"All About Lisa" / "Life: A Loser's Manual" / "Spring Breakup"

"All About Lisa" / "Life: A Loser's Manual" / "Spring Breakup"

Look at that picture. Just look at it. My God, I made up my mind to dislike this episode of The Simpsons before I even saw it, based solely on that promotional picture. So let's give it up for snap judgments: easy, quick, and almost never wrong!

Okay, so maybe a little wrong. This episode wasn't horrible. It was just lazy and, as much as it pains me to say it, pretty boring. I was tempted to get riled up over not one, but two completely out-of-the-blue, ridiculous plotlines, not to mention another half-assed movie parody (in case this episode's idiot-proof title didn't tip you off, All About Eve). The thing is, the episode wasn't bad enough to warrant getting worked up, and it wasn't good enough to make up for its faults.

I was disappointed though, because I usually like Lisa storylines–something about her bratty, know-it-all nature appeals to me. (Hm, wonder why?) But her story tonight was so out of character; I'm almost positive some writer got the idea to do an Eve parody first, then just shoved Lisa into it. After stumbling into a position as Krusty's assistant, Lisa becomes addicted to the limelight, quickly stepping over the perpetually fatigued, besotted clown to become Springfield's Entertainer Of The Year; at the ceremony, she's talked down by former winner, now loser (and narrator!) Sideshow Mel, and she hands the torch back to Krusty, who remains as awful as ever. I guess we've seen Lisa drunk on power before–in another, better Evita parody–but we saw none of her characteristic faux self-effacement or delusion as she stepped into the limelight; instead, she transitioned seamlessly into a conniving attention whore. Sure, she backed off at the end, but even that seemed slapdash and disingenuous. Meanwhile, Homer and Bart take up coin collecting for some reason–and yes, that was the more believable, and interesting, half of the night. (Even though, as Homer points out, "Coin collecting's a lot like life; it stopped being fun a long time ago.")

Now, I'm not some fancy-pants television writer, but since I have opinions and access to the Internet, I feel I'm entitled to suggest two ways this story may have worked better. One, as a full-on film parody as part of one of those three-segment, themed episodes–I guess a classic-film tribute or something (hey, there's a reason I don't have a WGA card). At least then it could've been over-the-top and ludicrous, without having to back off and get all wishy-washy at the end. Lisa would have been playing a character, not an uncharacteristic version of herself. Option two: Dude, just do it with Bart instead. He and Krusty have a more complicated history that could have been drawn on for a little more drama/excitement. Meanwhile, Homer could've coin-collected with Lisa, or maybe someone else… oh, let's say Moe.

On the other hand, the continuity police must have gotten a little satisfaction from tonight's King Of The Hill, which finally, at the very end of the season, addressed Luanne's pregnancy beyond a casual passing comment. (Apparently KOTH time moves much slower than real time, as she's clearly still not showing.) I'm guessing now that the show's been reupped for another season, Baby Platter should show up sometime next year. And hey, bonus level, we got to see Peggy's car that Hank paid sticker price for a couple of months back! Now if only they had gone to visit Cotton's grave…

Actually, there was plenty going on in this episode as it was, mostly revolving around the Hill family's attempts to keep from upsetting Luanne when her estranged, deadbeat dad (a nicely cast Johnny Knoxville) returns from what everyone but Peggy believes is a long stint on an oil rig. Turns out, Daddy Hoyt's been in and out of prison, and apparently has no intentions of becoming a valued member of society. This was nicely buttressed by Hank's latest project, helping Lucky become a legit citizen: getting him a driver's license, social security, voter registration, hell, even applying for a credit card (which resulted in the second-best line of the night, from Hank: "Pee pee money is not an employment history"). Lucky jeopardizes this by taking the fall for Hoyt after he robs a pancake house seemingly for the thrill of it, in order to keep Luanne in the dark about her father's true nature. Lucky has always seemed like a bit too much of a caricature for my liking, but he had some nice moments tonight, both touching (hiding a tweaked-out Hoyt from Luanne) and funny ("Cigarette math is hard."). Sure, Hoyt may have been a little too easy to hate, and there was a certain quick-fix aura about the conclusion, but for the most part the main plot straddled the line between humorous and heartwarming very well, and had a nice, warm-fuzzy feeling about it. Meanwhile, the alley guys were embroiled in Dale-led shenanigans, building a guard tower measuring 39 feet tall with a 9.9-foot-by-9.9-foot base in order to circumvent the zoning board. While it was pretty throwaway and isolated from the main story, it did result in the best line of the night, from Kahn: "Fine this redneck for reckless redneckitude!"

