Posts Tagged ‘The Ten-Per-Cent Solution

08
Dec
11

It’s Not a Real Hallway, But an Incredible Simulation!

“Good thing this alley got so narrow in the middle.” – Lou

Since I don’t know much about animation, I submit this with my usual caution.  But can anyone tell me what the fuck is going on with the hallway through which temporarily crazy Joan Rivers drives a golf cart?  First image:

Crooked Hallway1

Right here this already doesn’t scan.  I think they’re trying to go for some kind of fisheye type shot, except that the scale is all out of whack.  The door on the right is bowed like it would be, but the closer door on the left is only a little distorted, and the one in the back appears to be straight.  On top of that, if the perspective is supposed to be warped, then the Squeaky Voiced Teen has got to be roughly double the size of the woman on the right holding the glass.  There’s more:

Crooked Hallway2

This is one second after the first image.  Note that the woman on the right and the water cooler are totally static from the previous image.  Now, if the perspective of the first image is to be believed, the cart has to be well past the water cooler and all but past the woman.  Here’s a couple of frames later:

Crooked Hallway3

Despite the fact that it was well behind the cart and that the two never even overlap in the image, the water cooler is now falling.  You’ll also note that the camera is pulling back to reveal the turn in the hallway to the left side of the image.  The problem is that the warped not-quite-fisheye angle doesn’t track:

Crooked Hallway4

The hallway to the left is curving up at an angle that makes it look like that space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and it completely doesn’t match the cart or the original hallway.  Also, please note that the teenager she was chasing is nowhere to be seen.  Until:

Crooked Hallway5

Oh, there he is; but how the hell did he get there?  From the angle he’s running he would’ve had to run deep into the corner below where the camera would be, except he wasn’t running that way when we last saw him.  If he’d kept going the way he was going in the first image, he’d be way up that distorted left hallway by now.  Speaking of the distorted hallway, what the hell?  The not-quite-fisheye effect seems to fade in and out at random, and there’s no way that the teenager is standing on the same floor as that panicked looking guy holding the papers.  The right side and the left side of the image have two wildly different depths, and all the angles and lines in between are fudged to make them kinda, sorta meet in the middle.  Because the two hallways are drawn so incongruously, the effect worsens as the shot moves down the left hall:

Crooked Hallway6

Blah!  Now the right hall appears to be sliding down and shrinking.  You can see the difference in the two perspectives if you look at the top of the line that marks the corner of the wall (running straight up from the filing cabinet).  See how the ceiling-wall line from the first hallway changes its angle radically when it makes the turn?  Look at what happens next:

Crooked Hallway7

Whoops, this is what happens when you animate things that can’t possible exist.  In the above shot you can see all the tricks that had been used to minimize the impossibility of this hallway fail at once.  Look at that wall on the right, it goes up, and up, and up, except it’s not supposed to do that.  That at least is away from the action, but see how the hallway narrows near the top?  The chase continues into an unfortunate clash of optical illusions:

Crooked Hallway8

The cart, which just a second prior looked like it was at most half the width of the hallway, now basically fills it.  And, based on the way it’s drawn, the cart is clearly going to come to a screeching halt in just a few more feet when the hall becomes even narrower.  They’ve kinda restored the ceiling, except that the not-quite-fisheye perspective means that the ceiling is lopsided.  And not only do the walls not match each other, they look like they change height.  Look at the guy on the left, now look at the door on the same side of the wall.  He looks like he’s standing under a ceiling that’s twice as high as the one by the door. 

Even as just a single image instead of one in a sequence these frames look weird.  When you actually watch the thing at full speed all of these clashing elements give the hallways a crooked, billowing impression that’s both distracting and disorienting. 

I suppose we should commend them for trying something interesting here, but wow did it not turn out well.  The shifting angles, the warped perspective, the variable sizes of things, the entire sequence is nothing but elements that don’t match.

