Category Archives: The Simpsons

Extra creepy: Post-apocalyptic ‘Simpsons’

mr burns a post electric play

Here’s a real “ay carumba!” moment.

Above is the cast – in costume – of “Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play,” Anne Washburn’s musical being staged in NYC.

The premise of the show: After the apocalypse and the end of the world, a group of survivors entertain themselves – and survive – by re-enacting old episodes of “The Simpsons.”

The group starts out by trying to remember lines, particularly from the classic “Cape Feare” episode featuring Bart and his family menaced by Sideshow Bob.

Eventually the effort turns into actual stage productions featuring those masks.

The same masks I’m afraid I’m going to be seeing in my nightmares tonight.

Yikes.

Thanks to Cartoon Brew for calling our attention to the production.

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‘The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror’ for 2012

For a couple of decades, “The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror” was an annual ritual in my household. Even after we weren’t watching the show regularly, we would tune in each October (sometimes November, when Fox pre-empted the show for post-season baseball) to see the yearly collection of horror and sci-fi parody shorts.

So we watched the show this week. And yes, this is another of those “‘The Simpsons’ isn’t as funny as it used to be” entries.

A quick overview:

The pre-credits “cold open” of the show might have been the most consistent of the stories in the episode. Set in Mayan times, Homer is about to be sacrificed but Marge saves him, thus dooming the Earth to destruction in … 2012.

The next segment, about the creation of a black hole (“Can we call it that?” Homer asks in a stage whisper) that swallows most of Springfield and transports it to an alien planet where the aliens worship everything that’s worthless. Good premise, funny visuals, totally flat punchline.

A parody of the “Paranormal Activity” movies follows and ends with Homer on the receiving end of a demon-Homer-demon threesome. Ugh. The only good part of the segment? Timelapse video, taken overnight like the “Paranormal” movies, of Homer peeing. And peeing. And peeing.

And peeing.

The final segment has Bart traveling through time, ala “Back to the Future,” meeting his parents when they were young. There’s a nice callback to Artie Ziff, the rich young nerd/suitor of Marge.

What I miss about the annual “Treehouse of Horror” episode:

The gravestones. I loved the ironic and sarcastic tombstones that the “camera” drifted past as episodes opened.

Kang and Kodos. Everybody’s favorite aliens are glimpsed at one point. But I sure wanted  more.

The wrap-arounds and introductions. Remember how earlier episodes had wrap-around framing devices? And that introduction that had Marge taking the stage to parody the introduction to the original “Frankenstein?”

Is it too simple to say … the funny stuff?

‘Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie:’ Totally in your face

Leave it to “The Simpsons” to have the final word on adding unwanted — and hated — characters to a TV show.

I’m talking about Poochie, the “proactive” and “totally in your face” canine added to the show-within-a-show, “Itchy and Scratchy,” in the eighth season of “The Simpsons,” way back in 1997 (!).

It was far from the “worst episode ever.”

As the show opens, Krusty the Clown and Rogers Meyers Jr., the creator of “Itchy and Scratchy,” are trying to re-invigorate the ratings for the show. A network type has the idea of adding a character because we’ve seen how well that works (Cousin Oliver on “The Brady Bunch,” any character Ted McGinley played on various sitcoms).

After a frustrating round of focus groups with kids who don’t know what they want, Meyers and company add Poochie, a dog. But not just any dog. He’s a “surfer dude,” complete with board, sunglasses and attitude.

Inevitably, Homer auditions for the role of Poochie’s voice and debuts in an episode in which Itchy and Scratchy pick Poochie up along the road on their way to a fireworks factory.

As Poochie raps and poses and dunks basketballs to heavy metal guitar riffs, the audience gathered in the Simpsons’ living room grows restless.

“When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?” a frustrated Milhouse whines.

The introduction of Poochie is a disaster, with even Kent Brockman weighing in, noting that kids won’t be sad when the canine is “put to sleep.”

Meyers decides to kill Poochie off on the cartoon, but Homer insists on recording a heartfelt bit of dialogue first.

Meyers and the crew appear to be touched. But when the episode airs, instead of Homer’s moving words, Poochie simply announces he must return to his planet. The animation cel bearing his likeness is crudely pulled upwards and out of view.

