My airing of this week's Simpsons was pre-empted for the President's speech in Newtown, so I'll write that up next week after I watch the re-airing this Sunday (which is also when the new episodes of Family Guy and American Dad originally slated for this week will air). In the meantime, here's some thoughts on what aired in the run-up to Christmas.
Bob's Burgers: God Rest Ye Merry Gentle-Mannequins
After finally being given an opportunity to air in the fall, Bob's Burgers has so far this season given us stellar Halloween and Thanksgiving episodes. This episode completes the holiday trinity with a superlative Christmas episode in which the show puts its skewed spin on the biggest holiday of them all. The end result is a fantastic episode that hits just the right amounts of sweetness, absurdity, and laugh-out-loud funny. I can already imagine myself returning to watch this episode every Christmas.
While Chet obviously isn't really a mannequin turned to life, I love that the episode never completely confirmed or denied that fact, leaving it a quasi open question (in as much as it can be), not unlike the kind of unexplained phenomenon that often pop up in Christmas episodes (only with this show's usual weirdness, since we're talking about whether or not a mannequin came to life).
Linda and Bob alternately yelling at the kids to leave the room and to stay in the room rivaled the bedroom yelling scene from two episodes ago for sheer hilarity.
Chet: I'm Chet. Short for "Chester". Long for "Ch".
Chet: One day Nadine came in. She didn’t have nipples and let me tell you, she didn’t need them.
Tina: I get it. One day all of a sudden you’re anatomically correct… I just went through that.
Linda: Don’t. Bother. Bringing. The. Mistletoe. To. Bed! But. Do. Bring. Me. A. Snack! Chocolate!
How I Met Your Mother: The Final Page Part 1 & 2
As tired as I am of the Robin/Barney romantic merry-go-round (and as much as I agree with Robin's initial assertion that the details of Barney's long con should make a woman run screaming for the hills) I can't deny that I'm enough of a sap to be charmed by that rooftop sequence. It also helps that, in the end, what we believed was just more wheel spinning action in earlier episodes this season all turned out to actually be building to this specific moment.
Not sure if this was intentional or not, but Barney and Robin embracing on the rooftop as (bad CGI) snow started to fall reminded me of Ted and Robin finally hooking up, on a rooftop in the rain, at the end of the first season.
I am very glad Patrice was aware of Barney's plan and was playing along knowingly and willingly; it would have been reprehensible if he was pretending to date Patrice and she wasn't in on it.
Even though the big moment from this two-parter is obviously Robin and Barney getting engaged, much of the second half centered on Ted and Robin's relationship, one of the central relationships on the show, and that was very much appreciated. Ted's speech about the importance of making an ass out of yourself was a great way to give the show's main character some agency in a major storyline that doesn't directly involve him, and made a fitting connection to Ted's past behavior. For the first time in a long time, this felt like an episode centered around Ted, where Ted was more than just humorously-douchey, even though it was about Barney and Robin getting engaged and didn't feature any "revelations" about the Mother.
Similarly, the thing I found most touching about "The Robin" was the fact that Barney worked in a step that would tell him whether or not he had Ted's approval to propose to Robin, the implication being that if he didn't, the proposal wouldn't have happened.
Donna Bowman's review for the Onion A.V. Club has a great bit of analysis about how this iteration of Barney/Robin will be able to overcome the pitfalls that befell their first relationship.
I loved the reveal that Barney knew everyone was in his apartment last episode.
This two-parter afforded the completion of Ted's GNB building the kind of attention it deserved, so I retract my earlier complaint regarding its offhand mention in an earlier episode. That said, we know it's not possible, but it would have been nice if Robin was right and Ted did meet the mother at the opening of his building.
Between Seth Green and (the admittedly recurring and easy to get a hold of) Alexis Denisof, they were just packing the Buffy alums into this episode.
Speaking of Seth Green's character, while a 100K isn't quite "so rich you've got it made for life" money, Marshall and Lily failing to get that check comes dangerously close to one of Dr. Bitz's most hated sitcom cliches, when the main characters botch an opportunity to become filthy rich.
