‘Family Guy’ Season 14 Finale: “Road to India”

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On the season finale of “Family Guy,” the show went for the latest installment in its ongoing “Road” series, in which Brian and Stewie venture to some exotic locale for one reason or another, in “Road to India.” (Okay, one was California and another was Vegas, but for someone in Rhode Island, that’s still fairly exotic, lol.)

Inspired by a similar series of films featuring the legendary comedian Bob Hope, the “Road” episodes tend to be fairly enjoyable, making them typically a cut above one of the more routine episodes, particularly in terms of inventiveness, as there’s usually a big song-and-dance number, elaborate credits, and a unique soundtrack in general.

This was no exception, as you had a nifty version of the “Family Guy” theme done in Indian-music style, with recurring musical cues throughout, and the whole shebang closed out with a rousing Bollywood-style number that was admittedly a lot of fun.

Truth be told, I actually enjoyed this finale more than the finale by “The Simpsons,” which aired the same night and was admittedly more of a typical episode of that show. It overall felt more like a big finale than the one that show did, although on the whole, the latest “Simpsons” season was more consistent than the “Family Guy” one. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

I mean, did “Family Guy” lean heavily on the cut-away gags and tropes its known for? Of course it did. Even the whole “Road” thing has already been done seven times previously, by my count. But there’s also no denying that it had a more epic sweep than the “Simpsons” one, so there’s that.

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The episode revolved around two main plotlines: Brian’s quest to meet an Indian girl he spoke to and became obsessed with via- what else?- tech support; and Peter’s similarly obsessed quest to become the Big Cheese at the local Bingo game scene. Though the latter had its moments, the clear winner of the two main plotlines was obviously the trip to India.

If you thought some of “The Simpsons” visits to other places and the stereotypical jabs at their cultural differences were too subtle, then boy, were you in for a treat with this episode, as no clichéd joke was left unturned, to be sure. Be that as it may, it was still pretty funny, offensive though some of it may have been. You were expecting restraint from Seth MacFarlane?

The best gags were the most inventive ones: Peter and Stewie “deactivating” a group of Indian guys by rapidly pushing the bindis (aka the “red dots”) on their foreheads; a quadruple rimshot courtesy of the four-armed elephant deity Ganesha after a bad joke; Stewie “snake-charming” a tapeworm out of someone’s butt with a Indian-style flute tune; Peter using his bingo “dauber” to make bindis on Chris and Meg’s heads; and Brian being mauled by a random Bengal tiger.

Of course, there were plenty of cut-away gags, including a moderately amusing one about Shakespeare’s “super fruity collars” (“I use this collar as a bib for when I service guys”); and a kind of mean one about a “Tori Spelling Bee” (the words included “equine,” “collagen” and “botched”).

Easily my favorite, though, was the one about the wedding of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin: “Do you take this woman to lecture you about trans-fats for as long as you shall live?”
“I do.”
“And do you take this man to be a watered-down Bono till death do you part?”
“I do.”
“I now pronounce you pretentious and terrible. You may name your daughter after a fruit.”
Lol- an entire relationship dismissed in a few sentences. You gotta love it- unless you’re Paltrow and Martin, I guess.

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Here were my other fave quotes from the episode:

Stewie, on Brian’s Indian crush: “Amazing. One second of a stranger’s voice on the phone and you’ve got full Bollywood.”

Joe, to an aggravated Lois: “I apologize for the difficulty my paralysis causes you.”

Brian, to his Indian crush: “My least favorite curry is Ann.” (He explains who she is.)
Padma: “Oh, I know her- she’s internationally despised.”

Stewie, explaining the cultural significance of India to Brian: “This is where the Beatles came to ruin their music.”

An Indian man, to Brian and Stewie, after learning they were American: “Why did Wes Anderson come here to make his worst movie?”

Stewie, after a ride on a particularly crowded bus: “I feel like I owe every bus in America an apology.”

Brian, on why he came to India, to Padma: “I was having a technical issue with my heart.”
Stewie: “Ugh. 16 hours on a plane and that’s what you came up with?”

Stewie, on his hopes for an Indian reception: “I hope they play that one song with the shrieking, atonal, nasal woman over the bongos and tambourines.” (Cue said song.)

Brian, looking wary upon their arrival at the party: “This is what it always looks like on ‘Homeland’ before there’s a drone strike.”

Stewie, after Padma tells Brian she’s set to be in an arranged marriage: “Well, that’s a pun-jab to the face.”

Peter, shoving his Bingo marker into Joe’s mouth: “Gag on my fat dauber.”

Stewie, summing everything up nicely: “You sucked, this failed.”

