Posts Tagged ‘The Trouble with Trillions


Quote of the Day

“Good morning, Agent Johnson. The film you are about to see is top secret and contains adult situations.” – Narrator


Quote of the Day

“Ten . . . nine . . . eight . . . eight . . . eight . . . eight . . .” – Springfield New Year’s Crowd
“Oh, will this horrible year never end?” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

“Sir, why did you wait until the last minute to pay your taxes?” – Kent Brockman
“Because I’m an idiot! Happy?” – Krusty the Klown

Happy 20th Anniversary to “The Trouble with Trillions”! Original airdate 5 April 1998.


Quote of the Day

“I’m not the thief, the government is. Every year you make hard working Joes like my reporter friend here pay income taxes, and for what? Aid to ungrateful foreigners, do nothing nuclear missiles, tomb polish for some unknown soldier!” – C.M. Burns


Quote of the Day

“Alright people, listen up! The harder you push, the faster we will all get out of here!” – Chief Wiggum


Behind Us Forever: Havana Wild Weekend


“Oh, you’re gonna love it in Cuba, Marge. There’s shredded pork everywhere.” – Homer Simpson

In a world where up has become down and black has become white, I suppose there’s some comfort to be taken in the fact that Zombie Simpsons remains as incoherent and forgettable as ever. In this season’s second travel episode, the family goes to Cuba to get Grampa medical care, or something. That story line gets dropped very quickly in favor of a series of disconnected Cuban references and something about the CIA. This episode also features an unusual amount of “look a character just appeared out of nowhere” scenes.

Some lowlights:

  • We open with a Shark Tank parody that has voiceover that explains what it is. Later, they will explain this again.
  • After an expository scene with a retirement home nurse, a van drops Grampa off in skid row. Wiggum just happens to be there to tell no one in particular that this is also where he drops off mentally ill people. There are a lot of darkly funny jokes to be made about how many homeless people in America are also mentally ill. Zombie Simpsons decides to explain it with no actual joke. This show can be painful to watch.
  • Now we’re in a VA hospital waiting room where there’s a long wait time and that wait time is explained over and over again. Then a random guy walks up from nowhere to explain that Grampa should go to Cuba for cheap medical care.
  • Smash cut to a cruise ship where Fred and Ricky from I Love Lucy walk up from nowhere to banter for a bit. Yeesh, this episode is lazy.
  • Grampa sees a Cuban doctor. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that nothing else happens.
  • Montage of Grampa driving in an old car with helpful exposition from a Cuban guy who walked up from nowhere for no reason. I should be counting these, but I’m not going back and you can’t make me.
  • The family is having dinner, while Homer exposits where they are. Then they’re in a hotel. Then Grampa’s in a bar. These are just scenes next to each other.
  • “Wheels McGrath, I knew you in the Air Force!”, says Grampa as another random person walks in from offscreen.
  • Grampa’s old friend wants to start a nightclub in an old airliner. Which he got to after “hacking” through the jungle because he likes hacking. Repeating words is funny. Repeating words is funny. Repeating words is funny.
  • Second montage.
  • There’s a Ticketmaster joke that gets explained twice.
  • Now the airliner is flying away because it was all a CIA plot, or something. The episode still has two minutes to go, so there’s a random golf scene tacked on and a rehash of the Shark Tank thing from the beginning.

There are a couple of okay sign gags in all that (Marge is reading a book called “Cuban Escapes by Elian Gonzalez”, for example), but it’s hard to notice amidst the swerving plot, layers of exposition, and half-dozen or so characters who randomly appear from the ether. In other words, it’s typical Zombie Simpsons.

Anyway, the numbers are in and Zombie Simpsons once again got a nice bump from football, and once again failed to hold even half that audience. The post-game show drew 21.28 million viewers. Zombie Simpsons managed just 7.13 million.

Obviously numbers like this are enough for FOX to pick up two more years worth of episodes, but while this qualifies as a good (even great) number these days, it’d be a terribly low one even just five or six years ago. That’s the sorry state of network TV: crowing about audience numbers that would’ve been a disaster at the beginning of the decade.


