"Serves Me Right For Giving General George S. Patton The Bathroom Key"/"Father Knows Worst"/"Miracles Are Real"/"Stew-Roids"/"Every Which Way But Lose" S2009
Hey there Sunday Funday Cartoon Lovers! Happy 250th King Of The Hill episode to you, too. We have a lot of ground to cover for the remainder of the season, now that Sit Down, Shut Up is part of the block, so I thought I'd vary up the format of these reviews a little, to get right to the heart of each show.
Unfortunately, this week's fiver was quite a disappointment across the board, a complete reversal from last week's all-star line-up. (Well, -ish, and agree to disagree on some of the shows.) In fact, each of the episodes tonight exposed one of the things i dislike most about each show—with only a little good mixed in.
King Of The Hill: With no real stakes, the plot feels perpetually secondary.
Tonight's Very Special Anniversary Something had to do with Cotton Hill. What starts with Hank's stepmom delivering a box of Cotton's possessions ends with Hank traveling across town, fulfilling Cotton's final wishes, however strange they are. And why would Hank do all this, for a man he didn't even like all that much? Because he's Hank's father, and it becomes very clear at the top of the episode that Hank actually doesn't know too much about his father's life. Still, while Hank is off smacking nurses' asses, I'm sitting here at home wondering why I should care. That perhaps sounds harsher than I intended, but I think it speaks to something that always bothers me about King Of The Hill, and Hank specifically. See, Hank can never purposely do anything; almost every scene he finds himself in during the show invovles him sighing, or commenting on how stupid it is that he's doing it, or questioning what got him involved in the first place. And the pay-off tonight is that he figures out his dad valued friendship? Oh Hank, I'm so happy you got that answer you didn't seem to care about finding all that much. Plus, the whole Bill/Dale feud, while giving rise to some funny one-liners by Dale (as usual), was just distracting, at best. (Plus, the term "dudevorce" felt like a desperate attempt by KOTH to be super relevant and timely.) I did enjoy Boomhauer putting everyone in their place, and the reference to a Flintstone's car, but, uh, happy 250th indeed. Grade: C
The Simpsons: Homer is too much of a moron.
With Marge out of the picture (thanks to a hidden sauna discovered in the house), Homer is free to meddle in his kids' lives. First, he tries to give Bart an edge over his classmates by pushing the boy in a model-making contest; then he pushes Lisa to become more popular by hosting cell phone—bedazzling parties and teaching her to be a jerk. And all the while, he does stupid things for the sake of being stupid: Drinking lighter fluid; drinking ant poison; forgetting, for the second time this season, that Maggie is his daughter, and also who the hell is this other kid? And, oh sweet gentle Jesus, he spins around like a helicopter and winds up slamming into a locker at one point. Yes, Homer is a cartoon, but part of the reason The Simpsons has lasted so long is because, early on, the writers got smart. They gave Homer things to do besides look stupid, and the result wasn't a tired, beating of a dead horse of a joke. But tonight was an endless parade of "But he's just so stupid, you know?!?" and that kind of thing can only hold our attention span for a gag or two. Or, in my case, a few mintues. (I mean, I finished the episode and everything, but it was painful.) Hell, at one point they even made fun of the bad writing on the show. META!!! Grade: C-
Sit Down, Shut Up: Who are these people?
I don't fall into the majority camp when it comes to this show: I see promise where you all see unrealistic Arrested Development–inspired expectations. But boy oh boy, this was my second time through this episode, and I'm starting to get a little impatient. Tonight centers on Miracle, specifically what happens when Larry has her questioning her faith. It turns out, her strange ways have spread throughout the school faster than her hemlock present—she'll no longer be a part of the kissing booth, which means the school's attempt to raise money at the carnival has lost its star act; and she'll no longer raise her head, so Ennis can't see her breasts. (Seriously, that was a major plot point.) So to win her back over, Larry sets up a fake fortune telling booth, hoping Miracle will receive her fortune and start believing in the hippy-dippy shit she was so fond of before. But the major problem with this show is that there isn't a central character, really. Even Larry, the straight man of the bunch, plays second fiddle to the ambiguous sexual talk of Andrew, and the pathetic ball of sweat that is Willard. I need something, anything, to ground these shenanigans, of which there are many, many, many. But still, you have to admit the hand dryer gag was pretty funny. No? Not even the reprise when Andrew is in the hallway? C'mon, I legitimately loved that. Grade: C
Family Guy: Focus!
Stewie goes on steroids, and becomes huge. Chris is befriended by Connie the popular girl in a dare, who helps his popularity skyrocket. Meg tries to make her own connection with Connie, and fails gloriously. Each of these storylines occupied about a third of the show (besides time for cutaway gags, which was 90 percent of the show), but I didn't feel any of them held any water. Why? Because each was ridiculously short, that's why. So talking about Stewie's steroid subplot, I felt the show should have done what American Dad does a lot with the Klaus stuff, and keep it mostly in the background—the pay-off was basically a shot of flabby Stewie flying out the window, which could have been accomplished with much less build-up. Then as for the Chris/Meg stuff (obviously related), the tension that follows from… oh, who am I kidding? Family Guy isn't about story anymore—or, ever really. This season, especially, has shown that the show cares about the jokes first and foremost. Can the show do anything interesting as a result? Probably not; the funniest jokes are always going to come out of the moment created on screen. Sure, there were a few pretty good cutaways tonight, including the evil Johnson and Johnson corporation, Adam Sandler movies and seagulls, and the whole distracting trumpet bit. But I'm starting to wonder if this show is even watchable anymore—18 minutes of filler, 45 seconds of inspired silliness. Grade: C
American Dad: Figure out what to do with Roger.
Roger isn't usually at the heart of an American Dad episode, but he sure knows how to punch them up. His jokes are usually unexpected and dead-on, which is why he's quickly becoming my favorite character of the entire animated block. But tonight, I found him more distracting than anything. I think that's because he played on two fronts—Steve sets out to join the football team to impress Stan, and Roger becomes Steve's coach when Steve is cut, and creates a team of misfits to take Stan's team head-on; in the mean time, Francine discovers that Hayley is the pie-baking champion she has tried to best each and every year, but Roger swoops in to claim victory after egging them against each other in the first place. As a confidant, Roger excels, as he does when he's helping Steve strategize against Stan—and rubbing Steve down with magical spooge, so he can evade tacklers. But later in the episode, when he's playing around in the background while Steve is talking his father out of committing suicide (yes, and yikes!), the humor feels off-putting. This show is still the most solid of the bunch—Francine's voting description and the Toshi doppleganger fight were highlights—but this was certainly an off week. Grade: B-