157. Burns, Baby Burns

(originally aired November 17, 1996)
There’s been plenty of guest stars we come in to play different characters. There’s also plenty who come in to play themselves. Then there’s the rare occasion where it’s one and the same. Here we have Rodney Dangerfield voicing Mr. Burns’ long lost bastard child Larry, who essentially is the same character that we know from the many movies he’s been in. It seems so odd and out of place, but it’s mollified by two points: one, I love Rodney Dangerfield, and two, the character actually works for the purposes of the story. Who could be more opposite and act as a greater foil to the joyless, no-nonsense Burns than Dangerfield? Given this opportunity, the writers managed to cram this show with a bevy of Rodney-esque one-liners, which may not entirely fit with the comedic rhythm of the series, but dammit do I still love that guy that I didn’t mind (one in particular I use quite often, “If it gets any livelier, a funeral’s gonna break out.”) I also love his character design, a sore of bizarre hybrid of the actual comedian with Burns-like features. He even exhibits the same preying arms walk at one point.

I really enjoyed basically everything in the first two acts. Having previously picked him up as a hitchhiker, Homer builds a kinship with Larry due to their mutual laziness, which makes sense. Meanwhile, Burns desperately attempts to integrate his son into high society at a fancy gala, which is a scene that basically feels like it was ripped from one of Rodney’s movies. I can actually picture it; he’s at the finger sandwich station, but he scoops the bread out of each piece and makes this elaborate super sandwich, much to the crowd’s shock. If anyone can remember the movie, feel free to post. Again, don’t mind this content shift because I was still amused and it worked with the story. Burns can’t even pawn his son off to Yale without a rather sizable donation (“Yale could use an international airport, Mr. Burns.”) Burns’ annoyance continually builds until he outright disowns his son, leaving Larry with no one to rely on but tag along Homer, who comes up with a brilliant scheme: a phony kidnapping.

