Reading Digest: Curiously Remembered Anniversary Edition

Simpson and Delilah7

“Happy anniversary, Homer.” – Marge Simpson
“What?  Our anniversary, are you sure?” – Homer Simpson

I lost count of the number of generic blog posts, newspaper articles, magazine profiles, and other such things that crossed my screen this week.  The funny part isn’t how similar they are to one another, it’s how similar they are to articles that come out whenever the show hits a milestone or gets renewed yet again.  Here is an accurate summary of all of them in Mad Libs form:

Can you believe [common phrase from the show]?  That’s right, it’s been on since 1989, and this Sunday is the [three digit positive integer ending in zero]th episode! 

We asked [longtime show personality] if he thought it would ever last this long.  [Personality’s last name] said, “We never thought it would go this long, but now there’s no stopping us!”  This week’s episode features a special guest appearance by [famous person] as the family [wacky adventure premise].  [Personality’s last name] said that [famous person] was great to work with, “S/he’s such a [positive adjective] person.  We [generic anecdote about recording].”

And when will the show end?  [Personality’s last name] said, “When we got to [smaller three digit positive integer ending in zero], I didn’t think we’d get this far.  But we love doing it, so we’ll keep at it [cute description for an indefinite amount of time].” 

In all of those kind of articles I read, I came across one – just one – new fact.  Had the negotiations failed last fall, that wretched future Christmas episode would’ve been the last one.  Other than that, those thousands and thousands of words are a complete waste of time. 

There were a few diamonds in the rough, however, mostly of the variety where people talk about how great the show is and then cite little or nothing from Zombie Simpsons.  There are a lot of those, and while some are better than others (and one even comes from people on the show), they all point to the same conclusion, Zombie Simpsons is a pale shadow of The Simpsons.  This may be the longest Reading Digest ever, and I didn’t find a single article, link or otherwise that went the other way.  Crammed in among all those anniversary links is some usage, some fan art, a couple more video game reviews, real homemade Prozac, and a dynamite Alf Clausen interview. 


The Simpsons hits 500 episodes: Matt Groening… – Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week is this article Groening, Brooks, Jean, Reiss, Mirkin, Weinstein, Scully list some favorite episodes.  As you’d expect, there’s some token Zombie Simpsons, but even these guys can’t bring themselves to anything approaching equal representation.  Brooks didn’t list anything past Season 7.

"Simpsons" maestro Alf Clausen shares stories behind Springfield’s greatest hits – Fantastic interview with Alf Clausen, featuring plenty of YouTube and detail.  (Also, you may notice a certain trend in which years the songs they discuss first aired.)  It’s a crowded week, but this has a lot of great information in it.  Big hat tip to our old friend Denise.  Hey, speaking of Denise . . .

Fans Say the Darndest Things–To ‘Simpsons’ Creators – . . . she got some of the people behind the show to share the strange things people ask them and say to them.  My favorite:

Michael Price, Bill Oakley, and Marc Wilmore say that the writers are often asked which characters they write for. "We all get that all the time," Mike Price says.

One assumes that would be impractical. 

The Simpsons at 500: your top 10 episodes – The Guardian’s readers and editors came up with a list, on which there is nothing past Season 8.  (And a special thanks to “jpmb” for linking to us in the comments.)

As ‘The Simpsons’ approaches 500 episodes, we pick a baker’s dozen favorite moments – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette picks some favorite Simpsons moments.  There are a couple of Halloween moments from Zombie Simpsons, but not much.  Their picks are overwhelmingly from the before time, the long long ago. 

‘THE SIMPSONS’ HITS 500th EPISODE: The Top-15 Episodes Ever (*And Top-5 Moments)Kaplan Test Prep Daily asked “Andrew Farago, curator at the esteemed Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco” for his top 15 episodes.  He listed thirteen, nothing from past Season 8, then tossed in two from Zombie Simpsons.  I’m sensing a pattern.  (via)

500 Episodes? – Via Twitter comes this generous appraisal of the state of the show, and even it says:

It’s pretty much impossible for any show to continue to be good after this long. Every idea has been tried out, every character has been developed, and just about every vacation destination has been visited.

