The Ninjabot

Animation Domination Showdown: The Simpsons Vs. Family Guy

Posted on April 19, 2014 at 11:54 am by Nathan Tolle

family-guy-simpsons

To get ready for the eventual crossover episode of The Simpsons and Family Guy scheduled for September, I am taking a close look at the three newest episodes from each long-running series to see whether the Simpsons or the Griffins have the momentum on their side to justify receiving top-billing.

ROUND I
March 23, 2014: “The War of Art” Vs. “Fresh Heir”

The Simpsons – “The War of Art”
This episode begins with Lisa leaving non-subtle hints to Homer and Marge about wanting a pet guinea pig, and thanks to her we realize just how unsettling it is to see the words “GUINEA PIG” written on your shower door mid-scrub. With the help of Lenny, Carl, and frequent use of guinea pig emoticons, Homer caves and takes his family to a rescue shelter in a town that takes pride in its tweaker population. In a funny scene where Lisa gets to act her age, she finds something precious and irresistible about each and every guinea pig and takes forever to make a decision. The lucky “pig-thingie,” as Marge would call it, ends up destroying the classic painting above their iconic couch, and this sets up the main storyline.

In need of new art, Homer and Marge go to the Van Houten’s garage sale and purchase a lovely coastal town painting for $20, only to learn that its valued at over $80,000. A greedy Homer convinces Marge to sell the painting and keep it a secret from the Van Houtens, but thanks to an eavesdropping Milhouse (whose personal episode highlights involve dancing to “Dance Revolution” with the television off and yearning to have a cool nickname like CJ) and Kent Brockman, it becomes the talk of the town. Many rocks are soon thrown through the Simpsons’ windows, half in anger and half in support, and it’s amusing to find out who their true defenders are. Whether the episode was focusing on guinea pigs, the clash between the Simpsons and the Van Houtens, or whether art forgery should be considered art, I was constantly entertained. There weren’t a whole lot of funny moments, but the storyline was intriguing and the final payoff surprisingly heartwarming.

LOL total: 4
Grade: B

Family Guy – “Fresh Heir”
Ouch, this was a rough one, but an appropriate representation of this season of Family Guy, the first one to test my loyalty since it premiered in 1999. In a sluggish first act, Chris spends some quality time with his grandfather after he injured his leg from an escalator incident, once again reiterating that Carter Pewterschmidt only seems funny in the smallest of doses. To thank Chris for spending so much time with him and teaching him valuable skills like masturbation and tracking pizza deliveries online, Carter changes his will to make Chris the sole beneficiary, resulting in a late night marriage proposal from father to son.

There could have been many ways in which Peter wanting to marry Chris for his money would have worked, so I was surprised by how boring and uninspired this storyline ended up being; the material all seemed borrowed from previous episodes, and I’d say that only one out of seven jokes worked. If it weren’t for the hairless Peter locked in a barn, Peter forgetting how to use “perk” in a sentence, and a gag involving VCR accessories like head cleaning spray, I would have sat through the entire episode stone-faced. Brian and Stewie were sadly given only a couple lines apiece in this episode, so I expect great things from them next week!

LOL total: 3
Grade: D+ 

Winner: THE SIMPSONS

simpsons war of art

Round II
March 30, 2014: “You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee” Vs. “Secondhand Spoke”

The Simpsons – “You Don’t Have to Live Like a Referee”
It’s been twelve years since The Simpsons episode “Blame it on Lisa” angered the tourism board of Rio de Janeiro so much that a lawsuit was planned against Fox for damaging the international image of the city. Fortunately, a protective order against The Simpsons wasn’t implemented because they returned to Brazil for this episode when Homer is recruited to officiate in the World Cup. There won’t be any harsh responses this time because aside from the gangster who tries to bribe Homer into fixing the game, the country is shown in a pretty decent light. It almost seems like the writers were playing it as safely as possible because once that plane lands in Brazil, the laughs disappear and what had been a very witty, fast-paced episode becomes predictable and bland.

The first of many throwbacks appears right away in the opening theme, showing us the morbidly obese tutu-adorning Homer from 1995. After a school assembly involving an Abraham Lincoln impersonator turns into a violent “Abe-omination,” the always-welcome Superintendent Chalmers (who we learn has never once yelled at any of his seven other principals) demands that Skinner teach his unruly students about respect. This prompts a contest to see which student can give the best speech about his or her personal hero. Lisa is extremely confident that she’ll win when she gets a look at her competition, which includes Ralph’s choice of Pixy-Stix and Nelson’s choice of his mom’s ex-boyfriend because he took him to see the movie Saw at the age of three. But she hadn’t counted on Martin, the master of the science fairs, speaking before her and having the exact same hero: Marie Curie. In true Simpsons fashion, what Lisa does next manages to cleverly link two story lines that seemingly would have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Marge also has some great moments in this episode, such as when she offends the pilot by trying to learn Portuguese on the plane.

