Monday, May 16, 2016

The New Adventures of Old Tom (Family Guy; Special Review)

This just in, an animated Fox show in its fourteenth season churns out yet another poor episode. Will Mike give it a thrashing? Stay tuned after the break.

What is this? Animated adult sitcom, half-hour (24 minutes) length
Where did it air? FOX, which you can tell from the fact that it's an animated adult sitcom
Who stars in it? Seth MacFarlane, Seth MacFarlane, and Seth MacFarlane. Alex Borstein-ish? Seth Green voice-acting Seth Green. There are still people out there who are blown away by the fact that Meg is Mila Kunis (and used to be Lacey Chambert, but yeah, this is a Mila episode. They have been for well over a decade now)
 Why are we reviewing this? Because Mike's more than earned the right to review whatever the hell he feels like on this blog (Girl Meets World, Henry Danger, Family Guy, another crappy failed sitcom on NBC, Simple Truth almond milk for all I care which BTW is the best and don't listen to all those naysayers including yes Debby Ryan who say almond milk is killing California, my ability to find a lactose-free milk product that actually tastes good supersedes any concern for the state that produces all the shows we review here. Also Debby is an alcoholic why should I listen to what she has to say about almond milk?). But seriously and moreover, because of the simple virtue that Family Guy is animated, and because animation is still largely seen in this country as either a kids' domain or comedy domain (or both). Because Family Guy, despite its "adultness," still largely skews towards teens in the demos, albeit teens that are practically adults anyway. And because it's a good example of a simultaneously good and bad show like GMW, and that's what this blog's all about. And again because as far as I'm concerned Mike can review whatever he feels like.

I wanted to do this episode mostly because of how lazy, disappointing, and annoying it was. Before anyone starts assuming anything, Family Guy is one of my favorite shows. I have a personal attachment to it as it was the first adult cartoon I watched all the way back in 2007 when I was in elementary school. I have grown up with the show, and through the years, I have perused the internet to find out that it is one of the most hated animated series I know. I can see why it gets the hate it does, but I have stuck by it. Why? Because it is funny. Plot, characters, emotion, those things have become foreign to Family Guy in the past couple of seasons. But the one thing that I have always adored is its unique, off-beat sense of humor. When it cannot even be funny anymore, it does absolutely nothing for me. But a lack of humor is not the only problem this episode had because there are many more things to criticize it for.

Where do I start? How about we kick off with the fact that it takes an entire act for the main plot to start? Nothing in the first act has anything to do with the rest of the episode. It is completely disconnected from anything else and makes it a lot more difficult for me to be invested in the story. Keep in mind that I am talking about the A-plot here and only that. When you are going to tell a story, it needs some sort of structure, something that the audience can follow so nothing gets lost in translation. The episode starts with Lois needing to go to the mall because Peter and his friends ruined all her underwear. Then we get to the mall, and nothing really happens in the main plot because there is no main plot. Peter is just playing video games and the family gets annoyed so they leave him there. What does Peter do when he realizes that his family has left him at the mall? He acts like a four-year-old looking for his mother after being separated from her. Nothing about this situation makes any sense. Why doesn't Peter call Lois and ask her where she is? Why doesn't he try to get a ride home from somebody? Why is he acting like a toddler instead of a grown man in his forties? This is Peter the Brain Dead Manchild, the one who probably is incapable of tying his own shoes because Lois does it for him.

So Peter just flops around like an idiot at the mall for a couple of hours, then because of blaga fraga daga, the mall closes and Peter is left in there because no one ever bothered to kick him out. Then he gets on the kiddie train he was trying to get on earlier, breaks it, and ends up spinning around overnight, suffering from what I assume to be extensive nerve damage. Keep in mind that this was the entire first act and nothing has actually happened yet. Peter gets interviewed by the new news reporter Dallas Portland about his trauma, and pretty soon, everybody is on the jock for Dallas because he is attractive. Tom Tucker senses he is on the way out because Dallas is being groomed as his successor, and Peter decides to help Tom outshine Dallas because Lois is "creaming her spinach over him." This obviously fails, and Tom is fired. Peter tries to help Tom get his confidence back, but he does not want to hear it and tries to commit suicide. The news team shows up, Dallas gives no damns that his broadcasting colleague is about to kill himself, Peter steps in, episode over. 

