With 10 wins to show for its 17 nominations “The Simpsons” is always a strong contender for Best Animated Program. This year the show, which just finished its 22nd season, faces regular challengers “South Park” and “Robot Chicken” as well as Comedy Central’s revival of 2002 champ “Futurama” and first-time nominee “The Cleveland Show.”
“The Simpsons” entered “Angry Dad – The Movie,” in which Bart wins a Golden Globe and Academy Award for an animated short based on his father. Bart and Homer feud over who gets to accept these prizes. Gags include very funny jabs at the animated styles of “Toy Story,” “Wallace and Gromit,” and “The Triplets of Belleville.” Along the way, Ricky Gervais, Halle Berry, and Russell Brand appear as themselves. “The Simpsons” is coming off a two-year losing streak after wins by “South Park” and “Prep & Landing.”
This year “South Park” may not be much of a threat with its entry “Crack Baby Athletic Association.” This satire of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, an organization beset by controversy about compensating its players, is weak. It attempts to be edgy, with Cartman’s trained crack-addicted babies wrestling for a ball. “South Park” has won this race three times as well as the hour-long plus category once, but always for much funnier episodes.
Both “The Simpsons” and “South Park” beat back the three previous bids by “Robot Chicken.” It contends this year for the third installment of its salute to “Star Wars.” Once again, the show uses short scenes and stop-motion animation to have fun with this sci-fi franchise. Billy Dee Williams and Anthony Daniels reprise their roles while Zac Efron voices Anakin Skywalker. While the first two spoofs were clever riffs, this one strains to feature jokes that haven’t already been done elsewhere. At best, it’s mildly amusing.
“Futurama” is set a thousand years from now and draws inspiration from H.G. Wells‘ “The Time Machine.” Their last time travel episode, “Roswell That Ends Well,” sent the cast back to the 1950s and won the Emmy in 2002. This time, Fry, Bender, and Professer Fransworth test an invention that sends them forward in time. Accidentally hurdling ahead centuries instead of minutes, they must find their way back to their own time by going forward. It’s a smart, surprisingly emotional episode that harkens back to the show’s heyday.
“The Cleveland Show,” a spin-off from “Family Guy,” earned its first nomination for “Murray Christmas.” The holiday episode has Emmy champ Carl Reiner teaching young Rallo about Hanukkah. Unfortunately, there’s not a single laugh to be had in the entire half-hour. This nomination is all more frustrating since it might have been the one that kept the brilliant spy comedy “Archer” out of the running.