Jan Hooks, Saturday Night Live alumna and voice of Apu's wife Manjula on The Simpsons, died Thursday at the age of 57. According to news reports, she had been suffering from an unspecified illness.
At HitFix, TV reviewer Alan Sepinwall praises her tenure at Saturday Night Live, characterizing her as a "glue guy" who never got her due:
On a show that so often prizes big performances, preferably in characters that can be repeated over and over and over (like [Rob] Schneider's copy machine guy), the quiet consistency of a Hooks didn't stand out as much... [b]ut like [Phil] Hartman, she gave it her all in every sketch, whether as the straight woman or the comic centerpiece.
For just six episodes of The Simpsons, Hooks played Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon, betrothed wife of Apu and mother of their eight children (Anoop, Gheet, Nabendu, Poonam, Pria, Sandeep, Sashi, and Uma), beginning with 1997's "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons" and ending with 2002's "Large Marge." The role was taken over by regular cast member Tress MacNeille, who had originally voiced a younger Manjula in 1996's "Much Apu About Nothing" and filled in whenever Hooks was unavailable. Manjula was not exactly a breakout character, but Hooks imbued in her a sense of quiet dignity that, like her performances on Saturday Night Live, went largely unnoticed.
Pistol Pete, a 1996 pilot for a Western spoof written and produced by legendary Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder, has surfaced for the first time thanks to a mysterious benefactor on YouTube:
The show centers around Pistol Pete, a fake cowboy starring in a New York City Wild West stage show who becomes the real sheriff of a Western town, played by the impeccable Stephen Kearney. It's kinda like the Adam West Batman series set in the West with absurd Swartzweldian gags.
Like its mysterious creator, Pistol Pete gained some notoriety because pretty much nobody outside the people who produced it had ever seen it. Will Harris of Antenna Free TV wrote a comprehensive account - or at least as comprehensive as you can be about something you've never seen - about it last year, scoring interviews with Kearney and co-star Mark Derwin. Apparently, Swartzwelder was in such high demand that the studio pretty much gave him whatever he wanted. Unfortunately, the Fox network declined to pick it up as a series, possibly because Rupert Murdoch was feeling sleepy when the executives screened it.
Upon discovery (...?) of the video, Swartzwelder e-mailed it to Harris, who then tweeted it to the world. Now, perhaps the only big Simpsons writer "holy grail" that remains is George Meyer's script for an unproduced movie that was to star David Letterman.
The Simpsons live show is over now, with far less casualties than the usual Hollywood Bowl event. In defiance of the rules, some audience members recorded it with their cell phones and cameras. Here's a video of the Friday show, which could be taken down at any time:
Dead Homer Society has some more videos of the Saturday and Sunday shows, but I'm not going to bother watching them.
- "Unlike Seth MacFarlane, Matt [Groening] will not force you to listen to him sing"
- Whoever recorded this decided to leave it on for part of the intermission, but ran out of battery during Jon Lovitz singing the Planet of the Apes musical, and then somehow regained power immediately after. Okay...
- Jon Lovitz is basically a more likable version of Ricky Gervais.
- Host Hank Azaria got to live his greatest nightmare onstage because nobody told him a clip he was setting up was cut.
- The Alf Clausen tribute seemed abrupt and a little at odds with the rest of the show's tone. Still, nice to see the Sideshow Bob motif get its due...
- Conan O'Brien seemed energetic, but "The Monorail Song" isn't really much of a song, come to think of it.
- "Do The Bartman" was really disappointing. Granted, it's hard to do the Bart voice while singing in front of hundreds of people with limited stage experience, while also trying to make sure you don't fall off the stage, but still...
- Here's the weirdest thing: Harry Shearer (who generally doesn't agree to anything that's not in his contract because he feels cheated by Fox) apparently didn't give permission for his voice to be used in clips. So, twice they had to replace him with a "scratch" voice that's REALLY OBVIOUS AND WEIRD. Shearer also declined to do The Simpsons Ride, but his voice is still present in episode clips that play while you're waiting in line, so I don't know what the deal is.
