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HTF REVIEW: "Family Guy" Volume One


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#1 of 142 Ronald Epstein

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Posted March 18 2003 - 07:12 AM

Family Guy
Volume One








Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
Year: 1999-2000
Rated: NR
Film Length: 632 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Full Frame (1.33:1)
Subtitles: English and Spanish

 




Family Guy is a subversive animated comedy
about the everyday trials and tribulations of family
life. The show was the brain child of its creator
Seth MacFarland whose short films produced at Hanna
Barbara garnered the attention of 20th Century Fox
executives who gave Seth a modest budget to produce
a 15 minute pilot episode. After working endlessly
for months he delivered the finished product to Fox
and the studio picked it up soon there after.

Family Guy began as a special preview on Jan
31, 1999, following the Superbowl on FOX. It wasn't
long before the show had a regular spot in the Fox
Sunday Night lineup.



This is my very first exposure to the series, and
I am just overwhelmed by this show that can best
be describe as a very vulgar cousin of The
Simpsons
. Everything about Family Guy
goes against the grain. First, the subject matter
of this show is utterly inappropriate for anyone
under the age of thirteen, and that's pretty good
for those of us that enjoy any cartoon that pushes
the envelope. This is a show not afraid to tackle
sexist or racist issues. Second, the show lacks
total focus as it constantly shifts between sidebars
that may do nothing more than illustrate a point from
the main storyline. This device lets the writers
pull out all the stops in providing visual gags that
seemingly come out of nowhere.



Perhaps, however, the funniest aspect of this show
is the characters themselves. From the hopeless,
lazy toy factory line worker Peter Griffin, to
the lovable toddler bent on world domination Stewie,
to Peter's brainless older son Chris, to his almost-
stereotypical teen daughter Meg, to his long-suffering
yet level-headed wife Lois, to his talking world weary
braniac dog Brian, every character in Family Guy is
the result of a writer's ultimate wet dream.

Alas, the show only ran for three seasons (less than
50 aired episodes) when Fox pulled it off their
schedule. Through all the research I have done on
this show I am unsure why the series was cancelled.
Was it poor ratings or just the fact that perhaps
Family Guy pushed the envelope too far as
what is acceptable on prime-time television?

With Fox giving special DVD treatment to their most
coveted animated television series, you probably had
an inkling that Family Guy was due for a
major release. The Volume One set finally
arrives on April 15, with a total of 28 episodes
spread out across 4 DVD discs. These episodes
represent the entire first and second season.



Whereas much thought was put into the packaging
for Fox DVD releases of The Simpsons and
Futurama, Family Guy seems like more
of an afterthought. An oversized cardboard box
holds 4 individual slimline plastic cases inside.
The packaging is very similar to the Futurama
packaging, but it definitely looks more generic.
There hasn't been much attention to giving each of
the plastic cases their own unique artwork, and
when you open up the case, you are greeted with
black innards that are void of any artwork. I hate
to compare this set to Futurama, but after
seeing the beautiful job they did on that package,
this is pale in comparison.

On the back cover of each slimline plastic case is
a guide to each episode including original airdate.

As I stated above, this was my first look at the
show and these were the episodes I chose to watch...



Death Has a Shadow
Against strict orders from Lois, Peter drinks
profusely at his buddy's bachelor party. After
showing up at work hung over, Peter gets fired.
When he applies for welfare, they accidentally send
him a check for $150,000, which leads to a spending
binge. When Lois discovers the truth, Peter attempts
to return the money to the taxpayers by dumping it
from a blimp at the Super Bowl. But when he is
arrested, his family must come to the rescue.



Dammit Janet
Fearing that Stewie has no social skills, Lois
places him in daycare. Stewie hates the bureaucracy
of the playground until he sets his eyes on a female
toddler, Janet. While he tries various ways to
impress her, he finally wins her over by sharing
his cookies. Meanwhile, Lois now has nothing to do
all day so Peter talks her into becoming a flight
attendant. Peter's ulterior motive is to take
advantage of the free travel - and he promptly
starts abusing the privilege. When Peter and Lois
land on the same flight, Peter's game is over!
Unfortunately the plane is high-jacked and forced
to land in Cuba, where Peter and Lois remained
stranded. After a trip to the local black market, the
gain passage back to the U.S. on a lifeboat filled
with refugees.



Death is a Bitch
My favorite! After Lois discovers a lump in
Peter's breast, he lands in the hospital. He's okay,
until the whopping bill arrives! To avoid payment,
Peter fools the hospital into thinking he's dead. As
a result, Death pays a visit to the Griffin home.
While Stewie is excited to meet his idol, the rest
of the family doesn't want Peter to go--especially
Peter! A chase ensues and Death is injured. While
he recuperates, Peter is forced to take over Death's
unpopular duties. Norm Macdonald Makes Guest
Voice Appearance.


How is the transfer?


