Monday, February 14, 2005

Oh, we've got trouble; we're in terrible, terrible trouble

Brian Tiemann has an exceptionally detailed take on the slow-mo train wreck that is American Dad. I think MacFarlane's problem, here, is that he's been asked to innovate in some way, to create a workable companion show to Family Guy - and he really has no idea how to do so. The solo short that launched his career featured basically a prototype version of Peter Griffin. The sequel added a proto-Brian. The basic formula of "dumb fat guy and sassy talking dog, plus others" in the form of Larry & Steve then turned into Family Guy, and now it's been tweaked ever-so-slightly again into "dumb brawny guy and sassy alien, plus others." This is a man who hasn't actually had an original idea for his own productions since 1995 or thereabouts. (Whatever he may have contributed to various other series as a writer, he was at least forced to work with others' characters, which may have been a grounding influence.) It's also no help that MacFarlane voices all of these characters himself, and really doesn't have the vocal range he seems to imagine. Is it any wonder that the already-scant comedic returns on that same formula keep diminishing with each new nth-generation copy? I remember, nearly ten years ago now, local cable used to carry CFCF Montreal, a quasi-affiliate of CTV that aired the week's new episode of The Simpsons on Monday night - which was handy, being that our VCR didn't work very well. I would always watch it first new on Fox on Sunday, and again on Monday; there was enough there there, enough content both textual and subtextual, enough depth of characterization, that I'd always look forward to seeing it again. (Now, I can barely stand to watch it the first time. Last night's "Pranksta Rap" was muted for a good third of the episode, in my living room.) American Dad, conversely (and at the same time, similarly, compared to contemporary Simpsons), I recorded, but couldn't bear to watch a second time even to blog on it; it's just that tedious. This is not good. If it goes down, I fear it'll take Arrested Development down with it, in that rough magic of extended hiatii and timeslot-switching that is the work of Fox's always-inept scheduling department. It's been a given since 2003, true, but I miss Futurama.


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