On the latest episode of “Family Guy,” things got off to an exceptionally strong start, with one of the show’s best cold openings of all time in “Bigfat.” First, we saw our beloved family interacting with another of the night’s line-up, the gang from “American Dad,” ending with that show’s Stan shooting Peter to death after he blabbed about Roger being an alien to Quagmire!
That turned out to be a dream that led to another, decidedly more unexpected one, in which we saw the dearly departed Hank Hill, of “King of the Hill” fame, come into the room, see Peter and say: “Lois, what’s that fat man doing in our bed?” Cue a spoof of the “King of the Hill” opening, with some of the “Family Guy” gang subbing for Hank and the boys, and then the proper show began in earnest. (The whole dream within a dream thing could also be said to itself be a spoof of the infamous “Newhart” one as well, making this a bit of a triple-decker spoof.)
There was also a rare “South Park” reference, which is interesting, given that the show has poked fun at “Family Guy” before, when Peter remarks: “I always wanted to go to Canada, then ‘South Park’ went and we couldn’t go.” The allure of the Canadian nudie bar proved to be too much for Peter and his pals, and after a hilarious musical number, not unlike something you’d see on “SP,” complete with a line from a singing Bill Maher (!), it was off into the wild blue yonder for the boys to make their strip club dreams a reality.
Alas, it was not to be. Taking a private plane, which had the option of letting you “pick who you dump your poop on” via a special map with four conveniently-labeled options (church, school, synagogue, and government building- with synagogue the most used of the bunch for whatever reason), Peter couldn’t resist reenacting his favorite “Twilight Zone” episode, causing the plane to crash. Unfortunately, it was all downhill from there for the episode as well.
For the rest of the show, we saw the gang stranded in the wilds of Canada- or at least Peter, who went missing, only to later be found living as a feral man-beast, which I assume was meant to be the “Bigfat” of the title. There were a few good moments here and there after that, notably Peter’s pre-prepared “Feral Peter” videotapes and the “Young Frankenstein”-style grunting duet between Peter and Stewie of “War” and “Baby Got Back,” but unfortunately, the rest of the episode couldn’t live up to that strong opening.
It’s actually kind of interesting, as one of the main complaints I’ve heard leveled at the show was that it had mostly abandoned the brand of pop culture-laden references it was known for in its early years for a more original sensibility, which many feel is not nearly as successful- or funny. Here, we saw the show gleefully re-embrace that early style in the beginning of the episode to hilarious effect, only to abandon it in the latter half for a substandard plotline that wasn’t nearly as effective. That’s too bad, as it seemed like this was going to be one of the best episodes in recent memory.
I’m the first to admit I appreciated the newfound original approach, as it seemed a bit too easy for the show to simply insert a random pop culture reference willy-nilly into the proceedings, to the point where it was leaning too heavily on such things. However, it would seem that it was exactly that aspect that a lot of people loved and missed about the show when it stopped doing as much of it. So, here it does just that, and damned if it isn’t hilarious and enjoyable…until the show abandons it for the remainder of the episode, more or less.
I mean, sure, there was the aforementioned duet, and the great bit with Peter mumbling through the lyrics of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” to make sure that there wasn’t a helpful hint on how to start a fire hidden in there (my favorite line: “Yelling really loud at me!”), but for the most part, the feral Peter thing was pretty laugh-free, or at the very least, not as funny as what preceded it.
Could it be that “Family Guy” is actually better the more derivative it is? That’s a sad thought. Yet, there’s no denying the spark I got when that opening came on and we saw all those shows mingling together. It was a classic moment in “Family Guy” history, no doubt about it. I’m not necessarily saying the entire episode should have been like that, but it might have been cool for the show to have done a sort of variation on the “South Park”-trilogy “Imaginationland,” with various beloved animated characters interacting throughout the episode. Of course, then it really would have been ripping that show off, but when has “Family Guy” let that stop them?
When all is said and done, the episode is definitely worth seeing, though, if only for that priceless opening act and a few decent jokes scattered throughout the episode. My favorites, beyond what I already mentioned, were the bit with the monkey bars early in the episode, with Peter remarking “Oh, look at that- they already got Al-Qaedas all over them. They’re gonna be so good at swinging bar-to-bar when they invade,” before spraying the would-be terrorists off with a hose; the random disturbing joke about Davy Crockett and his early-childhood killing capabilities (“It felt like heaven when I was doing it,” he said, as he sported a freshly-minted coonskin cap); and Stewie’s passport photo, which featured Liam Hemsworth for some reason!
All in all, a good but not great episode that had the makings of a classic, but faltered in the end. If you’re a fan of the older style of “Family Guy” humor, you’ll at least want to see the first bit of the episode, but be forewarned, it doesn’t get any better than that.
What did you think of “Family Guy” this week? Did you get a kick out of the cameos from the “American Dad” gang and Hank and Peggy Hill? Do you think there should have been more of that sort of thing? Do you think the show should go back to its earlier style of humor? Let me know in the comments!