Friday, November 14, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Black Dynamite, "How Honey Bee Got Her Groove Back or Night of the Living Dickheads," and The Simpsons, "Simpsorama" (tie)

Big spliffs a gwan
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Ian Edwards, a staff writer for Black Dynamite this season, is a solid stand-up whose most hilarious moment took place not during one of his sets or his TV writing credits but on a podcast. In episode 69 of WTF with Marc Maron, Edwards was one of several guest comedians Maron interviewed on stage at Portland's Bridgetown Comedy Festival. I've brought up this 2010 WTF episode before because it's my favorite of the live WTF episodes, but to keep it succinct, Maron's conversations on WTF with black guys who aren't Wyatt Cenac (who worked alongside Maron on one of his old Air America radio programs), Chris Rock or W. Kamau Bell tend to be on the awkward side, and Maron's exchanges with Edwards at the festival were no exception. He referred to Edwards' older stand-up routines about his Jamaican background as a phase where Edwards "leaned on the Jamaican thing," which led to Edwards retorting, "You don't lean on it. You're from there. How the fuck you lean on some shit you're from, man? I don't really understand that one, Marc, but hey... You're really leaning on this white thing. I hope one day it goes away, Marc."

Maron also confused Jamaica with Haiti while bringing up the then-recent subject of Haiti earthquake relief. Edwards corrected him and then joked, "You sure you didn't send [money] to Panama or some other island? How sure are you that you sent it to Haiti? 'Addressed from Marc Maron to Black Island...'" I always laugh my ass off whenever I play back Edwards' reactions to Maron transforming into Michael Scott at the Dunder-Mifflin racial sensitivity training session right in front of a live audience.

The Edwards-penned "How Honey Bee Got Her Groove Back" doesn't quite compare to the off-the-cuff hilarity of Edwards roasting Maron alive, but I love how thick and incomprehensible almost all the Jamaican accents in this Black Dynamite episode are--I wouldn't be surprised if Edwards himself had a hand in the voice direction--and the special guest stars in this Jamaican vacation episode are quite impressive as first-time animated show voice actors. You have Chance the Rapper portraying a so-polygamous-he-could-be-half-Mormon Bob Marley, who becomes enchanted with Honey Bee (Kym Whitley) while she and her judo-trained hoes take a long-overdue, How Stella Got Her Groove Back-esque vacation away from the Whorephanage. Chance nails Marley's voice, plus you have Erykah Badu stealing the episode and bringing to life an obese and laid-back Whorephanage employee who's straight out of Chris Rock's "Fat black women don't give a fuck what you think: she goin' out on Friday night!" bit from Bigger & Blacker.

But what's even more enjoyable than the guest voice work--or the episode's admirable ballsiness in regards to not adding subtitles so that the whitest of viewers can better understand the Jamaican male hoes' dialogue--is Black Dynamite once again fearlessly taking aim at a black figure who's revered by the show's viewers, but doing so without rehashing the same old jokes about that figure. "How Honey Bee Got Her Groove Back" could have trotted out the usual jokes about Marley's love of spliffs or his accent, which Honey Bee says she barely understands (by the way, one of my favorite "what an old white shithead this British or New Zealand newscaster is" videos on YouTube is a 1979 Marley interview where the patronizing Zealand interviewer opens with a disclaimer that warns viewers of a "patois which at times is difficult to understand"). But instead, "How Honey Bee Got Her Groove Back" takes aim at the married reggae legend's history of womanizing, a part of his life I wasn't really aware of until this episode made me Google Marley's polygamy. Who'd expect Black Dynamite to be educational in addition to being funny as hell?

Memorable quotes:
* From Honey Bee's first encounter with Marley: "Well, I never heard of you. Must not be that good, but keep workin'. Who knows? One day you might be as famous as Marlon Jackson."

* Honey Bee, while she and Marley flee from assassins: "With all this damn weed, I thought this island would be way more peaceful!"
Marley: "Well, some parts are peaceful."
Honey Bee: "What parts, Bob?"
Marley: "Um, mostly the parts I'm... not in?"

* "Your cheeks togedder/Right in de palm of my hand/Don't need de rubber/Let's go raw, I know you understand/We gon' fuck/We gon' fuck/We gon' fuck/We gon' fuck/Can you feel it..."


