Here we go, with another big week, including some Halloween episodes. Glee is taking a few weeks off (presumably because of baseball on Fox), so we'll talk about this week's episode in next week's post.
The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror XXIII
More amusing than funny, which seems to be the trend with more recent Halloween episodes. Each of the three segments (four, if you count the opening) offered a few chuckles ("Cinnamon!" drew the biggest laugh from me, and I also enjoyed Homer's 42 minute morning pee) but the audible laughs were pretty sparse. Of the three, "Bart and Homer's Excellent Adventure" was probably my favorite; I'm a sucker for a good Back to the Future homage (lack of any connection to Halloween notwithstanding), and I appreciated the effort put into recreating the setting of season two's "The Way We Was".
Fox apparently turned Sunday into a pseudo-Halloween theme night (Family Guy and American Dad didn't participate) because of upcoming baseball preemptions. Yet apparently there will be new episodes in two weeks, on the 21st of October. I'm all in favor of airing the Halloween episodes before Halloween, and if the first Sunday of October is the only night they can do that, fine. But if the 21st is open, why not air the Halloween episodes then?
Some nice visual touches throughout, like the aforementioned recreation of a past episode and Marge and Lisa's pearls hovering whenever they got near the black hole in the first segment.
Moe's Head: Man, soccer is even boring for the ball!
Homer: Lisa, do you have a stray dog down there?
Lisa: It’s a lot worse than a stray dog.
Homer: “Two stray dogs?
Bart: It’s Homer, before his boobs came in!
Past Homer: What happened? Was I in a forest fire or something?
Bob's Burgers: Full Bars
While the plot with Bob and Linda at Teddy's party was pretty standard fare (which is still pretty funny), with Bob doing his usual "resist the strangeness surrounding his life" routine, the plot involving the kids trick-or-treating antics was transcendental, featuring some of the show's best material yet.
The kids joy at receiving full bars on the rich people's island ("How does this not topple your economy?!?") was spot-on; I remember one house in our neighborhood growing up that did the same thing, and to a nine year old on Halloween, a full bar was the Holy Grail.
All three of the kids had some hilarious moments, particularly Louise controlling teen boys with a cell phone, but Gene easily wins the night with some fantastic one liners (and a delightfully bizarre costume).
Gene: Mmmm. Taco on the toilet. Why doesn’t everyone do this? AGHHH!
Family Guy: Ratings Guy
So Family Guy either never got the "tonight's a Halloween theme night" or didn't care, because this episode obviously has nothing to do with the holiday. There's a lot humor to be mined both from the ridiculousness of the Nielsen system and the Griffins becoming a Nielsen household, and there's also a lot of relevant points that could be made about the current TV industry. The end result in this episode is a bit scattershot, with any intended commentary ending up unclear and the jokes going to some odd places. Not terrible or anything, but it didn't quite live up to its potential.
The opening act at the fire station was really strong, with a ton of great gags, like the cops/firemen feud. I also (not surprisingly) liked Peter's idea to liven up Mad Men with lightsabers and Kiss.
Of the various cutaways, the one about NBA players just wanting someone to cuddle while away from their wives was easily the best.
American Dad: Killer Vacation
American Dad also didn't get the Halloween memo, not surprising given its production schedule. Instead, we get a fairly basic vacation episode that did a surprisingly good job of giving everyone (even Jeff and Haley!) a reasonably funny, complete story. The main Stan/Francine plot was standard sitcom fare, livened up by the extremes of Stan's job (with the dolphin shooting and suicidal lemur being the highlights of the episode), the Steve plot was random and bizarre and probably the most purely funny in its escalation, Roger was Roger, and hey! Haley and Jeff had a plot!
Once Upon a Time: We Are Both
Last week made it clear this show is embracing its fantasy elements, and this episode makes it clear it's embracing it's Lost roots, with a traditional Fairyback accompanying a thematically-resonant plot in Storybrooke, sidelining one whole setting and group of characters (present day Fairy Tale Land) in the process, presumably saving them for next episode, when a different group will take the backseat. This sort of narrative flexibility served Lost well (it was one of the few things that, at the end, didn't bother me about the show) and I think OUAT can benefit greatly from the technique.
