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includes Fearless Flap with Erin McKelle

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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Hate the Sin?

Oli Dunkley/flickr
Sorry (or don't worry), Episode 236 has nothing to do with religion. So many of these Facebook "friends" aren't friends or even "friends." Here, Germar says farewell to his original Facebook page and all the haters. It's a personal pod that covers why the haters hate . . . maybe, and race . . . definitely.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fear the Walking Dead

Justin Lubin/AMC
In Episode 235, Germar provides thoughts on the first episode of the west coast don't-call-them-zombies. But first, he breaks down the difference between weird dog people and creepy cat people. And an update? on his love life . . . .

Straight Outta Compton: the best review

In Episode 234, Germar gives you the best review of Straight Outta Compton on the entire WWW. He covers the business of the music business, race, the First Amendment, domestic violence, sexism, gangsta rap, and #BlackLivesMatter. Spoiler alert! The movie is even better than all the critics say.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fear the Walking Dead: “Pilot” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin 


Unable to resist the homage to its big brother’s iconic opening, this series kicks off with 19-year-old junkie, Nick Clark awakening from a stupor inside the dwellings of an old, abandoned church-turned-drug-den. Groggily ambling about in search of his friend, Gloria, Nick calls out to her; she does not respond. Making his way downstairs to the sanctuary, he immediately realizes there’s something wrong. Distant screams echo through the corridors and masses of blood soak the stairway railings. Fear seizes the youth as he comes across more and more mutilated bodies splayed throughout the downstairs before finally finding Gloria. Unfortunately, she’s enjoying a fleshy human snack behind one of the church pews. Donning the iconic Walker Eyes, the girl rises to greet Nick in the most horrifying way. He races from the scene. We’re offered a glimpse of downtown Los Angeles as Nick hysterically runs out into traffic, where he’s hit by a car.

Following this white-knuckle opener, things come to a crashing halt as we’re introduced to the other main characters across town. Nick’s dysfunctional family greets the morning with plenty of melodrama to go around. Smarty-arty sister, Alicia, exhibits a perpetual scowl as her high school guidance counselor of a mother (Kim Dickens) flirtatiously canoodles with live-in boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis), before the family gets the news of Nick’s accident.
Believing to be out of his mind, Nick refuses to cooperate with the police as they interrogate him from his hospital bed about his earlier ravings—blood, viscera, death. Given Nick’s long history of substance abuse, everyone assumes the young man hallucinated the whole thing, including his family as they arrive at the hospital.

Later at school, more evidence of the impending apocalypse comes forth as Nick and Alicia’s mom, Maddie, makes mention to the low number of children attending. Apparently, a mysterious “flu” runs rampant throughout the U.S., but everyone seems to turn a blind eye to the potential threat. Maddie confiscates a knife from a paranoid teen, demanding to know why he felt the need to bring it. Instead of taking solace in the counselor with who he seems to have a good rapport, the teen simply makes an ominous mention of everyone’s imminent doom, leaving the conversation completely void of any useful details. Gee, thanks a pant-load, kid.

Travis decides to check out the ramshackle church Nick ran from earlier, seeing the same blood and viscera—minus the bodies. Instead of calling the police (like a smart person might), Travis tells Maddie about his discovery. In all absurdity, Maddie brushes off the murderous rampage as nothing more than typical druggie behavior. When Nick’s roommate at the hospital dies, he uses the distraction to escape, forcing Travis and Maddie to go out and find him.

Chaos around the city continues to rise as more and more people go missing, including Alicia’s boyfriend. A police shootout is captured on film of 5-O trying to take down a Walker, which gets leaked over the internet. Again, everyone assumes the video is just a hoax. Meanwhile, Nick meets up with an old friend, Calvin, at a local coffee shop. This supposed clean-and-sober pal has actually been selling Nick and others drugs for quite some time. Nick begs for dope so that he can forget about what happened at the church. Afraid that Nick ratted to the police about him, Calvin promises to supply Nick with the drugs and drives him out to the L.A. River with the intent to kill him. The plan backfires though when Nick becomes wise to the plan. The two struggle to gain possession of Calvin’s gun before Nick shoots in self-defense. Maddie and Travis meet up with Nick, coming across Calvin’s re-animated corpse. When Maddie and Travis refuse to believe that he’s actually a “zombie,” but merely hurt, they confront Calvin. The Walker attacks the pair before Nick repeatedly plows over Calvin with Travis’s truck.   

