comedy

Rest in Peace Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)

Norm Macdonald had been fighting cancer for nine years, and none of us knew about it.  That takes guts, to just keep on keeping on.  What a man Norm Macdonald must have been.

Side-splittingly funny.  Like most of us, I first saw Norm on Saturday Night Live.  Then came my favourite, Dirty Work, and of course all the understated brilliance that’s waiting on YouTube for you to discover.

His style was like his fingerprint.  Laid back.  Meandering.  Riveting.

There are others who can say it better than I can, so go on Twitter and read what they wrote.  Seth Rogen cites Norm as a prime influence.  Tom Green counts him as a friend.  Hearts are broken today.  So have a laugh courtesy of Norm Macdonald.  Rest in peace

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020)

Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020 United Artists)
Directed by Dean Parisot

I went into Bill & Ted 3 not expecting much, due to the poor reviews and long-ass time since the second movie (1991).  I came out thinking everybody else got it wrong, and Bill & Ted Face the Music could actually be the best of the series.

Keywords:  “the series”.  This isn’t The Godfather we’re competing with.  Once you shed the rosy glow of nostalgia, realize one thing:  Bill & Ted were never great.  They were always fun, headbanging nonsense.  There was some wit and some great performances thanks to George Carlin and William Sadler, but Bill & Ted were never great.  The movies didn’t make a lot of sense where time travel is concerned, and were essentially just vehicles for the two dumb guys to have dumb adventures.

What is amazing is that the two “dumb guys” (Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter) wanted to come back.  They seemed to be having fun making the movie, which means it’s fun to watch.  What’s new in the last 30 years?  Not only are Bill & Ted still together, but they are still together with their medieval princesses too!  And they even have children — Thea and Billie.  And they are chips right off the old blocks.

One catch though.  Although Bill & Ted’s band Wyld Stallions achieved some early success, they quickly dropped off the map* and never wrote the song that would bring the world together.   And if they don’t do it before 7:17 PM, the universe will cease to exist!  (That doesn’t make sense?  Well neither did the first two films!)

The movie splits into two tangents here, both equally entertaining.  The affable Bill & Ted decide to go into the future, and just steal the song from their future selves.  Meanwhile, Billie and Thea have their own idea:  form the band that will back their dads when they play the song.  They borrow a time machine from Kelly, who is the daughter of Rufus (George Carlin).  Kelly is trying to warn their dads about a time travelling assassin robot (named Dennis) sent back to kill them.

While Bill & Ted encounter increasingly older versions of themselves as they travel further trying to find the song, Billie and Thea recruit Jimi Hendrix, Louis Armstrong, Mozart, legendary Ling Lun, and a cave drummer from the stone age named Grom — the greatest musicians in history.   This is where Bill & Ted Face the Music really surpasses its forebears.  While it was fun seeing Bill & Ted recruit historical figures and going to hell in the past, this time it’s actually about the music.  For three movies, we are told that Wyld Stallions will unite the world in music.  Only in the third is the music actually a significant part of the movie.  It’s fun seeing Hendrix jam with Mozart despite the language (and time) barrier.

Spoilers from this point.  Bill & Ted screw up worse and worse the further they go.  Their future selves try to trick their past selves into stealing a song from Dave Grohl, which backfires and ends up with future Bill and future Ted in the slammer.  Their princesses abandon them.  Dennis lasers everybody to death (including himself) and they all end up in a familiar landscape:  Hell.  But that’s OK.  Turns out that Bill & Ted’s former bassist lives nearby.  Yes, it’s William Sadler as Death, who we learn quit Wyld Stallions to go solo years ago.  (We couldn’t get George Carlin back, but we did get William Sadler, and that’s just awesome.)  The clock ticks on and all seems lost, but don’t worry — Kid Cudi shows up to help with the quantum mathematics.

