Archive for the 'Synergy' Category


Synergy Wants Its Job Back

Homer the Smithers1

“Ah, and my dear, dear Smithers, you’re no longer needed at all.  You’re fired.  Ta.” – C.M. Burns

We’re now two episodes into Season 22, and there has been nary a synergistic peep from FOX owned subsidiary IGN.  Last year, they “reviewed” the premier before it was even broadcast and had one of their puff pieces up each Monday after a new Zombie Simpsons aired.  This year, all they’ve got is the generic description text that FOX puts out, and the episode pages for both new ones do not have a link to a review. 

This means that the “Synergy” category is getting retired around here.  At least until I find another wholly owned FOX subsidiary offering theoretically independent but obviously sycophantic commentary on Zombie Simpsons.  Then I might bring it back. 

For the record, my mockery had nothing to do with this little cancellation.  I would’ve been shocked if it did, but IGN was also “reviewing” Family Guy last year, and those appear to have stopped as well.  I was going to check on some other shows but they were sending me to click through advertising pages with such frequency that navigating the site was just shy of impossible.  They didn’t use to do that.  So I’d guess this is general belt tightening over there, which is good because I’d hate to have cost some freelancer part of his ramen noodle budget. 


Synergy Can’t Go Along With This

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 2c

“He crossed that line between everyday villainy, and cartoonish super-villainy.” – Waylon Smithers

Up until this week, IGN had been doing a bang up job of sucking up to its paymaster.  But the reeking desperation and overwhelming obviousness of making the season finale an American Idol commercial was too much, even for them.  FOX let IGN down, man, now they don’t believe in nothin’ no more.  IGN’s going to law school!

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

As a conclusion to one of the best worst seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons in the last few years, the series delivered another clunker. There was little to get excited about in "Judge Me Tender," an episode whose main storyline product placement focused on Moe and fellow Fox series American Idol. Had this been a half-hour stuck in the middle of the season, I it might not have been so disappointed passed relatively unnoticed, but choosing to end the year with it, especially after last week’s great Sideshow Bob episode, one can’t help but feel robbed that this embarrassment will be long remembered.

Besides, Lost was on.  [Ed note: No it wasn’t.  Lost didn’t start until 9:00pm]  The Simpsons didn’t hide the fact they were airing opposite an event night on ABC, specifically going up against the Lost retrospective. Bart’s chalkboard tried to spoil the whole thing for you: "End of Lost: It was all the dog’s dream. Watch us." But the episode they were trying to win you over with was less than compelling. If there were any bright spots, there weren’t, but if there were, it was would have been the first act. The Springfield Pet Fair offered up a number of great visual mildly clever gags and one-off bits. Drederick Tatum shopping for monkey diapers that wouldn’t upset his tiger’s stomach if the tiger ate the monkey was hilarious not one of them, instead dragging on much too long. "It’s a great time to be a tiger." Moe trying to find a seat at the Ugly Dog Contest was also a highlight took too long and wasn’t that funny to begin with.

The contest turned out to be the catalyst hackneyed set up for the remainder of the episode. Krusty’s unfunny commentary was outdone by no worse than Moe’s heckling, and but the “plot” demanded otherwise, and so Moe quickly became an in-demand local judge. This all worked up to this point, took quite some time and led to and I enjoyed the montage of different contests that Moe was asked to judge. But the moment Once Moe was approached by a Hollywood agent and offered a stint as guest judge on American Idol, the episode lost me went from run of the mill Zombie Simpsons crappiness to turbo-charged, unfunny network shill. The Simpsons are used to be great at taking swipes at Hollywood and parent company Fox, but the majority of bits fell very flat in "Judge Me Tender." The series has made (better) tepid jokes about AI in seasons past and very little new was offered here, except for the actual voices of Simon, Ellen, Kara, Randy and Ryan. But even these voice performances were wooden and unfunny and served to highlight just how bankrupt this show has become. Even Ellen disappointed, and she’s done the cartoon voice thing quiet well in the past, though that was with actual writing. Guess she’s better at playing a fish than herself.

The episode was padded out with Homer being forced to spend more time at home because of Moe’s Tavern being temporarily closed. Marge becoming annoyed by Homer’s presence was wholly expected and not given many any fun twists. Homer screwed up the kitchen? Oh, my! Homer took apart the washer unsuccessfully? Who knew?! It was predictable and weak. Even the The ending to the American Idol storyline was a bit transparently telegraphed. Rupert Murdoch, founder of Fox, has been the butt of countless jokes on The Simpsons, but nothing great came of his guest appearance on this episode. It was just too safe. In fact, the whole thing kind felt like was a network ordered crossover to help promote the ailing AI. Whatever the case, Even for the hollowed out husk that is Zombie Simpsons, this was a terrible way to end an otherwise fantastic another terrible season.


Sunday Preview: “Judge Me Tender”

Synergy, synergy, synergy! At long last, we’re at the end of Season 21 with “Judge Me Tender,” which for all intents and purposes seems to be a tacky commercial celebrating the Fox Network.  My memory’s a bit hazy – I seem to recall Zombie Simpsons spoofing – by which I mean not ridiculing and using wholesale – an “American Idol”-like concept before, but I can’t be bothered to look it up.  Anyway, the show’s saved its big guns for the finale with guest stars aplenty, including Rupert Murdoch.  Here’s Simpsons Channel with the description:

Moe discovers a talent for judging contests and is invited to appear on alongside Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, and Simon Cowell. Ryan Seacrest will also be on hand as the host.

Yeah, whatever. I’d like to remind our readers that this is apparently the same show whose previous crossover antics with “The Critic” in Season 6’s “A Star Is Burns” so reviled creator Matt Groening that he demanded his name be pulled from the opening credits. Fifteen seasons later, to hell with principals and integrity, there’s money to be made!  Folks, if ever there was any doubt, it’s clear now that the apple has been flung far from the tree, squished, and thrown into the compost heap.


Synergy Develops Stockholm Syndrome

The Simpsons Spin-off Showcase1

“Ahh, the boy is fine, so far.  I taught him to play the spoons.” – Charles “Big” Daddy

I think IGN is beginning to yearn for the freedom of summer.  This week’s corporate fanboy rant is really a stunner, even by their standards.  It’s not just high praise, it’s a justification, a plea that yes, Zombie Simpsons is indeed good.  Most of these reviews eagerly lap up whatever Zombie Simpsons left on the rug, but this wants to argue that it’s a good thing to shit on said rug:

A lot of the best moments from "The Bob Next Door" came from our familiarity with the character, his love of operettas being just one.

For IGN, it’s not enough to say that all the drawn out and recycled jokes were great, it’s that the very act of drawing out and recycling jokes makes them great.

Anyway, I had to do some serious synergy exorcising on this one, but I think I got it all.  Enjoy.

Now this is the Bob we’ve know and love come to expect. His last two major appearances, 2005’s "The Italian Bob" and 2007’s "Funeral for a Fiend" did not live up to the standard set by so many other great Sideshow Bob episodes. "The Bob Next Door" was a funny obliterated those standards in a black hole of suck that proves that this show will never return to form and that proved there’s still a lot to enjoy when new ways for The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons to pit exploit the once awesome idea of Bob and Bart against each other.

The episode, of course, didn’t come right out at the beginning and make it all about Bob advertise just how bottom dredgingly awful it would be. The majority of the first act gave us the Simpson typically lifeless Zombie Simpson spin on the current economic crisis. Like many local governments, Springfield was in major financial difficulty. Homer’s vision of Mayor Quimby’s "cooked books" and "fudge numbers" was the best misrepresentation of what he heard since kind of drawn out, clock eating “joke” that’s replaced quick lines like his take on Mr. Burns’ "open-faced club, a sand wedge" request. Other references also brought laughs reeked of runtime desperation, including Krusty Burger taking up where the city’s road kill pick-up left off, and folks leaving Springfield to find a better life in Detroit. And then Iceland blamed Homer for their financial collapse; this too made no sense, involved pointless exposition and took much too long. "At least we’ll always have Beowulf." "That’s not us." "No! No!"

The situation only got better managed to get worse when Bob arrived. Or was it Bob? A new neighbor moved in next door to the Simpsons and everyone was smitten except for Bart and the audience. He We recognized the man’s voice as the one and only Sideshow Bob. I thought Homer and Marge rationalizing the familiar voice was a fun shout out to Kelsey Grammer pathetic attempt to cover up for such a terribly weak set up: "A lot of people sound like Sideshow Bob. Like Frasier on Cheers." "Or Frasier on Frasier." "Or Lieutenant Commander Tom Dodge in Down Periscope." Bart’s attempts to catch Bob in his lie were fun pointless and clock eating, especially the Gilbert and Sullivan bit. A lot of the best most blatantly recycled moments from "The Bob Next Door" came from our familiarity with the character, his love of operettas being just one.

One of the many, many factors that made the last two Bob episodes such letdowns was that Bob’s plan (or lack thereof) to kill Bart was very weak. This was not very much the case with Sunday night’s episode. Bob’s plan was incredibly elaborate, and that wasn’t a good thing since the episode felt the need to spell everything out in painfully unfunny exposition, starting with trading faces with his soon to be released cellmate: "Why do you keep measuring my face?" Everything about the face transplant operation and then the faces later coming off was a treat treated as suspenseful, clever, and funny when it was anything but. Once he had attained Bart, Bob’s plan to commit the crime at Five Corners, shooting the gun in one state, hitting him in another and Bart dying in yet another was evil genius pointlessly elaborate and needlessly exposited over and over again. A bonus appearance by Bob’s other arch-nemesis, the rake, was also fun another awkward reminder of when this show was creative. The only let downs continued with was Bart’s counter plan. A simple phone call to the police, needlessly exposited like everything else, wasn’t nearly as fun as the many other ways Bart has foiled one of Bob’s plots.

Overall, this was a great return to form for an total waste of an appearance from Sideshow Bob. The vengeful character has been let down by recent episodes, but "The Bob Next Door" has reminded us what makes Bob so much fun just how exquisitely terrible this show can be.


