The Simpsons: Lisa Goes Gaga
By all accounts, an episode featuring Lady Gaga should have been pretty horrible. But this wasn't. While the satire wasn't as sharp (or as present) as it could (or perhaps should) have been, give the writers credit for engaging the guest star and having some fun with her - and for Lady Gaga, someone who I've always imagined doesn't have much of a sense of humor about herself, allowing the show to have some fun at her expense. Not that any of the jabs were particularly pointed - again, the satire was toned way down - but the escalating ridiculousness of her costumes (I loved the dress of live hummingbirds that became a dress of Grammys) and the general tongue-in-cheek-edness the episode seemed to display regarding her pseudo-philosophy were genuinely amusing. And for all the hubbub over Gaga's appearance, it was nice that the episode embraced her presence, working her significantly into the story, instead of just having the Simpsons attend a Lady Gaga concert in the opening act, or something like that.
I also enjoyed the jokes about the town's lack of self-esteem ("The little town that can’t, and won’t."), and thought the town's general euphoria to Gaga's arrival was a nice callback to similar behavior in the Michael Jackson and The Who episodes. Springfield, it seems, goes nuts over any celebrity that breezes into town.
Homer: Wanna honk your jazz-tube?
Lady Gaga: So long, Springfield. You are my Waterloo.
Bob's Burgers: Beefsquatch
The too-short second season of Bob's Burgers comes to an end with a great episode focusing on Gene. With Louise on the verge of being the show's breakout character and Tina's voice so unique (on the show, and TV in general), Gene runs the risk of getting overlooked, but this episode put a spotlight on his particular brand of manic energy. Especially fun was the way Gene brought out the inner Gene in Bob; we've seen those two bond before, but this is the first time we've gotten a sense of where in the family Gene could come from (as we've already seen a fair amount of Louise and Tina in Linda).
Thankfully, Fox had ordered a full 22 episodes of Bob's Burgers for this season, and with only nine airing, that leaves at least thirteen more for the fall. After that, with little new animation development in the works, chances are good the show will get an order for additional episodes to air in the spring of 2013 as part of the show's third season. Fox, for now, seems content to allow Bob's Burgers to remain heir apparent to The Simpsons (in terms of airing in the immediate post-Simpsons timeslot); if it can capitalize in the fall from stronger football lead-in numbers, we should hopefully be getting plenty more Bob's Burgers in the future.
Gene: In this country, no backsies means something. Now go pop and lock!
Louise: ...Dynamite in the burgers.
Bob: More subtle.
Bob: Move off explosives...
Gene: Milk? Saving families? What can't breast's do?
Family Guy: Viewer Mail #2/Internal Affairs
This was an oddly structured two-episode package. Family Guy, like most animated sitcoms, never makes a big deal out of season finales, but the last few years have featured a season finale that existed outside of the show's norm (such as the Star Wars parodies the last few years). Thus, "Viewer Mail #2", the second installment of the show's "Treehouse of Horror"-style what-if anthology episode, seems like a more fitting season finale, yet for whatever reason it aired before a rather perfunctory episode that dealt with Joe and Bonnie splitting up, then not. I'm not quite sure why Fox decided to air the episodes like this, unless they wanted the more notable/finale-esque episode in the regular 8 PM hour, but it was weird
Of the three bits in "Viewer Mail #2", the first one was probably the funniest, the second one managed to depict one of my own personal hells (a world filled with Robin Williamses) and still generate some laughs, and the third one was a largely-laugh free experiment with perspective, though Stewie's lumberjack dream was a fantastically hilarious way to end the episode.
"Internal Affairs" was a surprisingly straight-forward episode. No real B-plot, and chicken fight aside, it featured a plot that could have been used in just about any sitcom, animated or otherwise. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't terribly exciting or funny, either. I did, however, enjoy the sheer randomness of Joe and Bonnie falling in love over a lap dance set to Toto's "Africa".
Speaking of the chicken fight, you know an episode's plot is going to be a bit thin when one of those shows up, as it eats up a ton of time on a non-sequitur. That said, I usually enjoy them, and this was clearly the biggest, showiest one ever. Exciting to watch, and the time travel stuff was an especially nice touch.
I can't believe this is only the second time they've done the viewer mail bit; seems like something they'd do a lot, if not annually.
Game of Thrones: The Prince of Winterfell
Plot-wise, there wasn't a whole lot to this episode - more getting things in place for what looks to be a fantastic pair of final episodes. But amongst all the moving pieces, we got some of the show's best scenes yet.
