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  1. #1
    Pretend it's a reindeer Financial Prancer's Avatar
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    Zombie Simpsons: How the Best Show Ever Became the Broadcasting Undead

    I learned of this book from Gran2's signature, so I downloaded it. I loved this book. Although I don't agree with all the criticisms in the book, it still makes for an extremely entertaining read. As I mentioned elsewhere, one of the most interesting parts is the criticism of Marge Be Not Proud, a widely loved episode around here. In the exact words, the criticisms are as follows:

    "Like so many very special episodes, this one involved a small family crisis brought on by a childish moral breach. Channeling countless television kids who came before him, Bart steals something. That sets in motion a series of television tropes and cliches that play out so predictably that they wouldn't have been out of place in the 1950s: Bart steals, Bart gets caught, Bart feels bad, Marge finds out, Marge distrusts Bart, Bart feels worse, Bart makes good, they hug, the end.

    The episode is made all the more jarring by having Bart be the one who sinks into guilt and self-pity. Bart was America's bad boy, the underachiever who was proud of it. Here he acts like every sitcom kid since television began, haunted by something he did and crushed that his mother is disappointed in him. The Simpsons had never before handled emotion that clumsily."


    Has anybody else read this, and if so, what did they think of it?
    Last edited by Financial Prancer; 05-27-2012 at 04:15 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by dman360 View Post
    Don't tell what to do fuck face, and I'm not changing it I do what I want so fuck you bitch
    The original Favorite and least favorite by season
    Shorts: 1: The Pacifier Watching TV 2: World War III Maggie's Brain 3: Bathtime Scary Movie
    Episodes: 1: Krusty Gets Busted There's No Disgrace Like Home 2: Bart Gets an F Dead Putting Society 3: Homer at the Bat Separate Vocations 4: Homer's Triple Bypass Krusty Gets Kancelled 5: Cape Feare Lady Bouvier's Lover 6: Homer Badman Lisa on Ice 7: King-Size Homer Lisa the Iconoclast 8: Homer's Enemy The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase 9: Bart Carny The Trouble with Trillions 10: Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo Homer Simpson in: "Kidney Trouble" 11: Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner? Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder 12: HOMЯ Tennis the Menace 13: Tales from the Public Domain She of Little Faith 14: The Dad Who Knew Too Little Helter Shelter 15: The Ziff Who Came to Dinner Bart-Mangled Banner 16: A Star Is Torn She Used to Be My Girl 17: My Fair Laddy The Italian Bob 18: The Haw-Hawed Couple The Boys of Bummer 19: Funeral for a Fiend All About Lisa 20: Gone Maggie Gone The Good, the Sad and the Drugly 21: The Bob Next Door The Color Yellow 22: Donnie Fatso Love is a Many Strangled Thing 23: The Falcon and the D'ohman A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again 24: Hardly Kirk-ing What Animated Women Want 25: The War of Art What to Expect When Bart's Expecting

    Voted "Best Taste" in NHC awards. Therefore, I'm right, you're wrong.

  2. #2
    the truth is out there zach's Avatar
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    as i said before. it was alright, but...i got about half way through before i became too frustrated with his opinions. i will try and go back and finish the "book". i must say reading the term "Zombie Simpsons" over and over again was driving me crazy.

  3. #3
    That's a bloody outrage Gran2's Avatar
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    I see my endorsement of this event or product has already been noted.

    I've been an avid follower of the Dead Homer's Society blog for the last few years and this book is an excellent complement to that. Charlie's views don't totally reflect my own (namely Season 8) but nevertheless the points he raises are excellent. Given the fairly low number of histories of the show (ya know, Ortved, and a few other semi-history ones) I certainly recommend this to any fan. Although you (probably) won't enjoy it if you actually still like this show.
    Quote Originally Posted by David Mirkin, 1995
    I think at the end of the eighth season, we'll all have to sit down, make sure the show is still fresh. Make sure that's it's not repeating itself or falling into a formula and you know...It's very possible that we'll still have energy after eight seasons, but hopefully it will always be a decision of quality, to make sure we are not lowering the quality just to make a little bit more money.

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  5. #4
    the truth is out there zach's Avatar
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    is anyone from Dead Homer Society a member here, or used to be?

  6. #5
    loves mashed potatoes Jims's Avatar
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    (Sneaking in this post before the board goes offline tonight.)

    After you posted this thread, I read the 12 chapters he put on the internet. I skimmed a bunch of the sections of it about the stuff I knew already (most of the beginning years stuff) and focused more of my reading on the analysis stuff.

