That time American Dad passed Family Guy
The Story So Far...
Going along with that family sitcom sensibility is the inclusion of several episodes focused on the family dynamic in the Smith household, especially when it comes to father-son relationships. Stan and his nerdy son Steve share several storylines, including their road trip to obtain a door for Stan's long-in-development DeLorean, a clash over trust when Steve has to wear a back brace that makes him a pariah at school, and a classic face-off on the football field when Steve's status as a loser gets to the ever-competitive Stan. Their troubles even result in Stan finding himself in the son role, when his dad returns and his own poor upbringing bubbles up to the surface. The father-son issues aren't even limited to the Smiths, as their neighbor Greg the news anchor has to hide his homosexuality from his pro-football-playing dad. These familial storylines unfortunately don't pay off as well as some of the others (with "Family Affair," about Roger cheating on the Smiths with other families, being the least interesting) but they thankfully don't drag the episodes down.
That's mainly because the B stories, which tend to feature Roger (when he isn't in the lead) are frequently tremendous fun, perhaps because they aren't saddled with the responsibility of carrying the show, so they can lean toward the silly, like the bizarre internship Hayley gets from Roger, the mystery-solving team formed by Roger and Steve, or Francine, Hayley and Roger's misadventures at a spa. There are several episodes where the B story is just simply better, like "Stan's Night Out," where Hayley and Roger's competition to see who's a hotter woman is far more entertaining than the story of Stan and his CIA co-workers recreating Very Bad Things. It's interesting to note that the best of the bunch, "Bar Mitzvah Hustle" has a B story that actually admits it was a weak attempt at one (and wasn't needed to begin with.)
"Bar Mitzvah Hustle" is a great overall episode, and a Steve Smith-focused show to boot, telling an Ocean's 11-style heist tale featuring Steve and his pals, as they try to sabotage the Bar Mitzvah of Etan Cohen (voiced by Seth Green), a more mature kid in their school who stole Steve's girlfriend Debby. The fact that the actual plot of the heist is well-written is impressive, but that they managed to tell that story and keep the funny coming throughout. Sure, some of it comes in the form of very easy Jewish jokes, but part of it is how good Green is as Etan. He's one of several impressive guest stars on the show in this set, joined by Forest Whitaker, Paget Brewster, Will Forte, Judd Hirsch and Sandra Oh, among others.
The audio is offered as Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks, which offer up clear dialogue, strong music (a big element of MacFarlane's shows), and quality sound effects, with impressive touches of dynamic mixing throughout, raising the show above the level of the standard sitcom.
As usual, there's a healthy dose of deleted scenes included, with a whopping 101 scenes in all, running just shy of 50 minutes. It's one of the few areas where this set outperforms its predecessors. As is usually the case, these clips, which can be viewed in one extra-long pile, or by episode, are a big reason to check out the set, as they are a lot of fun to watch, even out of context. A lot of them are throw-away gags cut for time, so they are quick to blow through and enjoy.
One of the better episodes here, "Bar Mitzvah Shuffle" makes a return in the extras, as a "Fact-Up Trivia" version is available. Like the Pop-Up Videos of old, this episode puts notes of trivia over the episode in graphic bubbles. It's much more interesting than the commentaries, and impressively doesn't repeat info, but there's only one here.
The final extra is "The Power Hour Drinking Game," which is essentially a pile of 60 one-minute clips from throughout the show's run, presented with cues to drink the beverage of your choice. I'm not a drinker, but the clips are funny, and one could suggest if you drank the right drink while watching, they might be even funnier. It's good stuff, but a lazy "best of"-level extra.
The Bottom Line