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Author Topic: Sam Watches The Simpsons  (Read 2098 times)

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Sam Watches The Simpsons
« on: April 28, 2020, 04:06:02 PM »
As if I don't have enough projects already.  :P

Index post.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2020, 04:06:27 PM »
1.01 Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire



Iíd only seen one episode of The Simpsons before I decided to take on the project of watching the show from the beginning. I doubt Iíll stick with the show until the end, mostly because the show may outlive us all, but Iím aiming to reach at least the end of season 9. Even having seen a random episode, I was not prepared for this first episode.

Christmas is almost ruined for the Simpson family when Bart gets a tattoo. Marge pays to have the tattoo surgically removed, spending all the Christmas money Homer saved up all year. Marge is holding out for Homerís bonus check but when itís announced that check wonít be coming this year, Homer decides to secretly take on a side-gig as a mall Santa. Meanwhile Lisa tries to defend her fatherís honor as Margeís sister belittle how little Homer is around during their holiday visit.

Homer threw me for a curveball. I always pictured him as a harmless buffoon, but here heís got a short temper and verbally abusive. By the end of the episode heís a bit more likable as heís spent his time enduring snooty kids to try to give his family a great Christmas.

Bart and Lisa are the two characters that pop off right from the start. Lisa is the brainy one with deep insight (the scene where she sweetly chides her aunts for belittling her dad) and Bart is the kid always getting in trouble (the aforementioned tattoo which starts the whole conflict of the episode).  Marge is sidelined here and doesnít do much of anything, which makes her the least interesting of the quartet of characters.

The animation is a lot cruder than my memory of what Iíve seen. The colors are dull giving it a bad Instagram filter look. Maybe itís poor preservation work or perhaps itís the constraints of a tight budget to make a pilot episode. Iím leaning more towards the latter as the animation cuts corners with a plethora of repeating and reused frames of animation.

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire is an okay episode with a couple of great moments here. Lisa telling off her aunts for digging at her father and Santaís Little Helper show both the funny and sweet side of this show within about a minute of each other. Thereís also the great self-aware moment where Bart talks about how every poor kid gets a Christmas miracle on TV so he expects one as well. This episode shows promise and potential but Iíve got some major reservations already.

1.02 Bart the Genius



Bart cheats on an IQ test and gets placed in a school for smart kids. Initially, the status as a smart kid goes to his head but once among the smart crowd he finds himself even more of an outcast than at a regular school. By the end of the episode he comes clean, admits his cheating and returns to his regular school.

The highlight of the episode is a sequence in which Bart imagines one of those classic ďif a train is headingĒ math problems in his head. Itís a flash of figures and numbers and a great visual treat as it shows how confusing these problems can be by layering on the numbers until it becomes too much.

Iím starting to come around to Homer a little bit more. Iím seeing him now as a self-aware play on the abusive father sitcom archetype. Heís akin to Fred Flintstone although Homer comes across as a lot more harmless. He never physically harms people. Homer is a dog: all bark and no bite.

This episode is humdrum. There arenít too many jokes that stick the landing and the overemphasis on Bart marginalizes the interesting family dynamics which could have been played up since Lisa is an unrecognized genius in her family.

1.03 Homer's Odyssey



I donít have much to say about this episode. Bart takes a field trip to the nuclear power plant Homer works at only to distract his father into causing a disaster. Homer then decides to protest the plant for his own personal reasons but soon becomes a man of the people. Then the owner of the plant Mr. Burns reaches out with a deal.

The introduction of Mr. Burns makes this a notable episode, but the structure of the episode demonstrates sitcoms at their worst. The drama here of Homer not having a job is undercut by having to resolve it all in a 25 minute runtime. It comes across rushed, especially the final couple of minutes of the episodes.

I do recognize that The Simpsons is self-aware of the structures and conceites of television but that doesnít stop it from having the same weaknesses. The perpetual need to return to the status quo by the end means that these arcs come and go way too quickly. Itís one of the reasons I have a hard time getting into the genre. 

1.04 There's No Disgrace Like Home



A family work picnic at Mr. Burnsí house turns into a social nightmare for Homer when the Simpson family embarrasses him in front of his boss. A TV ad inspires Homer to take the Simpsons to family therapy. The only problem is they donít have enough money so Homer sells off the TV so they can go to therapy.

