And we're back! This week we'll look at some pre-holiday holdovers, including my mini-marathon catch-up on Glee, as well as the handful of new episodes that have aired post-Christmas.
The Simpsons: To Cur With Love
A perfectly cromulent episode, though a little underwhelming after the (admittedly unintentional) build-up following its initial preemption. The much-hyped "Homer becomes obsessed with a social media game" plot,
intended to skewer things like Farmville and the Simpsons own Tapped Out
(of which I am currently obsessed) also ultimately amounted to very little. Futurama's "Jurassic Bark" was a far more poignant dog story, but I'm enough of a softie (and dog lover) to still find this somewhat affecting, if, like Bart's casual and metatextual checking off of supporting character origins, pretty unexciting.
Lisa: I love that dog, but that is one long, stupid name.
Grampa: All of my stories have endings now. They’re putting something in my Jell-O at the home.
Family Guy: Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Perhaps in a testament to the creative staffs' relative interest in the two subject matters, this parody of the Nativity Story isn't quite up to the level of the Star Wars parodies, but it gets the job done, and I'm certainly glad to see another holiday episode in the show's catalog. Presenting the three wise men as whacky sitcom characters was inspired, and I particularly enjoyed all the jokes calling out how sucky life was for women in biblical times.
American Dad: National Treasure 4: Baby Franny: She's Doing Well: The Hole Story
This was neither the planned Christmas episode that was supposed to air on 12/14, nor as across-the-board funny as the previous "Adventures in Haley-sitting", but the end result was a surprisingly touching examination of Francine's life, with a nice dose of over-the-top comedy at the end, thanks to Will Forte's insane firefighter Henry.
The Stan/Roger B plot also injected the episode with some additional laughs. I particularly enjoyed Guiseppe, the cobbler.
I'm also glad the episode made it clear that "Baby Franny" was actually seven or eight when she fell down the well; the math wasn't quite working out when I was picturing her more like a toddler..
Top Chef: Foiled Again
The Quickfire in this one was a lot fun, putting a couple great obstacles in the path of the contestants (and I feel bad for whatever poor intern(s) had to wrap all that food in aluminum foil), whereas the elimination challenge seemed to throw a lot of unnecessary and unstated twists (like the limited cooking space) into the mix. Not surprisingly, the underconfidant Danyele got the ax; more midseason chaff culling.
Kristen, on the other hand, is emerging as a legitimate contender.
For all his talk of taking a political stand, John's repeated needling of Stefan over using frozen tuna came off as a desperate attempt to undermine a threatening opponent. Very annoying. I'm glad he ended up in the bottom.
Speaking of annoying, the Television Without Pity recapper for this show referred to Josie in this episode as a female Guy Fieri, which is hilariously apt.
While I'm not surprised to see him go (consistently putting out bland food can only keep you in the middle for as long as the really crappy chefs stick around), I'm kinda bummed Bart got the ax. His personality was about as underseasoned as his food apparently was, but there was something about him I liked. I'd have much rather seen Josie get the boot, though I doubt the producers would let that happen now that she's generating so much angst amongst the contestants.
The "this season on Top Chef" promos made a much bigger deal out of the oyster hunt than what turned out to be little more than a Quickfire field trip.
Josie suggesting Micah is gay was more bizarre than anything else. And look, I'm all about getting pumped up at sporting events, but from the look of it, she was being hella annoying. If you're going to make noise, at least be aware of what is going on and don't yell about a player who isn't even playing.
Like Kristen, Brooke has emerged as another legitimate contender. In that regard, I appreciated her being in the top this week, even though she had to drag John along to do it.
Similarly, I continue to enjoy watching Mustache Josh flail about consistently in the bottom. He's clearly talented enough to hang around, but unless he turns things around soon, I could see him being a near-the-finals elimination. Can't come soon enough.
Wow. I'm legitimately shocked that John was sent home. Especially after he ended up in the bottom next to Lizzie. Especially after he and Josh got into it again. Especially especially after they gave him another chance to cook. And while he'll probably swoop back in at the last minute via Last Chance Kitchen (I haven't heard yet who won this week), it's still surprising that the season's main villain was axed so soon, and ahead of at least a few chefs who have yet to really make their mark.
