224. Monty Can’t Buy Me Love

(originally aired May 2, 1999)
This episode really confused me, as I’m not sure exactly who the main character is. It certainly looks like Mr. Burns, it sounds kinda like Burns, but he acts absolutely nothing like him. This is the first Burns show we’ve had in a long while, and if this honestly is the best kind of material they can give him, perhaps it would have been best to retire him. I’ll set the stage, I guess: the arrival of affable showboating billionaire Arthur Fortune makes Mr. Burns realize that his life is strangely empty without public approval, and sets about to improve his image and be liked. Now we have a big fundamental problem; since his inception, Burns has been a man who holds the common slobbering tube jockey in the utmost contempt, barely even considering them fellow humans. He treats his workers and his assistant like shit and could not be more pleased as punch with himself for it. Now all of a sudden he’s desperate for someone like Homer’s approval? It really kind of betrays the basis of his character.

Now, to be fair, an episode where Burns tries to gain public praise, perhaps with some secret ulterior motive, could work. But this is just… absolutely baffling. The second two acts of this show are beyond a doubt the most bizarre and odd I’ve seen yet on this show. Act two begins with Burns approaching Homer to get help on being liked, which he agrees to. No reason is given for this; in the past we’ve seen him bend over backwards in fear for Burns when he seeks his assistance for fear of losing his job, but here it’s like they’re old buddies or something. We’ll just see Burns standing in the Simpson dining room and driving around in Homer’s car, like what the fuck is doing on here? Burns has absolutely no teeth here; rather than digging his public image hole deeper and deeper with his crotchety and evil actions, he’s rendered more and more pathetic after each and every scene. They go on a Howard Stern-type shock radio show, and Burns ends up collapsing thanks to the host’s crude candor. The real Burns would have had that jock taken away and executed at the first sign of trouble. He’s always been frail in body, but absolutely ruthless in spirit. But not here.

The episode was really bad enough, but then they make an impromptu trip to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness Monster. Which they then find. …I repeat, they found the Loch Ness Monster. He’s a real thing here. And he’s gigantic, seemingly a huge presence in the now drained lake; it should have been kind of tough for him to hide. But it turns out Nessie has growing powers; when he’s brought back to Springfield he’s significantly smaller, the size of a large water tank. Then later he’s maybe twice as tall as Burns. Aside from the shitty story and awful characterization, there’s also so much in this episode that defies logic and makes no sense, as well as particularly shoddy animation in certain sequences. This episode is pretty astounding, it’s the first show that I can honestly say that not only did absolutely nothing work, it felt like I was watching a different show. Burns being a harmless softie, random inter-continental trips, mythical monsters being real, what thefuckam I watching? All the other shitty episodes this season have at least a few things I can point at as being good, this one’s got nothing. The worst this season, bar none.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The Simpsons taking a walk and the Fortune megastore are all bits that appear to have jokes, except they’re not at all funny. Just excuses for Homer to whine and moan, and for his ass to appear on every jumbo screen in range, even though it makes no sense. Some of the jokes don’t even have punchlines, like when Marge comments the megastore is better than the Kwik-E-Mart with Apu in range. The bit just kind of hangs there, then ends.
– I guess we’re at the point where Burns relishing the idea of a talking banana is supposed to be funny. I’d think it would be too silly for Homer, let alone for Mr. fucking Burns.
– Homer and Burns attempt to emulate Fortune’s dollar shower by chucking silver dollars off the rooftops in the town. Which somehow rains down on both sides of the street, and manage to not only break through car windows, but one pierces through Lenny’s forehead, causing blood to spurt from his wound when he takes it out. I don’t expect absolute realism on this show, but at least make shit make some kind of sense…
– Burns has Homer deliver a sizable check to the Springfield Hospital, but since Homer is the one who delivered it, the donation gets put in his name, as well as a brand new wing of the building. How? Why? The check’s in Burns’ name, as well as his account. How the fuck could this happen? Though I’ll say this bit had the only thing in this show that made me smirk, the ‘Cricket Gas’ button at Burns’ desk.
– So we have Michael McKeon in to do his Howard Stern voice, and basically they’re not really parodying Stern as much as emulating his bits, albeit as crudely and basically as possible. And this is even insulting to Stern, who’s a lot more clever than that (not recently though, but that’s a whole other issue). Watching Burns flail about like a harmless old man screaming, “Won’t someone please stop the farting!” is really a sight to see. It’s not even infuriating, or saddening, I just don’t even know how to react to that. The Burns in this show is so un-Burns that I’m not even offended; this is an entirely different character.
– We bring in Willie for act three for no real reason other than we’re in Scotland. I guess the unaffected Irishmen are kind of amusing, but seeing their disinterest in witnessing their entire town get flooded was more sad than funny.
– Frink manages to drain the entire Loch Ness in a night. Then they go down in to inspect the homecoming float, and then they notice the giant fucking monster that’s right by them.
– I’ll say the reverse King Kong ending with the monster flattered by the photography and Burns freaking out is a creative idea, but the staging, the context and the overall shittyness of the prior twenty minutes just didn’t help it at all. Burns’ event is a disaster, and realizes being evil is who he is. Makes total sense. Then we end with Nessie at a mere eight feet tall who works at a casino. Fuck you, writers.