This might be the first great episode of the show. Thereís a lot going on in the 25 minute runtime that explores the nuance of how the Simpson family functions. It starts with Homer witnessing how great all the other families appear to be, demonstrating how comparison is the thief of happiness, starting the arc of Homer trying to solve a problem that may not even exist.

 During therapy, it becomes apparent that everyone blames Homer for their problems. This aggression quickly turns into some great physical gags when the family starts beating each other with foam swords and zapping each other in what is supposed to be an empathy building exercise. Itís surprisingly dark but since The Simpsons is animated, it makes it easy to pull off the violence with exaggerated expressions and unrealistic looking characters.

The episode resolves with a great twist of fate as Homer demands the failed therapist give him double money back guarantee as promised in his ad for a failed session. Now with twice the money in hand, Homer resolves to take things back to normal, only this time the family will end up with a bigger TV. Itís a great inversion of expectations because by the end The Simpsons havenít learned any lesson but Homer ends up as a hero in his familyís eyes.

1.05 Bart the General



Bart finds himself the victim of the school bully when he stands up for Lisa. After taking pounding after pounding, he goes to his family for help only to end up in an army surplus store planning war with his grampa and the store clerk against Springfieldís premier bully. Bart enlists an army of children to help him in his campaign to end the bullyís reign of terror.

The animation team is given another opportunity to flex with a sequence where Bart has a nightmare about the bully. The play on scale and perspective as well as the oblique angles give it a German Expressionism feel and allow for some playful moments that demonstrate how effective animation can be at capturing dreamlike states. Bartís nightmares make for the most creative moments of the show.

Family dynamics also get a moment to shine as Marge and Homer differ on how to deal with the bully. Marge says the bully should be met with care and sympathy and involve adults while Homer says the bully should be beaten by any means necessary. Homer also speaks of the code of the schoolyard. The episode takes it to the extreme, escalating a relatable, everyday situation into a mock war.

This is a solid episode. Itís not as funny as the previous one, but itís tightly structured, has some funny moments of subversion, and plays into the unusual nature of the Simpsons family. War is hell but so is the schoolyard.


1.06 Moaning Lisa



Lisa finally gets her moment to shine. Faced with the troubles of life, Lisa gets a case of the blues. She gets it so bad that she begins playing the blues, much to the annoyance of Homer. Marge tries to be emotionally supportive but draws the line when Lisa goes out in the middle of the night to meet up with some strange street blues singer. Meanwhile, Home tries to defeat Bart in a fighting video game.

Iíve a soft spot for all things blues and jazz so this episode made me smile a lot. As an episode of The Simpsons, itís not the best of the lot but itís definitely one of the better ones of this batch. Moaning Lisa develops both Lisa and Marge as characters and taps into the real problem some kids have of not feeling happy but being told to fake it because of societal pressures from family and friends. Marge and Lisa get some wonderful moments together.

However, it is a bit creepy that Lisa goes and hangs out with some blues playing bum. It helps that weíre in the cartoon world here because no way would this work in a live-action situation without raising a lot of pedophilic vibes. Here, itís played off as friendly and innocuous but still itís weird to see a kid go off in the middle of the night to meet a blues playing stranger.

The subplot with Homer and Bart is entertaining. The actual fighting game makes for some cool animation sequences and it provides most of the humor of the episode because there arenít a lot of laughs to be had when youíre singing the blues. I also love that Homer is the kind of dad who wants to beat his son at a video game to prove heís not an old man. Itís such a relatable yet dumb desire.

1.07 The Call of the Simpsons



Flanders gets an RV, upstaging the Simpsons and making Homer feel inadequate. In a case of keeping up with the Flanders, Homer insists the family gets an RV. In typical Simpsons fashion, it ends up being the worst RV imaginable, barely functional and extremely ugly. The condition of the RV hardly matters because itís not long before the RV is destroyed in spectacular fashion and the Simpsons are left abandoned in the middle of the wilderness.

This episode follows three different plots: the boys ďsurviving,Ē the girls domesticating the wilderness, and Maggie falling in with a group of bears. Each plot thread is fun enough, the Maggie one being the highlight of the episode. Thereís nothing particularly exceptional with each one of these until the final act.

The last act involves Homer being mistaken for Bigfoot by the campers which leads to a massive media zoo as the rumors fly, news coverage goes ballistic, and Homer becomes the source of scientific study and debate as a potential missing link. Itís a nice bit of commentary about how the media turns the dumbest things into a media circus as well as a jab at how dumb Homer is.

