Fox // 2005 // 315 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Cynthia Boris (Retired) // November 27th, 2006
Tom Tucker: A bit of breaking news. A local family is forced out of their home by ghosts. Who are they gonna call?
Diane Simmons (sighs): Ghostbusters, Tom.
Tom Tucker: No, Diane, their insurance company. That's just stupid what you said.
When it came to adult cartoons, there was a time when The Simpsons was considered edgy and irreverent -- the most original thing on TV. But these days, compared to Family Guy, The Simpsons is bland, modest, and safe. Springfield may be a nice place to visit, but Quahog is where it's at.
Peter Griffin is a combination of Ralph Kramden, Fred Flintstone, and the boys of Jackass. He's a lovable slob who is always looking for the easy out. He loves his family, but he's such a child at heart that they're often overlooked in favor of the newest, coolest gadget or scheme. Lois Griffin is the typical middle class wife and mother, but she's got a hidden spark. Lois and Peter have three children. Meg (Mila Kunis, That '70s Show) is the plain Jane who is disliked by everyone, even her family. Chris (Seth Green, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery) is a chubby, immature young teen who has far too many inappropriate encounters with adults. And then there's the star, baby Stewie, who speaks like a sarcastic, highbrow stand-up comic and has dreams of taking over the world. The last member of the family is Brian -- who is actually a dog that talks. The funny thing about Brian is that when you watch a lot of episodes in a row, you sort of forget he's a dog.
The Griffin family live on Spooner Street in Quahog, Rhode Island and they're very involved in community activities (like constantly trying to one-up their neighbors). The show is populated with a large cast of odd recurring characters and a continual stream of pop culture icons from Gary Coleman (Different Strokes), to Bob Costas, to quarterback Tom Brady. But what else would you expect from a town whose mayor is actually Adam West (Batman)?
Episodes on this three-disc set:
* "Brian Goes Back to College"
* "The Courtship of Stewie's Father"
* "The Fat Guy Strangler"
* "The Father, The Son and the Holy Fonz"
* "Brian Sings and Swings"
* "Patriot Games"
* "I Take Thee Quagmire"
* "Sibling Rivalry"
* "Deep Throats"
* "You May Now Kiss the...Um...Guy Who Receives"
* "The Griffin Family History"
The Family Guy style is a bit hard to define. On the animation side, it's bright and colorful, detailed, and fast paced. The humor is mostly pop culture driven, and there are frequent references to current celebrity news, which does date the show a bit, but it's still funny. One of the things the series is known for are the bizarre "cut-aways." These odd non-sequiturs come out of nowhere, take over, do their job, and then you're back to the story. For example, the cut-away to the Don Knotts movie "Too Many Ostriches." Cut to a cartoon Don Knotts standing in a field surrounded by ostriches. He whines, "There are too many ostriches." And we're back to the story. Huh? Don't look for a point, there isn't one. But it's funny as hell.
Family Guy is also known for the pushing the limits of good taste, violence, and language -- pretty much anything a censor might object to. By their own admission, the producers of this series create two versions of every episode. One being the version they can air on TV, the other (funnier, in their minds anyway) version is for the DVD. So be warned. You may have seen this show on television, but that won't prepare you for the harshness of the DVD. Expect foul language in the show and the commentary tracks and a higher level of sexual and bathroom humor.
This particular partial season has some great examples of the show's signature use of pop culture. The episode "Petergeist" is such a complete homage to the movie Poltergeist, they even spent the money to purchase the actual, original musical cues for several key scenes. Though they constantly poke fun at the movies and TV shows of the '80s, you can tell that it's done with love. Only people who love The A-Team would spend so much time recreating every frame of the show's opening credits ("Brian Goes to College"). And then there's The First United Church of the Fonz ("The Father, Son and the Holy Fonz")...'nuff said.
Let's talk about the extras on this set.
First off there is a commentary on every episode. How often do you see that on a TV box set? The commentaries are often wild free-for-alls and are particularly fun since many of the writers also provide the character voices and you'll hear them switch in and out. The downside is that because the jokes come so quickly and can't always be picked up from the visual alone, you have to have the episodes memorized before much of the commentary will make sense.
"A Director's Life: Debunking the Myth" is a very informative featurette that left me in awe. Really. I never thought about the effort involved in making just a single episode of this show, the numerous rounds of drawings, the constant tweaking. And I had no idea that the actors recorded their dialogue first and the art was drawn to match. I assumed it was the other way around.
A much simpler featurette is "Peter Shin Draws Stewie." That's all he does in this short clip and he makes it look so easy. It's a fun piece.
Deleted scenes -- there are 44 of them! And you know how on most DVDs the deleted scenes are ones that should have stayed deleted? Not here. These are some of the funniest bits I've ever seen.
And speaking of funny, you can't miss the "Behind the Scenes: A Glimpse into the Family Guys Office" featurette. On the surface, this appears to be your average "guy with a hand-held" takes a tour of the office bit. The twist here is that it's Mike Henry giving a tour to Adam West (who is frankly confused by the entire pretext, since he's been to the office before). It has the feel of a mockumentary as Henry introduces various people with the same droning, wish there was something cool to show you, tone of anyone who has ever given an office tour. And either West's perplexed responses are genuine or he's a f***ing brilliant actor. Knowing Family Guy, either could be true.
Finally, the DVD itself is well put together with funny, animated navigation screens and great sound and visuals. The only downside is a poor choice of font and color scheme in the episode navigation menu. The titles are impossible to read unless you're standing six inches from the TV screen.
In a creative bit of packaging, each snap case has part of the background art reproduced on the disc label so you need to spin it into the correct position to complete the picture properly. Reminds me of those old mixies books I had as a child where you could put an elephant's body on a penguin's head.
This box set attempts to make good use of that darned DVD-ROM online content feature, but it falls fairly flat. First off, to play the DVD-ROM features, you must download the Hot Lama player, which includes a few registration steps. Very annoying. Once you access the features, there really isn't that much there. Storyboards and animatics, both of which are easier to see on your computer than when you try to use your DVD remote and a TV. Other than that, it's just links to websites that you can get to without the DVD, such as StewieLive.com.
I also find it annoying that it's only fourteen episodes. Why bother splitting the season?
Family Guy is one of those love-it-or-hate-it kinds of shows. The humor isn't for everyone, I'll admit. Some people will find it distasteful and some just won't get it. The enjoyment level is definitely proportionate to your age range, since so much of the humor comes from '70s and '80s pop culture. And remember that these DVDs are uncensored, so if you like what you see on television, you'll love what you find in this box set, but if language bothers you, then stick with the censored version on TV.
The verdict is delayed because Judge Harry Stone just got into a poker game with Carrot Top, Tony Danza, and the girls from Dawn (Tony Orlando wasn't available). As soon as they're finished, we'll let you know...
Review content copyright © 2006 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: 315 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary on every episode by series creator Seth MacFarlane and others
* Multi-angle scene studies
* "A Director's Life: Debunking the Myth" Featurette
* "Peter Shin Draws Stewie" Featurette
* "Behind the Scenes: A Glimpse into the Family Guys Office" featurette
* 44 Deleted Scenes
* Optional Uncensored Audio Track on five episodes
* DVD-ROM link to more exclusive content
* Official Site
* American Dad vs. Family Guy Online Game
* Stewie Live
* Planet Family Guy