(Released September 28, 2010 by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)
“BANNED FROM TV!”
So reads a “banner” across the packaging of “Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment”, the front cover design of which is intended to parody the film “Pulp Fiction”.
Flipping it over to the back, we find more promotional hyperbole:
“The most outrageous episode ever conceived!” (Um, please note that last word!)
“The jokes stretch from here to maternity in the hilariously offensive FAMILY GUY episode you couldn’t see on television! Now legal to own (but just barely), “Partial Terms of Endearment” is a freakin’ poignant tale of what happens when Lois agrees – against Peter’s wishes – to become a surrogate mother for an infertile couple. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry… it’s your choice! (Again, I’d assume emphasis on that last word!)
I’m not certain if ANYTHING could live up to that sort of hype, but this IS a controversial episode – even for FAMILY GUY – that eventually focuses on society’s debate over abortion, using the microcosm of the Griffin household.
Further, I can understand the parent company of both the FOX television network, and especially FOX News Channel, deciding not to air this episode. But, thanks to DVD and other alternative media, there is enough money to be made for Newscorp that the episode was greenlighted – and allowed to be produced to COMPLETION – with the knowledge (at least according to the commentary) that it would not be broadcast on FOX.
Creator/Producer Seth MacFarlane and writer Danny Smith take the attitude that this was the sort of “groundbreaking episode” that would have been done on ALL IN THE FAMILY or MAUDE. Indeed, if memory serves, Maude had television’s first abortion.
I won’t spoil very much but, when the “infertile couple” is killed in an auto accident, the debate rages on over whether or not Lois should terminate the pregnancy. Of course, said debate is taken to typical FAMILY GUY extremes.
Peter is all for termination, employing strategies from the subdued (“subdued” for PETER that is – “Lois, bet I can DRINK MORE BLEACH than you!”) to the absurd. Peter sets a “ROAD RUNNER” type of trap for Lois (using an “Acme Miscarriage Kit”), luring her to a WB / Chuck Jones-style desertscape with a string of “FREE GREY’S ANATOMY DVDs”, to the inevitable “target drawn in the sand”. This sequence is absolutely priceless for any fan of classic animation!
Then, Peter is completely turned (…like THAT’s so hard to do!) by an anti-abortion activist (voiced STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION’S Wil Wheaton), and vows to protect the fetus at all cost!
Admittedly, this is a great episode of FAMILY GUY… but I don’t think it’s nearly worth the fuss made over it. Though it DID get me to buy a “single-episode DVD”, so – MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.
Robo-Promos: “Robo-Promos” is my term for advertisements that play automatically before you even reach the initial menu. They are unavoidably inflicted upon the viewer before “getting on with the show”, prompting me to add this new category to my CONS list. In this case, they are tolerable as they consist of promos for THE CLEVELAND SHOW, FAMILY GUY, and AMERICAN DAD DVDs, respectively. After all, if you buy this DVD, you probably like the “Seth MacFarlane Family of Shows”. And, if not, you can “zip” through them if you wish.
The Set Itself: The mere fact that this MUST be a special, stand-alone edition, rather than be included as an “Extra Feature” on a regular FAMILY GUY collection. But, we’ve gone over the reasons why – and I can accept them, as opposed to having the episode nixed altogether. However, said reasons do not explain why each of the FAMILY GUY “Star Wars Tribute Episodes” (There will be THREE of them by the end of 2010) are ALSO sold as stand-alones – rather than exist as part of their respective season collections.
It’s “Banned from TV” and We Get To See It: Roll back and read “The Set Itself” CON Entry and give it a positive spin! At least MacFarlane was permitted to make this episode, and we get to enjoy it… albeit at a premium.
The Talent: The voice cast of FAMILY GUY is one of the best in contemporary animation, and many of them will be deservedly showcased in one or more of the “Extra Features”.
Commentary: Participants in the episode commentary are: Seth MacFarlane, Alex Borstein, Danny Smith, and director Joseph Lee. While they DO go into all the reasons this particular episode stands apart, too much of the commentary seems unfocused for an episode with such a circuitous path to our home screens. Why discuss Sandra Bullock and tell stories about their cats, when we’ve paid a premium for the package? Give this commentary about 1/3 a CON.
Animatic: Often, I’ll skip the animatics on FAMILY GUY or SIMPSONS DVD sets. They are interesting, in that you see the animation in “rough form”, and can appreciate how it takes shape. But, personally leaning more toward WRITING than DRAWING, I certainly don’t watch every one that the various sets present.
THIS ONE, however, you MUST watch, because it is radically different from the finished product – and is done to full voice tracks! There are many different gags both added and cut as the episode took shape. It’s almost like watching a “different but similar” show.
Family Guy Live and Uncensored Table Read: Actually, a live performance, at a theatre with an orchestra and an audience. It is hosted by Seth MacFarlane and features Alex Borstein (Lois), Mila Kunis (Meg), John Viner, Danny Smith, Christine Lakin, and Alex Sulkin. The cast sits before a live audience and performs “Partial Terms of Endearment”, reading from copies of the script.
At intervals, on the DVD presentation of this performance, the actual animation is “cut-in” and placed in corners of the screen. This gives the DVD audience a unique opportunity to see the actors’ performances, while simultaneously viewing the finished animation – nicely in synch.
Love him or hate him, Seth MacFarlane is quite an entertainer – both “behind” his animated characters, and in front of an audience. It’s amazing to see him performing live and effortlessly shift his voice over a large number of starring and supporting characters: Peter, Brian, Stewie, Dr. Hartman, Quagmire, Tom Tucker, and more.
I daresay, only Mel Blanc and Daws Butler carried such heavy loads, regularly and for long periods! …And I’m not at all certain that they didn’t record ONE character to completion – and then do another!
Oh, and MacFarlane breaks up during the performance of the “ROAD RUNNER” bit, the vast majority of which is simply the “description of it” READ directly from the script.
Family Guy Presents Seth and Alex’s Almost Live Comedy Show:
Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein (voice of Lois and others) in their own FOX half-hour comedy sketch special! Is there ANYTHING he can’t do?! Yes, I watched this when it aired, and its presence here (no matter how gratuitous it may seem) helps to mitigate the sting of what is a one-episode DVD – that sells for the price of something more substantial!
There are also nine downloadable “Original Family Guy Songs”.
No matter how you (um…) slice it, “Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment” leaves the impression of being a quickie / cash-in item. And, it IS! But, the episode itself is very much worth seeing – especially for fans and regular viewers of the show. And, they DO load it up with “Extras” – not just “Extras”, but WORTHWHILE “Extras” – so that you still feel good for having purchased it.
Recommended: Especially for FAMILY GUY fans!