This past week, more importantly, this past Thursday saw the return of three summer shows that this reviewer has been waiting for since September.

First up was the season five premiere of Burn Notice. When we last left Michael Westen he was free and clear of the organization that burned him, and was presented with an invitation back into the CIA. That was six months ago. Six months that Westen has spent dismantling the organization that took away the last four years of his life, one terrorist at a time.

What makes the episode interesting is that it’s the first time we get to see what Michael can do when he has actual resources at his disposal. And the reason that’s a good thing is because we finally get to see why Michael is considered one of the best spies in the business. Despite having access to all his fancy equipment, at the end of the day all he needs are three grenades, a block of C4 and his two trusty comrades.

We also got out first glimpse at a Michael Westen with a clear target. Until now, we’ve always seen Michael go after the people that burned him but never have an actual target. It’s always been just a vague idea of what he wants. In this episode he had a target with a face and a name. That’s what set this mission apart from the others. As it turns out, when Michael has a clear target, he is, as Raines puts it, “an unstoppable son of a bitch.”

And once Westen finished his mission, we jumped stations to Comedy Central with the two episode, season premiere of Futurama.

Fry, Leela, Bender and the rest of the Planet Express gang have really returned to the greatness they once held. Especially when you think about those first five, god awful episodes from last year’s return. But now it appears that Matt Groening, David X. Cohen and the rest of the writing crew have removed any remnants of the crayon that was stuck in their brains because if this week is any indication this is going to be one funny summer.

First there was the episode Neutopia, in which Planet Express forms an airline company in order to combat financial disarray. However, those plans go to shit when the ship crashes on a planet inhabited by genderless rock creatures. More specifically, one genderless rock creature who quickly realizes that the humans’ problem is their hate towards one another due to their gender differences. This quickly leads to a battle of the sexes that ends with the removal of any and all gender specific features from the entire gang.

The comedy during this part of the episode was cranked to eleven. And despite the segment beginning with a crass joke involving Fry running his genital-less crotch into a spike and feeling nothing, and ending the same way, it was some of the best writing we’ve seen from the show since the episode where the professor built a time machine that could only travel forward. Personally, the best joke came when Amy and Leela ask Fry if they can sleep with him and he responds, “I have no opinion.” By that point, I was in stitches.

Of course then came act two of the premiere, Benderama. This episode was nothing except pure, Bender infested gold. But the biggest surprise wasn’t the gut busting first act, but the surprise guest-appearance of Patton Oswalt as a fifty-foot space nerd with terrible acne and a normal sized penis.

When the space nerd began taking out a majority of New New York, it was clear this episode was going to go down as classic Futurama. If for no other reason than because of the inherent charm that came from Bender asking all his replicants to help out against the nerd, and convincing them by saying they each only have to do one, one quintillionth of a thing if they all help out.

But while Planet Express was flying across the year 3000, over on FX Louie was making quick work of  twentieth century New York in an episode completely centered around parenting. More specifically, Louie’s ability to raise his two daughters (yes, I understand there was a sub-plot involving his pregnant sister, but that wasn’t nearly as good).

Right from the get go, Louie makes it clear that success hasn’t changed it one bit. And it does that by having Louie flip his youngest daughter the bird from behind her back after she tells him that she prefers her mother to him.

Of course the show has three groups of fans. The group that loves the stand-up bits and don’t mind the skits (this is the group I fall into), the group that is so-so on the stand-up but LOVES the skits, and those who love both parts equally. And while the skits were all well and good in this episode, the stand-up clearly shines above the rest of the episode.

The bit about Louie being forced to succumb to the level of his youngest daughter so that everyone can be on the same level kept me in stitches from beginning to end. I should feel bad about laughing at Louie talking about how easy it would be to kill his daughter, but I don’t. The man is a stand-up machine, and he made that very clear in the season two premiere (but I assure you that there are some brilliant skits still to air in the coming weeks).

All in all, summer returned with a vengeance this week, and it’s clear this is going to be one heck of a TV season.

Want to read more Channel Guide? Of course you do.

To listen to the latest episode of Merrill’s TV Podcast, The Idiot Boxers with Kevin Carr, head over to Fat Guys at the Movies.


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