As my loyal readers and fellow “Family Guy” watchers know, it’s been an up-and-down season, but lately they’ve been on a pseudo-roll, with the near-classic “Total Recall” and the decent “Save the Clam.” Well, I’m happy to say the third time was the charm, as what we have here is nothing less than one for the books- a bona fide classic episode, “Farmer Guy.”
I grew up on a steady diet of silliness than to my friends and family, who introduced me to the likes of Monty Python, Mel Brooks and Zucker-Abrahams at a pretty early age. I think the kind of humor you get into as a kid tends to shape your sense of humor as an adult, and the stuff I watched was typified by a fast-and-furious, throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks rapid fire kind of comedy, and I would certainly include the likes of Looney Tunes in there as well.
“Family Guy” certainly started out that way, then it started coasting a bit, and perhaps going a bit too far in the opposite direction, dropped a lot of the pop culture, cut-away joke type stuff it was known for in favor of a tougher-to-pull-off, more plot & character-driven style of humor. More akin to a sitcom-type style, let’s say.
Now, if you can pull this sort of thing off (i.e. “Community,” which kind of functions almost as a complete deconstruction of the genre- congrats on the renewal, guys!), it can be a really rewarding approach, but if not, it’s pretty brutal to watch one-too-many easy jokes fall flat.
That’s why I like the shotgun approach, especially for cartoons. One joke bombs, there’s another waiting right around the corner. Sure, it can all go horribly wrong- witness all the horrifically bad movie genre “satires” floating around the cinemas the last decade or so, post-Wayans, circa “Scary Movie”- but when it goes right, it’s pretty glorious.
“Farmer Guy” was close enough for disco, and it was certainly one of the best, if not the best episode of the season, and it’s precisely because it went back to the style it’s most famously known-for, not in defeat, but rather because it actually had a solid plot and some good jokes to tell. Sometimes, it’s the simplest solutions that work best, like going back to the basics.
Right away, it was clear that I wasn’t dealing with a typical episode. For one thing, all too often this season, I’ve had to back-track and cherry-pick what jokes passed for decent in a given episode. Not so here- indeed, I could barely keep up. Right off the bat, there was an on-point euthanasia joke (“God, I wish I could get tickets to that show.” LOL.); a funny bully out-sourcing joke at Chris’ expense; a great old-school racist “Andy Griffith”-parody; a random Truman Capote reference (!); funny bits with a knife-toting seal (“Now I’m gonna balance a ball on your face.”) and a gun-toting baby shooting its own umbilical cord off; and Peter getting his “sense of wonder” taken, including his inherent love of rainbows (“Nope.”).
Great stuff, and that’s just my favorite bits from the first part of the show, I might add. They hadn’t even gotten to the main premise yet. Basically, after a crime outbreak in Quahog, the family decides to move out to a farm in the country, with Brian going off to college (which could have been a decent B-story, if the A-story wasn’t so packed, but that’s not a complaint: that’s a good thing).
I even liked the funny self-referential bit leading into the first break- Peter, when the farmer quotes him a ridiculously-high price to buy his farm: “Somebody from FOX was supposed to call ahead. They usually take care of it and I just go ahead and do stuff.” Ha!
The quotable dialogue didn’t stop there.
Peter: “Well, Lois, in my defense, I have nothing to back up the beginning of this sentence.” Great line!
Peter: “Come on, guys, what do you say? Will you join me in eating eggs fresh out of chicken’s butt?”
Chris: “Yay! Now I can be one of those filthy teens with sad eyes at a Farmer’s Market!”
Stewie, excitedly, after Brian pulls a gun to his head: “Okay, I am at full candy corn right now.”
Peter, explaining what he’s doing to Lois: “A big part of owning a farm is crossing the road very slowly with cows.” (So true, and loved the random joke with the cow turning out to be the “driver” that was honking at the slow procession.)
Lois: “You’re spending half our money down at the general store, and the other half at the specific store!” Cut to…a very specific store, followed by a very general one: “Yeah, we have stuff!”)
Later on, the family opts to go into meth-making after discovering some equipment in the underground storm shelter after a tornado (not the Tasmanian Devil, as Peter hoped), because…well, Peter said it best: “Now I know that you’re freaked out, but when you really stop to think about it, this meth lab is our family’s best chance to make meth in a lab.” (All this and Meth Pigs, too. Gotta love it.)
Peter goes from rational to wacko in no time: “Everyone, now that I’m a meth dealer, I’m going to respond violently to outside noises that the rest of you don’t hear.” He takes to brandishing a gun, and even whacks a poor cricket: “I want you to be there whenever there’s a bad joke. Let them know. Let them know.” (Cue the (for once) intentionally-bad joke, and cue the surviving cricket. And they stick the landing!)
Hell, I even liked the completely ridiculous, random carrier pigeon joke. Who doesn’t like gold chains, jet-skis and Ratt? Okay, that one just might be me.
We ended on a typically savage celebrity joke, but with hardly the obvious target, which is why I think it worked better for me. Anyone can crack wise on a Lohan, Kardashian, or a Kirsten Stewart. Only “Family Guy” would level one at…Jody Sweetin and Maureen McCormick? What the what? “Peter! I need a taste! Peter, come on! I’ve got Maureen McCormack with me! She’ll let you finish anywhere!” Big LOL. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!
You won’t see that on “The Brady Bunch”…or “Full House,” for that matter. Only on “Family Guy.” Which is exactly why we love the show. Welcome back, guys. Of course, I could quibble and say, what the hell took you so long, what with the season almost over, but why look a gift horse and blah blah blah. I’ll take it.
What did you think of “Family Guy” this week? Instant classic, or am I just pining for old times and will take what I can get? I can’t be the only one that loves a good “plowing the field” joke, right? Sound off what you thought below, in the comments section!