A Simpsons milestone nobody is celebrating

imagesAccording to the Internet (which, as we know, is never wrong), if you were to watch all 552 episodes of The Simpsons, it would cost you 12,144 minutes of your life. Or, put another way, 202 hours and 24 minutes. Or, put a third day, eight-and-a-half days.

And that statistic was calculated in 2014. Tonight (April 29), The Simpsons airs episode no. 636, making it the longest running scripted series in TV history, eclipsing the western series Gunsmoke. So, if you watched all 636 episodes of The Simpsons, that would come to … well, you do the math. Seriously, I’m lousy at math.

I am reasonably sure that I have seen all or at least part of every one of those 635 episodes. I’ll watch tonight’s record breaking episode, but I’ll watch it with little enthusiasm. In its prime, The Simpsons was must watch TV. Now it’s just … there. It fills a half-hour on the Fox schedule. It has occasional moments where a viewer might laugh, but generally the most you can hope for is a chuckle. Hell, you can sit through an episode of The Simpsons in stone silence today. I’ve seen some episodes that were so boring and unfunny that I didn’t even finish them, which is why I can’t claim to have seen every minute of all 635 shows.

While I sometimes can’t finish current episodes, I will happily watch vintage Simpsons.

Much Music (which, to my surprise, is still around, just like The Simpsons) shows vintage Simpsons episodes every day. And when I say vintage, I mean all the way back to the very beginning in 1990.  I’ve seen every one of them, not once, not twice, but thrice (to quote Mr. Burns), and probably more. I can watch these ancient episodes, with their barely passable animation, changing voices and personalities, and still laugh out loud. And I know pretty much EVERY LINE OF EVERY EPISODE.

And yet, I watch. And watch. And watch.

I can’t help it. The Simpsons at its best is simply the best thing TV has ever produced. That’s not an original thought (if you’re looking for original thoughts, you’ve come to the wrong place), but it’s true. Vintage Simpsons stands up to repeated viewings. Even when you know every moment of every episode, you can still find something new and hilarious. Or even old and hilarious.

Right now, I’m watching Season 4 episodes, which are now more than 25 years old. Consider some of the episodes from that season. (If you’re not a Simpsons fan, just look away.) There’s the Kamp Krusty episode, followed by the brilliance of A Streetcar Named Marge. Then it was Home the Heretic, where Homer stopped going to church, easily one of the top 10 episodes ever. Then it’s Lisa the Beauty Queen. Then the Itchy and Scratch Movie, featuring pitch-perfect parodies of early cartoons. Then Marge Gets A Job, where she is harassed by Mr. Burns (an episode years ahead of its time). And Mr. Plow, another contender for the top 10. The brilliant, Conan O’Brien-written episode Marge vs. the Monorail is also from Season 4. The season ended with Krusty Gets Kancelled, the show at its pop culture savvy best.

If you’re a Simpsons fans, you’re probably nodding your head and even laughing at the mere mention of these episodes. And they were from just one season – there are dozens more brilliant episodes in the previous seasons and the seasons after. You could easily make a list of the 50 best Simpsons episodes, and still leave some good ones out.

One of the keys to the genius of The Simpsons was that it was multi-layered. You could laugh at it at face value, or laugh at it thanks to its countless pop culture and news references. Take Homer’s Barbershop Quartet, for example. It was an especially parody-heavy episode (the whole episode told the story of The Beatles in 22 minutes), but the references came at you like bullets. I counted more than 40 bits in that one episode that referenced the real world and/or pop culture. Some were overt (the Japanese conceptual artist who dates Barney is clearly a reference to Yoko Ono), some remarkably subtle (a record producer tells The B-Sharps “Gentlemen, you have just made your first number 1,” which is exactly what Beatles producer George Martin told The Beatles when they recorded Please, Please Me). This is why you can watch an episode as a child, and later as an adult, and get an entirely new appreciation of it.

