Thursday, October 30, 2014

Tip-Top Quotables: Special Halloween Edition

As the new host of Project Runway, Sally finds all the contestants' ideas for holiday fashion lines to be so fucking hideous she'd rather tear her arm off and donate it to a shitty kids' puppet theater production of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark than have to see any more ideas.
(Photo source: DVD Beaver)
My favorite monthly section in old Source magazine issues was "Hip-Hop Quotables," in which the Source editors printed out their favorite new rap verse of the month, from the first bar to the last. "Tip-Top Quotables," which I've named after that Source section, is a collection of my favorite quotes of the week from anywhere, whether it's a recent TV show or a new rap verse. "TTQ" won't appear on this blog every week. It'll appear whenever the fuck I feel like it.

* "I worked harder on that probably than anything I'd done in my life, so I was really, really sad that it didn't find an audience when it came out. But then, over the course of 10 or 15 years, to see that it really did—it just was a slow-cooking thing—it was one of those really rare things that just took on a life of its own. It was incredibly gratifying. I've worked on many things that failed, and that, more than anything else at that point, was something that I really wanted people to find. But when it came out, nobody knew how to market it. Nobody knew what it was. It wasn't a marketable entity. But to Disney's credit, they saw that it was developing a following, and they sensed they could nurture that and make it have a second and third life. So really, kudos to them. To say, 'You know what? This thing has potential now, 10 years later. Let's feed it, let's nurture it, let's develop it more. Let's re-release it, let's do an 'inspired by' record.' They really did catch on after the fact. But at the time, it really was heartbreaking."--Danny Elfman on 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, the sixth of 842 feature films he scored for Tim Burton, A.V. Club

(AFOS programming note: "This Is Halloween" from The Nightmare Before Christmas can be heard during the annual AFOS Halloween night block "Buckets of Score," from 5pm to 11pm Pacific.)

* "Halloween is when every hack comedian's premises turn into costumes."--Hari Kondabolu

* "Do you know why we carve jack-o'-lanterns on Halloween? The origins of this curious tradition actually date back hundreds of years, to the early Puritan settlers in the American colonies. The Puritans believed that every Halloween, the Devil would enchant the pumpkins' faces so that they would come to life and say complimentary things about the legs of all the Puritan men, such as, 'Nice legs. Very muscular,' and 'Your legs are tremendous!' The man who got the most leg-based compliments from the jack-o'-lanterns would then be forced to spend Halloween in jail."--ClickHole, "Exploring The Origins Of 4 Halloween Traditions"

Looking forward to 'Black Piranha' for the sequel to 'Black Jaws.'
* "To increase blood pressure in the black community, we are adding sodium to sports clothing."--the Nixon Administration's '70s robot R.A.C.I.S.T. (Robotic Asynchronous Computerized Information System Two-Thousand), Black Dynamite, "Black Jaws! Or Finger Lickin' Chicken of the Sea"

* "Later, an interracial couple was attacked, but the shark did not eat the white girl. In fact, the shark even gave her a ride home."--R.A.C.I.S.T., updating President Nixon on the activities of a shark that attacks only black swimmers, Black Dynamite, "Black Jaws"

* "It's only a beach, Cream Corn. Just a big-ass bathtub with fish in it. And if you seen one big-ass bathtub with fish in it, you seen 'em all."--Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), Black Dynamite, "Black Jaws" (true that, Dynamite; the beach is overrated as fuck)

* "I'm in love with chicken waings/Fuck them string beans/Gotta feel that hypertension/Tuggin' my heartstrings/And when I'm feelin' hungry/Start it off with ribs and fries/Ham hocks and bacon grease/Diabetic paradiiiiiiiiise!"--"Thick James" (Phonte), singing the "Mary Jane"-style "Chicken Waings" (composed by music supervisor Fatin "10" Horton) during Black Dynamite's "Black Jaws" end credits

Zombie Fred and Ethel were conspicuously missing from the evening's festivities, probably because a drunk Rule 63 Daryl Dixon took them down with her crossbow on the way to the party.
Marry Me's Halloween episode
* Julie (Jessica St. Clair) to her son Mason (Jet Jurgensmeyer): "Well, you are in a lot of trouble, Mister, so you get inside and you start practicing that Mandarin."
Mason: "I wish Annie and Jake were my mom! [Proceeds to say to Julie a bit of Mandarin dialogue that's so shocking to her that she gasps]"
Jake (Ken Marino): "What does that mean?"
Julie: "'Die, white devil.' He's going through a phase."
--Marry Me, "Scary Me"

