Like I said a couple posts ago, Dead Homer Society is the finest source of Simpsons criticism on the internet, but apparently even they have their breaking point. If you're unfamiliar with their process, here's how it goes: after a new episode airs, they parcel out a week's worth of features including "Ratings FAIL" (which could really use a less-memeish name), where frontman Charlie Sweatpants talks about one particular aspect that bugged him; Crazy Noises, which is basically just a chatlog of the team and sometimes odds & ends; and my favorite feature, the incomparable Compare & Contrast, a comprehensive Glenn Greenwaldian takedown of the episode by simply comparing it to a good episode. It's a good process that runs the gamut between formal and informal, snap judgments and prudent deliberation.
Well, Mr. Sweatpants has announced next season will get a much less comprehensive treatment, because (shocker) the show is really bad:
For all its manic bumbling and endless stream of pointless cameos, the only enduring characteristic about Zombie Simpsons is how blandly repetitive it is. Episodes consistently have no coherent story, few jokes, fewer funny jokes, wasted guest voices, hacktacular pop culture references, and all manner of things poorly lifted from old episodes. [...] I've begun to get the sense that we're often doing little more than citing examples of the same kinds of things each week: it sucked when they made Homer do this, that joke went on too long, that's not even a joke, this voice sounds terrible, that was done better years ago, this made no sense, etcetera etcetera. [...] In short, it seems very unlikely that most of the episodes in Season 24 (or Season 25, or Season 26, or Season Whatever) are going to be worth a close examination and serious criticism.
The rationale is pretty meta - we're talking about the repetitiveness and general quality of reviews - but it's true. You could go to any Simpsons forum, click on an episode review from ten years ago, and the complaints would still be applicable to the current season. My guess is there'll still be Crazy Noises, because it seems easy to do, but no (or a heavily reduced amount of) Compare & Contrasts, which is a shame but understandable for the sake of Charlie's mental sanity.
[Dead Homer Society]
After failing to come up with any new ideas for Simpsons episodes, the writers decided to call it quits and throw in the towel... then, as they gazed upon the towel they threw, suddenly became struck with inspiration and wrote a whole episode around it. At least, that's how I imagine this rag episode came about.
I didn't see it, but I read the Wikisimpsons article about it, which is chock full of insane plot details like "Moe is part yeti," "Moe has a magical talking bar rag from the Middle Ages voiced by Jeremy Irons," "Milhouse's mom chokes on a rock and refuses the Heimlich maneuver," and "Moe is part yeti."
Judging from the feedback on the internet, "the rag episode" represents yet another low point for the series, like jockey gnomes, "the Israel episode," and whatever that Ke$ha thing was.
Twenty-two years ago today, America got its first taste of The Simpsons stretched out to 22 minutes with the premiere of the show's Christmas special, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire."
I was going to post some reviews from the time, but the only one I could find (that wasn't behind a paywall) was this one from Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
A mighty Simpsons Day to you all.
Alan Sepinwall is a big-time TV critic whose opinions are highly revered by the industry (TV producers Dan Harmon and Michael Schur both mention him in their respective AV Club walkthroughs, for example). When he talks, people listen.
Well, recently he set his sights on The Simpsons and wrote a DEVASTATING TAKEDOWN of the latest episode. Just peep these biting excerpts...
Former The Simpsons writer Greg Daniels explained why his current show, The Office, has decided to soldier on without its lead star Steve Carrell:
This is kind of the situation we were in when we started, because a lot of people were like, "How could you possibly do the show without Ricky Gervais?" These guys had built this toy -- the British Office -- and they played with it for 12 episodes and a special, and then they stopped playing with it. I was like, "Hey, I want to play with that! There's a lot of fun left in that toy." The writing staff and the other actors are feeling a little bit the same way now: "This is only season 7; it's not like we're in season 22. We want to tell stories with this toy and play with it."
