“Don’t worry, folks – he’s not dead! I still hear some faint signs of life.” – Jerry Rude. No, he’s not describing the show, although it really doesn’t matter too much.
Airdate: May 2nd, 1999
Written By: John Swartzwelder
Plot: A new megastore comes to town – Fortune Megastore, to be exact. There for the debut is affable billionaire Arthur Fortune, who tosses his money into the audience and genuinely creates excitement. This is to the frustration of Mr. Burns, who realizes just how disliked he is. For some reason, he goes to Homer to see how to be beloved. Hilarity, apparently, ensues.
Last time on Scullyfied Simpsons (which, admittedly, was just a couple of weeks ago)…
…do I even have to review this episode? I mean, that .gif pretty much sums up what we are in for here. Mr. Burns? The tyrant who ordered the Rolling Stones killed, who even as a Howard Hughes hypochondriac still came off as menacing (“Hop. In.”), who ruled over Springfield with an iron fist and was only kept out of the Governor’s mansion thanks to his own hubris… reduced to that scene.
And this was written, mind you, by John Swartzwelder. I honestly think he was messing with the writers, and they were just too apathetic to change the script (or wanted to mess around with Swartzwelder by airing the episodes in the first place.)
On one hand, I don’t think I have to go any further. This might be the worst episode of the Scully era – and the previous worst episode was only five episodes ago. And we have two seasons left of this insanity.
…but that would be flat-out giving up. I might as well try and put in more effort to reviewing this than the writers did in, well, writing it.
So… Mr. Burns. Energy tyrant. Uber-rich, uber old miser. Ruthless to his employees, turns a silly softball team into a quest for a million dollars, has little time for love – Charles Montgomery Burns is a fantastic quasi-antagonist. In a show as cynical and snarky as The Simpsons, he is an outstanding critique of the show’s establishment. Not that he’s invulnerable, though – “The Old Man and the Lisa” saw his fortune wiped out after years of listening to yes-men, and several episodes have showcased his physical ineptitude. (“Uh, what are you doing?” “I’m giving you – uh – the beating of your life!”) Hilarious and terrifying, that was Mr. Burns.
But, uh oh, there’s a new sheriff in town… British mogul Arthur Fortune. Clearly a parody of Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson… is what I would love to say, except it comes off as more of a reskin. Most of the jokes about him are more of an analysis of just how modern and vast the Fortune Megastore is… but there’s little satire there. It’s basically stating “I went to a Virgin Megastore, and it is awesome!” About the only thing that seemed to be a stab was the joke about Fortune punching Muhammed Ali, although I think that was intended to be a joke about how “awesome” he was. (Nevermind the fact that Ali was battling Parkinson’s Disease, and as a result, the joke might be the most tasteless in the series’ history.)
Burns happens to see this display of generosity (Fortune tosses money into the air), and comes to the conclusion that… nobody likes him… OK, we’re on a bit of a dodgy path here. Burns wanting to be admired by the townspeople? I guess that could work if there was some sort of “get attention to become feared” aspect to it. Note the operative word “if”. Instead, he goes to Homer. Not “that loaf in Sector 7G.” Homer. Because now, he’s the center of Springfield. Your “average joe” thing doesn’t work when once-cruel billionaires begin approaching him for advice.
Cue a “comedy” (and I use that term in the technical sense) of errors. In imitating Fortune’s money throwing, they make it rain silver dollars. (Cue Lenny getting struck in the forehead in the second worst joke in this episode.) Burns donates money to the hospital? Well, a new wing went into Homer’s name… because he personally delivered the cheque to the hospital. This despite the fact Burns has his signature on there and nobody asked ow my brain. He goes onto a vulgar talk show on KBBL? Well, Jerry Rude (who is a low-rate rip on Howard Stern) catches him making various innuendos… look at the gif above. As you could guess, during this segment, I can count the exact amount of times I smirked on one hand… maybe two if I’m generous.