But what about the song?  As Mr. Holland’s Opus proved adequately, when you build up a piece of music in the audience’s mind, nothing will meet that expectation.  And as Dave Grohl is well aware “this is not the greatest song in the world, this is just a tribute.”  Given that no piece of music will ever satisfy an audience when you build it up as “the song that will save the universe”, this movie took an interesting turn.  It is revealed that the song itself wasn’t as important as getting everyone in the world to play along simultaneously.  It’s like a big “I’d like to buy the world a Coke and sing in harmony” situation.  And our heroes have a time machine, so they can make sure they get the message (and an instrument to play along) out to everyone in the world.  Don’t think about it the time travel stuff too hard!

End spoilers.  

Keanu Reeves, and Alex Winter in particular, are so much fun to revisit as these characters.  Keanu is a little more laid back, but Bill & Ted are in their late 40s (while the actors are in their 50s).  They’re not as enthusiastic as they once were.  But they are still Bill & Ted, bonded at the hip, and going to couples therapy as a quartet with their princesses.

Because of its focus on the music, Bill & Ted 3 surpasses the previous two movies.  There’s little “wheedly-wheedly” air guitar and shenanigans.  They don’t run around saying “excellent” and “bogus” all the time.  The endgame of Bill & Ted has always been that one day they would save the world with their music, yet the previous two movies didn’t focus on music.  The first one was about collecting historical figures to pass the highschool history exam.  A fun and fresh premise indeed.  The second went dark, having them assassinated by future robots and journeying through hell.  The third combines the two ideas, but this time with historical musicians.  Rock, jazz, classical, and I had to look up Ling Lun!

You get the sense that Keanu and Alex realized that there is a certain innocence to Bill & Ted that requires younger characters.  Their daughters (played by Samara Weaving – niece of Hugo, and Brigette Lundy-Pain) fill those roles and do it, pardon the pun, excellently.  You need that wide-eyed excitement.  Bill & Ted have already travelled through time, met Socrates and did it all twice — they have nothing to be wide-eyed about.  To them it’s old hat, even ending up in Hell one more time.

The Bill & Ted movies are, objectively, dumb movies.  The two lead characters are, objectively, dumb.  But dumb can be classic, as Stooge aficionados know, and updating a classic is really difficult to do.  Just ask the Farrelly brothers.  Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esquire managed to have a third adventure appropriate to their ages, while finally saving the world as George Carlin promised they would.  Nothing new added to the stew.  By finally focusing on the music, potential is fulfilled.

3.5/5 stars

* Their experimental opus “That Which Binds Us Through Time: The Chemical, Physical and Biological Nature of Love; an Exploration of The Meaning of Meaning, Part 1” is not a hit.

Sunday Screening: SCTV – “2009: Jupiter and Beyond”

The 1983-84 season of SCTV was its last…but it was my first! Season six aired bi-weekly on Superchannel in Canada, where I was first introduced to the show. One of our favourite sketches was “2009: Jupiter and Beyond”, the “authorized” sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.

Starring “Paul Simon” (Rick Moranis), “Art Garfunkel” (Joe Flaherty) and “Ernest Borgnine” (Eugene Levy)!  Co-starring Irving Cohen and Idella Voudry (Martin Short and Mary Charlotte Wilcox)!  Directed by Woody Tobias, Jr (also Levy).  That pesky monolith is up to no good again!  Or is it?

I guess you’ll just have to watch 2009: Jupiter and Beyond yourself to understand the riddle of the monolith.

Sunday Screening: The Queen Haters – “I Hate the Bloody Queen”

I haven’t been posting Sunday Screening videos for the last couple weeks. If I’m asking you to watch me for several hours every Friday night, the last thing I want to encourage is even more screen time.

However I’ve also been watching a lot of classic SCTV lately, and this one always comes up.  A spoof of “God Save the Queen”, this is “I Hate the Bloody Queen” by the Queen Haters!

