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20th Century Fox presents
Family Guy: Volume Three (2005)

Peter: Everybody, I've got bad news. We've been cancelled.
Lois: Oh, no, Peter. How could they do that?
Peter: Well, unfortunately Lois, there's just no more room on the schedule. We've just got to accept the fact that Fox has to make room for terrific shows like Dark Angel, Titus, Undeclared, Action, That '80s Show, Wonderfalls, Fastlane, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Skin, Girls Club, Cracking Up, The Pitts, Firefly, Get Real, Freaky Links, Wanda at Large, Costello, The Lone Gunmen, A Minute with Stan Hooper, Normal Ohio, Pasadena, Harsh Realm, Keen Eddie, The Street, American Embassy, Cedric the Entertainer, The Tick, and Greg the Bunny.
Lois: Is there no hope?
Peter: Well, I suppose if all those shows go down the tubes we might have a shot.

- (Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein)

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: December 14, 2005

Stars: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Seth Green, Mila Kunis
Other Stars: Mike Henry, Wally Wingert, Phil LaMarr, Nicole Sullivan, Drew Barrymore, Gary Cole, Rachel MacFarlane, Judd Hirsch, Gina Gershon, Adam West, Tara Strong, Gene Simmons, Jennifer Tilly, Patrick Warburton, Randy Savage, Danny Smith, Cloris Leachman, Gilbert Gottfried, Nancy Cartwright, Jessica Biel, Ray Romano, Jonathan Frakes, Michael Dorn, Gabrielle Union, Patrick Stewart, James Woods, Adam Carolla, Jenna Von Oy
Director: Kurt Dumas, Sarah Frost, James Purdum, Chuck Klein, Zac Moncrief, Peter Shin, Pete Michels, Seth Kearsley, Dan Povenmire, Greg Colton

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mature humor and language)
Run Time: 05h:20m:00s
Release Date: November 29, 2005
UPC: 024543212959
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-BB+ B

DVD Review

It is fairly rare a television series that gets cancelled is brought back to life. Sure, it has happened on occasion, more so in recent years it seems, but it is even more unusual when the revived series is as strong or stronger than its original incarnation.

Fox, the apparent exalted high kings of premature cancellations of quality programming, took the ax to the politically incorrect animated series Family Guy in 2002 after three seasons, much to the chagrin of the unimaginably faithful fan base. The high volume sales for the DVD releases of the series led the charge for its eventual triumphant return in May of 2005, and as this fourth season proved right away, any concerns about the show's volatile comedic approach losing any of its biting edge in the era following the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction were thankfully unwarranted.

Creator Seth MacFarlane—who also does many of character voices for the series—avoided any semblance of becoming politically correct from the outset. The result had storylines once again broaching potentially taboo subjects—especially for an animated series—such as Peter embracing his newly diagnosed mental retardation that gives him newfound freedom to do whatever he wants (Petarded) or an interracial neighborhood affair between "giggidy" guy Quagmire and Loretta (The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire). MacFarlane and the writing staff embrace the concept of the gag that runs too long, taking a quick joke and turning it into something awkwardly overdone; as a repetitious punchline or sight gag gets beat down hard, it then becomes funny to see how long it can be stretched out, like the a capella singing group, The Four Peters, who opens the Model Misbehavior episode or any of the Stewie/Brian conversations that meander and loop back on themselves.

The premise hasn't changed at all for this fourth season, with the series still set in the fictitious town of Quahog, Rhode Island centering around the dysfunctional Griffin family. Peter (voiced by MacFarlane), he of the testicle-shaped chin, is the rotund head-of-the-household, and his wife Lois (voiced by Mad TV's Alex Borstein) is often times the only sane voice to be heard, though in the episode Model Behavior she does go off the pill-popping deep end when her modeling career takes off. Their two angst-ridden teenaged children are Chris (voiced by Seth Green), the chubby introverted artist wannabe, and Meg (voiced by Mila Kunis), the lonely president of the Quahog chapter of the Luke Perry Fan Club who is continually mistreated by Peter, an example of yet another un-PC recurring gag. Stewie (also voiced by MacFarlane) is the Griffin's one-year-old son, and he is constantly planning violent upheaval; it's never made entirely clear whether Stewie, who speaks like Sideshow Bob's well-heeled sibling, can actually be heard by anyone else in his family, but that is one of the show's recurring unexplained gags. Lastly, the Griffin household is completed by Brian the dog (MacFarlane again), a martini-sipping alum of Brown University who, like Stewie, can talk.

