Seth MacFarlane is the creator of a bevy of envelope-pushing animated programs, including Family Guy, The Cleveland Show … and this fierce farce.
American Dad pushes that envelope so hard, in fact, that the Parents Television Council recently asked its members to complain to the Federal Communications Commission, hoping to get the series sanctioned or fined.
"This past summer the United States Supreme Court unanimously upheld the congressionally mandated authority of the Federal Communications Commission to enforce the broadcast decency law, which prohibits the airing of indecent material on the publicly-owned airwaves during times when children are likely to be in the audience," PTC president Tim Winter said in a statement. "In the past, American Dad and MacFarlane's other programs have included scenes mocking people with Down syndrome, implying father-daughter incest, a man masturbating a horse, a baby eating horse sperm, and a character eating vomit and excrement out of a baby's diaper. Some of those broadcasts are under review at the FCC for violating the broadcast decency law."
Several years ago, Newsweek called Family Guy "a traditional domestic sitcom soaked in battery acid." The same could be said of American Dad. A virtual clone of its predecessor, Dad follows the Smith family, led by kooky CIA agent Stan and his levelheaded wife, Francine. Sharing their house are two teenagers (daughter Hayley is now married), a talking goldfish and an effeminate, disguise-wearing alien.
This satirical series operates on a single guiding principle: Nothing is off-limits, from necrophilia to cocaine and from mindless murder to eating excrement. The family goldfish constantly hits on Francine (an obsession birthed after it glimpses her without underwear). Hayley becomes a stripper at one point, and to show their unconditional support and love as "good" parents, Stan and Francine sit in the front row during one of her routines, cheering, making crude comments and tossing money. Stan sits naked in a hot tub with two gay neighbors. Etcetera. Ad nauseam.
In the meantime, a blitz of tasteless material targets God, Christians, Muslims, blacks, the homeless and handicapped people. MacFarlane admits, "It's not the most cutting-edge comedy in the world, but there's just a flavor to that stuff that I think is just so wonderful. … In the design style and music, it's very traditional, but we layer the outrageous comedy on top of that. What you get is the best of all worlds."
Exactly how American Dad can be considered the best of anything is as incomprehensible as an alien family member and a lustful goldfish.
On vacation, Stan accidentally kills three dolphins instead of the human outdoor activity director he was going for. A suicidal lemur provocatively sucks on the gun barrel before someone spears the guy in the back, splashing Stan and Francine with blood. Someone gets beaten with a tennis racquet.
Hayley and Jeff, meanwhile, try to rekindle their sex life, talking crudely about their lack of intimacy. They try role-playing (naked under the covers with costume headgear on). And Jeff talks about tricking Hayley with mayonnaise (as a stand-in for semen).
There are verbal and visual gags about dolphin menstruation, sexual choking games, married swingers, incest, homosexual sex, ejaculation, cross-dressing and a boy damaging his penis. There are several rather elongated "adventures" by family members on a nude beach. Stan's boss ogles pictures of Francine and asks Stan to send more shots of her breasts.
We hear "b‑‑ch," "h‑‑‑," "bloody" and about 10 misuses of God's name. One obscenity is bleeped. Some of the jokes are based on racial inferences. We hear people talk about urination, feces and the biological intricacies of a colostomy bag.