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Monday, February 20, 2012

Deadspin: The Making Of “Homer At The Bat”

How big was this episode:

On Feb. 20, 1992, more American homes tuned into The Simpsons than they did The Cosby Show or the Winter Olympics from Albertville, France. A foul-mouthed cartoon on a fourth-place network bested the Huxtables and the world’s best amateur athletes. Fox over NBC and CBS—its first-ever victory in prime time. New over old.

And how were the players who were on the show:

Showrunner Al Jean has said the players who committed were more than happy to do the show. Well, almost of all of them. “They were all really nice,” Jean said on the DVD commentary, “except for one whose name rhymes with Manseco.”

Mark S. is bored Posted: February 20, 2012 at 08:30 PM | 1075 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: television

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 11:15 PM (#4065211)
While dining at the Millionaires' Club with the owner of the Shelbyville Power Plant, a cocky Burns agrees to a handshake bet worth (you guessed it) $1 million.


Mitt Romney scoffs.

Good to hear Sax made good after finally getting out of jail.

Why Canseco? He was known for being a bad boy, not particularly popular among general fans. Plus, the club needed a left-fielder, and Canseco played right. Just poor GMing by Burns on that one. Rickey would have made that episode epic.
   2. Dale Sams Posted: February 20, 2012 at 11:35 PM (#4065224)
Coaches' inspirational talk is often clichéd gibberish? You bet. Ballplayers sometimes drink too much and get into barroom trouble? Hell yeah, they do. Acute radiation poisoning, cranial gigantism, and pits of eternal darkness? Meet your 2011 Red Sox.


A touch a touch, I do confess!
   3. Ron J Posted: February 20, 2012 at 11:43 PM (#4065226)
#1 The thing is that for all of the kvetching about Canseco, his segment actually works really well. Maybe not quite as clever as the Boggs or Mattingly bits, but still quite good.

I
   4. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 11:53 PM (#4065231)
You tell kids today that The Simpsons used to be funny and they won't believe you.
   5. Mike A Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:00 AM (#4065236)
Great article, and great episode.

And man, am I glad they added the 'Pitt The Elder' vs 'Lord Palmerston' bit. One of my favorite Simpsons moments.

Someday, somewhere, I hope to have a Simpsons internet discussion without hearing 'The Simpsons suck now.'
   6. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:29 AM (#4065251)

You tell kids today that The Simpsons used to be funny and they won't believe you.


The Simpsons has a message for them.

I think the show has bounced back a bit the last 2-3 seasons.
   7. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:45 AM (#4065257)
Oh it isn't like they didn't see this all coming. I think they really did "Moe gets a cellphone."
   8. Gamingboy Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:46 AM (#4065259)
GET RID OF THOSE SIDEBURNS!
   9. Monty Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:52 AM (#4065263)
I think they really did "Moe gets a cellphone."


They decided that was too silly. So instead, Moe got a talking bar towel.
   10. McCoy Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:03 AM (#4065267)
I don't think the Simpsons were ever funny. They had some moments but it was a cartoon sitcom born in an era when a sitcom had to have a message and a lesson and that really kills it for me. I remember when the Simpsons first came out on DVD, I went out and got the first couple of seasons and I found them unwatchable.
   11. Dale Sams Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:06 AM (#4065269)
And SNL hasn't been funny in 40 years!!
   12. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:07 AM (#4065270)
Oh yeah, well I haven't laughed at the TV once since Sgt. Bilko went off the air.
   13. Dale Sams Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:34 AM (#4065276)
I think Strawberry and his "Skip" routine are the best part.
   14. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 02:55 AM (#4065294)
I don't think the Simpsons were ever funny. They had some moments but it was a cartoon sitcom born in an era when a sitcom had to have a message and a lesson and that really kills it for me.


I'm trying to think of the messages and lessons to be gleaned from my favorite episodes. Don't sell your soul to Millhouse? A monorail is a poor civic investment?
   15. UCCF Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:17 AM (#4065300)
I'm trying to think of the messages and lessons to be gleaned from my favorite episodes. Don't sell your soul to Millhouse? A monorail is a poor civic investment?

Lisa needs braces?
   16. Red Menace Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:21 AM (#4065302)
Dental Plan!
   17. AJMcCringleberry Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:02 AM (#4065306)
I'm trying to think of the messages and lessons to be gleaned from my favorite episodes.

Was he really the head of the Kwik-E-Mart?
   18. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:22 AM (#4065309)
I don't think the Simpsons were ever funny. They had some moments but it was a cartoon sitcom born in an era when a sitcom had to have a message and a lesson and that really kills it for me. I remember when the Simpsons first came out on DVD, I went out and got the first couple of seasons and I found them unwatchable.

I think the problem might be that the Simpsons (much like Star Trek: The Next Generation) was absolutely awful in its first season, pretty bad with moments of glory in the 2nd. Seasons 3 to...I don't know...9? are some of the best TV that's ever existed.
   19. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 21, 2012 at 08:42 AM (#4065333)
I think the problem might be that the Simpsons (much like Star Trek: The Next Generation) was absolutely awful in its first season, pretty bad with moments of glory in the 2nd. Seasons 3 to...I don't know...9? are some of the best TV that's ever existed.


This is how I view things.

I would propose that seasons 3 to 8 are the best 6 consecutive seasons of sitcom in TV history.

