Monday, February 17, 2014

The Simpsons: "I Love Lisa"

Premiered February 11, 1993.

"I love Lisa Simpson, and when I grow up I'm going to marry her!"
-Ralph Wiggum

Valentines are passed out in Miss Hoover's class. Everyone gets at least one Valentine...except Ralph Wiggum (Nancy Cartwright).

Lisa notices this and feels sorry for Ralph.  She erases her name from a Valentine and gives it to him. Ralph is touched by this gesture, thinking Lisa's Valentine was declaration of love.  He asks if he can walk her home, she lets him but isn't comfortable with it.

Later, Ralph shows up at the Simpsons' house, and Lisa hides from him.  When her father Homer (Dan Castellaneta)  hears Ralph say "I'll do anything for Lisa", he puts him to work doing housework and home repairs.

Meanwhile, a school play is being planned in honor of Presidents Day.  Ralph and Lisa are cast as George Washington and his wife Martha.  Lisa fears that Ralph's "love" for her will ruin the play.

At the same time, Bart is attempting to cause havoc on Valentine's Day by writing confrontational messages on candy hearts.

"Attention everyone, this is Principal Skinner. Some student (possibly Bart Simpson) has been circulating candy hearts with crude off-color sentiments."
Ralph asks Lisa to accompany him to Krusty the Clown's 29th Anniversary Special, one of the toughest tickets in town. (Bart is very upset that Lisa gets invited instead of him!)   Lisa asks Homer if it's okay to accept gifts from someone you don't like. Homer tells her not to let her conscience bother her about it, so Lisa accepts the invitation.

"Watch this, Lisa. You can actually pinpoint the second when his heart rips in half."
Their "date" to the Krusty show does NOT go well.  Ralph declares his love and intent to marry Lisa on live television.  She loses her cool and tells him she only gave him the Valentine out of pity, which crushes his spirits.

A week later, it's time for Springfield Elementary's Presidents Day play.
Will Ralph forgive Lisa?  Or will he let his feelings get the better of him and make a scene during the play?

J.A. Morris says:

A very good episode from the classic era of The Simpsons. In elementary and middle school, I remember a few times when a Valentine led to misunderstandings. Lisa's pity for Ralph backfires and create a monster. Yes, Ralph is annoying, but he has no reason to think Lisa doesn't like him "in that way" until she tells him so.

Itchy & Scratchy get a Valentine's Day cartoon!

In addition to the stuff mentioned in the summary, we get some funny scenes that feature Ralph's father, Chief Wiggum (Hank Azaria) abusing his power as Chief of Springfield Police Department.

Apu gouges Homer for (dusty) last-minute Valentine candy 
I'm a huge fan of The Simpsons.  I Love Lisa is a very good episode and anyone who ever spent a Valentine's Day alone will sympathize with Ralph Wiggum.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 and a half Valentine Hearts.

RigbyMel says:

This is a classic episode from season four of The Simpsons.  It is also a bit of a rarity in the world of holiday television as it combines Valentine's Day AND Presidents Day.  To my knowledge, this may be the only Presidents Day show on record -- or at least the only one that isn't a documentary.

"We are the mediocre presidents.  You won't find our faces on dollars or on cents ..." 
As is typical of the series, the jokes come fast and furious.   My favorite non sequitur of the episode involves the "Monster Mash" being inappropriately played to kick off the Valentine show on KBBL radio.   Principal Skinner's Vietnam/Apocalypse Now flashback via intercom and Bart's response to it ("Cool!  I broke his brain!") are pretty amusing as well.

Lisa and Ralph star in a "thorough re-telling of the life of George Washington"
The main plot, of course, revolves around Ralph's unrequited love for Lisa and is handled very well.   There are shades of Charlie Brown evident in the gift of a "used" Valentine and Lisa learns that sometimes no good deed goes unpunished.   Both Ralph and Lisa's positions are utterly relate-able.   I remember being VERY careful about what Valentines I gave to classmates in elementary school exchanges.

I also like that the situation resolves with Ralph and Lisa deciding to just "bee" friends.

This episode is well worth re-visiting!

RigbyMel's rating:

3 and a half Valentine hearts

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Adventures Of Batman: "From Catwoman With Love"

Premiered December 12, 1968.

Robin:Forget the hearts and flowers!
Batman:It's villains and brickbats time again, come on!

"Holy Cupids Bruce!"  Dick Grayson (AKA Robin) looks at the calender & realizes tomorrow is Valentine's Day.
It's Valentine's Day in Gotham City!

