Family Guy: “Bigfat”
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Family Guy: “Bigfat”

The most difficult episodes of Family Guy to review are the ones that make me laugh consistently while moving the plot in an uninteresting direction that covers territory the show has already worn down. On the one hand, any time the show can make me laugh while I’m watching alone with my dog, I overlook some of the weaker plotting, but when Family Guy leans on one of its crutches that I don’t like—namely, using Meg as the all-encompassing punching bag and deus ex machine—the disappointment outweighs the laughter. "Bigfat" is one of those consistently funny episodes brought down by too much Meg-bashing.

My first reaction when I heard about the cold open was disgust, that Seth MacFarlane’s show couldn’t just damage its own reputation with the downward spiral of the revival seasons, but now it had to rope in something as underrated as King Of The Hill to be a part of it. At first, the American Dad crossover gag didn't work for me, from Peter and Rodger’s remarks about dogs to Stan shooting Peter—for revealing Roger’s identity, which has been an American Dad plot point with Jeff this season—but once the Newhart homage kicked in and Hank Hill showed up, I was laughing. The King Of The Hill-style credits sequence is a nice reminder of how Mike Judge seemed to trudge on in perpetuity, churning out the least glitzy but most eminently watchable part of the Fox animated lineup for a decade. Which is too bad, since it’s the high point of the episode without actually having anything to do with the rest of it.

The structure of Family Guy—and plenty of other animated sitcoms—is designed to be a trunk off of which jokes branch off at a brisk clip. And the tangential nature of plot progression on these kinds of shows lends to a wider variety of jokes. This explains the random build to the major focus of the episode: Feral Peter. At the beginning of the episode, Joe and Quagmire help Peter build a jungle gym. Joe and Peter find out Quagmire speaks French. He tells them about Canadian strip clubs in Montreal. Peter causes a plane crash, then gets lost in the wilderness and becomes feral in two months—an unrealistic span that the show comments on more than once—unable to readjust to normal society or communicate in any way.

This lends plenty of opportunities for sight gags and cutaways. The decadence of the private plane is a highlight—though the technology of the toilet ropes in the requisite Jewish joke of the night. And the best cutaway comes from the revelation that Quagmire speaks French: the idea that Quagmire is a physical comedy icon in France along the line of a Mr. Bean character. But Peter’s plight as a wild man doesn’t inspire sympathy, nor elicit many laughs. He causes the plane crash and incapacitates Quagmire while stranded in the wreckage. Getting lost in the…desolate Canadian wilderness…seems a just comeuppance.

Peter’s failed reunion with his family yields a few funny moments as well—particularly the sing-along with Stewie, and Stewie’s reply to Lois finding her sequin top in the garbage can Peter eats from. But when Brian suggests that perhaps Peter can’t be rehabilitated, and they should release him back into the wild like some kind of zoo animal, the episode takes a repetitive turn. The key to fixing Peter turns out to be Meg’s voice, which inspires such hatred that it breaks through the feral exterior to bring Peter’s personality back in order to tell her to shut up.

Making fun of Meg as ugly and useless has been woven into the very fiber of this show for so long that to make it verboten would be ridiculous. And before the final resolution, the episode takes two small, expected jabs at Meg: in the cold open Roger presumes Meg is a dog, and one of the cutaways show her hat in the middle of bloody water with circling sharks. I don’t care for those fleeting jokes because the show has beaten that horse beyond a pulp, but they are easier to ignore. However, when the plot hinges on how much everyone hates Meg, it reverts to being just as ugly and useless as how the show views the character.

Stray observations:

  • Unofficial Cutaway Counter: 13, though the first Predator reference and the professors speaking Latin
  • Best cutaway: I’d pick the Quagmire-in-France bit, but Davey Crockett as a nascent animal mutilator is also funny.
  • Worst cutaway: Consuela as a sweeper for the Mexican curling team, if only for the substitute national anthem.
  • That is one way I never wanted to imagine Mrs. Garrett from Facts Of Life—and Different Strokes.
  • Any mention of Inspector Gadget deserves to be noted.
Filed Under: TV, Family Guy

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