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Monday, March 28, 2011

Last Week in TV #27

The Simpsons: Love Is A Many-Strangled Thing


The main plot in this episode (Homer learns not to strangle Bart, but then an unrestricted Bart runs wild over Homer) felt like it had been done before, and not just in the usual "all Simpsons plots these days have been done before" kind of way. I think it was the episode where Bart became a novelty T-Shirt magnate and usurped Homer's position as breadwinner that featured some of the exact same story beats as this one, to the same (limited) effect.

Repetitious plot aside, this episode was largely inoffensive, offering some solid laughs built around the unremarkable plot. The highlight of the episode was easily the opening act at the new, extravagant football stadium, from the Vikings and Packers fans seen leaving the Museum of Tolerance to the zoo of NFL mascot animals to the Arts District with football-hating intellectuals ("uh, we can stay for ONE inning...").

Former All Pro Lineman: You know, I wouldn't have to do this if I hadn't bought a Ferrari a day for 22 seasons...

Homer: I hope you kids are enjoying yourselves today, because you and your children will be paying for this place long after the team moves to another city.

Dr. Zander: You have a good heart, Kareem. That's why you're the only Laker I can trust with this.

Homer: I lied about having health insurance.
Dr. Zander: And you're cured.
 

Bob's Burgers: Spaghetti Westerns and Meatballs


Another good episode of what's quickly become the highlight of the Sunday night animation block. Though it's been clear since the first episode thanks to the ever-changing storefronts in the opening credits and the "burger of the day" chalkboard, this episode's introduction of Louise and Bob's "burn unit" and Louise and Gene's "food court" made me realize that the writers of this show and I share a fondness for puns, a realization that increases my desire to see this show stick around.

Louise, clearly poised to be the show's breakout character (if she's not already) received some character development in this episode as we see that her particular brand of crazy is fueled by her interactions with her dad and her brother. The scene amongst the three whilst hiding inside the slide was wonderful. I also appreciated that the flashbacks to Bob and Gene's failed bonding experiences didn't center on Gene failing to live up to his father's expectations (a la Hank and Bobby on King of the Hill) but rather on the fact that they're both weird, but in different ways.

Louise: It's like pushing a couch off the couch. 

Louise: Is Choo-Choo scared of stroke victims?
Gene: Terrified.

Gene: Shhh. Use your slide voices.

Louise: First, the Burn Unit stopped hanging out, then the Lunch Bunch stopped hanging out.
Bob: God, we have lame names.
Louise: Who the hell am I going to hang around if not you two? Mom and Tina? The Menstruation Nation?


How I Met Your Mother: Legendaddy 


Oddly enough, this season of HIMYM (or at least its second half) has been all about dads, both the loss of Marshall's and Barney's quest for his (and those two threads converged in a nice moment between Barney and Marshall in this episode). The question of Barney's dad has long simmered beneath the character's antics, but this season has seen Barney tread new ground in his external and internal search for his father, culminating in John Lithgow's appearance in this episode as Jerry, Barney's long lost dad.

Like the death of Marshall's dad, this is heady stuff, as Barney struggles to reconcile the reality of Jerry with the hard partying ladies man Barney always assumed him to be in order to explain away his absence. In doing so, we're presented with two narratives, one from Barney in which he portrays his dad like he wants him to be, a smooth ladies man who discards the number of a chick he picked up in five seconds cuz life's too short for chatty chicks, and the other, more truthful one from Jerry in which Jerry, desperate to impress a son who is clearly underwhelmed, talks up his accomplishments regarding writing books about asparagus and his quiche prowess (which may be genuine accomplishments or just things Jerry thinks will impress Barney).

Later, there's an affecting scene (which will clearly end up as NPH's Emmy submission) in which Barney rages at his father for being a normal suburban dad with no good reason to have abandoned him (which is lightened nicely by Barney, who doesn't know how to use a screwdriver, banging the handle of one against a screw in order to take down a basketball hoop). Like Marshall dealing with the death of his father, Barney reconciling with his dad will take time, and the episode does well to avoid any pat conclusions. I especially liked that while, at the end, Jerry did give Barney a genuine father/son moment by teaching him how to use a screwdriver, the show kept the moment understated, not acknowledging it via dialogue or narration.

Other Thoughts:
The B plot to this episode, such as it was, in which the gang discussed their respective gaps in knowledge in light of Barney's tool deficiencies, helped keep the mood light, and was a classic HIMYM bit. Though it is hard to believe that Robin is that dumb, and Lily's problem, while hilarious (I saw it coming a mile away but still laughed my ass off when she flung Marshall's keys at him) wasn't so much about a gap in knowledge as a physical problem.

