The heralded return of Family Guy
has come and gone. I'm not impressed.
First of all, there were far too many in-jokey callouts to the fans. I'm not against such things in principle. Friday's Enterprise
, for instance, had a Gorn (walking and talking, too, in a fairly good quality anthro-raptor-looking rubber suit) which we haven't seen since TOS' "Arena," and that was just spiffy. Between that and the excellently detailed interpretations of TOS-era sets (accentuated with great lighting) the episode was finally a payoff for enduring four seasons of mediocrity. It was what I wanted Enterprise
to have been all along. But it couldn't have been like this the whole time, at least not at first; restricting the potential audience base by relying too heavily on obscure references (like the appeal of a particular kind of retro-future embodied in white walls, enameled red grillwork, and large, blinking LEDs) is the kind of thing that's only feasible when on the downslope, going out in a blaze of glory. Family Guy
, having just returned, presumably shouldn't be on that path to self-implosion just yet. There's no reason we needed the greased-up deaf guy, the high-pitched-voiced pedophile, or the evil monkey in random cameos. (Not in the first episode, anyway.) Any new viewers whose attention was caught by the cancelled-and-resurrected hype would have no idea what the point of their presence was.
Second, the stated intentions of the production team to "get more political"
with sister show American Dad
seems to have infected Family Guy
too, and it's as awful as I'd expected. Brian reads a very clearly labeled copy of "Stupid White Men" in one scene, and his car (where'd that come from, anyway?) has a "Kucinich '04" bumper sticker. Mel Gibson, chasing Peter and Lois on Mount Rushmore (the only remaining evidence of whatever first draft of the script led this episode to be titled "North by North Quahog") after having stolen the master copy of The Passion of the Christ II
is defeated by easily luring him to fall to his death, because "Christians don't believe in gravity."
Okay, see, I have a problem with that. I'm not Christian - at least, not at all practicing or believing - but that's just insulting. It seems part of the same casual contempt the writing staff has for the other half of the country. Hell, even South Park
treated Mel Gibson more respectfully, and in "The Passion of the Jew"
he was a naked, gibbering Daffy Duck-esque lunatic. I can see the train of thought that led to that joke, I think - '[Some] Christians don't believe in evolution' is all too easy for the ignorant to consider being on a tight continuum with '[All] Christians don't believe in science,' and therefore, the above line. Moreover, is it likely the writers would consider making that joke about any other religion? It's just sloppy, and seems to demonstrate a particular brand of narrow-minded Hollywood liberalism. Ditto Peter's recollection of when he convinced Congress to invade Iraq (against the blanket statement of a generic-looking senator that there was absolutely no just reason to, period), with the statement "Anyone who doesn't want to go to war is gay," which prompts the entire room to rush to invade. (It's funny
, see, because the only reason any war must ever happen is because of macho, homophobic old rich white guys! Yeah! That's the ticket!)
Or, maybe it was just plain sloppy. Another extended joke was bizarre: One recurring character is the local television news' "Asian Reporter Tricia Takanawa," who's always referred to as such by the other talking heads, nicely skewering the Look How Diverse We Are philosophy of public relations. (Along with her rarely-seen colleague "Hispanic Reporter Maria Jimenez.") One handily expository scene on the news has her reporting on the opening of a new hotel in New York City where Mel Gibson happens to have a luxury suite - but she can't report from inside the hotel, because it has a 'No Asians Allowed' policy. In what universe did that even make sense as a plot point, let alone was at all funny?
However, the good: In the teaser, Peter recites the litany of shows Fox has cancelled against critical acclaim, commercial success, or both. "Knowing is half the battle" was also fairly clever. There's also some nicely-integrated cel-shaded CG work. But that's about it. A solid meh
, all around, and more offensive in its casual assumptions than in the carefully-calculated-to-enrage bits.
UPDATE: Damian Penny
engages in similar analysis, and is a bit more optimistic.