LOL total: 5
Grade: C+ 

Family Guy – “Secondhand Spoke”
Throughout the 12 seasons of Family Guy, Peter Griffin has been hooked on just about every mind-altering substance you can think of with hysterical results, so it was just a matter of time before he’d try that wacko tobacco. It’s a depressing sight to see him become the spokesman for those disturbing advertisements that make me want to avoid all commercial breaks like the plague, but I can’t deny that I laughed when his appearance made him a goblin, much like when Kramer exposed himself to a lifetime of smoking in 48 hours.

The second storyline fares better, which has Stewie helping his bullied brother by hiding in his backpack and feeding him snarky comebacks that not only put the bullies in their place, but make Chris popular for the first time since dating Connie Damico years ago. For me, the biggest laughs in the episode came when Chris attempted his own comeback (“Nice muscles. What, do you belong to a gym?”) and when all his studying caused him to get isosceles triangles mixed up with “nice sunglasses, douchebag.” But the cleverest joke is saved for last, when Peter freaks out that the episode is almost over and his grotesque appearance hasn’t gone back to normal yet. “Try cutting to the outside of the house over some music! That usually works!”

LOL total: 6
Grade: B 

Winner: FAMILY GUY

family guy secondhand

Round III
April 6, 2014: “Luca$” vs “Herpe the Love Sore”

The Simpsons – “Luca$”
As previous episodes have taught us, hilarity always ensues when Homer, Lenny, and Carl get wasted out of their minds and go outside to play. What started as a friendly drinking game while watching the evening news turns into an intense chug-fest when Moe cleverly sabotages the game by pretending to be a reliable source/sauce. Before Homer gets the chance to park on the front lawn, he channels the great Frank Reynolds from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia by getting stuck inside a playground coil.

The first five minutes is The Simpsons at its very finest and I forgave the episode for slowing down considerably because it gave me a chance to catch my breath. My least favorite aspect of this episode had to do with the title character, voiced by Zach Galifianakis, solely because there are few things I loathe more than competitive eating. I don’t want to think about people wolfing down 20 hot dogs a minute, and I don’t want to watch it in any form! But it was a good idea to have Lisa become involved with somebody who has a lot of similarities to Homer, putting Marge—a subscriber to Dissatisfied Wives Magazine—in a difficult predicament. Meanwhile, when questioned about Snake’s whereabouts, Bart chooses not to inform Chief Wiggum about a certain treehouse that makes an excellent hiding place, and is rewarded with a load of stolen merchandise that even includes Milhouse’s smart-phone! It feels like we’ve been down this road a few times before but I’ll get behind any subplot involving Chief Wiggum, who couldn’t quite grasp the concept of the “Three Strikes, You’re Out” law.

LOL Total: 7
Grade: B

Family Guy – “Herpe the Love Sore”
Heavy on violence, this episode begins with Peter receiving a whip that was meant for Quagmire and using his family as target practice. Brian actually got some screen time here after being virtually absent from the previous two episodes, but he sadly spends most of it being defensive and ashamed after giving Stewie herpes when the two formed the sacred bond of blood brotherhood. Due to how mouth sores look awfully unpleasant even in animated form, I found all of the extreme close ups to be in poor taste—the same goes for yet another joke at the expense of the Kennedy Family’s tragedies.

The other storyline involves Peter, Quagmire, and Joe losing their beloved booth at the Drunken Clam to a group of tough guys, eventually leading to an epic bar fight in which a nearly-defeated Peter resorts to a can of spinach a-la Popeye the Sailor Man in the episode’s funniest moment. Even with the help of a coked-up giraffe, a sneezing Brian Cranston, Devo’s “Whip It,” a cowardly rational lion, and a tender moment when a devastated Stewie tells his best friend that he can no longer trust him, this is yet another mediocre episode in a season that desperately needs to end with a bang on April 27th.

LOL total: 4
Grade: C

WINNER: THE SIMPSONS

simpsons lucas

For a show that will be starting its 26th season later this fall, it’s remarkable how fresh, relevant, and funny The Simpsons continues to be. I’ll never understand the vitriol online from those who claim the show hasn’t been funny in 15 years. For every season, you’re guaranteed at least two episodes that rank among the greatest Simpsons of all time, making it completely worthwhile to sit through the duds. The Simpsons is clearly having a better season than its New England yankee companions, with whom they’ll be sharing next season’s premiere, in a crossover episode called “The Simpsons Guy.”

I would say that this is the first season in many years that The Simpsons has consistently delivered more laugh-out-loud moments than the Griffin Five. Even the most passionate of Family Guy fans will have a hard time defending this twelfth season, but I have no reason to doubt a rebound for lucky number 13 (which will hopefully include another Stephen King anthology episode!).

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