When Modern Family premiered, Cam and Mitchell’s marriage was hailed as a progressive depiction of homosexuality. They are a functional sitcom family, two dads raising an adopted daughter, getting into the requisite sitcom hijinks. But as the show progressed, the edges started to fray, and now, it’s to the point where their marriage consists of stereotypical gay reactions, throwaway one-liners from Ed O’Neill’s character about his mock shame in having a gay son, and far more dysfunction than an ending tag of presiding extended family love can counteract.
His glaring flaws as an executive producer aside, Ryan Murphy has gone to great lengths to ensure that Glee and The New Normal ultimately project positive images of gay characters, even if the warped worlds in which both shows take place and loose structural discipline leads to more than a fair share of wonky episodes.
On one hand, these shows descend into stereotype and caricature frequently, but the ambition to depict progressive, resonant gay characters and storylines is a massively necessary step in the right direction. This is a long preamble to get to the observation that Family Guy has approximately none of the same tact or intention. “The Giggity Wife” takes a left turn into I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry territory—a plot that never needs to be revisited—with none of the emotional underpinning of Kevin James’ character in that film. The justification here is that Quagmire doesn’t want to lose any of his stuff, thanks to a convenient plot point that Quahog has some strangely antiquated laws about divorce that disproportionately favor the woman.
The road to the Quagmire drunken marriage plot takes up the first act. Joe confiscates a Harvard dining hall ID, so he, Peter, and Quagmire go to Boston. After admiring Harvard’s campus—Peter recognizes the school not for its litany of leading alumni, but for Fred Grandy (Gopher from The Love Boat), Amy Brenneman, and Ted Kaczynski—stop in at a college bar, get bored, and then go to a strip club and get hammered. When they wake up in Quahog the next day, after a still drunk Peter tries to explain his drunk driving to Stewie, Quagmire discovers that he brought a hooker back with him, and that they’re married.
Quagmire’s wife is a middle-aged hooker who’s seen quite a bit in her life, to put it lightly. Initially, the writers simply use the opportunity to give Peter observational one-liners about an older hooker. (“Where will you two be going on your Scummymoon? And can I plan your Bridal Golden Shower?” “Your new wife is a human toilet.” “I bet she’s what happens if you put a Hooters girl in the microwave on high.”) In order to get her to grant him a no-fault divorce, he pretends to be gay. But once she catches him watching straight porn, she needs proof, so Quagmire enlists Peter to have sex with him to get out of a contrived predicament.
This entire plot is set in motion by that one line about antiquated divorce laws from Joe. That hinge throws the episode down this path to gay jokes, treating it as a disgusting other and something scary that no straight man should ever have to deal with unless one of their best friends really needed it—and even then there are conditions. Peter, being the good friend, commits to helping Quagmire, but only after a nice night out that drives Glenn even more crazy. An obnoxious game of gay chicken ensues with Quagmire’s wife watching, as Peter and Glenn kiss, vomit in their mouths, then swallow the puke, before undressing and gearing up for sex. But then the whole charade comes down, Quagmire’s wife relents, and Quagmire is rewarded for his fearful commodification of a minority group for personal preservation by getting exactly what he wants. He’s dismayed when he sees his wife, Peter insults her constantly, she makes everyone uncomfortable at a dinner with the Griffins, and then Quagmire hides behind the weak shield of being gay and ultimately wriggles out of his dilemma with no consequences.
Not all of Family Guy’s humor is about some group of “others,” but the jokes and cutaways that push boundaries are overwhelmingly within that category. There’s a bit about Depressing Divorced Guy apartments that involves suicide which is focused on middle aged white men, but the black guy in Sweden and God creating “the Asian” are both prime examples of the typical shock attempts at edgy minority humor. Offensive material works for a lot of comics—Jim Jefferies is the latest example to get his own show—but for whatever reason, perhaps sheer repetition of stereotypical jokes over the course of the entire run, Family Guy comes off as lazy and doesn’t get many laughs.
The final twist is that Quagmire’s surprise hooker wife leaves a webcam on and Peter’s family was watching the whole thing—except Stewie, who gets in a jab at Glee, which deserves some chin music after the Jonathan Coulton incident. The Griffins are flabbergasted, and why shouldn’t they be? Quagmire—the guy who dated Meg—almost had sex with Peter, who left Lois for some guy named Scott back in seventh season episode “Family Gay” after getting injected with “the gay gene” in a medical experiment. It’s not necessary for Family Guy to have complete continuity, but when Peter actually becoming gay for an episode and leaving his wife is less distressing to his family than this ending, something is out of balance. This is yet another episode show that handles boundary-pushing material with tired, derivative clichés instead of reaching for something original and funny.
- Unofficial Cutaway Counter: 11
- Best cutaway: Fingernails4Cash.com, a spot-on skewering of the Cash4Gold infomercials. Too bad it leads off the episode, overshadowing the others. Runner-up is the dyslexic baseball wrap-up.
- Worst cutaway: Probably the “Special Hunger Games” bit, but God presenting “the Asian” to a questioning boardroom was pretty awful as well.
- Cutaway that proves these writers are going to hell, in a funny way: the narcissistic pedophile.
- Okay, the Spanish soap opera cutaway didn’t work for me because it took something that is inherent to soap opera drama—slapping—and misused it by having Peter repeatedly slap women, instead of going for some other part of the soap opera style ripe for parody.
- Chris’ reaction to Quagmire’s wife is one of the few moments that actually got me laughing.