The Simpsons has definitely suffered in this regard. Countless new episodes are retreads of older episodes, and they just don’t have the same impact. Just look at last Sunday’s episode. It involved Lisa falling in love with a faux-intellectual played by Michael Cera (because no one told the writers that Juno is already 4 years old, and the kid is already past his prime), and then dumping him because it turned out he wasn’t as cool as she thought. In this episode’s 22-minute run-time, we learned absolutely nothing about either character. It had no emotional resonance to speak of, and just felt like a perfunctory, by-the-numbers plot, for a show that used to be capable of doing much better.

Fun With Mock Drafts: Simpsons Quotations – Of the twenty five quotes selected by the five main authors here, I only counted two from Zombie Simpsons.  The comment thread is at about four hundred as I write this, and a quick scan says that Zombie Simpsons quotes are few and far between. 

‘The Simpsons’: A soundtrack to our laughter – A pick of some favorite songs from the entire run of the show.  There is a token Zombie Simpsons entry, but only one. 

Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 40 – 31) – This link and the next one are both from the same blog.  There’s one episode from Season 12 here, but it’s “Trilogy of Error”, which was one of the last really clever things they ever did. 

Top Fifty Simpsons Episodes (# 50 – 41) – This part of the list is completely free of Zombie Simpsons.

The Simpsons at 500 – A great retrospective on the show:

It may have been that very Friday night, or the Friday night a week later when I saw my first episode, “Bart The General”. It rang out to me especially as a victim of bullying. In this classic piece of American television, Bart teams up with his grandfather, local military antique dealer Herman and other neighbourhood kids to rail against bully Nelson Muntz.

In the following few Fridays I would see several more episodes of Season 1. I was hooked and entertained. The Simpsons were at the beginning of something really amazing. This was a revolutionary show that would push the edges of humour to a whole new level. Shirts started turning up in stores along with other merchandise.

You could only imagine my disappointment when suddenly the show was not on a channel we could get at the time. My theory is that the CBC received a ton of complaints from parents and religious nuts who completely failed at realizing it was comedy, so they yanked any airing of the show completely.

It would be quite a few years before anyone in Nova Scotia (and perhaps Canada) without a satellite dish could see more episodes.

That is both awesome and sad.  He couldn’t watch them again until they came on in syndication.  Man I miss when The Simpsons was good enough to be thought that dangerous.  He’s also got a Top 5 episodes list, and, naturally, none of them are from past Season 9. 

Meet the two brave souls who watched 86 hours and 37 minutes of ‘The Simpsons’ in a row – FOX turned it off after they broke the record, and they don’t say which episode they were on when it happened.  By my count 86 hours and 37 minutes is somewhere around the beginning of Season 11.  They got a ten minute break every two hours, so if they were stopped for those breaks then it’s more like the middle of Season 10.  Either way, the important thing is that they didn’t have to sit through Zombie Simpsons. 

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Creamy Vanilla Frosting – There’s cupcakes here, but if you scroll down you’ll get a sweet fan drawing of Homer as Lady Gaga.

That Donut Looks Delicious – An excellent knitted Homer . . . with donut!  Well done. 

Here’s Stuff on Jeremy Lin You’ll Read Because I Had You at “Jeremy Lin” – Excellent usage:

-Remember that Simpsons episode, “Lisa’s Rival,” where Lisa, the new kid at school, and the new kid’s pretentious, snooty professor father discuss how they play the anagram game? I’ll let the seven-year-old inexplicably voiced by a fully grown Winona Ryder explain: “We take proper names and rearrange the letters to form a description of that person.”

Lisa stumbles when given the name of Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, only being able to muster up “Jeremy’s Iron.”

Well, since the name of the man of the hour also happens to be Jeremy, I say we try it again.

Jeremy Lin: J In My Reel

Me: One
Fictional cartoon character: Zero

Pants Anyone? – Don’t you hate pants?:

By purchasing pants we are just playing into the buttoned-down role that society has placed on us. Pants have kept us into a tightly folded, well pressed culture, where we fear the consequences of not wearing pants.

