"Surro-gate"

Yeah, I'm still here. Just me and one lousy ol' American Dad episode tonight. The Sunday night animation well is running dry my friends. But I will stick it out, dammit! Why? Because I get paid to, that's why!

Okay, so FOX animation land is getting a little wonky as we stumble into the rerun zone. There may be be no all-new animation night in the foreseeable future, but let's look at this as an opportunity to judge the shows on their individual merits, shall we? This week: American Dad. I started out this season as an American Dad flag-waver, a position that may have been much more controversial in my own mind than in reality. The first two episodes of the season prompted me to reevaluate the show, and I started to give it a little more credit, which was admittedly based on lowered expectations (we grade on a curve here, people). But over the past couple of weeks, Stan and Co. have staggered back into their mediocre niche, reminding me why I never paid much attention to the show before.

American Dad was obviously conceived as a more satire-oriented version of its big brother, Family Guy. Where Family Guy specializes in pop-culture gags and non sequitur after non sequitur after oh-my-god-another-freakin' non sequitur, American Dad likes to pick a single (often politically volatile) target and bludgeon it to death, sometimes with humorous results. However--and this may just be jaded ol' me grinding an axe here--I prefer the show much more when it avoids the standard hot-button issues (religion, gay marriage) and wanders into more absurd territory (Stan's stint as a meter maid, the Vacation Goo). I mean, when your main character is a flag-waving, Bush-lovin' uber-patriot, do you really expect him to do anything OTHER than kidnap the gay couple next door's baby and take it to Nebraska where it can wait for a nice, God-fearing straight couple to adopt it? Yawn. Even with the Rainbow Trucker Brigade, still YAWN, man, ya know?

However, even when the main Stan-centric plot wanders into obvious-land, there's usually a ridiculous B-story to keep things interesting, usually featuring Steve and Roger (I'm thinking in particular of the "Wheels and the Legman" contest and the Hogwarts/crackhouse escapade). Like Stewie and Brian in Family Guy, those two characters have an odd chemistry that tends to overshadow the show's namesake patriarch. This week though, they were utterly wasted, hiding out in the attic from a presumably revenge-addled Klaus. I would have much preferred to see an all-out war between the two factions, rather than Roger and Steve wearing diapers and slowly growing even more pathetic. And Roger didn't even wear a wig or a costume or anything! I mean really, why even have a Paul Lynde-aping alien on your show if you're not going to dress him in drag every week?

Next week: new King Of The Hill and another new American Dad. But hold tight, Simpsons and Family Guy fans, your time draws near.

Grade: C-

Stray Observations:

--Hey, did you guys ever notice that Seth MacFarlane apparently likes musical theater?? I mean, a West Side Story gag, whoda thunk it??

--I don't know why, but Klaus scooting around in that tiny bowl of water always makes me giggle. Aw, look at 'im scoot!

--It's not really related, but good lord, Moment Of Truth looks like the single most horrifying show ever conceived.