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Family Guy

Family Guy is an animated comedy about the dysfunctional Griffin family. Head of the house is lazy drunk Peter, married to Lois, with dim son Chris, unattractive daughter Meg, evil genius baby Stewie and talking dog Brian. FOX 1999-???

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Episode 7 - Brian - Portrait Of A Dog

22 March 2012

Synopsis: Quahog is suffering through a heat wave and Peter can’t afford a new air conditioner. He asks Brian to enter a dog show in order to win them the money. Brian grudgingly agrees but feels demeaned by behaving like a dog. He and Peter fall out over the competition and Brian ends up back where he started, on the streets. Lois talks Peter into taking him back but Brian is arrested and sentenced to death for biting people. Peter steps up and defends him.

The Good: This is a fascinating episode. It’s difficult to know how seriously the writers thought about what they were doing. The storyline is a bit confused in places between serious satire and silly comedy. But there are moments when Brian’s struggle against the human world is a hugely clever mirror of how black people were once treated in the United States.

The clever part comes in finding perfectly natural ways for a dog to run foul of the human population. Brian is out without a leash, he is drinking from the human’s water fountain and there is a “No Dogs” sign on the store window. These clever and plausible parallels between the civil rights struggle and what everyday life might be like for a talking dog mean that the story doesn’t feel heavy handed at all. Some nice jokes flow out of it too. Brian encounters the dogs from Lady and the Tramp and is mad at them for perpetuating dog stereotypes. He kicks a vicious dog in the crotch to no effect and comments “Well I see somebody’s been neutered!”

In the end Brian gets his freedom back and is accepted into human society. In a way this episode justifies and explains within the Family Guy universe why Brian, a talking dog, goes unnoticed or unremarked upon. To show his love for Peter and his acceptance of his role within the Griffin family he licks Peter’s face to finish the episode, which was pretty sweet.

Stewie was consistently dismissive of Brian throughout which stayed true to his evil character. I enjoyed Chris being dumb, when Brian was mis-announced as “Brain” at the Dog show, Chris shouted “Yay Brain!”

Flashback ratio (good-medium-bad): 0-5-3

The Bad: The way Peter bribed the judges with twenty dollars seemed unnecessarily cheap. Pun intended. It seems to be the Family Guy way that the writers don’t bother with even vaguely realistic resolutions to their plots. Even when there is a pretty serious moral message in them. In this instance it does somewhat undercut Brian’s social victory when it is achieved in this ridiculous manner.

The flashback jokes are again a disappointment with the odd exception (Peter hits a dear, cue an actual dear driver swapping insurance details).

Best Joke: The opening scene is yet another old sitcom parody, this time Eight is Enough. Father of many Tom Bradford is gently mocked by his daughter. So he knocks her over and stops slapping her until he is warned that “Eight is enough!” cue laughing and hugs all round. Your knowledge of Eight is Enough will determine your reaction to this parody. But at its core is one of the keys to Family Guy’s success. Taking an established product and throwing in a completely unexpected or inappropriate twist for comic effect. It definitely leads to memorable jokes.

The Bottom Line: An episode quite unlike any of the first six. The story is far more serious and it brings out a depth in Brian’s character which is surprising to see. The slightly lame collection of flashback jokes are consistent with season one though.

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