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Posts tagged ‘parodies’

Not if they were called scum drops

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The Principal and the Pauper

couch gag: The Simpsons are dressed as astronauts and when they sit on the couch, it blasts off.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voice:
Martin Sheen as the real Seymour Skinner

Synopsis: At a 20th anniversary celebration for Principal Skinner, an army sergeant rocks up and claims to be the real Skinner. Skinner is revealed to be an imposter named Armin Tamzarian. 

Discussion: Could this be the episode where The Simpsons jumps the shark? The Simpsons has a reputation for parodying films, and this ep follows the basic plot of the 1993 film SommersbyHowever, it never really seems to get there. There’s no satisfying conclusion to the episode; the townsfolk want their weenie back and send the real Skinner out of town tied to a train. It’s considered non-canonical (and for darn good reason- how do you come back from such a ridiculous plot?) and even Matt Groening himself admits the episode was a mistake.

So, where exactly does this ep fall down? My hypothesis is that Skinner is the least likely to be an imposter. Yes, he’s a weenie, but he’s our weenie. We’re in season 9 now, which has been plenty of time for the audience to know Skinner. His story of vulnerability just doesn’t wash. A radical teen who can’t bring himself to tell a mother that her son is dead so adopts his hero’s life instead? Puh-leese! Come on, pull the other leg. Maybe if Agnes saw straight away that this is what she was looking for in a son, then maybe it might possibly work. But no. Armin Tamzarian has a cool name but that’s about it. He’s portrayed as even more of a weenie than the audience expects. The teacher/principal character need to be a foil for the students, but revealing Skinner to be an imposter takes away that dynamic and never replaces it.

This jump in story arc isn’t really mentioned again, according to Judge Snyder’s ruling at the end, however Lisa does refer to Principal Tamzarian in a future episode (which we’ll get to eventually).

This leaves the question, which character could pull off such a plot line of being an imposter?

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These rubber pants are hot

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The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

Director: Neil Affleck

Guest voices:
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
Gailard Sartain as Big Daddy
Tim Conway as himself

Synopsis: Troy introduces three possible spin-off ideas. Chief Wiggum becomes a PI in New Orleans, Grampa dies and his ghost haunts Moe’s Love-matic machine to give love advice and the Simpsons appear in a variety hour.

Discussion: Even looking past the intentionally bad script, I can’t love this episode. It’s lame… and meant to be.

Spin-offs are a way of furthering a franchise for more money. They’re like breaking The Hobbit into three parts: you don’t need it, it’s pretty pointless and it makes more money than just one show. Plus it fills a few gaps in the line-up, which Troy mentions at the top of the episode.

Done well, spin-offs can take a life of their own and become as popular as their seminal show. Done badly, and you get a parody 25 years later. Happy Days has a number of spin-offs, although none were quite as popular or long-lived as the original show. Happy Days spin-offs include: Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy and Joanie Loves Chachi (what’s a Chachi?) Mork and Mindy gave us Robin Williams and Laverne and Shirley gave us years of “what are they saying in the opening credits before ‘incorporated’?” On a side note, I can’t believe the writers didn’t include any of those shows in their wall of famous spin-offs that Troy walks past.

OK, onto the segments themselves. Chief Wiggum P.I. is a parody of cop shows like Starsky & Hutch  and Miami Vice. Wiggum, Ralph and Principal Skinner move to New Orleans and chase a guy named Big Daddy. It’s lame… but meant to be.

The Love-matic Grampa is also lame and supposed to be. Grampa’s dead and his ghost inhabits Moe’s love tester machine, first seen in Flaming Moe’s from season 3. Moe is awkward on dates and receives dodgy love advice. It’s lame… but in a good way.

Finally, the Simpsons Family Smile-Time Variety Hour. Oh my freaking God. It’s a parody of all those variety shows from the 1970s featuring the Brady bunch, Partridge family, Sonny and Cher and even the Smothers Brothers. The Brady Bunch Variety Hour was so camp and ridiculous that Eve Plumb (Jan), refused to participate, parodied in this segment by Lisa being replaced with an older, tall, blonder girl. Similarly, this segment is also camp and, dare I say it, gay that Waylon Smithers cracking a licorice whip is just so funny and stupid that it works.

History lesson: The baby boomers were the first generation to grow up with TV. In the 1960s, television catered to these new teenagers by creating shows especially for them (much like Hollywood’s 1950s era of rebellious teen movies catering specifically for a new generation). One of these shows was The Monkees, another was The Smothers Brothers. In many ways (and I’ve written an essay about this), The Simpsons are the epitome of 1990s television also catering to youth culture. The show’s themes of realism and self-reflexive paradigms mirror those of 1960s television culture. Looking beyond the lameness of these spin-offs, we see a clever parody of genres from television’s attempts to cash in on particular trends of the times.

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