Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last Week in TV #8

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 

6 comments:

  1. i still can't get over that it was Ryan Reynolds doing his own voice- i mean, i knew it going itno it, and yet it still just didn't sound anything like him (from what i've come to expect he sounds like).

    i do love a good Brian/Stewie pair up, and especially love time travel, so i appreciated that episode (although i was baking or something so was a little distracted and missed a few bits)

    I can't believe i didn't see it coming when Roger stole Ricky's shirt- i just assumed he would play the shallow card.
    I like the principal so enjoyed that plot- didn't they reference the pedophile Diff'rent Strokes episode? That's the 2nd time Seth Macfarlane has referenced it- so then i had to go wikipedia Diff'rent Strokes and now i know entirely too much about it.

    Top Chef- we were just frustrated because we really liked all the bubble chefs and they really got the shaft. And we really wanted short-haired lesbian to go on, but could see from a mile away that they were going to give it to tenderloin girl. Also- once we figured out cruise ship was from MN we wanted to see more of her. plus that french guy, and the bald guy. See? we liked everyone in the bubble
    We just found out that pretty much no one in our ACTUAL cooking club watches Top Chef. wtf is wrong with all of them?

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  2. what anne said.
    I really think Bravo just should have bit the bullet and made a 2 hour premier episode of top chef. Because by the time the second episode aired, i was pretty much done with all the beginning elimination crud and just wanted to get to the usual show. Well as usual as it can be considering it sounds like they'll be travelling around texas and junk.

    Roger's creepy muscular legs bothered me.

    I also liked when stewie started crying hysterically when Brian told him that he'd have to tell lois and peter about the crashed car. Just like i like it when brian acts like a dog, i also like it when stewie acts like a baby.
    Also, in that episode, i enjoyed Stewie's raged proclomation that he should be on Glee.

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  3. @Anne: didn't they reference the pedophile Diff'rent Strokes episode?

    They did. I totally should have mentioned that; I really enjoyed all the Diff'rent Strokes references in the episode.

    we were just frustrated because we really liked all the bubble chefs and they really got the shaft.

    I liked some of them too, but I wonder how much of that was genuine appeal and how much was the fact that they were the only chefs, so far, that we'd spent any time getting to know, just by virtue of the episode's structure.

    @Sarah: Because by the time the second episode aired, i was pretty much done with all the beginning elimination crud and just wanted to get to the usual show

    Ditto.

    Just like i like it when brian acts like a dog, i also like it when stewie acts like a baby.

    Ditto ditto.

    Also, in that episode, i enjoyed Stewie's raged proclomation that he should be on Glee.

    Yeah, the whole "Stewie singing in the car, waiting for the song to end" bit was pretty funny. I tend to enjoy Stewie's random little obsessions like that.

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  4. Teebore: No time! No time!

    I know how you feel. I've been taking notes on shows that you're likely to write up for weeks now, and even half-read some Last Week in TV posts that I could only half-read because of how far behind in my viewing I am — but I haven't actually commented in too long. And I'm still trying to keep up with Nikki's Buffy Rewatch, too; I'm so glad that first-run TV will take a break after Thanksgiving, so that I can catch up when family leaves town.

    Teebore: "It’s November 6th. How come we’re not airing a Halloween show?"

    That is funny. I get it, and as we've established I don't even watch The Simpsons.

    In fact, the only shows you blogged on this week that I watched (just to balance out Anne 'n' Sarah) were HIMYM and SNL, and I didn't jot anything down for the former at all.

    My favorite part of SNL by far was "A Closer Look at Europe" on Update. I actually paused and transcribed both the "college campus" line you referenced and the hilarious "Seventeen countries and it has to be unanimous! I can't get three friends to agree on a restaurant. Can you imagine how hard it would be if none of us spoke the same language and our grandparents killed each other in World War II?"

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  5. Teebore: Only the Dr. Oz and Cee-Lo Green sketches fell flat

    What bugged me about the Cee-Lo Green sketch is that he's so parodyable and Kenan Thompson is physically the perfect match to send him up. Thompson seems like a nice guy, but his impression skills are close to nil; it was a real missed opportunity.

    I thought about you (and my other Greek-myth-loving, SNL-watching friends) during the Olympus sketch, which I found a really funny premise with decent in-sketch springboards that still didn't quite realize its potential. As for the latest "Kings of Catchphrase Comedy" bit, I'm sorry to disagree, but I stand by my notes of it being "totally devoid of humor except for the five laugh-out-loud seconds of Adam 'Hawk Attack' Levine"; it's a fine idea, giving everyone something to do not unlike the quick-round impressions called for in the "screen test" or "holiday album" skits, but the fact that all of the comics' routines are intentionally thuddingly awful is self-sabotage.

    Teebore: 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?

    From what I've read either (or both) of the latter is the likely answer. One reason why they do a full dress rehearsal with audience earlier on Saturday evening, apart from just working out any last-minute bugs, is to gauge the timing of the show complete with laugh breaks; it's not a foolproof system, though, which is why there's often a repeat commercial jammed in at the end, or by contrast an outside-the-box concept sketch that could've easily been cut, and also why the last commercial break before the goodbye varies in length.

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  6. @Blam: I'm so glad that first-run TV will take a break after Thanksgiving

    Me too! It's been all I can do to keep up with the stuff I've been writing about (and I've fallen behind on Community and Parks and Rec), and there's a ton of stuff, like Pan Am, Once Upon a Time and Grimm that I started, enjoyed enough to want to keep watching, and then just haven't had the time for yet. Plus, Hell on Wheels, which I haven't even started yet.

    I gave up on the Buffy re-watch eons ago, much to my disappointment, but I've been trying to keep up with some of Nikki's other posts, like the Walking Dead ones, but it's taken most of my online free time to keep things up and running here. Still, I miss hanging out over there.

    "Seventeen countries and it has to be unanimous! I can't get three friends to agree on a restaurant. Can you imagine how hard it would be if none of us spoke the same language and our grandparents killed each other in World War II?"

    That was the other line I really loved, but I couldn't remember it accurately enough or in its entirety to quote it. I did really love that entire European segment.

    What bugged me about the Cee-Lo Green sketch is that he's so parodyable and Kenan Thompson is physically the perfect match to send him up.

    You're right on both counts (I like Keenan on the show, but his impressions are just so weak), and it really was a missed opportunity to do something hilarious with Cee-Lo.

    the fact that all of the comics' routines are intentionally thuddingly awful is self-sabotage.

    What makes it work for me is that I have little-to-no tolerance for the stand-up acts that bit is parodying (which seemingly constitute 98% of all stand-up comedy these days), from Dane Cook (who Charlie Day's "Jack Knifed" character was clearly mocking) to Carlos Mencia to the interminable Larry the Cable Guy. All of their schticks are just as thuddingly awful as what the sketch put forth, so the sketch slips into that "funny cuz it's (sadly) true" realm for me.

    That said, the randomness of Adam 'Hawk Attack' Levin elicited the biggest laugh of the sketch from me.

    ...also why the last commercial break before the goodbye varies in length.

    I'm not exactly sure why (maybe because it's so atypical for TV) but I remain endlessly fascinated by stuff like that, the nuts and bolts of how a show like SNL is put together/performed.

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