Sunday, January 08, 2006

Nothing's Ever as Good as it Used to Be

After watching one of the new episodes of "The Simpsons" tonight I was left feeling rather empty. I know, I'm about the last person at the door to the "The Simpsons aren't funny anymore" club, but here we finally are.

Cheat notes on the episode is that homer gets an old piece of mail that was supposed to be for his mother in 1968 from someone claiming to be the father of her unborn child. (Noting the passage of time, this would make Homer 19 years old when the series started on the Tracy Ullman Show.) Of course he turns out to be much more interesting, rich, adventurous and fatherly than Abe Simpson, and we have all the usual random event causing some kind of crazy adventure, before everything works itself out in the end.

What was missing was the freeze-frame fun that you used to get from signs on walls or above doors, or credits and disclaimers on television, or really any subtlety whatsoever. There was very little to look at in Homer's new father's house that wasn't mentioned explicitly in the dialog.

What it felt like was the voice cast getting together to improv a story around one new character and a basic plot twist, with the game being to have everything wind up back the way it started. They even did the unthinkable and stole a hidden sunken treasure-seeking adventure bit from "Family Guy" (*spit*) When you're down to lifting bits from a show who's only contribution to the world of animated comedy is a way of drawing characters falling down really fast then you know you've hit rock bottom.

From what I've read of the production process of an episode of "The Simpsons" it sounds like such a smoothly-running machine now that the writers and producers and voice actors can just phone in their bits and everything gets assembled in South Korea and packaged back as a slick-looking episode. Whatever condition of being under a creative gun that inspired writers or directors to insert some subtle hint of a joke in the background of a scene just isn't there anymore.

I can't blame them for keeping it going, though. The whole operation is one big ATM for the people involved. I just think Matt Groening should take his name off of the show in protest.
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By al - 11:13 p.m. |

Nothing is ever as good as you hoped.
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