American Dad!: Anchorfran Review

‘90s board games, Francine in the spotlight, and a strong backbone prop up one of the season’s finest episodes.

This American Dad! review contains spoilers.

American Dad!: Season 12, Episode 9 

“I’m not up to date with current events, I get most of my news from Snapple caps.”

“Anchorfran” is really American Dad! firing on all cylinders. It uses all of the characters to their potential, while shifting the focus to some lesser seen players (including characters outside of our main cast, like Greg) with the results paying off well. This episode particularly excels by cramming in as much comedy as possible here. For instance, a heat wave is mentioned in passing, and so scenes of exposition are punched up by Stan and Francine trading lines in their underwear — or junk hanging loose, in Stan’s case. It’s smart work that’s consistent through the entire episode.

It also doesn’t hurt that the entry just lets loose with the dialogue, like with this particular Francine line, “My nickname in high school was even ‘super friend’…Actually it was ‘super mouth’…Actually it was ‘suck machine.’” Or Stan’s lengthy digression on his perfect man. There’s also some really glowing background details that are prime American Dad!, without being dwelt on, like Roger reading “You, Me, and Dupree,” before Steve and Hailey enter the scene — and are acting like a bunch of Duprees, no less.

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Francine can’t help but notice that Greg hasn’t been the same on the news after Terry dumped him, becoming determined to find him a new man in the process. Her and Stan’s efforts might be pretty disastrous, but they end up revealing that Greg is actually missing a co-host on the air more than a life partner at the moment. It’s only a few Drew Barrymore film titles later until Greg and Francine realize they’ve got glowing chemistry, with her stepping in to fill Terry’s new shoes.

Okay, I’m all for a forward-moving Francine episode — hell, the tumultuous ride that is “Fartbreak Hotel” is one of the series’ strongest episodes in my opinion — but goddamn if I wasn’t all sorts of excited for Roger’s barely-a-plot of a story! He doesn’t even appear in the first act, but Roger finds himself obsessing over a fictional boy from the phone-based ‘90s game, Dream Phone, and — really, do you need to hear anything more than that?

It doesn’t hurt that I actually remember Dream Phone (and its commercial), but Roger’s story absolutely worked for me here. It’s not long after he “meets” Dylan that he’s launching into a Lisa Frank dripping dream sequence that’s towing the line in explicitness. Roger’s manic nature is one of my favorite things about him, so his ability to completely submit to what’s more or less a trading card of a fake boy is perfectly in character. This is someone after all who’s constantly transforming into fictitious personae, almost like a roving, belligerent, alcoholic version of Dream Phone himself. Steve pumping up Dream Phone’s narrative to satisfy his own imagination, with him being on the prowl of the Land Line Strangler is also perfect stuff, acting as icing on the cake to a plotline that’s already absurd enough.

Naturally the next course of action is for Roger to play this game to exhaustion, hoping to get a call from Dylan and realize this romance, just like so many teen girls from the ‘90s. “Anchorfran” bucks expectations here surprisingly early by addressing how silly it is for Roger to be pining over a photo, and escalates things rather quickly with Roger, Steve, and Hailey going on a road trip to track down the model that posed for the card. It’s insane behavior that’s only further underlined by the soundtrack to their madness.

I could see the entire episode being set around the board game, so kudos to them for pushing this further. The ending to all of this, albeit brief, is a great button to finish it off on. Darker American Dad! is always better in my opinion, and this one goes to some delightfully twisted places (i.e. homicide), giving the gang’s pump-up music a new jaded connotation.

Over at the Channel 3 Studios, Francine makes quite the name for herself and is taking off in her new career. The station manager couldn’t be happier with her performance, and his spontaneous declaration of her being a revelation made me laugh out loud (as did Klaus’ following denouncement of Raven’s antics not ending well). Pretty soon Francine’s natural ability behind the desk has her overshadowing Greg and nearly taking over the program. That is until the new weather personality, Memphis Stormfront (Andy Daly, being put to good use), comes aboard, who seems to have much more of a natural affability with Greg.

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The typical sort of motions are gone through with this kind of plot as Francine goes hungry with power, pushing to fire Memphis in order to secure her job (which she continues to tell herself is for Greg), only to eventually realize the error of her ways. While it might be a little pat, the ending does include Stan using his CIA powers to control the weather and create a Sharknado-esque disaster, presumably killing dozens of people, all to give Greg a happy ending. If that’s American Dad!’s way of resolving a trope-y story, you really can’t fault the show.

They’re going to keep doing the most un-Ray Donovan-iest job that that they can.

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4 out of 5