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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hat were you doing the night of Super Bowl XXXII? Most of us were probably turning in for the night after yet another disappointing championship game, or calling our friends to discuss the best of the million-dollar commercials. But a select few remained in front of their televisions and tuned in to what would be the funniest half-hour of programming for the whole year. The premiere of Seth MacFarlane’s highly-praised “Family Guy” introduced an animated cocktail of clever humor and memorable characters that was never afraid to push the limits of censored television. Each and every week, MacFarlane and company made sure to get their kicks in at the current, pop culture-obsessed society with an endless supply of spoofs and hilarious flashback moments the show is now best known for.
Within the first few minutes of the show (catchy theme-song-opening included) we’re introduced to the incredibly dysfunctional Griffin family and the made-up town of Quahog, Rhode Island that they reside in. Seth MacFarlane has relayed his entire childhood memories into creating a cartoon representation of Rhode Islanders - and according to viewers from the small island state - he nailed it dead on. In the same vein as Homer Simpson, the heavy-drinking father, Peter (MacFarlane), is the leader of the pack. Along with his trophy wife Lois (Alex Borstein of “Mad TV”), the remainder of the Griffins include the self-doubting daughter, Meg (Mila Kunis), the fat and foolish son, Chris (Seth Green), the diabolical baby hell-bent on world domination, Stewie (MacFarlane) and the alcoholic, talking dog, Brian (MacFarlane).
Along with its main cast, the show also incorporates a number of other supporting characters that often steal the show out from under MacFarlane’s side-splitting trio, including Peter’s friends Cleveland (Mike Henry), Quagmire (MacFarlane, again) and Joe Swanson (Patrick Warburton), but most importantly, Mayor Adam West (yes, voiced by the Adam West). The first two seasons of the series follow the Griffins through a number of humorous situations, and almost every episode is of the highest quality, but there are certainly a few worth mentioning more than others. Whether it’s Peter attending feminist classes, going undercover as a high school student, starting his own nation, or printing a fake newspaper article about Luke Perry’s homosexuality, “Family Guy” has enough ammo to pick on just about everyone, and MacFarlane tries his hardest to make that happen every chance he gets.
The DVD releases for the first two seasons have been sandwiched together into one convenient collection. Since the first season of “Family Guy” was a mere seven episodes long, it seems only logical to combine it with the 21-episode second season. “Seinfeld” practiced the same method not to long ago in their release of the first two seasons of the show. Presented in four slim pack DVD cases with seven episodes to a disc, “Family Guy” has been transferred over to disc in its original 1.33:1 full-frame video aspect ratio and a 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround audio track. The show doesn’t look or sound any better than it needs to, and there aren’t many special features to compliment the set, so make sure you’re going out and making this purchase for the right reasons: the show.
The small amount of special features that do appear on the 4-disc box set aren’t extraordinary by any degree, but they should satisfy the average viewer. Aside from a series of commercial promo spots found on disc one, or the 4-minute behind-the-scenes featurette located on the fourth disc, eight cast-and-crew audio commentaries are offered for an enhanced behind-the-scenes look at the making of the series. Reliably dominated by series creator MacFarlane and his impromptu tirades of character acting, the commentary tracks are a refreshing addition to the lack of bonus material. The audio tracks appear on the following episodes: “Death Has a Shadow” (disc one), “The Son Also Draws” (disc one), “Holy Crap” (disc two), “Peter Peter Caviar Eater” (disc two), “Fifteen Minutes of Shame” (disc three), “Let’s Go To the Hop” (disc three), “He’s Too Sexy for His Fat” (disc four) and “E Peterbus Unum” (disc four). The actors and writers have chosen a nice selection of episodes to comment on, but I found that there were still some of my favorite episodes missing from the group, and I would have liked to hear from a few of the more famous voice talents on one of the tracks. The first of these problems was mended in the more recent “Freakin’ Sweet Collection,” but I still wish that Adam West or Patrick Warburton would have stopped by for a session.
Regardless of what you think about the series, “Family Guy” will forever hold a place as one of the best shows in animation history, and the first two seasons display precisely why it’s such a precious gem. Politically incorrect, racially insulting and sometimes just down right vulgar, “Family Guy” succeeds at the such a high echelon of humor exactly because the writers are able to make these jokes work without seriously offending anyone. And if they have offended you, chances are they’ve probably offended everyone else as well. That’s the beauty of the show, and more importantly, the beauty of animation. If you’ve managed to neglect the series thus far, snap out of it, and pick up “Family Guy” on DVD today. You’ll never know what your friends have been laughing about all this time, and society won’t forgive you until you do.