Nina Matsumoto: The Rock Bottom Interview

awe crap.

Tonight on Rock Bottom

Here at Flim Springfield, we enjoy The Simpsons lots of different ways: from the classic cartoons and DVD commentary tracks, to collectible enamel pins, podcasts, and of course, live trivia shows. One of my favorite Simpsons supplements are the monthly comics published by BONGO, the comic company started by Matt Groening and friends 25 years ago.

Matt Groening got his start self-publishing his own comics, and over the years BONGO Comics has given new creators a chance to break into the industry. Breakout star Gail Simone (Secret Six, Wonder Woman, Leaving Megalopolis) wrote some of her earliest stories at BONGO, and couple years ago Coldplay frontman Chris Martin got the chance to publish his original non-Simpsons sci-fi miniseries “Mylo Xyloto” through the company.

Nina Matsumoto‘s story is one of the neatest we’ve heard: She’s a lifelong Simpsons fan whose 2007 manga-influenced take on the cast Simpsonzu, gained internet fame, which led to regular work with BONGO Comics, and eventually an Eisner award winning story in Treehouse of Horror issue 14! A combination of talent and knowledge of the show helped get her foot in the door and launch her career as a comics storyteller and designer.

a murderer's row of talent!

Treehouse of Horror #14 (2008)

 

Self-portrait by Nina Matsumoto (2018)

FLIM Springfield: Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?… Tell us who you are, and what your creative work is about? If you like, what your life like aside from your work and Simpsons fandom?

Nina Matsumoto: I have a hard time sticking to one style or theme because I love so many different kinds of art, but I draw a lot of manga-inspired artwork, and am drawn to dark themes with bright colours. I mostly just stay at home but have been doing muay thai for over eight years to offset my largely non-active life. I have a huge interest in linguistics and have done professional Japanese-English translation work on the side.

FS: It happened at the beginning of that turbulent decade known as the 80s… When did you first watch The Simpsons? What early episode/joke do you remember?

NM: I can’t remember the first episode I saw (and never had a chance to see the early Ullman era shorts since I live in Canada–not that I would’ve been old enough to remember those). I may have started from the Christmas special because that’s my earliest memory of it, but it very well may have been a rerun.

FS: Gee, I never realized TV was such a dangerous influence… How has The Simpsons been an influence in your life / creativity?

NM: It definitely shaped my sense of humour above anything else, and since I mostly draw manga, whenever I try to draw in a cartoonier “western” style, you can see my Simpsons influence. My admiration of Matt Groening has also affected my handwriting, because I would copy his handwriting when I was younger (you can still see it today in the way I write capital Ns).

from Simpsons Comics #245 (2015)

FS: You’ve talked about this online a bit before, but what was like to get that call from BONGO Comics? Was it your first pro work? (if not, what was it, tell us about it).

NM: The first call I got when “Simpsonzu” went viral was from a guy who worked in the merchandising department of Fox. He used to work as a layout artist on the show and he mentioned he might be able to find work for me. Though that didn’t lead to anything there, it was still a cool call to receive. The e-mail from Bongo kickstarted my career, as I’d never been published before up to that point, and I had practically given up hopes on ever becoming a professional artist.

from The Wonderful World of Lisa Simpson #1 (2015)

I’m grateful for then-art director (now editor) Nathan Kane for giving me a chance and trusting me with my first story (“Too Crazy Juvenile Prankster: Bartomu!”). It was the perfect job for me since it was a manga parody of the Simpsons. When he saw I could draw in the house style, he gave me more work on “regular” Bongo stories.

What’s funny is I grew up being constantly told by classmates that I should work for the show, which I’d brush off because I didn’t want to be an animator, but the possibility of working for the comics never once crossed my mind.

FS: $18 bucks for this? What a rip-off!… Do you or have you ever owned any Simpsons tchotchkes: Shirts, trading cards, DVDs, action figures, ‘hand-drawn animation cells guaranteed to increase in value’, etc… what’s your favorite stuff?

