This is already late, so let's take this quicker and more bullet point-y than usual. No pictures, either. No time. No time!
The Simpsons: Replaceable You
This was a pretty awful episode, with pretty much all the events in the plot happening for no reason other than the script said so. Homer suddenly has a new assistant at work, because shut up, that's why, and she eventually takes advantage of his buffoonery to usurp his position, because we said so. And because she's voiced by Jane Lynch, she looks like Jane Lynch. Also, Bart and Martin build a robot seal that becomes murderous if its wires get crossed. Because sure, why not?
Honestly, the funniest parts of this episode were the chalkboard gag ("It’s November 6th. How come we’re not airing a Halloween show?") and the various science fair projects (including The Science of Why Are You Hitting Yourself by Nelson, Is This Uter? by Kearney, and Stuff Doctors Had To Pull Out Of Me by Ralph). I also enjoyed the random cutaways to Marge in the shower, but otherwise, this was pretty much the kind of episode people are referring to when they talk about how modern day Simpsons isn't as good as it used to be.
The Food Wife
This, on the other hand, was a pretty good episode. I'll freely admit a lot of these gags landed right in my wheelhouse (Mrs. Teebore and I watch a lot of cooking shows), but more importantly, the jokes existed in and around a story about how the kids view Homer and Marge, and the way the parents react to being viewed/not viewed as the fun parent. It's not groundbreaking, original stuff (what is, these days?) but it's a strong enough bit of character work to ground the jokes, and it makes the episode stronger.
Plus, that food blogger song was hilarious, the opening act set at the video game expo was PACKED full of great parodies and DVR-friendly gags (like Homer's game stats following his successful attempts to get the kids to the correct exhibit hall: Boobs Brushed: 6/7. Apologies Offered: 0) and there was an appearance by the Swedish Chef.
If the previous episode was an example of latter-day Simpsons done wrong, this is an episode us modern Simpsons apologists can point to as a way of saying the show's still, from time to time, got it.
Homer: A family’s like a team, and on every team you have the slam-dunking mega-star and the referee!
Homer: Pine needle sorbet? My kids do not eat sorbet! They eat sherbet! And they pronounce it ‘sherbert!’ And they wish it was ice cream!
Homer: Actually, I’ve come around on hipsters. Takes a lot of guts to all wear the same hat.
Family Guy: Stewie Goes for a Drive
As a point of contrast to the previous (apparently divisive) episode, this one isn't an all time great. It has some narrative issues (both of the plots more or less peter out (pun intended) at the end rather than truly resolve) and not all the jokes work, but at least there are jokes, some of them quite funny, and for any comedy and especially Family Guy, that goes a long ways towards covering narrative/structural issues.
Of the two stories, I probably enjoyed the Stewie one more, because, well, I tend to enjoy Stewie/Brian stories. But the Peter/Ryan Reynolds plot had it's moments (I especially liked Reynolds constantly drawing attention to his physique, which is how I like to imagine he is in real life), and there's something appealing about the idea of Hollywood celebrities getting inexpliciably infatuated with Peter. Plus, the 70s sci-fi movie parody was pretty spot-on, if a tad overlong.
So not great, but at least it was funny at times.
Back to the Pilot
This episode was pretty damn good though (it was a strong night overall for Animation Domination). It was a Brian/Stewie plot, Brian did dog stuff, there was time travel AND the Kool-Aid man, and it wasn't afraid to poke fun at the show (I especially liked the line about Meg sounding like someone about to give up a great opportunity, Stewies old penchant for elaborate gadgetry, and the differences between how the family handled their downtime during cutaway gags back in the beginning, compared to now, when they have time to do all kinds of stuff). Bottom line, you end an episode with endless Brian/Stewie variants all popping up in an attempt to save the timeline and I'm going to be happy, but this episode had that and tons more. Clever, top-notch stuff.
(If I had to nitpick, I'd point out that going inside the house to travel back to the future so as not to be seen doing it made little sense and had the potential to be more damaging to the timeline, but the writers clearly needed a way to give Brian an opportunity to interact with his past self. I also expected something to come of the two Stewie's interacting in the past, but I guess not).
Stewie's Japanese children's books were hilarious: You Poop Now, Horton Hears A Suicide, and The Little Engine That Will, Or Get Great Shame. A great example of racial humor that works.
American Dad: A Ward Show
When Simpsons and Family Guy falter (and in the absence of Bob's Burgers) it falls to American Dad to save the night, and once again it did. Steve/Roger pairings are always good for laughs, and I liked the inversion of their usual pairings by making Steve the crazier one this time, with Roger acting more sensibly (for Roger...). Stan/Francine stories are another good source of laughs, especially when, as in this episode, they're allowed to let go of their responsibilities and go crazy (the gag about how they could do everything at the world's largest water park in three hours was awesome).
