This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad!: Season 12, Episode 8
“This class is at risk, all right…at risk of learning.”
It almost feels like a tried and true tradition for an animated sitcom to dip into the Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds parody at some point during its life. Everything from South Park to Duckman has taken a stab at the fodder, with it now being American Dad!’s turn to skew the inspiring source material. While this might not be the finest attempt on this subject that’s ever been done, the fact that Roger’s teacher character’s name is actually “Stan-Dan Deliver” pushes this entry almost to the front of the pack.
Right off the bat, Steve’s plans involving chocolate for charity are ruined before they even get to begin, unsurprisingly at the oblivious hand of Roger. The incident leads to Steve calling Roger selfish, a gesture that sends Roger off into a spiral of disillusionment. Then, in some brilliant domino plotting, the hot water that Roger has gotten Steve into sends him to the at-risk class in school, which of course Roger is teaching as a means of proving that he isn’t selfish.
There’s a twisted self-fulfilling prophecy-like nature to that premise, and it’s the sort of convoluted madness that Roger so often encourages. Steve’s attack on Mr. Deliver, that “This is just your Time Warner Cable guy repurposed after he commited suicide,” is maybe my favorite line of the season, and the perfect piece of insight on how Roger’s logic works. I also sort of love that Roger can’t tell the difference between genuinely helping someone and proving someone wrong, if they end up having the same result in the end.
On the other side of things, Francine goes on a bleak brick-carrying rant which effectively shows us that Stan runs all the finances in the family. This weirdly enough leads to the topic of the Smith family feeling underprepared when it comes to things like retirement. Much of this is framed by Francine, Hailey, and Jeff showing Stan the small wonders of a good retirement home, and how crucial it can be to have your eggs set up before they hatch. It’s not the fullest of plot lines for the show, but it does still manage to reflect what’s going on in the episode’s other half. Stan’s realization to plan for tomorrow is not unlike Roger’s students figuring out that they have futures, too.
As Steve struggles to acclimate to his new classmates, Roger, as Mr. Deliver, pulls out all of the stops to break through to these youth. The typical sort of “equalizers” are resorted to here, like Roger trying to teach his students that Shakespeare was the original Jay-Z, while rapping about how sexy teens Romeo and Juliet were in order to relate to their level. He’s even pulling off several choreographed dance numbers with his new students to help hammer the point in. Roger’s altruism might be suspect, but that doesn’t stop Steve from trying to escape from his unpleasant circumstances. This boils down to Steve trying to get Roger/Mr. Deliver fired, but when he succeeds (which also addresses that there’s a healthy dose of Principal Lewis in this episode, which is never not a good thing) he ends up realizing what an impact Roger made on these students, whether he was trying to help them or not. By the end it’s clear that he did care about his pupils after all.
The episode still leaves itself enough time to let these storylines resolve themselves without feeling rushed. Stan’s retirement enlightenment still falls a little shorter than the full-on parody that Steve and Roger get to embrace. Perhaps if both sides of the story had a heavy ’80s riff to pull from it would feel a little more even, but these are still more than serviceable stories to help prop the episode up, in yet another reliable week for the series.
PS: You hear about that guy who sold his students to the Chinese army? Real dick move.