The Simpsons: This was something of an odd episode of The Simpsons. Actually, that's not entirely accurate. This wasn't an odd episode of The Simpsons. It was pretty normal and relatively forgettable. Hell, with its done-before premise of Homer trying to be a better father and a couple of random guest stars (what did Paul Rudd and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have in common before this episode?), it's almost a textbook example of the crimes of modern Simpsons episodes.
And yet, as the episode went on, it gained more and more comic momentum despite itself. There was no particular standout moment or any single character that made it work especially well. There was just a consistent stream of amusing lines, steadily increasing in frequency, until I realized that I'd been chuckling essentially from the start of the second act until the end of the fourth. I mean, Bart texting Moe a “prank call” and Moe struggling to respond seems like a lazy joke, but it worked surprisingly well.
In the past I have complained some about how the narrative structure of The Simpsons has been hurt by the addition of the fourth act (I'm not sure when exactly that act got added), but tonight, the show wasn't derailed by that third batch of commercials. Also, there was a Futurama fakeout at the start of the opening credits. Wonder if that excited or angered the diehard fans? Regardless, this was both a solid episode of The Simpsons and one that is proving remarkably resistant to critical analysis. B+
Bob's Burgers: One of the things that has given me consistent joy over the last week is watching people, aware of the buzz surrounding last week's episode, finally tuning into Bob's Burgers and saying “Holy shit, this is really good!” I've seen it on Twitter, uninstigated by me, and I encouraged it myself in person with the tiny handful of people that I interact with regularly. Though the bigger question became this: With the positive buzz from last week, could Bob's Burgers maintain its momentum? Happily, the answer to that is an only-slightly-qualified “Yes!”
Louise has been the most-discussed (and, generally, most-praised) character on Bob's Burgers, largely thanks to Kristen Schaal's superb voice work, but she has seemed to be a little bit two-dimensional at times, as a hilarious budding evil genius. The episode which demonstrated her psychosis when her room was taken away did some to indicate more depth, but tonight, her character got some pathos. She's weird, yes, but her weirdness is encouraged and perhaps mitigated by her hanging out with her father and brother, each of whom have their own oddities that she's happy to encourage. When that social support network weakens even just the slightest amount, as it does in this episode, she lashes out. It's actually rather sweet, and it's definitely very funny.
While the comedy level of the episode isn't quite as impressive as last week's parade of anuses, “Spaghetti Western And Meatballs” does manage to include a constant stream of jokes, like both other new episodes this week. Probably the best comes primarily from Bob's Burgers' somewhat underrated animation department, when Linda flashes back to last year's school fundraiser and the terror of slow-motion mothers complimenting a rival with their mouths full. It is utterly absurd, and it lasts long enough that it threatens to move into Family Guy-esque anti-humor, but it's built up and delivered brilliantly and is probably my favorite single bit of the night.
This episode went a long way toward justifying the praise that Bob's Burgers got last week, while also helping to assuage my minor fears that it wouldn't simply become a shallow joke machine. I'm becoming legitimately excited just to watch Bob's Burgers every week, let alone cover it. This is great stuff. A
American Dad: Hooray, a new American Dad, and it airs in the far-more-appropriate 9:30 time slot! The episode itself didn't disappoint either, as, much like The Simpsons, this was a quality half-hour of jokes. Stan, distracted by conversation, lets Steve finish his dinner first, setting off a surreal set of animalistic battles for patriarchal supremacy in the household. If you read that and said “I hope there are territory-marking pee jokes!” then you, sir or madam, are in luck. Even more than that, there's growling, pieces of food tossed to the floor, and in one superb sequence, Stan lying on his back, cleaning his face like a lion.
Hayley and Jeff also make their semi-triumphant return as a married couple, which is nice to see at least from a narrative point of view, given that so much was made of their marriage at the start of the season. Comedically, it's slightly less successful, though their attempts to get marriage counseling somehow end up with their former principal pointing a gun at them, shouting “It just got real, bitch!” in a scene matched only by Roger teaching Steve (and his friends) how to do sex with hip-grinding dancing to music. There is no dialogue, just horribly awkward, marvelously homoerotic dancing around a locked chest.
Despite all the absurdity, the episode even manages to successfully come around to an emotional resolution when Stan, realizing that Steve is an utter failure at attempted mating, resolves to see Steve as a son instead of potential masculine competition. Then, this being a Seth MacFarlane show, there's a rape joke. But, it being American Dad, it's actually a surprisingly funny rape joke. A-
A Handful of Quotes from Each Show which I Noted:
- “Once, I even hosted Saturday Night Live! 'Let's welcome Matchbox 20 back!'” “Who?”
- “Eh. This song's a little bossy.”
- “Well, it was your idea to give him self-esteem to begin with!”
- “Awww, why did I agree to moderate this teleconference?”
- “No TV for a week!” “Why you little...”
- “You have a good heart, Kareem. That's why you're the only Laker I can trust with this.”
- “I lied about having health insurance.” “And you're cured.”
- “Now it feels like morning.”
- “Awww, my son's first stroke!”
- “No! Stop! No Star Wars parodies!”
- “Also on pieces of your face to my... monkey.”
- “Ah, yes. One of the most common complaints about therapy.”
- No More Mint Juleps
- “We'll talk when he's dead!!!”
- “Here, hold my plunger.”
- “It's a pasta game.”
- “Is Choo-Choo scared of stroke victims?” “Terrified.”
- “You are wack.”
- “S-Slap it!”
- “And again and again and again and again and again and again...”
- “Weird? You mean anti-hero.”
- “And your ding-dong!”
- “And kinda bloated, right?” “Maybe he's dehydrated!”
- “Leave Bingo out of it!”
- “This train is off the tracks! CHOO-CHOO!” This kid and his dad need to come back.
- “Shhh. Use your slide voices.”
- “Mom and Tina? The Menstruation Nation?”
- “They can live in here with us!”
- “What was 'A' again?” “Anus.” “Anyl Nitrate.”
- “So these Popsicles are weird.”
- “You know what's a good show? You shutting up and going to bed.”
- “Oh. Was there a rabbit in here?”
- “I should probably learn to make chili that's not very good, and call it my 'Famous Chili.'”
- “I was plowing, Steve.”
- “Are we serious about this, or are we just talking about this?” Roger and Steve's distractibility proved a great running gag.
- “It didn't seem unnatural to me! Ha ha ha ha!”
- “You crazy-ass son of a bitch!” “Now you only have four!”
- “That's Ewok for Steve.”
- “Especially if I keep raising you like we're walruses.”