The Simpsons – “Treehouse of Horror XXIV” (B)
The couch gag by Guillermo del Toro gets an A. The rest of the show follows the typical rule of almost all the Halloween specials: One story is great, one story sucks and one is only pretty good. That’s specifically the pattern this one follows. “Oh the Places You’ll D’oh” is a wicked take on Dr. Seuss that gets funnier as it gets darker. “Dead and Shoulders” feels like a retread, with Bart attached to Lisa. There are a couple good jokes and sight gags, but it feels like a half-formed idea. “Freaks No Geeks” is much more of a homage to Tod Browning’s 1932 film, but it failed to provide many laughs.
The Bridge – “Old Friends,” “Take the Ride, Pay the Toll,” “All About Eva,” “The Crazy Place” (Average: A-)
I originally thought the way episode 11 ended that the show wouldn’t have anything left to say. But it still found a way to be captivating while setting up a less intense but deeper examination of El Paso and Juarez in season two. Demian Bichir, Diane Kruger and Matthew Lillard all did their best work in this last stretch. I still think the drug tunnel subplot was completely useless, but it allows for Lyle Lovett to do his creepy take on Saul Goodman, which I’m always down with.
Modern Family – “Suddenly, Last Summer”/“First Days” (A-)
Aired together as the fifth season premiere, these two episodes represent the best of Modern Family, which solidly rebounded in Season Four after an inconsistent Season Three. The first episode is the sharper of the two, with the comedy firing on all cylinders. The second is still solid, even if I wasn’t crazy about the Claire-Jay intra-office conflict. “Here’s Henry Winkler to tell us more.”
Freaks and Geeks (Season 1) – “Smooching and Mooching” (A)
This episode is great precisely because it’s unlike my own high school experience. Despite one serious girlfriend and one far less serious, I barely kissed anyone at all from freshman to senior year. I spent most of my time pining for someone who was never going to see me as more than a friend. So of course I was over the moon to see Sam be called up from the friend zone to become Cindy’s boyfriend. My heart leapt for him, even as the prospect of making out terrified him. And how could that giddiness not continue with Nick dancing with Harold and Jean to Gene Krupa? Moreover, this is the first show I can remember laughing at a line from pure delight. That would be when Gordon Crisp tells Sam that Cindy’s the lucky one. “You’re a catch.” Aww.
The Simpsons (Season 6) – “A Star is Burns” (A-)
The crossover with The Critic is a bridge too far for some people, but they’re ignoring a hilarious episode filled with brilliant film parodies. For me, someone who loves movies and The Critic, I can forgive a lot easier. (Not that there was ever anything to forgive.) Now get me Steven Spielberg, or his non-union Mexican equivalent!