Friday, January 31, 2020

Memory, Blog: The Sunday Night Ritual Revisited (Sorta?)

A little under a year ago I wrote an article about my old Sunday Night Ritual, which I pretty well never missed from 1996 right up until 2002!

The Coles Notes: I'd settle in to enjoy the last dregs of my weekend and watch The Simpsons, typically whatever other show Fox chose to air in between, and my favourite show of all time, The X-Files.

So, why are we talking about this crap again? Well, ever since I wrote that post I've had an unyielding urge to try and recreate that Sunday Night Ritual and I finally did it (kinda, sorta)!

I figured if I was going to attempt this, it made the most sense to start at the beginning, so let's travel back to the first night The X-Files aired on Sunday night, which was October 27th, 1996. What was on that night? Well, it being so close to Halloween, Fox decided to air back-to-back episodes of The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror", with a re-run of the prior year's special (VI) followed by the latest edition (VII). Then The X-Files slid into their new slot with "Unruhe", one of the most well-remembered "Monster-of-the-Week" episodes from the series.

It was actually a full night of The Simpsons. Before airing the latest Halloween episodes, there were repeats of "22 Short Films About Springfield" and the "138th Episode Spectacular". "22 Short Films..." is one of my all-time favourite episodes and features a peak into the lives of some of the lesser-known residents of Springfield, including Bumblebee Man. The "138th Episode Spectacular" is the third clip show of the series, but the one everyone remembers, because it had early clips from The Tracey Ullman Show.

I have no idea if I watched these re-runs or not, honestly, but I thought it was too interesting not to note!

If I'm being honest, I probably didn't start out my night watching The Simpsons on this particular evening. At the time I was an avid watcher of 3rd Rock From The Sun, which was on at 9 o'clock AT on NBC. Luckily in 1996 this didn't rub against The Simpsons, because Fox would air the newest episode at 9:30. This would change the following year, however, when The Simpsons would lock in at 9PM followed by King of the Hill at 9:30. 3rd Rock From The Sun, however, moved to Wednesdays in 1997, so it all worked out!

I didn't particularly feel like revisiting 3rd Rock From The Sun for this Sunday Night Ritual, however. When I saw that Fox kicked off their new big Sunday flagship line-up with back-to-back editions of "Treehouse of Horror" I couldn't resist to watch that instead.

The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror VI"

Although a re-run, this is probably one of my favourite Simpsons Halloween specials. If you're unfamiliar with the specials, they would feature three non-canon spooky stories set in Springfield. Let's examine each of them!

As good as "Attack of the 50 Foot Eyesores" is - its basically The Simpsons take on kaiju films - it isn't a stand-out for me. Still a lot of fun, though!

"Nightmare on Evergreen Terrace" is exactly what it sounds like; a spoof on A Nightmare on Elm Street. This one features Groundskeeper Willy as a Freddy-like character who is hunting down the children of Springfield because their parents were lazy and negligent, resulting in his death. The nightmare sequences in this episode are just such a great copy of what you would find in an ANOES film and the crazy colour palette of The Simpsons makes them that much more opulent to look at.

"Homer3" might be one of my most well-remembered segments from the entire series. This was the episode where The Simpsons went 3D. Homer, in an attempt to avoid his sisters-in-law Patty and Selma accidentally enters The 3rd Dimension. Ultimately Bart tries to save him, but Homer ends up sucked into our world, which he's quickly okay with after finding an Erotic Cakes store. I can recall the ads for this episode showing Homer in the "real world" and him being in 3D and I couldn't wait to see it. You have to remember that Toy Story had come out the year prior and 3D animation was all the rage, so it made sense for The Simpsons to have some fun with it.

The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror VII"

The latest edition of the long-running Simpsons Halloween specials was great and contained some classic shorts even if they weren't quite as memorable as those in the prior special.

It starts out with "The Thing and I", in which we find out that Bart was actually a conjoined twin, but that his brother, Hugo, was so evil he had to be surgically disconnected and hidden away in the attic. It features some great lines from Dr. Hibbert.

Second up was "The Genesis Tub". Lisa accidentally creates a tiny society while working on her science fair project, which becomes much more advanced than our own society and comes to see her as their god and Bart as their devil. It's an okay segment, but nothing to write home about. It does have one of my favouite quotes that I still use to this day: "Why am I so fat?" You'll have to watch to understand!

"Citizen Kang" is probably the strongest short from the episode. The popular aliens Kang and Kodos, who first appeared in the original "Treehouse of Horror", return - this time abducting then-President Bill Clinton and Senator Bob Dole so they can impersonate them in a bid to take over the planet. It's a great dive into the foolishness of that election and has some really funny lines.

The X-Files "Unruhe"

This episode has all the trappings of an unmemorable MotW episode. It follows a serial killer, which was pretty routine for the show, but I guess it did add the paranormal element of "phantom photograpy". Oh, and Scully gets kidnapped! Real original! The thing is despite it looking weak on paper it's a really great show.

That said, I think the fact that it was the first Sunday episode, was basically their "Halloween" episode for the year, and had Pruitt Taylor Vince in a lead role make it memorable.

If you're not familiar with the name, Vince appeared in many different television and film roles through out the 90s and early 2000s, most famously Identity (2003), and has a very distinct feature that makes him stand out: an eye condition known as nystagmus, in which his eyes sort of vibrate back-and-forth.

It all comes together in a great episode that kicked off the shows Sunday night run, which lasted right up until the finale episode in 2002.

Now, I have to be honest with you... this was all a bit of a cheat. You see, I originally planned to re-create this ritual in October of last year. I wanted it to be a feature for my Halloween 2019 stuff, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't squirrel away the time on a Sunday to make it happen. I was initially going to wait until next year to try again, but like I said before this has been on my brain since last February. I've tried repeatedly to make it happen and with my hectic life and busy work schedule it just kept slipping through the cracks.

So, I did what I had to and I just waited for the opportunity to present itself, which finally happened the past Tuesday. I know, I know. How can you have a Sunday Night Ritual on a Tuesday!? Finding two hours to sit down and relax just doesn't happen for me right now and I had to run with it.

Beside the fact that it was on the wrong night, it also wasn't very relaxing. After a long day at work, a quick supper, taking my eldest to swim class, and finally getting all the kids to bed I decided to shoe-horn this in and I just couldn't wind-down. Revisiting the episodes were all great fun, but when I used to watch these shows I would practically fall asleep it was so chill and that just wasn't the case this time around.

It also didn't help that I had to stream The Simpsons from Disney+, which meant I had to sit at my desk and watch these shows. That just doesn't jive. I have to be firmly ensconced in my couch or bed for true authenticity.

So this particular attempt at The Sunday Night Ritual was a bit of a failure. But I don't think I'm done there. I have to give this another try and really make it as authentic as possible, so instead of trying to cram the event in because I'm hankering to do it, I'm going to just take my time and make it work on a rare quiet Sunday, when (hopefully) the kids are all sound asleep and I can really enjoy it. Even if that happens in like 13 years...

Anyway, I hope you had fun with this trip down memory lane, if only to enjoy reading about the TV shows that aired that night.

Hopefully there are more to come!