Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 6.5 – Won’t You Be Our Neighbor

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It was so tempting to add that extra, civilized “u”. Differences in English, it bums me out. My apologies for turning this in a day late (I came down with that mysterious illness known as “unexpected theatre tickets”), and let’s move on to the episode ASAP. The Dunphys court a new neighbo(u)r, hopefully the hippie played by Jesse Eisenberg who lived next door to Mitch and Cam. We’ll see what transpires.

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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey 5.5 – Episode Five

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tomsybbie

 

Back from the Great White North(ern BC) and only a day late with the Downton Recap. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. Our intrepid family faces yet another week of garden parties, slightly tedious love affairs, and a crushing class system which fosters deep-rooted oppression. All in a day’s work.

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Worldly Distractions: The Big Bang Theory 8.6 – The Expedition Approximation

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The nerds are back in their last Monday night appearance this season. I’d say pick a date and stick with it, but since when has consistency been this show’s hallmark? Hey-o!

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Once Upon A Time, Episode 404: The Apprentice

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A Sweeping Saga, a Brainless Buccaneer, and Lots and Lots of Wardrobe Malfunctions

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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 26.4 – Treehouse of Horror XXV

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Well, it’s that time of year again! Perhaps the only episode of the season reliably worth checking out, Treehouse of Horror is a glorious celebration of all things creepy, kooky and altogether ooky. Some years have been funnier than others, but in general, the Halloween episodes boast a high quality and a tremendous novelty factor. In fact, it’s hard to imagine Halloween without them. So tonight, fun-sized candy bars and mini-bags of chips in hand, let’s all get together to mark a quarter-century of this annual macabre extravaganza. What terrors and treats will they have to offer us tonight?

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Worldly Distractions: Modern Family 6.4 – Marco Polo

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First up, a confession – next week’s recaps might be a bit late. I’m going out of town to write the exam I’m supposed to be studying for instead of writing this, so my Sunday and Monday shows could be somewhat behind the eight ball. We’ll play it by ear, and at least it’s not next spring, when I’ll be writing seven shows a week (sweet Jesus, what have I gotten myself into?), so you’ll get your recaps in good time. Pinky swear.

As you can probably tell, I’m making excuses just to stall the next episode of “Modern” Family. What the hell. Let’s take the plunge.

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Once Upon A Time, Episode 403: Rocky Road

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Bitches, Witches, and a Host of Hotties

 

We open on the Robin Hood family walking down a Storybrooke Street. Robin tells Marion that, though the town might seem strange, she’ll get used to it. Let me give you a piece of advice, Marion. You’ll fit in better if you ditch the rags, head over to the Storybrooke Banana Republic, and find something more “I’m-a-hip-young-mom” and less “I-live-in-a-hovel.” And please take Elsa with you.

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Worldly Distractions: The Big Bang Theory 8.5 – The Focus Attenuation

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Hey guys! It’s Canadian Thanksgiving, and I’m happy to take a break from crazy relatives and recap some crazy nerds instead. Will Sheldon be insufferable? Will Howard secretly be more awesome than everyone else? And most importantly, will Penny finally drink her weight in white wine? Onward, forth!

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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 26.3 – Super Franchise Me

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You know what The Simpsons is missing? A drinking game! It makes a lot of sense. Every episode is more or less the same these days, and that gives us a great framework under which to make some quirky rules. Sure, there’s probably a few dozen floating around the Internet, but there isn’t one written by CFK. Play along with me, and maybe between all of us and a couple of bottles of vodka we can scrape up some marginal interest in this episode.

We only get a title screen (with Bat-Burns!) before skipping straight to…something. At least there’s some nice Cat Stevens music to bring on some nostalgia. I know that’s how we’re supposed to feel because the edges of the screen are all fuzzy, and I haven’t even started drinking yet.

notsureif

 

The Simpson characters proceed to act out the lyrics to “Tea For The Tillerman”, literally, through a series of pictures. It’s pretty-looking but conceptually painful. Turns out it is a couch gag, so take a sip for that and be grateful that it wasn’t the full credits – every trope will have at least a sip associated with it.

