Sundays With Seth: 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad' Recaps (VIDEO)
by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 13th 2010 6:30AM
['Family Guy' - 'Road to the North Pole']
['American Dad' - 'For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls']
This week, it was Cleveland's turn to take a break, aside from a quick cameo in the double-length 'Family Guy' Christmas special. I guess creator Seth MacFarlane is pretty excited to be in hi-def for this season of 'Family Guy,' because this is the second hour-long "epic" saga he's told in less than ten episodes this season.
The holiday special was the sixth installment in the 'Road to...' series of episodes that feature Brian and Stewie leaving Quahog to get into trouble, with musical numbers, in an ongoing homage to the classic 'Road to...' movies featuring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Their misadventures takes them to one of the most disturbing depictions of Santa Claus and the North Pole possibly ever seen on-screen. And yet, MacFarlane had an entirely different take on the jolly old elf ready in time for 'American Dad,' wherein the Smith family adopted a dangerous new holiday tradition.
The night opened with the Griffin family, and ultimately most of the prominent citizens of Quahog, singing a song celebrating the greed of the holiday season. As with most 'Family Guy' songs, "All I Really Want for Christmas" had plenty of funny moments, as well as being a catchy tune in its own right. It, along with Santa's lament "Christmastime Is Killing Us," were made available via iTunes prior to the broadcast, but they really need to be enjoyed in context to get the full appreciation of them.
Particularly the latter song, which is delivered along with haunting images of Santa's decrepit factory, mutated elves and bloodthirsty reindeer. There were a couple of ways MacFarlane could have used this tale to address the selfishness and greed that accompanies this time of year. He could easily have had Santa as a corporate fat-cat, running a slave labor factory, but that's been done to death.
Instead, he presented us with a weak and sad Santa, beaten down by the ceaseless demands of a growing population. In-breeding has led to his elvish working force mutating into rejects from the 'Toxic Avenger' franchise. The whole thing was dank and frightening, particularly when adding in the bloodthirsty reindeer. Point of fact: Stewie sawed off the arm of an elf to lure the reindeer into the sky.
The scene was the classic slow, drawn-out moment of discomfort that hangs on long enough to usually become funny. I kept expecting the elf to maybe belatedly notice that his arm had been severed off, but he was clearly one of the elves who'd wandered out of the factory to die.
The highlight, in terms of hilarity, came with Stewie and Brian's disastrous attempt to fill in for Santa Claus at what ultimately proved to be the wrong house. So many times, we've seen regular citizens try to figure out how Santa does what he does in one night, but it's never gone so wrong in so many ways, to such devilish delight. I guess it was a slightly guilty conscience that kept MacFarlane from killing the child as well, after she'd seen her father's dead body and watched them kill her mother. Or perhaps it was his cruelty.
I was a little disappointed at how heavy-handed it got when Brian presented the message of the episode directly to the audience via the newscast on Christmas morning when the world awoke to no toys. I thought it was presented well enough throughout the episode, but I guess MacFarlane wanted to make 100 percent certain we got it: Stop being such greedy jerks. Limit your demands to one gift per person. That way Santa only has to stop at ... 5 billion+ houses! Yeah, that's much better.
Plus, he's apparently going to have to take out some extra time to kill the Smith family each year. At least until the job is done.
When Steve accidentally shot the real Santa Claus, and the entire family participated in the cover-up (Francine seemed to be particularly passionate and nearly elated about the undertaking), we were treated to a massive blitzkrieg on Roger's new moonshine buddy's property.
I loved how the crazy description of him by the liquor store owner turned out to be how he is seen if you drink his incredibly potent booze. Bonus points too for him immediately recognizing that Roger was an alien wearing a wig, and not really caring. The Donkey Kong bit made no sense, but I'd play a version of it with Roger jumping barrels of moonshine.
The emotional connect of the episode was that it fully brought Jeff into the family fold. Even though he's incredibly naive and stupid, though he was right about Santa being real, Jeff proved himself a Smith by goring Santa with the horns of his 'Golden Compass' helmet. Now he will live and die like a Smith. Particularly because Santa will be back next year to try and finish the job. I wonder if MacFarlane will remember that little detail and give us a sequel?
--Stewie went to such lengths to create their robotic covers, including a notary public and his family, as well as a bus of tourists. But the best was when he had robot-Brian telling Lois to neuter him in two days no matter what he said then.
--"I would like more Lemon Pledge."
--Gary Busey's disconnect from reality. "How'm I doin' today, Gary Busey?"
"You're doin' great! (he sees himself in the mirror the way Roger saw the moonshiner after a drink of the swill).
"Then I'll keep it up!"
--The string of "eh?" jokes with the Canadian trucker were that lame kind of humor that gets funnier the longer it goes on and on with one bad pun strung after another. The whole bit was so simple it was hilarious.
--The reindeer eating one another.
--Roger's slow-motion leaping slap across the face to the liquor store customer looking for batteries was random brilliance.
--Francine chastising the family for not letter her smash in the teeth and cut off the hands of the guy Steve killed, who turned out to be Santa Claus.
--"My name is Klaus Heissler." Poor Klaus.
'The Cleveland Show,' 'Family Guy' and 'American Dad' air Sundays, from 8:30PM ET on FOX.
[Follow Jason @ultraversion21 on Twitter.]