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Good Morning, USA,
This review is from: American Dad! - Volume 2 [DVD] (DVD)
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.