WERE THERE ANY SURVIVORS AFTER THAT MASSIVE BURN??? I DOUBT IT [Entertainment Weekly]
A music critic at Drowned in Sound has a beef with The Simpsons: for some inexplicable reason, that integrity-lacking coward sellout Matt Groening won't let Jackie-O Motherfucker be on his 8 o'clock sitcom.
He claims to be a fan, having booked them when curating ATP, yet asked recently by The Guardian if he'd consider having them on his show, he replied, "That would be pushing it". Given that Groening purports to have taste, it would make a refreshing change from the conveyer belt of populist, soft-rock cameo appearances from the dinosaur likes of U2, REM, Metallica, Aerosmith, The Rolling Stones, and Green Day.
Fair enough - Groening used to brag about inviting Spinal Tap and The Ramones over the objections of the Fox network back in the day; it's hard to imagine network bigwigs objecting to U2, Coldplay, and Katy Perry. But what about the controversial name? Jackie O died just seventeen short years ago, and America still needs time to grieve.
The needlessly provocative band name could be bleeped out, or they could abbreviate it to 'JOMF', as the group's more recent record sleeves have done. They could perform an impromptu gig at Moe's, with Lisa providing the free-sax solos.
AND MAYBE THEY CAN DRAW ME IN THE AUDIENCE, AND I'LL BE NEXT TO HOMER AND HANK SCORPIO, AND EVA SALENS WILL SEE ME, AND SHE'LL WINK AT ME, AND HOMER WILL GIVE ME A HIGH FIVE [Drowned in Sound]
I have no energy to comment on The Simpsons's Poochiesque stab at relevancy, so here's a roundup of what the rest of the Internet had to say about it:
Warming Glow pronounced The Simpsons dead:
Add me to the long list of hacks who have declared the Simpsons "dead." We have declared it dead upwards of a dozen times since the September 28, 1997 Seymour Skinner episode, but until the show finally dies, this descriptor has not and will not be any more appropriate than it is in the wake of last night's opening credits.
PopCrunch enjoyed it:
Even if you hate Tik Tok, you've got to admit The Simpsons intro is pretty clever.
Twitter user stevend, not so much:
wow that was the most disgraceful couch gag ever on the simpsons. seeing springfield sing a ke$ha song has got me to reconsider suicide.
Gawker said, "What the more recent seasons of The Simpsons have lacked in terms of comedic creativity, they've made up for with wacky intros." What???
New York was delighted but perplexed:
Despite the music, it's pretty delightful. As far as we can tell, though, this is the first time Danny Elfman's theme has been replaced with a contemporary pop song, so it's slightly baffling that would have chosen this one to make history with.
TwentyFourBit declared it an epic winz0r FTW:
The Simpsons brought the lulz tonight with a lip dub of Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" as their intro theme song, and though I'll admit to not LOLing IRL until Nelson Muntz belts out the ridiculous chorus, this is the one time you won't regret revisiting a song from the reigning poet laureate (sarcasm!) of pop.
Videogum officially declared itself done with The Simpsons:
I'm pretty sure this means we are done with The Simpsons. Bye, The Simpsons! I will continue to not have watched you in years!
The creator of iCarly loved it!!!
Twitter user ACHkris laid down an ultimatum:
Dear simpsons- NEVER USE A KESHA SONG IN PLACE OF THE INTRO EVER AGAIN OR WE ARE THROUGH.
Finally, andPOP won Headline of the Year with Tik Tok: The countdown Until 'The Simpsons' are Cancelled:
Either Matt Groening has finally run out of ideas for America's longest running show or Ke$ha broke into his house and offered to blow him. Either way, the choice to use 'Tik Tok' as a substitute for the Simpsons theme song was a scary indication that no one is safe. Even an American institution, with over two decades of immense popularity, is vulnerable to Ke$ha's infectious auto-tuned pop hooks.
