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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Last Week in Pop Culture #11

The Simpsons: Yellow Subterfuge

This was a disappointing episode, mainly because the plot had an opportunity to do something unique, yet ultimately settled for more of the same. There was definite potential in the idea of Bart doing his best to be genuinely good, even in the face of Skinner trying to get him to slip up, and then in the idea of Bart dealing with the disappointment of not making it onto the sub despite his best efforts. But the former was undermined by having Bart break one of Skinner's rules (no matter how lame the rule was) instead of being purposely tripped up or illegitimately passed over by Skinner, while instead of having Bart deal with his disappointment, the episode instead wrapped up with the kind of routine, over-the-top shenanigans we've seen countless times before. A pity.

The B-plot, meanwhile, was almost laughably superfluous to the A-plot and was, for the most part, built around the kind of hit-or-miss cultural humor that Family Guy has made its bread-and-butter, but I did laugh pretty hard despite myself at the Romanian Krusty being elected President-for-Life and at everything involving Irish Krusty. 

American Dad: Independent Movie
Somehow, I completely missed this episode when it aired a couple weeks ago, instead stumbling across it on my DVR a few days ago. I'm glad I caught it though. As American Dad episode-long parodies of a specific film or film style go, I enjoyed this much more than, say, the August: Osage County episode awhile back, though I'll freely admit much of that has to do with an increased familiarity with the kind of indie films this episode was parodying, complete with its own Manic Pixie Dream Girl, voiced by Zooey Deschanel, the arguable queen of Manic Pixie Dream Girls. It was also helps that as much as this episode was a parody of indie films, it was also about Steve trying to force life to follow the path of a specific kind of fiction (a trait he and I sometimes share).

Sleepy Hollow: Sanctuary

All of the Abbie/Crane stuff in this episode was just fine (and the Evil Ent was suitably creepy), but I'm torn over this episode's attempt to flesh out Irving's character. On the one hand, it's important to give his character some depth, especially now that he's firmly part of the anti-apocalypse team. On the other's hard to care about Irving's custody issues when the fate of the world is in the balance. Obviously, he can't just tell his ex-wife, "look, there are going to be times when I need to fight the headless manifestation of death in order to stave off the apocalypse, and as much as I love my daughter, that needs to come first, because she won't even be alive if I don't", least of all because his wife would immediately yank custody at that point, but at the same time, it's a ridiculous obstacle to put in his path, because as important as his daughter may be to him, she's not as important as his work at this point.

Of course, much of it depends on how this plays out. If they're setting up his relationship with his daughter as the cost of his involvement in this fight (like Crane losing his wife/time period) so be it; that can work. If they're just setting up a scenario in which Abbie and Crane need Irving's help but he refuses because it's his weekend with his daughter, well, that's going to be maddening.

That it was an ancestor of Abbie's that helped deliver Crane's son was pretty obvious from the get-go, as is the idea that Abbie and Crane have been linked since long before he awoke in Sleepy Hollow, but to the show's credit, I appreciated that Abbie and Crane were similarly unsurprised by this news, and took it in stride without making a big deal out of it.

Loved that Crane was dismissive of McDonalds for not being properly Scottish, and how taken aback he was by the concept of a "billionaire".

Modern Family: The Big Game
I really should have seen it coming that Mitchell's boss living on a houseboat after his breakup would be the payoff to Phil's plot, enabling Phil to keep his streak alive at the last second.

Claire likes mustard and sauerkraut on her hot dogs. This is perhaps the best quality of Claire we've yet to see on the show (though I prefer onions to sauerkraut. But still).

Glee: A Katy or a Gaga
This was a good old-fashioned scattershot episode of Glee, crammed full of stuff (Jake cheats on Marley! Adam Lambert! Kurt forms a band! Sam pines for the school nurse!) that it's almost exhausting.

The whole Katy/Gaga thing felt really forced. Katy Perry may not be as calculatingly-banannas as Lady Gaga, but she's far from vanilla.

Marley getting suspended from glee club for not being comfortable with the Gaga costumery was pretty awful. And, I'm pretty sure, a fire-able offense on Will's part.

Also dumb? All the Jake/Marley stuff, particularly Jake pressuring Marley then cheating on her in the most obvious fashion, though at least that was supposed to be dumb (I think). 

