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Thread: Al Jean's thoughts on The Principal and the Pauper



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    Al Jean's thoughts on The Principal and the Pauper

    So The Principal and the Pauper has long been a controversial episode, with some people from the show, notably Harry Shearer and to a lesser extent Matt Groening, voicing negative opinions about it.

    Now Al Jean, in the DVD commentary for I d'oh-bot (which has an Armin Tamzarian joke), has made his thoughts known. Here's a transcript.

    Starts at 17:30

    Alan Sepinwall [TV critic doing a guest commentary]: I gotta ask, the Armin Tamzarian joke that's coming up here, uh... Who came up with that and in general what is sort of the feeling about Armin Tamzarian in hindsight.
    Al Jean: That's me that put the joke in.
    Matt Groening(?): Yeah, I think Al, yeah.
    Al Jean: ....and the... Well... I'll just say, I wasn't running the show the year the Armin Tamzarian episode aired and it was a great year for the show..... But... I never got that , the Armin Tamzarian thing, so [someone laughs]
    Matt Groening: I remember saying 'what the hell is this?' [people laugh] and being assured by all the writers, "no it's gonna be great." [more laughs]
    Tom Gammill: [barely audible over others] It was Ken Keeler, right?
    Al Jean: Then when I investigated afterwards, I found like... I said to Scully, 'do you like it?' he goes 'no'. Did Matt Groening? No. Did George? No. Did Jim? No, like... [interrupted by laughter] [Jean, in an incredulous voice while laughing] I was like, how did it go through? Every box had to be checked no.
    Alan Sepinwall(?): Success has a thousand(?) fathers. [more laughing]
    Al Jean: No and I don't wanna... You know, people should experiment. I don't wanna be Mr. Negative but I have to say I just thought it was throwing away the past and [interrupted by Matt Groening]
    Matt Groening: Can I be Mr. Negative for a moment? [laughter]
    Al Jean: Just for a moment.
    Matt Groening: No, I don't, we don't need to talk about that anymore. [awkward silence]
    Matt Selman(?): Well, it was a good... little... coda... Having fun with the controversy, I feel. [someone interrupts and points out something]

    The Principal and the Pauper isn't one of my favourite episodes, but it's not bad and I've never found it to be as terrible as some people claim. Ignoring the whole twist, there are some really good jokes in it.

    What I find funny is that this is the first time (and correct me if I'm wrong) that Al Jean has openly bashed an episode of the show in the commentaries. This is the same Al Jean who has been showrunner for some horrific episodes and been part of the commentary for some pretty bad ones.

    This all poses one question: If he disliked the episode and the twist, then why the hell did he do pretty much the exact same thing in that episode where they killed Fat Tony and replaced him with Fit Tony, who then became known as Fat Tony.
    Last edited by McClure; 12-06-2012 at 08:35 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by McClure View Post

    This all poses one question: If he disliked the episode and the twist, then why the hell did he do pretty much the exact same thing in that episode where they killed Fat Tony and replaced him with Fit Tony, who then became known as Fat Tony.
    Admit it, Al, you allowed this to happen on a dare.
    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.

    I tried watching a new episode the Simpsons, but I realized the show hit a new low, like a brand new, underground parking structure of sadness.


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    It's miles better than anything they've aired in the past ten years, i'll give you that.


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    I was kinda expecting someone to bring this up here after listening to it last night. Jean has contradicted himself in commentaries before though, I think it's in Half-Decent Proposal where he says doing a parody of Avatar seems like a bad move then he did it at least twice, once as a couch gag once as a segment in a thoh.