I just want to direct your attention to this Dead Homer Society post from last February because it owns:
The Simpsons has been on for so long now that the world itself has changed around them and as a result the characters no longer epitomize what they're supposed to be satirizing. Homer and Marge are exquisitely crafted late model Baby Boomers; they came of age in the seventies and became adults in the eighties. He's a union guy; she's a housewife; they have cranky World War II generation parents, they go to church out of a sense of duty and their kids lead unstructured, small town lives. They are run of the mill late 1980s Americans, that is when they were created and that is the context in which they best fit.
The show is on Season 20, but culturally speaking it's going to enter its fourth decade next year. The characters can always be drawn the same way, but that doesn't keep them from showing their age.
This one guy, Representative Mike Honda (D-CA), is real mad because the Post Office rolled out some stamps with The Simpsons on them, instead of some stamps honoring Japanese-American WWII veterans. Money quote: "I question the direction USPS is headed when it pays homage to Homer Simpson over the sacrifice of our venerable Nisei veterans." BURN!!! The Stamp Police are all like, whoa, hey, we're not supposed to honor specific military units, because all veterans are equal in the eyes of The Lord Almighty or whatever. According to them, stamps are supposed to be "a reflection of our culture," which entails making literally a billion stamps with little pictures of cartoon characters plastered on them. These stamps are vitally important to America in order to "raise awareness about the show," because apparently slapping Homer's face onto every conceivable tacky piece of junk produced since 1990 just hasn't been raising enough awareness of The Simpsons these days (it's still on TV, you know!). Why does the Post Office, and by extension President Barack Obama, hate our veterans???
Also, ha ha, some nerd at Roll Call got a chance to show off his Simpsons knowledge by "incidentally" noting that Bart Simpson is a stamp collector, as mentioned in the fifth season episode "Homer the Vigilante" (episode 93, 5X12, original airdate 1/7/94, production code 1F10) [Roll Call]
In last Sunday's "Treehouse of Horror" episode, fictional school bully and noted haw-hawer Nelson Muntz called a giant pumpkin "super gay," a homophobic slur that has a national gay organization all a-twitter.
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a non-fictional organization that focuses on facilitating positive social change in schools, sent the following statement to celebrity-stalking megablog TMZ:
Nelson's use of 'that's so gay' in a negative way is not surprising considering that 90 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth say they hear the term used this way frequently or often at school. Nelson should visit ThinkB4YouSpeak.com where he can send an apologetic e-card to Milhouse. GLSEN would also welcome Nelson's participation in our next PSA so he can make amends by helping to educate young people about why such language is wrong.
Technically Nelson said, "The Grand Pumpkin's super gay," and it was directed at the Grand Pumpkin, not Milhouse, but who cares? I'm just glad GLSEN found the time to follow in the grand footsteps of Dan Quayle and complain about a fictional TV character instead of, I don't know, maybe fighting to keep same-sex marriage legal in California? [TMZ]
TVShowsOnDVD.com wrote a bunch of words about the horrible DVD packaging of the equally horrible season 11. Here's an excerpt:
How would you get the discs out of such a tight space then? You have to reach in with two fingers and pinch the edge... making it virtually impossible to not smudge your fingerprints on the "don't touch!" side of the DVD. Also, it's a cinch that the discs will get scratched up sooner or later, inserting them and removing them this way since 100% of the disc makes contact with the cardboard. It's a travesty. [TVShowsOnDVD.com]
Huell Howser is a big-time TV guy who was parodied in the gay marriage episode (the guy at the beginning who falls off a turnip truck). Upon finding about the parody, he did the following:
I got into the office the next morning and called Matt Groening and said, 'This is Huell Howser,' and there was this quiet on the other end of the phone because I knew he thought I was upset. I said, 'If you're going to do a parody of me, I could use the money and the exposure. If you're gonna continue, just let me be my own voice next time.