I stopped buying the DVDs after season 10 because they just weren't worth the money at that point.
I had watched it "live" until about season 14 or so, but then various factors made Sunday night viewing difficult, and it was in the time between regular VCR usage and PVRs for me. I've tried to watch it since (like when they switched over to HD), but I can't get back into it. I'm always comparing it to older classic episodes (Monorail, Softball, B-Sharps, etc) and finding it seriously lacking.
   20. billyjack Posted: February 21, 2012 at 08:52 AM (#4065334)
Thursday nights I think in the 92-93 season had The Simpsons (Fox), and Seinfeld and Cheers on NBC between 8 and 10pm. I forgot what show benefited from being the fourth (in the open slot)... maybe Wings? Plus the shows had the TGIF bonus attached to them... ;o)
Edit at #19: Things aren't as funny on Sunday nights... that's why I rarely laugh during 60 Minutes...
   21. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 09:41 AM (#4065341)

I'm trying to think of the messages and lessons to be gleaned from my favorite episodes


Well kids, you tried and failed spectacularly. The lesson here is - never try.
   22. Blastin Posted: February 21, 2012 at 09:51 AM (#4065343)
"Books are useless! I only ever read one book, "To Kill A Mockingbird", and it gave me absolutely no insight on how to kill mockingbirds! Sure it taught me not to judge a man by the color of his skin... but what good does *that* do me?"
   23. Kyle S at work Posted: February 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM (#4065353)
I still remember being 10 years old, eating dinner at a restaurant and bugging my parents to finish so we could get home in time to watch this episode. I could not _wait_ to see it.

The season 6 "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" cliffhanger was great, also.

I don't watch the Simpsons any more, but it's a truly great show. It doesn't bother me if you disagree, because I know you're wrong :)
   24. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 10:17 AM (#4065354)
While I agree that 3-~8 (I might extend that to about season 10 or so) is just pure Pedro+ peak -- I would also agree that the Simpsons has recovered a bit. I thought the 500th episode was quite solid and the (Christmas?) Lisa and Bart as parents episode was actually quite stellar. The show mainly seems to suffer nowadays when it tries to weave episodes around guest appearances, which is unfortunately, almost every other week.

I will say this - FG has absolutely fallen through the floor into non-watchability... just awful. American Dad has become Sunday's most reliable, to me at least.

Cleveland is tepid, at best.

Napoleon Dynamite is surprisingly watchable.

Bob's Burgers is strangely growing on me -- I don't much care for the parents, but the kids (particularly the Kristen Schaal character) are hilarious.

That awful Jonah Hill debacle... Gregory Allen or whatever... well... I sincerely hope we've seen the last of that thing.
   25. Blastin Posted: February 21, 2012 at 10:20 AM (#4065356)
Allen Gregory is indeed gone.
   26. Booey Posted: February 21, 2012 at 10:27 AM (#4065362)
In my young teenage mind, the two best things about the 90's were the totally underrated golden age of baseball we were witnessing, and the Simpsons. To see them come together for one wonderful evening was just a perfect storm of awesomeness.

I remember when the Simpsons first came out on DVD, I went out and got the first couple of seasons and I found them unwatchable.

I agree with the above posters that you didn't watch the right seasons. Season 1 is very boring, and season 2 isn't that great either with a few exceptions. Seasons 4 and 5 are IMO the greatest two seasons of any show in TV history. If you can watch those and still say you don't like it, well, then I'll concede your point and just say that we have very different tastes on what's funny.
   27. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:01 AM (#4065375)
Allen Gregory is indeed gone.


Angels sing... I'm pretty sure that show was a secret CIA project to breed serial killers.
   28. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:06 AM (#4065381)
I remember when the Simpsons first came out on DVD, I went out and got the first couple of seasons and I found them unwatchable.


Aren't the dvd's about 10 years behind when the seasons aired? A lot of topical humor can be lost after 10 years.
   29. Dale Sams Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:11 AM (#4065389)
Are you all having a Western Animation discussion without mentioning the second best show on TV? Archer? (after 30 Rock)
   30. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:23 AM (#4065404)

Are you all having a Western Animation discussion without mentioning the second best show on TV? Archer? (after 30 Rock)


Surprised it hasn't come up in the Uehara thread since they're discussing terrorists and Canada.

"I'm looking for a terrorist and an ocelot. Not necessarily in that order.'
   31. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:31 AM (#4065414)
I remember when the Simpsons first came out on DVD, I went out and got the first couple of seasons and I found them unwatchable.


Aren't the dvd's about 10 years behind when the seasons aired? A lot of topical humor can be lost after 10 years.


The problem is more that during the first year or two the show hadn't yet worked out what it was trying to do. It started as a show about a rascally kid and then grew into a show more about the dad. Also, the characters voices and appearances were still in flux. It wasn't sure what it was yet. Still a few great episodes.

Around 1995-97 there was a mediocre Mexican restaurant in my town that had Margarita Wednesdays with pitchers for some ridiculously low price. My girlfriend and I would go and sit at the bar for the hour that one of the local stations showed two consecutive Simpsons reruns (6-7 pm, I think). The place had a bartender with a big stringy Jewfro that he'd shaved on the sides, IOW a Sideshow Bob haircut. It was truly magical when we were a pitcher in and the second episode featured Sideshow Bob and Sideshow Bob's doppelganger brought us nachos.
   32. Moloka'i Three-Finger Brown (Declino DeShields) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4065416)
To alcohol -- the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

Also: But I'm using my whole ass!

