Fox's animated shows tossed four love stories at us tonight, in honor of the holiday, I guess, but only one of them was Valentine's Day specific. The other three were all pretty much generic love stories with twists. Fortunately, those are the sorts of things these shows do well, and The Simpsons found a different story in the current events landscape to pay attention to. All in all, it was about as good a night of television as the last outing was a disappointing night of television, and I was pleasantly surprised to not hate Family Guy, which I was expecting when I heard what the storyline would be. But let's get down to what's going on with the shows tonight.
The Simpsons: Now, I may just be saying this because I love the Olympics (though I have a tendency to have extreme indifference toward whatever sports NBC deems me most interested in, preferring the more obscure events) or because I think curling is one of the greatest things ever, but I thought that this Simpsons was one of their best episodes in a long time, and it continues a season that's had some pretty good episodes overall. I wouldn't put this on The Simpsons' top tier, but I think it's definitely on that next tier down, episodes that maybe don't have the most original plots but do have solid jokes throughout. There's a lot of stuff in this one worth laughing at, from the portrayal of the Canadian dove as the beaver to Ivan Reitman being the visionary mastermind behind the Opening Ceremonies. The central storyline - Homer's a slouch whom Marge has to carry when their curling team advances to the Winter Olympics - is the sort of thing the show has done over and over, but there are good jokes about the Olympics, Canada and the people of Springfield throughout (particularly Agnes Skinner, who gets kind of an origin story in this episode). Perhaps this will all be evidenced by just how many quotes from the episode I ran down in the Stray Observations section, but I was pretty taken with this one throughout. Even the Bart and Lisa B-plot, involving Lisa getting a sudden addiction to Olympic pin collecting (which seems like a story airlifted in from the 1996 Atlanta games), starts out kind of bland and gets better and better as Lisa's jones grows. Making Lisa swerve wildly out of control is always good for a laugh, and that's what I spent most of this episode doing. Call for my swift dismissal in comments if you must, but I say this is an easy Grade: A
The Cleveland Show: I liked this Cleveland Show quite a bit better than the last few episodes, but I'm hard-pressed to remember a lot about it as I write it up now. I know that the "Holt finds a girlfriend" plot that was clearly meant to be the interesting part wasn't all that interesting, mostly because Holt is such a limited character. He's such a stereotypical portrayal of white guy frat douchery that there isn't a lot to laugh about with him, and his new girlfriend (voiced by Fergie, apparently, who didn't do that bad of a job) was just a stereotypical crazy girlfriend. I did like Holt carrying around his booster seat on his back, and the final moments with all of the gang standing up for him were fine. But the main reason I liked this episode better than some of the others was because of the B-plot, where Cleveland, Jr., swallowed Rallo's new goldfish and ended up wandering into one of the weirder pregnancy plotlines I've ever seen. Seeing Rallo try to play the supportive father to Cleveland Jr.'s overly emotional mother was very funny, and even though the story took a while to get going, it renewed whatever small hopes I had for this show. Grade: C+
Family Guy: Again, I'm grading this show on how much it makes me laugh, but I was worried I'd have to downgrade it simply because it was attempting a storyline - Chris dates a girl with Down syndrome - I thought it was probably incapable of pulling off. Instead, the episode ended up being a pleasant surprise, as the storyline between Chris and his paramour began surprisingly sweetly (with a minimum of easy jokes at her expense) and then headed for a place that was largely unexpected for a show like this. I've seen storylines where the mentally handicapped turn the tables on others, but I figured that this show would go in for a storyline where Chris revealed his crush was mentally handicapped and everyone would make fun of him. I don't know that I laughed a lot at this storyline (except for at a couple of things Stewie said), but it actually hung together in a way the storylines usually don't on this show. So I'll give the show points for both degree of difficulty and pulling off something I didn't think it would. I was less enamored of the B-plot that was a long, meandering road to having Peter re-enact an Abbott and Costello routine, but having two good plots in one episode is something this show is largely incapable of anyway. Grade: B-
American Dad: Here's another American Dad where there weren't a ton of quotes I could write down but an episode where I still laughed quite a bit, mostly because of the show's giant weird streak, this time manifesting as Stan's romantic competition for Francine's hand at Valentine's Day was … himself, a cyborg from a future where Mexico and Canada have overthrown the United States. It's such a big, bizarre storyline that it almost has to work, just because it was so damn strange. In particular, I liked the big action setpiece at the end at Hershy Park (and, no, I'm not misspelling that … I'm guessing the lawyers couldn't clear Hershey), where Stan and Cyborg Stan had a pretty exciting fight, ending with a Chad Lowe gag that could only make sense in context. I wasn't very taken with the plot where Steve and his friends were making a shot-by-shot remake of either Mannequin or The Goonies with a sex doll (that they thought was a mannequin), but that may be because I am one of the few '80s kids out there to have never seen The Goonies anyway (and I barely remember anything about Mannequin other than watching it with family and having someone say, "Well, I guess you can't marry a mannequin" in a loud voice during the film's one sex scene). I know, I know. Shame. Grade: B
- "Marge, this is perfect for both of us. It's got bowling for me and sweeping for you!"
- "Yes, that involuntary preconscious reflex I made in utero was unforgiveable."
- "Someday, I'll be the tall guy."
- "Pack your winter coat. We're going to Canada's warmest city."
- "Who ya gonna call? Albania!"
- "We release the Canadian dove … the beaver!"
- "I'm holding back the team. But our marriage is based on curling!"
- There is no dress. It's just pins!"
- "I admit it. We're vampires who suck on shattered dreams."
- "Joy is but the shadow pain casts."
- "I should be. I'm left-handed. I've been using my right hand all these years because I didn't want to seem unusual in any way."
- "let's give the Olympics a miracle! But this time … on ice!"
- "I'm gonna tell my mommy she can't miss with Holt Ann Richter."
- "The Dutch don't cook their food by catching farts in a blanket. I don't think."
- "I wish you'd never even swallowed my fish. … I'm glad you swallowed the fish."
- "You tell her she still owes me a sandwich! And a glass of Hawaiian punch!"
- "The heart settles for what the heart can get."
- "Hey, Chris, did you know your bacne spells Citibank in Braille?"
- "I'm guessing this one owned a bunny, but not anymore."
- "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" "Shot for shot remake of the movie Mannequin!"
- "My God. A great nation destroyed by an army of gardeners and boring people."
- "Oh, I remember that dream. It's a puppy dream. Eat those puppies, Stan. Eat them till you're full."
- "I'd rather do another one of my uncle's secret basement movies. But I got too old."