Thursday, November 11, 2010

Family Guy Pushes The Envelope of Good Taste, So Why Doesn't This DVD?

The Good: Funny, Intelligent (though crass) humor, Good animation, Interesting commentaries
The Bad: Lack of deleted scenes
The Basics: Funny, audacious and daring, Family Guy pokes fun at everyone in its second DVD set. A worthy successor to The Simpsons.

[When I originally wrote this, the DVD set for Family Guy Season 3 was still very new and there were only rumors of the return of the series to the air. Rereading the review, I honestly liked my opening paragraph, so despite the fact that it is dated to the Bush Administration, I am keeping it in as a retro introduction! Enjoy!]

At some point, probably in the next five years, the US will get beyond the humorless dictatorship it has fallen into where civil liberties are quietly robbed from its citizens using executive orders and a fanatical attorney general whose methods are distinctly anti-American. In short, there will be a regime change and our lives as Americans will go back to being less paranoid, less guarded and more like the way we were before September 11, 2001. In short, we'll start enjoying our civil liberties that other nations supposedly hate us for. Perhaps the most profound of those civil liberties is our Freedom of Speech and that seems to not be a problem for the makers of Family Guy.

Family Guy is the story of the Griffin family, an animated group who began their adventures in the Season 1 and 2 boxed set. This DVD set finds the Griffins on all sorts of new adventures, a couple of recycled ones and growing in various ways. Here is how season three looks for the family members:

Chris - Finds the improbably large size of his genitals exposed and otherwise does little, save attempt to become Jewish in the bonus episode,

Meg - Gets an internship at the news station and starts dating a nudist,

Lois - Learns martial arts and spends the rest of the season beating up people and trying to keep the family together,

Brian - Becomes a police dog, becomes drug addicted, becomes a porn director and returns home to do community service,

Stewie - His plans for world domination continue despite the fact that he is still a baby. He journey's to Europe with Brian to become a part of a children's television show,

Peter - Undergoes a massive transformation when he is fired from his job at the toy factory. His solution? Become a fisherman . . .

Family Guy will be returned in 2005 due to the high sales of the DVD sets. It's easy to see why this show would return; given a regular timeslot, Family Guy will build a loyal audience because it is funny and it gets things out into the public forum that pretty much no one else has the guts to put out there. One example of the audacious humor of Family Guy is when Joe, the paraplegic cop neighbor, joins the "Special People's Games" and is caught using steroids. People tend to be rather protective about humor involving handicapped people, often to the extent that they rob disabled characters of their humanity (i.e. "Bob couldn't be mean, after all, he's disabled!"), whereas Family Guy makes Joe as capable, if not more so, than most of the characters, illustrating the essential equality all of us possess. As for the steroids thing, the episode tackles it with humor, as opposed to melodrama. It's a funny episode, especially the jealous Peter's attempt to illustrate how he is more handicapped than Joe to the local news network.

The point here is that in this second DVD boxed set, the show continues its tradition of leaving nothing off limits. Family Guy is not afraid to be daring and bold and funny. One of the most humorous sequences puts Stewie inside Peter's body on a jihad against Peter's sperm to prevent him from impregnating Lois. It's hilarious.

And perhaps that is the only real problem with the DVD set. While it includes an episode they were not allowed to air, along with a very thoughtful commentary on the piece, it does not have any deleted scenes. It is known that one of the deleted scenes that could have been included in this set was one where Stewie gets by airport security by doing a little dance. As he is dancing, the x-ray machine reveals several weapons in his bag, but he has effectively distracted the guards. He is followed by Osama Bin Laden who does the exact same thing. This is not present on the DVD set and it's unfortunate because: 1. It's funny, 2. It was made well before the September 11, 2001 attacks, 3. It is social commentary, 4. At its very worst all it does is point out the essential flaw that allowed the September 11, 2001 attacks to occur (i.e. poor airport security), a problem that has already been corrected, and 5. It perfectly illustrated the irreverence Family Guy has for the establishment.

This is episodic comedy at its funniest, pushing the borders that most comedy shows have given up pushing. If you want to see the effects of Family Guy, watch the last season of The Simpsons. Why? It wasn't until Family Guy went off the air that Homer started having flights of fancy that were completely ridiculous and The Simpsons showed faux clips from shows like Sex And The City. Those are two things Family Guy does constantly (with Peter doing the imagining). Peter's imagination and recollections are among the funniest aspects of the show. For example, in season three, when Peter messes up on the Christmas gifts, he recalls watching "KISS Saves Christmas," a hilarious parody of Christmas cartoons.

Family Guy is voiced by Seth MacFarlane (the show's creator), Alex Borstein (from Mad TV), Seth Green (from Buffy The Vampire Slayer), and Mila Kunis (from That 70's Show). Other voice talents include Patrick Warburton (from The Tick). This is a strong line-up of people who have a great ability to be expressive with their voices.

Family Guy perfectly encapsulates our world as it is now and it's funny. It pokes fun at the establishments in the US and at broader concepts like death and love. That's what will make this endure for years and years to come. Lucky for us there may be more. And if there's not, odds are I'll need to pick up another one of these boxed sets later in life because I'm bound to wear through this one.

Ideal for anyone who enjoys humor, likes to laugh and can take a joke without being easily offended. If you take everything seriously, this set is not for you. Or maybe it's exactly what you need to loosen up.

For other animated works by Seth MacFarlane, please check out my reviews of:
Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
Family Guy Volume 3
Family Guy Volume 4
Family Guy Volume 5
Family Guy Presents Blue Harvest
Family Guy Volume 6
Family Guy Volume 7
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


For other television set DVD reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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