Then a slide appears:

Ah, Poochie. We hardly knew ye.

Other highlights:

This was the episode that introduced the catchphrase “Worst. Episode. Ever,” intoned by Comic Book Guy. The show’s writers have some fun by having the geeky character declare he will be hurrying to the Internet to air his complaints.

Homer and the voice actress who performs Itchy and Scratchy make a personal appearance at the Android’s Dungeon. In a riff on the “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which William Shatner is asked insane questions about “Star Trek” episodes, a nerd in the audience asks about a mistake in an “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoon.

The show features a fun in-joke as the Simpsons also get a new character, Roy, who moves in with the family. By the end of the episode, Roy is out the door.

Troy McClure makes another appearance. The ham actor, voiced by the sadly missed Phil Hartman, also auditions for the voice of Poochie. “I’m Troy McClure. You may know me from such cartoons as ‘Christmas Ape’ and ‘Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp.'”

 

‘The Simpsons’ marks 500 episodes

“The Simpsons” reached its 500th-show milestone tonight, in case you’ve been living off the grid for a while now and haven’t heard.

As has been the case since the mid-90s, the episode was pretty hit-and-miss. There were some funny moments, but all too often in recent years the show seems to trade clever for crude. (More on that later.)

The plot: The entire town of Springfield, tired of the antics of Homer and the clan, decides to exile them from town. The Simpsons leave Springfield and stumble across some folks “living off the grid” and decide to give it a try.

There were some nice touches. The opening credits ended with a montage of hundreds — maybe 500; I sure couldn’t count them all — opening credits couch gags.

The show, as it often does, took a shot at its network home.

Midway through the show, the newly off-the-grid Simpson family recreated their opening credits at their new rural location. The family assembles in the living room and, instead of watching TV, they’re watching a fox sleeping on a rock.

“I’m sick of watching Fox,” Homer complains.

The episode also contained what might be the dirtiest joke I’ve ever heard on TV.

When someone acknowledges that Springfield is full of jerks, Lenny (I think it was Lenny) says, “Want me to spray some of my Jerk Off on you?”

Other good jokes:

Moe, the proprietor of Moe’s Tavern, sets up shop in a cave. The name: Moe’s Cavern.

Chief Wiggum’s acknowledgement: “I’m not the sharpest pencil in the … pencil thing.”

‘The Simpsons’ approaching 500th episode

We’ve been watching a lot of episodes of “The Simpsons” in my household lately. Not new episodes, but classics from old DVD collections.

My son has discovered the show and is currently obsessively watching the fifth season which, I’m startled to realize, aired several years before he was born.

I haven’t watched “The Simpsons” in years. As I’ve noted previously in this blog, I think the show ran out of steam somewhere around the 10th season. The few episodes I’ve seen in the past decade seemed cheap and obvious.

The fifth season, currently in “play all” mode at my house, was a whole different story.

Consider this: Bill Clinton was president and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was still just an awful movie and had not yet become a classic television series.

But “The Simpsons” was at a creative peak.

The episodes of that fifth season included:

“Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” in which Homer, Apu and Skinner form a chart-topping pop music group and even beat Dexys Midnight Runners for the Grammy award. Don’t worry, Homer assures, we haven’t hear the last of them.

“Cape Feare,” in which Sideshow Bob gets out of jail and vows revenge on Bart. It all ends up at Terror Lake, where Bob finally catches up with his tormentor … after stepping on dozens of rakes.

“Homer Goes to College,” in which Homer thinks the mean old dean from “Animal House” is typical of college administrators.

“Bart’s Inner Child,” in which a self-help guru advises the town of Springfield to “be like the boy,” “Boy Scoutz N the Hood,” in which Homer ruins a perfectly good father-and-son rafting trip and Ernest Borgnine proves himself more than a match for a bear, “Bart Gets an Elephant,” which introduces Stampy; and so many more.

“The Simpsons” is quickly becoming one of the longest-lived shows on TV, despite threats that come up every few years when the wonderful voice cast asks for a raise and Fox says the show isn’t making enough money to be able to afford it.

The show’s 500th episode is set to air Feb. 19 and I might tune in. I want to enjoy the show like I did when acid-washed jeans were all the rage. I’m afraid both are cultural icons whose time has passed, though.