NM: I don’t collect a whole lot of merchandise, but I have a full set of Simpsons POGs. I still have around twenty VHS tapes filled with Simpsons episodes I taped off TV. Something like twenty years ago, I sent fan letters to a bunch of the voice cast, and in return I got a picture of the Simpsons signed by Dan Castellanetta and made out to me.

from The Mighty Moe Szyslak #1 (2017)

FS: What’s the neatest thing about the show/characters that you’ve learned from working on BONGO Comics?

Mostly just the little subtle things required to keep everyone on-model. But this knowledge is a blessing and a curse because now whenever I see Simpsons fan art, I notice the off-model parts, especially on tattoos.

FS: I saw you post on twitter a couple tattoos inspired by your Simpsons artwork, have you ever been asked to design a tattoo?

NM: I used to do tattoo commissions, but stopped when I realized the best way to get a good tattoo is find a tattoo artist you like, give them vague ideas of what you want, and let them come up with the design.

FS: Do you have a dream collaboration you’re hoping to do someday? An writer or another artist you want to do a project with that you haven’t yet, or a story you’re dying to tell?

from Simpsons Comics #131 (2007)

NM: I’ve done a few Simpsons manga parodies for Bongo now, and one of them was based on Death Note (“Murder He Wrote,” the one that won an Eisner in 2009). It was for their annual Treehouse of Horror issue, and I’d love to do another horror manga for it, this time based on the works of Junji Ito. Maybe based on “Uzumaki” or “The Enigma of Amigara Fault,” or just a general pastiche of his works. It would be a blast to mimic his beautiful but grotesque art style.

FS: You’re a very busy artist, what’s some of the next stuff you have coming out that you can tell us about? Any new Simpsons comics coming up in 2018?

NM: February 27th is the release date for “Sparks!”, a Scholastic children’s graphic novel I drew. It was written by my friend and frequent collaborator Ian Boothby, who’s arguably the most prolific Bongo Comics writer (he also did “Murder He Wrote”). Though we live in the same city, we met through Bongo Comics, and I’m happy we were able to work on such a major non-Bongo project together.

Coming February 2018 from Scholastic!

FS: Thanks to Nina for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk to us—seriously, creating comics is time-consuming hard work. You can learn more about Nina Matsumoto, and see/buy her work at:

  • SpaceCoyote.com (Probably the coolest Simpsons-referencing website name ever.)
  • Nina’s page of custom video game merch at FanGamer! (That GALF shirt is rad, and I’d love to see a Lee Carvallo’s Putting Challenge version.)
  • Nina’s twitter where she often shares lots of laughs, original comics, her love of gaming, peaks at artwork in progress, and publishing announcements.

 

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Posted in comic books, Contemporary, Cultural Impact, fan art, simpsons in the news,, interview, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Long, Stinktown! January 2018 at Flim Springfield

We at Flim Springfield have been offline for a while, and as 2018 FINALLY begins there’s time at last to explain why. A few months back, Ms. Flim Springfield got her dream job, working as a mechanic in the cutting edge electric vehicle industry, which involved moving to California!

Hollyweird

Hollywoo, Tinseltown, La-La-Land. The City of Illusions.

Here’ a hint about the company she works for.

americanrobotcars

The joke is that American cars are low quality but these cars are actually amazing

During this period JRC was still living in Phoenix, working hard to wrap up a handful of non-Simpsons projects. There just wasn’t much time or energy available to work on the blog. But that doesn’t mean we weren’t working on other Simpsons stuff.

Diana made friends with regular attendees of the fantastic Stonecutters Trivia at Meltdown Comics, and together they decided to start their own weekend Simpsons Trivia contest show across town at Springbok Sports Bar under the official Woo-Hoo banner of worldwide Trivia nights! Because LA is so huge, having a second similar trivia show is a thing you can do, whereas in a like Phoenix (with its smaller nightlife/live event community) it would be considered copying in poor taste. By the time JRC arrived in town, the crew already been running the show for two months and the stage was ready…

 

Our Springbok show is different in that it takes place on Saturday afternoon, and has a different setup system for the questions, 4 categories of 10 questions each, instead of our 35 questions and 8 categories. There’s also a projection screen so we can have the questions/answers on screen and other stuff. We’re still working the bugs out of the system, but it was a fun way to make my debut in LA. We’ve got a Facebook community page to meet teammates and trade memes, and our next show is Saturday January 13th at 3pm, we hope you’ll come give us a try.

when 2 best friends work together, not even god himself can stop them!

fully licensed and bonded trivia

We’re living in a suburb where there happens to be a lot of animation production. Cartoon Network, Warner Brothers, and Nickelodeon are all nearby. One morning for breakfast we went to Moore’s Delicatessen, which in addition to having great coffee and sandwiches is also a regular lunch stop for folks working in the industry, their back room is covered with sketches by the people who create your favorite cartoons!