Now the last act is a bit strange. The fake kidnapping didn’t seem too inspired, but I did find myself going along with for the most part, as it wasn’t that out of left field and there were plenty of great gags thrown in. It’s the very ending that doesn’t entirely sit with me. Larry admits that they faked the kidnapping, leading Homer to come to his defense toward Burns, giving some rigamarole schmaltzy speech about how much he values his kids’ love. Nothing really built to this epiphany on Homer’s end, so it didn’t really make much sense coming from him with no set-up. This leads to Burns and Larry’s not-so-reconciliation, which is at least better than them making up when we know we’ll never see Larry again (and I do like the dumb revelation that he has a wife and kids, “Oh, that reminds me. They’re probably wondering where I went! I told ’em I’m going for coffee, that was a week ago!”) And then we have the dancing party ending, aping an 80s movie convention, many from movies Rodney’s been in like Caddyshack. While I at least appreciate that they pointed out how dumb it was, it just didn’t sit right. After all the Rodney-isms and silly third act twist, I feel like it needed something of a grounded ending that sort of made sense, but instead they just went for broke in all out craziness. But on the whole, I enjoyed it. I feel if you don’t like Rodney Dangerfield, you’d hate this one, but luckily for me, that’s not the case. If that is the case for you, then I don’t want to know you.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Love Flanders’ spiel at the cider mill, proudly flashing his annual pass (of which he’s the first member). He instills Homer with great wisdom regarding the difference between juice and cider (“If it’s clear and yella’, you’ve got juice there, fella! If it’s tangy and brown, you’re in cider town!”) Homer’s brain can’t take much more, literally abandoning the rest of his body, leaving his mortal coil to nod a few times, then collapse in a heap. The animation of him falling is hysterical, he just sort of crumples to the floor. Compare this with that shitty pulled frames cycle of people falling down that “Family Guy” does all the time. What garbage. But I don’t want to open this Pandora’s Box…
– I like Marge’s apple souvenir hat atop her hair, and the little runner of her mispronouncing words and Lisa correcting her, much to her chagrin (“It doesn’t take a nucular scientist to pronounce foilage.”)
– Great animation of when the train screeches to a halt, thrusting Burns and Smithers forward and all the pool balls spill into the one pocket.
– I like all of Larry’s horrible tchotchkes, like the googly eyed walnut and rocks, and stretched out Pepsi bottle (“If this stuff is too nice for ya, I’ve got some crap!”)
– Homer’s initial reaction to Larry on the side of the road with a “Springfield” sign is hilarious (“Can’t they get a pole for that sign?”) Also great is his bickering with Marge whether they should pick him up, culminating in Homer declaring they’re picking him up. At that point they’d already pulled into the drive, so he pulls out and drives on back.
– I like the rhythm of the bit of Grampa sitting on the pie; it’s a wholly contained joke with Marge almost narrating it, “Don’t sit on the pie,” “Are you sitting on the pie?” And Grampa’s read is really funny, “I suuuuure hope so.”
– Nice riff on Rodney’s constant riffing, as he pitches one-liners to nobody walking through Burns’ estate (“Hey, who am I talking to?”)
– The history of Larry’s conception is truly a great one: at his 25th Yale reunion, Burns ran across his unrequited love, and managed to see past her slight wrinkles and gray hair… to her 21-year-old daughter. Their arousal was heightened by seeing Gone With the Wind and Clark Gable’s reckless use of the word “damn,” then sneaked into the Peabody museum, and expressed their love physically, “as was the style at the time.” Larry is impressed (“Well, how do ya like that? I have been in a museum!”)
– Cheap joke with Burns’ “play room” actually hosting a play, but I love the one actor’s intensity in an unknown production (“You can’t just eat the orange and throw the peel away! A man’s not a piece of fruit!”)
– I like all of the Rodney-isms, but my favorite is probably his reaction to the rather homely, recently outed debutante (“Woah! Put her back in! She’s not done yet!”)
– We get a joke where Moe talks about what happened to the last guy foolish enough to charge a beer to Mr. Burns… who of course is Barney. Pan over to show him covered in garbage, saying it was worth it. I’d comment how silly it was that he still would be covered in filth from what we assume is a past event… but it’s Barney, so it still works.
– Wiggum’s got a plan for retrieving Larry: the kidnappers call for demands, which they’ll say they’ve left under the big net in the park. Lou comments that they’ll then drop the net. Wiggum is won over (“Hey! I like it! I like it a lot!”) That’s a line I say quite often.
– I think it’s sweet when the Simpson kids make Rodney-esque jabs at their mom, but it’s all in good fun. Marge’s slight annoyance is overtaken by a shyness as she thanks their applause.
– I like Burns on the phone with Homer with a disguised voice, who is trying to get Burns to admit he misses Larry, but to no avail (“Do you miss your son?” “Yes, I am missing one son! Return it immediately!”)
– Homer and Larry are on the run from the cops. They first check the old abandoned warehouse, only to find it’s up and running (“D’oh! Stupid economic recovery!”) Then a costume shop. Cut to two men dressed as an organ grinder and monkey leaving the store. The shop keep then goes to the bathroom and tells Homer and Larry they need to beat it. The two then find the perfect empty hiding place: a movie theater playing “Too Many Grandmas,” starring Olympia Dukakis and Bo Dereck. Based on the brief bit we hear, I want to see that movie (“Drive faster, Grandma! Grandma’s gaining on us!”) The two are basically safe until they make the mistake of heckling Hans Moleman. I love the timing of him slowly walking up the aisle with Homer and Larry laughing, cut to the cops surrounding the building.
– God, I love the simulation of Homer getting shot to death. Why would they waste money on doing that? And producing it so quickly? Jokes like these don’t make much sense, but that’s why I love them (“A bloody end for Homer Simpson… is just one of several possible outcomes according to our computer simulation.”)
– I do like the end where Larry asks if his father can accept him for who he is and pops a cocky smirk, followed by Burns’ uneasy noises under building music. It’s not an easy decision, and eventually goes against it (“Oh, I can’t do it, it’s just not me!”)

12 thoughts on “157. Burns, Baby Burns

  1. Love this episode.

    “God, I love the simulation of Homer getting shot to death. Why would they waste money on doing that? And producing it so quickly? Jokes like these don’t make much sense, but that’s why I love them”

    The great thing about about that is that not only did they waste the money making it, they made other ones that we never got to see (Homer being killed by a barrage of baseballs, anyone?). But you know if this episode was made today, we’d see about 5 of them.

  2. You’re right with the Family Guy comment. Characters falling over with an arm slung over their back was funny in season one, but it isn’t any more. You can get hammered really fast playing a drinking game to it these days.

  3. Finally, a comment on that Family Guy thing with people falling over. It’s exactly the same animation every time, no matter who it is. I just hate the animation of Seth MacFarlane’s shows in general and what’s worse, it only got this stiff after the revival.