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17 responses to “224. Monty Can’t Buy Me Love

  1. I can’t help but notice how most of these episodes are becoming The Homer Show with someone as his sidekick. Why would Burns go to Homer when he’s not even supposed to remember his name? Because this is The Homer Show, with Sideshow Monty as the guest star. At this point, all the show knows to do is wind Homer up and let him go.

    The ironic thing is, the funnier this show tries to be, the funnier it isn’t. What was always the funniest about this show wasn’t its slapstick humor or nonsequitor jokes, but its satirical look at the everyday life of average people. The humor naturally flowed from that. But at this point, the show is trying really hard to be really funny, and falling flat on its face. They’re like the kid at school who thinks he’s the class clown, but is in fact just really lame. There isn’t an ounce of cleverness left in the show at this point.

  2. This was the first episode where I felt the violence (namely Lenny getting hit in the head by a coin and bleeding from it) went past the point of being funny and instead was gratuitous and cruel. This happens over and over again from this point on, until we get to the point where entire Treehouse of Horror episodes begin to be dedicated to seeing how many characters they can kill in a half hour.

  3. Hmm, Lenny gets a spring caught in his eye one episode, and the next he gets a coin stuck in his forehead. We should start a tally.

  4. I wrote a research paper for college in which I compared Mr. Burns to shakespeare’s King Richard III. I noted that this episode declawed Burns and was the worst episode up to that point. Still cannot watch this one.

  5. Agreed re: violence against Lenny. Later on in the series it somehow becomes a running “joke” for Lenny to get hurt in the eye. And I put “joke” in quotation marks because it really isn’t funny or clever or anything a joke should be.

    Can’t believe this show went from “The Joy of Sect” to “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” in the space of one season! It boggles the mind! Goodbye Simpsons 😦 I still like “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”, though. In fact looking at the upcoming episodes, a lot of the more tolerable ones for me are Lisa-centric…I guess I’m a big Lisa fan.

  6. I enjoyed the coin in the head bit, though in context it’s pretty silly. Spring in the eye is way worse

  7. This is a Zombie episode before it completely devolved into Zombie Simpsons. Just add some HD, stick it in the middle of Season 23, and nobody would be any wiser.

  8. I’m aware that from a critical standpoint, this episode is pretty subpar; Mr. Burns is out of character, the Loch Ness Monster thing feels both tacked on and too over-the-top and fantastical, even for this show, and it has some jerky animation (this was the last episode Anivision ever did).

