Behind Us Forever: The Great Phatsby


“What can I say except thanks for the predictable champagne, pizza that’s hardly ‘numero uno’, and ice cream cake which reminds us why make thirty-one flavors when you can’t get vanilla right?” – Retiring Food Critic 

Every once and a while, Zombie Simpsons puts its nose to the grindstone and actually tries to make an interesting episode. The Lego episode wasn’t very good, but it was at least visually interesting and ambitious. That “Kang and Kodos are real” episode was maybe gonna be the second movie and actually had some ambition to it. “The Great Phatsby” was certainly promoted like it was going to be something out of the ordinary, a one-hour episode! They put on the full publicity press, getting written up for their [Drudge Siren]FIRST HOUR LONG EPISODE[/Drudge Siren] in publications as diverse as USA Today and Billboard.

Problem is: they didn’t deliver. This is a very normal episode of Zombie Simpsons that got ballooned to twice its runtime. Consider this, from that Billboard link:

Beanz, whose past collaborators include Britney Spears and Timbaland, created about 18 songs for this episode. Executive producer Matt Selman has said that’s more than any other guest composer he’s ever worked with. Part of that prodigious output included fun collaborations with Snoop, Common and RZA.

I watched all forty-two bloated minutes of this thing, and even if you stretch the definition of the word “song” until it tears apart you aren’t going to get anywhere near eighteen of them. By my count, there were three: one during the Burns spending montage, one to exposit how the evil rap mogul had tricked Burns, and part of one near the end that was gonna be the Burns revenge diss track. I guess if you want to count the instrumental remake of the theme song over the end credits that’d get you to four, but that’s still a lot less than eighteen. For comparison sake, in the regular twenty-two minute Shary Bobbins episode, there were five full songs, six if you count the end credits theme song.

So if there were only a few songs, what the hell was in all that screen time? The same garbage that’s in most Zombie Simpsons episodes: montages, nonsensical plots and subplots, and exposition galore. They had two separate B-plots, one for the first half of the episode (Lisa gets a rich boyfriend, then betrays him to comb a pony) and one for the second half (Marge opens a knicknack shop, which is hilarious to everyone who’s ever spent a lot of time in the Hamptons – relatable comedy!). If you’re wondering how well that worked, go back and watch those straight-to-DVD Futurama “movies” that did the same thing. It’s just as bad.

Perhaps my favorite moment, and further evidence that they put as little effort into actually writing/editing this as they do for their regular dreck, came when Homer meets a goose. First, we see the goose swallow a shrimp whole:


That is immediately followed by Homer saying, “He eats the way I do! Without swallowing.” Chewing. The word they were looking for is “chewing”. So not only is this a repeat of a joke from “Homer’s Enemy”, they got first-grade vocabulary wrong.

The rest of the episode is just as dumb. Near the middle, after Burns has lost all his money, Homer begins expositing that Burns is sad. Then Burns starts to cry and Homer, in voiceover, exposits that as well. Then Burns tears his shirt open. Helpfully, Homer exposits that too. It goes on for forty(40!) seconds. The good news is that I don’t need to screencap it because Homer explained everything:

Homer (VO): The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they’re watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly. Oh, no, wait, he’s crying now. That’s worse. Now he’s really sobbing heavy. Oh, now he’s gone to his knees and he ripped his shirt open. All of his buttons fell off of his shirt. Now he’s kicking his porch. Oh, he hurt his foot and he’s hopping around! He tripped over a dog. That’s way worse. Montgomery Burns had hit rock bottom.

That’s how you eat up two episodes worth of screen time. It also places a somewhat different character on this quote from Matt Selman:

For all the hype about “The Great Phatsby” being The Simpsons’ first-ever hour-long episode, and the understandable skepticism about its description as “a rap-flavored parody of The Great Gatsby,” the episode’s origins are decidedly more modest. “This was just going to be a regular episode, but the table read went so well, in a fit of passion and excitement and ambition and excess, we decided to supersize it,” is how Simpsons executive producer Matt Selman puts it, and that makes sense when looking at the final product.

Did that table read include such gems as these:

Carl: If there’s no more money, we’ll take our personalized bowling balls, fold up bicycles, and go. [Guess what happens then! Go on, guess!]

Bart: What kind of crazy flavors are these? Quince jelly and pepper? Market greens? Bone broth brittle? I don’t know what this place hates more, kids or ice cream. [All of those flavors, by the way, were on a sign behind him.]

Old Guy: Well, before long another aimless soul will open another adorable store here. And when they do, old Sam the Sign Hanger will be ready with his level and his ladder. Oh, why here comes one now. [At that, two people show up. But you knew that already.]

On the plus side, there were a few good sign gags that didn’t get read out as dialogue. At one point while Burns is in his family crypt (don’t ask), there’s one that reads “Ebenezer Burns: The Ghosts Taught Me Nothing”. Heh. The opening line also wasn’t bad:

Homer (VO): In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice. He said the laziest way to tell a story is through voiceover narration.

That was supposed to be self-irony. Turned out to be the regular kind.

Anyway, the ratings are in and getting a huge lead-in from football helps as always. That sorry excuse for a hip-hop Gatsby parody was seen by 14.08 million viewers. That number will probably get revised downward somewhat (there was another football game on opposite the show), but it’ll still be there biggest number in a while.

