|Family Guy: Volume Three (2005)
Starring: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Mila Kunis, Seth Green, Adam West, Patrick Warburton
Seth MacFarlane’s animated comedy series, “Family Guy,” pulled off one of the greatest stunts in television history: it returned to prime time syndication after being cancelled three years prior. This move by village idiot Fox is very unlike them, especially considering they’ve axed at least five shows this year alone (including the award-winning “Arrested Development”), so it can only mean one thing: the series makes money, and lots of it. Clearly, Emmy Awards just don’t have the same effect anymore, but sales from Stewie Griffin T-shirts and Peter Griffin bobble heads certainly do. All merchandise aside, though, the biggest money-maker for the studio is the DVD box sets, and so it’s no surprise that the third volume of the series only includes the first half of the new season. And because the network aired such a large gap in between the two halves, they’ve managed to create two mini-seasons that will inevitably result in higher DVD sales. Shame on you, Fox.
Still, this doesn’t mean that the cast and crew behind the series have slacked off. In fact, the first half of season four might just be the best yet. Returning to the air in May of 2005, the fourth season of “Family Guy” felt a lot more confident than past years, likely due to the fact that MacFarlane and company have been given more creative freedom and a better sense of job security; because let’s face it, who’s really going to cancel the show a second time? The change in environment definitely comes across in the first thirteen episodes of season four, with soon-to-be classic episodes that find Peter stealing “The Passion of the Christ 2” (“North by North Quahog”), Meg transforming into a pop superstar (“Don’t Make Me Over”), Brian experience bachelordom (“Brian the Bachelor”), Lois becoming a famous model (“Model Misbehavior”), and Chris joining the Peace Corps (“Jungle Love”). I’d hate to leave Stewie out of all this juicy summarization, but sadly, he’s not given a major plotline worth mentioning.
And in keeping with the We Love the Fans mentality, MacFarlane hasn’t forgotten to bring back some of the classic characters from prior seasons, including Greased-Up Deaf Guy, the Fighting Chicken, and Mayor West (voiced by Adam West). The show’s writing team hasn’t toned down the offensive content, either, and in fact may have taken even riskier chances in this season with jokes pertaining to the denial of Asians at the town’s ritzy hotel, a barbershop quartet song about AIDS, and more than a handful below-the-waist shots at the Bush administration. Among the funniest, however, are the numerous exchanges between Brian and Stewie, whose hilariously sarcastic, love-hate relationship is by far one of the show’s finest running jokes.
The three-disc box set for season four includes all thirteen episodes presented in an uninspiring 1.33:1 full screen aspect ratio and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound track. The extras, however, are worth some attention, namely the large quantity of audio commentaries that have been included. Past seasons of the show have offered one or two commentary tracks on each disc, but the third volume includes cast and crew commentaries on the following nine episodes: “North by North Quahog” (disc one), “The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire” (disc two), “Petarded” (disc two), “Brian the Bachelor” (disc two), “8 Simple Rules for Selling My Teenage Daughter” (disc two), “Breaking Out is Hard to Do” (disc three), “Peter’s Got Woods” (disc three), “Perfect Castaway” (disc three), and “Jungle Love” (disc three). Each audio track is almost like a brand new show, with the series’ writers, producers, directors and voice talent chipping in on several commentaries and they all sound like they’re having a great time.
Also included on disc three is “World Domination: The ‘Family Guy’ Phenomenon” (running 24-minutes), a behind-the-scenes featurette that focuses on the process of bringing back the show, deleted scene animatics, the music featurette “Score! The Music of ‘Family Guy’,” three storyboard-to-animatic comparisons, and three short-but-sweet multi-angle table reads. The table reads essentially show the cast going through the script as the actual episode plays in a corner of the screen, and while they’re quite brief, it’s enjoyable to watch how the different cast members interact with one another and their reactions to certain jokes. The biggest disappointment out the bunch has to be the deleted scenes, which there is only one of; and this realization comes just minutes after McFarlane talks (in “World Domination”) about how they shot a lot of gags they knew wouldn’t make broadcast specifically for inclusion in the DVD release.
It definitely would’ve been nice to see a lot more extras than are included in the set, but with nearly two-thirds of the episodes containing audio commentaries, it’s easy to see that the effort was certainly put forth. But despite the lack of more deleted scenes, or even the fact that Fox is milking the success of the series by releasing the fourth season in two separate volumes, this is a definite must-own for any fan of the show. Almost every episode in the set will have you rolling on the ground with laughter, and when it comes down to is, isn’t that all we ask for from our latest dose of “Family Guy”?