Seth MacFarlane, the boyish, enthusiastic, prolific, and incorrigibly naughty creative mind behind Family Guy
, is sort of an acquired taste. But judging by the long-running popularity of Fox's animated series (11 seasons and counting), lots of people have made that particular acquisition. He still has plenty of detractors, many of them loyalists of The Simpsons
who still believe that Family Guy
is a subpar rip-off. But after so many years, those objections have pretty much been shouted down by those who appreciate the anarchic farce and often surrealistic stream-of-consciousness comedy of the Quahog, Rhode Island, Griffin clan: Peter, Brian, Stewie, Lois, Chris, and Meg. MacFarlane holds a tight reign on the show, which literally couldn't be produced without him since he provides the voices for those first three Griffins. Their family dysfunction is nothing close to realistic, but there are still remnants of inspiration from classic '70s-era sitcoms that MacFarlane has credited as influences. The big difference is all the rudeness and crudity, as well as the sometimes borderline-offensive teasing of real celebrities or social issues that MacFarlane always holds in open season. That said, the show is absolutely an equal opportunity offender in which no person, political issue, illness, point of view, or handicap is sacred. MacFarlane has heard all the criticism and his response has always been a cheerful "lighten up!" and a twinkly eye. This three-disc package is not season 10, rather it is the remaining 14 episodes from season 9 with a handful of filler material. To single out a few episodes of note, "Brian Writes a Bestseller" is pretty close to classic with Brian the dog going on a tour to promote his self-help book, "Wish It, Want It, Do It," while the 1-year-old Stewie acts as his publicist. Brian caps his tour with an appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher
, where he gets smacked down by the cartoon version of the actual host. It speaks to how beloved and popular Family Guy
has become that so many actual celebrities open themselves up to whatever may come by putting in cameos playing themselves. (The best-known recurring names are Adam West as Quahog mayor Adam West and Patrick Stewart, who sometimes plays a well-elocuted character named Patrick Stewart.) Another standout episode in the set is "Road to the North Pole," an extended musical Christmas special in which Stewie and Brian set off on a holiday journey to assassinate Santa Claus. Then there's "German Guy," the saga of young Chris Griffin befriending a seemingly nice old neighbor named Franz who turns out to be a former Nazi. Creepy old Herbert tries to warn Chris away from his new friend, and the story builds to the slowest and perhaps most inspired fight scene ever staged. The episode is fodder for the set's best special feature: "Herbert and Franz: The Making of an Epic Fight Sequence," in which the writers show how they acted out such a ridiculous and hilarious situation in order to bring it to animated life. Other features include a segment about the care that went into the musical compositions for "Road to the North Pole," a handful of commentary tracks, animatic diagrams of how select episodes were developed, and the public ceremony for Adam West's star placement on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's a nice package that shows Family Guy
fully in its stride as one of the most popular animated TV shows ever created. --Ted Fry
Get more Big Bang for your buck when you bring home this hilarious collection of 14 Family Guy episodes, in which Peter needs a new kidney, Lois becomes a boxing champ, Chris finds a new hobby, and Brian and Stewie unravel the space-time continuum in an effort to save the universe. Travel to a new cosmos of comedy with Family Guy!