The Simpsons Secondary

Season_20_Cast_Poster

Today marks the kickoff of FXX’s epic The Simpsons marathon where they will air every episode of the series (plus the movie) over the next twelve days. If things weren’t so hectic at work, I’d seriously consider taking a day or two off to just bask in all the animated Springfield glory. Sadly, I am a grown up with grown up responsibilities, so I don’t know how much of the actual marathon I’m going to catch. Sometimes it really stinks to be old.

I am admittedly a fairly fair-weather Simpsons fan; I watched the show a lot during its early seasons and then my commitment wavered a bit. Sunday night television has become way too crowded with other prestige programming and my priority and tastes have changed, so I’ll only occasionally check out the show when there is either a guest star that I enjoy, a plot topic that captures my interest or if I simply come across an episode while flipping through the channels. There are probably entire seasons that I’ve never seen, which is very unlike me. I don’t typically drop in and out of show – my completest nature and borderline ADD when it comes to pop culture usually compels me to fill in any gaps of a show that I continue to watch; if I quit a show, I quit a show and rarely look back. But this sporadic viewership in a real anomaly.

In my defense, The Simpsons has been on for 25 seasons and it would be a daunting effort to work my way back through the canon. It’s hard to even comprehend that this show has been on since I was in middle school; that’s two-thirds of my life! I don’t know if I’m even capable of that level of devotion – most shows just don’t last that long. After 25 seasons, I might even tire of Seinfeld, Arrested Development, Breaking Bad and The Wire. The Simpsons has been on longer than all those shows combined. Just think about that.

Though I may not be a Simpsons fanatic, I do have a fondness for the show. The episodes that I have seen over the years may not uniformly be great, but I’ve found something to enjoy in just about all of them. That’s in large part to the memorable characters that the writers have created over the years; they have done an excellent job of populating Springfield and creating a deep bench of citizens beyond the core Simpsons family. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are fun, but it is the supporting characters that make the show special. It’s easy to create five memorable characters, but an entire city of characters takes some real talent.

So in hour of today’s momentous Simpsons occasion, here are my ten favorite supporting characters from the show. I didn’t include celebrity characters and I didn’t count characters that only appeared once. That cuts down the possible candidates, but that still leaves a pretty sizable pool to draw from.

  1. Sideshow Bob

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Sideshow Bob would be higher on the list but he’s been overused on the show. His appearances have become too frequent and too similar. When he was initially introduced, he was a welcome addition to the Springfield landscape, withhis highbrow speech and his murderous intent.

  1. Dr. Nick

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Hey everybody! A quack doctor isn’t a new invention for a comedy, but Dr. Nick’s sheer incompetence is only rivaled by Dr. Spaceman on 30 Rock and Dr. Fishman on Arrested Development. He’s an idiot with a catchphrase, which is entertaining enough for me.

  1. Groundskeeper Willie

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If I had to clean up after the little monsters at Springfield Elementary, I’d probably be as angry as Willie too. His mysterious background and his thick Scottish accent are always a welcome component of any episode.

  1. Fat Tony

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I have a weakness for anything mafia related and the resident Springfield crime boss fits the bill. He and his crew were always up to some criminal enterprise and I was bummed when they decided to have his character sleep with the fishes.

  1. Reverend Lovejoy

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I wouldn’t want to be tasked with meeting the spiritual needs of this community and Lovejoy is clearly exasperated by the nonsense that he has to encounter on a regular basis – even Ned Flanders and his enthusiasm are exhausting. His loss of patience is the viewer’s gain.

  1. Mayor Quimby

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Making fun of politicians is kind of low-hanging fruit, but Mayor Quimby’s corruption and the obvious Kennedy parody are never fails to make me smile. I’ve probably placed him too high in the rankings, but as a political scientist I overvalue this kind of humor.

 

  1. Waylon Smithers

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Poor, sweet Smithers – he is the dutiful servant to a man that he is inexplicably in love with and has absolutely zero chance with. While in real life that kind of unreciprocated love isn’t all that funny, in an animated series he unwavering devotion and his terrible attempts to mask his sexual preference are pretty amusing. Plus anyone who has been someone’s assistant will recognize a little bit of themselves in Smithers and what he is tasked to do.

  1. Nelson

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Ha-ha. I’m always drawn to the bad boys so I guess it isn’t too surprising that Springfield Elementary bully Nelson cracked my top five. Sure Nelson is kind of terrible, but there had to be someone worse than Bart to make a core character more likeable. Nelson has tormented his classmates for years, but my favorite moments with his character are his interactions with Lisa, who was able to see through his tough exterior and find a pretty decent guy underneath.