Look, douchenozzle: holding the pickles hostage and presenting a lackluster burger would NOT have saved you and sent Lizzie home. For someone who professes to be a fan of the show, he should know that the judges rarely (if ever) send someone home on a technicality like that. Hell, people have won "cook healthy" challenges with a blatantly unhealthy dish before - at the end of the day, all the judges really care about is how good the food is, not whether or not you included one of the random ingredients they mentioned.
I always enjoy the Quickfire relays, but this one seemed a little lackluster, possibly because it came later in the season. It was hilarious though when John called for a check on the knives before his team was ready and his ended up being the only one not sharp enough.
Similarly, the Elimination Challenge wasn't as good as it could have been, playing on Top Chef history like it did, in part because the memorable moments were an odd assortment of food-related moments (Jamie's scallops, the Mikes' bacon) and moments that were just people arguing (Betty and Marcel, the season 4 stew room blow up), the end result being something that wasn't the clear cut trip down memory lane the producers were shooting for, and in part because there was the arbitrary "oh, also, make it healthy" stipulation. Like the berry challenge, this smacked of a random "let's stir up some shit" restraint. I have no problem with the notion of a Healthy Choice-sponsored "take something fatty and make it healthy" challenge, but make that the main challenge instead of using it to unnecessarily complicate another one.
So this episode was mainly an excuse to bring back any returning alumni we hadn't seen yet this season (which is pretty much just Quinn), but, call me a sucker if you will, it worked for me. The minimalistic opening number did a nice job of capturing that "first time home from college" vibe, and Glee is never better than when it manages to capture and express a specific emotion. And pairing the returning graduates with New New Directions was a smart movethat kept the old cast from overshadowing the new while allowing for fond recollections of past stories.
It cracks me up that Glee aired a new episode on Thanksgiving, but it wasn't this episode.
I'm glad that Santana at least figured out what was going on with Marley and Kitty, but it's pretty lame that Quinn never caught on that Kitty was playing her, and that the Quinn/Santana slapfest was shuffled aside largely unresolved (also, Quinn is dating a married older professor? Good to know she hasn't entirely grown up...).
I'm also glad the whole Rachel/Brody/Cassandra July triangle amounted to very little, mainly because the less Cassandra July the better.
I love that Finn is even dressing like Mr. Schue these days.
So WTF was up with that Kiki song Sarah Jessica Parker sung? Has anyone heard of it before? Is it, like, a thing? Because it was just really bizarre to me, and kinda made me feel embarrassed to be watching Glee.
The other Rachel/Kurt "Thanksgiving in New York" material was pretty strong though. I appreciated both Kurt calling Rachel and Brody on their not-so-subtle flirting whilst cooking and his finally making peace with Blaine.
Only in the world of Glee...would a show choir competition be scheduled on Thanksgiving. That's just ridiculous. Also, while less egregious, I wonder if a high school, even a private one, could really get away with performing "Whistle".
Favorite Song: As mentioned above, the "Homeward Bound/Home" mashup that opened the episode was really effective for me, so I'll give it the nod over the Unholy Trinity's fun "Come See About Me".
Puck: Bros before hoes’ was always my mantra in high school. Well, it was
after I knocked up my best friend’s girlfriend. Speak of the devil I
Kurt: When you two are done using the turkey as a courtship device, would you put it in the oven?
I'll give them this: disqualifying New New Directions from Sectionals, thus ending their competitive season, is a pretty ballsy move. It runs the risk of obliterating the tentative foothold they've established by allowing the more impactful events in the lives of the graduates to overwhelm the goings-on in Ohio, but it definitely shakes things up and opens up the possibility of bold, er, new directions for the show (that said, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the team allowed back into the competition at some point based on a technicality or something).
However, while I applaud the show for shaking up the traditional model, asking us to suddenly take Marley's eating disorder
seriously is tonally dissonant. We've remarked often here how laughable
it is that Kitty was able to fool her into thinking she was gaining
weight; it was easy enough to look past when it was merely a character subplot. But
if it's going to end up driving the main plot of the show, the
sheer illogic of it needs to be addressed, and Kitty's manipulations need to be made public. Everyone is blaming Marley for their loss, and while that might be part of Kitty's evil plan, we're not even getting an acknowledgement of that; it's almost like the show has forgotten Marley's eating disorder was almost single-handedly generated by Kitty. The end result is a bold and intriguing turn for the show; I just wish the means to get it had been better executed.
