I’m a little behind in my reporting on the episodes we’re working on. I was afraid this would happen once we hit November “sweeps”. This is one of the times of the season where I’m juggling three, four or even five episodes at once in various stages of production. This past Monday we spotted NABF18 “Holidays of Future Passed” and scored PABF02 “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution”.
“Solution”, written by Deb Lacusta & Dan Castellaneta, brings us a new career crisis for Krusty the Clown and he hires a new agent who just happens to be his former agent who helped him get his career started. Her name is Annie and she is voiced by guest star Joan Rivers. I think the casting choice is just right and Joan is a surprisingly good voice actress. Musically, we’ve got 25 cues running just under five minutes. Of course, we have Itchy & Scratchy cartoons (yes, plural!) and a few nice twists on Krusty’s theme. “Solution” will air on Sunday, December 4, 2011, the 8th episode of season 23, episode 494 on the way to 500.
“Holidays”, written by J. Stewart Burns, takes us into the future to see how the Simpson children grow up and we learn how their parenting skills compare to Homer & Marge’s. Feels like “It’s a Wonderful Life” in reverse. 27 cues, many with a Christmas flavor for our holiday episode. “Holidays” will air on Sunday, December 11, 2011, the 9th episode of season 23, episode 495 headed toward 500. It will also be the last new episode to air in 2011.
In other news let me reflect a bit on our two most recently aired episodes.
NABF20 “The Food Wife”
I enjoyed watching and working on this episode. My wife used to write a food blog so I appreciated all the in-jokes and poking fun at the bloggers. Some food writers out there did not share my enthusiasm, most notably Katherine Shilcutt of the Houston Press. She wrote a pretty tart review of the episode and I was moved to write a rebuttal comment. You can find both here if you have some spare time.
Matt Selman wrote the script and took over running the show for this episode. There have been questions and speculation on the ‘net as to whether this means that Al Jean is stepping down or cutting back. I’m here to tell you emphatically … I don’t know. I’m not privy to these kinds of decisions. I thought Alf’s homages to “Angry Birds” and “Call of Duty” were spot-on. The Ethiopian music that plays for Marge’s dancing taste buds was something Matt found on youtube. It’s authentic Ethiopian pop music and the FOX music department had a lot of fun (where’s the sarcasm font on this thing?) tracking down the owners to get permission for us to use it. Below is the youtube video Matt found for those cues.
The song “Bloggin’ a Food Blog” was composed by Davin Wood with Lyrics by Matt Selman, Tim Heidecker, and Eric Warheim. If you’re even a moderate foodie I’m sure you appreciated the clever food/cooking/chef lyrics.
NABF22 “The Book Job”
I thought this episode, written by Dan Vebber (and run, again, by Matt Selman – I still don’t know if this means anything regarding the future of the show) was very clever, well-written, and well-acted by everyone including our guest stars Andy Garcia and Neil Gaiman. It took two distinct story lines and melded them together into one witty plot: 1) Writing a best-selling children’s literature novel with a writing team (rather than just a solitary writer) and using focus groups, then giving the credit to a fictitious author; 2) A parody of the 2001 remake of “Oceans 11”. If you haven’t seen the episode, I won’t spoil it for you. Get thee to HULU before they take it down.
Once we were into the “Ocean’s 11” part of the story, we used a piece of music that was used in the movie called “Gritty Shaker” by David Holmes. The cue was licensed for our use and Alf arranged and recorded custom versions for the show. Something interesting happened on the dubbing stage while we were working on the “Gritty Shaker” cues. In our episode, every time we saw a title card that announced the next step in the heist, we would play “Gritty Shaker”. We actually used it thirteen times. All the instances of the cue were only three or four seconds long except for two longer uses that came in at around thirty seconds each. As we were dubbing the third or fourth one Matt said he wanted to make sure that we were using the music exactly the same way it was used in “Oceans 11”. We pulled up a copy of the movie and I went through the entire film, listening for about ten seconds, then jumping ahead about thirty seconds, listening again, jumping ahead again, and so on for the length of the roughly 100-minute movie. What I discovered was that “Gritty Shaker” is used only once in “Ocean’s 11”. It’s a long scene taking place mostly in the casino the thieves are trying to rip-off, and the music runs around three minutes. Matt erroneously thought that, like our episode, it played over and over multiple times throughout the movie. So while the use of “Gritty Shaker” is authentic to the parody of “Ocean’s 11”, we used it in a very different way and many times more often.
I’ve encountered a situation like this many times in my career, where someone “remembers” a piece of music a certain way just to find out that it wasn’t really that way at all. The most memorable instance on THE SIMPSONS was many years ago when we had a “Frankenstein” scene in the show (might have been in an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, but I can’t remember) and Alf was instructed to score the scene “just the way they did it in the ‘Frankenstein’ movie from 1939 starring Boris Karloff”. Alf did his research and discovered something very interesting … there is no music in the 1939 “Frankenstein”. It’s become a running joke in spotting. When we are doing a movie parody and someone asks: “How did the music in that movie go?” Alf or I usually answer: “Just like the music in ‘Frankenstein’”.
Time to get back to the work at hand. Until next time…