Haven't seen a new episode in probably 9 years. Haven't enjoyed a new episode since about 1998. Still love anything before then -- Seasons 3-5, especially -- and look back on the first two seasons as awkward but quaint.
   33. AndrewJ Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:32 AM (#4065417)
At this juncture I wouldn't mind if The Simpsons ended and only returned with annual Treehouse of Horror episodes and theatrical movies every 2-3 years.
   34. BDC Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:35 AM (#4065424)
Even before the first season of the Simpsons, the short segments on the Tracey Ullman Show were kind of dull and pointless (and badly drawn). I was a big fan of Matt Groening's Life in Hell cartoons, which depended on a lot of repetition to make a basically melancholy point – and I think initially that kind of humor didn't translate well to TV. When the Simpsons got campier and more manic, more in the idiom of old animation (Itchy & Scratchy shows one inspiration, from Tom & Jerry; Bullwinkle is definitely another), they really took off.
   35. Booey Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:51 AM (#4065437)
Oh, and regarding The Simpsons and baseball, the segment with McGwire was perfect (I'm paraphrasing off memory here, so the words might not be exact).

McGwire: You were right Bart, Major League Baseball is watching you pretty much around the clock.

Bart: But why?

McGwire: Well, I could tell you the terrifying truth...or you could all forget about it and watch me hit dingers!

Everyone: DINGERS!!!!

(Mac cherry bombs a ball and blasts it a mile)


I don't remember exactly when this episode aired (I'm guessing 1998 or 1999), but intentional or not, if you substituted spying with PED use, I think this sums up MLB's and the general public's attitudes towards steroids at the time perfectly.
   36. Nasty Nate Posted: February 21, 2012 at 11:52 AM (#4065439)
I think season 2 deserves inclusion with the peak, and not with the finding-their-feet first season.
   37. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:00 PM (#4065447)
I've been slowly rewatching season 2, and I agree it's somewhat hit and miss. Homer meeting his brother is a true classic. Simpson and Delilah is also pretty good. And of course the election episode with Blinky -- still topical today. Dancin' Homer is pretty cool, as is the Fugu episode.

But I don't really care for the Bart-heavy episodes: Bart Gets an F, Bart vs. Thanksgiving, Bart Gets Hit By Car, Bart's Dog Gets an F, nor was I a big fan of Principal Charming or Homer vs. the 8th Commandment.
   38. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:18 PM (#4065460)
Season 1 is very boring, and season 2 isn't that great either with a few exceptions.


Bullshit soldier. Look, I love the crazy absurd silliwhacks of season 2-6. But seasons 1 and 2 are _human_ stories. They have far more humanity and empathy than the following seasons; they're actually shows about a family, warts and all, as opposed to shows about Crazy McWhackadoo and his Whackadoo Crew (which I love, but it's a different show). They're funny AND touching, which is something missing from the following seasons.
   39. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:36 PM (#4065475)
It's a bit amazing how the seasons blend together post-golden age... but just started walking through seasons 11-current and I gotta say -- there are winners in the post-peak period.
   40. Booey Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:39 PM (#4065478)
Look, I love the crazy absurd silliwhacks of season 2-6. But seasons 1 and 2 are _human_ stories. They have far more humanity and empathy than the following seasons; they're actually shows about a family, warts and all, as opposed to shows about Crazy McWhackadoo and his Whackadoo Crew (which I love, but it's a different show). They're funny AND touching, which is something missing from the following seasons.

Eh. To each their own. I personally thought the show became a lot funnier when they stopped trying to moralize and just tried to be witty instead (and when Homer became the main character rather than Bart).

But I agree about the family part. The people who used to criticize the show (like George and Barbara Bush) and say it's about a dysfunctional family and compare it to shows like say, Married With Children, clearly never saw it beyond a few select clips here and there. Aside from the bizarre situations they get in, I always thought it was a pretty acccurate representation of a typical family. They fought a lot (as opposed to unrealistically squeaky clean family shows like Full House), but they still clearly loved each other and they'd always resolve their disagreements by the end.
   41. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:43 PM (#4065482)
Well, I could tell you the terrifying truth...or you could all forget about it and watch me hit dingers!


Yes indeed.


One of my favorite episodes is the "Springshield" one: "I've had a lot of jobs in my day......[endless list of episode themes]"

"Finally a way to combine my love of helping people with my love of hurting people"

"because that's the kind of guy I am this week"

   42. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:44 PM (#4065485)
Married With Children


Talk about a show ahead of its times.
   43. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:45 PM (#4065487)
Bullshit soldier. Look, I love the crazy absurd silliwhacks of season 2-6. But seasons 1 and 2 are _human_ stories. They have far more humanity and empathy than the following seasons; they're actually shows about a family, warts and all, as opposed to shows about Crazy McWhackadoo and his Whackadoo Crew (which I love, but it's a different show). They're funny AND touching, which is something missing from the following seasons.


Which is why I think the most recent Christmas episode/Lisa and Bart grown-up with kids of their own worked really well... Sure - as with any 'future Simpsons' episode, it's got it's fair bit of 'McWhackadoo' but I think it does have a bit of the touching side to it.
   44. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 12:51 PM (#4065490)
But I agree about the family part. The people who used to criticize the show (like George and Barbara Bush) and say it's about a dysfunctional family and compare it to shows like say, Married With Children, clearly never saw it beyond a few select clips here and there.


I had a fairly religious friend who said she loved the show because it was the only sitcom on TV that actually showed a family going to church.


Which is why I think the most recent Christmas episode/Lisa and Bart grown-up with kids of their own worked really well... Sure - as with any 'future Simpsons' episode, it's got it's fair bit of 'McWhackadoo' but I think it does have a bit of the touching side to it.


The Simpsons were really the anti-"lesson" sitcom pretty early on, although they did have some touching moments here and there. Now that I have kids, I see some of the more subtle touching moments a lot differently. The episode where Mr. Bergstrom hands Lisa the note "YOU ARE LISA SIMPSON", the moment where Homer scoops Lisa up in his arms after she sees her future where future fiancee Hugh is dismissive of her roots, the ending of the tale of when Maggie was born, when Homer has Maggie's pictures strewn about his console - they all offer way more humanity than any cheesy canned family programming from the 50s-'80s.
   45. Harmon "Thread Killer" Microbrew Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:09 PM (#4065504)
(Actually, it's a legit question. Sax hit .265 lifetime against the Express. In their first matchup in April 1982, the rookie went 2-for-4 with a RBI triple. So, please, the next time you pass Steve Sax on the streets of Sacramento, ask him about Nolan Ryan.)