Interesting both that Mr. Gold's "please" clause no longer works and that he was seemingly unaware that he'd be unable to leave Storybrooke with his memories intact after the curse broke.
I hope that Regina's desire for redemption is genuine; I'd like to see the show add some dimensions to her this season.
Is the Enchanted Forest the official name of Fairy Tale Land, or just the, um, forested part of it and/or the chunk that remains?
Nice speech by Charming at the town's border.
Where'd Pinocchio go?
Regina: I will not listen to childcare lectures from a man who put his daughter in a box and shipped her to Maine.
How I Met Your Mother: Nannies
While it was nice to spend some extended time with Marshall and Lily for the first time this season, (and get a good look at how they're balancing hanging out with the gang and caring for a baby), the whole "search for a nanny" plot was a pretty basic sitcom trope, the kind of story every show that just introduced a new baby will eventually do. And I would still call out the predictability of Lily's dad ultimately becoming Marvin's nanny even if I liked Chris Elliot in the role, and wasn't disappointed in the fact that we'll probably be seeing more of him...
I appreciated that Barney's "Bangtoberfest" was shown from the start to be a hollow gesture on Barney's part and not a true reversion of his character, giving us the best of both worlds: we can enjoy his antics without being bothered by a sudden character turn.
The Ted/Robin plot was highly amusing, especially Ted's lying about Victoria's parents being dead and Robin quickly calling him on it (possibly the funniest moment of the episode), but I think it's odd that SagetTed referred to their competition as one between exes; at this point, let alone in SagetTed's future, I feel like Robin and Ted are so much more than just "exes", and their competition could easily be framed as one between two friends in new relationships. Also, despite all of SagetTed's warnings, I'm still sad that the show apparently brought Victoria back just to have her pop up on the fringes of a few episodes and then leave.
The bit with George and Morgen Jorgenson’s Organs, with their Oregon satellite store Piano Town, was also hilarious, and not just because I'm from Minnesota and know all too well the ever-presence of Scandinavian names around here.
Revolution: The Plague Dogs
Give this show credit: I really didn't think it had the stones to kill off a seemingly main character this early in it's run, but I'm glad it did. It's a further indication that this show knows what it's doing, and while it's still finding its footing, a plot turn like that gives me even more confidence it eventually will do so. Also, while I cared very little for Maggie in the preceding episodes, this one did a pretty decent job of making me care just enough about her character to feel saddened by her death. The depiction of her death, as she flashed back surreally to reading to her kids, was a little touching, something I would have doubted was possible last week.
Miles' "I'm going to leave now" this episode seemed especially forced; I honestly hope this is the last time the show plays that particularly card, because we know Billy Burke isn't going anywhere, and his constant waffling is already tiresome.
Aside from the two quick flashes that showed Juliet ending up with the militia (willingly! Shocker!), the rest of the flashbacks were entirely character-driven, making us care about Maggie before she died. I'm always going to prefer flashbacks that inform both character and plot, but occasional character-centric one like that are good.
One bit of world-building we did get from the flashback: all the steamboats were taken apart for lumber or confiscated/destroyed by the militia.
Look, we all knew Danny was going to save Captain Neville's life, because this isn't the first episode ot TV we've watched, but it was still a pretty dumb move on his part.
Last Resort: Blue on Blue
I'm still not entirely sure I buy the premise of the show, as the socio-political implications of Marcus' move seem almost too big to credibly handle, but it seems like the producers are determined to make an effort to sell it. Meanwhile, the characters did a lot of telling (especially through recorded video messages), making it very clear how they feel about important things, but that's probably okay for the second episode of a series (it'll be more worrying if it continues). I did enjoy how the episode featured a specific "plot of the week" that could be introduced and resolved within the running time, while also furthering the larger arcs. It'll be interesting to see how long it can keep that up, given the somewhat limited setting/premise.
I'm down with the arc of the Navy SEAL becoming a reluctant good guy (it's a standard arc, but one for which I'm a sucker); his bartender's poor man Yoda routine is already getting old, though. I honestly have no idea what the hell she was saying through the most of the episode, because it was all vaguely philosophical mumbo jumbo.
The infiltrating special forces team turning out to be Russian (and thus totally okay to kill without any qualms) was a total copout, but it did give Marcus an opportunity to Andre Braugher the hell out of that Russian guy.
