The Husband:

No matter what your thoughts are on most of Entourage‘s sixth season, and oh man do I know a lot of people who were threatening to give up on the show this year, I think it ended on a very clear, concise note of an overarching theme that just took too long to get started. No matter what the flaws, the constant deviation away from the life of central character Vinnie Chase and his movie star woes, one remarkably poor casting decision, it wrapped up nicely, and season six came to be about the pros and cons of being impulsive. Everybody except Vince — who pretty much had no arc thanks to him already having a job to go to at the end of the season, shooting Frank Darabont’s Ferrari biopic — completely redefined their lives over the course of what seemed like a very short season, and while it couldn’t get to the heights of some of Entourage‘s best arcs, a lackluster season of this show is still an effortlessly watchable endeavor.

This was the year that we really got into the lives of “the guys,” and for better or worse, I’m glad it was able to dive so deeply. Eric, failing to get his management company off of the ground, takes a job at a bigger firm run by George Segal, gets a sweet-ass receptionist played by Brokeback Mountain‘s Kate Mara (who will definitely present some major opposition to E’s happiness next season) and already establishes himself as a dominate force against douchey Scott Caan. But his love life has become lazy, and his multi-episode back-and-forth with Alexis Dziena didn’t seem to amount to anything other than obnoxious scenes that went nowhere. And yes, Dziena sucked the life out of any scene in which she appeared, even though I can’t remember having a problem with her acting in the past in work such as Invasion and Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. But she was terribly miscast here, and her presence was only validated when E finished off the season declaring his love for Emmanuelle Chriqui’s Sloan and finally getting engaged. It took a long time to get going, but I’m fine with E’s story overall. His impulsiveness threatened to destroy two of his relationships, but it ended up working in his favor.

Turtle, meanwhile, got the best arc of the season, or at least the most sincere, in exploring his relationship with Jamie-Lynn Sigler after their canoodling last season. For the first time in a while, their relationship seemed to be built with a major dose of reality, and their problems — her jealousy, his wandering eye while studying business at UCLA, the long-distance dating problem that is part of the world of a wanted film and television actor — didn’t feel like the frat raunch fest mode that this show has a tendency to slip into. And upon their final break-up, Turtle’s impulsive decision to hop aboard a plane headed for New Zealand turned into humiliation, and here’s hoping that between this and his education, he can mature further into adulthood.

Drama’s story was the one I dreaded the most this season, because honestly I tend to roll my eyes at nearly everything he does nowadays. I’ve been sick of his shitty decision-making for seasons now, and his comic relief persona hasn’t rubbed me the right way the entire time. It’s one thing for the world to work against you, but it’s another to be the sole cause of all of your problems, whether you were an asshole in the past or an asshole in the present. His impulsive decision, based entirely around the word of somebody who could have easily fucked up his career just for kicks, to drop out of Five Towns (after his physical confrontation with that douche from Eli Stone, of course) only to see his Melrose Place audition nearly cause him a heart attack (no thanks to you, Dean Cain), was going to be the latest straw of self-destructive behavior. But for the most part, this show doesn’t like to keep its characters in hell, and while Drama suffered so much this season that he nearly quit acting, his MP audition got “the network” interested in creating a star vehicle just for him. The soul-searching came too late to really save the arc, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

And, of course, we have the saga of Ari versus Lloyd, whose pairing finally implodes when Ari so terribly tortures his assistant that Lloyd has no choice but to up and quit, moving on over to Malcolm McDowell’s company (and Ari’s former employer). It had been a long time coming, and the only way to break what was starting to become a tedious plot device (Lloyd does something good, Ari berates him, repeat) blossomed into something bigger and better. This led to Ari making some majorly ill-advised impulsive decisions when offered the chance to buy out McDowell and merge their companies, but his final decision to give in to a few ego-bruising demands made it all worthwhile. It’s still a bitch that Ari would even consider using his wife’s television money to make the deal, and that it was originally all for spite, and maybe you shouldn’t go around shooting paintballs at your new employees to indicate that the merger equals them losing their jobs, it was an emotional change for Ari nevertheless. It was also a considerably better story than last year’s moral quandary over whether or not he should have become a studio head.

