AMERICAN DAD “Fartbreak Hotel” Review

AMERICAN DAD Fartbreak Hotel
AMERICAN DAD “Fartbreak Hotel” Season 7 Episode 9 – FOX aired AMERICAN DAD‘s first episode of 2011, “Fartbreak Hotel” in its new 7:30pm timeslot tonight, opening with a montage of Francine’s mundane daily routine in the Smith household set to Electric Light Orchestra and peppered with the blood-and-guts-can-be-funny visuals we’ve come to expect from American Dad. Thanks to Roger’s gassy reaction to Francine’s okra casserole, the Smith family finds themselves spending a week at an unusual hotel while the home is under quarantine.

The majority of the episode focuses on Francine stepping into the shoes of a career woman whose life doesn’t revolve around the role of a homemaker. It’s not the freshest plotline – we’ve seen variations of this same theme explored by other animated matriarchs on The Simpsons and Family Guy – but unfortunately American Dad‘s version is not as successful as some of its predecessors. Francine’s walk on the wild side ends up revealing that while she possesses all the skills necessary to run corporate America, the people that matter to her the most barely acknowledge her. After a time-lapse, she peeks into the window of her former home to discover she’s that while she is independently successful and wealthy, the Smith family has moved on and is happy with the mom replacement they’ve found in the time that she’s been gone. It seems Francine wasn’t necessary after all.

Francine seems forced to choose between a lonely life of hard work, fiscal gain and robot love or a life of unappreciated domestic servitude. When Marge Simpson and Lois Griffin shifted out of the maternal role, their families in many ways fell apart; bringing light to the reality that as much as they were underappreciated on a daily basis, there was no replacement and no functioning family without their Marge or Lois.

At the end of “Fartbreak Hotel”, Francine doesn’t even get the satisfaction of knowing that her family would fall apart without her. She makes up her own reward, declaring that “Thursdays are for me” much to the disbelief of her hungry family. She keeps the house running and doesn’t get even a thank you.

As much as the narrator (hiding in a bush) attempts to make Francine’s choice seem like a girl-power moment, it kind of misses the mark. Francine mentions earlier in the episode that she spent her whole life thinking about her family and it got her nowhere. Unfortunately it seems that this is Francine’s lot. Whether she’s focusing all her energy on her family or directing it all into a career, she’s destined to live a mostly melancholy life. Even in the family life she chooses, mild delusion plays a necessary role to keep her thinking that one day a week for herself is some kind of reward instead of a last ditch effort to keep her sanity.

It’s not all “poor Francine” though. In his usual manner, Roger delivers some serious laughs this episode as he watches Francine take on her alternate persona. Himself, not unfamiliar with alternate egos, he’s got a cast of characters and back stories that really pull in the chuckles. At one point he’s inspired to take on the hilarious role of The Tender Vigilante wearing Francine’s old dress as a cape. The visual of Roger standing on a balcony, comb-over flapping in the wind and proclaiming his promise to provide his tender justice to a city in pain was probably one of the funniest moments of the episode.

Stan was largely absent from this episode – other than to show us how he needs Francine to make his breakfast and pick his socks. It was a pretty funny bit with Stan sitting on the floor hyperventilating over his inability to dress himself, too bad Francine couldn’t see it for herself and too bad he didn’t mention anything to her about it later in the episode.

Steve’s search for his dream girl and interaction with concierge, Hector Elizondo (as himself) are entertaining. American Dad explores a time paradox again with this b- story line which allowed them to utilize nostalgia for laughs pretty successfully. Steve discovering that he is his own dream girl was somewhat expected, but Elizonado’s character admitting that he too was once his own dream girl caught me off guard for a good laugh.

Overall, this episode of American Dad was not a bad start for its new spot on the Fox Animation Domination lineup. Whatever I was missing in character development was made up for with good humor that I think will continue to deliver to American Dad fans as it always has.