Disgraced talk show host Conan O’Brien, who was famously exiled from network television for being such a bad man, has apparently resorted to blatantly ripping off the beloved American institution known as The Simpsons in an act of brazen desperation, a new low for this sad, sad man. In the opening titles of his new variety show on TBS, a silhouetted family drives over a bridge from a city and then runs inside their home to watch TV. Sound familiar? If that weren’t enough, a wacky gag involving the family – a couch gag, if you will – occurs on Thursday shows.
Executive producer Al Jean, November 29, 2010:
THR: Will there be a third chopper gag?
Jean: I think at that point you’re becoming stale. I believe that something is only funny twice.
The Simpsons, December 12, 2010:
Last week’s Simpsons episode featured a Fox News helicopter adorned with the slogan “Not racist, but #1 with racists.” Everybody liked this joke so dang much, especially smug schmucks who proudly buy coffee mugs that say “FAUX NEWS” on them, so The Simpsons just had to do it again this week. If you haven’t seen the show after they went high-def, they now have a “cloud gag” where something WACKY flies by show’s title, destroying Matt Groening’s original intention of it being a transition from the real world to the Simpsons’ world. This time, another Fox News helicopter flew by, with the slogan “Unsuitable for Viewers Under 75.”
But if you’re too cool to watch TV shows on TV at their correct bat-time, and opted instead to watch it Monday morning on Hulu (which is directly helping keep the show on the air, so knock it off), you didn’t get to see this ever-so-precious sight gag; instead you got Homer as King Kong (one of those depressing “hey guys, remember this thing from back when we were funny?” callback gags for the “old school” fans).
Blogs like Mediaite and Think Progress were immediately suspicious: did Fox News, which according to the liberal hivemind is responsible for Everything Bad In The World, exert their vast influence within News Corporation to force their corporate cousins The Simpsons and Hulu censor a mildly critical jape at their expense??? Is Fox News leading an assault on comedy??? Is Bill O’Reilly going to tear out Doonesbury from everybody’s newspaper???
No, says The New York Times‘ ArtsBeat blog, which actually bothers to ask the show’s producers about these things:
The “Simpsons” producers could not let that remark stand, so they rushed their second Fox News joke into Sunday’s episode — so late in the production process that the gag could only be inserted into the version shown in North America, but not into versions shown in foreign markets or on the Internet.
I remember feeling super-special when I watched “Trilogy of Error” for the first time and noticed that the closed captioning was occasionally different from the spoken dialogue, because they had changed jokes at the last minute, after the episode had already been sent to closed-captioning factory (or whatever, I don’t know it works). I was getting bonus jokes! This silly non-conspiracy is just the same thing, just on a larger scale. So while it’s tempting to believe Fox News, the Koch brothers, and Satan are all cruising around in a Halliburton blimp, snatching up people in their tractor beams and throwing them down the memory hole because they criticized Sarah Palin’s choice of eyewear on their Tumblr, it’s important to remember The Simpsons hasn’t been controversial in about a decade. [ArtsBeat]
If you were one of the people watching The Simpsons last night (sucker), you may have noticed something a little different about the opening sequence!
The “couch gag,” if one could call it that, was storyboarded and directed by the pseudonymous Britain street artist known as Banksy, whose distinctive graffiti has shown up across the UK and the US, and whose work has been auctioned off for millions of dollars to limousine liberal luminaries like Brangelina.
Showrunner-for-life Al Jean told the New York Times he seeked out the ostensibly underground (despite having a publicist) “art terrorist” and asked him, via a series of messengers, if he’d do the opening, later receiving the storyboards without ever meeting the mystery man. Although 5% was cut out by request of Fox Broadcast & Standards, Jean insists the final product was as close as possible to Banksy’s original intention.
The response has been enormous – Banksy became a “Trending Topic” on Twitter last night (which is, like, super-important and stuff) and there are currently hundreds of news stories about it – which I’m sure makes up for the 29% decline in ratings from last week. It’s to quantify these things, but I think it’s safe to presume this will get more attention than other recent Simpsons “viral” stunts, from the godawful Ke$ha thing to the Itchy & Scratchy parody of Koyaanisqatsi (in the old days, The Simpsons usually generated buzz with actual episodes instead of context-free YouTube clips, but I guess that’s the way things are now in the New Media Landscape).