Barney picking on JJ, his half brother (Jerry's other son) out of petty jealous was probably crueler than it should have been, but I'm always amused whenever Barney starts acting like a child, and true to form, I laughed at several of the exchanges in that scene (“What gym do you go to?” “Fourth period...”). Which probably makes me a bad person...

I like that Marshall is still dealing with his dad's death, and more importantly, that the show is finding ways to portray that without ending each episode by having Marshall give a heartfelt speech about missing him. Here, it led to a great string of gags in which the gang lets Marshall's foibles slide out of sympathy, to the point where he starts trying to goad them into mocking him by doing things like claiming The Phantom Menace is the best Star Wars movie ("It ages well, that’s the thing," Barney manages to choke out).

The ending clearly left things open for later Lithgow appearances (and I'm fairly certain I read that he'll be showing up at least once more this season). Also, Jerry mentioned, in addition to his other son JJ, a daughter who was in college. I wonder if that's more than a throwaway line, and if, perhaps, college professor Ted might cross paths with her in some way.  

Nice to see Ted's fixer-upper dream house again, though I really want to call shenanigans on the fact that he can apparently afford to rent a two bedroom apartment, buy a house AND pay to fix up that house. Then again, fiscal unreality in sitcom characters has been around for as long as the genre itself.


The Event: Turnabout


Nothing terribly interesting or significant in this episode, so let's just do some quick thoughts.

Holding the reveal of Thomas' Melty Faced Buddy at the beginning was odd. It seemed like the show was setting him up to be someone we knew. The makeup itself wasn't worthy of the dramatic reveal it received.

I love that now, when Sophia is willing to work openly against Thomas, is when the President grows a backbone and refuses to work with her. Hopefully, this new "take no prisoners" President will pay dividends down the road.

One of the people Michael stashed his daughters with was Andrea Zuckerman. I smiled fondly when I saw "Gabrielle Carteris" in the credits.

Speaking of stashing his daughters, why, exactly, couldn't Sean come along with Leila? Would it have been so bad to have an extra set of eyes watching out for her? Hopefully the show will make this more clear at some point, but, well, it is The Event.

One of the things I love about these big sprawling conspiracy stories is when the people involved turn out to be the "real" cause of/involved with some kind of historical event, so I greatly enjoyed the revelation that Chernobyl was caused by Thomas' attempt to port nuclear material.

Sophia's explanation that magnetic fields disrupt the porting technology was a nice bit of info for future reference, and also helps cover up the plot hole regarding the prisoners in Inostranka being left there when their free compatriots possessed teleportation technology.


Top Chef: Last Supper


Seriously, Mike Isabella is one of the two best Top Chef contestants? This is a strange, strange world in which we find ourselves. Once again, the editing felt off, as it seemed like every time someone started to say something critical about Mike's dish it would cut to someone else saying, "but overall, I really liked it." I'm not suggesting conspiracy/collusion, just that maybe the editors are really trying to make Mike look like a good chef. Hopefully, this is because he's not and they're trying to justify his continued success, but I fear it might be because they're trying to lay the groundwork for the Mike Isabella win they know is coming, like maybe they think it'll go down easier if we never hear anything bad about his food. Needless to say, I'm really hoping that Richard pulls out the win next week, but if he doesn't, I think I'll comfort myself with the notion that should he lose again, he'll be the only contestant everyone thinks should have won TWO seasons of Top Chef.

Inexplicable Mike Isabella success aside, this episode was a bit better than the previous two, in terms of excitement and the challenges. Adding in the "last bite" twist without lengthening the running time helped ramp up the tension. The Quickfire was fun, though it would have worked better earlier in the season (maybe when six or seven chefs were left) when Quickfire's still meant something. The Elimination challenge, thankfully, was closer to "just cook good food" than the previous two Bahamian challenges. That said, I really think the results would have been different if Mike had been stuck with Morimoto or Wolfgang Puck's food, which, despite what the editors may want, just further tarnishes his claim to the title all the more. 

Other Thoughts:
Also, it seems wildly unfair that Antonia was given crappy fish she couldn't use whereas the other two, as far as we were shown, had no such issues. If she had selected it herself, so be it, but it seemed like all their food was arranged for them by the production crew. Granted, the judges' discussion as presented didn't bring up her fish, but still, who knows how it messed with her head, and how that played out into her final dish as well as her final bite? 