    Overall, I didn't find it all that interesting because a bunch of it is very "preaching to the choir" and doesn't say anything really new to me. I appreciated that he backed up some of his arguments with statistical data (like the Number of Homer Jobs per Season one), but a bunch of the graphs seemed somewhat specious in the logical connection. Using charts of Amazon reviews for DVD sets and IMDB ratings aren't a great way to prove the general consensus about the show, because:

    1) The DVD set is a product review and is affected by packaging, special features, and whatever, instead of just the straight episode quality. They made a footnote about the dip of Season 6's DVD rating (the packaging), so they acknowledge it's not a perfect barometer.

    2) More importantly, these certainly aren't random samples or anything, so there's going to be a ton of selection bias. Naturally, hardcore fans of the show are much more likely to go and post an IMDB/Amazon review (thereby slanting the numbers), so what the graphs really show are that the more hardcore fans don't regard the series as highly anymore... Which is pretty much common knowledge these days.

    It doesn't make a value statement on whether this specific audience is reliable for gauging writing quality (I think we would be, but I don't hold a psych degree).

    Then there's the chart of the writers who stayed and left over time, which also seems to point out the obvious: that people who have been writing a long time eventually leave. He makes the connection that good writers leaving leads to poor writing in the Scully Era, but this connection is muddled by the fact that the new Mirkin/O&W writers still kept the show afloat while the old writers were leaving. It can't really show what would make the New Scully group different than the New O&W group, it just shows that they are different people.

    The later analysis of the show's crappy ratings are a much better pointer to the "general" consensus, which he does discuss thoroughly later. There's also a bit of a caveat here, as well, since pretty much every TV show's ratings will decline over time. I think the best thing he underlines with the rating discussions is that The Simpsons is not really a special show anymore ratings-wise or as considered by professional critics. It's basically just another face in the crowd.

    (I'm happy he referred to our Top 100 and Bottom 50 lists, though, just because it makes all that hard work actually useful to someone.)

    The "Marge Be Not Proud" aside was a really odd one, and seemed more like venting than a logical extension of what the book is about. I'll buy the argument that it's a more sentimental episode than usual, but his argument about Bart becoming soft is kind of mind-boggling... Bart had certainly been written as vulnerable in other episodes (Bart Gets an F, Bart Sells His Soul for example), so I don't get what makes this example different. If he showed little to no remorse for stealing the game, that would strike me as much more unrealistic and out-of-character than what actually happened. Wimpy Bart didn't really become a problem until the later Jean seasons (like Marge's Son Poisoning) where his edge was absent for several episodes. But single examples like Marge Be Not Proud aren't problematic because it brings balance to Bart's character.


  7. #6
    person who looks like a thing Prune Tracy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Financial Panther View Post
    The episode is made all the more jarring by having Bart be the one who sinks into guilt and self-pity. Bart was America's bad boy, the underachiever who was proud of it. Here he acts like every sitcom kid since television began, haunted by something he did and crushed that his mother is disappointed in him. The Simpsons had never before handled emotion that clumsily.
    Seriously, what the hell. Do they not like Bart the Lover because Bart regrets his actions? These are the same people complaining about Jerkass Homer, yet they expect boorish and uncaring behaviour from Bart? What a ridiculous criticism.
    Favourite/least favourite by seasons that I own (somewhat stolen from Financial Panther):

    3 - Bart the Lover/When Flanders Failed 4 - Homer's Triple Bypass/So it's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show 5 - Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadassssss Song/Bart's Inner Child 6 - And Maggie Makes Three/Another Simpsons Clip Show 7 - Bart Sells His Soul/Homerpalooza 8 - Homer's Enemy/The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase 9 - King of the Hill/Trash of the Titans 10 - Wild Barts Can't Be Broken/Make Room for Lisa


  8. #7
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    I have never read the book, but I completely disagree with the author. Bart being Americas bad boy was the real cliché. Episodes like this and Bart the Mother, Bart gets an F etc.. show us that underneath that Bart is a very Human character.


  9. #8
    Food-Crazed Maniac Oh, that's raspberry!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jims View Post
    Wimpy Bart didn't really become a problem until the later Jean seasons (like Marge's Son Poisoning) where his edge was absent for several episodes. But single examples like Marge Be Not Proud aren't problematic because it brings balance to Bart's character.
    What is the wimpy Bart criticism anyway? I just re-watched Son Poisoning and thought he was handled well for that episode. I could see if Bart became a wimp for several consistent episodes, but that kinda seemed like part of the point to that episode. I mean I don't recall Bart becoming a wimp consistently around that time. If anything I remember him pulling off more pranks and criticisms involving him being too mean or doing pranks just for the hell of it....even though that's kinda always been the point, he's 10. Marge even realizes at the end of Son Poisoning that Bart shouldn't be acting the way he is.

