Posts Tagged ‘Treehouse of Horror XXI

11
Nov
10

Compare & Contrast: Vampire Segments

Treehouse of Horror IV9

“This cape is giving me a rash.” – Abe “Grampa” Simpson

In Season 5’s Halloween special, the final segment is a vampire story.  In Season 22’s Halloween special, the final segment is also a vampire story.  Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

The difference is apparent immediately.  The Simpsons starts things off with the family quietly watching television, complete with the dogs playing poker painting in the background as a transition from the lead-in.  The news report situates things firmly in the Springfield we’ve all come to know and love: the police are incompetent, Brockman is an idiot, Burns is evil.  Everything necessary to set up the story has been established in one quick and joke filled scene.  Zombie Simpsons begins with thirty seconds of dialogue free nothing that would be utterly irrelevant to anyone who hasn’t seen Twilight.

That’s followed by a glacial setup full of painfully poor dialogue (“I should be scared, but I’m not.”) and repetitive jokes that, again, would be unfamiliar to anyone who hasn’t seen the source material.  It’s not until two-and-a-half-minutes into a six-and-a-half-minute segment that one of the main characters is introduced, a warmed over vampire complete with cliched costume and accent.  By contrast, two and a half minutes into “Bart Simpson’s Dracula”, the family has met Burns, dined with him, and the kids are off exploring his castle after Lisa, completely in character, figures out what’s really going on.  It’s packed with jokes, some referencing Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Burns’ shadow is great) and others not (“Lisa, vampires are make believe, just like elves, gremlins and Eskimos”). 

It should also be noted that the fact that Season 5 is working with much stronger source material is no excuse for Season 22’s abject humor failure.  If you want to make fun of Twilight, make fun of Twilight.  There is no shortage of things that can be mocked: vampires that don’t drink blood, sparkle in the sun, and enjoy baseball.  There are even fantastically sexy supernatural superhunks who inexplicably fall in love with a heroine that, to make her easily relatable for every member of the target demographic, has been deliberately excised of all personality.  This sort of thing is a satirist’s wet dream and they don’t use any of it.  Instead, they sketch up the world’s least imaginative vampire . . . and name him “Dracula”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the culmination of hundreds of hours of work by the staff of Zombie Simpsons, as well as the first Google Image result for “Dracula Costume”:

World's Least Inventive Vampires

One of these is the work of cheap knockoff artists, the other is a costume.

Then we get to the respective endings.  The Simpsons takes the story back to the scene of the crime for its finale.  We know where Burns’ hideout is, and the family is going back there to reclaim their son.  Along the way the show never takes things seriously, tossing off jokes (a callback to the Super Fun Happy Slide, Homer stabbing Burns in the crotch) and absurdist observations (Marge wishing they could’ve gotten a sitter, Burns firing Homer and Homer being dumb enough to think it matters). 

Zombie Simpsons, on the other hand, takes us to a place we’ve never seen and that has no relevance to anything, all so they can waste some time on background vampires.  (That Springfield has a vampire district would come as a surprise to the Lisa of the opening who didn’t know they existed, but those scenes happened whole minutes apart, and that’s an ocean of time for Zombie Simpsons.)  Even once it finally has all four characters in the bell tower, it can’t wrap things up neatly.  Several bodily threats are played for suspense, and yet more expository dialogue fills out the rest of the time. 

The whole thing ends with Homer actually turning into a vampire before falling off the bell tower for no reason.  Lisa is, I guess, just sort of stuck up there with the other two vampires.  Despite the fact that they opened the episode with Frink using a TiVo remote, no further meta gags are brought it to tie things up or send the audience off with a smile.  It’s just over, a random series of events ending as suddenly and pointlessly as it began. 

Of course, that’s not how The Simpsons ended it’s vampire segment.  After Burns is killed, we return to the family breakfast table for a joke filled wrap up that takes advantage of the audience not knowing that the segment is already over.  Even then it’s not played for serious suspense, Grampa is still inept, Marge is still underestimated, and the whole thing turns out to be a “holiday wishes” type message.  But no seconds of screen time are wasted, as it immediately transitions into a brief but evocative “Peanuts” joke, complete with Santa’s Little Helper as Snoopy and Milhouse on Schroeder’s tiny piano. 

