Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Big Picture: "The Simpsons Is Still Funny - Part II"


Will said...

I wouldn't say the Simpsons were an ABSURDIST parody. The jokes always demonstrated both clear target and purpose, with the punchlines being self-explanatory rather than anti-explanatory, a la Monty Python.

Also, I follow your argument and agree that's what happened - the characters adopting magnified characteristics of their own personas - I don't agree that it was a requirement for The Simpsons to carry on existing. By the time the internet rolled around - where you said the major change occurred - the simpsons family wee already totally established. The characters didn't need to magnify, they just needed to continue.

And it isn't even like that's what's happened, anyway. The sad thing is, none of the Simpsons even HAVE characteristics anymore. They don't even fill the "everyman" roles designed for them. They're simply vehicles for jokes. Which theoretically could work - The Bluths were just vehicles for different TYPES of humour - the fact is the jokes simply fall flat.

I watch an episode of the Simpsons where Homer becomes a union boss - I don't relate. I wasn't old enough to have seen that story before, and my only other TV experience with unions is the Sobotka storyline on The Wire (easily the most overlooked achievment of the show), but it's still funny.

I watch the 90's episode of the simpsons (I apologise for the tired, reused example), which I LIVED THROUGH, and do relate. The thing is, even though I relate... The jokes just aren't good.

Keep on trucking, Bob. You internet hero.

akkuma420 said...

@Bob. I know it's your opinion and all, but I don't think its been any good since season 9 imo.

Wendy said...

That's more thinking than I would have ever bothered using on the Simpsons.

Still funnier than Family Guy

smile said...

Interesting theory. Please pay attention to the words I chose to write. Interesting theory doesn't necessarily mean it's the RIGHT theory.

Mike Scully ruined The Simpsons.

Anonymous said...

your favorite episodes are very old episodes

Sylocat said...

In a way, Bob, you almost seem to make the "cancel it" argument for them. The show has long outlived its original purpose, and its original usefulness. It has become a parody of itself, moreso than a parody of anything else.

As you mentioned, this probably had more to do with the fragmenting of pop culture than with the show itself (although, whether Scully was responsible or not, the show did sag under his tenure). But, while that's too bad, it happened.

And while it's nice that they still attract good writers (though on rarer occasions than before), perhaps those good writers should ply their trade on more interesting shows. There are loads of struggling shows out there, with more potential.

Elessar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dav3 said...

Bob, you ignorant slut. (tired joke, I know)

I've been stewing over this since I saw the title of part 1 last week. I could probably write a book about this subject, but I've tried to condense it into 2 main points.

1. The Simpsons today delivers the funny with no greater frequency or intensity than the average 30-min sticom, animated or otherwise. I don't think that qualifies as "still funny", because it simply isn't as funny as it used to be.

2. I think the show's decline has little to do with a changing audience, and more to do with it's age. The natural fact is that everything declines over time, and in the case of The Simpsons, the decline can be linked to the dismantling of the staff that made it great.

Your own top-5 list has episodes credited to 5 different producers, 6 different writers, and 5 different directors, and I'm not even counting "22 short films..." which basically involved everbody on the staff at the time.

Unfortunately, only about half of those people still work on the show. Once the show became a hit, lots of The Simpsons staff left to do shows of their own.

Al Jean and Mike Reiss left to make The Critic.
Greg Daniels created King of the Hill with Mike Judge.
Jay Kogen moved on to Frasier and Everybody Loves Raymond.
And, of course, there's Conan O' Brien.

The same thing happened with the animation directors.
Wes Archer also went on to King of the Hill.
David Silverman and Jim Reardon went on to Pixar, and, like Conan, Brad Bird became Brad Bird.

The list is almost endless, but I have one more name worth mentioning: Phil Hartman. I think his untimely death had a subtle, yet severe effect on the entertainment level of the show. Even though he was mainly responsible for just 2 characters, Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure were both abslutely vital to every episode they appeared in, and their absence is painfully apparent.

