The Good: Hilarious, Seamless recovery from cancellation, Good plots
The Bad: Sigh . . . Could have been more episodes, Could always used more extras.
The Basics: Returning from cancellation, Family Guy picks up with its edgy humor and pop culture references with fast jokes and quick reversals.
Family Guy was canceled for a few years, despite winning Emmy awards and being extraordinarily popular with fans. It's easy to blame Fox Network; they stopped advertising the show and kept changing its timeslot. It was predictable that its ratings would sag and the show would be ripe for cancellation. But the DVD boxed set sales were so strong, the network began to give the series a second look. Realizing that it was more economically sensible to make more episodes, to sell more DVDs, Fox brought the show back. The first thirteen new episodes were included in Family Guy: Volume Three.
First, because it's truly the only real one, the drawback: there are only thirteen episodes in this volume. Seth MacFarlane mentions in some of the bonus material in this volume (or on the Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story disc) that Fox ordered up over forty new episodes. That only thirteen are included in this set, then, is somewhat disappointing.
What isn't disappointing is the amount of commentary on the thirteen episodes. Ten of the thirteen episodes contain commentary and that's pretty awesome. When one watches the other bonus featurettes, some of the commentary becomes repetitive, but it's pretty extensive and well worth it for anyone who wants insight into the show and its return.
So, what do we get in volume three? The plots are pretty outrageous and they range from the season opener where Peter and Lois find themselves in a rut and Peter impersonates Mel Gibson to spice things up to Meg becoming a teen idol to Quagmire having an affair with Cleveland's wife Loretta to Chris leaving Quahog and ending up with the Peace Corps in a far away tribe. Along the way, Peter is declared mentally retarded, Brian appears on the Bachelorette, Lois is arrested for kleptomania and becomes a model, and Peter befriends James Woods. The plots are silly and set up hundreds of jokes at the expense of pop culture and it's phenomenal.
In fact, the opening seconds of "North By North Quahog" wherein Peter lists every show that Fox has canceled since Family Guy was given the ax sets the bar high for the new season. The simple list is hilarious and the punch to the network is well-deserved. But, outside all of that, it's funny. And the fact that that is the starting point for the new volume's humor - and that the jokes just get better - remind the viewer why this was easily the most consistently funny show on television.
That's not to say it's particularly clever. It's not. Most of the jokes are silly, plenty of juvenile bodily function jokes all around. Peter goes blind from swallowing a record number of nickels, it's not terribly complicated stuff. But it does have appeal and the humor holds up over many viewings because the episodes push against the limits of what is generally considered good taste.
As a result, we have a more consistent sense of humor; the first viewing the viewer (who is not prepared for Family Guy) is shocked or scandalized and subsequent viewings become more about catching the jokes and anticipating something deliciously insensitive. That's what Family Guy is good for.
But a knowledge of popular culture is a must. For example, one of the funniest moments in "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire" occurs when Cleveland is finally releasing some fury at Quagmire for having slept with his wife. As he gets angry, the camera pans to Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars, who is goading him to releasing his anger. It's fast, it's funny and it's lost on those who do not know the reference.
The beautiful thing about Volume Three of Family Guy is that the popular culture institutions assaulted are bigger and more prominent this time around. In "Don't Make Me Over," Meg becomes a great parody of teen superstars in the singing world, Brian's appearance on The Bachelorette in "Brian The Bachelor" cuts up reality television, and there are tons of slams at Star Wars.
Who will find Family Guy: Volume Three worth adding to their collection? Certainly anyone who has loved Family Guy and was excited to see the animated show return to the airwaves. Anyone who likes bold comedy that holds up over multiple viewings. Anyone who enjoys The Simpsons, but has seen every episode twenty or more times and wants something fresh and boundary-pushing. Who won't like Family Guy? Anyone without an appreciation of crude humor. Anyone who is scandalized by an idiot putting a mask on the family dog and humping it to try to make another guy angry. Anyone who has lived in a cave and not watched movies or television or listened to music will get little out of this boxed set.
For everyone else, this three-disc set is a worthy investment and a great addition to your DVD collection.
For other animated works by Seth MacFarlane, please check out my reviews of:
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 series reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2006 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.