American Dad: The Nova Centauris-burgh Board of Tourism Presents: American Dad Review

Everyone’s living in a fantasy world, whether a far away galaxy or a slap-dash water park on American Dad!

This American Dad review contains spoilers.

American Dad Season 12 Episode 14 

“What’s a LARP?! She doesn’t know what a LARP is—What did you do in high school?

Essential business at the top here: We got a shout out to another place being Dad’d—or rather, the evolution of said joke where no one is getting Dad’d anymore. The Era of Dad’ing is over! I couldn’t be happier that American Dad returned to this gag. It’s a testament to what other long-running gags the show may someday deploy. That Golden Turd can’t be far behind… 

When a show has been on for as long as American Dad has, it’s understandable if it happens to dip its toe into a well that it has before. It’s even more likely that the show might expect you to have entirely forgotten about the previous entry. American Dad’s “Dungeons and Wagons” aired nearly 10 years ago (when George W. Bush was still holding office) and while granted that episode looked at Steve and his friends tackling online gaming and this episode sees them advancing into the world of LARPing, you can’t help but see similarities between the two.

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Part of what made “Dungeons and Wagons” such a memorable episode is that it switched to an entirely different animation style when Steve and company were playing as their alter egos. Unfortunately, “Nova Centauris-burgh” doesn’t go the same extra mile (although it’s a bit of a catch-22 where them doing so would also feel reductive of before) but the episode still sees Steve’s surroundings transform into a Tatooine/Arrakis-like space world to take their gaming one step further. 

This construct takes form not even a minute into the episode and it’s a prevalent force that helps give the Steve and Francine storyline a whole lot more character. The episode features not only great art design with the LARPing costumes, but also with the environment of Nova Centauris-burgh (not to mention some excellent score work to make things feel more grandiose, too), an intricate world that we’ll surely never see again. The episode gains just as much mileage by playing the fantasy LARP world against reality, highlighting how ridiculous they all seem. After all, as fun as all of this may be, it can all look like a steaming pile of dog feces to someone else. 

Stan’s story somehow manages to be just as outlandish as anything out of Nova Centauris’ star system. On a whim, he adopts a busted drug kingpin’s shark, with the Smith’s new mobile art taking up some valuable real estate in their kitchen. All of this acts as a great reflection of Stan’s impulsiveness, with touches like the “lawn sink” being perfect.

In Stan’s head all of this makes sense, and everything else be damned. That is until the shark begins hemorrhaging money as fast as blood from a gaping shark bite wound. If you thought the next logical plan of action was for Steve, Roger, and Hailey to open up a knock-off Sea World within their very home, well you’d be right, but I’m a little worried about how your brain works. 

This money pit storyline works a whole lot better than it has any reason to. For whatever reason, the fact that most of the Smith family is trying to make this work makes it even funnier. Klaus’ stand-up act about children being little bitches is worth the admission into Ocean Land alone. 

Of course, with all of these irrational people being behind the wheel, rather than cutting their losses they only swim harder into the undertow and it’s not long until the Smiths also have a whale in their possession. Things continue to balloon until dozens of people find themselves in the hospital and it’s once more Francine’s newly found assertiveness that gets things back to the status quo. 

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“Dungeons and Wagons” saw a dejected Jeff inducted into Steve’s world of nerdery, but this time the newcomer is Francine. The idea of this sort of escapism is a concept that fits like a glove and is hardly a stretch. As she’s increasingly taken advantage of at home, the idea of a world where anything is possible and she can literally be a princess clearly speaks to Francine. It’s also beyond perfect characterization that Steve and his friends would LARP about the agricultural aspects of sci-fi fare like Star Wars, rather than anything action-heavy. It’d be like gravitating to the politics from the series with complete disregard to the Force. 

As much as the episode pokes fun at LARPing, it almost does so more specifically at the expense of Steve and friends rather than the activity itself. Some really poignant things are said about the escapism and community of the activity and it’s nice to see a discussion open up on the topic and that’s displayed in an empowering light, even if it may simultaneously be a ridiculous one. Francine exceling at the activity and Steve feeling that it’s coming at his expense is a direction that you can see coming, but one that still works since these characters have been established as being this needy. The fact that his redemption comes with her aide is an easy enough fix to it all.

While not the best episode of American Dad season 12, it really doesn’t do a lot wrong, either. This is the sort of episode that simply gets wedged out when you’ve already turned out such a consistent year. While this might be low impact Dad for some, if it was one of the only few episodes that you saw this season, I don’t think you’d be complaining.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check in on this year’s moisture crop.


3 out of 5