American Dad (Pilot Episode) (2005)

(Original Air Date: February 6, 2005)


American Done...

J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

For a short time in the late 1970's School Picture Technology had reached the ultimate heights of Parental Rip-Offs in the form of "Reflection Pictures". For those of you fortunate enough not to have sat (or paid) for one of these, essentially, a six year old child (as I was at the time) is placed in front of a background, black-as-pitch, and photographed, with his or her snaggletooth grin wide-mouthed enough to make the spit bubbles look like B.B.'s in the corners of the black-as-pitch mouths.

Then, the photographer tells the kid NOT to smile, turns the kid sideways and photographs him or her again on the same black-as-pitch background. The result was a delight for ANY grandparent or overseas aunt and uncle who is just dying to remember the Cowlick you supported in Second Grade, and also for those who couldn't resist imagining the six-year-old in a Police Department "Mug Shot". Yes, the proud payers (and sitees) were graced with your developing puss from the front and the side in an almost Roger Waters-esque trippiness, that was… let's face it… the exact same damned picture you got from the front with the addition of the cowlick and the subtraction of the half-in teeth and saliva-bubble B.B.'s. Is the reflection necessary? Does it even, really, look much like you?

This whole thing sort of reminds me of Seth MacFarlane's new animated Sitcom American Dad. There's not a kid, teen or grumpy old curmudgeon on the planet happier than I am that MacFarlane's Family Guy has been un-Cancelled for the third time, and will soon be airing on Fox once again. Family Guy is a hilarious show, spit-bubbles, bad teeth and all! On Superbowl Sunday, 2005, in lieu of another Booby Shot, Fox has given us American Dad, the "Reflection Picture" version of Family Guy!

All the elements of Family Guy are in here, like Prego, to the point that you can tick off each one as you watch each scene. The bumbling self-centered Dad, Peter, has been replaced by Stanley Smith (voice of MacFarlane), the proficient CIA Operative who is a Self-Centered Dad at home. The loving stay at home wife, Lois, is replaced by Wendy Schaal's Francine Smith, Stanley's loving stay at home wife. Then there are the kids, the smart, yet disaffected daughter Hayley (Rachael "How'd I get this Job?" MacFarlane) and the flop-with-chicks goof-ball son Steve (Scott Grimes), who remind us a whole, whole lot of Meg and Chris Griffin from Family Guy.

Brian, Family Guy's talking, worldly-wise pet dog who is obsessed with the mother in the family, has been answered here by Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker), a talking, worldly-wise pet fish who is obsessed with the mother in the family. And then of course, Family Guy had Stewie, the hilarious Pygmalion genius with a Rex Harrison Complex and the desire to dominate the world (or at least his house). Instead, American Dad gives us "Roger the Alien" (also MacFarlane), the almost-hilarious Roswell Refugee with a Paul Lynde Complex and the desire to trade house-hold duties for snack cakes.

And that pretty well sums it up... It's not that American Dad is all that bad... it's not... It's just that it feels like an "Almost" attempt at something the same creator had already done. None of the characters feel quite as fleshed out or even likeable as the original, edgy Griffins.

It is funny, at least intermittently. The best part is watching Stanley (this ANTI-Peter Griffin) applying his Homeland Security Vibe to his Homestead Security. He deals with Family Emergencies with the precision and lethality he would a terrorist threat (by aaron pruitt). He bounds and rolls armed into every room, and even keeps the color-coded Threat-Level magnetized to his Frigidaire. He's still just as off-kilter as Peter, but in a very different vein. His assisting Steve in getting the girl, only to have to take him down from his eventual megalomaniacal position is a laugh to see, and not the only one.

However, there's also the feel, at times, that American Dad thinks its funnier than it is, and one can almost smell the pauses for laughter. Roger's constant voiding of his bile on everyone and everything might be a little funny the first time, but it seems like a failed attempt after the third. Steve and Hayley feel like watered down versions of Chris and Meg, and Francine feels like a not-all-there Lois Griffin. In short, the whole thing feels like a rather pale reflection, and not-so-much required with Family Guy itself returning.

Is this Macfarlane's fault? I'm going to put my money on a fat "Probably Not" for this one. We all know that Fox is going to Cancel anything "Different" like The Flash with an eraser unless it pulls in "American Idol" viewership. Just look at Wonder Falls! It's pretty likely that Fox saw the numbers that Family Guy pulls down on the Cartoon Network, realized their mistake and pulled Sethy-boy back into the fold with the ancillary command "Make One More"! It's a sure bet that our folks at Fox asked for a variation on the same theme, because, by God, they're tired of giving unproven subjects a shot here. Seth MacFarlane is a talented writer, and is at his funniest when he's not afraid to take risks. Give American Dad a shot and it might come into its own... or... well, see The Lone Gunmen, Firefly, John Doe, Tru Calling... the list goes on!

I, for one, am going to give American Dad a shot. Derivative or not (and let's face it, even Family Guy isn't that far a throw from The Simpsons), American Dad has the potential for some good laughs. As it stands now, though, Seth Macfarlane, under the cruel tutelage of the Fox Network, has thrown his horse shoe, and hit only dust. Two and One Half Stars out of Five for the Pilot Episode of American Dad, the new reflection on Family Guy! Maybe I'm just grouchy because there was no Janet Jackson Booby Shot this year... or even one from the girl. In time, we might see a great show come out of American Dad, or, the show might go the way of those superfluous "Reflection Pictures", and you'll see me, but not it, in the next reel.

Are there any dads from other countries I can review?
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American Dad (Pilot Episode) (2/6/05) Reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for his own views and for the fact that he considers himself an IRISH Dad... well... 3/4, at least.
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