Today’s Simpsons are nothing like that. It’s exhausted, running on fumes and profits. Last week’s episode sent the family to New Orleans, and a lengthy segment featured Homer eating at multiple famous New Orleans restaurants. It was probably the least amusing 2 minutes in Simpsons history. I couldn’t help comparing that episode to the show’s hilarious take on New Orleans in the A Streetcar Names Marge episode. Remember the song?

Long before the Superdome

Where the Saints of football play…

Lived a city that the damned call home

Hear their hellish rondelet…

New Orleans!

Home of pirates, drunks and whores

New Orleans!

Tacky overpriced souvenir stores

If you want to go to hell you should take a trip

To the Sodom and Gomorrah on the Mississip’

New Orleans,

Stinky, rotten, vomiting, vile,
New Orleans,
Putrid, brackish, maggoty, foul.
New Orleans,
Crummy, lousy, rancid, and rank,
New Orleans.

Check out the words to this song. Where else would you find words like brackish and rondelet (I had to look up rondelet; it’s a form of French poetry). That’s a sign of a show with sophisticated writers that assumes its audience is pretty smart, too.

The city of New Orleans was outraged by that song. But last week’s episode was a gooey love song to the city, an illustration of just how bankrupt the show it today.

Nonetheless, congratulations to The Simpsons for thousands of hours of brilliant comedy. And shame on you for soiling your legacy with thousand of other “crummy, lousy, rancid and rank” episodes.



The Facebook list: What would Trippie Redd want with me?

Facebook founder and boss Mark Zuckerberg is probably one of the world’s most hated men, and not just because he looks like a glass-eyed troll who hasn’t seen sunlight in years and recoils from human touch.

Zuckerberg testified for two days in the U.S. senate over questions about Facebook’s casual use of users’ personal data. He looked worried about the questions, but his fears were at least somewhat unfounded. For example, ancient Senator Orrin Hatch asked Zuckerberg – and I’m not making this up – “how do you sustain a business model in which users don’t pay for your service?” Zuckerberg paused for a thunderstruck second, then answered: “We run ads.” (Just FYI, Orrin, Facebook took in more than $40 billion in revenue last year.)

Facebook, the once friendly monster he created (or co-created, or stole,  depending on who you talk to) is under relentless attack. Large corporations have been harvesting Facebook data and using it for purposes of pure evil – selling stuff to Facebook users. Oh, and Russia used Facebook data to get Donald Trump elected, so there’s that.

Now, I’d like to calm the Facebook hysteria for a moment by stating a few basic truths:

  1. A few years ago, Facebook didn’t exist. It only began in 2004, and we somehow survived the previous zillions of years without it.
  2. It’s free, so what do you expect?
  3. It’s not necessary.

That’s third point is most important. If Facebook disappeared today – just vanished completely – nobody would die. Buildings would not fall down. No plague would sweep the world. The worst that would happen is that we would lose contact with people we really didn’t want to keep in touch with, but were too gutless to turn down their friend request. I think somehow we would survive.

That being said, I kind of like Facebook. I’ve been able to reconnect, however distantly, with members of my old crew from my Red Deer Advocate days. I’m getting to the age now where I don’t only want to know what they’re up to, but whether they’re still alive. I’ve also learned that there is another Maurice Tougas, who is a partner in Tougas Family Farm in Northborough, Mass. Also, I like to share interesting things I read with others, and Facebook is great for that kind of thing (just ask Russia).

I am not a heavy Facebook user. I joined up on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2007, at 5:52 p.m. I know the exact time because Facebook has kindly kept track of it. And as I discovered, Facebook does a great job of keeping track of stuff.

To find out how much Facebook knows about me, I downloaded my entire timeline. And you can do it, too.

All you have to do is go to your Facebook page. In the top right hand corner, click on that little arrow. You’ll see Settings on the list. That will take you to a General Account Settings, and at the bottom of that list you will find a line that says ‘Download a copy of your Facebook settings’. Just click on that, follow the instructions, and Facebook will send a list of everything – EVERYTHING – you’ve ever done on Facebook, and interestingly, who’s interested in you.