Why would a career .281 hitter consider this a point of pride? If anything, we should ask him about hitting off Roger Clemens (.357 avg in 44 PA).
   46. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:21 PM (#4065513)
The episode where Mr. Bergstrom hands Lisa the note "YOU ARE LISA SIMPSON"

Not the funniest episode of the Simpsons, but the one I refer to often as my favourite episode of the Simpsons.
Dustin Hoffman (under the pseudonym "Sam Etic") gave the best performance by a guest star on the Simpsons, ever.

when Homer has Maggie's pictures strewn about his console

Do it for her.
It still makes me teary-eyed.
   47. Gamingboy Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:37 PM (#4065524)
For me, the Simpsons is still good when compared to many of the things on regular TV these days. I mean, yeah, it sucks compared to the golden age, but basically everything sucks compared to the golden age, that was some of the greatest television in history. So, yeah, it isn't great television anymore, and a lot of times it isn't even good, but it's still The Simpsons. It's like pizza. Yeah, there is crappy pizza out there, but it's still pizza.
   48. Yonder Alonso in misguided trousers (cardinal) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4065535)
Are you all having a Western Animation discussion without mentioning the second best show on TV? Archer? (after 30 Rock)


Archer's second season was pure insane genius from beginning to end. So was its first season, actually.

I'm surprised there's been no mention of Venture Brothers yet. Also fantastic (and also with a near-perfect second season).

edited to add, I agree pretty much with Gamingboy @47. There's no way for The Simpsons to match season 3 / season 4 era greatness, but there are some good moments still. And a lot of not-so-good moments, but even so it's still somehow comforting it's there.
   49. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 02:02 PM (#4065537)
I agree with #47. The plotlines are pretty nonsensical at this point - as they should be after exhausting 20 years of plotlines - but they still manage to make me laugh out loud with 3-4 gags each episode, which is still a positive Gags Above Replacement Value around 1.5 with say "Archer" at 5.0, "The Big Bang Theory" being at 0.0, and "Two and a Half Men" being in Neifi Perez territory.
   50. Cowboy Popup Posted: February 21, 2012 at 02:34 PM (#4065566)
Archer's second season was pure insane genius from beginning to end. So was its first season, actually.

I'm surprised there's been no mention of Venture Brothers yet. Also fantastic (and also with a near-perfect second season).


The growth of Archer is so similar to what the Venture Brothers went through too. I mean, its obvious the creators of Archer watched the Venture Bros, but its interesting to see Archer follow in VBs footsteps in so many ways.

Given the excellent start to the third season, I've been having sort of an internal debate as to which show is better. I thought it would be a long time before I considered a new show as coming close to what the Venture Bros. has accomplished. Venture's 3rd season was uneven, but the 4th was something to behold. I sincerely hope that I can have 4, 5, or more seasons of both shows on my DVD (blueray/whatever comes next) shelf before its all over.

The last two seasons of Futurama have been pretty darn good too, although not in Archer territory.

Also, as a side note, last time there was an animation thread that I took part in, someone pointed me in the direction of Trigun (not western, but whatever). I would like to offer them a heart felt THANK YOU!!!
   51. Dan Szymborski Posted: February 21, 2012 at 02:43 PM (#4065575)
I would actually say season 11 was the nadir of the Simpsons.

It found its legs again after it, not as a great show, but as an OK show that's a pretty harmless, inoffensively adequate comedy. It's hard to stay on the edge of comedy if you're unwilling to take any real chances or ever tinker with the core concept. At this point, it's pretty much paint-by-numbers: start with the guest voice, build a plot around why the guest voice is there, have Homer do something stupid, have all the stock characters give a variant of their catchphrase that's tailored to the current plot, quickie wrapup and we're done.

Now, a lot of comedies do it this way but it's not something that really gets me all that excited to watch it. It's like white bread in that I'll usually have some white bread around, but I've never come home and thought to myself HOLY #### I CAN BE EATING A SLICE OF WHITE BREAD RIGHT NOW!
   52. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 21, 2012 at 02:49 PM (#4065582)
I hung with the Simpsons through about season 12/13. I've only seen a few episodes since but I can't get fired up for it. Part of it is the simple issue that Dan nods to in #51, unless you start drastically changing the characters there isn't much left to do. Not having the characters age worked great for them but at this point everything they can do, they've done.
   53. steagles Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:01 PM (#4065596)
i'll toss in another nod of support for archer. i think it's probably my favorite show on tv right now, with only justified and fringe in the conversation.

   54. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4065603)
I would actually say season 11 was the nadir of the Simpsons.

It found its legs again after it, not as a great show, but as an OK show that's a pretty harmless, inoffensively adequate comedy. It's hard to stay on the edge of comedy if you're unwilling to take any real chances or ever tinker with the core concept. At this point, it's pretty much paint-by-numbers: start with the guest voice, build a plot around why the guest voice is there, have Homer do something stupid, have all the stock characters give a variant of their catchphrase that's tailored to the current plot, quickie wrapup and we're done.

Now, a lot of comedies do it this way but it's not something that really gets me all that excited to watch it. It's like white bread in that I'll usually have some white bread around, but I've never come home and thought to myself HOLY #### I CAN BE EATING A SLICE OF WHITE BREAD RIGHT NOW!