  4. That “unknown production” in the playroom is Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman”. I think Matt Groening mentions on the commentary that he’d love to see a production of the play starring Dan, Julie, Nancy, and Yeardley – and I have to agree, that would be sweet.

    They also mention on the commentary that Rodney Dangerfield punched up quite a lot of the script. That line “I told ’em I was goin’ for coffee, that was a week ago!” – that was one of his. And it always makes me laugh; he’s just so casual about it.

    I like this episode in spite of its weaker third act. It sort of leans towards that later-season conceit of Homer getting involved in a wacky adventure for no reason, but it’s still solidly funny enough to overcome that. Great sequence of the guys trying to find a hiding place (“All right, either buy a costume or get out.”)

  5. One of my favorite lines of the series when Mr. Burns is discussing Larry’s entrance exam into Yale with the admissions representatives:

    Mr. Burns: “How did Larry score?”

    Yale rep: “Let me put it this way – he spelled ‘Yale’ with a 6.”


  6. Love this one, even the third act. “A BLOODY END FOR HOMER SIMPSON……. is just one of the many possible outcomes using our computer simulation!” Hilarious.

    “I can actually picture it; he’s at the finger sandwich station, but he scoops the bread out of each piece and makes this elaborate super sandwich, much to the crowd’s shock.”

    The movie you’re thinking of is “Back to School”. Rodney’s character makes a giant sub sandwich out of the finger foods at his party. Everyone around him snickers.

  7. I can’t remember exactly how it goes but I love the whole bit where Homer suggests they fake a kidnapping.
    Larry says he’ll change his ways and most importantly give up booze.
    Cut to the next scene as Burns hears about the kidnapping.

    That on it’s own is pretty damn funny but then he says something along the lines of “How can he have been kidnapped? He was here 20 minutes ago”.

  8. I sort of like this one even though to be honest I have no idea who this Rodney Dangerfield guy is, maybe another Us thing that never made it to Britain.

    In general though I do wish the end had made a bit more sense and that we’d actually acknolidge Burns has a son, it had to go back to status quo, but the way it happened was a little too weak especially with the phony kidnapping.

    BtwI wonder is this the first time in the series Homer has proposed a whacky scheme based on doing a fake crime? It seems zs episodes are full of stuff like that.

  9. As others have said, the simulation of Homer being shot to hell is freaking phenomenal! It is my favorite moment of this episode.

    Rodney Dangerfield is great in this episode. Yeah, the plot is kind of silly, but it would make sense if Mr Burns had a few lingering babies around from his younger years. I love how Burns comes to the conclusion that he just can’t accept him, only for us to learn that he has his own family.

    I can’t remember if this introduced me to Dangerfield or if I knew of him from another cartoon, but I had never seen any of his movies until many years later. Caddyshack was pretty funny and the ending to that mimics the ending to this episode, so it works.

    This is the eighth season of The Simpsons, which is past the 150 episode mark. At this point, all the show has to not be is boring, and this episode is anything but that. That to me makes it top notch.

  10. This, from what I’ve seen, may be a parody of a critically ravaged box office flop, with a similar plot, that was released the following year, “Excess Baggage”. It was set to be released around the same time as this episode aired, so it might make some sense. Or it may just be coincidence. Either way, the episode is good.

  11. This one’s pretty decent. There’s actually a lot I really like about this episode: I love the idea of Burns having an illegitimate child, and there’s a solid bunch of jokes (Flanders and the cider mill, the train whistle covering up what state Springfield’s in, “can’t they get a pole for that sign?”, “are you sitting on the pie?” “I sure hope so!”, “I like it! I like it a lot!”, “I am missing one son. Return it immediately.”, and, of course, the simulation of Homer being shot…). As I said, there’s many funny jokes. Rodney Dangerfield as Larry is also great, and some of his one liners are really funny (“Put ‘er back in, she’s not done yet!”)

    What really drags this episode down is act 3, in my opinion. The kidnapping plot isn’t terrible, but for something that major, it doesn’t have a whole lot of impact. And like you said, the dance party ending comes virtually out of nowhere and is just random for the sake of random (though I do like that Burns and Larry don’t really reconcile… it’s in-character for Burns, and like you said, an actual reconciliation would feel cheap because Larry would likely never appear after this). It’s still a pretty good episode, even if act 3 doesn’t sit well with me. And Dangerfield’s bits are great, of course.

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