Where the fuck is that country lawyer who's a chicken? I liked that character whenever he showed up on Futurama.
"Meanwhile," Futurama's this-time-for-real-it's-the-end series finale, was one of the classiest exits a long-running show has made. "Simpsorama," the Simpsons/Futurama crossover that brings back the Planet Express crew for one more on-screen adventure (while they've experienced an afterlife in print as stars of their own Bongo Comics titles), feels kind of unnecessary as an extra farewell to the Matt Groening/David X. Cohen creation on-screen. (This crossover might not even be the last farewell, if the rumors that Fox is now considering reviving Futurama for a fourth incarnation are true.) Let's put it this way: "Meanwhile" was Star Trek VI. "Simpsorama" is all the scenes with either Kirk, Scotty or Chekov during Star Trek: Generations.

But the scenes with Kirk, Scotty or Chekov were good, even though the material for Scotty and Chekov was a slightly clunky rewrite of material originally written for Spock and McCoy (the rest of Star Trek: Generations--except for the opening titles with the floating Dom Pérignon bottle and the surprisingly effective dramatic scene between Picard and Data on the Stellar Cartography deck--was atrocious). Though "Simpsorama," which was penned by J. Stewart Burns (the writer of my favorite 2010s Simpsons episode so far, "Holidays of Future Passed"), pales in comparison to "Meanwhile" or Futurama at its peak, I actually enjoyed it.

It's a far more satisfying crossover than the terrible Family Guy/Simpsons crossover (and it's non-canonical too, Simpsons fans who despise Futurama and Futurama fans who despise "Simpsorama," in case both of you camps forgot that the appearance of Kang and Kodos, the human-devouring aliens from the non-canonical "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, automatically makes "Simpsorama" a non-canonical Simpsons story). Homer (Dan Castellaneta) and Bender (John DiMaggio)--who's been sent by Professor Farnsworth (Billy West) to 21st-century Springfield to kill Homer but gets distracted from his mission because he and Homer have a lot in common--are a funnier pair than Homer and Peter Griffin, mainly because the two kindred spirits don't get into a tedious chicken fight. An even better comedic combo is Lisa (Yeardley Smith), Professor Frink (Hank Azaria) and Professor Farnsworth in the same room. The sight of an old genius like Farnsworth reverting to a jealous child over "the annoying girl" and her precociousness is a highlight of the crossover. His disdain for Lisa is so thick you could build a Parthenon with it.

Only one joke in the crossover made my eyes roll, and its wretchedness is typical of so many similar bits of fan service in post-season 8 Simpsons episodes. That would be the umpteenth reappearance of Seymour, the dead dog Fry (also West) was briefly reunited with in one of Futurama's most popular episodes, the heart-wrenching "Jurassic Bark" (and again in 2013's "Game of Tones," in which a dream-state version of Seymour, who was voiced by Seth MacFarlane, got to say one line to Fry: "Philip, have you lost weight?"). Seymour's first reappearance in the 2007 made-for-video feature film Bender's Big Score bugged me--as does his cameo in "Simpsorama"--because the film's retconning of "Jurassic Bark" felt like the Futurama writers were saying that they were ashamed of the episode's sad ending. They received hate mail from some viewers at the time of the airing of "Jurassic Bark" for ending that episode on a downbeat note, and I wish I could tell the writers, "Who gives a fuck what those viewers think? That ending was perfect." To borrow a catchphrase from a certain cantankerous Simpsons character, worst concession to irate viewers ever.

Memorable quotes:
* Mayor Quimby (Castellaneta), referring to Lisa's jazz concert in the park getting disrupted by stormy weather: "Even God hates jazz."

* Homer: "Oh... my... God... He's telling the truth. I have to take you to our civic leaders." Cut to Homer and Bender at Moe's.

Bart notices similarities between Homer and Bender, like the fact that they both started out as ripoffs of Walter Matthau.

* Homer: "Hey, uh, what's the robot version of bromance?"
Bender: "Ro-mance."
Homer: "You future guys have a word for everything... pal."

* Marge (Julie Kavner), thinking to herself: "Oh, don't mention her eye. Don't mention her eye."
Leela (Katey Sagal), thinking to herself: "Don't mention her hair. Don't mention her hair."

* Marge: "Can you please just get us out of this lousy future?"
Farnsworth: "Actually, of all probable futures, this is the worst."
Marge: "It is, 'cause my baby's not in it."
Farnsworth: "Motherly love--why did we outlaw that?"

* Farnsworth: "The only way to handle the creatures is to do what we do to each year's Super Bowl losers: shoot them into space."

* Omicronian emperor Lrrr (Maurice LaMarche) to Kang (Harry Shearer) and Kodos (Castellaneta), regarding his upset wife Ndnd (Tress MacNeille): "Uh, perhaps the one of you that is female should go console her." Both Kang and Kodos go console Ndnd, which has to be the funniest button on a concluding Simpsons scene in years.

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