 

Aside from these adventures, I’ve pretty much spent my time trying to get adjusted to life here and integrate myself into the town. I got my library card, driver’s license, found a new local comics shop, visited some of the neat local shops, and the nearby museum complex . . .

 

To cap things off and kickoff the new year, Diana and I got to meet in person one of our Simpsons Community peers from down under, Elliot Jay O’Neill from Australia’s The Simpsons Index spreadsheet and podcast!

no. no they didn't

Did someone say long lost triplets?

Another 'shoot-em-up push them through the plate-glass-window' splatterfest from the Hollywood cookie cutter.

A tourist trap concocted by the Ape Island Jaycees

Los Angeles seems to have a lot to offer, and I’m looking forward to exploring it for a long time. Who knows what adventures we’ll have!

Posted in Classic Simpsons, coming soon, Contemporary, live show, podcasts, The Simpsons, trivia | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stole, made up, what’s the difference?” Bojack Horseman and The Simpsons, Part 2

Let’s get this out of the way before I start: I love Bojack Horseman, and I’m not accusing the show of being a Simpsons ripoff. You don’t need to point out that some of these jokes are older than The Simpsons, and might possibly be inspired by something other than the Simpsons. I know. I’m just having fun looking at the similarities between two of my favorite shows. Bojack Horseman creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is clearly a fan of the Simpsons, though, so I’d wager that some of this isn’t a coincidence.

Season 4 of Bojack Horseman was amazing! Rather than devouring it in one night like we did with season 3, J and I watched two episodes a night until we had seen all 12. And, because I see Simpsons references everywhere, I couldn’t help but catalog the scenes that may have been inspired by the Simpsons.

  1. Season 4, episode 1: “See Mr. Peanut Butter Run”
    In this episode, Mr. Peanut Butter’s unscrupulous and ambitious ex-wife/campaign manager runs an amendment to the California constitution that lets a challenger win the governorship by beating the sitting governor at a ski race. The way she gets this to happen is illustrated this way, shown side by side with The Simpsons’ version from Season 7’s The Day the Violence Died:

    Yes, yes, I know that this is based on a Schoolhouse Rock parody! This information is not news! Maybe other shows do Schoolhouse Rock parodies? We don’t know, frankly we don’t want to know, it’s a market we can do without*. Anyway, what are the odds that two shows I watch would parody the same segment? Maybe it was just a campy 70’s throwback to appeal to Generation Xers.

  2. Season 4, episode 5: “Thoughts and Prayers”
    In this episode, Diane develops a love of handguns after Courtney Portnoy, a starlet she interviews, uses one to stop a predatory and racist harasser from “badgering” them.badgering
    Sound familiar?

    It’s a similar setup to The Simpsons, Season 9’s The Cartridge Family, but what comes next really hits the reference home. As you recall, in The Cartridge Family, when Homer enters the Kwik-E-Mart with his gun, Apu thinks he is being robbed. Homer imagines the life of wealth and success he would lead if he robbed the Kwik-E-Mart, but when he comes out of his fantasy, he is disappointed to realize that he has bought a hot dog and left without harming anyone.
    hotdog copy
    In Thoughts and Prayers, Diane gets home and is shocked to realize that she has been holding a gun for a long time without meaning to, and that she probably robbed a convenience store by accident.

    redvines
    Well, she is married to a handsome movie star who lives in a mansion, so maybe Homer’s fantasy was accurate!

