Season One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Seth MacFarlane, Rachael MacFarlane, Wendy Schaal, Scott Grimes
Directors:  Pam Cooke, Seth MacFarlane
Audio: Dolby 5.1
Video:  Color Full Frame, aspect ratio 1.33:1, Spanish, French, and English subtitles
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length: 284 minutes, three discs, 13 episodes
Release date:  April 25, 2006

"Stan, maybe you're just having  mid-life crisis.  You wanna cheat on me?"
"A mistress on my salary, Francine? Come on!"

"So you're saying I should never, ever have sex before marriage?"
"That's right, or angels will kill you.  Good night!"

Show ***1/2

The natural thing for any business to do when it has a successful product is to make another one that is similar but not quite the same to duplicate business, right?  Sometimes this works in television with spin-offs, but often viewers know better. 

In the case of Fox's Family Guy, when the show was canceled, it's ceators began working on American Dad and then Family Guy became the best-selling DVD set of the year. American Dad has not been popular as Family Guy overall but has enormous potential.  It reminds me of Married With Children crossed with The Daily Show and actually seems more realistic when it is most politically incorrect.  As some of the cast members say in the features and commentaries, animation lets us laugh at ourselves more easily and lets the storytellers go places which they could not with a live cast.  In our tough times it is great to have comedy which is both timely and hilarious. 

American Dad makes fun of political viewpoints pretty equally without getting nearly as personal or nasty as the evening news or most newspaper columns.  Through humor, we see the true absurdity of many otherwise serious aspects of life. Dad Stan Smith is a CIA agent who takes his job just a little too seriously.  He is more even more clueless than Agent Smart and perhaps a bigger bigot than Archie Bunker but his large muscular frame and hyper-masculine voice and demeanor will even make conservatives laugh. 

His wife Francine is a walking Barbie doll who is a model mother today but had a wild youth as shown in Francine's Flashback.  She is also the object of the fish's lust (yeah it's weird) but the daughter Haley is really the hit.  She is a total young hippie liberal stereotype who is even more clueless than her dad.  Son Steve is a total nerd but probably shrewder than any other character.  Alcoholic alien Roger is the sexually ambivalent oddball who manages to get mixed up with just about everything. 

When Stan finds out that Haley, his daughter, is stripping, and that most strippers suffer from a lack of support from their fathers, he decides to not only let her strip, but even cheers her on and throws money at her to help her self-esteem! 

Francine's song and dance number in Saudi Arabia in the two-part "Stan of Arabia" is one of the funniest things I have ever seen on television. She dances in the streets in very little clothing, shocking the authorities and reminding us that women are terrorized in their every day lives in that part of the world. 

Video ****

An excellent transfer, no artifacts or other problems, and naturally the picture is better than the original network broadcast. 

Audio ****

Not just a perfect mix in 5.1 but LOUD, too!  It is largely for the exceptional audio that I recommend hearing and not just seeing television on DVD.  The rear channels are not used to their full potential, maybe, but they are still used more than in most DVD television releases. 

Features ***1/2

"Making of American Dad" reveals that the show was inspired by All in the Family and current political events.  While most of the creators are left-leaning, they actually seem to present more right wing leanings, while taking a slightly sarcastic smack at them, such as this scene in which Stan is interrogating his new neighbors:

"So, uh, what part of Islam do you hail from?"
"Well, my parents are from Iran, but I was born in Cleveland."
"Really? Well, we have a Cleveland in America, and it'd be just super if you didn't blow it up."

I am something of a right-winger myself and while I do worry about Iran, and I get the joke that "Islam" is not a real place.  

Twelve episodes have commentaries and they are better than most DVD sets because they actually contain a great deal of information and are almost as funny as the shows themselves.  Often I see featurettes and hear commentaries that are so boring that I can't imagine how these people created anything good, let alone how they managed to sell their project to a studio. 

There are also forty-two (yes FORTY-TWO) deleted scenes, an "American Animatics" featurette, "Secrets of the Glass Booth" and "Table Read and Animatic" which are basically behind-the scenes programs.  The deleted scenes alone are worth the price of the whole set. 

In these troubled times we need to take a cue from Abe Lincoln and set aside time to laugh at ourselves, and American Dad is a perfect escape. 

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