American Dad also had a fairly well-rounded, ensemble storyline tonight, though it could only be called heartwarming by a very, very icy-hearted person. Nonetheless, the spring break storyline–Roger transforms the house into a haven of drunken college debauchery when Francine leaves for the week–allowed all of the family at least a few moments in the spotlight. The main thrust of the episode came from Stan, who, feeling neglected by Francine, takes up with a pretty, wasted "spring break buddy," whom he eventually decides to leave Francine for. Obviously, they reconcile by episode's end, but both Stan and Francine behaved a little too callously throughout the episode for me to care much. Meanwhile, Steve's on a mission to lose his virginity to Carmen (S)electra, while Roger (Scotch Bingington) flaps about in his quest to be crowned "King Of Spring Break." Haylie and Klaus were bit players, but that's really nothing new on this show.

Maybe it's because I watched it right on the heels of King Of The Hill (skipped the Family Guy rerun), but tonight's American Dad seemed particularly crass, even for a show whose crassness I usually kinda like. Maybe it's the inherent stupidity of spring break, or the too-easy drunken humor, but tonight's episode felt especially dumb, and not in the good, so-dumb-it-kinda-works way it usually pulls off. (Though "I shan't waste an ounce of wiener on you" came pretty close.)

And so we draw the curtain on this seemingly never-ending season of animation. (Seriously, I think this is the only blog that was actually extended due to the writers' strike.) How do you feel about the shows' seasons overall? Across the board, I'd have to say "inconsistent." I think every single show pulled off at the very least one A-worthy episode–whether I awarded it an A at the time is another story–and several duds. I guess this isn't surprising with oldsters Simpsons and King Of The Hill, but Family Guy seemed to stumble a bit this time out, and American Dad has always been the red-headed stepchild of the bunch. However, they'll all be back next season. I'm not sure if I will, or if you will, or what form this blog will take next season–four shows is a lot to cover, yet they all seem to draw responses. What do y'all think? Talk amongst yourselves.

Grades:
The Simpsons, "All About Lisa": C
King Of The Hill, "Life, A Loser's Manual": B+
American Dad, "Spring Breakup": C

Stray Observations

–I love it when you guys do my work for me. While writing tonight's reviews, I received an e-mail with a ready-made stray observation, courtesy of an astute viewer: He writes, "One of the perks of watching TV with the CC on (we have a loud 2 year old) is that you occasionally see jokes or songs that have been changed before the final "proof." In tonight's Simpsons episode Krusty said, "This is the lowest I have sunk. And I made out with a blow up doll." Not all that great. But the CC said, "And I made out with Brett Butler." Wonder why there was a change." Yes, I wonder that too, especially because I thought the blow-up doll line was really weird… I only have a cursory knowledge of blow-up dolls, but I don't think that's what their mouths are usually used for. God, I feel dirty just writing that.

–Was anyone else expecting to see Sideshow Bob in the gallery of one-time Entertainer Of The Year winners?

–Okay, tonight's King Of The Hill just had a bunch of great lines, I have to parrot a couple more: "Voter registration: It's your magic key to jury duty"; "Bobby, go to your room and alphabetize your troll dolls"; and lastly, Hank on wills: "You want to make sure the right people inherit your debts."

–So, was the American Dad spring break from eight years ago? Sugar Ray AND Carmen (S)electra?

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