When weighing this spin-off series to the visceral nature of its predecessor, the pilot episode of “Fear the Walking Dead” is undoubtedly underwhelming. Does that make it bad? Not exactly. It’s simply rocking a different tempo, more akin to True Detective’s slow-burn approach. The downside to this style change might deter some TWD fans who are looking for a more exhilarating ride from start to finish. Let’s face it, the series premiere to The Walking Dead was far more memorable and compelling. And with viewers’ knowledge of what this future world of Walkers will look like and the rules necessary to survive in it, Fear runs the potentially fatal risk of being repetitive. Plus, the “everyman” status of all the main players who are clearly not connected to the initial cause of the Walkers will make it harder for fans to get the true origin story. Plenty of television series and films gloss over the beginning stages of contagion for a reason. Audiences generally hunger for nail biting intensity woven into the infection plot, and it’s hard to balance that entertainingly with the contemporary setting and characters still living seemingly normal, mundane lives. 

One show that nailed this patient zero-outbreak plot with brilliant execution would be FX’s The Strain. Mixing the stories of everyday civilians with the group of doctors who are up close and personal to the vampiric infection running rampant, the series shows the slow unraveling of society along with the brilliant mystery behind the epidemic with continuously solid, scary, well-paced episodes. Though it’s too early to judge Fear the Walking Dead on its overall value, the pilot clearly lacks this desired effect. Plus, several red flags already wave even with just one episode viewed. If Walkers are already out and about, then why hasn’t anyone really seen them with the exception of one video? Did they all just run or . . . walk into hiding? It’s pretty safe to say that the Walkers don’t really care about displaying showmanship to scare folks at the opportune moment, so the fact that the general population hasn’t seen any of them in this age of technology is clearly just convenience for the writers. Plus, everyone seems abundantly dimwitted as to what’s happening around them with the exception of Nick—the drug addict! In times of survival, if the junkie seems like the most capable of the bunch, it’s about time you find yourself a new group to roll with.

 Fear the Walking Dead: “Pilot” Rating - C

  

The Lazy Netflixer Review: Author’s Anonymous

by Nani Lawrence, Writing Intern

Some movies achieve greatness by telling an epic and compelling story, complete with exciting special effects. Other movies achieve it by telling realistic and relatable tales, centered on its characters. Author’s Anonymous definitely falls into the second category.

It tells a tale of a group of struggling authors. When Colette Mooney—played by Teri Polo—decides
to try her hand at book writing, her husband, optometrist and fellow aspiring writer/"idea guy" Alan (Dylan Walsh) forms the group, consisting of mostly his patients. Most of the members have certain dysfunctions in their lives that inhibit their writing process. For example, Henry Obert—Chris Klein—suffers from writer’s block (“I haven’t written in about two weeks”), and an infatuation with the new girl. Alan enters story ideas into his recorder throughout the day, but hasn’t actually written much of anything. John Butzin—Dennis Farina, in one of his final film roles—worships, and constantly compares himself to, Tom Clancy.

The newest member, Hannah Rinaldi, seemingly achieves success overnight. Played by Kaley Cuoco, she took a few writing classes in college and decided to pursue it. We learn this through a documentary interview; each member is interviewed for a related documentary. Her teacher sent pages to a friend, an agent, who signed her. She isn’t a reader, and hasn’t even heard of classics, like The Great Gatsby. It seems to be a running, “uppity” gag, among a few others, that most everyone has encountered among real-life writers. Shortly after being signed to an agent, Hannah receives a book deal for Sleeping on the Moon, to which Colette immediately shows disdain.

After the rest of the group exhibits jealousy, when many of them have been writing (and rejected) for years, Hannah decides to keep from them the fact that a movie company bought the rights to adapt her novel.  The publisher asks her to do a few re-writes. Naturally, she turns to her writing group. Hannah fully believes they played a large part in her success. She is also the only truly, wholly likeable character. This character may be a bit dim, and eventually slightly hypocritical, but at least she isn’t completely full of herself.

