Falling somewhere in the middle between The Simpsons and South Park, Family Guy was sadly too short lived during its three season run on Fox, but fan demand brought it back and now the eleventh DVD collection (which actually contains the twenty-three episodes that make up season ten) is upon us. For those who haven't seen it, the series revolved around the misadventures of the Griffin family who reside in the town of Quahog, Rhode Island. Peter is the kinda-sorta-well-intentioned but misguided father, Lois the perfect housewife, Meg the unpopular angst-ridden teenager and Chris the sweet but slow son. And then there's Stewie, their infant boy who in the early years was bent on global domination but lately seems more interested in time travel and harassing the family's dog, a quick witted hard drinking pooch named Brian. Like The Simpsons, or King Of The Hill, the neighbors also play a big part in the series. Sexually obsessed Glenn Quagmire and wheelchair bound tough guy cop Joe round out the core characters nicely and give the Griffins a decent crew to play off of.
At this point in the show's history, it's got a pretty loyal fan base and an equally vocal group of dissenters. The show polarizes viewers not only because of its tendencies to push buttons (a complaint often levied against the show is that it's mean spirited, and there's one episode in this collection that definitely feels that way) but also because it doesn't really have much of a plot. Continuity is thrown out the window in favor of pop culture references and sight gags galore and those who have seen the series know that it's not at all uncommon for the show to throw in a musical song and dance number, a disturbingly long but oh so sweet cameo from the late, great Conway Twitty, or a prolonged fight scene. We get just as much, if not more, of that type of humor in this latest batch as we have before. The series runs the gamut from taking unabashed cheap shots at minority groups to delivering some truly scathing and often times brilliant satire with frequent stops everywhere in between resulting in a show that really stands out as much for its humor as it does for its irreverence.
Lottery Fever / Seahorses Seashell Party / Screams Of Silence: The Story Of Brenda Q / Stewie Goes For A Drive / Back To The Pilot / Thanksgiving / Amish Guy
Cool Hand Peter / Grumpy Old Man / Quagmire And Meg / The Blind Side / Livin' On A Prayer / Tom Tucker: The Man And His Dream / Be Careful What You Fish For / Burning Down The Bayit
Killer Queen / Forget-Me-Not / You Can't Do That On Television, Peter / Mr. And Mrs. Stewie / Lego My Meg-O / Tea Peter / Family Guy Viewer Mail / Internal Affairs
It should be noted that all of the episodes in this collection are presented uncut, so expect some foul to hear some foul language that you didn't hear when these were originally shown Sunday night's on Fox.
This season is a pretty strong one. That aforementioned mean-spirited episode is Screams Of Silence: The Story Of Brenda Q and it's not only the strangest episode on the season but one of the strangest of the entire series. Basically Glenn's sister gets into an abusive relationship and he, Peter and Joe decide to take care of the problem. The episode gets increasingly darker as it plays out and the ending, which is presented straight and without any obvious irony or attempt at humor, is pretty grim. The crew should get credit for tackling a serious social issue with at least some semblance of seriousness but is this really the right format to raise an issue like this? Opinions will vary, obviously, but this episode is twisted.
Aside from that, it's more or less business as usual. There are some fun celebrity cameos here, the most obvious one being Ricky Gervais who provides the voice of a dolphin who helps Peter out and then demands a ridiculous amount of favors in return. The Lottery Fever series opener is a fun one which shows not only how Peter behaves after winning the lottery but how those around him will leach off of him when he does. We get to see Brian take mushrooms before a hurricane hits the town and then watch him trip out and see some seriously bizarre hallucinations. The Back To The Pilot episode also stands out as we see Stewie travel back with Brian in tow to January 31, 1999 (which was the broadcast date of the series' first episode). This shows how the series has changed over the years and also how in just as many ways it has stayed the same.
Quahog news anchor Tom Tucker gets the spotlight in Tom Tucker: The Man And His Dream in which we learn about his acting career. It seems he played Michael Myers in Halloween IV and once Peter learns that, he and James Woods get involved in resurrecting his thesping profession. In Killer Queen Peter and Chris wind up at fat camp where a serial killer is at work, while back in Quahog, Stewie is terrified by the artwork of Queen's New Of The World album cover. H. Jon Benjamin from Bob's Burgers and a bunch of other great credits does a guest voice here. Stewie falls for a girl named Penelope, voiced by Kate Blanchett, in Mr. And Mrs. Stewie but of course that can't end well even if she shares his love of weapons and math. Tea Party is another stand out. When Peter tries to open his own business and gets shut down, he becomes an advocate for small government and takes hardcore conservative Tea Party ideas to ridiculous extremes with predictably funny results.