And this whole Sam/school nurse thing is dumb too, though that's dumb in a cute way, like when the simpler of my two dogs forgets she's standing in front of a wall when she turns around and runs right into it.

The End of Twerk

This is another scattershot episode, crammed full of stuff, that felt at times like it was meant to air before "Katy or a Gaga", since Rachel and Kurt are in a funk and no mention is made of their band. Then again, their band may never be mentioned again on the show. Such is Glee.

The titular twerking business was all pretty heavy-handed, and not in the good heavy handed way, that is still endearing or enjoyable, that this show can pull off sometimes. I'm neither a prude nor a songologist, but I'm pretty sure Will painting ""Blurred Lines" as some kind of ode to creative expression is a gross misinterpretation of a song a high school educator probably shouldn't be hitching his wagon to, and that's no less true even if the show as Sue point it out. But such is Glee.

The way this episode tied together the ridiculous twerking controversy and Unique's very real issues was also maddening, though most of the Unique stuff was handled pretty well (Glee remains, at least, very good at acknowledging issues like that and giving them a place in the light), at least until Sue's port-a-potty showed up. That said, all the business with Tina taking advantage of the port-a-potty's convenience much to the dismay of everyone else was hilarious.

Quotable Quotes
The Simpsons
Homer: Marge, I love Bart as much as you do, but actually not...

American Dad
Steve: Steve Gutenberg invented the printing press?

Stan's Guttenberg Puns:
You’ve Gutten away for the last time
Berg your pardon?
Cat Gutt your tongue?
You’re just too Gutt to be true…

Trophy Wife
Bert: I’m her brother from another mother. And father. 

Modern Family
Cam: There will be no mourning Knight this afternoon. 

Kitty: I’m pretty sure he makes up these rando lessons a split second before he writes them on the board.


  1. we were not a fan of that AD episode. I mean, we liked the whole pixe girl part, but the other stuff just dragged on. Like, yes, i know it's a parody and stuff, but it still needs to be funny and for me, a lot of it wasn't

  2. @Sarah: Like, yes, i know it's a parody and stuff, but it still needs to be funny and for me, a lot of it wasn't

    That's pretty much how I felt about the August: Osage County parody episode: great parody, not so funny.

    This one, for whatever reason, even the stuff that was just straight parody made me laugh, like the randomness of Toshi in the corn, Barry beating up Snot's Mud father, the vending machine epiphany (because of COURSE there's an epiphany triggered by the otherwise mundane), the magical minority maid (because of COURSE there's a magic minority to impart a life lesson). I laughed even while I nodded at the story beats they were checking off.


  3. Glee: A Katy or a Gaga

    // The whole Katy/Gaga thing felt really forced. Katy Perry may not be as calculatingly-banannas as Lady Gaga, but she's far from vanilla. //

    I was really tripped up by that, particularly in the way they were equating Marley with Katy Perry as if Perry were some kind of sweet, virginal icon when in fact what I picture when I think of her is her lying butt-naked on a cotton-candy cloud and shooting whipped cream out of her sundae boobs in that "California Gurls" video or her in the super-tight, cleavage-bearing Elmo shirt on SNL in reaction to the uproar over her nixed Sesame Street appearance.

    Glee: The End of Twerk

    Just all of what you said, really. I know that we're supposed to be on the side of Will and the glee club vs. Sue, except for the times that the show uses her as a mouthpiece to point out how ridiculous things are, but in the real world he'd be out on his ass lonnnggggg before he made "Blurred Lines" the wrong kind of lesson.


  4. Sleepy Hollow: Sanctuary

    I'm with you on the potential drag of Irving's family storyline — as well as its potential, um, potential. My big issue with it is actually how it seems to be waving around a future reconciliation between the captain and his ex-wife; relationships are complicated, sure, and there is a child involved, but all the more reason for it to seem too pat that if only his pesky dedication to / obsession with his job could go away they'd still be married. Have I seen couples get back together? Yeah. Does this have an only-in-a-TV-drama sheen? Kinda. And it's also a reminder that we'll believe all sorts of crazy, out-there plot threads when they're legitimately fantastic while the relatable human stuff has to pass a harsh gut check.


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