Stan: This is why I had children. So one day I wouldn't have to be around them.
The Worst Stan
An okay episode. On a weaker night, it might have been enough to salvage the evening, but airing after strong Simpsons and Family Guy episodes it ended up being the weakest entry of the night (well, not counting Allen Gregory, which is just awful). The A-plot with Stan and the principal was fine (the principal is a character that a lot of people seem to love; he's still hit-or-miss for me, though the last two outings have been mainly hit; still, they're running him out hard lately, aren't they?) and very much in character for Stan. But the B-plot was a letdown. Roger gets some awesome shorts, has a fling with Ricky Martin, then goes home. Like the Peter/Ryan Reynolds plot, it never really concluded, and seemed to exist just to get Ricky Martin to say outrageous things (the Family Guy/realism gag, while easy, was still pretty funny).
Principal Lewis: I take allergy medicine and I’m not supposed to drink 14 shots of tequila when I’m on it.
How I Met Your Mother: Disaster Averted
A great improvement over the last episode; and one of the stronger episodes of the season thus far. But then, I'm a sucker for random bear attacks, so I was an easy mark for the Marshall subplot (and his Egar Allen Poe routine was pretty awesome). Plus, more slaps (in both senses), and that's always a good thing.
The big Robin/Barney ending, as I've said before, will depend largely on how the writers handle their relationship this time around. Until then, I'm just along for the ride and reserving judgment (that said, this was the first episode where I really liked Kevin, mainly cuz of the scene where he figured out Barney's motivation, but I also loved his horror at Marshall and Lily not accepting Barney's money to remove the tie).
Ted: I want you guys to know, and I really mean this: I wish I’d branched out and made more friends in my 20s.
Barney: I think I need to go home and reevaluate how I make life decisions
Top Chef: The Heat Is On
Not surprisingly, with the novelty worn off and no sudden eliminations on par with Tom's cutting of that smarmy chef last week, this episode isn't nearly as fun as the last. If anything, the one hardcore elimination we got was kinda sad, as the guy who couldn't get his risotto on the plate seemed pretty nice. It was fun watching the medic fix that guy's hand while he cooked, but otherwise, meh. It definitely seemed like this episode could have been shortened (the bubble groups Judges' Table seemed longer than it needed to be) and combined with the first to create an extra-long premiere episode, but whatever.
The editing also seemed more obvious than usual, as we'd often hear what was clearly the end of a sentence from Unibrow without the beginning, and Padma was suddenly a more involved judge than in the last episode (and where was Gail for the final Judges' Table?). I guess it all worked out in the end, but I'm still curious as to what would have happened to the bubble group if the final group had filled all the spots, or if the first five chefs from group three all earned coats (and what's the deal with this online "Final Chance" or whatever business? Anyone know? Cuz I'm too lazy too look it up).
Ah well. At least we have our actual contestants now, and the real fun can begin. And by the looks of it, "fun" means Pee Wee Herman fun. Score!
Saturday Night Live: Charlie Day & Maroon Five
After a weak cold open, this turned into a strong episode. Only the Dr. Oz and Cee-Lo Green sketches fell flat (though neither were terrible). But I loved the Kardashian sketch (especially the Frankenstein-esque Kris Humphries), as well as the Greek gods and the "Return of the Catchphrase Comics" (it was like watching eight hours of Comedy Central standup condensed into five minutes!).
Weekend Update was also very, very good, especially Seth's rips on the European economic situation (loved the crack about how the EU needs a unanimous vote to accomplish anything, yet Belgium has two languages and it's as big as a college campus), though we fast-forwarded past Kristen Wiig's Judy Grimes (as we do for most of her Update characters).
That Lil'Poundcakes commercial randomly showed up at the end of the episode; I wonder if a sketch got cut at the last minute, or if there were timing issues with the show? Also, Jason Sudeikis was oddly absent from much of this episode; he and Hader have pretty much been the go-to guys most of this season.
And, in a nod to just how terribly unhip I am when it comes to current music, this was the first musical guest of the season where I had actually heard and knew both of the performed songs prior to the show.
Gaddafi: If you're a horrible dictator who tortures people, you can only get away with it for like 42 years.
Poseidon: Here's the plan. I turn into a dolphin, hear me out, I have sex with a human woman, hear me out, it's not consensual, hear me out! She turns out to be my daughter.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 2/5
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 3/5