Synergy Has a Small Suggestion

Who Shot Mr. Burns Part 1b

“There’s some candy right here, sir.  Why don’t we eat this instead of stealing?” – Mr. Smithers

IGN is finishing the season strong.  Not only does this week’s agitprop praise transparently hackneyed story shortcuts (see: Moe’s interactions with the Lovejoys and the Nahasapeemapetilons), but goes so far as to offer a suggestion about how it could’ve been even better!  IGN couldn’t ignore the stupidity of using an elopement with Moe as the plot fulcrum, but rather than ignore the awful fake tension it put on the rest of the episode, they offered up a little change and called it a day.  IGN, it’s not sycophantic criticism, it’s constructive sycophantic criticism.

I’ve edited out the synergy, though I left the last paragraph largely alone.  Enjoy.

The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons has been on quite a run. The last several episodes have been some of the best worst we’ve seen in recent seasons. And the run continued with "Moe Letter Blues." Sunday’s episode was a nice hacktacular stab at a Mother’s Day treat, told through long winded narration and goofy, cliched flashbacks, all while scoring whiffing big with on the laughs.

The storytelling in "Moe Letter Blues" was what stood out first. Things started with Moe narrating, and then moved on with flashbacks from Homer, Apu and Reverend Lovejoy as they tried to figure out which of their wives might be running off with Moe. This could have been was clunky and unnecessary, but and the writing made it work even worse than it had to be. The flashbacks flowed were tied together well haphazardly and made sense only from an omniscient Moe’s point of view. The episode even wisely made failed to make fun of its own set-up. While Moe was easily in place to witness the troubles between Homer and Marge and Apu and Manjula, he was comically shoehorned into the flashback for the Lovejoy’s and Apu and Manjula. There, Moe randomly poked his head out from behind the church to witness the turmoil and the Nahasapeemapetilons stopped at Moe’s for some reason.

The issues between the couples offered up a number of laughs teevee cliche couple arguments. Homer and Marge’s problems are nothing new to the series. Homer has offered up loads of relationship advice throughout the series’ Zombie Simpsons 400 200-plus episodes, and he added another great one bland stinker on Sunday: "Women don’t mean anything by anything." The most least fun, though, came between Apu and Manjula. Apu is best known as used to be the pleasant and chipper Kwik-E-Mart clerk, but some of his most memorable moments have come from an annoyed and angry Apu. His arguments with his wife in this episode were the standout bits a reminder that we liked the old Apu better, including their debate over the radio station ("Having a ‘Ma-Hot-Ma or Ma-Not-Ma’ contest is not a jape. It is sexist sacrilege."), and then later forgetting a ‘tuplet.

Along with the fun boring, interweaving main story, "Moe Letter Blues" was packed with a number of other great gags time killers. The barfly rodeo was fun way too long, especially Lenny as the rodeo clown which could’ve been funny if it hadn’t taken fifteen seconds. Weasel Island offered up a lot of no laughs, most from including the meta amusement park advertisement: "Warning: You many not be amused." The episode also included a fantastic slow paced Itchy and Scratchy cartoon, plus a brief but hilarious underwritten guest spot from the voice of Saturday Night Live, Don Pardo. When Moe wondered out loud in his narration what sort of dough Pardo made from voiceover work, his distinct voice chimed in with, "I make more than you can possibly imagine, and I’m making it right now."

One issue I did have with the episode was Moe’s, "I’m leaving town forever and taking one of your wives" statement in his letter. You know there’s no way Moe would ever be leaving the series or running off with any of these women, so the claim never held any drama. As the men returned home, you never expected to see that one of the wives had run off. It might have worked better if Moe had simply said he was going to sleep with one of the women. This would have been a little more believable in the realm of the series and certainly would have been more in line with Moe’s character. That aside included, however, the storytelling and humor relentless “suspense” of "Moe Letter Blues" delivered yet another great tired episode from a very strong yet another tired season of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons.


Synergy Salivates on Command

Skinner Box

Image from Wikimedia Commons. 

“And now boys and girls, here he is, the boy that says the words you’ve been longing to hear, like the salivating dogs that you are: Bart Simpson!” – Krusty the Klown

No two secondary characters are more associated with stereotypical Zombie Simpsons fandom than Ralph Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.  They went from uproarious diversions to main attractions, the one part of any episode the writers can be confident will cause well conditioned people to slap their fins together.  Synergy, being the corporate-fanboy id of Zombie Simpsons mentality, wallows in them:

We also got to see Ralph as a debate podium and listen to Comic Book Guy

Maybe I’m reading too much into what’s probably just another clumsy formulation written with one eye on the word count, but the phrasing of that jumped out at me.  “We” “got to”, like it’s some kind of treat, a fish you’ve been tossed as a reward for the good behavior of sitting through the rest of this crap: If you don’t turn the teevee off, we’ll make Ralph say something stupid!  We’ll have Comic Book Guy mention something geeky!  Like a broken down performer too deluded to know that there’s no shame in retirement, the show’s been reduced to promising to do the old tricks if you’ll just give them one more night at the old rate.

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

May 3, 2010 – Sunday night gave us another solidly crappy episode of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons. This wasn’t an episode as good as last week’s "The Squirt and the Whale," [Ed note: leaving that alone because, really, you’re writing professionally, at least read it over once before hitting “submit”.] but there was still a lot of laughs filler and a fun dull storyline. And the twist ending made so little sense that it fogged the mind and helped elevate the audience forget everything that came before it . The Lisa storyline was a bit of a bore, but even that had a great line or two was stretched horrible to fill time.

In "To Surveil With Love," Springfield found themselves the victims of what they believed to be a terrorist attack that was never mentioned for the rest of the episode. That it was actually the result of Burns trying to secretly dispose of plutonium for some reason, and Homer’s love of mac and cheese was quite fitting typically lazy and even a not the least bit funny. The town’s overreaction plot conceit was to bring in a consultant from London who then covered the city with surveillance cameras. Eddie Izzard voiced the consultant page or two of dialog. This was a rather bland role, one that I wasn’t even sure was a guest voice until the closing credits made it clear how much of waste it truly was. It’s too bad that more something couldn’t have been done with the character since it was being voiced with someone with a reputation such as Izzard’s.

Still, the surveillance storyline was fun an excruciatingly dull grind. It made sense that Chief Wiggum would ditch the duties of monitoring the video to the town buttinskis, like Marge, Ned, Helen Lovejoy and others, but only Ned and Marge ever said anything, and only Ned ever did anything. Wiggum said they were the best picks because they were "prying, not pervy.", a description which for some reason applied to Kirk van Houten.  Once Ned learned that, for plot purposes, you could talk to those you’re monitoring, he became the local voice of god. I loved how Bart used his backside to discover the blind spot in his backyard and killed a lot of screen time doing so, and that he and Homer took full advantage of it to kill even more time. Best Most pointless was seeing Superintendent Chalmers wearing a dress and spinning nunchucks: "This used to be a tiny part of me." Homer showing Ned the problems with all the surveillance, and the two going around town destroying the cameras was a bit brain meltingly obvious, so it was nice that we got and could not be saved by a little twist. The cameras were actually broadcasting England’s number one reality series, "The American Oafs."

The B storyline with Lisa having issues with how blondes are perceived was the weak link in the episode and is the reason "To Surveil With Love" doesn’t score a bit higher just as formulaic and obvious. But even with this blah story, we got a few great lines they had a lot of time left to fill. I loved Bart explaining the blonde boys aren’t dumb, they’re evil: "Like in The Karate Kid and World War II." ate some clock. We also got to see Sensing how weak the whole thing was, they fell back on their old standbys and had Ralph as a debate podium and listen to Comic Book Guy explain his general malaise: "Would you be jolly if you thought Comic Con was moving to Anaheim?"

Overall, "To Surveil With Love" was a fun another wasted episode, hurt only by the uninteresting filler of Lisa dealing with blonde stereotypes that occupied almost its entire runtime. But And even that delivered its share of unmemorable quotes offenses to comedy. If the past few episodes are any indication, this season may will go out on a very high note as another disgrace to this once funny series.


Synergy Confuses Fiction and Reality

The Boy Who Knew Too Much1

“Oh no, Willie didn’t make it, and he crushed our boy.” – Movie Mom
“Ugh, what a mess.” – Movie Dad
“Oh, I don’t like this new director’s cut.” – Homer Simpson

IGN did two things I appreciate with this week’s corporate fanboy ode to Zombie Simpsons:

1) Kept things ridiculously positive – It’s a lot easier to edit out the synergy when I can replace words like “best” with “worst” and leave the underlying sentence structure untouched.

2) Exposed the shallowness of its sycophancy – This is a little more subtle, but I like how the comedy free tear-jerker part of the episode, which accounted for most of the run time, isn’t even mentioned until the fourth of five paragraphs.  It also shows up in other things, like the sentence I couldn’t figure out:

But this was the right path to take, as moving Bluella the whale proved too daunting for the community.

I’ve read that sentence ten times and I still don’t know what it means.  I get that IGN is praising Zombie Simpsons, but I can’t figure out for what.  I think what IGN’s trying to say is that if the townspeople had saved the whale, then the whale would’ve been saved . . . except that it’s fiction . . . so the townspeople’s actions were chosen by the same people who put the whale on the beach in the first place . . . so the decision to kill the whale couldn’t have anything to do with the townspeople’s actions . . . and now I’m confused again.  IGN knows that the whale died because the writers chose to kill it, not because the townspeople failed to save it, right?

Anyway, I’ve edited out the synergy.

April 26, 2010 – “The Squirt and the Whale” was an absolute gem turd. Like many of the classic Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episodes, it was hilarious boring and heartwarming melodramatic. In a time when many are saying the series has lost its magic, Sunday night’s episode proved that even the old-timers can show you how it’s done once in a while it.

The episode was great boring right from the start, beginning with opening credits. Bart’s chalkboard bit was a failed nod to the guys at South Park and their recent controversy with the depiction of Muhammad. “South Park– we’d stand beside you if we weren’t so scared.” Since The Simpsons opened the doors for shows like South Park, it was would’ve been nice to see the camaraderie if they hadn’t screwed it up. Follow that up with a clever and fun romp through the Springfield Shopper as the time wasting couch gag, and we had a few good laughs under our belt decent idea of just how bad it would be before the episode even started.

