More of the Smith family's wacky adventures
The Story So Far...
Though the show had long earlier made the transition into a stupid-dad sitcom, Stan continues to elevate his particular brand of stupid, be it the way he competes directly with his son (setting up a creepy mid-coitus stare-down in "I am the Walrus") or his replacing Roger with Andy Dick as his fey, in-house psychotic. The show has never been particularly focused on grounded realism (as made clearly obvious by having a Paul Lynde-inspired, costume-obsessed alien as one of the stars) but it's been moving to pure absurdity recently, and this season is no different, putting the family in silly situations, like Stan and Francine each raising a clone of Steve their own way, and dipping into fantasy, with "For Whom the Sleighbells Toll" pitting the Smiths against Santa Claus and his elves in a massive, bloody battle. Add to that time travel, brainwashing and the many personalities Roger adopts, and the show goes in many directions at once, yet manages to hit frequently with the shotgun approach.
This season also saw the show take a slightly risky step in changing the series' dynamic by having hippie daughter Hayley marry her stoner boyfriend Jeff, and having them move in with Stan's clan. Admittedly, the show doesn't pay a lot of attention to them, to the point where they seemingly go missing for no reason (I missed why they didn't move out of the house in "Fartbreak Hotel") but adding another character to the household is a big change for a sitcom, one that's played up in several episodes, including "The People vs. Martin Sugar," where he turns the house into his sexual playground. It seems like maybe the writers didn't know what to do with him (or, as usual, Hayley) as the couple retreats into the background for much of the second half of the season.
The same unfortunately can't be said of Steve's principal, Brian Lewis, whose urban persona is a touch too much in high doses, working only slightly in its contrast with his role as an authority figure. He's a main part of several episodes, which is too much, considering the way the cuts in C.I.A. content in the show have cost the series from seeing more of the delightful Patrick Stewart (as Stan's boss.) The amount of episodes starring Steve's gaggle of friends also walks the line in risking overexposure, as Snot (Curtis Armstrong) is practically the star of three episodes this season, which is a tad too much for the show's eight-ranking character. (Though more Toshi, especially as seen in "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls," is always welcome.)
The series would definitely benefit from better balancing between Stan's work and home life, as they allow for different interactions, not to mention a chance to play with the show's wealth of guest stars. It's actually really odd how the series slips big names into minor parts, and leaves them there like Easter Eggs. If you're not paying close attention, it's easy to miss the voices of Will Forte, Nick Kroll, H. Jon Benjamin, Ken Jeong and Zach Galafianakis. What would be hard to miss is the nudity, including some breasts and Stan's penis. Yup. They show it.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks are uniformly solid, delivering the dialogue crisply and clearly, which is the most important element of the show, while giving the music the emphasis it needs in the surrounds. You won't get anything impressive in terms of a dynamic mix, though some sound effects get play in the sides and rear.
Also found on each disc is a set of deleted scenes from each episode, totaling 47 in all, running a combined 35:31. They are a mix of excised jokes and alternate takes, and, like in previous collections, a lot of what was cut could have easily aired without a decrease in quality.
There are two featurettes included, starting with "I Love Patrick Stewart" (8:09.) Mixed into a bunch of scenes of Stewart's character are testimonials from several members of the cast and crew, as they express their admiration for Mr. Jean-Luc Picard himself (but, yet again, Seth MacFarlane did not participate.) It's certainly cute, especially the ending, and the sentiment is sure to be one shared by viewers.
The second featurette features footage from the American Dad! panel at the 2010 San Diego ComicCon, and this time Seth MacFarlane is on hand to answer questions. Unfortunately, the give and take with the audience isn't too thrilling, but it's more silliness to enjoy.
The Bottom Line