“I’m starting to think all you do is dick around.” —Quagmire, to Peter
I’d really like to be able to talk about 12 Angry Men. I bought the Criterion edition during the last online blu-ray sale, and the last time I saw the play was a surprisingly excellent production by a student theatre company during college. But for all my interest in the play, the film, and the myriad number of television episodes modeled after the general plot—one person gradually convinces 11 peers to change their minds about a case that appears simple but turns out to be far more complicated—it doesn’t really apply here.
“12 And A Half Angry Men” goes through the motions of a 12 Angry Men homage, but isn’t concerned with doing anything other than repeating the form, indulging in a fair amount of typically bizarre Adam West humor, and throwing in a bunch of endurance humor. The framework is built well enough to sustain the episode, and about half of the cutaways land with laughs, punctuating almost every moment with an outburst from Peter. But this is an increasingly rare instance when Peter’s nonstop antics yield just as many laughs as groans.
Adam West’s aide is found stabbed to death in West’s home, with West’s knife and a letter indicating the aide was planning to blackmail the mayor. The jury includes Brian, Peter, Quagmire, Carter, Bruce, John Herbert, Consuela, Tom Tucker, Dr. Hartman, and others, notably H. Jon Benjamin’s recurring character Carl, who tries to keep everyone from realizing he’s illiterate. Brian fills the Juror #8 spot as the sole “not guilty” vote at the beginning, and Quagmire, Carter, and Tom Tucker become the main antagonists.
Every beat of the 12 Angry Men homage shows up exactly when it should, but that reliability doesn’t come off as lazy, since at least some work has to go into creating all the little twists, and whoever’s responsible for Quagmire’s orgy recreation certainly had a bit of time on their hands. But Peter plays the constant comic interjector, with throwaway lines (“That’s for the jury to decide!”), endurance humor (fishing around in a public toilet for his cell phone), and cutaways (working as a UN “interpreter”).
Peter’s incessant antics don’t let up, which masks the weaker jokes—throwing water balloons out the window, acting like an above-it-all cool kid from the other side of the tracks during the trial, the Toblerone question—with better jokes right around the corner—Peter emerging from the shadows, cigarette in hand, muttering “But it just might work!” It’s inconsistent, but mildly successful. The racial aspect of the play even gets a nod, with Tom Tucker’s rant about “plain-lipped” people, those without mustaches, but that only balances out the bit about Trisha Takanawa’s stereotypical Asian mother berating her for a terrible news report.
First Brian convinces Herbert, then Quagmire after analyzing the eyewitness testimony from a very crowded “genital jamboree,” and Tom Tucker’s realization that his mustache prejudice has turned him into his father seals a majority shift. Then it’s down to Carter, who gets his emotional outburst monologue while exposing some deep-seated hatred against West for other offenses, somehow ending in the final switched vote.
So what if Adam West conducts a hurried press conference in a shirt soaked with some not-so-mysterious red stains? Even if he probably did it and got away with it, the point of this episode is just to have fun with the format and hang as many tangential jokes as possible along the way. And Stewie points out what never seems to get highlighted in all these stories: if Adam West didn't do it, there’s a murderer still on the loose. There are more bodies. And taking too much pride in swinging a jury takes a lot of credit for what amounts to simply letting a guy go.
- Unofficial Cutaway Counter: 13, including the endurance humor bits
- Best cutaway: I’m tempted to say Dr. Hartman testing Adam West’s reflexes, simply for that surreal idea, but I always laugh at Brian-as-a-dog jokes, so him chasing the mailman and then telling him to come back tomorrow was great as well.
- Worst cutaway: Tricia Takanawa’s mother. I am so tired of that stereotype, and even more annoyed that it was a major part of tonight’s American Dad.
- Consuela is the only female juror, and thankfully only gets an oblique reference when Bruce reads out the written votes at one point.
- My favorite 12 Angry Men television homage is the Hey Arnold episode “False Alarm,” followed by “One Angry Veronica” from Veronica Mars.
- Was that a tacit defense of Jay Leno as a late night host, or just pushback against people who insult his monologue jokes without specificity?
- Underrated jury film that deserves a re-watch every few years on TNT: Runaway Jury.
- “Enough…was a Jennifer Lopez movie that didn't live up to expectations.”