09
Nov
10

Crazy Noises: Treehouse of Horror XXI

Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious2

“And now, our parody of ‘Mad About You’, entitled ‘Mad About Shoe’!  Gimme a kiss baby, no tongue, ha ha! . . . Ohh, you’re not going to like our ‘NYPD Shoe’ sketch.  It’s pretty much the same thing.” – Krusty the Klown

In our ongoing mission to bring you only the shallowest and laziest analysis of Zombie Simpsons, we’re keeping up our Crazy Noises series for Season 22.  Since a podcast is so 2004, and video would require a flag, a fern and some folding chairs from the garage, we’ve elected to use the technology that brought the word “emoticon” to the masses: the chatroom.  Star Trek image macros are strictly forbidden, unless you have a really good reason why Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk.  This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough, not on  “Jumanji”). 

This episode consisted of half assed Simpsonizations of four other shows/movies: The Office, Jumanji, Dead Calm, and Twilight.  In the hands of people who cared in the least about jokes, pacing or comedy that wouldn’t be a problem.  In the hands of Zombie Simpsons it was a disaster from start to finish, laden with tensionless action sequences, bizarre non sequiturs (even within single scenes), and enough limp, toothless pop culture “references” to fill one of those wretched spoof movies. 

Note: Dave couldn’t join us this week, so this is shorter and even less insightful than usual. 

Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get started?

Mad Jon: Ok then

Do you remember a time when THOH weren’t just parodies of movies?

  Or when they were parodies, at least they were of things that were topical?

Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think any of this rose to the level of parody.

Mad Jon: “Jumanji” was like 25 years ago.

And “Twilight” is several years old as well.

Charlie Sweatpants: Enh. That doesn’t bother me so much as the fact that they weren’t doing much to make fun of anything.

Mad Jon: That is true. Most of the attempted jokes were 20-30 seconds of repetitive action

Charlie Sweatpants: The board game titles were mildly clever, but then they spent the rest of the segment doing terrible – and terribly long and repetitive – physical "comedy".

  The joke where Wiggum got crushed would’ve been okay if it hadn’t gone on about five times longer than it should have.

The chutes and ladders thing, I was actually embarrassed for them.

Mad Jon: Like Homer’s walk, or Harry Potter/Edward’s stopping moving vehicles, which I assume was part of that movie which I never saw.

Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, the glorified goth kid stops a car from hitting the girl with no personality. The movie was terrible, but I watched it with weed and Rifftrax, so I had an okay time.

Mad Jon: Sounds like fun.

Charlie Sweatpants: But there was no need for it to keep happening like that.

Though for sheer boredom the end of the segment was worse.

  The vampire neighborhood was just them Simpsonizing other vampires.

Mad Jon: Indeed. What was with the dog that picked up fat Homer bat at the end?

  That one was over my head.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, it was the Milhouse were-poodle, or whatever.

  Like most of the attempts at humor, it had nothing to do with anything.

Mad Jon: Oh, so I didn’t miss a clever joke or insightful parody?

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, Twilight has a werewolf that also loves the girl with no personality.

Mad Jon: That’s a relief.

  Fair enough.

Charlie Sweatpants: What really got me though was the bell tower ending.

They just keep it up with the suspense music about what’s going to happen, and then they go back and forth about three times.

Mad Jon: Yep.

Charlie Sweatpants: It’s too bad vampires don’t feed off of exposition.

  Speaking of suspense for no reason, what was with the middle segment?

That was a great big bowl of steaming what the fuck, and then Maggie’s in the tub and, unrelated to everything, she dons the Malcolm McDowell eye makeup from “A Clockwork Orange”.

Mad Jon: I don’t know. They were on a boat, and some British guy rows to them and then some mindless violence with none of the touch of "The Shinning" and then Maggie is some evil ultraviolent mastermind.

Maybe they were banking on the fact that nobody that watches this anymore has actually seen that movie, but would probably get the visual reference.

Charlie Sweatpants: But none of it made any sense at all. If they had just kept it as some kind of creepy menage-a-trois it would have at least made sense, but they dropped that for the "It’s a Wonderful Life (Killing Spree Ending)".

All of a sudden Homer’s armed to the teeth and he kills a bunch of people for no reason.

