TV Recaps: The Simpsons and Family Guy
Opens with Mr. Burns’ abduction from his prison cell, setting the story of how he got there in motion. At a self-celebratory party held at Burns Manor and tended by his unpaid employees, Lenny, Carl, and Homer get revenge by sneaking into the wine cellar, getting drunk, and trashing his home.
The cops are called and notice that Burns’ art collection features a number of stolen works. Burns is carted off to prison while Smithers is put in charge of the nuclear plant, and in a Mike Judge-esque twist, Smithers’ lackadaisical management style quickly devolves into tyranny once he overhears the employees mocking him.
In the B plot, Bart and Lisa start an ant farm, destroy it, salvage one ant, and that’s about it. Rounding out the episode is a quick bit wherein Burns finds religion.
In all, not a bad episode, and a few first-rate Mr. Burns moments (“Spare ribs? I’ve played a round of ten-pins in my life, and to me the word ‘spare’ reeks of second-best. Give me ten full frames of strike ribs! And you, find my doctor and ask why I’d ask for something as insane as strike ribs.”), who has to be one of the funnest characters on the show to write for, and for fans of Burns, this episode doesn’t disappoint. Not too many laugh-out-loud moments (“That was an odd Christmas party” was great, though), and the Bart-and-Lisa story feels very out of place, but enjoyable all the same.
“April in Quohog”
I never know if Family Guy’s aggressive lack of plotting is intentional or if the show’s autopilot has taken so far over that it simply gives the impression of mocking conventional sitcoms. Take last night’s episode: A black hole threatens Quohog, Peter gets selected for jury duty, and, in the final before earth is sucked into space, and Peter confesses that he hates spending time with his kids. All the plotlines could be swapped out for any other sitcom cliché, so there’s not much to say about the story. The black hole turns out to be an April Fool’s joke, so Peter has to figure out how to patch things up with his kids. Again, none of that matters, because Family Guy’s humor is comprised of quick cutaway gags.
And they’re pretty lackluster: a throwback to Peter’s obsession with The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird,” a cheap attempt at creating an Internet meme with a cut-away of a red monster winning the Best Actor Oscar, and a handful of meh jokes, two of which deal with Pamela Anderson’s sex tape and hepatitis…again…isn’t that a little dated?
For a show that’s been pretty subversive and creative, this episode tries way too hard to be liked—the first half of the episode relies heavily on self-references that don’t even try to be funny (see? It’s that character doing that thing he does! *wink* *wink*), and the same could be said of the cutaways. Did any of the writers think the Russian mice “joke” was funny?
Some real opportunities are squandered, too—Peter doing crystal meth has some potential, but it’s never followed up, the same goes for Peter’s jury duty, from which a bit more could have been mined. However, the gag about Peter defending Indians from a cavalry—in all its shocking brutality—at least feels inspired. The rest of the episode plays like a scattered scrapbook of everything that got swiped up on the cutting room floor, until even that ran out and the producers filled the last few moments with Peter playing a first-person shooter—they wouldn’t even spring for the animation.