Thursday, 15 July 2010

BURNS, BABY BURNS


SEASON 08 EPISODE 04 (EPISODE 157)

THIS IS IT:
On a fresh autumn day the Simpsons go on a family weekend outing to the Mt Swartzwelder Historic Cider Mill (“Now 40% Quainter!”), its only game seven of the World Series.  Meanwhile in New Haven, Connecticut Mr Burns and Smithers are returning to Springfield on the train following the Harvard v Yale football game.  Suddenly a discarded sofa causes the train to violently stop in Waynesport which allows a local souvenir vendor Larry Burns to approach the train with his wares (including a googly eyed walnut, a googly eyed rock etc) where he spots Mr Burns, the man in an old photograph of his long lost father.  With this he enquires to the guard where the train is headed and upon hearing “Springfield” he replies “which state?” to a muffled response (at this point it felt we would never know).  Rejoining the Simpsons they are now on their way home from the cider mill when they spot Larry attempting to hitchhike his way to Springfield.  After procrastination (and outright refusal from Marge) just as the Simpsons get back to Evergreen Terrace Homer turns around to pick up the hobo (“the best idea I ever had”).  Upon getting in their car it is soon established he is looking for Mr Burns and before long he is dropped off outside the Burns mansion (complete with “walk-in letterbox”).  After first Burns is sceptical of Larry but upon the discovery of similar liver spots concedes that Larry came about after a Yale Class Of 1914 reunion and consummation with Lilly Bancroft in front of four stuffed Eskimos (and a janitor) in the Peabody Museum Of Natural History.  The following morning Homer awakes at his work desk to discover an assistant in the form of Larry.  Initially alarmed Homer is soon won over by Larry’s lazy attitude (“I’m so lazy I took lessons on a player piano.”)  With this they soon become best buddies as Homer talks enthusiastically of his new friend over the dinner table to a boring degree hogging discussion as during the day Bart finds a diamond, Lisa breaks her left arm and Maggie wins a Cutest Baby contest.  Before long Larry begins to worry and disappoint Mr Burns who attempts to enrol him in Yale to unsuccessful results.  Meanwhile Larry is in Moe’s asking everyone why they dislike his dad before taking Homer back for dinner.  To make Mr Burns love Larry again Homer suggests a phoney kidnapping but Larry sets out to clean up his act with no more joking around, slacking at work or booze.  This then cuts to Mr Burns opening a kidnap letter and the Simpsons house where Marge is winding so many appliances are plugged to the basement.  Upon stepping down she discovers her family sharing the family couch with Larry as they hide out.  The whole family proceeds to bust her chops Dangerfield style.  Meanwhile as the search for Larry led by Chief Wiggum continues Homer phones in a ransom demand disguising his voice with a kazoo.  With this Mr Burns offers £5000 then £6000 for his son’s safe return.  Of course this is not enough.  The call is traced but when the number is revealed to be a 555 number it is dismissed as phoney.  While the Simpsons and guest remain hiding in the basement Marge discovers from a Kent Brockman report that Larry is actually believed to be kidnapped and with this she orders them to report to the police and end the nonsense.  Unfortunately their exiting Evergreen Terrace coincides with Brockman hovering over their house and suddenly a televised pursuit ensues (“appearing in broad daylight with police everywhere, ladies and gentlemen there is just one word for that: idiocy”).  Soon they desert Homer’s car soughting refuge in various Springfield locations such as the abandoned warehouse that’s not so abandoned (“stupid economic recovery”) and Springfield Costume Shop (where two lookalikes emerge while they attempt hiding in the store’s toilet).  Eventually they wind up in the Aztec Theatre which is showing Too Many Grandmas! starring Olympia Dukakis and Bo Derek.  Fortunately it proves “emptier than a Scottish pay toilet” save for Hans Moleman sat behind them who they proceed to throw popcorn at who then goes to report their behaviour/conduct (with Homer saying “you don’t like it, why don’t you call the cops”).  The self fulfilling prophecy is realised when police surround the cinema and as Marge, Bart and Lisa watch Kent Brockman reporting live from the scene including a computer simulation of Homer being shot to death trying to get away.  They also come up with a simulation of him being killed with a barrage of baseballs.  In their effort to escape Homer and Larry wind up on the roof of the theatre and just before the snipers take them out Larry confesses that the whole thing was a set up.  From here Homer gives a speech about what it’s like to be a father (“sometimes my kids can be obnoxious, or boring, or stinky but they can always count on my unconditional love”).  At this point Mr Burns briefly welcomes Larry back into his heart before reverting to norm and rejecting Larry at which point he remembers his own family who he told “I’m going for coffee” a week ago.  It ends with Mr Burns expressing how it is good to know that “there is another kidney out there for me”.  With this Larry is handed a cocktail and announces “hey, while everybody’s here, let’s party!”  Suddenly there is music, suddenly there is liquor.  “It’s a party; it doesn’t need to make sense.”  And with that we get our last ever sight of Larry Burns as he dances on top of the Channel 6 News truck and on of the most upbeat endings in Simpsons history.

