Saturday, March 30, 2013

Steadily Improving, Volume 2 Of American Dad! Finally Has The Series Stepping Out On Its Own!

The Good: Funny, Has actual character development, Decent guest vocals, Serialized elements
The Bad: Still seems somewhat derivative at points of Family Guy.
The Basics: While Seth MacFarlane’s second FOX show finally steps out of the shadows of Family Guy, it does not get quite far enough to feel like it is truly standing on its own with the Volume 2 DVD set.

Not long ago, my wife and I did a huge marathon of American Dad!. We picked up the DVDs cheap and we started watching the series that we had (largely) given up on back in the day after the first few episodes. But, as Family Guy has stagnated and become repetitive, we decided to give the show another chance. After getting American Dad! Volume 1 (reviewed here!) and finding it to be better than we remembered, we decided to soldier on with American Dad! Volume 2.

Volume 2 of American Dad! finishes off the first season American Dad! and presents the first ten episodes of the second season for an eighteen episode DVD set. To enhance the value of the episodes, the DVD set includes commentary tracks on all of the episodes and in watching them, we found that the humor held up well over multiple viewings of these eighteen episodes. Though the second season episodes had marginally better animation, more consistent humor, and actual character development, American Dad! Volume 2 continues the irksome trend in Seth MacFarlane’s works of not providing a complete season of television, but rather a vague association of episodes that pick up where the last (incomplete) boxed set left off.

Opening with Stan having a meeting of the National Gun Association in the house, Hayley becomes obsessed with guns at the same time Roger and Steve get in a revenge war over Steve eating a cookie. Forced together by Francine, Hayley and Stan try to bond, while Steve searches for the biological parents Roger claims he was adopted. Steve writes an unflattering expose on Roger and Francine struggles because she can’t get her hair done. She joins up with the Ladybugs, the evil housewife snobs who all have affairs. Roger, upset over the destruction of his television and his state as a shut-in, swaps places with Stan and goes out and gets a job.

Klaus is briefly given a human body again while Francine follows her dream of opening a kiosk at the mall. Stan learns he is not married to a homecoming queen when he and Francine visit her high school reunion and he briefly leaves her for Betty Sue, the actual homecoming queen (who no longer looks like the stereotypical homecoming queen). Stan and Francine spend from her 39th to her 40th birthday in Europe trying to ruin George Clooney and Stan tries to give Steve the summer camp romance he never had in Africa. Stan develops an eating disorder after Steve begins dating a larger girl. This batch of episodes ends with a Christmas episode where Stan runs off on the Ghost of Christmas Past and rewrites history, with the intent of restoring Christmas, but ultimately leading to the United States surrendering itself to the Chinese!

The animated series that focuses on CIA Agent Stan Smith is in a state of growth with Volume 2. American Dad! actually includes more humor for the type of geeks who made Family Guy into a phenomenon. To wit, the second season premiere opens with a wonderful Terminator 2: Judgment Day gag that is delightful. The episode where Debbie is first introduced quickly becomes something more than just an assemblage of fat jokes. And even some of the off-colored humor (like Snot suggesting that now that he has a Russian mail-order bride, the gym teacher might let him shower himself off) plays better and replays better than similar jokes from the first season.

What actually impressed me most about the second volume of American Dad! was that the characters actually develop! In the second volume, the primary characters are:

Stan Smith – After he is forced to spend the day with Hayley, he actually becomes a gun industry spokesman, after he stages a prank on Hayley and she shoots him, paralyzing him! He becomes Steve’s manager in order to sell his son’s book, despite having 10,000 rejection slips for his children’s books! He adopts a dog that Francine brings home from a murder scene at the grocery store. He gets drunk and is put under house arrest when Roger crashes the car. He blows most of his bonus from the CIA on useless swag and briefly leaves Francine for her competition for homecoming queen. He and Roger have a strangely intimate experience when Roger tries to bond with him and become his best friend. After he gets Barry off his pills, Barry becomes a diabolical psychopath! He spends a year trying to help Francine ruin George Clooney for her 39th birthday and then spends summer with Steve in Africa battling it out with a neighboring rebel military camp. He becomes anorexic, despite Hayley and Francine trying to fatten him up. He loses his self confidence when a car dealer manages to break his willpower. After becoming obsessed with Abraham Lincoln, he explores the Lincoln Republicans and discovers the gay Republicans! After despising Steve’s new girlfriend, he begins to bond with her over their mutual love of guns. He finally “comes out” to Francine about his love of figure skating after years together. On a time travel adventure to save Christmas, he becomes the one who shoots President Reagan!

