Sundays with Seth: Love Is Mean and Sometimes Violent, but It's Eternal
by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 15th 2010 1:26AM
Despite dealing with a cyborg Stan from the future, 'American Dad' gave us the strongest Valentine's outing of the night. The final image, albeit a little morbid, was genuinely sweet and emotionally satisfying for anyone seeing true and lasting love. For all his buffoonery, and there is a lot, Stan always comes through on the side of love in the end. Tonight's battle was with his own selfishness.
Stan proved it by taking himself to the Hershey park, and then eating Francine's promised breakfast-in-bed himself, and even agreeing to be turned into a cyborg in the future by the CIA, rather than spend eternity in a joint coffin with Francine. It took future Stan coming back, after 1000 years alone, and trying to steal Francine away from him, for Stan to realize that he did care about her.
I don't think I want to know what Toshi's parents do with their sex doll, but the boys stumbling upon it led to their remake of 'Mannequin,' which just as quickly became Roger's remake of 'The Goonies.' Steve's use of the classic "Down here, it's our time" line was pretty funny, but every scene of the remake was stolen when Roger broke character, forgetting that it was a movie, stealing the map and trying to claim One-Eyed Willie's treasure for himself.
Other highlights of the episode included Augustus Gloop's cameo appearance at the Hershey park, as well as Francine's description of her reluctance, but then enjoyment, of the Chocolate Tunnel of Love ride with Cyber-Stan.
Things weren't as well thought-out on 'The Cleveland Show.' Both storylines devolved quickly into the realm of uncomfortable and disgusting. Even a few hours removed from it, I still don't see what the point of the main story was. When they discover how sad and lonely Holt is, Cleveland and the gang set him up on a date with a red-headed woman from work, played by Fergie. Things are going alright so far.
I was even on board when Donna and Cleveland were convinced they had just witnessed Holt murder his mother, roll her into a carpet and drive off into the darkness to bury the remains. The chase sequence when Cleveland led the police to the body, as well as the revelation that it was instead Holt's sex doll he had "murdered," turned out to be the highlights of the episode.
Everything that happened with Fergie's character simply came across as wrong. I know Seth MacFarlane isn't exactly known for his messages, and that no topics should be off limits for ridicule, but the violence seemed to be simply there for the sake of violence. Again, I know this too is a MacFarlane staple, and usually it doesn't bother me, but it just seemed needlessly mean-spirited.
Plus, Donna grabbed the girl by her boobs and swung her around. How much do you think MacFarlane just sat back and giggled over that particular image?
The side story with Rallo and Cleveland Jr. was even more ridiculous. I noticed how quickly they removed Roberta from it, as she is clearly a little more world-savvy to know that there is no way Jr. is going to crap out a live goldfish. But from the beginning, it was ringing a little off. Jr. swallowed the fish, and after maybe twenty seconds of outrage, Rallo was laughing with him over a joke?
Ridiculous is fine, as long as its funny and well executed. Plus, 'The Cleveland Show' had established at least some sense of logical progression in prior episodes, not straying as far into the absurd as 'Family Guy,' or into the impossible as 'American Dad' is wont to do from time to time, like it did tonight.
Love took a backseat on 'Family Guy,' instead letting the paranormal take the front seat. After Lois falls for a psychic's comfort and advice, Brian tries to show her that any boob can learn to be a psychic. Case in point: he sets Peter up to be that boob, but somehow Peter winds up believing in his own hype.
The writers got plenty of mileage out of Peter's psychic readings. He wowed the audience by identifying a black man on one side of the audience, and even got a doctor to look at a rash on his backside, because the doctor's dead grandmother wanted him to.
When Joe recruited him for a police investigation, he stalled by molesting the missing man's wife and considering his twelve-year old daughter, based on how big her boobs were (and that was as disturbing to watch as it probably was to just read). Taking it to Abbott and Costello's classic 'Who's on First?' bit for the final moments before the poor guy blew up and Peter admitted, "I'm not psychic" was hilariously appropriate.
Chris and Stewie took center stage for the love story, with Chris pining after a girl with Down's Syndrome at his school; a girl who turned out to be a real bitch. It was refreshing that her condition wasn't the focus of Chris's affection, nor did it affect how she was portrayed, other than the way in which she talked -- and that extended musical number while Chris was getting ready, which I wanted to be a lot funnier than it turned out to be. In the end, Stewie was right. Chris took that first step and that was what he should be proud of. There's no shame in things not working out when the girl's a controlling harpy.
Meg was relegated to a dirty joke about farting in the tub with Stewie (Lois made them have bath buddies after the psychic said her family could be in danger) when she revealed that women can fart two different ways. Stewie's panicked reaction to it brought out a reluctant laugh, though.
See, Seth. Uncomfortable and dirty material can be funny if handled in a funny manner. If handled gratuitously, or for its own sake, as with the violence on 'Cleveland' tonight, then it loses its entertainment value. Don't do shock for shock's sake, but only if you've truly found a way to make it funny. Just a little friendly advice from Nobody #2,003,487.
[You can find clips and more of 'Family Guy,' 'The Cleveland Show' and 'American Dad' on SlashControl.]