Behind Us Forever: The Serfsons

“I’ll go to the first aid tent and tell them to plug in ye olde stomach pump.” – Lisa Simpson

NOTE: Sorry this took all week to post. I was traveling.

I should start out by saying that I appreciate that they at least tried to get creative here. “The Serfsons” is basically an episode length Halloween segment that gets the tiresome antics of Zombie Simpsons out of Springfield without the family having to win another contest or something. The good news is that you can tell they actually put some effort into this one; there are a couple of clever ideas and while most of the sign gags are meh, there are a few funny ones.

The bad news is that this is still Zombie Simpsons. An awful lot of the dialog is unnecessary expositions and joke explanations, characters randomly show up and vanish when needed, and the couple of good non-sign jokes get run into the ground. And, of course, the overall story is a meandering mess that resolves itself so poorly that it actually retcons its own ending twenty seconds after it happens.

If you haven’t seen it, the basic idea is that all the denizens of Springfield are in a fantasy realm that’s sort of Lord of the Rings, sort of Game of Thrones, sort of Generic Fantasy IP Project #644. Jacqueline is slowly dying and Homer needs gold to buy an amulet to cure her. Lisa, it turns out, has magic powers and can turn lead into gold. This leads to the Ministry of Magic (or whatever) kidnapping her for her abilities, and that in turn leads to a weird battle. There’s also a gelatinous cube whose super power is explaining jokes about itself.

– Gotta give them this: the Game of Thrones-y version of the theme song is kinda good. (Given the timeframe, I would assume Alf Clausen wrote it, but I really don’t know. He’s credited here as “Composer Emeritus”, which is a pretty sleazy way of saying “Fired”.)

– The actual episode starts off with, wait for it, a bunch of exposition. We see the family in their home and then this happens:

Homer: Water soup again?
[A crow lands on the windowsill. Marge bashes it with her ladle.]
Marge: Now it’s crow soup!
Homer: Ooh, I call an eye!
Lisa: Me too!
Bart: Me three!
Marge: And Maggie gets the beak.
[She then gives Maggie the beak.]

– After this, Rainier Wolfcastle, dressed as a knight, bursts in through the wall, makes Homer kiss his horse’s hooves for fifteen seconds, and then bursts out through a different wall. I am not going to transcribe all the random sketch comedy crap like this that happens. Just know that there’s a lot of it.

– Shortly thereafter, Homer yells at Lisa for “anti-feudalist” talk. Had this been brief and/or the only example, it might’ve been funny. But it goes on for quite a while and gets recited about three more times.

– Milhouse is a gremlin of some kind. And Jacqueline is in an exposited retirement home manned by giant spiders.

– At the row of severed heads we get more feudalism exposition.

– Jacqueline has been standing there for all of the above exposition, then breaks in unexpectedly by walking in from out of frame. Even when they have a character in a scene they feel the need to drop them in out of nowhere. If you wrote each line on a 3×5 card and shuffled them thoroughly it might actually improve the flow of this dialog.

– Speaking of jokes that would’ve worked once, Hibbert diagnoses Krusty with “genital smurfs”, which sing and frequently throw hats whenever Krusty looks down his pants. Once, this could’ve been fine. We’ll get several more.

– Jacqueline is turning to ice because an “ice walker” bit her on their date. Said ice walker then walks up to the window to apologize from nowhere before more exposition about how he’s a thousand years old and likes “young” women like Marge’s mom. This too will be repeated.

– Now the family needs gold to buy an amulet to cure Marge’s mom. This is stated explicitly and will be exposited several more times.

– So, in what I guess is supposed to be a Game of Thrones twincest thing, Marge’s creepy twin brother walks up out of nowhere to hit on Marge.

– The first of the two really good sign gags is George R.R. Martin wearing a sandwich board that reads, “The End Is Not Nigh” on the front and “I’ll Tell You When It’s Nigh” on the back.

– They try to cram in a Moe-prank-call with a scroll tied to a raven’s leg. It works about as well as you’d expect.

– At the “Human Power Plant” we see all the SNPP guys pushing a big wheel while Ogre Willy whips them. This leads to an extended scene where Burns explains that pushing the wheel doesn’t actually power anything and that their suffering is used to give rich people tiny, decorative wings. It doesn’t hook into the rest of the episode. It’s a one-off sketch that isn’t the least bit funny since it takes a full minute of explanation to get to the punchline, which is then repeated several times in case we missed it. I’m hard pressed to think of how the writing here could be any worse. It’s disconnected, mostly setup, and has a weak payoff. What else could it screw up?