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Overall Summation of the Season

All in all, this wasn’t the best season of the series, to be sure. The ratings are getting smaller by the season, and though it hasn’t quite bottomed out, they are the lowest numbers since the show’s initial cancellation back in 2003.

Honestly, not unlike “The Simpsons,” I think the people still watching are watching out of force of habit more than anything and lack of anything better to watch on Sundays, comedy-wise, and this continued commitment was just enough for FOX to re-up the series for another season.

However, while FOX might have a lock on the comedy-loving/animation fan audience, competition is nonetheless stiff, thanks to fanboy and fangirl faves like “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.”

You could argue that these shows attract different audiences, but I don’t think they’re THAT different- I think the same people who watch these shows were probably watching “Family Guy” a few years back until better options came into play.

Granted, it’s still perfectly possible that some people are watching “FG” more online or via DVR or the like, which seems likely if one is a die-hard, longtime fan of the show, but there’s still no denying the ratings are dwindling.

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If it weren’t for the fact that FOX has had consistent and reasonably reliable success with their “Animation Domination” block on Sundays for years, coupled with the fact that they have no better shows to replace “FG” with, they probably would have already cancelled the show by now, as they did with “American Dad” and “The Cleveland Show.”

Still, the network has a decent track record with MacFarlane’s stuff, and with a new sci-fi-themed series coming up from him next year, they probably want to maintain a decent working relationship with the guy, which is why I think FOX ultimately chose to renew the show again. (MacFarlane’s “Bordertown” was not afforded that same luxury, and was unceremoniously cancelled after one season.)

That said, as with “The Simpsons,” there were a few memorable, worthy episodes to be found this season, notably “Peternormal Activity,” which was originally scheduled to be the premiere and probably should have, given how much better it was that the one they went with, the lackluster “Pilling Them Softly”; as well as “Candy, Quahog Marshmallow” (in which Quagmire was revealed to be a huge soap opera star- in Korea); “An App a Day” (in which Chris had to register as a sex offender!); “The Peanut Butter Kid” (in which Stewie’s parents tried to make him a child star); and “Run Chris Run” (in which Chris was elected Homecoming King as a prank, a la “Carrie”).

I suppose the show still has the wherewithal to continue for a few more seasons, but there’s no denying that the bloom is off the rose and if they want to continue for as long as something like “The Simpsons,” they’re going to have to step it up a bit by upping the overall quality of the series.

Truth be told, it’s entirely possible that MacFarlane’s interest in the series may be waning, which is why it’s been coasting for a while. Who can blame him, given how long the show’s been on? To say nothing of the moderate success he’s had on the big screen, which may be where his future ultimately lies.

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When all is said and done, what will be fifteen seasons as of later this year is a pretty remarkable accomplishment, least of all for a show that was cancelled not once, but twice. It’s not as if MacFarlane has anything to be ashamed of even if the next season did prove to be the last.

Well, okay, maybe some of his more questionable jokes, but it’s not as if the show ever pretended to be politically correct or anything. That’s kind of why the people who do love it enjoy it so much. It may lack the socio-political edge of a “South Park” or “The Simpsons,” but it is a pretty equal-opportunity offender, at least, something it definitely shares with those two shows.

But, be that as it may, that’s no excuse for being lazy, and all too often the show does lean heavily on easy cutaway gags and movie/TV/pop culture jokes that are a little on the dated side. (Witness the finale’s recurring “Captain Phillips” joke, for instance.)

Yes, “Simpsons” and “South Park” are guilty of that as well, but they also include more culturally-relevant and current jokes along with that sort of thing, so you can excuse them for it a little more, as they have the more cutting edge humor to go along with the more familiar tropes to lean on.

You don’t tend to see a lot of that sort of thing on “FG,” but there’s no reason why you couldn’t. My advice would be to try to aim a bit more for the current generation, the Millennials- after all, it’s not like there isn’t a wealth of material to draw from there, and I say that as more or less a member of that generation myself.

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After all, the show thrives on being politically incorrect, in a time in which that sort of thing has rarely been more frowned upon. Yes, granted, the show did put their foot in it in a bad way with the notorious “Quagmire’s Dad” episode, but since when has MacFarlane ever let criticism stop him?

I say just go for broke. What have you got to lose at this point, what with the show’s days probably numbered as it is? If you’re going to go out- go big. Just my two cents, anyway. We’ll see what we have come next Fall, but until then, “Family Guy” is just okay enough to eke by one more season- for now.

What did you think of the “Family Guy” finale? How about the overall season? Is there something you’d like to see more or less of? How do you think the show could improve, moving forward? Sound off down below and see you next season!