American Dad: Introducing The Naughty Stewardesses
C

American Dad: Introducing The Naughty Stewardesses

Clear eyes. Swapped faces. Can’t lose.

The term “stewardess” has been out-of-date for more than a few decades, so for American Dad to go full Charlie’s Angels with an outdated take on female flight attendants sets the bar pretty high for the humor and a mandatory undercurrent of social commentary. “Introducing The Naughty Stewardesses” attempts to poke fun at the “Which one are you?” aspect of television marketing, but it doesn’t go far enough, ending up trapped in a frustrating middle ground with a plot that wastes a bevy of prominent guest voice actors.

Francine and Stan sit in an airport, waiting to jet off on a romantic getaway—which Francine hopes will lift her out of the doldrums, since she’s gone back to shoplifting and worries about cutting herself. But Stan’s surprise vacation won’t take them to Hawaii, but instead to scenic Sacramento, California, with its four different areas. It’s unclear what the acceptable vacation threshold would be, but apparently a lesser metropolitan area doesn’t cut it. (I’m not trying to pile on the pro-Sacramento train, but it’s an hour drive away from Napa, which is not exactly the least desirable place on Earth.)

But before they get on the plane, they meet a ragtag group of attractive white girls who reel off puns and joke about sexual conquests. Megalyn Echikunwoke is Angie, the redhead in it for money; How I Met Your Mother and Ugly Betty’s Becki Newton is Margie, the blonde in it for love; Community’s Gillian Jacobs is Christy, the dirty blonde in it for adventure; and Olivia Wilde is Denise, the brunette in it to avenge her father, who disappeared in the Ivory Coast on her 12th birthday. When Mark Cuban shows up to lure one of them away for a weekend in Monte Carlo, Stan and Francine get to join the team and feel authoritative while complaining about passengers on a few flights.

As a weekend getaway, the couple gets to investigate the possibility that Mark Cuban plans to blow up the sun, track him down at his Monaco mansion, and do the whole sleuth/espionage thing. Cuban’s explanation that he’s only seeking to destroy the Phoenix Suns doesn’t help, since the girls work for the Suns’ official airline. I wish any of this was funnier than how I’m describing it, but mostly it’s just going to bring up bad memories for anyone who had the unfortunate displeasure of sitting through any of the Angels remakes of the television reboot.

Spicing up Stan and Francine’s marriage is a consistently recycled premise for American Dad episodes, but “Naughty Stewardesses” never finds the right way to skewer the reductive Charlie’s Angels rip-off, or to use the plot to show what’s been missing in the Smith’s marriage. They get to fly around, act like spies, and go to Monte Carlo, but if they need that kind of glitz in order to continually rekindle a spark, something bigger is wrong with their characterization. The final tag in the episode frames the story as a series coming soon to Fox, which is a recycled gag as well, and one that doesn’t make any attempt to poke fun at networks attempting to reboot dated franchises that require an update to modern social standards.

The B-plot with Roger and Steve is decidedly more ridiculous (technologically, at least) and funny, with yet another twist on Steve pining for a seemingly unattainable girl at school. This time Jenna (Ellie Kemper) is the object of his affection. When her football player boyfriend breaks up with her because the coach (voiced by Eric Taylor himself Kyle Chandler) demands that no player be getting some while he can’t get any, a window of opportunity opens. But since Steve lacks confidence, he turns to Roger for help. Ever the helpful extra-terrestrial, Roger breaks out some face-swap technology that removes Steve’s skin from his skull, leaving him a frightening visage of exposed muscle, before replacing it with Roger’s, which yields the unbelievable and yet funny header photo above. I liked that the episode doesn’t go in for a Face/Off parody or any kind of body-swap shenanigans, but instead uses something grotesque and painful as a ludicrous means to help Steve through surreal fake technology.

Once Roger gets a taste of wooing Jenna as Steve, he doesn’t want to trade faces back—until he finds out that Jenna is pregnant. Then he’s more than happy to switch back, without telling Steve any of the pertinent information he learned. That sets up the funniest scene in the episode, as Steve joins Jenna to meet her parents, so oblivious to her pregnancy that he actually advises her not to mention her ex-boyfriend at all, which will give the impression that he impregnated her even though they haven’t had sex. Jenna’s dad, a paraplegic in a wheelchair, descending the stairs strapped to a stairlift, paces the scene. Jenna vomits from morning sickness, then comes clean, and her dad goes apoplectic, grabbing Steve and immediately turning the lift back up the stairs.

Steve’s caught between being the nice guy getting overinvolved in something that isn’t his problem and Roger’s callous knee-jerk reaction to kick Jenna to the curb. Instead, the episode finds the surreal middle ground, as Roger once again uses his face-swapping device to impersonate the football coach and force Jenna’s ex-boyfriend to get back with her and take some responsibility. Roger also demands the coach run 22 flea flickers in a row to ensure Roger wins a long shot prop bet that only nets him a roll of Lifesavers. The whole plotline gives into Roger’s meaner impulses—selfishly kicking Steve out of the way, withholding information, and blackmailing someone into acquiescing to a meaningless bet. But it’s another reliably funny, dark, and twisted plot pairing Steve and Roger together, which has the right mix of immature innocence and gleeful arrogance to come off as both sweet and sour.

Stray observations:

  • The aside where Steve and his friends discuss how creepy the hookup/rape element of Revenge Of The Nerds seems today was great, and having Curtis Armstrong’s Snot say he’s never seen the film was a nice touch.
  • Sign that Roger isn’t really ever paying attention to what Steve wants or says: He initially thinks he’s going to drag Jenna to a creek and harvest her organs.
Filed Under: TV, American Dad

More TV Club