The Case for American Dad

First off, I realized as I was typing the title for this blog post that it sounds like I’m trying to make a case for Fox not to cancel their animated show, American Dad.  Don’t panic.  As far as I know, they’re not.  (Oh god, I really hope they’re not!!!) Anything with Seth MacFarlane’s name attached seems to have immunity from the indiscriminate Axe of Cancellation.  They’ve learned their lesson from canceling Family Guy (and they have no doubt learned from the Simpsons that fans will still watch a show even over twenty seasons after its inception.)

The case I’m trying to make is for people to actually watch American Dad.  Sure, the first season or two is pretty predictable.  Stan will be intolerant, Haley will bitch about the environment like a played out hippy record, Steve will do something nerdy, etc.  But even as the show continues to play on old tricks and stereotypes, there is something wonderful in the way the show always seems to revitalize itself.  Point in fact: Wheels and the Legman.

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(Cue 70’s cop show theme music)

It was just a B plot, throwaway storyline.  Steve and Roger try to come up with wacky personas for their made-up detective agency.  They argue about who gets to be the guy in the wheelchair (resulting in a slap fight), then split up and get their own sidekicks, then decide in the end that Steve is Wheels and Roger is the legman.  Pretty funny stuff.  But in later episodes, it gets even better.  Steve and Roger both want to play the ‘bad cop’ in good cop/bad cop and end up confusing the hell out of poor, stupid Barry.

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American Dad plays with parody and genre homage just like fan favorite show Community.  There’s “Tearjerker,” a James Bond-themed episode set entirely outside of the American Dad universe (though I’d stay away from the lackluster sequel episode), a Goodfellas tribute about life as a meter maid, a heist flick homage set in a bar mitzvah, and my personal favorite, “In Country…Club,” where Steve and Stan take part in a Vietnam War reenactment taking place in a country club.  It’s got pinecone grenades, red markers as knives, spray paint as flamethrowers, golf cart helicopters…you name it.  It is the wackiest, zaniest, yet truest tribute to the war movie genre, right down to Credence Clearwater Revival blasting to the sight of grown men chasing each other across a golf course and arguing about whether they actually killed one another or not.

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Whereas Family Guy has become all-too preachy and sometimes tremendously dark without any sort of comedy to it (how about the episode where Peter and the gang decide to kill Quagmire’s sister’s abusive husband?), American Dad continues to entertain.  The show also takes great advantage of MacFarlane’s amazing singing talents and his love of smart jokes that often go over the heads of the average viewer.  (Who else would make a Schoolhouse Rock parody about the Iran-Contra scandal and Oliver North trials? Or a parody of “Tits and Ass” from A Chorus Line and made it about Francine’s Chinese adopt-a-parents?)

But the strongest argument I could make for the show’s overall fantastitude (yes, I’m making that a word) is the fact that the other MacFarlane shows actively mock American Dad, even going so far as to pretend as if no one watches or cares about it.

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Whereas Family Guy and The Cleveland Show continually refer to each other (which, granted, is natural, considering one’s a spinoff of the other), the two shows go out of their way to distance themselves from American Dad.  In the well-coordinated three-series crossover episodes, each show encounters a hurricane, which is announced at the start of the Cleveland show, saying, “The storm’s gonna be here for a while, then in Quahog about in, like, a half-hour, then supposedly after that, it’ll go to American Dad town.”  I don’t mind the hate, however, because if MacFarlane and the gang thought dissing American Dad was a detriment, then they’d probably have stopped by now.  I don’t see them openly making fun of The Cleveland Show (which I do watch, but I think is mediocre at best.  The only saving grace is Rallo and Junior as a pair, just as the only saving grace for Family Guy is Stewie and Brian as a pair.)

For those convinced by my plea, or feeling pity for such a long post for a show no one apparently watches, here’s my top picks for episodes.  They’re on Netflix (I think), so catch yourself up:

Tears of a Clooney
The Best Christmas Story Never Told
Black Mystery Month
Joint Custody
The Vacation Goo
Meter Made
The Most Adequate Christmas Ever
Tearjerker
Escape from Pearl Bailey
Phantom of the Telethon
Bar Mitzvah Shuffle
In Country…Club
Return of the Bling
Bully for Steve
100 A.D.
For Whom the Sleighbell Tolls
Fartbreak Hotel
Hot Water
Hurricane!
Season’s Beatings

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