Even season 11 had some decent episodes... Tomacco is from 11... "My wife is not a doobie to passed around".... Homer being chased out of the country by PBS collection agents... Bart and Homer contract 'oatmeal leprosy'....

That's a weak crop in comparison, to be sure, but still not bad...
   55. Bob Evans Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4065606)
Here's where I come out and admit how uncool I am, but Big Bang was very funny for its first couple of years. And Jim Parsons is a one-man acting clinic.
   56. Booey Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:15 PM (#4065609)
While I'm glad The Simpsons stopped with the blatant moralizing they did early on (like the one where Homer danced with the stripper and they had that lesson about not objectifying women at the end), I agree with those that have pointed out that the show still has many touching moments mixed in with the humor that make it a moving as well as hilarious show.

The episode where Homer catches the legendary catfish General Sherman but gives up a shot at fame by throwing it back to save his marriage instead, the one where Bart is racing in the soapbox derby and Homer shows up at the end after their fight to cheer him on, the one where Lisa's friend Bleeding Gums Murphy dies and Bart uses his lawsuit money to buy her his record when she can't afford it, the Grinch parody where Lisa gets braces and the town bands together to sing outside the power plant after Mr. Burns shuts off the electricity - episodes like these choke me up every time I watch them, and I've seen them dozens of times.
   57. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:16 PM (#4065610)
Here's where I come out and admit how uncool I am, but Big Bang was very funny for its first couple of years. And Jim Parsons is a one-man acting clinic.


You are not alone Bob, you are not alone.

I have to say that this place is one more reminder of how uncool I am in general. I'm pretty generic when it comes to my TV/movie/music tastes.
   58. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4065612)
I hate Big Bang Theory even more than I hate Two and a Half Men.
   59. The Good Face Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:20 PM (#4065615)
Another vote for Archer as the best comedy on TV right now, although I think season 3 is weaker than season 2 so far. Community is probably the only other show in the conversation for me.
   60. UCCF Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:25 PM (#4065620)
Here's where I come out and admit how uncool I am, but Big Bang was very funny for its first couple of years. And Jim Parsons is a one-man acting clinic.

The first couple of seasons of BBT are very funny, I'll back you up on that - but as with most shows, characters slowly morph into their caricatures, plot lines get recycled, and new characters are brought in that suck time and energy away from the core group. Now it's mildly amusing, but mostly because they just keep going back to the same wells over and over and don't really seem interested in letting any of the core characters grow and develop. (Hi Family Guy, I'm looking at you.)

You can look back at a lot of shows that were surprisingly solid for the first couple of years, then slowly (or rapidly) head downhill as they grow longer in the tooth (and often more popular). Think about something like Everybody Loves Raymond - it's hard to remember that it started out as a critical darling that was tanking in the ratings (ranked in the 80s in its first season), before it finally found an audience around season 3. The first 2-3 seasons of How I Met Your Mother were terrific - then it dropped off quite a bit and finally seems to be righting the ship this season.

You could add other shows to that list - Drew Carey would be one, another might be Mad About You. Married with Children was often spectacularly funny in the first few seasons, but really started to tank once they made Kelly into a total idiot and focused too much on No-Ma'am vs. Marcy.

Point being - it's not easy to be a show that keeps a consistently high quality for its entire run. You're in Cheers and Seinfeld territory at that point (and even then, both shows were definitely showing their age by the end).
   61. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:31 PM (#4065626)
Another vote for Archer as the best comedy on TV right now, although I think season 3 is weaker than season 2 so far. Community is probably the only other show in the conversation for me.


Count me in for Archer being the grande.

Also, I very much like Community--and Annie--but it needs to take a friggin' chill pill. Most insecure show on television by a wide margin.
   62. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:33 PM (#4065628)
Here's where I come out and admit how uncool I am, but Big Bang was very funny for its first couple of years. And Jim Parsons is a one-man acting clinic.

I'd say that Jim Parsons is probably the equivalent of David Hyde-Pierce (Niles, from "Frasier"). Excellent subtle acting for what could be one-note characters.

What the Big Bang Theory writers discovered after a couple of seasons is that they were going to the well too often. There were too many episodes of "Penny vs Sheldon", leaving Leonard (and the others) on the sidelines. Adding in the other two women (Harold's fiance and Sheldon's "girlfriend") let them start mixing things up more. It's reduced the laugh a bit for me, but added more potential for story lines.

That said, I prefer my comedies to NOT have a studio audience, as it slows down the comedic timing and layering.

Arrested Development, 30 Rock, Community, Simpsons, Up All Night, plus a few others, are still more enjoyable to me than my favourite "studio audience/laugh-track" shows (Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother).

The only shows with a studio audience that would be in my top 10 comedies would be "Seinfeld" and "WKRP". In both cases, the ensembles were so strong (and in Seinfeld's case, the writing so amazing), they still were great, even with the laughter interruption.
   63. Nasty Nate Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:41 PM (#4065634)
The episode where Homer catches the legendary catfish General Sherman but gives up a shot at fame by throwing it back to save his marriage instead, the one where Bart is racing in the soapbox derby and Homer shows up at the end after their fight to cheer him on, the one where Lisa's friend Bleeding Gums Murphy dies and Bart uses his lawsuit money to buy her his record when she can't afford it, the Grinch parody where Lisa gets braces and the town bands together to sing outside the power plant after Mr. Burns shuts off the electricity - episodes like these choke me up every time I watch them, and I've seen them dozens of times.


...the one where Homer thinks he is going to die and has a checklist of things to do with his family before listening to Larry King read the bible on a walkman.
   64. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:43 PM (#4065636)
I'd also put a word in for Newsradio as a laugh-track show that works.

