It's clear what's going on here. The writers of the shows of FOX's Sunday night lineup obviously traveled back in time somehow, read last week's entry and its comments, and applied the collective wisdom of myself and you, the commentors, to this week's episodes. Or maybe I was subjected to some sort of brainwashing that completely reversed my tastes in the span of seven days. Either seems to be a perfectly logical conclusion, as almost everything that I bitched about in last week's reviews was "fixed," if you will, this go-round. Luckily, there were lots of new, exciting things for me to bitch about this week.
The Simpsons was the big standout for me this week. I know many of you have reached a certain level of apathy about the show, and I certainly have moments myself. As our fearless leader Keith Phipps said to me last week, "It's not bad. It's not good. It's just The Simpsons." Last week's episode really amplified the feeling that I was just watching the show out of habit; its meh-ness, if you will, was over (under?) whelming. This week though, The Simpsons nixed the celebrity hi-jinks (apologies to all you rabid Placido Domingo fans) and gave us a nicely fleshed out story. Sure, it was a little more over-the-top than some of the more endearing storylines of the past, but it was nicely cohesive while still managing to bring the funny more than a few times. It also thankfully avoided the buffoonery overload that can sometimes accompany Homer-centric episodes; in fact, I might go so far as to say this episode bordered on sweet, something The Simpsons hasn't done in quite a while.
There was also some great voice work by Dan Castellaneta this week: I laughed out loud when Homer's operatic baritone cracked into his usual honk and back again when he was lifted into a sitting position. Some other good moments: several new additions to the Springfield business directory (Buffet The Hunger Slayer, excellent), Burns' steampunk heart, and the not-nearly-as-lame-as-it-coulda-been Entourage parody. And is it just all the cool drugs I'm on, or were there some particularly nice-looking animation sequences this week (the chase scene in the alley and the final Sistine Chapel shot, in particular)?
As for King Of The Hill, unfortunately, I doubt this episode will do much to silence those who mock my trumpeting of the show's understated humor. Perhaps this episode was a little too understated, because it fell seriously short of what I know the show is capable of. Bobby storylines can be a little hit-and-miss for me, and this one was a definite miss. When a Bobby story succeeds, it usually does so because it provides a great opening for Hank to come in and fix everything, everyone learns something, and that sweet outro music plays and you go "aw." Heartwarming father-son shit, ya know? (I'm thinking in particular of one of my favorite eps, "Husky Bobby.") This episode lacked that redemptive element; everyone was pretty asshole-ish all the way through, Bobby, the students, the quarter-obsessed teachers--even Hank's blanket dismissal of protesting was a little harsh, though his speech to the rioting middle-schoolers was pretty Classic Hank. As it lacked both that heartwarming "lesson learned" feeling AND that mellow undercurrent of absurdity that buoys that type of episode (usually courtesy of either Dale or Peggy), it all felt a little too banal. I really hope there's a good Dale, Peggy, or Bill storyline coming up--those characters typically bring out the most laughs, something this week really lacked.
Well hey, would you look at that! A Meg storyline on Family Guy! And hey, some actual plot and continuity! And no obnoxious musical numbers! You're a sneaky bastard, MacFarlane, though you still for some reason insist on foisting Creepy Old Man on your viewers at every turn. There was also a lot of Stewie/Brian interplay, which, as a few commentors noted and I agree with, usually anchors the show's better episodes.
Was it just me, or were there fewer cutaways than usual this episode, and more nice back-and-forths between characters: Lois mocking Brian never fails to amuse me. Same goes for Stewie's attempts at "comforting" Brian. But although there were some good gags (Peter's Donald Duck costume) there were no exceedingly memorable moments (say what you will about the show's humor, Family Guy has a pretty deep cache of classic bits).
I never realized it until this episode, but Jillian has been a pretty good addition to the Family Guy universe, and I think I'm actually sad to see her and Brian break up. Sure, she was a one-note character, but she provided for a lot of that aforementioned Stewie/Brian interplay last season. Maybe Jilladam West will become Quahog's new power-couple and she'll pop up now and again.
And now for that other show that you maybe still had on in the background while you were making a post-Family Guy snack. Three seasons in, American Dad still hasn't managed to burrow its way into my conscious; every time it comes on I find myself going, "Oh yeah, this show. Well, the couch is still comfy, may as well stick around." What surprises me more than the show's continued existence, though, is the fact that it's actually pretty funny, which makes the fact that it remains so unremarkable so, well, remarkable. While I usually find the bajillion-megawatt "political satire" of the show to be pretty tiring, the family-oriented storylines can be pretty fun, in a campy way. I wish Roger hadn't been relegated to that weird secondary plot; I really enjoy him and Francine trying to out-bitch each other. I'm still not totally sold on the show--its writers still seem to be struggling to strike the right balance between social relevance, pop-culture frivolity, and flat-out weirdness--but this episode seemed promising. Hell, I might even remember it next week!
The Simpsons: "Homer Of Seville": A-
King Of The Hill: "Bobby Rae": C
Family Guy: "Movin' Out (Brian's Song)": B+
American Dad: "The Vacation Goo": B
--Bart seemed a little more diabolical than usual this week, going from extorting money from a grieving child to burying his father alive in the same afternoon.
--Personal anecdote: My high school had over 100 vending machines; thanks to this week's episode of KOTH, now I know why.
--Goo is one of those words that's funny no matter how many times you say it. Heh, goo.
--"Al Gore Honors Carlos Mencia For Recycling Jokes." In case you missed it.