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Favorite Simpsons episode ever, annnnnnd GO!

Okay, it's a pretty impossible question for a die-hard fan, but if I were forced at gunpoint to name my favorite episode ever, "Colonel Homer" would probably be the first to leap to mind (if only for the pure joy that is "Bagged Me A Homer"). So it's understandable that I went into tonight's episode, which caught up with everyone's favorite twangin' homewrecker, Lurleen Lumpkin, with a mix of nostalgia and dread. While I'm always pleased to see references back to the show's golden age, this one had "trainwreck" written all over it (especially with a Dixie Chicks cameo factored in).


Well, it wasn't a trainwreck. In fact, by latter-day Simpsons standards, it was pretty damn good (though a lot of the best laughs came from callbacks to "Colonel Homer," such as Marge's teeth-gnashing). Happily, the writers avoided a B-story altogether, keeping the action centered on the family and Lurleen, who's been forced out of hiding to pay her back-taxes. While I kind of wish they had taken that ball and ran with it (who am I kidding, I was basically envisioning a "Colonel Homer, Pt. 2" when I saw Lurleen back to waiting tables), the story forked off into an exploration of the singer's daddy issues, with meddlesome Marge pulling a Dr. Phil. After winning his daughter back with the world's most disturbing hambone solo–seriously, did that sound incredibly dirty to anyone else?–deadbeat daddy Royce Lumpkin steals off with Lurleen's song and sells it to a newly patriotic Dixie Chicks, rejiggered as an ode to FOX News' America. While it wasn't exactly "Bagged Me A Homer"–and its silly-rhyme gag was a little too reminiscent of "Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart" for my liking–it was nice to see an original musical number that was less than 90 percent painful, something the show hasn't pulled off in a good long time. And I didn't even hate the Dixie Chicks' cameo, mainly because it served a purpose beyond the "ooooh, famous person" factor. But was anyone else hoping that Lurleen's tale of woe was going to end with her going the Linda Perry route, writing double entendre-laden hits for the Nashville newbies? Scoring an opening slot for the Dixie Chicks doesn't scream "redemption" in quite the same way, but hey, good for Lurleen–and her new fella looks just super.

King Of The Hill coasted a bit tonight, relying almost entirely on Dale and Joseph's weirdness to buoy a pretty lackluster plot. Good thing Dale and Joseph weirdness is almost always gold ("I like that there's lots of places where people can't see you!" is rendered five times funnier in Joseph's supremely cracked-out voice), especially when tempered with Hank's befuddled exasperation ("Wherever you just came from, thank you for not inviting me"). However, the plot meandered a bit too much for my liking, stumbling from Joseph's new status as a star quarterback to Dale hoity-toitying it up with the rich kids at the private school that's recruited his son, to a last-minute fundraiser to buy Joseph out of the school's bribe and back onto the Tom Landry squad–not to mention Hank's obsession with the prospect of finally having a winning season ("Bobby, you can find a new best friend. A winning football season is once in a lifetime."). And while I loved Dale and Joseph playing into each other's imagined angst when Dale drops Joseph off to live with a new, rich family, it felt a little forced as far as Dale Delusions go. Yes, I'm willing to buy him hunting Chuck Mangione in the Mega-Lo Mart or thinking he has rabies, but somehow it doesn't seem very in character for Dale to ship off the source of all his ego trips. But that plot twist did make for a genuinely sweet reconciliation, and if nothing else, redeemed itself with Dale and Joseph's hilarious teary-eyed conversation through the front door ("I can't remember what you look like!").


The Simpsons, "Papa Don't Leach": B+
King Of The Hill, "The Courtship Of Joseph's Father": B

Stray observations:

—For a minute I thought they had gotten someone new to voice Lurleen, but nope, that was Beverly D'Angelo–she sounds different, no? Psh, it's only been, what, 16 years–she couldn't keep her voice unchanged for all us Simpsons nerds? Hrmph.


—My favorite Simpsons gag of the night had to be Lurleen cutting "Pop" out of all the family's food, including Snap and Crackle's buddy.

—I'm not sure when exactly during King Of The Hill's history Joseph became a borderline-retarded, full-blown freakshow, but I think I prefer him this way.