Quote of the Day

The Trouble With Trillions7

“Daddy, what do taxes pay for?” – Todd Flanders
“Oh, why everything! Policemen, trees, sunshine, and let’s not forget the folks who just don’t feel like working, God bless ’em.” – Ned Flanders


Quote of the Day

The Trouble With Trillions6

“There you go, rat boy.” – Bart Simpson
“Does this make me look fat?” – Homer Simpson
“No, it makes you look like a tool of government oppression.” – Lisa Simpson
“But not fat?” – Homer Simpson


Quote of the Day

The Trouble With Trillions5

“Let’s see, cash register ink, well, that’s a business expense isn’t it?  But then, I do enjoy the smell of the stuff, don’t I?  Better not risk it.” – Ned Flanders


Quote of the Day

The Trouble With Trillions4

“So, Lenny, let’s say you pull a thorn out of the Pope’s butt and he grants you one wish.  What’ll it be?” – Moe
“Only one, huh?  Well, I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to wear something that’s been ironed.” – Lenny
“Whew, that’d be sweet.  What about you, Moe?” – Carl
“Gee, I was gonna say a night with Joey Heatherton, but an ironed shirt?  Damn, that’s tempting.” – Moe


Quote of the Day

The Trouble With Trillions3

“We believe Burns still has that bill hidden somewhere in his house.  But all we’ve ascertained from satellite photos is that it’s not on the roof.” – Agent Johnson


Quote of the Day

Our Security Is Atrocious

“Mr. Simpson, please cover your ears while I say the secret access word. . . . cheese.” – IRS Agent


Quote of the Day

The Trouble With Trillions2

“Mr. Simpson, this government computer can process over nine tax returns per day.  Did you really think you could fool it?” – IRS Agent
“No, sir.  I’m really sorry, sir.  An older boy told me to do it.” – Homer Simpson


Crazy Noises: The Trouble with Trillions

 The Trouble With Trillions1

“Some of us took our receipts and pay stubs to our accountants months ago.  And, at the risk of sounding a little smug-” – Kent Brockman
“Oh, help!  Does anyone have a calculator.” – Myron the Accountant
“Myron?” – Kent Brockman

There’s no new Zombie Simpsons until September at the earliest (October? fingers crossed!), so we’re going to spend the summer overthinking Season 9.  Why Season 9?  Because we did Season 8 last summer, and Season 9 was when the show started becoming more Zombie than Simpsons.  Since we’re too lazy to do audio and too ugly to do video, we’ve booked a “chatroom” (ours is right between the one with the sexy seventh graders and the one with the bored federal agents pretending to be sexy seventh graders).  So log on to your dial-up AOL and join us.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough, not on “Jebediah”).

Today’s episode is 920 “The Trouble With Trillions”, tomorrow’s will be 915 “The Last Temptation of Krust”.  In a special twist this week, Bob Mackey joined us. 


Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, shall we do improbable theft or stand up comedy first?

Dave: I think the guest gets to choose.

bobservo: Well, I started with Trillions, so let’s start with that.

Mad Jon: Sounds good.

Charlie Sweatpants: I have this episode safely in the bottom tier of nine, and I think it’s problems are fairly representative of what’s wrong with a lot of the weaker episodes of the season, there are some decent individual jokes and set pieces, but nothing ties it all together.

bobservo: I think the opening set piece is really good, but that’s mostly because it has little to do with the rest of the episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: In the gaps between, it’s lots of horns of suspense and nonsense that the episode apparently expects us to take seriously.

Dave: Yeah taken on its own, the opening isn’t terrible, it just leads to terrible things.

Mad Jon: When you originally made your tiers a few weeks ago I thought to myself I disagreed with the placement of this episode in the bottom, I agree now.

  I really like the opening.

Right up until Homer remembers to pay his taxes.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed.

bobservo: I honestly think that the opening — aside from a few jokes — could have easily been part of seasons 5-8.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s all fun and games until Homer starts panicking. And there’s no way Marge doesn’t pay this family’s taxes.

bobservo: It’s a lot of great character stuff in a funny situation, and Flanders at his Flandersiest.

