on 18 August 2010
Although it is one of my favourite TV programmes of the last decade, it's fairly safe to say that American Dad isn't massively well known, in the UK at least. It potentially suffers from living under the shadow of its older and more popular brother, Family Guy, and many people will overlook it when perusing adult-orientated cartoon series. The cartoon about the very unusual Griffin family has undoubtedly been Seth Macfarlane's golden child, but I have to say that in many respects I prefer the underdog that is American Dad. Hopefully due to the fact that it's being shown more on BBC3 it'll get more fans on this side of the pond as it really deserves cult status.
Anyway, this is Volume 2, and not series 2, of said cartoon series, American Dad. For some reason the American seasons in no way match up to the DVD series that were released over here, which I find bizarre and unnecessary, but it's exactly the same as what they did with Family Guy. American Dad Volume 1 only contained the first ten episodes of the first series, while this second volume contains the remaining ten episodes of series one, and the first nine episodes of series two. Why this has happened I have no idea, but it's important for the sake of this review to know which episodes I am talking about. The episodes included are those between `Stannie Get Your Gun' and `The Best Christmas Story Never Told', which is about halfway through the American second series. To watch the rest of this series (and some of the next) you'll have to buy Volume 3.
For those of you who aren't familiar with American Dad, it is a cartoon about the Smith family who live in Langley Falls, Virginia, where the father of the family, Stan, works as a CIA agent. With this being a cartoon, however, the inner workings of the CIA are depicted in a comical fashion, with weekly `Show and Tell' sessions as well as a general lack of urgency or the idea that they have anything to do with the national security of the USA. He has a wife, Francine, and two children, Hayley and Steve. Hayley's very left wing views often cause her to clash with her Republican father, and Stan is often ashamed of Steve for his nerdiness and failure to follow in his manly footsteps. Living with the Smiths are an alien, Roger, who saved Stan's life while trying to escape from the CIA, and so in return the Smiths took him in and hid him from the government, as well as Klaus, the goldfish with the mind of a German Olympic skier.
The basic family formula is in many way similar to that of Family Guy (two parents, two teenage children, and two oddities: a talking dog and evil mastermind baby in FG, or an alien and talking fish in AD), but fortunately American Dad does not merely feel like Family Guy but with different characters. It definitely has its own feel and comedy and survives without the `cutaway scenes' which make Family Guy so recognisable. Stan Smith is not as idiotic as Peter Griffin, but with his unflinching right wing attitudes and stubbornness he is just as cartoonlike a character as well as being as likeable and as funny. The rest of the cast of characters are also very well written and entertaining, with the alcoholic alien, Roger, who is obsessed with disguises and alter-egos being a particular favourite. Stan and Roger are undoubtedly the stars of the show with more storylines revolving around them than anyone else, but Francine, Steve and Hayley get quite a bit of screen-time too, with Klaus unfortunately being relegated to short appearances in each episode.
Out of this selection of episodes, there are some that particularly stand out for me. `The American Dad After School Special', in which Stan starts exercising and dieting excessively after his disgust at Steve's new fat girlfriend cause his family to point out that he's hardly skinny himself, is one of my favourite episodes of this cartoon as a whole, and is the high point of Volume 2, for me. It manages to touch on serious subjects while being so silly and comical that I doubt many people could be offended by it, as it is clearly taking the mick out of itself more than anyone suffering from eating disorders. `Lincoln Lover', in which Stan unintentionally writes a homo-erotic play about Abraham Lincoln, is also a particular favourite which pokes fun at Stan's (and America's) homophobic attitudes. All in all these nineteen episodes there is only one episode which I am not particularly keen on, `Dungeons and Wagons', though I may have enjoyed it more if I was more familiar with computer games such as World of Warcraft.
In short, I would say that Volume 2 of American Dad is a great DVD to have and is well worth its £12.24 price on Amazon. It's more expensive than volumes 1 and 3 by a few pounds, but since it's better and longer than them I'd say it's worth the extra price. Since you can get volumes 1-3 for £22.99, though, it works out cheaper to get them all together than to just buy one volume. If you think that you'd like to own some American Dad but don't think you'd watch more than one series, then Volume 2 would be a great one to go for. As with many cartoons the episodes are not linear and so for the most part you can watch them in any order, so I would still highly recommend this DVD even if you haven't seen any of Volume 1. It's a very enjoyable 430 minutes of television.
on 25 June 2010
People compare this to Family Guy because it's easy to do so. The animation is similar, the voices are familiar and it's made by most of the same people.
The fact is apart from a few traits of certain characters, American Dad has a very different feel to Family Guy. As everybody should know, when Family Guy was cancelled after its Season 3, American Dad was spawned as a kind of back-up show. When Family Guy was brought back due to impressive DVD sales, American Dad just kept going and now we have two great shows. Lovely story innit?
This box set is all muddled up and contains the second half of the first real season and the first half of the second season - very weird, and presumably a result of them testing the sales water with only half of the first season originally. At least they've now called this release a "Volume" and not a "Season" like they keep doing with Family Guy releases (we all know Family Guy Seasons are now chopped in half for DVD to make more moolah).