  3. Season 4, episode 8: “The Judge”
    This one is really straightforward. Bojack agreed to be a guest judge on a booty-themed court show. On his way to the taping, he gets into character by shouting at another driver from his yellow Tesla Model S convertible (Oscar Nominee gifts must be pretty special, because Tesla doesn’t make a convertible, anyway, never mind):
    bojackjudge
    Bojack is clearly an aggressive driver. Is it possible that he was forced to watch the same driving school video that Marge did in Season 10’s Screaming Yellow Honkers?kissmyass

Were those all the crossover Simpson jokes from season four of Bojack Horseman? Probably not, but those are the ones I caught. Thank you Simpsons for helping inspire eclectic cross-referential humor, and thank you Raphael Bob-Waksberg for taking it to the next level and creating a show that earns its laugh out loud jokes by bringing along soul scorching emotional depth.

 

*Actually, we do know, there have been plenty of Schoolhouse Rock parodies.
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Simpsons Peaks: The Rock Bottom Interview

from SIMPSONS PEAKS by Joel Day

This is the third in Flim Springfield’s series covering the return of Twin Peaks, and its connections to The Simpsons, and Simpsons fandom.

awe crap.

Tonight on Rock Bottom

Tonight we’re speaking to Tricia Bogumill: Simpsons fan, Twin Peaks fan, and founder of Simpsons Peaks on Facebook, the biggest and best Simpsons + Twin Peaks mashup group on the internet. She’s one of the most enthusiastic people we know, about both shows. Tricia can nail a trivia question like a living, breathing wiki site. She can also look at the shows she loves critically, but not let that take away the fun of just being a fan.

that's not LATIN!

“I won’t tell you what I searched to get it”

Flim Springfield: “Who are you, and what are you doing in my house?” …Tell us who you are, and what your Simpsons Project is about?

Tricia Bogumill: Oh hi there! I’m Tricia Bogumill. You may remember me from such joint Simpsons efforts as Simpsons Peaks on Facebook (a mashup page of The Simpsons and Twin Peaks that weirdly works and amazingly has thousands of members) and totally owning your trivia nights*. I also love music, mostly old pop punk and newer folk punk and of course The Smiths. I like to play pool and enjoy shooting breeze, I also have cats who are cooler than yours.

Tulpa

by Tricia Bogumill

FS:  “It happened at the beginning of that turbulent decade known as the 80s” …When did you first watch The Simpsons? What early episode/joke do you remember?

TB: Ok so I was raised by some cool people. These cool people went and saw a film called War of The Roses, produced by James L Brooks in December of 1989:

It was released a week before the premier of a side animation project Brooks had procured for his show The Tracey Ullman show so a short cartoon about a family at Christmas was shown before the film. These cool people went on to watch that show every week. In December 1989 I would have been 3, it wasn’t until (according to wikipedia) 2 years later in January of 1992 that I remember seeing Radio Bart. I just remembered being so worried cause he was crying in his big sweater. And the convoy song. But the clearest joke I remember I will always count as a Simpsons joke even though it’s from the movie Broadcast News, but it’s words written by James L. Brooks, said by Albert Brooks (Hank Scorpio himself) *while very drunk* I can sing while I read. I am singing. And reading. Both.” Or his supreme court justice line “there’s only 9″.

LEVEL TWO ANTAGONISM

By Diana Welsch

FS:  “Gee, I never realized TV was such a dangerous influence” …How has The Simpsons been an influence in your life or creativity?

TB: Aside from referencing the show all the time? These weird yellow people have been in my life for 28 years, so let’s just break it down.
-Lisa= If you aren’t offended, you aren’t paying attention. But accept that people are flawed.
-Bart= Be your biggest fan.
-Marge= Know what you deserve (she taught me that by the show not always showing her knowing that)
-Homer= Be tolerant and accepting.
-Patty and Selma= Bitter is better.
We didn’t live in an era where we gather around a campfire and Aesop told us fables about animals to disguise life lessons. We sat around a TV and watched The Simpsons.

Milhouse Goes to College

Mashup Band Merch

FS:  “$18 bucks for this? What a rip-off!” …Do you or have you ever owned any Simpsons tchotchkes? Shirts, trading cards, DVDs, action figures, ‘hand-drawn animation cels guaranteed to increase in value’, etc… what’s your favorite legit or bootleg stuff?

