Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Dad: “A Ward Show”

Illustration for article titled American Dad: “A Ward Show”

Oh. Well, hello there, American Dad. Yeah. It has been a while. I didn't think… no, no, I'm not upset with you, no, I just didn't think you'd be back… oh. Baseball. That's your excuse? I meant explanation, don't get mad. We're back together. And you're not leaving for months aga – until December? Oh. I see.

But let's just focus on what we have right now, okay? After all, it's only a few short months until Bob's Burgers takes your place. But this episode tonight, this episode is a good example of why we missed you. And will miss you in the future.

The premise of the episode certainly has a lot going for it: Stan and Francine name Roger to be Steve's legal guardian so they can go on vacation (at the world's largest water park). Roger, in his full Dad outfit, quickly notices that Steve's surprising, somewhat creepy relationship with Principal Lewis, is a problem, and subverts it in a responsible Dad fashion. Lewis goes on a downward spiral, as does Steve's relationship with Roger, leading to the surprise best friends pulling a Thelma & Louise.

While having Lewis and Roger, two of the show's funniest characters, at the center bodes well for the episode, that's not actually what makes the episode work so well. Roger's “Dad” character is remarkably not inappropriate, and only a bit over-the-top with over-protectiveness (at least “only a bit”, given the show and the character). Lewis is his usual crazy stuff, but he doesn't necessarily have the over-the-top best stuff that he's had in the past as a throwaway jokester. Not that both are bad or anything, and neither is Steve, whose panic and anger turn Roger into the straight man for much of the episode.

No, what makes this episode work is that it has a reasonably coherent storyline combined with a consistent level of humor. The jokes land. I can't really go in-depth more than that, which is always a problem with reviews, but I'll do my best. For example, after Roger presents his plan to become Steve's guardian with a “La-la!”, Francine replies “Roger, couple things. I think you meant to say 'voila!' instead of 'la-la!'” which garners a quick, subtle “I did.” It's an odd little joke, relying almost entirely on the effectiveness of the sound editing, but it, like a high level of jokes in the episode, manages to work.

In a sense, despite the events of its plot being consistently crazy, American Dad is one of the more conservative shows of Fox's animated bloc, because it relies on straightforward, almost-traditional gags, and strings them together well enough that the story doesn't get in the way. Cleveland is structured in a similar fashion, but its jokes just don't land, while Family Guy will try a different tone after every commercial break and often eschew jokes entirely. The Simpsons is often paralyzed trying to deal with its history of almost 500 episodes, while Bob's Burgers is willing to push its characters in stranger and stranger directions. American Dad, on the other hand, knows what works, and the best thing is, it's probably right.


Stray observations:

  • As ever, I wonder where Haley is, as her presence may be relevant to the plot. I attach no negative connotations to this; I just find it interesting that huge chunks of American Dad are missing a major character.
  • “We're co-presidents of the Good Boy club! Did that kiss oath mean nothing?”
  • “This is why I had children. So one day I wouldn't have to be around them.”
  • “Suicide, bitch! Canyon style!”