Still, ignoring the fact that the episode collections are inconsistent with how they were originally aired, American Dad promises laughs that strangely become funnier with repeat viewings. I don't agree with people who say the first "Season 1" DVD release is weaker that the others though. In fact I tend to think the opposite as it contains arguably the best episode "Bullocks to Stan", the special double episode "Stan of Arabia" (which actually feels like a season finale), and the first and most impressive appearance of the gold turd
What Mr Family Guy did next and in volume-two American Dad truly hit its stride. Darker than Family Guy--centred as it is, around a paranoid, jumpy and shooty CIA officer--all the same, the family dynamic is broadly similar but what the hell - the shows are often chokingly funny. More to the point, Americans aren't supposed to do inward-looking satire this well, or this accurately. When you've endured weeks of irritating-rules at Airport Security, American Dad is exactly what you need to bring the smiles back.
on 28 February 2008
I'm pleased to say that this is more of the same. Once again it's fast and funny and the old favourites are back. Stan Smith remains as paranoid and right wing as ever, Francine's a little drippy, son Steve is dorky, daughter Hayley slightly obsessively left wing and Roger remains the whiney alien.
I won't talk about how different it is to series 1 beacuse I know it's rumoured that this is actually the 2nd half of season 1, but they do use some of the characters more here than in the previous batch. Klaus the man in a fish's body gets a human body again twice and Roger goes undercover quite a bit. Roger is an alien, looking a little like a fat grey ET but when he puts wigs etc. on he can pass as a human. He also does some unwise male bonding with Stan!
Standouts have Francine ruthlessly trying to break George Clooney's heart, Stan reorganising a refugee camp into a summer camp, Francine and Roger role playing as husband and wife, Steve becoming a best selling author in a Sunset Boulevard inspired piece and Stan mistakenly reasoning that if so many gay men liked his play about Abraham Lincoln and vote republican then he must also be gay.
A memorable exchnage from the last one mentioned has tactless Stan offering Francine the chance to become his fag hag!
There are a few rare message stories such as a poignant one where Stan becomes obssessed about his weight although they never get in the way of the fun.
There is also a crazy Christmas time travel story that defies description.
As well as the usual fun batch of commentaries, we have a featurette dissecting the style of humour and offering an insight into a future episode where George W will be coming to dinner, and a class in drawing Roger. Seeing the Roger Class start with a chemistry vessel, it is extraordinary to see that become the alien we know and love.
Recommended stuff but see the 1st lot before this or you'll never know who Klaus was!
on 22 February 2008
After I bought American Dad Season 1 i just HAD to orer this, it is possibly THE funniest set of discs I own, every single episode is unique and has me laughing for days. Episodes to look out for are: Irregarding Steve, Tears of a Clooney and the best episode yet - Camp Refoogee.
One thing I did notice is that this is not the full season, in fact there are 7 or 8 e[isodes missing, but these have been added on to the season 3 box set - so don't expect to find the episode - "Bush Comes to Dinner" on this disc.
The fact that there is a left winged stoner (Haylee) with an alcoholic alien (Roger), a trigger happy CIA Agent (Stan) and a German Goldfish (Klaus) makes this probably the most imaginitave things on TV.
Every time you watch and episode you get to understand it more - this is well worth the money and beats Season 1 by an inch.
on 22 May 2007
American Dad is a cartoon from the creators of Family Guy, about a father called Stan Smith, who works for the CIA, and his family, including a ditzy housewife, liberal activist daughter, dorky son, ambiguously-gendered Alien Roger and a fish called Klaus, who often speaks straight to camera. The characters are a similar mix to Family Guy but the episodes focus much more on events in the wider world than the fairly house/family-confined stories in Family Guy.
I'm a huge fan of Family Guy but I also like American Dad because it doesn't go for as many quick, laugh-out-loud gags but has a darker streak, often centring around Stan's heavy-handed and over-the-top reactions to the problems of his family members. There's still a large sense of stupidity present in Stan, as in Peter in Family Guy, but in American Dad it's manifested in a much more dangerous way (often involving comedy violence), given that Stan works for the CIA.
This second season continues in much the same style as the first, with the characters well established and the freedom to just run with plot ideas. What American Dad does so well is expose Stan's actions as grounded in deep insecurity about how others see him; often an episode mimics some traditional manifestation of insecurity, as is particularly well done in episode 2 of this season where Stan develops anorexia in response to his son dating an overweight girl. In the same way that Family Guy's humour derived from sheer stupidity taken to surreal levels, American Dad's derives from paranoia and hyper-reactivity, again pushed up to surreality.
My other favourite episodes from this season are the one where Roger (one of my favourite characters) tries to experience college life (his being an alien is a useful way for the creators to tackle traditional American situations from a different viewpoint) and the musical number (which both Family Guy and American Dad do so well) called "Republican and Gay".
This season is almost as good as the previous one but I think I just slightly prefer season one because it had the excellent two parter set in Saudi Arabia.
This is still well worth watching though.