The Husband:

My Name Is Earl 4.23 “Bullies”

It seems we’re close to wrapping up the fourth season of My Name Is Earl, and as the show has finally reached the point where it can be considered “on the bubble” for being renewed for next season, the haters are coming out of the woodwork. In the last week, I have discovered that there are far more people who despise this show than I ever considered possible. It seems that this show has been labeled as “that hick show,” a dumbass 30 minutes of nothing but Middle America bullshit dumb humor that has put us under its spell. People can’t wait for this show to disappear.

I’m surprised, because I always found this show far too intelligent and too strange to be horrible. And I think anything this strange can’t be altogether bad. People who ignore the show’s wit and cleverness clearly haven’t seen too many episodes, and people who say it barely elicits a chuckle clearly never stuck around for lines like the following, taken from my articles simply on this season:

  • “Collect her tears! We can all live forever!”
  • “You can’t just ship a turtle, Earl. It’s not like a vase or a person.”
  • “Only thing I ever sewed was my stab wound on prom night!”
  • “You didn’t feed yourself. You just talked a homeless woman into cooking baby birds for you.”
  • “What an idiot. The baby formula is man plus woman. Everyone knows that!”
  • “Baby, look what we’re doing. I’m pimping out a fishing boat. You turned the boys into some kind of love yo-yos. This doesn’t seem like good parenting.”

And that’s just half of this season, which while good is definitely my least favorite of the four seasons. (Other than Frankie Valli.)

And how about my favorite line from last season?

“I just want to live in a world where tampons aren’t made out of hay.”

I’m sorry folks — I’m about as far removed from Middle America as you can get, and I think the show is a pseudo-brilliant absurdist comedy with some of the nicest and most relatable characters on TV. God forbid that the show deals with lessons and spirituality (in a completely fucked-up way, of course) and that’s too much for you to handle, but simply misunderstanding a show isn’t enough for hatred. Just like those who hate King of the Hill. I hate to be this person, but I think these people simply don’t get it. Unlike the shows that I may or may not get, which I chalk up to the lack of variation from week-to-week (any CSI, Two and a Half Men, etc.), these two shows seem to be picked on because they’re different.

Whatever. If I were a praying man, I’d pray for this show to come back. It works just fine where it is.

Uh, well just chill on your porch for a little bit, okay?

Uh, we'll just chill on your porch for a little bit, okay?

This week, Earl took on #32: bullied Wally Panser. Back when he was a kid, Earl tormented this tiny boy with the funny name and a love for butterflies. But now all grown up, the boy has become the giant Matthew Willig (former offensive tackle for USC and several pro ball teams), and is big enough to make Earl go by a nom de plume and pretend that he is there to be a workout buddy. While he tries to figure out a way to atone for his past and not get his ass beat, Randy takes some advice from some Roid Heads at the gym and takes a supplement that would help him stand up to his personal bully — Joy. Unfortunately, this supplement is shark adrenaline shot directly into his scrotum, a term Randy doesn’t know until the needle is in his nutsack.

This turns into a mega-fight when Wally discovers Earl’s true identity and Randy gets roid rage that becomes more funny than violent. But, thankfully, Earl finds that he can convince Wally to muster up the confidence and courage to compete in the Camden muscleman competition. (He didn’t want to shave his body hair off, nor did he think they’d like his love for butterflies.)

Fuck, please don’t take away any show that has a character mutter the following:

“You just released more shark juice from my scrote!”

The Office 5.22 “Heavy Competition”

A program that doesn’t need a save-our-show campaign is The Office, which continues making bold steps in a new direction this year. That doesn’t, however, make this week’s episode any funnier, a 30-minute set of bizarre double-crosses that did a great job in evolving its characters but somehow managed to bore me.

Other than the funny cold open, in which the three employees of the Michael Scott Paper Company found about two dozen ways to toss cheese puffs into each other’s mouths, there wasn’t a whole lot of laughter to be found in this episode, which chronicled the one-upmanship between Michael and Dwight, resulting in wiretapping, betrayal and nudity, leading up to Michael finally showing his true colors as a great salesman by basically stealing Dwight’s biggest client right out from under him.

Sell this, bitch! Sell it!

Sell this, bitch! Sell it!

Meanwhile, Jim decides to play a major prank on Andy (for no particular reason) which basically exists simply to mock Andy’s bizarre hopelessness when it comes to romance, which seems more cruel than funny. Dwight, I think, deserves all the pranks Jim can muster up, but Andy is just a lost man.

But what was funny was Andy trying to sell off all his leftover wedding appointments and dates to Jim and Pam, including his Cornell a capella group Here Comes Treble, who we find out was going to sing Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” during the wedding procession.

