I think I hit a little slump there. Now I can better appreciate what writers and columnists who write for a living must feel when they have to write on demand, make it engaging, and turn it in on time.
When I got into post-production on the “final four” four this season, I just couldn’t quite focus on writing. There was a lot of work to do on these last four episodes and before I knew it six weeks had passed by without a new blog post. Sorry about that. I’ll try to not let that happen again.
Before I get into my SIMPSONS part of the blog, I wanted to include a very personal request. My wife and I have a beautiful granddaughter who is nearly two years old. She was born sixteen weeks prematurely (known as a micro-preemie) and had to stay in the hospital for the first nine weeks of her life. Today, thanks to incredible advances in preemie and micro-preemie medicine and care, she is a thriving, happy, bouncy toddler. On Saturday, May 19, 2012 my family and I will be walking in the March for Babies to raise funds and awareness for micro-preemie research and education. If all my readers would donate just $1 that would be a blessing and a gift for which I would be forever grateful. Please take a moment and visit my donation web page and give whatever you can. Thank you so much.
When last we met out here on the Interwebs, I was working on PABF11 “Beware My Cheating Bart”, written by Ben Joseph. One of the highlights of the episode was the extended couch gag, guest-animated by Bill Plympton. What a flight of fancy to imagine Homer having had a “relationship” with the couch before he met Marge. Clever story, trademark Plymptoon animation, and, of course, a suitably quirky and emotional cue to score it.
I want to give a shout-out to one of our regular cast members, Tress MacNeille. She provided the voice for Jimbo’s girlfriend Shauna in this episode. This could have been another great guest-casting opportunity for one of Bart’s crushes (like Meryl Streep or Natalie Portman) but Tress gave (and always gives) a wonderful, nuanced performance that goes way past the stereotypical “valley girl” inflection of the character. Shauna is sincerely attracted to Bart, but knows it’s ridiculous because he’s only ten years old. She likes the attention Bart gives her that Jimbo doesn’t and is able to bring a wistful quailty to her scenes. Really well done, I thought.
The “B” story was Homer’s newfound obsession with a recently canceled TV show called “Stranded”. This story line actually had a 1-2 punch for me in that it poked fun at “Lost” and at Netflix. Homer has had a love affair with televsion since the beginning and I think his discovery that he can watch old shows 24/7 on the Internet is like finding his own personal Shangri-La. No matter what fans or detractors of THE SIMPSONS thought about this story line, “Lost” co- creator Damon Lindelof tweeted this about the episode.
Then it was on to PABF12 “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again”, written by Matt Warburton and Executive Produced by Matt Selman. In a surprising turn-of-character, Bart wants to go on a cruise to spice up his humdrum life in Springfield and ends up wanting the cruise to last forever because not only is he having fun, but he sees how much fun the rest of his family is having.
The episode has its genesis in a 1996 Harper’s Magazine essay by David Foster Wallace. I’ve cruised many times in my life and I have always felt melancholy at the end of the voyage because life aboard a luxury liner is wonderfully (almost sinfully) pampered.
British actor and comedian Steve Coogan provided the voice of the Cruise Director and got to belt out a Broadway-style tune called “Enjoy it While You Can” with music by Tony-winning composer Robert Lopez (“Avenue Q” and “Book of Mormon”). The song sums up all of Bart’s fears – the cruise is great, but when it’s over it’s back to normal life. Robert Lopez wrote & produced the song in New York with a “synthesizer band” and Steve Coogan also recorded his singing in New York. The tracks were sent to me, then Alf added a Vegas-style house orchestra arrangement for the final version. Great work all around.
The episode also had two more “classical” works in it to add to our growing list of “legit” musical works being slipped into the show. This time all credit for the choices goes to writer Matt Warburton who wrote the selections into the script. For the first time we see the massive cruise ship with a flyover shot, the music is “Concerto for Harp and Strings” by Francois Boeildieu. This piece got a second, more dire and dark treatment later in the episode when we see the same flyover, but the ship is now in ruins after Bart’s “virus” scam. Harpist Gayle Levant gave a fantastic- albeit very short – performance of the solo part. The second work was a snippet of the overture from “Ruslan and Ludmilla”, an opera by 1800s Russian composer Mikhail Glinka, which scored the sequence of Bart running all over the ship while he enjoyed all the cool activities. The orchestra got a kick out of playing these works and the cues fit their respective scenes perfectly. Nice choices, Matt! Great playing, orchestra!
Finally the show earned some “indie cred” according to The Hollywood Reporter when we used songs by Hot Chip and Animal Collective during the episode. The show opens with Bart going through his very mundane weekly routine to the song “And I Was a Boy From School”. The show ends with Bart and the family sliding down snowy hills with penguins and then old Bart looks back over the happy times in his life to the song “Winter’s Love”. Once again, these song choices were written into the script by Matt Warburton. Well done.
OK, I’m half-way to catching up. I’ll cover the final three shows of the season next time. Thanks for hanging in there with me.