Ned Flanders is painting Jesus figurines, something he would never have done in the early series (Two drinks for Flanderization). Rod and Todd need help with their school report, which involves electricity in some manner. While Flanders is helping them (and we are treated to all the creepy, Pat Boone-ish appliances that he owns), he discovers that something is really off with his electrical meter. Turns out that Homer’s been pirating electricity from his neighbour for ages. And the animation in this scene is really unusual – more simplistic, more clearly defined. Homage, or just laziness?

Flanders unplugs all of Homer’s stolen sockets, most of which are powering appliances stolen from Flanders in the first place. (Also, we learn that there’s a place in the world for Flanderisms. Thank God.) Growing some backbone for the first time in at least a season and a half, Flanders angrily takes his appliances back. Wow – this episode might actually have some character growth and deviance from the norm. My liver thanks you.

One of the appliances was a deep-freeze intended to store food for the Apocalypse. Faced with hundreds of pounds of thawing meat, Homer despairs. Marge decides to make the meat into sandwiches, and an honestly hilarious sequence follows where Homer paces outside the kitchen waiting for his meat like a relative in a hospital waiting room. Reverend Lovejoy is even summoned. Eventually, Homer passes out from an overdose of A1 steak sauce. (Nonspecific parody – take a drink. Homer’s overindulgent and/or sloppy eating habits – chug, and spill some on yourself.)

Fortunately, Marge’s efforts pay off, with a dazzling array of sandwiches for everyone’s enjoyment. Homer happily imagines the rest of his family turning into food, for some reason. (One of Homer’s “Mmmmms.” Imitate, then drink.) However, this abundance has its dark side, as Marge realizes that the kids have fallen into the trap of overeating. They explain that they don’t “eat their feelings”, but instead trade the sandwiches for better food (which is an improvement on their last currency, cigarettes).

Flanders caves and lets Marge use his freezer for the sandwich bonanza. (Flanderization again. You know what to do.) The sandwiches continue to spread around the playground, and become popular enough that Marge is harassed by a Lindsay Naegle knock-off who wants to take advantage. Trudy Zengler, of Mother Hubbard’s Sandwich Cupboard (uh, I see a problem there) encourages Marge to open her own franchise. Marge’s interest is piqued, but due to the ongoing fragility of the family financial situation (drink up), it’s not going to happen. Fortunately, a little light persuasion from Trudy gets her into the fast food world. So…Marge gets a job! Again! (Name three of her previous ones, then drink three times.)

Lisa’s proud of her mother for starting her business, while Homer reminisces about the time he bankrupted a Pizza Hut by taking advantage of the “free refill” policy. (Sloppy eating. Chug and spill.) Despite there supposedly being no money, Marge’s store is immediately set up with surprising speed. I’m going to assume she prostitute herself to Fat Tony unless told otherwise. Fearing competition with Krustyburger, Krusty storms in and instructs Mr. Teeny to smash up the place. However, the monkey is won over by good food, and Krusty surrenders. Next step – hiring.

Her first candidate is Gil, who is down on his luck yet again (drink, but only if it’s Pabst). Next comes Shauna, Jimbo’s girlfriend, then Professor Frink, who can’t say the name of the restaurant without Glaven-ing. (A few cutbacks on those research grants, I guess? By the way, this is a good time to explain the catchphrase rule. Imitate, then drink.) And yes, for those of you who were wondering, the Squeaky-Voiced Teen is on the crew, too. God knows Springfield’s minimum-wage sector can’t function without him.