  1. Edna Krabappel

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I’ve written before about Mrs. Krabapplel and how bummed out I was when Marcia Cross died and the character had to be retired. As a former educator, there is a lot I could identify with in Mrs. K – though I hope that I was better at teaching than she was. She is probably one of the more well-rounded characters on the show and she was always a nice foil for Bart. I liked it best when he realized how much he actually cared about his teacher.

  1. Mr. Burns

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Well, they don’t get much badder than C. Montgomery Burns, so I am in no way surprised that he is my favorite non-Simpson Simpsons character. I tend to like villains more than heroes and Mr. Burns is definitely the resident villain in Springfield. Any episode where he makes an appearance is automatically a great episode and I’ll never tire of this truly despicable plans and his total disregard for the health, safety and emotional stability of all that he comes in contact with. He’ll occasionally show some flashes of humanity, but that only adds some depth to the character. Release the hounds!

Now it’s your turn – who are your favorite supporting characters on The Simpsons and why? Sound off in the comments below.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Ice Bucket Challenge Edition

Who would have thought that the craze sweeping the nation would be dropping a bucket of cold water on your head for charity? It was only a matter of time until my turn would come up in the ALS ice bucket challenge roulette and this weekend I was challenged by not one but two people. I’m not one to back down from a challenge – especially for a good cause – so I enlisted the help of my friend’s five year old son who was more than willing to assist me in this endeavor. The idea that he would be able to dump water on an adult and get away with it brought such a gleam to his eye that I almost didn’t mind the cold. In all honestly, it really wasn’t bad at all and was a minor inconvenience at best. It was actually kind of fun. I hope other charities are able to find ways to raise awareness and money that are as successful. If people can have fun with something and call other people out in the process, that’s a recipe for a profitable campaign. And though I should be tired of watching them, for some reason the sight of people pouring ice cold water of their head still cracks me up. I’m easy to entertain.

So while you nervously wait to be challenged (or if you are drying off from your participation), catch up on some of the pop culture that you may have missed in the last week.

  • It’s not a contest, of course, but Dave Grohl pretty much won the Ice Bucket Challenge with this video:

 

 

  • Godzilla 2 will not lumber into theaters until 2018.
  • Paul F. Tompkins blindfolds Breaking Bad‘s RJ Mitte and asks him to ID  cereals, since we all know Walt Jr. loved breakfast:

 

  • You know, I was just thinking that what the N.W.A. movie was missing was Paul Giamatti. Crisis averted.
  • The winner of Last Comic Standing made his debut on The Tonight Show:

 

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  • Watch Willie Nelson perform a card trick:

 

  • Weird Al was asked “If a deli named a sandwich after you, what would be on it?” The folks over at Consumerist actually made his answer.
  • I’ve made no secret that I am #teamLittlefinger on Game of Thrones, so this photo of Aidan Gillen with a Magnum ice cream bar cracked me up. So serious!

  • Whoa – Jack Nicholson’s son sure looks like his famous dad:

Apollo in the Hamptons 2014

  • Lil Bow Wow will appear on CSI:Cyber.

Time for some trailers……..

  • A red band trailer for new stuff from the Trailer Park Boys:

 

  • Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul reunite…..for an Emmy promo. Julia Louis-Dreyfus joins the fun:

 

  • A new trailer for Lifetime’s Saved be the Bell movie (I may have to have a party for this):

 

  • Serious Adam Sandler returns in Jason Reitman’s Men, Women & Children:

 

  • Nicolas Cage misses the Rapture in Left Behind:

 

  • Revenge of the Green Dragons:

 

  • Johnny Depp in Mortdecai:

 

  • A look at the new Fox comedy Mulaney:

 

  • Z Nation, Syfy’s new zombie show:

 

  • Juliette Lewis in Kelly & Cal:

 

  • There’s no new footage in the trailer that Yahoo released for Community, but it’s a nice stroll down memory lane:

 

  • A look at Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 2:

 

  • Verne Troyer really loves Shark Week:

 

  • Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff reunited to perform “Summertime” in Vegas:

 

  • Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter and NKOTB’s Jordan Knight have released their first single from their new collaboration (ridiculously named Nick and Knight).
  • Lindsay Lohan is planning to write a memoir trilogy, “like Harry Potter.” Oy vey. That shows a serious misunderstanding of the Potter series (7 books is not a trilogy) and a serious overestimation of public interest in Lohan.