TB: I’m not animation cel level but yeah growing up we had Simpsons everything. I just got a Marge smudgeface dress last week, to hopefully stop me from kissing coworkers who I share bed Turkey with. But bootleg I live for are Simpsons + band logo mashups. There’s one of the Descendents Album “Everything Sucks” except it’s homer in the square glasses and the book says Everything Duffs.

Bloody Guts Palmer

by Tricia Bogumill

FS: “Here’s a phone, call somebody who cares” …Is there a Simpsons joke or line that works as shorthand or ‘code’ among your friends/family?

TB: I dated my last boyfriend because he sent me Homer’s love letter as a text. Zero context, just out of nowhere, I was like ok. Then Diana helped me reel him in by saying I hate yo-yos. True story, Flim Springfield readers. These people and the Simpsons will get you laid.

True story, Flim Springfield readers. These people and the Simpsons will get you laid.

But really there’s just so many with friends: “Duffman says a lot of things”, “he called me sir, without adding you’re causing a scene”, “best wishes. See you in the car”, too many.
Man I didn’t read that question right at all, don’t care. I guess the real answer is doesn’t everyone say “so I says to Mabel” when they want to steer away from an awkward convo?

localized entirely in your kitchen?!

By David Keonig

FS: “We should thank our lucky stars they’re still putting on a program of this caliber after so many years” … Do you have a favorite season or episode, what makes it especially memorable for you?

TB: I feel a strong connection with Lisa and that is because I feel like my dating history is condensed to “Lisa’s date with Density” and “I love Lisa” I’m perpetually in a cycle of either dudes playing joy to the world or me saying 6 simple words.

FS: “There were script problems from day one” …Do you ever watch Simpsons with commentary on, or read interviews/news about the show? What’s the neatest thing you’ve learned from the crew?

TB: How much they hated Tracey Ullman.

worse than leland palmer

Flavor Country
by Craig Evans

FS: “Cartoons have the power to make us laugh and to make us cry” … Hypothetical Situation: Society is ending! You have to preserve the culture by rocketing 5 episodes of The Simpsons into space, what would they be? How would you make your decisions? Do the episodes have anything in common?

TB: To preserve culture?! Is this some psychological assessment in disguise. Jeez. Well so

I guess you’re asking what defines culture, or at least what parts I want preserved. Ok so the five are:

Laura is The One

by Aaron Dunbar

Homer at the Bat
Homer vs. The 18th amendment
Bart Vs. Australia 
Treehouse of Horror 1
The Lemon of Troy

Know I originally had “The Way we Was” in the last slot, but I selflessly switched it because I’m invested in this post apocalyptic future, and I’m a realist who knows when her emotions have no place. Oh man see I just quoted three men and a comic and that’s a good one too. But yeah so let’s see, future society, culture: Baseball, billionaires, cheating, little guys, scenarios, prohibition, adults, alcohol, clever, diplomacy, family, physics, James Earle Jones reading The Raven over Homer and Bart living it is such a beautiful however many minutes, it’s just needed and maybe it becomes historical that the Simpsons not trusting K&K was why there was no other records of earth, and Lemon of Troy will help teach what every civil war ever has. I obviously am just on a mission of diplomacy.

FS: “Worst Episode Ever” …You get to be the guest star on the first episode of the next season! What’s your character, what’s the story?

TB: I don’t know what my character would be, but someone who is in some position to explain away the recent retconning of Kamp Krusty. I swear that made me more upset than SADGASM. Maybe I could be a lawyer trying to avoid a lawsuit but explaining that some product or something my company did caused a year long fugue state and I read a long list of symptoms that say “hallucinations: up to and including any ideas of new found memories of little people posing as campers who you thought were dead replacing the very real memory of your fun trip to Mexico”.

A funny episode...um, of Season 3

Clip Show by Nick Rogers

FS: “Well, that’s the end of me” …You’re going to write the last Simpsons episode. What happens, how does it end?

