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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > TV > Family Guy - Complete Series Box Sets (Seasons One & Two)

Family Guy - The Original Series Box Sets


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: B+     Episodes: B+



When The Simpsons arrived, it became one of the most important animated shows ever, even with its short-segment origins on The Tracey Ullman Show.  It did for animation what The Honeymooners did for situation comedy, another show that also began as shorter subjects.  In the wake of the show, there has been a slew of animated series that followed.  The more explicitly wild South Park and Beavis & Butthead were the biggest hits in its wake, while more passive aggressive shows like Daria (a loose Beavis & Butthead spin-off) had a healthy run, but not the success it deserved.  Fox thought they had another animated hit in The Family Guy and launched it with much fanfare, including advanced merchandise.  Remarkably, the show did not catch on.


After its run three-season run, it was cancelled, but it had already begun to establish a following.  When the show came out on DVD and Cartoon Network picked it up for late-night broadcast, it was suddenly a hit!  So much so in fact that the DVDs sales stunned the industry and went on to become the biggest TV sellers of their year, plus the fourth largest of any series to date.  Now, in a career resurrection like nothing since Tina Turner, the series has gone back into production.  It is a show that deserves it, which extends to the two DVD boxed sets that cover what will go down as the classic episodes.


So what is it about this show that makes it a TV classic?  Simple.  No series in animation or TV history has had so much fun exploiting that great TV myth of closure.  This begins right off the bat with the theme song.  TV always tells us everything will be fine and tries to nearly wrap up everything, even when the storyline goes on for an entire season.  Unlike any previous show that played with this aspect of the medium, the series takes a quantum leap ahead of all that preceded it by throwing a constant (and even dazzling) one-two punch of taboos and the hippest and most obscure pop culture references.  Some very, very bad TV shows and feature films grew tiresome years ago as they explain every pop culture, cinematic, music, and TV reference they dig up.  It also demonstrates what a bunch of pseudo-hip frauds they are (all trying to be Quentin Tarantino, for instance).  Creator Seth MacFarlane does many of the voices and is joined by an astoundingly talented group of writers, directors, and other voice actors to make 49 of some of the most important half-hours of TV a commercial network has produced since the waning days of the Big Three networks.


That is likely a reason many of the references date back to that time or earlier, in its own way, picking up where great TV left off from that time.  There are many references to great pop culture since, but the older ones are always the most knowing and telling.  The comic timing is nothing short of remarkable, and there are many historic references to match all the pop culture.  Then there is the wittiness, clever outrageousness that reminds us over and over why politically correctness is one of the great frauds of the 20th and 21 Centuries. 


Then there are the characters.  They make up a family that knows it’s dysfunctional and has overcome it and exceed it with glee, which is where the series picks up.  Add that up and you have what may the first post-Freudian/post-modern TV family, the logical next step after The Simpsons that TV not dared to do.  It’s amazing this debuted on a broadcast network and not cable/satellite or a premium pay service.  The Griffins include Peter, the father who is the only character who is still trying to believe in closure.  He is good hearted, working at a toy company, but he’s also insecure.  The result is he is either a little wired or a bit depressed many times.  Lois is the semi-hip wife and mother who is from the richer background, but is now struggling with the family for a better tomorrow.  Chris is the son who seems to have inherited the dull side of Peter’s personality, though sister Meg has depressive issues of her own, neither necessarily fit in.  Stewie is their newborn baby brother who is the dangerous intellectual genius in the family, but his very short time on earth and lack of “experience” creates some unique “distorted perceptions” of the world around him.  Yes, he is only one-year-old.  Finally, there is the realist of the family, Brian, who happens to be the family dog.


And then there are the episodes. 


1)     Death Has A Shadow

2)     I Never Met The Dead Man

3)     Chitty Chitty Death Bang

4)     Mind Over Murder

5)     A Hero Sits Next Door

6)     The Son Also Draws

7)     Brian: Portrait Of A Dog

8)     Peter Peter Caviar Eater

9)     Holy Crap

10)  Da Boom

11)  Brian In Love

12)  Love Thy Trophy

13)  Death Is A Bitch

14)  The King Is Dead

15)  I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar

16)  If I’m Dyin’, I’m Lyin’

17)  Running Mates

18)  A Picture Is Worth A 1,000 Bucks

19)  15 Minutes Of Shame

20)  Road To Rhode Island

21)  Let’s Go To The Hop

22)  Dammit Janet

23)  He’s Too Sexy For His Fat

24)  E Peterbus Unim

25)  The Story On Page 1

26)  Wasted Talent

27)  Fore Father

28)  The Thin White Line (Box Two begins)

29)  Brian Does Hollywood

30)  Mr. Griffin Goes To Hollywood

31)  One If By Clam, Two If By Sea

32)  And The Wiener Is…

33)  Death Lives

34)  Lethal Weapons

35)  The Kiss Seen ‘Round The World

36)  Mr. Saturday Knight

37)  A Fish Out Of Water

38)  Emission Impossible

39)  To Love And Die In Dixie

40)  Screwed The Pooch

41)  Peter Griffin: Husband, Father… Brother?

42)  Ready, Willing And Disabled

43)  A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas

44)  Brian Wallows And Peter’s Swallows

45)  From Method To Madness

46)  Stuck Together, Torn Apart

47)  Road To Europe

48)  Family Guy Viewer Mail #1

49)  When You Wish Upon A Weinstein (never broadcast)


The titles alone are a hoot, but the stories are hilarious and as preposterous as anything you will ever see or hear.  The gags are so multi-layered that you have to see the shows a few times to get all the jokes, then there are the ones you forget when you go through that.  When you get your hands on these boxed sets, you can’t stop watching.


Another reason they have sold so well is the picture quality is one of the most outstanding examples of full frame presentation in DVD to date, with superior color richness and quality lacking from many anamorphically enhanced widescreen DVD transfers, plus remarkable detail to match.  It is the new high watermark standard with which all full screen DVDs will be judged, likely until HD-DVD arrives.  Fox, who supports the 16 X 9 D-VHS format, could put these episodes on those tapes and they would be impressive.  The sound is also not bad, offering Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with Pro Logic surrounds that have exceptional presence and range most atypical of Dolby at this (or any) level.  If it were remixed for 5.1 Dolby and DTS, it would probably work well too, but this is satisfactory.


The extras are many.  14 of the shows have great audio commentaries, though I had adjustment problems getting used to hearing the voice actors as themselves.  That is 2 commentaries per each of the seven DVDs.  Disc One has Seven internet promos, while Disc Seven has an uncensored featurette, 28 deleted scenes as animatics, and the series “pilot pitch” that was thankfully picked up.  The series has finally found an audience and will go beyond relegation to cult status.  The legacy of The Family Guy is just beginning and is must-see viewing for everyone… who has a true sense of humor.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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