There is a certain kind of pants that never need to be folded or pressed, and that never feel confining.  Just sayin’. 

It’s Valentime’s Day OR “Getting Tail” – Valentine’s Day explored through “I Love Lisa” (with YouTube).

Game review: ‘The Simpsons Arcade Game’ – I know there were a lot of these last week, but here’s one more review of the game.

EGM Review: The Simpsons Arcade Game – Okay, two (and I get to keep this old birdcage).

Now & Then: The Simpsons Arcade Game – Alright, three.  This one is a very thoughtful comparison, of what the arcade game was like back then (I do remember the Bart and Homer consoles often having the most wear) and what it brings to your television now.

The 2012 Grammy Awards…In 10 Words – Who likes the Beach Boys?

Appointment Viewing: February 13-February 19 – Lenny sums up this week’s big nth episode:

8:00 – The Simpsons (Fox):  In the series’ 500th episode, the Simpsons are banished from Springfield, thanks to Homer’s drunken antics, Bart’s shenanigans and Lisa’s annoying environmental activism, and end up in an off-the-grid, post-apocalyptic encampment called “The Outlands.” Alison Krauss performs the series’ theme song. Well, that sounds like The Simpsons Movie but more terrible and with Alison Krauss performing. Which cancels out to the same level of quality. Seriously, that Alison Krauss thing makes me more delighted than this show has made me in years. They could get anyone and that’s what they went with.

7 Essential TV Show Hangouts – Moe’s makes the list here, along with things like the banana stand. 

500 Episodes of The Simpsons and 10 Other TV Shows That Outstayed Their Welcome – Agrees with us:

To me, The Simpsons stopped being funny in the late 1990s. A quick look at an Episode Guide and I find that the last episode I truly found amusing was Episode 197 – Simpson Tide – and that one was the only beacon of light in amongst a mostly underwhelming Ninth Season. By

the fifth episode of the following season – When You Dish Upon A Star – I made the decision to give up on a show that I had fallen out of love with.

Don’t feel bad, it happened to all of us.

Bart Simpson’s Chalkboard Quotes – This was linked in a lot of places this week.  It’s every quote in a single image.  Well done (though a version that ends before Zombie Simpsons would be cool too). 

Doh! The Simpsons celebrate 500th episode – Click through for a couple of images of the designs of that Zoolander guy from last week.  There’s a Bartman shirt that’s just a picture of Bart in costume with a logo.  Fashion!

A Five-Day Recipe for Antidepressant Yogurt – This isn’t just excellent usage, it’s also life imitating The Simpsons:

Years ago, Homer Simpson stood in the family’s kitchen and showed Marge his latest creation: a big bowl of homemade Prozac. Homer dug his wooden spoon in, plucked out a mound of the purply goop, and downed it. “Mmm, needs more ice cream,” Homer said.

As is so often the case, it seems Homer was well ahead of his time. Tuur Van Balen, a Belgian designer, has been making the speaking-circuit rounds, showing audiences how to inject yogurt bacteria with antidepressant qualities, making it possible for anyone to have a feel-good breakfast treat.

20 Most Cromulent ‘Simpsons’ GIFs – Pretty much what it says.  And, no, there’s nothing from past Season 10.

Flights from reality – In discussing the recent mostly-non-issue between Britain and Argentina, comes this excellent usage:

Homer Simpson anticipated the key issue in the South Atlantic dispute at the start of the week in the sketch where he says: “Didn’t you hear, Marge, they have no bananas” (his reaction to that inane Broadway ditty of 90 years ago “Yes, we have no bananas”). The lack of bananas on the Malvinas gave most of the edge to the build-up to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s Tuesday announcement — great expectations of a major escalation in the economic blockade of the islands rather than either war or peace.

And then nothing happened. 

Sideshow Bob by *SilverWolve on deviantART – Cool fan art of Sideshow Bob sitting in a cell with the shadow of bars on him.  Bravo. 

maggie simpson – One of those “persona” add-ons for Firefox with Maggie holding a gun. 

