American Dad Volume Six Review
|REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS|
Seth MacFarlane's interests are no longer with Family Guy...
As I write this, a thought continues to pollute my mind; one I feel I must share with you before I continue - when is enough...enough? How do we know when something has reached its natural climax - are there signs, indications, points of closure - and what are the dangers of continuing past this point? With regards to the animated comedy, this line has become somewhat blurred over the years; a seemingly frustrating battle between fans and a show's creator / funding studio.
Matt Groening was probably the first publicised example of this - The Simpsons has spent the best part of 15 years defending its right to be here, with many fans now feeling Fox should call time on the franchise, regardless of its success. Next there were Parker and Stone, the infamous creators of the foul-mouthed, poorly animated - but remarkably successful - South Park. Much like The Simpsons, South Park is forever defending itself from naysayers and those who feel that its tongue-in-cheek comedy has become somewhat redundant after 15 seasons...and who could blame them? Finally, there is Mr Seth MacFarlane, a former animator and writer for Hanna-Barbera who, following the success of Family Guy, is currently the highest paid writer of all time. Like his counterparts, MacFarlane has experienced his fair share of criticism, and for anyone familiar with Family Guy since its birth you will understand why. What started off as one of the most original comedies of its time has since become a stagnant, rather lacklustre addition to the genre, losing many of its true fans in the process.
However, all of the above share one aspect in common that, or so I feel, has enabled them to continue with their original ideas, unmindful of heavy criticism or negative reviews - a side project that drew attention away from its partner's failings.
American Dad has, for some time now, been the saving grace for my fading idolisation of the once proud and honourable Seth MacFarlane. While the series initially lived in the shadows of its big brother - and MacFarlane's first success - Family Guy, it has since grown up, shedding its metaphorical cocoon and flourishing into the comely series that we now see before us.
For those of you unfamiliar with its concept, allow me to educate - American Dad follows the unusual lives of the Smith family, headed by CIA agent - and unconventional father - Stan (MacFarlane). Making up the numbers are Stan's children Steve (Scott Grimes) and Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane), his wife Francine (Wendy Schaal), adopted alien Roger (MacFarlane again) and Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker), the family's loveable Goldfish (who had his mind switched with an Olympic German skier by the CIA). With a cast as unusual as the situations they find themselves in, American Dad has gone from strength to strength, and based on what I have seen of volume six, I'd say that MacFarlane's true commitments lie within this franchise.
With the cast now well and truly established, MacFarlane seems to have loosened the reigns a bit, allowing the characters to grow into themselves whilst ensuring that each episode relates back to the family as a whole. For anyone familiar with his work, it soon becomes oh-so-obvious that Seth follows an age-old foundation for comic script construction. In each episode, a certain family member will be faced with a new concept/conflict - which, as you would expect, is conveniently hilarious - before drawing the episode to a close with said character learning a lesson / realising how much they love their family...or circumstances...or life etc. Yet it is this unique obscurity that American Dad succeeds from, constantly offering audiences a fresh approach to an increasingly-saturated genre. Steve as a Vietcong re-enactment soldier (and subsequent sufferer of PTSD); Stan and Francine getting left behind after the Rapture...courtesy of some church-orientated nooky; and Roger joining the Police Academy - it's what makes the series great.
However, American Dad's pièce de résistance comes via its remarkable cast strength. Never have side-additions added so impressively to a series, and one has to give MacFarlane and Co credit for this. It's hard to single out specific performances - such is the standard of all additional characters - but there are a handful that must be mentioned. Deputy Director Avery Bullock, Stan's boss, who is voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart - or Jean-Luc Picard as he is better known - has to go down as one of the best voice-castings of all time. His suave, seductive tones perfectly compliment the make up of Avery, whilst allowing Stewart to prove his worth on a comic level. Outside the main cast, Deputy Bullock is the funniest member of American Dad, providing countless moments of laughter and unexpected humour. For example, when speaking about Leonardo da Vinci and his unusual name for the helicopter, Bullock goes on to say "...oh yes, da Vinci was a well-known sexual deviant. You know that sketch of a naked man in a wheel? Blueprints for a rape machine" - I implore any of you not to find that funny.
Another great addition is Steve's geeky cohort, consisting of 'Snot', Barry and Toshi. All three are voiced beautifully - and hilariously - and are truly reminiscent of a geek friendship group; you have the fat one (one I can relate to from my school days), the outsider and Toshi...who kind of just plays Toshi. Again, MacFarlane has certainly done his homework because the character development and back-stories are among the best in its genre.
What American Dad represents is fully circumstantial to where you find yourself. For an avid fan of animated-comedy such as myself, volume six has again proved that originality is still resurgent among its genre, despite what the likes of Family Guy and The Simpsons would have you believe. Yet, for a part-timer viewer, volume six represents one of the finest animated options available at present, marking a welcome addition to both the genre and the American Dad franchise.
Overall, American Dad: Volume Six is a clever, unexpected bonanza of surreal comedy. Its wild scenarios, likeable characters and fresh material have certainly made it a front runner amongst its competitors and, despite its tendency to be a bit dry from time to time, is a welcomed addition to the series. While Family Guy continues its dumbing down of content - seemingly intent on leaving behind a mushy, unrecognisable substance where once a classic grew - American Dad is embracing a higher level of comedy, combining what made FG great with a better understanding of what the audience really wants, and as such comes highly recommended.
Your normal, run-of-the-mill add-ons all feature here - trailers, deleted scenes, available commentary - all of which are enjoyable. However, considering the strength of the episodes and release as a whole, the extras are a bit disappointing...so their score is representative of this.
American Dad is out today and can be purchased here
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