* "Wow, babe, you are just like Oprah. You don't have any kids of your own, but you tell everybody else what to do with theirs."--Jake (Marino), complimenting his fiancée Annie (Casey Wilson) on the advice she gave at the end of Halloween night to her arch-enemy Julie about kids, Marry Me, "Scary Me"

* "We have no idea how prevalent sugar is in almost everything that we eat. Look at Clamato juice, the original tomato cocktail with clam. One serving has 11 grams of sugar in it, so they clearly thought, 'Well, look, let's improve the taste by adding sugar,' instead of thinking, 'Let's improve the taste by removing the clam.'"--Last Week Tonight's John Oliver

Monday, October 27, 2014

I'm still here

I hear there are people on Reddit forums who actually cosigned the hacking of nude pics of Jennifer Lawrence and other actresses. Looking forward to the day when some female hacker responds to that by leaking nude pics of those dumb pro-'Fappening' motherfuckers.

I caught a couple of people mentioning AFOS on a Reddit forum. The one-year-old forum's subject was Ennio Morricone's frequently covered and sampled Good, the Bad and the Ugly score cue "The Ecstasy of Gold," which can be heard during "AFOS Prime" every day and was faithfully re-created by Simpsons composer Alf Clausen during his score for the show's "Super Franchise Me" episode from a few weeks ago.

"I wonder if it still broadcasts," said a commenter about AFOS on the forum a year ago.

"His blog is still going strong; he has some real treasures in there every once in a while (there was one on the Batman animated series from the 90s that was awesome)," replied another commenter.

Yes, AFOS is still here. And this AFOS blog that barely anybody reads is still around, even though I've found it difficult in the last couple of years to find AFOS-related topics to write about (and I've found my attentions drifting elsewhere), which is why I added "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," so that this blog has something new every week and doesn't look like it's been abandoned like so many other blogs I used to regularly read. I wanted to write about new TV in the weekly feature that evolved into "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," but I didn't want to do recaps because they're boring (to both write and read) and pointless as fuck, and I didn't want to write about any of the same five or six shows everybody writes about, so I opted to focus on adult animation. Then I chose to adhere to a two-posts-a-week schedule for the AFOS blog. One post would be the weekly one about grown-up animation on TV, while the other post would be about something related to music, soundtracks, film, live-action TV or AFOS station content, so that people don't think this blog is only about animation.

I also made a rule for myself that I've adhered to since 2012: never post on this blog anything that's less than 140 characters and can easily be posted on Twitter. I hate it when people on their Blogspot sites--or on any other blog, even ones I've contributed posts to--write a post that's either less than 140 characters or consists solely of one photo or one YouTube video. Put that shit on Twitter, goddammit. That's what Twitter is for! Blogspot works best as a platform for long-form material (while Tumblr does not because trying to code your own post on Tumblr is like opening an umbrella up your ass; shout to the late Robin Williams). Blogspot isn't Twitter, Mr. Middle-Aged Geezer who can't get his platforms straight and thinks an Instagram is who you send to sing to somebody on their birthday.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: Black Dynamite, "Roots: The White Album or The Blacker the Community, the Deeper the Roots! Or Those Cotton Pickin' Crackers"

Black Dynamite vs. the IRS
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

Black Dynamite is, along with MacGruber and David Wain's recent rom-com spoof They Came Together, one of the few genuinely funny spoof movies of the last five years (this current period was preceded by what The Dissolve has referred to as "the sad decline of the cinematic spoof," a genre that's been partly ruined by "the debased, reference-dependent school of comedy practiced by [Jason] Friedberg and [Aaron] Seltzer"). After I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, I thought it would be impossible for someone else to craft another blaxploitation spoof as hilarious as Keenen Ivory Wayans' Sucka--and Louis C.K. and Jonathan Kesselman came close with Pootie Tang and The Hebrew Hammer, respectively--but director Scott Sanders managed to surpass Sucka, by going in a completely different direction from Wayans.

