The Weekly Simpsons Watch (next up, Venture!)

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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by c_nordlander » Tue Sep 01, 2015 9:38 am

Agree on 2Cars3Eyes. I love pretty much all Mr. Burns-centric episodes, and this is a good one even among those.

"Dancin' Homer": it struck me that it and "Bart Gets Famous" have essentially the same resolution: a character gets popular and then, just like that, they're not popular any more. Watching the show as a teen, I could never really relate to that. I've always suspected that those storylines are one of the fears of showbiz people (in this case, the writers on a meteorically popular cartoon for adults), and don't really speak to the mindset of an ordinary Joe Boxfolder. Maybe the episodes were even some sort of ritual to exorcise that fear.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by SirMustapha » Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:57 pm

c_nordlander wrote:Watching the show as a teen, I could never really relate to that. I've always suspected that those storylines are one of the fears of showbiz people (in this case, the writers on a meteorically popular cartoon for adults), and don't really speak to the mindset of an ordinary Joe Boxfolder. Maybe the episodes were even some sort of ritual to exorcise that fear.
I think you're on to something. It's been a while since I watched Bart Gets Famous, but I think they were very self-aware in that episode, and clearly talking about themselves (especially in the ending, when all the show's catchphrases are spoken in a few seconds). I could even say they were predicting the downfall of their own show. Amazingly it didn't happen, but if the show had taken the steep decline they were predicting, they could have said "eh, we knew that would happen, that's how showbiz is!". It strikes me more as (justified) cynicism than fear. But Dancin' Homer, yeah, that didn't look cynical. I know they were going for a small city/big city conflict in that, in which the Simpsons "Learn Their Place", but you're right, it's the same story, and it looks a lot more like the product of anxiety, the "we're good but no one likes us" kind of anxiety.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by gkscotty » Fri Sep 04, 2015 8:41 pm

Tomorrow, the watch is Dead Putting Society and Bart vs Thanksgiving!

I've been especially looking forward to the first one.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by SirMustapha » Mon Sep 07, 2015 12:35 pm

So, answering the (non-existent) requests, my opinions. This may have been my favourite watch so far. I especially liked how rich in characterisation these episodes were; nearly everyone who showed up in them got a chance to shine.

Dead Putting Society - amazing how an apparently silly and pedestrian plot could produce such great results. Part of that is the contextualisation: just look at how much time is devoted to establishing why Homer and Ned got into the competition (well, got their kids into the competition, but you know what I mean). Some other cartoon would probably give 3 brief minutes tops to explain the set-up, but The Simpsons painstakingly builds the tension, even letting Ned Flanders break his "character", and giving us some nice social commentary and hilarious scenes (Marge snickering at Ned's letter is a highlight for me; even though I remembered this episode, it still caught me off-guard). We get some great Bart-Homer dynamics and Bart-Lisa dynamics too, which only adds to the greatness. I remember one article saying Bart's answer to the "sound of one hand clapping" riddle is one of the show's best moments ever, and watching it now, I fully understand that sentiment. Finally, Lisa's line at the end is easily one of her best ever. It's just absolutely Lisa.
Bart vs. Thanksgiving - This was a massive surprise to me. I remembered it only vaguely from the last time I watched it, and I don't recall it being so painfully profound. First off, as I mentioned in chat, the whole first act of the episode was way too realistic for comfort. Exaggerated, of course, but still realistic. I mean, when I think of big family meetings, that stuff is the first thing to come to mind. Also, Bart "helping" Marge and Maggie climbing the stairs were top notch comedy. From the second act on, it's of course silly to talk about "realism", but the drama and the psychological study of the kids was just gut-wrenching. I love how both Bart and Lisa were taken to comedic extremes, without dropping the dramatic edge or the emotional ground. We never stopped feeling the pathos of either Lisa or Bart situation, and none of the joke dared to sacrifice that. And the ending? Sheer sweetness. I like how the "rushed" pace of the ending on the roof didn't feel wrong, because, after all, they're kids. When I was a kid, apologies rarely took more than a few seconds. It just felt right. Finally, major points for Bart's "nightmare" sequence. Not only it probably struck a chord with anyone who was ever a child, but it was amazingly well executed; the writing, the animation, the acting, everything. I can't imagine a human soul not sympathising with him, regardless of him still being on the wrong. If "Two Cars on Every Garage" was the comedy highlight so far, this was the "family" highlight... if that even makes sense.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by c_nordlander » Mon Sep 07, 2015 12:56 pm

I agree. This is when the show started becoming really good, IMO.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by Nidotamer » Mon Sep 07, 2015 9:02 pm

Forgot I had these lying around! I didn't really know what to do for "two cars..." so I guess BlinkyBurns.