The good news is that the transfer is bright
and crisply detailed with vivid colors that almost
leap off the screen. This is certainly one of the
best quality animated TV shows I have seen to date.
The bad news is that there seems to be an
awful amount of jagged lines and jitter that appear
frequently throughout the Death Has a Shadow
episode and much less frequently through the other
two episodes I watched. These imperfections were
more noticeable on my 57" television than were my
smaller computer screen.

The 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack provides audio that
sounds extremely clear and vibrant. The mix works
rather well for the fact that it does a nice job of
throwing various effect sounds (such as crowds of
people) and music into the rear channels. The
show's opening musical number throws music in
the fronts and choral support in the rears. All in
all, this is a pleasing mix.


Special Features




The menus are well designed, giving you easy access
to any of the 7 episodes on each disc, including
specific chapter access.

Scattered throughout these four discs are 8
specific episode commentaries. All of these
commentaries feature Seth MacFarlane and various
writers and voices who contributed to the show.
I listened to bits of the commentary on the very
first episode, Death has a shadow, and found
it to be quite a fun group effort. It seems everyone
is sort of proud of the lack of "tact" they brought
to the show, and we learn about some of the
controversy that was brought on by some of the
humor. Fox has posted an advisory that the commentary
may not be suitable for young audiences.

Disc One contains seven various Internet Promos
that show 30-seconds of clips that beg audiences to
tune in right after the Superbowl.



Disc Four contains a FOX TV Behind the scenes
featurette that features creator Seth MacFarlane
and Executive Producer David Zuckerman who give us
a general overview of the show while voice talent
Alex Borstein (Lois Griffin) tells us a little about
her animated family members. The featurette jumps
into high gear as it quickly glosses over the
production of the show from initial table read to
the recording session to storyboard sketches and
on to final animation. This is an interesting watch,
but nothing substantial as so much material gets
jammed into its 4-minute time span.


Final Thoughts



As I close this review, I just happened to
accidently click on the episode Wasted Talent
which contains an uproarious sendup of Willy
Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. 
I actually


had to put this review on hold so I could
sit back and enjoy it. It just goes to prove how
addictively funny and clever this show is.

More daring and provocative than any cartoon show
before it, The Family Guy is the most
"undeniably clever" series to date. I absolutely
recommend the purchase of this set but am concerned
about some of the transfer problems I described above.


Release Date: April 15, 2003





Ronald J Epstein
Home Theater Forum co-owner

 

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#2 of 142 NickSo

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Posted March 18 2003 - 07:25 AM

Sweeeet! Thanks alot ron! I've been waiting for this DVD sine Peter Staddon confirmed its existence on the last FOX chat Posted Image

Family Guy was a hilarious show, and had a small cult following. Not many people watched it however, coz of the stupid time-slots FOX used to put it in (thursdays at 8:00... I mean c'mon, Friends, Survior and... FAMILY GUY? Its liek they wanted to kill it)

Glad you had a chance to review it! I cant wait!


#3 of 142 Malcolm R

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Posted March 18 2003 - 07:39 AM

"Family Guy" was another victim, much like "Futurama," of Fox's peek-a-boo scheduling -- Oh, there it is...now it's gone. Or you might get four episodes on a single night, then go for a month without seeing any. The audience could never find it.

One of my fave animated shows (along with "The Critic"). Can't wait to get this set. Posted Image
The purpose of an education is to replace an empty mind with an open mind.

#4 of 142 justin.n

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Posted March 18 2003 - 07:55 AM

thanks for the review, i already have the set on pre-order, but i want it now. this is probably my favorite show ever, plus it won emmy awards, so fox was wrong to can it. i mean, is married by america and other reality crap so much better than this show?

i wish comedy central would pick it up for new seasons.

#5 of 142 Gregory E

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Posted March 18 2003 - 08:08 AM

YES! I can't freakin' wait for this set!!!! One of my favorite shows of all time coming to DVD. I'm so jealous that Ron has his paws on this and I don't...but thanks for the tease...er...I mean review!

#6 of 142 Rob Lutter

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Posted March 18 2003 - 08:54 AM

Am I the only one who is EXTREMELY glad to see that the discs are kept in keepcases... I HATE the cardboard digipacks that FOX is using w/ Simpsons. I just can't see them holding up over time.

#7 of 142 Matt Goddard

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Posted March 18 2003 - 09:03 AM

This show was too smart for its own good. What many people no doubt saw as offensive, I saw as brilliant and cutting-edge comedy. I've loved this show ever since it's post-Super Bowl premiere and can't wait for my preorder to arrive.

#8 of 142 Scott_J

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Posted March 18 2003 - 09:04 AM

Ron, great review. I love this show, and am thrilled about its DVD release. I just have 1 favor to ask of you. One episode from 2 (episode 20) on at least 1 of its repeat airing(s) on FOX, as well as on the R2 season 2 DVD. I was wondering if you could please watch that episode and comment on whether or not that episode is unedited on the DVD.