You will find everything you’ve posted to Facebook. Happily, I find nothing incriminating; I prefer quality over quantity in my postings. Or at least, I think it’s quality. And I don’t think there’s anything incriminating.

Every conversation you’ve ever had with anyone is there. The photos are all there. All of your ‘friends’ are there, including the date you friended them. There is also the entire list of every friend request you declined, and everyone you unfriended (de-friended?). The lists are all surprisingly long.

It’s all interesting (to me, anyway; it would be mind-numbingly boring to anyone else). But what’s really interesting is the list of ads you have clicked on (I’m happy to say that list is very small), and the very strange, very long list described as  “Advertisers who uploaded a contact list with your info”, which I assume this means my name appeared on someone’s contact list. Here is part of the list.

  • EDHA
  • Ansel Elgort (an actor who starred in the movie Baby Driver)
  • Sasha Sloan (a singer I’m unfamiliar with)
  • Logic
  • Spotify
  • AMA – Alberta Motor Association
  • Netflix
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • DPAC
  • Bubble Witch 3 Saga
  • TIME
  • Fitbit UK & Ireland
  • Ketchapp
  • PBS
  • Dallas Mavericks (no idea why)
  • People
  • Strong Black Lead (no idea what this is)
  • AdExchanger
  • Nurse Loves Farmer (a blogger I am unfamiliar with)
  • Sawmill Prime Rib & Steak House
  • Netflix Family
  • Yanni
  • Scene
  • Edmonton Oilers
  • M&M Food Market
  • Santa Clarita Diet
  • Competition Crazy UK
  • AMA Rewards
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • El Chapo (not THE El Chapo, I hope)
  • Alexa & Katie (apparently a Netflix show I have never heard of or seen)
  • Groupon
  • OpenTable
  • Brother Canada
  • Black Mirror
  • Beck
  • Nina Nesbitt (huh?)
  • Jake La Furia (huh again?)
  • Shaw
  • Value PBS
  • Disjointed
  • O Mecanismo
  • Competition Crazy NZ
  • Altered Carbon
  • UK Offers
  • Bright
  • STARS Air Ambulance
  • Facebook Marketplace Community
  • Sports Illustrated
  • QuizUp
  • Charlotte Lawrence
  • Canadian Tire
  • International Living
  • New Zealand Offers
  • SweepstakeCrazy
  • Summerfest
  • Romeo Santos
  • Costco
  • The End Of The F***ing World (another Netflix show I’ve never seen)
  • The Week Of
  • RW&CO.
  • Troye Sivan
  • Vistaprint Studio
  • Sport Chek
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • Justin Trudeau
  • The New York Times
  • J Balvin (a Columbian singer)
  • Liberal Party of Canada | Parti libéral du Canada
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Panoply Media
  • United Wireless Arena
  • Nicky Jam
  • N*E*R*D
  • Mark’s
  • Farm Heroes Saga
  • Live Nation Concerts
  • NationBuilder
  • Cineplex
  • President’s Choice Financial
  • Don Wheaton YMCA
  • AIR MILES Canada
  • Vistaprint
  • Amazon.ca
  • Everyday Health
  • Real Simple
  • Ali Shaheed Muhammad (another rapper, apparently)
  • Microphone Check

I would estimate at least 75% of there “advertisers who uploaded a contact list with my info” are entirely unknown to me. Some I get (companies I have used or thought about using), but actors I don’t know? TV shows I don’t watch? Singers I have never even heard of?

Mr. Trippie Redd. Apparently a very happy man. 

My favorite “advertiser who uploaded a contact list with my info” is the lovely and talented rapper Trippie Redd, pictured here. I cannot imagine any conceivable connection between Mr. Redd, anyone I know, and myself. And I don’t know what Mr. Redd would be advertising, although I can guess that it’s not toothpaste.