This film reflects reality by seemingly representing stereotypes within writing.

Compared to Henry, who reads all the classics over and over again in the hopes of better writing, Hannah relies on her ideas and natural style/technique. Basically, the dumb blonde got published based on her looks, while everyone else pays their “rightful dues.” They have wall art made up of rejection letters. They’re more pompous than their writing suggests they ought to be. But Hannah remains supportive every step of the way.

Compared to Will—Jonathan Bennett AKA “Aaron Samuels,” who thinks the sun shines from his own butt yet only keeps re-writing the same three pages—Henry is exceedingly sweet and puts in the work aside from his bout of crush-induced writer’s block.

Unlike the two extremes of the Mooney’s, who cling to a niche market and churn out crappy ideas that thankfully never make it to paper, John turns to a shady self-publishing service believing he can become a best-seller. At least he took it into his own hands.

Each character seems to be a little worse than the next, but they work for the most part. Unlike some, this reviewer appreciates somewhat awkward humor.

During her “interview,” Colette shows, and speaks about, the spot where she goes to find peace and tranquility. The Mooney’s hired workers to fix up their backyard, forcing her to shout to the camera.

Will, doing research, eavesdrops on a conversation in a diner, creepily taking notes. The women notice and call him out.

After his book is published, John sets up a book signing at the hardware store his girlfriend works at. Hours go by, with patrons maneuvering around his fold-out table. At one point, a customer’s hand-held basket even knocks over a few of his books. The group members surprise him by showing up, bearing champagne.

The movie isn’t the best thing since sliced bread, but it’s a valiant and still-entertaining effort. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Scream: The TV Series--bloody good, or bloody waste of time?

by Melissa Parkin

Out with the melodrama, and in with the bloodbath. After some rather lackluster, teen soap-opera episodes, Scream: The TV Series ups its game in the second half of its season. Though chills and thrills may come in abundance, the story-line still falters from some overall pacing issues. That said, it’s not nearly as cringe worthy as earlier episodes. The scares satisfy. The deaths (though oddly fewer than expected) deliver in brutal fashion and the mystery is compelling in its own right. With that being said, the parallels one can draw to it and its obvious source material, Harper’s Island, are still too numerous to mention. That spat (though a rather large one) aside, the show does accomplish what it set out to, despite its rocky start.  

Two for the Price of One

Though serial killer couplings are a rarity in reality, having two people working together in a murderous bloodbath seems relatively common in film and television—especially in the whodunit category of the horror genre. Given that the other killer can perform alone, this pairings tactic provides alibis for each potential suspect for at least one killing. Of course, this should stump the audience as to who’s really behind the acts. But considering that three out of the four Scream films used this ploy, as did Harper’s Island, it’s all the more fair to assume that we should be looking for two killers versus one. So, who are our prime suspects?

Noah Foster: Labeled as the “Randy” in the small screen adaptation, this slasher film aficionado is not only very tech-savvy, but also an enthusiast of mass murderer, Brandon James. A deadly combo . . . .

Jake Fitzgerald: Revealed as a total creeper, this arrogant jock was spying on Nina Patterson via web cam all the way up to her violent murder, and was also blackmailing the mayor with stolen security footage. If this doesn’t establish this guy’s lack of morals and empathy, I’m not sure what might. Also, he recently managed to miraculously survive when the killer brutally stabbed him in the chest. The killer missed all of his organs.  That’s convenient.

Kieran Wilcox: Sure, the guy has the face of a devilish angel, but who can ignore the fact that this steely-eyed bad boy just so happened to stroll into town when the murders began? The son of Lakewood’s sheriff, Kieran enters the picture after both his mom and stepdad were killed in a car accident. Was a car involved? Most likely. Was it an accident? That remains to be seen. Not much is known about him aside from his deep interest in gothic literature and that he has a rough relationship with his father. After making it a point to zero in on our protagonist, Emma, he’s managed to seduce her easily with his enigmatic charm, despite her mixed emotions after her bitter breakup from Will. Then, when Emma returns her affections to Will when he nearly dies, Emma’s ex has another sudden brush with death. It ends with him being sawed in half, right down the middle. Could jealousy be another one of Ghostface’s evil attributes?