– From there we see Aslan, wearing a big wooden cross, “come to offer solace in this difficult time”. Marge accuses him of wanting to take advantage of her while she’s vulnerable. Had this been left here, it’d be funny. Aslan as pushy missionary is a great idea. Instead, it goes on for twenty more seconds.

– Lisa turns some lead into gold to get the amulet for her grandmother. Then exposits that she didn’t do magic before because she doesn’t want to go work for the king. Also, Aslan shows up again. It won’t be the last time.

– Jacqueline gets cured, Bart shows up out of nowhere to exposit about how it happened.

– [siren emoji]Good Joke Alert[siren emoji]:

Jacqueline: I watched my daughter marry an ogre.
Homer: I am not an ogre. My father married an ogre after my mother was eaten by a different ogre.

Castellaneta nails this as Homer patiently but exasperatedly explaining something to an in-law he genuinely doesn’t like.

– Marge then decides to cook a hobbit to celebrate her mother’s newfound health. This leads to the second of the two really good sign gags in the episodes:

Is this self serving and kind of a low blow? Sure. But I laughed.

– And my joy is instantly ruined as we travel over to the hobbit cage where three hobbits exposit about which of them is to be eaten for far too long. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: these people know good jokes when they see them. They just can’t resist running them into the ground to fill time.

– There are some good fake store signs in this one, of which “Banana Monarchy” is my favorite and “David’s Merkins” is the dirtiest.

– At the town square things start to get really weird in preparation for the bizarro ending that’s coming. Homer and a bunch of other characters get into an argument about what the afterlife is like. Much exposition ensues. Also more smurf crabs or whatever.

– And Lisa gets kidnapped because “Sorcererintendent Chalmers” saw her using magic. Here are my notes from this:

As Lisa gets taken, more exposition

More feudalism exposition

“How are we going to get over these walls?”

As you may have guessed from that last part, they have to get over some walls. In transcription form, tell-don’t-show does kinda work.

– That last line leads to a bunch of Ents showing up. Homer, holding an ax, thanks them for their “sacrifice” and we then see them being made into ladders. Had this been it, great. Instead, the Ent has to exposit the joke (“We could’ve torn down the castle walls in five minutes”) before getting his face cut off with more exposition from Homer.

– During the battle, Mel literally dies explaining a joke.

– As the battle winds down, Homer declares, “Now we’re losing!” before declaring “Now we won!”. They’ve been over-using this kind of “here’s something so obvious it has to be funny” humor for a long time, but this is the worst example I can recall. Yeesh.

– And, after a dragon dies then gets resurrected, we end on Lisa expositing the end of the world.

Anyway, the numbers are (long since) in and they’re about what you’d expect. The season premier of the show that used to be The Simpsons was watched by 3.26 million viewers. That’s down a teensy bit from last year and the exact same as Season 27. As stated over the summer, though, bad numbers are fine so long as they’re not falling-into-a-bottomless-pit bad. So the mediocrity will continue. Welcome to Season 29, everyone. We can check out, but they’ll never leave.

11 Responses to “Behind Us Forever: The Serfsons”

  1. 1 Brad
    6 October 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Wasn’t a fan of the episode, but I thought there was one other pretty good joke: Preparing for the uprising, the bully kids throw a rock at the front window of a store that sells armour and weapons, and then arm themselves with… shards of glass from the broken window.

    (Or is this joke recycled from an earlier episode? I laughed, but in retrospect it does feel kind of familiar.)

  2. 2 Chrissy
    6 October 2017 at 7:29 pm

    If I wanted to watch an episode of Game of Thrones…..I would watch an episode of Game of Thrones.

    That Hobbit card is actually funny though.

    • 3 Brad
      8 October 2017 at 8:18 pm

      It wasn’t so much GoT as it was the same setting as Futurama’s “Bender’s Game.” In both episodes, and basically no other media ever, we see that it’s acceptable for humans to eat hobbits. Different writers, though.

  3. 7 October 2017 at 2:20 am

    Didn’t watch the episode but I applaud Zombie Simpsons when it does these weird gimmick episodes because at least it is something different. I want more stupid shit like The Futurama crossover or the non-Halloween Kudos and Kang episode because it’s going to be terrible no matter what so at least make it memorably terrible.

  4. 5 David Abell
    7 October 2017 at 6:09 am

    Totally disagree with you about the theme. I thought it was horrible. From the barely audible choir with indistinguishable words (was it The Simpsons? The Serfsons?) to the bad samples they used, it was horrid.

    The sound of the episode was also dirt poor as was the animation. Frankly, I turned it off after two minutes of this gross uncreative mess.