The Husband:

The Simpsons 20.10 “Take My Life, Please”

The Simpsons comes back with a bang with their sweet new HD intro, complete with good new material mixed in with the classic stuff we’ve known for 20 years. As far as the episode is concerned, though, it’s a little lacking. (Perhaps the thing that made me giggle the most was in the opening couch gag, simply by showing how a couch may look when it tries to sneak away from its family.)

Springfield is celebrating the newest addition to their central wall of fame, a man who Homer knew mostly as the man who defeated him as class president back in high school, leading to a very long life of success and happiness. Homer isn’t pleased, though, and tries to find any way he can of taking this man down a peg.

Homer: Tears of a clown.

Lisa: He’s not crying, and he’s not known for clowning.

Upset that he could have had this man’s life and not his own sad, poor existence, Homer mopes and mopes and mopes, but Lenny and Carl come to him with a secret they’ve been holding onto for decades, one Homer could probably use. It turns out that Homer may have technically won the high school election, but the principal had it out for him and asked Lenny and Carl to bury the box with the true results, promising that he will write a shitty letter of recommendation for the both of them so they don’t have to go to college and will do what they actually want, which is to stay in Springfield forever and have no ambition.

“Screw this up and it’s Carnegie Mellon for the both of you!” – Homer’s principal to Lenny and Carl

Lenny, Carl and Homer retrieve the box to see that Homer was, in fact, the winner, and so we start a way-too-late-in-the-episode story where the Simpsons go to a local Italian restaurant, where the cook has a special kind of sauce that acts as a view into alternate timelines, so they can see how Homer’s life could have gone differently. He still manages to work at the power plant as well as end up with Marge (although there is a side-track involving a cheerleader as well as a nice reference to Artie Ziff, the Jon Lovitz-voiced Marge-stalker), but ends up never having his children, which is enough to let him know that his life is okay the way it is.

Funny but poorly structured, this is an episode that the naysayers may point to as evidence of the show’s declining quality, but I just think it was a slight misstep that ended up having some good emotional impact at the end. Sometimes Homer just needs to cherish what he has and not always strive for the impossible, and as long as the show keeps us emotionally invested in the Simpsons themselves, I don’t see this show faltering too much.

Other bits from the ep that I liked:

  • The high school poster that said “Moe: Still Available For Prom”
  • “In this reality, I am not gay. Hubba hubba!” – Bizarro Patty
  • “Ohhhhh…look at who thinks he’s smarter than sauce.” – Homer to Bart

King Of The Hill 13.9 “What Happens At The National Propane Gas Convention In Memphis Stays At The National Propane Gas Convention In Memphis”

In an extremely funny episode that takes Hank down a few notches, Buck is made an honorary member of the National Propane Gas Convention’s “Hall of Flame,” asking Hank to come along and be his right-hand man…or a sherpa, which he has trouble describing:

“…one of those goat men who keep you from freezing to death.” – Buck

Hank is worried that Buck, as usual, will be his usual drunken self and dishonor their business by acting a fool, but with Peggy’s help – a self-described “expert fun-blocker” – everything seems to be going fine at the convention in Memphis. Buck is behaving himself just fine, until he discovers that he has a bastard son who is also in the propane and propane accessories game.

Instead of this turning into a bizarre plot-twisty episode – I was certain that the bastard son would have been a con man for some reason – he instead gets Buck to lower his guard so they can make up for all their lost time, which pretty much means boozing and whoring, so much so that Buck keeps missing all the meetings he is scheduled to attend.

After trying to get him to focus, Hank finally has enough, and with an emphatic cry…

“You have not honored propane!”

…Hank gets wasted and ruins his introduction to Buck’s induction into the “Hall of Flame,” screaming obscenities and vomiting on some high-level propane wives. This is not like Hank, and I was surprised to see him be the one to lose his shit so thoroughly, but there’s only so much he can do throughout the years to help Strickland Propane be the successful business that it is.

This website does not honor propane.

This website does not honor propane.

Peggy, worried for her humiliated husband, guilts Buck and his bastard son into going to the convention board, who are meeting to decide on Hank’s punishment, where they set up the board members with some nice booze and whores and then take some incriminating pictures. Thus, Hank is off the hook.

I’m never wild about the episodes that take viewers away from the inner sanctum of the Hill family, but I appreciate the glimpse into Buck Strickland’s life. (This is also the first time I actually noticed that Stephen Root did his voice, I’m that distant from his character.) But I especially like the amount of ridiculousness thrust upon his character this week, with great line after great line:

  • “Who wants breakfast whiskey?!”
  • Buck: “Son, what’s the bad part of Memphis called?”
    Bastard Son: “Memphis!”
  • “Damn! My breath stinks of blood and peppermint!”

Not much of a heartwarming episode to be sure, but holy hell was it funny.