A clever "Michael Jai White and the other actors are portraying amateur '70s actors portraying pimps, black radicals and thugs" gimmick distinguished Black Dynamite from Sucka ("We tried to make sort of a meta movie. It wasn't like Michael Jai White was playing Black Dynamite. Michael Jai White was playing Ferrante Jones playing Black Dynamite," said Sanders). Also, Sanders directed White to be completely straight-faced a la Leslie Nielsen on Police Squad instead of having him be a broadly played, Inspector Clouseau-esque buffoon like Nielsen in Police Squad's much more conventional Naked Gun spinoff movies or the dorky soldier Wayans portrayed in Sucka (Sanders and White, who co-wrote the film with Byron Minns, a.k.a. Bullhorn, clearly prefer Police Squad over The Naked Gun). The juxtaposition of a serious and stone-faced action hero with absurd goings-on like visible boom mikes, inconsistent accents and continually flubbed line readings ("Sarcastically, I'm in charge")--a juxtaposition that was an unintentional fixture of the low-budget blaxploitation flicks Sanders spoofed--made for a weird and often funny film. White-as-Jones-as-Dynamite expressed only two emotions, rage and inexpressive calm ("What about the smile?" "I am smiling."), and the one time we did see him laugh was when he killed a bad guy after lifting him and his car off the road with a giant magnet attached to his helicopter and then dropping him off a cliff.

On the animated version of Black Dynamite, which returned to Adult Swim last Saturday after two years of no new episodes, showrunner and voice director Carl Jones makes Dynamite even more of an unsmiling and surly character, which causes White's earnest delivery of silly lines like "I used to be a children" or his reason for not observing Black History Month in the season premiere ("Black Dynamite ain't celebrating his blackness on any month that the white man tells him to, so for all of February, I refuse to acknowledge one damn great thing my people have done") to be especially amusing. But other than White, Minns, Kym Whitley, Tommy Davidson, Cedric Yarbrough and Arsenio Hall returning from the 2009 film's cast and the use of Sir Charles Hughes' 1975 tune "Your Kiss Sho-Nuf Dy-No-Mite," the film's end title theme, as a musical sting, the Adult Swim show actually has little in common with the film, which is a good thing. Too many animated shows based on live-action movies have been pointless and ineffective retreads of the original source material (the smartly written J. Michael Straczynski era of The Real Ghostbusters is a rare exception).

Jones made the right choice in not rehashing the film's "Michael Jai White was playing Ferrante Jones playing Black Dynamite" shtick. That kind of shtick would have been difficult to pull off, both comedically on a weekly basis and in animated form; it would have lost its novelty quickly. Also, the show is well-animated as opposed to intentionally done on the cheap like its live-action counterpart. The second season's impressive new opening title sequence, directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi of Kill la Kill fame, is the best example of the Adult Swim Black Dynamite's high production values. When I first heard that Sanders' film was going to be turned into an animated series, I was expecting the animated version to closely resemble the cookie-cutter Hanna-Barbera and Filmation cartoons that dominated Saturday mornings during the decade when Black Dynamite takes place. Instead, Black Dynamite character designer LeSean Thomas and his design team interestingly based their show's look on animator Takeshi Koike's big-budget 2009 feature film Redline (South Korea's MOI Animation studio, which did excellent work on Young Justice, is handling Black Dynamite's Redline-esque visuals this season). I'd rather see more Adult Swim animated shows try to work harder and look as lavish as The Boondocks and The Venture Bros.--which is what Black Dynamite is doing--than have to sit through another show that lazily regurgitates the cheap look of Sealab 2021 and Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

The animated Black Dynamite expands upon one of the major gags in the original Black Dynamite's third act--President Nixon is the villain behind everything--and creates an alternate history where Dynamite and his crew encounter a bloated Elvis Presley who works for Nixon's DEA, a young Michael Jackson who turns out to be an alien, a completely insane Richard Pryor (in the show's funniest episode to date) and now both Rev. Al Sharpton (special guest star Godfrey) and "pedophile-looking motherfucker" Woody Allen (Jonathan Kite) in "Roots: The White Album." Jones, who worked on The Boondocks back when Sharpton lashed out against that show because he was offended by its depiction of Martin Luther King, clearly relishes establishing Black Dynamite's young version of Sharpton as a spotlight-seeking buffoon during "Roots: The White Album": the reverend's appetite for publicity is as voracious as his appetite for the chicken titties at Roscoe's, and at one point, Sharpton is overheard mentioning that he doesn't want to be late for his appointment to a Brazilian scrotum wax. The episode is purposely designed to rile up Sharpton--early on, his fictionalized self is seen unveiling a giant statue that depicts Dr. King with his pants down, doo-dooing for peace, justice and equality on a "white cheeks only" toilet--but I doubt Sharpton is even aware of the animated Black Dynamite's existence. It's been six days since the season premiere's airing, and the rev hasn't raised a single stink about Black Dynamite.