  And then Marge kills herself because . . . why?

Mad Jon: Oh I agree, none of it made sense, or tied together plot wise, even with the umpteen twists

Charlie Sweatpants: Even when you know it’s all in Maggie’s head it still doesn’t make any sense. It’s a twist that has no revelations to it.

Mad Jon: Also, would Homer J. Simpson actually help give one of his children a bath?

  Perhaps the random story generator went haywire again, and nobody bothered to edit it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Editing would’ve helped.

Mad Jon: To some extent at least.

Charlie Sweatpants: That thing where Homer kept walking off screen only to come back again?

  It goes on for twenty seconds and it should’ve have taken two.

Mad Jon: Also he had roller blades. That was apparently a visual gag of some sort. I mean, who wears roller blades on a rented yacht?

Charlie Sweatpants: I think the randomness was the point, but it was a very poor one.

Mad Jon: Yes, I think I understand.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the only thing to understand it as is filler.

Half the second segment is them either describing things that happened or having flashbacks.

Mad Jon: You know, if they would have just had Homer stop all the vehicles instead of Harry Potter, he could have had a 30 second montage of random motion in each act?

  So close.

Charlie Sweatpants: Good point.

He had to settle for riding that vampire guy for no reason.

Mad Jon: That’s right, he did ride a vampire didn’t he?

  Also he entered the second act via shark vomit. That’s also got to count for something.

  Couldn’t he have just been on the boat?

Charlie Sweatpants: That wouldn’t have taken enough time.

Mad Jon: I suppose you’re right.

Charlie Sweatpants: Same with Bart operating the mousetrap or the strange, clock killing suicide of Milhouse.

Mad Jon: That was just creepy. Not in a funny THOH way either, like in a really creepy "Milhouse decided to kill himself" way.

  Who ever wrote that little bit probably tortured small animals as a child.

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, they had to work in that R.I.P. joke. It’s just too good.

Mad Jon: Leave no line uncrossed I guess.

Charlie Sweatpants: Pretty much.

Anything else here? This one was heavy on filler even by their standards.

Mad Jon: No, nothing much. It’s really too bad, even Zombie THOH aren’t usually this bad. This was really really boring.

  And also it had less transitions than a kindergarten play about thanksgiving.

Charlie Sweatpants: Ha.

Mad Jon: Things just kept happening, and then I got sad.

Charlie Sweatpants: Sounds more like real Thanksgiving.

08
Nov
10

Even Vampires and Wizards and Wizard Vampires Cannot Save You

Treehouse of Horror IV8

“We had a story to go with this painting, but it was far too intense, so we just threw something together with vampires.  Enjoy.” – Bart Simpson

Zombie Simpsons has a well deserved reputation for massively over-relying on physical comedy.  When they’re completely out of ideas, which is often, they’ll just find ways to cause Homer and/or Bart a lot of pain.  In this episode, Homer stuck his head into a flaming jack-o-lantern, was run over by a lawnmower, repeatedly fell down, was eaten by a shark, bitten by vampires, fell off a bell tower, and then hauled off by whatever that thing Milhouse was supposed to be.  And that’s just Homer, when he wasn’t getting hurt, the odds were decent that someone else was.  Even in a Halloween episode you’re supposed to do more than just beat the shit out of your characters. 

When that wasn’t happening, it was either string music of suspense or one of the usual Zombie Simpsons “parodies”, where they think drawing characters with big eyes and overbites is enough to qualify as satire.  The opening with monsters in The Office style and the parade of vampires in the third segment spring immediately to mind. 

The numbers are in and while they’re not as bad as they could be, they’re still pretty bad.  Last night, 8.20 million people waited patiently for the Twilight/Harry Potter part so they could finally turn this one off.  That’s up from the most recent episode, but it’s also the lowest number for a Halloween special ever.  That’s good news all around as the Treehouse of Horror episode is always one of (if not the) highest rated episodes of the year.  Season 22 is almost certainly going to be the lowest rated season ever and, if these are the best numbers they can get with a guest star laden Halloween episode, might do so by a pretty big margin.  

[Note: Sorry there wasn’t a preview/open thread post yesterday.  Three weeks off got us out of our routine.]




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