Compare & Contrast: Twist Nuclear Endings

Treehouse of Horror VIII10

“Do your worst, you filthy, pretentious savages!” – Mayor Quimby

For evidence that Zombie Simpsons is utterly bereft of ideas that can even be called creative, much less original, one need look no further than the fact that for the second time in a year they made an episode where the family departs Springfield to go live in the wilderness with survivalist nutbars.  But that isn’t the most damning thing about “Homer Goes to Prep School”, because the closest thing to this episode isn’t even another episode, it’s a post-apocalyptic Halloween segment from a decade and a half ago.

The first story in “Treehouse of Horror VIII” is “The Homega Man”, a Halloween fable where a nuclear blast supposedly wipes out Springfield.  In the end, of course, Homer discovers that the mutants who chase him around aren’t the only ones who survived, but in fact his entire family is alive, well and unharmed.  It’s a goofy twist, but it’s also a Halloween segment, where you can do anything you want and things have to be relatively simple because you’ve only got a few minutes in which to introduce, tell and then conclude a story.

“Homer Goes to Prep School” has none of those excuses, and yet it follows almost the exact same template.  First, there’s a nuclear disaster.  Second, Homer gets chased by other survivors.  And finally, Homer discovers that things are actually just fine, the end.

In “Treehouse of Horror VIII”, France launches a nuclear strike on Springfield out of the Eiffel Tower.  This is absurd on the face of it for any number of reasons: France and the US are allies, downtown Paris would be a terrible place for a launch silo, and, as far as Wikipedia knows, France never deployed an ICBM, “Intel Inside” or not. 

Treehouse of Horror VIII9

Wikipedia says that the actual French nuke forces are called the “Force de Frappe”.  That is awesome. 

But none of that matters because, hey, Halloween episode.  Weird shit is supposed to happen, and it’s funny as hell to have the famously thin skinned French start a nuclear war over a mild ethnic slur from a small town American politician.

“Homer Goes to Prep School” has no such excuse.  It’s supposed to be taking place in something that at least resembles the real world.  And even though Zombie Simpsons likes to just go bizarre with things, the first third of this episode is Homer freaking out over how horrible people are, and the conclusion is about people being decent to one another, so it clearly wants us to take at least some of what’s going on here seriously.  So when they employ a dumb and lazy “EMP” that Homer somehow manages to cause while no one else at the plant is looking, it isn’t wacky fun, it’s just a hackneyed plot contrivance.  Nuclear war over the word “frogs” is a joke; EMP because it’s time to move the plot along is just bad writing.

I Miss the Dog Who Averts Meltdowns

Hmm.  Must be time to start the first part of the third act.

Having caused Springfield to lose power, Homer bundles his family up and heads for the survivalist compound.  The few minutes they spend there is a waste of time, even by Zombie Simpsons standards.  For starters, we’ve already seen that Homer now has a bunch of supplies in the basement, so not only is there no reason for him and the clan to flee, but their stated reason for returning – to help the other people of Springfield – could’ve been done without them ever heading out of town in the first place.

More aggravating is the escape/chase scene itself.  For starters, the survivalists are chasing the family in a wood stove powered pickup, two horses pulling a Hummer, and Lindsey Naegle firing a machine gun backwards.  All of those are dumber and less believable than the apocalypse mobile that the mutants had in “The Homega Man”, and the last one is so stupid that it was recently mocked by XKCD (which is and has been much funnier than Zombie Simpsons for a long time).  But just as bad are the jokes, which are such hapless filler that Zombie Simpsons explains them as they happen.  Consider this, as the family plows through a corn field:

Homer: Out of our way corn!  The starving people of Springfield are desperately in need of our delivery of canned corn, corn flakes, and flash frozen corn niblets!

If this isn’t the longest, least subtle, and most heavy handed way you could make that joke, it’s gotta be close.  It also takes more time than, say, Homer quickly running over the Johnny & Edgar Winter Tour in “Treehouse of Horror VIII”, which – again – was a Halloween episode.

Finally we come to the abrupt, just-kidding-it-was-all-okay-after-all ending.  In “The Homega Man”, Homer returns home to find his family safe and sound before we get the unexpected spasm of Halloween violence wherein the rest of the family blows away all the mutants.   In “Homer Goes to Prep School” we get two whole minutes of drawn out exposition about what did and didn’t happen.  It’s not endless, but it does kinda feel that way:

Lisa: What happened with the EMP?
Prof. Frink: Only Springfield lost power, you see, and after a few days it came back. 


