Posts Tagged ‘Marge vs. The Monorail


Makeup Quote of the Day

♫”Simpson . . . Homer, Simpson! He’s the greatest guy in history!
From the . . . town of Springfield! He’s about to hit a chestnut tree!”♫ – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

“And here’s country singing sensation Lurleen Lumpkin, fresh from her latest stay at the Betty Ford Clinic. Whatcha been up to, Lurleen?” – Kent Brockman
“I spent last night in a ditch.” – Lurleen Lumpkin

Doris Grau would’ve been 95 today. Happy birthday.


Quote of the Day

“Surely you’ve all noticed the terrible condition Main Street is in. Many of us have destroyed it by leaving winter chains on our tires and carrying too much weight.” – Marge Simpson
“Woo-hoo! Look at that pavement fly!” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

“Ooh, there’s going to be a town meeting to decide how to spend Mr. Burns’ money.” – Marge Simpson
“What a boon it could be for our underfunded public schools.” – Lisa Simpson
“Children, it’s time for your history lesson. Put on your virtual reality helmets.” – Miss Hoover
“Mmm, excellent. Hello, Lisa! I’m Genghis Khan! You’ll go where I go. Defile what I defile. Eat who I eat.” – VR Ghenghis Khan


Quote of the Day

“Are we gonna die, son?” – Homer Simpson
“Yeah. But at least we’ll take a lot of innocent people with us.” – Bart Simpson


Quote of the Day

“Ugh, it’s making me dizzy. I’m gonna take a nap.” – Chief Wiggum


Quote of the Day

“You know, a town with money’s a little like the mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and dang’d if he knows how to use it!” – Lyle Lanely


The Cost of Zombie Simpsons

I think it’s full, sir.” – Mr. Smithers
“That’s ridiculous! The last tree held nine drums!” – C.M. Burns

NOTE: Back in September, in response to Alf Clausen’s firing, I posted what would be a new chapter for an expanded version of “Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead”. The book is still being shopped to publishers, and early responses have been mixed, in that some of them ignore it, and others reject it.

But it’s Simpsons Day, and I’m a long way from giving up on it, so here is another new chapter. It’s very loosely based off a post on this blog from 2010, so for once I’m repeating a quote intentionally instead of accidentally. 

Feel free to smile and nod and link and share this page [stomps on your foot]. The more traffic and attention it gets, the better chance it has of becoming a real, dead-tree book at some point in the future. Also, on your way out, if you want to post it to /r/TheSimpsons, it would help me a lot. 

Released in 1993, Jurassic Park is a classic movie, one of the most popular in the history of cinema. It’s enduring popularity has green-lit three sequels, all of which are forgettable summer pap and none of which grace “Best Ever” film lists. (A fourth is set for release in 2018.) Published in 1965, Dune is a science fiction masterpiece that was followed by five direct sequels, thirteen follow up spin-off novels, a television miniseries, and a 1984 feature film. None of them have ever lived up to the source material, but the original remains so popular that spinoff novels continue to be published and they’re making another movie adaptation right now.

Sequels, spin-offs, reboots, and remakes are unfortunate side effects of the economics of modern media. Familiar franchises (or “IP”, a/k/a “intellectual property”) are safe economic bets for studios that care far more about the quarterly earnings of their conglomerate owners than they do about artistic merit or simple quality. This is the reason that American multiplexes average a new actor playing Spider-Man every five years, a new Batman every six years, and a new James Bond every nine years.

The acceleration of this trend in recent years is a triumph of what the marketing ghouls call “mindshare.” Basically, the more people that are aware of something (a character, a celebrity, a franchise, etcetera), the more “mindshare” it has. For example, Star Wars has approximately 100% mindshare, since there’s almost no one who hasn’t heard of it.

Once a property or format has proven itself popular, the mindshare that popularity creates means that something similar is more likely to find an audience than something new. This is why NBC has broadcast five versions of Law & Order, why CBS has had four different CSI variants, and why ABC has had more seasons of Dancing With and Bachelor shows than is mentally healthy. Put simply, a new show with an existing audience is more likely to attract large enough ratings to be profitable than a new show that has to start from zero. Zombie Simpsons is simply an extreme case of this widespread miasma.

The enormous and unprecedented popularity of The Simpsons means that there are hundreds of millions (if not billions) of people all over the world whose brains have a few neurons dedicated to Homer, Bart, and the rest of the family. So what critics or fans think of the last twenty years of the show is a lot less important than the rump audience that will tune in out of habit or familiarity. This unfortunate confluence of behavioral psychology and modern economics has been very good to FOX’s (and News Corp’s) bottom line, but it has done terrible damage to the once impeccable reputation of The Simpsons itself.