The first act of “The Squirt and the Whale” was as near-perfect wretchedly bad an opening segment the series as seen in many seasons. The trailer for the big-budget space adventure “Tic Tac Toe” was an absolute winner nothing but embarrassingly bad puns. Homer’s battle with the power company (his own employer) was full of great gags and one-liners Jerkass Homer non sequiturs. First there was the Power Expo (“Where there’s an expo, there’s free Frisbees.”) where we got to see they couldn’t think of anything original so they crammed in Ralph Wiggum’s “kid power” and Barney’s “burp power.” This was also where Homer bought a windmill to power his home for some reason that was dropped two minutes later, with the guarantee it will pay for itself “in 12 to 18 lifetimes.” The entire electricity storyline in this act was fantastic vanished after the commercial. My least favorite lines came when Homer realized wind power only works when it’s windy: “From now on, the Simpsons are living… intermittently!”

That act ended disappeared with the beginning of the rest of the episode, when Lisa discovered a beached whale. As Lisa would, she tried everything she could to save the whale, including enlisting her father to help, though she did not, apparently, call Sea Huggers. Homer’s ideas did nothing to help, and surprisingly, but did kill some time until the whale died on the beach . You usually don’t expect death in a sitcom, especially one that would break the heart of a seven-year-old, but this show stopped being a comedy a long time ago. But this was the right path to take, as moving Bluella the whale proved too daunting for the community. [Ed Note: I’m not sure what the preceding sentence is supposed to mean.] Equally unexpected dull was that the episode momentarily focused on the removal-by-dynamite of the whale from the beach to kill more time. This led to another great drawn out montage and a clock eating bit after Comic Book Guy bought a whalebone corset. The corset slowly gave way, changing CBG from slim to fat. His commentary exposition matching the various stages of Captain Kirk’s appearance with the movie/series he was on was a lot of fun took a lot of time, ending with the fattest version from Boston Legal.

Throughout this ordeal of an episode, Homer was trying to ease his daughter’s pain. This was best stated by the man himself done in typical Jerkass Homer fashion when Bart taunted the pair: “I’m trying to be a sensitive father you unwanted moron!” Homer’s bit with the invisible dog leash was pleasantly fun already going on too long, until it became uproarious even worse when the invisible dog dragged Homer along as he chased a car. The episode ended with Homer trying to help Lisa save the calves of Bluella from environmentally protected sharks (Homer: “Typical eco-jerks– using words to talk”) that showed up because the writers drew “sharks” out of the Plot Resolution Hat. After putting his life in danger in the most contrived and boring of ways, and winning the affection and respect of his daughter in another sappy melodramatic sequence, Homer said he’d do anything for “a sweet, intelligent mammal.” His daughter, of course, not the audience, who are less intelligent for having watched this. Very funny saccharine and appropriately sweet clumsy, “The Squirt and the Whale” was the best worst episode of the season thus far.


Synergy Wears Down


Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user marwho.

“Homey, why don’t you lie down and relax.” – Marge Simpson
“No time, Marge, I think Mr. Burns wants me to do some long division.” – Homer Simpson

I think all those staff cuts at IGN are finally having an effect.  Last week I noticed that their fluff piece on “American History X-Cellent” was unusually short.  Now comes this week’s entry, and it’s even shorter.  Out of curiosity, I grabbed all the reviews from calendar 2010 and ran a word count.  Starting with “Thursdays with Abie” and running through “The Greatest Story Ever D’ohed”, IGN averaged 650.5 words per week.  The highest was 720 and the lowest was 614, so the lengths were relatively stable.  Then last week’s checked in at only 473 words, and this week’s is a mere 420.  (I presume that’s a coincidence, but you never know.  I’d probably need to be high to write this kind of crap.)  IGN just can’t seem to muster the effort for a proper fellating of Zombie Simpsons. 

Anyway, this week’s is pretty typical: restate the plot, praise a few things, make positive reference to Three’s Company . . . wait, what?  Three’s Company?  And it’s a compliment?  Yeah, I’d say IGN is pretty worn down.  As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

April 19, 2010 – There was a lot nothing to enjoy in "Chief of Hearts." Pairing Homer with Wiggum had not been something overdone by the series [Ed Note: leaving that alone because it’s too screwed up to fix], so having the two at the center of the episode had a certain freshness to it has only been done two or three times over, instead of the usual five or six. The story, maybe not so much, but the pairing worked however, has been done so many times that it no longer matters who’s doing it.

It all started with Homer’s misinterpreted unfunny and wildly nonsensical armed robbery at the Springfield bank. I thought his hidden candy apple and his caramel-filled mouth were a great way to get the story rolling a good preview of the relentlessly boring antics to come. I also loved felt the same way about his rants against doing community service. "I want to go to jail. Free food! Teardrop tattoos! Library books that come to you! I’ll serve anything but the community!" That it was a cooler full of food that made Homer and Wiggum fast friends was no surprise just as unoriginal and dimwitted.

Their misadventures playground flirting together were entertaining was hacktacular and pointless. It was fun to learn about the versatility of police pants. Learning that Wiggum’s underwear is specially made by a village in the Ukraine was another standout way to make this barren scene take even longer. ("They call me Daddy Round Round.") I wasn’t expecting to see Chief Wiggum get shot, but Homer’s bedside vigil made for a satisfying gave them an excuse for a clock eating montage of boring bits. The episode took an interesting embarrassingly predictable turn as Wiggum became needy and their friendship hit the rocks, and then for some reason the pair needed to work together again to free themselves from Fat Tony. Overall, the story had an interesting staggered along a tired and trod path and there were a good number of successful bits throughout without anything to keep things entertaining and funny.

Bart’s "Battle Balls" storyline was also fun a black hole of pointless suck, even though there was absolutely nothing to it. It mainly consisted of a few well-placed television trope bits about Marge’s misinterpretations of things said about the Japanese game. In a very Three’s Company way, Marge began to think Bart was a drug dealer, it was just a dull in 2010 as it was in 1980. Just as funny  lazy were a couple great lines about why Bart couldn’t possibly be dealing drugs. First was Marge with, "He doesn’t have the math skills," and then later was Bart with, "Not until you raise my allowance."

An episode with Chief Wiggum as a central character means there’s a chance we’ll get a few Ralph bits to enjoy make the fanboys slap their fins, both directly and indirectly. Ralph’s bet with Bart during a game of "Battle Balls" was classic typical: "And if I win, you have to teach me how to play this game." And I loved Chief Wiggum sharing a couple of Ralph’s major worries: "What if the bed wets him," and "What if Superman decided to kill everybody." Those were a few of the bonus failed Ralph-isms were extra uninspired dreck in an enjoyably solid episode that consisted of nothing but.


Synergy Sees What It Wants to See

Five Riots and a Parade

One of these is not like the others.

“Wait, I’m confused about the movie.  So the cops knew that internal affairs was setting them up?” – Homer Simpson
“What are you talking about?  There’s nothing like that in there.” – Movementarian Guy
“Oh, you see when I get bored I make up my own movie.  I have a very short attention span.” – Homer Simpson

This week, IGN pulled its usual stunt of disparaging Zombie Simpsons while still giving it a ridiculously high numerical score (6.9).  I had to make a surprisingly small number of changes to edit out the synergy, and many of those were me replacing faint praise with no praise.  There were quite a few whole sentences that came synergy free. 

Entertainingly, the one part of the episode IGN genuinely enjoyed never actually happened: the riot.  Moe and Marge both use the word “riot”, but no riot ever broke out.  When Springfield riots you see torches and pitchforks; cars are turned over, fires are lit, and stores are looted.  All that happened here was some people throwing fruit at Burns, and even that we mostly didn’t get to see.  No riot occurred, and yet IGN specifically praises the riot scene.  High comedy.

April 12, 2010 – There really hasn’t been a memorable Mr. Burns-centric episode of The Simpsons during the last few seasons. Nothing immediately comes to mind. Unfortunately Fortunately, "American History X-cellent" will quickly fade from memory as well. It could have had potential ten years ago, but that all faded away the deeper into the episode we got long ago.

Any episode focusing on Burns has used to have potential. He’s the billionaire curmudgeon we love to hate. When the episode opened showing Burns locked away in Springfield Penitentiary, and then flashbacked to show us how we got there, the field was wide open for what could be coming. It was good sad to see Burns characteristically wielding his power and exploiting his nuclear plant employees by making their Fourth of July picnic solely about him instead of something actually evil. I also enjoyed how wondered why Burns was carted away in an actual donkey-drawn cart when he was arrested for stealing a painting. The nonchalance of the town riot was also very could have been funny if there had actually been a riot. The folks in Springfield used to riot a lot, so it was would’ve been smart and funny to see Moe selling "stuff to throw" and Marge taking advantage of the empty malls if one had taken place.

The main plot of the episode, however, was tired and mostly unfunny. C. Montgomery Burns was finally thrown in prison ("After all my years of stockjobbing, gun running, attempted murder, successful murder and tom peepery, they get me on a petty, multi-million dollar art theft."), but instead of watching him become the power hungry king of the yard, we got old references to The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Burns’ narration was inconsistent, unfunny and unnecessary. In a week, there will be little you’ll remember of Burns’ time in prison because there really wasn’t anything to it. Had a better story been developed, things could have been much funnier. Instead, the episode was filled out with two other underdeveloped ideas.

The first was a complete waste, as Bart and Lisa bonded over their failure to raise an ant farm. There’s little to say about it because it was as exciting and funny as actually raising an ant farm. The other storyline would have been served better with more screen time. With Burns in the big house, Smithers was left to run the power plant. His transition from good boss– introducing a medical plan that covers illness– to worse than Burns– instead of releasing the hounds, he released wolverines– was a very fun decent idea. Cutting the ant story and expanding on this could have made the episode a hundred times better slightly less intolerable.

Though the potential was there, "American History X-cellent" failed to deliver a would-be classic a decent Mr. Burns episode. His time in prison was too mundane. Evil Mr. Burns is always more fun than a kindhearted Mr. Burns, and new and original ideas are always better than tired Shawshank references. Maybe we’ll get an old school Mr. Burns episode next season in the parallel universe where this show doesn’t suck.


Synergy Doesn’t Learn From Its Mistakes


Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user iotae.

