335. Fraudcast News

(originally aired May 23, 2004)
Ho-hum, a rather boring Burns episode to close out our season, with plenty of ridiculous and stupid moments peppered in, along with the continued watered down characterization of the twisted, heartless billionaire. The first part of the show is pretty indicative of the spastic nature of this show. All of the town has gathered to the natural land formation known as Geezer Rock, as it is to be decreed a national landmark. Lisa notices that there’s a tree growing out of its eye, which might eventually grow to damage the monument. So what happens? Homer climbs up the goddamn thing, yanks it out, and wouldn’t you know it, the whole thing crumbles. Let’s put aside the fact that Homer would actually give a shit enough to do this, or even have the energy to. He’s right behind the stage where there’s a big crowd to honor the rock he’s currently climbing; no one saw him and thought to say anything? Then he basically destroys the landmark, which I’m sure would have been a boon for Springfield and created tourist revenue. Any repercussions? Nope. No one mentions Homer’s actions whatsoever, and the whole Geezer Rock thing is ultimately forgotten. During the Simpsons drive home, the gear shift of the plot couldn’t be more sudden.

Though I’m not entirely sure how, Mr. Burns gets crushed by the falling rubble from Geezer Rock, but manages to survive because he’s a cartoon character now, slithering through rock gaps like a snake, eating bugs and suckling on mole teats. He turns on the news hoping to hear a heartfelt eulogy for him, but finds the exact opposite. He muses, “I don’t have a friend in the world.” So this is like “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” again; why does Burns give a shit what anyone thinks, especially lower-class commoners, which would be pretty much everybody below his income bracket. To counteract this, he sets out to buy every media outlet in town, a plot point he reiterates before and after he does it, just in case you weren’t paying attention. Now, like a lot of these plots, part of me feels this could have worked, but with a different angle. Make it like “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish,” where Burns commands a media conglomerate in order to assert and promote nuclear power as being safe and efficient. They touch on this a bit with the pro-nuclear Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, but like most latter-day bits, it goes too long and goes too far to get the simple joke across.

Meanwhile Lisa has started her own newspaper, and it’s pretty much as boring as it sounds. And for some reason she has Ralph on as a feature columnist. Soon she’s in Burns’ sights, as her paper is the only piece of media he doesn’t have his bony claws on. Of course Lisa can’t be bought, so Burns must resort to more drastic measures… for some reason. Good God, this is boring. He gets dirt on Lisa from an unwitting Homer, which eventually becomes her undoing, making her alleged romance with Milhouse front page news, and as a projection onto the moon. Instead of this silliness, why doesn’t Burns threaten to fire Homer unless he gets his daughter to stop? With no source of income, the Simpson family will wither and die, right? Instead, Lisa gives up, causing Homer to write an op-ed piece of his own, which admittedly is a touching bit (“All my daughter even did was to tell people to think for themselves. I may be her father, but when I grow up, I want to be just like her.”) Then everyone has their own papers and Burns randomly and for no reason decides to give up his conglomerate. I don’t even have much to say, really, it’s about as innocuous an episode if I’ve ever seen one. Perfect for a show-stopping season finale. Should have switched this one with “Bart-Mangled Banner,” would have been a great F-U to the fans.

