Crazy Noises: The Book Job

The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show4

“It’s not your fault, Homer, it’s those lousy writers.  They make me madder than a, um. . . yak in heat.” – Marge Simpson

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (shockingly enough, not on “pastiche”).

In comments and on Twitter there have been more generous appraisals of “The Book Job” than is usual for Zombie Simpsons, as well as some eye rolling at my typically harsh appraisal of it.  And while I don’t want to speak for anyone else, I do think I understand that.  “The Book Job” had a bit more life to it than most Zombie Simpsons episodes, but I’m also of the opinion that most of that was the same kind of cheap pandering that we got last week, the only difference is that it was fiction books in place of video games and celebrity chefs.  In other words, the package here is a little shinier than usual, but there’s still a turd under the wrapper.

Consider this exchange near the end between the gang and Neil Gaiman (who, let us not forget, is voicing himself and just showed up out of thin air):

Patty: How could they do this to our book?
Skinner: It was the singular vision of seven people.
Moe: No way!
Gaiman: What you’re feeling is called ‘pride of authorship’.  You thought you only cared about money, but you actually care more about what you’ve created together.
Homer: British Fonzie is right, our story is actually more important than money.

This is them literally restating the plot and telling us (not showing us, but telling us) how they’re feeling and why they’re feeling it.  This is exactly the kind of hacktacular crap they were mocking in “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” when Marge says that those lousy writers make her feel madder than “a yak in heat”.  Or, to grab from another show for a moment, this is what the Robot Devil was talking about when he told Fry his opera sucked because “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel!”.

And that is far from the only example.  Here’s the scene where they plot out their book:

Patty: The heroes are all orphans.
Skinner: And they’re set in a place kids relate to, say, a school, but it’s actually magic.
Frink: And, the protagonist always discovers that he is supernatural.
Homer: Okay, our book will be about an orphan who goes to a magical school where he discovers he’s a vampire.

From there they repeat the word “vampire” about seventeen times, with Frink actually saying “So many vampires!”.  This is the book equivalent of “Gamestation” and “Guts of War”, they’re not poking fun at anything, they’re just restating things.  From there we’re treated to their exposition-tastic creation of their troll idea, which is basically the exact same thing as the above.  This includes the poorly animated thought bubble background which is just to make super-duper-sure that the audience gets it:

Creative Failure

I’m so glad they were able to find clipart of bridges and trolls.

Nor was the shoddy animation limited to their shared dream sequences.  Check out Homer in the bookstore, here:

Strange Wallpaper

So many blank books!

For an episode that clearly took a lot of pride in its background stuff, making all the books single color with no evidence of writing on them is all the more revealing.  They don’t even look like books, more like kids play blocks.  Then there’s the mysteriously appearing printer.  Here’s Lisa in front of her desk:

Mystery Laptop

Nice laptop, shame it’s about to be sucked into another dimension.

And here’s Lisa just a few seconds later:

Mystery Printer1

Is fifteen seconds of object permanence too much to ask?

The laptop is gone, the printer has appeared, Lisa managed to move to the other side of the desk, and the entire room shifted.  This isn’t one or two small mistakes, this is them drawing the room completely differently for shots that are only a few seconds apart.  But wait, there’s more!  Note the pages streaming off the printer:

Mystery Printer2

Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V are everyone’s friend.

Notice that not only do the pages behave nothing like actual paper, but they are also identical to one another.  They couldn’t be bothered to move the text around or even just rotate the damn images.

The entire episode is filled with bland, expository dialogue and wildly uneven animation like this.  And that’s before you even get to things like the story not making sense, the characters acting nothing like themselves, and all the usual Zombie Simpsons crap.  That Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright were doing decent impressions of George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s repartee isn’t nearly enough to save this.

Charlie Sweatpants: Where do you want to start?

Dave: Near as makes no difference. It was a haze of mediocrity.

Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed it was. And while there were a lot of small problems, the overarching one is that this was just so damn gimmicky.

