After 2 cancellations and over 200 episodes, Family Guy is better than ever, and in case you haven’t heard the good news, Fox has begun releasing entire seasons of the hit animated series on DVD rather than breaking them up into separate, shorter sets. This Volume 12 set captures the entire 11th season of the series, including its 200th episode and 22 others guaranteed to keep all fans of the show satisfied.
I’ve been watching Family Guy since the beginning, but wouldn’t have called myself a fan until the first DVD set came out. I bought it instantly and binged on those first two seasons over and over again. The same thing happened when season 3 was released, and we were all convinced that that was the end of the journey. But everyone knows the story; incredible DVD sales coupled with reruns on Cartoon Network and TBS made the series more popular than ever to the point of it being resurrected. The results were fairly mediocre, with the writers rehashing old jokes and ideas over and over again hoping to squeeze something funny out of them. I about lost faith in the series somewhere around Peter’s 6th chicken fight, but the show never got so bad that I couldn’t keep watching. Fortunately, the Griffins rediscovered what made them special to begin with and started churning out original and hilarious comedy all blanketed with a welcome dose of pop culture references. It’s been a long time coming, but I can say whole heartedly that this 11th season is the best to date.
Episodes include the 200th, where Brian inadvertently reverses the flow of time. Brian and Stewie are then able to track backwards through the show’s run, revisiting old bits with a fresh twist. Even the dreaded chicken fight routine gets a welcome twist by showing it in reverse. Another episode collects a bunch of romantic comedy clichés in an attempt to show how they could be done in a fresh way. Another sees Brian and Stewie travel to Las Vegas via teleporter and get accidentally cloned in the process.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this season was that feud with The Simpsons has apparently stopped, or at least changed considerably. I haven’t watched The Simpsons in a long time because they did get really unfunny to the point where I couldn’t take it anymore, but I did enjoy the little jabs each series would take at the other. I don’t know if Simpsons is still doing it, but Family Guy’s stance in this private war has apparently become one of self deprecation. They’ve acknowledged for a while now that they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for The Simpsons inspiring them for so many years, and Season 11 has a number of jokes addressing their perceived unoriginality that ironically sets them apart as very original. While The Simpsons may have pioneered this style of animated television show, and Family Guy is similarly structured in terms of its set up, they’re true virtue comes out of their ability to use popular culture to comment on the world we live in. Mostly, this is done in satirical and broad terms to make their audience laugh, but every once in a while an episode will achieve a profound look at the world we live in. This season sees Brian and Peter serving as jurors for a murder trial. On one hand, the episode is a Family Guy-esque adaptation of 12 Angry Men, but it also provides a rather grim look at our current judicial system, and the inevitable ignorance of people we ask to determine our guilt or innocence.
Each episode in this set strives to take the characters in some unique direction, rather than chewing up old jokes to make them seem new. This has made some of the earlier episodes and seasons feel lazy and thrown together, but if the series continues on this path, they’ll continue to draw their fan base back in.
Available now on DVD from 20th Century Fox.