Monday, June 29, 2015

TV: The Grinch Who Stole The Simpsons

"TV babies," Matt Dillon snorts dismissively in the film Drugstore Cowboy and, boy, do we hear you, Matt.

TV babies know what they saw on TV, they just don't know a great deal about life.


You can see it with the Saturday Night Live writers.

Once upon a time, skits were based on relateable moments you could identify with.  Dating moments, for instance, that were recognizable even if they did have to go over the top to reach the comedy.

If your life was a TV talk show, then SNL captures it for you.

There are some episodes that feel like every skit was a spoof of a talk show.

That's what happens when writers with limited experience and/or limited talent end up 'writing.'  They can rewrite what they saw on TV from other television shows, they just can't capture any real life incident.

No where is this failure more apparent than on the shows from Seth MacFarlane.

Seth is funny himself.

The shows he's associated with (American Dad and Family Guy, for example) often are.

But far too often, they're failing to convey real life moments.

"They're cartoons!"

Well, yes, they are.

They are cartoons that rip off Woody Allen's Crimes & Misdemeanors and Sidney Pollack's Tootsie, to offer only two examples.

It makes the shows less and less funny and removes you from the characters as you sit there trying to figure out what film is being spoofed this time.

And that's before you even bring up the Star Wars parodies (Family Guy) or James Bond parodies (American Dad).

Can they tell their own story about their own characters?

Apparently not.

King of the Hill should never have been axed.

That show was rooted in reality and managed to find the jokes every half minute.

Today, Bob's Burgers does the same.

It's a hilarious show and probably one of the best animated ones on prime time television.

One of the best?

Though many keep predicting the death of The Simpsons, the long running show which has now aired 574 episode -- nine more than there are days in a year -- still has a surprising amount of life in it.

The last two years have found the show on something of a creative high and its comments about not only the characters but also the world we live in have been both funny and on the mark.

This year's stand out commentary moment for us, for example, was when Marge wanted Bart to tell her why something happened and he responded, "How can I explain something I know nothing about?  I am not cable news."

They, in fact, do so much right of late that it's hard to believe they could be on the verge of a colossal mistake.

Harry Shearer has left the show.

The voice of Mr. Smithers, Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Kent Brockman, Dr. Hibbert, Reverand Lovejoy, Lenny, Principal Skinner and more is no more?

Now you can recast voice actors.

Remember when they made the film of The Jetsons cartoon TV show?

Remember the 'smart' decision to recast Judy Jetson and have her voiced by then-hit maker Tiffany?

If you do remember, you may remember the outrage and the fact that the film crashed and burned.

Meanwhile, how greedy is James L. Brooks?

That's the question circulating these days -- followed by how stupid is James L. Brooks?

He hasn't had a hit film since As Good As It Gets.

And his only two other hits are Terms of Endearment and Broadcast News.

For some reason, he's not interested in working with either Debra Winger or Holly Hunter.

And he's never really recovered from the bomb I'll Do Anything.

But he keeps trying to have a hit film and America keeps making clear they won't be having what he's having.

The Simpsons have made him rich beyond anyone's measure.

But instead of guarding the art involved, Jim's only focused on the coin.

He got into a ridiculous lawsuit with Tracey Ullman (yes, he won, didn't make the lawsuit any less ridiculous) and that really soured a lot of people on him.

Ullman's variety show was where The Simpsons got their TV debut.

Few people want to work with Brooks on a TV show today out of fear that he will pull some similar stunt/betrayal on them.

And, as we pointed out, it's been nearly 20 years since Brooks had a hit film.

His refusal to work with actresses who brought him acclaim (toss Shirley MacLaine on that list) has also soured his image.

And the war on Polly Platt was both tragic and tacky.

All of it has left Brooks with mountains of moolah but not any real friends.

A bunch of lackeys remain, sniffing around the cash.  They're the ones who tell the trade publications that Harry Sharar needs to contact Jim Brooks and talk to him.

So Jim Brooks has raked in millions and millions for this show -- for doing nothing really -- and it's not even his job to speak to a voice actor about staying with the show?

Remind us again why Brooks makes even a dime off this show.

Brooks appears to believe that money can replace companions.  Well more power to him and lots of luck with that but is that any reason for him to risk the health of his only cash cow (The Simpsons)?

If the show doesn't manage to delight fans this fall in a Harry Shearar-less edition, it may not longer be referred to as "Fox's long-running show."

And if that happens, Brooks will have to explain to the world how his greed managed to kill the Goose that laid the golden egg.

Fortunately for Fox, they'll still have Bob's Burgers.


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