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Our reviews of Family Guy: Volume Four (published November 27th, 2006), Family Guy: Volume Five (published December 12th, 2007), Family Guy: Volume Ten (published October 13th, 2012), Family Guy: Volume 11 (published October 29th, 2013), Family Guy: Blue Harvest (published January 15th, 2008), Family Guy: It's A Trap! (published January 19th, 2011), Family Guy: It's A Trap! (Blu-Ray) (published December 21st, 2010), Family Guy: Partial Terms Of Endearment (published October 13th, 2010), Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (published September 12th, 2005), Family Guy: Volume One (published April 21st, 2003), Family Guy: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side (Blu-Ray) (published December 26th, 2009), Family Guy: The Freakin' Sweet Collection (published January 26th, 2005), Family Guy: Volume Eight (published July 12th, 2010), Family Guy: Volume Nine (published December 26th, 2011), Family Guy: Volume Seven (published July 23rd, 2009), and Family Guy: Volume Three (published December 19th, 2005) are also available.
More uncut Family Guy. Giggity! Giggity!
Since its premiere in 1999, Family Guy has behaved like that jackass you knew from high school: he wasn't respectable company, but you couldn't help admiring him a little for saying the things you didn't have the guts to say. Creator Seth MacFarlane and his collaborators have stubbornly milked their formula of rude, irreverent humor for more than one hundred episodes on network television. Family Guy: Volume Six gives fans more of what has come before. The show is still an equal opportunity offender that observes no sacred cows, pulls no punches, bites the hand that feeds it, takes cheap jabs at its critics, mocks its admirers, disrespects its inspirations, borrows ideas from all corners of popular culture (but don't call it plagiarism) to make us laugh and cry.
Facts of the Case
In this latest volume of episodes, Fox continues its odd compilation pattern that collects pieces of two seasons and leaves fans to wait for the next set of DVDs before completing the newest season. The 12 episodes are spread across three discs like so:
Disc One has the remaining Season Five episodes that were left out of the
previous DVD volume:
Disc Two features almost half of the Season Six episodes:
Disc Three has one more episode from Season Six, plus the rest of the
In a nutshell, there are three generations of Family Guy fans. The first wave of admirers can take satisfaction in knowing that they got this unusual show before it was cool. These early adopters were laughing it up while everyone else was still asking "Do they understand the baby, or not?" The second wave of fans, curious about what was being touting by a small but devoted fan base, discovered the series in reruns and on DVD after it had been cancelled by Fox. Then there is the third group that came to the party late, probably just in time for its relaunch in 2005. I confess that I firmly belong to the latter group. The show's story style and what I saw as the mean-spirited nature of the humor turned me off when I saw the early episodes. Watching the occasional rerun, Family Guy started to grow on me and by 2005 I was much more in tune with it. I've watched it regularly since its return to the airwaves and there's always a couple of really good laughs each episode, if not more.
Over the course of six seasons, Family Guy has not had any significant continuity developments. The characters' histories are pretty much unchanged, save for the divorce of two minor characters in the fourth season. This quality makes the series very easy to watch out of episode sequence. The scattershot cut-away jokes provide the punctuation to stories that could be interchangeable from one season to the next. Seeing it one way, you could say the writers are still pulling the same shtick after all this time. Conversely, you could say the show's level of comedy has remained consistent for this long.
There are a pair of episodes on this set that bring a recurring theme to its culmination. The two-parter that marks the series' 100th episode deals with Stewie's desire to kill Lois and take over the world. These episodes really shake up the Family Guy world, but it truly comes as no surprise when the epic events are undone at the final resolution. Everything returning to normal is just a part of the joke in TV sitcom land. Those installments, "Stewie Kills Lois" and "Lois Kills Stewie," are clearly the standouts on this set. As for the rest of the episodes, the individual storylines seem like a secondary concern to the quick jokes that make up the texture of each show. They rank about average with other Family Guy episodes, which is to say they're very funny if you're in on the joke.
There are two options for every episode: the uncut, uncensored version or the (only mildly safer) broadcast version. The Play All function defaults to the uncut shows, which are laden with swearing and sex jokes. Each show is approximately 22 minutes in length and the uncut versions each gain less than a minute with some restored gags. The most significant restoration occurs with "Lois Kills Stewie" where a freakin' sweet musical number pushes the run time to 26 minutes.