All in all, this is a pretty great season. It's also fairly daring, not that the show has ever really shied away from controversy but they definitely push things on a visual level here. That's not a bad thing, so long as you're accepting of the fact that as offensive as the series can be, it's an equal opportunity offender and it provides a great opportunity to laugh at the absurdity that is all around us on a daily basis.The DVD
This latest season was broadcast in HD in 1.78.1 widescreen which, and that's the aspect ratio that is used for this DVD release. As has been the norm with the Family Guy sets so far from Fox, the video presentation is very good. The colors look nice and bright, the image is strong, vibrant and clean, and there are no problems with print damage. There aren't any issues at all with mpeg compression throughout the set during playback, though there is some mild line shimmering and light edge enhancement detectable in a few spots that, while not distracting or overbearing, is definitely there. Overall though, this is a very nice presentation in terms of video quality and each and every one of the episodes in this set look better on these DVDs than they do in reruns on TV, especially in terms of color reproduction. Everything looks brighter and more vibrant which adds to the fun of the series' screwy look and style.Sound:
The English language track on this DVD is presented in a very nicely handled Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix. These tracks don't go completely overboard with background or ambient noise and instead use the rears to enhance what's already there in the first place with gives the soundstage a more lifelike feel. While there are instances where sound effects will come at you unexpectedly, in terms of channel separation and speaker use, there's nothing funky going on here, it all works and it all sounds pretty natural. Dialogue is crisp, clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The opening theme song sounds incredibly lively as it plays before each episode and the background music used throughout the shows is strong but not overpowering or domineering. Subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish.Extras:
Extras are spread across the three discs in the set as follows:
Deleted Scenes are included for Lottery Fever, Seahorse Seashell Party, Screams Of Silence, Stewie Goes For A Drive, Back To The Pilot, Thanksgiving and Amish Guy. You can watch these on their own or by way of a ‘play all' option and there's just over four minutes of material here. There's also a Looking Back To The Pilot featurettes that includes input from the cast and crew about what went into this interesting episode and how the series has changed since that pilot aired. It runs just over eleven minutes. Outside of that, there's also a Scene Animated From "Seahorse To Seashell Party" and a Full Episode Animatic From "Back To The Pilot.
Again we get some Deleted Scenes, this time from Cool Hand Peter, Grumpy Old Man, Quagmire and Meg, Livin' On A Prayer, Tom Tucker: The Man And His Dream, Be Careful What You Wish For and Burning Down The Bayit. There's six and a half minutes of content here. The second disc also includes a featurette called Fishin' Around With Ricky Gervais. It's a six and a half minute piece that shows what it was like having Gervais around doing voice work in the studio and which offers up some thoughts from the cast and crew on his work on his guest spot. Audio Outtakes With Ricky Gervais is six minutes of just that, depending on how much you enjoy Gervais, this may or may not be worth your time. Outside of that, look for Audio Commentary tracks on the following episodes: Cool Hand Peter (with Mark Hentemann, Artie Johann, Shawn Ries, Brian Iles and Brent Crowe) and Quagmire And Meg (with Steve Callaghan, Tom Devanney, Joseph Lee and Kim Fertman).
Disc three contains some more Deleted Scenes, this time for episodes Killer Queen, You Can't Do That On Television, Peter, Mr. And Mrs. Stewie, Tea Peter and Family Guy Viewer Mail #2. These deleted scenes run just over three minutes. Also on the third disc is Ron McFarlane Reads Viewer Mail, an amusing seven minute piece in which Seth's dad sits atop some bags of mail and reads some odd viewer mail, and a Scene Animatic From "Family Guy Viewer Mail #2. Additionally, the third disc has Audio Commentary tracks on the following episodes: Killer Queen (with Mark Hentemann, Spencer Porter, Peter Shin, Shannon Smith and Greg Lovell), Forget-Me-Not (with Steve Callaghan, Brian Iles, Peter Shin and Shannon Smith), Mr. And Mrs. Stewie (with Steve Callghan, Joe Vaux, Joseph Lee, Annie Brown, Brent Crowe and Patrick Clark), Family Guy Viewer Mail #2 (with Mark Hentemann, Tom Devanney, Greg Colton, Mike Elias and Anjel Shhigian),
Each disc includes menus and chapter selection. The three DVDs in the set each fit inside a standard size DVD case which in turn tucks away into a slipcover featuring alternate artwork. Inside the case is a flyer advertising new episodes of the series.Final Thoughts:
Family Guy Series Eleven isn't quite as loaded with extras as some past season have been but it does offer up some good supplements, the commentary tracks being the most interesting. On top of that the audio and video quality are good. As to the episodes themselves? Well at this point you've probably seen enough of the series, as it's proving wildly popular in syndication, and you're either a fan or you're not. There's not a lot of middle ground when it comes to this show. So it goes without saying that if you don't appreciate the show, this latest DVD collection won't change your mind. If you are into it though, consider this one recommended.