The abbreviated Judges' Table was nice, though it kinda bugs me that the final spot in the finals was decided by a simple vote, with Wolfgang Puck, of all people, as the tie breaker (at least as presented).

Thanks to some crappy editing, we got to hear Padma ask "remember this?" about the twist envelope approximately eleventy billion times before she opened the damn thing.

I know that Tom is happy the finale is a two chef showdown, and though I've found this whole four part "finale" in the Bahamas to be a bit overlong, I always liked the Final Two approach as well.

Why I don't like Mike in a nutshell: He refers to Michelle Bernstein as "one of the country's top women chefs". Just gotta add that qualifier in there, don't you Mikey? Gotta be sure no one confuses her with a real (male) chef.

Also, he never stops bobbing from foot to foot when talking to the judges. Yes, it's nervous energy, and yes, I'm being petty, but it drives me and Mrs. Teebore nuts!

13 comments:

  1. AAAAH! Look OUT NPH! It's John Lithgow! He'll bludgeon you to death!
    seriously, i can never look at John Lithgow the same way since watching him on Dexter

    If Mike Isabella wins Top Chef I'm going to spit.
    Seriously- the guy STOLE A DISH FROM ANOTHER COMPETITOR. wtf.
    I also said that the quick fire would've been more fun a few episodes back.
    I liked the Final Bite challenge, but once again everyone raved over Antonia's bite and yet they all voted for Mike

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  2. I love John Lithgow. LOVE HIM!!! I could watch him do anything.

    Also, Bob's Burgers is starting to grow on me. I really loved the Art Crawl episode. I think that's the one that finally sold me...that and the bed and breakfast one.

    There was a part of the Simpsons that had me rolling...Bart was beating Homer and said something about tears?? Help me out here.

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  3. what anne said.
    I mean, seriously, out of all the wonderful chefs this season, Mike is really one of the two best ones? No. That's just wrong.

    And Hannah - once you see him bathe with a woman who's femoral artery he just slit, you may change your opinion a wee bit Lithgow. Still excellent, just also creepy

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  4. If you think that would change my opinion, you don't know me very well. Serial killers are hot.

    LOL! Kidding or am I?

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  5. Dang! I totally forgot to try to catch Bob's Burgers this week. The Amazing Race isn't on next Sunday, so I should be free and clear to tape it if I can't watch it "live".

    How did you do an extensive episode commentary on last week's How I Met Your Mother, including the characters all calling each other on their quirks, and not mention Ted's mispronunciation of "chameleon"? (I'm not looking for a shout-out or link, honest, just genuinely surprised.)

    Anyway, Neil Patrick Harris's Barney is usually the most sitcommy of the bunch, with over-the-top line readings and physicality, yet somehow I really enjoy what he does with the role. This episode was no exception, although I did think that he was a bit too mean to JJ at dinner — both in terms of character sympathy and realism even within the context of the show.

    Why are you not recapping Parks and Recreation? I didn't just start watching it so we'd have even more to talk about, but since I don't watch The Event, Top Chef, or The Simpsons the pickings get pretty slim here when SNL and Glee are off. 8^)

    Speaking of The Event, and for a final question: Did all of Sophia's fellow refugees get released from Alaska? 'Cause otherwise, that new "take no prisoners" attitude is pretty ironic.

    VW: petramel — n. [peh truh mel] Reduce some butter and sugar, add some rocks, cool, and voilĂ ... Petramel!

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  6. Both and Zac and I really enjoy Bob's Burgers. I think it's mostly because we recognize very real parts of people we know (heck, people we're related to) in each of the characters. Every episode has had at least a handful of lines that just reduce us to belly-laughs. I don't mind the McFarland Machine, but it's nice to see another animated show in the lineup.

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  7. @Anne: If Mike Isabella wins Top Chef I'm going to spit.
    Seriously- the guy STOLE A DISH FROM ANOTHER COMPETITOR. wtf.


    Yeah, in addition to his casual, seemingly-unthinking sexism, that's one of the things that bugs me about him. I know Tom waved the whole thing off, but it still bothers me that Mike didn't fess up to it, especially since it's clear there would be no consequences for doing so. It's a whole legality vs. morality thing. It technically wasn't wrong of him, but it was still morally wrong.

    I have another major problem with Mike, but I'll save that for the next post as a means of venting about his increasingly-likely win.

    I liked the Final Bite challenge, but once again everyone raved over Antonia's bite and yet they all voted for Mike

    Again, just very weird editing all around.