No one likes you right now.

No one likes you right now.

Yes, some of the episodes didn’t add up, and the stalker mini-story fit into what Ebert would call the Idiot Plot where everything could have easily been solved had everybody not been a complete idiot. I don’t think I hate the golf episode as much as, say, my sister does, but the fact that I barely remember it doesn’t speak volumes for its quality either. It’s a pain in the ass to have Vinnie become a non-character on his own goddamn show, though, and Entourage always works better when he’s struggling for work, but it’s not like I hated anything he was doing.

But admit it, you really liked the episode where Zac Efron and Frank Darabont make some surprising (fake) revelations about themselves, the Aaron-Sorkin-visiting-Gary-Cole-in-jail episode was a better episode than it had any right to be, and Matt Damon outright stole the season finale.

With the show’s evolution comes the fact that we can’t simply see the same stories over and over again, and while showrunner Doug Ellin (who I didn’t realize played the asshole TV director until about an hour ago) doesn’t always know how to structure an episode as well as, say, James L. Brooks could, and he still has a bit of an emotional disconnect from his characters at the oddest times, he’s realized this fact. The stories may not be working at a 100% success fate, but in this day and age, I’ll settle for 75%. Besides, do you remember the first season, where nothing happened? That’s how you should weigh all seasons of Entourage, because it’s not the plot that matters, but the characters. Disagree if you wish, but I always look forward to another summer and another season.

But goddamn it, I wish they would have showed us at least one scene from Martin Scorsese’s Gatsby. We can all agree on that.


The Husband:

Here it is, another installment of Fox’s Animation DOOMMMMINAAAAAAATION!

The Simpsons 20.4 “Treehouse of Horror XIX”

The Treehouse of Horror episodes always tend to be my least favorite of the season save for a few good early ones – Homer’s one inspired by The Raven as well as the aliens taking over human bodies and running for president – so I never really go into them with any real expectations. The jokes are far too telegraphed and the stories never really seem to go anywhere, but I’ll admit that this week I found a few very shiny gems amidst all the bullshit.

In the first story, “UNTITLED ROBOT PARODY,” Bart buys Lisa a Malibu Stacey car for Christmas, much to her surprise – last year he gave her a box of his burps – but soon it is discovered that the toy car is actually a Transformer who turns all of her toys and all the Simpson appliances into Transformers as well, intent on doing battle with their enemies on our soil. Marge convinces the robots not to fight each other, so instead they band up and enslave all of humanity. *yawn*

The best line of the night, though, was in this third.

“Merry Christmas, dad. We bought you three more minutes of oxygen.” – Homer to Grandpa

The second story, “HOW TO GET AHEAD IN DEAD-VERTISING,” opened with a great Mad Men title sequence parody, which while very impressive will probably go over the heads of many Simpsons viewers. The story itself concerns Homer, who during a scuffle accidentally kills Krusty the Klown, piquing the interest of a group of ad men who prey on the image rights of dead celebrities (a different clause than living celebrities). They hire Homer to kill of celebrities one-by-one (George Clooney, Prince and Neil Armstrong) and give him a cut of the advertising profits. Up in Celebrity Heaven (which is different from Regular Heaven), all the dead are pissed and decide to stage a revolution back on Earth. John Lennon’s battle cry?

“All we are saying is let’s eat some brains.”

On Earth, the ghosts/zombies attack, but just before they perish the humans want to know what the one true religion is, to which Krusty replies, “It’s a mix of voodoo and Methodism.” It’s good to know where cartoons stand on that question, as South Park has more than once proclaimed that the one true religion is Mormonism, and Heaven involves spending a lot of time making shit out of empty egg cartons.

You eat the unborn???????

You eat the unborn???????

In the third story, The Simpsons take It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and turn it into “IT’S THE GRAND PUMPKIN, MILHOUSE,” replacing Linus with Milhouse. As with the original tale, all of the children are celebrating Christmas except for Milhouse, who is in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Grand Pumpkin to rise, which gets him a lot of guff.

