What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this animated comedy from the creator of the cult hit Family Guy relies on sexual humor, fantasy violence, strong language, and general absurdity to get laughs. Many of the jokes come at the expense of the show's lead character, a right-wing conservative C.I.A. agent who's emotionally disconnected from his family and his work. Drinking, smoking, drug use, domestic violence, the socioeconomic divide, racial inequality -- all are fair game for the humor pool in this parody of modern American life. Needless to say, little about this series attempts to reflect reality, but adults will get some knowing chuckles over the way the show thumbs its figurative nose at the state of American politics and the economy, as well as the inner workings of a family of vastly different personalities.
What's the story?
AMERICAN DAD is an animated sitcom about the life of Stan Smith (voiced by Seth McFarlane), a staunchly patriotic and conservative C.I.A. agent, who resides in the fictional Washington D.C. suburb of Langley Falls, Virginia, with his stay-at-home wife, Francine (Wendy Schaal). The couple's kids -- liberal-minded daughter, Hayley (Rachael MacFarlane), and regrettably wimpy son, Steve (Scott Grimes) -- live with them, and Hayley's boyfriend, Jeff (Jeff Fischer) is a familiar presence who eventually moves into the Smith home after he and Hayley marry. Also part of the family is Roger (Seth McFarlane again), an alien who escaped a secret military base, and Klaus (Dee Bradley Baker), a talking goldfish with an implanted East German human brain. Episodes usually center on various challenges or mishaps befalling the family members and their typically ill-fated efforts to overcome them.
Is it any good?
Like its sister series Family Guy, American Dad combines edgy humor and fantasy to poke fun at today's contemporary family and, by association, the state of American society. Stan is stereotypically, supremely conservative, from the knot of his tie to the gun he packs inside his suit, and what happens when his staunchness collides with a differing point of view is explosive. Issues like patriotism, generational divide, political activism, and traditional gender roles are addressed here, all with more fantasy than reality, but enough of the latter to touch a nerve with some grown-ups.
This is one of those instances in which the show's animated style gives a false impression of its appropriateness for kids. Sexual content, violence, and language push the envelope on acceptability, making it a less-than-ideal choice for tweens and young teens. Older ones probably can handle what the series dishes out, but since the comedy is so rooted in satirizing Stan's life, adults are the only ones who will truly get the humor and appreciate the pop culture references and the rare occurrence of a tender moment among sparring family members.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about this show's characters. Do you think they take unwarranted jabs at the American family structure? How does your own family compare to the Smith bunch? Do you have different political beliefs than your parents'? If so, how do these differences affect your relationship?
What is the purpose of satire? Is this type of comedy all in good fun, or does it attempt to sway viewers' impressions of a particular cause or circumstance? Does this show have anything good to say about American society? What can we learn about a society through its media?
Families can discuss why this show is animated. Does the animation help in the delivery of the comedy? How might its messages be interpreted differently if it was a live-action show? Does the animated style risk drawing viewers who are too young for its content? What steps are taken so that this doesn't happen?