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CD Reviews: Review of Family Guy: Live in Vegas
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Family Guy: Live in Vegas (Geffen 2005)

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After the unparalleled success of the animated series “Family Guy” on DVD, the Fox Network came running back to its creator, Seth MacFarlane, with their tail between their legs and offered him another season of the show. He accepted, of course, and, in addition to the opportunity to bring his series back to the airwaves, he apparently also utilized his newfound pull to orchestrate the release of a “Family Guy” CD.

Like The Simpsons Sing the Blues (and its belatedly-released companion piece, The Yellow Album), Family Guy: Live in Vegas is an attempt to take animated characters into the world of music, but, rather than utilizing pre-existing material from the show, the format is a self-contained album. Unlike the Simpsons albums, however, this is a full-on concept piece that finds the Griffin family – Peter, Lois, Meg, Chris and baby Stewie, plus Brian the dog – manning their own Las Vegas extravaganza, with guest appearances by Haylie Duff, Patti Lupone, Jason Alexander and series semi-regular Adam West.

The evening begins with an introduction by newscasters Tom Tucker and Lisa Simmons (there’s no sign of Trish Takinawa, however), which most decidedly sets the tone of the evening.

Tom: Well, Diane, it is one hell of a night for a show!
Diane: It sure is, Tom. I’m very excited!
Tom: You know, whenever I’m in Las Vegas, I think of that movie “Showgirls.”
Diane: Really.
Tom: Yeah. And you know what else? Sometimes when I’m sitting alone at home or in the shower or wherever, I think about “Showgirls.”
Diane: Uh-huh.
Tom: And sometimes, when I’m driving in my car, I think about Elizabeth Berkeley and Gina Gershon having girl-on-girl sex and doing all kinds of nasty things like spitting on each other and getting high...the point being, Diane, is that Vegas is the kind of place that stays with you wherever you are, and that’s just about the highest praise I can give for any town on the map.
Diane: Uh, that’s...that’s not on the teleprompter.
Tom: No, it’s just some of my own thoughts and musings.
Diane: Well, thank you so much for sharing.

No, thank you, Tom...because if anyone’s going to want out of this disc, at least they’ll know to turn off the proceedings before so much as a minute has ticked by.

The tone of Family Guy: Live in Vegas is somewhere between a show at the Sands circa the Rat Pack era and a decidedly unedited Friar’s Club Roast. Given “Family Guy’s” longstanding reputation for mixing together an often unbalanced blend of pop culture references, clever jokes and lowbrow comedy, that this album’s contents are obscenity-laden won’t be a surprise to anyone ...but this is “Family Guy,” not “South Park.” Stewie is no Cartman, and the novelty of hearing him repeatedly utter the f-word is a joke that provides consistently descending returns.

MacFarlane provides the voice of Peter and Stewie, but it’s his songs as Brian where his vocals shine; Brian is clearly supposed to be the Dean Martin of the bunch, with his smooth, laid-back delivery. (Would that Martin had lived long enough to perform Brian’s first track on the album, “Dear Booze.”) Brian and Stewie share the spotlight for a medley of ‘80s TV themes that’s a perfect pastiche of Vegas schmaltz. Despite the fact that much of it is just plain filthy, “All Cartoons are Fucking Dicks,” which gives the entire cast – even Mila Kunis, who has no singing voice – an opportunity to croon, is clever enough to score laughs with every listen. On the opposite end of the spectrum, however, is “Babysitting is a Bum Deal,” Stewie’s duet with Haylie Duff, which is dirty for the sake of being dirty. (It also contains a truly bizarre lyric involving...honest injun...baby feces shaped like Matthew Modine. Kids, writer’s block is no laughing matter.) Somewhere in between lies “One Boy,” which gives Quahog’s resident NAMBLA member, Mr. Herbert, his chance to shine; it’s worth a listen, if only because giggling and shuddering simultaneously is a unique experience.

Despite the profane lyrics scattered around the album, the music itself is consistently fantastic, which is an insidious combination: the words are offensive, but you find yourself singing them anyway! But the $64,000 question is, will your average “Family Guy” fan really sit through this entire album? Haylie Duff’s appearance might bring a few teenage girls to the party, but to what demographic is MacFarlane appealing with the Patti Lupone cameo? While a loving tribute to a bygone era (which never could’ve succeeded without the assistance of conductor Walter Murphy), it’s going to be a seriously tough sell once word gets out that, once you get beyond the obscenities, what you’ve got on your hands is collection of -- gasp! -- show tunes.

Let it never be said that MacFarlane doesn’t have a vision. Sure, it might be occasionally off-color and politically incorrect, but, by God, it’s his vision, and he’s sticking with it. For that, he deserves no end of credit. But, for his sake, here’s hoping he hasn’t sunk too much cash into this project; even with the show’s success, pulling super sales out of Family Guy: Live in Vegas is definitely not a given. 

~Will Harris 



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