    Oh and yeah, reading this book would likely only upset me. I read more than enough negativity regarding the show here.
    Last edited by Oh, that's raspberry!; 05-27-2012 at 05:24 PM.

  10. #9
    I'm baaaack! Patches O'houlihan's Avatar
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    I remember reading a Mad Magazine segment about certain aspects in the Simpsons, both good and bad. One of things they brought up that was a negative was how Bart became too "nice" in the then modern Season 13/14 era of the Simpsons. Beside the comment, they had a picture of a stylized Bart helping an old lady cross the street.

    Obviously, the DHS book does preach to the choir and people who think the show is doing just fine will think it's a bunch of shit.


    Well, ya'know if you stay positive and forget about trivial things like "proper characterization," "Satire," and "emotional depth" watching new Simpsons episodes can be a seemingly enjoyable lie.

  11. #10
    loves mashed potatoes Jims's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh, that's raspberry! View Post
    What is the wimpy Bart criticism anyway? I just re-watched Son Poisoning and thought he was handled well for that episode. I could see if Bart became a wimp for several consistent episodes, but that kinda seemed like part of the point to that episode. I mean I don't recall Bart becoming a wimp consistently around that time. If anything I remember him pulling off more pranks and criticisms involving him being too mean or doing pranks just for the hell of it....even though that's kinda always been the point, he's 10. Marge even realizes at the end of Son Poisoning that Bart shouldn't be acting the way he is.

    Oh and yeah, reading this book would likely only upset me. I read more than enough negativity regarding the show here.
    The Wimpy Bart criticism never really took off to a huge degree because it wasn't as prevalent/widespread as something like Jerkass Homer... But it was just a general criticism that the writers were making Bart too "nice" overall and were taking away some of his edge. The criticism re-surfaced around Seasons 17 (partially as a reaction to Marge's Son Poisoning), but was always more of a minor, nit-picky one. I think I'm the only one who likes to keep bringing it up now.

    To be fair, I think this is something Jean has been doing a better job of fixing lately (doing more pranks, episodes like "The Debarted" and whatnot).

  12. #11
    Food-Crazed Maniac Oh, that's raspberry!'s Avatar
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    I don't remember off hand Bart pulling too many pranks around Seasons 13/14, but can think of multiple episodes from Season 18 and up, but I've seen most of these pranks criticized for reasons stated above. "Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em" has his torture of Skinner and the opening to "The Good, the Sad and the Drugly" has him demolishing the school...though ironically he tries to be nicer for the girl later in that episode so perhaps that isn't the best example, but there's also the others you mention and likely more.

  13. #12
    Same Avatar, Different Shit Zombies Rise from the Sea's Avatar
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    I've read a couple of chapters of the book and I am impressed at the amount of research and interesting perspective that he managed to put in the book, though some of it is common; he really seems to point out what made the Simpsons decline, the impromptu leaving of old writers for tons of Scully blood, the death of several irreplacable characters, the feeling of The Simpsons that made it a classic series that it is today.

    I may go out and buy the full copy of the book because I'm impressed by the chapters he's put on the internet, this is a really, really interesting read.

    My Simpsons Season 25 Ratings/Reviews:
    Homerland (3.5/10) Treehouse of Horror XXIV (5.0/10) Four Regrettings and a Funeral (4.0/10) YOLO (4.5/10) Labor Pains (5.0/10) The Kid is All Right (3.0/10) Yellow Subterfuge (5.5/10) White Christmas Blues (1.5/10) Steal This Episode (7.0/10) Married to the Blob (5.5/10) Specs and the City (4.5/10)


  14. #13
    NHC's fly on the wall lionelhutz123's Avatar
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    So because Bart is "America's bad boy", he doesn't have any moral values? It would be cliche' if he didn't feel remorse for what he did. "America's bad boy" is the most mainstream label for casual audiences to grasp, and the fact that "Marge Be Not Proud" played a tug of war with that concept, makes it daring and continues to bring humanity to Bart's character. Just because the guy who wrote that criticism was able to figure out each plot point and attach simplistic labels to each phase, doesn't make it cliche'. You can do that with any story no matter how incredibly written it is. It's the execution that matters and this particular episode makes it work on a highly empathatic level.