But wait! Burns still isn’t loved (unh), so what else do they do? Decide to be feared rather than loved? Give up and realize he just wants the power? Or go to the United Kingdom to find a mystical creature? If you guessed C, you win. And by “win”, I mean you’re catching onto something. Nothing good, though.
Yes, Mr. Burns and Homer go to Scotland to find the mythical Loch Ness Monster. With some help from Willie (because Scotland, although he is involved in one of the few funny jokes in the episode), they try and dry up Loch Ness. OK, first off, “Legend of the Gobblewonker” did a similar plot far better, partially because the characters of that episode were actually in character and I don’t expect to see Nessie in The Simpsons.
But… we do. They actually dredge up the Loch Ness Monster. Even the SNP would bang their heads at this madness.
And before you write me long angry letters accusing me of being a dork who overanalyzes cartoons… eh, that’s pretty much this blog. The Simpsons has gone a bit loopy before, but that used to be funny asides to character development and mostly realistic situations. Here, we’re talking about turning a fictional character and putting her at the center of the third act, because the writers wanted to make Mr. Burns aspire to be a ripoff of a Sir Richard Branson ripoff. They fly it back – shrinking it because the animators wanted to get out early – and there, Burns gets confused by the sheer power that positive publicity can yield… or something. I don’t care anymore. Burns’ return to antagonism (not because he likes the ego, but because being kind is too difficult) has no impact, simply because the whole episode is a debacle.
Well, that was a waste of 22 minutes of animation. Burns is too affable, Homer is involved in his (supposedly) cruel boss’ life thanks to Burn’s affable behavior, and they dredge up the Loch Ness Monster. I saw some bad episodes this season, but this is just a debacle from moment one until the bitter end. I don’t hate this episode as much as some others I’ve watched (“Make Room for Lisa” and “Lisa Goes Gaga” are more likely to raise my blood pressure as a Simpsons fan), but in terms of quality, it’s arguably worse than the former.
- Ironically, the last episode had a cover of “Can’t Buy Me Love”, by the band NRBQ. What, did the writers run out of episode ideas, review that one, created the title, and wrote the episode from there?
- If I want to watch a parody of PBS shows, I’ll watch the telethon of “Marge On The Lam”. “What the hell? Oh! We’ve got a call!” It’s not even the last PBS parody – “Missionary: Impossible” is based off of a send-up to PBS.
- Yeah, much as I dislike the episode, I could appreciate the overall twist to the stock “be yourself” message – you don’t have to do anything to be despised. I just wish it hadn’t come from Homer – it’s like the writers want him to be a jackass.
- In hindsight… did they have to blow up Burns’ Casino in “Viva Ned Flanders”? That would’ve at least made Nessie shrinking to the size of a basketball hoop somewhat less irritating.
Zaniness Factor: 5. Nessie. That is all.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. Center of the episode despite not deserving it combines with childish behavior. It’s not the worst this season… but that’s only because the episode fell apart in other areas.
Favorite Scene: Uh… drawin’ a blank here. I guess a couple of the jokes involving Willie meeting his parents made me laugh.
Least Favorite Scene: Surprisingly, not the scenes featuring Nessie. No, I point to Mr. Burns on Jerry Rude’s show. That .gif above, honestly, is a fine contender for “moment The Simpsons died.”
Score: 1. Again, it’s on par with “Make Room For Lisa” for “worst of the season”. While I could argue that assassinating a secondary character is not as bad as assassinating a primary character, “MRFL” was a long-time coming (in some ways) and had quite a few funny jokes. This was jarring and, with a sparse few exceptions pretty much humorless.
What a past few weeks for things I love. I watched The Simpsons continue to collapse, had to finish up some term papers for the end of the semester, and most egregiously, watched Arsenal fail to get into the top 4. I actually need to review something that’s genuinely good. But what, exactly, can pick me up?
…I said “pick me up”, not “shatter my flaming heart into a million pieces”, Ms. Sugar.