Judge Clark Douglas has a feeling it's gonna be a wonderful day.
Our reviews of American Dad! Volume 1 (published April 25th, 2006), American Dad! Volume 5 (published July 9th, 2010), American Dad! Volume 6 (published May 3rd, 2011), American Dad! Volume 7 (published May 25th, 2012), and American Dad! Volume 10 (published October 18th, 2015) are also available.
God bless American Dad!
"Once again, CIA body doubles are for work purposes only, people."
Facts of the Case
American Dad chronicles the saga of CIA Agent Stan Smith (voiced by Seth McFarlane), a man whose remarkable patriotism is only matched by his remarkable lack of intelligence. Stan is married to the attractive Francine (Wendy Schaal), and has two teenage children named Steve (Scott Grimes) and Hayley (Rachel McFarlane). Also living in the Smith household are an effete alien named Roger (Seth McFarlane again) and a German fish named Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker). 14 episodes of the program are included on three discs.
• "Oedipal Panties": Stan has a particularly close relationship with his mother…disturbingly close. This bothers Francine, who determines to find a way to help Stan let go.
• "Widowmaker": Francine is upset because Stan doesn't ever open up to her. When she finally convinces him to start telling her all his dirty secrets, she doesn't like everything she hears.
• "Red October Sky": One of Stan's former enemies moves next door and attempts to indoctrinate Steve with his communist beliefs. The battle between capitalism and socialism is on!
• "Office Spaceman": Roger starts selling pictures of himself to a newspaper, exposing the fact that aliens actually exist. The situation creates a huge mess than Stan is forced to clean up.
• "Spring Break Up": Roger decides to host Spring Break at the Smith household and Stan develops a crush on one of the party girls.
• "1600 Candles": Steve finally reaches puberty, which upsets Francine a great deal. She uses a formula to try and stop his aging, but it actually turns him 5 years old. Meanwhile, Roger is upset because no one seems to remember his birthday.
• "The One That Got Away": Roger discovers that he has an alter ego and begins to go to war with an unusual side of himself. Meanwhile, the family gets addicted to playing the electronic game "Simon."
• "One Little Word": Francine is forced to babysit the adopted child of Avery (Patrick Stewart), Roger's CIA boss. Meanwhile, Stan attempts to rescue Avery's wife from the Middle East.
• "Escape From Pearl Bailey": A group of mean girls pick on Steve's boyfriend, so Steve makes an attempt to get revenge.
• "Pulling Double Booty": A wild love triangle develops when Hayley falls for Stan's body double and Stan's body double falls for Francine.
• "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever": Stan attempts to find a Christmas tree and dies in the process. Can he find a way to cheat death and make his way out of Limbo.
Seth McFarlane is one of the hottest people in comedy right now, receiving a 100 million dollar contract from Fox in 2008 to continue producing Family Guy and American Dad. His programs receive a great deal of criticism from fans and critics alike (particularly Family Guy), but I've always found it curious that even his most vocal critics seem to be watching his programs with some regularity. You may like him, you may hate him, but the fact of the matter is that McFarlane provides interesting television. Personally, my own feelings about the programs are mixed. When American Dad first premiered, I found it a rather unimaginative retread of Family Guy. These days, Family Guy seems to be running out of ideas while American Dad is finally hitting its prime. These 14 episodes represent the program strongly, offering plenty of laughs and entertainingly preposterous plotting.
The character setup is actually quite similar to Family Guy: idiot dad, constantly frustrated mom, two teenage kids, and two oddball pint-sized supporting characters. Still, American Dad has managed to give the characters their own distinct personalities and dimensions. I find Stan Smith a bit more interesting Peter Griffin, even though on the surface they may seem like similar characters. While Peter and Stan are both idiots, Stan's idiocy is largely fueled by his undying and poorly-managed love for his country. This gives the program opportunity to veer towards political satire on a regular basis, and McFarlane does a good job handling it when he doesn't allow the show to devolve into banal attempts at crass shock value. Fortunately, the gross-out gags are mostly little more than occasional side items in most episodes (though I could have done without the sequence in which a pubic hair floats through the air Forrest Gump style).
Though this set includes fewer episodes than previous volumes, at least there are some real highlights among the episodes included here. The set opener "Tearjerker" is a surprisingly inspired James Bond parody. I'm sure you're thinking, "Yeah, right, like we actually need another James Bond parody." As it turns out, we do. The evil Tearjerker's diabolical plot is a tremendously funny idea, and there's a great gag featuring the late "In a World" trailer narrator Don LaFontaine. There's also a lot of fun to be had by putting Stan in the Bond role, as Bond's slick tactics are replaced by Stan's bullish all-American explosiveness. Other highlights: Roger-centric episodes "Office Spaceman" and "The One That Got Away," Steve's plan of revenge in "Escape From Pearl Bailey," the wonderfully over-the-top "Widowmaker," and the Cold War tensions being worked out in "Red October Sky."
The transfer here is excellent throughout, colorful and vibrant. Fox certainly does a stellar job when it comes to these animated DVDs, constantly ensuring that they look sharp. The 5.1 sound gets the job done nicely, with the energetic Ron Jones score sounding particularly strong. The extras here are rather generous. Audio commentaries with various members of the cast and crew are included on every single episode. You also get over 30 minutes of deleted scenes, a featurette detailing the making of the "Tearjerker" episode, a featurette spotlighting Roger's assorted costumes, and a 40-minute script reading from the 2008 Comic-Con. A very generous batch; well done.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
As you might expect, there are a few misfires in the bunch. "Spring Break Up" is an overlong excuse for a series of tedious sex gags, while "1600 Candles" blows a perfectly good opportunity for some fun jokes. Also bothersome is the fact that the show still doesn't seem to know how to handle the female characters. Francine and Hayley simply aren't particularly distinct or memorable in any particular way. All of the male characters can be pretty easily defined, but the women are, sadly, "just women." Just because they happen to be a bit more intelligent than the men doesn't make them better characters. Finally, I continue to be frustrated by the fact that they're releasing this show in almost-a-full-season "volumes" rather than seasons (so here you get parts of seasons 3 and 4).
Though I'll still pick The Simpsons as the most consistently solid show on Fox's Sunday night lineup (quiet, haters), this fourth volume of American Dad offers a worthwhile batch of episodes.
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