261. Day of the Jackanapes

(originally aired February 18, 2001)
“Brother From Another Series” was a brilliant sign-off for Sideshow Bob; after so many false reformations, there he actually cleaned up his act and saved the day… but got thrown back in jail as a cruel twist of fate. Now, this isn’t to say that they couldn’t have brought Bob back after that. That’s not even to say they couldn’t have brought him back as a villain again, but if they were, they’d have to do it in a new and interesting way. This episode doesn’t do that at all; it’s the same song-and-dance we see with every Bob episode, except the sharp writing and interesting stories are replaced with a bunch of nonsense and over tread ideas. Let’s start with the impetus, what incenses Bob to get out of prison to hatch a new evil scheme. He is shocked to hear in an interview that Krusty has taped over all of the old episodes of his show, erasing all the work Bob ever did for him. Bob is infuriated that Krusty has eradicated his legacy… for some reason. He hated Krusty’s show and the work he did on it (“My foolish capering destroyed more young minds then syphilis and pinball combined!”) Why would he care that his work was erased? It makes no sense. The episode is pretty much dead from the start since I don’t buy Bob’s motivation at all.

Bob’s convoluted plan involves assassinating Krusty at his “final” show, having been pushed to quit show business after getting fed up with pushy mush-headed network executives. First he gets a job at the school. Skinner, who a mere three shows ago took great issue when he found out he hired a convict, has absolutely no qualms about hiring Bob; the two even have a good laugh when he reveals he’s tried to kill Bart multiple times. Bob then calls Bart out to the isolated utility shed over the loudspeaker, with Skinner right behind him, where Bart and Lisa can hear and possibly identify his voice. Once out in the shed, where no one has followed him or asked what he’s doing for some reason, he plans to hypnotize Bart, which I guess he knows how to do. He uses a target with concentric circles, which when he spins it magically turns into a spiral, and Bart is under Bob’s control instantly. At Krusty’s show, he rigs Bart up with plastic explosives, and has a trigger word that will make Bart go on stage and hug Krusty, causing both of them to explode. Do I even need to comment on this? Bob’s plans were never foolproof, since he was always undone in the end, but they were always expertly planned and thought out. This is just garbage, and really insulting to his supposedly intellectual character.

There’s so little of this episode that actually works; since it’s a Bob episode, it’s all kind of hinged on him, and as I said, since his motivation makes no sense, I’ve pretty much clocked out at the get-go. From this point on, future appearances by Bob would just become more and more odd, with him turning into a more generic affable villain type, when he was always so much more than that. In “Krusty Gets Busted,” Bob framed his employer partly as retaliation for the abuse he went through, but mainly to hijack his show and bring the high enlightened arts to children over the airwaves. Here, it’s just petty revenge, for a reason that doesn’t fit his character. You could say “Cape Feare” is nothing more than brutal vengeance toward the boy who caused him to go to jail, but that episode is saved by it being absolutely insane and hysterical. “Jackanapes,” like many shows this season, didn’t muster more than a few choice chuckles for me. Bob episodes used to be season highlights; now it seems they’re just as dull and forgettable as the rest of the lot.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Of all the oddball titles the show would have, and there are a lot of them, this one confuses me the most. It’s taken from “The Day of the Jackal,” which is an English thriller novel about an assassination attempt, so that makes sense. But what is a jackanape? Research finds that it’s old timey slang, “an impertinent, presumptuous person, especially a young man.” So I guess that could be Bart. But then why isn’t it “Day of the Jackanape”? I’m so confused. If anyone has any ideas, please lay them on me.
– “Me Wantee!” is not so much a parody of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? as it is just that show, with different set dressing. Not sure why Moe’s on there, or what he did with his enormous cash winnings. I do love this line though (“Yesterday, we asked if you wanted to risk it all for five hundred thousand dollars, and you stalled for twenty minutes. But now, we must have your answer in the next ten or fifteen minutes.”) I remember how they would just linger for-eh-ver on contestants sitting there thinking with that muted pulsing soundtrack, whole minutes would go by with nothing. They needed an editor on that show, it was ridiculous.
– The network executives are kinda good with their incessant, impossible to please notes (“We just want you to open it up.” “Run wild. Shatter the boundaries. Slash and burn!” “Without alienating anyone. All we’re saying is be dangerous. But warm. And edgy-cute.”) They’re enough to make Krusty run screaming out of the room.
– Krusty claims he’s been in show business for sixty-one years. Now, even if he includes clowning he did as a child, which I don’t see why he would, that puts him in his seventies, which seems kind of weird. Then again we did find out the Flanders is sixty. And then again Krusty could have just been exaggerating. And then again it doesn’t really matter that much anyway.
– Marge’s line regarding Krusty cancelling his show is so, so painful (“Well, I think it’s a good thing for a show to go off the air before it becomes stale and repetitive.”) But I’ll even say “stale and repetitive” is much too nice of a description compared to what this show is now.
– I like a washed up Rainier Wolfcastle, bloated and disheveled on the red carpet, begging for work. He’s even lowered his price to eight million (“I do nude scene, I play nerd, don’t make me punch your throat!”) Also on the red carpet is Ron Howard, still in a bath robe with some buxom babe on his arm, and Gary Coleman doing his karate moves, making it the third time he’s been credited for that vocal performance. I’m still confused as to why that is.
– Krusty opens his final show with his trained monkey doing a strip tease to “You Sexy Thing.” Again, I’m not entirely sure what kind of a performer Krusty is. He is, and always has been, whatever we need him to be.
– Good thing the air duct was right below Bart’s seat so Bob could call up to him. That was awfully convenient.
– Like Krusty’s botched appearance of Laugh-In, unable to open the prop window (“Those lousy shutters set me back another twenty-two years.”)
– A later soundtrack CD had a cut song from this episode sung by Bob; it actually sounded pretty good, with most thanks to Kelsey Grammer. They could have had it start act three, it would have worked. Shame. The one great thing about the episode… wasn’t actually in it. Here’s the song, if you care to listen.
– The whole ending is terrible. As much as I don’t buy Bob’s motivation to get Krusty back, I don’t buy how quickly he’d turn around simply by Krusty’s tribute song. Mr. Teeney saves the day, grabbing off the explosive belt, without the detonators, though it still explodes when he throws it in the room with the executives in it. Then later the police roll in a guillotine to kill Bob, who has gotte the death penalty without trial. But don’t worry, he’ll be back. Unfortunately. Ugh…