TB: It’s the intro right up to the couch gag then switches to live film with Matt coming into the drawing room and saying “What are you all still doing here? Show’s over” or maybe like Dan or Hank practicing their most popular voices in the mirror and get the call but we just see their reaction and they both end with “Thank You”. I need that drastic cut to the reality of The Simpsons being an idea in brilliant people’s heads, so that way I can know it’s never really over.

A sample of some of the best of Simpsons Peaks

wince

The Film is the Talking
Quote by David Lynch, mashup by JRC

Posted in Classic, Classic Simpsons, Cultural Impact, fan art, fan art, simpsons in the news,, interview, The Simpsons, TV | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Simpsons in Mourning: Gregory, Lewis, and Campbell

These are turbulent times, in the real world, just as in Springfield, we look to our heroes for inspiration and strength even as they pass on. This week The Simpsons and their neighbors are mourning the loss of two comedy legends, Dick Gregory and Jerry Lewis, as well as country western singer Glen Campbell.

where were you when I sang at FarmAide!?

send in … the clowns

Krusty the Clown was crushed to hear about the death of Jerry Lewis, his peer, friend, and rival. There’s no one else in Springfield whose life and career so closely parallels the highs and lows of Lewis. The two met as young clowns, perfecting their acts at Catskills Mountain resorts in NY.  When Lewis had a falling out with Dean Martin, Krusty took his spot in the Rat Pack for a spell. Over the years both built empires based on their similar public brands.

Starting in 1966 Lewis helped created the annual Labor Day Telethon to fight Muscular Dystrophy which he hosted for 44 years straight. The charity raised billions of dollars dedicated to finding a way to cure the disease—much more than Krusty’s similar Motion Sickness charity fundraiser. It was one of the many ways Krusty challenged his friend for prominence and public adoration.

Like Krusty, Lewis battled drug addiction and ill health for years, and was irritable and angry towards friends and coworkers. During rehab stays, Jerry and Herschel would talk over the phone for hours, lending a sympathetic ear or arguing viciously about who was the better comic. The mutual competition kept them going.

Krusty will likely cue up a screening of The Bellboy, or the Nutty Professor and chain-smoke his way through them for a chuckle. Maybe he’ll have his secretary Ms. Pennycandy invite Bart and Homer over (along with Professor Frink for some reason) to laugh along with. If Herschel Krustofsky is in a darker mood he might watch Martin Scorsese’s vicious “The King of Comedy” instead, or even his rare bootleg copy of “The Day The Clown Cried”.  RIP Jerry Lewis, yet another challenger to the Krusty the Clown crown, who he has outlasted.

I wouldn't

“If they took all the drugs, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine off the market for six days, they’d have to bring out the tanks to control you.” ~Dick Gregory

Krusty won’t be the only person in town feeling the loss of African American standup comedian Dick Gregory. Gregory got his start performing in the army, then in the early 1960s he became a standout on the Playboy Club circuit, and legendary venues like San Francisco’s Hungry i. It is said that once, at Moe’s Brew Ha Ha! he eviscerated a lesser comic for their hacky joke about the differences in driving styles of white and black persons. Gregory’s talent was a tool that enabled him to step across segregation barriers, and he used that ability to push for equality.

In 1964 he write the story of his early life, “N*gger” which has solid over a million copies, including a couple well-read editions owned by Sideshow Raheem and Lisa Simpson, respectively. It was his first of many books, chronicling the life of a black man in America from a street and stage level perspective. Gregory’s work lives on through a series of stand-up comedy albums. Tonight Raheem, Bleeding Gums Murphy, Krusty, Comic Book Guy will gather together to listen attentively and laugh uproariously at “Dick Gregory Live at the Village Gate” and other albums.

Nashville Knight

RIP Rhinestone Cowboy

Glen Campbell began his career as a session musician and songwriter in Los Angeles in the 1960s. He performed and wrote for all the stars of the era, Elvis, Nat King Cole, the Beach Boys, both Nancy and Frank Sinatra, and Merle Haggard, among many more. Lurleen Lumpkin first heard him perform on reruns of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Captivated by his stage presence and glitzy pop take on country music, she picked up guitar and taught herself to play his hits, and eventually create her own tunes. The jukebox at the Beer-n-Brawl is still stocked with his catalogue.