So let's recap here: When Peter is being interviewed by Dallas about what happened at the mall, Lois legitimately does not care at all that she left her husband there to presumably die, because she is too busy checking out Dallas. The first act meant absolutely nothing at all. Peter's not pissed that his family abandoned him or that he almost died and his wife refuses to care. Other than a quick joke, the mall incident is never brought up again, so it was a complete waste of time. The main plot could have used that time to establish itself but instead, they decided to give us a bunch of stuff that was useless and unfunny. I can't even get invested in the main story when it feels so thin and by-the-numbers. I didn't expect Dallas to be a jerk, so that was a surprise. But other than that, nothing about this plot is worth going back to because of how undeveloped it was. We could have gotten more scenes of Dallas trying to steal Tom's job once Tom decides to take him under his wing. Where's Joyce Kinney in all of this? She's Tom's partner, how does she feel about him losing his job? Instead, we get Family Guy trying to reenact "Toy Store of Doom" from SpongeBob and a clunky transition into a plot that was given almost no time to do anything special. The whole thing was pointless, ridiculous, and above all else, unfunny.

The subplot was more developed, but just as unfunny and unremarkable as the main one. Brian finds a hot girl at the mall that works at a jewelry store and, apropos of nothing, decides to act like a rich guy to impress her. Why is he doing this? Did he think she only dated rich guys because she worked at a jewelry store and sold expensive items? That logic makes no sense, and they have no chemistry at all because it's just Brian being a lying, pathetic loser with no benefit to himself. He buys a $10,000 ring with plans to return it when the girl is off duty, but it fails when Chris eats it thinking it was a lug nut (he dared himself to do it, he has low self-esteem). So Brian and Stewie have to get Chris to pass the ring, and we get a couple unfunny gags that don't develop the plot or Brian's interactions with the girl at all. They go to the mall, make a mad dash for the jewelry store before it closes, Chris gets diarrhea, the ring comes out, and........the twist ending? The girl's not upset because Brian's not rich or that Chris went through his process in the store, it's because he lied. Wow. I was not expecting that. 

MORTY: Oh, man. What just happened, Rick?

RICK: Morty, you know how TV shows tend to.....tend to always do this plot where the girl rejects the guy at the end because he lied to her? And then Family Guy did it, and I wasn't like........."oh, wow, this is unexpected. This is not what I was expecting, Morty. Oh, wow, what an unprecedented twist ending that was!"

MORTY: Okay, okay, this plot's been done before, I get it. You don't have to bust my balls.

Rick and Morty, wonderful show. Anyway, this plot is really old and predictable. Of course Brian was going to lose at the end and get caught up in his ridiculous lie because Brian is a pathetic moron who has been reduced to a punchline and has very little resemblance to his original character in a lot of these new episodes. Besides that, this is the third time this season Brian has tried and failed to hook up with somebody. He tried banging Meg's friend in "Scammed Yankees," ran away with Bonnie in "The Heartbreak Dog," and failed to impress the jewelry store girl in this episode. Why are the writers so dead-set on making Brian into a hypersexual loser? Either that or he is just a side character who barely does anything. In the past, Brian's struggles with dating were more realistic and compelling. He was just someone trying to find his perfect match but was refusing to dumb down his standards for women who weren't worth his time. Even when he dated an idiot like Jillian, it was more for her body and a desire not to be alone, but then he realized he loved her a lot more than he thought. Nowadays, Brian just chases anybody and everybody regardless of the age difference or if he would even be compatible with them. It needs to stop. I hate seeing Brian act this way in almost every other episode. 

So yeah, at the end of the day, this was a pretty underwhelming episode. I had to talk about it because I just got this urge to review it the minute I saw it. I might review more episodes in the future, but for now, I wanted to get this one off my chest. On the whole, season 14 has been very mediocre. The season started off promising with a handful of decent episodes, but after the holiday break, it has been on a disappointing cold streak. Family Guy is notorious for not ending their seasons well, so I expect the same here. Hopefully, things get back on track in the fall.

