While Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" got all the attention, "American Dad" played right along with it, remaining underappreciated for nearly 10 seasons. The series focuses on ultra conservative CIA agent Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane), who constantly thinks that potential security threats are lurking everywhere (in the pilot, he waves a security wand over his daughter when she gets home and then throws her gum down the block as a precaution.)
The series initially was scolded for being too close to "Family Guy", complete with talking animals and - this time around - an alien. However, what people missed was an increasingly sharp and clever sitcom with plots that were more and more inspired as the years went on. If it sounds like I'm talking about the series in the past tense despite the fact that it's still on the air on TBS, it's because I am. While the cable network bought the rights to the series and is playing what it irritatingly kept calling an "edgier" version of the series, it's more or less a shell of what it once was - it's neither "edgier" nor is it nearly as funny as it once was.
This set provides most of the last season of the series on FOX and it sees the show exit in terrific form. One of the best things about "American Dad" is how it really managed to develop these characters over the years. Steve (Scott Grimes) in particular has turned from the stereotypical social outcast/geek into a delightfully, hilariously awkward creation. Some of the Steve-centric episodes are among the best of the latter half of the show's run on Fox. Haley (Rachel MacFarlane) and her relationship with Jeff have also resulted in more laughs over the seasons, especially with Jeff's unexpected disappearance.
The season may not offer an episode on par with some of the show's best ("Black Mystery Month", "Stanny Slickers 2: The Legend of Ollie's Gold"), but there are some terrific episodes scattered throughout, especially "Independent Movie". That episode is a hysterical parody of melancholy indie films that sees Steve and his friends go on a road trip to the funeral of Snot's father, but ends up falling for a quirky girl. Even the family's alien with many personas, Roger (MacFarlane) has grown a little more demented/scheming and a little less annoying (or perhaps the character's obnoxiousness has become a little more focused and funny) as the character has been given somewhat more depth. Patrick Stewart is delightfully funny voicing Stan's boss, Bullock.
Another major highlight of the season is "Familyland", which sees the family go on a trip to a Disney-like theme park, only to see the park fall into turmoil once the founder, Roy Family, is thawed out and locks the park down. The separated Smiths all duel for supremacy over the park's now near-feral locked-in inhabitants. Also amusing is "I Ain't No Holodeck Boy", where Stan puts Steve and friends in the CIA holodeck to teach them a lesson, but Stan winds up learning something himself.
Again, "American Dad" started off as an amusing enough spin on the "Family Guy" formula but really grew into a memorably funny series that I'd consider one of the more underrated sitcoms. I'm happy that the series lives on in some regards as it became one of my favorite shows, but I'm disappointed that it clearly seems to have lost something in translation between Fox and TBS.
Disc 1 "Steve and Snot's Test-Tubular Adventure"
"Kung Pao Turkey"
"Cock of the Sleepwalk"
"Introducing the Naughty Stewardesses"
"I Ain't No Holodeck Boy"
Disc 3 "Stan Goes On the Pill"
"Honey, I'm Homeland"
"She Swill Survive"
"Permanent Record Wrecker"
"News Glance With Genevieve Vavance"
"The Longest Distance Relationship"
VIDEO: "American Dad" is given a fine presentation on this latest set. The presentations here look as good as they do during broadcast, with sharpness and detail looking terrific throughout the shows. A few minor traces of artifacting were spotted on a couple of occasions, but the picture otherwise appeared crisp, clean and clear. Colors remain bright and vibrant, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's audio comes largely from the front speakers, but there are infrequent instances of surround use for voices or minor effects. Audio quality is excellent, as dialogue, music and effects sounded crisp and clear.
Final Thoughts: "American Dad" started its existence as a mildly funny riff on the "Family Guy" formula but quickly grew into its own. While "Family Guy" should really have ended a few seasons ago, "American Dad" offered terrific laughs on its run for Fox. While the episodes on TBS haven't been as good, hopefully the series will regain its footing. This DVD set offers fine audio/video quality, but no extras.