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'Family Guy': Crime and punishment

February 1, 2010 | 11:00 am

Cleveland_OurGang_0065F Typically, I have to stretch to find a common theme among all the Sunday night MacFarlane-verse shows, but this week the connection was so clear I’m surprised they didn’t just call it “Crime and Punishment” night on Fox. From Stoolbend to Quahog, everyone’s fighting the law, and you don’t have to be Bobby Fuller to figure out who wins (it’s the law).

We start out at Stoolbend High School, which is being torn apart by hoodlums, literally. They’re busting open soda machines, tagging and urinating in the hall (though mostly to avoid the girl giving birth in the bathroom). Speaking remotely from the local hospital’s trample ward, Principal Farquhare threatens to expel the eight worst trouble-makers, until Coach Cleveland Brown steps in with his baseball bat to help straighten the kids out.

After bonding over shared love for “Die Hard,” the kids band together into a little gang they call the Crazy 8s. Cleveland wants to get the 8s working on a productive project, and, off Cleveland Jr.’s suggestion, he proposes selling cookies. Somehow in Cleveland’s description of a distribution, using baking powder to expand their supply and giving a sample to get customers hooked, the kids get the idea to sell drugs instead, turning Cleveland into a Tony Soprano-like crime lord.

What emerges is a sort of “Grand Theft Wonderful Life.” A rival gang kidnaps Cleveland Jr., forcing Cleveland and the Crazy 8s to come to the rescue. In the end, all the kids hand over all the drugs they’re keeping for themselves to save their mentor and his son. Even Cleveland’s brother shows up with a bag of Afghani heroine, the best in the world.  All in all, a surprisingly effective anti-drug episode. I could have done without the Rallo in the Superman costume subplot, but they more than made up for it with Cleveland calling out the audience for half of them being high.

FGuy_DialMegForMurder_0060F Then we headed to the Quahog Civic Center because the rodeo is in town. Peter catches wind of it from the news after the memorial for Drunk Billy, the news copter pilot, and confirms his participation with “the Guide.” Peter actually seems to have some strong rodeo skills if the assaults on his children say anything, but his piano playing skills are even better. Unfortunately Peter’s rodeo experience ends up being quite horrific.  So very, very horrific. I think I might need some therapy after that.

From the rodeo, Brian picks up a writing assignment about teenage girls, and his investigation into Meg reveals she’s dating a convict. When her institutionalized boyfriend escapes and hides in her closet, Meg gets caught and ends up in prison herself. She comes out a changed woman, terrorizing her family and savagely beating the kids who mock her at school.

It was fun to see Meg finally get to dish out the abuse she usually takes. This was a specifically bad episode for Peter. He even got curbed. Of course, by the end of the episode, Meg was back to normal and supplying a Wesley Snipes joke to go out on. Nice little burn to the “Simposons” as the credit rolled too.

AmDad_AJonesForASmith_0177F Finally, we swing past Langley, Va., where Stan is sick of bail-outs. Whether it is welfare or his daughter choking, Stan wants people to help themselves. He doesn’t even want Francine working in a soup kitchen to work off her DUI community service, but he does help himself to what he thinks is cold medication given to him by an unshaven man sitting on the park bench outside the homeless shelter. It might as well have been one of Cleveland’s Crazy 8s because Stan’s “cold medication” is actually crack.

Stan descends into his addiction, stealing from everyone around him and ruining Steve’s chance with a nerd-loving acrobat from his science class. It gets to the point where Stan even breaks into his neighbors’ home and takes the gay news team prisoner. In comes the world’s worst hostage negotiator, and before you know it, Stan’s in an airplane with a briefcase full of cash on his way to Central America. Only there, when he sees the community pulling together to teach a small boy how to fully rob him, does Stan learn the importance of helping others. Another great lesson only a MacFarlane cartoon can teach.

“American Dad!” continues to impress. I can’t believe I almost wrote this show off when it premiered as a poor copy of “Family Guy.” Now how could I live without my weekly dose of Roger, whether he’s using his baby lasso to get around the house or making himself anatomically correct with plungers? And if that wasn’t enough, we also got a commercial for crack listing all the possible side effects. Too much good stuff to mention.

Through lines – Besides the obvious crime theme tonight, there were a couple of other cross-overs. “The Cleveland Show” had a visit from Chris Griffin. Anytime the ceiling is shot out, he has to fall through. Plus even though both “The Cleveland Show” and “American Dad!” dealt with drug use, they took the time to downplay pot use. We know how the writers feel about the whacky tobaccy.

Obscurest Reference – I’m going to give this one to “the Cleveland Show” for the line “What are you waiting for, the next Jim Jarmusch film?” Seeing as I’d have to struggle to name five Jarmusch films, I think that’s a winner.

Most Possibly Offensive Joke – “Family Guy” was on fire with the offensive jokes this week. Chinese NASCAR was a good attempt, but I think I might have to go with Goofy going to hell for helping plan the Sept. 11 attacks. It also confirms that Goofy is a dog. Two birds with one stone.

— Andrew Hanson


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Photos: Fox