Behind Us Forever: Pay Pal

Chalkboard - Pay Pal

“And this is Lord Thistlewick Flanders.” – Ned Flanders
“Charmed . . . Uh, googily doogily.” – Lord Thistlewick Flanders

Every once and a while we get episodes like “Pay Pal” that seem to be made up of B-plots that got discarded from other episodes and were found lying on the writers’ room floor.  The first thing that happens is that there’s an Evergreen Terrace block party, then John Oliver shows up as a new British neighbor.  Then he gets into a fight with Homer and vanishes completely from the episode.  With the “British neighbor” story concluded, there’s a new (more or less unrelated) story about Marge paying a kid to be friends with Lisa.  Neither story underpins or overlaps with the other and you could easily see either one being the subplot to some larger and wackier A-plot.

Despite the fact that the zaniness is about a low as Zombie Simpsons is capable of setting it (no magic powers, no fantasy worlds, not even any nuclear explosions), things still manage to make absolutely no sense.  Marge and Homer throw a giant party for Lisa but cover it up before she can arrive because none of the other kids showed up.  Grampa tells a story about paying Lenny and Carl to be friends with Homer that falls apart as it’s happening.  There’s an elementary school gym square dancing scene that has so little to do with anything else that it might have been accidentally copied and pasted in from another script.  But, hey, next weak is the season finale and then we can all forget about Zombie Simpsons for four months, so as silver linings go that’s a pretty good one.

– Couch gag is the usual excessive filler, clocking in at  forty seconds.

– This Itchy and Scratchy episode takes way too long, but the real problem is the competely pointless amounts of gore: cats drowning in their own barf, skinned corpses, lots of popped eyeballs.  They do know that a big part of what makes cartoon violence fun is that the coyote’s blood and guts don’t splash out when the boulder lands on him, right?

– What’s with Bart watching TV on a massive and ancient looking portable television, anyway?

– Shauna and Gil are not what you’d call a strong comedic pairing.

– And  now Gil is singing.

– “Now let me taste some of Ned Flanders no alarm chili”.  Ah, for the days when it was two or two and a half alarm chili.

– Homer and Marge are talking in bed and Lisa appears in the door to make an observation about not having any friends.  That’s exposition fairy!

– “That’s the saddest thing I can imagine my daughter saying to me”, characters should always tell you exactly what they’re feeling said no screenwriter ever.

– Now it’s Bart’s turn to appear mysteriously outside of his parents bedroom.  They really make it hard to tell if they just don’t care about constructing scenes or if they drop characters in and out just because they can.

– Did Homer just look directly at the camera?  Yes, yes he did.  That was odd.

– Well, at least this couples party didn’t take long to get to its perfectly silly fighting between Homer and this dull British guy.

– On the walk home, Homer climbs across people’s roofs.  Weird.

– Hey, a partying montage!

– So Homer and Marge threw a party for Lisa but then tore it down before she could get there, so the whole thing was completely pointless.  Also, they seem to think “Gus Hubner” is a really funny name and worth repeating as a punchline several times.

– Lotta scenes that really drag their feet this week.  First the gym teacher had to explain why there was a wall in the gym, then we had to wait for it to open.  Only then did we get to the exciting square dancing scene.

– Okay, this was kinda funny: “Nobody likes jazz that much, even the guy playing it had to take drugs.”

– This girl Lisa is friends with is the very definition of characterless.  She’s so bland I’m surprised she got a name.

– Bart had a nice “pace and exposit” scene until Milhouse showed up from nowhere.

– And then Lisa explains what’s happening, because we didn’t just see it ourselves or anything.

– Hey, another montage.  That ate up some time.

– Lisa’s confrontation with Marge is hacktacular from start to finish.  The two of them just explain stuff past each other, and it’s made all the worse because they’re both being weird and serious.  They really have no idea how to let characters act like people anymore.  Everyone sounds like their reading cue cards: “I would’ve found a friend eventually.  You couldn’t wait a damn decade until I got into college.”  Who talks like that?

– At least they acknowledge at the end of Grampa’s weird flashback that it doesn’t make any sense.

– And now Marge and Lisa are confronting each other again.  This time Lisa is mentally expositing just to us instead of out loud, though.

– And now also out loud: “It’s funny, but hurting your feelings made me feel better.”

Thank goodness that’s over.  I kept expecting John Oliver’s character to briefly show up sometime in the second half of the episode, but he just vanished completely after his fight with Homer.  He wasn’t really all that wacky and kinda seemed like he might have a bigger story purpose that “eat time in Act 1”, but I guess not.  On any other show that’d be weird, but on Zombie Simpsons its just a regular week.

