The Simpsons – “The Kid is All Right” (B+)
Oftentimes when it comes to political satire on The Simpsons, the writers are just shooting fish in a barrel. But that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. Guest star Eva Longoria voices Isabel, a new frenemy for Lisa. They’re intellectual equals but political rivals. As usual, what makes this episode a cut above is its lack of subplots. It’s all about the election, even if that plotline has been done much better in Season 15’s “The President Wore Pearls.”
Family Guy – “Life of Brian” (B-)
When I first read Monday that Family Guy had killed off Brian, easily the best-written, most complex character on the show, I was surprised. Reviews said it was actually moving, which also surprised me because I thought Family Guy had its heart removed for more ’80s pop culture references. And they were right. This episode is moving, but only at parts. The rest of it is the obnoxious show you’re used to seeing. That makes the whole thing seem less important, as if fans would reject an outlying sad episode if it wasn’t buttressed with racist jokes. The Brian material gets an A, the rest gets a C, so there we have our average.
Parks and Recreation – “Fluoride” (A-), “The Cones of Dunshire” (B+)
Your opinion of these episodes both depends on how much you loathe or love to loathe Councilman Jamm (Jon Glaser). I happen to love his douchebaggery, so both of these worked for me. And once again, we got some grade A Ron Swanson material that should be netting him his Emmy if the Academy ever paid attention to great comedies. There were even some unexpectedly tender moments between the shows too least sympathetic characters: Donna and April.
Saturday Night Live – “Josh Hutcherson/HAIM” (B-)
A lot of these sketches flopped tonight, but they were all an attempt to do something weirder than your typical SNL. I’ll always appreciate that. Hutcherson was a perfectly average host, but he meshed well with the cast. The standout sketch was one they won’t even put on Hulu because of the music rights.
Last Man Standing (Season 1) – Pilot, “Last Baby Proofing Standing,” “Grandparents’ Day,” “Last Halloween Standing” “Co-ed Softball” (average: C-)
For much of the show’s 22 minutes, this is harmless throwback humor, similar to what TV Land’s new shows are like. They’re not very good, but mostly inoffensive. Unfortunately, the show has this political itch it feels it needs to scratch every chance it gets. There’s a way to do this kind of humor, but the show sticks to an aggressive but ineffective brand of political jokes. “No, the bad S-word is Socialism,” Tim Allen’s Mike Baxter says. Huh? Home Improvement found a way to do portray macho mentality in a changing social climate, and do it with heart and humor. Last Man Standing has neither. If you’re wondering how I ended up watching five episodes of this dreck, well, I didn’t have control of the remote on Thanksgiving.
The Simpsons (Season 6) – “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part 1)” (A) / season finale
Whatever I may have said this summer regarding Season 6’s lack of sharpness I completely take back. The show may now be a joke machine, but holy cow are those jokes hilarious. This season finale cliffhanger is Mr. Burns’ finest, most sinister (half) hour. He’s often so unknowingly funny that it’s easy to forget how evil he is. But his black heart is at its most corroded here, and the show’s all the better for it. What made this episode in particular so great was how literally anyone could have shot him, had motive and been totally justified. We already know who did it, but I’m still excited for the reveal in January.