  15. #14
    *RIP Marcia Wallace* TriforceBun's Avatar
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    Yeah, I'm not sure where all this Marge Be Not Proud criticism came from, but I've gotta speak up.

    The episode's emotional core really resonates because we see new sides of Bart and Marge's relationship. And I don't mean that in a "wimpy Bart" kind of way, but in a manner that gives even more dimension to a character that (by that point) had already had some strong development in past episodes.

    MBNP explores what happens when one of Bart's actions goes too far, and not in a chaotic way, but how it affects his morality and sense of self. He's clearly used to being punished, and despite not being thrilled about previous groundings and spankings, Bart witnessing Marge's detached reaction to shoplifting hits him much harder than Homer's stranglings ever did. Instead of just feeling guilty, he feels like he's lost a major part of who he is, the part of his life that his mother supplied for him. And Marge is noticeably shaken by the realization that her mischievous son may in fact be a bad kid after all.

    It's not the deepest episode, but there's some extraordinary new ground explored for the show, new sides of familiar characters that we've never witnessed before, and a methodical and atmospheric execution that recalls some of the darker, quieter moments of earlier episodes (Life on the Fast Lane, Moaning Lisa). Sweeping all this under the rug by observing it from a macro point of view--highlighting out the most basic plot points while overlooking the subtleties--does this show a great disservice and is frankly unfair.

    And heck, I don't think "sitcommy" is necessarily a bad thing. Execution is far more important than grouping together story archetypes, and this episode nails it.

    It also helps that MBNP is, in my opinion, one of the funniest episodes of the series to boot. There are only eight episodes of the show that I'd give an A+ to, and MBNP is one of them.
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  16. #15
    Ringo Next HANDSOME.S4.E6.XMAS.GUYS.XviD's Avatar
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    I judge books by their covers. 0/5.
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  17. #16
    Pin Pal MagicalManFromHappyLand's Avatar
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    It was a decent read, but I already knew most of the stuff in the book. The context chapters at the start was very interesting though.

  18. #17
    Pin Pal Matlock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riviera View Post
    Seriously, what the hell. Do they not like Bart the Lover because Bart regrets his actions? These are the same people complaining about Jerkass Homer, yet they expect boorish and uncaring behaviour from Bart? What a ridiculous criticism.
    Agreed.

  19. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerkass Homer View Post
    is anyone from Dead Homer Society a member here, or used to be?
    God, I hope not.

  20. #19
    Take on the World Walid's Avatar
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    @Dead Homer Society

    there was a member with that name, obviously the maker of the site.

    all i remember was arguing with him over why he hated Marge Be Not Proud. he actually timed how long it was inbetween jokes during the episode

  21. #20


    The MBNP hatred seems to stem from the assertion that the episode is far to sitcom-like in story structure, and that this is unacceptable for The Simpsons, slayer of 80's Cosby twaddle. Not being American or alive in the 80's, I can't judge how prevalent this structure was. The story mechanics appear very similar to The Telltale Head, however, an episode the author doesn't have a problem with. I can see how Bart beingdesperate for his mother's approval is a deviation from his usual attitude, but given the circumstances it doesn't seem particularly egregious to me. I suppose the episode runs the gauntlet of sappiness and the ending is rather cloying, at least by Simpsons standards, but I don't really understand the ire. I might if I were subjected to 80's network television, though.

    More generally, I thought the book a decent summation of the history of the show with some interesting analysis. I find it slightly implausible that the death of Phil Hartmann could have as dramatic impact as the author claims. It's tragic, and the show lost some great assets in the form of Troy Mclure and Lionel Hutz, but I can't see why one couldant have a vibrant springfield without them. I appreciated the defence of Mike Scully in one of the appendages; it's true that maintainng the quality of a 9 year old show is difficult and the staff turnaround can only have compounded the issue. I think the whole "Mike Scully single-handedly destroyed The Simpsons" attitude is a bit ridiculous.

    As an aside, I don't see why people get so riled up about the term "zombie Simpsons". It's far less clunky than "classic/post-classic" and I'm fairly sure most would agree the show is a shadow of its former self.


  22. #21
    continuously shaking head c l o n e's Avatar
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    I'm not going to deny the premise of MBNP is sitcommy - because it is - and perhaps the ending is a little saccharine (this scene: "I love you so much, my little bitty Barty"
    "mom..." is a bit cringeworthy, perhaps), but it honestly doesn't bother me. It's too damn touching and hilarious with a great Bart characterisation to phase me in the slightest.