Peppy anthems like “Southern Nights” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” brought urban audiences back to country music and kept Campbell popular through the 1970s. While disco ruled most towns, square dancing became trend in Springfield, with Waylon Smithers and his friends becoming lifelong fans thanks to Campbell’s music.

In 2010 Glen Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Rather than giving in to the disease, Campbell spent his time recording a final album and performing as much as he could. Tonight “Ya Hoo” will host a tribute to Glen Campbell, with country stars covering his tunes. Lurleen Lumpkin–inspired by Campbell’s own battles with substance abuse has cleaned up her act for good–and will perform I’ll Never Pass This Way Again to close the show.

Posted in Classic Simpsons, Contemporary, Cultural Impact, RIP, The Simpsons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Twin Peaks: The 1990s Return

No Homers!

Stonecutters as Bookhouse Boys

TWIN PEAKS is probably the most important television show of the 1990s, its byzantine exposition and use of dream logic made it the most watched TV show week-after-week for the better part of a year. Even after the series’ decline and demise its dark tone and mysterious aesthetic helped create the idea of Event Television, and birthed copycats for years. But for all of Twin Peaks’ lauded experimentalism and high-art aspirations, the public—and even some hardcore aficionados—forget that a big part of its formula is borrowed from the basest broadcast trash: soap operas.

Twin Peaks is the child of Dallas and General Hospital, with The Twilight Zone as its wary but encouraging stepfather. If you pay attention too intently, too seriously, Twin Peaks is a nightmare full of monsters and unfathomable imagery, where inscrutable gods rain mayhem upon a small town, leaving misery in their path. If you put the show in context as an ongoing serial drama with an ensemble cast of impeccable beauties, though, its oversized characters and tangle of quick-changing wacky plots, the [original] series adds up to a pretty frothy but conventional soap opera. There isn’t a plot that Twin Peaks used that hasn’t been done by some network or premium drama.

I thought you were dead?!

Search for the Sun as
Invitation to Love

When asked by The Guardian if his show was a parody Lynch obstinately replied, “No, no, no, no, no. It is a soap opera. Soap operas grow out of life and because they’re continuing stories you get to go deeper into the characters’ lives.”

Similarly, The Simpsons, for all its vaunted skewering of cliché TV tropes, works very well as a conventional family sitcom. What made the FOX show stand out in 1989 was the high quality of the writing, with the novelty of animation sprinkled atop. Matt Groening has said on episode commentaries that he didn’t want to exploit the latitude offered by cartoons in a way that’d prevent viewers from identifying with the family and their world. As bright and colorful as The Simpsons is, there isn’t much Looney Tunes-style reality defying, or Flintstones-esque anachronistic mise-en-scene (at least, not much of that at the height of the series run).

trembling

Life in Hell
Matt Groening 1990

Fans of Groening’s LIFE IN HELL comics know he’s an astute observer of parent-child dynamics and the stress of modern life. Simpsons stories and humor come from observations of a very contemporary family (based loosely on Groening’s own home) and the community they live in, instead of recycling the bland jokes found on Family Matters, or the sunny platitudes of The Cosby Show.

Twin Peaks and The Simpsons seem wildly different from each other, as certainly as they were different from anything else on television in the early 1990s. Where the two

Brillant habe ich keine Ahnung, was los ist

Smither’s Sycophantic German tapes
as Cooper’s tape recorder

programs grow together though, are their well rendered casts. The leads in Twin Peaks and The Simpsons are compelling and iconic, they’re designed to be understood quickly. We can identify Bart’s spiky silhouette and Cooper’s mannequin-like beauty, Marge’s beehive hairdo and Audrey’s classic glamour on sight. It’s the minor cast members though who carry the weight of bringing their small towns to life, making an impact and remaining memorable after just a few appearances. Springfield would feel barren if Moe’s Bar didn’t have a constant handful of worn down patrons, or if Grandpa Simpson didn’t have a Jasper to gripe with. Bit players, like Disco Stu, Prof. Frink or Hans Moleman, make Springfield come alive when they kick in a punchline and fill out the scene backgrounds. Similarly, the malevolence acting upon Twin Peaks wouldn’t stab with such intensity if the cast didn’t feel not just quirky, but like real people you might know.

