Family Guy Season 1 Review
Family Guy is another animated American comedy show that, very much like the show where it draws its strongest influences from, The Simpsons, manages to eclipse any comedic British sitcom from the past several years with amazing ease. Like The Simpsons, Family Guy focuses around a typical (well, almost typical) American Family, the Griffins. We have Peter Griffin (voiced by the shows creator Seth MacFarlane), the overweight man of the house who always means well but forever causes trouble, his long suffering (and slender) wife, Lois (voiced by Alex Borstein), their teenage son (Chris, voiced by Seth Green) and daughter (Meg, voiced by Lacey Chabert) and moving on to the not so typical members of the family we find baby Stewie (a megalomaniacal one-year old who is intent on killing his family!) and the walking (on two feet) talking, alcoholic intellectual dog, Brian (who like Stewie is also voiced by Seth MacFarlane).
Of course through these 14 episodes that make up Series 1 of Family Guy you will see the Griffin family get into all variety of situations from the normal (a family members Birthday party) to the quite abnormal (a visitation from Death!) but whatever the situation the show is driven by the often razor sharp humour that is delivered superbly via the various voice artists. While occasionally the show can find itself walking a thin line between funny and just plain insulting it usually gets it right but always manages to diffuse any mistakes with the shows constantly excellent and numerous parodies of both Television shows and Movies alongside endless jokes at the expense of various celebrities (including an outstanding take on William Shatner in episode 2).
Family Guy is a show that certainly divides its audience. This is mostly down to the offbeat humour that, certainly in America does not always go down to well and for this reason the show has had a troubled run in the US where every time a new season (they are currently on their third season) starts it sees constant interruptions to the schedule along with the constant threat of cancellation. My only gripe with the show has nothing to do with the humour (which is probably more suited to the British anyway) and not even the sometimes obvious direct rips of The Simpsons plots and gags but more the way that the shows main character, Peter Griffin, can be so intolerably unlike able that he makes even Homer Simpson look like the perfect gentleman! That and the occasional topical gag that will fly over most non-American heads are the only niggles I have and as they never last for more than a minute or so you will soon find yourself drawn back in by the shows endless high points including the often superb characters of Stewie and Brian who must win the awards for best cartoon characters in an American show alongside Homer Simpson and Bender (from Futurama).
To round off this review in my usual style for a TV Series I will give you a brief rundown of the 14 episodes that make up Season 1 of this superb animated series...
Death has a Shadow When Peter loses his job he cannot bring himself to let the family see his failings but soon learns that he can earn a fortune via a mistake in the benefits system.
I Never Met the Dead Man When the local Cable TV transmitter is put out of commission Peter soon learns that life does go on without his favourite shows but his new found enthusiasm for life soon tires out his family. A series highlight this episode also features Stewie's attempts to destroy a piece of Broccoli and a stunning interpretation of William Shatner that will certainly humour anyone who found Jim Carrey's impressions in the Ace Ventura films hilarious.
Mind over Murder After a run in with the law Peter is under House Arrest, so to appease his boredom he turns his basement into a Bar so all his mates can come round for a drink. At first Lois is none too pleased until she starts to entertain the crowds with her singing much to the annoyance of Peter.
Chitty Chitty Death Bang It is Stewie's first birthday but Peter ruins all of Lois' plans so has to arrange a birthday party at the last minute.
A Hero Sits Next Door After an accident at work Peter has to find a replacement batter for the company Baseball team so he asks his new neighbour to step up to the challenge (no pun intended!). I have to put in a mention for Patrick Warburton who puts in an excellent performance (and becomes a show regular from here on in) as Joe (in a similar role to his comical animated turn as Kronk in Disneys The Emperors New Groove).
The Son Also Draws Chris wants to quit the Scouts but Peter is none too pleased until a spiritual journey convinces him otherwise!
Brian: Portrait of a Dog After being humiliated at a Dog Show Brian runs away from home.
Peter Peter Caviar Eater The Griffins inherit a mansion from Lois' Aunt and after they move in their newfound rich lifestyle goes to Peters head.
Running Mates Lois is running for the position of School President when Peter suddenly decides to take an interest and becomes extremely competitive which all leads on to some decidedly underhanded techniques to gain votes.
Holy Crap When Peter's father retires Peter sees it as an opportunity to spend some time together so invites his father to stay with the Griffin family in Quahog. Unfortunately this does not agree with the Griffin family although Stewie takes a liking to this 'God' fellow whom he is introduced to via his Grandpa.
If I'm Dyin' , I'm Lyin' When one of Peters favourite TV Shows is cancelled he decides to get it back on the air by pretending Chris is dieing and thus getting another TV Show to grant Chris his last wish, which is to get Peters favourite TV Show back on the air! Of course things do not go quite as planned.
Love Thy Trophy After winning a trophy together the Streets families soon turn against one another when it comes to sharing their prize.
Death is a Bitch After he is given a clean bill of health Peter is outraged at the cost of medical care so falsifies his bill to read that he is dead which results in a visit from Death himself to the Griffin family! While Peter is attempting to rectify things Stewie takes quite a liking to their guest and engages in his most outright attempt on Lois life yet!
The King is Dead Rounding off series 1 we see Lois attempt to put on a local play of 'The King and I' but yet again Peter takes an interest and Lois dreams are ruined as Peter completely remakes the classic play into something of an atrocity!
You may have noticed that this DVD release has received a 15 Certificate and I for one applaud Fox’s decision to go with a higher rating (which could lose them sales for a ‘cartoon’) as this is an adult show and deserves to be seen in its original uncut format unlike the way those butchers at Channel 4 show it!
For this DVD edition of Family Guy Fox have presented us with a transfer of a print (in the original 4:3 Aspect Ratio) that is in pristine condition offering a crisp look with its rock solid colour rendition and equally stable black levels. This transfer really is very striking and it is only its generally superb clarity and overall quality that allows you to pick up on some minor faults. These being the occasionally unstable rendition of the various lines used in the shows animation which can lead to anything from simple jaggies to some quite noticeable artefacts where the colour around the black lines is also affected. These problems are however minimal at best and only really noticeable if you are purposefully studying the picture so for most viewers this show will look nothing short of sublime.
For the audio side of things Fox have simply presented us with the original DD2.0 English audio which unsurprisingly offers little to no use of your surround sound set-up but simply does its job as it should by providing a clear rendition of the shows original audio. English subtitles are also available although they have an awful black background that blocks out the picture the subtitles are overlaid onto!
Unlike The Simpsons Season 1 Boxset from Fox Family Guy Season 1 has received no such special edition treatment and is provided free of any form of extra features. While something would have been preferable to nothing (the rarely seen 15-minute Pilot Episode springs to mind) the £24.99 price point should be applauded (especially with online discount) as it will make the series a more attractive prospect to those who have never had the opportunity to enjoy it. Something I would like to mention here is the lack of any 'Play All' feature from the otherwise easy to use Menu system which means the user has to select each episode one after the other and when you plan to just sit back and watch the entire disc this proves to be an annoying oversight (and one Fox are guilty of on their other TV Series DVDs).
Featuring 14 fully uncut episodes of this superb comedy series at an excellent price point what more could you possibly want from this DVD Edition of Family Guy? Well, a few extras would have been nice and those faults in the picture could have been ironed out but otherwise this is a must have for any fan of the series.