Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Not The Comedy We Were Promised, Family Guy Volume 7 Skates By With Adequacy.



The Good: Very funny, Decent bonus features
The Bad: SHORT, Not all the promised episodes
The Basics: Funny, but not as enduring as some of the other volumes, Volume 7 of Family Guy focuses on the antics of Peter, Stewie and Brian.


Sometimes, the best we might be able to hope from from one of our reviews is that it manages to correct inaccurate advertising or untruths in on-line listing. As my wife and I set off on our cross-country trip last year, I decided to surprise her by picking up Family Guy Volume 7 on DVD. I was especially thrilled because we were headed across the country to the biggest Star Trek convention of the year and when I ordered the DVD, the notes specifically mentioned this boxed set including the episode of Family Guy where Stewie abducts the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation ("Not All Dogs Go To Heaven"). You can imagine my disappointment - and that of my wife, who watched me laugh more than she actually watched the episode when it originally aired - when the three-disc set arrived and that episode was not included.

So, despite what online retailers like Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon say, "Volume 7" is NOT "Season 7." As such, not all of the episodes from the seventh season are present. Chief among these is the hilarious "Not All Dogs Go To Heaven." That said, Volume 7 of Family Guy presents the next thirteen episodes of the series where "Volume 6" left off. As always the lack of full seasons or more than a paltry thirteen episodes for the estimated box price hovering in the forty dollar range is disturbing. As with prior volumes, though, Volume 7 tries to retain its DVD audience through a bevy of bonus features and unedited, uncensored episodes that use awkward (or troubling) situations and edgier language (lots of swearing) in ways that the aired episodes are not able to.

In the seventh volume of Family Guy, the Griffin family encounters adversaries old and new in a comedic vision where nothing is off the table as far as the humor goes. James Woods returns to torment Peter by stealing his identity and Frank Sinatra Jr. returns to Quahog to open a nightclub with Brian and Stewie. And the latest coming of Christ occurs when Peter discovers Jesus Christ working at a record store in Quahog as he goes on a search for copies of the record "Surfing Bird." Brian discovers he has a human son who is a delinquent and Peter becomes a pirate.

As well, this collection of episodes finds Cleveland stealing a woman from Brian when Stewie urges Brian to not rush into sex with her. In addition, Stewie, Mort and Brian end up in Nazi occupied Poland in World War II when Stewie's time machine sends Mort to the past and Bonnie finally has her baby, which leaves Stewie smitten. When Brian nearly drowns, the family replaces him with a new dog, who is entirely agreeable with the whole family (save Brian and, eventually, Stewie). Peter is forced to go back to school to graduate fourth grade and he and his friends try to rob Carter, Lois's father. Peter is injected with the "gay gene" and leaves the family to live with his male lover and an old contest gives Peter a chance to go golfing with . . . O.J. Simpson!

Family Guy is an animated television series that arrives on DVD in thirteen episode increments that leave fans alternately thrilled and peeved. We get thrilled to rewatch the episodes in ways that we were never allowed to see them on network television. There are no censors with these episodes, so the characters swear occasionally (the f-word is the most frequent) and the situations often include jokes that refer to touchy subjects like incest/molestation and religious humor. This season marks a continuation of a troubling series of jokes that are made out of incest and Seth MacFarlane and his co-writers near a level where they are in danger of simply becoming parodies of their own work or alienating the portions of their audience who enjoy their edgy humor but find the repetition of the most tasteless and least funny jokes troubling.

Fans are also likely to be peeved because of how "Volume 7" ends up being unambitious in too many ways. First, there are only thirteen episodes and even with all of the bonus features, it is hard to believe they could not have all been fit onto two discs (though, who would pay $40 for a two-disc set these days?!). Similarly, because the episodes include material that was previously removed or censored, the deleted scenes bonus feature on the third disc seems like MacFarlane and Fox lazing out. After all, if it was funny enough to be in the episode, why are all of the deleted scenes not put back into their appropriate episodes? If the argument is purity of the original work or integrity, the argument fails because each episode that is offered uncensored has the option to be played with the original network version instead. In other words, we already get the original or "director's cut" options of each episode, so that being the case, why we aren't given the ultimate version of each episode is likely to leave real fans feeling cheated.

For a better sense of how the volume goes - the episodes are entirely episodic, save the reference in "Ocean's Three And A Half" to bills from the baby running up debts for Joe and Bonnie - it behooves those considering this set to consider who the characters are this season. In the episodes of Volume 7, the principles are:

Peter Griffin - An adult male who is the patriarch of the Griffin household, he is also technically mentally retarded, which gets him into many ridiculous situations. This season, he finds his identity stolen by James Woods, buying a mentally retarded horse, falling in love with the song "Surfing Bird," and befriending Jesus Christ. He tries to replace Brian, rob his father-in-law and experiments with homosexual life. He also tries to get O.J. Simpson to confess to multiple murders, though he comes to befriend O.J. as well,

Lois Griffin - Peter's wife, she is romanced by Brian when Peter continues to neglect her. Otherwise, she acts almost exclusively in a supporting capacity this season, though she does talk Joe out of robbing her father and lets Peter go when his gay gene is activated,

Meg Griffin - Peter and Lois's daughter, she is made a little less gross by the new Brian, but is otherwise the butt of the family's jokes,

Chris Griffin - Also relegated to support these episodes, Chris confronts Herbert on the old man being a pedophile, but otherwise does nothing memorable in these episodes,

Stewie Griffin - Smitten with Joe and Bonnie's new baby, he creates the worst music video of all time. As well, he tries to save Brian from himself by urging abstinence when Brian falls for a liberal in Quahog. After initially embracing "Surfing Bird," he and Brian destroy every copy of the record in Quahog before going back to Nazi-occupied Europe where he ends up impersonating Hitler himself! He also shows a surprising homophobic streak,

and Brian Griffin - The family dog and Peter's best friend, he buys a club with Frank Sinatra Jr. which Stewie quickly turns into the hot spot by undermining his vision for. He finds himself usurped with his girlfriend by Cleveland, reluctantly trying to reconcile Cleveland and Loretta. As well, he flees Nazis, finds himself replaced at the house and urging Peter to avoid O.J. Simpson.

On DVD, Family Guy is refreshing for the way it pokes at all institutions and makes commentary on all that is ridiculous. For example, in "Family Gay," the activation of Peter's gay gene leads him to have the fantasy of an eleven-way (elevensome?) and the sequence is hilarious as the parade of men tromp into his room. As well, the show continues to poke fun at popular culture at every opportunity. In "Baby Not On Board," Stewie makes a music video (set to the Brian Adams song "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)") which is a compilation of so many music videos the only way to keep up with all of the allusions is to listen to the commentary track.

In addition to every episode having a commentary track, the thirteen episodes of "Volume 7" have deleted scenes on the third disc and four featurettes. One focuses on the club Brian and Stewie open ("pLace") while the other three show viewers how to draw characters, tour the house and feature a very funny q&a from the 2008 Comic-con. This is more than enough to please fans.

But those looking at the pantheon of comedy are likely to find this season more sedate and average than laugh-out-loud funny after the second or third spinning of each disc. This is not to say it is not fun or worth adding to one's collection, but there are other volumes that hold up better over the years . . . and actually have the episodes online retailers promise.

For other animated works by Seth MacFarlane, please check out my reviews of:
Family Guy Presents Something, Something, Something Dark Side
Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade Of Cartoon Comedy
Family Guy Volume 8
Family Guy Presents Partial Terms Of Endearment


6/10

For other television reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.



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