I don’t really know what to make of the new season of The Family Guy. The season premier (the Star Wars parody was really good, but I noticed several scenes where the momentum seemed to die, and the insane, ever-present punchlines just didn’t come. In the last episode from Sunday, titled Movin out (Brian’s Song) (a characteristic FG triple-entendre), this was much more striking. I’m a huge fan, I consider it one of my top shows along with Lost, BSG, and It’s Always Sunny. I have defended its humor whenever I get a chance – they don’t need to rely on plot like South Park and The Simpsons. It is slapstick. Plot didn’t really matter in the comedy classic Airplane and it needn’t in FG.
But something very different is going on and I think it is intentional. This episode had several scenes that ended without punchlines, not with failed punchlines (every episode has a couple, I accept it), but literally the scenes just ended. Some were meant to be sad, some meant to be awkward (I think…), but some just… ended. Very strange.
Notably, there were the extended scenes with Carl, played by H. Jon Benjamin from Home Movies and Dr. Katz (as well as numerous cameos on almost every Adult Swim cartoon). Those scenes in particular seemed to draw inspiration from the bone-dry humor in those shows. I like that humor, in Home Movies particularly, but that has never really been FG’s selling point. I relish those mundane, realist conversations that flavor and temper the off-the-wall humor in FG, but trying to build a show on that sort of banter is fundamentally changing the show. I dug those awkward movie conversations between Chris and Carl, but you need the fast-paced slapstick humor and offensive one-liners to give those mundane scenes any sort of weight. In a well-balanced episode, those scenes prove to be more tense than the ones that end up causing controversy.
I’m not ready to admit that FG has gone astray yet, I mean I tolerated the Nikki and Paolo episodes in the third season of Lost, but they need to get their balance back. In almost every episode, season 3 and after, I have had at least a couple moments where I could not control my laughter. I don’t think I had one audible after viewing this episode.
And I sure as hell cherish my laughing time.