These three definitely have some questionable circumstances surrounding them, but let’s be honest. Two people in particular stand out amongst the rest.

Prime Suspect #1: Audrey Jensen – Having lost her former best friend, Emma, to Nina Patterson’s high-status clique, she’s found herself as the subject of ridicule by fellow classmates. After Nina sends out a video of Audrey making out with another girl to everyone in town, causing it to go viral, Nina gets sliced and diced by her poolside. Just as the late Nina made Audrey an internet sensation, Ghostface returns the favor by releasing a GIF to everyone of the killer taking a selfie with Nina’s dead body. Then, only later when Emma confesses to Audrey for being a part of the video prank does Ghostface start harassing her, leading to the leaked video of Will deflowering Emma. An eye for an eye, perhaps?

Audrey’s DNA was also found inside one of the Ghostface masks from the abandoned hospital containing the killer’s lair. And we’ve seen this artsy student’s murderous temper on the video that Emma and Noah discover when Audrey is taken into police custody.  The only reason she’s released is because Emma made up a false alibi for her out of guilt. Audrey also admits to having used the Ghostface’s voice changer for one of Rachel’s movies, and she keeps a secret photo of Brandon James amongst her possessions. This circumstantial evidence seems suspicious enough, but one thing is damning above all. Ghostface boldly takes credit for each of his/her kills, with the exception of Rachel Murray, Audrey’s make-out partner from the viral video. The killer goes through the effort of making Rachel’s death look like a suicide. Why? When a highly publicized serial killer makes it abundantly clear that he/she enjoys the notoriety, wouldn’t said person want to take credit for killing Rachel? Nothing about Rachel, aside from her relationship to Audrey, connects her to the rest of the victims. She didn’t even live in Lakewood. The only reason she danced the Gallow’s Jig seems to be because of something she may have known about Audrey that could implicate the rebellious teen later.

Prime Suspect #2: Piper Shaw – Anyone with a keen eye can figure out that there’s something extremely shady about this intelligent crime podcaster. The girl comes face-to-face with Ghostface, and only walks away with a minor head bump while Will is stabbed and dragged away. She also uses her injury later to excuse herself from the abandoned bowling alley just before some major smack goes down. When introduced in the second episode, Piper mentions to Emma that her father was murdered before she could remember. In episode eight, we find out that Emma’s mother was pregnant with Brandon James’s child after he was killed by police following the massacre. Maggie gave up the child for adoption, leaving said individual to be about twenty or twenty-one years of age in 2015. Can you guess how old Piper is? Yep. And who could ignore the showrunners’ attempt to dress down the gorgeous Amelia Rose Blaire with those ridiculously nerdy glasses? This purposely executed persona of demure and sweet immediately sends up red flags.

But what would Piper’s motives be? Well, that’s where some theorizing comes in. Even Maggie (Emma’s mother) believes to this day that Brandon James was innocent for the massacre in the mid-90s. If true, then who is the original killer? Taking a page out of the first Scream movie, it could be the soul ‘survivor’ of the attacks, Emma’s father. He was obviously furious about Maggie’s relationship with Brandon, and even left his wife and daughter years later when he discovered that Maggie had given birth to Brandon’s child. If Piper is in fact Brandon James’s daughter, then coming to Lakewood to start a similar bloodbath might spur her father’s murderer to return to town . . . as he later does. Ghostface makes numerous mentions to Emma that her entire family is a lie. Well, if Emma’s mother really loved Brandon, but later unwittingly married the man responsible for his death and sullied legacy, it would definitely make Emma’s family a sham.
So, who do you guys think is behind the mask? Let us know.