    --------
    and @christmas_ape I don't like the term "Zombie Simpsons" because it sounds like something these guys would say:


    “Yeah, some guys at MIT are sending us reasons why Zombie Simpsons is better than The Simpsons”
    “Hah! They’re out of their minds.”


    Maybe that doesn't really make much sense, all I know is that the term rubs me the wrong way.

    (okay the term "Classic Simpsons" is pretty bad too)


  23. #22


    I accepted that I was one of those guys a long time ago

    I use classic/post-classic on here because it appears to be the done thing. I find it clunky as hell though.

  24. #23
    Ringo Next HANDSOME.S4.E6.XMAS.GUYS.XviD's Avatar
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    Back to the book, this is something I would never buy. They use the same criticisms every day at dhs.com

  25. #24
    NHC's fly on the wall lionelhutz123's Avatar
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    Sorry, "zombie simpsons" is a neat little analogy, but I'm admittedly a spiteful man who likes a little clunk in his analysis.

  26. #25


    Having now read the entire book/ebook whatever we want to call it I must give props to DHS. While I may not agree with a lot in there, I can understand the point of view.
    I must say I do agree with the points with MBNP and it is a bit different; harking back to why The Simpsons became so popular being in the right place at the right time it does seem that this episode was everything The Simpsons wasn't. Yes it is funny and contains some of the best moments (THRILLHO) but it's so very predictable.


  27. #26
    Pin Pal MagicalManFromHappyLand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Riviera View Post
    Seriously, what the hell. Do they not like Bart the Lover because Bart regrets his actions? These are the same people complaining about Jerkass Homer, yet they expect boorish and uncaring behaviour from Bart? What a ridiculous criticism.
    The difference I guess is that in "Bart the Lover" he only regrets his actions when he sees Miss Krabapple crying, he doesn't instantly regret what he's done when he sees she's suffering but then in "Marge Be Not Proud" it's all very formulaic, some older boys tell Bart to steal, he says "stealing is really wrong, even I know that", he does and he instantly regret it. It's a subtle difference and it's not the best criticism ever, I guess it's just if that kind of thing gets to you or not.

  28. #27


    The most interesting thing I got out of that preview was the voice of Karl in Simpson and Delilah turning down the reappearance because the script sucked. Have there been any other celebrities that have had similar outcries? Maybe the book mentions more for those of you who read it?

    What do you think they put in the Bug Juice?
    Bugs?
    No they don't. Come on...shut up.

  29. #28
    pineapple shoes Dark Homer's Avatar
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    I finally got around to reading it all... I agree with @Gran2 in calling it a nice complement to the website. It's well-researched, entertaining and it's nice to get all this stuff in one place. It also captures a niche that the Ortved book overlooked by focusing more on the content itself instead of the personalities behind it. Mr. Sweatpants also does a good job putting everything in context - that era was kind of hazy to me - and it deepened my understanding of the show

    but like @Jims said, I found the reliance on amazon and imdb charts annoying. I realize Charlie probably wanted to use as much "objective" evidence as possible so it doesn't seem like a one man show (see! the other fans agree with me!) but the charts are so specious to be useless. I don't think I've ever rated anything at amazon or imdb. I have a particular distaste for imdb which thinks lord of the rings and whatever the latest chris nolan film is are among the top 10 films ever

    I guess I was expecting more on zombie simpsons... I know the book's focus is "how we got there" (which ,again, is handled much better than Ortved's book, which kinda treats bad simpsons like it just abruptly happened one day) but I would've liked more on "what it is" - maybe like a definitive run-through of all the annoying traits that plague the show in the modern era and characterize their reviews. As it stands, it just kinda abruptly stops at season 12.

  30. #29
    vs. Radioactive Man Captain Squid's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TriforceBun View Post
    Yeah, I'm not sure where all this Marge Be Not Proud criticism came from, but I've gotta speak up.
    Loved your whole post. I agree on all counts. Marge Be Not Proud is one of my favorite episodes, and is a great episode to show those who thought of the Simpsons as the South Park of its time.

    I wanted to add that I also liked the episode for a very stupid reason: it had snow but it wasn't exactly a Christmas episode. I really liked how the change in weather and character clothing made the episode have a fresh new feel to it.
    UP AND ATOM!

  31. #30


    I also like when they include snow - it changes up the backgrounds and the mood of it all. I believe they've been doing that here and there in the modern era - Rednecks and Broomsticks, Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind, Oh Brother Where Bart Thou?, The Fight Before Christmas, Holidays of Future Passed. Maybe there are more I can't think of, but it is a nice touch. Unless you're talking South Park, in which case it's actually cool when they don't have snow for an episode...

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