The Queen Haters:

  • Martin Short – lead vocals
  • Eugene Levy – lead guitar
  • Joe Flaherty – bass guitar
  • Andrea Martin – rhythm guitar
  • John Candy – drums

This performance is from Mel’s Rock Pile hosted by Rockin’ Mel Slirrup (Eugene Levy)

“I Hate the Bloody Queen”

I’ve always had a dream
I’d like to meet the Queen
I’d punch her in the face
Yeah, that would make me laugh

I’d love to kick her in the teeth
And then I’d make a picture of it
In lovely Ektachrome
And then I’d give it to the Prince

(Chorus)
I hate the bloody Queen
She made me go to school
I hate the bloody Queen
And all her bloody rules

I’d like to drown the queen
Off the coast of Argentine
Throw her off a battleship
With her Falkland war machine

She taxes me to death
I can’t afford me dope
I’d like to get her high
Yeah, that would make me laugh

(Chorus)

I feel sorry for you Lady Di
Havin’ a mother-in-law like that

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “First, Do No Farm”

AMERICAN DAD! – “First, Do No Farm” (Season 17, episode 14)

American Dad continued to expand its sonic palette in 2020.  In a season that already included The Weeknd, the show pulled off its biggest musical “get” in 2020 with Weird Al Yankovic.

The setup:  Stan Smith thinks his daughter Hayley is getting “soft”.  Fed up with her overly sensitive and lazy ways, he takes inspiration from the humble farmer.  Stan bulldozes the family home and sets up a “micro farm” on the property, with only a shed for everyone to live in.  Everyone adopts the Waltons-like surname “Boy”.  “Steve-Boy”, “Jeff-Boy”, and “Mom-Boy” for example.  Creature comforts are banished.  Violators are shunned.  Needless to say, Roger the alien is the first to be shunned.  He soon takes up with the “varmints” — rabbits.

This, reasons Stan, will make Hayley-Boy “farm tough”.

To make a short story shorter, Stan screws up big time by building a secret basement with all the food, TV and video games you could desire.  He too is shunned, and moves in with Greg across the street.  But he has already created a monster in Hayley.  Yes, she got tough, but she also lost her heart, turning into a cold, farm working machine.  This is not what Stan intended, and so he must undo what has he done.  With sabotage.  Varmint sabotage.  Rabbitage!

“Let’s do it!” says Roger.  “And do we contact Weird Al’s people?  See if he’s interested in ‘Rabbitage’ as a song idea?”

Cue up Weird Al Yankovic with my favourite Beastie Boys parody yet!

As Al says, he didn’t write the lyrics, but he sure did nail that vocal part!  “Listen all a-y’all it’s a rabbitage!” wails Al, as Roger and his rabbit allies destroy the farm.  Sure makes you wish they recorded a full song, doesn’t it?  Pretty cool collaboration.  Roger, dressed as a rabbit, destroying that farm in sync with Weird Al, is worth a repeat watch.

In the B-story, Klaus the goldfish has joined Scientology, which involves unsubtle Battlefield Earth jokes.  South Park did it first and better.  Scientology jokes are like shooting ducks in a barrel.  Fun, but way too easy.

4/5 stars for the episode

10/5 stars for “Rabbitage”

 

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “300”

It took 17 seasons (or 15 by some counts — it’s complicated), but finally, American Dad has wound up one of the longest running sagas in television history.  It’s the story of Roger the Alien’s golden turd.  Begun in season 1, Roger’s turd has been the subject of a recurring story over the course of the last decade and a half.  It has incredible powers of evil, similar to the One Ring of Tolkien lore, over those who encounter it.  Good people corrupted have lusted and murdered for it.  The lump of jewel-encrusted poo has appeared briefly in several episodes, forming a long story arc unfolding over many seasons.