18 thoughts on “261. Day of the Jackanapes

  1. I just assumed the idea of him being “erased” in any context, is what bothered him so much. He has shown plenty of times he loves attention (or at least recognition), and though he did want to turn the Krusty show into something more literary, he also probably doesn’t want part of his legacy to be erased forever, either.

    1. “But what is a jackanape?” I can’t recall which episode it is, but doesn’t Mr. Burns call the SNPP workers “jackanapes” in an episode?

      As far as the title itself is concerned… well, most Simpsons titles past a certain point don’t really make sense anymore… so sick of the stupid bad puns… this isn’t even a pun. I don’t know what you’d call it. Just garbage, I guess.

      Re: Krusty and Flanders’ age… I think Groening said once to write off any weird inconsistencties like that as “they live near a power plant which has strange effects on everyone.” Hence the yellow skin, of course. But it could manifest in anti-aging… or aging someone like Hans Moleman (“I’M 31 YEARS OLD!!!” .. no way that’s just from drinking!).

  2. “I do nude scene, I play nerd, don’t make me punch your throat!”

    Wow, I totally forgot about that line! The interesting thing is that he would later be playing a nerd in a movie, and he had a nude scene in a later Sideshow Bob episode.

    Yeah, this is a pretty bad episode, and Sideshow Bob episodes only get worse from here on out. The most recent one had him posing as another prisoner by sewing his face off and wearing it (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t ask- and don’t watch.)

      1. It’s kind of funny to think The Bob Next Door was the worst at the time he wrote this, isn’t it? Then The Man Who Grew Too Much happened a few years later.

  3. See, the thing about writing for Sideshow Bob is, he’s a really pompous upper-crust kinda guy who happens to also be a criminal mastermind, and in order to write for someone like that, you have to actually be pretty smart yourself. The Bob in this episode feels like a cheap imitation of the character from his previous six appearances, written by people who didn’t get what made the character great but figured “Oh, he says smart things and he tries to kill people, got it.” It’s sad.

  4. As a parody of The Manchurian Candidate, I thought this one was decent. That said, it’s not as excellent as the classic era Sideshow Bob episodes.

  5. “I remember how they would just linger for-eh-ver on contestants sitting there thinking with that muted pulsing soundtrack, whole minutes would go by with nothing. They needed an editor on that show, it was ridiculous.”

    I think that’s the point – watching it first-run especially, it really built the tension and the mood of the programme very well having no time limits or other immediate pressures, and by showing the agonised thinking in full. Charging through a really difficult decision like that would just feel unnatural. This is one of the reasons why the clock format completely ruined it.

    Maybe it’s just us Brits have much more patience when watching television 😉

  6. “Bob has a trigger word that will make Bart go on stage and hug Krusty, causing both of them to explode. Do I even need to comment on this?”

    I presume Bob got his hands on a copy of the script, and carefully read through it before deciding that “I’ve never had such a great audience” would be the perfect trigger phrase.

    At the end, meanwhile, Krusty tells Bob, “Every time you try to kill me, my ratings go through the roof, you nut!”

    I can actually buy that – Bob *did* try to kill Krusty in retaliation for wrecking his non-television utopia, and television *must* have been fully restored after he failed. Plus, “Me Wantee!” *was* out-rating Krusty’s show at the start of this episode.

    Finally, Krusty is retiring “for the fifth and final time”. I presume most people know the episodes in which his four previous “retirements” occur. 😉

  7. I’m not even sure what to think of this episode. I mean, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense considering how the last time we saw Bob, he redeemed himself. This doesn’t work because he’s straight out wants revenge. I get getting mad over his legacy being erased, but it still doesn’t excuse his saving Bart and Lisa previoiusly.

    Now I do like the hypnotizing dream bit as it is very reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate. Though, how the hell did Bart just happen to be sitting over a vent? What would Bob have done if he wasn’t sitting there?

    The ending makes no sense either. Not just the fact they are going to execute Bob, but also because the whole family and Krusty are together with him at the restaurant as if they are all buddies. Ugh. My thoughts are all over the place, but this episode is bad. Though, it could have been worse.

  8. And behold: the episode that massacred Sideshow Bob’s character. His previous six appearances were among the best episodes. This one just sucks from start to finish. From the start we have Bob’s atrocious motives that I can’t understand. He’s mad that Krusty taped over all his stuff on his show? But he hated working on it. It doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.

    Then we have the stupid plot required for killing Bart. A trigger word for the bomb? What happened to Bob’s actually well thought out plans? This is a disgrace to his character. Oh, and that joke about a series declining in quality just reeks of irony on so many levels. This episode is terrible, and one of the worst of the series.

  9. On a more grim note, this episode aired right after the 2001 Daytona 500 that saw the death of Dale Earnhardt.

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