Original airdate: January 15, 2017
The premise: Mr. Burns befriends billionaire rapper Jay G, who teaches him the joys of recklessly overspending on extravagance. When Burns goes broke and Jay acquires all his assets, he devises his revenge with the help of Jay’s former band mates and his ex-wife.
The reaction: What’s another gimmick we can garner headlines with? An hour-long (forty minute) episode? Sure, let’s go with that. Unsurprisingly, this is a story that feels like it would have been just fine played out at normal length, artificially extended with redundant fluff and B-stories that go nowhere fast. It also features some of the most pathetically feeble Burns this show has ever seen. Things start off with him wanting to regain his youthful exuberance by throwing a party, which thanks to Smithers entrusting Homer to rewrite the guest list with living people, results in Burns’ summer house being filled with the usual Springfield suspects. Burns doesn’t seem to mind, and he throws a truly sad soiree, making the dancers wear foot cozies to a band of two people. The likes of Moe and Skinner ultimately chew him out for such a sorry display, and the night ends with Burns standing on his dock crying. And that’s not the first time he cries this episode. Burns is alerted to an actual happening party going on across the bay, so he and Homer investigate (from this point, Homer just inexplicably becomes Burns’ loyal right-hand man.) Said party is being held by rapper Jay G, who has Burns’ book on business to thank for his flagrant lifestyle. He teaches Burns the wonder of an platinum card with no spending limit, where we get a montage of the two going on a spending spree. They get flashy new outfits, Burns has his own posse… they stopped just short of giving him a gold grill. It’s episode summaries like these that make me wonder why I should bother writing an actual review. Do I need to tell you why this is out-of-character for Burns? But it turns out Jay G was purposefully trying to bankrupt Burns, and he takes everything from him, including the nuclear plant. The first half ends with Burns crumpling to a heap crying his eyes out. The very, very few times we saw Burns cry in the original run, they were always very purposeful, and quite powerful. Now, it’s basically a joke for Homer to narrate over talking about how pitiful it is. Part two is Burns’ revenge scheme, where, after gaining insight into the rap game, gathers together a team to write the “ultimate diss rap.” Yes, this is real. He records the likes of Snoop Dogg, Common, and others in order to get Jay G back. I don’t quite see how this gets him his fortune back, the only thing Burns really cares about, but whatever. Jay G ends up paying off Burns’ artists and acquires his song, and in the end, it’s revealed the only reason he betrayed Burns was because he was following his book, where you must betray your master as the last step in getting ahead. Jay G is such a non-developed character that this revelation feels even more out of left field because we’ve had to wait over twenty minutes for it. It would still be a piece of garbage, but this show would have definitely improved being normal length. But the show got its brief window of moderate press for their one-hour episode extravaganza, and I guess that’s all that matters.
Three items of note:
– There are two separate disposable B-stories to pass the time, one in the first half, one in the second. During Homer and Burns’ misadventure, the Simpsons are stuck in the Hamptons for an indeterminate length of time, so we get to see what they’re up to. Story one features Lisa developing a crush on a snooty rich kid, and him trying to change for her. But that one sentence description is giving it too much credit. Scene one is him cutting in line, Lisa standing up to him, and him inviting her out because blah blah blah. Scene two is them on his boat, he abuses some whales, and Lisa breaks down. Scene three we see him as a changed activist, but Lisa defies his protest to get a chance to comb a pony. S’about it. Also the boy is Hank Azaria doing an adult voice, which struck me as very weird and slightly creepy. By story two, the Simpsons have been in the Hamptons for so long, Marge opens her own crappy crafts store and starts to lose her mind, much like I am after watching so many of these episodes. These are the very definition of filler. They have zero connection to the main story, and they’re barely narratives themselves. Homer just pops into Marge’s store twice and has no idea what’s going on and has no opinion of it, let alone the issue of how she’s affording this in the first place. Again, without this useless fluff, this could have easily been a tight twenty minute show. Well, relatively tight.
– Here’s a sizable mistake I’m surprised got through (well, not that surprised). Homer is in awe of Jay G’s beloved pet goose, and upon watching it eat, says this: “He eats the same way I do: without swallowing!” I believe the word they were searching for was “chewing.” It eats without chewing. This line got through the table read, the voice-over record, and numerous test screenings, and I guess no one was paying enough attention to care (part of me doesn’t blame them.) On top of that, it’s effectively a repeat of the exchange from “Homer’s Enemy” where Lenny and Carl agree Homer eats like a duck. So not only do they poorly recreate old jokes and bits, now they can’t even do it with the correct vocabulary.
– We get our cabal of guest stars in the second half, starting with Keegan-Michael Key as the latest extremely talented comedian to slum in through one of these shit scripts. He appears earlier on the Hampton streets as an unassuming candle vendor who exchanges words with Bart, then Homer helpfully butts in with narration (“So Bart met someone who I think comes back later. I forget why.”) Later, when he does reappear, the Homer narration returns (“Told yah this guy would come back! Told yah!“) We wouldn’t want audiences to strain their brains too hard about a complicated story point of a character reappearing later in the narrative without fully explaining it to them. Their brains might overheat! I shudder to think of what a modern “Who Shot Mr Burns?” would be like. Anyway, Key’s character is later joined by RZA, Snoop Dogg and Common (Homer never sounded whiter reading out those names), who do their rap sections, then later stand in a row and say their one-off lines one after another. Taraji P. Henson also appears as Jay G’s ex-wife… sigh… Praline. Her character on Empire‘s name is Cookie. You get the joke? Empire is this huge critical and commercial success, and this is the extent they can parody it? It really is just so sad.
One good line/moment: It’s a pretty sorry state of affairs that even at forty minutes you just get one giant goose egg (ha ha ha). I give points to Keegan-Michael Key for actually trying despite having no material, per usual. I always like listening to him, he’s a great performer.