“Weekend at Burnsie’s” Makes Baby Jesus Cry

Bonus: crazy backwards Spanish version.

I was sort of looking forward to watching this episode. I honestly had not seen it in seven years or so and I remembered not completely hating it. Turns out it sucks, and the few good weed jokes are stranded in Act 2. Act 1 is Homer gaining the ability to control crows; Act 3 is the lifeless body of Mr. Burns being used as a puppet in an homage to the cinematic and comedy genius of the “Weekend at Bernie’s” franchise.

To my surprise, however, the commentary was pretty good. They actually talked about what was going on and told some funny stories. Jon Vitti was there, which helped. But things fell apart at the end when Jean launched into another of his unprompted defenses of why they never made fun of Bush the Younger, and this one was the worst yet. The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Nine guys on this one, including the above mentioned Vitti and Groening.

0:45 – Jean’s telling the story about how they expected this one to be all controversial, but after it aired nothing happened. Then the next week they aired the Brazil episode and it turned into this giant flap. If you’re keeping track, this is the exact same story he told at the beginning of the commentary for the Brazil episode.

1:30 – After Jean finishes his story, it comes up that no one in the writers room actually had any problem with genetically modified food. Which leads to a general disclaimer that they often take stands on the show that none of them actually believe in.

2:00 – Now it’s Jean’s turn for story time again. The “crow bar” joke was Selman’s and every time Jean hears the Donovan song that was playing, he thinks of Homer bleeding rainbows. I’ve got to admit, that is kinda funny.

2:45 – Jean laughs at the episode structure, namely that Acts 1 and 3 have nothing to do with Act 2, which is the marijuana part.

3:00 – The writers offices are “besieged” by crows in real life.

3:40 – Still laughing about the crows in their office.

4:00 – Long discussion about how basically none of the writers smoke pot, this leads to someone calling it one of the most sober writing staffs they’ve ever seen.

4:50 – Jean’s off on some long tangent about how to animate Homer so that the audience maintains sympathy for him. It’s not that interesting.

5:40 – One of the writers was in San Francisco the day this aired, and there was a young hippie who said, “Tonight Homer smokes pot! This is what my life has been building to.” Everyone laughs. (It was funny.)

6:15 – If you’ll notice, Homer’s lips never actually touch the joints. FOX didn’t want them showing kids how to smoke weed, and they all laugh about how dumb that is.

6:55 – Talking about how many actual medical marijuana dispensaries there are in L.A. now.

7:40 – Vitti’s sister-in-law’s kids watched this episode and she called him up and told him to answer all their awkward questions.

8:15 – They won a weed award from High Times, which makes them one of the few shows to win an award for alcohol awareness and weed.

9:10 – More discussion about toeing the line on broadcast standards.

10:00 – More marijuana tales from the writers’ room. This episode took longer than usual to rewrite on account of everyone sharing their pot smoking stories.

10:45 – Interesting tidbit: they showed one of the Ullman clips before “Weekend at Bernie’s 2” and it got a positive response.

11:25 – Jean is again pointing out that Homer never smokes it illegally, and someone finally tells him to relax about the broadcast standards already.

11:45 – Laughing about how many things in this episode are repeats.

12:00 – Al Jean’s mom loves Jon Vitti ’s writing.

13:05 – Jean wants to be clear: this is Phish. We know.

13:40 – Talking about Phish and how they played the Simpsons theme during a show. This leads to Jean talking about the time he was in London at a “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” musical and there’s a Simpsons joke at the end. Jean calls it “freaky” on account of how universal the show is.

14:50 – Big laugh at the fact that there’s a newspaper machine on stage for no reason.

15:10 – Jean does my job for me by saying that he found out years after the fact that the “they’re called fingers but they don’t ‘fing’” joke was originally on The Critic. He then says that they try not to repeat jokes, but they don’t have a database or anything so it does happen. We know that too.

15:40 – Jean’s talking about how the writers have basically no regard for the animators when it comes to making things make sense.

16:30 – Long silence as we leave the weed part of the show for the idiotic “Weekend and Bernsie’s” thing.

17:40 – Laughing at how long it takes to set up the ending.

18:15 – Nervous laugher as they have Burns deliberately not being funny.

19:05 – Laughing at Smithers new, post-weed outfit and wondering why he changed.

19:15 – Burns drowning in the tub while people smoke weed was apparently a reference to an old Dragnet episode where some people got high and a baby drowned in a tub. Over the top anti-drug propaganda is really an underappreciated art form.

