Nobody Cares About Reading

Chalkboard - The Book Job

“Okay, we’ve got the secret vigilante handshake, now we need codenames.  I’ll be Cue Ball, Skinner can be Eight Ball, Barney will be Twelve Ball, and, Moe, you can be Cue Ball.” – Homer Simpson
“You’re an idiot.” – Moe

The last two episodes of Zombie Simpsons have seen the entire opening, couch gag and all, dropped completely.  They’ve also featured Matt Selman’s name before Al Jean’s in the customary spot for the show runner.  Not coincidentally, the last two episodes have also seen the show impressively manage to get even further away from what once made it great.  At this point I don’t think the writing staff thinks of this as anything but a sketch show.

This week it was Homer running around with the kids, last week it was Marge, but it almost doesn’t matter since most of the cast is now barely recognizable as human, much less the characters they used to be.  For example, Homer and Bart used to not like Patty, but here they leap right in to including her in their little scheme.  There isn’t so much as a nod to anything of what we know about the Simpsons universe, all that matters to Zombie Simpsons is making sure that we understand that Homer is standing in for George Clooney and Patty is Julia Roberts.

Once they have that established, the rest of it plays out like a less entertaining version of the Family GuyStar Wars mashups.  Just like the Oceans Integers movies, everyone’s slick and cool and well dressed, only now they’re yellow!  Just like the original, there are lots of double crosses and fake outs and everyone is winking at the camera.  It’s so stylish and urbane that it thinks those are the only two things that matter.  That’s how you get multiple flashbacks, an action montage, and a mistaken belief that those title cards were so funny that we needed a dozen of them. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and they are worse than ever.  Just 5.74 million people watched Zombie Simpsons instead of reading a book last night.  That isn’t just a bad number, that is a catastrophe.  It’s tied for the 10th lowest number of all time, and is the lowest ever for the fall half of the season.  Season 22, the lowest rated season in the show’s history, didn’t have a number that bad until February.

14 Responses to “Nobody Cares About Reading”

  1. 1 Bea Simmons' rotting corpse
    21 November 2011 at 3:06 pm

    And thus ends the string of episodes that somehow have 2 million more viewers than Family Guy.

    I found it amusing enough. It was noticably funnier than a typical Al Jean episode, and it’s the first time this season that I actually kept interested troughout the episode & paid attention. Wish they hadn’t tagged on the Moe thing after Gaiman’s hilarious not knowing how to read line though.

  2. 2 Mr. Snrub
    21 November 2011 at 3:20 pm

    Another insightful one dimensional post. Bravo.

  3. 21 November 2011 at 3:43 pm

    I did remember one memorable bit with the title cards. When it said “COMMERCIAL BREAK” or whatever… I only found it amusing because it won’t make any sense whatsoever when the DVD for season 23 comes out (or, uh, whatever replaces DVD… unless blu-ray counts… or we just end up watching everything instantly on computers like most people do now… yeah, you get the idea).

  4. 21 November 2011 at 6:23 pm

    “Friends? [scoffs] These are my only friends. [holds up a book] Grownup nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.” ~Lisa Simpson, Summer of 4Ft.2 (back when she had a personality)

    So Lisa’s gone from reading Gore Vidal to Twilight? HUH??? How did a show once so damn funny and smart become so boring. Last night was yet another laugh free half hour.

    But it’s not just that the characters aren’t themselves anymore, Simpsons has a bigger problem. They’ve lost the ability to tell a well told joke. Zombie Simpsons episodes just go through the motions. They’re so busy getting their lame plot from point A to point B that they forget to include well written jokes. Remember jokes?

    I know everyone hates on Family Guy (for some reason) but the show does a brilliant job at seamlessly weaving it’s funniest lines into the middle of the plot at the most awkward and unexpectedly hilarious times. For instance, last nights episode revolved around Joe’s son returning from Iraq. During the Thanksgiving dinner scene while everyone is gathered at the table, Joe and his son get into a heated argument. If this were Zombie Simpsons, the other characters in the scene would act only as props at the dinner table during the argument. But not on FG. While the father and son are arguing, the other characters remain vocal. Peter won’t shut up about the time a hobo showed him his penis, while Stewie tells a transgender woman that “Brian threw up when he found out you were a monster”. All this is going on while the father and son’s argument continues to grow more and more out of hand.

    Family Guy isn’t as good as SImpsons was back in the day, but it’s very good at doing what Simpsons used to do. And that is making sure that the laughs aren’t pushed to the sidelines while the main plot is being told. Theres no reason for the jokes to stop. Last nights Family Guy reminded me of the classic Simpsons episode where Kirk and Luann get into an argument at the Simpson home over a game of pictionary. Much like on FG last night, the other characters in that scene didn’t just stand around lifeless. Marge hid the cracker box under the couch while Homer made an ill-timed remark about Kirk’s pictionary drawing. Back then, like on FG today, Simpsons crammed as many jokes as they could into each scene Now they’re just going through the motions.

    • 6 Anonymous
      21 November 2011 at 8:46 pm

      Nowhere in the episode did it say Lisa read Twilight, actually. She reads the Harry Potter-clone (which is a well respected and well written series).

    • 22 November 2011 at 1:26 am

      The reason I think people hate on Family Guy — and one of the reasons I don’t care for the show, despite it occasionally being funny and quite often being clever and almost always being interesting — is because all the characters are so damn unlikeable. I mean, they always have been, unlike The Simpsons which once had deep and interesting characters that have become shells of themselves. Yeah, there is character development on Family Guy, but I really couldn’t care less about any of the characters because they’re all basically worthless people and it’s hard to care about them when almost all of them show no redeeming quality. The only characters I find interesting on Family Guy are Brian and Stewey, since both have changed quite a bit since the original episodes and have become fully-developed and interesting. But, yeah, what I’m trying to say is… it’s hard to care about a show about characters when you don’t care about the characters on the show.

