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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment
Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment
Fox // Unrated // September 28, 2010
List Price: $14.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted October 7, 2010 | E-mail the Author
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The Episode

It's no secret, certainly not at this point, that Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" relishes little more than shattering the boundaries of good (hell, even questionable) taste. Name a taboo or prickly subject and odds are better than good that MacFarlane and his warped band of collaborators have probably poked vicious fun at it in the last decade. Animation certainly gives some leeway in creating satire, but there are few other series currently on the air that so consistently bait the FCC and the temperament of the audience.

Given "Family Guy"'s penchant for inflammatory subject matter, it's surprising that, in the series' considerable run, it's only had to bench two episodes (one of which later aired anyway). One of those, "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein," came earlier on the "Family Guy" timeline, was released uncut on DVD and eventually aired on Fox. The other controversial creation is found on the DVD Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment. As MacFarlane explains in the episode's commentary track, the "Family Guy" staff has the option to fully produce potentially explosive episodes, just as Fox has the final say as to whether the episode in question makes it to air.

Given the tongue-in-cheek slipcover adorning this DVD -- "Banned from TV!" -- it's clear pretty quickly that Partial Terms of Endearment was never going to turn up on Sunday night. The underlying offense? Addressing abortion, as Lois (voiced by Alex Borstein) offers to be a surrogate mother for her old college roommate. Peter (voiced by MacFarlane) strenuously objects to the decision, and when an unfortunate turn of events leaves Lois pregnant with no surrogates waiting, Peter decrees that Lois must get an abortion.

In broad strokes, that covers the plot, which, in and of itself, isn't horrifically controversial. This being "Family Guy," they find plenty of other elements to incorporate that, taken altogether, makes mass appeal awfully dicey. Writer Danny Smith spares no one: there are Nazi jokes, cracks about race, snide remarks about porn and truly unseemly insinuations about incest. Add to all that a small setpiece that treats a potential miscarriage as a riff on Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner and you've got some pretty offensive laughs. In the episode's meager defense, however, Smith gets in a few salient jabs about the hypocrisy and shortsightedness of abortion foes, mostly through the family dog, Brian (also voiced by MacFarlane).

Would protests have erupted if Fox aired this episode? Undoubtedly -- just look at the minor firestorm that broke out earlier this year, when "Family Guy" mocked Down's Syndrome. Aside from "South Park," I can think of no other animated series that so consistently skirts the boundaries of good taste in order to attempt making satirical points. Whether they fail or succeed depends upon the viewer's own point of view as well as his or her comfort level with sophomoric humor that can turn disturbingly dark on a dime. "Family Guy" isn't always as smart as it thinks it is, and the hit-and-miss nature of Partial Terms of Endearment certainly bears that out.

The DVD

The Video:

Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment arrives on DVD with a 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer. As with previous DVD releases of "Family Guy" episodes, the image is clean, crisp and clear, with plenty of saturated color and well-defined edges. In keeping with a recently created episode, there's nothing substantially wrong with the visuals here.

The Audio:

The English, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack doesn't get too much of a chance to shine, as much of the episode is driven by dialogue. That said, the occasional orchestral fills swell nicely in the surrounds, giving the otherwise unimpressive soundtrack some oomph. Dialogue and sound effects are heard clearly and crisply, free from distortion or drop-out. Optional English, French and Spanish subtitles are also included.

The Extras:

As with most every "Family Guy" release, this disc, despite its 23-minute main attraction, is fairly loaded with bonus features. Seth MacFarlane is joined by executive producer/episode writer Danny Smith, director Joseph Lee and actress/producer Alex Borstein for a commentary track. Considering its brevity, the quartet spends way too much time simply watching the episode play out, rather than offering up something besides pithy asides and the barest semblance of behind-the-scenes information. It's a disappointing listen, particularly given how much controversy this particular episode is said to have stirred up. The 24-minute special "Family Guy Presents: Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show," which previously aired on Fox, is offered here in anamorphic widescreen. The 34-minute "Family Guy Live and Uncensored Table Read" is presented in anamorphic widescreen and features most of the cast performing "Partial Terms of Endearment" live onstage in California. If that alternate look was not enough, there's also a 23 minute, eight second animatic (presented in fullscreen). Rounding out the disc is a DVD-ROM-only feature, which allows consumers to download nine original "Family Guy" songs to their computers.

Final Thoughts:

It's no secret, certainly not at this point, that Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" relishes little more than shattering the boundaries of good (hell, even questionable) taste. Name a taboo or prickly subject and odds are better than good that MacFarlane and his warped band of collaborators have probably poked vicious fun at it in the last decade. Given the tongue-in-cheek slipcover adorning this DVD -- "Banned from TV!" -- it's clear pretty quickly that Partial Terms of Endearment was never going to turn up on Sunday night. The underlying offense? Addressing abortion, as Lois offers to be a surrogate mother for her old college roommate. Aside from "South Park," I can think of no other animated series that so consistently skirts the boundaries of good taste in order to attempt making satirical points. Whether they fail or succeed depends upon the viewer's own point of view as well as his or her comfort level with sophomoric humor that can turn disturbingly dark on a dime. "Family Guy" isn't always as smart as it thinks it is, and the hit-and-miss nature of Partial Terms of Endearment certainly bears that out. Still, it's worth a cursory glance for fans. Rent it.

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