Huffington Post has an article about some Buzzfeed guy’s article about some reddit guy’s theory about the later seasons of The Simpsons all taking place inside Homer’s imagination during a coma. Where have I heard that crazy theory before??? Oh yeah, from me, in a footnote from this article I wrote in 2011, and while I’d love to take credit for that stupid theory, it’s been floating around since at least 2002 as this posting to the alt.tv.simpsons newsgroup by a “Dr Music” shows. Everybody is aggregating everybody else’s content, the end.
The TV Recap Industry is All alt.tv.simpsons’s Fault
If you’ve been using the internet for the past five years, mayhaps you’ve noticed a growing trend of episode-by-episode recaps and reviews of television shows. Virtually every major blog does a recap of Mad Men, Girls is considered “fantastically popular” to those within that New York media bubble, and even The Gray Lady has gotten in on the action. The epicenter for the TV recap industry is of course The A.V. Club, which greatly expanded its television section in an insane quest to review every episode of every TV show, with a (self-admitted) tendency to lapse into “pretentious twaddle” in the course of explaining what episode 702 of The Big Bang Theory says about the human condition.
Who’s responsible for all this? Slate places the blame squarely on alt.tv.simpsons, the infamous nerdy Simpsons newsgroup personified by the Comic Book Guy:
Long before the rise of TV recap culture, its best and worst elements commingled in the alt.tv.simpsons laboratory. The content ranged from meticulous (a list of the show’s blackboard and couch gags) to smart (a later-proven theory that Maggie shot Mr. Burns) to overcritical (in the middle the unimpeachably great Season 4, somebody started the thread “Simpsons in decline?” in which one poster claimed that “Marge vs. the Monorail,” a classic episode, “had 0 good quotes”) to offensive (e.g., “Lisa has a proto-dyke Marxist Jew agenda”).
Yep, sounds the internet all right. I’m sure whatever the big Star Trek newsgroup was at the time also played a big role – Trekkies are responsible for slash fiction and fandoms, mind you – but here it merits only a throwaway reference.
The rest of the article talks about the Simpsons producers’ relationship to the alt.tv.simpsons, which is mildly interesting. It doesn’t mention this, but there’s a Life in Hell strip I’d very much like to see that pretty much just quotes a scathing review of the Republican-bashing episode “Sideshow Bob Roberts” verbatim (there’s a transcript in this episode capsule; Control+F “Galvanek”), including this choice quote:
I would get such a kick right about now in seeing Groening writhing in pain as he dangled by a section of his intestine from a tree. At the very least I’m hoping for a sloooooow painful death via some horrible illness of his nervous system, on that allows him to remain fully aware until his very last breath.
Hmm, kinda makes you wonder why Matt Groening isn’t on Twitter.
Also, not that it was ever in any doubt, but Slate links to irrefutable proof that Alan Sepinwall, king of the TV recap industry, is a wiener: a post on alt.tv.simpsons where he complains about a continuity error. Haw, haw!
So What Was Up With That Rag Episode?
After failing to come up with any new ideas for Simpsons episodes, the writers decided to call it quits and throw in the towel… then, as they gazed upon the towel they threw, suddenly became struck with inspiration and wrote a whole episode around it. At least, that’s how I imagine this rag episode came about.
I didn’t see it, but I read the Wikisimpsons article about it, which is chock full of insane plot details like “Moe is part yeti,” “Moe has a magical talking bar rag from the Middle Ages voiced by Jeremy Irons,” “Milhouse’s mom chokes on a rock and refuses the Heimlich maneuver,” and “Moe is part yeti.”
Judging from the feedback on the internet, “the rag episode” represents yet another low point for the series, like jockey gnomes, “the Israel episode,” and whatever that Ke$ha thing was.
Simpsons-L Shuts Down, Apparently
Simpsons-L was a listserv dedicated to a show that hasn’t been consistently funny since the late 1990s, run by The Simpsons Archive, a website launched in 1994 before most people had PCs, maintained mostly by people from a usenet newsgroup created in 1990. With three levels of obsoleteness batting against it, I suppose it was only a matter of time before it joined Geocities in the great internet boneyard. But the news of its demise was still a little surprising to me, like finding out telegrams still existed.
I subscribed to it a few years back in order to to stay abreast of the latest Simpsons news and views, delivered instantly to my inbox at the lightning-fast pace of about once a month. If my Gmail label is accurate, there have been only 21 messages this year, so far. Chalk it up to yet another online Simpsons community that got sick of this lumbering zombie of a TV show.