American Dad

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"American Dad" has always been the ugly younger brother of "Family Guy."

It's not as smart, it's not as polished, and it suffers from the obvious way it was developed very self-consciously on a mirror image model of MacFarlane's better and more popular cartoon.

It does have good moments, and occasional flashes of the same kind of brilliance that marks the other show far more often.

But the premise itself seems flawed - the best episodes are when there's an acknowledgement of the basic underlying criticism of the overblown American way of life.

The way that King of the Hill pokes gentle fun at the Texan mentality and culture, this show feels the most comfortable with itself when it takes on a good solid black and white issue deliberately, and sets out to find the most ridiculous possible ways to explore it.

Take the episode where Stan, who had not only never masturbated but considered it truly wicked, injures himself in a particularly sensitive part of the male anatomy on which he has to apply ointment...

It's the ignorance of the Stan character, coupled with his power both in the family and in the world, that should drive the show. Then the other characters could have freer reign against a stable core.

One thing that hampers this show and that Family Guy has avoided is the reliance on Stan to be at the center of every episode. When he's not, everything falls apart. There's just no other character that is developed enough to hold the family fort.

Compare that to Family Guy in which Brian, Meg, Stewie, Lois, and Chris have all had episodes and storyline featuring them. The episode in which Stewie and Brian go on the lam, or where Brian goes to Hollywood, or Lois becomes a model, or Chris becomes an artist and the toast of New York... these are all classics.

Despite the fact it's going into its third season, American Dad still doesn't feel like it's found its tone. It feels shaky, and that's the worst thing a comic can do - let you see his insecurity.

If it wasn't for the fact that it fills the second half of an hour that starts with its big brother, Family Guy, I would probably not tune in.

Which is exactly what the programmers are counting on.
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