For anyone born in the mid 1980s or after, The Simpsons has been a background presence their entire lives. But as the new episodes got worse at the end of the 1990s, and then as the pool of syndicated reruns gradually became polluted with Zombie Simpsons, watching the show became more and more difficult. In 1995, you could catch a great new episode on Sundays, then watch two or more classic episodes every weekday on syndicated reruns. By 2005, the new episodes had been bad for half a decade, and the syndication runs were 50-50 with Zombie Simpsons.

The episode catalog has only degraded since then. There are now more than twice as many episodes of Zombie Simpsons as there are of The Simpsons. As a result, a new or casual fan has to go out of their way to see the good ones. Because all of them are billed and sold as “The Simpsons,” there isn’t the kind of easy distinction that there is between Jurassic Park and its many sequels, or Dune and its lesser iterations.

While there are no general social surveys about the state of Simpsons fandom, there is ample anecdotal evidence that nearly two decades of Zombie Simpsons has profoundly damaged The Simpsons in terms of cultural reputation, pop culture standing, and even simple popularity. On the enormous web of message boards which are such a big part of modern fandom, it’s easy to find huge threads about the show being overrated, or having been bad for so long that maybe it wasn’t that good in the first place. Facebook teems with teens and twenty-somethings who know the show only as a cultural totem that gross old people revere for some reason. A sadly large portion of Reddit’s trigger-happy cadre of fanatics are all too happy to dump on Zombie Simpsons without making the distinction between old and new, good and bad.

Statements like the above have to be made with caution because Simpsons fandom is so vast, ancient, and iterative that it would take half a department of sociologists just to catalog it, much less understand it. But the clearest example may have been in August of 2014, when the FXX channel broadcast every episode of the show in order, starting with Season 1. That was the first time since the syndication pools became tainted that so many of the classic episodes were made so easily available to a wide audience, and the reaction was overwhelming.

Promoted and organic hashtags were flooded with people remarking on how smart, incisive, and dark the old episodes were. More than just appreciating it, however, a very common sentiment was people who’d forgotten what the old episodes were like:

  • Wow, I forgot how great the Simpsons was in its early years.

  • Loving the #EverySimpsonsEver marathon. Forgot how good the old episodes are.

  • I forgot how touching these early episodes are. Better settle in for an all nighter

  • I forgot how much I loved the first Treehouse of Horror, my whole family always watched them together

  • Watching #TheSimpsons and I forgot how dramatic season one was!

  • Watching the #EverySimpsonsEver marathon on FXX. I almost forgot how good the old episodes are. Way better than the new ones!

All of the above examples came from only one hashtag, only on Twitter, and only from the first couple hours of the marathon broadcast. It went on like that for days, across all kinds of platforms and (presumably) in personal conversations and interactions that never reached the wider internet. As the good seasons were once again shown without the handicap of Zombie Simpsons, people remembered why The Simpsons really is the Best. Show. Ever.

Amnesia like the above isn’t at all surprising when you consider how much effort it takes to experience the show in its true form. Local syndicated broadcasters are under no obligation to run episodes in order, FXX always sprinkles Zombie Simpsons in with The Simpsons, and new episodes have been bad since Bill Clinton was our standard for what a lousy President looked like. (That The Simpsons predicted the orders-of-magnitude worse President Trump doesn’t help matters.) Watching them the way Jebus intended means either shelling out for the DVDs, buying them from a streaming service, or logging into and then navigating FXX’s kludge filled app. In the 1990s, new fans could simply sit down and watch The Simpsons. Today’s new fans have to work at it.

More motivated viewers will deliberately do so, but, inevitably, lots of casual fans will not. As a result, they often don’t understand what’s so special about The Simpsons. All they know is that it’s been on the air since before their parents met.

Television has never seen anything like what The Simpsons was at its beginning. It wasn’t just smart and funny, it was smart and funny week after week, year after year, never skipping a beat. Forget season finales or cliffhangers, ordinary new episodes were social events in bars, dorms, and homes all over the country. The day after a new episode, conversations in schools and offices brimmed with quotes, jokes, and phrases from the night before. But the magic of that incredible consistency gets lost when the old episodes are buried among the dung pile left by nearly twenty years of Zombie Simpsons.

This is why Zombie Simpsons needs to be criticized. Not because it’s a boring, mediocre television program (there are lots of those), but because each new episode eats away at the foundations of one of the most important and influential shows ever made. Every year a new batch of Zombie Simpsons spews into the rerun pools and episode guides, stealing scarce and easily diverted attention away from the good ones. And so each new batch of potential fans has to work a little bit harder to see the good stuff. Bit by bit, Zombie Simpsons is poisoning The Simpsons for future generations.

Won’t somebody please think of the children?


