It’s the return of everyone’s favorite dysfunctional family, the Griffin’s in their 10th season premiere.
The show opens this week with another clever play on the show’s choreographed dance number opener. On the one hand they’ve done this kind of gag before so it’s not a very good sign if they’re going back to the well already. On the other it’s at least a different setup so hopefully it foreshadows them doing something exciting and new with the cast this season.
The very next joke gives me an indication of just where this episode is headed. It’s a very offbeat send up of William “Capt. Kirk” Shatner’s “KHHHAAANNNN!!” from the movie of the same name. Yes, Family Guy is an offbeat, odd kind of show but this one is just so jarring, so unexpected in it’s execution that it suggests a marked departure from the show’s signature tone. Not that it’s a bad joke, per se, just unrepentantly silly. Do I detect… stoner humor?
In this episode Peter’s ‘Outrageous Scheme of the Week’™ is to play the lottery. And because it’s Peter, playing the lottery means re-mortgaging the house and buying 200,000 tickets. And because this is sitcom TV, of course he wins. I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by telling you that by the end of the show they’re all broke again.
At one point a montage cues up as the Griffin family goes through the piles and piles of tickets, with descriptive lyrics such as, “Checkin’ lottery tickets, lookin’ at the numbers and seein’ if they match the ones on the news. If they do then we’re winners… this is takin’ forever, that’s why Bryan is yawning and Stewie is rubbing his eyes.”
This, in its essence sums up many of my problems with this week’s episode. They don’t let the humor come naturally here. It’s akin to watching a comedian who knows he’s about to say something funny so he starts laughing himself before the punchline gets there. As a result, by the time it actually does get there all the “punch” has been taken out of it for viewers. Because we all know where the overarching plot is going that gets relegated to background noise, so essentially we’re left with nothing, neither a proper narrative nor sufficient humorous set ups to sustain our interest.
Also, a montage joke? Ok, those were sardonic, meta and clever back in 2000; now they’re just tired.
Which brings me to my overall complaint with this episode. It’s all so paint-by-numbers; nothing about this episode truly surprises, either within the framework of the overarching Family Guy mythos or on the base level of making people laugh. We’ve already seen the ‘Griffins get rich’ episode so much of this feels like trodden ground. We get it, money makes Peter and Lois obnoxious spendthrifts and it makes their kids spoiled brats.
Unfortunately this isn’t the strongest season opener as many of the jokes here substitute obscure, odd and wacky for genuinely funny. To be fair there are a few tasty bits; Peter’s using his newfound status as a pretense to make Joe and Quagmire perform “Makin’ Whoopie” for him is darkly comical. There are a few other funny parts, but not nearly enough to fill a 30 minute show.
Always good to have a new season of Family Guy, because even when it’s off it’s still consistently one of the most interesting—if not actually funny—shows on TV. That’s a testament to the strength of the characters McFarlane and co. have created. It’s only a tragedy that this is the best idea they can come up with for what to do with them. Here’s hoping that this starter episode was only a rough patch and now that they’ve smoothed out the kinks we can get back to the deep guffaws and haw haws that this series is famous for.
Monroe residents can catch Family Guy Sundays at 8pm on FOX. Check your local listings for more info.