They also filled their bellies with chicken titties and fiddle faddle while watching 12 Years a Slave.
"Roots: The White Album" may not have exactly succeeded in generating the same type of publicity and outrage that erupted from Sharpton over The Boondocks eight years ago, but it does succeed in generating a few laughs, whether they involve cultural appropriation or African American viewers' reactions to the Roots miniseries when it first aired on ABC in 1977. "Wait a minute, black people were slaves? I thought we were from Cleveland!," says Dynamite's pimp friend Cream Corn while watching the miniseries' Kunta Kinte whipping scene at Roscoe's. The episode's concept of the ABC slavery drama being the catalyst for Sharpton and the black population of L.A. capturing and enslaving all the white people in the city is brilliant, as is the episode's reenactment of the Kunta whipping scene, the funniest bit of Roots-related humor since the Roots blooper reel sketch on Chappelle's Show.

The season premiere contains more social commentary than previous episodes, but it delivers it in the show's typically profane and irreverent fashion: after Dynamite karate-kicks the Dr. King statue off the toilet to stop black folks and their former white slaves from killing each other, he says to the black half of the crowd, "Look at yourselves, black community. If Dr. King was here to see this, he would shit a brick," which is followed by a small chunk of marble falling from the downed Dr. King statue's buttocks. Yeah, the humor of the animated Black Dynamite isn't quite as subtle as the humor of the original film, but in a time of cultural appropriation at its worst and the racial divide in Ferguson, we need a few more laughs--whether satirical or toilet-related--from sharp satirists of color like the Black Dynamite writing staff, and the return of this less subtle Black Dynamite is better than no Black Dynamite at all.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why Grimm's recent glimpse into Sgt. Wu's Filipino heritage is a big deal, especially during both Filipino Heritage Month and Halloween

I don't drink coffee anymore, so what the fuck is Pumpkin Spice? Wasn't she the one who replaced Ginger Spice when she left the group?
(Photo source: Prometheus Brown)

There's a great line early on in last weekend's Black Dynamite season premiere, where the titular '70s kung fu fighter tells his sidekicks he refuses to join them in observing the first official Black History Month ever because he "ain't celebrating his blackness on any month that the white man tells him to." Black Dynamite has a point there about history months for people of color.

Yakoo is also the home of new episodes of Community, starting in January!Even though it's cool to have a Filipino American Heritage Month, it's also kind of silly in concept because I don't celebrate my Filipino heritage only in October--I celebrate it on the regular. I wish I could be like Black Dynamite and tell the white man that he'll never be the boss of me or my heritage. But Yakoo chose to place Filipino Heritage Month on the same month as Halloween, which is actually kind of badass. On second thought, sorry, Black Dynamite. When the haoles give us October, I can't get mad at that.

Every Halloween, or as I like to call it these days, Racists' Coming Out Day--or as Hari Kondabolu calls it, "Racist Christmas"--AFOS celebrates the holiday with "Buckets of Score," a six-hour block of original score cues from horror flicks, thrillers and supernatural procedurals, starting at 5pm Pacific. "Buckets of Score" will include highlights of Six Feet Under composer Richard Marvin's score music from the first two seasons of the Portland-based supernatural procedural Grimm, which will continue to keep Portland weird with the arrival of its fourth season this Friday on NBC.

I went from mildly liking Grimm, a show where the cast members' behind-the-scenes tweets are sometimes as entertaining as the show itself, to straight-up loving it, ever since the March airing of "Mommy Dearest." That's the episode from last season where Sgt. Wu--a reliable source of Detective Munch-style gallows humor and a colleague of the show's titular hunter of monstrous menaces, Portland cop Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli)--was revealed to be Pinoy, just like the actor who portrays him, Reggie Lee (I had no idea Lee was Filipino until the press coverage for "Mommy Dearest" because the surname Lee doesn't exactly scream out Filipino).

This is the same face he made when he heard what Britney Spears sounds like without Auto-Tune.