Dave: Yeah. Just a pastiche of dumb shit. Though I did chuckle at Ralph wanting to go back into Sarah’s womb.

Charlie Sweatpants: I was okay with the Ralph thing until he actually, you know, climbed under her dress.

Dave: Well yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: The whole dinosaur opening was annoying. Did we need to get to the screaming and the running so fast?

Dave: No, we did not. But they didn’t waste a second.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s just another example of how they can’t go even a few seconds without not making any sense.

And that was before Homer and the kids just walked backstage like they owned the damn place.

Dave: Yeah. But how else could they have started the whole crime heist nonsense?

Logically started, anyway.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s my overarching problem that spoiled the whole thing for me. Maybe I’m overreacting, but after last week’s food blogger thing and now this Ocean’s Eleven thing I’m sick and tired of one-note episodes.

Not only are they unimaginative, but they’re so transparently pandering. Food blogging, people like that right? Ooh, teen lit, there’s something that’s been in the New York Times style section lately.

Dave: The alternative is 2-3 plots that collectively don’t make any sense. Pick your poison. In this case teaming up Homer, Bart, Skinner, Moe, etc. and tossing in a celebrity felt just about right.

But teen lit is so topical. And werewolves, c’mon.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s the problem. They’re so completely bereft of actual ideas that they’re leaning on cheap topicality. Except it takes them a year to make an episode so by the time they get around to something it’s usually already played out.

South Park does a lot of topical episodes, and they tend to be the ones that don’t age very well because they’re only really funny in that moment. But for South Park you at least get that moment. Making fun of Harry Potter-Twilight-Etcetera was current, what? Three years ago when the first Twilight movie came out?

Dave: Something like that. I tend not to pay attention to those sorts of things.

Charlie Sweatpants: Look at it this way, they can’t figure a way to just do something with the Simpson family or with Lisa loving a series of books. So they have to set everything to 11, make a boring and predictable caper plot, and end up having Homer break into some heavily defended skyscraper.

Dave: Are you sure you’re not secretly moonlighting for them?

Charlie Sweatpants: Ouch. What did I do to deserve that accusation?

Dave: That was harsh and unnecessary. I take it back.

Your summary was just very on point.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, I may be overreacting because they’ve done two of these in a row now, but all of the annoying things that were there last week are here this week in spades.

Characters acting unlike themselves, lame “parodies” that amount to little more than misspelling things, a story that doesn’t make any sense, all they want to do is make some bad pop culture jokes and the rest of the episode is poorly done window dressing around that.

They actually had Moe say he didn’t want to get involved with another of Homer’s “hare brained schemes”. If that’s not an admission of, like you said, mediocrity, I don’t know what is.

Dave: So what’s to be done?

They could stop. But they won’t.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, bitching on the internet is something, isn’t it?

Dave: Better than the alternative, which is pretending the show’s still good and/or relevant.

Charlie Sweatpants: Better than nothing, I suppose.

As for individual problems this one had, where to begin?

I was sick of that music and title card thing by about the third one, and then they kept on coming.

There was an excess of their usual pointless and boring bloodshed.

Homer being super slick and competent all of a sudden. Props and characters appearing and disappearing at random.

There were also a couple of times where the animation really seemed phoned in. Like last week they had a lot of background stuff in some scenes (though most of them were lame for the previously discussed reasons), but when they weren’t showing a bunch of book titles, everything was really stale and repetitive.

When the printer in Lisa’s room starts spitting out pages, all of them are identical. The books in the bookstore are just flat, monochromatic rectangles.

Dave: I didn’t even notice that, honestly.

I was more put off by the poorly done homages to the Oceans movies.

Charlie Sweatpants: I generally only notice the animation if it’s really bad or really good, and this was really bad.

It really was Homer Simpson and the Springfield Variety Players bring you Oceans 15 or whatever.

Dave: They may as well have had Duck President.

Charlie Sweatpants: Did you notice that Marge didn’t have a role in the caper, so she basically disappeared right after the opening?

