Seth Green, Mila Kunis, Mike Henry, Patrick Warburton, Jennifer Tilly
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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
ver since “Family Guy” rose from the ashes of cancellation and returned to the airwaves, there’s been a long-standing debate among fans about whether or not the series is just as good as it was during its golden years. Though the answer to that question remains unseen, those who do feel that the show has dropped in quality will undoubtedly point to the latest DVD release as proof. Certainly not one of the most flattering collections in the show’s history, Volume Seven is a smorgasbord of episodes ranging from the uncharacteristically dull to the laugh-out-loud funny. This isn't the first time a volume of "Family Guy" has been so hit-and-miss, but it is the first time that the margin of quality has been so vast.
One of the most glaring problems with Volume Seven is that, despite the show’s tendency to space out character-specific storylines over the course of an entire season, Brian plays a major role in at least one-third of the episodes. This wouldn’t be such an issue if they were actually funny, but with exception of “Love Blactually,” where Brian’s new girlfriend cheats on him with Cleveland, the others are a bit of a letdown. “The Man with Two Brians” starts out promising enough, with Peter and Co. deciding that they’re going to imitate the “Jackass” guys, but the actual story of the Griffins bringing home a new dog yields little comic value. The same goes for “Play it Again, Brian” and “The Former Life of Brian,” both of which have a few decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but don’t even come close to registering as the kind of episode you'd want to watch more than once.
There are a few other episodes that fall into the same category (like “Back to the Woods” and “The Juice is Loose!”), but at the risk of underselling Volume Seven, it’s probably wise just to move on. After all, for every less-than-stellar episode on the set, there’s one that reminds you why you watch “Family Guy” in the first place. “Long John Peter” features a great extended sequence of Peter and his randomly assembled pirate crew pillaging the cargo of Quahog’s resident Brit, Nigel; “Family Gay” finds Peter transformed into a homosexual when he takes part in an experimental drug test (one that also includes being shot with a Seth Rogen gene that “gives you the appearance of being funny even though you haven’t actually done anything funny”); and “Road to Germany” is an homage to 1930s adventure serials complete with its own “Indiana Jones”-inspired chase sequence and a cameo by the Hawkmen from “Flash Gordon.”
The best episode, however, is “I Dream of Jesus,” an instant classic that is quite possibly one of the funniest episodes the show has ever produced. After hearing The Trashmen’s “Surfin’ Bird” while eating at a 1950s-themed diner, Peter becomes so obsessed with the song (to the point that he sings it in his sleep) that Stewie and Brian destroy the record in almost a shot-for-shot remake of the infamous copier scene from “Office Space.” It proves not only why Seth MacFarlane is a genius when it comes to referencing pop culture, but that sometimes, repetition can be just as funny. Of course, there are two sides to that coin, like when old Conway Twitty footage is inserted to serve as a “distraction” for Peter. That joke may have worked the first time as a short clip, but it’s definitely not as funny the second time around – especially in its extended format.
Other jokes that do make a lasting impression are much-deserved jabs at Dane Cook, Matthew McConaughey, and the “Boom goes the dynamite” guy, as well as a funny meta-reference about which members of the cast can actually understand Stewie. That doesn’t change the fact that there is an unsettling number of mediocre episodes in Volume Seven, and though diehard fans might not be ready to give up hope just yet, you really have to wonder if MacFarlane is spreading himself a little too thin. New projects bring new responsibilities, and if he can’t keep up the quality of his flagship series, then he shouldn’t be given free reign to expand his empire until he can prove otherwise.
Special Features: MacFarlane and Co. have teamed up with Fox once again to deliver an incredible collection of bonus material including the original and uncut versions of every episode, cast and crew commentaries, and other goodies like deleted scenes and full-length animatics for “Love Blactually,” “Long John Peter” and “The Man with Two Brians.” Other extras include a tour of the “Family Guy” offices (“Family Guy Cribz”), the Comic-Con 2008 panel, and a short music featurette (“Take Me Out to pLace Tonight”).