The premise: Krusty is outraged at his new studio mandated co-host meant to cater to young girls, Princess Penelope, who soon begins to completely usurp his fame. But come to find Penelope is a devoted superfan, and the two begin a relationship. Meanwhile, a headhunter tries to lure Homer, Lenny and Carl away from Springfield Nuclear to the power plant in Capitol City.
The reaction: This episode aired before Morgan Spurlock’s special, acting as our 20th anniversary show of sorts. And man, is it ever illustrative of not only how bad the series itself has gotten, but how characters are now virtually their complete opposites. Remember Krusty, the degenerate, ill-tempered drunk who needed his mail sorted by death threat, paternity suit or both? Now it seems thanks to one insane super fan, he’s head over heels in love, willing to marry this Penelope person. Who is this broad? And why does Krusty so over the moon for her? The episode trots out this unbelievably cliche and saccharine ending, completely irony-free, where the two kiss and make up in Paris, which even if their relationship was completely understandable and made sense would be frustrating. But none of it does; as usual, we’re just told things, not shown them. Meanwhile in our B plot, Mr. Burns not only cares if three anonymous, dead-eyed, incompetent employees quit, but gets on his knees and begs them to stay. Do I need to say a damn thing to explain why this is wrong? The episode ends with a thank you for 20 years of watching, and the warning, “The best is yet to come.” Oh dear.
Three items of note:
– I guess you could count this as a musical episode, except none of the songs are in any way funny. We have Penelope’s introduction, which feels endless. Bart and Milhouse plugging their ears and shivering in the fetal position watching as their beloved show is reduced to utter shambles… perceptive meta commentary? I doubt it. Then we have Krusty and Penelope’s new joint show, a lovey dovey affair with still no attempt at any humor. Then we have a somber Penelope at the end, busking at cafes in Paris. Again, no jokes. Have we gone from crippled, pathetic attempts at humor, to just having none at all?
– Let’s have a guest star round-up, huh? Anne Hathaway stars as Penelope, a character we know nothing about, as established. She enters as a prim, perfect princess, and then we see her speak normally in a (shaky) Long Island accent. All I can get from her is obsessed emotionally stunted superfan. None of this is Hathaway’s fault, she’s just reading words on a page, and admittedly is a pretty good singer. Elsewhere, Homer, Lenny and Carl are touring Capitol City’s power plant, who has on its payroll… Gary Larson, cartoonist of The Far Side. How did this happen? The Far Side is certainly among the greatest comic strips ever published, but its run ended in 1995. What was the origin of this booking? We also get a brief appearance from Eartha Kitt over a pre-recorded television, given she died over a year before the air date, explained in a clumsy, almost oddly offensive Bart line. Was this story really in development for this long and this is what we got? And Jackie Mason returns briefly as Rabbi Krustofski, long enough to besmirch his future daughter-in-law for not being Jewish, and celebrate their busted non-union. Hooray!
– The B-plot is so stupid and empty… this headhunter finds Homer, Lenny and Carl at a bar and whisks them off, knowing nothing about their work ethic or if they’re good employees or not. We’ve seen Lenny and Carl are semi-competent at the plant, but surely this guy’s done zero research if he thinks Homer is a get. When Burns catches wind of this, as I stated before, he begs for them to stay. That’s right, the heartless old curmudgeon, with absolutely no regard for anyone with a smaller bank account than he, grovels before three of his most worthless underlings. And he wins them over with special, artisan donuts. Homer loves donuts so much he’ll eat them off the side of a dirt road, what does he care about quality? What garbage this is.
One good line/moment: There were a few smirk-worthy moments in the first few minutes before everything went to shit, like the quick look at America’s Next Top Krusty (“Hey hey! I’m non-union!”