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    I think it's kind of rich for Al Jean to be ragging (no pun intended) on what was, at worst, an average season 9 episode given some of the stuff he's put us through.
    I do like that joke though.
    I've read it wasn't popular here, but I laughed pretty hard at it the first time I saw it.
    Last edited by hutz; 12-06-2012 at 09:09 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Oh, that's raspberry! View Post
    I was kinda expecting someone to bring this up here after listening to it last night. Jean has contradicted himself in commentaries before though, I think it's in Half-Decent Proposal where he says doing a parody of Avatar seems like a bad move then he did it at least twice, once as a couch gag once as a segment in a thoh.
    A bit off-topic, but my favourite contradiction is when Matt Groening said in a commentary (Gump Roast?) that the story on wikipedia that Elizabeth Taylor was asked to say "daddy" so many times that she eventually said "fuck you" and walked out was not true. The funny thing is that Groening himself was the source. He told that story in several interviews.

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    Quote Originally Posted by McClure View Post
    What I find funny is that this is the first time (and correct me if I'm wrong) that Al Jean has openly bashed an episode of the show in the commentaries. This is the same Al Jean who has been showrunner for some horrific episodes and been part of the commentary for some pretty bad ones.
    He wasn't bashing it that much as he was criticizing it. Matt Groening seemed to dislike it more.

    But even as early as in Behind the Laughter when they were mocking the episode's storyline I thought it was silly considering what they had done at this point.

    The episode itself never bothered me really and it would be odd if it bothered someone today considering all that happened since.

    Also, a lot of the staff seems to be still critical of the early shows, hazing the same stance they had on the episodes 15 years before. I guess they're saying "do what we say, not what we do"

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    Al Jean: " I just thought it was throwing away the past"
    Says the guy who allowed 'That 90s show'.


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    This episode is just one of those times when I don't agree with the Simpsons community. It's actually a really good episode, and is probably just as brilliant as any other episode in the Season 8 prod. run. I think the reason most people hate it is because it retcons an already established character, but if you just look past that, it's still an amazing episode - it's just some of the people who are hugely nostalgic over Seasons 4 - 8 that hate it, as it apparently 'jumps the shark' (even though it is in fact a parody of that term).


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    Opinions.

    They tend to change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GallifreyanGallade View Post
    This episode is just one of those times when I don't agree with the Simpsons community. It's actually a really good episode, and is probably just as brilliant as any other episode in the Season 8 prod. run. I think the reason most people hate it is because it retcons an already established character, but if you just look past that, it's still an amazing episode - it's just some of the people who are hugely nostalgic over Seasons 4 - 8 that hate it, as it apparently 'jumps the shark' (even though it is in fact a parody of that term).
    The Simpsons Spinoff Showcase had three shorts that were corny, over the top and stupid compared to the original Simpsons, but the episode didn't feel corny, it still felt like a decent episode. Similarly, I knew TPaTP was about hating change, but because it was an awful episode, they trolled the audience and dared them not to like it. Which, in their minds meant because the audience didn't like, it's "mission accomplished." It's like the writers tried making an episode about the comic book guy and message boards, but it turns out to be a terrible episode and the writers try to defend their work by saying: "We made fun of the comic book guy, and the comic book guys weren't supposed to like it!"

    The TPaTP's defense in the S9 DVD commentary is a lame way to make your work critic-proof.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Boots View Post
    The Simpsons Spinoff Showcase had three shorts that were corny, over the top and stupid compared to the original Simpsons, but the episode didn't feel corny, it still felt like a decent episode. Similarly, I knew TPaTP was about hating change, but because it was an awful episode, they trolled the audience and dared them not to like it. Which, in their minds meant because the audience didn't like, it's "mission accomplished." It's like the writers tried making an episode about the comic book guy and message boards, but it turns out to be a terrible episode and the writers try to defend their work by saying: "We made fun of the comic book guy, and the comic book guys weren't supposed to like it!"
    Well maybe the reason why Pauper was controversial back in 1997 was because it might have offended Simpsons fans of the time. It's the same deal as Saddlesore Galactica - fans felt offended because they were made fun of by the writers.


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    Quote Originally Posted by GallifreyanGallade View Post
    Well maybe the reason why Pauper was controversial back in 1997 was because it might have offended Simpsons fans of the time. It's the same deal as Saddlesore Galactica - fans felt offended because they were made fun of by the writers.
    I guess Harry Shearer is a fanboi, too. While the voice overs were being recorded he was like "really, you're trashing 8 years of a character's history for no good reason?".