You can follow the saga of the turd in the following episodes:

  • Season 1 episode 6:  “Homeland Insecurity” – Roger lays the golden turd.  Two electrical workers discover the treasure, but only Jim survives, killing his best friend for it.  He calls his fiancee only to discover her having an affair.
  • Season 2 episode 3: “Failure is not a Factory-Installed Option” – Guilt-laden Jim parks his truck on train tracks, killing himself.  The investigating cop on the scene finds the golden turd, and brings it home to show his wife.  He quickly regrets tampering with evidence, and decides to turn it in.  Instead, his wife puts rat poison in his tea.
  • Season 10 episode 3: “Blargsnart: A Love Story” – The cop’s wife is executed for murder. Their son, an important man with presidential ambitions, discovers the turd hidden under a floorboard in their house.
  • Season 12 episode 1: “Father’s Daze” – The man and his presidential campaign adviser fight over the turd. They are both killed and the turd is later discovered by a cleaning woman who realizes its true significance. She takes it to the Vatican where the leaders of all the world’s religions decide what to do about this prophesized “turd” of events.

  • Season 5 episode 9: “Rapture’s Delight” – In a fanciful Christmas story taking place during the future of the book of Revelations, freedom fighter Jesus returns the turd to Roger.  (“Ah, an alien.  One of my father’s side-projects”, says a trash-talking Jesus.)  Roger uses the turd to power his spaceship, in order to ultimately stop the Anti-Christ. (This episode is not quite in continuity since everyone dies in the end, but could still take place in American Dad’s future timeline as a sort of coda to the turd saga.)

The saga finally concludes in American Dad’s 300th produced episode:

AMERICAN DAD! – “300”
(Season 17, episode 21)

Though it went on like the Song that Never Ends, the turd saga was wrapped up in grand style.  I’ve made the argument that American Dad is trying to keep up with Rick and Morty lately in terms of epic storylines with universal consequences.  In its own way, American Dad has caught up this year.

We mundanely begin in the Smith family kitchen.  The family have been trying for years to get on Family Feud and have finally received their application letter.  Famously, Family Feud only send you one application; no second chances.  Roger promptly destroys the application in another one of his endlessly destructive gags.   The family realizes (via flashbacks) that Roger ruins everything, and banish him from the house.

The screen transitions to the letterbox format, indicating we are about to pick up the saga of the turd.

At the Vatican, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Beyonce, and other important religious figures discuss how to dispose of the evil golden turd.  It can only be destroyed by sending it back through the portal from which it originated — Roger’s ass.  Its power to “corrupt and twist the human mind” is the only thing preventing the world from ascending to true peace, but the leaders squabble and fight.  None of them can do it; they need a “chosen one”, a person who is immune to the turd’s power.  Fortunately, the Knights Turdlar find the chosen one and send her with the turd to Langley Falls in America.

Roger’s not home — he was evicted, remember — but he’s not hard to find.  The deed is easily done, and the turd is returned to its origin by the chosen one.  The consequences are immediate:  a bright wave of light circles the Earth.  Utopia!  World peace…and Roger’s demise!  He shatters into (wink wink) 300 pieces.

There’s a big musical number featuring Patrick Stewart’s CIA director Avery Bullock, who announces there’s no more need for the agency.  The song features blink-or-you’ll-miss-them cameos from all sorts of favourite characters from Santa Claus to Alistair Covax to The Weeknd.  But the family is bored and can’t stand utopia!  Will they selfishly try to restore Roger and end this world peace nonsense?  It’s the Smiths; of course they will!  Roger’s 300 fragments were scattered by the Knights Turdlar, hiding them in the most inaccessible places on Earth.  But Roger’s offspring, Rogu can “probably” sense all of Roger’s bits hidden all over the world.

The story comes full circle when they track down the final and most important piece (the butthole) to Family Feud’s own Steve Harvey.  The TV show host isn’t giving it up…not without a Feud!  But an unlikely Fast Money victory isn’t the end of the turd’s tale.  It always exacts a heavy toll (as the previous episodes in the saga demonstrated).  Restoring Roger and undoing utopia has bloody consequences for the Smiths.  It’s the kind of death-laden storyline that only a time travel trope can undo!  Future Roger needs Past Roger to ensure the turd is never found in the first place, and hopefully also to not get kicked out of the house!

