The Simpsons 20.6 “Homer And Lisa Exchange”

“Buy a cup or I’ll punch my sister!” – Bart

When Bart and Lisa’s lemonade stand is shut down by the Springfield Department of Commerce, Lisa goes in for a permit, only to emerge from the building as a crossword puzzle aficionado. Becoming an expert in no time at all, she decides to compete in the citywide crossword tournament (“Fun for nerds”), while Homer bets on her. During the final round, however, he bets against her and wins – her competitor tricks her into delay her start – and when she finds out about this betrayal, she decides to change her name to Lisa Bouvier (Marge’s maiden name). Homer, realizing his disloyalty, contacts New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz to put a hidden message into one of his puzzles, apologizing to Lisa.

“Will and Shorts. Two things I’m no longer allowed to change myself.” – Grandpa

Homer’s B-story involves him starting a business in being hired to break couples up, which he is very adept at doing. (Even returning guest star Scott Thompson hires him to break him up with his lover.) Soon, however, Homer begins having nightmares about all the couples he broke up, as well as all the babies that will never be born because of his business.

The episode was plenty funny, but I definitely prefer full stories told with heart. I honestly take story over laughs anytime – a strange position, I know – so Homer’s mid-episode shift from businessman to gambler seemed very out-of-place.

Still, I got one very big laugh this week when Lisa told Homer that the crossword tournament was “no holds barred.”

“Surely holds are barred!” – Homer

King Of The Hill 13.6 “A Bill Full of Dollars”

“Usually the only people to talk to me in stores are older gay men who have dropped their standards.” – Bill

Our failing economy was the focus of this week’s episode, making me very curious in how the show’s producers choose to run their episodes in terms of its order. The script was written and the voices done several months ago, but the episode couldn’t have been more relevant (even more than the “No Child Left Behind” episode last week) to today’s current state. Since the only real serialized throughline so far this season has been Luanne’s pregnancy, her non-appearance in this episode meant it could have been slated for anytime, and that the producers may have just chosen to shift this one earlier in the schedule to remain topical. Or not. The show is that good about what it does.

Peggy wants a big flat-screen TV, but doesn’t have the scratch. Taking a page out of Minh’s book, Peggy watches a Jim Cramer-type show and follows his advice to invest money in products the average American would be interested in. So she stalks the most average person she knows – Bill – and figures out all the things he likes, good or bad. (This would include such things as chocolate-covered potato chips and a shitty Italian restaurant chain whose specialty is the “spaghetti sandwich.”) Soon she is raking in the big bucks, but Hank guilt trips her, Minh and Dale into telling Bill that they’re using him to make money. He is pleased that anybody is interested in him, but since he is now aware that he is being followed and studied, he can no longer make proper consumer choices.

Bill, having lost his friends’ attention just as quickly as he got it in the first place, decides to watch the Jim Cramer-type show and invests all of his savings into one “sure thing,” only to see it fall apart right before his eyes. His friends decide to pool all their resources, including selling Peggy’s new flatscreen (no worries, because Bobby was terrified by it) and, essentially, give Bill a bailout. He doesn’t need it, though, because he has just declared bankruptcy and is going to be okay.

Save this motherfucking show!

Save this motherfucking show!

See what I mean? Dead the fuck on topical. And, as pointed out by this article series’ one commenter, the show did not make a final judgment on how to deal with extreme economic failure. KOTH is all about avoiding the clear-cut answers, a show that deals in both liberal and conservative politics and social issues, and its timeliness is something to be celebrated. Please pick it up when Fox is done with it, ABC. I don’t remember television comedy that well before KOTH.

Family Guy 6.6 “Tales of a Third Grade Nothing”

“I would love to hear from a lawyer who represents a gazelle.” – Stewie

An odd, confusingly off episode that basically furthers the point I made in the Simpsons review – gags without a good plot are desperate and problematic. FG has been getting better about this, but this week seemed to take a step backwards, equaling some of the worse post-revival episodes.

