Posts Tagged ‘Lard of the Dance


Quote of the Day

“Lisa, I can’t imagine anyone being more likable than you. But apparently this new girl is. So my advice would be to start copying her in every way.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

“Mom’s gonna kill you.” – Bart Simpson
“If she didn’t want her car ruined, she should’ve done a better job hiding her keys.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Lard of the Dance7

“Attention, please, I need a volunteer for a thankless chore. . . . Shall I assume the only hand in the air is Lisa Simpson’s? Thank you, Lisa.” – Principal Skinner


Quote of the Day

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“Then, the doctor told me that both my eyes were lazy, and that’s why it was the best summer ever.” – Ralph Wiggum


Quote of the Day

Lard of the Dance5

“Marge, if you don’t mind, I’m a little busy right now achieving financial independence.” – Homer Simpson
“With cans of grease?” – Marge Simpson
“No, through savings and wise investments.  Of course with grease!” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Lard of the Dance4

“When you want grease, go to the source: good old Krustyburger.” – Bart Simpson
“Oh, I’ll say.  Look at that red headed kid.  There must be twenty dollars worth of grease on his forehead alone.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

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“Hey, this hot dog tastes different.” – Homer Simpson
“Yes, I just cleaned out the machine, sir.  So the snack you are enjoying has not been soaking in putrid grease.” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon
“Yeah, but without the grease all you can taste is the hog anus.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Lard of the Dance2

“Can I help you, sir?” – Greasy Teen
“My God, you’re greasy.” – Homer Simpson
“Mr. Marouka?  Help.” – Greasy Teen


Crazy Noises: Lard of the Dance

Lard of the Dance1

For the third summer in a row, we at the Dead Homer Society are looking to satisfy your off-season longing for substandard commentary on substandard Simpsons.  This summer we’ll be looking at Season 10.  Why Season 10?  Because we’ve already done Seasons 8 and 9 and we can’t put it off any longer.  Prior to Season 10, we watched as the show started falling over, this is when it fell over.  And while the dust wouldn’t settle completely for another season or so, there is no bigger gap in quality than the one between Season 9 and Season 10.  Since we prefer things to remain just as they were in 1995, we’re sticking with this chatroom thing instead of some newer means of communication that we all know just isn’t as good.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “chaperone”). 

Today’s episode is 1001 “Lard of the Dance”.  Tomorrow will be 1002 “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace”. 

Charlie Sweatpants:  Lard of the Dance?

Mad Jon:  Indeed.

Dave:  Sure.

Mad Jon:  It had been quite awhile since I’ve seen this one.

Dave:  Lisa Kudrow, what happened to her and who cares?

Charlie Sweatpants:  I couldn’t say I care, but she was the best actress of the three chicks on Friends.

I thought she did well here, albeit in a less than subtle part.

Mad Jon:  I’m not really sure either, but she was very much big time when this episode was made.

At least we knew where she stood.

Dave:  That’s a tacit admission that you watch/watched Friends.

Shame on you.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Disagree.

Dave:  Okay, well that’s another conversation entirely.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I doubt I’ve seen more than three episodes all the way through, but I do watch a lot of movies, and she’s been in more good ones than the other two.

Mad Jon:  Hey man, I love me some Ace Ventura.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I said "more".

Mad Jon:  Very well.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Back to the episode . . .

Dave:  Yes. Sorry.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Alex is a bit too over the top in places for my taste, but overall it’s not a bad concept.

Mad Jon:  It was a good use of a guest voice. Much better than the two to three lines we get out of them nowadays.

Charlie Sweatpants:  What bugs me, and we’ve seen this a lot in Zombie Simpsons, is the way they’ve whittled the school down to just a few students regardless of class. We’ve seen the other girls in Lisa’s class multiple times, but here Alex is hanging out with a mix of Lisa and Bart’s class.

Theoretically Sherri and Terri are fourth graders while Alex is a second grader (though we never see her in class), why would they hang out with her?

I know that’s a nitpick, but this episode does presage the way they just dropped all pretense at realism in a year or two.

Mad Jon:  Good point, you wouldn’t ever see Lisa eating lunch with the twins, as far as I knew Janie was her ‘best’ friend.

But I guess the plot idea really needed a lot of familiar female voices. Which I kinda get.

It didn’t feel wrong, is what I guess I’m getting at. Although your point remains valid.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Try this then, in "Dancin’ Homer", Lisa had to say goodbye to a bunch of girls we never see much.  In "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy" she gets ostracized for complaining about what the doll says.  In "Summer of 4ft 2" she gets ignored, but in each case they weren’t afraid to put some new girls in there.