Anyway, the numbers are in and they remain in the same sorry state that they’ve been since January.  Last night just 3.61 million people wondered what happened to John Oliver’s character.  That’s good for #4 on the all time least watched list and has dragged Season 25’s average viewership down to 5.07 million per episode.  Next week is the season finale, and if it comes in at 3.40 million or less, Season 25’s average will slip below five million.  That number doesn’t hold any real significance, it’s just easy to remember.  Either way, Season 25 is already the least watched season ever.

16 Responses to “Behind Us Forever: Pay Pal”

  1. 1 FireFlower
    12 May 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Any other show with ratings that bad would have been canceled by now.

  2. 2 lessthankate
    12 May 2014 at 9:47 pm

    Bart was using an old TV because they needed to show him turning up the volume while rolling his eyes at Marge. If he had been using an ipad they’d have to show his finger sliding the volume up, or he’d put on headphones, or leave and HARUMPH. Why that’d just ruin the non-joke wouldn’t it?

  3. 3 ecco6t9
    13 May 2014 at 1:53 am

    But that TV would of had an analog tuner and not a digital one so it should not have worked.

  4. 4 Paul
    13 May 2014 at 6:12 am

    It always surprises me how awkward the conversations are in this show. It’s strange that characters in a cartoon can be so corny, but that scene at the end was just the most embarrassing thing yet. What was up with Marge snorting her snot when she cried? Was that meant to lighten the mood? And Lisa begging her mom to stop crying, while Homer and Bart just stood in the doorway watching the whole thing. What the fuck.

    Lisa: “It’s funny but hurting your feelings made me feel better.” Actually it made you start sobbing, and made everyone watching uncomfortable. I guess it makes sense though… only a complete sociopath would think to write something like that. And that would explain why all these characters’ exchanges are so unnatural and weird.

    • 13 May 2014 at 9:42 am

      Sounds like a quote from Eric Cartman.

    • 6 Stan
      13 May 2014 at 12:12 pm

      Pfff that doesn’t sound like the worst ending yet. At least they didn’t dance their way out, or it didn’t end with some 3-minute-long unfunny filler where a log with Lisa’s face on it travels around the world.

    • 8 Joe H
      13 May 2014 at 4:01 pm

      Corniness is kind of a sitcom mainstay and while not always the most entertaining thing to watch, can help flesh out the characters and their relationship to each other.

      The Simpsons use to be able to deftly tread into that territory while simultaneously subverting it. Even the very first episode, “The Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” showcased the very unique Simpson-esque way of handling otherwise familiar sitcom material.

      Lisa’s “reasoning” I think is meant to be ironic, but it is waaaay too off base and sour to really endear anyone to these characters. Who could really like Lisa’s character after watching this episode, let alone not be completely put off by the character? The last act really did seem like an exchange between Cartman and his Mom from South Park.

      Forget comparing this to the “golden years”, compare this to the very first episode of the show and imagine: If “Pay Pal” introduced to world to this series and the rest of Season 1 were of similar quality, would it have even lasted to a second season let alone 25?

  5. 9 Steve M
    13 May 2014 at 2:22 pm

    I can’t believe they partially regurgitated the joke about Flanders’ chili, and yet managed to make it so much worse this time around.

    No wait, I can believe that.

  6. 10 Joe H
    13 May 2014 at 3:45 pm

    Didn’t anyone else get the feeling this was a much. much lamer version of “The Summer of 4ft 2”? There, Bart had a much better reason to ruin Lisa’s happiness. Here, Bart spies on Lisa and her friend because…?

    Yes, the “mentally talking to the audience” method of coasting through anything resembling complex emotions is just so lame-ass. Didn’t help that the exchanges and dialog was so poor and awkward. It was suppose to be heartwarming but ended on a pretty sour note.

    Mr. Hobb’s Vacation handled this same material much, much better (and several sitcoms since) and that came out 50 years ago. That whole square dancing sequence doesn’t make any sense yet is eerily similar one of the funniest moments in the movie. Perhaps it wasn’t coincidence after all…

  7. 13 May 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Re: chalkboard of this post

    You know what happens to rude people, right?

  8. 12 Stan
    13 May 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Remember that one episode which ended with the bullies still being locked up in the school’s basement after the first act, and Skinner being reminded of it just at the very end? Well, Zombie Simpsons sure doesn’t.

  9. 15 May 2014 at 11:34 am

    I am really digging John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. It is pretty much a raunchier version of The Daily Show that covers more international news.

    This episode of ZS was bad but it wasn’t especially heinous. I give it the high praise of being instantly forgettable!

  10. 14 Cybershell
    15 May 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Hey you accidentally wrote “next weak” instead of “next week” although since you’re talking about Zombie Simpsons the Freudian slip is completely understandable.

  11. 16 Anonymous
    15 May 2014 at 5:24 pm

    I want to just quote the Robot Devil’s “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!” and leave it at that, but that pretty much applies to any modern Simpsons discussion, period.

    “Here we are at the Brad Goodman lecture!” not only sounds like actual dialog now, it’s not even as bad as a typical line.

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