“You gotta give her up.” – Lisa Simpson
“No, no, wait, hear my plan: put up with her for seven more years.  Then we’ll get married, once the first baby comes along she’s bound to settle down and start treating me right.  After all, I deserve it.” – Bart Simpson

This week’s edition of IGN’s “corporate fanboy” writing was a mixed bag of praise and criticism.  (It still scored a 7.3, of course.)  The most direct criticism is of Sacha Baron Cohen and the way this episode didn’t live up to IGN’s expectations.  Apparently, every time a comedian of some recent popularity is announced as a guest voice, IGN pees itself in anticipation: Seth Rogen is a genius!  This is going to be a GREAT episode!  Ricky Gervais made The Office!  His episode is gonna be hilarious!  And yet every time this happens, Zombie Simpsons drops the ball and IGN is left disappointed.  (And never mind that they gave Rogen’s episode an 8.6 when it came out, some time for reflection has apparently taken the shine off of it.)  The natural response to repeated disappointment is to stop getting your hopes up, but when the one who’s constantly disappointing you is the same one who’s signing your paychecks that may not be an option. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

March 29, 2010 – I think Sacha Baron Cohen is a pretty funny guy. When I heard he’d be doing a guest voice on The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, I was excited indifferent. I thought that would be a fantastic match he’d be wasted just like every other celebrity on the show in the last decade or so. Of course, I thought the same thing when I heard Ricky Gervais was going to guest star. And Jack Black. And Seth Rogen. Unfortunately Exactly as I expected, none of those episodes lived up to what I thought the combination of guest actor and series would be were any good. None of those episodes were outright failures, but the The name recognition had raised my expectations nothing to do with the crappiness of the episode. The same goes for "Greatest Story Ever D’ohed." My preconceived notions were let down by what was still a fairly decent episode were confirmed, guest stars are irrelevant, this show just sucks.

The opening act was my favorite the least stupid segment of this half hour. Looking back, I think this was due to the fact that it didn’t involve exotic locales and swanky guest stars, though, it still sucked. It was just your standard (and funny) Jerkass Homer-annoys-Ned neighborly in stupid, unfunny ways affair. While Ned was trying to entertain his bible study group, Homer and the kids were within view enjoying a slip-and-slide in their backyard. It’s these bits that I continue to enjoy because they are were once at the heart of what The Simpsons is was: a family sitcom. Now, they’re just further proof that the show has run out of ideas, So the bits with Homer at home frustrating his do-good neighbor will always be enjoyable, so long as the even these jokes can’t remain funny. And the bits were quite enjoyable in "Greatest Story."

The best last moment in the opening came after Ned had decided to make an effort a plot conceit to save Homer and bring him some redemption in the eyes of his savior. Ned invited the suddenly grass-skirt-wearing Homer and his family to join him on a trip to The Holy Land for some reason. The exaggerated response was classic Homer could’ve been funny: "Hmm, let me think. Take my family to a war zone, on a bus filled with religious lame-o’s, in a country with no pork, in a desert with no casinos. Ooh, where do I sign up?!" Marge’s entry to the scene was also quite funny nearly pointless: "Homer, I can hear you sarcasm from inside the house. And the dishwasher is on." After committing to the trip despite it being expensive and a terrible idea, the act ended after pointlessly increased groaning from Jerkass Homer, with Lisa saying of her father my favorite line from the episode: "The man hates pants."

The middle of the episode didn’t entirely do it for me was where this descended from ordinary mediocrity. It’s become fairly standard to have at least one episode per season take the Simpson clan to some far off land, whether it is Australia, Brazil, London or Africa. [Ed Note: All of those episodes are at least six years old, even IGN can’t be bothered to remember much of Zombie Simpsons.]  These episodes can be hit or miss, with installments from later seasons being more often on the miss side. "Greatest Story" had a few good gags while did its missing in Israel, but and nothing stunningly hilarious funny happened. For a time, Anything that could be called storytelling was forgotten to fit in as many funny and not-so-funny dull references to where they were as they could.

I was underwhelmed with Sacha Baron Cohen’s voice work as the groups tour guide. He was like a sped up Borat and was actually a bit difficult to understand at times. The few jokes that did get through were only okay hyperactive and less than clever, like the repetitive "Shut your face." Also standing out as ineffective was Bart’s fight with the tour guide’s daughter, played by singer Yael Naim. Instead of being humorous, it seemed to just be an excuse to include the Israeli combat style of Krav Maga mention things that aren’t funny and have no relevance. Things got a bit funnier even duller once Homer found himself lost in the desert for some reason and had a vision of VeggieTales characters telling him he was the chosen one. Homer’s final speech to try and unite all the faiths made no sense, though who’s going to listen to Homer Simpson? it did push the episode over the finish line.

It’s difficult easy to keep your expectations in check when you hear about an upcoming guest star, and that likely affected my perception of this episode they’re all the same. But that it is what it is – Zombie Simpsons. Perhaps subsequent viewings, if I felt like torturing myself, will would let me find me enjoying this more more specific ways this one sucked, but for now, "Greatest Story Ever D’ohed" was just this side of good par for the course for boring travel episodes with forgettable guest appearances.


Synergy Feasts on Crumbs

Girly Edition3

When it comes to “reviewing” Zombie Simpsons, IGN basically has two tools at its disposal: low standards and positive spin.  This week’s sycophantic drivel is heavy on the latter.  These aren’t recycled ideas that have been done much better in the past, they’re “variations of themes”.  Sarah Silverman’s character (hereafter referred to as “Girlfriend #8”) isn’t a one dimensional character who exists only to kiss and longboard, she’s a “female version of Bart”.  Skinner and Willy kissing for hours isn’t wholly unnecessary filler, it “was probably funnier on paper”.  It can’t be easy to suck stale crumbs off the floor and call them delicious, but IGN’s (still) on the job. 

As always, I’ve edited out all the synergy. 

March 22, 2010 – I have a soft spot particular dislike for episodes of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons that center around the elementary school in some way. Of all the locations in Springfield, it’s the elementary school that has the highest concentration of great supporting characters should’ve changed the least. The nuclear power plant is a close second, but the variety of characters at the school edges them out in terms of sheer wasted comedy opportunities. And the kids are definitely more fun resistant to character drift than the gang at Moe’s Tavern. So when "Stealing First Base" established that it was going to be school-centric, it already had a lot going for itmassively aggravating” written all over it. And overall, it didn’t disappoint.

The storylines, as can be the is often the case with The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons after so many episodes, were variations of recycled themes we’ve seen a number of times before. Bart was once again struck by love and the results were quite entertaining pretty much the same as they always are. Mrs. Krabappel’s absence forced Principal Skinner to combine the two fourth grade classes at Springfield Elementary into one class for some reason. The setting that we never saw again gave us a number of great throwaway lines from some of our class favorites characters that used to be funny, including Milhouse, Martin, the twins and Nelson. Nelson had the best only minor storyline in the episode after getting paired with a blind student in the other class. Throughout the episode, we returned to the duo and saw how Nelson was taking the kid under his bully wing acting out a particularly hackneyed after school special. And this is precisely why I so enjoy loathe these school-based episodes. There’s plenty to work with to fill the episode with extra laughs The reanimated corpses of characters I used to enjoy acting nothing like themselves pisses me off all over again.

Doubling up at the desk introduced Bart to Nikki Girlfriend #8. Essentially a female version of Bart few lines of dialogue that happened to skateboard, Nikki Girlfriend #8 was the closest thing Bart has gotten to finding true love since Greta Wolfcastle.  [Ed Note: I’ll take his word for that.]  Voiced by guest Sarah Silverman, Nikki Girlfriend #8 turned out to be a fun and memorable one dimensional and rather boring character. And since she’s theoretically a regular student, the possibility remains overwhelming likelihood that we may see will never hear her again someday makes her nonsensical introduction that much stupider. After Bart stole a kiss, urged on by a banana-eating Grampa Simpson, Nikki’s Girlfriend #8’s parents threatened a lawsuit for some reason and were granted an "affection-free environment" on school premises never heard from again. Unfortunately Predictably, this concept was not played up as much as I had hoped it would be at all. Out Because of it we did get suffer through a "skit, or sketch" defining what was inappropriate, but watching Groundskeeper Willie and Skinner kissing for longer than they should be was probably hopefully funnier on paper because in execution it was boring and long.

Regardless of the affection ban, Bart continued a relationship with Nikki Girlfriend #8, who’s only purpose was to showed Bart that women are entirely impossible to figure out. My favorite line of the episode One of the hacktacular lines that would’ve fit better in a low budget romantic comedy came when Nikki Girlfriend #8 told Bart he should know what she wants: "I want you to act the same way two days in a row!" I also loved the The montage of famous "kisses" that played as Nikki Girlfriend #8 was giving Bart CPR (for some reason) also dragged on far too long. The clips started as you might expect, with some of the most famous, passionate kisses in cinema, but then added the unexpected that didn’t take enough time. So they added in The standouts for me were the alien smooching Ellen Ripley something they stole from “The Critic” and Sammy Davis Jr. laying one on Archie Bunker.

Meanwhile, Lisa was going through her 100th crisis of "being smart ain’t all it’s cracked up to be." It started with her suddenly becoming popular after receiving a failing grade on a test for some reason. But once that situation was cleared up (Ralph: "I cheated wrong. I used the Lisa name, but the Ralph answers."), Lisa went right back to being an outcast. In a very roundabout way, This was supposed to have something to do with First Lady Michele Obama came coming to the elementary school to give Lisa some support and herald overachievers. Angela Bassett was good as the voice of Obama, but the whole thing felt odd massively out of place and very forced. Still it It did give the opportunity an excuse for Superintendent Chalmers to state, "He’s our Joe Biden," about Principal Skinner.

Again, any episode set in the elementary school will always be worth your time remind you of how bad this show has become. Although "Stealing First Base" fed us some old very stale ideas, and it did so with a lot of great bits drawn out time filler (the Itchy and Scratchy 3-D movie, The Very Hungry Caterpillar) and some very strong utterly pointless guest voices.


Synergy Agrees With Me About One Thing


Image taken from Wikimedia commons.

