Posts Tagged ‘Burns’ Heir



19
Jul
12

Compare & Contrast: Children Perform for Burns

Audition Rejection

“Ow!” – Bart Simpson
“Excellent.” – C.M. Burns

To say that the evil and charismatic Mr. Burns enjoys having people perform for him is something of an understatement.  This is a man who has crippled an Irishman for his own amusement and tied a bundle of cash to a string to taunt an eight-year-old girl.  He kidnapped Tom Jones and made him sing while shackled to the stage.  The Burns we all know and love to hate likes to see people squirm under duress, preferably duress that he’s causing.

You can see this trait in spades in “Burns’ Heir”.  In this episode alone, we see Burns fire a pistol at a man’s feet to make him dance, laugh as Homer is plunged into an industrial smokestack, and drop Lenny into a pit while he was pleading for his job.  In keeping with his cruel and callous nature, Burns summons many of the town’s children to his mansion so that they can try to impress him and win his money.  Since he doesn’t really tell them what he’s looking for (other than no girls and no geeks), the entire idea is borderline sadistic.  Young kids have to stand on a stage so that all of their insecurities and shortcomings can be picked apart by an old man who plainly despises most of them.  True to form, Burns proceeds to humiliate the ones he doesn’t like and either applauds or instigates physical violence against the ones who really displease him.

Burns' Heir8

Give the bully an extra point.

The entire scene is exactly what we expect from Burns.  He’s evil, in charge, and taking out his frustrations and fears on people who are hopelessly weaker than he is.  The only kid who even kind of impresses him is Nelson, and that’s because Nelson’s the one who shares Burns’ contempt for the rest of them.  This is Burns wallowing in his own crapulence with no one to stop him or even mitigate his actions.

The opposite of that scene occurs in “Grift of the Magi” when Skinner takes some of the kids to Burns Manor to beg for help for the school.  In both cases, the kids are there because their adults want money from Burns, but that’s where the similarities end.  Consider, just for a minute, how everyone got there.  In “Burns’ Heir”, it’s made explicitly clear that these children are there only on the sufferance of Burns.

Burns' Heir7

See, Zombie Simpsons?  Sign gags can be in service to the plot.

By contrast, in “Grift of the Magi”, the kids just show up and start putting on a show which Burns, for some unexplained reason, sits patiently and watches.  Having the episode skip over the how and why of Skinner and his charges getting into Burns Manor, as well as the how and why of Burns paying attention instead of instantly releasing the hounds, is yet another example of the declining give-a-shit level of the show as it became Zombie Simpsons. 

It wouldn’t have been hard for them to come up with some kind of excuse or joke for how they all got into Burns Manor or why Burns is listening to them.  Maybe they poisoned the hounds, maybe the security guards are all illiterate, who knows?  Anything would’ve been better than the nothing they actually did.  No sooner has this episode said that it’s impossible to get into Burns Manor than Skinner and the kids just appear, and Burns is fine with it.  They don’t even care enough to give us a single line (from Burns, Skinner, anyone) that makes light of the fact that they just skipped over a gaping plot chasm and contradicted one of the most well established traits of one of their best known characters.

Somewhat impressively, things manage to get even worse once the little production actually starts.  Skinner’s play is predictably stupid and cut rate, nothing wrong with that, but then Burns falls for it, not realizing it’s for charity until the very end.  This is a man who wanted to drive on after he hit Bart with his car, a man who kidnapped a Brazilian soccer team to work in his nuclear plant, a man who was once accurately described by Judge Snyder as having an, “unbelievable contempt for human life”.  No part of the real Burns would ever be so gullible as to find Skinner’s toddling morality play plausible or so empathetic to care that someone might be served rat poison:

Nelson:  Hmm, which one of these is the salt?  Too bad I’m an idiot cause my school closed.  Oh, well.
Burns: No, that’s the rat poison!

It actually goes downhill from there, but in just that single exchange we can tell that Burns simply isn’t who he’s supposed to be anymore.  The smart and unlimitedly cruel Burns is gone, and in his place is a doddering fool who is dumb and caring.  As Bart and Ralph(!) get their turns on stage, this new Burns continues to lap up their transparent bullshit:

Skinner:  Now, who in Springfield will eat the poisoned broth?  It could be anyone, even Mr. Burns.
Burns: This play really speaks to me.

