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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Family Guy, Vol. 7
Family Guy, Vol. 7
Fox // Unrated // June 16, 2009
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted June 28, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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In 10 Words or Less
Same as it ever was, same as it ever was

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 infant 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' 10th home-video release. Eschewing traditional season sets for shorter "volume" releases, the first six 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.

The Show
At this point, putting together a Family Guy episode must be like the proverbial Chinese food combo, with a little from Column A, perhaps a musical number or pop song; a little from Column B, where the movie references are, and a heaping helping of Column C, the nonsensical cut-away gags that make up the bulk of the show. Throw in some politically-incorrect jokes for flavor and you've got a show. So why do we keep watching (those of us who tune in each week)? Probably because, like those sodium-laden treats from the Orient, it's quick and easy and satisfies our hunger for what we like (for a little while at least.)

Here, in Volume Seven of the seemingly frequent Family Guy DVD sets, we get another 13 episodes that, with a few exceptions, aren't much different than the shows from the past, with only the story details separating one show from another. Nothing much changes and nothing much matters, but it remains a constant source of laughs, even if they frequently stem from shock comedy and guilty moments, like the cheap gay jokes in "The Family Gay" or the Jewish gags in "The Road to Germany," two episodes that happen to be among the stand-outs in this collection. It can be a bit frustrating, because here and there they'll come up with really smart or biting jokes, and you wonder where they've been hiding in this forest of easy marks.

At this time in the series' run, the references to Stewie's probable homosexuality have already reached a saturation point, the Back to the Future references are far too frequent, and the musical moments start to feel more like padding than genuine comedy. It points again to the show's over-reliance on a core collection of gags, key among them being the overlong or over-repetitive bits that cross over from unfunny to funny and then quickly back to cringe-inducing, with an ease that belies the crew's practice with such concepts. The return of the unrelated, and somehow even longer, Conway Twitty clip is close to theft in terms of the money the crew received for doing next to nothing for such a length of time, while absorbing the use of "Surfin' Bird" in "I Dream of Jesus" is like being smacked in the face over and over and pleading for more. Why the family singing Bette Midler's The Rose is supposed to be funny is unclear (even with the added punchline,) and lifting material directly from other popular films and shows is a reference, not a joke, no matter how often it's done.

That said, the show hits about as often as it flops, sometimes in the cut-aways (the Prince on The Price is Right is terrific (even if it fits better in MacFarlane's Cartoon Cavalcade project)) and sometimes in its more conceptual gags. The two episodes mentioned before, "The Family Gay" and "The Road to Germany," are hugely memorable, due in large part to the ridiculous nature of each story, one seeing Peter turned gay in a genetic experiment, while the other sends Stewie, Brian and the family's Jewish neighbor Mort back in time to the Nazi invasion of Warsaw. There's nothing at all safe or reverential about either episode, with stereotypes abounding and some terrible gags about traditionally oppressed groups, but the way it's all handled (namely without kid's gloves) is pretty damn funny. That "The Road to Germany" features some of the finest animation the series has ever produced doesn't hurt either, as the CG Nazi attacks look simply amazing.

The DVDs
The 13 episodes in this set are spread across three DVDs, with 11 on the first two discs, and two on the third. The change in Fox TV packaging has hit Family Guy now, so the three discs are in a clear single-width keepcase with a dual-hubbed tray, which is held in a cardboard slipcover with a window through which you can see the inside cover. 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
The full-frame episodes on this DVD look great overall, and even the usual issues with jagged thin black lines aren't a big deal. The video, especially anything featuring the show's quality CG animation, features bright, vivid color and a nice clean image, without any problems with compression, dirt or damage.

The audio is presented with Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, which feature a few impressive sound effects in the sides, and nice power in the musical moments, but the show is mainly dialogue-driven, which doesn't make for blow-out tracks. It all sounds nice and clean though.

The Extras
The main extras are inside each episode's menu, which include the original TV versions of the episodes and an audio commentary for each show. Sometimes you'll want to check out the differences between the DVD and TV versions (especially when they are pointed out on the commentaries), but otherwise, these editions won't get much notice, unlike the commentaries, which, as usual, are a highlight. Like the recent American Dad! release, MacFarlane is less present than usual, participating on just a few tracks, along with much of the crew, some actors and even Frank Sinatra, Jr., who has plenty to talk about (even if it's not always related to Family Guy. It's noted a few times that these are sober tracks, recorded in the morning, so they are a bit less energetic than usual, and it's also questioned whether they've run out of things to talk about. You'll still get some interesting tidbits about the series, and frequent mentions of the new The Cleveland Show.

There are three more commentaries available to check out, on three animatic episodes, "Love Blactually," "Long John Peter" and "The Man with Two Brians." These commentaries feature members of the animation staff, which makes sense, since animatics tend to only appeal to animation folk. With their participation, you get good details on the work that went into creating the show, along with a look at how much the show changes from the planning stage before it aired.

Unfortunately, along with less MacFarlane, there are also less deleted scenes than previous sets, with just 29 clips (for only 11 minutes in all) and they aren't really all that great either (though one evil monkey joke got a laugh out of me.)

If you wondered if maybe the show is repeating itself a bit, the featurettes won't help assuage that fear, with who covering similar ground to previous collections. The 16-minute "Family Guy Cribz" is a slightly longer update on Volume Four's "Behind the Scenes: A Glimpse into the 'Family Guy' Office," while "Take Me Out To pLace Tonight" (12 minutes) is similar to "Score! The Music of 'Family Guy'" from Volume Three, though more episode specific, focusing on the work between Sinatra and MacFarlane. "Comic-Con 2008" is the usual convention panel video presented on previous collections, though it's just a 23-minute Q&A this time (so no live read.) The final five-minute featurette, "Family Guy Art Show" is actually something a bit different, as it takes a look at a charity insider art auction for the crew of the show with work by the crew of the show.

The Bottom Line
At this point, if you like "Family Guy" there's no reason to not check out the latest collection of DVDs, as you're going to get uncensored episodes and a nice set of extras. The nice thing about the show though, is the fact that you can really jump in at any time, as there's no such thing as continuity, and no story builds on another in any real way. You can jump around, from disc to disc or set to set and enjoy a good time. This set is no different than those that precede it, as the shows look and sound solid, and there's a healthy host of bonus content to check out. Consistent isn't the worst thing a show can be, but predictable isn't a positive thing either, especially when it starts getting hard to tell one episode from another.

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.

Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter

*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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