Tidbits and Quotes
– “Carved by centuries of wind and rain, Geezer Rock will soon be more than a place for teens to have sex and commit suicide.” I just talked in the comments about the differences of this show dealing with crass topics opposed to a show like South Park, and this is a perfect example. We see the Pimply Faced Teen is killing himself for a stupid reason (“Why did they cancel Futurama?”) then land on another kid in a car, presumably crushing and killing him. Then his girlfriend proceeds to make out with him. What exactly is the point of this? What is going on? I haven’t a clue, and arguably neither does this show.
– We see Geezer Rock is faaaaaar into the distance from the stage where everyone is standing by. Then when it starts to collapse, all of a sudden it’s directly underneath them, leaving them in danger. And then all of a sudden, Burns is apparently standing directly underneath it, since the rocks rain over him from straight up. Related note, so did no one realize Burns got crushed until later? There’s no mention of the Simpsons about Burns’ apparent death, except for one stupid bit where Homer, Lenny and Carl were going to dance on his grave.
– My God, I fucking hate the scene with Burns surviving under the rubble. I fucking hate it. It’s got to be one of the worst scenes of the entire series. And even worse, the act break is Burns suckling on a mole’s teat. It’s like the show actively is coming up with new ways to sink lower and lower.
– Lisa ponders the possibility of printing a second issue of her paper. Bart comes in with an unusually stilted line reading from Cartwright (“You better! I’ve already sold a bunch of subscriptions. How do you think I got these swell prizes?”) Pan over a collection of swell swag ranging from bikes, canoes and telescopes, complete with a harp sound. So, what is this gag? Is it like when kids sell magazine subscriptions to adults to support a cause or whatever? Within a day not only did Bart sell a bunch of subscriptions, but apparently enough to get him a whole mess of prizes? I shouldn’t be thinking this fucking hard about a simple joke, why can’t you just be funny, guys?
– The Itchy & Scratchy cartoon is alright, as I mentioned, it would be a lot better if Burns pushing nuclear power was the plot. Bald eagle Burns coming in as an insert at the very end is a fine way to close, but they just have to keep compounding the jokes (“Don’t end up like me! Vote Republican!” “God bless America! This cartoon was made in Korea.”) Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew, guys.
– Burns makes it his mission to crush this eight-year-old girl, having hired goons try to ram the Simpson car off the road, so they’re seemingly aim to kill, or at least seriously maim. Smithers can just be bothered enough to meekly suggest Burns try a non-violent approach. At this point, Smithers isn’t really a character anymore, just someone to stand next to Burns and give him someone to assist in his evil schemes. And of course to be gaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy.
– Skinner has another Vietnam flashback, this time we get a helpful time card (Vietnam – 1968) just in case we were confused. Here’s the scene: Skinner is using a mimeograph, then is taken hostage by enemy soldiers, then we see he was printing a for sale sign for a chair. …what’s the gag?
– Burns being unimaginably weak has always been one of his classic traits, but how the show deals with it then and now are completely different. Here, Burns can’t even squash an ant; he wears himself out and collapses, telling the insect to take his money and leave him alone. He’s made to be a sad, pathetic character there. Contrast with an earlier show where he struggles to crush a paper cup. He finally manages to do so, and is oh-so satisfied at his abilities. That confidence keeps Burns a strong-willed character even when showing his physical frailness.
– How dare they use the wonderful montage music from “Last Exit to Springfield” over the shopping photos at the very end. And surprise surprise, it’s completely misused. It was funny then because it came right after Burns callously mentioning that he and Smithers could easily run the plant themselves, so the wistful, happy music is representative of how much of a cinch Burns thinks the job is, at least until his robot workers rebel against him. Here, it’s just Burns have a grand old time shopping. It’s not happy-time music, it’s more than that. Also Burns is shopping at a regular mall, eating burgers at a food court? What? What… whatever.

Season 15 Final Thoughts
Yeah. Honestly, there’s not much more I can say about this season than I already did about the last one. It’s the same corral of shit stories, shit characterization and shit jokes with the extremely rare and elusive bit of actual humor and cleverness buried within. Characters I used to love are now getting on my nerves, or have become depressingly pathetic, parodies have now become uninspired references, and stories remain disjointed and aimless as ever.  Since the start of the Al Jean era, the show is now trapped in a limbo of awfulness, neither rising or falling in quality. Prove me wrong, later seasons; I’m assuming season 16 will be no different, and if that’s the case, I’ll just post a link to this post in my final thoughts just to prove my point.

The Best
“Treehouse of Horror XIV,” “I, D’oh-bot.” Of twenty-two episodes, I can honestly say I only enjoyed two of them. Not so good news.

The Worst
“The Regina Monologues,” “Smart and Smarter,” “Co-Dependent’s Day,” “My Big Fat Geek Wedding,” “Catch ‘Em If You Can”

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13 responses to “335. Fraudcast News

  1. And another attempt at topical humor on Zombie Simpsons falls flat. I don’t remember a whole hell of a lot from this episode, aside from the Squeaky-Voiced Teen trying to kill himself (which really made me uncomfortable) and the fact that this is the second season finale in a row to end with a montage of photographs.