Also, I suspect the fact that the Assistant Secretary of Defense is now the SOD might be tied in with the political upheaval going on in Washington at which the pilot hinted, and thus might be tied in with the larger arc of the show. If so, that was a nicely subtle moment.
30 Rock: Governor Dunston
Did last week's episode, in which Liz agreed to join Jack in his attempt to tank NBC, ever address the issue of how, in doing so, Liz is putting herself out of a job (a job she more or less enjoys)? Because I spent a good chunk of this week's episode wondering about that. Not that 30 Rock, like The Simpsons, is terribly concerned with continuity/consistency, especially if it gets in the way of a good joke, but that seems like a pretty big thing to address.
All the political material was pretty strong, both on the surface and meta levels, as was the Liz/Criss material, with their office supply store tryst, capped off by the line "what do you think this is, Office Max?", eliciting the biggest laugh of the night from me.
Catherine O'Hara (who really can do no wrong) and Bryan Cranston did what they could to make me enjoy a Kenneth plot, and I wouldn't mind seeing either return, plus, they helped keep Jenna to a reasonably-entertaining level this week.
Pearline: You remember that kid in school who bullied you? Well I ate that goat.
Governor Dunston: There are nine types of legitimate rape. Number one: a Halloween party...
Parks and Recreation: How a Bill Becomes a Law
This was exactly the kind of story Parks and Rec should be telling now that Leslie is in a position to actually effect policy: one in which she struggles to reconcile her idealism with the gritty (and petty) realities of politics, even on as small a scale as the city council. I'd worry about how many such stories the series can tell before that conflict gets old (or before Leslie's idealism wears down), but Parks and Rec has given me no reason to doubt it yet. And if this season wants to be about Leslie doing her best to not only improve the city but the city's impression of government, well, that should be fun to watch.
More Ron is always a good thing, and it'll be interesting to see him involved with a relatively normal woman with two normal girls.
It's amazing how hard Aubrey Plaza can make me laugh without saying anything. Her look as Ben read some of his Star Trek fan fiction was one of the funniest things, ever.
Also hilarious? Andy singing the "sitting in a tree" song and morphing his spelling of "kissing" into the end of "Mississippi".
Saturday Night Live: Daniel Craig & Muse
The thing that stuck out to me the most in this episode was how many original sketches there were. There were no recurring sketches, no game shows, and no talk shows. Heck even "Weekend Update" didn't feature appearances from any of its recurring characters. Not all the sketches were winners (on the whole this was a pretty middling episode), but I have to applaud the effort. Free from the yoke of Kristen Wiig and her innumerable recurring characters, it's a trend I'd love to see continue throughout the season.
Last season, it seemed like Vanessa Bayer was poised to fill the vacancy left by Wiig, and become the show's go-to female cast member, but now it's starting to look like she might be eclipsed by Cecily Strong, who has been given a lot of work over the first three episodes and excelled in most of it.
Daniel Craig, who seemed like an odd choice to host, did okay. He stumbled on some lines in at least one sketch, and it was clear the writers weren't quite sure what to do with him, but he gave it his all.
"Weekend Update" had a lot of fun with Obama's poor showing at the debate, including a fantastic "Winners and Losers". Big Bird's appearance wasn't all that funny, but come on; it's was effing Big Bird. That was pretty awesome in and of itself.
The Bond Girls sketch was a nice way to do the inevitable James Bond bit, and featured some pretty great impressions (especially Bayer's Diane Keaton and Strong's spot-on Ellen Degeneres). I also really enjoyed the various fake movie names ("Never Die Twice Tomorrow"), and by having Daniel Craig actually play Bond in some of the clips, it kind of felt like we were seeing scenes from an actual unreleased Bond film.
Favorite Sketch: I laughed way more than I should have at Daniel Craig as a construction worker who sucks at catcalling, and I also enjoyed "A Sorry Lot We Are", despite Craig's flubbing, just for poking fun at all the British stereotypes, like the good ("fish pie, with jam") and all the businesses which closed down, including, finally, Blockbuster.
Least Favorite Sketch: The one with Kirby, the guy on the spaceship who misses his kitty. It was one repeated joke, and not even that funny of one.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 0/3
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 2/3
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 1/3