The Wife:

Here’s where I make a confession: I love Josh Groban. I have seen him in concert. (With my mom!) I own all of his albums. I used to own a Josh Groban tee shirt. I think his cover of “My December” is way better than Linkin Park’s original. I watched the concert version of Chess, which we all know is a fucking weird musical, because he was in it. I am a member of a Facebook group called, “I Would Have Josh Groban’s Illegitimate Children — FOR FREE!” which was started by my friend Amber, another huge Josh Groban fan. And yet . . . I had no idea he was going to be in this episode. So when I saw his name in the credits, I went like this:

“Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Man, I was already excited enough by the presence of Victor Garber! And in a bowtie, no less! But Josh Groban, too? Surely, the television was being far too kind to me!

But besides my guest star joy, Glee seems to be moving along at a fairly steady pace. At least for the first half of the season, we can be certain that the two overwhelming threats to the Glee club will be Sue Sylvester’s meddling (for no other reason than she wants her budget back at full) and Terri’s “pregnancy,” which draws Will away from his own personal interests. I suspect we’ll see a lot of retreads of situations that make things harder for the Glee kids, as well as things that distract Will’s attention, but as long as the performances keep their luster and the writing keeps its wit, I won’t be bored. It’s hard to move forward quickly during a first season, and few shows can actually achieve that. Glee has to keep reiterating these basic conceits so that it doesn’t feel so serialized that a new viewer would be alienated from this shiny happy world. I do, however, hope the retreads don’t happen for too long. With the pilot available since the spring, I suspect Glee has as many converts as it is likely to get by this point.

This week, Sue’s Cheerio spies put Rachel up to the task of telling Will that he’s not a good enough choreographer for them to be able to beat Vocal Adrenaline at Regionals. The kids want to hire $8,000 star choreographer Dakota Stanley, but they haven’t got that kind of cash, so they host a car wash fundraiser, which serves as the backdrop for Mercedes’ performance of “Bust the Windows” when her crush on flamingly gay Kurt is crushed when he says he doesn’t have feelings for her, but is in love with someone else. (You see, she doesn’t want to think she’s in love with a downlow brother, so she assumes the object of Kurt’s affection is Rachel, not Finn, even though Rachel and Tina warned her about Kurt’s disinterest in vaginas earlier in the episode.) It’s an incidental plot, but it contributes toward the episodes thematic structure, which is all about finding your confidence. By the episode’s end, when Mercedes apologizes for breaking the window of Kurt’s car, he tells her he’s gay, but never had the confidence to say it, just as the rest of the Glee club realizes when they meet the overly frank monster that is Dakota Stanley that they don’t need his fancy, overpriced dance moves at all: as long as they are themselves and perform with confidence, they can win. (Although, he did say what I’ve always thought about Lea Michele’s nose. But she’s right to counter with the fact that Barbara Streisand never did get that nosejob, and she’s a supernova.)

I'll still take you to sing-a-long Sound of Music. Promise!

I'll still take you to sing-a-long Sound of Music. Promise!

Meanwhile, when shop teacher and cough syrup addict Henri loses his thumbs in a freak accident, the rest of the teachers (including substitute shop teacher Sandy, who is not allowed with in 50 feet of children, not teenagers) try to cheer him up and realize that they’d make a totally sweet a capella group. But before I talk about the collaboration between Howard, Ken Tanaka, Will and thumbless Henri, I have to talk about Henri’s thumblessness. Outside of the apt use of music, this scene is one of the most Ryan Murphy things about the show. I adore his macabre humor here: watching Henri be presented with a thumbs-up cake, then trying in vain to use a fork, then raising the plate to his mouth and eating the thumb. Pure genius.

The guys get together and rehearse and Will’s house, which Will thinks really turns Terri on because since he started singing with the Acafellas, their sex life has dramatically improved. He doesn’t realize, of course, that this is actually because she really needs to get pregnant to make good on the news Will told his dad and mom earlier in the episode. I do think, though, that there is something Terri finds attractive about her newly confidant husband. The reaction shots of Terri and Emma to seeing Will et al perform prove that they are both a little star struck by the whole thing. Will, of course, is great, and Acafellas becomes a moderate success.

Will’s Dad: This is huge! We sold all 17 copies of you CD!

Will’s Mom: I didn’t even have to show my bosoms!

