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'American Dad!': The middle child

April 19, 2010 |  7:40 am

AmericanDad_09_v1F “American Dad” is Seth MacFarlane’s middle child. It's the kid with black hair in a family  of blonds. The oldest and the youngest have so much in common: direct spinoff, same sense of humor and style. “The Cleveland Show” is almost like “Family Guy Jr.,” but “American Dad” is the odd man out. 

This week, thanks to “Sons of Tucson” knocking it off the schedule for a couple of weeks, “American Dad” is all new while “The Cleveland Show” and “Family Guy” take a breather. Watching “American Dad” on its own made me wonder, do people like “American Dad”? How do they rank it compared with the other Sunday Fox cartoons? 

Personally, I love “American Dad.” Though I’ve always been a fan of the middle child (my favorite “Star Trek” series is “Deep Space Nine”), mostly because I’m a middle child myself. 

“American Dad” stands out to me for two main reasons: unique storylines and Roger. Tonight’s episode had both in spades.

Previously on “American Dad,” Stan and Roger were trapped in an elevator. The only thing that kept them going was their friendship. A friendship so strong, they ran out after getting saved and purchased matching necklaces from the Jewelry Exchange. But their friendship is threatened when Roger drunkenly kisses Francine in wine country. Roger fights to keep Stan from finding out the truth.

Not a crazy, out-there plot, but it does give Roger an opportunity to go wild. First of all, getting Roger and Francine drunk together is easy comedy. You get Roger’s lost wallet and Francine eating ice from the machine. I laughed out loud when Roger fell off his chair and casually said he was about ready to call it a night.

Then, after the ill-fated attempt for a kiss, Roger’s methods of keeping Francine from telling can best be described as sociopathic. Roger has often shown an almost vengeful disregard for other people’s feelings and even their safety. He goes so far as to bury Francine alive in a wine crate to avoid losing his necklace buddy. Roger isn’t all bad. When he finds out he can easily solve the problem by getting Stan to kiss his girlfriend, Roger goes back to add an air pipe and shove down a sandwich. 

Is there another character like that on television? So destructively self-adsorbed? Dare you to name one. Especially one who still comes off as so likable. 

If Roger wasn’t taking his situation far enough for you, there was always the secondary story about Steve and his lucid dreams. Haley and Klaus listen to his smug bragging long enough and decide to prank him into believing he’s controlling his dreams when really he’s awake. It’s one thing to have him claim its pajama day and kiss the hot girl in his science class, but when he attempts to fly and ends up impaling said hot girl on a fencepost, you know you’ve reached an extreme only “American Dad” brings you.

Through lines:  “American Dad” was very self-aware this week. While trying to convince Francine to keep the kiss a secret, Roger brought up how Stan kept it a secret that he was an ice dancer way back in the episode “Of Ice and Men.” But they didn’t address the fact that this wasn’t the first time Francine had been buried alive. Barry buried her back in “With Friends Like Steve’s.”

Obscurest reference:  Has to be “Iconoclasts, with Katherine Helmond and Usher.” How many people know the show “Iconoclasts”? Who knows Katherine Helmond by name? And what person who says yes to both of those questions can name one Usher song? It’s obscure multiplied by obscure. Obscure squared.

Most possibly offensive joke:  Roger’s wine-rating system that drunkenly veers into mild racism didn’t quite go far enough. Instead, I’m going with Steve’s backseat “Steve time.” The positioning of his feet and the strained way he said “no talking” were specific enough details to paint an unnecessarily vivid picture.

-- Andrew Hanson


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Photo: Fox Television