Grimm's third season is the first season where I started to watch Grimm regularly on Hulu, after a lady at an after-party for v3con in L.A. recommended to me that I check out more of Grimm. I only caught a few Grimm episodes before season 3: the pilot; an episode featuring serial guest star Jaime Ray Newman as the Blutbad (a.k.a. wolf-y) ex-girlfriend of Monroe (Silas Weir Mitchell), Nick's Blutbad guide into the complicated and multifaceted world of Wesen (pronounced "veh-sen") creatures; and the arc that introduced Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Nick's elusive and badass mom Kelly, who's a Grimm just like Nick. In most of those episodes, Sgt. Wu would show up with a quip or two about some violent crime in Portland--which he's unaware is Wesen-related--and prove to be the most likable cop character on Grimm. But Wu never had a backstory, until "Mommy Dearest," that is (Wu, who was named after Grace Wu, the head of casting at NBC, never even had a first name before the episode, which revealed it to be Drew, so that means he's Drew Wu--I take it the Grimm writers are fans of Sheng Wang).

Now this backstory for Wu is where "Mommy Dearest" takes on significance, especially during Filipino Heritage Month: as a piece of hour-long American TV that's full of Filipino American characters, it's non-stereotypical and, as someone who wishes Filipinos were better represented on American network TV and were given roles other than mail-order brides or some other subservient horseshit, I view the episode as quite a well-written breakthrough for a Filipino American regular on a TV show. Wu's backstory cleverly involves a certain part of Filipino culture that makes the synergy between Filipino Heritage Month and Halloween especially terrific: monster folklore.

I bet the shitty Upworthy headline for this would be 'You Won't Believe What These Foodies Enjoy As Theater Snacks.'

When Wu was a boy, his grandma used to tell him stories about the aswang (pronounced "ass-wong"), a monster from the Philippines with a name that sounds like an Asian American male porn star but is known for an appetite that's not sexy at all: it likes to snack on the unborn babies of pregnant women. As I've said before, Wu is the only regular character on the show who's unaware that Wesen like Aswangs are real, and when his ex-girlfriend Dana (Tess Paras)--who's now married to another friend of his (Alain Uy) and is expecting a baby--is attacked at night by a creature who sounds an awful lot like an Aswang, the assault ignites Wu's suspicions that this childhood monster with the appetite of Fat Bastard from Austin Powers and the tongue of Miley Cyrus is more than just a myth.

"Mommy Dearest" episode writer Brenna Kouf, the daughter of Grimm co-creator Jim Kouf, was assigned to work a Filipino monster into an arc that would sow the seeds for Wu's discovery of Nick's secret life as a Grimm at the end of the third season, and she turned to Lee for Filipino monster myths. He suggested to her and the Grimm writing staff four monsters: the kapre, a tree demon that's fond of punking humans; the duwende, a gnome that's also a prankster; the tikbalang, a shape-shifting horse creature; and the aswang, the most lurid of the four and, of course, the monster the writing staff ultimately went with. Grimm is rarely a disturbing supernatural show--compared to something like The Walking Dead, it's actually one of the least graphic horror shows currently on the air--but when that Aswang tries to go to town on Dana's fetus in the cold open of "Mommy Dearest," man, that has to rank as one of Grimm's most disturbing monster attacks.

'Aw shit, I've just run out of minutes,' groaned the Aswang.

Grimm's aswang episode isn't just great as made-for-TV horror--it's also unexpectedly educational. What's made me enthusiastic about "Mommy Dearest," other than the juicy dramatic material for Lee and his character, is that it introduces Filipino monster folklore to American viewers, as well as Filipino American viewers who are unaware of their own culture's monster myths. In fact, I myself was never exposed to Filipino monster stories until I started reading about them on blogs like my friend Grace-Sonia Melanio's (my parents aren't exactly fans of the horror genre--and I'm not much of a fan of the genre either--so they never tried to give me nightmares with stories about tree demons or foodies with a thing for artisanal amniotic fluid).

Cleanup on Aisle 666.
Think of that Filipino American kid somewhere who didn't know about Filipino monsters until he or she watched "Mommy Dearest." Thanks to Grimm, that kid gets to learn about his or her culture's rich folklore--and then will probably need therapy later. But that kid is at least learning something about his or her culture. It's interesting that "Mommy Dearest"--which is worth checking out during both Filipino Heritage Month and Halloween season (Grimm isn't streamable on Netflix, but the third-season Blu-rays are available to rent there)--has aired during a year when the broadcast networks have made significant strides in fixing their previously lousy track record with diversity (please be dope, Fresh Off the Boat), and even though it's just a Pinoy battling a Filipino monster, it's progress, man.

