From Quagmire's illegitimate child to his secret intense hatred of Brian to Lois's discovery that her mother was a Holocaust survivor, the eighth volume of Family Guy finds the animated Quahog residents embarking on a voyage of self-discovery.
Luckily, however, Seth MacFarlane's show is still the same gleefully shocking series it was before even though the fifteen episodes included in this three disc set that span from the end of season seven through the first part of season eight marks the departure of Peter Griffin's sidekick Cleveland whose character MacFarlane spun off into a new series.
Cleveland's absence hits the men at The Drunken Clam in a number of ways as initially the extra vacant toilet seems like the ideal haven for Peter until he discovers that the home has been purchased by Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd in a Spies Like Us send-up and then later Peter realizes that what his buddies need is a brand new black friend.
Proving that he and Lois have lived together so long that as a married couple they more than share the same taste, Peter “auditions” a “new black” who just so happens to be one of his wife's old boyfriends, which sends Peter into fears of inadequacy and a fit of jealousy.
Yet the most romantic trouble in the volume seems to revolve around Brian as he discovers that his old girlfriend Jillian is getting married. While he takes comfort temporarily in the arms of guest star Lauren Conrad before realizing that The Hills star is an even bigger braniac than our favorite intellectual dog, later Brian stuns the family by bringing home a woman who is quite possibly older than Lois.
After being beaten up by a fellow (yet female) baby, Stewie becomes a steroid enhanced gym nut as meanwhile Brian tries to rally the town to approve the legalization of marijuana from Mayor Adam West.
And although Peter jokes that a “Meg Episode” is reason enough to make you want to change channels, the under-utilized Griffin family member causes quite a number of laughs when, delirious and bedridden with the mumps, she becomes a born again Christian after watching Kirk Cameron on television. In between sharing "the good news" and praying, Meg quickly drives everyone around her crazy with the exception of Stewie who's kidnapped the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation for a day of McDonald's fast food and bowling.
In easily the funniest episode of the set that incidentally kicks off this recent collection, Lois begins working as a reporter for Fox News where there's a button that emits a noise only Al Gore can hear and is later sent to dig up some dirt on Michael Moore.
With Brian towing along to keep her objectivity in check and to avoid the “fear based agenda pushing news stories” that another wannabe reporter cites, the two uncover a hilarious twist involving Rush Limbaugh and Fred Savage that's a great piece of inspired comedy in an episode and so agenda pushing on its own that it's amazing that Family Guy's parent network Fox ever allowed it on the air.
While the show is still as crass as ever, sometimes going for the easiest laughs where a little more ambition would've been appreciated, overall since it's so subversive and manages to launch into timely riffs on topics affecting all of us – even if it is in only a single line or two -- Family Guy remains not only compulsively watchable but innovative for its envelope pushing style.
Despite this, the series will undoubtedly age itself similar to Gilmore Girls, Psych and other pop culture driven series since the jokes work so much better if you're an information junkie and on the same timely wavelength. However, as it stands now, it's easily the funniest animated program on the air and one that actually works even better when you view episodes a second time around as throwaway dialogue you may have missed once due to laughter suddenly gives way to yet another rapid fire gag when you have the opportunity to explore it again on DVD.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.