The Houston Astros Vs. The Boston Red Sox At Fenway Park

  • This GIF features all the fake sequels at the end of 22 Jump Street:

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As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts……

  • Watch kids reenact Emmy-nominated shows:

 

  • Groot and Taylor Swift in a dance-off:

 

  • A Charles Bronson supercut:

 

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  • What if Sid & Nancy was more like Growing Pains:

 

  • What would Up look like if Michael Bay directed it?

 

  • Star Wars meets Friday:

 

  • Last week he sang “Fancy,” this week Barack Obama does Ariana Grande’s “Problems”

 

  • Bill Pullman’s climatic speech in Independence Day is less inspiring when done by Gilbert Gottfried:

 

  • And finally, a  supercut of deaths in Quentin Tarantino’s movies:

Def Leppard and KISS -Saratoga Performing Arts Center (Saratoga Springs, NY), 8/5/14

KISS And Def Leppard Announce Summer Tour At The House Of Blues In Hollywood March 17, 2014

In my day, the school bus was the equivalent of the Wild West; it was the one place where kids were lumped together without much adult supervision. It is not surprising, therefore, that this is where we picked up a lot of stuff that our parents wouldn’t necessarily be happy with. Put 5th graders on the same bus with curious (and gullible) younger kids and there is bound to be some bad behavior learned in the process. It was mostly harmless stuff, but years of riding the public school bus was certainly a different kind of education than we were getting in the classroom.

It was on one such school bus ride that I first heard that the rock band KISS had connections with the devil. I have no idea why we were even talking about KISS – I don’t remember them being particularly popular at the time – but at some point in the conversation an older kid told us that KISS stood for Knights In Satan’s Service and there were satanic messages hidden in their music. Now, I was a pretty savvy kid and I was usually pretty astute at sniffing out the ridiculous in these bus ride conversations; I was one of the more outspoken advocates that professional wrestling was fake, a controversial stance to take at the time. So while I doubted the overall veracity of this statement, it still made me a little concerned. You also have to remember that this was the 1980s, when people were obsessed with finding the devil in any pop culture that they didn’t understand. Heavy Metal was often under fire for it possible connection to devil worship. 60 Minutes even did a segment on the game Dungeons & Dragons and its possible connections to witchcraft, demons and even suicide. Given the climate at the time, even though I didn’t necessarily believe that KISS was in fact in legion with Beelzebub, I wasn’t taking any chances and generally stayed away from them. “I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night” didn’t strike me as all that demonic, but the news had me convinced that Satanism lurked everywhere. It is ironic that this was the time period when KISS had actually been “unmasked” and they were no longer wearing their makeup, which I found actually scarier. Gene Simmons is kind of terrifying.

Somewhere down the road, after the Lucifer paranoia had generally died down, I rediscovered KISS and found it hilarious that anyone ever thought that they were satanic henchmen. I’d like to think that Satan wouldn’t pick a band that is so cheesy to be his messenger. I don’t mean cheesy as an insult, but it’s hard to take a band that has a song called “Love Gun” all that seriously. I’d presume that the devil is more subtle than that. I didn’t necessarily seek out KISS, but I would occasionally hear a song that I liked and would be surprised to learn that it was by them. The prominence of the band’s music in the movie Role Models was another source of exposure. I was by no metric a KISS fan – I can only name a handful of songs – but given their stage theatrics I thought that if the chance presented itself for me to see them live, I should do it. That opportunity presented itself this summer when KISS rolled into town as part of a double bill with Def Leppard. The Groupon deal for discounted lawn tickets didn’t hurt either; it was a small investment to check out this traveling circus in person.

We arrived late to the show (during the opening act – that’s late to me), but it was immediately apparent that based on people watching alone the cost of admission was well worth it. It appeared that most of the people in attendance did not receive the memo that it was no longer 1985; it was like stepping into a time machine, with mullets and big hair as far as the eye could see. I’m sure that the majority of these people got “into character” for the show and do not normally walk around looking like this, but I’m sure that some percentage of them embrace this look for their daily lives. After all, one does not grow a mullet overnight. KISS fans also do not seem to subscribe to the general concert etiquette that you don’t wear a t-shirt of the band that you are there to see. Everywhere I looked, there were people decked out in KISS garb. Of course, the truly dedicated members of the KISS army came all decked out as their favorite members of the band, makeup and all. I was curious if that was something that people still did and it is a tradition that is still going strong. Though they were the minority of the audience, I still saw way more people in replica KISS costumes than I would have anticipated at this particular venue. I didn’t snap any photos, but in a way I kind of admire their commitment and passion. I don’t think I feel that strongly about anything, so kudos to them for not giving a crap what anyone thought. I did speculate that if I wore a pair of the KISS platform boots I would grow about three inches in height, which would be sweet, though I’m guessing frowned upon in my office.

