Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Episode 17: Them, Robot

Burns replacing his workforce with robots... sure why not? Oh but wait, Burns keeps the most essential employee he can keep: Homer. Yeah if you couldn't guess by now, this premise already pisses me off. but you know what? I can still keep an open mind here. Anyways, let's take a look at this.

Opening Sequence: 41 Seconds (Twice in a row, maybe they're actually learning)

The episode begins with Homer sleeping which causes a power outage with no real consequences on the rest of the episode... moving on. After a scene of Lenny and Carl play with the sleeping Homer, Mr. Burns gives afternoon announcements (In fairness, I felt like this was a decent short joke, maybe because I expected them to go way further than they really did) and tells everyone that the plant will be giving Physicals on Monday. After an unfunny random Asian guy smoking appears (Again, random does not equal funny, I don't know how many times I've said this). However, Burns informs them that alcohol will result in firing as well, which causes Homer to "D'oh!" so loud, he causes an earthquake that has no consequences on the remainder of the episode (While I did get a few chuckles out of some of the jokes, the scene is ruined for me by two things. 1) The cartoony idea that shouting causes an earthquake. 2) Like I said, this earthquake is inconsequential to the rest of the episode, it could have worked just as well (If not better) if we cut to people in China hearing him).
Now then the following employees will be sent for their execution: Lenny, Carl... bah too long, everyone but Homer
Oh and by the way, I've been noticing this throughout this particular season. One of the jokes has Ol' Gil being squashed by a brick wall and we can see he's bleeding badly, what I'm trying to get at here is that the staff seems to have this fixation that episodes EXCEPT the Treehouse of Horror should be bloody and violent. Seriously, I could name 5 episodes this season where there has been more blood and gore than this year's THoH, that's pathetic. At home, Homer tells everyone about how he needs to stay sober over the weekend as every family member decides to tell Homer he needs to do all this boring stuff that would make him want to drink beer (By the bye, if you want to see Homer's temptation for beer done correctly, see Duffless, it actually has FUNNY jokes and it's not mind-numbingly dull). After a pointless scene at a restaurant to remind us he can't drink (See previous suggestion) we see everyone prepare for their Physicals as everyone who took theirs do random drugs (Eh a bit funny, but I think just Lenny would have sufficed). Afterwards we see Mr. Burns talk to Hibbert and Blue-Haired Lawyer as they inform him that he is liable for paying his workers lots of money for their health care (Annoying app reference included, why would Burns of all people use an app for his trap door?).
FOX wanted you to see these ratings from the last 3 years, they're abysmal
Oh and by the way, we never find out if Homer passed or failed and really it becomes inconsequential whether or not ANYONE passed or failed seeing as they all get fired in the next scene... writing at it's finest folks scenes that make the first 5 minutes completely pointless. Burns then introduces the employees his staff of robots as the first thing he tells them is that the employees will train them to be their replacements (A scene which never happens). Okay, I find this lazy in execution, first off announcing your evil intentions in forced dialogue is never a good thing. Second, if I could pitch an idea here: the workers train the robots, but halfway through they find out about the replacement scheme, so they sabotage the robot's training in various ways, i.e. teaching them sloth, taking long breaks, wrong ways to handle certain protocol, and so forth. Granted it's not the best idea, but considering the meandering of Homer and the bots for half of the episode, I don't think my idea is any worse. Where was I, oh right, the robots, Burns fires everyone and as everyone is leaving, Smithers recommends that Burns keep ONE human employee around to take care of the human aspect of the plant (Logic dictates that Smithers is that one human employee, let's see how well that works out). So Homer comes storming into Burns' office to have a bi-polar moment as Burns forgets that Homer is incompetent and decides to re-hire Homer.
Wait! I need someone to stay around to make these bland robots look interesting in comparison
Okay, while this is stupid beyond belief, it's better than Burns legitimately thinking Homer should be the one employee he hires back. I don't like this, but not as much as I thought I would when I read the premise. After Smithers is given the boot by Burns (Again, Smithers could have been the human employee, but noooooo....) we see Homer go in for work as he decides to try to chat it up with the robots which leads into a scene I like to call "Shut the fuck up you stupid jerkass! You're not funny, now go die!!!" ...wow, I think I lost control there for a second. But seriously, it's a scene where Homer repeats the same joke over and over being louder and louder until a bot shocks him, just for him to repeat the process. To whichever writer thought this was funny, I recommend that they get a screwdriver, a hammer, and plenty of towels. After a scene at Moe's Tavern to establish that everyone is out of work, we get another scene of Homer meandering at work as he tries to reprogram the robots so he can talk to them. After a few failed attempts (And they butcher the "Robots feeling pain" joke that was mastered in Lisa the Skeptic, seriously, THAT version was funny) he gets them to talk and they become his friends now. Oh and by the way, the robots are voiced by Brent Spiner, most notable for his role in Star Trek as Data. I found that amusing and I'll admit to Mr. Price himself, this is not just a guest star for the sake of a guest star, still doesn't make up for 80% of the episodes where they have 3  or so guest stars just standing around saying their names.