Principal Figgins likes the act so much that he invites them to perform at a PTA meeting. Sandy, who was denied a spot in Acafellas, tells everyone that he can get Josh Groban to attend the meeting, which would help the school’s clout, but only if he performs with them. As the meeting nears, Henri is sent to cough syrup rehab and can no longer perform, and Howard drops out of the group, as well. In an effort to save the performance, Will recruits Finn and football star Hank (Ben Bledsoe) lends his voice to Ken Tanaka, but only if hot MILFs will be there. (He is an above-ground pool cleaning gigolo, in addition to being a full-time high school student.) The new Acafellas put on a completely stellar performance of Color Me Badd’s “I Wanna Sex You Up,” which is greatly enjoyed by all, including Josh Groban, who is, indeed, “cute as a buttermilk biscuit.”

Good thing thumbless Henri is downing cough syrup in the audience right now.

Good thing thumbless Henri is downing cough syrup in the audience right now.

Groban, however, was only attending the performance to serve Sandy with a restraining order, as Sandy won’t stop pestering him since Groban accidentally became his friend on MySpace. In my favorite moment of the episode, Josh Groban then seduces Will’s mom because, well, I’ll let him explain it:

“Scads of screaming teenagers don’t do it for Josh Groban. Josh Groban loves a blowsy alcoholic.”

Oh, Josh Groban! I love you!

With the short-lived glory of the Acafellas at a close and Dakota Stanley fired, Will rejoins Glee club and gets right back to work on new music for Regionals. Will’s dad tells him that, because of the confidence his son has on stage, he’s decided he’s going to finally pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer . . . which just cements the fact that this character is what Jordan Weathersby used to be before he became Jordan Weathersby.

Stray thoughts:

  • I absolutely need the floral sweater dress Emma is wearing when she’s gardening in her office. I can’t find anything close to it, but, so help me, I will!
  • “You’re going to have a school full of pansies unless you get some hot wood in those kids’ hands.” — Sandy
  • I dunno, I kind of like Crescendudes . . . Testostratones is also good.
  • “Will, if I don’t get some sleep, I could miscarry.” — Terri
  • It makes sense that Sue used to be in special ops military, doesn’t it?
  • “Yes, if by someone, you mean the tender crook of my elbow.” — Kurt, in re: kissing
  • “Who is Josh Groban? KILL YOURSELF!” –Sandy
  • I like that they made a little in-joke about Kurt wanting to see sing-a-long Sound of Music with Mercedes, as Kurt’s character was named for the fact that the actor played Kurt in a tour of Sound of Music.
  • Sue: I’m revoking your tanning privileges for the rest of the semester.
    Santana: Nooooo! [And she runs out of the room sobbing.]
  • By the way, I’ve seen Rockapella in concert. That’s right, the dudes who sing the theme song to Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? Be jealousssssssssss!

Animation Domination is finally back – well, sort of – and we have two new episodes to discuss. Were they good? Were the bad? Were they passable?

The Simpsons 20.9 “Lisa The Drama Queen”

Using Emily Blunt as a voice, but choosing instead to be a 30-minute homage not to the acclaimed actress’ film My Summer Of Love but the underseen (but Oscar-nominated) 1994 Peter Jackson film Heavenly Creatures (starring a very young Kate Winslet). Why they didn’t choose to go with the aforementioned Winslet or even Melanie Lynsky – who is plenty popular enough with her recurring role on Two And A Half Men to get a Simpsons spot – is beyond me, but Blunt lent the character a few good dimensions.

Stuck in community center art class so Homer and Marge can at least have just a few hours of personal time a week – Lisa becomes quick friends with Juliet, an imaginative but stubborn British girl during a shared art class. Realizing how much of themselves they see in each other, they begin to create and write a fantasy world in which they can be the royalty they always knew they were, but when the fantasy becomes too real for Juliet, things start to go a little haywire. But when they get caught in two lobster traps (don’t ask) by Springfield’s resident bullies, their stories come in hand as one of the bullies connects to their fantasy world, imagines himself and defends them.

Whether it was My Summer of Love or Heavenly Creatures, the Simpsons finally gave Lisa a suitably lesbian plot.

Whether it was My Summer of Love or Heavenly Creatures, the Simpsons finally gave Lisa a suitably lesbian plot.

I’m not entirely sure how funny this episode, as it elicited a few minor giggles as opposed to some remarkable belly laughs, but I did admire some of its cleverness, the best of which was that Juliet’s father was the foremost scholar on the work of John Grisham.

“Let’s just listen to James Horner’s score for The Pelican Brief.” – Juliet’s dad

I also appreciates the episode’s insistence (one in absolute truth) that smart females under a certain age all fall head-over-heels for the music of crooner Josh Groban. You are loved, Simpsons writers.