Every episode features an audio commentary with Seth MacFarlane and some rotating members of the cast and crew. The quality of the commentaries varies but you can count on the assembled folks to be candid and foul-mouthed. In the commentaries accompanying the first few episodes on the first disc, the participants sounded a bit bored and offered little more than their reactions to scenes as they watched them. It gets better later on, though. In some of the juicier moments, MacFarlane recounts their conflicts with the network. Plus, many of the crew have also worked on other Fox animated shows and it's interesting to hear their comparisons of working on different shows. It can be difficult to keep track of who's who during the commentaries, however, especially when the conversations start to pick up. One particular moment I enjoyed was hearing director Cyndi Tang talk about her hairdresser training. It was just an interesting tangent in the conversation that revealed a different side to the people I imagined working on a show like this.
The video quality of the episodes on the first two discs is acceptable. The 1.33:1 full frame format is what you saw on broadcast TV and the colors here may be a bit stronger too. One small distraction was a slight flicker along horizontal lines whenever the backgrounds were static. There is also some minor vertical color bleed. Both of these might be related to interlacing issues. The third disc, which features only one fully animated episode, exhibits more problems: digital artifacts recurring on the picture that resemble the distortion from an overused edge-sharpening process. It's especially noticeable in the frames where there is little or no movement. It is possible that this is just a symptom of the screener copy we received for reviewing and the final shipped discs were mastered more carefully.
The episodes are mixed in Dolby 5.1 surround sound and the result is a very good stereo presentation. The surround speakers kick in during the musical cues to show off the full orchestration. However, the audio for the majority of each episode is concentrated front and center. The dialogue is clear so you won't miss any jokes on account of sound effects drowning out the voices.
The best extra on this set is a 71-minute recording of "Family Guy Live!" from the 2007 Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. The cast performs a live reading of an episode and it's interesting to be able to put real faces to the voices. Following the reading, MacFarlane and company remain on stage to take questions from the audience. Also listed as an extra, the "Family Guy 100th Episode Special" is a retrospective clips show that aired during the sixth season. MacFarlane acts as the interviewer to a focus group of regular people who have just watched an episode of the show. Incredibly, the focus group participants can't make the connection between MacFarlane's voice as the interviewer and as the characters they've just heard on the show. The "Making of the 100th Episode" is a 24-minute featurette concerning the two-parter that deals with the Stewie-Lois conflict. We hear from various cast and crew about how big and special this episode is, but actually, the featurette works much better simply as a short documentary about the creation of an episode from drafting the script, to voice recording and animation.
There are plenty more extras on the third disc to keep fans happy. There are 49 deleted scenes; three episodes in animatic form (unfinished animation along with optional commentary from the artists and animators); a tutorial on how to draw Lois; and a collection of interviews with cast and crew on their favorite scenes. There's also a music video, with FG clips, to the song "I'm Huge (and the Babes Go Wild)" by Steve Smith and the Nakeds, but honestly, it wasn't my thing.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This set opens with the average episode "No Meals on Wheels" and closes with the so-so "McStroke." It seems like pretty weak bookends for a season's worth of television, however, Volume Six is not actually Season Six. Nuh-uh. No way. In case anyone forgot, Season Six opened with the freakin' Star Wars episode! And it was awesome! Of course, Fox saw that there was extra money to be made off the fans of both franchises so Family Guy: Blue Harvest was released separately to DVD as a "special" FG project. As expected, the episode that kicked off the sixth season is omitted from this set and there's no mention of it whatsoever in the supplements. And to ensure fans are left wanting more, there are four episodes from the sixth season missing from this set. Watch for those with the next volume which is sure to have some episodes from the seventh season.
For fans of Family Guy this set will likely be a bittersweet morsel. Sure, they get more of the show that makes them laugh, but they may resent its incompleteness. Still, there's a good batch of supplements to go along with the episodes. Volume Six doesn't break any new ground for the series but the writers have clearly found a formula that works well for their pastiche-brand of humor. The show hasn't evolved but it has stayed consistent. An average episode from the latest season plays just as well as an average episode from an earlier season when the concept was fresh. When was the last time you could say that about The Simpsons?
I can't help but feel a little guilty when this show makes me laugh at a really stupid joke so I hold Family Guy: Volume Six responsible. The court directs an evil monkey to haunt Fox for another incomplete collection.
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