Monday, January 14, 2013

Episode 10: A Test Before Trying

Okay for those of you who wondered what I was complaining about in the animation from last week's episode, it was the ketchup on the guy's face. It seemed like there was a keyframe issue on the layering of the ketchup and mustard. It didn't match up well when the guy was laughing and if you look at his wrinkles, it's quite noticeable. I brought that up because it's one of the many reasons I hate the computer animation, it allows them to be completely lazy, just add a new layer onto the animation and hope it syncs up with the layer below it as opposed to drawing each frame guaranteeing that it looks fluid. But you know what? My knowledge of animation is next to nothing so I might be nitpicking, but give the video another shot and see it from that perspective.

Anyways, we have an episode where a Simpson child can be responsible for raising standardized test scores for Springfield Elementary... gee that sounds totally original. You know what? Originality flew out the window with dignity and respect years ago, at this point it's simply trying to avoid screwing up what they have today, so let's see how bad they fail today.

Opening sequence: 2:27 Dear God that dragged, an opening sequence should not be more than 10% of your run time. I hate couch gags like these simply because they miss the point of the short "Simpsons find a creative way to sit on couch" gag

The episode begins with Kent Brockman reporting about Mr. Burns making his annual rate hike announcement as Brockman decides to narrate everything that's going on when Burns reaches the podium (SHOW, don't tell. First scene and you screw up so badly). So at the press conference (With all of what appears to be less than 50 random people... why bother mentioning it on the news if there isn't even going to be a cameraman there to report it. Oh right, bringing logic here again, proceed) so Burns announces that he'll decide the increase by choosing an accountant with a random percentage on their back with a system, by releasing the hounds on them (Okay I did find this joke to be amusing, kudos). So the dogs pick 17% and Burns gets rid of everyone by releasing gas on them (Okay, curve ball. Not bad, making up for lost ground by that long-ass couch gag). So after a few scenes of people cutting back on electricity, we cut to school where the faculty has a meeting where Chalmers informs them that not all the schools can stay open and there will be standardized tests to determine which will remain open with the lowest scoring school closing forever (You know, considering how piss poor other episodes do at informing the audience what the hell we should be focusing on, I do have to give credit to this episode so far. Granted there have been the stupid joke here and there, but so far, it's okay).
Confound these writers, they've driven me to smoke
So Homer goes to the dump to drop off the electronics as he finds a parking meter and decides to take it home (*Sigh* I had such high hopes for the episode, now we've got a combination of Lisa Gets an A and Lisa's Date With Density). So the test proctors arrive to the school (All menacing and such, geeze, talk about overboard) where we then see the students taking the test that's accompanied by the theme from Halloween (Again, way too overboard for this right now). So the main proctor (Does she have a name?) tells Skinner and Chalmers that their school had the worst scores in the state and they're basically screwed (Oh and I also don't care for her voice at all. Really bland and uninspired to me). So the school gets shut down, uninteresting jokes are made (Even Lisa cannot escape this) and Bart reveals that he never took the test and Lisa realizes that he can take the test and alter the average (Well that would require the testers to even allow Bart to take the test and even if they did, as a person whose taken multiple courses in statistics, the weight of the hundreds of students would only allow a difference of average about plus/minus 0.006% which seems unlikely unless the writers can pull stuff out of their asses, oh wait...)
Willie: No, FOX does not own the rights to Schindler's List so we're not sorting you guys that way
Bart is allowed to take the test the next day and Skinner bargains with Bart to try to do well (Well if canon has taught me anything, Bart studying his ass off for a test to prevent him from repeating the fourth grade was almost a failure so of course the writers will forget completely about that). So Homer begins his dumb scheme with a montage of him placing the meter around town and collecting money from suckers (Oh goody, montage...). So the next day, Bart prepares to take the test as he reveals to Skinner that he's not ready. Bart then convinces Skinner to give him some more time, so Skinner pulls the fire alarm. We resume Homer's subplot where he watches the news at the exact time where Brockman is reporting about a rogue parking meter (Oh and the title of the story is "Meter Madoff". How long have you been holding that pun in?)  Oh by the way, Channel 6 news now has no problem paying the electric bill nor does anyone else for that matter... it's like they wrote that plot but forgot about it 5 minutes in, but that would be silly. So we see Bart slacking off some more and Lisa berates him for it (Again, I refer to Bart Gets an F for proof that Bart can be motivated to study and try his best).
You see this is what happens when you try too hard to make something look imperfect
So Bart has a dream where because of his failure, everyone becomes really dumb and Springfield is horrible, as he wakes up, he informs Lisa that he wants to pass the test and he needs her help (Well considering this is the first time he's expressed said interest, I'm going to call bull). After a pointless scene between Marge and the proctor (Seriously, why was that scene even included?) we see Homer dragging the meter around until Wiggum attempts to arrest him. Homer escapes, bad dick joke, and the meter gets destroyed thus ending the boring subplot (YAY!) So we cut back to Bart studying at 3 in the morning as Lisa gives him a bit of advice (Okay, another joke I have to give credit for). So Marge asks Homer about the quarters and she forces him to toss them into a wishing well... Why is Homer so okay with this? Who wrote this tripe? So Bart takes the test as the last question is answered by a bug in his shirt (Oh I forgot to mention this, Bart missed the test because he was messing with this bug, I didn't mention it because their attempt to tie it into the plot is so contrived and stupid). Bart passes causing the average to rise (Must be cartoon statistics) ad the bug circles the globe to the Superman theme (Just because you HAVE the license to the theme doesn't mean you need to use it). So the episode ends with some attempt at connecting Marge with the proctor again (Again, pointless), the playground being happy and joyful as Skinner is miserable in his broken down office and a dumb joke question about stealing a parking meter. Oh and apparently this episode was dedicated to Huell Howser.

