Sundays With Seth: 'Family Guy' and 'Cleveland Show' Recap
by Jason Hughes, posted Sep 27th 2010 12:15PM
['Family Guy' - 'And Then There Were Fewer' season premiere recap]
['The Cleveland Show' - 'Harder, Better, Faster, Browner' season premiere recap]
Last season, 'Family Guy' really started to come together toward the back half when it put less of its energy on random cutaways and spent more time on a cohesive plot. This re-energized the series and brought us some of its sharpest episodes yet.
Now with its ninth season premiere, and perhaps inspired by the ongoing success of its 'Star Wars' parodies, 'Family Guy' tackled another popular film with 'And Then There Were Fewer.' Inspired by the Agatha Christie novel 'And Then There Were None' (originally titled 'Ten Little Indians') and subsequent film, it found most of the notable citizens of Quahog sequestered in a huge mansion where they began to be picked off one by one by a mysterious murderer.
If this proves to be in continuity, it promises to have the same kind of drastic change on the town as the revelation that Sideshow Bob was a murderer did for 'The Simpsons.' Granted, I guess that means the 'South Park' adage "Simpsons did it!" applies, but it doesn't take away from the ambition of the undertaking, nor the fact that they pulled it off rather well.
The animation used a hybrid of computer graphics and standard 2D rendering for the characters to create the kind of hybrid that stunned the world way back when 'Beauty and the Beast' hit theaters. And like it did there, the effect was mostly used to spotlight the beauty of the manor our characters found themselves in. A manor apparently owned by none other than James Woods.
If it sticks it means big changes for 'Family Guy.' And maybe it's a statement about the show's new direction and focus on moving forward, instead of constantly referring back to itself and its random cutaways, which were virtually non-existent again in this special episode. Not only did James Woods perish, but so did Mort's wife Muriel and ultimately Diane Simmons. I'm not sure if her death and confession to Lois will be enough to free Tom Tucker from jail, but I imagine it will be.
Either way, now we'll have Mort as a widower ("Simpsons did it!" when Maude Flanders died leaving Ned alone with their kids), no more "Ooh, a piece of candy!" and Tom Tucker as a solo act on the local news. "Simpsons ... did it?" Well, not really as Kent Brockman was alway alone. When they had several of the more notable cast members, like Brian's ex-girlfriend Jillian, bring in stock extras we knew they would be the first to die. They might as well have been wearing red shirts, though Stephanie was a fun bit of insight into Quagmire's perversions. Okay, when her body popped out of his trunk it shifted from fun to a bit disturbing, but "That's Quagmire! Giggity giggity goo!"
The writers actually did a solid job of creating a genuine mystery throughout the hour, keeping us guessing as to who did it and what their motive may have been. Doing that while keeping it funny tells me this show is back on track and we could be in for a much rejuvenated season. And it was great to see some great guest stars. Along with Drew Barrymore (Jilllian), we had James Woods (as himself) and Ashley Tisdale (as Woods's girlfriend Priscilla), as well as the sprawling cast of Quahog's looniest. Patrick Stewart had a nonsensical part as a talking cat, which was as close to 'American Dad' as we're going to get this week.
In the end, it was Stewie that saved Lois by killing Diane; complete with a dramatic shot of him aiming a sniper rifle from up in the tower atop the mansion. He even had a cool line to wrap the "movie,". "If anybody's gonna take that bitch down," he said. "It's gonna be me." Sequel anybody? "And Then There Were Even Fewer?" Any time they want to thin the herd a little, drag the cast back to the same mansion and see how many times it takes before they stop showing up.
Cleveland Brown had some big guests lined up for his premiere as well, including Kanye West reprising his role as a local aspiring rapper named Kenny West and President "Barry" Obama. But he didn't go at it with such a big production like is buddy Peter and his friends did. For his own second season premiere, Cleveland stuck pretty much to the same sardonic nostalgia it fostered so well in the first season.
Fans who tuned out early last year should consider tuning back in, as 'The Cleveland Show' has found its groove. This time it was to poke fun at the rap community, and how hip Cleveland isn't. We barely got any face time with the gang down at the pub, but it was enough for Holt to get in a grammar dig. That's right, a grammar dig! "You got whom-ed" was one of the best lines of the night, though that may be because of that English Degree I have off in a drawer somewhere. Your mileage may vary.
West referenced his VMA debacle from last year, though because of traditional animation production time, there was no time to refer to 'West-Swift II' this years. It would have been fun seeing West call himself a douchebag ... well, because he is. Despite that, though, I kind of like this character and his up-again-down-again career.
As usual, Cleveland proves to be somewhat adept at whatever he sets his mind to and does so again in helping West achieve huge rap success. But it's more as the inspiration for West's song "Be-Cleve in Yourself," featuring a chorus by the little girl in the well, apparently. Who knew she had an auto-tune device down there? Those things are everywhere rap music is!
Bruce, of "Oh no! I know!" fame, wasn't in the Quahog murder mystery, and that's apparently because he got confused and showed up on the wrong season premiere. He was in Cleveland's garage, though we never find out why. Apparently once he saw what was going on, he realized he was on the wrong show and headed off. He should be back where we expect to see him by next week. Maybe he'd be interested in applying for a news anchor position. I hear there's at least one opening.
Cleveland got himself into trouble during a live interview. All that he did for West was to prove (to himself, I guess) that he was just as capable and successful as "Barry" Obama, his old basketball rival back when they were thirteen. Somehow Cleveland had never realized they were one and the same. So in a fit of jealous insanity, Cleveland blurted out on live television "Barack Obama doesn't care about black people."
If he didn't recognize that the President was his old rival, he probably didn't recognize that his line, spoken standing next to West, was in fact a variation of a line made famous by the real Kanye West, only West was referring to former President George W. Bush. This time, Kanye got to metaphysically berate himself for never being able to keep his mouth shut, just as he did with his song during "Kanye-Taylor II: The VMA Smackdown!"
And for the record, Donna is completely starstruck by the President and had to be kicked off of his helicopter by the Secret Service. I think I'd rather live in the White House, too.
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