Batman (Olan Soule) and Robin (Casey Kasem) are called to the Gotham police station by Commissioner Gordon (Ted Knight).  Various villains have sent Valentine gifts to the Dynamic Duo.  Most of the gifts turn out to be bombs in disguise.

Catwoman (Jane Webb) has sent them a package...which contains a live Siamese cat!

The package also contains a poem from Catwoman that reads:
Roses are red
Violets are blue-o
And I adore 
The Dynamic Duo! 
Catwoman says she admires the heroes and wants to declare a truce in honor of Valentine's Day.  The cat likes Robin, so he names her Valentina.  Batman says they can keep her, since she doesn't appear to be a bomb.

At the same time, Catwoman and her minions are on a crime spree, stealing money and jewelry.  Batman and Robin are alerted to her whereabouts, but she keeps getting away.

Batman & Robin pursue Catwoman, Valentina joins them for a ride.
We observe Catwoman monitoring the Batmobile on a tracking device.  This allows her to know where they are during her robberies.

Batman and Robin discover that Valentina's fur is covered with a chemical that gives off radio waves.  This is how Catwoman is tracking their movements.

Later, Batgirl (Jane Webb again) joins the Dynamic Duo in their attempt to capture Catwoman.  They succeed in apprehending her Catmen minions, but Catwoman gets away.

The heroes hang on for dear life, while Catwoman whips them (ouch)!
Can the three heroes stop Catwoman and save Valentine's Day?

J.A. Morris says:
"From Catwoman With Love" isn't great, but it's short, fun and one of the few superhero episodes based around Valentine's Day.

The Joker doesn't appear in this episode, but he send his foes a Valentine!
There isn't much of a plot, it's basically just an extended chase scene through Gotham City.  But it opens with a Batman dismantling several booby-trapped Valentines sent by their foes, which is fun, if ridiculous.

Batman opens a Valentine gift using bomb-disposal equipment.
And speaking as a cat-lover, I thought Valentina was cute and enjoyed Robin's interaction with her.  Plus, Valentina ends up helping them fight Catwoman!

Younger fans might find the plot and (limited and often recycled) animation rather simplistic.  But Olan Soule and Casey Kasem were always fun voicing the Dynamic Duo.  Jane Webb also does a nice job here, performing double duty as the voice of Catwoman and Batgirl.

Batgirl tails Catwoman.
I must mention one thing though about Valentina the cat.  When Batman and Robin go chasing crooks in the Batmobile, the cat is riding with them on the back of the car!

Valentina climbs a brick wall.  Is she "Spider-Cat"?
When Batgirl goes on patrol, Valentina is in the sidecar of her Batcycle.  Who takes a house cat with them while chasing super villains?  They might be great crime fighters, but Batman, Robin and Batgirl should NOT be trusted as catsitters!

  But thankfully, Valentina makes it through the episode unharmed.

Catwomam attacks the Batmobile with her car's "Cataram".
I was a bit surprised to see Catwoman us a whip on the heroes.  I don't recall seeing many Saturday morning cartoons where anyone got literally whipped.

Batman & Robin capture Catwoman's flunkies.
This series is available for streaming on Amazon and it will be released on dvd  this June.

Valentina turns on her "boss"!
"From Catwoman With Love" isn't exactly "essential" viewing.  But it's an entertaining Valentine episode, and at under 15 minutes in length, doesn't overstay its welcome.

J.A. Morris' rating:

2 and a half Valentine Hearts.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Glee: "Heart"

First Aired February 14, 2012

"Let's hear it for luuuvve!  Your assignment Valentine's week is to find and perform the world's greatest love songs."
-Will Schuester (Matthew Morrison)

Valentine's Day is approaching and love is in the air in the hallways of McKinley High!

Sugar Motta (Vanessa Lengies) announces she's throwing a huge Valentine's Day party. Every member of the New Directions glee club is invited, but they must bring a date. Both Artie (Kevin McHale) and Rory (Damian McGinty) want Sugar to be their Valentine date. Each boy sings a love song to Sugar and they try to win her affection with gifts.

Rachel (Lea Michele) and Finn (Cory Montieth) announce their engagement to the rest of the glee club. Some are in favor of the wedding, some think it's a terrible idea that will destroy their dreams.

Rachel's dads Hiram (Jeff Goldblum) and Leroy (Brian Stokes Mitchell) , have given their blessing to Rachel and Finn to marry. But this is actually part of a plan to postpone the wedding through reverse psychology.
Finn & Rachel announce their engagement to New Directions.
Principal Figgins (Iqbal Theba) stops Santana (Naya Rivera) and Brittany (Heather Morris) from kissing each other in the hallway. 

