Archive for July, 2013

Monday Medley

What we read while Dwight Howard decided to become Egypt’s new President…

Simpsons Classics: “Summer of 4 Ft. 2”

Simpsons Summer of 4Ft2

The calendar has turned to July, which can only mean one thing: Time to celebrate the greatest summer episode in the history of television.

The television season, like the school year, pretty much runs from September to May, meaning that most shows never explore the summer as in-depth as the other seasons. For The Simpsons, “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” is a rare episode that dives into what goes on between one season’s finale and the next’s premiere, and it does so with near perfect execution.

Season One
Life on the Fast Lane
Bart Gets an F
Lisa the Iconoclast
Mr. Plow
22 Short Films about Springfield
Treehouse of Horror

The finale of the seventh season — originally airing May 19, 1996 — is centered on Lisa’s often quixotic quest to find friends. The final day of school reveals that overseeing the layouts and fonts of Retrospecticus, the Springfield Elementary yearbook that excels in “immortalizing your awkward phase,” doesn’t make Lisa the most popular girl in school. The family’s trip to the Flanders’ beach house in Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport offers her a chance to try on a new personality and win over friends, which she does for a time. It’s a sweet episode.

Yes, I know I’m prone to the charm and realism of Lisa episodes. But what makes “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” so groin-grabbingly transcendent is its absolute embrace of its setting—both the Independence Day time and the Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport place.

It does this through sensational animation throughout the episode. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on like a six-month Simspons hiatus—probably the longest I’ve had since 1992 or something—but “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” jumps out as a landmark of animation excellence. So much of the humor in “Summer of 4 Ft. 2” is derived from subtlety and precise execution. Take the scene in which Flanders offers up his beach house to Homer. Homer’s posture at the beginning of the scene—hand on hips, legs crossed, his eyes half-closed*—transfers a wealth of information about his relationship to Flanders. If you’ve never seen an episode of The Simpsons, this posture alone would communicate how Homer feels about his neighbor. Continue reading

“Now the story…”: Brief Reviews of Arrested Development

The original plan — like four years ago — was for John S and Tim to barrel through the 53 original episodes of Arrested Development and cooperatively rank them best to worst, with an in-depth review of each. Circumstances intervened with the thoroughness of that project, and egos intervened with the idea of two people “cooperatively” ranking all 53 episodes. (Ranking Game isn’t as effective with just two people.)

So here’s the result of all that labor: Shorter reviews of all 53 original episodes, presented in chronological fashion (albeit with a good deal of ranking going on within them).

Arrested Development is our favorite show, and this, in 53 different ways, shows why.

(Extended) Pilot

John once made a point — I think it was in here — about how dramas are most perfectly conceived in their first seasons. (He’s taken a step back, btw.) Comedies have always been driven differently. It takes time for the characters to evolve and develop the right way, for the proper interactions to take hold.

Which makes watching Arrested Development’s extended pilot so remarkable. The characters are properly and almost comprehensively established right away. “This is Michael Bluth. He’s a good man” is the first line of the series, and it foregrounds everything that is to come after it.* Lucille is overdramatic and quick-witted, Lindsay is hypocritical, Tobias is oblivious, Gob is creepy, Buster is incompetent, George Sr. is going through one of his phases (a cowboy one to be exact). None of these characterizations ring untrue.

*The “He’s a good man” is actually cut from the pilot that aired. Seems like it shouldn’t have been.

This isn’t the funniest episode of the series by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s one of the funnier pilots you’ll ever see, especially considering the amount of expository work that has to be done. The series lays its extensive deck of cards on the table right away, complete with the eccentricities of its characters and absurd plot developments (i.e. incest in the first episode). It’s a nearly flawless pilot. —Tim

Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while the Supreme Court forced us to get gay married…