DVD Review: Family Guy, Vol. 3
Release Date: November 29, 2005
Distributor: Fox Home Entertainment
· Seth MacFarlane (voice)
· Alex Borstein (voice)
· Mila Kunis (voice)
· Seth Green (voice)
by Raul Burriel
Published: December 18, 2005
"Everybody, I've got bad news. We've been cancelled!" And with those words begins the highly improbable fourth season of Fox's Family Guy. Cancelled in 2002, Family Guy was miraculously resurrected in 2005 after overwhelming fan support and strong sales of the first two volumes of the DVDs (containing seasons 1-3).
To the untrained eye, Family Guy is little more than a rip-off of The Simpsons. Indeed, the earliest episodes of the series had more than a passing resemblance to Homer and the clan (and writers of The Simpsons won't let you forget it - maybe they should focus on making their new episodes better, though, and spend less time worrying about people emulating them!) But as Family Guy grew up, it became substantially more mature and, well, let's face it, raunchy. Season 4 of Family Guy revels in its raunchiness. It's like a big "Up yours!" to the TV executives who first cancelled the series. There's more animated nudity here than you'd care for (relax, boys, the nudity is largely on the part of overweight fat guys.) And the profanity is stunningly prevalent (you'll also be surprised how much of it makes it past the censors.)
Peter Griffin (voiced by series creator Seth MacFarlane) is the family patriarch. You would suspect his wife Lois (Alex Borstein) to be the voice of reason, but often she gets in more trouble than Peter. She's certainly no Marge Simpson or Wilma Flintstone. Dim witted Chris (Seth Green from "Greg the Bunny" and NBC's upcoming "Four Kings"), punching bag Meg (Mila Kunis from "That 70s Show") and toddler-bent-on-world-domination Stewie (also voiced by Seth McFarlane) are the couple's three children. Brian (a talking dog also voiced by McFarlane) rounds out the family. Rounding out the cast are mild-mannered Cleveland (staff writer Mike Henry), sex-fiend Quagmire (McFarlane again) and gung-ho paraplegic cop Joe (Patrick Warburton). These are the residents of the town of Quahog, Rhode Island, where Adam West is the mayor and the high school is named for actor James Woods.
Episodes are rife with pop culture references from the writers' childhoods. G.I. Joe, The Transformers, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe... even The Flintstones. You'll never know what cherished childhood memory will be tarnished next.
I'd like to say that the stories get progressively weirder as the season goes on, but it's hard to beat a season premiere where Peter steals Mel Gibson's sequel to "The Passion of the Christ" (co-starring Chris Tucker). But regardless of how off-kilter the episodes may be, where this collection really shines is in its special features.
I was unimpressed with the audio commentary on the first two volumes of Family Guy. It seemed to me that they were little more than an excuse to swear on tape. Maybe it was just McFarlane and crew blowing off steam after being cancelled, I don't know. But I'm happy to report that the commentary on volume 3 stands well above its predecessors. We get audio commentary on 10 of the thirteen episodes in the set, from McFarlane, cast and crew, and even guest stars such as James Woods. Listening to the commentary is a surreal experience. McFarlane - who's natural speaking voice is that of Brain the dog (and sounds just as pompous at times) - leads the show. Cast and crew will often drop into their character voices resulting in some interesting exchanges. Amusing annecdotes of "notes" from the network predominate. The highlight is the commentary to "Peter's Got Woods" where Peter tries to prevent the renaming of James Woods High School and recruits actor James Woods to help. Woods joins a commentary that includes McFarlane, episode writer Danny Smith, episode director Chuck Klein, and staff writers David Goodman and Chris Sheridan. Woods is totally at ease with the crew and gives some of the best commentary ever given on DVD.
Disc three also includes a number of featurettes. "World Domination: The Family Guy Phenomenon", through interviews with the cast and crew, tells the story of how Family Guy came back to television. "Score!" is a featurette about the music for Family Guy. The show uses a full orchestra to score its music, something that isn't found on many television series today. We also get a deleted scene from "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High," a musical number for Brian the dog. The clip includes animatics. Speaking of animatics, we get storyboard/animatic comparisons for clips from "Don't Make Me Over," "The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire," and "Brian the Bachelor." Finally, perhaps best of all, we get mutli-angle table reads from three clips, two from "Brian the Bachelor" and one from "North by North Quahog." Watching the cast crack up as they read through the scenes is priceless.
Additionally, you'll discover that the episodes include scenes that were cut from the original broadcast due to time constraints and if you listen to the commentaries, you'll notice that the profanity that is bleeped on the regular audio track isn't bleeped here.
There's only one thing I don't like about this collection. The first disc includes a number of trailers at the beginning (including one for the hilarious film Office Space) that can only be bypassed by skipping ahead to the next chapter (no fast forward, no pressing the menu button.) I thought the days of forcing people to watch trailers at the start of a DVD were gone.
Needless to say, these discs are packed. Nearly 300 minutes of unadulterated adult fun. The fourth season of Family Guy is arguably the best yet, and it's frightening to think that it almost didn't happen. Make sure Fox doesn't make the same mistake twice. Support Family Guy. Buy this DVD set.