By seasons 10-11-12, the show had simply faded from "as good as it can be", to "as good as it needs to be", and that's the big difference to me.

And as far as Mike Scully ruining the show, I think he's in the same category as Herbert Hoover, he wasn't exactly the cause of the problem, he just happened to be in charge when everything went to hell.

Elessar said...

Well, while I don't agree, I don't feel like arguing with you, cause I see where you're coming from. Instead, I'll just join you in the list (although, if we were allowed to individual segments, instead of entire episodes, I'm sure my list would contain Homer Cubed and the Homega Man). Runner up goes to Homer's Barbershop Quartet (What? I like The Beatles).

Cape Feare
Treehouse of Horror I
Homer's Enemy
Treehouse of Horror V
You Only Move Twice

Dav3 said...

One more thought.

If I tried to make a list of my 5 favorites, I'd have 30 episodes, but I always say "Who Shot Mr. Burns" is number 1 by default because it's twice as long. It's a good mystery, it features almost every character and they all have pretty well developed storylines.

Aqua said...

Hah hah hah, Bob thinks Adventure Time is better. What a maroon.

Maniacal Fox said...

Can't people just admit to liking something no one else likes with no other reason than they just do? I mean seriously, for example, I know Hercules isn't a good movie, but I still like it just 'cause. Nothing deep behind that at all.

Anonymous said...

Gotta say the recent "The Book Deal" episode is top 5.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the guy who posted the long 17th comment on your last TBP Simpsons video.

You hit the mark here, Bob. However, the fact that you don't realise that this very subject you're talking about is what made The Simpsons bad explains so much about some of the schlock you seem to like *coughSUCKERPUNCHcough*.

You see, the characters no longer being parodies of tv archetypes means they no longer have character. Homer is the every-dad... so when the every-dad ceases to be, so does Homer. That's the big issue here, is that around the 9th season, the characters stop being characters and become pictures that try to make you laugh. They no longer have depth. And once the characters become just figures that serve to make me laugh, I no longer have any interest in them.

You see, it's a lot like stand-up comedy. You have set-ups, and pay-offs. The characters used to be the de facto set-up for a joke. You could make someone laugh by appealing to Homer's characteristics and exploiting them for better or for worse. Now you can't do that because Homer doesn't have any characteristics.

But more than that, without the cartoon having any characters, you're left with no opportunity to impact the audience on an emotional level. Go ahead, look in the past 10 seasons and try to find a moment as touching as changing the sign Mr Burns put up in Homer's office to "Do it for her." You can't, because since then we no longer care about the characters because they no longer have any character.

It's basic story-telling. Make the audience care and we will be willing to invest emotionally (be it with laughter or tears or goosebumps). The myriad of movies you've given positive reviews to that tend to not be critical darlings almost always suffer by not doing this.

powerman said...

I always had a thing for the Halloween episodes.

Dominic said...

My problem with new Simpsons is simple: there's no heart. The show seems petrified of making Marge weep with heartwarming relief over Bart's heartfelt gesture in "Marge Be Not Proud", or ending an episode with Homer giving Lisa a piggy-back ride to the strains of Paul McCartney's "Baby I'm Amazed". It's priding itself more and more on unrelenting absurdist parody as opposed to absurdist parody with occasional gravitas or subdued, dialogue-driven simplicity, like it's afraid the ship will sink otherwise. It's trying so hard to keep the jokes flying that I honestly just cannot watch it comfortably.

counterpoint said...

steamed clams? no, i said steamed HAMS

DrMuganda said...

I think the problem with bob is that he is such a basement-locked nerd that he lacks any real-life experience with social or family life and thus the simpsons are an absurdist parody of sitcoms to him and not a bittersweet satire of american family life.
Bob simply has not known any family-life, except for what the tv has fed him.
That's the tragic thing about those 3 vidoes he put out.