I've actually been reading some fairly in depth reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes (about 2000 words per episode I'd guess) so it's got me thinking a bit more about what I like about TV shows lately. Comedies are a bit tougher to analyze I think. By its nature sometimes the closer you look at comedy the smaller it gets. To paraphrase the great New Yorker adage - "comedies are like gossamer and one doesn't dissect gossamer".
   65. Cowboy Popup Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:45 PM (#4065637)
Also, I very much like Community--and Annie--but it needs to take a friggin' chill pill. Most insecure show on television by a wide margin.

Well, there's a reason! They are freaking hiatus right now. At least they went out with a bang (Yes, I know they've recorded more episodes, I'll believe it when I see it). Thursday night is such a hollow shell without Community. It used to be an EVENT! Now I half heartedly watch Parks and Rec and then drink and smoke until Archer and then try to sober up before I go to bed.
   66. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:51 PM (#4065646)

The only shows with a studio audience that would be in my top 10 comedies would be "Seinfeld" and "WKRP". In both cases, the ensembles were so strong (and in Seinfeld's case, the writing so amazing), they still were great, even with the laughter interruption.


In addition to Greg's mention of Newsradio, the most criminally underrated comedy of all-time, I'd add "Newhart", "Cheers", "The Cosby Show" and "Murphy Brown" as great studio audience comedies. I still find those shows hilarious, and they've aged quite well, whereas a show like "Friends" which I will admit I liked at the time is completely annoying now.
   67. phredbird Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:52 PM (#4065647)
i have to say archer gives me a chuckle when i come across it. the episode where he keeps trying to get in a fight on top of a train was a kick.
   68. UCCF Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:54 PM (#4065651)
Also, I very much like Community--and Annie--but it needs to take a friggin' chill pill. Most insecure show on television by a wide margin.

Insecure with a reason of course, given that it's off TV and returning at an uncertain date.

It's the new Arrested Development, which probably means it'll fade away after this season. People will tune in by the millions to watch Ashton Kutcher act like a moron on Two and a Half Men, but challenge them like Community does and they run screaming from the room.

My only real hope is that NBC has nothing right now - they stuck 30 Rock in Community's old timeslot and it did as bad or worse in the ratings. They're more than halfway to syndication with Community, and it's got a critical and internet following unlike any other show on the network. The smart move under the circumstances would be to keep it around but stop trying to anchor 8 PM on Thursdays with it. There's nothing on NBC that's going to do well in that time slot, up against American Idol and Big Bang Theory.

How far NBC has fallen. Sometimes I wonder if they'll ever recover from the Jay Leno at 10 PM debacle, or if they'll ever acknowledge that attempting to placate his ego was probably the single biggest factor in ruining the network.
   69. The Good Face Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:55 PM (#4065654)
Also, I very much like Community--and Annie--but it needs to take a friggin' chill pill. Most insecure show on television by a wide margin.


I kind of like that about it. It's such an incredibly dark show, insular and unwelcoming, a little insecurity only feels right.
   70. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 21, 2012 at 03:56 PM (#4065656)
The episode where Homer buys Lisa the pony is beautiful and touching. You'd have to be a cold hearted cynic to think otherwise.
   71. Dale Sams Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4065661)
I've actually been reading some fairly in depth reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes


I watched every episode when aired, and now..mostly...it bores me to tears. Paradoxically I'm excited as hell about the Blu-Ray release.
   72. Kurt Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:06 PM (#4065662)
I've actually been reading some fairly in depth reviews of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes (about 2000 words per episode I'd guess)

Link?
   73. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:10 PM (#4065664)
I watched every episode when aired, and now..mostly...it bores me to tears. Paradoxically I'm excited as hell about the Blu-Ray release.

Oddly enough I find it has aged really well. (Well, not season one, which has aged terribly)
Though the fact that I've spent about 7 hours in the past 4 days reading episode reviews suggests that maybe I'm just impervious to boredom when it comes to TNG.

It can also double as a great social activity, as pretty much everyone has all the episodes memorized anyway so you can carry on conversations about it and not miss anything. Also makes for a good drinking game. Drink whenever anyone does anything typical of their character. Picard manouvere, Riker sits or leans on something jauntily, Data gives an ETA, Troi says something pointless, Wesley makes you want to slap him.
   74. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:13 PM (#4065666)
Link
He's on to DS9 now...or has completed DS9, I wasn't really paying attention. I'm half way through season 4.

So far he's hit on my major complaint with the show...the whole arrogance of humanity it buys into. He also has an obssesion with gender politics that he harps on at every turn. But he's clearly well versed in plot analysis, something I know nothing about, so I'm finding it enlightening.
   75. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:19 PM (#4065671)
DS9 is the best Star Trek for a writing standpoint. It doesn't have the characters to compete with TOS or TNG, though.
   76. Kurt Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:19 PM (#4065673)
Thanks Greg.

Why has this thread vanished from Hot Topics?
   77. Cowboy Popup Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4065682)
He's on to DS9 now...or has completed DS9, I wasn't really paying attention. I'm half way through season 4.

I'm most of the way through season 6. Talk about a fulfilling experience. It's just now starting to become inconsistent. Seasons 2-4 were amazing, Season 5 is almost as good. And 6 still has its bright spots.
   78. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:30 PM (#4065683)
Well, there's a reason!


There's no reason for time slot-based insecurity to seep in via creative neuroticism. It's meta to a fault and, despite very much enjoying the show myself, I can see where several episodes are difficult for casual/first-time viewers. Community does regular stories as good as anybody else; there's no reason to have to rely on gimmicks as much as they do.
   79. Cowboy Popup Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:32 PM (#4065686)
DS9 is the best Star Trek for a writing standpoint.

