Finishing “How I Wet Your Mother” and starting “Them, Robot”

Episode 502 is in the books, so let me share a few thoughts and inside stories…

PABF08 “How I Wet Your Mother”

    • Right off the bat, we get another classical orchestral work thrown in for your enjoyment. This one is a little obscure unless you’re a Tchaikovsky fan. For the scene when all the SNPP employees raid the supply closet we used Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony, 3rd movement which has the distinction of starting off with all pizzicato strings. When we spotted this episode Al Jean & Ian Maxtone-Graham wanted a classical piece for the scene (not one that we had used before) that had an air of mischief to it. We had just used “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” in PABF09 “Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart”, so that was out. Ian suggested (in his original script) using Antonín Dvořák’s “New World Symphony”
      When we looked at the scene with a couple different parts of the “New World” it just didn’t feel right. Then I suggested the “all pizzicato” movement from Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings”. Al & Ian agreed to give it a listen. So, as the spotting session continued, I was Google & YouTube searching “Serenade for Strings”. I found numerous recordings but I could not find the “all pizzicato” movement. I was getting pretty frustrated and I wanted to sample it for them before the spotting session was over. At the last minute I realized that I was searching for the wrong piece! D’oh! The movement I was thinking of came from Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony. I found a recording, played it for them and they both thought it worked really well. I marked up the score, sent it off to Alf for adaptation and that’s how it ended up in the episode. If you’d like to take a six-minute break from the blog and listen to the entire movement played by one of the world’s greatest orchestras, then click on the YouTube video below.

  • Of course the episode is, in large part, a parody of “Inception” so Alf had to listen to much of the “Inception” score to get the feel for the motifs and orchestration. As usual, a spot-on great job. Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham and Matt Groening all commented to me at the dub how much they enjoyed the music and what a great job Alf did bringing our spin on “Inception” to full life.
  • Near the end of December, 2011 I received a phone call from Ian telling me about an idea he had for the End Credits to use David Byrne’s song “Dream Operator”. He and Billy Kimball had written special lyrics to tie the song into the story of the episode and he wanted Glenn Close as Mona to sing part of it and David Byrne to sing part of it. We went ahead and I prepared a temp track of the song editing David Byrne’s original recording and altering the tempo slightly to fit the length of the End Credits. We sent the track and lyrics off to Glenn Close. In January, 2012 she went into a studio in New York and I directed her over the phone from California and got five exquisite takes. At this point David Byrne had expressed interest in singing his part but had not yet been firmly booked. Then David went on tour. So on February 29, 2012 I directed Dan Castellaneta singing as Grampa covering David Byrne’s part of the song just in case David couldn’t participate in time. But then, lo and behold, on Monday, March 5, 2012 I opened my email inbox to find singing tracks from David Byrne. I cut them in, leaving Dan’s beautiful performance on the virtual cutting room floor. David even provided us with a custom instrumental track. Ian and everyone was thrilled with the final result.

SIDEBAR: Back when Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein were running the show, I wandered into the writers’ room one day. On the wall were hundreds of 3×5 cards with two or three words on each of them, giving ideas for stories. One of them read “Homer’s mother”. I was excited by that idea and asked Bill Oakley if the part of the mother had been cast. He said “not yet” and rattled off a few names. I then suggested Glenn Close as a good possibility. He nodded agreement and I heard nothing about it again. A year later, at music spotting for the episode, I heard the voice of Homer’s mother and immediately recognized it as Glenn Close’s. I reminded Bill of our meeting in the writers’ room and he had no memory of our conversation. Hmmmm. How con-VEEEEEN-ient! So, when I got to direct Ms. Close singing “Dream Operator” I took a moment and told her my story. She agreed that it was con-VEEEEEN-ient that I received no credit for suggesting her for the part and has agreed to let me retain Patty Hewes to force Mr. Oakley to admit that I was instrumental in her casting (you have to be a “Damages” fan to get the joke).

Well, we’re on to episode 503 already, PABF10 “Them, Robot” written by Michael Price. The show will air on FOX on Sunday, March 18, 2012. There will be another classical music work slipped into the episode (let’s see how many weeks in a row we can keep this up). Guest voice for this episode is Brent Spiner straying not-too-terribly-far away from his days as Data on “Stark Trek: The Next Generation”. The scoring session for this episode took place yesterday (3/11/12) and it went very smoothly and we got some great cues with a lot of variety. As I write this, dubbing has started so we’ll be finished late Wednesday (3/13/12).

Every season the broadcast schedule has different unusual periods of many new episodes in a row or many weeks of no new episodes. After March 18, there won’t be a new SIMPSONS episode on FOX until Sunday, April 15, 2012. So finish up your taxes while watching the show … it’ll take some of the sting out of having to write a check.

Finally, a Twitter update – as of this writing I have 396 followers. Thanks to all my new followers and thanks to all of you who helped me to get there. I really appreciate it.

Until next time!

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16 thoughts on “Finishing “How I Wet Your Mother” and starting “Them, Robot”

  1. This is a gem of a blog. I do love Mona episodes and the version of Dream Operator at the end was lovely. Bravo to you sir.

    • Thank you for the compliment. I don’t think I was ever as moved during a SIMPSONS episode as I was during the final scene of 3F06 “Mother Simpson” when Homer sits on the hood of his car and watches the stars after his mother goes back into hiding.

  2. Chris: I stumbled upon your blog looking for the Talking Head’s bit from the How I wet Your Mother episode. Two observations: (1) Your Blog confirms we live in a great country where if you work hard you can make your living is such wonderful ways and (2) That behind every Simpson’s episode is a tremendous amount of hard work, cultural references, and iconic homage . Thanks for writing!

    Britton

    • This is great! Is this from one of the DVD commentaries? Yes, I have all the DVD box sets, but haven’t had time to watch & listen to ALL the commentary tracks.

      BTW, my surname LEDESMA is mostly a Hispanic name these days (my father was born in Mexico City) but the name originated in The Netherlands. Do you know any Ledesmas?

      Dank u.

      • It’s from the special hidden goodbye commentary on Lisa the Simpson. Wanted to rip it for you for a while, this seemed like the perfect timing.

        Unfortunately I know no Ledesma’s. I know plenty of people named Chris, though ;p

        Graag gedaan!

  3. Glenn Close is one of my favorite guest stars. I bet she was a lot of fun to direct. The song in the credits was definitely a highlight.

    • She was a delight to work with and the consummate pro. If you listen closely to her performance you can hear a trace of her “Broadway belt” deftly blended with her gentle characterization of Mona Simpson.

  4. I liked the flashback, and I generally like Mona Simpson episodes. Shows the bond Homer has with his mother.

    However, I felt that the episode seemed rushed. As in, it could have been longer, maybe even movie length. I loved the nod to the Shorts, with B.F. Sherwood making his first appearance since “Family Therapy”, all those episodes and 4 shorts ago.

    • I know … 3 commercial breaks instead of 2 has made the show feel that way at times. Whaddya gonna do? Gotta pay the bills to keep the lights on.

      My favorite part of that flashback was the crudely drawn hand-lettering on Sherwood’s office door.

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