The robots caused all this because?
We then see that the town is basically a ghost town because Burns' robots are causing unemployment everywhere because... I honestly don't know the reason, there is no explanation outside of "Burns replaced his own workers with robots". There's no inidcation that the other businesses did that, or did Burns buy out all the businesses? Dear God this plot hole confuses me, WHY?! Why is the unemployment rate 99%? What did hiring robots at the power plant have to do with every other business in Springfield?! ANSWER ME! Okay the closest explanation I can think of is that because all the power plant employees lost their paychecks, it affected the businesses they would normally go to. One problem with that explanation though, the time interval given appears to only be about a few days, a week at most, there would not be this much unemployment and poverty after one week. This sin't the Great Depression we're talking about here, it's a lazy plot hole with no real affect on the story. Why did I put so much more thought into this than the writers? Oh right, because for some unknown reason I actually CARE. After a pointless flashback (With an unfunny origin story about Moe's face. Oh and to be completely honest, I didn't even realize that was Moe, for some reason I thought that was young Wiggum, seriously, the initial voice sounds more like Wiggum than Moe) as we see some of the ex-employees at their new "jobs" Lenny is a windshield washer on the streets, Smithers is a substitute teacher, and Barney... wait a second, Barney was unemployed before this, why is he affected here?! Dear God, do the writers think Barney works at the Power Plant? I thought that was a bad throw-away joke, but I'm not sure anymore given their awful writing.
Homer: It's so nice to be around so many things that are as lifeless as I am
Back at the Power Plant, Homer talks to the bots as he finds out that they can only travel along a yellow line, this gives Homer the idea to paint a yellow line and he plays baseball with them (Totally NOT padding, this was essential. Do you see what I meant when I said Homer meanders with the robots? Nothing actually gets done in this plot). EDIT: They never follow the rules of the yellow line system, they only introduce it here for a sight gag of Homer painting a yellow line and then the robots can move wherever they feel like it afterwards, who says you need consistency within a minute of establishing something? Really the only things that get accomplished in these scenes are a bunch of "Homer says something and the bots take it literally" misunderstandings. So after a robot hits a homerun, Homer goes out into the street to retrieve the ball and is about to get hit by a truck. Fortunately (From the Writers POV) a robot sacrifices itself to save Homer, Homer tries to comfort the robot, but of course seeing as the writers don't know when to end a joke, about a dozen or so more robots get hit by cars trying to protect Homer. Remember how I complained that the "Edward saving Lisa from cars" in the Twilight section of THoH 21 was stretched out? This is FAR worse, it goes on longer. After Homer burns all the broken bots, he gets frustrated with them to the point where he decides to reprogram them all. This of course backfires and they all want to kill Homer (Please kill him!).
Burns: Will you please kindly get out of my house? No? Oh, well you can stay then
After a slow chase scene of the robots and Homer, we cut to Burns' manor as Homer tells Burns to save him from the robots. Burns of course tells him no, as he looks out for only himself and- oh wait he takes Homer in to protect him from the robots...I keep forgetting that the writers have forgotten what Burns' character is supposed to be. Burns then releases the hounds against them, aw yeah hounds vs robots, this is gonna be intense, this is gonna be funny, this is gonna- I just realized I put in the expectations of competency in this scene. My standards are too high at this point. So the hounds get their asses kicked and as a result, they turn on Burns and Homer, *sigh* remember when Burns and the hounds were intimidating? Neither do the writers. After Burns and Homer hide from the hounds and the robots, the robots catch up to them in a greenhouse as  suddenly everyone appears out of nowhere to save them from imminent death and they all destroy the robots (Of course how they all knew Burns and Homer were in trouble is beyond me, the writers and any sense of logic, it's almost like to the writers quality in their stuff is somewhere on the bottom of their priorities list). So after they are saved, Burns re-hires everyone as temps, and the episode ends with Homer going fishing with one of the bots until it self-destructs.

Final Verdict: This episode was rather dull, while it did have its fair share of jokes, it doesn't make up for the stupid premise and bland execution. Taking one-shot jokes and turning them into entire storylines haven't been kind to this writing staff in the past and this was no exception. Really while I liked this better than last week's episode, that's partially because I have lowered my standards and they're all still lame.

Final Grade: 3.4/10 just rather forgettable.

1 comment:

  1. You know, I walso didn't get the whole "Springfield had a 99% unemplyment rate just cause Burns fired all his staff" thing. It didn't make sense AT ALL and worst of all, it was only used for ONE scene and than that idea was dropped. What was it's purpose? I don't know.

    And the fired plant workers suddenly killing all the robots as a mayor deus ex machina cause they couldn't think of something smarter (like um, a robots on/off switch, the floor flooding and & electric wire falling & zapping them...)

    But yeah, I enjoyed it as it had it's good share of jokes & I found the Homer/bots interactions pretty funny.