“Your god is wrong.” – Ralph

When Milhouse’s tears mix with the soil, the Grand Pumpkin rises from the Earth, but when he finds out that we humans carve pumpkins and “roast the unborn” (i.e. pumpkin seeds), it goes on a destructive spree, eating humans and trying to kill the children. Lisa manages to get Milhouse to resurrect another mythical being, a giant turkey, who kills the Grand Pumpkin, only to turn on the children when it finds out what exactly we eat on Thanksgiving.

All in all, I’m just waiting for a regular Simpsons episode next week, and I’ll continue each year to basically ignore their Halloween episode. Does anybody still like these?

King Of The Hill 13.4 “Lost In My Space”

It’s Hank against the Internet. Noticing that a long-time propane customer is buying from a competing service, Hank discovers that it’s because the other service has been advertising and communicating with customers via MySpace. Hank, as usual an ignorant technophobe, does not see this change as posing a problem to Strickland Propane.

“Propane may be a gas, but it’s like a rock.” – Hank

Soon they are losing business, so Mr. Strickland promotes their lazy young female accountant, Donna, to a position as the assistant manager in charge of new media, as she is very knowledgeable about social networking site, viral videos and blogs. Soon, Strickland Propane’s website contains videos of its employees doing very peculiar things – humping propane containers, being drunk at parties, etc. – in order to gain a following and ultimately big business.

Hank is not a happy camper at this change of events – he’s the only assistant manager, dammit – but Peggy tries to inform him of the wonders of the Internet and the anonymity it provides.

“I’m Ted Danson online. People will tell Ted Danson anything. Kahn is manic-depressive.” – Peggy

At work, Hank refuses to blog about his personal issues, and only does so when forced to, simply writing “Donna is an idiot.” Donna’s thousands of MySpace friends gather at Strickland Propane ready to beat up Hank, but they accidentally beat up Mr. Strickland, who quickly fires Donna for all the trouble.

Ah, but Donna has changed the password to their MySpace profile and turns it into an anti-Strickland Propane site, posting angry videos of her screaming, “Death to Strickland Propane.” They can’t track her down, because when she was an employee she never bothered to update the roster, so Hank must read through all of her blogs (once a day for months) to discover her whereabouts. They finally hunt her down to a restaurant and demand that she makes the changes, so she relents and apologizes, weeping that at any job she needs supervision or she’s bound to be a bad employee. Hank educates her that telling everyone all of your thoughts is simply not the traditional way of doing things and that Strickland Propane is a family, and like a family you’re not supposed to share everything.

Once again, another very bizarre moral taught through a very relatable yet seemingly ridiculous premise. It’s a shame that Fox has decided to halt production forever on King Of The Hill – meaning that it will end some time in the 2009-2010 season – but apparently ABC has already shown interest in picking it up when that day comes around. It’d be a shame to lose this show, and I hope it can continue to at least 20 seasons. It deserves it, and I can’t imagine television without new episodes of King Of The Hill.

Family Guy 6.4 “Baby Not On Board”

In a fairly middling but nicely old-fashioned episode – old-fashioned meaning FG before it was canceled (and then returned) – Peter goes to visit Chris at work (welcome back, H. Jon Benjamin as Chris’ boss!) and, after a misunderstanding, threatens to sue the business. Instead, the H. Jon Benjamin character gives Peter a card that gives him one free year of gas, much to Peter’s delight. (One of his ideas? To fly a rocket out of orbit, complete with his goofy giggle that always seems to get me.)

The family decides to use the gas card for better ideas, so they decide to take a road trip to Grand Canyon, but they accidentally leave Stewie behind…but not realizing it until they make a side trip to New York to visit Ground Zero.

“Ground Zero. So this is where the first guy got AIDS.” – Peter

Stewie, home alone, decides to try things he never did before (i.e. that soda-induced sugar rush they showed in every single damned ad for this episode), but then realizes that he needs to work to survive, so he gets a job at McBurgertown. He is ultimately fired for stealing some of the fish sandwiches and vomiting all over the restaurant.