Here it’s like they know they’re coasting, just grabbing familiar characters because they either don’t want to, are afraid to, or are too lazy to create new ones.  They brought back Allison from "Lisa’s Rival" for fuck’s sake.

Mad Jon:  Excellent explanation.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Thanks.  While I’m on the subject of them detaching from realism, another thing that bugs me here is the way Lisa has become a fixture of the school such that Skinner leans on her to do everything.

Mad Jon:  Yeah that was very ZS the way Skinner assumes Lisa Simpson is the only one raising her hand.

Dave:  In what way? Hasn’t Lisa always been the taker of thankless jobs?

Charlie Sweatpants:  She has, but here Skinner asks her to chaperone the dance.

Mad Jon:  Yeah, but he really piled it on this time. "You’d be doing all the work" and such and such.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Where once she was just a smart kid, here it’s like she’s part of the faculty.

Mad Jon:  Before she was involved. Here she’s, yes Charlie, basically a teacher.

Dave:  Ok, I’m on board.

Mad Jon:  A subtle change I suppose, that I never really thought of when watching this episode in the past.

Charlie Sweatpants:  This feels like so many of the Season 9 episodes (which makes sense since it’s a holdover from the previous year) in that the structure is starting to crumble but there are a lot of excellent jokes of the quick and funny variety.

Mad Jon:  Before this week I was trying to think back to season 10 episodes I didn’t hate and was coming up blank, but I totally forgot about this one.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Lisa talking about Malibu Stacy’s "achievable chest", the "Acne Grease" company, and Apu’s list of products that are made of grease spring to mind.

Mad Jon:  I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this.

Dave:  It’s not terrible in the same vein as much of ZS.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Agreed.

This also contains one of the first ballot hall of fame signage jokes, "Donner’s Party Supplies" as a store, and then a sign in the window reading "Winter Madness Sale!".

Mad Jon:  I also appreciated Milhouse in this episode. He was a little over the top, but I laughed at his shtick, especially the "plenty of Milhouse" bit. It reminds me of the episode where Lisa refers to him as a big sister.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I’m a little more down on the Milhouse parts.  They allude to him and Lisa getting together way back in "Lisa’s Wedding", and they make it explicit in "Lisa’s Date with Density", but here it kinda feels like they’re running it into the ground a bit in places.

Mad Jon:  I can see that, but it was still in the mood for it I guess.

It was familiar.

Charlie Sweatpants:  My discomfort with it goes back to what I was talking about earlier, the way they’re not even trying to ground the show, and how all the kids are basically in one big pot together now.

But we’ve covered that already. Thoughts on Homer’s grease plot?

Mad Jon:  Well here we go, time for the crazy schemes to really pick up pace.

Charlie Sweatpants:  No shit.

Mad Jon:  It wasn’t as bad as nearly anything that comes in later seasons, and there were funny jokes mixed into the zaniness, but it was definitely a bad omen of episodes to come.

He pulls his kid out of school and quits his job to go collect grease?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yeah, Homer’s "go get ’em" attitude is definitely disconcerting.

Mad Jon:  He trashes his wife’s car because she failed to hide the keys well enough?

Dave:  It’s abrasive, nonsensical. But the plot writes itself!

Charlie Sweatpants:  This was the man who couldn’t build a soapbox derby racer, and here he’s got grease traps built into his car.

Mad Jon:  Which fall off because he ignored his own suspicion that he should tie them down somehow…

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yeah, but then they work.

I will say, I do love two of his lines here: when he says "Not the way I quit", and his "No, through savings and wise investments".

Mad Jon:  Was the "Not the way I quit" from this episode or the next?

Charlie Sweatpants:  This one.

Oh shit, no you’re right, it wasn’t.

Damn, that’s what I get for watching things back to back.

Mad Jon:  Well, I can see why you’d confuse them… The next one really ramps up the insanity.

But the transitions could be easily interchanged.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I’ll reiterate my point though, in that he does get in some good lines.  This is the episode with "My god, you’re greasy."

Mad Jon:  That’s very funny.  Especially the way the kid reacts.

Charlie Sweatpants:  His prayer is also good, both initially and then when he says "screw it".

Dave:  Delivery was spot on in both cases.

Charlie Sweatpants:  It was, which goes a long way in my book.  This episode clearly isn’t The Simpsons we came to love, but it’s got a lot of funny lines to keep me interested, and so, as Jon said, I don’t hate this.

