Manic Street Preachers, A Place To Bury Strangers, and more albums to know about this week

Manic Street Preachers live up to lofty pop touchstones on Resistance Is Futile, while Pinned doesn’t quite pack the punch of prior A Place To Bury Strangers releases. These, plus Rival Consoles and the debut solo album of Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls in this week’s notable new releases.

Somehow Harry Shearer has given us a wonderful video of Sean Hannity vaping

Sean Hannity hates a lot of people and things—44th President Barack Obama, immigrants, practical healthcare solutions, and, of course, fact-based reporting. One of the only things he does seem to love is blowing fat clouds, as evidenced by a great clip of the Fox News star enjoying a rip from his vape pen recently…

The Simpsons goes to the dogs in a high concept season 28 finale

C+

Over its impossibly long run, The Simpsons has done just about everything well. It’s also done just about everything poorly, but, hey, you do a TV show for 28 seasons. A big, high-concept season finale about all Springfield’s canines taking over the town? Why not? I mean, the show’s gone to space, it’s built a…

Marge and Homer’s relationship troubles resonate in a well-plotted Simpsons

B+

In an anything-can-happen setting like The Simpsons’ Springfield, it’s a good creative move to establish some rules. Not for the entire show, necessarily—the series’ animated world allows its characters the freedom to conform only to what the writers think they can get away with. But within an episode, internal story…

Bart’s just a gigolo as The Simpsons hunts for some heart

B

Pulling off a heartwarming Bart story is hard to do these days, and “Looking For Mr. Goodbart” almost manages it. Back in the show’s earliest years, when Bart-mania was running wild and would-be moral watchdogs like Bill Cosby (um…) were calling him out for being a bad role model, Bart’s function as a stand-in for…

The Yale-Harvard war bogs down in an overstuffed Simpsons

C+

The Simpsons’ ties to a certain Ivy League school are deep and storied, with some two dozen Harvard alums serving turns in the show’s writer’s room. According to my research, there’s never been a Yalie on staff, although tonight’s credited writer, Jeff Westbrook, taught at Yale for a time—after graduating from…

Everyone gets a trophy on a sweetly well-crafted Simpsons

B+

It’s the moment Bart loses that watch that does it. “A Father’s Watch” improbably winds together three story strands into a satisfyingly unified whole episode. I say “improbably” because The Simpsons’ latter-day tendency to cram three potentially show-carrying plot devices into one undercooked outing is a constant,…

The Simpsons shifts into sports documentary mode for its amusing “22 For 30”

B

“22 For 30” dresses up The Simpsons’ formula in the gym togs of ESPN’s 30 For 30 sports documentary series, and, as far as stunts go, it’s a well-executed one. The arc of a traditional Simpsons episode and that of the average “troubled sports figure” doc mesh up neatly, as Bart, after honing his crumpled paper ball…

The Simpsons brings back the writer of a classic episode, but the sequel is awfully Krusty

C-

Well, no one can accuse The Simpsons of trampling all over one of its all-time best episodes. Actually, wait—I can, as the 24-seasons-removed “Kamp Krustier” finds a way to revisit the classic Simpsons episode “Kamp Krusty” without expanding on it, deconstructing it, or even making a memorable travesty of it. That…

Patton Oswalt is Bart’s conscience on a disjointed Simpsons

C+

“The Cad And The Hat” is the first credited Simpsons script from Ron Zimmerman, and, while bringing in new blood to the Simpsons’ writers room can be energizing, this episode betrays the series’ tone and internal rules to a distracting degree. Which might be interesting if it were bolder, or a lot funnier. As it is,…

Homer swallows his feelings on a half-baked Simpsons

C+

“Fatzcarraldo” sees all of Springfield’s fast-food joints go healthy, leading to Homer rediscovering the train-car chili dog place he remembers from his childhood. Except it’s also about Lisa being upset that Springfield Elementary’s school radio station is shutting down; Patty and Selma moving in with the Simpsons…

The Simpsons’ “super-sized rap Gatsby episode” is best in its low-key charms

B

For all the hype about “The Great Phatsby” being The Simpsons’ first-ever hour-long episode, and the understandable skepticism about its description as “a rap-flavored parody of The Great Gatsby,” the episode’s origins are decidedly more modest. “This was just going to be a regular episode, but the table read went so…

Homer remembers he owns a pig as The Simpsons squanders some good ideas

B-

Of all the Simpsons’ associates that were really important that one time but hardly get referenced ever again, Plopper (a.k.a. Spider-Pig) is at least a triumph of design, if nothing else. Simpson-izing an animal is a tricky business, and Homer’s beloved (when he remembers) pig pal is just right, from the fact that…

It feels like old times when Homer takes a fall on a fine Simpsons

B+

Writing The Simpsons must be incredibly hard. Hell, writing about The Simpsons is hard. There’s just so much of it to draw from, to amplify, to ignore, to reference, to try not to repeat. And the “not as good as it used to be” chorus can’t be the most encouraging soundtrack to the task—it’s one thing to have to live…