Mad Jon: Flanders is very Flanders in the start.

  Very funny

Dave: Quaint.

bobservo: It’s the kind of Flanders I miss now.

Mad Jon: I also like Dr. Hibbert’s mailing of the holiday related fatalities.

bobservo: Yeah it all felt very dark and Mirkin-y.

  Of course the whole episode has a very anti-government stance, so it’s hard to not view it as Mirkin-y.

Charlie Sweatpants: You’ll have to edify me, is Mirkin known for the dark stuff? I read Ortved’s book, but other than that I’m pretty ignorant of the behind the scenes type stuff.

bobservo: I generally think of his episodes as the most cynical; he’s got a very libertarian streak in him that really shines in his seasons.

And on a storytelling level, he really loves the “screw you”-type gags, and this episode ends on a very lazy imitation of that.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I learned something tonight. But that scene in Moe’s where Homer rats out the guy who sometimes works at the plant (and with whom I apparently share a name), is a good example of what I’m talking about when I use the words “gaps” to describe this episode.

  There was no reason for that scene to happen, it’s almost completely unrelated to the rest of the episode.

bobservo: You’re right about that.

Charlie Sweatpants: It also has a very “Homer’s Enemy” feel to it when they recount all the outrageous crimes Homer’s committed.

  It started in Season 8, but you can begin to see the accumulated backstory of the show weighing them down.

bobservo: The “gaps” (not sure I’m using your term correctly) for me were A.) when Homer was at first reluctant to rat out Burns. Not sure what the point was with that.

Mad Jon: I do always chuckle when Charlie tells homer he has a plan to beat up all sorts of government officials.

Dave: The laziness with which they deal with that weight is notable. The severe audit bin; the bar scene; the photo booth. The list goes on. Cheap gags, not that funny.

Charlie Sweatpants: What I mean by “gaps” is, take the ending. There are some decent Castro jokes there (“It’s full of what?”), but to get there requires more than a minute of almost joke free action/suspense.

bobservo: Also, when Marge was confronted by the IRS about Homer’s theft, it seemed odd how she just assumed the money now belonged to her family. Like she was an accessory to the joke instead of an actual character.

Charlie Sweatpants: I hate that scene.

Dave: Let’s buy dune buggies.


bobservo: It started a long time ago, but in this era Homer could basically do whatever he wanted with no regard to how his family felt. That lack of consequences cheapens the storytelling.

Charlie Sweatpants: You sort of expect that from Bart, but why Marge and Lisa suddenly think they’re rich is too nonsensical not to be distracting.

bobservo: Yeah, those “against character” jokes are incredibly lazy, especially with a character like Lisa.

Mad Jon: All of these things are true. But what bothers me the most is Burns. Quality Burns is a rich man who feels he is better than the common man even though he is sort of stuck 6 decades back in time. In this episode he is just wacky. Burns was always a bit wacky, but more rich and powerful than wacky.

  I don’t like wacky Burns.

Charlie Sweatpants: Nor I, why he can’t get rid of Homer is beyond me.

bobservo: Yeah the hounds button being broken just felt lazy.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like you said, it’s cheap storytelling. They need to get Homer and Burns together (again), and they couldn’t be bothered to think up a good way to do it.

bobservo: I’m sure there could have been a more interesting (and funny) way for him to get into the house, but just joke here seems to be “look how lazy we writers are being!” There’s actually a ton of this kind of humor in later Simpsons — as you guys know.

Mad Jon: Most of that kind of blurs together though….

Charlie Sweatpants: At some point, they lost the ability to tell the difference between taking shortcuts and making fun of themselves for taking shortcuts and it really hurt the show.

bobservo: True. It’s hard to tell when they’re self-aware and hanging a lantern on their laziness past the good years.


I think they might also have not realized the meta-humor going on in the writer’s room didn’t always translate to the page.