IS IT ANY GOOD:
Yes!  The Rodney Dangerfield guest spot as Larry Burns is one of the best in Simpsons history.

WHAT IT TAUGHT ME:
The difference between apple juice and cider: “if it’s clear and yellow, you’ve got juice there fella.  If it’s tangy and brown, you’re in cider town.”  Thanks Ned.

EXTERNAL REFERENCES:
Its all about Caddyshack as Larry attempts to fit in Al Czervik style during a function at Springfield Glen Country Club.  Then at the close of the episode a party akin to the Czervik golf course party occurs.  Elsewhere in the playroom in Burns’ mansion the actors are performing Death Of A Salesman (although it was “supposed to close last week.”)  Also Homer has a Snoopy jigsaw puzzle at work.

BEST LINES:
“Customers thank god, papa needs a new pair of everything” and “C’mon, if this stuff is too nice for ya, I’ve got some crap” from Larry.  “Can’t they get a pole for that sign?” from Homer.  “The only car that stopped was the hearse that thought I’d fallen out” more Larry.  “He spelled Yale with a 6”.  “This is some party, if it gets any livelier a funerals gonna break out” Larry over dinner before Mr Burns enquires to Homer “you, Foodbag, do you have a son?  Is he a constant disappointment?  Does he bring home nitwits and make you talk to them?” to which Homer responds “oh all the time, have you ever heard of this kid Milhouse?”  Even Lisa to Marge “Buckingham Palace called, they want their hat back.”

BEST JOKES:
Lisa picking up on Marge mispronouncing “foliage” is a subtly great bit.  Maybe Marge isn’t from Springfield after all…..  Also Homer collapsing as his brain escapes his body.

PERIPHERAL MOMENT:
Mr Burns’ old Yale roommate Dink – who knew he went to Yale?

REALITY CROSSOVER:
The customary Rodney Dangerfield banter channelled through Larry Burns (“he’s great at pointing everyone’s foibles”) are not mean spirited words or harsh critique, as is the usual way I accept such comments in my waking life.

MVP:
Larry Burns.

GUEST APPEARANCES:
Rodney Dangerfield as Larry Burns.

SONGS:
“Any Way You Want It” by Journey.

EPISODE LINKS:
The Aztec head from “Blood Feud” pops up in their basement.  Later when asked if they know who Mr Burns is Lisa references “Two Dozen And One Greyhounds”, Marge references “Marge Gets A Job”, Grandpa references “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” and Homer references “Brush With Greatness”.

PERCULARITIES:
It is one of those great episodes where the ending is short, sharp and doesn’t really make much sense.

BART ON THE BLACKBOARD:
There is no blackboard.

OTHER:
Lots of peripheral joy in this episode and many minor Springfield elements are in place.

FINAL WORDS:
Larry Burns was a great character who would have been welcomed back time and time again.

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