Also in the "bad means, good ends" category, while I appreciate any show that makes an effort to bring attention
to eating disorders, the fact that Marley's disorder led to her passing
out in the middle of a big performance/game/event/at the most
dramatically inappropriate time is a pretty hoary TV cliche at this
point. Also, the fact that the issue was largely brushed aside in the wake of New New Directions' loss was troubling.
Seriously. Is Kitty going to get away with this? Santana figured it out last week; did she tell no one? Is Marley never going to mention that she was pushed into bulimia by Kitty?
Over in NYADA land, both Rachel and Kurt's performances were fantastic, and it was nice to see Kurt get into the school in a semi-realistic way (he was told what his performance was lacking, then corrected it).
Meanwhile, Cassandra July continues to wrestle with Sue for title of Worst Teacher Ever. Seriously, if I was in that class, I'd want my tuition refunded because my teacher was wasting my time carrying out a vendetta against another classmate.
Only in the World of Glee...would the choir room be handed over to Sue just because the extracurricular choir season is over. Doesn't the school have a regular, non-competing choir? They clearly have a band independent of the random people who pop up out of the ether when the glee club performs a song. Also, I'm not sure how the weird outdoor lunchroom is a suitable rehearsal space. And I'm pretty sure they could still get kicked out of there.
Favorite Song: "Being Alive" and "O Holy Night" (one of my fav Christmas songs) were both great, but I'll go with the 80s-riffic "Don't Dream It's Over".
Tina: I knew Rachel Berry, I was friends with Rachel Berry. And you, Marley, are no Rachel Berry.
Sue: I’ve looked forward to this very moment for a long time, and now that it’s finally here, I’m left with a strange empty feeling.
Becky: That’s how I felt when I saw Prometheus
Less the interconnected narrative suggested by the title and more a series of vignettes, this was a more effective holiday episode than last year's, helped, in part, by the twinges of melancholy that hung around the edges of many of the vignettes. Maybe it's just because I watched these episodes back-to-back-to-back, but given all the plot happenings in the last two episodes (Losing Sectionals! Rachel winning the showcase! Kurt's in NYADA!) it felt good to take a breath and watch what was the closest thing Glee has ever done to a straight-up character-driven episode. Helped along by the more measured hand it's displayed this entire season, hopefully the show can maintain this momentum of relative quality into the new year.
For what it's worth, here's my rankings of the various stories: Kurt, Burt and Blaine, Sue and Marley, Artie's It's a Wonderful Life dream, The Puckerman Bros., and Sam & Brittany's "wedding".
Even though it happens every Christmas episode, I found Sue's annual reluctant change of heart touching. Maybe I've just become as tired ranting about her ping ponging character development as the writers are of coming up with plausible explanations for it.
That said, I continue to love Sue's random and unexplained affection for Marley.
Glad to see Marley's eating disorder being addressed. I'd still like to see some comeuppance for Kitty, though.
Was it just me or was Kurt giving off a weird vibe throughout his story? Maybe it was just Chris Colfer trying to play Kurt's reaction to his dad's cancer news, but I was totally expecting some kind of "I'm not okay with all this" blowup by Kurt that never happened, right around the time that Blaine and Burt were bonding over basketball.
For all his talk of successful treatment, I know TV: Burt will sadly be gone within the year.
It was fun to see some of the old faces in Artie's segment, especially the return of Terri and the show's acknowledgement of that awful "fake pregnancy" storyline from season one.
Favorite Song: "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", a subdued closing number that ended a nicely low key episode on a fittingly warm note.
Millie: I wanted to say thank you for what you did for Marley and me.
Sue: I have no idea what you’re talking about. I had nothing to do with the making of that film.
Sue: Does this involve the glee club singing in the auditorium with snow
falling in an elaborate winter scene? …Yup, ok. This is exactly what I