Saturday Night Live – 40th Anniversary Special (B+)
Sure, some of the segments were easy to skip (and I did), but that’s exactly what SNL is: some moments of occasional brilliance in a sea of mediocre-to-awful sketches. Luckily, they got to focus on the good stuff. RIP Jon Lovitz.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “The Wednesday Incident” (A)
Yes. More of this, please. While throwing himself into his work, Jake is a machine, and this subplot-free episode allows him to put his detective skills to use to figure out why Holt is in a bad mood. That may seem like really low stakes, but it’s a brilliantly written episode that pays off huge.
Parks and Recreation – “The Johnny Karate Super Awesome Musical Explosion Show” (B+), “Two Funerals” (A)
The former is a rare stylistic shift, taking place within a real-time filming of Andy’s kid show. The latter is basically everything that made Pawnee such a great place to visit over the years. And shut up, YOU’RE the one who’s crying.
The Mindy Project – “Lahiri Family Values” (A-)
Oh, how I loved the possibility of everything shifting to San Francisco. Even if that didn’t happen, this is still the show on its A-game, delivering a ton of jokes while expanding its season-long story arc.
The Americans – “Dimebag” (B+)
“A table-setter” as my friend put it. There’s not a lot of action — but we’ve gotten plenty this season already — but sets some dangerous wheels in motion. I’m most intrigued by Philip’s luring of Kimberly (Julia Garner), though who is luring whom is a question to be asked. But most importantly, this episode reminded me of the awesomeness of Yaz.
The Americans – “Open House” (A)
Two words: Amateur dentistry. But it’s not just that harrowing, wordless scene in the Jennings’ bathroom that made this an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. The walls seem to keep closing in on Elizabeth and Philip, and I’m not quite sure how that’s going to play out, in the best way possible.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine – “Windbreaker City” (A)
Like last year’s “Tactical Village,” this is a terrifically directed episode that brings together the law enforcement setting in a meaningful way with the humor and emotional stakes of this show at its best. Plus, Nick Kroll playing another in a long line of total dicks. Perfect casting.
The Mindy Project – “Dinner at the Castellanos” (A-)
No subplots, no Tamra. Just Mindy trying to break the news to Danny. Great work from Rhea Perlman and Dan Hedaya as Danny’s parents. A whole bunch of “aww” in this episode.
Parks and Recreation – “Mrs. Ludgate-Dwyer Goes to Washington” (B+), “Pie-Mary” (A-)
A lot of people will probably like the first of these episodes, because it’s so gosh darn sweet. But like “Smallest Park,” this episode took Leslie back to her annoying Season One days. I much preferred the Ron-Ben-Andy trio. The latter, though, is a near-perfect take-down of “men’s rights” and a great reminder of how killer this show is when it’s focused on elections.
Togetherness – “Houston, We Have a Problem” (A-)
Brutal. Just brutal. Not a laugh to be found. Good thing it was only 30 minutes of uncomfortable-ness.
The Simpsons (Season 8) – “Brother from Another Series” (A-)
I have a weakness for Sideshow Bob. Aside from Season 12’s dreadful “Day of the Jackanapes,” I will always love a Sideshow Bob episode. This one found a way to freshen it up, adding Bob’s brother Cecil (played by Kelsey Grammer’s TV brother David Hyde Pierce). It’s just another source of endless laughs and smiles for me, including this ultimate high-class joke: “The four years of clown college.” “I’ll thank you not to refer to Princeton that way!”