Waits: Then society didn’t crumble?  The zoo animals weren’t eaten?
Chief Wiggum: Well, a couple.
Waits: This non-disaster is a catastrophe.
Marge: Are you really so disappointed the world didn’t end just so you could be proven right?
Waits: No, no, no, it’s just that, in the new world, I would’ve been a big shot.


Lisa: Guys, can’t you see that an imperfect society is better than the savagery of creating a new one?  I, for one, am glad we’re stuck with civilization.  And I think we will be for a long, long time.

Which, of course, leads to the zombie comet, which itself has to be explained:

Zombie Kid: I’m hungry.
Zombie Dad: Look, you can have potato chips now or, if you wait ten minutes, you can have all the brains you can eat. 
Zombie Kid: I want both.

Yup, they are now literally Zombie Simpsons.  Add it all up and there’s no getting away from the conclusion that “Homer Goes to Prep School” is a poor mimicry of a much better episode.  And while that happens a lot with Zombie Simpsons, usually they don’t take post-apocalyptic Halloween segments as their templates and then go them several worse in terms of weirdness. 

15 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Twist Nuclear Endings”

  1. 1 Anonymous
    10 January 2013 at 5:50 pm

    I actually found the Lindsey Naegle part so ridiculous that it crossed the line twice and became funny again. It’s the only thing that came close to making me laugh.

    Tangent time!

    XKCD is funnier than Zombie Simpsons, yes, but that’s not very high a standard. It’s been mostly self-congratulatory “we’re nerds, look how clever we are” humor for a long time, with one or two funny ones sneaking in a month. There’s a blog, http://xkcdsucks.blogspot.com/, that used to explain very well (almost DHS style) why it’s bad now. However, the main guy left sometime in 2011 and now the blog itself is an embarrassment. I’d only read the links in the left-hand column if I were you.

    • 2 Anonymous
      10 January 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Oddly enough, Rob (the orignal XKCD Sucks guy) suggested that comics weren’t Randall’s best medium, but he could probably do well with an illustrated blog instead. Now XKCD actually has that, and it’s easily the best part of the site!

    • 3 Anonymous
      10 January 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Personally, I prefered http://xkcdexplained.tumblr.com/

      They went out on an outstanding high note. Just going back and checking that last post every now and then is good for a hearty chuckle.

      • 4 Anonymous
        10 January 2013 at 10:05 pm

        Oh, I do like that site a lot.

        Don’t you love how everyone in this thread is anonymous? I’m the OP, but you have no way of proving it. :P

  2. 5 Stan
    10 January 2013 at 10:14 pm

    To throw some more shit at the fan, I didn’t find the “corn” line so unfunny. Well, it did make me chuckle, even though it’s too obvious of a joke, even though it gets said by jerkass Homer and even though the episode has nothing to do with Halloween.

    But I gotta say, I noticed after a last couple of months or so that watching ZS makes me feel as if I was watching it stoned. I sit down an hour later or so, desperately trying to remember what was the plot of a given episode, and how it came from A to Z, and… I can’t! It becomes all fuzzy like the moors of Scotland.

    I guess my point is that if you have something useful to do at a given time, don’t waste your time on ZS. Or drugs. Or both for that matter.

    • 11 January 2013 at 2:43 pm

      “Fuzzy doesn’t defeat the Romans and the English =]” -Friend Steve to me regarding the Moors of Scotland and Fuzzy thinking.

  3. 11 January 2013 at 12:09 am

    First time ever hearing about XKCD. Time to Google them…. Tomorrow maybe. Meh. Another crap Simpsons episode with actual zombies.

  4. 12 Zartok-35
    11 January 2013 at 6:34 pm

    As illiogical as it seems, bugging out during disasters is something preper survivalists are particularly obsessed with, so there is something of a reason for The Simpsons to leave town. But Zombie Simpsons failed to play this up as a story beat or make funny satire out of this well-ripened subject though, so they still fail.

    • 13 Charlie Sweatpants
      11 January 2013 at 6:57 pm

      Doing Reading Digest this week I came across a couple of serious prepper bloggers who were none too happy with the episode. I didn’t link to them because I’ve learned not to link to crazy, but they were very upset with how negatively they were portrayed.

  5. 14 DJYellow22
    11 January 2013 at 8:20 pm

    This episode was one of the most boring I’ve seen. Which is pretty depressing honestly, episodes like the Treehouse of Horror used to be a shift from the typical episode. Nowadays.. Eeeeeh, despite their Sci-Fi plots, they are as terrible as the regular episodes.

    • 15 Stan
      11 January 2013 at 9:46 pm

      They’re all terrible. From head to toe. As soon as the intro starts with those cloud, you know already something dumb must appear. And if nothing appears, it’s still dumb. Maybe I have a set mood for those, but fuck, I didn’t set it so by myself.

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