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DVD Review:
Family Guy: Volume One
By Brian Jacks


Obnoxious, mean, controversial and insanely funny all adequately describe Fox's Family Guy, an animated series from the mind of Seth MacFarlane (writer and art director for Johnny Bravo and Dexter's Laboratory - he also narrowly escaped certain death, but more on that later). Unceremoniously booted off the network along with Futurama, Family Guy, like the Matt Groening show, built up an intensely loyal group of fans through its three-season run. Now, through the miracle of DVD, viewers can relive the hijinks with Volume One, a set collecting the first two seasons.

If All In The Family broke the mold of political correctness, Family Guy took that mold, threw it off a cliff, put three bullets in it, and shot it into the sun. Humor, sometimes subtle, sometimes palpable, became the target of the writing staff, and if that meant offending every race, religion, and culture on God's green earth, then so be it. A twisted combination of South Park and The Simpsons, Family Guy focuses on the Griffin Family, consisting of husband Peter, wife Lois, son Chris, daughter Meg, talking baby Stewart, and Brian, the family's talking dog.

The show features outrageous episodes of varying realism, highlighted by dozens of interwoven vignettes. Just what do I mean? Essentially, most scenes contain dialogue that triggers a joke that's disconnected from the episode. For instance, when Lois is taking about the virtues of being honest, she asks, "Isn't that right, Milli?" and we pan to the disgraced musician digging into the refrigerator. He replies, does a little dance, and we cut back to the scene. In another episode, an expired coupon leads to a flashback featuring a 3-minute long deathmatch between Peter and a six-foot tall chicken. It's a brave, original, and irreverent way of doing animated comedy, and it works perfectly with this show.

So how un-PC is it? Well, it offends, that's for sure. In a single episode, you'll probably find jokes about Mexicans, Jews, Catholics, midgets, southerners, and every other religion, culture, and ethnicity one can think of. But it's all for comedy (and smart comedy, at that), and while a few jokes fall flat, the vast majority can certainly induce a laugh if not taken too seriously. Simple rule for Family Guy is, if you've got a thin skin, then it's best to steer clear. But if you're an easygoing fellow with a proclivity for Eric Cartman, then Family Guy is sure to provide hours of hearty entertainment.

The 28 episodes contained in the collection include:

Disc One:
Death Has a Shadow
I Never Met the Dead Man
Chitty Chitty Death Bang
Mind Over Murder
A Hero Sits Next Door
The Son Also Draws
Brian: Portrait of a Dog

Disc Two:
Peter, Peter, Caviar Eater
Holy Crap
Da Boom
Brian in Love
Love Thy Trophy
Death is a Bitch
The King is Dead

Disc Three:
I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar
If I'm Dyin', I'm Lyin'
Running Mates
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Bucks
Fifteen Minutes of Shame
Road to Rhode Island
Let's Go to the Hop

Disc Four:
Dammit, Janet!
There's Something About Paulie
He's Too Sexy for His Fat
E. Peterbus Unum
The Story on Page One
Wasted Talent
Fore, Father

Article continued below advertisement

Family Guy: Volume One is presented in its original 1.33:1 fullframe aspect ratio. Animated in a more cartoonish style than, say, King of the Hill, the sho's colors are defined and vivid, with crisp linework. While generally good, the transfer does suffer quite frequently from jagged edges and aliasing, which is annoying. Some of the same video quality issues have also appeared in the broadcasts, however, which leads me to believe at least part of the problem is inherent to the show's animation process. Overall, though, it's good, with no edge enhancement or compression artifacts noticed.

The show features a Dolby Surround 2.0 audio track, which is perfectly acceptable for a television show. Primarily dialogue-driven, most of the sound is pushed cleanly through the front channels, with the rears utilized sporadically for theme music or various sound effects. No problems here at all.

On the supplement side, audio commentaries are included on two episodes from each disc. Participants include creator Seth MacFarlane, executive producer David Zuckerman, and various writers and cast members. Very entertaining, the commentaries are almost as provocative as the episodes themselves. Highlighting that, in a very rare move, Fox actually put a disclaimer at the beginning of each disc warning about the language contained in the commentaries. With a statement like that, you know it's gotta be good. While there's occasionally a lapse in the discussions (as they watch the episode along with you), the tracks do provide for humorous anecdotes behind various storylines and thoughts on various controversies the show stirred up.

Also included are a few short promos (ranging from around ten to thirty seconds apiece), and a brief "behind-the-scenes" featurette lasting a couple of minutes. Seemingly filmed before the show premiered, it gives us a nice look at the voice actors on camera, but it doesn't provide much insight into the series' creative processes.

On a more somber note, at the beginning of this article, I mentioned Seth's close encounter with death. On September 11th, the Family Guy creator was scheduled to fly from Boston to Los Angeles. There was a mix up, however, and his travel agent gave him the wrong time, and he arrived at Logan Airport 30 minutes too late. The flight? American Airlines #11, which slammed into the World Trade Center's North tower. You don't get more fortunate than Seth.

The Show: B+. It's offensive, but it's the funny kind of meanness.

The Look: C+. Some annoying quality issues mar the transfer, although the colors remain bright and vivid.

The Sound: B. A standard 2.0 track. Not fancy, but acceptable.

The Extras: B-. Eight commentaries provide additional entertainment, although a more extensive featurette would have been nice.

Overall: B+. Family Guy is one of the most amusing animated shows to hit the airwaves. If you're not easily offended, this series is highly recommended.


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