Okay, so I must confess that I know very little about the logistics of producing the shows I critique each week; I don't know how long it takes to make an episode, I don't know the steps involved, and I don't really know what happens during the fabled "post-production" period. And, let's be honest, I'm not gonna go find out, because I wanna hurry up and watch The Wire. But I will wonder aloud how FOX's random animation generator keeps spitting out new episodes during the writers' strike.
Here I thought Family Guy had (ahem) petered out over a month ago; the last two new episodes, "Peter's Daughter" and "Padre De Familia" supposedly aired without Seth MacFarlane's blessing, as they were tweaked post-strike. This gets me to wondering if tonight's new episode was meant to be aired as-is, or was it old, unfinished material that was cobbled together? (I'm honestly asking here, I have no idea. Any insight?)
The reason I bring this up is because "McStroke" seemed very haphazard. Peter's A-story comprised three different plots: his newfound love of mustaches, his burger-induced stroke, and his subsequent campaign against the McBurgerland chain. Oh, not to mention the (marginally superior) Stewie-Brian B-story centering on Stewie becoming the "cool kid" at James Woods High (didn't Peter, excuse me, Lando, do that a few seasons back?). Yes, it all tied together, kinda, but when a show is as plot-thin-gag-heavy as Family Guy usually is, it seems odd to have so much going on, especially when it made so little sense.
A typical Family Guy episode could have stretched any of those three plot points into a 22-minute episode, especially if the fighting chicken or Hubert showed up. As it was, there seemed to be fewer non-sequiturs and cutaways–and let's be honest, that's why we watch the damn show, right? There were a couple of solid gags sprinkled throughout ("stroke, stroke, stroke," Peter's job as Robin Williams' "jumping off point"), but there could have been a lot more if Ricardo Montalban the talking cow hadn't wandered into the story.
(I'm also confused by the supposedly damning testimony offered by the talking cow against the burger chain–what, beef comes from slaughterhouses? That's the testimony that's gonna bring down the burger giant? And yes, I'm aware that I'm quibbling over the testimony of a fictitious talking cow. Shut up.)
American Dad, meanwhile, turned in its obligatory movie-spoof episode with a Bond send-up. I wasn't a fan of Family Guy's Star Wars episode, "Blue Harvest," at the beginning of this season, and I wasn't wild about tonight's "Tearjerker" either, though I did appreciate that it tweaked the Bond conventions into an original story rather than doing a straight-up recreation. However, like Star Wars, it seems so easy to do a Bond parody, ESPECIALLY when your main character is a CIA agent.
However, the most obvious inspiration–Roger as the arch-villain–was also the funniest. Sure, "Sexpun DeCome" and "Peacenickel" were chuckle-worthy throwaways, but Roger's–excuse me, "Tearjerker's"–plan to create the world's saddest movie ("Oscar Gold," about a mentally retarded Jew with a cancer-riddled puppy set during the Holocaust) being foiled by Mike, the world's worst contractor, provided for some nice Roger tantrums ("The boat tour ends here? I thought that was a lap pool!"). Mostly though, it was a little too silly (milk-proof robots?) and its targets were a little too easy (America loves celebrity babies! Hollywood produces crappy movies!).
No new episodes next week (take a break commenters, you've earned it), then a veritable feast: new Simpsons, King Of The Hill, AND American Dad. You lucky so-and-sos. And who knows, another Family Guy might very well materialize during that time.
Family Guy, "McStroke": C-
American Dad, "Tearjerker": C+
-So much mustache humor.
-So, is One Tree Hill like the new Dawson's Creek when it comes to shorthand for whiny teenage angst?
-"Ow! Wait, you're a gun? I always thought you were an eyeball or something! Douche!"