Nice touch making Frank Viola Marshall's Minnesota Twins hero; my Twins heroes are drawn more from the '91 series, but Marshall is a few years older than me, so it makes sense he'd connect with one of the '87 stars.
Marshall: Could we do this in the living room, or anywhere less gimp-storage-y?
Patrice: What a pretty basket!
Robin: THAT’S WHY I BOUGHT IT, PATRICE!
Ted: ...legendary, challenge accepted, he winked at me, wait for it
Marshall: That does sound like Barney...
Top Chef: Even the Famous Come Home
This episode featured two Top Chef staples: the "can't use a knife" challenge, and the catering challenge. The former wasn't as exciting as it could have been because everyone seemed to share, much, I'm sure, to the producers chagrin, though I did enjoy seeing stuff like the meat slicer being used to cut herbs. The most surprising thing about the elimination challenge was simply that the producers hadn't trotted out a catering challenge sooner, as it's a favorite early-season way of thinning the herd. And sure enough, as opposed to last episode's judges' table, this one felt pretty routine, Eliza having always felt like someone who wasn't going to stick around long, making her elimination feel like another "culling the wheat from the chafe" style departure.
Usually celebrity judges bring a lot of dietary restrictions, but Chris Pratt and Anna Faris were the opposite, requesting anything so long as there was lots of it (which also made for a nice (likely unintentional) contrast with the eye-rolling product placement of Truvia in the Quickfire).
Josh didn't like Stefan in season six because he was an asshole and douchey, but now he likes him. Not surprising, since Josh himself is something of an asshole and douchey, but lacks the charm that keeps Stefan entertaining to watch.
Micah's reaction to the Quickfire judge referring to his tamale as a taco makes me think that next season, the twist should be that all the guest judges are amateur chefs/critics, forcing the contestants to listen to criticism like "[insert high end or non-traditional food item] is gross!" and "what's wrong with a simple spaghetti and meatballs?" all season long.
So Danyele has emerged as this season's token "I'm going to figuratively take myself out of the competition because I don't have the confidence to proceed" figure. Quit whining or get gone.
Saturday Night Live: Martin Short & Paul McCartney
Jeez, even Martin Short is singing in his monologue now, though I
suppose the "sing a song and tour the studio and interact with famous actors
making cameos" bit has become something of a modern staple for the Christmas
show now (Fallon did it last year).
The cold open was clearly not what was originally planned, and served as a suitable acknowledgement of the events in Connecticut without being too cloying or exploitative. The "live from New York" announcement was odd, but there was probably no good way to do that seemlessly.
"You're a Rat Bastard, Charlie Brown" was pretty much the regular casts' big opportunity to get some work in, and the impressions were pretty spot on (if a bit random, as these kind of impression sketches usually are). As a fan of the original property, I greatly enjoyed this bit.
As for the Weekend Update guests, Vanessa Bayer's bar mitzvah boy didn't really work for me but wasn't horrible or anything, while I greatly enjoyed the latest iteration of the girl you wish you hadn’t started a conversation with at a party, a character that, like Stefon or Drunk Uncle, trots out the same schtick every time but is able to change up the details enough to keep it fresh ("Why can’t Secret Santa just be openly gay? Like, hello, it’s 2010.")
Favorite Sketch: The royal gynecologist sketch was easily the funniest of the night, simply for the list of acceptable names for the Duchess' vagina ("Her Downton Abbey"), but I'll give the honor to the return of "What's Up with That?", because it's my inexplicably favorite recurring sketch, it made a surprise return after allegedly being retired by Keenan, and because Samuel L. Jackson dropped an F bomb that didn't get bleeped out.
Least Favorite Sketch: That Pottery Barn bit. Just random nonsense.
Episodes Featuring a Game Show: 1/10
Episodes Featuring a Talk Show: 7/10
Episodes with a Monologue Featuring a Song: 8/10