Although I'd enjoyed Family Guy for years and had also gotten a kick out of Johnny Bravo back in the '90s, it wasn't until Fox sent me the fifth volume of American Dad! that was also released on June 15 that I fully realized the extent of Bravo artist and writer and Guy/Dad! creator Seth MacFarlane's vast creativity.
Namely, MacFarlane is endlessly prolific, comically fearless and able to strike an even balance between the topical and trendy with flashes from the past to illustrate (both literally and figuratively) what he'd learned while working for Hanna-Barbera and via his own television tastes.
And while I still prefer the freewheeling hit and miss gag-filled inspired insanity found in a typical twenty-two minute episode of Family Guy, American Dad! can be dissected on an entirely different level since it seems that, much like Matt Groening's The Simpsons it's been modeled on traditional American sitcoms that have flooded the airwaves since the 1950s.
Therefore, it's a bit easier to compare, contrast and classify Dad! with, say, Two and a Half Men or other high-performing male-centric sitcoms than it is than trying to analyze it side-by-side with other animated fare since its roots seem more purely steeped in the shows of yesteryear.
With this in mind, it's only fitting that American Dad! stemmed from the George W. Bush era American values of a CIA agent, staunchly conservative flag waving “patriot,” Stan Smith (voiced once again by MacFarlane). Similar in character set-up to Family Guy, we have a two parent East Coast family household with two children – a liberal college aged daughter Hayley and an insecure, Scoliosis plagued teenage son Steve – along with the show's own version of Stewie and Brian all rolled into one with Roger, an alien from Area 51. Rounding out the Smith family home that's also run by the sweet but absent minded Francine is the odd goldfish whose brain has been implanted with that of an East German Olympic skier named Klaus.
And even though I was new to the series and feared that it'd take a few episodes to find my footing since this three-disc set is comprised with the final fourteen uncensored episodes of the fourth season, I was hooked right from the start as Stan steals Roger's idea to host a telethon for the CIA when the Democrats take away their funding for “unofficial official torture” devices to use the money to assist inner city students with their reading skills.
From Roger's startling betrayal that he finds life impossible as a “one family alien,” by dividing up his free time cheating on the Smiths with several other middle class Langley, Virginia families to Stan, Steve and Hayley's war against the home owner's association in an un-Stan like quest to stick it to the man (or really Roger), the plots get wilder throughout the inspired eclectic collection of episodes.
While the humor still runs slightly crasser than I'd personally wish, it's a bit safer than Family Guy as it seems to derive most of its chuckles from situational comedy rather than cutaway riffs or pop culture spoofs. And whether it's drawing from classic mistaken identity set-ups as Francine is lured to pretend to be the girlfriend of her gay neighbor therefore forcing Stan to pretend to be the gay partner of the man as they swap lives to fool the relatives for a few days or sending Stan on a nightmarish boys night out that makes him miss TV time at home, American Dad!'s clever fifth volume never fails to entertain.
Text ©2010, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
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.