Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A few thoughts regarding American Dad

I have to admit it: I liked American Dad.

When I first saw the show, I negatively compared it to Family Guy, as both shows focus on a traditional family with three child-type characters and a pet (for the sake of the earlier analogy I considered American Dad's Roger to be somewhat like Stewie on Family Guy), and it seemed like a ripoff by MacFarlane.

But my opinion of the series has changed over time as I've seen more episodes and with the relatively recent showings of the first season's episodes on Teletoon (which is the Canadian equivalent of The Cartoon Network/Adult Swim), and I can see that in general, it does have some admirable qualities and has come into its own as a show, much like Futurama distanced itself from The Simpsons after a little while.

One thing that is really working in the show's favor is that unlike its predecessor, I genuinely care about what happens to most of the characters on American Dad, as they aren't really buffoonish caricatures. Stan Smith for instance, has some emotional depth and something approaching an intellectual life, and when you look at Peter Griffin, you don't see that because he is sort of one dimensional. In general, most of the characters seem smarter on American Dad than they do on Family Guy, and the character dynamics are more interesting because aside from Roger the alien and Klaus the fish, the characters feel more real, despite the sometimes outlandish plot twists.

The show also doesn't really resort to the Family Guy gimmick of couching its jokes in needless flashbacks and asides, so narratively, the show is more fulfilling and feels more organic. Yes, there are flashbacks, but they are germane to that particular plot, and they aren't throwaway jokes. And whatever criticisms I can level against Family Guy, I have to admit that Seth MacFarlane is a talented voice artist and a fairly decent in-character singer, as is his sister.

I also appreciate that the series is a little more politically-oriented to its core, as Stan works at the CIA and is a fervent Reaganite and the family lives in Northern Virginia, and while most of the jabs aren't particularly subtle, there does seem to be a little bit more sophistication to the humor. I am sort of interested in seeing if the election of Barack Obama changes the nature of the jokes on the show.

If the upcoming Seth MacFarlane series The Cleveland Show is more in the tradition of American Dad than it is of Family Guy, well, I may find myself enjoying that series as well.


Arjan said...

haven't seen this one yet. I like family guy most of the time, but sometimes I just get irritated with it, maybe it's the same thing I get when watching too many Jim Carey movies or maybe a better example..Eddy Murphy movies..I just have to walk away.

Megan said...

I agree. I was prepared not to like it at first, for the exact reasons you mention.

But it grew on me...

MC said...

Arjan: After it's initial cancellation, I liked watching the Family Guy reruns... but it seems like the qualities I liked about those earlier episodes started to grate on me as the new seasons rolled out.

Megan: I think the moment that started to really got me to notice the qualities of the series was the two part episode in Saudi Arabia.

poppedculture said...

For the most part I find I prefer American Dad to Family Guy. It's as if MacFarlane decided to answer critics who only see FG as a series of one-off jokes by creating a fully realized family.

In some ways I'd say it is closer to King of the Hill than Family Guy. Stan is Hank, Steve is Bobby, Hayley is Luanne, Roger is Dale, umm... Kluas is Boomhauer. Ok, I'm stretching, but you see where I'm going.

Bart said...

This opinion mirrors mine almost perfectly, really. I like it much more than the wife does, but I think it's growing on her, as well.

MC said...

Jeremy: Part of me wonders what Parker and Stone think about American Dad truth be told, as it doesn't have the manatee factor. I know they are still having the rivalry with MacFarlane, but I haven't read anything from them specifically about the show.

Bart: Well, I think she will succumb sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

The first season of AD was a little shaky, but I've felt that since then it has been the superior show. And it has Patrick Stewart!