VIDEO: The Simpsons live episode an awkward and conservative disappointment
To mark its 595th episode, 27 year-old animated sitcom The Simpsons made a desperate bid to remain current by making TV history last night (15 May 2016) with a three minute live segment in which Homer answered questions from fans. Cleverly titled “Simprovised”, the much anticipated episode saw the iconic yellow character answering phone calls live on air from the ‘Fox Studios Secret bunker’ (which was later revealed to be a flimsy set built in the Simpson family’s living room).
The groundbreaking live animation technique was enabled by motion capture technology, which tracked the head and arm movements of Homer voice actor Dan Castellaneta, and immediately animated them for broadcast across the United States and several international markets. A 7-second delay prevented pranksters from asking inappropriate questions live on air, but awkwardness nevertheless ensued as each caller proceeded to tentatively speak over Castellaneta as he fielded the questions.
Check out the segment in full here:
The result? Ultimately, the filter that producers placed on the calls received made for a watered down and conservative segment, as experienced improviser Castellaneta scrambled to come up with fresh, witty responses to predictable questions.
Executive producer Al Jean predicted Homer would field “at least 80% Trump questions”, yet the most controversial territory breached was first caller Hannah’s question of “Who do you like more, Lenny or Carl?”
Following queries such as “What kind of car do you drive”, and “Do you prefer Chicago deep dish or New York style pizza?” were so basic and outdated that the segment may as well have been prerecorded.
Even Homer’s opening address, which was no doubt heavily planned in advance, was unfunny and out of touch. “Just to prove we’re live, on Saturday Night Live last night, Drake was terrible”, he said.
As a result, the Twitter reaction to #SimpsonsLive ranged from disappointment to downright confusion:
#SimpsonsLive was a total letdown 👎🏻
— Ryan Satin (@ryansatin) May 16, 2016
— Cheryl Noll (@cherrycola28) May 16, 2016
Simpsons live was a flop I was so disappointed! #simpsonslive
— usmc3733 (@usmc3733) May 16, 2016
Shame this episode seems all set up just for the live section by the “improv” theme. Could have been written in more slyly #SimpsonsLive
— One F (@DJOneF) May 16, 2016
In all, The Simpsons live episode proved to be an ambitious experiment and an impressive technical achievement, but fell flat on substance and comedy.