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“Family Guy”: Happy Rapture

December 14, 2009 |  2:56 pm

Cleveland_ItsAWonderfulLie_0086F You know what looks cool? Animated snow in HD. I usually don’t like to mention “The Simpsons” in my Show Tracker, but between that and “American Dad,” I've gotten my fill of snow for the season. I moved to L.A. from Iowa to avoid real snow, but I wish “American Dad” would make a screen saver of that snow so I can watch it while listening to Christmas carols, drinking hot chocolate and wearing shorts. Gotta love L.A.

Yes, it’s that time of year. “The Cleveland Show” and “American Dad” gave us new Christmas episodes. “Family Guy” wasn’t holiday related, but it did have Hugh Laurie as an animated Dr. Greg House, which is gift enough.

I’ve always referred to “the Cleveland Show” as one of the Seth MacFarlane-animated series, but “a Cleveland Brown Christmas” was a total Mike Henry episode. Not only did it focus on Cleveland and Rallo (both voiced by Henry), but we got a special guest appearance by Herbert the elderly pedophile singing “Silent Night.” I was hoping for a little Bruce the Performance Artist or the Greased-up Deaf Guy, but I guess we’ll have to wait for that.

In the episode, Cleveland fills in as Santa Claus at the company party after the regular guy hanged himself in his car port (Fred Peterson was raping old ladies!?!). Cleveland gets drunk off eggnog and tells Rallo that his father isn’t the undercover agent he claims to be but instead is a freelancer at a car wash. The story stayed pretty basic to leave room for the show’s trademark extended jokes, like the Gloria music number, the toy train wreck/baseball report and the carnage of the freed reindeer.

FGuy_BusinessGuy__0329F “Family Guy” veered away from the holiday spirit momentarily to let Peter run his father-in-law’s company. He throws Carter a make-up bachelor party that leads to a heart attack and a coma that not even Dr. House can bring him out of. Peter talks Lois into letting him run the company, which, of course, he wrecks with products like the African American heart monitor, Jeremy Irons’ cereal, and Scream in a Box.

When Carter finally wakes up to find Peter drunk with power, he and Lois team up to find a way to bring him down. They just need the one thing that Peter fears: a swamp monster. I liked the Scooby-Doo chase sequence at the end, but it seemed strange after the storyline was all wrapped up. Though not nearly as strange as the actual end of the episode. I wonder how they’ll get Peter down.

AmDad_RapturesDelight_0443F And finally, “American Dad” has a Christmas special tied to the rapture. “American Dad” always has fun Christmas specials, whether Stan is traveling into the past and messing up “Taxi Driver” or traveling to heaven to crash Jesus’ birthday party. “Rapture’s Delight” even made reference to past Christmases with the reappearance of Michelle, Stan’s angel lawyer.

The rapture opened the door for some incredible animation. “American Dad” has gotten really good at removing unnecessary characters, so once Haley and Steve have flown naked up to their own private heavens full of cheeseburger-pooping horses, and Klaus ends up mounted on the wall, Stan and Francine are treated to a children’s special on what happens to those left behind, then a flash forward to them surviving in the “Road Warrior” future.

I have to admit that I was a little let down by the anti-Christ. He was a little too much like Frank Gorshin’s Riddler to be scary (although he is supposed to be literally the opposite of Jesus, so I guess he filled the part well from that point of view. I just think he needs to rethink the placement of at least one upside-down cross on his uniform).

Through lines: Along with the bookending Christmas stories in “The Cleveland Show” and “American Dad,” there were several other nods to each other between the three episodes. My favorite had to be the opening credit title card for “The Cleveland Show” showing the entire Brown family throwing snowballs at Meg. Poor Meg. Can’t even catch a break on other shows.

Obscurest reference: “Family Guy” won this one with a little self-referential obscure humor. When Peter threatens to fire Lois and she said that he can’t fire a member of the family, Peter brings up Lacey Chabert. Remember her? She was the original voice of Meg before Mila Kunis took over. Even I had to be reminded of that. Nice.

Most possibly offensive joke: "While all three shows had their fair share of offensive jokes, I’m going to have to give this to the ending of “The Cleveland Show.” The violent, perverted reindeer running through the show had some good moments, but the topper had to be it knocking over and humping Santa Claus just before the credits. Both festive and disturbing. How many other shows can pull off that?

-- Andrew Hanson

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Photo credits: Fox Television

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