The trouble with American Dad reviving the episode-length James Bond homage is that it immediately invites comparisons to “Tearjerker,” the season three episode that did it first. There is certainly enough fodder for parody in the litany of Bond films, but “For Black Eyes Only” feels disappointingly devoid of that material. I liked “Tearjerker” a lot when it first aired, even if it was an overly easy homage transition to make for a show centered on a CIA agent.
If one Bond parody is easy, then a second one is supremely facile. But I was willing to give another pastiche of the series a shot considering the reasonable success of the first attempt. But returning to the well turns out to be as successful as The Spy Who Shagged Me, not completely wiping out the merits of the first installment, but obliterating the demand for a third down the line.
Family Guy had a clear template to work with over three Star Wars parody episodes, but while American Dad doesn’t use a particular Bond movie structure, it has over 20 Bond films to mine for jokes, and still largely comes up empty. When Roger’s turn as supervillain turned reluctant partner turned supervillain Tearjerker is the best part of the episode in a diminished role, that’s not a good sign.
Picking up right where “Tearjerker” left off, Stan and his new bride, Sexpun T’Come, are off on their honeymoon, only to be interrupted by Principal Brian Lewis as Black Villain. Roger’s side plot as Tearjerker was unequivocally the best part of the first Bond send-up, and Black Villain doesn’t measure up in any way. He’s not as inherently funny, and his actions don’t subvert expectations of the character like Tearjerker’s constant complaints about the contractor who built him a shoddy lair.
Tearjerker’s plan was properly outsized and ridiculous for a supervillain, but Black Villain’s plan doesn’t have any of the same laughs. His plot to recall hairdryers and use them to melt an ice cap, creating a tidal wave that stops at his house in Detroit, creating new beachfront property, contains none of the steps that allowed American Dad to mock the entertainment industry the first time around. Instead, it’s Detroit and Black Villain’s frugal approach to villainy that become the butt of several jokes. The tap water bit works nicely, but Black Villain returning a surge protector and other moments that emphasize his cheapness only make the character worse in comparison to Tearjerker.
Once Stan goes to see Tearjerker in his subterranean prison far beneath Easter Island—after an explanation of how he survived falling into a volcano—the comedy finally picks up. Roger/Tearjerker’s uninspired paintings, the magnet sandwich, and the way Tearjerker describes his broken partnership with former henchman Tchochkie Schmear all merit laughs. Roger was the reliable comedic center in the first Bond parody, and once again, he’s the only character allowed to be so outrageous that the parody of spy villains lands.
And the throughline of the entire episode is Stan’s broken heart after the death of his new wife. Luckily for him, Black Villain discovered cloning, and created a black version of Sexpun T’Come named Sexpuniqua, and Stan’s safety depends on his ability to reawaken memories of their relationship in his wife’s clone—an impossibility Tearjerker points out nicely. Stan’s escape comes right at the moment the plot demands, and while he doesn’t stop the tidal wave—it wipes out half the country and kills a lot of people, but that gets swept under the rug—he takes down Black Villain. And then the cliffhanger ending over Tearjerker’s fate plays again, with a cleverer setup involving a swordfish and an orca, but it still feels repetitive and less funny because of that.
Jonathan Fener wrote both this episode and “Tearjerker,” and while it’s a reliable structure and a passable parody, it just doesn’t measure up to the original. Fewer laughs, fewer memorable characters, and less action in the plot only lead to a disappointing second go-round for Stan as the American James Bond. “For Black Eyes Only” is more Quantum of Solace than Casino Royale.
- Bullock comes back as B, but Hayley and Steve’s respective parody roles got cut considerably, to the episode’s detriment.
- The Tearjerker clones turning on each other in a bloody mess of vanity didn’t work as a final battle for me. That character alone is the best part of these parodies, but a big group extended an already tenuous cloning joke.
- “As long as you fall the right way, a volcano can never hurt you. Everyone knows that.”
- “There won’t be open containers on my beach. Can’t change ALL the laws.”