He has received complaints about their displays of affection. Santana says Figgins is a hypocrite, since heterosexual couples kiss in the hallways all the time.Kurt (Chris Colfer) keeps getting Valentine cards and presents from a "secret admirer". He believes the gifts are actually from his boyfriend Blaine (Darren Criss), but he may be in for a huge surprise.

Mercedes (Amber Riley) breaks up with her boyfriend Shane because she is still "in love" with Sam (Chord Overstreet). But she tells Sam they can't date because she feels guilty about breaking Shane's heart and it would be bad to start a relationship under those circumstances.

The God Squad (a club for Christian Students) is trying to raise money through singing telegrams for Valentine's Day.

Santanna wants to pay them to sing for Brittany, but the God Squad must first have a debate about singing for gay couples.

All that, plus lots of song-and-dance numbers!

J.A. Morris says:

As you can tell from the summary, there's a LOT going on in this episode. There's actually too much going on and most of it involves characters I don't care about. Rory and Sugar don't bring much to the table.  There's also a big plot-hole here regarding Sugar's party.  She says only people with dates may attend and that single people aren't invited because they're "sad" and "don't exist" in her world.  Then Artie shows up...without a date with no explanation.  I don't think the Mercedes/Sam (A.K.A. "Samcedes") relationship was handled well either.

The most important thing about this episode is the introduction of Rachel's dads. Jeff Goldblum and Brian Stokes Mitchell are a lot of fun in "Heart", and they're the best part of the episode too.

Rachel's dads make a surprise appearance in the school auditorium.
The dads could have been played for easy laughs, but Goldblum and Stokes Mitchell are funny and make this episode twice as entertaining whenever they're onscreen.  I was also amused by Hiram's story about meeting Leroy when they both performed with Up With People.

The big "show-stopper" song features Amber Riley performing "I Will Always Love You". It should be noted that Riley's performance was recorded several days before the death of Whitney Houston, and this episode is dedicated to Houston.

Mike and Tina don't get a plot in this episode, but I thought they had the best performance.  They perform a duet of the standard "L-O-V-E.".

There's also an ensemble performance of the B-52's "Love Shack", featuring a decent Fred Schneideresque vocal from Chris Colfer.

This isn't a great episode, but the two performances mentioned above and the scenes that feature Hiram and Leroy make it worth watching at least once.  But I don't see this becoming a perennial Valentine's Day favorite.

J.A. Morris' rating:

Two and a half Valentine Hearts

RigbyMel says:

Season 3 of Glee was where the series really started to go downhill in my estimation and this episode kind of demonstrates why.   As J.A. Morris says, there is way too much going on here and not much of it pays off in anything resembling an intelligent fashion.  

We start with an "assignment" for the club members to show off some of their favorite love songs and are not treated to very much that fits into the "great love song" category.   The assignment also seems to be pretty much forgotten after the first 5 minutes.

Artie's attempt to woo Sugar with the song "Let Me Love You" comes off as gross and creepy.

Mike and Tina are adorable.  The inter-cutting during their song and dance number?  Not so much. 
Mike and Tina's rendition of "L-O-V-E", while very cute,  is inter-cut with the stupid Artie/Rory competition over Sugar, which is not at all cute.  This might be ok if it was intended ironically, but seems to be meant to be taken at face value.

Rory is trying too hard
One also wonders why anyone (highschool horndog or not) would be interested in someone as vapid and superficial as Sugar  -- so the Artie/Rory fight over her lacks any sort of resonance.    Speaking of resonance, the ever-present auto-tuning of voices on this show always gets my goat.

Brittany's Valentine playlist for Santana is pretty amusing, actually
The "God Squad" plot thread feels tacked on just to clumsily make a foregone conclusion point about being accepting of attractive young people sharing PDA regardless of sexual orientation.

Kurt receives a "Gorilla-Gram" from his secret admirer
The reveal  of Kurt's secret admirer is only surprising if you've never watched tv or seen a movie involving a secret admirer.

The best things about this episode are Rachel's dads (despite the silly reverse psychology plot they have to carry),  the cute "L-O-V-E" number (marred by the aforementioned inter-cutting) and Chris Colfer's channeling of Fred Schneider during "Love Shack", but this is not enough for me to give this episode a ringing endorsement.

RigbyMel's rating:

1 and a half Valentine hearts