    Personally, I found this episode to be bad beyond the "people hating change" angle. It was boring and unfunny whether you hate massive revelations, or otherwise.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Boots View Post
    I guess Harry Shearer is a fanboi, too. While the voice overs were being recorded he was like "really, you're trashing 8 years of a character's history for no good reason?".

    Personally, I found this episode to be bad beyond the "people hating change" angle. It was boring and unfunny whether you hate massive revelations, or otherwise.
    I wouldn't call it unfunny. It had its fair share of jokes.

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    When I first saw the episode, I didn't care for it as the storytelling was pretty dumb 'n boring and there isn't much funny stuff in there. With the premise they could've done something cool, but they didn't. And their excuse on the commentary that nobody got the message is lame, because it's their fault nobody got it.

    As for Al Jean, yeah, indeed: Fit Tony, 90s show, Marge and Homer meeting as kids, let's not forget the Armin joke is in this episode because they killed Snowball II for a cheap 'laugh' and then replaced him with a lookalike conveniently called Snowball II. And it's of course very funny that Al wonders why the episode was made with so many boxes checked 'no', when everybody on the Simpsons was against 'A Star is Burns' being produced except for him, Mike and Jim.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Matty View Post
    And it's of course very funny that Al wonders why the episode was made with so many boxes checked 'no', when everybody on the Simpsons was against 'A Star is Burns' being produced except for him, Mike and Jim.
    They're actually pretty similar episodes, as they are both controversial among the cast and crew. I actually like A Star is Burns too, but I do loathe the fact that Al Jean and Mike Reiss just used as a cheap plug for their own show.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Matty View Post
    As for Al Jean, yeah, indeed: Fit Tony, 90s show, Marge and Homer meeting as kids, let's not forget the Armin joke is in this episode because they killed Snowball II for a cheap 'laugh' and then replaced him with a lookalike conveniently called Snowball II. And it's of course very funny that Al wonders why the episode was made with so many boxes checked 'no', when everybody on the Simpsons was against 'A Star is Burns' being produced except for him, Mike and Jim.
    Yeah, you hit the nail on the head.

    Anyway, I actually liked Principal and the Pauper at the time. Shoot me, but I can't really see why the episode is lame or unfunny despite the continuity problems. I think the writing is pretty much the same of other episodes from its era, except for the concept and the cop-out resolution (though Trash Of The Titans or Twisted World of Marge Simpson, or, to a lesser extente, in Marge We Trust, had also weak resolutions -monkey attack in an episode about Lovejoy¿?).

    I even bought it at the time. I felt they didn't change Skinner's character and his relationship with this mother THAT much.

    Now I'd kinda prefer if they haven't done it, but , like I said a million times, my main problem with it is that I think the name Seymour Skinner fits the character much better than Armin Tanzarian. But he was still in Vietnam, he was still acting like Agnes' son, he was still in love with Edna, he was still discipline obsessed and sort of a bumbling idiot...

    I find Ned's past in Hurricane Neddy much, much more difficult to believe.

    Similarly I dislike Skinner's past in Pranks and Greens almost as much or more than Principal and the Pauper.

    Also, That 90's Show is another pretty decent episode DESPITE the continuity, but I also think it would have been easier to figure out a way to make it a little more fitting continuity wise. Making it a imaginary story, or having Homer passion for grunge when he has already finished High School, or something that wouldn't contradict The Way We Was THAT much.

    I think somebody should ask Jean about continuity in a long interview. He sometimes looks obsessed with continuity (bringing back characters from the past, he also pretty much brought back aspects like Marge's game addiction that wasn't really touched in a long time as far as I remember) or seems to dislike changes (he doesn't seem to like Manjula and the octuplets or Sober Barney, but he also undid pretty good changes like Kirk's divorce or Skinner and Edna's relationship, only to introduce his own, and pretty uneven, changes, like Sideshow Bob's family, Selma's baby, Fit Tony, Nedna, etc.).
    Last edited by Cartoonnetwork; 12-07-2012 at 09:36 AM.
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    I think everyone's making a bigger deal out of this than they should.