Both David Lynch and Matt Groening come from “Small Town America.” Lynch was

pie and coffee

Jittery Joe’s as
The Double R Diner

born in Missoula, Montana, but moved around the Midwest a lot due to his father’s job with the Federal Department of Agriculture. He went to college in Philadelphia, PA, a culturally rich city with deep working class roots, where he lived in a rough industrial part of town. Groening grew up in Portland, Oregon when it was still a sleepy burg surrounded by the logging industry. His father, a graphic designer, and mother, a teacher, exemplified the practical application of creativity for their era. Matt didn’t leave home until after college, relocating at age 23 to Los Angeles.

Lynch’s public persona is that of a wide-eyed innocent, affecting a strong midwestern accent that contrasts the tropes associated with a contemporary artist or Hollywood elite. He dresses with cartoon-character-like consistency in a neat but drab black suit, hair puffed in a dated pompadour. Lynch is reluctant to talk about the personal meaning of his films, and once famously stalled an interview after declaring “Eraserhead is my most spiritual film,” then refused to elaborate why.

pained grimace

David Lynch, biography: “Born Missoula, Mont. Eagle Scout.”

Aside from their very different aesthetics, Groening and Lynch really aren’t that different. Both were Boy Scouts. Their art is grounded in an affectionate recollection of the small town America they grew up in—and both critical of it too, the shows share a core interest in examining the values and failings of the family in community life. Both creators never stop working. They are auteurs able to wield tremendous power over their projects even with creative partners and within the cautious Hollywood system. They’re clearly the force behind what we see after their name comes on screen.

paralyzed with rage

The Angriest Dog in the World
David Lynch’s alt comic strip

It’s 2017, and this year Twin Peaks has returned to television as a premium event with David Lynch still the central creative force and final word. Interestingly, it is competing against other prestige television such as Game of Thrones and Mr. Robot,

Just yooooou aaaannnd Iiiiii

Ned Flanders & The Larry Davis Experience
as Julie Cruz & Angelo Badalamenti

the very kind of must-see event shows he laid the groundwork for 25 years ago. Matt Groening is also creating new television, having spent the past year developing DISENCHANTMENT, a cartoon that sounds like a richer take on Rocky & Bullwinkle’s Fractured Fairy Tales. It will premiere on Netflix late next year. He’ll be reentering a field now filled with a generation of creators who were inspired by him, like Bob Wakberg’s Bojack Horseman, Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe, and Pendleton Ward’s Adventure Time. Goening and Lynch’s strong personal vision, and restless creative energy suggests that both are still innovative, and that they’re going to be well suited to the contemporary landscape they helped create.

Laura, clue, Laura, clue, Laura, clue . . .

Clue Pigeon as Waldo

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Simpsons Joke Origins: Superstar Celebrity Microphone

CONVOY!

Do you have any of those microphones left?!
A couple.

The episode Radio Bart centers around Bart being given a toy microphone for his birthday, and the pranks he uses it for. These start innocently enough with him tricking Homer into believing an alien invasion is happening, or ordering the Flanders children around in God’s voice, but he gets in real trouble when he drops it down a well and pretends to be a trapped boy.

I created the universe!

What do you mean how did I get on the radio!?

But did you know that his Superstar Celebrity microphone was based on a real product called Mr. Microphone? And the ad Homer sees showing a man using it to obnoxiously catcall women from his car was straight from the real-life commercial? But don’t take my word for it – see for yourself.

These toys were readily available at through magazine ad mailorder and Radioshack stores for decades. Like those shopping options, Mr. Microphone is sadly hard to find today, but the fun lives on in spirit through karaoke.

destroy the radio industry

Classic

Hey good lookin', I'll be back for you later!

1970s glory days

Now, this piece of crap probably has a range of only several yards at best, so I doubt that Bart could realistically speak into the mic at home and have it audible from the radio in the well blocks away, but I’m more than willing to believe a wizard did it.

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