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Monday, February 21, 2005
Hunter S. Thompson is one of a handful of authors who has had a profound impact on me. He willingly participated in a number of crazy things that would easily have made an average man pray for death; so maybe his decision to take his life tonight is an indication we aren't doing too damned well. I hope there's something better out there for you, you old bastard.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
In reading a review of Seth Macfarlane's newest addition to the Family Guy Empire, "American Dad," which debuted on Fox after the Super Bowl, one side-comment the reviewer made instantly dissolved his credibility. "It helps if you're actually being amused with clever writing and subversively intelligent wit," the critic says, "as with 'The Simpsons' or, more coarsely and raucously, 'South Park.'"
I grew up watching "The Simpsons." Our generation could, in arguably many ways, be coined "The Simpsons Generation." The other day, I heard a preview for the next new episode and was surprised at how maternal Marge's nagging voice sounds to me after all these years; how oddly comforting it is. That does not, however, make up for the fact that "The Simpsons" is not quality programming anymore, and it is consistently getting worse. The writing is hardly clever and there is absolutely not a bit of intelligent wit about it. The episode directly following the Super Bowl, prior to the "American Dad" pilot, is a prime example. Granted, new scenarios and themes for the Simpson family must be challenging to conjure up, but cheap whacks at "The Passion of the Christ" are simply not funny anymore, especially when they're executed in unfunny ways to begin with. Furthermore, in that single episode they cover a carnival game challenge between Bart and Homer, who performs a victory dance that is uploaded onto the internet and subsequently downloaded by a football player who employs Homer to choreograph various celebratory dances for him, which sparks a slew of other sports stars to petition Homer to choreograph victory dances for them (each of which we get to watch), and finally Homer is contacted to design the Super Bowl's halftime show. Oh wait, then there's the other half of the episode, in which Ned directs a movie chronicling Cain's slaying of Abel (including a beaten-to-death and now hardly palatable crack on gay marriage rights). The movie is premiered and everyone loves it, despite its gore, except, of course, for Marge. Mr. Burns, seeing an opportunity to gain some profit, finances another of Ned's films, which includes even more gore, and Marge wins her battle as Burns decides funding religious epics is not for him. Ned then persuades Homer to do a Christian-themed halftime show, which is unanimously booed by the audience.
I think I've pinpointed the three most apparent shortcomings of the show. First, and most obvious, the writers are simply not as good as they were in the Conan O'Brien days. Second, the episodes have lost their focus; they bounce around too much, which makes it nearly impossible to really care about the outcome of each show. The last really fantastic and nearly flawless episode (and there have been many in the past), I would argue, was the one in which Phish guest-starred and Homer got hooked on medicinal marijuana. Its excellence can be attributed, I think, to these elements: every joke operated within the theme of the episode, it commented extremely well on the nature of potheads, the humor was off-the-wall, making it memorable and quotable, and one main thread drove the story along to keep viewers interested in the episode's outcome. Presently, "The Simpsons" has fallen into the funk that "The Drew Carey" show existed in: the writers think of a moderately funny situation that culminates in a subpar joke and then move on to the next moderately funny situation and subpar joke. Which ties loosely into my third point: "The Simpsons" has lost the touch of reality it once so gracefully utilized. Medicinal marijuana, the first time your parents met, your town's monorail: these are things many of us have dealt with or discussed. The reality of the situations in some of the older shows allowed for major growth in the characters over the span of very few minutes, and episodes had the ability to be not only funny, but romantic, nostalgic, dramatic, and just plain nice.
This once unparalleled way to spend Sunday night has lost its way, and we, as hard-working American viewers who deserve quality in our entertainment, need to stop acting like we don't notice and get active, or else it'll turn right into another Jar-Jar Binks situation damn quick.
I ended up ranting, so I don't mind if you didn't read this or didn't read all of it. To sum up, "The Simpsons" is not all that good anymore and it's getting worse every season. I'd like to read your thoughts. Please comment.