It’s all very baffling.

On the contrary: The new Roseanne is bad.

The big news on the entertainment front today is the reboot of the classic TV comedy, Roseanne.

The huge new cast of Roseanne, including TV’s most annoying new character. Can you guess who that is?

The new season – returning more than 10 years after it outstayed its welcome by about three years  – was a smash hit for ABC, drawing the kinds of numbers (about 27 million in the U.S., 2.2 million here) that TV shows used to get back in the pre-Internet days.  For those of you who don’t remember the old Roseanne show, or just didn’t watch it, let meexplain. Roseanne was a breath of fresh air. The TV landscape at the time (again, pre-Internet and streaming and cable) was dominated by bland, inoffensive, middle-class comedies about families living in impossibly perfect homes. The best comedy at the time was The Wonder Years, which was a really good show in its way, but hardly groundbreaking. Roseanne was something different. Caustic, sarcastic, and set in a lower, lower middle-class family, Roseanne was unlike anything else on TV. The reason was unquestionably Roseanne Barr (as she was known before she became too important for a last name), who made a name for herself as a fat, loud, sloppy stand-up comic who called herself a “domestic goddess”. It was a smash hit and, as I remember it, a good show.

As so many successful series do (hello, Homer), the show went years past its best-before date. By the last season, when nobody was watching, Roseanne and family won the lottery, becoming filthy rich, instead of just filthy. But in the final episode of the series, it was revealed that the lottery win was all in Roseanne’s imagination, or something like that. I’m getting this from the web, because I stopped watching the show years before.

So Roseanne has been gone for years, alive only in memory or on video. But this year, TV has been cannibalizing its past. Will and Grace returned to solid ratings. Full House returned to Netflix. Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, One Day at a Time, McGyver … they’ve all come back, with varying degrees of success. (Coming up: reboots of The Munsters, Murphy Brown, even Lost in Space.) Roseanne‘s return was probably the most high profile, and the one expected to get the most ink (for you kids out there, ‘getting the most ink’ refers to getting a lot of stories in ‘newspapers’ and ‘magazines’).  The heat surrounding the show was turned up higher when Roseanne was revealed to be a Trump supporter, which in Hollywood is just a notch above being a member of the Klan.

The media went nuts writing about the show, and a lot of TV critics, always anxious to jump on any bandwagon, went nuts as well. The reboot scored an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes as critics fell all over themselves praising the topicality of the show.

If I may offer a contradictory view: I watched the first two episodes, and they sucked. Sucked hard. I chuckled, mildly, twice. And that was it.

There were three main reasons why the new Roseanne was so lousy, in my view. First, I just don’t buy Roseanne as a struggling lower class mom anymore. She’s lost a lot of weight, has a stylish haircut, and has clearly paid multiple visits to Dr. Scalpel, Plastic Surgeon to the Stars. Whereas the old Roseanne the comic had some connection to the struggling Roseanne character, the new Roseanne is way too rich and successful to pull off the lower-class shlub routine.

Second, the cast is ludicrously large. The entire cast is back – including both actresses who played the same role, one of whom (Lecy Goranson) is a spectacularly terrible actress – and has grown. There is now a bi-racial child, a mouthy teenager, and, worst of all, a grandson who likes to wear dresses, played by one of those child actors who is instantly unlikable.

Third, and most importantly — it’s not funny. Not at all. Roseanne’s character is the kind of person you cross the street to avoid. Everybody yells at everybody all the time. That wouldn’t be so bad if they yelled something funny to each other. But every line followed the traditional set up/punchline format (followed by gales of clearly juiced up laughter) that most good TV comedy abandoned years ago. Basically, these are people that I enjoyed visiting back in the day, but now I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with. It was an ordeal to watch.

If you want to spend time with a struggling family, try the crew from The Middle, the criminally underrated ABC sitcom now in its ninth and final season. It’s on just after Roseanne and would provide a nice antidote to the relentless ugliness that is the new Roseanne.