There is one more episode left to go this season, but American Dad demonstrated some epic scale storytelling with “300”.  That required epic aspect ratios.  Most of this episode is in the standard widescreen, but goes letterboxed for the turd saga.  It even briefly goes back to full screen when we revisit the origins in season 1.  Three aspect rations, one epic episode.  What a way to end this long-running story, which was not a turd at all.

5/5 stars

…But is the saga really over?

 

 

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Brave N00b World”

AMERICAN DAD – “Brave N00b World” (Episode 4, season 17)

Chinese ice cream can save the world.  That’s the message of this episode of American Dad.

CIA agent Stan Smith has a new assignment.  A North Korean general is expected to be in China for an Overwatch video game competition.  Stan and his team must enter the contest and progress through the rounds to assassinate the general, but first he will need his son Steve’s help playing the game and looking like a millennial.  Jackson better learn to vape if he wants to fool anyone into thinking he’s young and into Overwatch!  If the team can get some Chinese ice cream while there, so much the better.

Unfortunately for Stan and his team (and the world), his attention is split between his son and his assignment.  He wasn’t totally honest with Steve, who thinks this is more a father-son trip than a kill-a-North-Korean-general trip.  As Stan is learning, focus is key.  So how can he split his focus between assignment and son?

Since it’s Stan Smith we’re talking about, you can safely assume he screws it up and the mission goes wrong as usual.  But this time, he didn’t just screw it up Stan style.  He didn’t even stop at full Sledge Hammer.  This time, Stan goes all the to way maximum Rick and Morty, and destroys the entire world.

 

Smith misses his shot, botching the assassination.  China launches their nukes.  America retaliates.  Mutually assured destruction.

Fortunately, China saved mementos of their heritage in a culture pod, including a cone of delicious Chinese ice cream.  So America launches an eagle-headed missile adorned with truck-nuts and blaring “Kickstart My Heart”, and the culture pod is destroyed.  Before you can say “Kee-stah-ma-hah”, there is nothing left of the Earth.  Nothing but rubble, dust, and ash…and a single scoop of Chinese ice cream, floating in space, past Mars, past the asteroid belt, and into the void.

For one million years, the ice cream floats through the cosmos undisturbed until finally an alien ship happens upon it.  What an incredible taste!  They must have more.  Scans show that Earth suffered an “extinction event”.  The only way to get more ice cream is to re-create the Earth and let time do the rest.

The world has a second chance.  Will Stan do it differently this time?  Will anyone discover the truth of this new reconstructed existence?  Will Bill Nye show up at the end to throw cold water all over “Ice Cream-ulation Theory”?  You’ll have to watch to find out.

In the B-story, the entire rest of the family gets their heads stuck in the banister, which basically puts Roger, Francine, Hayley and Jeff out of action.  The best instalments are usually Roger-centric, but not this time.  Perhaps American Dad needed to catch up with Rick and Morty, or perhaps it should try harder to live up to the promise of old episodes like “Lost in Space” or the saga of the Golden Turd.  At first it appeared this episode was going to a gamer-based comedy.  Then it evolved into something more existential.  It can be stated firmly that “Brave N00b World” returns the show to a high point like the good old Mike Barker days.

5/5 stars

#832: This Is Spinal Tap

GETTING MORE TALE #832: This Is Spinal Tap

I can admit it.  I was only 13 years old, and I thought Spinal Tap were a real band.

How was I to know?  A lot of media surrounding Spinal Tap took them seriously.  When MuchMusic’s J.D. Roberts interviewed Ronnie James Dio about the Hear N’ Aid project in 1986, he played it straight.  David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap appear on the track “Stars”, which Ronnie produced.

Roberts:  “I think that one of the great coups of Hear N’ Aid, and I think you’ll have to agree with me, was having David St. Hubbins and Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap enter the project.”