Final Thoughts: To be honest I don't exactly know what to make of this episode. Sure it had some good moments, but it also was plagued with the normal Zombie Simpsons problems as well, it's a mixed bagged episode. Honestly this episode was better than I thought it'd be, but as you know, my expectations are rather low. It didn't really feel like it dragged too much as looking back, outside of the opening sequence, the flow was rather decent. I guess in short, by Zombie Simpsons standards, it's above average, but in terms of Simpsons standards, it's forgettable and mediocre.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Episode 9: Homer Goes to Prep School

Still obsessing over the Mayan Apocalypse that never happened? Seriously, this show jumped on that bandwagon and rode it so hard, I'll go into more detail in the midseason report card. But what better choice for a lame, uninspired idea of an episode than to have it written by the ever talented Brian Kelley... I do hate myself at times.

Opening Sequence: 1:04 Not much to really say, it's just a standard opening sequence at this point.

The episode begins with Homer driving the family to an "Educational" place where the kids (And Homer) are upset. Now I'm not entirely sure about his, but I swear the joke they write for Homer is reused, I just can't remember the episode. However, when they go in, it becomes a fun place and thus everyone (Sans Marge) is happy. After a barrage of unfunny jokes (Seriously, it's like the writers just stockpiled these jokes and couldn't figure out any episode to put them in so the just dumped them into this one) Homer has to look over Bart and Lisa playing as so many kids and things just happen to look like Bart and Lisa. I guess the joke in that scene was... actually I got nothing, nothing about that scene was funny in the slightest. So after some filler that results in Homer getting pelted by foam balls and falling over a tall structure (Which causes no injuries whatsoever. Heck even cartoons like Loony Toons showed that there were effects from those types of actions.) We see Homer walk into a room where all the dads are using their phones for texting and whatever else the writers think is topical because they need to appeal to 12 year olds. Okay I usually don't make a point about this and this has nothing to do with Brian Kelley's awful writing (Although that element is in this episode) but the animation in this episode is really sub par. It just looks terrible at points, two examples right now are Wiggum and Rainier Wolfcastle, they both are off model and just look like amateur knock offs. When you can't even draw your own characters right, there's something wrong.
As we can see, Chief Wiggum has been abducted by aliens

