Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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