As mentioned in our recent post on My Name Is Earl and The Office, we, the Children of Saint Clare, are condensing both NBC’s Thursday night comedy line-up and Fox’s Sunday Animation Domination into easy bite-size chunks so as to lessen the load of our already overloaded TV-riddled brains and blistered typing fingers.

Guess which one this is!

The Simpsons 20.1 “Sex, Pies & Idiot Scrapes”

Grade: B

I am not a Simpsons apologist. Well, I don’t consider myself a Simpsons apologist is more like it. I consider myself a Simpsons realist. I am aware that the show isn’t as good as it used to be, but I also still think it’s a very good show. I think some people are too hard on the last several seasons, and I also think some people don’t realize that even in the show’s heyday, it still had bad episodes, not to mention an overglorification of mere good episodes. But people’s memories and tastes work in different ways, so I am not one to judge their opinions. I do, however, think that people need to realize that there’s still a consistently funny show every Sunday at 8 p.m. on Fox, and that its 20-year run is something to be thankful for and is not just an excuse to nitpick every nook and cranny of a show that is still better than almost any comedy since it started.

Sunday’s episode was exactly what it should be — damn funny. Seriously, this episode is extremely funny. My issues lie with its ending and loose ends, a problem for a show that prides itself on its non-serialized structure.

But the funny. Yes, the funny. The episode finds Homer in trouble after Springfield’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade — this year boozeless — descends into brutal violence thanks to a battle between those representing Ireland and those representing Northern Ireland.

“It always comes down to transubstantiation and consubstantiation!” — Lisa decrying the Irish-on-Northern-Irish violence

Since he is a repeat offender, Homer opts to seek the aid of a bail bondsman, voiced by Robert Forster playing the exact same character he did in Tarantino’s best film, Jackie Brown. (Yes, I said Tarantino’s best film. Wanna fight about it?) Homer soon learns of the wonders of bounty hunting — how long has it been since we’ve seen Homer actually work at the power plant? — and decides after a close encounter with Snake to start up a bounty huntin’ business with no other than Ned Flanders. (Fun Simpsons fact from this episode: Apparently Snake went to Princeton.)

“Did you just tazer my coffee?” — Flanders

Soon they are racking up the cons-on-the-run, including a French Connection­-inspired car-vs.-subway train chase that culminates in Homer driving the car directly through the train.

Then just as the two are on the outs, Flanders discovers that Homer has skipped his own bail and must be taken in. The ensuing chase scene covers most of Springfield that seems to me like a mixture of Parkour, “Ninja Gaiden” and Baby’s Day Out. Homer, relents, though, and is put in jail.

The B-story involves Marge being hired as a baker at an erotic bakery. The storyline pretty much goes nowhere, but it does tell us that erotic bakeries do, in fact, sell “Day-Old Wangs.”

My issue is that the set-up begins both stories so well, and then when the third act came around, it seems all the Simpsons writers wanted to get to sleep, or maybe just dick off and play a few rounds of “Rock Band” instead of finding a better solution than just ending the episode. I’m not asking for a formula, because reliance on formulas can spell boredom, but is it too much to ask for a little resolution?

King Of The Hill 13.1 “Dia-Bill-Ic Shock”

Grade: B+

King Of The Hill is one of the best shows that nobody talks about except for unknown TV writers on cult sites. It is charming, realistic, comfortably low-key, morally sound and uniquely hilarious. If I’m ever down or stressed, I put the show on. And that’s what I did today. During work, I was simply wired on far too much coffee and struggling with the tedium of a poorly updated database (don’t ask), so instead of waiting to get home to quickly watch it and get it off the DVR, I Hulued it and put in on a corner of my monitor. Within 22 minutes, I was calmed, satiated and yet a little rattled.

First things first: Bill faints after overdosing on junk food, and is declared to have Adult Onset Diabetes. With the help of Hank, Dale and Boomhauer, Bill adjusts to a life of wheelchair-bound existence at the suggestion of his doctor. It’s a hard change from junk food to a more healthy diet, but Bill tries his best after some reluctance.

“All of my emotions demand cookies, Hank!” — Bill

Interestingly, Bill finds that in a wheelchair, he is more popular, energetic and fit, and becomes a hit with the ladies upon joining a local Murderball team. Soon, however, he finds that he is not ill at all, and loses all of the goodwill being sent toward him when he drunkenly walks out of his wheelchair. Now once again unpopular, he tries to force a diabetic coma onto himself, but is stopped just in time by his friends. Turns out the doctor didn’t know what the hell he was talking about and Bill does not, in fact, have diabetes, and the show ends with Bill beating the shit out of the doctor as Hank sits in the waiting room quietly.

The episode gets a couple notches down for its near ignorance of the main cast — I don’t ask for a lot, but if it’s a season premiere, maybe more time spent with the title family might feel a little better as a beginning — but as usual, it toys with our preconceived notions and emotions in a savvy and easygoing manner. It’s rare that one would feel an ending that involves a savage beating to be heartwarming, but KOTH does it.

I’m also a fan of non sequiturs, so Dale is a personal favorite week-after-week.