Dio:  “Yeah that was a real special moment. I must tell you that there was a little consternation on the part of some of the people who did not turn up, who were asked to take part in ‘Stars’, that the inclusion of those two people, or anyone from Spinal Tap, made this project a laughing stock.  I’d like to be able to reply to anyone who thinks that’s a valid point.  Again, we are human beings.  And part of human nature is to laugh.  Probably the nicest part of human nature is to laugh.  And these are two wonderful people who made us laugh, not only in this project, but in Spinal Tap.”

Even though Dio actually broke the wall for a moment and entered the “real” world with his answer, Roberts shot right back into the fictional world with his followup question.  Dio played along this time.

Roberts:  “It’s a good thing, as Derek says, that you didn’t let them do the lead vocal, because they would have blown everybody away.”

Dio:  “Well they did a lot of singing when the tape wasn’t rolling, and they were better than all of us.  And they happen to both be the best guitar players I’ve ever heard too.”

Never mind that Derek plays bass!

Shortly after the interview rolled, Much played the video for “Hell Hole” and I had a chance to hear Spinal Tap for myself.  Yeah, that blonde guy could sing.  It was a decent song.  I expected something heavier — more thrash like.  Maybe the reason I hadn’t heard of them was they were a thrash band?  If they were so highly praised by Ronnie James Dio, I couldn’t understand why I never heard of them.  I didn’t have much to go on either.

According to the Dio interview, there were some unnamed rock stars who felt that Spinal Tap would turn Hear N’ Aid into a “laughing stock”.  Why?  I turned various scenarios over in my head.  Were they satanic?  Well, they had a song called “Hell Hole” and there was a big demon skull head in the backdrop, but that didn’t make them satanists.  Just what was the story exactly with this Spinal Tap?

They did seem arrogant in the Hear N’ Aid “making of” video.

David St. Hubbins:  “They asked us to do the leads, but like I said before, I didn’t wanna blow these other blokes away, you know.  I’ve been doing this a lot longer than they have.  I’ve got pipes I haven’t used yet.  Haven’t located them yet.”

Derek Smalls:  “He could break the board in there.  It’s really an act of mercy to the engineers that he doesn’t sing lead.”

Arrogant yes, but…St. Hubbins has been doing this this a lot longer than they have?  Just why haven’t I heard of Spinal Tap before?  Analysing the video for “Hell Hole” revealed little.  Yes, there was a comedic slant to it, but the song actually rocked.  Other bands put comedy in their music videos too, like Twisted Sister.  There was no reason whatsoever to suspect the truth.

The only real clue that I had was when Dio briefly mentioned a film.  There, the trail went cold.  Never heard of it, never seen it, didn’t know anybody who did.  It was a couple more years before I eventually put the story together.  While continuing my education in KISStory, I learned that their film, Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, was shown in a double bill with This Is Spinal Tap for a limited run.  This happened in England, a “Headbanging double feature”, around October 1984. I began to read names like “Michael McKean” and “Harry Shearer”.  Eventually a highschool friend named Andy recommended that I see the movie ASAP so I rented a copy from Steve’s TV.

The truth is, I did not like This In Spinal Tap the first time I saw it.  I didn’t laugh.  It certainly wasn’t a gleeful rock and roll comedy, as I watched the hard times roll out one after another.  But then the next day back at school, talking about it with Andy, I started to get the jokes.

“…and then when they’re stuck in those pods for ‘Rock and Roll Creation’ and the bassist can’t get out…they have to bring out a blowtorch…” said Andy.

“Oh yeah, that was pretty funny actually.  You know what part I did like, was when they were lost in the basement trying to find the stage.  Did you notice Billy Crystal was the mime?  Mime is money!”

I finally got it.  I rented it again, and this time I dubbed a copy for myself.  I understood Rob Reiner’s role in the concept and recognized the actors from other roles.  Christopher Guest, the other singer, was Count Rugen in The Princess Bride, only one of the greatest movies ever made.  Also directed by Rob Reiner!  I watched Spinal Tap again, and again.  I think I had a new favourite movie!

