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Family Guy, Vol. 6

Fox // Unrated // October 21, 2008
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted October 19, 2008 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
Like "Family Guy?" Here's 12 more for you.

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Animation, Un-PC Comedy
Likes: "Family Guy", the evil monkey, Lois
Dislikes: Peter, Stewie, Obvious jokes
Hates: Herbert, the creepy old man

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 younger 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 set is the series' ninth home-video release. Eschewing traditional season sets for shorter "volume" releases, the first five seasons have made it to DVD, while a collection of series creator Seth MacFarlane's favorite episodes, the so-called "Family Guy" movie and the "Blue Harvest" Star Wars homage all received one-disc releases. DVDTalk has reviews of each set:
Volume One | Volume Two | Volume Three | Volume Four | Volume Five
Family Guy - The Freakin' Sweet Collection: Francis Rizzo | Aaron Beierle
Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin - The Untold Story: Francis Rizzo | Aaron Beierle
Family Guy - Blue Harvest

The Show
The fifth season of "Family Guy" concludes in this set, but it's hard to say what distinguishes this collection from the others. There's the same gross-out gags, the same pop-culture references and the same politically incorrect jokes. All that's really different are the stories, which are as unusual as ever, like paraplegic Joe getting new legs or Peter going back in time and ruining his marriage. Like most sitcoms that last any length of time, there's a sense of comfort that develops, and it reaches a point where change is often seen as betrayal, as any number of "jump the shark" moments will attest to.

It's not likely "Family Guy" will be jumping anytime soon though, as it tends to stick to what it does best, mixing in a touch of experimentation, which often creates very memorable moments, like the puppet King Stewie segment or the fake promo for "The Simpsons" that's more amusing than funny, but certainly a stand-out bit. When the show stretches the conventions of animation, it's at its best (remember the Ah-Ha spoof? Of course you do.) Those moments just don't happen often enough to carry the show over the rougher patches.

This group of episodes seems to show a creative staff once again intrigued by the possibilities of pushing a joke far past all reasonable limits of humor. When Peter tunes in to an episode of "Maude" to set up a joke, the show's already on thin ice, going well over the head of a wide swath of the audience. When that theme song just keeps going and going and going and going, its almost cruel. The same goes for this set's big fight between Peter and the Giant Chicken. Normally these scenes are exercises in pointlessness that test the viewer's patience, but at over five minute long, including a dinner break, this one is just painful.

The episodes included in this set are all over the map, positioning Peter as an illegal immigrant, a biased restaurateur and a stroke victim, while Lois tries her hand at being mayor, a small-town Southern housewife and a murder victim. It's the show's sense of surreal humor that remains its strongest suit, exemplified by episodes like "Meet the Quagmires," which sees Peter go back in time and screw up his marriage, in what could be generously described as an homage to Back to the Future. But anyone expecting the show's blow-out two-part 100th episode to rise above, in bringing the acrimonious relationship between Stewie and his mother Lois to a head, will be disappointed, as it ends weakly, even as it tries to crack jokes about ill-conceived episode conclusions. It's emblematic of the series' level of comfort with itself, which it's going to have to shake free of if it's going to regain the renegade feel that earned its audience.

For those wondering, "Blue Harvest" has not been included.

The DVDs
The 12 episodes in this set are spread across three DVDs, with 11 on the first two discs, and one on the third. We received simple screeners, but if the past sets are any indications, the DVDs will be packed in three clear ThinPaks, each with a cover that has episode descriptions, extras information and air dates, while the ThinPaks are held in a cardboard slipcover. Each DVD has an animated, anamorphic widescreen main menu that has several bits from the show, along with episode titles and a play-all option, while the third disc has the special features options.

After selecting an episode, a static episode menu appears, offering options to play the episode, select chapters, adjust languages and check out the special features. The audio is presented in English Dolby Digital 5.1, while subtitles are in English, Spanish and French. Closed captioning is also available.

The Quality
Per Fox's practices, we received watermarked screeners that affect the visual quality of the full-frame transfers. They look pretty good with the watermark, but we won't pass judgment until final product is received.

The audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, but the source material doesn't lend itself to room-filling sound. Some effects can be heard to the side and rear, and th music, especially during the show's signature musical numbers, gets emphasis in the surrounds. Even if the mix isn't too impressive, everything comes off clear and free of any distortion.

The Extras
The main extras are inside each episode's menu, which are the original TV version of the episodes and an audio commentary for each show. Why you'd want to watch the TV versions of these episodes, when they don't represent what the creators wanted to show, is a bit odd, but for completists it's a valued addition. The commentaries, on the other hand, are, as usual, a must-listen, featuring a variety of participants, including MacFarlane, most of the cast, many of the crew, and guests like Adam Carolla and Phyllis Diller. The tracks, which mix and match speakers, are friendly and chatty, with zero dead air, and feature a good deal of info about the episodes. This time around, politics are a big deal, and MacFarlane has plenty to say, throwing in his thoughts on censorship as well, making for an entertaining listen.

A slew of deleted scenes is up next, with 49 in all, for over 18 minutes worth of fun. These moments are often jokes that wouldn't make it to the air or were alternate material, and often they are just as good as what's in the shows. A play-all option lets you wallow in the comedy. There's more bonus material as Mike Henry hosts 11:30 of favorite scenes chosen by the crew, with intros by those staffers. It's nothingearth-shattering, but it's interesting to know what the show's creators enjoy, while more clips are found in the short music video for "I'm Huge" by Steve Smith and the Nakeds, made up of footage from the show.

Three episodes, "No Meals on Wheels," "No Chris Left Behind" and "McStroke," are included in animatics form, each with audio commentary by a group of animators. These tracks aren't nearly as packed as the regular tracks, as they do find themselves just watching, but there is a nice amount of content regarding the animation work done on the shows.

Two pieces about the 100th episode are included on this set, starting with the "Family Guy 100th Episode Special." Essentially a clip show hosted by MacFarlane, it also includes interviews with non-viewers who have been shown "Family Guy." It's an exercise in self-deprecating humor, as they unwittingly slam the show to MacFarlane's face, but it's not good for more than one viewing. The 24-minute behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the 100th episode is much better, as it covers all the stages of production and offers nice insight into the "Family Guy" creative process. In a somewhat similar vein, there's also four-minutes of director Peter Shin drawing Lois, continuing a feature seen in other "Family Guy" sets.

The final and biggest extra is the 71-minute "Family Guy" Live!, filmed at Montreal's 2007 Just for Laughs festival. A table read of "Airport 07" featuring the entire cast, followed by a brief Q&A, is good simply because of the cast's personalities, as table reads tend to be a bit dry. The post-show chat is much better, and though any info is outdated, it's the presentation that's enjoyable.

The Bottom Line
Is "Family Guy" coasting on it's past successes? It could be argued, as the series doesn't surprise or shock the way it once did, instead doing the things that have worked before and doing them more and larger. The DVD releases are predictable and consistent, with high quality and impressive rafts of bonus material, but if the show doesn't do it for you, that doesn't make much of a difference. If you like the show, there's a good chance you'll enjoy the episodes in this set, and you'll get a kick out of the overall package of content, even if it is shorter than ever.

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.

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*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.

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