The Simpsons: A Midsummer's Nice Dream
I'm not the biggest Cheech and Chong fan; their heyday was a bit before my time, and while I have nothing against their schtick (and have largely enjoyed what little I have seen) I'm not overly familiar with them beyond their their existence as part of the pop culture zeitgeist (I know Cheech best, for example, as Hurley's dad on Lost).
So maybe a greater familiarity with their work was required to fully enjoy this episode, which seemed overstuffed and unsure what it was trying to do, with multiple plots and not enough room for any one to stretch out and find its legs. We had Homer joining Cheech as his new partner Chunk and getting disillusioned with the gig, Chong auditioning new partners and picking Skinner, Marge helping the Cat Lady with her hoarding then becoming a hoarder herself, and then Homer trying to get Cheech and Chong back together. There were a lot of really good lines sprinkled throughout, but with so little room for any one plot to develop, unfortunately, there wasn't much more to the episode.
Or maybe I'm just too much of a square...
Bart: Who the hell are Cheech and Chong?
Homer: Cheech and Chong were the Beavis and Butthead of their day!
Bart: Who are Beavis and Butthead?
Chief Wiggum: Get me a t-shirt. XXL.
Lou: I thought you said XXL was a real wake up call?
Chief Wiggum: That was for pants.
Marge: Remember, on the road the only vice you can indulge in is gluttony. Save lust and rage for me and the kids.
Homer: Honey, don't worry, I'm gonna come back so horny and angry.
Marge: Time to finally return your father's overdue movies.
Lisa: Is it really okay to just drop them into the pit where the Blockbuster used to be?
Marge: You got a better idea?
Marge: I hate to say this about the cat lady, but I think she's crazy.
Homer: Can we at least get some french fries?
Cheech: Too high in trans fats.
Homer: Aw, stop speaking Spanish.
The Event: And There Were More/Inostranka
Yahoo! The Event is back!
Just kidding. No one is really that excited about The Event.
Still, as The Event goes, this wasn't a terrible duo of episodes. I mean, it still did some of the frustrating stuff The Event usually does (more on that below) and had at least one time wasting plotline (I'm thinking of all the Virgina Madsen Senator business, though, hey, good for her for finding work), but we did get a clear picture of exactly what Thomas is up to, and thus, what the stakes are, and all the Mount Inostranka stuff in the second episode was well executed and fun to watch (in fact, it felt like an episode of 24 in a good way: the objectives were clear for both sides, the odds were against the protagonist, the ramifications of failure dire, etc).
While I was overjoyed to have Sean and Leila find her stupid sister and spare us another half season of them flailing around the edges of more important and intriguing storylines, the show had to go and burn up all the goodwill it had gained by splitting Sean off into plotline limbo almost immediately thereafter.
So the Senator from Alaska plot was pretty lame, from her hilarious line about how she plays poker to the fact that really, all it did was remind us of how the President is both a crappy President and rather toothless. Also, when Virgina Madsen convinces the Sergeant-at-Arms to let her take away sensitive letters, why didn't he at least check that what she was taking were, in fact, letters? You know, tell her she can take them but that he needs to confirm they are not the top secret documents he was specifically sent to confiscate from her? Why even let her go into her office alone? If she really was just retrieving sensitive letters, he could look over shoulder without reading those letters, and if she's not, well, he should want to know that.
All in all, though, a strong return for the show. Maybe the hiatus has just softened the memories of all the random plots and time wasting from the first half of the season, but it now seems possible for this show to at least go out strongly. The Event will never be a great show, but maybe it can at least end up being an enjoyable one.
Oh, and I have no idea what the hell that ending was, with Hal Holbrook moving rocks around some weird tablet, but even though it's becoming increasingly unlikely that the aliens are actually time travelers (I mean, Leila's dad specifically referenced the name of their planet...) that final scene has me wondering if maybe Hal Holbrook is a time traveler (maybe even a future version of Sean, but I'll freely grant that's just my own personal fascination of such storylines at work...).
A muddled episode, with a couple of plots running through it that I cared about (Kurt and his dad, Brittany and Santana) and several that I cared less about (the Will/Holly/Emma/Carl business, Finn and Quinn, anything to do with the Celibacy Club...).
The episode's best material came from a surprisingly examination of Brittany and Santana's relationship. What started out mainly as a titillating joke has turned into a moving and intriguing storyline, and I liked that the resolution wasn't as easy as Santana admitting her feelings. While Brittany reciprocates, she can't deny that she does have feelings for Artie. Meanwhile, as is usually the case, Kurt and his dad were another highlight. Burt's sex talk to Kurt was well done, as Burt's talks tend to be, and Kurt reacted to it believeably, not exactly comfortable or happy with it, but appreciative all the same.
As is increasingly the case, a little Sue goes a long way, and her one scene in this episode was just right. It was especially fun to see Blaine's reaction to her, as well as her slapdash coffee preparation.
Stuff I Shouldn't Worry About: Why is Rachel in the Celibacy Club after her rather thoughtful criticism of it early in season one? Yeah, yeah, she's focusing on her career; seem like a rather thin excuse to get her in there.
