Nine summers ago, I saw my first play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, a production of The Comedy Of Errors directed by future artistic director Bill Rausch. In that production, the play turned Syracuse into a glitzy neon city like Las Vegas, the Duke and his men into gangsters, and both sets of twins into Rat Pack-esque showmen. The slapstick mistaken identity jokes clicked right into place, and the show was fantastic. I’ve never seen a better version of the show, and the quality of that performance significantly improved my esteem for the play, so much so that I’m always intrigued when any other entertainment reminds me of it.
“Roads To Vegas” puts a bit of a dark Comedy Of Errors spin on the “Road To” structure, splitting into Sliding Doors-type split-screen effects, and even bringing in some of the same plot elements as “Back To The Pilot,” which also had multiple Brians and Stewies running around. The Brian and Stewie-centric episodes have always been my favorite of the post-revival seasons, because that character partnership makes me laugh the most. It’s a boy and his dog, except the boy is a gay, evil genius baby and the dog is an anthropomorphic liberal tool. Splitting them into plot lines for good luck and bad luck for a trip to Vegas only provides more opportunities for jokes.
On the lucky side, the guys enjoy everything the city has to offer, teleporting to the hotel, checking in, getting a free pen, and winning the slot machine jackpot. But when spending ridiculous money on drinks and hookers and crashing a Ferrari into bystanders and walking, it’s darker with less reveling, setting up for the third act. The unlucky side has Brian and Stewie failing to teleport to Vegas, taking a delayed flight and then getting to the hotel where their room is taken, they lose all their money, and end up owing a loan shark thousands of dollars. The mistaken identity comes in right at the end, shifting the episode from pratfalls and funny uses for a ton of cash to a violent mix-up that leaves one Stewie dead and the other Stewie making the case for suicide to Brian, who ultimately jumps off the balcony of a gross hotel.
Steve Callaghan moved from Family Guy to take over as showrunner on American Dad for the newest production cycle—a decision that leaves me very worried about the fate of that show—so if “Road” is his last Family Guy episode for a while, it’s a good one to go out on. This type of episode isn’t typically as heavy on the usual stock jokes that weigh the show down, and the adventures of Brian and Stewie drive more interest than most other characters.
Much like American Dad’s final two episodes, the semblance of a season arc would feel better if these two had been flipped, ending on “Road To Vegas,” but Family Guy has been playing around with this end-of-season game for years. It had the Star Wars parody episodes for a few years, but not always as a season finale (season eight had that unaired abortion-centric episode as well). Last season used the alternately structured “Family Guy Viewer Mail #2” as the first in an hour-long finale block, so that’s what happened this year. Fox led with the varied structure, and closed out the season with a standard episode.
“No Country Club For Old Men” goes in a handful of different directions before the halfway point—America’s Got Talent, Chris dating another girl—but once the Griffins sit down at a table with the wealthiest family in Rhode Island and Carter Pewterschmidt starts acting like a total suck-up, this was heading in a Carter-and-Peter direction, once again flipping their relationship so that Carter needed Peter for an entirely selfish goal. It reminded me of the only good parts of Dave Barry’s latest novel Insane City, which depicted a rich, snobbish man in an exclusive wealthy club attempting to gain access to an even more exclusive, secretive wealthy club.
Peter and Carter’s final ploy—posing as Viscount James Earl Tennis Racket and Duke of Lacrosse Team to seem above the exceedingly wealthy Barrington—made me laugh for sheer ridiculousness, and hearing Carter jokingly quote “Losing My Religion” as Barrington attempted to shoot Michael Stipe is one of those moments where a character makes a strange reference that doesn’t fit their personality (in a good way, if that makes any sense), but this episode took a lot longer to get to its main plot without as many laughs along the way.
"Road To Vegas": B+
"No Country Club For Old Men": C+
Season Grade: C+
- Far and away my favorite episode of the season was "Brian's Play," another Brian/Stewie-centric episode, and one with a more cohesive plot that didn't unravel at the end.
- Unofficial Cutaway Counter: 12 for “Roads” and 13 for “No Country.”
- Best cutaway: in both episodes, either Peter’s card game tell or Barrington’s family inventing the hat buckle, which replaced the hat-zipper.
- Worst cutaway: Mort’s cousin the magician. I am very tired of seeing this stereotype, and it never ceases to feel lazy when it pops up multiple times in a season.
- More on Bill Rausch: Seriously, if you like theater and get a chance to see anything he’s directed, buy a ticket.
- I presume that this episode was finished long before Seth MacFarlane hosted the Oscars, but in case it wasn’t, the “Stewie hosts the Oscars” cutaway didn’t do anything to make up for his patently awful jokes at the event. It made it seem like he didn’t know how to tell jokes about anyone other than women and Jewish people.
- Yes, I had a good laugh at the University Of Arizona pulse-check admissions policy.