Also thought the Dancin' Homer getup looked a bit like a halfassed Superhero outfit so... yeah.

Thought Dancin' Homer felt a bit... emptyish? I dunno but it felt like not much happened and beyond a few good lines ("hey look kids, street crime!") there didn't really feel like there was a lot to it. Maybe it was just a filler ep?

Not even the slightest complaint about Two Cars... though, favourite scene might have been with Mr Burns in the car. He's still especially villainous in this episode but still a bit human too... a bit. Marge's plan was devilishly great too!


I'll try to have something done in time for Saturday with the previous two but... Mario Maker comes out this week so I don't like my chances.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by c_nordlander » Tue Sep 08, 2015 10:48 am

Nice BlinkyBurns! And Homer looks very on-model.

Plus, I agree with Stretch that your awesome "Bart Gets an F" fanart needs a sign pointing towards sunny Acapulco.
Nidotamer wrote:Thought Dancin' Homer felt a bit... emptyish? I dunno but it felt like not much happened and beyond a few good lines ("hey look kids, street crime!") there didn't really feel like there was a lot to it. Maybe it was just a filler ep?
You put your finger on why I was never a massive fan of the episode. What was actually in it was good (I love the "Capital City" song), it just felt very slow, as if it was one of those unrelated first-act plotlines stretched out to a full episode.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by gkscotty » Fri Sep 11, 2015 10:42 pm

Tomorrow, the weekly Simpsons watch covers Bart the Daredevil and Itchy & Scratchy & Marge!

Excellent.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by Nidotamer » Sun Sep 13, 2015 12:27 pm

Well I've not really got my thoughts together entirely on both of those episodes (and still have yet to deal with sketches...) but I think one little bit I especially liked In Bart the Daredevil was actually the reactions to Homer's infamous trip down Springfield Gorge. Just little background things. The ones I noticed were Wendell looking like he was about to throw up (what's new?) and the twins giggling at Homer's misery while everyone else looked worried/horrified.

Just little things like that which added a little extra character to the scene. Also in cases like this, little cameos like that feel less like a character is mere background dressing and more like they're actually, well, there as well as a little extra thought on the animators' parts. When actually drawing those characters in they put a few seconds into thinking how they would react to the situation rather than just have everybody doing the same things. Love neat little things like that.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by SirMustapha » Sun Sep 13, 2015 3:20 pm

Wow, that was damn well spotted, May. It's indeed amazing that they'd pay so much attention to detail that's only visible for, what, a second at best.

As for my thoughts, I'm actually kind of struggling to come to terms with them.

Bart, the Daredevil: I remember this episode from way back, and I remember not being very impressed with it. But it's not a sub-par episode; in fact, it's exactly because it's on par that it feels kind of boring coming after the gems such as Dead Putting Society. Other than the climax, everything just felt "okay" to me. It feels petty to complain about that, but it feels the first two acts were just killing time to deliver the climax; which, actually, does compensate for everything. What an amazing resolution! As for Homer falling down the gorge, I think it's nice to see how the joke was not Homer getting hurt, but just how far they could stretch the joke before it became unbearable.
Itchy & Scratchy & Marge: ... I think The Simpsons have lost their edge.
No, really. Other than the jokes, this whole episode failed for me. I mean, as far as satire goes, be it social or political, the whole game is about questioning everything people think they know, and putting every assumption in a vice and pressing them until they crack. So how come this episode presents the assumption that "cartoons make kids violent", which is the whole crux of the episode, and never, EVER questions it? Not even once? In fact, the episode goes out of the way to show that the only obstacle in Marge's crusade is the greed and sleaziness of the people in the TV business; and not only that, but the "there was violence before cartoons" point is made into a strawman argument, and not as something worth considering. I think this goes back to what Chris said about Dancin' Homer: this writing reveals more of the writers' own insecurity than of what they think about the world. They seem so obsessed with the idea of losing their FREEDUMS that they have to concoct this entirely absurd scenario just to make their point; and not only that, but making a whole episode where they explain the joke. I think the joke of Itchy & Scratchy was pretty clear to anyone who watched at least one of their shorts; do they REALLY have to go ahead and explain to the viewer what the joke is? Just to prove a point? Finally, in light of all this, the part in the end where the changes to Itchy & Scratchy make children go out and play in this streets is so insincere that not even Beethoven can make it convincing.
Now, I'm not saying the episode was an anti-violence propaganda, as that would have easily backfired (or wasn't Homer falling down a gorge violent enough?), but it's a pretty desperate attempt to relativise the "freedom of expression" discussion and blur the lines even more than they already were. It's a pretty propagandistic episode, to be honest, and this kind of preaching nowadays is more fit for Law & Order than The Simpsons.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by c_nordlander » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:25 pm

