238. The Mansion Family

(originally aired January 23, 2000)
Like “Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder,” this is a relatively new breed of episode, one we’d see often in the future. It’s a “stuff just happens” show; there’s a lot of different tenuously connected set pieces, and things definitely do happen, but none of it is cohesive or have a consistent theme whatsoever. Also the actual point of the story is unclear. What exactly is this episode about? If it’s about Homer desperately wanting to cling to this billionaire high life, they sure did a poor job communicating it. Or staying focused. We open at the Springfield Pride Awards, hosted by Kent Brockman and… Britney Spears. Now, many celebrities have appeared at hometown events in the past (Leonard Nimoy, Barry White, James Brown, and so on), but all of them either were somewhat related to the subject of the event, and were really funny. As preposterous as it was for a big star to be at a local festival, you accepted that they were there. But megastar Britney Spears hosting this? No way. Just more bullshit stunt casting. Also her caricature doesn’t look much like her, but to be fair, this era’s Britney basically had that generic blonde jail bait look anyway.

At said award show, Mr. Burns realizes he’s the oldest man in Springfield, and decides he’s due for a medical check-up. So who will watch his spacious mansion when he’s gone? One of his many servants, cronies, or business friends? Nope, let’s just get that big dumb idiot to do it. This is more sanitized Burns, he’s stuck in his helpless old man mode we saw in “The Old Man and the Lisa.” His ruthless nature appears to have evaporated; his reaction to the doctor’s bad news feels so pathetic, when I feel he should be irritated in some way. But, anyway, the Simpsons take residence at Burns Manor, where, as I’ve said, stuff happens. It’s a bunch of isolated scenes at first, then seem to be gearing towards Homer planning a big party before Burns returns. Homer’s a blind moron here, driving drunk in the house, swirling Brandy over his daughter’s face, and just being a generally irresponsible child. This idea of Homer living the high life and not wanting to give it up feels like it had potential, but it appears none of it actually made it to the screen.

When he finds out booze can’t be sold until 2pm on Sundays, Homer holds his party on international waters, where they can drink all they want. Having them all go out to sea for the third act kind of divorces yourself from your main story. You know what else does that too? Fucking pirates. The ship is attacked and taken over by pirates. What exactly is the point of all this? And what the fuck is happening? We get an unwelcome return of dumb action sequence endings that occurred in every single season 10 episode, even though we’re on a boat and Homer has no place he can hide or get away to. It’s all just clumsy filler, and I’m busy checking my watch praying it will be over soon. So we end on improbable and moronic reasoning for their escape, Burns returning neutered as ever, and a tacky hokey resolution to the main “story.” To some degree, I don’t even feel I can hate an episode like this or “Gutter”; they don’t even seem to try to be about anything or make a point, so at least they didn’t fail at their mission. But still, this is what the series has become? Aimless non-stories with unrelated sequences and an ending with goddamn pirates? Not The Simpsons I know…