    @Hannah: I really loved the Art Crawl episode. I think that's the one that finally sold me...that and the bed and breakfast one.

    It's been on a nice little hot streak lately.

    Bart was beating Homer and said something about tears?? Help me out here.

    Sorry, I don't recall...

    @Sarah: I mean, seriously, out of all the wonderful chefs this season, Mike is really one of the two best ones? No. That's just wrong.

    That gets to the heart of my third issue, but again, next time...

    @Blam: including the characters all calling each other on their quirks, and not mention Ted's mispronunciation of "chameleon"?

    Honestly, I thought I did write something about it. I must have edited it out. As much as I loved his mispronunciation, I was a bit bothered that Ted's whole "blind spot" amounted to a single word, rather than a handful he consistently mispronounced in that way.

    Then again, I suppose its Ted's story. Maybe Older Ted is downplaying his blind spot.

    although I did think that he was a bit too mean to JJ at dinner — both in terms of character sympathy and realism even within the context of the show.

    At the risk of putting words into his mouth, I'll say that you and Dr. Bitz shared that opinion.

    Why are you not recapping Parks and Recreation?

    Honestly, I don't feel like my critical abilities are up to the task.

    Comedies are generally harder to review than dramas, and good shows harder than bad ones, so when you've got two phenomenal comedies in Community and Parks and Recreation I find it very difficult to break down exactly why I think they're so brillant without turning the posts into little more than "dur, this was funny, that was funny...".

    Then, when I read other reviewers who ARE able to break down why those shows are so good (like Alan Sepinwall or the Onion AV Club guys) I get even more discouraged.

    I did a few little Parks and Rec reviews when it first returned, so maybe I'll try my hand at them again. I can certainly find more motivation to challenge myself when I know someone out there specifically wants to read/discuss a certain show.

    Did all of Sophia's fellow refugees get released from Alaska?

    Thomas freed all of the imprisoned refugees who sided with him, then killed any of the ones who opted to stay behind in the prison out of allegiance to Sofia (the number he killed, I believe, was somewhere in the 40s).

    @Kate: Every episode has had at least a handful of lines that just reduce us to belly-laughs. I don't mind the McFarland Machine, but it's nice to see another animated show in the lineup.

    Ditto. And while I love me some Family Guy and American Dad, it definitely is nice to have a differently-styled animated show in the lineup.

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  8. Me: Why are you not recapping Parks and Recreation?

    You: Honestly, I don't feel like my critical abilities are up to the task.

    I think you're selling yourself short. You'll never know unless you try. [Other platitudes here.]

    Look, I know what you mean, but even if you just share a few brief thoughts or your favorite lines it might spark some discussion. I can only speak for myself, but I often find that short notes I've jotted down or remarks on a blog translate into way more than I thought I had to say on a subject.

    The last Community was absolutely brilliant. 30 Rock may not be what it used to be but still has its moments. I've enjoyed getting into Parks and Rec. So if you do decide to write up any of those you'll have an audience. 8^)

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  9. @Blam: So if you do decide to write up any of those you'll have an audience. 8^)

    Thanks. Truly. Knowing that is usually enough to keep me writing about a show, so I'll see what I can do.

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  10. I love how they justify the fact that Homer is always choking Bart by suggesting that it’s the only way to keep him from getting out of control and becoming a menace (as if he wasn’t already a menace.) I love some of the one-liners in this episode and whenever I can see Mr. Burns I’m delighted. I’m catching up on the last 3 weeks since I started recording again after not watching for a few years. Now I have more time to watch though since I can use my iPhone when I’m out thanks to my DISH Network employee Sling adapter. I have one more episode to watch.

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  11. @Bryon: I love some of the one-liners in this episode

    Yeah, this was a particularly strong episode for one-liners.

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  12. Thanks Teebore for the recognition. By the way, is there a significance to the name Teebore? Is that your real name or an avatar name?

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  13. @Bryon: 'Teebore' is an avatar name. It comes from the episode of The Simpsons in which Marge goes to work at the power plant. Homer tells her that if she has a problem, just blame it on the guy who doesn't speak English. "Ah, Teebore, how many jams have you gotten me out of?"

    Then later in that episode, Smithers tells Marge "that damn idiot Teebore lost the key" to her office.

    It's a gag I've always found particularly funny, and I latched onto it years ago (in the AOL days) as an internet moniker that's stuck with me since (though I go to no great lengths to disguise the fact that my real name is Austin).

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