American Dad Season 14 Episode 15
“Before you all hear what amazing shape I’m in, I want to thank all you Stan-amaniacs for coming out full force!”
It’s been over a month since the last new installment of American Dad and while “The Life and Times of Stan Smith” is far from a perfect episode, it makes for a satisfying return. It’s an entry that effectively hits all of the reasons why this show continues to work so well with a script that comes from the always reliable Jordan Blum and Parker Deay who have these characters locked down at this point.
Blum and Deay play to their strengths with this episode relying heavily on characterization. Right from the opening scene Stan can’t help but turn his yearly physical into a big production that his entire family must endure. It’s a gesture that’s so purely Stan Smith that you can’t help but laugh when it blows up in his face (the quick aside that Francine on the other hand has never had a physical is also spot on).
Stan is blissfully in denial over the news of his high cholesterol. So while Francine is recommending helpful tips like a health journal, Stan is too busy chugging pints of ranch dressing while worshipping the altar that is his body to pay her any mind. Stan failing to see himself as anything but invincible is pretty par for the course with American Dad, so Francine’s concern regarding his caloric recklessness is more than warranted here. This dovetails rather naturally with Roger’s suggestion that it usually takes a near-death experience to break these sorts of bad habits. Not only that, but that he would be more than happy to lend his pseudo-E.T. electricity skills to give Stan the necessary scare. While it should be common practice at this point to not give Roger any leverage in a situation, he seems to be genuine in his desire to help. Plus, he still manages to squeeze out a sex anecdote through the course of the whole thing.
Francine and Roger’s secret plan to revive Stan’s athletic spirit is an all too brief victory before things begin to spin wildly out of control. For once Roger’s not to blame though and it has everything to do with Stan’s manic vices. The episode proceeds to go down the unexpected, although not unwarranted, direction where Stan becomes addicted to dying. It’s not the rush that he’s after though, it’s the heightened experience of getting to re-live all of his greatest memories and indulgences with none of the side effects. It’s an unusual situation that Stan finds himself in, but this is exactly the sort of way that someone as stubborn as Stan would deal with his mortality. Turning purgatory into a Blockbuster Video is also a cute, unique touch that I thought worked in the episode’s favor.
Stan’s crisis really dominates the bulk of the episode, but the youngest Smith also gets some time to shine this week. The prospect of Steve going to a college campus and ending up hazed in the process is a deeply rewarding storyline. To then have Klaus as the other person that’s along for the ride is just a nice bonus. The tragic thing here is that Steve’s trip to Arizona State begins with the highest of expectations, but like all things at ASU, they must get crushed and die a depressing death.
Klaus explains that he did a semester abroad over in Arizona and that he’ll be able to give Steve all the sweet hook ups he needs to be having an unforgettable college experience. Unfortunately for Steve, things are unforgettable for all of the wrong reasons. Klaus indeed did have a great time at Arizona State with the solid, solid bros at “Beta Jizz,” but his gain is Steve’s loss as Steve is unwittingly turned into a pledge for a school he didn’t even want to go to in the first place.
Stan’s increasing need to cross over into the afterlife sees him coming to Roger like a junkie in need of his fix. The episode wastes no time pointing out the irony of Stan’s addiction and how his need to cross over is taking him away from what’s really important in life. This clarity only causes Stan to barrel down harder on his insanity rather than returning to being rational. When he’s tired of Roger holding power over him, he quickly turns to his own crudely made death machines to provide his own sweet release. Needless to say, high cholesterol is suddenly the least of Stan’s problems.
After a number of unpleasant accidents, it takes Stan and Francine both reaching Heaven (and later Hell) for Stan to come clean about what he’s been up to and for them to reach a much-needed emotional breakthrough. The end of this storyline is undeniably weaker than its beginning (which is even more so the case with Steve’s plot), but it does manage to stick the landing, even if it all does get a little too loose during the final minutes. Also, it’s pretty much sacrilegious for this show to make a trip to Heaven and not have an appearance from Michelle the Lawyer. They even have Paget Brewster voicing some other anonymous angel! Madness.
In spite of a rushed final act, “The Life and Times of Stan Smith” is still quality American Dad that’s full of many lines that will make you laugh at things that you probably shouldn’t. It’s episodes like this that make for strong reminders about how nice it is to have this twisted show back from a tiny break.
And yeah, Stan Smith would see Norbit four times. Guy’s already prepared for Hell.