Hi everybody! I had so much fun with you all covering the Fox animated shows last week that I've kidnapped Todd so I could keep on doing it. I figure I'll at least wait until after this post goes up to tell him my master plan and set the laser trap into motion.
The Simpsons: Moneyball was published in 2003, so for a network show to get to it now borders on timely (although a cable show might have discussed it in, say, 2008?). I've never been so sure what the big deal is – statistics that correlate to winning seem more useful than statistics that don't – but hey, if people want to keep talking about RBI's and quarterback ratings as if they're really important, well, in sports, someone's always got to win and someone's always got to lose. But does that translate to comedy?
Lisa “Is that the sound of butting in?” Simpson is pretty much the perfect character to symbolize the sabermetrics punks of the baseball world, with Bart as her “dummyball” foil. Lisa cares about baseball this time around because she's looking to pad her resume in order to get into Yale. We also get a yearbook montage that would have been better had it been Rushmoreafied by 10%. Lisa's sabermetrics cause tension with Bart, the siblings fight, then make up. If the plot sounds familiar, that's because it is familiar – it's pretty much “Lisa on Ice” from Season Six.
But I think it might actually have been better than that episode. Yeah, I know, heresy. Still, my laugh per minute+ rating was much higher than average, and my gut told me that the “That's for future Homer to worry about!” line combined with vodka and mayo was one of the funniest things I've seen in a recent Simpsons episode (it was a very Family Guy-esque gag, I must say). That was the best one, but there were plenty of other great moments. Homer and Marge's dinner table argument was a superb example of how to slowly increase comic tension before letting it snap into absurdity, and Lisa's complete confidence in her list of female baseball managers turned a mediocre joke into gold.
Pretty much the only thing I didn't like about this episode was the awkward guest appearance by Moderately Famous Baseball Guy Mike Sciocia. Other than that? This was some great Simpsons. Grade: A-
The Cleveland Show: The Cleveland Show continues its trend of vague parodies of the classic sitcom form with tonight's traditional “Family is going to Hawaii!” episode. After last week's disaster, I'd love to say that the only way The Cleveland Show can go is up. I know that's not true – it probably can get worse – but happily that didn't happen today. Although it wasn't looking good at the beginning.
The episode begins with Cleveland fighting with his pal Lester about some form of generic manliness or another, which disintegrates into a pitching duel. Apparently Fox sent a memo telling its cartoons to do baseball this week. The Simpsons integrated it well, The Cleveland Show did not, complete with spastic umpire and crotch-grabbing jokes that were both telegraphed too far in advance and not absurd enough to be funny. There's also unamusing redneck humor thrown in for bad measure.
Once the first act reaches its merciful conclusion, the episode picks up. Cleveland falls into a pit of depression over striking out against Lester, refusing to get out of bed and collecting his urine in jars, which Rollo thinks makes for great fun. He breaks out of his slump when he sees Roots 2 and decides to go to Africa, then gets distracted during a layover in Hawaii.
There wasn't a whole lot that was laugh-out-loud funny this episode, but it did maintain a decent comic sensibility. Cleveland and Diane convincing Rollo that Hawaii was Africa wasn't bad at first, but it really came together at the end when Rollo used the educational trip for a school presentation. And call me pretentious, but I liked the rainbow vomit. Grade: C-
Family Guy: This week, we have a decided lack of guest stars, which I can't help but feel is a good thing in for Family Guy. Its humor is so specific to the show and its rhythms that unless a guest star is attuned to those, it's more awkward than even awkward guest appearances like The Simpsons often has. So farewell Rush Limbaugh, and hello divorce episode!
The divorce is for Lois' parents, Carter and Babs. The episode begins with Babs telling the Griffins her marriage's origin story, which goes on for too long, but at least includes a walrus army. Peter discovers Carter having an affair, but Carter convinces him not to say anything. Peter's too nervous to do this well, so he tells his friends about his problem. After Quagmire gives a speech defending the sanctity of marriage, they convince Peter to take rich man Carter for a ride.
The episode is at its best during this section. Peter's first demand? Limousine jousting, leading to a classic Family Guy moment of shock humor. Peter then demands Carter come up with a list of new catch phrases for him to use, which succeed marvelously at the kind of groan-inducing meta-humor that I think The Cleveland Show aims for. Still, the secret eventually comes out, and Babs decides to divorce Carter. Then some stuff happens and the writers push reset and she decides to take him back. It's not deeply affecting character stuff, and the gags are pretty hit-or-miss. Grade: C
American Dad: So it seems that the “Part 1 of 2” last week was not completely a bait-and-switch. Still, although this claims to be the second part of a two, it's really not terribly related to the premiere. Hayley and Jeff are still married, yes, but they're consigned to a B-plot involving Roger tracking them down and getting the $50,000.
The main plot involves Stan and Francine fighting over whose parenting style is superior in order to raise Steve. They decide to resolve it with a BMX bike race straight out of a crappy 1980's movie, in a running gag that comes close to wearing out its welcome, but manages to stay just barely on the side of entertaining. Francine wins, but Stan decides to clone Steve in order to have the parenting competition really work. Then Stan's discipline-raised son, Steverino, goes insane, captures lazy Steve, and kills several cats just to prove that he's evil before Stan and Francine bring him down. Meanwhile, Roger annoys Hayley and Jeff into giving him the money, but the money has run out, and presumably, they'll all return home by next episode.
This certainly wasn't as funny as last week's episode, but it didn't have a whole lot to recommend it either. Grade: C
Stray observations/funny lines:
- “She can do the kind of math that has letters!”
- “We're brother and sister!” “So are my parents! I think....”
- Bill James cameo: “I made baseball as much fun as doing your taxes!”
- “It's a triumph of number-crunching over the human spirit.”
- “Whoa! Write it down first and I'll tell you if you can say it.”
- “My name is Kunta Kinte 9000.”
- “My odes!!!!”
- “First, I thought I'd use your hot, bubbly toilet.”
- The winning catch phrase, according to Carter and Peter? “Why don't you tell it to my butt, someone who actually gives a crap!”
- Babs offers Carter a chance at redemption: “That sounds like a lot of work! Go to hell!”
- Roger's smoking pot joke? Not funny. Roger's stoner haze, set to “Electric Feel?” Quite entertaining.
- “We don't want the BMX people to get involved! The Council of Twelve....”
- “Check this out! Getting' fancy!”
- Whoever said Francine was the heart of the show last week? You were right: “I will push you back up my clownhole and birth you out and name you my bitch!!!”
- Oh, hey, I turned my TV on right as The Simpsons' credits were finishing, so I missed the superb Banksy take on the couch gag. If you did as well, here's a link.