07
Dec
11

Compare & Contrast: Krusty’s Nadirs

Krusty Gets Kancelled11

“That dummy doesn’t scare me.  I’ve had plenty of guys come after me and I’ve buried ’em all: hobos, sea captains, Joey Bishop.” – Krusty the Klown
“Don’t forget the Special Olympics.” – Ms. Pennycandy
“Oh yeah, I slaughtered the Special Olympics!” – Krusty the Klown

In the introduction to yesterday’s Crazy Noises, I mentioned that “Krusty Changes His Show” should be up there with travel episodes, Homer gets a job, and other serially repeated plots (Lisa gets a cause, Bart gets a girlfriend, etcetera).  A corollary to that is the way we see Krusty freak out once he’s at his wit’s end.  That’s another thing they did several times even before the show’s EEG went flatter than Kansas (“Bart the Fink”, “Last Temptation of Krust”), but for comparison to the hapless ball pit bath we see in “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution” I’d like to look at the first time we see it, in “Krusty Gets Kancelled”. 

I would submit to one and all that this is a man truly at a low end:

Krusty Gets Kancelled10

Take a good look at the above image for a second.  Krusty’s gaze is lowered and his hair is disheveled; his shirt is frayed and his pants are faded.  His sign is haphazard looking even before you read that unlimitedly pathetic message that’s scrawled on it.  From the point of his shoes to the droop of his hair, he is every inch unhappy, ashamed, and hopeless.  Now take a look at this character:

Chillin In a Ball Pit

He’s not happy exactly, but everything from his clothes to his hair to his face is on model and looking quite spiffy.  Nor is he outside on a street corner, he’s sitting in a ball pit in a nice, comfortable and climate controlled Krusty Burger.  Nothing about his appearance or location even remotely bespeaks the kind of desperation as the Krusty from Season 4.  That difference becomes magnified when they start talking.

Zombie Krusty acts like he normally does, screaming, yelling, and generally very manic.  When Lisa informs him that he isn’t her hero, he just ups the ante for wailing and thrashing about.  The whole thing is designed to be funny the same way so much of Zombie Simpsons is: franticly and with a maximum of zaniness.  Neither his dialogue nor his behavior matches the events or emotions he’s theoretically experiencing.  Though, to be fair, that may be expecting too much from a show that just just fired him back and forth between two cannons.

This is the only thing “Will Drop Pants for Food” Krusty says, in response to Bart asking him if he’s making any money:

“Nah, that guy’s giving it away for free.”

This is another one of those perfect, multi-layered Simpsons lines.  In just eight words we understand that Krusty is totally defeated, unable even to succeed here at his lowest, pants dropping ebb.  Worse, he’s being out pants-dropped by a disheveled old man and is so despondent that he doesn’t care enough to walk to a different street corner to try again.  Nor does the animation let up.  Krusty’s head never raises and he meekly goes with Bart and Lisa when they take his arms on their shoulders.  On top of all that, there’s the harmless but wonderfully insane absurdity of the crazy old guy with his pants down singing “The Old Gray Mare”. 

And Krusty’s ordeal isn’t over.  Bart and Lisa still have to cheer him up, convince him he can be a star again, and then get him back into shape after he drinks nothing but milkshakes.  The point of doing all that – aside from the way it’s funny as it’s happening, of course – is to make the ending have a satisfying payoff.  We see not only Krusty have a real crisis, but also why his special is such a success, how he got in trouble in the first place (stealing bits, wasting his money), and finally, with the ruby studded clown nose, the fact that he’s already back to his self destructive ways. 

That, boys and girls, is a hell of an ending.  Not only do they tie in all the celebrities and give them something to do, but they don’t moralize or show Krusty being anything other than the self centered jerk we all need him to be. 

By contrast, in “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution”, Krusty doesn’t go through much of anything.  After that extended flashback, Joan Rivers takes him back as a client almost immediately.  As soon as that happens, he gets himself a revival show, and no sooner is that finished than they’re back together as a couple and he’s off to HBO.  There’s no connection or cause to any of this, it’s just a bunch of stuff that happens.

