Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Night of the Living Dead TV Shows

For those who have trouble with the “Destroy All Zombies!” concept

For some reason people in France are reading this blog. Salutations, ô mes frères! I hope you’re all properly entertained by what you find here.

For any of my semi-regular readers who are wondering what’s taking so long between posts, I’ve been busy rewriting Grace Among the Dead. If it sounds like I’m being cute when I say the first novel I finished writing is turning out to be my third—look, there’s nothing cute about this. It’s an epic trial of will.

You’d think integrating previously written scenes and punching up a few character details, etc., would be easier than writing everything from scratch. I’d thought so, anyway. I’d expected to have this knocked out in two or three weeks. At the very least I’d have it done by the end of summer! O Lord, I was wrong. Stupid crazy wrong. 

The only thing keeping me going—actually, there are two things. First and foremost, I need to get the sequel to Bleeding Kansas out. Period. I’m committed to finishing The Saga of the Dead Silencer trilogy not only contractually, but emotionally. It’s a grudge match. The good news is I generally win these things. I simply have to keep at it and at it until there’s no more it to keep at. 

The other good news, and the second thing that keeps me going, is I am never doing this again. If I’m at all tempted to integrate scenes from an already typed-and-saved manuscript into a new story, I’ll make notes in regards to what made those scenes so great in the first place, and completely ignore them as I write the narrative from the ground up, all narrative bricks custom baked and laid on the spot, nothing shipped in. It’s far faster, so much easier, and gets the job done.

I did say I’d get back to talking about zombies sometime, didn’t I? I could have started cold by talking about The Simpsons 25th season opener a couple of weeks back. I’m not trying to be cute here, either. Watching this show in its latter days is exactly what I imagine it’s like watching a loved one, once a lively, smart, precious little thing, shambling mindlessly about the house, eyes rolled back into its head, pieces falling off here and there, and leaving a trail of putrescent grease everywhere it goes.

The plot had to do with Homer the Insufferable Man-Child going to a nuclear power workers convention, getting drunk and then kidnapped by—who? At first it seems like Muslim terrorists, because at one point Homer breaks out a rug and kneels on it facing east, i.e., towards Mecca. It turns out to have been some home-grown granola heads who somehow brainwashed Homer into giving up alcohol and being a better parent and father.

If I forget what the prayer rug that wasn’t a prayer rug was really for...well, shoot, I just can’t make myself care. It turns out the bomb wasn’t a bomb either, it was a simple container filled with foul smelling things that was supposed to have its odor pumped through the power plant’s air conditioning system. The stench would force the plant to shut down. But, quelle surprise! The air conditioning in Mr. Burns’ nuclear power plant hasn’t been operative for years. The plant is closed anyway and Mr. Burns is taken away to jail.

I haven’t seen The Simpsons on a regular basis for nearly two decades—even less since 2000—so I can’t know if they haven’t run this kind of story before. Still, I felt like I was watching a rehash of something. The few times I have managed to see The Simpsons since 1994 (I’d thought it had jumped the shark with that season’s premiere) I’ve seen many variations on

* Homer does something nigh-catastrophically stupid and Marge kicks him out of the house until Homer somehow redeems himself

* Homer does something nigh-catastrophically stupid and gets fired from the nuclear power plant, does something merely silly as a money-making scheme (or works another job) until he gets his old job back

* Moe the Ugly Bartender acts out on his unrequited love for Marge

* Everyone in Springfield gets fed up with the family and exiles the Simpsons (a plot point in the ballyhooed-and-forgotten feature film, as well as the 500th episode).

What makes The Simpsons hard to watch is I remember what it was when it started. Like a lot of shows on the then-nascent FOX network in 1989, it was a reaction to the saccharine Reagan-era TV programming like The Cosby Show and Family Ties. Unlike most family sitcoms The Simpsons worried about money, dealt with disrespectful children, the treatment of bright children in a willfully stupid society, etc.

Like NBC’s Saturday Night Live, another long undead show overdue for a bullet to the brain, it used to be subversive. These shows once did the unthinkable, namely, they acknowledged our discontent as consumer/subjects of a decaying and corrupt republic. Watching and laughing was a way of flipping off the Man. Now both are part and parcel of that very same phony culture the shows used to mock.

I wouldn’t have bothered with the next week’s episode if it wasn’t a Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode. For years it seemed they were airing these Halloween episodes as season premieres—in November, when everyone (even me) was well Halloween’d out. So this one comes on the first Sunday of October, leading me to wonder why they couldn’t do this on the Sunday before Halloween. I suppose that made too much sense.

The Guillermo del Toro-directed opening credits were flogged for weeks before on the Internet—you could even watch the finished sequence. It was okay, I suppose, if a little busy. I liked seeing Bart passing Ray Bradbury and the Illustrated Man on his skateboard. If you want to feel really smart, go to this page, watch the opening credits again, then watch the annotated version in which all the references are noted.

As for the episode itself, the macabre Dr. Seuss parody was far and away the best. The second segment with Bart and Lisa was a nice throwback to ancient days when episodes revolved around the children. The third was an homage to the 1932 film Freaks. Lenny, as a pinhead in Mr. Burns’ circus, makes a Zippy the Pinhead reference when he says, “Yow!” 

Altogether, it wasn’t bad, certainly better than the thin soup that was the season premiere. Still, it hardly seems worth making a point to sit down and watch The Simpsons every Sunday. Reportedly, enough people in the ages 18-49 bracket still watch to justify a 26th season. Like Saturday Night Live, I might tune in every once in a while if I’m around my TV at that time, and bored. But I’m not putting myself out for it. The breath left the body a long, long time ago. It’s just going through the motions, rehashing one of a dozen or more plot lines. And why not? The show has been on so long most young people don’t realize the same story they’re watching in 2013 was first told in 1992, and again in 1998, and again in 2002, et al.

As for the rest of what used to be promoted as Animation Domination Sundays, I refuse to sit through the ugly art and gross-out humor that is Bob’s Burgers (the previews are more than enough) and as for Seth McFarlane’s two shows after that, that’s a rant for another day.

I realize I should have some kind of image in here but looking at Simpsons art is too depressing after writing this. So here’s a shot of Kaley Cuoco in a bikini. In other news, John Lennon would have turned 73 years old today. But he’s long dead, too, and it’s just as well.