Sunday's Rankings (5, 3, 2, 1 scoring)
(1) The Simpsons ("Thursdays with Abie") -- I am a long-time, well-established sucker for an Abe Simpson episode. The show's writers have managed to keep the character fresher than you might expect by using him as an infrequent one-note joke throughout each season, then giving him a feature episode every few years to flesh out the caricature. The premise for this episode has been done to death (someone related to Homer seeks affection/attention/approval from someone other than Homer, who then fights to win back his son/daughter/wife/father); but it worked here. I especially dug the climactic train sequence and an actually amusing cameo from Mitch Albom.
(2) The Cleveland Show ("Field of Streams") -- I wanted to love this episode. The show was finally paying off on its occasional baseball references (in the pilot, Cleveland was originally on his way to the west coast to accept a position as a scout, before he landed back in his hometown). The execution, however, was...inconsistent. The none-too-subtle digs over the game's pacing and declining national popularity elicited some chuckles, but the writers wasted a lay-up line of jokes that could've used baseball and Blacks as interchangeable punchlines. Good...but, should've been better.
(3) American Dad! ("Don't Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth") -- Named the worst show of the week by the Parents Television Council, my obvious retort would be that it wasn't even the worst show on Sunday night. I will say that American Dad! has perfected the "it isn't really semen" sequence. Remember the sperm bank/milk tank scene from a few years ago? Yeah, I'd put
(4) Family Guy ("Big Man on Hippocampus") -- This was a 30-minute barrage of "done-before, done-better" obscure references and sight gags. I know, I know...but, the show's first few seasons really were better than this. Family Feud and Richard Dawson mocking? Sorry, but there was no topping the "Pig in a Poke" opening of National Lampoon's European Vacation in 1985. Meanwhile, "Grand Theft Auto" and "Crocodile Dundee" gags have been played out for a combined 30 years. And, the self-effacing acknowledgement of an amnesia plot can't erase the lazy absurdity of an amnesia plot. (By the way...am I the only one who thought the Gene Siskel joke was unnecessarily cruel? Probably.)
MVP: Easy win for Abe Simpson. I've enjoyed his endless, nonsensical ramblings for twenty years. And, as usual, The Simpsons' tremendous heart shined through in the end as Abe ceremoniously passed the torch of aimless anecdotes to his son.
Quote of the Night: "You're in the newspaper business? Finally, something that'll die before me!" -- Abe Simpson (The Simpsons)
The Simpsons -- 32
The Cleveland Show -- 32
American Dad! -- 23
Family Guy -- 22