The episode is called "Road to Rhode Island." The scene in question is:
Quote:
Stewie tries to board a plane armed with a backpack full of weapons. He gets by the x-ray technicians by distracting them with On the Good Ship Lollypop. Once past them he mutters "Let's hope Osama Bin Laden doesn't know show tunes." (taken from Epguides.com)
The FOX network, as well as the R2 DVD cut out either the entire scene or just the Bin Laden reference. Can you please watch that episode whenever you get a chance and let us know whether or not that scene is intact? Thanks a lot.

#9 of 142 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted March 18 2003 - 09:15 AM

Quote:
This show was too smart for its own good.
Family Guy is many things... I would never accuse it of being smart, however.Posted Image

The writing was, however. Very sharp, it aimed for the Lowest Common Denominator without apology. Free of the pretention of "intelligent comedies," it wasted no time in being one of the funniest shows that nobody watched. Some of the best lines of the last several years came from this show.

#10 of 142 StevenJ

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Posted March 18 2003 - 09:18 AM

I can't wait for this to be released, I loved this show and it's a damn shame that it's been canceled

#11 of 142 George_W_K

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Posted March 18 2003 - 09:32 AM

Once again, I am in debt to the HTF. I had no idea Family Guy was on its way out on DVD. I loved that show and was very disappointed to see it go. I second the motion for Comedy Central to pick it up! Family Guy was one of the only episodes to make me cry from laughing so hard so many times. My favorite moment from the show was when Peter was teaching Meg how to drive and she ended up racing an Amish buggy! The end of that scene made me miss the next few minutes of the show because of my laughter. I can't wait for this one!

#12 of 142 Inspector Hammer!

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Posted March 18 2003 - 09:40 AM

Thanks a bunch Ron, i'm so glad that you had an opprotunity to discover and enjoy one the funniest cartoon series ever IMO. Posted Image

Fox, the network that is, really jumped the gun with cancelling it, it had an audience, but as stated, even the shows most devout fans could rarely find it. It shouldn't have been cancelled. Posted Image

Baby Stewie used to freakin kill me! Posted Image So innocent looking, yet such a dastardly evil little fellow. He's like a cross between Dr. Evil and a baby David Hyde Pierce. And that football shaped noggin of his...Posted Image

Can't wait to laugh at him again! Posted Image
"That's Jack Bauer!!!!!! He's coming for me!!!!!" - Charles Logan

#13 of 142 Wes C

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Posted March 18 2003 - 10:06 AM

YEA!!! Its almost here! One of the funniest shows I can remember - It will be mine.

#14 of 142 JustinCleveland

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Posted March 18 2003 - 10:35 AM

Wonderful review, Ron. I'm so glad that you got a review up for this excellent show, that as people have said before, was never given a chance by FOX.

#15 of 142 Tim Hoover

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Posted March 18 2003 - 10:51 AM

Thanks once again, Ron, for doing this review - and a day early to boot! I'm really surprised the writers of the show got away with as much as they did.

In regards to the transfer problems, the R2 releases suffered the same. I never noticed these on network airings, but perhaps the resolution of DVD makes them stand out more. OTOH, it could just be a lackluster transfer...
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#16 of 142 Lee Jamilkowski

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Posted March 18 2003 - 10:54 AM

Sam: I learned in church that if you’re good, you go to Heaven. But if you’re bad, you go to a place where the dead believe they’re still livin’ and they pray for death, but death won’t come.
Chris Griffin: UPN?

Family Guy
To Live and Die in Dixie


I love the show's parody of Star Trek, where the redshirt ensign realizes he's going on an assuredly fatal away team mission and his only response when Kirk chooses him to participate is, "Crap." Posted Image
Go to see the film An Inconvenient Truth - one of the most important films of a generation.

Watch the I've Got Munchies podcast.

#17 of 142 Adam_WM

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Posted March 18 2003 - 12:06 PM

Can't wait! Any word on Osama, Ron?
.

 


#18 of 142 NickSo

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Posted March 18 2003 - 12:21 PM

Does anybody know if "Wish upon a Weinstein" is in this set?

#19 of 142 Steve_Knutzen

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Posted March 18 2003 - 12:49 PM

I believe that "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" was a season three episode.
"Oh I can hold my breath for a long, long time!"

http://www.dvdprofil....s=TromaFiend02

#20 of 142 Rick P

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Posted March 18 2003 - 01:30 PM

"When You Wish Upon a Weinstein" was a season 2 episode (production code 2ACX05) but FOX never aired it (in this country).. technically it's a season 2 episode, it's on the R2 Season 2 set, but IIRC has been omitted from the R1 Season 1 & 2 set. It is unknown if it will be on the (eventual, I hope) season 3 R1 set.





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