Selections from Grimm's first-and-second-season score album will be featured during "Buckets of Score" at 5pm Pacific on October 31 on AFOS.

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Brokedown Merry-Go-Round" Show of the Week: South Park, "Handicar," and American Dad, "Blonde Ambition" (tie)

You gotta love how each Handicar ride comes with 'Fancy Madeleines.'
Every Friday in "'Brokedown Merry-Go-Round' Show of the Week," I discuss the week's best first-run animated series episode I saw. "Brokedown Merry-Go-Round," a two-hour block of original score tracks from animated shows or movies, airs weekdays at 2pm Pacific on AFOS.

This week's best first-run animated series episodes are both cases where the climactic sequence is stronger than the actual episode itself. While I like how Trey Parker and Matt Stone intertwine the ride-sharing wars (handicapped kid Timmy launches a ride-sharing startup with wheelchairs as the transportation, in order to raise money for the disabled kids' summer camp from "Crippled Summer") with both Elon Musk's unveiling of the Tesla D and Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn's bizarre, frequently parodied Lincoln ads starring Matthew McConaughey, "Handicar" is a step down from last week's solid South Park episode.

The newest Handicar driver explains why time is a flat circle.
"The Cissy" has become a viral sensation due to both positive feedback from transgender viewers and supporters of their community regarding the sharply written way it handled "transginger" issues and a certain catchy pop song that's performed by the show's version of Lorde, who's been revealed to be Randy Marsh disguised as a teenage girl musician from New Zealand ("I am Lorde/Ya ya ya"). "Handicar" is no "Cissy," and you have to sit through a lot of repetitive comedic misunderstandings between Nathan--the evil kid with Down syndrome who's always seen plotting to ruin the lives of either Timmy or Jimmy, the aspiring stand-up with cerebral palsy--and his incompetent lackey Mimsy in order to get to a brilliant sequence that stages the Silicon Valley rivalry between online ride-sharing companies as the old Hanna-Barbera cartoon Wacky Races.

Nathan and Mimsy are South Park's throwback to '40s and '50s pairings of mismatched Warner Bros. cartoon villains like Rocky and Mugsy (who make a cameo appearance on a poster in Nathan's bedroom), the castaways in "Wackiki Wabbit" and Spike and Chester. While Nathan and Mimsy work better in smaller doses, it's fitting that the duo shows up in an episode that, thanks to South Park's fast turnaround, also manages to work in the September 27 demise of Saturday morning animated TV on the broadcast networks. When Randy and the parents of his son Stan's friends rejoice over the return of Wacky Races--in which the likes of Timmy, Nathan and Mimsy, Lyft, Tesla, Zipcar and McConaughey compete against Dastardly and Muttley and a Penelope Pitstop-ized and farty-due-to-her-Canuckness Neve Campbell to resolve the ride-sharing wars once and for all--the sight of the adults racing to the supermarket for cereal and then gathering around the TV in their pajamas and with cereal bowls in hand clearly reflects Parker and Stone's affection for Saturday morning cartoons.

Little-known fact: right after Neve Campbell filmed her nude masturbating shower scene for When Will I Be Loved, James Toback's crew members raced to the bathroom set and proceeded to spray her massive queefs away with Glade.
While I outgrew Saturday morning cartoons ages ago--the last first-run animated kids' show made for broadcast TV that I watched on the regular was The New Batman/Superman Adventures--a part of me is sad that Saturday morning cartoon lineups no longer exist on broadcast TV, and so are Parker and Stone. Their adoration of that extinct breed of Saturday morning programming shines through in every detail of the terrific Wacky Races sequence.

The animators nailed every bit of Hanna-Barbera limited animation that the studio recycled on Wacky Races and countless other '60s and '70s TV cartoons I caught as a kid in the '80s. I laughed out loud when the screen suddenly got covered in those ubiquitous Hanna-Barbera clouds of gray dirt. But the funniest joke in "Handicar" has nothing to do with either cookie-cutter '60s and '70s TV animation or the decline of the taxi industry in the wake of Uber and Lyft. It's a jab at the decline of CNN as a serious news org: an announcer is overheard saying that complete Wacky Races coverage will air on CNN.


