: The first 13 episodes of American Dad's inaugural season are promising. After a few episodes, CIA agent Stan Smith and family gradually emerge from the Griffins' formidable shadow, and the show finds its own comic voice. And it sounds a lot like Paul Lynde. That would be Roger (voiced by Seth McFarlane), the housebound alien who saved Stan's life at Area 51 and now lives with the Smiths. Not as inspired a creation is Klaus, the German-accented goldfish who lusts after Stan's wife, Francine. He does, though, have an inspired meta-moment in the episode "Bullocks to Stan", in which he provides faux scene-specific commentary (during the episode!) in anticipation of the show's release on DVD ("I wasn't sure about the Squeaky Fromme reference", he offers, "but it's a smart joke, and the fans have come to expect that from us"). As for the rest of the clan, Steve's children are the typical dysfunctional siblings: Steve, a socially awkward geek, and Hayley, a liberal counterpoint to red, white and blue-blooded Stan--at least liberal enough to sleep with Stan's boss, Bullock (playfully voiced by Patrick Stewart) in the episode "Bullocks to Stan". Though the jokes in American Dad!
are not as free-associative as in Family Guy
, McFarlane cannot seem to resist dispensing with character integrity for a gratuitous potshot at, say, Lisa Kudrow. But as with Family Guy
, American Dad!
tears at the sitcom envelope. The blasphemous episode "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", had the distinction of being voted "Worst TV Show of the Week" by the Parents Television Council. And American Dad!
has its own version of Family Guy
's surreal titanic bouts between Peter Griffin and that chicken. The episode "Homeland Insecurity" features a digression in which a Department of Water and Power worker greedily kills his partner over a gem-encrusted gold "turd", only to find out his wife is having an affair. As he wails to the heavens, the words "To be continued" appear onscreen. --Donald Liebenson
Season 2: The "Laugh Alert" level is Elevated with the release of this second volume of episodes that chronologically span seasons 1 and 2. You know the "there" that people talk about when they say, "Don't go 'there'"? Seth MacFarlane's American Dad! leaves "there" in the dust. Take the Christmas--episode, "The Best Christmas Story Never," which somehow melds Charles Dickens with a Ray Bradbury-esque cautionary tale of tampering with the past. CIA Agent and true patriot act Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane) loses the spirit of the season in a blizzard of PC secularism in which even the fugitive "Christmas rapist" must be referred to as "the holiday rapist". In the "is nothing sacred" world of American Dad!, Christmas can only be saved by Stan accompanying the Ghost of Christmas Past (Lisa Kudrow) back in time to (don't ask) kill Jane Fonda (or Donald Sutherland), take over the direction of Taxi Driver from a drug-free Martin Scorsese, and shoot Ronald Reagan. The Smith family--wife Francine, geeky son Steve, and "peace-pusher" daughter Hayley--is still not as vividly drawn as the Griffins on MacFarlane's Family Guy (even Klaus, the talking German-accented goldfish admits in one episode that his "fish shtick" is getting thin), but one can't help salute the audacity of the oft-inspired writing. In "Stannie, Get Your Gun," Stan becomes a National Gun Association spokesperson after being accidentally paralyzed by his anti-gun daughter. "The American Dad After School Special" has an A Brilliant Mind-like twist as Stan battles an eating disorder brought about by Steve's new overweight girlfriend. In "Helping Handis," Steve becomes the big man on campus after he develops steroid-enhanced breasts. Two episodes are standouts for their animation. "Dungeons and Wagons", as did South Park with "Make Love, Not Warcraft", creates a video game universe in which Steve rules. Near the end of "Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option", the screen adjusts to widescreen format, and the saga of the golden turd, begun in the first season episode, "Homeland Insecurity", compellingly continues with the jewel-encrusted oddity becoming the last temptation of an honest cop (Beau Bridges). American Dad! is, as should be apparent, not for all tastes (or more sensitive viewers--the episode "Tears of a Clooney" drops some unbleeped F-bombs), but fans of the series are rewarded with this three disc-set's prodigious extra features, including rowdy, chaotic commentaries for all the episodes, a wealth of hit and miss deleted scenes, and a segment devoted to the production of "Dungeons and Wagons". --Donald Liebenson
Season 3: "I’m not beloved", CIA Agent Stan Smith is shocked to discover after eavesdropping on his mocking neighbors in the episode, "I Can’t Stan You". With all the resolve this "pig-headed" Red State poster boy and George "The Dub" Bush devotee can muster, he vows, "I will make these people like me". For those still on the fence about American Dad, season three ought to do the trick. These characters may not be as indelible as the Family Guy clan, but these episodes rarely flag. If the outrageous storylines don’t grab you, the rapid-fire random gags will. Like King of the Hill’s Hank Hill , Stan (voiced by series co-creator Seth McFarlane) is oft confounded by a world seemingly gone mad. Unlike Hank, he is the voice of un-reason. In "Surro-Gate," Stan’s dizzy wife, Francine (Wendy Schaal) agrees to be the surrogate for the Smith’s gay neighbors, prompting the disapproving Stan to kidnap the infant, as well as the brood of a lesbian couple. In "Black Mystery Month", Stan reveals a Da Vinci Code-like conspiracy involving George Washington Carver