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April 17, 2014

Sundays with Seth: A Quiet Anniversary Celebration

by Jason Hughes, posted May 3rd 2010 9:37AM
'Family Guy' - 'Brian and Stewie'
One hundred and fifty episodes is an impressive achievement, but it's particularly gratifying for Seth MacFarlane's 'Family Guy.' Once canceled by FOX, and revived due to fan response to DVD sales and airings on cable, MacFarlane is now the king of FOX Sunday nights. So how did he choose to celebrate his perseverance?

'Family Guy' is known for elaborate musical numbers, innumerable cutaway gags, and sheer nonsense sequences like a giant chicken fight that lasts for minutes and minutes. Quite literally, anything was a possibility, so what a surprise that MacFarlane chose to have two of the show's most popular characters have a conversation. And that's it.

The tail end of the hour-long episode was a clip compilation of some of those musical numbers. But the bulk of the episode had Stewie and Brian, locked in a bank vault for two days, just talking to one another. No cutaways, no broad humor, though I won't say there wasn't toilet humor.

I was more than a little disturbed about how much time we spent with the Stewie's soiled diaper gag at the beginning, but this is Seth MacFarlane we're talking about. The man loves his vomit -- and yes, he worked that into the sequence as well -- so it shouldn't be a surprise that the whole first act involved Stewie convincing Brian to eat his poo.

That Brian did it brings things back to one of my favorite facets about these anthropomorphic characters (I'm including Stewie and Rallo of 'The Cleveland Show' in this assessment because they act far older than they truly are) is that despite their intelligence they are still the creatures that they are. Brian enjoys the things that dogs do, even if he knows they're inexplicable and disgusting.

On 'Cleveland' tonight, Rallo tried to play it cool with an older girl he liked, but found he couldn't resist the euphoric joy of being an airplane when she swung him around in a circle. It's as if they're frustrated by their nature, which makes their reluctant susceptibility to it all the more entertaining.

Once we got past the poop talk, Brian and Stewie got drunk, vented their frustrations out on on another, and by the end of the episode had affirmed the closeness of their relationship. In it's own MacFarlane-esque way, it was actually a rather poignant and beautiful story.

Brian's revelation that he has suicidal thoughts and has basically prepared a suicide kit in his safety deposit box is both haunting and yet so appropriate for the character type MacFarlane has established for him. He's a writer who doesn't write, someone who wants to be more than what he is but lacks the motivation and drive to achieve his dreams. So he has frustration and self-loathing because of it. It's sad, but it's an authentic character trait for him to have.

I didn't laugh much at 'Brian and Stewie,' but I found myself absolutely captured by their discussion throughout the episode. I don't think 'Family Guy' could get away with this kind of thing very often, if ever again, but I was certainly impressed with the ambition of trying it, and the fact that they pulled it off. In a way, the achievement was lessened by the random musical numbers tacked onto the end.

Plus, you have to give a shout-out to Seth MacFarlane himself for excellent voiceover work as both Brian and Stewie. He had to carry an entire episode of little more than talking heads, and he pulled it off brilliantly.

'The Cleveland Show' - 'Brotherly Love''The Cleveland Show' surprised me as well by pushing Cleveland Jr. into a realm of confidence I didn't know he had. Sure, he had Rallo helping guide him in how to talk to a girl -- at least until he got jealous and tried to sabotage it -- but it was Jr. who followed through and actually scored some quality alone time with a hot girl.

But he really earned some respect when the impromptu rap battle broke out and he absolutely schooled Kanye West (as local rap star Kenny West). It was nice to see Kanye playing well with others, and taking his lumps like a big boy, though MacFarlane went pretty easy on him considering the mess of trouble West has gotten his public image into.

A little more odd was Cleveland suddenly starts pimping Terry out to various women's parties. The opening salvo of this particular misadventure was funny enough, with the boys being mistaken for male strippers. Cleveland took it pretty well when he found out his body wasn't exactly desirable by enthusiastically taking on the role of Terry's pimp.

In fact, it was their laughing joy and acceptance through every step of the bizarre situation that made it funny. Even when Terry admitted that it was getting too much for him emotionally and he wanted to quit, they laughed it off and said they had a good time with it. If Cleveland had gotten too aggressively into his role, the comedy might not have worked, but impressively MacFarlane knew when to pull it back and let the situation itself be the joke.

[Check out clips and full episodes of 'The Cleveland Show,' and 'Family Guy' with our friends at SlashControl.]

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Dutchy

Truly a brilliant episode. Seth trew out all the FG-cliches and gave us a great story with lots of character depth.

May 03 2010 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Happy Steve

All I kept thinking at the beginning was that Brian had eaten Stewie's diaper once before. He said he had gotten into the trash and thought it was Indian food. (Peter gets a parrot and Chris dates the receptionist) So why was it a huge deal for him this time around?

May 03 2010 at 3:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nosidam

Loved the episode. It was nice to see some deep character development, even if it was childish and sophomoric at times.

I was hoping they would make the Fletch reference...and Seth came through in the "end". ;)

May 03 2010 at 1:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Anonymoose

After Brian ate Stewie's shit, I was surprised to see the episode actually pick up steam and blatantly avoid the typical Family Guy formula. I never even realized that I've known so many people in my life who are like Brian and Stewie; desiring to be more than what they possibly can be.

I once knew a guy who wanted to own a video game arcade... right now. Not the 80s, but this very year, he wanted to own a video game arcade that didn't have anything to do with a pizza place or an amusement park. He refused to admit that pure arcades can't exist outside of Japan and the money he would need to pay rent were vastly outside his limits. These days he's doing the same as Brian, writing a novel that he will never finish.

May 03 2010 at 1:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony DIMeo

What's your problem P. Wu the episode was amazing sure Brian eating Stewie's shit was gross but after that it got really deep and that's why I love Family Guy it's more than just gross jokes & cutaways it can be quite profound

May 03 2010 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tony DIMeo

This was one of the best Family Guy episodes well the part in the bank vault was. the whole thing after Brian ate Stewie's shit was brilliant and deep

May 03 2010 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
P. Wu

I thought the 150th episode was absolutely terrible. Seth MacFarlane definitely went off the edge here. Brian ate Stewie's feces? Stewie got sexual thrill when Brain licked his bun clean? It was very disturbing and really too much even for a hard-core MacFarlane fans.

The musical numbers were just so uninteresting...we have seen them a thousand times.

I mean, I'd understand if MacFarlane made that episode out of desparation (notice that all the voices in that episode was done by himself? what happened to all other actors?), but it wasn't necessary to made a 150th episode special.

In the end, we felt like it was just a giant middle finger to all his fans. It wasn't cool, Mr. MacFarlane.

May 03 2010 at 10:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bruce

I loved brian and stewie's conversation in the bank vault. truly brilliant. Dunno why they had to ruin it by ending it early for a bunch of random old musical numbers. yeah I know it's "singing gimmick week" on Fox. Maybe this was seth macfarlane's way of sticking it to fox's demand that he do a musical episode. Spend 50 minutes with a serious deep conversation touching on things like the meaning of life, suicide, and licking the feces out of your best friend's asshole... and then abruptly cut away to do 10 minutes of random old musical numbers from prior episodes. Heh, here's your musical week, Fox. Enjoy your mandatory gimmick and may "Glee" gleefully lick the shit out of my asshole with a smile.

At least, that's what I think Seth was thinking.

May 03 2010 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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