Of the many little things I detest about the new HD opening sequence – the egregious fanservice, the flow-killing Ralph moment, the inexplicable downgrading of Mr. Burns to “background character seen during whip-pan” – my biggest gripe is with the scene where Maggie is scanned. In the original, Marge becomes extremely concerned when she realizes Maggie is gone, she swivels around with her hair accentuating her movement, then she lets out a big sigh of relief when Maggie pops out of the bag. It’s a nice little moment of character animation, which you can see here in this crude gif I put together (framegrabs shamelessly taken from No Homers Club poster Wooster):
In the new one, Marge doesn’t really react at all – her head jerks around, her slight frown changes to a slight smile, and then she blinks while Maggie exchanges a shaking of fists with The One-Eyebrowed Baby (ughhh):
Aye carumba, Marge really did become a robot!
Anyway, the reason I’m posting about this now is because I only recently discovered this rather candid journal entry by Dane Romley, one of the animators who worked on it. Turns out he hates the Marge thing too!
This whole scene was mine. I didn’t like what they did where they cut pieces of body parts and moved them in the computer ie. Maggie’s head etc. It looks like it was done in flash. About the Marge turn, I had originally done a version where she did a nice head turn but, again, they didn’t want it. “Just have a simple head turn because we want the joke to be Maggie and the unibrow baby,” they told me. I didn’t know they were going to stiffen it up that much, I’m just defending myself because that seems to be the first thing people mention is Marge. They kept my Maggie scan and popping out of the bag though and in my defense they added the fist shaking later, I didn’t do those 2 drawing cycle *eck*
I have no energy to comment on The Simpsons‘s Poochiesque stab at relevancy, so here’s a roundup of what the rest of the Internet had to say about it:
Warming Glow pronounced The Simpsons dead:
Add me to the long list of hacks who have declared the Simpsons “dead.” We have declared it dead upwards of a dozen times since the September 28, 1997 Seymour Skinner episode, but until the show finally dies, this descriptor has not and will not be any more appropriate than it is in the wake of last night’s opening credits.
PopCrunch enjoyed it:
Even if you hate Tik Tok, you’ve got to admit The Simpsons intro is pretty clever.
Twitter user stevend, not so much:
wow that was the most disgraceful couch gag ever on the simpsons. seeing springfield sing a ke$ha song has got me to reconsider suicide.
Gawker said, “What the more recent seasons of The Simpsons have lacked in terms of comedic creativity, they’ve made up for with wacky intros.” What???
New York was delighted but perplexed:
Despite the music, it’s pretty delightful. As far as we can tell, though, this is the first time Danny Elfman’s theme has been replaced with a contemporary pop song, so it’s slightly baffling that would have chosen this one to make history with.
TwentyFourBit declared it an epic winz0r FTW:
The Simpsons brought the lulz tonight with a lip dub of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” as their intro theme song, and though I’ll admit to not LOLing IRL until Nelson Muntz belts out the ridiculous chorus, this is the one time you won’t regret revisiting a song from the reigning poet laureate (sarcasm!) of pop.
Videogum officially declared itself done with The Simpsons:
I’m pretty sure this means we are done with The Simpsons. Bye, The Simpsons! I will continue to not have watched you in years!
The creator of iCarly loved it!!!
Twitter user ACHkris laid down an ultimatum:
Dear simpsons- NEVER USE A KESHA SONG IN PLACE OF THE INTRO EVER AGAIN OR WE ARE THROUGH.
Finally, andPOP won Headline of the Year with Tik Tok: The countdown Until ‘The Simpsons’ are Cancelled:
Either Matt Groening has finally run out of ideas for America’s longest running show or Ke$ha broke into his house and offered to blow him. Either way, the choice to use ‘Tik Tok’ as a substitute for the Simpsons theme song was a scary indication that no one is safe. Even an American institution, with over two decades of immense popularity, is vulnerable to Ke$ha’s infectious auto-tuned pop hooks.
In a stunt that puts NBC’s “Green Week” initiative to shame, Fox has apparently ordered several of its shows to include a musical number as part of a week-long campaign dubbed “Fox Rocks,” presumably to promote the network’s two most unpopular shows, American Idol and Glee. The Simpsons is participating by having “Homer, Marge and the gang” “rock out” to the song “TiK ToK” by Ke$ha in a couch gag.
When The Simpsons started, executive producer James L. Brooks had enough clout to mandate no network interference, which helped make the show great.
What happened? [The Wrap]
What’s different: The storyline (no more Smithers stealing Maggie for some bizarre reason), you can only play as Homer, you can slap him to revive him, new design (as far as I can tell, it looks like a modern episode and not all pixelated), and characters/locations that weren’t around or as iconic in 1991 (including the Republican Party Headquarters and Rich Texan).
What’s the same: The basic controls (I think?), and the dated Binky-with-a-ghetto-blaster level transistions (which I like). [United Simpsons]