Even Zombie Simpsons can’t just fizzle out quite that easily though, so they manufacture a conflict out of thin air by having Rivers go nuts once she and Krusty get to HBO.  Bear in mind that this isn’t something that is so much as hinted at earlier in the episode.  Despite the fact that they could’ve easily set it up during his revival show or the flashback, it drops completely from the sky just a few minutes before the credits roll.  In fact, Rivers-the-loony-agent is so thin and transient that it gets dropped just as completely as it got conjured almost immediately.  Rivers is threatened with getting fired, but instead of that happening, she and Krusty get a different HBO show.  Roll credits.  Huh? 

Worried Stagehands

Everyone looks upset, and with good cause.  The final conflict is about to be introduced at the 16:00 mark.

That, boys and girls, isn’t even an ending.  Rivers wasn’t acting crazy, then she was, then she wasn’t.  It’s like a sentence that trails off in the middle. 

Here’s the kicker, “Krusty Gets Kancelled” is easily the wilder and more improbable story of the two.  For all its sloppy execution, Krusty gets fired –> reconnects with old agent –> gets new show isn’t an insane plot.  (By Zombie Simpsons’ standards it’s downright tame.)  Bart and Lisa get in touch with half a dozen celebrities they’ve never met to put on a star studded show right there in Springfield is much stranger and unrealistic.  But none of that matters because the story is well told.  We see Krusty go through a real crisis, we see him claw his way back up, we see the celebrities doing things that are sort of what you’d expect (Midler being a do-gooder, the Chili Peppers playing a concert, Hefner hanging out in a smoking jacket) while still being funny and twisted (crashing the pickup truck, having a promoter believe Moe’s holds 30,000 people, a research facility staffed by women in bunny costumes). 

You can get away with crazy stuff from time to time if you make the effort to slip it into something the audience cares about.  On the other hand, you can’t get away with even sane stuff if you don’t bother to make it anything other than a disconnected series of skits. 

06
Dec
11

Crazy Noises: The Ten-Per-Cent Solution

Bart Gets Famous5

“Ladies and gentlemen, the clown show has been put on hiatus for retooling.” – TV Announcer

As part of our tireless efforts to demonstrate the many ways Zombie Simpsons fails to entertain, Season 23 will be subjected to the kind of rigorous examination that can only be produced by people typing short messages at one another.  More dedicated or modern individuals might use Twitter for this, but that’s got graphics and short links and little windows that pop up when you put your cursor over things.  The only kind of on-line communications we like are the kind that could once be done at 2400 baud.  So disable your call waiting, plug in your modem, and join us for another year of Crazy Noises.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “continuity”).

Zombie Simpsons ran out of stories a long time ago, so that’s not exactly news.  Still, one does wonder how many times they can kill and resurrect Krusty’s career.  I understand that Krusty was a good vehicle for making fun of the entertainment industry, but he’s been on and off television so many times now that watching him do it again is like asking the audience of a Fast & Furious movie to be surprised that there’s a car chase and bad acting.  This is an idea that was already showing its age in Season 9, and since then they’ve had Krusty quit, retool, or reboot his show, what, like six more times?  This is from Wikipedia’s Season 21 episode summary:

The Krusty the Clown Show is once again reconstructed. This time, in a bid to get girls to watch the show, a princess character named Penelope is hired as Krusty’s latest sidekick.

At this point, “Krusty Changes His Show” should probably be placed up there with “Homer Gets a New Job” and “The Simpsons Are Going to X” as creative dry holes that the writers insist on drilling yet again.

Mad Jon:  Want to jump on it then?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Let’s.

I don’t think I can sum up the stupid here any better than when they meet Krusty at the Krusty Burger and Lisa informs him "We met a ten percenter today."

Mad Jon:  Yeah, that was pretty stupid. 

Charlie Sweatpants:  I know they’ve got to work in the family somehow, and I maybe could’ve swallowed one improbable coincidence, but two, and in about a sixty second span?

Mad Jon:  I especially agree when I think about how the family ended up with those coincidences – the whole "let’s have an adventure" bit that seemed relatively forced.

Charlie Sweatpants:  The entire thing was like that.  The middle of the episode was Joan Rivers narrating a flashback for them.  You know, because they’re all bosom buddies despite having known each other for about a day, if that.

Mad Jon:  Jesus that was Joan Rivers?

