September 27th saw FOX’s season premiere of its Animation
DominationShoveitalloverhere block, with The Simpsons reminding us it’s been around for 20 years (and showing its age) followed by THREE Seth MacFarlane shows giving us The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, not necessarily in that order.
The Simpsons started their 21st season with an inspired concept that seemed rather similar to several inspired concepts it had done before, but whenever Springfield meets Hollywood, it’s good for a show-load of rather obvious jokes. The whole idea of the Everyman superhero was good enough that it left me wishing it could be spun off into its own ongoing comic book parody-fest (THAT’S A HINT, BONGO COMICS), but last night’s episode was oddly missing the usual B-story and with a Homer-centric A-story, that’s WAY TOO MUCH HOMER. Even Comic Book Guy seemed wasted in the story once he set it in motion. NOT the Worst. Episode. Ever., but a mix of everything that’s good and bad about having 400+ episodes under a show’s belt. Like I said before, showing its age.
Then came the debut of “The Cleveland Show”, spinning Family Guy’s token black character off into his own sub-universe, and it was, shockingly, more than a little boring. It was replacing King of the Hill, which is probably the only truly character-based Prime Time Toon ever to last more than one season, but King’s Mike Judge is one of the few people who can pull it off (something that was obvious to me ever since I saw the other early Judge toons a million years ago on MTV along with the one that introduced Beavis & Butthead). It seemed like MacFarlane and company were following in Judge’s footsteps and using the entire episode to set up the series with a credible premise. And if it’s one thing MacFarlane should avoid AT ALL COST it’s CREDIBLE ANYTHING. Of course, Cleveland Brown was one of the LEAST over-the-top characters in the FG universe, and maybe they wanted this to be something different from a usual MacFarland toon. But it all seemed too tame, with the only character that couldn’t exist in a live-action sitcom a bear with a Russian accent and only a couple ‘random digression’ sequences (Family Guy’s bread and butter), one of which was referred back to in the show’s final gag. But that gag was also quite telling in the way it showed how painfully aware the producers and writers are that this was a cartoon about BLACK PEOPLE. Yes, it appears Seth MacFarlane has committed what for him should be the ULTIMATE SIN: POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.
Reviewer’s digression: I don’t think being PC in itself is a bad thing, unlike many so-called funny people, as long as you’re not hanging out banners saying “HEY, I’M BEING NON-OFFENSIVE HERE”. Of course, these days, unfunny humor more often comes from the people waving the Political INcorrectness banner, but humor is all about making people LAUGH, not making them comfortable OR uncomfortable. And Family Guy is its best when it’s just bouncing off the wall, and not pointing out the walls it’s bouncing off.
Which leads us to the season premiere of Family Guy, which rewarded us for our patience through Cleveland with another semi-brilliant “Brian and Stewie in The Road to…” episode. For me, the world-weary dog and megalomaniac genius toddler are FG’s best characters , not to mention having the best chemistry together, so it’ll be a long time until I’m likely to declare an episode has TOO MUCH BRIAN & STEWIE (as opposed to Peter Griffin, who was always the personification of “TOO MUCH HOMER SIMPSON”). And the “Multiverse” premise was a perfect blank canvas on which to splatter just about anything. They splattered it all, and much of it was inspired splattery. It seems the entire world has declared the sequence in “The Disney Universe” to be the best thing Family Guy has ever done and I am NOT going to fight that wave. But something in me wishes so much that the scenes in live action, low res and the “Robot Chicken Universe” were more than quick one-off gags. And did anyone besides me see the final gag coming a mile away (like an oncoming truck)?
The final half-hour of FOX’s Animation
DominatrixOhwhatever was “American Dad”, previously known as “MacFarlane’s Other Show”, but now with Cleveland hanging out, it becomes “MacFarlane’s Other Other Show”, reminding us that he’s not very good at politically-based satire either (it’d be a total bore without the alien with Paul Lynde’s voice). AD was pretty much what you could usually expect (but some of the visual gags in the “Vietnam War Re-creation” were better than usual), which does severe damage to any hope I may have that the MacFarlane’s New Show will get funnier as it goes on.
And could it be FIVE YEARS since I personally previewed the debut of American Dad for MSNBC.com? And could it be that AD is the ONLY show in that entire collection of “New Comedies for ’04-’05” that is still around? That does severe damage to any hope I may have for TV comedy PERIOD.