On the eve of the grand opening, Marge lies awake all night worrying. Homer gives her a supportive, if ultimately confused pep talk. The restaurant seems to function okay, though things are a little slow. Homer promises to rally all his friends, with the help of “drone delivery” (a sandwich sent to the customer on a balloon). Running a business is expensive, though, and Marge grumbles about money (DRINK!). Reflecting on corporate greed, the show manages to sneak in a jab at Fox (dear God, drink). Things take a nosedive when Shauna is caught with her fingers in the till. She is fired, and takes the besotted Squeaky-Voiced Teen with her. Homer steps in as impromptu sandwich maker, humiliating  Bart and Lisa. Despite Marge’s pleading, they refuse to join in. She promptly ignores all child labor laws and forces them both to work. Surprisingly, the Simpsons prove quite adept in a fast-food environment, so much so that Marge fires Gil. Down on his luck again – DRINK!

A sandwich-making montage follows, which I swear to God must have been inspired by Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising. Everything goes just swimmingly for a while, and Marge dares to hope that they may actually achieve the American Dream. However, her dreams are crushed when a Mother Hubband Sandwich Cupboard Express opens, right across the street.

To make matters worse, it’s run by Cletus and his double-Duggar-sized family, which gives him a huge edge. Marge’s business quickly falls into ruin. Meanwhile, Burns and Smithers come over to inquire about Homer’s absence from work, but the conversation ends when Burns falls in love with the cardboard mascot. And though this is not related to any rule, that previous sentence was so stupid that I’m just going to go ahead and chug. Grampa comments that if he’s ever senile, Homer should get a gun and – a gun immediately appears in the frame.

Homer has lost a whole bunch of weight, and Marge puts it down to overwork. The restaurant is driving both of them into the ground, even if Homer does look a bit fitter as a result. Fed up, she goes to Moe’s and gets plastered. Wait, WHAT WHAT WHAT?

Yeah, Marge is behaving hopelessly out of character, but what the hell, I’ll go along with it. She finds solace in getting completely trashed, but is quickly upset when a commercial for Cletus’ store comes on TV. Lenny and Carl explain that it’s the convenience that draws them in, not the truly appalling food. Even Moe helps out, offering to find a way to get Marge out of her contract – though she may never work in fast food again. At least, not until the next time the writers run out of ideas.

So Marge politely explains to Trudy that she thinks this is unfair (wait, why didn’t they just use Lindsay Naegle again? Is she blacklisted?), Trudy implies she’s a nitwit, and OH MY GOD GUY INCOGNITO WALKS IN. Oh, wait. Just Homer. Lisa and Bart spill hot coffee on him, attack him with medical implements, and hit him with a fire extinguisher – well, the latter two may have been Bart. Marge points out that Mother Hubbard did not properly train its employees, so instead of facing a lawsuit, they can just give her back her investment, and she will take responsibility for the man’s “injuries”. Trudy agrees, the family goes to a park that looks like a Georges Seurat painting (Specific Reference! Drink!), and all is well with the world. Even if we didn’t get an appearance from Guy Incognito.

Because the writers aren’t clever enough to come up with twenty-two minutes of one plot, we get a short film called “Great Moments in Sandwich History”, starring Homer, which is honestly pretty perfect. Video’s pretty tedious, though -something about Homer as caveman. Oddly enough, he’s not unlike Cletus. End credits.

This one actually worked! Despite my references to the drinking game, I must admit it really didn’t seem as tired as the usual ones. Sure, we’ve seen the plot before, but it was played out in a rather nuanced manner, giving us a decent glimpse into the family’s motivations and skewering Corporate America rather nicely. Some appearances from old favourites like Gil helped tremendously. Next week – Treehouse of Horror, a guaranteed highlight of the season and by now a time-honoured holiday tradition. Will they equal “The Shinning”? Stick around – there’s only one way to find out.

 

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Worldly Distractions: Downton Abbey 5.4 – Episode Four

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stonedmary

 

I’ll let you enjoy this slightly stoned-looking picture of Mary before we jump into Episode Four. Halfway through the season! Which Crawley’s going to court scandal but-not-really this week? And how much can Carson disapprove before he explodes?

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