In 10 Words or Less
We're buying single episodes of Family Guy now?
Loves: Animation, Un-PC Comedy
Likes: "Family Guy", Lois
Dislikes: Peter, Stewie, Obvious jokes, the cutaways
Hates: The way Family Guy is released on DVD
The Story So Far...
"Family Guy" is the animated story of the Griffins, a suburban Rhode Island family. Peter is the standard stupid TV dad, while his hot wife Lois is the only thing holding the family together. Their kids, Chris and Meg, have the usual teenage problems, while their infant brother Stewie is attempting to take over the world. Of course, Brian, the family dog, views the whole thing with detached humor as he sips his martinis and lusts after Lois. The show has one of the most unique stories in TV history, as it was cancelled and then brought back thanks to overwhelming DVD sales and the help of frequent repeats on Cartoon Network.
This DVD is the series' 14th home-video release. Eschewing traditional season sets for shorter "volume" releases, the first seven seasons have made it to DVD, while a collection of series creator Seth MacFarlane's favorite episodes, the so-called "Family Guy" movie and two Star Wars homages all received one-disc releases. DVDTalk has
reviews of each release.
If any sitcom on network TV was going to approach abortion with a sense of humor, you had to know it was going to be Family Guy, the slayer of sacred cows. At this point, there are few taboo topics the show hasn't touched upon, and they actually have had many jokes about the topic, including the origins of two of the show's lead characters, Peter and Meg, whose mothers unsuccessfully tried to abort them. But they decided to take it to the next level with an entire episode focused on the hot-button topic.
When Lois decides to help an infertile old friend (Julia Sweeney) get pregnant as her surrogate, Peter doesn't want her to do it, but she gets in-vitro anyway. The scenario is complicated though when the parents-to-be die, and she considers aborting the now-orphaned zygote inside her. Then Peter has one of his usual nonsensical changes of heart, and wants her to keep the baby, making his argument is bizarre ways that make sense only to him, with the show-standard flashbacks and politically-incorrect jokes.
Peter serves to satirize the anti-abortion movement when he's swayed by a protester with a t-shirt and an over-the-top video (voiced by Wil Wheaton,) using all the arguments used by neo-conservatives when questioned by his family, including expressing his willingness to kill abortion doctors because they kill. As expected, his dog Brian is the voice of the intellectual, using scientific evidence that's quickly dismissed by Peter. Just when things get rolling though, the show is over, with one last zinger gag to punch home the point. Part of the problem is the majority of the episode serves to set up the storyline and Peter's position, leaving a small portion to really jab at the topic.
Considering what Family Guy has gotten away with in the past, and the fact that abortion is a topic that has been addressed in sitcoms in the (far) past, it's a touch surprising that this couldn't be seen on TV, as the jokes are no more cruel or perverse than any previous episode (the lack of a song similar to "Prom Night Dumpster Baby" probably helped.) Considering the network and the political atmosphere though, it's also not surprising at all. You can't help but think the studio was more than happy to have an excuse to pull out another DVD release though, especially since there's no reason to not eventually include this on a regular volume release, like the previously "banned" episode. I can't wait for Fox to reject a single scene in an episode, and see if that gets its own DVD.
If they could have put this on half a DVD, it probably would have fit, but it's a one-disc release anyway, packed in a unique red single-width keepcase, which is sheathed in a translucent plastic slipcover that covers most of the case like a plain brown wrapper. The DVD features an animated full-frame menu offering options to watch the episode, select scenes, check out the extras and adjust the set-up. There are no audio options or closed captioning, but subtitles are available in English SDH, Spanish and French.
Few animated sitcoms on TV put the effort into the visuals that Family Guy does, and thankfully the presentation lets that work shine. Though this episode doesn't have the flash seen in the recent season premiere of the show's ninth season, it has a few moments that stand out, including the impressive depth and design of a peacock joke. The full-frame transfer has vivid color and a crisp image, free of compression artifacts, dirt or damage.
The audio is delivered via a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but without any of the show's trademark musical numbers or action sequences, it kind of goes to waste.The sound is solid overall though, presenting the show's dialogue and music queues cleanly.
Considering the entire main content is all of 23 minutes long, you better damn well be getting some bonus content, and considering it's Family Guy, extras are expected anyway. This disc offers quite a bit of it, offering more bonus material than there is main content. You better like the episode though, because three of the four extras require you to re-experience the show. It starts off with an audio commentary featuring MacFarlane, Borstein, writer Danny Smith, and director Joseph Lee. The track is pretty much par for the course, with some technical details, back-patting, TV watching and general frivolity, along with some discussion of the controversial subject matter and what that meant to the episode.
Then there's a live reading of the show in front of an audience at the Montalban Theater in August of 2009, when, at the time, the episode was thought lost to viewers. Most of the cast is on hand, with the exception of Seth Green, while John Viner, Smith, Christine Lakin and Alex Sulkin join in on the fun. The performance sticks close to the script as seen in the episode, but is worth watching to see the voices come out of real people's mouths, which is an unusual experience to be sure. It's followed by an animatic of the episode, which features scenes and jokes that were cut or replaced in the final versions. At this point, the fourth time I'd watched the show, it wasn't quite as interesting, but there are some decent gags.
There's more MacFarlane and Borstein in the final on-disc extra, "Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show," which aired on Fox and online. A variety show, with singing and sketches, shot in a nightclub-style setting with a full orchestra, it's right up the alley of Family Guy fans, though the old-fashion humor, like the bit with Marlee Matlin or MacFarlane's performance of "Edelweiss," might not draw laughs like a standard episode of one of MacFarlane's shows.
Pop the disc into your computer, and you can access the final extra, a collection of nine songs from the show, presented in MP3, along with an application to transfer them to iTunes (if you need that.) I don't think I'd ever listen to these songs, but I'm not a huge fan of the series, nor do I really enjoy comedy music not performed by Stephen Lynch. At least they didn't include the godawful Shapoopi. Here's what's included:
- "Drunken Irish Dad"
- "Gotta Give Up the Toad"
- "Me and Jesus"
- "My Fat Baby Loves to Eat"
- "Prom Night Dumpster Baby"
- "The Friendship Song"
- "You and I Are So Awfully Different"
- "You Do"
- "You Have AIDS"
The Bottom Line
"Partial Terms of Endearment" isn't any better than your usual Family Guy episode, and it's honestly no more offensive than the standard entry in the series, unless you lose your mind just hearing the word "abortion." In that case, steer clear. As is usually the case for these DVDs, the presentation is solid, and there's a tons of extras for a one-episode DVD, but it still feels like yet another Family Guy cash grab, considering this really should have just been (and still possibly could be) included in an upcoming collection.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.