chong = Happy ending

  Also in addition to there being two ‘k’ sounds in cocktail, there is also a ‘cock’

Charlie Sweatpants: I see. Fascinating.

You have captured the basic outline, though Homer being the star of the show his half of the "Cheech + Homer = Chong + Skinner" was considerably bigger.

Mad Jon: Yes, but they were equally as off putting

Charlie Sweatpants: Then again, I don’t know how much more of Chong and Skinner I could’ve taken.

Dave: I was just about to raise that point. Who actually wanted more of Chong + Skinner, even though both were atrocious?

Mad Jon: I couldn’t stop thinking about the dance quartet in The Big Lebowski.

Charlie Sweatpants: To be fair, except for the part about expectations, Chong got in the most descriptive line of the episode when he talked about the "Sea of what? With waves of hunh?"

Mad Jon: I was much happier when Cheech’s van WAS made out of pot. MUCH happier.

Charlie Sweatpants: And I think it was a "quintet", you know, his "cycle" in Lebowski.

  Agreed on the van, though.

Mad Jon: Ah, yes. Where is my head this evening.

Charlie Sweatpants: More to your point, reheating thirty-five year old jokes and assuming they’re going to work because Homer’s acting crazy wasn’t a good idea.

Mad Jon: I don’t see how this show’s target audience could possibly understand what was going on. When is the last time you saw any of those bits?

I remember being ten and getting the humor in The Simpsons.

Now I am considerably older, and considerably bored. And I’ve seen the Cheech and Chong movies.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s because they didn’t used to just repeat old things. They joked about "Dave’s not here" way back in Season 4, they just didn’t build an episode around it.

Mad Jon: True true.

Then someone wins ‘most improved odor’

Dave: The rest is history.

Charlie Sweatpants: The first time I saw Burns mock Ed Sullivan for having The Beatles and their "off key caterwauling" on his show I didn’t know who Ed Sullivan was, but I didn’t need to. Here if you aren’t fairly familiar with Cheech and Chong, the van bit you mentioned being a good example, you don’t have much to go on.

Mad Jon: Good analogy.

Charlie Sweatpants: And then there’s the resolution, how exactly did Homer get Chong back?

I may have just blacked out for a minute or something, but it seemed like Homer never talked to Chong until they were backstage for their surprise reunion.

Mad Jon: I don’t know. It fits in real well with what Homer says after they let Cat Lady take their house "We’ll deal with that later."

Charlie Sweatpants: Except they didn’t even deal with it later.

Mad Jon: No. No they didn’t.

I may also have blacked out for a minute, but, I know Lisa called Homer, but then Homer didn’t answer, but then after sniffing Cheech’s butt, he is in the not pot van driving back to save Marge.

  But, but… but but.

Dave: You’re right about the re-emergence of the pot van and the Marge saving. It just sort of happened.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s part of their special brand of laziness, where they already know how its going to end, so they just figure no one will give a shit if they skip a few steps to get there.

Mad Jon: You saying we’re not workin’?

Charlie Sweatpants: Exactly.

Much the same goes for the Cat Lady subplot. It only has two scenes, Marge cleaning/starting to hoard, then Marge not hoarding and the Cat Lady going crazy again.

After school specials are less predictable.

Mad Jon: Was Moe using a VHS tape?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think so. The better question is why they felt the need to insert that whole thing? Did NBC headquarters get that big of a laugh?

Mad Jon: NBC?

Charlie Sweatpants: He mails the tape to NBC headquarters in the Cayman Islands. It’s not that funny, but it was made even less so by the creepy, drawn out setup.

Dave: I must have checked out. I don’t remember Moe at all.

Mad Jon: Ok. I gotcha now.

Charlie Sweatpants: Dave, don’t worry about it.

Mad Jon: It’s better this way.

Dave: Probably better for it, I suppose.

Mad Jon: The point still being Marge was a hoarder, then she wasn’t, and now the Simpson family no longer lives at 742 Evergreen Terrace.

And we didn’t even get a star wipe transition.

Charlie Sweatpants: Transitions were this episode’s strong suit. I cite the opening exposition, Homer getting up on stage, that audition, and Chong’s mysterious re-appearance at the end.

Mad Jon: Indeed.

  Does anyone remember that Zombie episode where the Simpsons were on a reality TV Show?

Charlie Sweatpants: Mercifully no.

Dave: Nope.

Mad Jon: That was a while ago. I think they were living in a house circa 1600 or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: Their "topical" episodes are typically even less memorable than whatever their non-"topical" episodes are called.

Mad Jon: Then there was a flood or something, and it got them out of their contract.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Sounds terrible.

Mad Jon: It was. It really, really was.

Charlie Sweatpants: Anything else of note in this one? Between Homer’s montage, Cheech’s overly sincere art tour, and all the rest there just wasn’t that much actually happening.

Dave: I just wanted to add that South Park’s take on hoarding was way, way funnier.

Mad Jon: Well, mercifully, I would categorize this more as boring than bad. Because there have been some textbook bad Zombie episodes, but this just felt like the I&S daydream Bart had when he wasn’t allowed to go see the movie.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good call. Then again, much of Zombie Simpsons does kinda feel like a shrug of defeat.

Mad Jon: Maybe we are just getting used to the disappointment. Now I know how my Mom feels.


Quote of the Day

Brother From Another Series2

“I make no secret of my past.  But isn’t our system of justice based on the idea that a man can change?” – Sideshow Bob
“Uh, have the boys check into that.” – Chief Wiggum


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