Fox’s Sunday night Animation Domination, by name or by sheer existence, is one of the most familiar schedules on television. Though we don’t often break down the shows on a weekly basis, we thought it’d be good to pay our respects, since Animation Domination will be no more by next fall. (For the most part, anyway.) Beyond that, it was also a night of milestones, as The Simpsons finished its 25th season, Family Guy ended its Season 12, and American Dad said goodbye to Fox audiences altogether, as it will be moving to TBS next season.
And so without further aD’oh, let’s dive right in.
Bob’s BurgersThe Episode: While its fellow A.D. compadres have all been on the air longer, Bob’s Burgers has consistently been a stronger show than the others, and there’s no exception to be found in the Season 4-ending “World Wharf II: The Wharfening (or How Bob Saves/Destroys the Town – Part II.” Not only was this the rare two-parter, but the episode also utilized a more suspenseful storyline than usual, keeping Bob and the hilarious Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) tied beneath a pier while they awaited either rescue from Linda and the kids, or their bullet-ridden doom from Felix Fischoeder (Zach Galifianakis) and his aspiring vocalist girlfriend Fanny (Jordan Peele). Bob’s impending horror is balanced by Louise’s drive to figure out what Bob’s haphazard text messages stand for. With additional guest voices from Paul F. Tomkins, Gary Cole and Jenny Slate, this was a solid “event-sized” ending to a pretty excellent season.
Best line:: Mr. Fischoeder – “I hope you got my best side. I’m talking about my weiner bulge.”
The Season in a Sentence: Like a turtle paddle boat that is inexplicably faster than the rest, Bob’s Burgers remains the freshest pack of faces in Fox animation, and it continues to shine the brightest, even as it’s been continually shoehorned into the positively awful early Sunday evening time slot.
American DadThe Episode: To end Season 9 and its run on Fox, American Dad predictably pulled out all the stops and delivered a vastly (and enjoyably) ridiculous and far-fetched story that took viewers through space-time and wormholes with “The Longest Distance Relationship.” The episode’s thrust is Haley’s CB radio reconnection with her slacker husband Jeff Fischer – sent into space last season after discovering Roger is an alien – who is now flying through deep space with the ghost of comedian Sinbad. Before this, she meets the multi-talented Millionaire Matt Davis, with whom she intends to start a relationship until Jeff’s voice reappears. The third act is really where things get amazing, as Jeff and Sinbad pass through a wormhole to make it back to Earth, which allows the animators to run through a rapidly-edited string of “other versions” of the two characters, including anime ones, dinosaur ones, Futurama ones and even the real actors popping up. They end up in the future, where the Smiths are super-old (and Francine is the most horrific she’s been since getting her face acid-washed), and the surreality gives way to a kind of sadness when Jeff realizes he has to let Haley go to enable her happiness.
Best line:: Random CB Trucker – “You boys wanna see a 400 lb. man rise out of his overalls like a phoenix?”
The Season in a Sentence: With constantly surreal plots dealing with everything from the Krampus to cloning to Lord of the Flies-style survival stories inside major theme parks, American Dad has proven that not all series start to fizzle in their later years, and TBS has no idea what’s coming.
The SimpsonsThe Episode: In complete antithesis to the high-stakes drama of the other series, The Simpsons decided to end a quarter-century of family comedy with the unexciting “The Yellow Badge of Cowardice.” Like many late-season episodes, this was pretty funny stuff on a line-by-line basis, but featured a markedly average pair of stories linked together by an ostensibly pointless Ken Burns documentary-style narration from Lisa. Bart's story luckily features a ton of Milhouse, as the pointy-haired boy gains accolades and praise for winning a race that Milhouse would have won had he not been beaten up in the process, an act that Bart witnesses and still runs off to take first place. Meanwhile, Homer’s love for fireworks is challenged when Springfield decides to cancel their 4th of July display after budget cuts. The best stuff here comes in the form of Olympian Edwin Moses jumping to his Chuck Jonesian death, Milhouse presuming winning a race will fix his asthma and squeaky voice, and the fact that resident yokel Cletus has a three-legged son named Tripod and a mutant pair of children named Wheel and Barrow. But not even Springfield mob mentality or Homer singing “Sometimes When We Touch” can save this episode from mediocrity.
Best line:: Drederick Tatum – “Now, we will give out free rubber bracelets. Do not wear them to bed. They smell like truck tires. They’re disgusting.”
The Season in a Sentence: With 24 years of varying quality behind it, there’s no way The Simpsons was going to have a banner season, but at least we got that LEGO episode and more Sideshow Bob, plus some of the most amazing couch gag sequences the series has ever given us.
Family GuyThe Episode: After Season 12, are we still lucky there’s a Family Guy? Like The Simpsons, but with a much narrower comedic perspective, Seth MacFarlane’s flagship series is better watched for singular instances of hilarity than an overall sense of episodic accomplishment. Case in point: “Chap Stewie” is yet another episode that revolves around Stewie using his time machine to mess with the past in a seemingly unchangeable way; this time, he goes back to break Lois and Peter up to prevent his own birth. Successful in this, his “soul” is then transferred to a British family, where he realizes that being the smartest one in a household is something he took for granted. It’s a weak spin on a concept we’ve seen in season after season, though the episode ends on a truly hilarious piece of darkness as Stewie allows his British duplicate to be painfully crushed to death before fading into the ethers of time.
Best line:: Rick Springfield – “I wish that I had Jesse’s job.”
The Season in a Sentence: There’s hardly rhyme or reason behind anything Family Guy does in a given year, but Season 12 is mainly memorable due to the widely panned “Brian is dead” storyline that lasted all of a few episodes before order was restored.