Dave: Now that you mention it, yeah.

Charlie Sweatpants: There just wasn’t any space for her, I guess.

Dave: Well, last week we had too much of her. Maybe they thought a break was in order.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s also possible they just ran out of time with all of the flashbacks and thought bubble expositions.

They had to keep explaining what things were going on and illustrating the story with crappy animated icons.

Dave: The show is layered beast, too dense for the average television viewer. Be glad we had our hands held.

Charlie Sweatpants: Maybe you’re right and I should be grateful they only explain things three or four times instead of five or six.

Dave: That’s what they’ll resort to next season.

Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t wait.

Anything else here?

Dave: Nope. I can’t believe we’re only 6 episodes in. Feels like an eternity already.

Charlie Sweatpants: I know the feeling.

24 Responses to “Crazy Noises: The Book Job”

  1. 1 Patrick
    22 November 2011 at 7:23 pm

    Will there be a compare and contrast this week?

  2. 4 monoceros4
    22 November 2011 at 8:16 pm

    So “The Simpsons” has decided to imitate aspects of “South Park”, eh? Only “South Park” did their Ocean’s Trilogy parody back when Ocean’s Thirteen was still relatively fresh in the mind. Not to mention the whole, “OK gang, let’s get together and put on a show!” plot that’s used in at least half the “South Park” episodes ever made.

    I’m actually not a huge “South Park” fan; they come up with quite a few dud episodes. But really they’ve managed to maintain a fairly consistent average. In contrast “The Simpsons” really had fallen off the cliff long before their fifteenth season.

    • 22 November 2011 at 10:27 pm

      I’m not a big South Park fan either, mainly because I feel like they just beat most topics into the ground. The show gets pretty boring/tired rather quickly. Though, of course, it’s usually clever for a bit, it just wears me out by the end. I think the show would be amazing if it the runlength was cut in half a la most Adult Swim shows.

      Having said that, I love the South Park movie, which I think is pretty genius for the most part.

  3. 6 Danny
    22 November 2011 at 9:14 pm

    Book job, not food job.

  4. 22 November 2011 at 11:15 pm

    “lame ‘parodies’ that amount to little more than misspelling things”


  5. 22 November 2011 at 11:23 pm

    I love how these seven people created a, looking at the last few minutes of the episode, popular best-selling novel and when the show writers realized that they had essentially written themselves into a corner, they had Gaiman steal their fame and glory.

    I get tired of “celebrities” playing themselves and, like in the case with Gaiman, one of the characters has to explain who the person is and what they do. If you have to explain who the celebrity is then the celebrity doesn’t deserve to be there.

    I think people are going easy on this episode because of their respect for Neil Gaiman, who is a brilliant author and all-around good person (from what I can tell from Twitter anyway) but people have to realize that the best guest star in the world can’t save a show from bad writing.

  6. 11 Stan
    23 November 2011 at 12:43 am

    I think it’s pretty obvious that this show was taking viewers for idiots for a long time now, because it is written for and basically tested on morons.

  7. 12 Bea Simmons' rotting corpse
    23 November 2011 at 2:41 am

    Your Zombie Simpsons animation nitpickings completely miss the mark. These are animation cheats/techniques that have been used not only troughout the whole series, (the most obvious example being appearing/disappearing watches), but troughout the whole history of animation. Try convincingly mapping fake text onto a piece of paper that changes shapes, it’s hard. It’s not a case of ‘not bothering, because we don’t have a tight deadline anyway’.

    And what’s wrong with trying something different visual wise? I’m not a big fan of symmetrical illustrator styles, but at least it’s something fresh to look at for a change on this show.

    Try critiquing the real shortcomings of the current animation.

    Anyway, the reason why this episode worked better than usual, is that the jokes seemed actually funny, instead of the usual sad attempts at humor. Also, I didn’t mind when classic Simpsons parodied an older movie, and I’m not gonna mind when Zombie Simpsons does it. Don’t get why some people are upset about this.

