Not since the days of Caroll O' Connor's `Archie Bunker' has a character so expertly satirized current events---all while making all audiences feel like he promoted their side of things.
When it looked like the show was about to be cancelled the creators of `Family Guy' came up with another series. Critiquing `post 9-11' America, `American Dad!' updates `All in the Family's' formula through a cartoon format. The animation style and some of the voices are similar to 'Family Guy', but this series has much more in common with those inherently political sitcoms of the 1970's.
CIA Agent Stan Smith wants to protect his country-but he also
wants to maintain his own little sheltered world view. Despite his job Stan ultimately has a very limited grasp of international affairs. However he does know that he loves his family and is only trying to do what he thinks is best for them---by any means necessary!
In the pilot episode, Stan attempts to get his son Steve a dog so he will then be popular with the ladies-never mind the fact that this particular dog had been selected only because it was alive during the Reagan administration-making the poor thing older than dirt in people years! After it is accidentally killed during a `home invasion' false alarm, he again tries to help his son out by rigging the school elections so Steve is elected the school president!
"Threat Levels" exposes the realities of public sector vs. private sector pay. When the formerly homemaking Francine enters the real-estate business and then quickly becomes a success Stan feels emasculated. He loves his wife, but her new career cuts away at his fantasy of the `male-breadwinner head of household' myth he had constructed and maintained for himself. Even having her boss arrested and the agency she worked with shut down does not resolve this situation-Francine simply becomes an independent agent! Hayley sees an opportunity of her own using one of the homes which mom is trying to sell as a homeless shelter. Somehow, dad ultimately muscles little brother away from the cockfighting business he had established at that same shelter and takes over it himself. The episode wryly explored anxieties being felt over shifting economic realities and gender.
13 episodes make up the first half of this 2005-2006season release. Episodes you and your own `family' will love include "Bullocks to Stan" because he learns that his boss is sleeping with his ultra-liberal daughter Haley. Because Stan and Haley were close when she was younger but drifted apart because of their divergent political views, he wants to recreate that earlier relationship. Stan has difficulty processing that his daughter is both grownup and sleeping with the boss (voiced by none other than Patrick Stewart).
Another good episode mixing sex and politics together for laughs is "A Smith in the Hand". Concerned that Steve is receiving sex education at school, Stan volunteers to give his own demonstration to that class. During that demonstration, Stan attacks masturbation and sex as inherently evil. Resultant crotch injuries then require Stan to apply ointment to his own crotch, and he discovers masturbation for the first time. Steve then discovers what dad is now hooked on and they hypocritically go around promote the idea on television that masturbation is bad all while doing it themselves. Finally, Francine steps in and tells them that she has had enough and sexual feelings are perfectly normal.
Francine usually keeps her own opinions to herself, but she really is a closet liberal underneath it all.
This is apparent when Stan attempts to erase her mind so she will not remember that he forgot their anniversary or that it is their anniversary ("Francine's Flashback"). Instead of only taking off 20 hours however, the CIA scientist erases 20 years and she is now unable to remember anything about her current life-including that she is married to Stan himself. Despite what he had CIA colleagues do, Stan becomes panicked by this development-he had not wanted things to go this far and fears loosing Francine forever. Her memory is miraculously recovered at a concert though and another crisis is temporarily averted in the Smith household.
Francine's quick thinking saves the day when Stan panics about the Iranian new neighbors ("Homeland Insecurity"). Suspecting that they are `terrorists', Stan then decides they will be detained in his home-attempting to publicly justify this through the Patriot Act. Contrasting, Francine takes the more sophisticated approach-she sells the whole thing as a neighborhood block party which just happens to have a "Terrorist Detention Camp" theme. She is the one who really has the people skills needed to conduct covert operation!
I'm honestly not that crazy about the ending two-parter "Stan of Arabia", where the Smith family temporarily lives in Saudi Arabia. Okay yes, the CIA does travel internationally but the series creators themselves obviously did not have knowledge of the Middle East before writing these episodes. `American Dad' usually works (and very well) because they could show Stan being a well-intentioned dofus without complete knowledge of the America which everybody else around him does know about. This plot device doesn't work as well when the writers themselves lack in knowledge of the same thing they attempt to critique.
Extras include Commentary on 12 episodes by Creators & Producers Mike Barker, Matt Weitzman, Seth MacFarlane and others, a featurette called "All in the Family: Creating American Dad, a " featurette called "Secrets of the Glass Booth: Behind the Voices of American Dad , a Animatic-to-Episode comparison, and 42 deleted scenes