DVD Review: American Dad: Volume 7

American Dad is still at this sweet spot in its primetime tenure where the writers and actors have all found their voice, but the show hasn’t yet started to get stale. I said much the same thing when I reviewed the previous season’s DVD release, and I would say much the same thing about the season which is currently airing. Seasons five, six, and seven have all been of a consistently high quality.

The big change at the beginning of season six (which is what volume seven actually is; the skewed numbering is due to some weird partial-season releases for the first few years of the show) was the addition of a new regular cast member. Daughter Hailey marries her on-again, off-again boyfriend Jeff in the season opener. Also in that episode (which was episode 100), no less than 100 characters on the show were killed.

That’s not the only amibitious episode stunt, however. Following up on the previous season’s impressive armageddon/Christmas episode, “Rapture’s Delight”, this year’s holiday mini-movie involves a battle royale against Santa Claus and an army of bloodthirsty elves.

Other standouts include “Son of Stan”, wherein Steve is cloned and each parent raises their Steve their own way; “The People vs. Martin Sugar”, wherein Stan is determined to see Roger pay for the crimes of one of his many personas; and “I Am the Walrus”, which sees Stan compete against his son to maintain his position as alpha male.

The strength of the show is the diversity of its characters, and the unique chemistry found in each combination. Everyone from Stan, the titular “dad”, wife Francine, daughter Hailey, and son Steve get significant screentime, and are paired in varying combinations. Speaking for myself, at least, I never find myself disappointed when I see an episode will be focused on a particular character.

The show is a MacFarlane creation, and a close cousin to Family Guy and The Cleveland Show, but Seth has had little to do with it since inception, and its writing team has their own thing going. What’s interesting is that the original show concept was born of the Bush administration and was heavily about lampooning right-wing thinking, but has grown so far beyond this simple premise.

Stan Smith is still a CIA operative, a gun-toting Republican and has all kinds of hard-line opinions against real-world evidence and even internal consistency. But the show’s liberal Hollywood writers couldn’t help but fall in love with him over the years, and the series has seen him develop beyond his initial two-dimensional conception.

Over the years, Stan has learned to tolerate his hippie daughter and her stoner boyfriend, his gay neighbours and their adopted baby, different religious beliefs, even the ultimate illegal alien, the obnoxious Roswell escapee who lives in the family’s attic and couldn’t be more different from him but has somehow become his best friend.

The extras on this set are standard, including a number of featurettes, deleted scenes for each episode, and maybe half as many commentaries as episodes. Curse words and one or two bits of brief nudity are also present in the uncut DVD episodes, while they were censored in the broadcast versions.

The commentaries are, on the whole, a little weaker than those of the previous release. As with season five, actors, writers, and/or directors get in a room, watch an episode, and chat without much preparation beforehand or guidance during. This approach sometimes results in some very interesting discussions, but not always.

The more analytical commentaries from “The Institute for American Dad Studies”, comprised of three doctoral candidates in various areas of media studies, also fell a little flat for me this time around. A highlight on last year’s release, the commentaries on this DVD set were plagued by long silences when no one could think of anything to say.

Hey, it happens sometimes. But a strong season with a lot of solid extras still leave fans with little to complain about on this release.

(20th Century Fox, 2012)

Reprinted with permission from The Sleeping Hedgehog
Copyright (2012) The Sleeping Hedgehog