Mellow yellow – And finally, a columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press writes a column about the 500th episode that does nothing but agree with us:

It has been a long time since the cartoon created by Matt Groening regularly made headlines (other than for celebrations of its various century-mark achievements), and there’s now an entire generation of TV viewers who have no memory whatsoever of the hell-in-a-handbasket fuss its early episodes and Bart’s rude-boy catchphrases caused.

The Simpsons is, in 2012, something of a perpetual-motion machine, an efficiently run enterprise that cranks out episodes on time, on budget and of an acceptable quality, requires very little network oversight, and continues to generate decent ratings and mind-boggling revenue streams.

That’s about the size of things.  Lots and lots of discussion of 500, and even when people don’t outright say Zombie Simpsons sucks, you can tell by what they aren’t talking about that no one cares about anything broadcast in the last ten years or so.  Enjoy your party on Sunday Zombie Simpsons.  We’ll all be laughing at you, but not for the reason you’d like.

12 Responses to “Reading Digest: Curiously Remembered Anniversary Edition”

  1. 1 Bea Simmons' Rotting Corpse
    17 February 2012 at 4:34 pm

    “Had the negotiations failed last fall, that wretched future Christmas episode would’ve been the last one. ”

    That’s impossible, every episode from the following production season was already in production by that time. In fact, 2 episodes from the PABF run had already aired prior to that one

    Also, I think you missed that huge Michael Price interview?:


    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      17 February 2012 at 4:40 pm

      I saw the quote in like three places (sorry, too wiped to dig it up right now). I think he meant that if PABF was going to be it, then they would’ve sat on that one and used it as the finale.

      As I wrote last summer (https://deadhomersociety.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/zombie-simpsons-scenarios-season-24-and-beyond/) the problem is that there’s always that hangover from the production run to next season. Jean didn’t say this, but my guess is that they’d have kept a few extra episodes back this season, then broadcast a final half-season next fall, ending with the Christmas episode.

      • 3 Charlie Sweatpants
        17 February 2012 at 4:44 pm

        Oh, and I did miss the Price interview. Thanks. Lotta stuff this week.

        • 4 Bea Simmons' Rotting Corpse
          17 February 2012 at 6:21 pm

          Copy & paste from a nohomers reaction to the Price interview:

          – Confirmation that FOX conducted the 4-act structure. Wish the staff still had the balls to say no to Fox.
          – Only 3% of an original script remains nowadays, vs 30-40% in the old days. To me that doesn’t sound like a good thing, it could explain why the stories seem so unfocused, without vision and go completely random from beat to beat…

          THREE PERCENT?? Yipes!

      • 5 Bea Simmons' Rotting Corpse
        17 February 2012 at 4:56 pm

        Ah so, hadn’t seen that. They seem to really love that christmas episode. I guess it wouldn’t have been a terrible fit as a finale, especially seeing as they wouldn’t have planned anything special if they had suddenly been cancelled.

  2. 7 Du
    17 February 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Thanks for the shout out!

  3. 8 kokairu
    17 February 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Also might be of interest (though it’s pretty much just a repeat of the other countdowns mentioned): Digital Spy published the results of their poll. Nothing beyond season 8 in the entire top 20 countdown: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/ustv/tubetalk/a366380/the-simpsons-ultimate-episode-countdown-5-1.html

  4. 9 Thrillho
    17 February 2012 at 8:10 pm

    The funny thing about the 500th episode is that the premise actually sounds like it could be a series finale (The Simpsons are banished from Springfield.) I don’t know if the episode will have that feel, but they’ve had so many opportunities to end the show by now and they haven’t gone through with it.

  5. 10 John Hugar
    18 February 2012 at 5:30 am

    Thanks for posting a link to my article, even though you probably disagreed with a lot of it. I might like the enw episodes a little more than you guys do, but I still love this site.

  6. 18 February 2012 at 11:37 pm

    Thanks also for posting a link to my article on The Dukes Playground!

  7. 12 jpmb
    19 February 2012 at 4:31 am

    “And a special thanks to “jpmb” for linking to us in the comments”

    Least I could do for the excellent reading material you’ve provided over the last couple of years.

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