Mad Jon:  I also feel like the plot synchronization required almost no Deus Ex like we would normally need in a Zombie episode.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yeah, as much as I’m not fond of the whole "chase through the duct" thing, they did tie up nicely together.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that we had a couple of commenters (Ed note: here) mention how Lisa’s trepidation at getting sucked into the hassles of adulthood spoke to them when they were girls.  Connecting with actual childhood experiences is one of the things that first endeared the show to me (not surprising as I was a child at the time), and it’s good that they were still doing that.

As the craziness ratcheted up and the kids became more adult like, that faded.

Mad Jon:  Agreed. One last thing I am not so happy about is the clear links between the violence Homer used to face, and the violence he faces nowadays.

Homer gets hit with a shovel in this episode, and it hurts, and he falls down. That was ok, but as the episode goes on, he really starts to turn into invincible Zombie Homer.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yeah, they lost their sense of proportion.  The hose that sucks in his whole face is lame for being too over the top cartoony, but when it’s stuck to his ass I smile.

Mad Jon:  That would have worked even better if he hadn’t removed his eye from its socket a mere 20 seconds earlier.

But I also smile at that.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yup.

Okay, I jumped the gun a few minutes ago, but is there anything else here, or are we ready to head for Menlo Park, New Jersey?

Mad Jon:  To the turnpike!


Compare & Contrast: Lisa’s Rivals

“What do you guys, like, do for fun?” – Alex Whitney
“Well, you’ll definitely want to get yourself a good doll.  The new Malibu Stacy has an achievable chest.” – Lisa Simpson

Back in December, I pointed out that in the Katy Perry Incident, surely one of the low points of the entire decade plus debacle that is Zombie Simpsons, Perry herself was given nothing to do.  She showed up, looked nice, and talked about her boyfriend.  In total, she was given twenty-seven words of dialogue.  A few episodes later, the same benign neglect fell upon Alyson Hannigan, who showed up to play a girl who had a crush on Bart.  All of her lines were about him, for a grand total of forty-two words.

To give you an idea of just how small those parts are, the preceding paragraph is ninety-three words.  Continuing the tradition of tacitly insulting their female guest stars, this week Zombie Simpsons brought us Kristen Schaal in the thankless and miniscule role of the girl who falls for Milhouse, then breaks up with him and exits stage right, never having uttered even a single punchline.  Her character, “Taffy”, is so thinly conceived and her story so flat that she’s only in three scenes.  Here’s everything she says in the entire episode:

Scene 1:

I thought that was beautiful.

Yeah.  It was romantic and it rhymed.

I’m Taffy.

It’s a date.

Scene 2:

You know so much about body mechanics.

Scene 3:

Here, my love.

Anything for my silly-Milli.

Not her again.

You’re not over, you never were.  Milhouse, you’re a great guy, but we’re not gonna work out for one reason.

That wasn’t a great day for us, but it’s because you’ll always be in love with her.  He likes his apple pie warm and his a la mode cold.  Good luck.

That’s eighty-five words, and way over half of them come during the break up.  There’s nothing wrong with a good break up scene, they can be a lot of fun, but this particular break up is preceded by nothing.  As you can see above, there isn’t a single scene, nor even a single line of dialogue, where Milhouse shows himself to still be in love with Lisa.  He never mentions her in front of Taffy; he doesn’t even let out a swooning sigh when Lisa intrudes on them at the end.  If we take the episode at face value, counting only what it shows us, Taffy decides that Milhouse is still in love with Lisa because Lisa stalked them.  Huh?  Even the most formulaic romantic comedies give the spurned girlfriend role more characterization than that (they also usually spell the actress’s name right).

Too Lazy to Google

“Kristin” I could understand, but no one took the time to check “Schall”?  (Thanks to bhall87 in comments.)

It wasn’t always this way.  In its prime and past it, the show routinely had guest stars voicing actual female characters, both kids and adults.  They’re too numerous to list here, but I’d like to point out just two of them.  Like Taffy, they’re students at Springfield Elementary and Lisa is threatened by them; unlike Taffy, they’re more than a few dozen wasted words.  They’ve got plots, backgrounds, motivations and everything.  Most importantly, they get to be funny.

The first one is from Season 10’s “Lard of the Dance”, when Lisa Kudrow voiced “Alex”, the fashionable second grader who wows the other girls with how grown up she is.  For starters, let’s take a look at some of the dialogue.  Here’s what she says in just her first scene:

Your name’s Lisa?  Shut up, I love that name.