Tidbits and Quotes
– The whole Springfield Pride Awards idea bothers me. When we’re at the point where we’re showing Lenny and the other characters getting awards, it’s getting closer and closer to everyone in town knowing everyone else. Everyone in town has their separate collective, but soon Barney will know who Cletus is, or the Sea Captain will acknowledge Milhouse. This is a town full of pride for good ol’ Jebediah and their history, but I’m not too sure they have much pride in each other. Plus there’s no good jokes in the scene whatsoever. I smirked at Chapman taking a bullet for Huey Long. And oh, Spears’ kiss killed the old man. Hilarious. And Brockman acts so cavalier about it, nudging his corpse aside. Feels more cruel than funny to me.
– “Who’s that fellow who always screws up and creates havoc?” “Homer Simpson, sir?” “Yes! The way I see it, he’s due for a good performance!” I hate, hate, hate this bit. It’s not enough that he’d trust Homer, but that he acknowledges that he’d fuck shit up at his house. Why would Burns do this? It’s just a clumsy wink-and-nod about how of course he’s going to pick the Simpsons, but they could have done it in a way that was funny (call back to Smithers’ database search in “Homer the Smithers.”)
– We see Marge’s painting of Burns from “Brush With Greatness” in the hallway, with his genitals obscured by a nearby flower. Just makes me wish I were watching that one instead.
– Crass joke and out-of-character bit of Marge scratching her ass with the supposed ass-scratching fork.
– I do like the animation of when Homer collapses from the brandy, the glass shifting around and hitting his head with a “tink!”
– One of the few parts I liked was Homer’s call to Thailand, where he “uh-huhs” once or twice before… (“That’s some language you got there. And you talk like that 24/7, huh?”)
– I dunno, I kind of like the explanation of Burns’ condition (Three Stooges syndrome), but it does feel way too dumb. Burns’ callous reaction to it doesn’t help much either.
– I really don’t have much to say about the boat stuff… just the characters acting like idiots and pirates show up. And as if we didn’t have enough improbably and physically impossible things this season, the net full of people floats. Any explanation for this? Any attempt at one? No. Whatever. Fuck you.
– Dan Castellaneta does an amusing ad-lib over the credits, screaming and whining about how everyone is rich. An adequate way to end an abysmal show.

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10 responses to “238. The Mansion Family

  1. Even though my screenname is taken from this episode (my initial are “AC” in reallife so I liked the duality there), this episode kinda sucks doesn’t it?

  2. This episode more or less sucks, but I do like the Three Stooges bit. Transplant that scene into a better episode and it could be a classic.

    • I reference “Three Stooges Syndrome,” fairly often. Most recently during the Diablo III launch.
      I also thought that Homer’s illustrated Box Social invite was pretty cute.

  3. This episode, save for the “Abra-Cadaver” bit, is pretty bad. I the call to Thailand is pretty decent too, I guess. But everything else is a dumpster fire, just like “Faith Off” and “Little Big Mom” before it.

  4. The only thing that I really liked about this episode was Apu’s “They’ve gotten every nook and cranny! well, every cranny at least, the nook is relativity-OH NO! NO IT ISN’T!”

  5. I kind of liked the jab at the Grammys, though the scroll was unnecessary. Along with “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” I do bring that line up to point out the worthlessness of the Grammys.

  6. “It’s just a clumsy wink-and-nod about how of course he’s going to pick the Simpsons, but they could have done it in a way that was funny (call back to Smithers’ database search in “Homer the Smithers.”)”

    Yep, and you have to remember that in Homer the Smithers, Smithers has a real motiviation to choose Homer. He wants someone who will screw up, so of course he picks Homer. Burns picks Homer simply because “he’s due for a good performance.” One episode had real motivation, the other just tacked one on so they could get Homer on screen.

    The show just had no business being on the air anymore. There was nothing left to do, nothing left to say. And you know what’s really scary? This is only season 11. The distance from season one until this episode is less than the distance between this episode and the one that airs on Sunday.

  7. Mr. Burns was incredibly out of character in this episode. First of all, he would never loan Homer his mansion, I don’t care what flimsy excuse he made (“The way I see it, he’s due for a good performance!”). Second, during one of his medical tests, he says “I’m a big boy!” I know it’s a quick joke, but it rings false, him acting like a little child. Finally, why wasn’t he more upset at Homer losing his yacht to pirates and his precious monkey getting injured? There was no rage to him at that point, he just sort of accepted it. Totally unlike his classic era persona. About the only moment in the story where Burns feels like Burns is declining to read the rest of Chapman’s sappy acceptance speech.

    And because we don’t get any sense of threat from Mr. Burns to take good care of his mansion OR ELSE, there’s no underlying tension to the story. It’s just a bunch of goofy stuff that happens, and then it ends.

    A few laughs can’t make up for the fact that it’s a deeply flawed story.

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