    Think about it. Back in 1997, Al Jean probably had a different outlook on the show than he does today. He was at Disney at the time, just about to return to the show. He's merely remembering what everyone else's take was on the episode.

    Even Matt Selman makes it pretty clear at the end of this exchange just how irrelevant the controversy truly is, when he points out they're just having fun with it.

    These are comedy writers. People with a certain type of ego and insecurity. Of course they're going to diss each other's work amicably, especially if it gets some laughs. I can see Harry Shearer and Matt Groening having their objections, since it fits with the kind of people they are. But otherwise, they're just having fun in a commentary with Alan Sepinwall.

    Personally, I enjoyed Principal and the Pauper then, and I still do now. There's only so much continuity I can take seriously on an animated sitcom. Afterwards, it's healthier to take a more fast-and-loose approach to the whole thing. Otherwise, it just becomes too nerdy for anyone to handle.

    Do I like the fact that Homer and Marge met in the 1970's? Yes.

    Do I care if we had The 90's Show afterwards, to the point of getting angry with a simple continuity violation? Not even close. We have 24 seasons with characters that don't age on an animated format. I say enjoy the ride.


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    ^You're mostly right, but if we can't rant at least a little bit, what's the point of having a discussion forum to begin with?

    Either way, it's not that I am extremely infuriated because they changed the continuity in That 90s Show or anything. As I said I do like that episode more than the rest, and I think it's a decent episode in aspects no related to continuity. But I do think that it shouldn't be too difficult to try to fit some of those ideas in continutiy a little more. The excuse of the characters still keeping the same age doesn't seem enough for me. I think they could still do that and keep some of the continuity merely by using vague dates or time periods. Or even if it's specifically the 90s show, at least not showing characters in high school that were supposed to be there in the 70s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cartoonnetwork View Post
    (he doesn't seem to like Manjula and the octuplets or Sober Barney, but he also undid pretty good changes like Kirk's divorce or Skinner and Edna's relationship, only to introduce his own, and pretty uneven, changes, like Sideshow Bob's family, Selma's baby, Fit Tony, Nedna, etc.).
    Too bad the former changes are far better than the latter ones.

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    That's what I said. Undoing Sober Barney was good. Not using Manjula and the octuplets too much is undifferent (they are not great, but since they are there, maybe they could do something better with them?) but the other things were bad decissions on Jean's part. I kinda think Edna and Skinner marrying and even having a children would have probably been better than Nedna. I guess Jean just thought he could go back to status quo by separating Skinner and Edna and then having Edna replacing Maude. But Edna and Maude are very different characters. It's still not the worst of Jean's changes (I even voted pro-Nedna, so I can't blame them, even though I just did it cause I wanted them to keep some continuity) , though, and it still has some potential but Fit Tony and Bob family were badly handled. I think Bob's family could have been a good idea if well done, but they were very 'bleh' characters.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cartoonnetwork View Post
    ^You're mostly right, but if we can't rant at least a little bit, what's the point of having a discussion forum to begin with?
    That's a question I keep asking myself constantly.

    I think rants have short lifespans. It's nice to let it out at first, but after a while it gets tiresome.

    I also think there's a fine line between discussion and ranting, one that people have yet to figure out. It's easy to blur that line, the way I see it, and I feel it creates a somewhat hostile environment at times (or an overly sarcastic one).

    Also, it occurs to me that a person's mood can really color their outlook on the world more often than not. I recall Josh Weinstein mention he once changed his opinion on an episode because he was in a lousy mood when he first saw it (not a Simpsons episode, per se, but an example).


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    Yeah, if you're gonna completely despise an episode of a show because of the bad continuity, then you should look at the genre. It's a sitcom. The only shows that need good continuity are dramas and soap operas. A sitcom can get rid of or bring in a character suddenly, or change a character's actor, but do people hate those episodes? Nope.

