American Dad Series 3 DVD review

Parsley bucks the trend as usual, bypassing South Park and Springfield for Langley Falls, Virginia...

American Dad season 3 - out now.

I’ve always tended to buck the trend. When my college flatmates were declaring their undying love to The Smiths I found myself putting Kajagoogoo on the juke box, probably to spite them and my fellow students. So whilst the world was declaring its unquestioning loyalty to The Simpsons franchise, I found myself a Family Guy fan. I suspect it is more of a home for stupid, unnecessarily drawn out comedy that I like and The Simpsons might not have the patience for. So, of course, I similarly watched ‘American Dad’, the ‘new’ series from creator Seth MacFarlane, and it is a testament to the saleability of the cartoon comedy proposition that it has already reached its third box set.

With the lead character Stan Smith being a shining CIA agent rather than a general slob like Peter Griffin or Homer Simpson, there is a predisposition to political humour and Series 3 is certainly dishing out plenty of it. Is there anything new or shocking about this series? Nope, it’s just as shocking in the familiar way that it always has been i.e. pretty shocking for the unitiated, but relatively tame compared to, say, the talking faeces of South Park. Possibly it feels a tad more tired in the ideas department because when you’ve seen one joke about the CIA recklessly using its powers for bizarre immoral reasons you may feel you’ve seen them all. However, this is absolutely no problem as far as I’m concerned, as even at its lamest the show is eminently watchable.

I’d heard the proposition put forward that the UK believes President George W. Bush to be a simpleton, and that this characterisation is wrong. In the opening episode of the set the President appears (with an extremely unconvincing voice I might add) and is as hapless as any UK portrayal I’ve ever seen. With typical American Dad perversity the climax of the story is bizarrely sympathetic to Bush in a happy ending that takes the mickey out of happy endings.

The second episode sees Stan recruiting illegal immigrants to fulfil his dream of running a business that makes lots of money. The family of American Dad routinely ignore morality to seek their own pleasures, e.g. Roger the alien offering kids drink and porn to get in their band. Whilst having an alien in your family probably counts as unusual, there is a background implication that, aliens aside, this is how life is these days. The corruption and suspicious motivation of everyone is a constant subtext.

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Weaving their way through the occasionally ‘blunt’ main stories are the sometimes thinly related subplots of the supporting characters. Alien Roger and son Steve usually get into trouble, courtesy of Steve’s naivety and Roger’s consumerism and craving for the more sickly side of the good life. Like Lisa in the Simpsons, daughter Hayley is the voice of political correctness, although she’s rather more feisty and ready to use her own corrupt practices to support her opinions. Also similarly to The Simpsons, there are some participant surprises as the likes of Iggy Pop and Eartha Kitt provide voices, and Patrick Stewart appears, as in previous series, in the regular role of CIA boss.

So where does this sort of comedy go from here? South Park has been happy to delve into excruciatingly painful detail of sexual and religious matters. American Dad flirts with shocking plots about religion and crime, and some crazy references to sex, but still manages to look mainstream in comparison. In fact it’s even possible it may be part of the new American politics. At a time when both Democratic presidential candidates have made space in their schedules to appear on ‘the Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ news parody, it seems as if wacky comedy has become the new forum for political introspection. I suspect it may be that the only way the American public can stomach self-analysis is if it can make them laugh.

Aside from commentaries all over, the DVD set has a fairly minimal set of extras with just some scenes deleted and a comic convention live performance of an episode. The deleted scenes were presumably because of some borderline questionable jokes at someone’s expense. Interestingly Tony Blair’s name got used instead of Donald Rumsfeld’s as Bush’s sidekick that would do anything. Even have his name used at comic expense apparently.

In summary, it’s American Dad Series 3 – what did you expect?! Slap it on the DVD player and pass away some more quality time with a reliable team comedy that likes to show up the questionable morality of American politics with completely over-the-top parody.

4 out of 5

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4 out of 5