“It’s true, and we’ll all live in cities on the moon!” – Marge Simpson

IGN was in mid-season form this week, slobbering all over lame jokes and unabashedly praising the repetitive nature of the plot.  But let’s set aside the fussin’ and the feudin’ and talk about something we can agree upon.  The opening of the Zombie Simpsons episode was a reference to old Tex Avery cartoons and IGN thinks that if you’re a young whippersnapper you ought to look them up on your fancy YouTube machine.  But IGN doesn’t provide a link, I’ll provide two.  Here’s a link to a search with lots of videos, and here’s one about futuristic televisions that I just watched.  Ah, memories I used to watch these when I was a wee lad, and that was thirty odd years after they were broadcast.  All hail old cartoons! 

Other than that this review sucks, but it sucks less with the synergy edited out. 

March 15, 2010Though Sunday night’s episode of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons was your basic Bart-takes-part-in-stupidly-conceived-because-they-ran-out-of-ideas-long-ago-mischief storylines, I quite enjoyed it. The writers are still unable to work a little something new any life at all into this tried  tired and true trite staple, and "Postcards from the Wedge" was no exception. From the stylized clock killing opening to Bart’s ham fisted manipulation of his parents’ marriage, the episode delivered laughs yawns along with its tediously unfunny familiarity.

The "Springfield of Tomorrow" opening was fantastic had potential. I absolutely loved Tex Avery’s "..Of Tomorrow" shorts as a kid and this segment brought me right back to that joy. The voiceover and art style was a great nod (with hints of The Jetsons) to those classics, and the bits were equally funny unfortunately the jokes were clumsy, obvious and drawn out. If you’re unfamiliar with those shorts from the ’50s, I hope the opening to this Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episode encourages you to check them out on YouTube. The transition out of this opening was also funny repetitive and obvious as it was revealed we were watching a film in Bart’s class and Mrs. Krabappel stated, "Well, that concludes… I don’t really know what that was." Neither did we.

From there we learned that Bart is a full month behind on his homework assignments, which he suddenly cared about for some reason. Also bringing back memories from childhood was Principal Skinner’s joke free list of undone assignments: "worksheets, math jumbles, dioramas, topic sentences, conclusions…and one Thanksgiving hand turkey. This led Homer to get strict on Bart for some other reason and force him to do nothing but catch up on his assignments. Marge started to feel like this might turn Bart off of school and wanted to go easy on him. Homer’s sarcastic response: "Oh, my! A child who doesn’t like school? Hello? Hollywood! You want to buy the movie rights to this incredible story?!" This was the best moment in the show as for one brief moment Homer was as bored as we were.  I could’ve liked that Homer and Marge’s viewpoints were the opposite of what we might have expected if it had been handled with even a little bit of care instead of having both of them start acting weird. Surely Homer would have been more laid back about it, and Marge stricter, but the episode mixed it up and assumed no one would notice because these characters were destroyed years ago. This was could have been a refreshing take on their dynamic and a very welcome one but instead it was as lazy as everything else.

Bart soon realized was told through pointless exposition that he could play his parents against each other to get out of doing any homework at all. This led to the pair arguing to the point of putting their marriage in fake, unbelievable danger. When Marge threatened to withhold sex from Homer, his obvious angry and less than clever response was, "You can’t sex fire me! I sex quit!" Being so much in love under contract, the fighting didn’t last and the duo decided to let Bart be Bart for the sake of their marriage. Heeding Nelson’s advice — "If no one’s getting mad, are you really being bad?" — Bart decided to pull one large prank that would bring Springfield Elementary tumbling down for some reason. This is where the seemingly stand-alone "Springfield of Tomorrow" opening tried to tied in with the rest of the episode. In the film, the voiceover mentioned Springfield’s cramped subway system which it then dragged out for twenty seconds, and which Milhouse and Bart had stumbled upon for one off plot purposes. Running the subway cars around the ancient tracks was causing the school to crumble for some final reason and Bart was set to send the train around one more time to finish the place off.

Overall, there was nothing too surprising the least bit interesting about the story itself. We’ve seen Bart cause trouble and Marge and Homer fight numerous times before. But even those tired ideas couldn’t fill a whole 22 minutes and so the jokes were good drawn out as long as possible, including some standout epically long bits. There was Martin’s over-the-top Hopi Indian pueblo. The "gets an A" sight gag was stellar coming a full thirty seconds after it started. I also loved the The House-referencing "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoon, which ended with Scratchy giving birth to his own head, took so long that I felt bad for the cat. Patty and Selma depressing Marge and Maggie was great also went forever. And being the parent of a toddler, I also thought the Sir Topham Hatt joke was pretty funny more pointless, humor free referencing. Again, the story was nothing entirely new, but the and what passed for jokes were smart and fun overly long and painfully unfunny and worth sitting on the couch for a half-hour.


Synergy Wasn’t All That

Brush with Greatness3

“Alright family, I want the truth.  Don’t pull any punches.  Am I just a little bit overweight? . . . Well, am I?” – Homer Simpson
“Forgive us Dad, but it takes time to properly sugarcoat a response.” – Lisa Simpson

This was one of those rare weeks where the Zombie Simpsons episode was so bereft of humor, or even just attempts at humor, that even wholly owned News Corporation subsidiary IGN couldn’t gin up too much praise.  It concludes by saying:

“The Color Yellow” just wasn’t all that worth it.”

Of course the numerical score is still a 6.4, but that’s because IGN sucks at math.  Speaking of “wasn’t all that”, it’s IGN’s Faint Praise Phrase of the Week.  Instead of just coming out and saying that it wasn’t funny IGN used a lot of wobbly kneed qualifiers of which “wasn’t all that” was the favorite.  Fortunately, all you’ve got to do is drop the “all that” and a quivering synergy sentence becomes a nice, clean statement, though it may not be one the higher ups would find pleasing. 

As always, I’ve edited out the synergy. 

February 22, 2010 – You know something? If a television series stays on the air for two decades, eventually you’ll get around to a jumbled and ham fisted storyline involving slavery. It’s just a fact. And so we have Sunday night’s The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons, where we were taken back to the 1860s to learn about the history of the Simpson family tree though the use of cliffhanger flashbacks. Though the episode contained this sensitive subject matter, they avoided the kind of shock humor other animated series are known for. Unfortunately, the episode also seemed to be avoiding avoided the laughs. Putting more effort into the roundabout telling of the story would’ve been a good idea, but even so "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that funny.

It began with Miss Hoover randomly assigning her class the project of researching their family tree. Lisa was hoping to find something noble in her family’s history, but only came across thieves, killers and alcoholics, any one of which would’ve been more fun than this. Looking through heirlooms in the attic, Lisa uncovered the diary of Eliza Simpson dating from the 1860s. Lisa thought she found her noble spark, until Eliza wrote of being happy that "tomorrow I get my first slave cliffhanger flashback." This line, and the accompanying gasps from the Simpson family, ended the first act. Except for Groundskeeper Willie’s battle with a tree stump, the majority of Everything in this opening was a dud.

The edgiest line of the episode came in the early moments of the next act. Learning that an ancestor might have owned a slave, Homer quipped, "For once, the Simpsons were in management." This was as shocking as the episode really got, and it was worth it for an unexpected laugh tame and boring and not the least bit funny. From there, the episode eased the slavery issue by revealing Eliza and her family were a stop on the Underground Railroad Flashback Cliffhanger Express. Learning that the Underground Railroad had no trains and wasn’t underground, Bart stated it should have been called "The Above Ground Normal Road." And it was uninspired jokes likes this that peppered the episode.

The majority of the focus, and the only really interesting thing to watch in the episode, was the pieced together way the story of what happened with Eliza and her slave were revealed. First it was the diary, but that only revealed so much before the pages turned to cliffhanger dust. Next there was an out of place cliffhanger footnote in Eliza’s mother Mabel’s cookbook, and then Milhouse read from his relative’s cliffhanger journal showing another side of the story. This was a clever time consuming way to reveal the story, but more funny any jokes would have been a better way. There were a few standout truly pointless bits, but none were enough to lift the episode’s ranking out of place in Zombie Simpsons. Colonel Burns demanding that the waltz change its time signature was funny took at least thirty seconds, as were did the riffs repetitions on the Simpson motto, "Quit while you’re ahead." Learning that Marge had stopped watching Carrie just as she was named prom queen was great a stretch even by Zombie Simpson standards.

But the episode as a whole just felt was flat and boring. I guess it’s difficult to find the humor in slavery, even for The Simpsons and it’s well beyond the capabilities of Zombie Simpsons. The big  way out of place twist ending was revealing that the rescued slave and Mabel Simpson started a life together in Canada, and that the rest of the Simpson clan were descendants of the pair. This made our favorite animated family one sixty-fourth black. Bart: "So that’s why I’m so cool." Lisa: "That’s why my jazz is so smooth." Homer: "And that’s why I earn less than my white co-workers." Will this historical fact ever come up again in future seasons of The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons? Most likely no. So it makes you wonder, "Why bother?" The episode wasn’t all that funny, the storyline not that shocking was hopeless beyond repair, and the reveal of the Simpsons having African-American roots will likely never be referenced again. "The Color Yellow" just wasn’t all that worth it.


Synergy Skips to the End

Lackey Monkeys

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Rose Robinson.

“I’m sorry, but my mother always said if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.” – Marge Simpson
“Will that hold up in court?” – Homer Simpson
“No, I’ve tried it before.” – Lionel Hutz

On previous occasions I have described IGN’s Simpsons reviews as being written in a style known as “corporate fanboy”.  It has the same willful blindness to mediocrity that characterizes fanboy screeds, but there’s an air of discomfort about it that its formality cannot fully conceal.  Case in point, this week’s review of the curling episode.  It is five paragraphs long, the first three of them detail events that occur before the eight minute mark (or what would’ve been the first commercial break if the show still only had three).  The fourth paragraph, a mere 20% of the “review”, breezes through the bulk of the episode (the multiple curling sequences, several of the montages, the Agnes/Skinner melodrama, and the self serving Bob Costas cameo).  The fifth paragraph covers Lisa’s skeletal subplot and pronounces everything awesome.