I absolutely agree.

It doesn't have the characters to compete with TOS or TNG, though.

I do not agree with this, but if it is true its because 90% of TNG is character development issues while Deep Space Nine actually has a compelling story to move forward and can't dedicate as much time to holosuite adventures.
   80. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4065689)
DS9 is the best Star Trek for a writing standpoint.

I absolutely agree.


Different type of show. Deep Space Nine ranged from noir serial to Shakespearean history when at its most inspired. The Next Generation was more Carl Sagan: The Fictionalization.
   81. AJMcCringleberry Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:41 PM (#4065694)
Louie, Parks and Rec, Always Sunny, and Community are my favorite current comedies.
   82. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:41 PM (#4065695)
I guess I was being highly ambiguous. I meant in reading the reviews I was half way through season 4 of TNG.

My feelings on comparing TNG/DS9 is the closest I've come to understanding the mythical Star Wars vs. Star Trek nerd war I've read about. (I don't know anyone that doesn't think both Wars and Trek are great and totally uncomparable). Though it's not quite as far as that since I do quite enjoy DS9. I am very much a TNG booster though. I'm curious to do some reading on DS9 though because I think a lot of my preference comes down to familiarity. DS9 does have the advantage of featuring one of my all time favourite characters...Gul Dukat.
   83. Booey Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4065699)
...the one where Homer thinks he is going to die and has a checklist of things to do with his family before listening to Larry King read the bible on a walkman.

The episode where Homer buys Lisa the pony is beautiful and touching. You'd have to be a cold hearted cynic to think otherwise.



Definitely. Forgot about those ones.
   84. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:46 PM (#4065700)
bleh, I have a skype interview for a job at Colby in 45 minutes. Talking about Star trek is the only thing keeping me from having a heart attack.
   85. SouthSideRyan Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:48 PM (#4065702)
Right on cue, Dan Harmon tweets that Community will be back on March 15th.
   86. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:49 PM (#4065703)
bleh, I have a skype interview for a job at Colby in 45 minutes. Talking about Star trek is the only thing keeping me from having a heart attack.

Have you tried plexing?
   87. Karl from NY Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:00 PM (#4065714)
The Simpsons is still entirely watchable. Gamingboy in #47 is exactly right: it's like pizza, too familiar to particularly stand out but it's omnipresent and reliable as a B+ experience.

I still watch Family Guy too, but it's not special any more either. Agreed that American Dad is the one of the cartoons that can still hit the A+ notes.

The Comedy Central revival of Futurama has been spectacular. That "season" of four chopped-up movies was uneven, but the two half-seasons starting in 2010 are amazing. Original Futurama fell into a dullness trap: the characters would do wacky stuff but it felt like the writers literally forgot to include jokes. (King of the Hill is the very embodiment of that trap, Napoleon Dynamite is currently reincarnating it, and it was the sour distaste of Allen Gregory.) The Simpsons alone among animated shows can make up for flat jokes with characters we genuinely sentimentally care about. Futurama and Family Guy can't; we don't care about Fry-Leela "will they" or the Amy-Kif relationship or whether anyone will ever respect Meg.

But after the first couple episodes of the new CC run (which felt like leftover material), Futurama took off to amazing new heights again. Every episode is full of rapid-fire jokes that land, but it's brainy stuff and not Family Guy's shock value that takes you out of the moment. Most episodes have a serious bit of science or math going on. There's still fresh character pairings to give us new interactions, the Bender-Hermes episode being one of my favorites. They've figured out what's annoying and stay away from it, like anything with Zapp Brannigan, or plotlines constructed around Fry being dumb. It's totally worth watching.
   88. Home Run Teal & Black Black Black Gone! Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:06 PM (#4065719)
They've figured out what's annoying and stay away from it, like anything with Zapp Brannigan


I thought everyone loved Zapp Brannigan!
   89. UCCF Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4065722)
Right on cue, Dan Harmon tweets that Community will be back on March 15th.

Well that made my day. Thanks.
   90. Dale Sams Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:14 PM (#4065723)
It can also double as a great social activity, as pretty much everyone has all the episodes memorized anyway so you can carry on conversations about it and not miss anything. Also makes for a good drinking game. Drink whenever anyone does anything typical of their character. Picard manouvere, Riker sits or leans on something jauntily, Data gives an ETA, Troi says something pointless, Wesley makes you want to slap him.


Whenever someone on FB tries to justify current US politics, I link the great speech Picard has in The Drumhead.

Wesley never did a damn thing to make me mad*, and just to be contrary to knee-jerkiness, I probably spent more time defending him than I should. Mostly along the lines of there's a great deal of untapped dynamic between him and Picard, as seen in his last regular appearance.

*All the usual complaints just made me mad at writers and producers. Never the actor nor even really the character.
   91. Gamingboy Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:21 PM (#4065736)
Another thing with Simpsons is also that for as bland and "family friendly" it is now, when it first came on it (and this was pointed out in the article) was so incredibly edgy. Basically every prime-time cartoon on now, broadcast or cable, is only on because of the Simpsons.

Without The Simpsons, there is no Seth MacFarlane cartoons, no Adult Swim, no South Park, etc.

