Monday, 16 July 2012

TV Review: Family Guy Season 9 Episode 1 "And Then There Were Fewer"

As 'Family Guy' has gone on I've always felt that the show has degraded in humour, I thought that over the course of its 10 seasons the jokes have become stale and often self-indulgent to the degree that it's no longer about entertaining the audience but about pleasing the writers. I was happy to find then that the season 9 premiere possessed the razor wit and brilliant satire the series is known for, it proved that though this show is now over 10 years old, it's still got plenty of life left in it.

In a mockery of the classic "whodunit" plot, many of the citizens of Quahog are invited to a mysterious mansion for a meal in their honour. Upon arriving they learn the identity of the host who has summoned them, Hollywood actor James Woods who has terrorised the people of Quahog for years, but upon becoming a born-again Christian he seeks to make amends. Events spiral out of control when the guests begin to be murdered one by one by an unknown assailant, the characters realise they must band together and figure out who is responsible for the homicides, knowing that it may well be one of them.

The story of the episode is really strong and allows plenty of opportunities for the characters to have humourous asides and to deliver cutting jokes. This episode employs the largest use of the show's extended cast seen outside of the 'Star Wars' parodies, and it really speaks to the episodes strength as to how well fleshed out each of their episode arcs are. Old favourites such as the elderly paedophile Herbert and the wooden pirate Seamus appear and are given plenty to do thanks to the episodes 55 minute runtime. The extended episode length allows for further elaboration on the plot and for the sardonic tone of the episode to really shine. 'Family Guy' is a show that excels during its 20 minute runtime and any deviation in the length can lead to an episode full of hollow jokes and general lack of tightness to the humour (such as the second 'Star Wars' parody) however in this episode the story and characters come together so well that there are no moments where the viewer feels the episode is dragging on and so it is free to pace itself thanks to the time extension.

The citizens of Quahog arrive at James Woods' mansion.

The jokes are as good as ever with more hits than misses. The humour throughout is solid thanks to the various situations the characters have to play around in such as Tom Tucker and Diane Simmons' hatred for each other and Peter's overall idiocy. The back and forth between Brian and Stewie is particularly great in this episode where they are really given the room to go off in hilarious tangents. There is a joke towards the end of the episode directed towards the Hollywood foreign press and the Golden Globes that was just as ruthless as it was funny, and thanks to being delivered straight to the camera by Stewie I had to pause the episode so as not to laugh over it.

Some of my favourite moments from the episode include the characters declaration of how much a douche Brian is due to his forced Hollywood mannerisms such as referring to famous members of the movie industry by nicknames (Bobby DeNiro and Jimmy Woods) even though he has only been in one failed TV pilot. Stewie's story about how his "elegant" way of killing someone was hilarious as he described such a twisted act as if he were simply telling a joke. For the most part though I really liked how the writers and cast handled their satire of the "whodunit" genre, it was simultaneously lampooning it whilst being faithful to its formula.

Stewie and Brian are on top form in this episode.

There are a few low points in the episode such as the scenes involving the Quahog mini-mart clerk Carl, in these scenes the comedy just wasn't as strong as the rest of the episode and really killed some of the momentum it was building, the same goes for the scenes involving Brian's dimwitted ex-girlfriend Jillian and the too often repeated jokes mocking her intelligence, in her earlier appearances such jokes worked well within the context of the episode but at this point it's dragging on too much, aside from that I feel she isn't a good enough character to be featured near as often as she is, perhaps the fact that Drew Barrymore voices her is reason enough for the writers to include her but for me she's more of a hinderance to the show than anything.

Overall though I was pleasantly surprised by this episode of 'Family Guy', it changed my opinion of the more recent episodes of the show and made me realise the truth that the show still possess the same wit and flair for unique humour it started with. For being an hour long this episode entertained me more than any 3 consecutive episodes of the series has before and that speaks volumes of the great writing and talented cast this show can still deliver enjoyable episodes with.

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