American Dad has quietly been plugging along for over 15 years and the show is still able to make waves and ruffle feathers. American Dad has survived a move from FOX to TBS, where the animated comedy is now thriving and feels freer than ever to indulge in its surreal interests.
It’s unusual for the later seasons of a series to match their golden years, but American Dad has delivered some of its best and more creative episodes since the move to TBS. The series recently celebrated a major achievement with its 300th episode, a milestone that only 25 scripted primetime series have reached. Matt Weitzman, American Dad’s co-creator and showrunner, took some time to break down this momentous installment, what lies ahead for American Dad, and if we’ll ever see more Mind Quad.
DEN OF GEEK: This Golden Turd storyline has been brewing since the first season. Had you considered returning to it earlier, like in the 200th or 250th episode, and if not, why now?
MATT WEITZMAN: It had been a while for it and it felt like it had deserved some kind of connection to tie in with the Smith family. We had considered for a long time how the family would be affected by this event, so it just seemed like a natural way to celebrate 300 episodes. It was a way for us to tackle topics that fans seem to not be able to get enough of. It’s crazy a storyline from the beginning of the show and 300 episodes is something that deserves that level of significance. We didn’t know how else we’d finalize this long-running thing—actually I don’t even know if it is final because obviously we still leave it open-ended. At least now it shares a connection with the family. It’s been a long time coming and I hope that the fans enjoy it as much the writers and I enjoyed coming up with it.
I feel like the Mind Quad segments have been a nice parallel to the Golden Turd digressions. Was there ever consideration to involve him in this story, or do you think you’ll return to that material in the future?
I want to, absolutely! Luckily we have at the minimum at least one more season. We’re in the middle of production on the season and then at the end of the month we begin production on the next season. So we’ve at least got 22 more episodes to play around. Also, I don’t know if people are going to notice this, but Mind Quad is technically in the episode.
Oh wow! In the big musical sequence?
If you look for him, you can find him.
Well that’s incentive to go through it all again. During Roger’s absence there’s a good deal of focus on Rogu. After having this new character around for about a season, has it been nice to get more of a feel for him and use him in storylines?
Yeah, we actually have an upcoming storyline in the next season that really just focuses on Rogu and Klaus. It’s kind of a Homeward Bound story that we tell with the two of them. It’s also amazing because both of those characters are voiced by Dee Bradley Baker. I’m glad that people are digging Rogu though because at one point it was just going to be like a one-off gag, but the more that we played with him the more that we grew to like him. So we’ve been having fun with Rogu. We’ve been having fun with Billy. After 300 episodes you kind of need to bring in some new characters to help tell some new stories. As long as people are still having fun and still watching the show.
This episode briefly toys with the idea that Roger is dead. Was there ever a point where a more drastic ending was considered, like Roger actually staying gone for a bit and Rogu filling the void or even growing into him?
Not really, no. In the “200” there were 200 Rogers. In “100 AD” we killed 100 people. In this case we had to figure out how to incorporate the number 300 into the episode somehow and since Roger seems to be able to regenerate himself, it seemed like a natural idea to split him up into 300 pieces and then re-connect. So it was always just going to be a one-episode thing. It felt like a natural fit to do what we’ve done from the past.
The bloody final act of this episode is really fantastic. Did it always play out like this with the same death sequences in mind, or did the episode stick pretty close to the original plan?
We stuck pretty close to it! We always knew that we wanted to get back to Boca Raton. We are certainly flexible with canon on this show, but with this we still wanted to touch back on the story that we had set up way back when. As far as the deaths go, they slightly fluctuated, but we always knew that the family would have to suffer because of the Golden Turd. We mostly stuck to the story that we broke early on. It’s the destruction of the Smith family, but then also finding a way out of that. It was natural, dark, and what the Turd deserved.
The end of the episode nicely touches back on the first appearance of the Golden Turd, but did the episode ever get more intricate and have Roger actually travel back in time and do more with the past?
Lightly touching was enough for us because we knew that we had to get things back to normal. We felt that the Turd itself was the way in without having to directly do something like time travel. It’s still kind of time travel even though nobody actually goes back. The writers came up with a clever way of communicating with the past without changing too much of it. I’m trying to think of the last time that we did actual time travel—Actually, we have one coming up in the coming season where Stan and Francine do go back to the past.
We were just happy using the Turd to its fullest extent here and focusing more time on it and giving it a new characteristic to tie to the past. That seemed like enough to satisfy our weird sci-fi cravings. So much of the episode is also geared towards maintaining that dark noir third act that had we spent more time on other aspects we wouldn’t have been able to play around with that third act stuff as much.
After 300 episodes is there anything that you’ve wanted to do, but were unable to for whatever reason, whether it’s because you were told no, or didn’t think it was a good enough idea, or whatever?
There are elements that I think that we still need to tackle. We still need to tackle that missing baby of Roger’s. Like you were saying, we need to do more with Mind Quad. I’ve always kind of wondered what’s happened to those Pirate Cats, too. We’ve touched on a lot of things over 300 episodes and there are always threads to re-invest in or find out what happened to X, Y, or Z. We’re super grateful to have the opportunity to do that. As horrible as this pandemic is, the silver lining is that people just want more animation and we’ve been able to main production.
After putting this huge story to rest, do you guys have any ideas over what the final episode might look like?
It always comes back to the idea of Roger’s planet. There’s this appealing idea of what it would look like if the Smith family gets captured and sent back to Roger’s planet and Roger has to rescue them. I know that we’ve had the episode with the spaceship and Roger’s people were there, but it’s not quite the same. It’s tricky territory to negotiate though and it seems like if we do go to Roger’s planet then it would be a multi-parter. I think that’s an eventuality, or honestly, maybe not. The good news is that we don’t even know if the end is near for American Dad. I’m always ready for there to be an end in sight, but the world keeps saying, “No, you’re not ready! Keep making more!”
On that note, it’s not uncommon for series that have been on as long as you guys have to consider a feature film as the way to go out. Has there been any discussion over an American Dad movie, whether it’s during the show’s run or something that could happen after the series has concluded?
I feel like if that happened it would probably be after the series is over and we find a story to tell that hasn’t been told. At this point, this is a full-time job and I think it’s better for us to focus on the show rather than split our focus. We want to make sure that people aren’t wasting their time when they’re wasting their time.
It’s been exciting to witness the tone of the series get a little weirder in more recent seasons. Are there any storylines or jokes from the past few seasons that you’re especially proud of?
Well, just the show in general. Just the fact that we’ve been able to keep going is the hallmark of what I’m most proud over. I’m proud that not only are people still enjoying to watch it, but that it’s still a joy to make. After a while, something can become a burden and you question whether you’re telling stories that want to be told and I think that we’re still finding really entertaining stories to tell with these characters that fans are still interested in.
That “Rabbit Ears” episode from the past few seasons is definitely one of your weirdest and best.
Yeah, right? That one was so much fun. Chris Pine does a fantastic job there, too! I was not expecting that version of that character to come out of Pine and then when it did I was immediately like, “Oh yeah, let’s do that!”
But in terms of more specific things, there are a lot of weird episodes on the horizon. There’s one where Steve visits the astral plane and can travel through time and space. As long as we can tell stories that surprise me or go in unexpected directions like that, then I’m happy. As long as I’m still being surprised and chuckling along the way, then I feel like the audience will be, too. Luckily we have a big audience between American Dad airing on TBS, and Adult Swim, and Hulu. There are a lot of ways to watch us and the fact that people still want to just tickles me.