First, we get Caetlyn doing perhaps the stupidest thing she's ever done in releasing Jaime. It's dumb even without her knowing what we know (that A. the Lannister's don't have Arya and B. they wouldn't give the girls up anyway), as it removes significant leverage from Robb and sows discord in his camp. Just...just go away Caetlyn.
Later, Robb and the Night Nurse finally give in to their throbbing biological urges, and while their interactions were getting a bit boring (we all saw where that was going) their scenes together were very good in this episode. First, Robb's telling of his discussion with Ned about bravery, and later Night Nurses' telling of her origin were both very effective at deepening both their characters.
Not surprisingly, Yara's visit to Winterfell is less than Theon was expecting, and despite her advice, he intends to stay and fight for the castle. For the first time, I can kind of understand where he's coming from. He can't abandon Winterfell, go home, and expect any of the respect he (confusingly) craves from his father, and thanks to his faking of Bran and Rickon's deaths, he can't exactly just hand the place back over to Robb and expect to resume his place as Robb's friend. So all he can do is hang on and make a go of it himself (which, I'm sure, will end well...).
And, as we'd all hoped, it turns out Theon "merely" killed two farmers' boys and told everyone they were Bran and Rickon, with the real deal now hanging out in the castle's catacombs. How shocking this episode's cliffhanger was depended on how much you bought that Theon had really found and killed the Stark boys last episode.
Tywin finally settles on a plan of action and takes off to launch an assault on Robb, and with Tywin gone, Arya figures it's a good time to get out herself, leading to another of this episode's stellar scenes. After Tyrion, Arya is probably the show's best character, and her manipulation of Jaqen to get him to help her, Gendry and their tubby friend escape was inspired. The little smirk she gave when Jaqen said she had no honor was an absolutely brilliant bit of acting on Maise Williams part. With Harrenhal behind her, I'm especially curious to see how Arya factors into the final events of the season.
Daenrys wants her dragons back. Real bad. That is all.
North of the Wall
Ygritte gets to square her debt to Jon by getting the Lord of Bones to spare his life, while Halfhand starts working to ingratiate Jon into the Wildlings camp (presumably at the expense of his own life). After Qarth, this is the plot that has the most danger of spinning into irrelevancy (not surprisingly, given their distances to Westeros proper); I hope the show finds a way to make the North of the Wall segments of the next two episodes if not relevant, at least compelling.
A trio of great scenes here. First, we get the absolutely brilliant showdown between Cersei and Tyrion, with Tyrion working to conceal his horror at the thought of Cersei torturing Shae, then having to turn on a dime and conceal an entirely different reaction when it turns out Cersei has Roz. I'd been expecting Cersei to use Shae as leverage all season long, so the twist that she'd misidentified Roz was shocking, and if not for the injuries Roz is likely to suffer as a result, pretty damn funny to boot.
Second, we got a fantastic exchange between Davos and Stannis, which filled in some of Davos' backstory and did more to flesh out Stannis as a character than anything we've seen yet.
Finally, we have the scene between Vaerys and Tyrion as the two discuss their surprising enjoyment of the titular game and their desire to continue playing it (which also begins with a hilarious little show of foolish Joffrey bravado). It's a moment of rare honesty from Tyrion, and it leaves me torn regarding the upcoming battle for King's Landing: on the one hand, I desperately want Stannis to come sailing in, kill the hell out of Joffrey and send the Lannister's running. On the other hand, I want Tyrion's defense of the city to work, which means keeping Stannis out. I suppose that conflict is a testament to the strength of the show's characters.
Not sure what the bundle of Dragon Glass spearheads was meant to imply, but I'm intrigued.
Jaime mentioned there were maybe three people who could take him in a fight; I'm also curious about who they might be.
Poor Roz; she's really been put through the ringer this season.
I wonder how the showdown between Cersei and Tyrion went in the book (since Roz is a creation of the show), or if it even took place there at all.
Osha should really be more careful. Her being spotted was one of those "acting stupid because it's a TV show" moments.
Tyrion: Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where are the gods of tits and wine?
How I Met Your Mother: The Magician's Code
So in the least shocking shocker ever, the same episode that finds Barney proposing to Quinn ends with Robin revealed as his future bride. Which is what pretty much what everyone expected back when the identity of Barney's bride-to-be was first teased. As I've said before, I've pretty much moved past worrying about this show's various teases and set-ups, and am more concerned with just getting well-written, funny episodes. Thankfully, for all the big picture stuff going on in this finale, there were still plenty of laughs. Robin's experience birthing horses and the subsequent attempts to use that knowledge to help Lily in part 1 was fairly random but pretty damn funny, while the various "tell me a story" bits, which felt like a watered down version of Community's fake clip show episode, were mildly humorous in their own right. In part 2, it was obvious from the get-go that Barney's box contained a ring for Quinn, but his various magician gags throughout (as well as the trick itself - I especially liked the quick cut to Barney covering his ears yelling "what?" when asked if it was going to explode) were still funny.