Francine Smith – She forces Stan and Hayley together when she tires of their bickering. She has a crisis when her hairdresser goes straight and her roots begin to show. She becomes obsessed with the snobbish, unfaithful housewives, the Ladybugs, to her detriment. She realizes her lifelong dream of opening a kiosk at the mall, in this case, a muffin stand. After Hayley makes a movie that makes her look bad and mundane, she gets a fake medical degree and becomes a doctor for the handicapped mafia. She works to ruin George Clooney and gets in a battle with Stan when Stan actually befriends him! She has an uncommon bonding experience with Roger playacting while Stan is out of the country. She and Hayley begin working as housecleaners after Stan goes rogue after losing his self confidence. She becomes tired of the rut she and Stan are in and starts fantasizing about the street racer the two see while out on a date! When Steve and Debbie break up, she becomes obsessed with having another child!

Hayley Smith – Begins to bond with Stan over the guns she abhors being in the house. Returning with Stan to Sugar Mountain, she discovers a gun-themed amusement park which horrifies her, until she stages a protest and eventually paralyzes him with a gun! She locks Steve in the closet when she catches him reading her journal. She takes in some monkeys who have been over-groomed, who then take over the basement. She falls in with an ecoterrorist who potted himself in a planter in order to protest the new mall expansion. She makes a movie that embarrasses Francine. She tries to fight the local fraternity when her Eskimo studies courses are cut from the budget to support the frat. She nearly dies of a rare disease while Stan and Francine are out ruining George Clooney. She dumps Jeff, but is surprised how much she wants him back when he starts playing an online video game with Steve!

Steve Smith – Is horrified to think he might be adopted when he cannot find any pictures of himself! He is failing English because he is unable to write creatively, so he writes all about Roger. He cultivates a bad boy image to sell his new book. He is bullied at school and meets a Jesus-like pizza delivery guy who shows him how bullies are usually bullied themselves. He is forced into trying to interact with the cool kids by his father, which has the effect of illustrating that he can’t swim or be popular. In taking Stan’s experimental steroids, he develops manboobs. He is deported to an oil rig when Barry frames him for destroying Stan’s collectible plate collection! He joins Stan in Africa and has a summer fling with one of the girls at the refugee camp. He begins dating Debbie, a larger geek.

Klaus – He is locked in a closet with Steve when Steve reads Hayley’s diary! When is obsession for Francine reaches a new high, Stan puts him into the body of a man the CIA has had on ice (who happens to be black) and he tries yet again to seduce Francine. He and Hayley bond briefly over weed. Otherwise, he pops up and delivers wisecracks.

and Roger The Alien – He begins an elaborate plan to make Steve insecure by claiming he is adopted after Steve eats his cookie. He burns all of the pictures of baby Steve and sends him to the home of a family whose kid disappeared years prior as revenge! He starts leaving the house in wigs and disguises when he drunkenly destroys his television and goes out to be Stan’s designated driver. He discovers life as a used car salesman is harder than he would have guessed. He creates a bond with Stan and is disappointed when Stan still doesn’t like him! While Francine becomes a mob doctor, he starts taking care of the housecleaning. He discovers the unlimited drinking that comes from fraternities and joins one! He uses foster children as slave labor to try to make his own wine. He and Francine pose as a couple while Stan and Steve are in Africa . . . with destructive results.

Guest vocals in the second volume are less obvious in many cases, though Patrick Steward recurs as Stan’s CIA boss. Lisa Kudrow closes the set well as the Ghost Of Christmas Past, though there are few other vocal performances of those caliber in this boxed set (whatwith George Clooney being voiced by Andre Sogliuzzo in “Tears Of A Clooney” – though Bruce Boxleitner and Kate Jackson voiced themselves in the same episode!).

For other animated works by Seth MacFarlane, please check out my reviews of:
Family Guy Volume 1
Family Guy Volume 2
Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
Family Guy: Live In Vegas
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
Family Guy Presents It's A Trap!
Family Guy Volume 9
Family Guy Volume 10


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing.

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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