Fox // 2006 // 246 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Bill Gibron // December 12th, 2007
All the Things that Make Appreciators of Fine Animation Laugh and Cry...Mostly Cry.
Family Guy should really be ashamed of itself. Nowhere in the history of television has so much supposed talent been wasted on such an obvious, unrewarding show. This is not your typical hater's rant, mind you. Instead, this is the voice of someone who has spent the last six months watching every available season on basic cable reruns, and can't for the life of him find a reason to laugh. The animated sitcom purports to be humorous. It strives like a steroid-stuffed Olympic decathlete to mine mirth out of a combination of toilet humor and non-sequiturs. It pisses away any opportunity to be biting or satiric by substituting the obvious and sophomoric, and just when you think it can't stoop any lower, the creators cart out a barrel of bad taste so massive that it could house a whole continent of feces-flinging monkeys. There will be those who defend the series tooth and nail, proclaiming its unpredictability and convention-crushing nature as actual indications of intelligence. In reality, they're the stock and trade of a production lacking anything that remotely resembles invention or originality. It's called going through the motions, people.
Ripping off all that's come before it -- especially The Simpsons and South Park -- Family Guy falters not so much for what it does as much as for what it doesn't do. There is no attempt at characterization, no hope of bringing season long narrative arcs into focus. Instead, creator Seth McFarlane and his merry band of overpaid comedians crank out the one-liners like stand-up comics doing donuts in Fallujah. Did that make sense? Nor do 90 percent of this show's scripts. Family Guy: Volume 5 represents a portion of the fifth season, Fox going back to its baffling box-set paradigm of breaking up runs to maximize monetary gains. For those unaware of the players involved, here's a quick rundown. The Griffins live in Quahog, Rhode Island. Dad Peter is a fat slob while Mom Lois is a housewife with a rich heritage and a checkered past. Their children are Meg (unloved ugly girl), Chris (rotund retard), and Stewie (a baby who plots to take over the world). They own an erudite dog named Brian and are friends with Glen Quagmire (pilot, pervert), Cleveland Brown (deli owner, African American), and Joe Swanson (crippled cop).
The individual episodes offered here are as follows:
* "Stewie Loves Lois" -- After she fixes his teddy bear, our conniving infant discovers a newfound respect for his mother.
* "Mother Tucker" -- When she splits up with Peter's dad, Mother Griffin starts dating local TV anchorman Tom Tucker
* "Hell Comes to Quahog" -- Hoping to earn enough money to buy a car, Meg gets a job at the local Wal-Mart-like supercenter.
* "Saving Private Brian" -- After accidentally enlisting in the army, Stewie and Brian try different ways of getting sent back stateside.
* "Whistle While Your Wife Works" -- After a fireworks accident, Peter is unable to do his job, so Lois steps in and subs.
* "Prick Up Your Ears" -- Learning that there's no Sex Ed in her kid's school, Lois decides to play teacher.
* "Chick Cancer" -- Touched by a movie he's seen, Peter decides to make his own female-oriented entertainment.
* "Barely Legal" -- After he takes her on a date to a school dance, Meg becomes obsessed with Brian...stalker obsessed.
* "Road to Rupert" -- Having accidentally sold his teddy bear at a yard sale, Brian vows to help Stewie cross the country and retrieve it.
* "Peter's Two Dads" -- When a tragic incident leaves Father Griffin on his death bed, Peter learns that his real papa is a stupid drunken Irishman.
* "The Tan Aquatic with Steve Zissou" -- Stewie discovers the joys of sunbathing while Peter learns the fun in being a bully.
* "Airport '07" -- Quagmire loses his job as a pilot, so Peter concocts a plot to help him regain his position.
* "Bill and Peter's Bogus Journey" -- Peter befriends the former President Clinton, but Lois thinks he's a bad influence on her husband.
It has to be said that those who absolutely adore this sloppy, groin-level lunacy will have no problems with Season Five, Section One. Sure, they may not understand a single moment of the Hope/Crosby references in "Road to Rupert," and "Airport '07" will feel like Airplane!, not the disaster films of the '70s. It really doesn't matter though. If you love the series, you'll bust a gut over Peter's infantilism at the hands of new "daddy" Tom Tucker, and the moment when the inglorious blob challenges his equally obese Emerald Isle pappy to a drinking contest will bring nothing but smiles. But nothing here really matches the movies being referenced. Meg's King of Comedy sequence with Brian makes that Scorsese film look like crap (and it's definitely not) while the Tooth Fairy subplot in "Prick Up Your Ears" reeks of rewrite desperation. Sure, it may make for a silly snicker to see Stewie and Brian doing a "don't ask, don't tell" embrace in order to escape the military, but the numerous non-PC moments (all ethnicities are ridiculed in the most Polish joke way possible) don't argue for comedy classicism. Instead, it plays like the rantings of those pushing buttons for the hell of it.
If pressed and forced to choose, three episodes clearly stand out. The first turns Wal-Mart into a rather happy place -- that is, until inappropriate Peter joins the staff. Next, Peter's trip to Ireland borrows heavily on the same anti-leprechaun shtick The Simpsons have milked for nearly two decades; it's enjoyable as an example of mimicry, not mockery. Finally, the obvious sex jabs against former President Bill Clinton are comparable since they really do very little except make the one-time leader of the free world into the high-water hick everyone assumes he is. Yet the rest of Family Guy: Volume 5 is astonishingly bereft of laughs. Is Stewie stalking Lois funny? Is Brian tongue-kissing Meg really witty? Do we need more shots of Peter's elephantine ass, and instances of the numerous noxious fumes that flow from it? Quagmire may faint at the merest suggestion of anything sexual, but are his horndog doings really all that clever? In retrospect, it's clear why Family Guy continues to succeed. It never breaks tradition or challenges its audience. Instead, it has heard the sidesplitting mandate from its demographic, and it's not about to change its money-making ways now.
From a technical standpoint, Fox puts out a good DVD presentation. The 1.33:1 full-screen image is bright and colorful, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround offers a nice mix of the basic and the channel challenging. In the commentaries available on each episode, McFarlane explains the "three versions" rule for all who are interested, and it's important to note here. Apparently, every episode of Family Guy is loaded with material that doesn't make it on air in one form or the other. Fox will cut some out. Adult Swim (or TBS) will remove other stuff and reinsert previous edits. Finally, the staff purposely finds dialogue and scenes that they can add as DVD exclusives. So what we have here are full-blown compilations -- usually uncensored -- containing material from all three editions. There is also a massive collection of deleted scenes, many of them too tasteless to air. Finally, there are animatics for three episodes (interesting), a "Drawing Peter" featurette (ho hum), and a Toys, Toys Galore promo discussing Family Guy action figures. All in all, a nice set of supplements.
It's too bad then that this cartoon cavalcade is so lacking in true inspiration and fun. The devoted can complain all they want, and the newbies can consider this a warning, but not everyone loves this group of Rhode Island rejects. Family Guy may be a pop culture phenomenon and a clear fan favorite, but through a veil of aesthetic appreciation, it's less than impressive.
Review content copyright © 2007 Bill Gibron; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 246 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Commentary On Every Episode By Series Creator Seth MacFarlane, And With Writers And Cast Members
* 3 Animatic Episodes With Optional Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Drawing Peter Featurette
* Toys, Toys Galore Featurette
* Optional Censored Audio on 11 Episodes
* Official Site