Scream: The TV Series –  B-/C+

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jared Fogle and Ezria

This is Germar, I just read all the charges/accusations after uploading the podcast--I'm sick, I'm really really sick.  And now that I've read everything I must clarify that this podcast is about sex with older teens AND NOT images of nude pre-teens or any of the other sick stuff this dude did.
In Episode 233, Germar should make you think--a lot. Jared is a big fat pervert, but are we hypocrites? Oh and Germar's European friends say that though it's legal, they never have sex with 16-year-old girls; everyone would mock them . . . .


Monday, August 17, 2015

James Harrison is Wrong About Participation Trophies


In Episode 232, Germar explains the value of participation awards. If you disagree that's called "being wrong." But first, Germar explains why you're no longer seeing two podcast posts and seven written pieces each week (i.e., he tired).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Pretty Little Liars: “Game Over, Charles” recap & review

by Melissa Parkin 

You hear that perpetual thumping? Don’t be concerned. It’s just PLL fans banging their heads on whatever hard surface they can find. Why might that be? Well, if you’d just seen the summer finale, you would know all too well. After five and a half seasons, 130 episodes, and all those red herrings, we finally get a face to go with the infamous “A.” The result…is rather underwhelming.

With help from Mona, the Liars try to track down a recently kidnapped Alison and find themselves at the corporate office of the Carissimi Group. Sara Harvey so conveniently helps them break into Rhys Matthews’s locked room, and they walk right into “A”’s evil lair. The vault door closes on them, locking all the girls inside with the exception of the suspicious Sara Harvey. Meanwhile, Alison awakens inside what looks like a prison cell with Mr. D and Jason’s lifeless bodies on the floor outside the room. With a strangely futuristic video feed showing the Liars and Mona everything happening to Alison, they see the notorious “A” lurking in the corner of the cell. The big reveal…Jason’s ex, CeCe Drake, is underneath the infamous black hoodie. Can you say creepy?

The rest of the episode pretty much plays out as exposition to reveal CeCe’s motives for becoming “A” with enormous mounds of information dumping and not a lot of time to digest it all. CeCe, known as Charles back in the day, apparently didn’t try to drown Alison in the bathtub. Yep, it was all just a big misunderstanding. Already unhinged at his son’s predisposition for wanting to wear dresses, Mr. DeLaurentis convinced his wife to lock Charles up in the Radley Institute after the bathtub incident. Mrs. D was more understanding of Charles’s cross-dressing tendencies. She’d buy duplicates of Alison’s wardrobe to give to her son when visiting him at Radley.

Eric McCandless/ABC


Bethany Young was apparently the one responsible for Toby’s mother’s presumed “suicide” when she blatantly pushed her off the roof; she blamed Charles. Mrs. D paid off Wilden to cover up all the secrets after she faked Charles’s death to rename him “Charlotte” before re- administering him back into Radley under a different name and feminine appearance. Things took a turn toward the truly disturbing when Charles a.k.a. “CeCe” managed to sneak back into Rosewood and start a relationship with his/her own unwitting brother Jason--just to get close to the family. Sadly, your head does not work like an Etch-A-Sketch. Doesn’t matter how hard and long you shake it, those incestuous images won’t go away.

Speaking of Jason, both he and his father are in fact alive. “A,” using a mysterious serum, drugged the guys to leave them in a state of paralysis, in which they’re fully awake and conscious of their surroundings, but unable to move whatsoever. One can only assume, after listening to Charles’s sickening confession, that Jason definitely spent a lot of time in the upcoming five year time jump at therapy. Ewwwww.

This disturbing brother/sister relationship came to Mrs. DeLaurentis’s attention only when Jason brought CeCe home to “meet” the family. To say Mrs. D wasn’t happy about this lewd, family affair would be putting it mildly.

It is also revealed that CeCe is the one who hit Alison over the head with the rock that fateful night, mistaking her for Bethany Young. In light of this revelation, Mona confesses to the Liars that she, too, suffered a case of mistaken identity when she hit Bethany with the shovel, thinking it was Ali. CeCe later befriended Mona while the two were holed up in Radley, though Mona was too medicated to remember CeCe. She just assumed her guilt was making her hallucinate that she was really talking to an imaginary Alison. That’s when Mona apparently mentioned that the Liars were happy about Alison being dead, sparking Charles/Charlotte/CeCe’s vengeance towards the group. Oh. My. God. You have a headache yet? Don’t worry; we all do. Lastly, Sara Harvey is revealed to be both Red Coat and the Black Widow, leaving Emily distraught. Show of hands, who was shocked that Sara was a baddie? Anybody? No? I didn’t think so.