    • 13 Stan
      23 November 2011 at 8:14 am

      “Parodying” in sitcom terms does not mean taking design bits from the movie and cramming them in the show, all while the plot has nothing to do with it. Even when they did the 24 parody that was a parody, i.e. something that remotely looks like a plot on the show. Having Bart and Homer all of a sudden talk heist biz way is not exemplary funny because it is a parody, but pathetically funny because it milks the audience for laughs. The whole thing is unnatural and seems somewhat strapped-on.

      As for Charlie’s point, I think the message here is not that the producers didn’t bother like they should, but simply that the setup became so unimportant on the show nobody gives a fuck if Lisa’s bed moves, or if the books in a library are simple cut-and-paste rectangles. Question is: where is the love? If you love the show, draw the setup with dignity, not mass-factory produce it, that’s the point I guess.

      • 14 Bea Simmons' Rotting Corpse
        23 November 2011 at 10:10 am

        I hate lazy parodying like you describe as well. I ment to say that I don’t get that people are now saying that a parody should only be made when the movie has just been released and shouldn’t be done if it’s more than (a month? a year?) old.

        Things moving around and just being simplified to colored squares can probably be found in every episode ever made. It’s not something that suddenly happened after the classic years because of lost love & not giving a fuck.

        • 15 Stan
          23 November 2011 at 1:41 pm

          I for once never said that. When they attack unpopular narrow-interest shows like Dexter it’s one thing, but here the point is that since they set it up like Ocean’s, it darn better have a reason behind it, which it does not. Saying “oh, and let’s go Ocean’s Twelve on the plot” is akin to saying “and the dog’s eyes must move, this way we know it’s evil”. Pity is they themselves used to mock that kind of shit.

    • 18 Charlie Sweatpants
      23 November 2011 at 10:40 am

      I’m always trepidacious about talking about the animation because I just don’t know much about it, so if I straight up biff on something I do want to know. That said, I’m aware of things like watches disappearing or Marge’s pearls being the wrong color, those don’t bother me so much. What bugs me about Zombie Simpsons is that animation shortcuts like having the laptop disappear and the printer appear are done in service to the crappy script. Neither is an insignificant background image, both are mentioned in the dialogue, and they just remove or add them whenever they’re needed. As a viewer, those things are really distracting.

      • 19 Wrinkledlion X
        23 November 2011 at 12:04 pm

        Those are really staging errors more than animation errors. Where the animation really suffers is in static posing and copy-and-paste expressions.

  8. 24 November 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Oh. My fucking lord. You wanna know how bad I’ve realized that Zombie Simpsons animation has gotten? It’s not the lack of details in the background (which is not really something a casual viewer might notice on his first watch). It’s the fact that they use that cheap clip-art style to illustrate that thought bubble sequence. I mean, look at it! Everything wrong with Simpsons animation today, you can find in that image.

    Just look at the characters at the bottom. Notice how almost all of them smile with their eyes wide open, without any differences to their expressions? Moe’s the only one in that image who actually looks like he’s in character (he’s looking at Frink but he’s not smiling).

    • 21 Victor Dang
      24 November 2011 at 11:21 pm

      To further illustrate my point, this is basically an emoticon representation of what’s going on in the bottom half of that clip-art troll picture, from left to right:

      ( >_>) ( ʘ‿ʘ) ( ʘ‿ʘ) ( ʘ‿ʘ) ( ʘ‿ʘ) (⩌‿⩌— )

      Barely any variance in expressions at all. I’m guessing that’s what Wrinkledlion X was referring to when he said the animation suffered from “copy-and-paste expressions.”

    • 22 Patrick
      25 November 2011 at 7:41 am

      Like that table scene with the whole family grinning at once (too creepy for my own good)

  9. 16 January 2012 at 9:44 am

    So you’re focusing on the animation and small details instead of talking about the storyline? Morons, stop trying to shove your pointless shit down our throats! If you hate The Simpsons so much then why do you watch and review? Please just stop existing!

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