“He’s just like Winnie the Pooh, who also has diabetes!” — Dale

I was left shaken by the episode, though, because it definitely struck a personal chord. I currently have an uncle who has now been long suffering the debilitating effects of diabetes, and it has been especially awful for the last couple years. I feel like there’s nothing I can do, and yet I also feel guilt that I haven’t inserted myself into his life more. He moved in with my relatives — every sibling of both my parents lives in the Bay Area now — and is easily accessible, but I never know what to say to him when in his presence. I’m not used to illness yet in my life, and it seems to have shocked me into what seems to appear to others as a lack of sympathy. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s the one thing in my life I can think of that I have no idea how to approach.

So that’s it. KOTH hit me in a strange place.

Clearly this review has taken a turn for the depressing. Sorry about that. Moving on.

Family Guy 6.1 “Love Blactually”

Grade: B+

For the first time in very long time, FG was funnier than American Dad. Since returning from cancellation, I can count the number of flat-out great FG episodes on one hand, while I am a very big fan of AD and think it’s criminally underrated.

This week’s episode focused on Brian’s complicated dating life, as since his break up with Gillian, the dumb but very hot woman voiced by Drew Barrymore, he just hasn’t any luck. During a costume party, they try to set him up with a cute girl, but her costume was an aborted fetus. If we know anything about Brian, it’s that he’s politically liberal – very liberal – so when he meets a pretty atheist chick at a bookstore, Carolyn, it’s love at first sight.

I tend to appreciate the FG episodes that aren’t merely a parade of non-stop jokes with no clothesline and focus more on the heartwarming ones, or at least the ones that are potentially heartwarming. My favorite episode is still “Brian Wallows and Peter’s Swallows” where Brian starts a relationship with a washed-up singer from the olden days, staying with her until she passes away. This episode wasn’t nearly as good as that one, but after three years of sub-par stories, I appreciated the character-driven laughs of this episode.

Don’t get me wrong. I laughed my ass off during the cutaway reference to a less-than-popular Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears Domestic Violence Next Door and Doesn’t Call 911. I also like that there was really no reason to dress Brian up as Snoopy during the opening scene other than to see what it would sound like if Woodstock from Peanuts ever uttered the “C” word. And what about that gag that Cyrano de Bergerac was actually an anti-Semite?

But I really dug Brian himself, especially his relation to Stewie. After the show’s cancellation – and subsequent uncancellation – Stewie was changed from an evil baby hell-bent on world domination to more of a dramatic foil for Brian, making them the show’s silly comedy duo. I for one love the change. It’s been the show’s one bright spot week-after-week.

But as for Brian’s story, Stewie takes him to take this relationship slowly so Brian doesn’t figuratively blow his load with the girl, which backfires when she is found in a car being nailed by none other than Cleveland. (It’s good to know that Cleveland’s orgasm outcry is a calm “…and boom goes the dynamite,” which is a definite polar opposite from Peter’s “SHAZAM!”)

The gang then tries to reunite Cleveland with his estranged wife Loretta (or, as Peter says as he tries to guess her name, “Wheezy? Florida? Jennifer Hudson?”), which doesn’t go so well, but if we are to believe the reports detailing the Cleveland spin-off show in midseason, they will be back together soon enough.

Maybe after starring as a major voice in this summer’s Hellboy: The Golden Army, show creator Seth MacFarlane was inspired by Guillermo Del Toro to reinvigorate his interest in his own show, because for the last few years his actual work on FG had been spread very thin, having to work on that, AD and the canceled live-action sitcom The Winner a couple seasons back. I don’t know what happened, but FG finally picked itself back up again. For now.

Props to the writer who came up with an explanation for the (entirely intentional) inconsistencies as to who can understand Stewie’s actual dialogue and who can only see him merely as a baby. Here’s the official rule from the episode: if you are in the main cast or are closely related to the main cast, you will not be able to understand Stewie, but if you are completely outside of the main ensemble, you understand every word. Good call, writers.

American Dad 4.1 “1600 Candles”

Grade: B-

It’s Roger’s 1600th birthday, but you wouldn’t know it as the Stan and Francine’s attention are entirely on stopping Steve from going through puberty. It seems that Hayley’s transition into womanhood was so violent and aggressive – she even set fire to the house – that they’d rather use experimental aging drugs on Steve than go through that mess ever again. First, the drug accidentally turns Steve into a five-year-old and then an old man, destroying any chance he has with a school cheerleader he had his eyes on. But Steve soon accepts being an old man having heard horror stories about what it’s like to grow up and checks himself into a retirement home.

“It’s like an egg ate garlic and farted in a sulfur pit!” – Francine upon smelling the inside of the retirement home

The episode was plenty pleasant, but something felt slightly wrong from the opening minutes. (Really? You changed the opening title sequence? I love the newspaper headline gag. Why get rid of it?) The episode was a little too tame, and from a show that constantly makes tasteless remarks about period blood, murder and assassinations, positing that old people like watching the Weather Channel seems a little neutered.

“I’m gonna spend my 1600th birthday alone. Like a sequoia.” – Roger

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