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Family Guy

December 2008 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Family Guy - Singles: Stewie
voice cast: Seth MacFarlane, Seth Green, Alex Borstein, and Mila Kunis

creator: Seth MacFarlane

86 minutes (15) 2008
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 4/10
reviewed by Ben J. Lamb
In the history of cartoon sitcoms, Family Guy is certainly a unique one. The phenomenal DVD sales of the series' boxsets forced 20th Century Fox to withdraw their decision to axe the show not only once, but twice. Therefore, keeping this production in full swing is strictly due to the fans spending habits. With season three being one of greatest selling DVDs of all time, it was only a matter of time before someone cottoned on to this fact and started creating several spin-off and repackaged episodes to milk the cash cow for all its worth. Already we have had the entertaining feature-length DVD film, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (2005), Star Wars parody Blue Harvest, and three other compilation DVDs that have recently had Peter Griffin's best bits exposed along with the Freakin' Sweet Collection (2005), and the Happy Freakin' Xmas Collection (2006). Not to mention the extensive shortening of seasons in the UK means we have to pay twice the money for a complete series.

It is also worth mentioning that Family Guy is no longer in its heyday. It is less talked about and people just don't seem as bothered about new episodes as they used to be. The scripts are not as witty but more vulgar, close to the bone and blunt instead of being cleverly suggestive. Seth MacFarlane and his team are unable to exceed the standard they set themselves and are now trying too hard to stay on the ball and remain controversial which is something they previously did with ease.

So here is Fox's latest attempt to persuade you to part with your hard earned cash for the sake of their franchise, a DVD that has four cherry-picked 'Stewie' episodes from its back catalogue of seven seasons. In an attempt to capture the character's development over the years and single out his best moments, this is strictly for avid Stewie fans only, basically those who cannot get enough of the intelligent, camp English, evil genius of a baby.

The boxset begins with an episode titled Chitty Chitty Death Bang. In this almost adequately amusing episode Meg joins a suicidal religious cult in seeking acceptance from her peers. But more importantly, in relation to the theme of the DVD, it is Stewie's first birthday when he somehow believes that the doctor in the white coat who released him from the solitary of his mother's womb intends to put him back in.

Chitty Chitty Death Bang is in fact the third episode of Family Guy. This episode, like that of the entire first season, has a definite retro feel to it. The main female characters have different sounding voices and the animation looks considerably cheaper. Chitty Chitty Death Bang is a prime example of the sitcom's earlier days when the scripts were primarily plot driven and a lot more reserved with their humour. The humour itself is less anarchic and nowhere near as quick fired or as packed with irrelevant sketches. This was a time before the occasional pop-cultural sketch took main precedence, which subsequently developed the show into its own original style of humour. This was when MacFarlane was trying to make a name for his show in getting it out there on the adult cartoon market. This sort of episode may not be able to rival the landmark shows South Park and The Simpsons but it still had an iconic and promising start. Family Guy would eventually get its comeuppance when its later success forced The Simpsons to change its format and was subject to a ripping on South Park.

The second episode on the disc is in fact from one of the more renowned series. The Tan Aquatic With Steve Zissou is from season five (that's season six to us in the UK). In this episode father of the family Peter Griffin gains a new philosophy in life and becomes a bully to all those around him. Stewie also becomes so obsessed with his new tan that he almost contracts skin cancer after Brian leaves him on the sun bed for too long. The Tan Aquatic is in fact a very weak, mediocre episode from the show's peak, which could easily be mistaken for a second series episode. Similarly for an episode in a Stewie boxset, very little is actually about Stewie himself other than his newfound tan, which is neither an integral nor a memorable aspect to his character.

It is the last two episodes on this disc that save this compilation from being a complete disaster. In The Courtship Of Stewie's Father from season four (that's season five to us in the UK), Peter realises he is spending too much time trying to win employee of the month at his job, and so tries to spend more time with his son Stewie. Peter fights for his affection by joining him in abusing Lois. He eventually takes Stewie on a Disney World trip, which is full of the Family Guy trademark humour that includes racism, anti-Semitism and religion, which they manage to get away with in their own charming and cheeky manner.

Meanwhile, Chris ends up doing chores for Herbert, his paedophilic neighbour, after accidentally breaking his window with a baseball. After working there for a while Herbert has a disturbing, weird utopian vision told through the medium of a musical format where they both get married. This single skit is one of the most iconic moments in the show's history and the episode is a prime example of the show at the height of its popularity and is the epitome of harsh cultural satire mixed with an innovative and original script.

Stewie Loves Lois is the second episode from season five (UK season six), and is also the only other masterpiece of the disc. After a prostate exam, Peter thinks Dr Hartman has raped him, and ends up filing a lawsuit against the town's doctor, which gets his medical licence revoked. Also in the second plotline, Lois repairs Stewie's teddy bear Rupert after a horrible accident. Stewie in turn becomes so grateful he uncharacteristically clings to Lois incessantly and becomes over dependent on her, which leads her into having homicidal thoughts about him. Amidst all the anarchic sketches are a series of skits on the camp Sulu, from Star Trek, which are not to be missed.

With several plot strands in each episode, the premise of this DVD is completely flawed, as there is only ever minimal emphasis on Stewie's character. Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story is far superior in comparison. So save your money and buy a series boxset instead as the cash-cow's udders have well and truly been sucked dry this time. Overall it is increasingly apparent that the distribution team needs to concentrate on releasing the actual series boxsets whilst the show is still fairly popular and well known.

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