See what they did there?  Rather than try to praise the horrifyingly thin final 2/3 of the episode they simply skipped it.  A real fanboy would’ve taken the worst parts and lauded them unconditionally (e.g. the comment from Maddox at Simpsons Channel, “I really loved this episode and all of the jokes in it were great!”).  IGN can’t quite bring itself to that level and simply ignores what it doesn’t like hoping that no one will notice.  As always I’ve edited the synergy out of the review.


February 15, 2010 – Often with animation Zombie Simpsons, due to the lengthy production process, it’s tough to be topical. Because of that, The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons usually steers clear of of-the-moment humor references. When a topical reference does get through, it will often bomb, or at the very least date when production on the episode likely took place display how out of touch the show has become. If When they do get topical, they do so in broad, clumsy strokes, like in Sunday night’s "Boy Meets Curl." It was an episode about the Winter Olympics, just days after the opening ceremonies in Vancouver. It was a safe bet the scheduled start date of this major sporting event would not change, and The Simpsons took advantage Zombie Simpsons proved that while it can’t make good television it can read a calendar.

Not that this episode needed to air during the actual Olympics, but it did help add a bit of knowing familiarity to the comedic references of the Canadian-based event desperation to be relevant again. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The episode began with Marge and Homer separately preparing for a night on the town, though no explanation is offered for why Homer is at the plant. Instead of making it on time, Homer got stuck at work for some reason. This opening act moved fast and had lots of laughs but the time they saved would be spectacularly wasted later. The fact that Homer prepared for date night in the same fashion as Marge was a good chuckle just a taste of the repetition we were in for. Funnier Blander still was their experience at the movie theater. Folks were so loud, Marge couldn’t even hear the ad telling everyone to be quiet (topical called from 2004, by the way). Homer declared, "We came here to enjoy the movie, and we’re going to enjoy the movie," until "starring Ben Affleck" appeared on screen and the couple walked out, right after topical called from 2003.

Homer and Marge made one last effort to salvage the night by stopping by an ice skating rink, only to discover it was closed for a curling plot event. That’s right, curling — the punch line of Olympic sports that didn’t get made fun of here. As it happened, the pair were naturals for some reason. Homer: "This is perfect for both of us. It has bowling for me, sweeping for you." and boredom for the audience.  They were asked to join the Springfield curling team with Agnes and Seymour Skinner, for some other reason. Soon after, they learned they’d be attending Olympic trials, because . . . you know. Two of my favorite the many dull and time eating throwaway bits of the episode soon followed. I found Homer’s image of the Winter Olympics — Santa high diving into a frozen pool with penguins as judges — absurdly funny took a little while. Funnier Longer still was the "Olympic Curly Trials" being held across the street from the curling trials. Anyone familiar with The Three Stooges should have found the Curly sight gags a lot of fun cheap and weak, and Moe ending the bit with his "wise guy" face-slapping was superb wasn’t even funny by the standards of Shemp.

The Olympic and Canadian humor montages of the episode was a lot of fun ate a lot of time, too. Heading to Vancouver, Homer stated, "We’re going to Canada’s warmest city." This was very funny accidentally topical but not funny in the least, especially since the actual Winter Olympics have found it necessary to truck in the snow. This was perhaps the most topical of the references the episode could get right. The Canadian Milhouse ("Milhoose") was fun pointless and derivative, as was Nelson’s "hoo-hoo" laugh. There was also a great montage cameo appearance of the medicine woman from The Simpsons Movie. Agnes Skinner as a former Olympic hopeful was also very funny took way too long and added some depth to her disdain for her own son more convoluted backstory to characters who’ve already been crushed beneath it. It was Seymour’s "involuntary pre-conscious" reflexive fetal kick that cost her the gold medal in third trimester pole vaulting. Adding to the fun topical desperation of this episode was Bob Costas as himself, commentating on the proceedings. His best line came after Marge injured her sweeping arm: "This is the sort of bittersweet melodrama Olympic coverage feeds on. I admit it — we’re vampires who suck on shattered dreams." which could’ve been clever if it wasn’t so hopelessly expository.

The episode was filled out inflated to fill the runtime with a story C-plot surrounding Lisa’s sudden addiction to Olympic pin collecting. This was an entertaining a humorless plot that was at least germane all but unconnected to the rest of the episode. Lisa’s "addiction" reached the point of trading in her pearl necklace for a rare pin. This labored scene set up a great line later in the episode when Bart started to help Lisa break her addiction. After admitting she had given away her pearls, Lisa tearfully declared, "Without my pearls, I’m just a big Maggie." Not surprisingly, Lisa was on her way back to normal by episode’s end, and Marge overcame her injury plot-related-incident to bring home the gold. With or without the timeliness of the story and setting, "Boy Meets Curl" was a fast and funny episode certain to be a highlight of the season hopelessly stretched and painfully unimaginative, even by the sewer level standards of Zombie Simpsons.


Synergy Has a Nostalgia Hangover

Homer Goes to College5

“Duh, Homer, why are we down here?” – Bernie
“Aw geez, I told you Bernie, to guard the bee.” – Homer Simpson
“But why?” – Less Gifted Employee
“Oh you guys are pathetic, no wonder Smithers made me head bee guy.” – Homer Simpson

Having read more of these IGN Simpsons reviews than I care to think about it’s become clear that they just don’t put a lot of thought into them.  Case in point is this week’s review which has only two main elements, 1) praising the show for being on the air a long time, and 2) retelling the various setups that made up the plot.  Number 2 is pretty standard for these reviews, but I think the presence of number 1 is mostly a carryover from the last few weeks.  IGN got locked into nostalgia mode over all the 20th anniversary stuff and just sort of mindlessly kept going with it.

February 1, 2010 – After their 450th 451st episode focusing on Krusty and a celebratory special spreading the love and dissing Zombie Simpsons, it was nice to have things get got back to the familiar level of suck with "Million Dollar Maybe." And by familiar level of suck, I mean watching what’s left of Homer do what he can to make his family happy, while screwing it up as he tries random, crazy shit. Sunday night’s episode had Homer yet again letting down Marge, winning a million dollars for “plot” reasons, spending it all without her knowledge for some reason and still finishing the half-hour in the arms of the woman he loves. All this and laughs, too.

Things started with Homer and Marge preparing a musical toast for a cousin’s wedding contrivance. But on the day of the wedding contrivance, Homer opened a fortune cookie stating this was his lucky day. At first, Homer blew off the fortune: "Any part of a cookie you can’t eat is just a waste of time." But his luck did indeed start to turn as crashing into a vending machine resulted in its contents raining down for Homer’s enjoyment for some reason. Instead of heading straight to the wedding contrivance, Homer stopped to buy a lottery ticket and got stuck a very long, very slow line for about three hours for one more unknown reason. It was a fun hacktacular set up, leaving Homer feeling plot guilty about missing the toast and unable to tell Marge that he was instead buying a winning lottery ticket. It was a nice touch ate some time to have Lenny and Carl help convince Homer that the fortune cookie may be right. I especially loved the headline from the Beijing Daily Worker: "New Fortune Cookies Vaguer, More Accurate."

To further stretch things out Homer used Barney to pick up his winning check, a good majority of which went to Uncle Sam: "This money will go to partially cover the cost of a study to decide what to do with the money." Unable to tell Marge about the money (yeah, still), Homer instead bought things anonymously for his family. Watching the various ways in which gifts were discovered was quite fun killed a lot of clock, starting with Homer throwing Bart into bushes disguising a new washing machine, and ending with Marge pulling a new pearl necklace out of Maggie’s diaper. But the ruse dumb ploy couldn’t last, and soon Bart discovered Homer’s secret money tree, setting up a second series of unrelated clock killing skits. This included a randomly hilarious scene with Moe showing up out of nowhere, menacingly stating "Don’t forget my cut." When questioned about it, Moe responded, "I just go around saying that and hope it’ll be applicable."  When questioned about that, the writers responded, “We just go around sticking characters in and hope people don’t complain.”

Bart first convinced Homer to indulge a little help fill screen time with the cash, resulting in rides on a zero gravity plane and a personal concert from Coldplay. Fittingly, Chris Martin was the only band member to get lines. Though the scene had some chuckles made no sense and wasn’t funny, Martin’s appearance could have been replaced by any number of celebrity rock stars. The good times didn’t last, and soon Bart was threatening to tell Marge Homer’s secret because it was getting time to wrap things up. To keep him quiet, Homer basically became Bart’s slave. This was reminiscent of about six episodes of every sitcom ever and had been done ten thousand times better Homer becoming Patty and Selma’s slave for a similar secret-keeping reason in "Homer vs. Patty and Selma."  But since this was only a small focus of this episode done poorly and for no reason, with an entirely different viewpoint, it didn’t feel like a retread so much as its own brand of suck.

Filling out the episode was a decent plot with Lisa buying the retirement home a Funtendo Zii. She got the idea in a great scene with Mr. Burns trying out the videogames at the store: "Wait. I’m shooting at Nazis? That’s not how I remember it." This was an adequate B storyline in that it’s hard to see how they could’ve stretched the A plot any thinner, with enough laughs to keep things interesting, but never getting too complicated and taking the focus away from Homer and his predicament. Ultimately Yawningly, in the main storyline, Homer told Marge the truth and everything returned to the status quo. Homer’s cherry blossom testament of love was yet another sweet ending over-animated, under thought-out  set piece to a long line of Simpsons Zombie Simpsons sweet endings over-animated, under thought-out  set pieces, punctuated with a very funny "Phew!" visual gag. This was a fun dull and funny disorganized episode focused on Homer and his always dysfunctional relationship with his family — just what we’ve come to love and expect after 20 10 years.


Synergy Contradicts Itself

“Smithers I’ve been thinking, is it wrong to cheat in order to win a million dollar bet?” – C.M. Burns
“Yes, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“Let me rephrase that.  Is it wrong if I cheat in order to win a million dollar bet?” – C.M. Burns
“No, sir.  Who would you like killed?” – Mr. Smithers

In its never ending mission to praise Zombie Simpsons in the most obsequious of ways IGN will sometimes slip up.  Like all paid sycophants, IGN doesn’t have a coherent, well thought out world view.  It simply finds ways to praise and doesn’t concern itself with any kind of emotional or intellectual integrity.  That means that on occasion you get statements that, while praiseworthy when taken in the moment, contradict an earlier praiseworthy statement.  This week’s review is such an occasion.  With that one exception I’ve edited out the synergy.