    That said, this one’s kind of a guilty pleasure for me, and gets some laughs despite the characterization issues and surreal, out-of-place elements. Some fave moments:
    -“All this fresh air is making my hair move! And I don’t know how much longer I can complain!”
    -Kevin Costner apologizing for The Postman.
    -Mr. Burns’s “That’s a good lad.” after shocking Ned.
    -“He [Fortune] gave the Springfield Zoo two male pandas AND got them to mate successfully!”
    -“And I’m not easily impressed. WOW! A BLUE CAR!”
    -“What’s the matter? Think I’m not hip? I don’t have enough voh-de-oh-doo?” (the family stares blankly)
    -Homer at the pinball machine when he’s supposed to be searching the lake
    -“I was a little worried when he swallowed me, but, well, you know the rest.”
    -Mr. Burns becoming the one driven crazy by the flash bulbs
    -Homer’s ending speech

    • Totally agree with you. I love the jokes in this episode so I can forgive the way Burns is way out of character. I guess if you don’t like the jokes, you’ll hate the episode.

      As for why it was even made, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it: “The idea for the episode was pitched by the Simpsons writing staff, who wanted to make an episode in which Mr Burns becomes a “thrillionaire,” a millionaire who goes on thrilling adventures.” So the entire source of the episode’s humor is that Burns is being out of character.

  9. Forgot about the giant check unfolding in Homer’s pants and the cricket poison, two other great jokes.

  10. Lenny was abused in the classic era too… remember that he fell down a trap door when he could not tell Mr Burns why he should not be sacked without using the letter “e”… and later he was the one who was sacked at the end of Mountain of Madness.

  11. This one suck-diddly-ucked.
    And somehow I never noticed the morphing Nessie thing before but yeah, she goes from absolutely massive to working in a casino.

    It’s painful to watch how some of these characters evolve. I suppose it happens to a lot of sitcoms that run for a long time. Joey in Friends was maybe not as bright as the rest of the group and pretty naive but he wasn’t a complete idiot but somehow that’s all he became.

    But it’s even worse when it’s not just a lazy exaggeration of a character’s few obvious traits like Joey or Ned Flanders but when they just completely alter a character like they do with Burns and Homer and goodness knows how many others.

  12. The only bit I like about this episode is the Bart/Lisa exchange at the very beginning. “I’m not lazy, I’m just.. uuhh. Lisa, finish my sentence for me.” Dunno why, but it always makes me laugh.

  13. At least the writers appear to be aware of what a piece of shit this episode is. The DVD commentary is pretty much nothing but Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Ron Hauge, and Matt Selman chuckling nervously at how nothing they’re watching makes any sense, and that they have no one to blame but themselves. One of them (probably Meyer) points out one of the many logical gaps in the story and then adds “I’ll just spend the rest of this commentary quietly hating myself.”

  14. The animation in this episode is pretty shoddy alright, and not in a good way.

    For instance, check out the segment where Burns freaks out as everyone repeatedly takes pictures of Nessie with the flashes on:

    The bit between 0:43 and 0:46 is particularly bad – just about every one of the photographers’ faces is misshapen (especially that of the Hispanic-looking guy in the pale blue suit at 0:45), and the clouds behind them look way too thin for their length.

    Also, according to Al Jean, Nessie was supposed to be green rather than purple. And I don’t think anything more needs to be said about the monster’s supposed ability to change its size…

    You’d wonder what mood the folks at Anivision were in when they drew this episode. Did they know it was going to be their last?

    • To be fair, I think that shot at 43 seconds was supposed to look funky. It was meant to show how messed up Burns’s vision was getting from all the flash bulbs.

      However, check out his strange eyes at 22 seconds in.

  15. And the Zombies claim another victim:

    C. Montgomery Burns, former cruel-hearted billionaire, is now a senile wimp, desperate for approval.

    A far cry from, “Smithers, have the Rolling Stones killed.”

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