Episode Grade: D+
Episode MVP: Tom Tucker, because he was the one character that felt the most human. When he says he was born to work in the news industry, I believe him. I knew he wasn't going to kill himself, but the way the show handled him in this episode gets some praise. He really shines in shows that are focused on him.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-This was a really humorless episode. There were a whole bunch of jokes, but none of them got more than a chuckle out of me. I laughed at Peter and Jerome's interaction, and when Peter and Tom made a skateboarding video with "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys playing in the background, but everything else was really lame. When Family Guy fails to make you laugh, you know the episode is in trouble.

-There was a cutaway gag in an earlier episode where Peter lost Lois at the store and he acted the exact same way he did in this episode. It was a lot funnier in that gag than in this episode. It's like what Mr. Enter said, Family Guy is now making episodes out of cutaway gags.

-I still can't get over the fact that Peter almost died at the mall and Lois didn't even care about that. He looked pretty beat up during the interview, I almost felt sorry for him. It also makes no sense that Peter was left in the mall overnight, but I guess it's just a cartoon, so who cares? I just remembered something. Earlier on in the episode, Lois wanted Chris to suffer an injury on the escalator so the family can sue the mall. This was a joke, but......Peter technically received severe injuries at the mall even though he caused the incident. So why couldn't the family sue them, then Peter sees that Lois is getting greedy and calls her out on leaving him at the mall? Wait, why am I writing Family Guy episodes now, I have my own show to worry about.

-The jewelry store's slogan is "Every B Deserves a J." Nice subtle joke by the writers there. Reminds me of The Simpsons' classic dirty joke "Sneed's Feed and Seed (Formerly Chuck's)."

-Of course Brian was going to leave the ring in a place where something could happen to it. Why not just leave it in Stewie's room? They could have had Brian keep up the lie for a bit longer with Stewie's help. You know, somewhat like the episode where Brian tries to hide the fact that he is a dog from his new girlfriend who is blind ("The Blind Side"). Or we could have a joke where Stewie leads a group of lesbian art teachers to get sex outlawed in America because all sex is rape. -_-

-When Peter and Tom are making the video (which requires a lot of physical coordination they both seem to have), a bear comes out of nowhere and attacks Peter, then takes the camera and uses it for his own Latvian hidden camera reality show Bear Scares. This could have been a lot funnier, but for some reason, it completely missed the mark for me. Later on, Peter watches Tom get fired on air and decides to go back to his life, then gets assaulted by the bear once again, which was another Bear Scares segment (even though the whole point of Bear Scares was the bear frightening people out of nowhere, not attacking them). Then we get a commercial for shirt.gov, where you can buy shirts. You see what I see here? THESE JOKES WEREN'T FUNNY THE FIRST TIME AND EVEN LESS FUNNY THE SECOND TIME. I feel like American Dad is a lot better at these absurd jokes, mostly because of the concept, timing, and delivery.

-Chris calling Brian an "unemployed buttmunch" was pretty funny. Not as funny when he called Stewie that.

-I got a chuckle out of the cutaway where Tom comes out of his mother's womb reporting his own birth, then Peter questioning the legitimacy of whether that actually happened.

-So Peter looks up at the roof of Tom's apartment building and what is the first thing he sees? A billboard advertising Doritos Locos Tacos. Then he sees Tom on the roof about to jump. I have to assume that more than a couple of minutes have passed because Peter runs up to the roof with nacho cheese on his fingers. So let me see if I got this straight. Peter went to Taco Bell, waited in line, bought himself a taco (or multiple tacos), came back to Tom's apartment and then tried to stop him from jumping? What the hell was Tom doing on the roof for all that time, looking up at the sky?

-The moment where Peter pretends he is the one committing suicide and insisting that Tom gets the story was really sweet. Too bad it was undercut seconds later when Tom ends up falling off the roof anyway. Even when the heartwarming ending was somewhat earned, they still have to end on a joke. 

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