I am pretty terrible with voices.

My wife even walked by and said "So what, is Joan Rivers their friend or something?" as I was watching it.

Charlie Sweatpants:  An admirably accurate summary.

You can really see the sloppiness in that she initially asks Homer if he can play a corpse, but then that whole idea gets dropped so we can get her and Krusty on screen together.  Their apathy for story, even improbable story, is consistent.  I gotta give ’em that.

Mad Jon:  You would know quality apathy when you see it.

Charlie Sweatpants:  We can smell our own, which is good because you don’t have to expend too much effort to smell.

Mad Jon:  Also, I agree. There were not a lot of what we would call ‘transitions’ here.  More or less things happened and then other things happened.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yup, beyond the paper thin excuse for a plot, this episode was nothing but weak TV sketches, when they were even that.

Mad Jon:  Even the flashback was blocky, for lack of a better word.

And did Kevin Dillon already spend all of his HBO money?

Charlie Sweatpants:  It would be funny if he had, but I think this was just a happy meeting of a show and an actor who are both long past the point where anyone cares about them.

Mad Jon:  Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I never know how much to read into these sorts of things, but this one was written by Castellaneta and his wife, who both came from sketch shows.  So it would make some sense that this is nothing but them ogling their favorite old and new shows.

Mad Jon:  I could see that.  But how does that explain Krusty spending 20 seconds bitching about how the show parodies are old for this or that reason? That really bothers me.

I hate when they point out that they suck. That’s not funny.

Why can’t you just be more funny?

Charlie Sweatpants:  I don’t know, probably because they learned long ago that being funny has basically nothing to do with whether or not they stay on the air.

Mad Jon:  Again, your observation is good.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I do think they still have a Vader-at-the-end-of-Jedi spark of humor left in them.  Easily my favorite line of the episode was when they had the HBO executive say "And we pay for everything with soft porno and boxing".  Which is true.  I mean, have you seen True Blood or Spartacus?  There are a lot of, shall we say, potential one handed scenes in there.  The thing is, as soon as he said that I also knew they were going to run it into the ground, which they immediately did by having Krusty yell that there’s soft core porn.  As though the man who orders Gigantic Asses doesn’t know about the full panoply of porn.

Charlie Sweatpants:  My point is that despite what things like having Krusty fired back and forth between two cannons would have you believe, they can still recognize a decent joke.  They can’t leave it alone, but they do know when they’ve got something more than their typical dementia.

Mad Jon:  Good point, I can’t think of a line in one of these chats that we’ve had in the last few years where someone mentions "I liked this line" without hearing "But…"

Charlie Sweatpants:  There is very often a "but".

Mad Jon:  And that but is almost always them running it into the ground and then some.

I also chuckled when Moe admitted to faking his way through Wire discussions.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Feh.

Mad Jon:  But I love The Wire and everything that touches it’s shadow.

So whateves.

Charlie Sweatpants:  But the Moe thing was another example of them just cramming things in that didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Mad Jon:  The agent’s line about "On time or sober" would have been good as well, had she not had to explain it to me.

Charlie Sweatpants:  The explanations are tedious, that’s for sure.  There are few things they won’t just let go.  Krusty actually telling us "now I’m strung out in a ball pit" when we can plainly fucking see that he’s sitting in a ball pit springs to mind.

Mad Jon:  Yep. That was indeed tedious.

Mad Jon:  I know I say this every week, but I think that the ending was even less of an ending than ever before.

Charlie Sweatpants:  I disliked the happiness of it.

Mad Jon:  There was so little resolution, that I think it actually moved backwards.

Charlie Sweatpants:  That too.  One second there’s a conflict, then they just dropped it to move into another set piece.  Old people screwing!  Ha!  Does their withered visage remind you of the grim specter of death?

Mad Jon:  Of course I expect zero continuity, but endings like this always remind me of the Family Guy episode about Petoria, where at the end the kid is like "So can they understand the baby or what?"

Charlie Sweatpants:  I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s a decent comparison.  There’s no prelude to her going nuts, there’s no resolution after she does, that’s a kind of continuity isn’t it?

