When a Movie Template Goes Nowhere

Chalkboard - The D'Oh-cial Network

“Now I finally have time to do what I’ve always wanted, write the great American novel.  Mine is about a futuristic amusement park where dinosaurs are brought to life through advanced cloning techniques.  I call it, ‘Billy and the Cloneasaurus”. – Seymour Skinner
“Oh, you have got be kidding, sir.  First, you think of an idea that has already been done, and then you give it a title that nobody could possibly like!  Didn’t you think this through?” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

If I wasn’t so inured to the relentless mediocrity of Zombie Simpsons, I might find an episode like “The D’oh-cial Network” disappointing.  There are a lot of big ideas at play, everything from distracted driving to potential social isolation resulting from only communicating with other people on-line.  Those are things that people debate and have moral panics over, and a show with the resources of Zombie Simpsons could be hilarious and say a lot by making fun of them with wit and intelligence.

But I am inured to the relentless mediocrity of Zombie Simpsons.  So I’m not the least bit surprised that they want me to fawn over an episode because it’s got the same plot and musical cues as The Social Network, while at the same time expecting me to turn off my brain to the point that I’m supposed to buy Reverend Lovejoy never having encountered the problem of cell phones in church, Lisa never having a computer before this, and no one in Springfield ever having used a social networking site.  The nonsense piled up thick and fast, and I’m not sure there was a single scene that didn’t suffer from one or more crippling problems with story, believability, character, or childish levels of social understanding.

To take just one example of an irresponsibly blown comedy opportunity, Lisa designs a social network to help her make friends with other kids, and later in the episode is surprised to learn that adults are also using it.  Does the episode explore in any way shape or form the problems Facebook has had as the parents and grandparents of its original users began signing up?  Not at all.  Does the episode make fun of any of the bizarre situations that can arise from knowing someone better on-line than you do in real life?  Nah.  How about the still unsettled etiquette and rules concerning interactions between teachers and students on social media?  Nada.

Zombie Simpsons didn’t look at Facebook and social networking generally and think, “here’s a huge change in the way people live their lives we can play around with”.  The potential topics and stories there are practically infinite, and Zombie Simpsons ran the other way.  They watched a movie and thought, “we can substitute some of our characters for their characters, and if we add in some car crashes we’ll be good to go”.

Naturally, they were wrong about that part too, as they had not one, not two, but three blatant filler moments at the end.  First, there were the epilogue titles, then there was whatever that was in London, and then there was that strange little animated segment, which I actually thought was the highlight of the entire episode.  It didn’t make much sense, and I could’ve done without the Skinner-reading-a-story reveal, but the animation was interesting (the coal-black button looking eyes gave it a nice Coraline vibe) and Castellaneta’s Vincent Price impression complimented it well.  It wasn’t anything remotely close to brilliant, but there was a spark of something interesting there, which is more than can be said for the rest of it.

Anyway, the numbers are in, and as expected they are way, way up from last week.  The Giants’ upset of the Packers gave the preliminary numbers a huge boost, as 15.70 million shocked football fans left their televisions on.  There was some post-game overrun into the 8pm slot, so that number will come down when the final numbers get sorted out, but it won’t come down too much.  (Amusingly, this is the first time Zombie Simpsons has cracked 10 million viewers since the last two times they were on after playoff football.)  Of course, FOX only has one football game left this season, and, because there won’t be any new Zombie Simpsons next week when they broadcast it, this anomaly won’t do much to boost the overall number for Season 23.

[Update 30 Jan 2012: The revised revised, final numbers did indeed come down quite a bit, to 11.48 million viewers.]

15 Responses to “When a Movie Template Goes Nowhere”

  1. 1 Patrick
    16 January 2012 at 1:30 pm

    And still to this day there’s a simpsons quote to make fun of this shit excuse of a show.

  2. 16 January 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Is it just me or are they doing more and more comedy shorts at the end of every episode these days? Not to mention the ultra long couch gags. It’s alsmot as if in it’s dying days the show has come full circle and is back to being a series of shorts as it was in between breaks of the Tracy Ullmann show.

    Anyhoo, the way this episode trailed off without explaining why Lisa was on trial reminded me of that old exchange between Kirk and Chief Wiggum from “Radioactive Man”:
    Kirk: Will those dogs just find Milhouse, or will they find him and kill him?
    Wiggum: Well, when they find him, they’ll…you know…(trails off)
    Kirk. Uh, excuse me, you didn’t answer my question. You just kind of trailed off there.
    Wiggum: Yeah. Yeah I did kind of trail off there didn’t I? (laughs)

    They did an episode a few years ago that examined the role social networks play in our daily lives that was much better than this. It was called Eeny Teeny Maya Moe (i think). Moe started corresponding with a woman online and eventually made the big step to meet her in real life. She turned out to be a little person and the episode, surprisingly enough, turned out to be quite good. It struck a good balance of heart and humor, something the show used to do but now can’t. Which goes to show that you don’t have to go all the way back to the 90’s to see the deterioration of the show, just look back as recently as a few years ago and you’ll notice a decline.