[…]

Ralph Wiggum: Hello, I’m Dr. Stupid.  I’m going to take out your liver bones.  Oops, you’re dead.
Burns: I never liked that Dr. Stupid.
Skinner: Mr. Burns, I’ll be honest.  We had a hidden agenda tonight. 
Burns: [gasps] No!

This is precisely the kind of weak, stupid, and generally helpless Burns that never existed during The Simpsons.  Compare that to the way Burns reacts to the kids who are auditioning to become his heir:

Milhouse: I have nothing to offer you but my love.
Burns: I specifically said no geeks!
Milhouse: But my Mom says I’m cool.
Burns: Next.
Nelson: Gimme your fortune or I’ll pound your withered old face in!
Burns: Oh, I like his energy.  Put him on the callback list.

This is the real Burns: mean, evil and with no patience for those who aren’t.  When he eventually settles on Bart for being “a creature of pure malevolence”, he does so because Bart is smashing his windows and decapitating his statues, actions that would presumably shock and horrify the feeble man in “Grift of the Magi”. 

On top of all that (of course), is the fact that in “Burns’ Heir” the scene with the performing kids is crucial to the overall story, whereas in “Grift of the Magi” it’s an unnecessary and time filling detour that has almost nothing to do with the main plot.  But plot irrelevance is par for the course in Zombie Simpsons.  The real damage here is to Burns, and by extension to the show, since turning him into a husk of himself destroys all the fun that comes with having a wealthy man who revels in the misery of others.

08
Jun
12

Quote of the Day

Burns' Heir6

“Due to my hectic schedule and lethargic sperm, I never fathered an heir.  Now, I have no one to leave my enormous fortune to, no one.” – C.M. Burns
“Ah-hem.” – Mr. Smithers
“You, Smithers?  Oh, no, my dear friend.  I’ve planned a far greater reward for you.  When I pass on, you shall be buried alive with me.” – C.M. Burns
“Oh.  Goody.” – Mr. Smithers

19
Mar
12

Old Dogs, Old Tricks

Chalkboard - Them, Robot

“I suggest you leave immediately.” – C.M. Burns
“Or what?  You’ll release the dogs, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you?  Well, go ahead.  Do your worst! . . . He locked the door!” – Homer Simpson

Zombie Simpsons frequently repeats things from The Simpsons, but every once and a while they come up with a perfect confluence of failure, where all of the show’s many flaws combine into a single, memorable scene.  The most recent one I can think of came last year, when they tossed Milhouse off a cliff to have a giant magic eagle save him so they could have him repeat, word for word, his declaration from “Mom and Pop Art”.  Yesterday, Zombie Simpsons put together another one, as it managed to bungle Burns releasing the hounds.

We’ve seen lots of people come to the doors of Burns Manor over the years, and just as many have turned right around and fled to avoid becoming dog food.  Burns does not like other people, and he hates dealing with them so much that he trains his dogs to attack Girl Scouts.  He’s released the hounds on do gooders, on small children, and even on his own employees after the company picnic.  It’s a perfect character trait for him because it is every inch of his contempt and cruelty wrapped up into one casual gesture he orders without a second thought.

Near the monotonously boring end of “Them, Robot”, Homer runs to Burns Manor while being chased by killer robots.  Burns opens the door without even looking, he then tries – and fails – to release the hounds before having them turn on him instead.  Then, against everything Burns used to stand for, he helps Homer escape.  Now, this isn’t the first time they’ve made Burns incompetent and kind.  But it is the first time they’ve had him fail so utterly at what was once one of his signature moves. 

On top of that, and this goes almost without saying, none of the story that led Homer, the killer robots, or the unemployed people who eventually save the day to his door made any sense.  Burns hires all these robot workers, and then ignores them while Homer runs amok, and none of the workers would know to go help there.  And let’s not even get started on the extended segments of town wide destruction and robot car crashes. 

I did actually laugh out loud at the robot fart joke, which is the first time Zombie Simpsons has gotten that out of me in a long while.  Of course, I’m a long time fan of robot fart jokes, dating back at least to that Futurama episode where Bender and the rest of the robots save the Earth by “venting”.  Other than that, this episode can rot in a burning pile of corpses . . . oh, wait.  They did that too, didn’t they?