It is unknown if Howser had any hostages at the time. [Pasadena Weekly]
A critic at a Television Critics Association panel asked a panel of nine FOX animated show producers why they're so white:
A critic gets a laugh by starting a question with,"Here's a question for the women and people of color up there" (there are none) ... and asks about the lack of diversity in the genre.
[The Live Feed]
[Family Guy creator Seth] MacFarlane: "There's something about the medium of animation that it's male dominated ... might also have something to do with the demographics of animation also skewing male."
The Parents Television Council, a media watchdog organization that aims to "promote and restore responsibility and decency to the entertainment industry," recently examined the Fox network's hatred of mothers:
In 1987, TV's respectful treatment of mothers began to be replaced by an attitude of mockery and contempt - and unsurprisingly, it was the Fox network that began the trend. Married with Children's Peg Bundy was portrayed as shallow, vapid, incompetent at domestic chores (and everything else) and obsessed with sex. Dressed to resemble a prostitute, the Peg Bundy character also seemed to act and think like one. The constant put-downs directed at Peg by her crude and moronic husband character were echoed by equally intense contempt from her children.
And in the two decades since Married with Children's premiere nothing has changed, except that the mockery, contempt and even hatred shown towards mothers on Fox has become even more vicious and sadistic.
The May 11th episode of The Simpsons focused on the death of Homer's mother, a former radical who abandoned him as a child. The now-deceased mother leaves her daughter-in-law Marge a purse made of hemp, as Bart informs his father that Grandma said "you don't suck...THAT much."
Yet The Simpsons' depiction of motherhood was as nothing compared to that seen on Seth MacFarlane's animated "comedy" Family Guy. In celebration of Mother's Day, Fox chose to rerun an episode in which Baby Stewie murders his own mother - after plotting to torture her...
For shame, Fox. [Parents Television Council]
The Simpsons Movie got a thumbs-down at something called "The Hackademy Awards," an event run by an anti-smoking group called Breathe California of Sacramento-Emigrant Trails designed to counter positive portrayals of cigarette smoking in movies. The scene that raised their ire: the 3-second shot of Jimbo smoking with Dolph, "which is the kind of potent endorsement of smoking the group opposes." Remember: smokers are jokers. [canada.com]
A TV Squad critic is infumed that some people think The Simpsons decreased in quality over the past decade or so, and that some of those people are using the internet to voice that opinion.
This is the CRITIC's equation: Everybody loves this show, and since most people are stupid, their love must mean that the show is stupid too... if I express my disdain for the show, I am distancing myself from the stupid masses and am therefore smarter than the average person. I can thus explain my lack of a date to the senior prom as not a commentary on my severely lacking personal hygiene but on the Philistine's inability to recognize genius in their midst. I will now go watch obscure BBC comedies and eat Fluff directly out of a jar.
Some conservative bloggers were outraged at a recent episode that supposedly made fun of the US military! Could the show that gave them their beloved war chant "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" actually hate America??
Yesterday's episode wasn't just unfunny, it was very poorly animated - a 1970s Hanna-Barbera-level of crudeness. The sequence in which Lenny's car was crushed looked like it had been drawn by a 10 year-old trying to draw The Simpsons. I can only assume they're devoting all their time and effort to the movie.
As for BSG, I agree with Jonah's long-trusted reader and had exactly the same argument, err, discussion with my wife during the episode. Far more fun was Doctor Who in the hour beforehand, which involved Rose berating a pompous psuedo-patriot for not knowing how to fly the Union Flag and also included an interesting nod to the realization that families need fathers at the end...
I got tons of e-mail about the military-bashing Simpsons episode last night. Here's a bit of the video if you haven't seen it and want to get in a bad mood. The mockery of Army recruiters and enlistees is absolutely disgusting. This comes on the heels of last week's election-timed episode mocking the Iraq war.
The show is getting long in the tooth and low on funny. Don't bother with it.
Keep on fighting the good fight [alicublog]