During an interview with London's Financial Times back in April 2002, Simpsons creator Matt Groening mused "I think we are closer to winding it up." It was a fairly innocuous comment - the show had been on for over 12 years at that point, and he naturally didn't think it would go on for another 12 - but our alarmist media took it to mean the show was ending immediately, causing something of a global panic. It was all very stupid:
D’OH! THEY’RE MAKING FUNERAL PLANS FOR… THE SIMPSONS (New York Post)
Save the Greatest Show on Earth; Can Simpsons Creator Matt Groening Be Persuaded Not to Quit? (The Evening Standard)
'The Simpsons' may be . . . D'oh! (Philly.com)
Are Homer's days numbered? (Daily Telegraph)
'The Simpsons' soon to bow out (CNN Money)
In an effort to quell the uproar, Groening later clarified, "I don't want anyone to think I am predicting the demise of the Simpsons. They will live on with new adventures for years to come. As long as there are things to make fun of we will be around." The next episode's chalkboard gag also addressed the issue.
At the time of the "wrapping it up" comment, The Simpsons had been on the air for 4,517 days. It has now been 4,518 days since that comment was reported, and there is still no end in sight.
Meanwhile, Japan's most famous Portlander Kamenosuke Yamamoto will guest star in a commercial for Cup Noodle.
Yes, the Simpsons are going off the air... so they can star in an exclusive 3-night concert at the Hollywood Bowl this weekend! Half the cast will be there! Conan O'Brien will do the monorail song! Beverly D'Angelo, Jon Lovitz, and Weird Al will make appearances! Who knows, maybe writer John Swartzwelder will perform one of his legendary death-defying motorcycle stunts!
As the 12-day FXX marathon enters into The Modern Age and all the goodwill turns into apathy and anger, let's take a brief look at people and entities who are mad at The Simpsons this week.
The Parents Television Council recently sent Matt Groening an open letter shaming him for the rape joke(s...?) in the upcoming Family Guy/Simpsons crossover, which the Simpsons team apparently had little say over. President Tim Winter claims he's been a fan of Groening's work "as far back as the mid-1980s when [Life in Hell] appeared in the LA Weekly." Yes, I can totally picture the head of the PTC picking up an alt-weekly and laughing at the antics of the frequently-nude gay twins Akbar & Jeff next to ads for escort services. [Parents Television Council]
Tapped Out players are getting fed up with the game and EA's slowness in addressing the problems. "Gil cannot save Tapped Out," a blogger dramatically proclaims. It's always Gil's fault, isn't it? [TSTO game via Dead Homer Society]
Hologram USA claims the Homer hologram shown at Comic-Con violated their patent on a variation of the stage trick "Pepper's Ghost," which is also the title of my Blue's Clues creepypasta. [The Hollywood Reporter]
Simpsons purists are annoyed because the "Every Simpsons Ever" marathon is being broadcast in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, cropping out some funny visual gags and crucial murder mystery clues. Boy, sounds like FXX is really FXXing things up. Eh? Eh? No? Sorry. [The Verge]
For over two decades, Harry Shearer (voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, Waylon Smithers, Reverend Lovejoy, and Maggie Simpson) was the only primary cast member to have never won an Emmy for his work in The Simpsons, but this grave injustice was finally rectified last night at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards. Not bad for someone who's been phoning it in for years! Unfortunately, he couldn't show up to collect his prestigious orange blimp award in person, because he's currently stuck in 1974 after Quantum Leaping into President Nixon.
Oh, and Bob's Burgers won its first-ever Emmy for the episode "Mazel Tina." [Deadline]
While there's a million Simpsons blogs on Tumblr now, the community of general-purpose Simpsons fansites has diminished greatly over the past few years. Long-time heavyweights like Simpsons Folder and Simpsons Channel have abdicated their thrones, as have smaller sites like The Springfield Connection, Simpsons Zip, Go Simpsonic!, and the listserv Simpsons-L. Clearly, this is because they were all too weak to compete against the likes of rubbercat.net/simpsons, cyberspace's #1 Simpsons fansite in the world and undisputed champion of the Bortosphere.
Now, in a "Man Bites Dog"-style change of pace, a new fansite has risen: Drink Duff, a throwback to fansites of yore boasting "the latest news, great archives and original content."
One of its latest posts is the discovery of an alternate ending to The Telltale Head, featuring a few lines that were cut in its second airing and thought to be lost forever (check The Simpsons Archive's Syndication Cuts Guide). Oh wow... unearthed Simpsons arcana... that's cool... I'm not scared of this new threat at all...
This simple online video has been picked up by a number of outlets in the region. One major Ukrainian television channel picked it up, though one of Ukraine's largest Web sites noted that it hadn't been able to confirm its authenticity yet. The Post reached out to Fox Television, which said that this clip had been doctored. No, Bart Simpson did not call Putin a "huylo," and no, there is no Crimea billboard in Springfield.
