Fox // 2005 // 291 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // December 19th, 2005
"Everybody, I've got bad news. We've been cancelled."
And so opens the weirdest chapter in TV history.
Family Guy debuted on Fox in 1999 and folks were promptly confused. The series was lewd, annoying, politically incorrect, and just plain weird. There was a talking dog and a baby who wanted to take over the world. The guy next door was a pervert, and was that Jesus making a date with a hot babe? When it comes to this (very) adult cartoon, people either love it or hate it, and in 2002, the hate-its got their wish when Fox canceled the series for poor ratings (or possibly its offensive behavior). But fear not -- Family Guy did what very few series have ever done -- it came back in 2005, and it came back as strong as ever. Witness the splendor (and the insanity) of Family Guy: Volume Three
Oh my, how to explain Family Guy. There are no words, for it truly must be experienced to be understood. But here are the basics. The Griffins are a typical middle-class family with 2.5 children and dog, living a typically suburban neighborhood in the town of Quahog. Peter is the breadwinner, the kooky dad who might as easily be caught in a fight with a six-foot chicken as barbequing in the backyard. Lois is his wife, a modern woman who loves (and still makes love to) her husband, and relates intellectually to the family dog, Brian, who is smarter than everyone else. Meg (voiced by Mila Kunis of That '70s Show) is the oldest child, an average-looking girl who is often picked on by everyone in the show. Chris (voiced by Seth Green of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is the overly plump and somewhat psychotic middle child. Stewie, the baby, is an evil genius who still needs to be changed and rocked to sleep.
Though episodes may seem to have a clear and present plot when they begin, it's likely that they'll be run off track before the halfway point. You see, Family Guy is known for its cutaways -- quick (and nauseatingly not so quick) sidesteps needed to make a humorous point. But what the series is really famous for is its incredibly long list of pop culture references. So long, in fact, there is a fan website devoted to nothing but notes about these references. TV shows and movies are favored fodder, but cultural icons, political figures, and current news stories all end up lampooned at one point or another.
Just look at the list of episode titles and you can see creator Seth MacFarlane's passion for pop culture.
* North by North Quahog
* Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High
* Blind Ambition
* Don't Make Me Over
* The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire
* Brian The Bachelor
* 8 Simple Rules for Buying My Daughter
* Breaking Out is Hard To Do
* Model Misbehavior
* Perfect Castaways
* Peter's Got Woods
* Jungle Love
All the evidence you need of Family Guy's brilliance can be found in the opening teaser of "North by North Quahog" -- the show's return to the airwaves after a near four-year break. Peter stands in front of his family and announces that their show has been canceled. Why? So Fox can make room for better shows such as...and the list begins. Twenty-nine shows in all, from Freaky Links to Greg the Bunny. Is there any chance of saving Family Guy, Lois asks? A slim chance, says Peter. If all of those shows get canceled, then maybe. Of course, all twenty-nine of those shows have been canceled, some after only a few airings.
Biting the hand that feeds it is one of the things Family Guy does best.
For the resurrected series, MacFarlane was able to reassemble his team from the first three seasons, including all of the voice actors, directors, writers, and storyboard artists. This means that the jump from Season Three to Season Four is seamless. The jokes are just as funny, the wit just as sharp, and the artistry often quite inventive, like the time Chris was sucked into the A-Ha video, "Take on Me."
The DVD comes on three discs in snap cases inside a cardboard sleeve. The box art is bright and colorful, and the interactive menus are great. Each menu features a rotation of short clips from the series, and it's easy to figure out where you want to go and where you've been.
The DVD has several nice extras, and a few that left me wondering why. The two best are "World Domination: The Family Guy Phenomenon," an excellent primer for those new to the show and full of great tidbits for diehard fans. "Sound! The Music of Family Guy" is another great feature that shows us how really integral music is to the series. (And did you know they are one of the few shows that still uses a full studio orchestra to record the soundtrack?) "The Storyboard/Animatic Comparisons" are probably of interest to some diehard animation fans, but personally I didn't see the point. Even more perplexing was the "Multi-Angle Table Read," which should be better than it is. Seeing the voice actors as they read through a script is a terrific extra, but this feature is so sliced up, mixing the actors with the animation, that it just falls flat. A real shame, because I love watching MacFarlane, who voices several characters in the show, shift from Stewie to Peter to Brian and back. But the oddest extra of all is called "Deleted Scene Animatics" which amounts to one deleted scene from one episode with a couple of animatics tossed in for good measure. Strange.
Ah, but I saved the best for last. There is one very unusual thing about Family Guy: Volume Three and that is that it's uncut and uncensored. Yes, indeedy. You'll hear little Stewie curse and see sex jokes that didn't make it past the censors. The writers even admit to writing jokes especially for the DVD, and that's gotta make all the fans feel kinda special.
The biggest complaint I have about this DVD set (which isn't anyone's fault really) is that it only contains thirteen episodes. Considering that this is a half-hour show, that amounts to less than half the run time of the previous release at pretty much the same price.
There's also good and bad on the commentary side. Good: almost every episode has a commentary track. Bad: they're hard to follow. Family Guy isn't known for its linear plotting, so watching the show with the sound nearly off and with five different people putting in their two cents...well...it takes some getting used to. To really enjoy the commentaries, you'd have to watch the episode a few times to get a good feel for it before switching on the track.
My final whine is about the series itself -- or more accurately, the change in the series when this season begins. Any longtime fan will notice that this season has a bad habit of staying on a joke too long. Way too long. This likely came from a few episodes from the earlier seasons where a one-note joke was sustained to the point of funny. Unfortunately, in this new season, the show holds on past funny and runs quickly into annoying. You will also notice an increase in cutaways in any given episode, despite MacFarlane's claim that they didn't make any changes to the series when they re-upped in '05.
Family Guy can be summed with a quote from the episode "Petarded."
Peter: (Grabs the microphone at a fast food restaurant) Attention restaurant customers: Testicles. That is all.
Yep. Testicles. Family Guy says what you were going to say. Family Guy says what you were never going to say. And Family Guy says what you were thinking, but wouldn't ever say out loud in a million years, even though you know it would be hysterically funny if your mamma hadn't raised you to be a socially responsible adult.
Personally, I think being a socially responsible adult takes all the fun out of life. This bus is going straight to hell and there's still plenty of room on board, so check out Family Guy: Volume Three and we'll keep the motor running for you.
I hereby find Family Guy: Volume Three guilty of being an equal opportunity insulter and I sentence them to a lifetime of making people laugh.
Review content copyright © 2005 Cynthia Boris; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 291 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* World Domination: The Family Guy Phenomenon
* Deleted Scene Animatics
* Sound! The Music of Family Guy
* Multi-Angle Table Read
* Storyboard/Animatic Comparisons
* American Dad Preview
* Family Guy Official Site
* Family Guy Reference Archive
* Family Guy Quotes