The past couple of episodes I noticed an improvement in the animation. There was more creativity in design implemented as well as better drawing and animation. Itís still not the best looking animated show, but it feels passable now.  Iím not finding myself distracted by the animation quality anymore and think it looks good for an animated show given that there were few animated shows aimed at adults during this time.
« Last Edit: April 28, 2020, 06:22:52 PM by Sam the Cinema Snob »

MartinTeller

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #2 on: April 28, 2020, 04:30:23 PM »
Iíd only seen one episode of The Simpsons before I decided to take on the project of watching the show from the beginning.

This... surely this isn't possible?

Yes, season 1 starts out rough. But you've got a good 7-8 seasons of great gags ahead of you. Just keep in mind that at heart it's a sitcom, and the "return to the status quo by the end" is not going to go away.

MartinTeller

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #3 on: April 28, 2020, 04:31:09 PM »
God I just realized I haven't watched a new episode of The Simpsons in twenty years....

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2020, 04:11:38 AM »
I will follow this closely Sam, and I like that the speed seems modest. I have seen a handful of the episodes in S01 and the Bart-centric ones to me were the least funny ones.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2020, 04:52:25 AM »
Iíd only seen one episode of The Simpsons before I decided to take on the project of watching the show from the beginning.

This... surely this isn't possible?
I didn't watch a lot of TV as a kid and my parents wouldn't have let me watch The Simpsons anyways. It wasn't until after college that I started watching TV and catching up with old shows I had missed in the '90s. So 2013 onward.

God I just realized I haven't watched a new episode of The Simpsons in twenty years....
Like I said, the show may outlive us all.

Eric/E.T.

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2020, 05:33:33 AM »
I'm always following, but the popularity of The Simpsons has always evaded me. Ditto with Seinfeld, which I only mention because they form two parts of a three-headed TV love fascination my best friend from Michigan has, and possess forms of comedy that don't register with me. I'm the crazy one, though.
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Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #7 on: April 29, 2020, 05:56:47 AM »
I've never been able to watch a full episode of Seinfeld. The epitome of boring sitcom structure to me. Completely pointless.

jdc

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #8 on: April 29, 2020, 08:40:03 PM »
1.07 The Call of the Simpsons



Flanders gets an RV, upstaging the Simpsons and making Homer feel inadequate. In a case of keeping up with the Flanders, Homer insists the family gets an RV. In typical Simpsons fashion, it ends up being the worst RV imaginable, barely functional and extremely ugly. The condition of the RV hardly matters because itís not long before the RV is destroyed in spectacular fashion and the Simpsons are left abandoned in the middle of the wilderness.

This episode follows three different plots: the boys ďsurviving,Ē the girls domesticating the wilderness, and Maggie falling in with a group of bears. Each plot thread is fun enough, the Maggie one being the highlight of the episode. Thereís nothing particularly exceptional with each one of these until the final act.

The last act involves Homer being mistaken for Bigfoot by the campers which leads to a massive media zoo as the rumors fly, news coverage goes ballistic, and Homer becomes the source of scientific study and debate as a potential missing link. Itís a nice bit of commentary about how the media turns the dumbest things into a media circus as well as a jab at how dumb Homer is.

The past couple of episodes I noticed an improvement in the animation. There was more creativity in design implemented as well as better drawing and animation. Itís still not the best looking animated show, but it feels passable now.  Iím not finding myself distracted by the animation quality anymore and think it looks good for an animated show given that there were few animated shows aimed at adults during this time.

While I probably have not watched this since the early 90ís, this is my most remembered episode.  I canít get the quotes quite right by I paraphrase many of these all the time..
Ď


I like your face.. you have some colour in there
Get em off me get em off me
You ever known a red buzzard to be good, no mr Simpson, the is warning me that I must be insane to sell this to you
You wonít own a better vehicle, I mean it, literally, this is it.
an experienced woodsman like your father.
It has 4 deep fryers, one for every part of the chicken

In the first season there did seem to try to make Homer a good, caring father/husband though he usually failed.
"Beer. Now there's a temporary solution."  Homer S.
ďThe direct use of physical force is so poor a solution to the problem of limited resources that it is commonly employed only by small children and great nationsĒ - David Friedman

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: Sam Watches The Simpsons
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2021, 12:37:18 PM »
Finished season one a few days ago. Season two's opening episode ends with this absolute marvel of a line: "Part of this D minus belongs to God." Magnificent.

 

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