  5. 6 Doug
    7 October 2017 at 11:02 am

    Thank you for participating in yet another year of the unending death march that is Zombie Simpsons.

  6. 7 Anonymous
    8 October 2017 at 12:40 pm

    “Composer Emeritus”

    Those dicks. If he contributed in any way to this episode, they should just credit him and be done with it, not rub salt in the wound, euphemisms aside.

    So, in what I guess is supposed to be a Game of Thrones twincest thing, Marge’s creepy twin brother walks up out of nowhere to hit on Marge.

    Ew. Who’s supposed to be her brother anyway, or did they make up some random character?

    “Sorcererintendent Chalmers”

    I’ll admit I was amused by this, but it almost feels like an attempt at replicating “Super Nintendo Chalmers”, pretty low-hanging fruit. Same with the Hobbit cooking instructions, the joke Brad mentioned, or the sandwich board sign gag. I can smirk at the thought of them (since I didn’t actually watch the episode), but it wouldn’t be worth such a low payoff to slog through the rest of the crap Zombie Simpsons churns out.

    During the battle, Mel literally dies explaining a joke.

    Hah. Another thing that’s probably funnier in my head than it actually was to watch.

    As the battle winds down, Homer declares, “Now we’re losing!” before declaring “Now we won!”.

    Yeah, that is pretty awful, and lazy. So how did they win anyway, or was it too stupid and convoluted to describe?

    Well, even when Zombie Simpsons puts a modicum of effort into something, they still can’t even come close to ten seconds worth of their glory days. But what do you want to bet the “it’s getting better” crowd ate this right up?

    • 8 NES Boy
      9 October 2017 at 1:05 am

      So, in what I guess is supposed to be a Game of Thrones twincest thing, Marge’s creepy twin brother walks up out of nowhere to hit on Marge.

      Ew. Who’s supposed to be her brother anyway, or did they make up some random character?

      Well, here’s the scene featuring him:

      Marge kicks Homer out of their hovel, then throws a pig (who is not Plopper, by the way) at him.
      Marge: Homer Serfson, you are the most selfish jerk in the entire Tri-Kingdom Area! I should have listened to that witch and married my twin brother, Markery.
      Markery shows up.
      Markery: Always here if you need me, sis.
      Homer: Get lost, freak! She chose me!
      Marge: You get that money to save my mom, or never set foot in this hovel again!
      Marge shuts the door. Markery leans against the wall.
      Markery: Good things come to those who wait.
      Homer: Ooohhhh…

      And here is a picture of Markey. I have to admit, at least “Treehouse of Horror XIV” actually put effort into designing a male version of Marge.

      • 9 Anonymous
        11 October 2017 at 10:36 am

        “Plopper”? Did they get a pet pig at some point? I thought I remembered something about Spider-Pig making another appearance, but now I’m not sure, as I can’t be arsed to keep track of all the insane nonsense Zombie Simpsons does. Wait, was it in a fairly recent “Behind Us Forever”? I think my brain must try to block some of these things out as an act of self-preservation. Thanks for the scene transcription anyway, however terrible that was to read.

        “Treehouse of Horror XIV” actually put effort into designing a male version of Marge

        Really? I’d say it looks more like they made Zombie Homer thin and gave him a Marge wig (and not even a good one, since we’ve seen a better one before, as seen below). “Markery” may be lazy in design, but at least he doesn’t look like a cheap costume. That whole picture is awful, really, Girl Bart’s more realistic hair makes it look like he’s wearing a wig too, and Maggie has the laziest design of all. Man, those people who said the THOHs were still worth watching even if the rest of the show was bad clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.

        Pictured above: More entertainment value than this entire episode of Zombie Simpsons.

  7. 10 Jeff Jacobson
    11 October 2017 at 1:37 am

    Marge’s mom sounded like she was played by a different actress in this episode. What’s the deal with that?

  8. 11 Anonymous
    11 October 2017 at 1:20 pm

    I have to admit, i liked the Aslan bits the best – it seemed like it came from a new set of writers. Had a Family-Guy feel to it (back when it wasn’t a horribly offensive show).

    They tried too hard to get all the characters in there – though i don’t remember seeing Skinner – maybe his head was on the pike? Or Agnes Skinner either. Or Rod and Tod.

    Overall, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t that interesting. While I wasn’t banging my head on the desk at the stupidity, I was tempted to shut it off – it was dull, but I applaud the effort and wouldn’t complain if more of such episodes aired.

    In conclusion, let me end with a quote from a man we all kinow and love, C. Montgomery Burns, “I know what I hate, and… I don’t hate this”

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