Quote of the Day


“Bart, we’ll do anything you want! Just call off your giant, mechanical ants!” – Principal Skinner


FOX Picks Up Two Year Option for Seasons 29 & 30 (Meh)


“Can’t you stop it, Dad?” – Bart Simpson
“I’m trying my best!” – Homer Simpson
“The lever you have pulled – Brakes – is not in service. Please make a note of it.” – Monorail Computer Voice

As you may have heard by now, Zombie Simpsons got renewed for two more production runs yesterday. This will bring the total episode count up to a near Satanic 669 and fill out Season 29 and 30(!). The press release and all the articles I saw didn’t mention it, but I believe that this is not a new contract, but rather FOX picking up the two year option it had on the current contract. Negotiations on that one went into overtime and the show production actually went on hiatus, so this is much less dramatic. Last time this happened, I wrote:

– the next time to look for a renewal announcement will be October-ish of 2016

– the next deadline for a renewal announcement will be May-ish of 2017

Didn’t quite nail that, but I was pretty close. So this basically sets the clock forward two more years. The next time to look for a renewal announcement will be October-ish of 2018, and the next deadline will be May-ish of 2019. I’ll see if I can confirm that this is the option rather than a new contract. If I hear back, I’ll update this post.

In the meantime, may I recommend going out and watching Season 4 or something? Forty-four more forgettable episodes is “news”, but it’s not really news, you know?

Update 7 Nov: Someone at FOX confirmed to me (“off the record”, like this is some kind of secret) that this is, in fact the two year option from the last contract. So there were no negotiations this time around. 


Quote of the Day


“We’re too late!” – Marge Simpson
“I shouldn’t have stopped for that haircut. Sorry.” – Sebastian Cobb


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail15

“My name is Marge Simpson, and I have an idea.  It may sound a little boring at first . . .” – Marge Simpson
“Chat away.  I’ll just amuse myself with some pornographic playing cards.” – Mayor Quimby


Quote of the Day


“Hello, my name is Mr. Snrub, and I come from . . . someplace far away.  Yes, that will do.  Anyway, I say we invest that money back in the nuclear plant.” – C.M. Burns
“I like the way Snrub thinks.” – Mr. Smithers

Happy birthday, Danny Elfman!


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail14

“I’ve sold monorails to Brockway, Ogendville, and North Haverbrook!  And, by gum, it put them on the map!” – Lyle Lanley

Happy birthday, Conan O’Brien! 


Leonard Nimoy Boldly Goes


“Well, my work is done here.” – Leonard Nimoy
“What do you mean, ‘Your work is done’?  You didn’t do anything.” – Barney
“Didn’t I?” – Leonard Nimoy 

The sad news today is that Leonard Nimoy, repeat Simpsons (and Futurama) guest voice, accomplished photographer, dispenser of vocal wisdom, bard of Bilbo, Shatner-putter-upper-with, and, of course, the one true Spock, died this morning.  He was 83, and you can read his full obituary here.  The best I can say about him is that he did what he told everyone else to do: lived long and prospered.

In other news, there isn’t going to be a Reading Digest this week because winter finally caught up with me and I’ve been too sick to do much beyond move back and forth between bed and couch since Tuesday.  Sorry for the late notice, but I haven’t been able to prop myself in front of a computer for more than about thirty minutes at a stretch all week.

If your weekend is going to involve as much sedentary teevee watching as mine, may I make the following Nimoy-related suggestions:

“Marge vs. the Monorail”
“The Springfield Files”
Futurama – “Space Pilot 3000”
Futurama – “Where No Fan Has Gone Before”
Star Trek – “The Galileo Seven” (<- Nimoy saves everyone)
Star Trek – “Mirror, Mirror” (<- Evil goatee Nimoy)
Star Trek – “Amok Time” (<- This one sucks except for the fight, which that link will take you right to.)
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (<- Spock dies, sniffle)
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home 
(<- Directed by Nimoy, and he gets to play a comic straight man)
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Unification I & II”

Or you could just play Civ IV.  Feel free to leave any more suggestions in the comments.

[Edited to add: Transformers: The Movie.  How the hell did I forget he voiced Galvatron (the even more evil rebuild of Megatron) in the only Transformers movie that doesn’t suck?]


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail13

“Coming soon, it’s Truckasaurus: The Movie, starring Marlon Brando as the voice of John Truckasaurus.” – TV Announcer
“You crazy car, I don’t know whether to eat you or kiss you.” – Not Marlon Brando
“Celebrity voice impersonated.” – TV Announcer


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail12

“Maybe it’s time you joined the exciting field of monorail conducting by enrolling at the Lanley Institute.” – Lyle Lanley
“Actual institute may not match photo.” – TV Announcer

Happy birthday Conan O’Brien!  


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail11

“Ooh, it looks like everyone in Springfield showed up for this.” – Marge Simpson
“Could this town be any stupider?” – Snake


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail10

“Homer, there’s a family of possums in here!” – Marge Simpson
“I call the big one Bitey.” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

Marge vs. the Monorail9

“I still think we should’ve spent the money to fix Main Street.” – Marge Simpson
“Well, you should’ve written a song like that guy.” – Homer Simpson


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