Charlie Sweatpants: When the feds are leading Burns away, Homer grabs the rug and throws them into the wall. It’s stupid, and they know it’s stupid, but they can’t go to commercial without a joke so they have Homer put the one guy’s hand on the other guy’s butt. I’m sure that got a laugh in the writers room, but it’s so transparently tacked on that it doesn’t matter.

Well, it sounds like we’re agreed on the indefensible crappiness of the storytelling. Any positive things to note?

bobservo: Reminds me of something else: Homer yelling “That’s-a spicy meatball!” during the IRS film. It’s not funny, and it’s not self-consciously unfunny. I don’t know what it is.

Charlie Sweatpants: That is an odd joke.

  For my money, the best thing is the film strip.

Dave: It’s a non-sequitur played for easy yuks. You’re supposed to laugh because it comes from left field.

bobservo: I genuinely like the first act, and think it could have turned into something more interesting and down-to-earth.

Mad Jon: Other than Burns and the family, I feel there was an above average showing for the usual ancillary characters.

bobservo: Yeah, everyone got in some good jokes during the opening.

  I especially love “EIGHT! EIGHT! EIGHT!”

Mad Jon: I know the bar scene was tacked on, but on it’s own I like Lenny’s line about the ironed shirt, and Charlie’s plot.

Charlie Sweatpants: The first bar scene, with the “pull a thorn out of the pope’s butt” is good.

Dave: I like that Jebediah was teepeed.

Charlie Sweatpants: Homer’s interrogation is also a plus, both the government computer that can process 9 returns a day, and Homer’s “an older boy told me to do it” always crack me up.

Mad Jon: I do like the interrogation scene and homer’s excuse.

  You’ll notice that scene isn’t terribly long for the amount of jokes it contains.

Charlie Sweatpants: No it isn’t.

The problem with this one, not to go over ground we’ve already covered well, is that they can’t sustain that pace. They take this weird, circuitous routes to get to things that are kinda funny.

But they can’t make the whole thing funny any more.

bobservo: Season 9 is kind of the beginning of the writers being afraid to stay on any one topic or plot thread for too long.

Scully had some self-control, though; Jean went absolutely nuts when he returned to the show.

Charlie Sweatpants: That much is true, but I don’t think “afraid” is the right word there. It’s more like “unable”. They just can’t be funny without moving rapidly from one piece of fresh material to the next, and to hell with how they got there.

Mad Jon: I don’t think I have anything more to add to this one that we haven’t said already.

bobservo: same here

Charlie Sweatpants: Fair enough, shall we move on?

bobservo: Oh, one thing.

  That speech at the end isn’t as clever as they want us to think it is.

  Sorry, it just kind of annoys me.

Charlie Sweatpants: Burns’ thing?

bobservo: Yep.

Mad Jon: It was almost funny, but too setup to be funny.

Charlie Sweatpants: I like the punchline about bribing the jury, but it’s not strong enough to save it.

  It’s more shortcuts masquerading as humor.

bobservo: Okay, I’m ready to move on.

  If you guys are.

Mad Jon: Ready and willing

Dave: Let’s

Charlie Sweatpants: The only thing I’d add is that it’s not a good thing when you have to end an episode in more or less the same way as one of Michael Bay’s less cerebral efforts (Bad Boys II).

bobservo: Haha, I’ll have to take your word for it.

Mad Jon: Had to throw one at Bay did you? Well good for you young man.

Charlie Sweatpants: Bob, if you haven’t seen it, it’s mildly watchable until about thirty minutes from the end when Will Smith and Martin Lawrence stage an impromptu invasion of Cuba.

Mad Jon: I liked the first hour and half of that movie, but the last hour and half had too many explosions.

Dave: I’ve intentionally pushed that movie out of my memory. I’m happier this way.

bobservo: Sounds like a remake of Red Zone Cuba.

  Which I would pay to see

Charlie Sweatpants: I’m not kidding, it’s just like this episode in that the whole “Cuba!” thing just drops completely out of the blue.

  So, on to Krusty’s brush with Jay Leno?


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