    There are loads of instances where the show has went back on, or retconned, continuity, but unless it's a drama or soap opera, you shouldn't really care all that much. Because Principal Skinner is a fictional character. The writers should be able to retcon what or who they want, and the fandom shouldn't be completely outraged by it, like they were with this episode fifteen years ago.

    Because, past the 'bad continuity', this episode is still as brilliant as the other episodes in the Oakley~Weinstein era.

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    I am not a fan of The Principal and the Pauper, although I don't dislike it because of the continuity issue, or because it isn't funny enough. My biggest problem with it was how annoying everyone was. Armin Tamzarian had to turn everything over to Skinner, just because he had a name change. For some reason, anything Armin had ever had or done was now Skinner's. Armin still got the job as principal. Armin still bought all of his possessions. Armin was still responsible for all of the accomplishments that Armin did as Skinner, but for some reason he feels the need to turn them all over to Skinner. It really bothered me.
    I don't look to far into continuity, which is probably why That 90's Show is one of my favorite post-classics. I thought it was a funny-enough episode. That part just really got on my nerves.

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    Quote Originally Posted by GallifreyanGallade View Post
    Yeah, if you're gonna completely despise an episode of a show because of the bad continuity, then you should look at the genre. It's a sitcom. The only shows that need good continuity are dramas and soap operas. A sitcom can get rid of or bring in a character suddenly, or change a character's actor, but do people hate those episodes? Nope.
    I've always hated the "It's a cartoon stupid, get over it" argument. It's true, The Simpsons IS a cartoon. If the writers wanted they could have all of the characters reveal that they are aliens next week, then they could go live with unicorns on the sun. But that's not what The Simpsons is. It's a cartoon grounded in reality, which is why there is such a devoted fanbase and fans such as ourselves that memorize the episodes and spent hours discussing it. We all feel some kind of connection to the show, whether its to its humour or the characters or the storylines. It's a show some take very seriously, and others are more lighthearted in their devotion. I don't think many would say they feel a connection to the show because its a zany cartoon sitcom where anything can and will happen.

    So when fans feel that level of connection to something, for the writers to suddenly turn around and do something like that, then say something along the lines of "It's just a show, you idiot" is basically, in the words of Harry Shearer, saying "Fuck you for caring."

    For the record, I don't really mind things like Armin Tamzarian. When it's really clever, or making some kind of point, it fits in with the show. Because its The Simpsons and they do stuff like that. They spend an entire summer building a murder mystery, then say the baby did it. They do an entire touching episode around Mr. Burns and his teddy, then point out that there is no message. It's when the writers do stuff like that these days that has no real point or message, then when the fans complain, they say "It's a cartoon stupid! Get over it."


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    I'm really torn in the "It's just a cartoon" argument. I don't think it should get too crazy, but I do think some fans should lighten up a bit and look past the initial zaniness, and focus a bit more on humor.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jbauer View Post
    I think everyone's making a bigger deal out of this than they should.
    Not really, Skinner's retconning was from a controversial point in the show's history. Like it or not, TPaTP did generate some pretty strong opinions when it first aired and it still does today. Also, I'm not sure how you can tell people what they can and cannot take seriously, which comes across as pompous and self-serving.

    Personally, I enjoyed Principal and the Pauper then, and I still do now. There's only so much continuity I can take seriously on an animated sitcom. Afterwards, it's healthier to take a more fast-and-loose approach to the whole thing. Otherwise, it just becomes too nerdy for anyone to handle.
    Yeah, who gives a shit? It's a cartoon! Uh, huh..that mentality sounds like it comes from someone who REALLY likes the show. Seriously, step off.

    Do I like the fact that Homer and Marge met in the 1970's? Yes.

