Sundays With Seth: 'American Dad,' 'Family Guy' and 'Cleveland Show' Recaps
by Jason Hughes, posted Jan 17th 2011 8:15AM
['American Dad' - 'Fart-Break Hotel']
['Family Guy' - 'And I'm Joyce Kinney']
['The Cleveland Show' - 'How Do You Solve a Problem Like Roberta?']
Well, things have certainly changed on the FOX Sunday lineup, and it looks like 'American Dad' is getting the short end of this particular stick. To make room for 'Bob's Burgers' in the post-'Simpsons' slot, FOX has shifted 'The Cleveland Show' to 9:30 PM ET, after 'Family Guy.' That move booted 'American Dad' to the top of the night, so to speak, at 7:30 PM ET.
Unfortunately, that's kind of before primetime even starts, and ratings history has shown that shows airing before 8 PM ET don't do so well in the ratings.
So, 'American Dad' will likely see a drop here, but I don't think it's any reason to worry. FOX seems to see the show as an animated warhorse for them. If 'Bob' doesn't work out, look for 'Dad' to rejoin the main two-hour block by the end of the season.
Just like 'American Dad' has had to come to terms with how it is treated by the FOX network, this return episode featured Francine having to accept the life she's been given. She learned, however, that the life she's living now is actually the best life for her. Will 'American Dad' feel the same about 7:30?
Because of a toxic gas leak, from Roger's hind end, the Smiths found themselves set up in a swanky hotel for a week. Isn't it convenient that the writers can pretty much come up with anything and explain it away through Roger? An incident in the 1980s gave him enough vouchers for a one-week stay for the entire family, and he conveniently forgot about them until now.
Not to mention, since when is Roger so nice to the whole family? Wouldn't he have just used them for himself and stayed five or six weeks? Hell, Roger was the voice of reason this episode as Francine had her little ... well, episode!
The side story featuring Steve traveling back to 1981 was clever, if not terribly original. It seemed to have elements of 'Hot Tub Time Machine' and 'Back to the Future' and probably some others I'm not remembering, and culminated in the anticlimax of Steve being the model in the painting he so admired.
Francine's journey wasn't terribly unique either, and again it was odd seeing Roger stand in as the voice of reason. It's as if all the elements that make the Smith family who they are were switched around, and the show wasn't made better because of it.
It wasn't a total loss, though, as it was hilarious seeing Stan crippled by indecision regarding which pair of socks to wear with his suit.
A similar story played out in 'Family Guy' as Lois stepped out on the Griffin family to be a woman about town with her new gal pal, the new co-anchor of the local news, Joyce Kinney. Francine may have discovered that her life with the Smiths was where she belonged, but Lois's lesson was much simpler. Never trust a reporter.
Again, while there was nothing particularly unique about Joyce being a former rival of Lois's in high school, and thus wanting to expose and humiliate her, at least there were some funnier moments in this one. Unfortunately, a lot of those came in the cutaways. And I thought we were starting to move away from a dependence on them.
The ending, in particular, was especially disappointing because it didn't follow any real logic. I know it's a cartoon, but 'Family Guy' has proven itself far more clever than simply having Lois show the porno she starred in as a teen to her church, and thus getting accepted by them. It was an easy way out, as if they'd written themselves into a corner.
It was saved by some silly side jokes like Joyce's last name being Chevapravatdumrong (the notably long last name of a 'Family Guy' executive co-producer and writer), the flashback of Lois getting drunk and throwing up on Stewie, and Stewie's insistence at the store in getting the tin foil with the lion in overalls.
More confusing, and thus less effective, was Stewie's ongoing concern that he may have been fathered by a porn star. As he is the youngest of the Griffin children, it would be far more likely that Chris or Meg was fathered by the porn star. When we were shown that the actor did look like Stewie, that only sets up a whole new idea of Lois cheating on Peter with her former co-star. It would be the only explanation, and is that really what the writers were wanting to insinuate at the end of the episode?
Parenting was the issue on 'The Cleveland Show,' but it was more about how to be an effective parent to a teenage girl. Cleveland did sum up the differences in the gender pretty well. It is far easier to raise a teenage boy because the expectations are so different.
Probably the strongest of the shows tonight, 'Cleveland' explored the differing parenting styles of Cleveland and Donna, and featured several sight gags throughout the more serious parental issues to keep things light and moving. The best of these was Rallo running around naked through the episode, believing he was invisible.
Yes, this has been done a million times, and I know I took issue with a lack of cleverness in earlier episodes, but it was more the fact that everyone ignored him as he did things like "ghost cookies" and "ghost fart," because they simply didn't care. Plus, it was capped off by Junior taking over the mantle once Cleveland broke the truth to Rallo.
It was an affective use of these characters that kept them a part of the episode even though they were not a part of the main story. Then, there was Donna's short foray to the spa with Kendra, where we saw that although you can take the redneck out of her house, you can't take her somewhere nice. How is it that pooping in public doesn't seem to worry Kendra?
Cleveland's consistent failures to properly corral and parent Roberta were almost too uncomfortable to be funny. But they also showed us that our teenagers are smarter than we might like to think, as shown by her faking the start of her party so Cleveland would be in bed. And the physical attacks are probably more plausible than we might wish to think, though exaggerated, of course.
What I appreciated was that there was no win in the end for Donna and Cleveland. All we got was the acknowledgement that raising teenage daughters is incredibly hard. There's no magic tricks to making it work. It's just a daily struggle that only gets easier when they're finally old enough for you to let go.
Other Funny Moments:
--The entire cast of 'Glee' was on-hand to sum up their show in less than ten seconds. That had to be a surreal recording session, with each of them saying a word or two only.
--Cleveland bursting into tears seconds after Donna left, after Robert cursed at him.
--Cleveland's random "Final Thought" moment, mocking Jerry Springer, as Donna and Roberta fought.
--The random 'Incredible Hulk' intro for 'Family Guy,' starring Peter as the Hulk and Stewie as David Banner.
--Tom Tucker's negative reaction to the cheesy news intro featuring his new co-anchor: "Holy s*** that just turned out awful!"
--Hector Elizondo as the concierge at the hotel the Smith family stayed at.
--Hector's voice convincing an unattractive woman to start undressing.
--Francine's fantasy about killing her ungrateful family.
'American Dad,' 'Family Guy' and 'The Cleveland Show' air Sundays at 7:30, 9:00 and 9:30 PM ET, respectively, on FOX.
[Follow Jason @ultraversion21 on Twitter.]