And so the season ends with both Ted and Barney in (or seemingly heading into) relationships we know are dead-ends. That isn't necessarily a bad thing; Most of Ted.s relationships are dead ends, and succeed based on the strength of the pairing (so Victoria good, Zooey not so much). If the writers want to return to Ted and Victoria one more time before revealing the mother (presumably at the end of next season, if CBS doesn't strong arm Carter & Bays and the cast into stretching things out), so be it. It would be fun to have Victoria back in a significant role, and as long the show brings the funny, I'm fine letting the rest sort itself out.
Welcome to the world, Marvin Waitforit Erickson.Your middle name is, indeed, awesome, but you may want to keep it a secret from your classmates down the road.
Between Marvin's birth and Barney's antics at the airport, this episode was a lot more sitcom-y than normal, but like all the teases and cliffhangers, if the end result is funny, it doesn't really matter.
I'd almost rather Ted had emailed Robin Williams than Lily's dad. Can't they go back to being estranged?
For a moment there, I almost thought they were going to break the fourth wall with the door, and have them all peer out at cameras/lights/the audience or something like that.
Of all the various "tell me a story" bits, the one that got the biggest laugh from me was easily The Halloween We Decided To Go As The Breakfast Club But Failed To Coordinate Our Costumes.
Robin: Get on all fours, it widens your hindquarters ("hindquarters" is an inherently funny word)
Robin: That was not cool, Ted!
Robin: That … wasn’t cool, Ted?"
Saturday Night Live: Will Ferrell & Usher
As I mentioned when Maya Rudolph came back to host, the risk with former cast members returning is that they'll dominate the proceedings with rehashes of their old sketches, edging out the current cast for the sake of nostalgia. Thankfully, either Will Ferrel was suitably restrained or else I'm nostalgic enough for the Will Ferrell days that I didn't mind the return of some old favorites, as this turned out to be a pretty good episode (albeit one that was frontloaded, with the worst sketches coming at the end of the night, while Ferrell disappeared the later into the episode we got).
Cold Open: Sudeikis' take on Biden as an immature and petulant child has always cracked me up. Pairing him up with Ferrel's man-child take on Bush the Younger, arguably one of SNL's best political impressions, was inspired.
Monologue: Sweet and funny enough, though a bit long. Still, it's always nice to have a host who's comfortable speaking on stage and allowed to just do his thing.
The Culps: Probably not the recurring Ferrell character I'd have liked to see again if given the choice, but I've still always enjoyed the Culps, and it was good to see Ana Gasteyer back on the show.
Cold Medicine Ad: Possibly because both my dad and I are known for our loud sneezes that always come in batches, but Ferrell's obnoxious sneeze-yell (and Kristen Wiig's reactions) had me in tears.
ESPN Classic: Will Forte makes a surprise return for one of my favorite recurring sketches (what can I say? The maxi pad bits crack me the hell up, helped along by Sudeikis' delivery of them). As much as I enjoyed this though, it was a bit long, and the 1994/OJ Simpson stuffed seemed very tacked on.
Digital Short: As we (presumably) near the end of the Digital Short era, we get the 100th such short, a fitting jam session/greatest hits sketch that crams in appearances from past guests and characters (I was impressed they got Natalie Portman back for another brief rap). Great stuff.
Weekend Update: A better-than-usual "Really?!?" bit featuring the breast feeding Time cover, and the return of "In the Cage". If this was Samberg's last turn as Nic Cage, he went out on a high note, as Liam Neeson did his best to keep a straight face.
Funkytown Debate: Not a bad premise, but it felt like one joke stretched out way, way too long. It elicited some chuckles, but it was very hit or miss.
Broadway Sizzle: The first out-and-out clunker of the night. I'm still not even sure what it was trying to do.
Anniversary Party: And the episode ends with a whimper. A few of the impromptu speakers were funny, the rest were pretty lame, and it didn't really go anywhere.
Favorite Sketch: I'd say ESPN Classic, but the OJ stuff was really awkward. So instead, I'll give the honor to the Digital Short.
Pete Twinkle: When your uterine lining looks like the elevator from The Shining!
Nicholas Cage: I play a rogue marble that escapes from hell to exact revenge on the hippos that killed his daughter.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 6/21
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 7/21