      And yeah I saw the Thanksgiving episode last night. Most of the best Family Guy jokes of late have been them making fun of themselves (like the cut to Cowardly Lion gyno inspecting Lindsay Lohan when the “producers” “couldn’t find” a proper cutaway shot). Most of it was straightforward and the kinda political shit that they always focus on, trying to be edgy and cool by saying the same things everyone else says. Family Guy often feels like it really wants to be a mix of South Park (what with the politics and gross-out humor) and The Simpsons (everything else) together, yet it doesn’t really doesn’t have much to say that hasn’t been said.

      But otherwise, I agree, at least the characters at the dinner table conversed, they weren’t just props. Even if the subject matter felt tired and redundant and with the usual overly-meanspirited “trying-so-hard-to-be-shocking” one-note they always land on, Family Guy does do one thing really well, in that it often plays with the perception of how the show “should” go. I mean, I wasn’t expecting that longass argument at the dinner table at all; it felt daring and was conceptually interesting (in fact, I think most Family Guy episodes are CONCEPTUALLY interesting — too bad this usually doesn’t extend to the content).

      ……..But, yeah, it’s better than Zombie Simpsons usually, but what isn’t?

      • 8 Stan
        22 November 2011 at 8:06 am

        I think what happened here imo is that the 2000s destroyed all ties of family belonging in one whole, because in Western society, families started to diverge into sub-groups of people who don’t give a shit about “Honey, I’m home” and “How was you job, dear?” anymore. Look at the internet webcomics: it’s always a couple of flimsy one-sided characters here and there, a lot of them saying jokes unrelated to their persona, or act like they wouldn’t just for a laugh. The same thing happened to sitcoms, only FG didn’t have the time to develop these ties, unlike the Simpsons which aired a decade earlier, therefore it didn’t suffer as much. Sad but true.

        • 22 November 2011 at 12:30 pm

          Good point.

          What initially attracted me to the Simpsons was how REAL it was, especially stuff from season 1-3 (I have a huge love for season 2, maybe my favorite season since it’s so dark and depressing at times). With the quick-fix get-in-do-a-joke-then-get-out ADD world we live in today, there’s really no time TO develop characters in a modern setting (except for longform shows like Sopranos, Breaking Bad, The Wire, etc… shows with multi-episode story arcs and whatnot). In a way, The Simpsons made progress — made a huge mark on animation, since it was the first animated series to really animate real life in an interesting way, and other shows followed (Dr. Katz, The Critic for the most part, and so on). But nowadays, it has changed probably because society has changed, with the internet/cellphone/twitter age where it’s more about the “HAW HAW! DID YOU SEE HOMER SAY ‘KISS MY GRITS’? DID YOU SEE PETER SAY ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY’?” It’s like they base their episodes on trying to create memes or 30-second youtube clips. On the other hand, old episodes would devote 30 seconds to “DENTAL PLAN! LISA NEEDS BRACES!”

          Basically, they just try to cram a lot of shit in that doesn’t really work and has totally gotten away from what made the show compelling to begin with.

          Lately, I have actually been watching some Family Guy episodes I had never seen (I mean, it’s on like 4 channels now, so it’s not hard to catch a ton of episodes quickly) and I am amazed at how interesting and daring they are with their story concepts. Just saw the one where Bryan answers fan mail. While I’m not always a fan of their content and especially the characters, I gotta give em that… in an age where people kinda want more of the same, seemingly, they at least play with conventions enough.

          But I think what animated cartoons need is a lot more depression and darkness and less quick-fix hammy self-referential pop-culture humor.

  5. 10 Stan
    21 November 2011 at 8:30 pm

    They dun it. They’ve made an episode so stupid it doesn’t need a B-plot, because it is itself based on a B-plot. Family Guy isn’t the 90s Simpsons because it is more adapted to today’s society, and the hell it is! The Unsimpsons lost both: they didn’t quite leave their yellow and some of their original characters, yet they try to integrate as well into the 2010s. By referencing decade-old movies which never were classics anyway. It’s not like Grandpa walking away Casablanca style out of context because it’s meant to be a joke. They create a context, and then they go pummeling it into the ground with stale references and other crap.

    And btw, Charlie’s point proven once again: why come up with a “Francis”, if they made Rowling appear on the show that same decade ago? And wtf happened to the children who ran off when the dinosaurs appeared (like they didn’t know what they were going to see when they came in there)?

  6. 22 November 2011 at 1:34 am

    One more thing, I did find it neat Gaiman was on the show, though I was more shocked at that episode (if anyone remembers it, it’s otherwise forgettable) with Art Spiegelman (wearing a MAUS mask), Alan Moore (who came out of his cave of bitterness for a minute), and Daniel Clowes (!!!! … probably my favorite comic artistwriterwhatever, ever). That was rad. I mean, Matt Groening is superconnected with all those comix dudes (anyone ever read that Pekar story about Groening at a convention? Pretty funny). But yeah.

    Hmm… They’ve actually had a LOT of interesting people on the show pretty recently (Ricky Jay!), but you know. That’s really about it…. though, the 20th season episode about crosswords was on tv earlier and I watched it and god help me I laughed a few times. Like the line about childless drunks are the best to give parental advice. They totally blew it on the “this is a tribute to words removed from the dictionary this year”, I thought for sure we’d see some classic Simpsons words in there, like Schwartwelder’s favorite expression “YOINK!”.


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