American Dad has always been a subversive show to buck the norm, but it is in the midst of experiencing its biggest change yet.
Not only is the animated series moving from its longtime home of Fox to TBS, but co-creator Mike Barker, and the voice responsible for some of the show’s most quintessential episodes (“My Morning Straitjacket” and “Lost in Space,” which was entirely on Roger’s home planet), exited the show over “creative differences” after the move.
The inevitable question is whether American Dad is going to lose its edge or “voice,” even though TBS’ ads seem to be constantly screaming that this season will be edgier than ever. And if this first episode is any means of weighing in on the matter, it may not be the edgiest it’s ever been, but it’s still the same American Dad that we’ve loved for eleven years and counting.
The episode starts innocuously enough with Hailey being frustrated that everything comes easier for blondes, such as their effortless ability to fill a petition (for “Bad Animals” no less) or have two lines of men form around them. This of course results in Hailey dying her hair blonde to be listened to more/at all and maybe finally save Garbage Island. Roger teams up with her to show her how to properly use her new power as they experience the finer things in life like eating owl and riding in private jets.
Meanwhile, Stan finds himself swayed by the beauty of a gated (flierless) community, Hillside Acres, but after taking the time to really examine the fliers that he’s being bombarded with, he realizes that fliers are in fact pretty amazing when you take the time to look at them (give or take a “Missing Child” alert).
This seems pretty run of the mill initially, but it very soon starts turning in on itself as Stan doesn’t want to move there to avoid fliers, but rather, get more of them. Even Steve is confused and questions, “Wait, I thought you wanted to move here to get away from the fliers.”
Turning something so mundane into a convoluted mess is something American Dad excels at, and this Stan and Steve B-plot is no exception as we see Stan fetishizing this mess of an unfinished gated community. To be honest, this is a strange subplot that doesn’t do that much, but it’s constantly winking at the audience, like with Stan questioning, “And who’s to say how his accomplice would get in,” as we cut to Stan now being inside the lot, problem solved, unexplained. Along these lines, the episode is full of enjoyable non-sequiturs, like Stan lighting his door on fire as the solution to how to get rid of all these fliers.
One clear change we’ve gotten with this TBS batch of episodes is the characters’ newfound ability to say “shit,” which we get here, but it’s hardly a game-changer. In an interview with Den of Geek, Rachel MacFarlane expands on the subject, “What we’re really excited about is we get two shits and a douchebag. Literally we get the freedom to say shit twice and douchebag in every episode, which of course we can’t do on Fox.”
Hopefully this won’t lead to the show shoehorning in profanity to meet a quota, but rather using it where it’s effective. The show has bleeped such words in the past, and not really lost much in the translation.
As Hailey and Roger continue to exploit her new dye job, they’re thrown in contact with DJ Iron Monkey (a Deadmau5 reference if there ever was one) and his solar-powered yacht. Predictably though, we learn that DJ Iron Monkey is a phony, just like much of the world and his solar-powered yacht is actually pulled by slave whales (the greatest injustice).
All of this flows well enough, while still offering those classic American Dad touches, like delving into the lives of nobodies and side characters, as we hear digressions on things like a character’s wasted college experience. Later on, and it’s a small touch accordingly, but the effort done on the bite on Stan’s leg is wonderfully detailed and a nice effort that easily could have gone ignored.
This all culminates in classic weirdness, like Francine making herself look like Hailey in order to bring her back to her non-blonde ways, or the airborne Rottweiler Jacuzzi chase. These are beautiful, surreal touches that might be proof of this show still being the same, unusual beast. TBS keeps advertising this season as being “edgier,” but this surely isn’t an example of that, as the show has gone far beyond this sort of thing numerous times before.
It’s splitting hairs, too, but Roger saving the whales feels a little off base. If anything he’d at least have sex with the whales first. However, juxtaposing this with the bizarre dance-off and Roger’s disdain for it all helps out some.
Things run fairly typically, and there are no major surprises here, which would have helped push this episode a little further, but the conclusion, with Hailey’s actions actually causing a fairly tremendous oil spill worked enough for me. It’s pretty by-the-books entry, that is still satisfying and better than a lot of what else is out there.
Honestly, it’s too soon to tell if this show is a different entity than its Fox-self, in spite of them literally closing the book on that chapter in that network’s “finale.” These episodes felt like the usual American Dad, albeit some very safe, unremarkable stories. This could be the result of the network change and Barker’s departure, or it could just be due to the fact that this is a show in its tenth season.
American Dad has been remarkably consistent, and had some of its strongest seasons even in the later years, but it’s not immune to putting out some middling fare. As the season progresses, we’ll see if the show’s voice has remained the same, but as it stands, there’s certainly no reason for panic. Everyone should just be glad that we just have more American Dad—at least fifteen episodes more—a show that everyone certainly deserves to have more of in their lives.
Just think of how many more airports they have to get “Dad’d.”