    Do I care if we had The 90's Show afterwards, to the point of getting angry with a simple continuity violation? Not even close. We have 24 seasons with characters that don't age on an animated format. I say enjoy the ride.
    Like how Chalmers watched the school turn to shit as he turned a blind eye and "sat back and enjoyed the ride"? If you're going to paraphrase characters, at least pick ones that aren't synonymous with the decline of something!

    Quote Originally Posted by jbauer View Post
    That's a question I keep asking myself constantly.

    I think rants have short lifespans. It's nice to let it out at first, but after a while it gets tiresome.

    I also think there's a fine line between discussion and ranting, one that people have yet to figure out. It's easy to blur that line, the way I see it, and I feel it creates a somewhat hostile environment at times (or an overly sarcastic one).
    You're brash to think anyone who takes the show more seriously than yourself and has a less favorable opinion is 'ranting.' Your constant, irritating praise of the current state of the show is like taking Taylor Swift's side and saying it's all her boyfriends's fault her relationships failed. (Maybe Jean could make an episode called "Maybe I'm the Problem.") If you quit trying to categorize people as nerds, irate, ranting, you'd might be able to understand why people are upset and maybe they're not the reason for the show getting bad reviews.

    Also, it occurs to me that a person's mood can really color their outlook on the world more often than not. I recall Josh Weinstein mention he once changed his opinion on an episode because he was in a lousy mood when he first saw it (not a Simpsons episode, per se, but an example).
    Keep reaching!

    Quote Originally Posted by GallifreyanGallade View Post
    Yeah, if you're gonna completely despise an episode of a show because of the bad continuity, then you should look at the genre. It's a sitcom. The only shows that need good continuity are dramas and soap operas. A sitcom can get rid of or bring in a character suddenly, or change a character's actor, but do people hate those episodes? Nope.
    My father who is only somewhat a fan of the Simpsons saw "That 90's show" and was even baffled at how Homer and Marge were that age in the 90's. He wasn't mad, but he thought it was quite strange. I felt that way, too, but I was more annoyed at how unfunny it was overall, and I'm a big fan of seeing the characters portrayed in different time periods. Also , continuity was messed with before TPaTP, but no one complained because those early episodes were just do damn funny to notice.

    There are loads of instances where the show has went back on, or retconned, continuity, but unless it's a drama or soap opera, you shouldn't really care all that much. Because Principal Skinner is a fictional character. The writers should be able to retcon what or who they want, and the fandom shouldn't be completely outraged by it, like they were with this episode fifteen years ago.
    If you were watching Star Wars and C3P0 and R2D2 suddenly started breakdancing and flashing gang symbols, would that make sense in the Star Wars universe? Granted Star Wars is no where close to realistic, but there's a certain level of character logic that DOES make sense in a TV Show, or Movie universe. Skinner being a fraud didn't outrage me, it was how it was handled. Had the episode had a deeper backstory, or funnier jokes, the idea woudn't have come across as being as lame as it turned out.

    Because, past the 'bad continuity', this episode is still as brilliant as the other episodes in the Oakley~Weinstein era.
    Here's a better example: Imagine if they make a spinoff where 12 years had passed and the family had another child. Yeah, there would be a lot of intrepidation the new spinoff could suck, but if the new series was funny and had that classic Simpsons quality, no one would care they had another child. Had TPaTP been a funny, satirical, or somewhat moving, people wouldn't give two-shits about Skinner being fake and would probably hope there'd be more revelations to come.

  33. Thumbs Up To This Post by: Snaked

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    Quote Originally Posted by Frightened Inmate No. 2 View Post
    I'm really torn in the "It's just a cartoon" argument. I don't think it should get too crazy, but I do think some fans should lighten up a bit and look past the initial zaniness, and focus a bit more on humor.
    If I did that, the Scully era would be about 8 minutes long; The Jean era, 15.

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    Exactly.. they did the same BS episode again with Fat Tony many years later!

    Al Jean, KING OF THE HACKS!!!

    Only he can rip something off and call it crapola in the process.

  36. Thumbs Up To This Post by: Snaked, Tubbb!



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