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Family Guy

Family Guy is an animated comedy about the dysfunctional Griffin family. Head of the house is lazy drunk Peter, married to Lois, with dim son Chris, unattractive daughter Meg, evil genius baby Stewie and talking dog Brian. FOX 1999-???

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Episode 11 - The Former Life of Brian

29 March 2012

Synopsis: Brian pretends to be a magician to impress a woman. When things don’t work out he looks up his old girlfriend Tracy Flanagan. When he finds her she tells him that he has a son Dylan. Dylan goes home with Brian and they begin to bond. Brian annoys everyone with his self righteous parenting until Dylan goes home to help out his mum.

The Good: The story is actually a good one, at least in theory. Brian becoming an obnoxious parent is well parodied and the message of the story is good. Brian helps Dylan gets his life in order and he decides to go back and help his mother out. If the show had taken longer over the story, rather than waste time with the magic routines it might have had more emotional resonance than it does. It might help if the show had the consistency to make you believe this might affect Brian in the future.

They really go all the way here with the “Stewie is gay” routine. It is funny in places (nice use of the baby monitor) if you can look past how ridiculous or disturbing it should be for a baby to be saying these things.

There are a lot of flashback jokes squeezed in here and you may find some funnier than I did depending on how you feel about each reference. But I think they caught something with their dig at Monty Python, the Cocoa Puffs Bird and the Wizard of Oz (see Best Joke). I suppose if you hate Matthew McConaughey you may laugh too.

Flashback ratio (good-medium-bad): 1-5-4

The Bad: There just isn’t much depth to Family Guy anymore, so the plot seems dull at times. It wouldn’t if you had faith as a viewer that it was a significant event.

Otherwise there is the usual blend of jokes which don’t work for one reason or another. Either they are tasteless (Mexican funeral), too silly (Peter’s playdo hair) or just really obvious and not funny (Old widow living in a downstairs apartment).

Dylan beating up the monkey living in Chris’ closet is an interesting moment. The evil monkey was one of those creations very early on in the show which was aimed at a specific kind of laugh. It was one of those jokes which worked for a lot of people because no one believed the monkey was real and the mention of it sounded so ridiculous and yet we could see he was there. Seeing him beaten up is not a shocking or funny moment. It is a clash between what Family Guy once was (a clever show trying new things) and what it has become (a show which tries to get laughs by being shocking and vulgar).

One of the shows more recent surreal comic inventions is Al Harrington’s emporium of wacky inflatable tube men. He gets another run out here trying to sell “crudely painted, not-so-funny, plywood, cut-out, folk-art.” It’s one of those jokes which goes on for so long that it should be used very sparingly.

Finally Stewie points out that how could Brian, a dog, have a twelve year old son. Of course Brian says if you don’t like it, go on the internet and complain. Well, here we are. To be honest that implausible plot doesn’t bother me, cartoons have a certain largesse when it comes to continuity, but as you know there is a lot more about this show that does bother me.

Best Joke: Brian says the reunion between him and his son is more awkward than the goodbye in the Wizard of Oz. We cut to Dorothy saying goodbye in turn to the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow. She of course says she will miss him most of all. The other two now round on her and point out what an unkind thing that is to say. Pretty clever.

The Bottom Line: A passable episode because the plot makes sense but the jokes aren’t the best.

('DiggThis)

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