Not-so-traditional American values from the mind behind "Family Guy"
Loves: Animation, parodies
Likes: Seth MacFarlane
Hates: Right-wing politics
Stan Smith is a CIA agent whose only concern is protecting our freedoms, even if it means taking them all away. He trusts no one, unless they work for his government, and if you're not a red-blooded, born and bred white American, you may as well be the enemy. Stan is the ultimate reaction to 9/11.
Stan's family isn't the ideal CIA family though, at least all of his family not named Francine. His loving wife is loyal and doesn't question much, and is willing to let him cheat on her if it will help him. Sure, they have their arguments, like when he locked her in the basement for being an alleged spy, but in the end, she stands by her man.
His kids are a different story. Steve is a total geek, who's definitely not a chip off the old block, while Hayley is Stan's worst nightmare: a liberal hippie into drugs and sex. And they aren't even his biggest headaches, with houseguests like Klaus, a fish with the transplanted brain of a German skier, and Roger, a lactating space alien with the personality of Paul Lynde.
The majority of the stories center around Stan's job, including the insta-classic two-parter "Stan of Arabia," in which he gets "promoted" to a new position in Saudia Arabia, revealing a new side of him. That makes obvious sense, since the series doesn't exist without its "American Dad."
Stan may be the most important character on the show, the characters of Klaus and Roger are much more entertaining. Their presence brings a enjoyable touch of ridiculousness to a show somewhat rooted in "reality." Klaus' filthy flirting toward Francine and Roger's needy grabs for attention rarely fail to amuse, but the writers wisely dole out their appearances judiciously, so as to not overexpose them and wear out just what it is that makes them special. The same goes for Stan's boss Bullock, who's voiced wonderfully by Patrick Stewart (yes... Captain Picard himself.)
Despite the series' obvious connections to "Family Guy," having emerged from MacFarlane's creative womb, the series kept its distance from that show by embracing a very different feel, and avoiding the types of gags that have made the original so popular. As a result, the series is fresh and fun, and with a healthy political bent, it's smart too.
The discs have animated anamorphic widescreen main menus which list the episodes with a play-all option. Inside each episode is a static anamorphic widescreen menu, with options to select scenes, adjust languages or check out the commentaries. The scene selection menus have still previews and titles for each chapter, while language options include English, French and Spanish subtitles, along with closed captions.
These episodes include Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, which are actually well constructed, with good directionality, which creates a nicely dynamic presentation. Dialogue is clean, and the sound effect and music are solid.
The rest of the extras are found on the third disc. "All in the Family: Creating 'American Dad'" examines the show, spending 20 minutes with the cast and crew to get their thoughts on the series. It's a pretty well-done piece of promotional fluff. A more focused version of the material can be seen in the five-minute "Secrets of the Glass Booth," which looks at the voice acting in the show. Together, they provide decent insight for the show's fans.
Two different ways to look at the show are provided next, starting with "How's Your Aspen?: 'American Dad!' performance at HBO's 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival." The cast performs the script to "A Smith in the Hand," sitting on stage in front of an audience. The video supplements the performance by showing split-screens with the actual episode. By stripping out the cartoon, it puts the focus on the writing and acting, which is nice.
"American Animatics!" compares the animatics for an episode with the final animation, to show how the show progresses during development. 14-minutes long, it includes excerpts from several episodes. For a more in-depth version, there's the Table Read/Animatics comparison for "Threat Levels." Putting rehersal footage, animatics and final animation on the screen, and giving the viewers the chance to flip through three audio tracks from those versions. Thus, you can watch the episode with the table-read audio, or some other combination. It's an interesting idea, but without labels for the tracks, it can get confusing.
The 17 minutes of deleted scenes included are entertaining, and result in part from censorship. Unseen moments like these, which are referenced in the commentaries, give viewers something special to check out. The same can't be said for "The New CIA," the pre-game show promo for the 2005 Super Bowl promo, or "Bored," which promotes "Family Guy." These commercials are just OK, but provide a sense of completeness for this incomplete set.
The Bottom Line