    Looking back on Season 15, I can’t believe I thought it was decent at the time. But then again, I was in high school when it aired, and I guess my standards have evolved as I’ve matured. I do remember being much more critical of Season 16, and then Season 17 was the one that finally broke me.

    • [QUOTE]I don’t remember a whole hell of a lot from this episode, aside from the Squeaky-Voiced Teen trying to kill himself (which really made me uncomfortable)[/QUOTE]

      What I found funny was the fact that The Squeaky-Voiced Teen attempted suicide because “Futurama” got canceled, which was true back then, but then it came back on Comedy Central (after rerunning on Cartoon Network) and now it’s gone again (but there are rumors that it’s gonna come back, even though that final episode where Fry and Leela get married and freeze time so they can grow old together seems like the point where the crew members said, “Sorry, guys, that’s it.”). So the joke is kinda funny and kinda tasteless?

  2. I remember one bit where Nelson says his specialty is making nerds cry, so Lisa assigns him the position of TV critic. That’s about the only funny thing I remember.

    Season 15 wasn’t very good, but I didn’t mind it at the time. Season 16 is special to me because it was when I stopped denying that the show had fallen.

  3. I didn’t think this episode was bad, just not very good. I love the guy killing himself over the cancelation of Futurama though. That was down right hysterical.

  4. Great review as always Mike, spot on again and didn’t Futurama get un-cancelled or something like that? Maybe I’m thinking of the DVD’s they made after is was cancelled, though. Anyway, Season 15 really did suck. Like, alot.

    • After the four DVD films, Futurama returned with new episodes on Comedy Central two years back. The first half of the seventh season just finished airing this summer. The show’s been a bit scattershot in quality since its resurrection, but there have been plenty of recent episodes that I’d consider as good as the original run.

  5. Thanks Mike for explaining that about Futurama btw! I don’t have cable, just regular TV, but do watch youtube and hulu to keep tabs on some shows I like or watch old episodes. I thought I saw some of those newer episodes with Fry and company that were pretty decent (and 7 seasons only took 12 years, lol)! And next time I do research on The Simpsons (or Futurama) I always have Wiki. And here 🙂

    p.s. That book I got on Amazon “The Simpsons – A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family” (covering seasons 1-8) I wish they would do one for Futurama, a similar guide. Though this blog is actually better then that
    book imo!

  6. I remember this was when I first started to hear the chorus of “The Simpsons are good again!” I specifically remember people saying that in seasons 15 and 16 it started getting good again. Not as good as the classic episodes, of course, but a lot better than the crap in seasons 11 and 12. So they said, at least. Reading through these season 15 writeups makes me wonder if everyone was just insane.

  7. lol

    It’s funny because in all honesty, I never really realized the show had dropped in quality initially. Or rather, I never paid too much attention to it. I watch the show every Sunday night it aired (well I still do) and even though I realized I did not remember much of the episode, I never really bothered to focus on it. It was not until this past season was airing that I thought, “Wait a minute, something seems to be off.”

    Then, I watched the Nostalgia Critic’s Top 11 Episodes and watched his choices for myself. Upon doing so, something hit me and I had this need to watch every episode of the entire series. It also did not help that I bought the DVDs/BDs to Seasons 11-14 but had yet to watch them (never had time when they came out). I also figured now was the best time to do so since they are taking their sweet ass time releasing the other seasons on BD, so why not just watch the entire series now and see if I’m even going to want to own the unreleased seasons.

    Thus, I spent all of July watching every episode of The Simpsons and came to realize the point where the season went down hill to the point of no return. There are still some truly brilliant episodes from Seaosn 10 on, like 24 Minutes, Trilogy of Error, Gone Maggie Gone, and Eternal Moonshine in a Simpsons Mind, but yeah, the show was no longer that good. I don’t find some things as insulting as Mike does, but I guess it is because I just do not care that much in some respect. I do hate how much of an asshole Homer and Lisa have become though, especially since Season 20+ have like a million Lisa episodes.

    I’ve decided that I will only own Seasons 1-9, 12 (for Trilogy of Error), and 18 (for 24 Minutes) from this point on.

  8. Pingback: 356. The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star | Me Blog Write Good

  9. At two episodes, you enjoyed more of this season than I did. Season 15 was, without question, the worst so far, with many truly offensive episodes that could contend for Worst of the Series distinction.

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