January 10, 2010 – The 450th episode of The Simpsons was further proof that it’s nice to still have this series around this show has gone on way too fucking long. All sorts of arguments can be made that the show just isn’t as good as it used to be, and to an extent, it would be hard to argue those are all true. But I don’t think you’d have such an easy time convincing people that the current state of the series is bottom-of-the-barrel terrible even though that’s also true. Okay, it may not be turning out classic boring turd after classic boring turd after classic sappy boring turd, but The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons can still deliver convince smart dimwits and solid fanboys that’s it still qualifies as entertainment. "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" was another solid episode sappy boring turd, from television’s longest running series. And, honestly, to deliver an ineffective, unfunny episode on your 450th turn is quite an accomplishment about what we expect these days.

The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons has reached milestones like this a number of times in its history. On each occasion, the episode itself paid little mind to the goal being accomplished [Ed Note: I’m leaving this sentence alone to point out that it directly contradicts something IGN said last summer.  That’s sloppy synergy.]. Only "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show" stands out as an episode actually saying something about the feat it was achieving. With that episode, The Simpsons became the longest running primetime animated series, surpassing The Flintstones. And in that episode, the Itchy and Scratchy cartoon was portrayed as faltering and losing its edge, much like The Simpsons itself was being talked about at that time, it was a joke that could only work once and despite that fact became a staple of later episodes (cough, Comic Book Guy, cough). "Once Upon a Time in Springfield" took a similar route trotted this tired cliche out yet again when the producers of "The Krusty the Clown Show" complained that the show was losing ratings among young girls and decided to add Princess Penelope to the cast.

Penelope will never be likened to Poochie being added to the cat and mouse duo (except by me, of course), but the storyline still offered up a lot of laughs suffered horribly as deliberately unfunny sequences were used to eat screen time. Anne Hathaway (The Princess Diaries) gave a fun  by the numbers performance as the Princess, which also showcased used her singing chops to kill some more clock. Krusty had a very blindingly familiar arc in the episode, hitting rock bottom and then swearing a comeback, and lots of laughs exposition came from Krusty dealing with his predicament, yet again. I was quite enjoyed bored by his wild "Hey-Hey!" followed by the somber, "Seriously, hey-hey, kids." Krusty’s embarrassingly slow slapstick bits in the dumpster after announcing his comeback were also a riot painfully dull: "Oh, why do clown things always happen to clowns?" Laughs Grim recognition could also be found in Bart and Milhouse’s reactions to a princess taking over their favorite show, especially when Bart referred to a sidekick as the lowest form of life. Milhouse happily agreed.

The secondary storyline of this episode was subtly celebratory of the even further out of character for this once awesome series reaching such a status of productivity. This story conceit centered on Homer, the nuclear power plant and donuts — all icons of the series itself which were once again bastardized in the name of filling time. Due to cost cutting, Mr. Burns eliminated the free donuts in the break room. Without his free food, Homer hungrily lamented, "All I’ve had are my meals." This made it easier for a corporate headhunter to almost lure Homer, Lenny and Carl to work for the Capital City power plant for some reason. Not only would they have gotten free donuts, but also other perks like massages and Gary Larson pointless cameos as their in-house cartoonist. The unseen Larson comic was a fantastically funny bit for fans of The Far Side: "A lion would not want to see that on his X-ray." Of course, it was simply the promise of the world’s greatest donuts that brought the three coworkers back to Springfield after Burns decided he loved his employees for some reason.

The direct references to The Simpsons longevity — the blackboard bit, Maggie’s billboard and the actual thanks at the end of the episode — were fun wildly undeserved self fellatio, but what really felt good were the donuts. Homer’s undying love for the product ("…the masculine contours of the box juxtaposed with the feminine curves of the treat themselves.") is just like our love for the series . . . 300 episodes ago. Congrats on 450.


Synergy Enjoys the Banality

Bart the General2

“Dear advertisers, I am disgusted with the way old people are depicted on television.  We are not all vibrant, fun loving sex maniacs.  Many of us are bitter, resentful individuals who remember the good old days when entertainment was bland and inoffensive.” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

When last we left IGN’s Zombie Simpsons reviews they were swooning and drawing little hearts on their notebooks because the writers dragged the Plow King out of retirement for a joke free cameo.  This week there’s some danger they’re just going to straight up overdose on nostalgia.  Yes, Grampa Simpson has told some enjoyably batshit stories in his time, but those times are long past (as even FOX tacitly acknowledges).  Instead we get classic Zombie Simpsons, taking a good idea real Simpsons used sparingly and stretching it to the point of mutilation in order to fill an episode.  As always I’ve edited out the synergy.  Enjoy

January 4, 2010 – "Thursdays with Abie" put a murderous twist on Tuesdays With Morie and the result was a fun dull and funny dimwitted start to 2010 for The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons. The episode used Abe Simpson’s talent for telling tall tales as the starting off point central conceit and threw in Homer’s jealously to move the story towards it’s eventual, kind of sentimental witless ending.

Of course, like many good Simpsons Zombie Simpsons episodes, we began in a place that had very little to do with the remainder of the half hour. The water park jokes at Wet ‘N’ Wack World (formerly the John F. Kennedy Naval Museum) were right on the mark drawn out to the point of exhaustion. Homer: "Sure, they have worse rides than amusement parks and less fish than aquariums, but the parking is ample." The extended bit with Slimu (the octopus version of Shamu) was also quite successful at taking up time and boring me to tears. While the family was enjoying their water show, Abe was left alone on a shark bench until Marshall Goldman Scooby Doo Villain arrived. Goldman Villain was a reporter specializing in human-interest stories, and he was happy to listen to Abe tell one of his nonsensical, unbelievable stories. ("Someone’s listening to me! Now I know how a radio feels.")

Abe’s ramblings, of course, have been running gags for The Simpsons entire 20 years, and just like everything else they didn’t used to suck. Usually we would just get snippets of a story before Grampa Simpson fell asleep, or before whoever was with him interrupted him. These bits are generally fun, with the more successful ramblings coming from the more successful episodes of the series. One of my favorites has always been, "We had to say ‘dickety’ because the Kaiser has stolen our word ‘twenty.’" Extending the stories here could have been was a big misstep, but and the writing was sharp plodding and funny humorless. And it was also helpful also helped eat clock to have Abe’s stories (true or not) presented in flashbacks. The flashbacks added some very funny visual gags to Abe’s already chuckling inducing tales showed why some things are best alluded to rather than spelled out explicitly. The newspaper headlines during his story about the Tinsel Town Starliner stood out the most: "Curly to Shemp: You’re Out" and "Bike Wheels Now the Same Size."

Tuesdays With Morie writer Mitch Albom did a fine pointless guest spot in this episode parodying plugging his book. He showed up to try and steal Abe for his own book, but decided instead to follow Ralph Wiggum around after hearing him state, "Clouds are God’s sneezes." Goldman’s articles were received well, causing Homer to become jealous of the fact his father had never shared these stories with him for some reason. Homer’s computer-themed explanation of why he has no recollection of the countless times Grampa did share his stories was cute another way to kill time, but I prefer seeing Homer’s brain monkeys. Still, his anger led him on a funny hackneyed path. First he tried to proved to Marge that he could never be angry with himself and the resulting mirror bit was classic Jerkass Homer, bi-polar, unfunny and drawn out. Next he set out to find a surrogate father, for some other reason, which turned out to be Mr. Burns, for yet another unknown reason. This was another great nonsensical segment and included a hysterical recycled reference to another long running gag in The Simpsons. Having had enjoyed himself with Homer, for a final unstated reason, Mr. Burns chose to only release a hound.

The story was given coughed up its conflict when Homer learned that Goldman Scooby Doo Villain was going to kill Abe in an attempt to bring a touching ending to his planned book and bid for a Pulitzer Prize this mess of a plot to a conclusion. Like most great Simpsons shitty episodes, the lunacy found room for went hand in hand with schlock sentimentality as Homer saved his dad and was then given the floor to tell his very own rambling, time wasting tale. This was actually an unexpected sweet moment boring as hell as Grampa Simpson passed the torch to his son… in a truly Simpsons Zombie Simpsons fashion, long on time, short on humor. The secondary story with Bart caring for a class stuffed lamb over the weekend was effective at getting the episode to 22 minutes despite the thinness of the A-plot and had a few great parts. The best most out of character of these anyone was how much Nelson loved that little lamb: "Nelson loved a little lamb/He kept me nice and sane." Overall, the episode was a success crushingly boring, using bastardizing one of the best Simpsons running jokes to tell an engaging and even sentimental a sloppy, cliched tale.


Synergy Enjoys the Nostalgia Firehose

Dog of Death5

“What’s the matter boy?  Don’t you know me?  I’m your buddy!  I love you boy.” – Bart Simpson

It’s always heartwarming to see a lapdog and its owner reconciled, especially when the rekindled love comes about because they remembered the good times.  This week’s IGN review was a fawning love letter, not so much for any of this episode’s original content but just because Zombie Simpsons opened the nostalgia valve all the way.  As Dave said in our chat, the Plow King was “fan service” and, lo and behold, the mere appearance of the Plow King, however jokeless it may have been, “brought a smile”.  As always, I’ve edited out the synergy.

December 14, 2009 – With its focus on Bart’s longing for a little brother, "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?" was a fun forgettable and entertaining formulaic outing for The Simpsons Zombie Simpsons. Packed with guest voices, the episode did well by sticking to floundered with one main story instead of adding an even weaker "B" storyline to fill out the half hour. Though Bart may never get his younger brother, we at least got another low quality episode after a couple less than impressive installments.

Things began with Springfield getting hit by a snowstorm, causing the schools to shut down and giving Bart a snow day. Comically With contrived CGI, the weather prevented Bart from ever getting outside, and once stuck in the house, a power outage prevented Bart from enjoying his videogames and DVDs. Bart’s attempt to watch "Itchy and Scratchy" using the electricity he could generate from rubbing a balloon against his hair was a highlight particularly stupid but did take up a lot of his struggle to find something to do. Meanwhile, Lisa and Maggie were playing together and enjoying their sisterly bond. Bart tried to play with his sisters for some reason, but was put off by their dress-up game. Bart tried to cover for having no one to play with by insisting he was "a bad ass loner like Wolverine, who leaves whenever people beg him to stay."

