Often, Family Guy’s off-format episodes can be its funniest—the first fan mailbag episode and “Blue Harvest” come to mind—because they give the show an opportunity to play around with different ways to set up jokes. Other times, those episodes make the change in scenery the entire joke, assuming that viewers will laugh based on a game of “Which Family Guy character would be whom?” “Grimm Job” is the latter kind, based almost entirely on easy character substitutions and lazy jokes.
The framing device for tonight’s episode finds Peter trying to read fairy tales to Stewie to get him to sleep, which is a pretty good description of what the stories do. “Grimm Job” has just enough time to run through the basic beats of each story, doing the most superficial possible version of a Family Guy fairy tale. Not only does that reduce the quality of many of the jokes, it also reduces the room in the episode for cutaways (I counted only two), which sure are random but are also often an opportunity for the writers to shove in random stuff they think is funny. Without cutaways, Family Guy just has to rely on the story, which has never really been its strong suit.
In our first segment, Peter is Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk, selling Cow Brian to the troll Mort Goldman (“All these stories were written by Germans”) in exchange for the beans. Though Jack and the Beanstalk provides a loose framework for this segment, the show takes the opportunity to combine a few different fairy tales, including Quagmire’s appearance as Rumpleforeskin (spying on Little Miss Muffet, naturally) and Cleveland (off-screen) as Little Boy Brown. This is the worst sort of Family Guy spot-the-reference, coming off like it was written by a bunch of high school students bored in study hall. Not much happens—though the mashup of different fairy tale characters suggests a version of the episode that takes place consistently in one, single Grimm-inspired world, which might have given the episode a bit more time to breathe.
The second segment finds Stewie as Little Red Riding Hood. This one is the funniest of the night, commenting a bit more on the Little Red Riding Hood story from a jaded perspective. Brian The Big Not-So Bad Wolf gets to hang out with Stewie for a while, explaining his motivations for going after the Three Little Pigs (one of them was his ex) before sneaking in to eat the Grandmother. Stewie resists the story’s natural beats, pointing out that it’d be absurd to mistake a wolf for a human woman, and that the randomly appearing Woodsman (Peter) might just be a “lunatic going house to house murdering people.” More of these jokes might have made “Grimm Job” a solid episode of Family Guy, but they’re few and far between, lost in the stretched out easy parody.
The last story is a retelling of Cinderella, starring Lois as Cinderella to Meg and Stewie’s evil stepsisters. (Lois correctly notes: “My god, we have so few female characters to work with.”) Fairy godmother Adam West gives Lois a new dress and transforms Brian into a horse and Joe into a carriage so that she can meet Prince Charming Peter. The end of this story might be the best part of the episode—through voiceover, Peter tells Stewie that two people who danced one time at a party entered into an ill-advised marriage. Of course, Cinderella and the Prince separate after a few months, and of course they went to “find themselves.” This is the sort of smaller joke about the underlying logic of fairy tales that could have made “Grimm Job” more than a placeholder.
If there’s a through line to “Grimm Job,” it’s Brian’s increasingly terrible treatment at the hands of the writers. First, he’s sold to Troll Mort for a few magic beans, then cut in half with a chainsaw by a lunatic Peter wearing a beanie, and finally transformed forcibly into a horse. Those jokes (hasn’t Brian already been through enough?) are mean, but not nearly as mean as the note the episode ends on, with Peter saying good night to the rest of his children, ignoring Meg swinging from the ceiling. Hurray for Meg hate! It says something about “Grimm Job” (and the anti-roll the show has been on) that that joke might have been one of the funnier parts of the episode, terrible as it is. Sigh. Hopefully the show will exit this slump soon.
- I’m glad I watched a patchwork of semi-random, lazy pop culture gags instead of the Golden Globes! Wait…
- Great domestic violence joke to open the episode!
- “And now to throw this handful of change down, because I’m a psychopath.”
- My parents own a book called Great Jews In Sports. It’s longer than you’d think!
- Unofficial cutaway counter: Two (remember?).