There’s no shame in admitting being fooled by Spinal Tap.  That was the whole point, wasn’t it?  Otherwise the band wouldn’t have continued doing interviews in character.  The idea was to always keep it believable enough that you can fool a small minority.

My dad used to say, “If that band is just a bunch of actors, then I guess it doesn’t take much talent to play rock and roll.”  But my dad missed something then, that he now understands.  Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest are actually excellent musicians on multiple instruments.  And that is why Spinal Tap was so believable.  When Nignel Tufnel rips a solo in the video for “Hell Hole”, it looks right because Christopher Guest performed that solo.  You know, maybe Spinal Tap should be considered a real band after all!

 

 

 

* Thank you Dale Sherman for that detail!

REVIEW: Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto (2018)

TENACIOUS D – Post-Apocalypto (2018 Sony)

I don’t know how this is supposed to work. Do you have to watch an animated series in order to “get” Post-Apocalypto?  I’m not doing that.  I’m listening to an album; I’m reviewing an album.

21 tracks, half an hour.  Most of the tracks run a minute and a half.  So what’s the concept?  Humanity has destroyed the Earth in a nuclear holocaust.  Tenacious D survived, though their songwriting abilities did not.  Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Yo-Yo Ma have been saved, and now live on a space station.  Kyle Gass wasn’t good enough to make the cut and now has a two-headed dog named Hope to keep him company.  Unfortunately the KKK seems to have taken over security on what’s left of Earth.

Post-Apocalypto is part uninspired sketches, part uninspired songs.  Some are decent, or half-decent, like “Take Us Into Space” and “Woman Time”.  Most are too soft, light and forgettable, and the sketches are tired.  Jack Black’s “Arnold” accent isn’t bad, but the joke wears out.

Bottom line:  as stated by Uncle Meat, “18 minutes of music isn’t an album.”  Iron Tom adds, “Although I’ll listen to some tunes individually, I don’t see myself listening to it again as an entire album.”

1/5 stars

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu”

AMERICAN DAD – “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu” (Episode 20, season 14)

Ever since the debut of Rogu earlier this season, American Dad fans have eagerly anticipated his next starring appearance.  This was saved for the season finale, “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu”.  Rogu, if you recall, is Roger’s homunculus, birthed from a tumor.  He has Roger’s ability to disguise himself as anyone he desires, but also has the temperament of a small child.  He needs to be watched and cared for like a child, despite his alien nature.

It’s Rogu’s childlike nature that makes him a perfect candidate for the schemes of Steve Smith.  Steve needs money, so he can afford the curly fries in the school cafeteria instead of the boring old straight kind.  The solution:  babysitting.  Mom doesn’t think he’s ready.  Roger, however, thinks he’s up to the task.  Roger leaves Steve to take care of Rogu, while he does one of his many jobs (a female prostitute).  If Steve does well, his mom will have to admit he’s ready to babysit.

Ominously, taking care of Rogu has three rules (shades of Gremlins):

  1. No candy.
  2. No screen time.
  3. Don’t let Rogu look at the ant farm.  (He won’t chip in for it, so he shouldn’t enjoy it.)

Predictably, within minutes, Rogu’s eaten some licorice.  When he starts barfing up little balls of Rogu that turn into fully-grown Rogus, Steve knows he’s in way over his head.  One turns into three, and three turns into dozens.  It only gets worse when Klaus the goldfish tries to contain the situation by giving the Rogus a little screen time….

Season 14 produced at least three exceptionally good American Dad episodes, and two of them centered around Rogu.  The bizarre alien offspring has quirks (a love of innocent jokes for example) and abilities far different from his father Roger.  American Dad felt rejuvenated this season and Rogu was a key part of that.

If you only watch two episodes this season, make ’em Rogus.

4.5/5 stars