If I ever hear Will grunt "uhn" to kick off a song again, it'll be too soon...
Oh, yeah, Gwyneth Paltrow. She was fine. I'm not a Gwyneth hater like some people I know. She sings fine and seems to really enjoy her character, which goes a long way. Her getting involved with Will seems like a stupid way to prolong the whole Emma/Will thing now that Emma's marriage is falling apart, which is tiresome, but that's not her fault. And the whole Emma/Will thing has been handled so poorly anyway I no longer find myself caring all that much about it anyway.
Favorite Song: Easily "Afternoon Delight". Yeah, the Celibacy Club stuff bugged me, and yes, the basic joke was already done better on Arrested Development, but it's still a funny joke, and I love that Carl at least knew what the song was really about. Plus, Rachel and Puck hilariously looked like performers from a 60s folk band a la A Mighty Wind.
Puck: I like wooing you. Next to dropping my afternoon deuce, it's my favorite part of the day.
Brittany: The key is to use the curling iron in the bathtub to keep yourself from getting burnt.
Top Chef: Fit For A King
Seriously you guys, we're like one more elimination challenge away from a world where Mike Isabella is a Top Chef. I mean, really? I figured he'd be one of the first one out this season, and now he's looking like a strong favorite to win. It isn't like he's been slinking by, Stupid Lisa-style, either; he's come on strong the last few episodes, winning two elimination challenges in a row and beating Michael Voltaggio, who's generally considered by those in the know to be one of Top Chef's best winners.
Yeesh. Let's just hope Richard doesn't choke again in the final round...
This was a pretty weak episode at a time when we should be getting great episodes. The whole "face off against their seasons' winners" gimmick, which seemed so promising when previewing last week, amounted to very little. Working that into a quickfire is fine, but those secret ingredients were pretty lame, Tom ("Not duck! NOT DUCK!") and the whole thing was over way too fast. Then there was the whole "cooking for royalty" thing (really, not one of the chefs knew/realized there is no actual king or queen of the Bahamas? Really?) that got skunked by the fire and suddenly everyone is talking about de-refining their dishes for "the people", which was dumb because A. "The people" probably like elegant, refined food too and B. "the people" aren't deciding who's going home. By the end, everyone just seemed tired and ready to move on to the next episode, judges included (and what was up with Tom dispiritedly describing each chef's dish instead of the chef? Also, how funny was the sight of Eric Ripert, Gail and Tom wedged into a booth?).
Raw pork is raw pork, but I feel bad Carla was sent home on such a poorly conceived challenge, and for essentially the same mistake that sent her home before (trying a technique unfamiliar to her). That said, maybe she wouldn't have had to do something new if the show had provided them with ovens at least. I mean, those kind of goofy limitations fly early in the season, but this is the finals. Just let the finalists cook some damn food without a bazillion obstacles in their way...
And even though the Quickfire fizzled, I do have a few comments about the match-ups.
Season Four: Stephanie vs. Richard vs. Antonia
This one probably turned out the way the season four finale should have, with Richard barely besting Stephanie and Antonia in third (with Stupid Lisa having been eliminated about ten rounds earlier), so no surprises there.
Season Five: Hosea vs. Carla
Poor Carla, losing to Hosea in the same way again (messing up the execution), and in the same way in which she'll get eliminated. Hosea might think this is some kind of validation against "the haters" but winning by default because your opponent undercooked rice due an equipment issue isn't a whole lot different than how you won the first time.
Season Six: Michael V. vs. Mike
The true shocker, as Mike bests the clearly superior Michael V. Frankly, I don't think Mike should have been able to beat ANY of the season six finalists, let alone the winner.
Seriously, Mike's not gonna win this thing, right? Right?
Season Seven: Kevin vs. Tiffany
Not a big surprise, given that Kevin's win was kinda Hosea-esque, in that Angelo probably would have won if he hadn't come down with Asian Death Flu or whatever he had, and Tiffany almost made it to the finals last season herself.
Saturday Night Live: Miley Cyrus & The Strokes
The idea of Miley Cyrus hosting SNL wasn't exactly met with much enthusiasm, but the episode actually turned out to be pretty good. While the back half had its usual smattering of clunkers (especially that weird cream/rockabilly ad with Kristen Wiig and Miley Cyrus and the sketch where Miley was a lounge singer insulting her audience) the front half had several funny pieces, from the talk show hosted by the Black Eyes Peas who aren't Fergie or Will.i.am ("and I'm from the Matrix!") to the hilarious Disney Channel acting class ("the pause then dis"). While the show seemed careful to give Miley material she knew (ie singing, and on that subject, is it just me or has two out of every three monologues lately ended with a song?) she handled what she was given well (I particularly liked her Justin Bieber impression, which captured his aura of carefully caculated image well; probably because Miley herself is used to that...).
Weekend Update was also particularly good this week, with some great Charlie Sheen material (Tigers: "why is he dragging us into this?") and a nice crack about the announcement of the iPad 2 and how it's like Steve Jobs is introducing you to a really hot girl the day after your wedding.
Favorite Sketch: I do love the "Miley Cyrus Show", but this week it's narrowly edged out by the "Disney Channel Acting School."