19:30 – I’ve listened to enough of these to know that any time there’s cartoon nudity someone will mention that they can’t do that anymore. And right on cue, it happens here.

20:00 – Speaking of things that are in a lot of these commentaries, here’s the part where they try to explain why they never made fun of Bush the Younger. This time they’ve brought two lame excuses. First, that since they work a year in advance they never knew how to mock him since people’s opinions changed so much. Again, I’m calling massive bullshit on that as he was disastrously unpopular from 2005 on.

Next up, and this one is really damning, is that they never came up with something funny. Seriously, Jean actually says, “It wasn’t easy to make it light.” Bush is unbelievably easy to make fun of: he tried to walk through a locked door, he hurt his face choking on a pretzel, he fell off a Segway, he gave the German Prime Minister an impromptu shoulder massage for fuck’s sake!

21:05 – Wait, make that three. Jean’s trotting out “we didn’t have someone who could do the voice” again. To think I was kind of enjoying this.

9 Responses to ““Weekend at Burnsie’s” Makes Baby Jesus Cry”

  1. 20 October 2010 at 11:23 pm

    haha yeah it’s not like harry shearer impersonated bush on his radio show regularly or put out a grammy-nominated album featuring impersonations of his administration or anything

  2. 20 October 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I never liked the ending to this episode. It just screamed of “yeah, we painted ourselves into a corner and didn’t know how to get out of this.”

    I really love most of the stuff that led up to it, though. The visual of all the crows in bed with Homer was great, all the pot imagery, Homer interrupting his own call, “I am the ow in the word now,” his escapades with Otto, and of course Phish. I so want to own a print of the Crow Bar painting.

    While I also never liked how little they riffed on George W., if you remember, the time frame in which these episodes were made and aired really WAS a time when it seemed in bad taste to make fun of him for some reason. It kept flip flopping to “like him” “hate him” and the stuff they could’ve made fun of became old news by the newer, dumber stuff he did. All those points you mentioned didn’t happen for YEARS and he was an open target again. But yeah, no idea why they didn’t riff on him after 2005 or so. Hell, they regretted having Clinton say “Hey, I was a pretty lousy president” at the end of Saddlesore Galactica.

    What I didn’t like about the commentary is that they COMPLETELY glossed over the Pop-Up Video reference, one of my favorite gags in the episode. Sure, they mention where it was from, but nothing else. I wanted to know who came up with “Who Shot Grampa’s Hat?” Also, they should have brought that gag back a few times. But, here in season 22 land, it would take up the entire episode from all the borrowed plot elements.

    But from what I’ve been reading, you mostly complain about the most trivial of things. “Oh, they mentioned something on a commentary that I heard before. I’m no longer enjoying this.” Do what they did in this episode and just smoke a drag and just calm down for once.

  3. 3 Cassidy
    21 October 2010 at 2:05 am

    “Jean’s trotting out “we didn’t have someone who could do the voice” again.”

    Wow. That’s the definition of gall right there. One of the most talented voice staffs ever assembled and they couldn’t find anyone to do Bush’s voice? I’m not sure why Jean even offered that up. He should’ve stuck with cop-out #1 and cop-out #2.

  4. 21 October 2010 at 5:24 am

    I could be wrong, but I don’t think they ever really got “political” with Clinton until “Citzen Kang.” Prior to that, his appearances would’ve worked no matter who the president was at the time – in the audience for Krusty’s anniversary show, in Mr. Burns’ office hoping he’s found true love, that sort of thing. They could’ve done the same for Bush instead of just pretending the Simpsons lived in a timeless vacuum for 8 years.

    • 5 Charlie Sweatpants
      21 October 2010 at 12:48 pm

      “Prior to that, his appearances would’ve worked no matter who the president was at the time – in the audience for Krusty’s anniversary show, in Mr. Burns’ office hoping he’s found true love, that sort of thing. They could’ve done the same for Bush instead of just pretending the Simpsons lived in a timeless vacuum for 8 years.”

      My thoughts exactly. They even did the same with Bush the Elder in Mr. Plow, and Barbara Bush in “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington”. (And that’s setting aside the whole tangle they got into with the then President over whether or not they were as nice a family as the Waltons.) They weren’t just not making fun of Bush II, they were completely avoiding him, which is its own kind of comment, and not one that reflects well on the show.

  5. 7 P. Piggly Hogswine
    21 October 2010 at 8:14 am

    I do really like this episode. Probably one of only about 5 in the last decade that I’d give a real plus mark. The ending itself with all the slapping was pretty weak, but for the most part it had a lot of laughable moments, and the old school music tracks certainly helped as well.

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