12 Responses to “Behind Us Forever: The Great Phatsby”

  1. 1 Shrewd Cat
    17 January 2017 at 6:31 pm

    re: the swallowing/chewing- assuming that wasn’t intentional, I wonder how many man-hours are put into writing and editing these episodes. It’s one thing to be unfunny and out of ideas and lacking proper plots and pacing and structure- it’s another to be shoddy in terms of using the wrong words. If someone made a shitty Youtube video I’d expect better than that. I mean, are these scripts full of spelling and grammatical errors as well.
    I really hope someone got fired for that thunder.

    • 2 Sarah J
      17 January 2017 at 9:06 pm

      Considering the amount of filler in ZS episodes (soooo many montages, and it’s not even like they’re funny. I could forgive montage overuse if there were jokes) I’d be surprised if any significant amount of time and effort was put into them. With so many talented people out there trying to get recognized, you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to find writers who would actually put in some effort.

    • 3 Charlie Sweatpants
      18 January 2017 at 12:10 pm

      “I really hope someone got fired for that thunder.”


  2. 4 Anonymous
    18 January 2017 at 10:50 am

    Wait, which Futurama movies are you ripping on?

    “Homer (VO): The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they’re watching their whole world fall apart and all they can do is stare blankly. Oh, no, wait, he’s crying now. That’s worse. Now he’s really sobbing heavy. Oh, now he’s gone to his knees and he ripped his shirt open. All of his buttons fell off of his shirt. Now he’s kicking his porch. Oh, he hurt his foot and he’s hopping around! He tripped over a dog. That’s way worse. Montgomery Burns had hit rock bottom.”

    I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t The Simpsons. Hell, that’s bad even for Zombie Simpsons. Who writes shit like this, much less gets it actually approved in a script and into the final episode on air? Maybe they think they’re being “clever” by calling out their own pointless exposition, but no other TV show would (or at least should) be able to get away with such laziness. And the swallowing/chewing thing is a perfect example of how little they care about this show anymore.

    • 5 Charlie Sweatpants
      18 January 2017 at 12:24 pm

      “Maybe they think they’re being “clever” by calling out their own pointless exposition”

      That’s what they’re going for, though they do it so often it long ago lost any credibility.

      Each Futurama “movie” was four-episodes spliced into one big thing at 88 minutes total runtime (88 minutes / 4 episodes = 22 minutes each). So each movie had an overall plot that spanned all four episodes, but then also had b-plots that only lasted within the 22 minute segments. This was done so that they could eventually be cut up for rebroadcast and syndication. For example, the last one, “Into the Wild Green Yonder” has a robot mafia plot int he first 22 minutes that ends where an individual episode would have while the larger plot goes on. Great Phatsby worked the same way.

      • 6 Anonymous
        18 January 2017 at 1:33 pm

        I’ve seen most of them, except “Into the Wild Green Yonder” because I’m a little slow (eh), but I thought the others were good.

        Can’t say I’d even attempt to watch this dreck.

      • 7 Sarah J
        21 January 2017 at 4:29 pm

        I quite liked the Futurama movies.

        And yeah, acknowledging that your show has problems doesn’t change the fact that your show has problems.

  3. 8 Brad M
    18 January 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Why does Homer suddenly care so much about being loyal to Mr. Burns?

    Why is Mr. Burns suddenly strong enough to tear his own shirt apart?

    Why is Homer unable to understand the basic marijuana reference in part 1 (yet he deliberately inhales some pot smoke in part 2)?

    Does the technology actually exist now to broadcast live holograms to venues that are not expecting them?

  4. 9 Josh
    18 January 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Let’s not forget characters appearing out of nowhere. The guest rappers perform their perfunctory line of rap each in a recording studio and then Milhouse appears inside the booth to tell them it was “tight” and they thank “the ‘House”. It’s funny because the rappers are acknowledging everyone’s favourite punching bag, Milhouse.

    Once again they use my favourite (see: least favourite) zombie Simpsons trope, Homer is best friends with whichever ancillary character is the focus of the episode. I’ll never stop thinking about the episode where Homer is giving Krusty parenting advice.

    It would be one thing to have Homer involved when Burns is trying to throw a party to connect with his workers but then he has Homer follow him around for the rest of the episode, paying for him to have all the same luxuries he’s indulging in. Just like the Monty Burns we all know and love!

    My last gripe, didn’t you love that Marge subplot? Marge magically gets a store without applying for one which is explained away by ‘spend enough time in the Hamtons and you get a store’. Marge is very excited about her store filling it with funny sounding knick knacks and tchotchkes. Marge is so excited she tears down the wallpaper. Homer yells at Marge that they can’t afford the store since he’s left his job unannounced for the hundredth time. Marge breathes a sigh of relief and simply walks away from the store she was so excited about moments ago. Doesn’t lock up or anything. Just leaves an unattended store with all her stock inside. Mmm, that’s good zombie Simpsons!

  5. 10 Jake
    18 January 2017 at 11:53 pm

    I think we’ve reached the point of where the characters could be placed next to random objects, speak random words while changing locations and come out with something funnier than an attempted script.

  6. 11 Dman
    20 January 2017 at 10:07 am

    This show’s gonna end soon, right??

    • 12 Anonymous
      20 January 2017 at 12:49 pm

      Despite our hopes, prayers, goat sacrifices, and promises to Satan, it seems the people in charge of ZS have a far stronger contract with the Dark Lord. I suppose it’s time to awaken the Elder Gods, at least that way we won’t continue to suffer.

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