Creator Matt Groening, who has Russian ancestry, is believed to be the mastermind behind the switch. No word yet on how Western audiences will react to the show's newfound focus on Eastern European politics.
- Witness the raw acting talent of Matt Groening as he interacts with a hologram version of Homer. [YouTube]
- A couple of of the questions from the audience at the Simpsons panel seemed a wee bit hostile:
Is there any way to inject fresh blood into the series? "No!" we're told. But Matt explains that no-one ever leaves the show once they've joined the series.
The next young fan asks if The Simpsons is ever going to end? There are claps as Matt says the show is "going to be around for a while". "We've got two years to run it into the ground and ten years before it ends," he jokes.
When one of the most-asked questions about your show is about when it's ending, maybe it's a sign you've worn out your welcome? [Digital Spy]
- Maybe it's funnier in context, but I'm a little baffled someone somewhere decided this scene where Homer struggles to breathe as Lisa helplessly watches was hilarious enough to show at Comic-Con. [YouTube]
- Here's some footage from the upcoming Simpsons/Family Guy crossover featuring a surprise cameo from none other than Bob Belcher... which is no longer a surprise, sorry. [Entertainment Weekly]
Jean asked for some minor tweaks but, other than that, he was fine with what the Family Guy writers came up with.
"We said, 'Can you cut just one rape joke?'" Jean recalled, straight-faced. "They said, 'No,' and we said, 'OK.'"
Well, at least he tried.
Twitter user @Homer_Marijuana's gripping Simpsons weedpunk saga that took cyberspace by storm has come to an end, and is a must-read for anyone who's a fan of The Simpsons, irony, millennial angst, and/or illicit activity.
YOUNG WIGGUM: All the kids are talking about the Fallen Simpsons. How bud ruined their lives. Their house is going to be repossessed.— Marijuana Simpson (@Homer_Marijuana) July 2, 2014
First, a little backstory: after allegedly losing some sort of bet with internet mogul vrunt, the Twitter user formerly known as collatingbones was forced to reconfigure his brand around the concept of "what if homer simpson smokes weed." For the first couple of weeks, @Homer_Marijuana posted musings about the concept of beloved cartoon icon Homer Simpson smoking the marijuana drug and unrelated tweets.
MAGGIE: You don't think it's problematic to gauge our family's success by marijuana consumption? MARGE: [exhales huge blunt hit] Go to bed.— Marijuana Simpson (@Homer_Marijuana) July 1, 2014
Then on June 29th it shifted gears and settled into a narrative, told almost solely in short bursts of dialogue one tweet at a time, about the Simpsons and their unliked son Ken smoking weed on a gazebo known as the "Herb Fortress." The stakes grew higher the next day: after America is attacked on 9/11, Bart (age 19) is deployed to Iraq and becomes a remorseless killer. As Homer tries to stop the war, the Simpson men become mixed up with Al Qaeda and international drug lord Circus Bob. The family becomes torn apart, and Lisa temporarily moves in with the twin aunts Thelma and Selma. Sonic the Hedgehog grapples with the death of his father and rival dealer Bender moving into his territory. Nelson searches for a surrogate father. Apu is discovered to be very valuable. Flanders tries to learn how to be like Homer, but ends up draining the Simpsons's gravity bong by mistake. Maggie is briefly disowned for accidentally feeding thirty years of kief to the dog.
BART: But you have me killing activists...poets...Why? What do they have to do with it? CHENEY: [enraged] THEY HAVE EVERYTHING TO DO WITH IT— Marijuana Simpson (@Homer_Marijuana) July 3, 2014
Later, Bart returns home and has trouble re-assimilating back into society. Maggie becomes obsessed with megabats. Moe's efforts to get a family has tragic consequences. Global drug magnate Mr. Burns plans something shady, and his former ally Officer Wiggum becomes determined to crack down on the drugs that have turned Simpson City into a den of iniquity. Throughout the story, characters lament their fate, Lenny, Carl, and Moe (later, Bumblebee Man) comment on story developments like a Greek chorus, and it becomes a musical towards the end.
HOMER: I wanted to be an artist once. Now I mechanically pursue the means to stay blazed. I am a slave to this wicked plant.— Marijuana Simpson (@Homer_Marijuana) July 5, 2014
Sound intriguing??? The whole story has been collected and reformatted into screenplay format on Scribd for your perusal.