(Interestingly, the most daring prime-time cartoon before the Simpsons was probably the Flintstones. And now Seth MacFarlane is doing a Flintstones show. It all comes full circle.)
   92. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:37 PM (#4065749)
Zap Brannigan is awesome. He reminds me of a young me. Not much younger, mind you. Maybe even a couple of years older.
   93. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:38 PM (#4065750)
"The Venture Brothers" is legitimately one of the great shows on TV right now; not one of the great cartoons, one of the great shows, period. The season three episode "The Invisible Hand of Fate" (where they reveal Billy Quizboy's backstory) is particularly outstanding. Adult Swim being Adult Swim, it seems like one could peddle to Alpha Centauri and back again between seasons of the show. On the other hand, woo boy, new episodes of Squidbillies!
   94. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:41 PM (#4065753)
Wesley never did a damn thing to make me mad*, and just to be contrary to knee-jerkiness, I probably spent more time defending him than I should. Mostly along the lines of there's a great deal of untapped dynamic between him and Picard, as seen in his last regular appearance.


Well... at least he's been tolerably funny in his couple BBT guest spots, and I suppose without that, we don't get Sheldon's Wheaton nemesis...

The Simpsons is still entirely watchable. Gamingboy in #47 is exactly right: it's like pizza, too familiar to particularly stand out but it's omnipresent and reliable as a B+ experience.

I still watch Family Guy too, but it's not special any more either. Agreed that American Dad is the one of the cartoons that can still hit the A+ notes.

The Comedy Central revival of Futurama has been spectacular. That "season" of four chopped-up movies was uneven, but the two half-seasons starting in 2010 are amazing. Original Futurama fell into a dullness trap: the characters would do wacky stuff but it felt like the writers literally forgot to include jokes. (King of the Hill is the very embodiment of that trap, Napoleon Dynamite is currently reincarnating it, and it was the sour distaste of Allen Gregory.) The Simpsons alone among animated shows can make up for flat jokes with characters we genuinely sentimentally care about. Futurama and Family Guy can't; we don't care about Fry-Leela "will they" or the Amy-Kif relationship or whether anyone will ever respect Meg.

But after the first couple episodes of the new CC run (which felt like leftover material), Futurama took off to amazing new heights again. Every episode is full of rapid-fire jokes that land, but it's brainy stuff and not Family Guy's shock value that takes you out of the moment. Most episodes have a serious bit of science or math going on. There's still fresh character pairings to give us new interactions, the Bender-Hermes episode being one of my favorites. They've figured out what's annoying and stay away from it, like anything with Zapp Brannigan, or plotlines constructed around Fry being dumb. It's totally worth watching.


I think this is spot-on -- although, one thing that really annoys me about CC's Futurama handling is that they seem to be in the habit of doing oddball start times, which freaks out/confuses my DVR.

   95. McCoy Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:43 PM (#4065754)
Archer is like my Shawshank Redemption right now. I just want the episode to go on and on and on. I'm always pissed when the show ends and I have to wait another week for another episode.

I still enjoy The Family Guy and found Bob's Burgers to be rather funny. I have no idea if they'll be able to maintain that funny but I would bet they don't.

On a sidenote, Eastbound and Down is back on.
   96. Dan The Mediocre Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:48 PM (#4065758)
"The Venture Brothers" is legitimately one of the great shows on TV right now; not one of the great cartoons, one of the great shows, period. The season three episode "The Invisible Hand of Fate" (where they reveal Billy Quizboy's backstory) is particularly outstanding


Each season seems to have gotten better. The 4th season had half a dozen episodes that were just incredible.
   97. aleskel Posted: February 21, 2012 at 05:57 PM (#4065764)
It doesn't have the characters to compete with TOS or TNG, though.

I do not agree with this, but if it is true its because 90% of TNG is character development issues while Deep Space Nine actually has a compelling story to move forward and can't dedicate as much time to holosuite adventures.


TOS and TNG has more iconic characters, but I agree that DS9 matches up very well as far as having good characters. Not to mention the fact that the acting of the total ensemble was a full grade better on DS9 than TNG, which had the saving grace of Patrick Stewart carrying the load.
   98. zonk Posted: February 21, 2012 at 06:03 PM (#4065765)
Look folks, this was a perfectly fine cartoon thread... but if you persist, I'm going to have to break out my Janeway jihadist persona...
   99. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 21, 2012 at 06:25 PM (#4065770)
OK, I can honestly say I don't at all get how overly complicated TV writers and some posters here want to make comedies. Just. Be. Funny. It's a comedy - no need for "characters we genuinely sentimentally care about" or "touching moments." When comedies try to provide those, the comedy almost always suffers. For example, Friends actually was a pretty funny show until it started focusing on the (usually romantic) relationships between the characters. A good comedy needs quirky characters, situations that are themselves funny and bring out the characters' funny quirks, or even just funny jokes, a la Family Guy cutaways. That's it - just funny. How I Met Your Mother has some nice sentimentality in some episodes, but does that make it a better comedy? No, because that's not comedy. And when it goes too far in that direction, the comedy suffers. Family Guy has declined precipitously lately because Seth MacFarlane has apparently decided he needs to prove he can be dark, artsy and philosophical (the Brian & Stewie episode, or the murder mystery). Also, that show now likes to show off that it can animate much more complex visuals and action than before. Well and good, but is it funny? Yes, MacFarlane, we know you enjoy big musical production numbers and can sing quite well. But are they funny? It's a comedy. Just. Be. Funny.
   100. Greg K Posted: February 21, 2012 at 06:41 PM (#4065774)
OK, I can honestly say I don't at all get how overly complicated TV writers and some posters here want to make comedies. Just. Be. Funny. It's a comedy - no need for "characters we genuinely sentimentally care about" or "touching moments." When comedies try to provide those, the comedy almost always suffers.

I think the counter-argument is - that's what makes shows that are able to do that so great...it's no easy feat.

I may be in a minority in seeing it this way, but that's why I love It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It's impossible not to empathize with Charlie and when he invariably loses my investment in his character just makes it all the more hilarious/soul wrenching.
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