Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Simpsons and the Division of Al Jean: “Little Girl in the Big Ten” (S13E20)

It’s fairly easy to divide up the first twelve years of the The Simpsons, into different eras based on who served as the showrunner for each season. Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon established the show in its first two seasons. Al Jean and Mike Reiss took the series to new heights in Seasons 3 and 4. David Mirkin brought a more joke-heavy style in Seasons 5 and 6. Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein ran the show with a more experimental bent in its seventh and eighth seasons. And finally, Mike Scully presided over the series’ creative decline in Seasons 9-12. Each period within this time frame has its own style and sensibility that can be traced back to the individuals in charge.

After that, however, things get tricky. Al Jean returned as showrunner for Season 13, and  instead of the usual two-to-three year tour of duty on the job, he has proceeded to hang onto that title for over twelve years, producing more than 250 episodes in that time.

That’s nearly half of the show’s run, and it’s much more difficult to chop up those seasons up into discrete eras. Some of the show’s most ardent fans have thrown around terms like “Early Jean,” “Late Jean,” and “the HD era.” Some have tried to use The Simpsons Movie as a dividing line during Jean’s tenure. But it’s much harder to classify the gradual, sometimes rocky, evolution of the show under a single individual than it is to note the sharp changes in direction that came when different showrunners each brought their distinct visions for the series to the table.

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Laughing at Sincerity: The Room, Tommy Wiseau, and The Earnest Failure


The Room
has quickly become one of my favorite movies. I cannot, and could not, begin to call it a good film, but it is enjoyably and transcendently inept. The movie’s premise is a love triangle between Johnny, a well-meaning banker, Lisa, his fiancée, and Mark, his best friend. But that basic description does not begin to capture all that is The Room.

The internet has exhaustively documented the film’s numerous flaws and the insanity going on behind the scenes, but in brief, Tommy Wiseau, the film’s writer, director, star, and overall creative visionary, produced the perfect storm of terrible movies. The writing is embarrassing; the acting is weak and wooden, and the dialogue is quotable for all the wrong reasons. Plots are picked up and dropped seemingly at random; characters emerge and disappear for no reason, and the film is so poorly directed and edited that it could be considered avant-garde if people believed it were a deliberate departure from the norm.

I’ve watched this unintentional masterpiece five times. I have shared it with my fiancée, with my parents, and with multiple groups of friends, because it’s one of the movies that just has to be seen to be believed. It’s the type of film that you would never expect to actually come to fruition. Its vision is too singular. Making a movie involves too much effort from too many people for one individual to be able to create something so unique and so awful. In short, The Room is a cinematic train wreck that is as breathtaking as it is bewildering.

But recently, a comment about the movie’s questionable notoriety gave me pause. Greg Sestero, one of the film’s “stars,” is writing a new book about the film. In an article about the book’s release, one online commenter complained about Sestero capitalizing on Wiseau and the movie’s infamy, arguing that,“at some point it feels like he’s exploiting a man who’s not all there.” It made me wonder if there’s something wrong about the joy I derive from The Room.

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