The Liars, realizing that the video feed is coming from Radley, manage to break out of “A”’s lair and get to the institute to rescue Ali before CeCe has a chance to blow it all up. What happens to CeCe after that is perfectly UNCLEAR as the scene fades to black after the cops arrive on scene and CeCe surrenders by calling “Game over.”

Well, that was…anticlimactic.

Sure, after five and a half seasons, expectations were undoubtedly high. Perhaps too high. Not all fans would be satisfied, no matter who was revealed to be lurking underneath that black hoodie. But when intended gasps are instead met with groans, it’s a sure sign the showrunners hit a sour note. The allure of “A” has always been the calculated, enigmatic menace behind each threat, taunt, and malevolent act. CeCe’s back story completely derails that appeal by either chalking her behavior up to misunderstandings or plain, impulsive psychosis. And you can’t ignore the elephant in the room. With transgender awareness now at a focal point in the media, Charles/CeCe’s “shocking” reveal reads more as a last minute gimmick than as a genuinely organic idea. What makes this offense worse is the fact that this particular case regarding transgender lifestyles plays out more like Buffalo Bill, given that her gender identity crisis was compounded with ideas that incest and violence were reasonable actions, resulting in a blatantly insulting portrayal of a transgender individual. 
  
Are we also really expected to believe that the clearly masculine figure that leaped from the rooftop after shooting Ezra in season four’s finale was petite, little CeCe? All signs up to that point made the likelihood that a male, particularly Wren Kingston, was in fact “A.” This information dump of a finale felt more like the creators were more interested in shocking fans than giving them what they really deserved, a perfect villain. Many viewers picked up on tidbits throughout the series that made it hard to ignore Wren’s suspicious behavior. The fact that “A” scheduled the British custom of “tea time” while the girls were trapped in the Dollhouse seemed like a good clue. The fact that Wren owned an eerily similar placard reading “Love Thy Neighbor” that also happened to be hanging on the wall in the Dollhouse was another. Then there’s the fact that the police were suspicious of Wren’s questionable doctoral credentials, in which he somehow worked in both medical and psychiatric branches of the field. The fact he knew Radley all too well without having ever been there can’t be ignored either.

The list goes on and on. It was even hinted that “A” was in the series from the very beginning. CeCe didn’t show up until season three. Plus, the show’s creator, I. Marlene King, tweeted a picture of a young Charles at the farm, along with the caption, “An apple a day….” The old saying, “An apple a day keeps the DOCTOR away,” seemed like a heavy hint at Kingston as well. And lastly, one must suspect that the creators were also responsible for the fake leak from a supposed former employee saying that Wren was in fact Charles. This fan-favorite theory was emphasized so much that it feels like PLL just enjoyed pulling the rug out from everyone’s feet by playing a dirty, five-year trick. Whether that’s the case or not, this mid-season finale was undoubtedly a massive disappointment.


Pretty Little Liars - “Game Over, Charles” Rating:  D -

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Simpsons jumped the shark . . . in 1999

by Leon Miller

Back in April 2002, “Gump Roast,” the 17th episode of The Simpsons 13th season, wrapped with a song parodying the longevity of the landmark show.

And even as legions of Simpsons fans across the globe laughed along at the many intentionally desperate and terrible future plot-lines pitched in the song's verses, for more than a few, it was a nervous sort of laughter.

For these devotees, the song only served as a subtle reminder that the show was already starting to decline in quality. Every time Dan Castellaneta launched into the opening line of the chorus,“They'll never stop The Simpsons,” they found themselves wondering: “But should they?”

That was 13 years ago, and while The Simpsons does indeed show no sign of stopping (Fox has already ordered Seasons 27 and 28) fans’ increasing dissatisfaction with the series has also shown no signs of abating. Many openly call for the show to be axed.

