454. The Color Yellow

thecoloryellowOriginal airdate: February 21, 2010

The premise: In researching the Simpson family tree, Lisa uncovers the diary of a young 19th century girl who wrote of her attempts to free a slave belonging to Mr. Burns’ ancestor. She continues to dig deeper and deeper to find the full story, hoping to find at least one Simpson in history of noble character.

The reaction: This show has forgotten to make jokes in the past, but here, it seems like they weren’t even trying to do comedy, but craft this historical mystery instead. Too bad none of it is interesting or entertaining. And none of it really makes much sense. The episode is about Lisa hoping there will be redemption for her 1860s counterpart, then when she’s discredited by an out-of-character antagonistic Milhouse, she’s gone from the episode. Then all of a sudden it’s 1860s Marge who saves the day, moving with the slave Virgil to Canada. So is 1860s Homer not in the Simpson blood line at all? And did 1860s Marge just up and abandon her daughter, the girl we were supposed to care about the whole show? And did they eventually move back to Springfield after leaving? Who gives a shit. This felt like an extended version of those three-story episodes, except with zero attempts at humor.

Three items of note:
– “The motto of the Simpsons is quit while you’re ahead!” Do the writers include lines like this on purpose?
– It really is stunning how little comedy there was attempted here. I mean, were they so proud of themselves and this historical “drama” they cooked up that they felt it would be worth playing it straight? The scene of 1860s Burns talking down to Lisa to set her straight felt so scathing, with no snarky capper or anything. I think they were really trying to be serious here… but why? WHY?
– Homer randomly forbids Lisa to read on in the diary, and Grampa out of nowhere provides all the necessary information about our story’s conclusion. Why is this? Never explained. Oh, except for a quick off-the-cuff line about Abe being a racist. Funny!

One good line/scene: Once again, a sign gag (Celebrating Black History Month. Coming Soon: March).

12 responses to “454. The Color Yellow

  1. There was actually a good gag with the “footnotes”. But you had to pause to read it and to be honest, it wasn’t really worth the effort.

  2. So the Simpson family motto is the exact opposite to The Simpsons’ writing staff motto?

    • Most likely and that walking out of Carrie at the prom doesn’t make any sense as it literally built up to the bucket pouring from much earlier in the film, if they’d used it for a movie that had a sudden surprise that they may have missed out on they maybe it could work but who the fuck pays good money to see a movie partly???

  3. There are also some really bad anachronisms in this episode. Colonel Burns looks pretty grown, so he must have been born in the 1800s at least, but then present Burns reveals Colonel Burns was his father. I can understand it follows the runner with Burns being really old, but then we have that 1860s Abe is present Abe’s great grandfather. We know present Abe was born around the 1910-20s, so his great grandfather being 60 years older than him, while possible, is shaky. But THEN we have Milford Van Houten who is Milhouse’s great-great-great-great-great grandfather, which seem to be way too many generations for such a time period.

    If there’s any way to make sense out of all of this, I sure don’t know how to do it without my head hurting.

  4. Even by ZS standards I was shocked at how safe and devoid of attempted humor this one was when I first saw it. It really helped solidify just how much this show was resting on its laurels.

    Also, isn’t this a case of Family Guy doing a similar plot first and doing it better?

    • [QUOTE]Also, isn’t this a case of Family Guy doing a similar plot first and doing it better?[/QUOTE]

      Yes it is. The Family Guy episode they’re ripping off is “Peter Griffin: Husband, Father, Brother?!” where Peter teaches Chris the Griffin family tree and finds that he has a black slave for an ancestor who was owned by Lois’ ancestors.

  5. If nothing else, and there isn’t anything, this episode has some beautifully animated scenes when the diary turns to dust. This was the last episode directed by Ray Persi, who was more or less Lauren Macmullan’s protégé.

  6. “I think they were really trying to be serious here… but why? WHY?”

    My best guess would be Emmy bait.

  7. I did like Mr. Burns and the waltz here, insisting that there should be a four and making the band play Straus with four beats just because he insists and won’t take arguing.

    Indeed Burns here at least felt like he had some degree of serious threat about him, not just being a sad sack. IN fairness that is all! I remember from this entire episode, but at least it’s something, and if I can actually remember something from zs at this stage it’s a surprise.

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