Roger's disguise here is as Paul Shaffer circa 1982.
"Blonde Ambition," the first episode of American Dad's exclusive run on its new home network TBS, premiered on TBS' YouTube channel about a week before its cable premiere on October 20 and was made streamable on the YouTube channel for only 48 hours, and while it's lovely to hear profanity go unbleeped on the new, cable-only American Dad (broadcast standards on TBS are looser than Fox's), "Blonde Ambition" is an unremarkable--but not terrible--season premiere. Other than the unbleeped profanity, not much about American Dad has changed since it jumped ship from Fox to TBS.

It's basically the same show it was on Fox: Stan Smith, a competent CIA agent, remains clueless about almost anything that has nothing to do with CIA work or killing people, and when Stan's not trying to teach his dorky teen son Steve how to be manlier, he--or any of the rest of his family, like his not-as-dim wife Francine or their oldest child Hayley--is still getting into mischief with Roger, the show's breakout character and a Paul Lynde-voiced alien con artist who runs a neighborhood bar out of the Smiths' attic. Roger's like a crazy--and sociopathic--uncle or aunt who happens to be from another planet.

American Dad also remains a more satisfying and watchable Seth MacFarlane animated show than Family Guy (although MacFarlane has no involvement in American Dad's writing and his contribution to the show is mainly just voice work as both Stan and Roger). Comedically, American Dad is a tighter ship--it doesn't pause for any of those annoying and pointless cutaway gags that were such a memorable object of ridicule in South Park's "Cartoon Wars" two-parter about Family Guy's inexplicable popularity--and both the espionage side of Stan's job and Roger's scheming and grifting give American Dad an unusual sense of purpose and make it a more plot-driven show than Family Guy (in other words, there's no time for the random five-minute chicken fights that Family Guy is famous for).

Also, while Family Guy plays to the lowest common denominator (i.e., a shitload of hacky race jokes and the poorly received rape joke during Bart and Stewie's phone pranks on Moe in "The Simpsons Guy"), American Dad has been a little more experimental in its humor. For instance, it once took a story about Stan's daddy issues and presented it as a serious stage play in the style of August: Osage County, so that meant the Smiths' living room and basement were sets on a stage, off-screen audience members could be heard coughing or gasping like during any other typical play you see in a theater and semi-regular cast member Patrick Stewart appeared as himself in live-action wraparound hosting segments to class up the joint (but a twisted version of the classy and polite Stewart we know and love--just like Avery Bullock, Stewart's perverted CIA boss character on the show--presided over the evening and barely concealed his boredom with the one-episode experiment).

The apes in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actually rejected this helmet as battle gear because the shit made it too heavy to swing from vine to vine.
None of American Dad's episodes during its final season on Fox have equaled the hilarity and weirdness of 2009's post-apocalyptic "Rapture's Delight," my favorite American Dad episode (although any episode where Scott Grimes, who voices Steve, gets to show off his unexpectedly top-notch R&B singing skills has come close), and it's unlikely that any of the TBS episodes will equal "Rapture's Delight" either (many American Dad fans attribute the slight dip in quality to the departure of longtime co-showrunner Mike Barker last season). But what "Blonde Ambition" has going for it, aside from eye candy in the form of a blond and club miniskirt-clad Hayley, are some observant jabs at celebrity environmentalists (Ike Barinholtz from The Mindy Project and The Awesomes provides the voice of DJ Iron Monkey, a hypocritical EDM artist/philanthropist who wears an oversized, Deadmau5-style helmet shaped like a cartoon monkey's head); an amusing dance-off between Francine and Hayley to distract a bouncer (Cedric Yarbrough); and silly nods to the invisible stage prop gimmick from Our Town (another bunch of weird stage play references from American Dad) during Stan and Steve's action-packed but mostly drab subplot about Stan's obsession with buying a dream house he mistakenly thinks is empty. Hayley's ploy to dye her hair blond in order to attract more male philanthropists to help her fund her environmental causes was more enjoyable when Just Shoot Me tried the same thing with Maya and a blond wig for one episode, but hey, at least we got out of it a nicely animated dance sequence from the temporarily blond Hayley and a Hayley-ified Francine at the end. Fran service!