Other somewhat funny stuff from the episode:

  • “Oof! My Chi!” – Comic Book Guy
  • “Paint me 20 laps!” – Art Teacher
  • The Yo! Gurt store
  • “Use as many big words as you can. I call ‘computer.’” – Homer

(The Wife’s Note: Thoughout this episode, I just kept waiting for Lisa or Juliet to kill Juliet’s parents, then it would have been a really good Heavenly Creatures homage. I just kept thinking of Kate Winslet’s American Express ad, which begins with the line, “At sixteen, I killed both my parents.” )

American Dad 4.8 “Chimdale”

Despite one of this episode’s two plots going virtually nowhere – Roger trying to sneak Francine and Haley into Chimdale spa, despite him only winning passes for two guests from a radio station contest with his vast knowledge of Nickelback – I felt like this was a nice return for this underappreciated show. (How many times am I going to mention that the show is underseen and underrated? Until it starts getting more respect and better ratings.) Even when the show fails plotwise, it still garners more huge laughs than any of the rest of Fox’s Animation Domination, and that includes most post-revival episodes of Family Guy.

While Roger does his best to keep Haley and Francine from being seen by the spa’s resident security officer (Forest Whitaker, reprising a fairly thankless role from two years earlier in the episode where Stan had to become a Meter Maid), back at home Steve is taunted into realizing that he has scoliosis. How could these have happened? Presumably, Stan’s bizarre way of doing pretty much anything.

“Your father was the one who threw footballs at my stomach so you’d be good at sports.” – Francine

When Stan tells Steve that it’s not what’s on the outside that’s important but what’s on the inside, Steve accepts his six weeks of having to wear a very cumbersome backbrace, until he discovers a terrible secret – that Stan is actually bald and wears a wig. (It was a side effect of some anti-acne medication Stan tested when he was young.) Distraught by his father’s hypocrisy, he tries to blackmail Stan into coming clean with Francine about his baldness (although, as we find out at the end, everybody but Steve has known for years).

See? Not much in the way of plot, but I found myself laughing the hardest I’ve laughed all week other than 30 Rock (nothing for a while will be funnier than Jane Krakowski trying to eat a cat). And for a sitcom as silly as American Dad, I suppose that’s all I can ask for every once in a while. And hell, I like any show that focuses on a line that ends in the phrase “…blow out their rectum.”

Other funny stuff:

Haley: Are these balloons full of heroin?

[Roger kicks Haley]

Roger: Those are not for you!

  • “I will now attempt to poop out these blocks.” – Stan
  • “Smooth move, Bald-Lax!” – Steve

The Husband:

According to my wife, I am the “Resident Idol Expert,” so I have been put in charge of writing about the television juggernaut known as American Idol. Ever since I caught the s1 finale during my sophomore year at university with a few close female friends, I was hooked, and I haven’t missed an episode since. I dedicated a great deal of time and paper to my college’s newspaper when I was the Arts & Entertainment editor, so much so that I may have alienated more than a few readers put off by my obsession. I can name you much of the Top 12 orders of ousting from most of the seasons that I have watched, I can tell you who sang a common Idol song better than whoever is singing it at the time, and I have a pretty damn great track record with predictions on who is going to be sent off the show, even if the rest of the country doesn’t agree with me. (Like him or not, I friggin’ called Chris Daughtry’s early exit the minute I saw him in the rehearsal for the Top 5 show when I was living in Los Angeles.) In a previous blog, I wrote nearly 3,000 words merely on the ousting of Melinda Doolittle and the Sanjaya controversy.

But I don’t have anything on those with an encyclopedic knowledge of the show. Not even close. I attended the s3 and s4 live tours, but gave up shortly thereafter. I still don’t have several winners’ albums (same with runners-up not named “Clay Aiken”), and I don’t obsessively follow some Idol stars’ every move (once again, my mother in re: Clay Aiken). I know a lot about Idol, I do, and more so than my wife, who has only really watched two seasons in their entirety (or maybe just one), and I defend the show to the death, considering it still one of the most entertaining shows on television, but am I an Idol expert? Nah. I’m just a really big fan.

I was also worried that I wouldn’t have much to say about this show, which, unlike reality competitions such as Survivor or The Amazing Race, doesn’t actually have storylines or anything beyond just “I liked this” and “I didn’t like this.” Unless I’m jolted into a diatribe, there really isn’t anything at all to write about. So until something really irks me or gets me moving, I’m just going to proceed with publishing slightly edited versions of the notes, some that will make sense and others that will just look like random babbling, that I took while watching. (Extra notes written for this entry will be in brackets.)