Anyway, the numbers are in and they continue to be humiliatingly low.  Last night’s remarkably dull apocalypse was mechanically endured by just 5.24 million viewers.  That’s up slightly from last week, but still good for tenth on the all time least watched list.  There have been eight new episodes of Zombie Simpsons since New Year’s, six of them are among the ten least watched ever.  Yes, Zombie Simpsons has more lucrative demographics than most shows so lowly rated, and yes those are overnight numbers, not the ones that include a couple of days of DVR viewers.  But there’s no escaping the fact that Season 23 is notably lower than any previous year.

I’ll do a more detailed analysis after the season finale, but for now just know that from Season 20 through Season 22, Zombie Simpsons was on a ratings plateau, averaging slightly above 7 million viewers per episode, and only declining a little from year to year.  Season 23 is currently just above 6.5 million per episode; and unless it scores some unusually big numbers in the next few episodes, it’s going to end up well below that for the season. 

28
Dec
11

Quote of the Day

Burns' Heir5

“Wow, Bart, Mr. Burns gives you everything you could ever want.  My parents use that old love excuse to screw me out of toys.” – Milhouse van Houten

05
Jul
11

“Burns’ Heir” Spews Truth

Wings

Image yoinked from Wikipedia.

“But I did get Paul McCartney out of Wings.” – Conformco Guy
“You idiot!  He was the most talented one!” – Homer Simpson

Even with twenty years of viewings under my belt, I am continually amazed at the sheer number of cultural references and allusions in The Simpsons.  There isn’t a guest voice and the focus of the episode is a story about Burns and Bart, but they bring up or crib from about five different movies and make fun of half a dozen celebrities.  They toss them off with remarkable speed so that things never slow down or feel heavy handed.  You the view just have this steady stream of moments of where cultural awareness is rewarded. 

Five guys on this one.

0:40 – Jace Richdale recounts how David Mirkin told him on his first day that he had to pitch stories, and he came up with this one without putting much thought into it. 

1:20 – Mirkin’s talking about the exodus of writers after Season 4 and how he brought on Richdale. It’s very complementary in an anodyne, DVD commentary sort of way.

3:00 – Groening recounts how they did a promotion with Burger King with an environmental message. They were going to give some of the money to an environmental group, but no one would take their money because they were making plastic cups and other landfill fodder.

3:50 – The THX sound joke earned them a call from George Lucas and company who then used it in actual movie theaters.

5:10 – Still discussing the THX thing, they had a big argument for whether or not a person’s head could explode. They came down in favor.

5:40 – Joking about the prevalence of head explosions in Jane Austen novels.

7:10 – Laughing about the boot kicking Bart and Homer’s reaction bleeds into Homer’s lesson about never trying.

8:30 – Laughing at Bart’s destruction of Burns property.

9:00 – Still laughing.

9:20 – I know I’ve said this every time I’ve written up one of these older commentaries, but the contrast with the commentaries from Seasons 12 and 13 couldn’t be more stark. They’re clearly proud of this episode (justifiably), and they really like watching it and talking about it. There’s never a moment where they’re thinking “Well, what do we talk about now?” because they’re having such a good time.

11:20 – Apparently people ask about the Homer eating flowers thing a lot.

12:15 – They’ve been giggling for the last forty seconds or so.

13:15 – Discussing the robotic Richard Simmons that got cut from here. Apparently Simmons turned them down because he didn’t want to be a robot.

15:45 – The whole Bart driving thing, hitting the Christmas village, was a rewrite after the original idea involving a car and a train was deemed pointlessly hard to animate.

17:00 – Getting back to the Richard Simmons robot, they cut it because it always died when they were reviewing it. But it killed whenever one of them would show it when they were giving a talk at a comedy festival or the like.

18:30 – The James Woods part in “Homer and Apu” was originally written for Michael Caine, but he turned them down so they put him in here playing Homer.

20:00 – Marveling and laughing at Lenny both a) not saying the letter “e” until after the trap door opens and b) just going right into it, like he’s accustomed to completely insane orders from Burns.

21:50 – And we end on them laughing at Hans Moleman.