    I find that in Zombie Simpsons, the Moe centric episodes are much better than the ones that focus on the family or even major supporting characters like Burns and Krusty who have been done to death. I believe that’s because, aside from Flaming Moes and the episode where Homer stole Moes car, Moe is one of the few character’s who was never fully explored back when the show was in it’s prime. Moe centric episodes still have a certain degree of freshness to them as opposed to anything dealing with Burns, Krusty, or any member of the Simpson family. In a perfect world they would have ended the Simpsons with dignity back in 1999 and created a Moe spinoff for the 2000’s. They could have even used the classic Flaming Moe’s song for the opening credits.

    The fact that I just wrote a paragraph about Moe tells you there wasn’t much in last nights episode worth remembering or acknowledging.

    • 4 Patrick
      16 January 2012 at 2:18 pm

      Awesome comment and Matt Grenoning had ideas for Simpsons spin-offs hence episodes like ’22 short films about springfield’, ‘the simpsons spinoff showcase’ and that ‘everybody loves ned flanders’ bit at the end of one of the episdoes due to the fact that the spin-offs were rejected by Fox (even tho family guy got an (unnessecary spin-off) anyway well said.

      • 5 Bea Simmons
        16 January 2012 at 2:44 pm

        Those episodes weren’t based on rejected spin-offs. The only spin-offs that were actually pitched to FOX were the live action Krusty the Clown show and the Adventures of Homer show.

        • 6 Charlie Sweatpants
          16 January 2012 at 2:46 pm

          I knew about live action Krusty, but what was the “Adventures of Homer”?

          • 7 Bea Simmons
            16 January 2012 at 3:11 pm

            Matt Groening had the idea to have a show revolving around Homer, where every episode would have a story set at different ages. So you’d have episodes with kid Homer, teen Homer, current Homer…

            Anyway, I didn’t like this week’s episode at all. The story itself felt short, unfunny and sucking, while the padding bits felt long, unfunny and sucking. Somewhat fun they finally got David Letterman to do a voice though, seeing how few cameos the man does, even when he likes a show (though I thought he didn’t care much for the Simpsons. He’s more of a fan of Beavis & Butthead).

            I was curious about Napoleon Dynamite with it’s many Simpsons/Futurama writers, and I liked it better. It’s nothing supoib (yet), also plagued with some issues ZS has, but the stories actually felt long, coherent and entertaining. I miss that feeling in ZS so much, where an episode nowadays only feels long when it’s just dragging around crap instead of being filled with lots of focused story and jokes.

            • 16 January 2012 at 7:04 pm

              Mike Scully’s name is attached to the Napoleon Dynamite cartoon and I, too was surprised by how decent it was. The tone of the source material itself lent itself well to the more cartoony bits and plots (resembling the tone of many episodes from Scully’s tenure, actually) and the stories set in this universe seemed to work better in half hour form. I’ll also admit that I liked the movie, but was wary at the show’s existence.

    • 9 Patrick
      16 January 2012 at 2:43 pm

      And what a coincidence Flaming Moe’s is on Sky1 and it shows Lisa having a sleepover with her FRIENDS and the plot works and makes sense big time here :D god i love washing out the bad taste of the shitty new episodes with good ol’ classic eps. :D

  3. 16 January 2012 at 2:53 pm

    I walked by the lounge area of my studio and heard Simpsons, but having forgot what day or time it was, I was bummed to find this episode. I think it was the last few minutes of the first act, where Homer and Grampa were yelling at each other for some reason. I shook my head, paid my respects, and walked out.

  4. 11 Mike
    16 January 2012 at 4:43 pm

    SOPA/PIPA is up again for review in Congress and by the President, bills if signed into law could result in censorship and site shutdowns. Wikipedia is one of several sites participating in a blackout on 1/18. Take time to familiarize yourself with these proposed bills and call your state representative to say no to SOPA.

    Keep the Internet neutral, accessible, and free.

  5. 17 January 2012 at 2:57 am

    I definitely agree the ending, while being what-the-fuck? in everyway, was actually interesting… between this and John K.’s opening, the only moments of this season that really held my interest were the break from the dull, lifeless, cold, detached look of the series… since they can’t write comedy on the show anymore, maybe they should just go for a Liquid Television vibe (or International Tournee, or Cartoon Sushi, or Animation Show, or [fill in the blank of your favorite mixed-animation show or festival])? I mean, in the beginning, the show was instantly recognizeable because of the use of colors and details; now — despite the ever-present yellow skin — it looks just like everything else on television. I mean, Adult Swim cartoons from a decade ago that used like 3 different clipart style drawings of characters seemed to have more life in them than the boring animation we see every week on this show. Really sad.

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