So last night, we had our premiere of s8, complete with a new judge (love her) who is just as honest as Simon but less prone to hyperbole, a bunch of Phoenix fuck-ups and a handful of really good (but not great) auditions. Let’s get started.

  • Very cool opening of past memorable winners and losers, especially Keith from s2 and the “take it take it take it!” “actress” from s7.
  • Oh dear…the footage of those stupid tweens who freaked out the minute Archuleta lost completely made my day. [You’re talking to a David Cook fan through-and-through, although I thought Archuleta had a good set of pipes despite my hatred for what he represented and how he represented himself. Watch the terror below.]

  • It wasn’t until 8:14 that there was an actual audition.
  • Ooooh…they’re listing the contestants’ occupations now. Good call, new producer who isn’t Nigel Lythgoe.
  • Ha! After basically ignoring his win last season, Idol relented and put Taylor Hicks’ picture on the audition backdrop…down in the damned corner. Come on, we all know Taylor Hicks is far more deserving of a primo spot than Ruben Studdard.
  • Emily Wynne-Hughes [the rocker chick who sang Heart’s “Barracuda”] is cool, but I don’t think she has the chops or the variety for the competition.
  • Come on, rocker dude. Not even Jordin Sparks’ pipes could pull off Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Bad decision.
  • Oh noes! Michael Gurr is Gollum!
  • Arianna Afsar [sang Corinne Bailey Rae] = very damn good. I worry the show might destroy her and her confidence, though, Ramiele Malubay style.
  • I wonder what happened to that dude last year who lived out of his car? [My wife, oddly enough, knew his exact name immediately upon me asking. Josiah Leming.]
  • 16-year-old Stevie Wright was the first contestant to actually believe her song and perform it… [That song being Etta James’ “At Last.”]
  • Kara’s “Hold on a minute, bitch!” said to the bikini girl should be this show’s new catchphrase [à la “pitchy,” “dawg,” etc.]
  • Effeminate horror movie aficionado Cody Shelton won’t get far in the finals (too scary for regular America), but he’s real good nonetheless.
  • As for Scott the blind guy [who my wife likes far more than I do], he’d be perfect if they ever revive the stage version of The Who’s Tommy, but I’m worried the show is going to exploit him far too much for any semblance of good taste.
  • 27 tickets for one city isn’t too bad. I can’t wait for the alleged disaster that is Puerto Rico’s audition cycle in the coming weeks.
Ooooooh . . . barracuda!

Ooooooh . . . barracuda!

The Wife:
I’ve decided that I’m dedicating this season of Idol to knitting, so here are my thoughts on the Phoenix auditions, observed through knitting needles:
  • I want to be friends with Emily Hughes. Like, I would stalk her band if she didn’t make it on Idol. But, as with my Wild Irish Rose Carly Smithson, America is not ready for a tattooed Idol. If Emily makes it past Hollywood Week, she won’t make it very far. Maybe her band can still make that tour if she doesn’t make it into the Top 36?
  • That video of crushed tween Archie fans freaked me out, just as much as the mini Mean Girls on Gossip Girl freak me out.
  • For the record, I said Michael Gurr is Gollum. Winning American Idol is his precious.
  • Arianna Asfar picked the perfect song for herself and sang it really well. I’m glad she understands that she’s 16 and should be singing about things like listening to records and riding bikes through London in the summertime.
  • Elijah Scarlett, with the deepest voice EVER, needs to be my husband’s new ringtone. He currently has, for certain callers, last year’s Idol contestant who sang gospel songs in a very deep voice.
  • I did not like Stevie Wright nearly as much as my husband did. I disagree on the sincerity of her performance, partly because, at 16, you can never really sing “At Last” and be that believable. She did, however, have the voice for that song, that’s for sure.
  • Loved Alex Wagner-Trugman’s story about his experiences with moldy closet singing. I also thought he was pretty cool.
  • I really love Scott McIntyre, the legally blind pianist. He reminds me a little bit of Josh Groban, both in terms of his vocal quality and his unkempt curls. I think his voice is really beautiful, but he will suffer considerably in the performance aspect because his severe tunnel vision means he can only see the width of a piano key at a time, thus it will be hard for him to connect to his audience members. But then again, that hasn’t hurt Stevie Wonder or Andrea Bocelli. So maybe I’m wrong.