Family Guy 7.7 “Ocean’s 3.5” (it seems I’ve been calling this season six all year, which apparently is wrong)

Family Guy returns not with a gigantic, hilarious bang, but still a nice re-entry into its irreverence, its far-too-long extended gags and its extreme silliness. I can’t ask for too much when it comes to this show (especially post-revival), but if it makes me laugh, I’m game. I lost emotional investment with this show long ago, so I’m pretty much just in it for the comedy. (This is not to say that I don’t enjoy the occasional dramatic episode, such as when Peter goes back in time and fucks up his relationship with Lois, but FG has nothing on King Of The Hill or The Simpsons in this particular department.)

I can't believe Bonnie has been pregnant for seven seasons, let alone six.

I can't believe Bonnie has been pregnant for seven seasons, let alone six.

When Joe and Bonnie finally have another baby, they find that their hospital bills are so high that Joe has to take another job, so Peter and the gang do their best to raise money for him. First, sell spiked lemonade to children (fail). Second, beg Pewterschmidt for money (fail). They finally band together, Ocean’s Eleven-style, to steal money from Pewterschmidt, but Peter finally has a change of heart at the end and decides not to steal the money. (This is, of course, having gone through many security doors, including one that involves Cleveland’s uncanny vocal impersonations, one with Quagmire’s penis, and one that asked what the most unattractive male name is, which is apparently “Keith”…huh?).

Stewie, meanwhile, gets a glimpse of the new Swanson baby and falls in love, going so far as to try to compose a song for the young female, leading to my favorite quote of the night, more out of delivery than anything else, from Brian to Stewie.

“You sound like an unbelievable douche.” –Brian to Stewie

Stewie finally creates a wildly bizarre music video set to him singing Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You,” which while far too long to sustain any kind of credibility storywise, does manage to cram in references to at least 25 other music videos. Unfortunately, whenever FG goes into extended joke territory, I think of something I once read about The Simpsons:

A few years ago, The Simpsons decided to shorten their episodes by, I think, two minutes, and one of the producers proclaimed that this was a disappointment since with two minutes they technically lose one entire sub-plot. With FG’s crazy extended jokes (which are way longer than two minutes for the most part), I can’t help but wonder how much they could have done with the time they spent being ridiculous. I always try to say story over jokes, but with FG’s stories as of late, I’m not sure how good of a trade that would be.

As usual with FG, the best bits and lines come out of nowhere, so here’s some of the ones I wrote down:

  • “Babies come out of the butt, right?” – Peter
  • The fact that the lame-ass Two And A Half Men is filmed in front of a live ostrich. I don’t really know what that means, but it was funny
  • Yes, Alan Colmes is Droopy Dog
  • “Now we don’t have any money, and our feelings are hurt.” – Cleveland
  • While I didn’t think the quick-to-air Christian Bale meltdown extended joke was entirely necessary, Peter’s retorts were funny enough to get me by, especially “Jeez, you punch your mother with that mouth?”
  • Cynthia Watros did a voice? Libby lives?

American Dad 4.10 “Family Affair”

Well, Roger the emotional terrorist, has struck the Smith family again. While lying about his involvement with a local theatre company (which has been closed for years, despite having a guy who still sweeps up in front just cuz he feels like it), Roger has actually been seeing another on the side, in essence cheating on the Smiths. Everyone is viciously hurt by this revelation, including Steve (who Roger accidentally calls Scotty) who starts destroying whatever he can get his hands on, complete with the most pathetic scream I’ve heard in a long time.

“Go back to your whore family!” – Francine

They take Roger back, only to find that he has a slew of families to feed his addiction, and so they completely abandon him. But he finally comes back once again with the explanation that all this comes from his pre-Smith family, who abandoned him at a gas station so many years ago, thus emotionally scarring him forever.

When I write out the plot, as with many AD plots, they don’t sound altogether great, but like the wonderful King Of The Hill, it’s the energy this show puts into the stories and the characters that gets me coming back time-after-time. The AV Club made a good point that despite some of AD’s lows, it might be the most consistently funny show of Animation Domination, not only with its resistance of FG-like insanity but its insistence on staying true to the characters. Roger is a selfish prick, but he’s a lovable one, and the family accepts him for what he is.

But Klaus, oh Klaus, even when he gets his own story, it sputters and dies, and this week was no exception. Where the fuck was that plot supposed to go and why was I supposed to care?

Some good lines/noticeable awesomeness:

  • “You defiled my moment. Right in front of my wife.” – Stan
  • “Want me to tell you how a broom’s like a phallus?” – Janitor
  • The always-welcome presence of Will Forte
  • “You know, there was a time I was afraid of uncircumcised penises.” – Stan

Okay, the final bit about the CIA koala with the brain of a homeless man was, in fact, FG-like insanity, but goddamn was it funny. Maybe if I show that to all the Simpsons and FG fans out there, they may come back to this show after abandoning it after the first season. Truly inspired, much like the Gilbert Grape squirrels or the terrifyingly spot-on Francine-and-Roger Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? homage a few years back.

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