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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 14 - We Love You Conrad

22 March 2012

Synopsis: Brian’s ex Jillian is getting married and he is jealous of her fiancée. Feeling inadequate he gets drunk but ends up hooking up with Lauren Conrad of The Hills fame. He is initially ashamed to be with another dumb blonde but soon discovers she is smarter than he is. He realises he wants Jillian back and rushes to her wedding to intervene.

The Good: This is a really enjoyable episode of television. I firmly believe that the formula for a good twenty two minute show is what grounds this and allows you to become absorbed in it and make you laugh. The focus of the story is on Brian, his feelings and his attitude to women. Stewie is by his side cracking jokes and helping move the story along. Then in the background you have Jillian’s wedding as the bookends to the episode and Peter helping her out, again moving the plot forward. By having these two stories link and intertwine there is never a dull moment to the story. The flashback jokes are only used when a scene doesn’t otherwise have a good joke in it. And most of them do.

Brian’s story actually makes him seem very human. And I don’t mean because he is a dog, I mean there is depth to his mistakes which make him seem more like a real person. He broke up with Jillian because she was too dumb. But once he is made to feel like she did he suddenly admits how much he missed her. He was far more comfortable being the smart one and rushes to get her back. And he can’t, she has moved on so he goes back to where he started, as Family Guy always does.

But his struggle with his feelings and particularly Stewie’s role as side kick is fun throughout. After Brian makes an ass of himself at dinner and hurts a waiter, Stewie leans over and says “Dinner’s going great!” Stewie’s homosexual leanings lead to some nice gags too as he gets carried away with his love of hats. Then later he suggests Brian make Jillian jealous, but instead of taking Lauren out Stewie appears in drag. The scene is about Brian’s feelings but gets neatly hijacked by men at the restaurant actually recognising Stewie as Desiree.

Peter is his usual chirpy, honest self. He has no time to be polite and tells Lauren “Whenever I’m watching your show, you give me wood, where do we go from here?” There’s something about the question he tacks on the end, as if she made this their problem that amuses me. As did Peter and Jillian confusing one another with their own stupidity leading to Peter cautiously conceding “Well, be that as it may or not be that.”

Lauren Conrad gets some love from the writers as she is portrayed as a gifted intellectual. She even has a plausible excuse for playing dumb in public by using the media to generate money. That leads to the old favourite Bill Cosby impersonation which in the context of a sex tape was pretty funny. Brian trying to look smart for her led to a sweet Austin Powers joke which showed Brian’s insecurity and provided a giggle. The Family Guy producers went all out with her role and got Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon and Craig Ferguson to record live jokes at Brian’s expense which was a welcome addition to the show and did help make this episode special. If you have seen The Hills, then you get your choice of fun digs at the show and its stars. Particularly the joke about Spencer looking like a monkey.

Finally Quagmire pops up twice for some appropriately sleazy cameos and the flashback jokes were pretty solid this week. Mr Magoo provides a suitably surreal excuse for a Lindsay Lohan reference. And finally a celebrity dig hits its mark as Sting gets parodied for his singing style, something that is easily understandable and accurate.

Flashback ratio (good-medium-bad): 1-5-0

The Bad: The Wrath of Khan reference was pretty irrelevant. Again it’s that “I understand that” reaction rather than the “that was funny” reaction.

At this stage of Family Guy you have to accept that Stewie, a baby, can have relationships with adults without being seen as a baby. Even though in most contexts he is seen as a baby. There’s no point in fighting the tide.

Best Joke: Brian remembering one of the women he’s dated since Jillian. She is a bit older and less attractive than his normal dates and he asks “So you’re 27?” But to my surprise she turns the tables on him in one of those funny-when-you-treat-Brian-as-a-dog moments: “So you’re a golden retriever?”

The Bottom Line: This is twenty two minutes of non-stop entertainment. There is no wasted motion. There are no jokes which are irrelevant, offensive or incomprehensible. Most of the jokes just flow out of the characters interacting in a plot which is interesting and exposes Brian as a very real person.

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