08
Mar
11

Quote of the Day

Phallocentrism

“I propose to you that your heir need not be a boy.  In this phallocentric society of ours –” – Lisa Simpson
“I don’t know what phallocentric means, but no girls!” – C.M. Burns
“So much for Plan B.” – Milhouse van Houten

28
Jan
11

Reading Digest: Movie Tie-In Edition

Burns' Heir4

“Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby.  Let’s all go to the lobby, get ourselves some snacks!” – C.M. Burns

We’ve got a few links to various movies this week and, as a special bonus, not a single one of them mentions the Oscars.  There’s a list of what some of Troy McClure’s movies could’ve been, some excellent YouTube of various snack videos and parodies, and even some excellent usage in a movie review.  There’s also a return appearance by Marge’s stupid Playboy cover, a rather excellent gambling story about Sam Simon, and one hell of an awesome looking donut cake. 

Enjoy

Simon says, ‘Woo hoo!’ to Las Vegas, charity – A newspaper fluff piece on Sam Simon that includes the story of what has to be the most expensive grilled cheese sandwich in history. 

Visit Cedar Rapids for the Jokes (But Don’t Expect Much More.) – Excellent usage (movie review). 

Hughes the man – Excellent usage (soccer article). 

25 of Playboy’s Worst Cover Models – Marge checks in at #9, but is also used as the headline image.  Guh, I knew this desperate publicity ploy would be with us forever (via Springfield Springfield’s Twitter feed). 

Conan O’Brien: ‘The Simpsons Could go For Another 100 Years’ – Jebus, let’s hope not. 

Celebrating Australia Day – More horizontally reversed, non-English Simpsons on YouTube. 

11 Best Titles Of Troy McClure Movies From The Simpsons – Just what it says.  As the intro makes clear, there are just way too many to choose from here.  (Thanks to Galileo from In 10 Words for the tip.)

Let’s All Go To The Lobby! – A bunch of videos of the famous singing movie foods, including the original.  Sadly the Simpsons video is from a movie tie in, not “Burns’ Heir”, but it was one of the better movie promo things they did.  For my money though, the original is the funniest of the bunch.  I love how they openly refer to the popcorn as “Butter Drenched”, and the disembodied head of the little boy eye humping the naked, suicidal hotdog at about the 2:00 minute mark is a piece of unintentional comedy gold. 

Bigfoot Meets the Simpsons – A list of the times Bigfoot showed up on the show.  There is one mention of Zombie Simpsons, but it’s cancelled out by the inclusion of “Spanish Fry” from Futurama.

The Best Fictional Beer Brands on TV – These aren’t in any particular order, and the Simpsons YouTube says “removed by the user”, but there are a lot of things on here besides Duff and there are lots of video clips (via Springfield Springfield’s Twitter feed).

Jack LaLanne…In 10 Words – I forgot LaLanne did a guest voice.  There are a lot of Season 10 episodes I haven’t seen in a long time. 

The Jack LaLanne Power Juicer…In 10 Words – “Gotta get a juicer, gotta drink juice, lose weight, won’t get chest pains from answering the phone anymore.”

Stupid Sexy Spiderman… – Spiderman really does looks like Flanders here. 

The Simpsons Donut Cake – Transcendent. 

Me in 5 years – Hey, speaking of donuts, it’s an animated .gif of Homer’s favorite infernal torment. 

Post A Day 2011 Rewind: Share something that makes you smile – A wonderfully sweet story of intergenerational bonding and medical recuperation through Simpsons. 

High-Speed Homer Simpson/ Jackson Pollock – I’ve linked this video/painting before, but it’s too damned awesome not to link again. 

A Black Day – Shaky cam (though watchable) YouTube of “Here come the pretzels!”. 

The things that blow my mind – Please enjoy this YouTube of about half of the original material in Season 9’s “All Singing, All Dancing”.  I too had no idea “Paint Your Wagon” was a real movie for years after I saw this. 

The Simpsons iPhone Wallpaper – Exactly what it says it is, for those of you with iPhones. 

One of those days, eh? – We have a rare double whammy here, it’s Smooth Charlie’s Link of the Week and a person who agrees with us:

Suicidal Boredom: Only repeats of early seasons of your favorite yellow family can cure it!

Amen.  And click through for a rather awesome drawing that really should be available in poster form.




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