Sunday was a big day for premieres, but other than a few odd shows on The CW, they were all returning series. Let’s talk about them, shall we?

 The Simpsons — He Loves to Fly and He D’oh’s

Season 19 picks up where the movie left off, featuring a brilliant opening set in Springfield as it rebuilds  from the destruction caused by the collapse of the giant glass dome.  Once the episode gets underway there are no more references to the film, but the lingering sense of quality is there, and the entire episode felt like it was made funnier and more confident by the success of the movie.  It also featured some more of the Futurama-style 3D art that the movie used so much.

There are a bunch of great jokes, with the best part being the parody of Chicago, a city they’ve never been to before.  They get to pick on Second City, the White Sox, Ferris Bueller, and when Mr. Burns and Homer leave one man yells “While you were here we felt like New York!”  There’s another great throwaway gag right at the beginning, when Mr. Burns is shopping for a new cell phone and a voice in the store announces “iPhones now 20 cents.” Honestly, after Homer leaves the show the episode slows down considerably.  Stephen Colbert makes his long-awaited debut as life coach Colby Krause, but his appearance is mediocre at best.  Other than a few good one-liners, the writers really wasted what could have been one of the greatest guest stars of all time.

Overall, the episode deserves a “good” rating. The brilliant opening and Chicago segment aside, it slips up a few times and even shows the start of a fall back to old habits.  Hopefully, though, they can take the good from this episode and expand on it for the rest of the season.

Family Guy — Blue Harvest (Star Wars episode) 

This is the first time I’ve ever reviewed Family Guy on this site, so let me first give a disclaimer:  I’m a Simpsons geek.  A big time Simpsons nerd, actually.  I loved Family Guy when it first aired, and when it got cancelled I was fine with that.  Then, once it came back and suddenly became the cool thing to watch, I was looked upon as a hater because I thought the new episodes sucked.  Here’s the thing, though; they did.  The show hasn’t found its legs since its network comeback, there is no doubt about that.  All of that being said, last night’s episode was brilliant.

I’m also a big Star Wars fan, especially “A New Hope,” so I was very excited when I heard about this.  The worst thing Family Guy does is rely too much on flashbacks, because they’re the least funny part of the show.  It has strength in writing when it stays in the present and finds more clever ways to parody, and while this entire episode was a flashback, it also wasn’t.  The episode was a near-perfect blend of goofing on parts of the movie that fans often wonder about (making the Kessel run in 12 parsects) and mixing their own style of humor into otherwise shot-for-shot scene recreations (“Great kid, don’t get penisy!”).

The only complaint I have is that it wasn’t quite on par with the Robot Chicken Star Wars episode.  Family Guy presented this in the episode, where Robot Chicken creator Seth Green voiced, through his character Chris, that they did this three months ago.  Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane then rebuts, as Peter, that it doesn’t really count because Robot Chicken isn’t a real show, as it only runs for 15 minutes at is on Cartoon Network.  But Green is right, because the Robot Chicken parody was a piece of artwork.  The parodies were crisper and nerdier, and they really made the episode all about Star Wars, whereas Family Guy had their own agenda in mind during some scenes, making the Star Wars backdrop nothing more than a funny vehicle for their wacky characters.

Still, for Star Wars fans, getting two fantastic parodies in the span of three months is a pretty great thing.  If you’ve seen the first Star Wars film more than once, you really owe it to yourself to watch this Family Guy episode, as it really hits home.

Curb Your Enthusiasm — The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial

If any of you read my newspaper review, you know that I’m a fan of the new season of Curb.  Last night was no exception, and I’d go so far as to say its the best episode in the past few seasons.  It was simply brilliant, and Larry was as awful as he’s ever been.  Driven by a desire for sex, he just can’t do anything right as he ruins his foster family’s chance at a great school, ruins Jeff’s daughter’s chance, and almost ruins Marty’s mothers funeral.  Larry is more destructive in this single episode than perhaps any before it.  After stealing flowers from a roadside memorial, he actually thinks that its such a good idea that he goes back and steals two more.  That’s so awful that it’s hilarious, which is Curb’s best recipe for success.

The War — A Necessary War

I won’t say too much about this, because it’s 15 hours long and we’ve only seen the first 2.5 so far, but I’ll at least give you an intro.  Ken Burns is a brilliant documentary filmmaker who finds stories you’ve never heard in places that everyone has looked.  This time he tackles World War II, and looks at the effect it has on four American towns: Luverne, Minnesota; Sacramento, California; Mobile, Alabama and Waterbury , Connecticut.  In the first episode, he examines the story leading up to the war and finds why individual Americans from the four mentioned towns decided to join the war effort.  Each town has a different story to tell, and Sacramento and Mobile offer a view of wartime from the perspectives of oppressed American Japanese and Black citizens, respectively.

The show is beautiful, and it is not to be missed if you’ve got the time to watch it.  The accounts are all real and are very human, and the war photography is often breathtaking.  Burns presents the information chronologically, not as it happened but as the towns learned about it.  This provides an interesting perspective, because the Eastern and Western theaters are almost never told at the same time.  If you’ve got a few hours free every night, or you like history or photography, or you are just interested to hear unique stories from a dying generation, watch The War on PBS most nights this week at 8 (and again at 10 on a local affiliate).

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