Synopsis: Peter doesn’t care for his new neighbour Joe. Until that is, he needs a ringer to play for his company baseball team. Joe is the star of the game and the life of the party even though he is handicapped. Peter’s resentment grows deeper so he decides to interrupt a bank robbery to prove he can be a hero too. Meanwhile Stewie sees Jo’s wheelchair as a means to escape Lois’ clutches and Meg becomes attracted to Joe’s son Kevin.
The Good: “Holy crip, he’s a crapple!” Peter says when he realises that Joe can’t walk. Peter’s politically incorrect attitude to his new neighbour does give this episode an interesting direction. Joe’s fight with the Grinch is a suitably silly way for this heroic cop to have lost the use of his legs. When Joe comes to save the day Peter says “I hope this place isn’t wheelchair accessible.”
The new neighbours certainly provide a new dynamic for the Griffin’s to play off of. Stewie’s latest misunderstanding (that Joe is a cyborg) is quite fun. The odd flashback joke works nicely too, the best being a Justice League of America parody (as Wonder Woman is the only woman there).
Flashback ratio (good-medium-bad): 1-6-2
The Bad: It’s still not clear where Family Guy’s stories are meant to land. Peter resents the attention that goes to Jo. A perfectly understandable reaction. But he takes particular exception to being upstaged by a man with a handicap. Is the joke to see how small minded Peter is being? That sort of makes sense.
Perhaps it was just the choice of storyline that didn’t work so well here. Once Peter headed into the bank every twist in the tale was the opposite of what you would expect to happen in an actual bank robbery. First the robbers are loved by their hostages, then Peter disarms them with a game of improv, then they outwit him before being disarmed by Jo’s moving speech. The counter intuitive jokes which the writers like to tell work best when other characters are behaving as you would expect them to. Then the joke comes as a surprise. Here every twist is counter intuitive, so nothing stands out and nothing seems very funny.
It’s difficult to know whether to take the “moral” of the story seriously either. The writers follow the traditional sit com pattern of having Peter realise what really matters at the end. But even then they have him insult an old lady who has just been robbed. Similarly we have Meg struggling to get the attention of Jo’s son, learn how to do it but then it lead to dubious moral consequences.
In general the flashback jokes are all pretty short and average here. The short length means if there isn’t an initial laugh to be had, each one quickly loses steam. Jokes about heroin and suicide aren’t really necessary, especially considering how short and inconsequential they were. I should also ask how Jo drives a car if he is a paraplegic.
Best Joke: Having decided to interrupt a bank robbery in order to impress his family, Peter yells “To the Bat Cave!” As in Bat Man he pushes a button, an opening appears in the floor and he slides down a poll into darkness. He then turns the light on to reveal dozens of actual bats sleeping. “Uh oh” he says as the bats fly around crazily. A really nice unexpected gag.
The Bottom Line: When the plot is strong, the jokes are strong. It’s true with every comedy including this one. When a plot is enjoyable and dragging you along for the ride, the jokes just flow along better. This is an average plot and the jokes feel that way too.
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