Mad Jon:  Is this like a lack of continuity is the continuity kind of thing?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Something like that.

Mad Jon:  Cause I don’t much appreciate that kind of dangerous thinking.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Anything else here?  There were some Itchy & Scratchy episodes, but they were the same as everything else: lame entertainment love notes.

Mad Jon:  My heart always jumps a bit when the I and S music comes on, but like when I have watched so many Cinemax softcores, I always end up frustrated and slightly ashamed.

Charlie Sweatpants:  They just felt awfully flat compared to things like "Guest Director, Oliver Stone" where Itchy-Ruby shoots Scratchy-Oswald and the whole thing is over in about two seconds.  That’s a parody.

Also, I didn’t get the Hitler joke.

Mad Jon:  I think it was just so Maggie would salute the Reich.

Charlie Sweatpants:  Well yeah, but that’s pretty weak sauce.

Mad Jon:  But I could be wrong. There isn’t much to go on.

Charlie Sweatpants:  True enough.

Mad Jon:  We done then?

Charlie Sweatpants:  Yeah, let’s be done.  It’ll be our continuity.

05
Dec
11

Dated and Hack-y

Chalkboard - The Ten-Per-Cent Solution

“These days people like observational humor, about things they deal with in everyday life.” – Jay Leno
“Oh yeah, you mean like when your lazy butler washes your sock garters, and they’re still covered with schmutz?” – Krusty the Klown
“Well, kind of.” – Jay Leno

It’s somewhat refreshing, if still well short of entertaining, when Zombie Simpsons drops the charade and just makes hacktacular Los Angeles/show business references.  Once the episode got rolling with Krusty and Joan Rivers, they just went with it, basically ignoring the actual Simpsons except to note that they kept attending Krusty’s shows.  It was strange, but it wasn’t really better or worse than most Zombie Simpsons episodes.  Though I did get a little thrill out of seeing Krusty say that long production times made their parodies look “dated and hack-y”.  Indeed.

The most frustrating aspect of it all was the giant whiff on making fun of HBO/Showtime/etcetera.  Those networks are practically begging to be made fun of, but Zombie Simpsons just tiptoed around them, again replacing actual mockery with gentle fluffing.  I mean, look at this:

Tenors

Ooh, burn.

Is that supposed to be a joke?  Is that supposed to be anything other than an acknowledgement that The Sopranos was HBO’s biggest show for a long time?  Where’s the poke at the arrogance of selling every show as an event?  Where’s the mockery of the audience?  The whole concept was basically a love note to premium cable channels and show biz navel gazing.  Seen in that light the cameo by one of the Entourage guys is ironically amusing, though probably not for the reason Zombie Simpsons intended. 

Anyway, the numbers are in and thanks to a big football lead in last night’s Zombie Simpsons episode caused 9.01 million people to wish they could cancel FOX the same way they can cancel HBO.  That is the highest number for them all season, but since most weeks don’t feature a late national game between the undefeated Super Bowl champs and the biggest market in the country (that for some reason was still going on well past 7pm), I’m not worried about an overall turnaround for Season 23.  This is why we have averages, and Zombie Simpsons’ are still terrible. 

04
Dec
11

Sunday Preview: The Ten-Per-Cent Solution

Virgin Alarm

Dave’s busy being a real adult and doesn’t have time for childish photoshop follies.  (At least, that’s what he told me.)  So instead of another bloodied preview image I thought I’d put up a picture of Joan Rivers doing something that’s actually funny.  Simpsons Channel has us covered for the other thing:

Krusty the Clown is stuck in a rut when the television network pulls his show from the air and his talent agency drops him as a client. But when the Simpsons introduce him to seasoned agent Annie (guest voice Joan Rivers), they are surprised to learn that Annie was Krusty’s very first agent. Despite their rocky relationship, Annie is convinced to re-sign Krusty and craft his career comeback. But when Krusty’s retro comedyshow reboot is deemed a critical success, Krusty must decide to stay with his agent or side with the network executives.

That sounds like a well plotted piece of non-claptrap that isn’t going to make me want to retch.




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