On the road trip, after a very unfunny extended sequence when the whole family sang most of the Bette Midler song “The Rose,” Peter accidentally crashes the car when he sees someone in another car watching television. At the train station, instead of buying tickets he buys some shower curtain rings, leading Lois to completely tell him off. His response, a take-off on John Candy’s big speech near the end of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, gets Chris, in his own response, the biggest laugh of the night.

“Hahaha…movie references.” – Chris

The family finally gets back home, and while the score to Home Alone plays in the background, Stewie realizes that despite all his issues with his family, he knows he can’t live without them.

American Dad 4.4 “Choosy Wives Choose Smith”

Stan is once again questioning Francine’s love for him when he discovers that she was once engaged to be married, but when her fiancé’s tiny plane crashed, she thought he was dead (which ultimately turned out not to be the case) and just continued on with his life, meeting and marrying Stan.

Stan tracks the man down and finds that he is a handsome Montana-based philanthropist cowboy who is just about perfect. He even births calves with John Cougar Mellancamp, who apparently also makes his guitar picks out of sun-dried cow placentas.

Not one to leave anything untested, Stan sets up a situation where he and Roger would take a small plane and fake a crash, wait on a secret CIA island and spy on her via all the cameras he left back at their home.

“I’d rather be acting crazy than feeling crazy.” – Stan

Not long after landing, however, a tsunami destroys the island and the plane, leaving Stan and Roger only a small desert island on which to go slowly insane over 90 long days. While Roger turns a bird into a hat, Stan tries to make a raft out of dead seagulls, then rocks, until he realizes that Roger is actually a great floatation device. They are finally picked up in the middle of the sea by an ocean liner.

When Stan returns home, he sees that Francine has apparently given up hope that Stan was alive and hooked back up with the philanthropist cowboy, but in actuality she was simply leading him on to show Stan that he should never question her love. (Her tipoff that Stan was actually alive? All the huge and very obvious cameras placed around the house.)

In the B-story, Steve decides to take up the cello in order to score with a fellow student.

“Lindsey Coolidge is what we call a cello slut.”

But he has worse things on his mind, as one day when he was playing with a kitten on the street, a car races by and accidentally crushes the cat. Steve tries to help but only gets his face scratched up in the process, so he decides to leave the feisty cat dying on the side of the road.

He soon begins having nightmares about the cat, so he tries again to get the kitty off the road and once again gets attacked for doing so. He can no longer take it.

“Screw you, jerk cat! Son of a whore!” – Steve

This is the point where I have to say that humor involving animal abuse is very much unfunny, unless you do it right. It’s definitely hard to watch a show poke fun at a dying cat when you’re watching television on a couch bookended by two cats of your own. In fact, we have our very own jerk cat, better known by the name of Marlowe Rasputin Douchecat Jerkmeat.

Iz on ur pilowz, prevntn ur sleepz.

Iz on ur pilowz, prevntn ur sleepz.

At his cello recital, Steve rocks his instrument and gets Lindsey’s attention, but then the kitty drags itself into the auditorium, squirming and groaning, and Steve understands, finally, that the cat wanted to be with Steve when it takes its last dying breath. Ah, but not really, for just as Steve embraces the cat, it attacks once again.

It is here that a fundamental concept of comedy comes through – that no matter how tasteless a joke or a concept, if you take it so over-the-top so as to be completely ridiculous it will become funny on its own. This is why I am surprised at how much I laughed when Steve, while fighting with the cat, decides to body slam it several times until it gives up. Like I said, not funny on its own, but AD is going at making the very tasteless remarkably funny despite the fact that you as a viewer know better than to laugh at something like that.

Back at home, Steve finds that his family has taken in the cat, where it can continue to tear out chunks of Steve’s flesh for years to come.

After last week’s dud, AD is hilarious again, and as I’m always a big fan of Steve-centered stories, I was quite pleased with his shenanigans despite the fact that it revolved around dying cats.