As before, there are pop culture references galore and plenty of "That was like the time..." flashback moments, with some hitting their mark better than others. But it is the quantity approach that works so well here, with the surreal and bizarre factor always lurking around in each scene, so much so that it is generally impossible to predict where a given storyline will go. In a weird "be careful what you wish for" paradox, purists have vocally criticized this second coming of Family Guy on message boards all over the Internet—and I guess I see some of the arguments about a reliance on nonsensical sight gags—but those complaints generally seem like overanalysis of an animated series that is continually daring and unpredictable.

There have always been fan-based comparisons for different components of pop culture. Ginger or Mary-Ann? Betty or Veronica? Angel or Spike? Mulder or Scully? Dick York or Dick Sargent? The Simpsons or Family Guy? Now, I have always been a diehard Simpsons fan, and as much as I love the first three seasons of Family Guy, it never managed to come close to challenging the title. I did have a weird epiphany, however, halfway through the airing of Family Guy's fourth season, when my daughter asked me which show I found myself looking forward to more each week.

Was it The Simpsons or Family Guy?

Somehow I felt like a traitor to Homer, but I had to admit it was Family Guy. Say it proud, baby.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The debris-free full-frame transfers are certainly a marked improvement over the first two sets, with far less edge enhancement and "jigglies", though there are still some noticeable but minor flaws in those areas. Colors. however, are rendered exceptionally well, looking bright and solid, with no smearing.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The most dramatic enhancement is that the 13 episodes are now all presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround, as opposed to the 2.0 stereo surround tracks of previous seasons. Not that there was anything wrong with those adequate 2.0 mixes, but with 5.1 the dialogue and music cues have a much warmer, wider presentation, and there is a slightly more pronounced and purposeful usage of rear channels cues.

Four episodes are available with a choice of censored or uncensored audio options, which reinstates a few mild obscenities.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 65 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Office Space: Special Edition, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, American Dad
1 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
4 Featurette(s)
Storyboard
10 Feature/Episode commentaries by Seth MacFarlane, David Goodman, Chris Sheridan, Seth Green, Peter Shin, Steve Callaghan, Chuck Klein, Tom Devanney, Kurt Dumas, Wellesley Wild, James Woods, Danny Smith, Mike Henry, Mark Hentemann, James Purdum, Mila Kunis, Alex Sulkin, Greg Cotton,
Packaging: Thinpak
Picture Disc
3 Discs
3-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The three discs (two are single layer and one is dual) are packaged in separate ThinPak cases, with episode summaries and original air date information. And, as with previous sets, the cases are housed in a heavystock cardboard slipcase.

A rotating cast of writers/producers/directors/cast, including Seth MacFarlane, David Goodman, Chris Sheridan, Seth Green, Peter Shin, Steve Callaghan, Chuck Klein, Tom Devanney, Kurt Dumas, Wellesley Wild, James Woods, Danny Smith, Mike Henry, Mark Hentemann, James Purdum, Mila Kunis, Alex Sulkin, Greg Cotton, and Patrick Meighan provide a total of ten commentary tracks. MacFarlane is the one constant, showing up on all ten, and yes you read that correctly: actor James Woods even sits in on one track. There is a slight case of what I like to call "overcrowded commentary syndrome," but the overall tone is pleasantly self-effacing, and the biggest absence is the wonderfully foul-mouthed Alex Borstein.

The commentaries are for the episodes North By North Quahog, Blind Ambition, Breaking Out Is Hard to Do, Peter's Got Woods, Perfect Castaway, Jungle Love, The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire, Petarded, Brian the Bachelor, and 8 Simple Rules for Buying My Teenage Daughter.

With the exception of the commentaries, all of the other extras are found on Disc 3. World Domination: The Family Guy Phenomenon (24m:11s) is a look at the revival of the show, with comments from all of the principle players, intercut with scenes from the series. The Deleted Scene Animatics (02m:22s) has a cut musical clip from the Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High episode, with Brian singing the Low Level Man song (about the joys of menial employment), while Score! The Music of Family Guy (07m:57s) has MacFarlane dutifully praising the "Henry Mancini style" of composers Ron Jones and Walter Murphy. The Multi-Angle Table Read section uses split screen to show the cast reading dialogue while the scene plays, and features excerpts from North By North Quahog (04m:32s) and a pair from Blind Ambition (04m:14s) (05m:57s). The Storyboard/Animatic Comparisons also uses the split screen, showing completed scenes compared to pencil sketches for Don't Make Me Over (07m:01s), The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire (05m:31s) and Brian The Bachelor (07m:53s). The American Dad preview (:54s) is less a preview as it is a commercial, and odds are if you're a Family Guy fan you already know about the show.

Each episode is cut into 5 chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

It would have been fundamentally sad if Family Guy had returned from its cancellation and ended up being a softer, safer version of its former self. This 13-episode set of the resurrected fourth season finds Seth MacFarlane still pushing the comedic envelope very, very hard, and this collection is as consistently hilarious as it is daring.

Damn funny and highly recommended.

 


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