That evening, despite claiming no dream pointless, time killing storyFAIL could convince him he needed a little brother, a dream convinced Bart he needed a little brother. The dream wasted a lot of fun time, starting with cameos from the Marx Brothers and the Blues Brothers. We also got a glimpse of Sideshow Bob and his brother Cecil flying kites together. The series, of late, seems to be referencing older episodes more often. [Ed. Note: No shit.]  Whether a conscious decision because of the anniversary season, or just a coincidence, it works as a short cut to reminiscent laughs serves to highlight how creatively bankrupt this show has become. This episode also had Barney as The Plow King. No real joke was involved, but it brought a smile to this long-time fan’s face served to reinforce the fact that this show’s only remaining appeal is through nostalgia.

Other notables in Bart’s brother dream were the Manning brothers Peyton and Eli, plus their older brother Cooper. If you don’t know, Cooper was also on track for a professional football career until he was sidelined by injury, so his bragging about high school achievements to his Super Bowl winning brothers was funny and bittersweet factually correct. The Smothers Brothers cameo (and closing credit dialogue—"naked bacon") was also a lot of fun, more pointless nostalgia for anyone old enough to know whom the Smothers Brothers are. Now wanting a younger brother, Bart set out to make it happen in horrifyingly characterless and boring ways.

This was a fine what passed for a storyline, and offered up a number of great bits ways to make it to the credits. Bart’s failed attempts to trick his parents into fornicating were enjoyable outright dull, including Marge and Homer attempting a position from the Kama Sutra: "You’re ankle goes there." "Hand me your neck." The South Park reference was cute about nine years too late, but still lacked any real joke. Bart imagining his future with a third sister was also fun cribbed from a less moribund franchise, with Kim Cattrall offering up another guest voice for the episode.

Bart’s one day with a little brother (an orphan voiced by Jordan Nagai, Russell from Up) was also enjoyable labored beyond all hope of entertainment. It offered up my favorite line of the episode ("He’s just like Annie, except he’s a dude and he hates tomorrow.") plus it taught us a great lesson about poking dead animals with a stick: "Don’t go straight for the eyes. Build up to it." Best of all, like the better Simpsons most brainless schlocky Zombie Simpsons episodes, it ended with a sweet moment crammed down our eyeballs reminding us that even with all his shortcomings, Bart will always have his dad… to watch torture porn R-rated movies with.


Synergy Lashes Out

American Wiccan

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user Robotskirts.

“Let’s come to our senses everyone, this witch hunt is turning into a circus.” – Goody Simpson

Once again setting aside the ridiculously high number (6.1), this is now the third week in a row that IGN’s Simpsons review has been downright harsh.  Not only did they think Cletus was overused, but they hated on the Wiccan storyline almost without exception.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this isn’t going to be a permanent trend, but it still makes my job easier and as a profoundly lazy person I appreciate that.  I scrubbed out what synergy I did find, but there wasn’t all that much. 


November 30, 2009 – "Rednecks and Broomsticks" started out with potential one of the longest and most pointless scenes ever, but that was lost after the first eight minutes or so only a taste of what was to come. What was left was a Lisa-heavy episode about Wiccans with a smidge of Homer and moonshine thrown in. Though there were some was one standout moments, the episode as a whole was lacking.

The most fun to be had came early on. Leaving "The Snowed Inn" early to beat the traffic after a ski weekend, the Simpson family ran into traffic anyway. This led to a an endlessly repetitive but funny bit with the kids playing "Bonk It!" the world’s most annoying game. After a number a funny gags it went on much too long, Homer smashes the game with his foot, causing some of the bits to get lodged under the brake pedal. This turned into the Simpson car careening off the road, sliding across a frozen lake, hitting Bambi (Yes!) and launching the fawn into the next county. Had I been drinking something, it would have come shooting out of my mouth in a spit take when I saw that last, very funny visual.

Everybody’s favorite slack-jawed yokel, Cletus, saved the entire family from sinking into the frozen lake. To help kill time the The episode then gave off a Deliverance vibe, or at the very least, something along the lines of Misery. But instead of taking that direction, which would’ve made what they were doing consistent, the tale took a much friendlier turn. Cletus invited Homer to partake in some moonshine with the locals, while the kids played grenade snowman bowling and hide-and-seek, instead of, you know, leaving.  Homer’s expertise with the moonshine ("It’s got a rich mash base, and a sense of danger.") included a Sideways referencing montage that was entertaining also killed time, even without having seen all of Sideways. But the hillbilly jokes could only go so far. I love Cletus in the small, quick bits that made him famous, but feel whenever he gets extended screen time, the jokes work less and less.

Meanwhile, the game of hide-and-seek resulted in Lisa getting lost in the woods at night, for some reason. It’s here she stumbles across a Wiccan ceremony being performed by three never-before-seen teen girls. Lisa was frightened at first, but began to considered joining the group after they apparently caused Mrs. Ms. Hoover* to get sick, helping Lisa get out of doing her pipe cleaner art project, which for some other reason she had not done. The Wiccan storyline as a whole was almost entirely laugh free. Plus it’s vampires that are all the rage now. Witches are so 1996.

The last half of the episode had the three girls arrested and put on trial, twice (apparently once didn’t eat enough clock). Per Kent Brockman, this would be Springfield’s "first witch trial in 12 years." One of the girls — Stacy Deathsatan, I think — was voiced by Neve Campbell. Get it? She was in The Craft, and now, 13 years later, she has the free time to do underwhelming voice work for an established primetime animated series. There was no logic put forth for arresting the girls; it just seemed to happen to have it happen.

The episode did get a little more clever a bare minimum of coherent storytelling as it tied in the moonshine storyline with the witches causing half the town to go blind. Turns out it was the moonshine spilled into the drinking water that was the actual culprit. In the end, for all the small bits the worked — Moleman operating on himself, Moe and the angry mob — "Rednecks and Broomsticks" was just too bland to be worthwhile.

*This is the second time since I’ve been doing these that IGN has identified Miss Hoover as Mrs. Hoover.  I know that might seem minor, but half of her character is that she’s single and doesn’t want to be. 


Synergy Pines for Its Lost Youth and Innocence

“There has been a shocking decline in the quality and quantity of your toadying, Waylon!” – C.M. Burns

Much like last week, this week’s IGN Simpsons “review” was surprisingly long on criticism within the text before giving it a good number anyway.  I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but this episode scored a 6.9 when the actual review was mostly negative even before I edited out the synergy.  What would it have needed to do to score less than that?  True, the tone is still that of a gently cowed subordinate, but the substance of this review is pretty damning. 

November 23, 2009 – "Pranks and Greens" was the tale of two stories. The first was an entertaining  a hacktacular mystery about a boy who was once better at pulling off pranks than Bart Simpson. The second was a boring, unfunny tale about Bart helping that boy become a better person. Guest voice Jonah Hill (Superbad) added little to the loser character.

The episode had a fun start. Bart and sidekick Milhouse were spending their time pulling off pranks around the school. Upcoming pranks they were working on in their brainstorming session included stunts they called "Night of a Thousand Skunks," "Tora, Tora, Toilet," and "Untitled Skateboard Project." It was goofy and fun and ended with Skinner’s balloon-elevated engine crashing back to earth onto the top of his car. Bart’s nonsensical punishment was cleaning the playground, which led to a snortingly funny bit with Ralph being launched off the very slippery slide a bunch of clock eating physical “comedy”. Bart’s bragging led prompted Skinner for some reason to reveal that the boy may be the best prankster of his era, but not of all time.

This set Bart off on a quest to learn the identity of this mysterious prankster, for some other reason. This, too, was quite entertaining. In a piece of unnecessary retconning Bart discovered that Skinner had once been a hip and happy young principal, only to become the Skinner we know today after an undisclosed incident. After some research, Bart approached Groundskeeper Willie who, for yet another reason, retold the tale of "The Night of the Wigglers." The prank got Skinner caught in a pool full of worms for three days and the retelling revealed the prankster to be… Andy Hamilton some guy.

Jonah Hill voiced Andy Hamilton some guy and it was basically straightforward stuff. Lisa rightfully characterized the character — now 19, not in school, unemployed and living with his parents — as a loser. Seeing that he was on a similar path, and giving a shit for yet another unfathomably out-of-character reason, Bart tried to help Andy turn his life around. Bart went to Krusty for help., and Krusty’s list of things he wouldn’t do was a good laugh: "I won’t read screenplays, that’s for your protection. Oh, and you can’t ride on my private jet. And I won’t give a struggling young comic his first chance. I won’t give a broken down hack his last chance…" But the storyline itself was short on funny. There was little to like about the character of Andy, and Hill’s voice work was too unexceptional to lift the character above the weak dialogue. The twist of Andy using his old worm prank to write a bit for the Krusty show was none too surprising, but I did enjoy roll my eyes at the phony self deprecation of Lisa’s continued use of the "loser" title now that Andy was a television writer.

Filling out the episode contractually obligated running time was a silly plot about Marge making the extra effort to buy healthier foods for her family and her Midday Mommies play group. The thing I most enjoyed here were the songs played for the kids in the group was the brief relief from watching Bart act like Marge.  "I’m not gonna poop in the tub" was a nice lesson, and we also learned that "doggies and kitties don’t last forever, but they do a lot better than fish." But the The food jokes felt too were 100% generic. Healthy food is expensive and tastes bad, we know. The only other standout line came from Homer telling Marge that "Lard Glug" contains neither lard nor glug.

The episode had a good start, but veered into a less than impressive direction more or less immediately. Marge’s storyline, while cute less nauseating than the main one in parts, was really just filler more than anything else. The pranks and the mystery at the beginning of the half hour seemed to be trying to setting up something, but twas all a waste better than Bart trying to help a kid we just met who didn’t really have any redeeming qualities. A few bits had their moments, including Milhouse imagining Andy’s sidekick and Willie as Swim Coach Willie, but it wasn’t enough to save the second half doldrums.


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