It was a wish that seemed a lot closer to being granted than ever before in May this year. Harry Shearer announced that he was leaving the series. The loss of Shearer, who voices a large number of key supporting characters (including Burns, Ned Flanders and Principal Skinner), seemed like a potentially fatal blow to the series. In the end, it all turned out to be a false alarm. Shearer returned for the next two seasons.

But even if The Simpsons appears to be back on course, this Lance Murdock-like brush with disaster revealed a hitherto unseen mortality for the longest running scripted prime time TV series in U.S. history. It called back the question: Should creator Matt Groening and his team allow everyone's favorite four-fingered family to take one final bow?

At a glance, it certainly seems that way. Having refined the cartoon sitcom formula and paved the way for others to follow, The Simpsons has struggled for over a decade to stay relevant and punchy in a world of South Park, Family Guy and countless other animated upstarts that share more than a few strands of Simpson DNA.

With each season, from the early 2000s on, the show's humor has gotten broader and less subtle in its execution, while the scenarios and world have gotten less tethered to reality. Perhaps this is too harsh. It might well be that The Simpsons has simply evolved into something new that doesn't appeal to the long-time audience any more.

There's a precedent for this: when Al Jean and Mike Reiss became showrunners in season three, they infused the grounded, “slice of life” style of the previous seasons with a distinctly surrealist vibe. Many fans who were keyed into that earlier version of the show disenfranchised, as the younger generation ate up the new seasons like Homer on free donut day.

So is that the case? In their own way, are these modern era Simpsons episodes just as good as those from the so-called “Golden Age” (seasons 3-8) of the 90s? Sadly, I think not.

It's more than rose-colored glasses that keeps older fans of The Simpsons clinging to their favorite classic episodes. At its peak, the show was incredibly sophisticated, working at a level that appealed to children and adults alike. Episodes featured slapstick, visual gags, incredibly sly wordplay, and cultural references. Now, in its Abe Simpson-like dotage, the show's jokes seem obvious, the wordplay more crass, and the references less subtle. This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems afflicting the fine folk of Springfield.

Problem one: We're left with the same inevitable issues that “Gump Roast” poked fun at way back when. It's virtually impossible to keep telling entertaining stories, with the same characters in the same setting for decades.

As Professor Frink himself would undoubtedly point out, the law of diminishing returns dictates that the writing teams behind the The Simpsons were always going to get less and less mileage out of Springfield and its citizens with each passing year. Notwithstanding reinvention, Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie have told all of their stories MULTIPLE times. Even the supporting cast has pretty much exhausted its storytelling potential. 

Now, Groening and co. can only hope to embrace plot-lines and character developments that risk completely breaking these characters and their world (which would itself likely prove another nail in the show's coffin).

Problem two: (the one I argue is the greatest) As Burns once admonished chronic-overachiever Martin Prince: “Where's the heart?”  By and large, so many of the new episodes lack the strong emotional core of classics from the early years.

The Simpsons might have been the smartest show on the block in its prime, but it also had the most heart. Episodes meted an unparalleled mixture of biting cynicism about people, and the world, married to an unshakable affection for both.

From the “You are Lisa Simpson” moment in “Lisa's Substitute” to the “DO IT FOR HER” plaque in “And Maggie Makes Three,” every classic season has a moment capable of making the eyes of even the most jaded fan mist over.

This unique combination of caustic wit and unabashed warmth is why The Simpsons was able to enjoy such previously unseen levels of popularity, and inspire the number of imitators it has.  

Fittingly, it's the absence of this very same balancing act in the modern episode that has killed the series, and why it needs to canceled, much like the Krusty the Klown Show back in season four.

But it doesn't have to be all gloom and doom (if there's one thing I never like to focus on over on my blog, The Pop Culture Studio, it's the negative). Think about it. If Groening and co. decide to pull the plug on The Simpsons now, that gives them the chance to plan and execute a victory lap for the show.

I, for one, am optimistic that, given the freedom to create one final season, everyone involved would relish the challenge of crafting a finale that left fans screaming “Woo-hoo” rather than yelling “D'oh!” These fans, and this greatest animated sitcom of all time, deserve it.


 
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