that’s plain nuts. In another episode, "Bush Comes to Dinner" for a night of drunken debauchery; some easy-target Bush-bashing redeemed when the President makes peace between Stan and his "lost cause" liberal daughter, Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane). Some of the best episodes focus more on the Smith family than politics. In "The Vacation Goo", Francine demands a real family getaway after discovering that all previous vacations were artificially created memories. In "Haylias", it is revealed that the unwitting Hayley is a brainwashed sleeper agent, who is activated by Stan to stop her from moving to France. "The 42-Year-Old Virgin" reveals another shocker: Trigger-happy Stan has never actually killed anyone! American Dad revels in guy humour. As Stan tells an unamused Hayley at one point, "You don’t get a willy, you don’t get the silly". American Dad brings the silly, but while the series is not above (or beneath) moth fart jokes, it is also smart enough to reference, say, Equus or the touching "When Somebody Loved Me" number from Toy Story 2. Stan’s geeky son, Steve (Scott Grimes), bitchy alien Roger (MacFarlane), and talking fish Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker) are no Chris, Brian, or Stewie, but this set contains some of their more memorable outings. --Donald Liebenson
Season 4: If Family Guy could spoof Star Wars with the epic Blue Harvest episode, then it's only fitting that American Dad take on the espionage world of Agent 007. In "Tearjerker", Stan Smith (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) portrays secret agent Stan Smith, with the other characters taking on Bondian persona. Dutiful wife Francine (Wendy Schaal) is transformed into the femme fatale Sexpun T'Come, and alien Roger (MacFarlane) portrays arch villain Tearjerker, a failed actor with a diabolical scheme to make the saddest movie in the world that will make all who see it cry themselves to death. At one point, Stan meets his superior, B (a game Patrick Stewart), in Japan. When Stan asks why they must be dressed as geishas, B replies, "Because I thought we could be secret Asians." Which just goes to show that American Dad will go any distance for a gag. And we mean that literally. In the episode, "Pulling Double Booty," Stan and Francine's rebellious peacenik daughter (Rachael MacFarlane) gets hot and heavy with Stan's CIA body double, which elicits a projectile reaction from Francine. "Oedipal Panties" is another cringe-worthy episode in which we discover the lengths to which Stan will go to keep his mother to himself. "1600 Candles" marks Roger's 1,600th birthday, while "Oedipal Panties" is interrupted to celebrate the series' 1,000th vagina joke. By this point, we should be past Family Guy comparisons. Both series are a riot of obscure pop-culture references, gratuitous celebrity potshots, and meta asides (in "Widowmaker", Francine ponders making a "gag me with a spoon" joke, "but then I thought, 'Who's that for?'"). But at least when Stan goes to absurd extremes, it is more in keeping with his overzealous, xenophobic character. The writing takes some rewarding chances as it careens wildly from the smart to the sophomoric. The holiday episode, "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever," contains an Auschwitz joke that is actually kinda funny, even as one cringes at the "oh, no they didn't"-ness of it. American Dad, we salute you. --Donald Liebenson
The complete seasons 1-5 of the animated comedy series from 'Family Guy' creator, Seth MacFarlane. Stan Smith (voice of McFarlane) works for the CIA and is constantly on the alert for terrorist activity. Stan will go to extremes to protect his beloved America from harm - as evidenced by the terror-alert colour code on his fridge, and his frequent knee-jerk reaction of shooting holes in the toaster whenever the toast pops up. Season 1 episodes are: 'Pilot', 'Threat Levels', 'Stan Knows Best', 'Francine's Flashback', 'Roger Codger', 'Homeland Insecurity', 'Deacon Stan, Jesus Man', 'Bullocks to Stan', 'A Smith in the Hand', 'All About Steve', 'Con Heir', 'Stan of Arabia (Part 1)' and 'Stan of Arabia (Part 2)'. Season 2 episodes are: 'Stannie Get Your Gun', 'Star Trek', 'Not Particularly Desperate Housewives', 'Rough Trade', 'Finances With Wolves', 'It's Good to Be the Queen', 'Roger 'n' Me', 'Helping Handis', 'With Friends Like Steve's', 'Tears of a Clooney', 'Camp Refoogee', 'The American Dad After School Special', 'Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option', 'Lincoln Lover', 'Dungeons and Wagons', 'Iced, Iced Babies', 'Of Ice and Men', 'Irregarding Steve' and 'The Best Christmas Story Never'. Season 3 episodes are: 'Bush Comes to Dinner', 'American Dream Factory', 'A.T. Abused Terrestrial', 'Black Mystery Month', 'An Apocalypse to Remember', 'Four Little Words', 'When a Stan Loves a Woman', 'I Can't Stan You', 'The Magnificent Steven', 'Joint Custody', 'The Vacation Goo', 'Meter Made', 'Dope and Faith', 'Big Trouble in Little Langley', 'Haylias', 'The 42-Year-Old Virgin', 'Surro-Gate' and 'Frannie 911'. Season 4 episodes are: 'Tearjerker', 'Oedipal Panties', 'Widowmaker', 'Red October Sky', 'Office Spaceman', 'Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie's Gold', 'Spring Break-up', '1600 Candles', 'The One That Got Away', 'One Little Word', 'Choosy Wives Choose Smith', 'Escape from Pearl Bailey' and 'Pulling Double Booty'. Season 5 episodes are: 'Phantom of the Telethon', 'Chimdale', 'Stan Time', 'Family Affair', 'Live and Let Fry', 'Roy Rogers McFreely', 'Jack's Back', 'Bar Mitzvah Hustle', 'Wife Insurance', 'Delorean Story-An', 'Every Which Way But Lose', 'Weiner of Our Discontent', 'Daddy Queerest' and 'Stan's Night Out'.