Def Leppard took the stage first and worked their way through their seemingly unlimited number of hits. I’ve seen Def Leppard before and while I’ve enjoyed them both times I was struck both times by how quiet they were. I don’t know who is setting up their amps and sound system, but they are not nearly as raucous as other bands that I’ve seen at the same venue. The first time I saw them they were blown off the stage by Journey and while my affinity for Journey knows no bounds, they shouldn’t be out-powering a band like Def Leppard. We weren’t that far back on the lawn and they sounded somewhat muted. Maybe it’s from years of being on stage and their hearing is damaged; the word deaf is right in their band name. Whatever the reason, it was definitely noticeable and slightly took away from the overall show. It was hard to make out anything that they were saying in between songs and while I doubt I missed any great oration it still would have been nice to know what they were saying.

Still, listening to Def Leppard is like a visit to my early adolescence and even a quieter version is enjoyable. I still think that Hysteria is one of my favorite all-around albums and it is impressive how many hit songs they actually have. In fact when they came back on stage for an encore at the end of their set, I was puzzled as to what they were going to preform since they had seemed to hit all the high notes of their career already. Of course, the band knew better than I did and they had two more popular songs in reserve (“Photograph” and “Rock of Ages”), which I somehow either forgot about or just assumed that they had already played. They were solid and I’ll always be impressed with the skill of their drummer, but I don’t know that I necessarily have to see Def Leppard for a third time.

The reason that I was there was KISS and I was surprised, given the number of people we saw wearing KISS paraphernalia, that the crowd on the lawn really thinned out after Def Leppard finished their set. It appeared that a lot of people left, though perhaps the more die-hard KISS fans just made their way closer to the stage. I really couldn’t see much of anything during Def Leppard – even standing I couldn’t see over the people in front of us – so I mostly just relaxed in my chair. Def Leppard may have a lot of hits, but they don’t have much in way of a stage show. By the time KISS took the stage, I could move up enough that I had a pretty clear sight line of the entire stage. And for what was about to be unleashed, you wanted to have a good view.

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Despite the fact that I don’t love the lawn, I had balked at getting inside tickets for the show because I could not justify spending over $100 to see these two bands. I couldn’t figure out why they were so expensive for performers whose most popular days were probably behind them. But once KISS took the stage, the staggering ticket prices suddenly make sense; the sheer amount of pyrotechnics that they set off during the show probably cost more than the GDP of some small countries. It was insane – between the lights and the pyro and their costumes, I had no idea where to focus. I may have briefly given myself ADD as I struggled to take it all in.

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KISS was just as cheesy as I had hoped that they would be; at this point, their on stage banter sounds exactly like you would expect a stereotype of an arena rock band to sound. Paul Stanley did all of the talking and it was clear from his earnestness that he really loves performing. I’d always assumed that Gene Simmons was more of the front man of KISS, probably because he was the only member who I knew thanks to his gift for self-promotion, so I was a little confused by all this. When Stanley asked the audience to chant his name, I had to confirm with my friend what his name was. On top of all the pyro, Stanley also flew out to the middle of the crowd on a zip line and Simmons made blood come out of his mouth. It was all the spectacle that I always assumed would occur at a KISS concert, but I was glad that I got to experience it first-hand.

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I must have picked up some knowledge of KISS songs by osmosis, since there were far fewer songs on their playlist that I failed to recognize. The crowd loved every minute of the show and was enthusiastic throughout the set. We were sitting next to a family of four, with a pre-teen son and teenaged daughter and I was surprised by how into all of this the kids were. The daughter was shrieking and jumping up and down like she was at a One Direction concert which was impressive given that she wasn’t even born when these bands were at their peak popularity. The only issue was the obnoxious group of people sitting a few rows ahead of us. They had smuggled in alcohol which they had consumed in excess and somewhere toward the end of the KISS set one of the guys, slumped over in his chair, vomited all over the lawn. His friends found this hilarious and took photos of this; it’s worth mentioning that this group was in their mid-forties. Thankfully we were far enough away from this hot mess that it didn’t directly impact us, but it certainly wasn’t the best aroma to have wafting through the crowd.

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In the interest of beating traffic – it was a school night – we ducked out a little early, so we heard “Rock and Roll All Night” from the parking lot. That was fine with me – I’d kind of reached my KISS limit at that point. It was a fun show and I’m glad that I got to see it with my own eyes, but it’s not necessarily an experience that I’d be anxious to repeat. Even if you don’t dig their music, I think it’s still worth going to see KISS once in your life just to say you did it and to see the spectacle unfold before you. They really are entertainers first and a rock band second. It was a surprisingly fun night.

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