And here we see that Rainier got a nose job
So a kid escapes the place and thus it goes into lock down causing all the women to panic... until Marge saves the day by having the women talk about their childbirths. Given that Brian Kelley wrote this, I'm shocked that he didn't have them gossip about their neighbors or talk about shopping. We then cut to the fathers as chaos and anarchy has broken out and they are all trying to kill each other. You know, considering that all they were doing a minute ago was texting/web browsing/playing phone games, I'm surprised they even noticed the place was locked down. Oh, by the way, before we proceed. Do you notice what's wrong with this scene? I'll give you some time to think about it.
video
So after more throwaway jokes, Rainier (Now with a different nose) throws Homer and they all escape the room. Homer suddenly imagines them all as apes because he "realizes" that deep down everyone is a savage ape... You're joking, right? This is honestly one of the most convoluted, bullshit start ups to an episode and considering that Act 1 is basically a throwaway act to the writers nowadays, that's saying something. The buildup to this is virtually nonexistent and Homer of all people being the wimp during chaos and anarchy really goes to show how little the writers actually care about previously established character traits.
Let's play a game; I call it "What's funny about this?"
So the next day, Homer goes outside but sees everyone as apes and after seeing Ned, he runs back inside where he slams the door on Ned's head (Because assault is totally the same thing as envy. I mean even in When Flanders Failed, Homer admitted that wishing Ned's death was too far. With the way this episode is going, I half expect Homer to kill anyone he sees). Later, Homer goes to Moe's Tavern where he laments how civilization can sometimes be without order, suddenly a guy appears at the end of the bar to tell Homer that he can help him (Effort? What's that?!) So after an attempt at a joke, the man (Not yet named) basically tells Homer that America will soon crumble because anarchy will spread (Never explains WHY anarchy will spread, my guess is that the staff just couldn't let the Mayan Apocalypse thing go but couldn't fit this before December 21). So Homer is shown a generic "Civilization will end for no adequately explained reason" video and suddenly he is convinced that this stranger is right. I can tell you right now what the problem with this episode will be; It tries to satirize delusional people who think the world's ending tomorrow but it takes itself way too serious and fails to actually satirize anything.
Hey there barfly, nice to see you here
HEY! Stop being invisible
Anyways, after Homer and guy leave (With the barfly vanishing, consistency, who needs that? Okay seriously, I'm getting sick and tired of that line, but the animators make it so easy) they head on over to Herman's military store where we see a bunch of random people together because unlike They Saved Lisa's Brain, no character outside of Herman makes sense for this group. By the way, before I stray away from this, Herman  looks really out of place, maybe it's the art style in the fact that he hasn't made an important appearance in the HD era, or maybe it has to do with his PINK hair (Seriously, I don't know what color that is exactly, but it sure as hell is not brown).
It's Herman... I guess
Anyways, the group asks Homer what he'd do in the event of an emergency and predictably, Homer doesn't know. They tell Homer that they want him to learn survival skills and join them for the eventual civilization meltdown (Why Homer? Because the writers are hacks and have no original ideas). They tell Homer not to tell anyone else because they don't want to allow in the "Unprepared" (Remember this folks, because the writers sure as hell won't). So after about 2 minutes of unfunny filler, the group tells Homer that he can join them at their compound when society collapses (Okay, where's the satire? Where are the funny jokes? Anything? No? Aww...) Anyways, Homer tells Marge about what's going on and she basically says what we're all thinking; Homer is a nut job and should not be taken seriously (Too bad the writers didn't seem to take that advice). So later, Homer is watching some video at work about survival on MyTube (UUUGGGHHHH) all the while, a reactor goes off and emits an EMP, effectively screwing over all of Springfield. The video Homer watches is exactly what I'm talking about when I'm talking about satire, that's the perfect opportunity to make fun of survivalist, but instead they play it straight and thus when they attempt any satire later down the line it just doesn't work.
Quimby: People, we have preserved through much worse shit on this show, we can manage
Oh and the scene where all the electronics go out just sucks, the jokes aren't funny and it goes on a scene or two too long. I know that sounds like nitpicking, but that extra scene or two can disrupt the flow of a joke. So Quimby informs the town that an EMP has knocked out everything in Springfield and he has no plans on how to fix it (Gee I wonder if they'll actually do anything with this concept or if they'll just fix it all offscreen like a lazy hack would). So Homer gathers his family (In his rather well-lit house I may add. So what, was their house not affected? Is the sun really that bright? Or are the animators really that lazy?) and he arrives at the compound which has electricity of its own (Oh and Grampa is strapped to the roof of the car, we never see him again so chalk that up as just more laziness). So later Marge tells Homer that she's disappointed that he turned his back against everyone else to save his own ass from the end of civilization... okay, why is Marge saying this? There's been no chaos or destruction as far as we can see. Nobody's approached the compound with Homer telling them to piss off. This is a case of "Show, don't tell" where the character feel the need to tell the audience that Homer is bad when none of the actions so far have indicated that he is. I stated earlier that Homer was a complete jerkass in this episode, but right now, Marge is being a complete ditz, her actions in The Simpsons Movie made sense because Homer actively ignored Springfield and betrayed Marge, here, we got nothing. Right now I have no likable characters to root for, so at this point, I'm just hoping that they shoot each other over the last bag of grain. Okay, long story short, Homer decides to take the supplies back to Springfield where surprise, surprise, the town is back to normal (Fixing stuff offscreen to achieve status quo? That totally doesn't sound like a rush job by the writers at all). So the episode ends with a force as all hell message about how society may be imperfect, but it's better than a hate filled new one (Fill in the blanks: Go f_ck yo_rselves) and suddenly an asteroid filled with zombies is heading for Earth... WHU?!

Final Verdict: This is a Brian Kelley episode alright, that's all you need to know. Unfunny, stupid and just plain painful to watch. Like I mentioned earlier, the setup for this episode is just awful and completely irrelevant. I didn't laugh once at the jokes in this episode, for as much as I bash the newer episodes, I can usually find one or two jokes that make me snicker, not here. The satire is nonexistent and their weird obsession with the apocalypse is just jarring. And the animation in this just feels lazy at points. Why this man is still employed I haven't the foggiest, then again Michael Bay is allowed to direct Transformers 4 (OMG TOPICAL REFERENCE THAT WON'T MAKE THIS POST STALE IN A FEW YEARS!11!!) so I guess that's not the worst thing in Hollywood. In short, this was terrible and a new contender for worst of the season.