The Weekly Simpsons Watch is re-invigorating this forum! I love these discussions. And that is indeed well spotted, May. The animators did their homework.

I always assumed that "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" was satirising the fearmongering about violent cartoons by pretending to accept it and running with it, showing how absurd it is (Maggie trying to kill Homer vs. Beethoven treehouse utopia), which is a valid way of doing satire. But I may well be wrong.

(Still better propaganda than Futurama's "In-a-Gadda-da-Leela", which was essentially "the evil government will take muh pornz!" dragged out to 22 minutes.)
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by Nidotamer » Sun Sep 13, 2015 5:50 pm

Well heh, when your faves happen to be the type where you have to infer almost everything, I suppose you get an eye for the little things. (and not just talking about twins either... maybe I'm drawn to these types of characters :P)

And yeah, when you put it like that, I&S&M does seem quite... off. It might have been how Chris said it, after all, the continued existence of our second favourite cat-and-mouse team (first being Worker and Parasite of course) seems to imply they didn't actually believe that message.

Still, point might have been driven home better if, say, the kids were still acting screwy/violent and Helen & co tried to scapegoat something else (perhaps a classic bit of literature or something) and it's something Marge doesn't see a problem with, perhaps forcing her to admit Meyers had a point or something? Just a thought.

Ah well, seems the next two ("Bart Gets Hit by a Car", "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish") will provide in the funny and feels departments respectively. Though with the latter, it's still edged out IMO by "Old Money"... Actually, it's going a bit ahead but...
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by SirMustapha » Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:17 pm

c_nordlander wrote:I always assumed that "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge" was satirising the fearmongering about violent cartoons by pretending to accept it and running with it, showing how absurd it is (Maggie trying to kill Homer vs. Beethoven treehouse utopia), which is a valid way of doing satire. But I may well be wrong.
That's an interesting way to see it, and maybe I should try watching the episode again with that in mind. Right now, that doesn't quite ring with me. I mean, Maggie's violence wasn't quite exaggerated to the extreme levels the show uses when it wants to make a point; if anything, her violence was glorified with the Psycho reference, and that scene near the end when she shoots Homer's portrait with the suction-gun thing looked more like a veiled threat to the audience than comic relief. Also, I'm pretty sure that the "TV increases violence" argument was seen as perfectly valid in 1991; just look at how games were seen in the 90's, and heck, even in the last decades the media is trying to blame FPS games for school massacres and whatnot. I think the question the episode is posing is "is it right to restrict freedom of speech in the name of safety?", without even questioning whether that question makes sense. Maybe I really went overboard in my criticism on the previous post, but if I'm correct in my assessment, I can at least say that episode is pretty moralistic. Maybe not unenjoyable (I still had some great laughs, and come on, David wearing pants is worth the price of admission alone), but dated.
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by c_nordlander » Sun Sep 13, 2015 8:24 pm

Nidotamer wrote:after all, the continued existence of our second favourite cat-and-mouse team (first being Worker and Parasite of course) seems to imply they didn't actually believe that message.
Fairly certain that any self-referential jokes about cartoon violence aren't about I&S as much as about The Simpsons itself. Itchy & Scratchy usually functioned as a microcosm letting the show deal with reactions to itself, after all.

And I fully agree on your ranking of cat-and-mouse teams!

You and Fernando both make good points.

Regarding Bea and Mindy, I did notice the same last name. Would be funny if they were mother and daughter...
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Re: The Weekly Simpsons Watch

Post by gkscotty » Tue Sep 15, 2015 9:54 pm

Anybody mind if we make this weekend's one on Sunday at the same time? I won't be about on Saturday
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