Peter, upon finding out that his company’s “executive bathroom” is actually a helicopter flight to a Jurassic Park-like island where you can pee in peace, vows to become an executive at the brewery. Succeeding in his quest, he is about to be promoted, only to be told that he actually never finished third grade and must return, Billy Madison-style, to the grade that gave him so much trouble. There, he basically acts like Peter, mocking those around him and failing miserably at doing any kind of actual work, but is finally given the chance to prove himself – he knows bigger words than any of his peers, and if he wins the regional spelling bee, the teacher will let him pass. Peter is indeed a good speller – for a third grader – and does especially well if the word in question is used in either a dirty sentence or a libelous sentence. (Technically, they should have said “slanderous” sentence, but I guess nobody felt like checking the meanings of those two words.)

Meanwhile, Brian and Frank Sinatra Jr. are noticing that the Quahog Cabana Club, where they perform together, has very little business going through it, so Stewie decides to take matters into his own hands and turn the club into “pLace,” a hip new club with hip young people. Everything is going swimmingly…until Andy Dick shows up and destroys the club’s reputation.

I don’t really know what went wrong in the writers’ room, but somewhere along the line they thought it would be better to reference a two-year-old YouTube clip – the Stewie-falling-while-stomping-grapes gag – than to put any real effort into either story, and that’s pretty bothersome.

I did, however, get a kick out of the scene where Quagmire shows up to the elementary school, only to discover that he has three illegitimate children (perhaps more) who look exactly like him.

American Dad 4.6 “Pulling Double Booty”

“No wiener! No wedge! Just feathers!” – Roger

All right! A Hayley episode as promised! We haven’t seen here much so far this season, and now she finally gets her own…awkwardly creepy and unfunny episode. American Dad is very good at finding the extreme humor in base-level tastelessness, but something really found the uncomfortable chord and struck it again and again and again. Maybe it’s AD’s sudden insistence that dying or dead animals is extremely funny (it isn’t) or maybe I just couldn’t get behind all the implied incest, but it just all felt very wrong. Not bad wrong, just…awkward wrong.

When Jeff finally dumps Hayley (so far, it has always been her), she goes on a rampage, as she is wont to do when bitter, destroying a great deal of the Langley Falls Mall. Stan decides to get her another boyfriend, one that would be perfect for her as well as permissible by him, so who better than…his C.I.A. body double. Pleased as punch that his daughter would be so enamored with such a perfect specimen as a version of himself (albeit with a Southern accent), Stan feels like he’s the best dad ever. That is, until Bill, the body double, begins to make the moves on Francine. (Which is easy, because she can’t tell the two apart.) Stan tosses Bill out on his ass, but they don’t want Hayley to go on another rampage, so Stan decides to pose as Bill and try to be a big jerk to Hayley so she will dump him instead of wanting his man meat.

You see? Not really funny so much as awkward and uncomfortable. Seeing a man turn down the viciously sexual advances of his daughter is really not something that elicits too many guffaws, and AD has forgotten that audience groans are not the same things as laughs.

In the B-story, Steve discovers that he has a great ability to tell the difference between male and female chicks (as in little chickens, not bimbos), so he and Roger begin working at a chicken hatchery. When Steve discovers what becomes of the male chicks, though, he decides to smuggle out as many of the little roosters as he can so they can live and be free. Unfortunately, Roger intervenes and begins a cockfighting rooster death match (not funny) and has a major blowout with Steve.

Just…no. I’m sorry. I don’t consider myself prudish to any degree, but I’d like to think I know what is funny and what is just being tasteless simply for the sake of being tasteless. I think this is the type of show AD’s detractors see in their heads when asked if they like the show. Stick to something better, like the two-part “Stan of Arabia” or the Log Cabin Republican episode. Those are incredible and funnier than any of the current episodes of the other three shows Sunday night on Fox.