Oh, don’t be such a Phoebe.  It’s Pretension, by Calvin Klein.  Wanna try some?

Kay, so what’s the haps in Springfield?  What do you guys, like, do for fun?

Dolls, really?  Okay, what else you got?

You mean that game with the little rubber ball?

Isn’t that trophy case supposed to have trophies?

If you’re counting, that’s sixty-two words right there, which is almost as much as Schaal’s whole part and much more than Katy Perry or Alyson Hannigan got, all in one scene with many more to come.

Treating a Guest with Respect

She’s a pain in Lisa’s ass, but Alex Whitney is actually in this episode.

But the point isn’t to just count words and say “J’accuse!”.  It’s to note that not only are these Season 22 parts tiny bordering on nonexistent, they aren’t even developed enough to be called one dimensional.  “Lard of the Dance” isn’t exactly the show at the peak of its powers, but look at Alex’s dialogue from that first scene.  It’s got a couple of jokes in it, and it establishes Alex’s character as the new girl in town who isn’t happy with how unsophisticated Springfield Elementary is.

But who is Taffy?  All we ever find out about her is that she’s popular and in the fifth grade (not that we get to see any of that, it’s exposited by Lisa).  She never takes any actions or expresses interest in anything other than Milhouse.  Even her attraction to him, the reason she exists, is never explained or explored.  We don’t know if she’s got a thing for glasses or theremin playing, she’s just smitten right up until the moment she isn’t.

Giggling Is the Only Thing She Does

This is one of only two shots – not scenes, shots – where she’s alone.  The other is right after it.

It’s bad storytelling, but it also cripples her for comedy purposes.  She has no foibles to tweak, nor does she have any interests the show can satirize.  The closest thing she has to a joke in the entire episode is when she hands Milhouse an inhaler from a bandolier of them.  The ficus plant in “Bart of Darkness” has better jokes attached to it.

Going back further than Season 10 to (as the title of this post indicates) Season 6’s “Lisa’s Rival”, we find another well realized Springfield Elementary girl in Allison Taylor, voiced by Winona Ryder.  While I could do a word count of everything she says, there’d be no point.  She appears throughout the episode, and in a lot more than three short scenes.  Her description of her “Tell-Tale Heart” diorama alone is much longer and more descriptive than anything poor Taffy gets to say.

Lisa's Rival6

Look, a girl with interests and hobbies.  The show used to think this was worth screen time.

Far more important is who Allison is and what she does.  We know right away that she’s smart.  She gets the question about Columbus right, she plays the saxophone, and she nails “Genuine Class” as an anagram for “Alec Guinness”.  Moreover, there’s no mystery as to why Lisa is threatened by her.  Everything Lisa values about herself, Allison does better.

But creating a real character in Allison isn’t important for its own sake.  Because Allison bears an actual resemblance to a real person, one who wants things and does things as opposed to just standing there, she slides seamlessly into the overarching story about Lisa and Lisa’s insecurities.  When we see them in a scene together we know what each of them is thinking and trying to do.  For example, at the end of the episode, after Lisa has tried and failed to make peace with being second to Allison, the audience doesn’t need to be told both girls are trying to win the diorama competition, we already know.  That neither of them does win, Allison for being her usual overachieving self and Lisa for being, as the French say, “Bartesque”, makes the whole scene work in a very funny, very Simpsons way.

Both girls care deeply about winning the competition and have worked very hard to do so.  But the arbiters of victory, Skinner and Hoover, don’t care at all.  Skinner goes gaga for Star Wars characters and Hoover just wants to go to lunch.  Lisa and Allison both lose to Ralph, the dimwitted kid who tries to cheat off their tests, doesn’t know what the word “diorama” means, and is their polar opposite in every way.  Not only does it fit the story, but it puts a nice little twist on all the stress the girls put themselves through.

Lisa's Rival7

We have a winner!  Chewbacca and the little boy with the blank stare.

Neither Allison nor Alex are real people, but they’re recognizably human for reasons beyond colored lines on a screen and a familiar voice on the soundtrack.  Their personalities and their actions give a plausible reality to their dealings with Lisa, which in turns allows all three of them to be funny.  Taffy, like her predecessors in Season 22, has none of those things.  She is a prop far more than she is a character.  Since props don’t usually get much dialogue, in the eyes of Zombie Simpsons she doesn’t merit much of that either.

[Pop culture note: I didn’t remember until I was halfway through this that Winona Ryder was in Edward Scissorhands, for which Taffy’s sad episode was named.]

[Edited to fix typo.]


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