Alistair Covax

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “300”

It took 17 seasons (or 15 by some counts — it’s complicated), but finally, American Dad has wound up one of the longest running sagas in television history.  It’s the story of Roger the Alien’s golden turd.  Begun in season 1, Roger’s turd has been the subject of a recurring story over the course of the last decade and a half.  It has incredible powers of evil, similar to the One Ring of Tolkien lore, over those who encounter it.  Good people corrupted have lusted and murdered for it.  The lump of jewel-encrusted poo has appeared briefly in several episodes, forming a long story arc unfolding over many seasons.

You can follow the saga of the turd in the following episodes:

  • Season 1 episode 6:  “Homeland Insecurity” – Roger lays the golden turd.  Two electrical workers discover the treasure, but only Jim survives, killing his best friend for it.  He calls his fiancee only to discover her having an affair.
  • Season 2 episode 3: “Failure is not a Factory-Installed Option” – Guilt-laden Jim parks his truck on train tracks, killing himself.  The investigating cop on the scene finds the golden turd, and brings it home to show his wife.  He quickly regrets tampering with evidence, and decides to turn it in.  Instead, his wife puts rat poison in his tea.
  • Season 10 episode 3: “Blargsnart: A Love Story” – The cop’s wife is executed for murder. Their son, an important man with presidential ambitions, discovers the turd hidden under a floorboard in their house.
  • Season 12 episode 1: “Father’s Daze” – The man and his presidential campaign adviser fight over the turd. They are both killed and the turd is later discovered by a cleaning woman who realizes its true significance. She takes it to the Vatican where the leaders of all the world’s religions decide what to do about this prophesized “turd” of events.

  • Season 5 episode 9: “Rapture’s Delight” – In a fanciful Christmas story taking place during the future of the book of Revelations, freedom fighter Jesus returns the turd to Roger.  (“Ah, an alien.  One of my father’s side-projects”, says a trash-talking Jesus.)  Roger uses the turd to power his spaceship, in order to ultimately stop the Anti-Christ. (This episode is not quite in continuity since everyone dies in the end, but could still take place in American Dad’s future timeline as a sort of coda to the turd saga.)

The saga finally concludes in American Dad’s 300th produced episode:

AMERICAN DAD! – “300”
(Season 17, episode 21)

Though it went on like the Song that Never Ends, the turd saga was wrapped up in grand style.  I’ve made the argument that American Dad is trying to keep up with Rick and Morty lately in terms of epic storylines with universal consequences.  In its own way, American Dad has caught up this year.

We mundanely begin in the Smith family kitchen.  The family have been trying for years to get on Family Feud and have finally received their application letter.  Famously, Family Feud only send you one application; no second chances.  Roger promptly destroys the application in another one of his endlessly destructive gags.   The family realizes (via flashbacks) that Roger ruins everything, and banish him from the house.

The screen transitions to the letterbox format, indicating we are about to pick up the saga of the turd.

At the Vatican, the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Beyonce, and other important religious figures discuss how to dispose of the evil golden turd.  It can only be destroyed by sending it back through the portal from which it originated — Roger’s ass.  Its power to “corrupt and twist the human mind” is the only thing preventing the world from ascending to true peace, but the leaders squabble and fight.  None of them can do it; they need a “chosen one”, a person who is immune to the turd’s power.  Fortunately, the Knights Turdlar find the chosen one and send her with the turd to Langley Falls in America.

Roger’s not home — he was evicted, remember — but he’s not hard to find.  The deed is easily done, and the turd is returned to its origin by the chosen one.  The consequences are immediate:  a bright wave of light circles the Earth.  Utopia!  World peace…and Roger’s demise!  He shatters into (wink wink) 300 pieces.

There’s a big musical number featuring Patrick Stewart’s CIA director Avery Bullock, who announces there’s no more need for the agency.  The song features blink-or-you’ll-miss-them cameos from all sorts of favourite characters from Santa Claus to Alistair Covax to The Weeknd.  But the family is bored and can’t stand utopia!  Will they selfishly try to restore Roger and end this world peace nonsense?  It’s the Smiths; of course they will!  Roger’s 300 fragments were scattered by the Knights Turdlar, hiding them in the most inaccessible places on Earth.  But Roger’s offspring, Rogu can “probably” sense all of Roger’s bits hidden all over the world.

The story comes full circle when they track down the final and most important piece (the butthole) to Family Feud’s own Steve Harvey.  The TV show host isn’t giving it up…not without a Feud!  But an unlikely Fast Money victory isn’t the end of the turd’s tale.  It always exacts a heavy toll (as the previous episodes in the saga demonstrated).  Restoring Roger and undoing utopia has bloody consequences for the Smiths.  It’s the kind of death-laden storyline that only a time travel trope can undo!  Future Roger needs Past Roger to ensure the turd is never found in the first place, and hopefully also to not get kicked out of the house!

There is one more episode left to go this season, but American Dad demonstrated some epic scale storytelling with “300”.  That required epic aspect ratios.  Most of this episode is in the standard widescreen, but goes letterboxed for the turd saga.  It even briefly goes back to full screen when we revisit the origins in season 1.  Three aspect rations, one epic episode.  What a way to end this long-running story, which was not a turd at all.

5/5 stars

…But is the saga really over?

 

 

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Rabbit Ears”

AMERICAN DAD – “Rabbit Ears” (Episode 4, season 14)

It has been an exciting week for American Dad fans, as they devoured one of the weirdest episodes of the entire series, “Rabbit Ears”.  This is a series that did an entire episode in the form of a stage play.  Another was styled like an indi film and featured Zooey Dechanel as an overtly stated “manic pixie dream girl”.  This time, American Dad took off for The Outer Limits and ended up in the Twilight Zone.

There is no hint of the episode’s bizarre setting in the standard opening.  Stan, always up to something stupid, goes garbage picking on “big items” week, when people throw out large appliances.  He brings home a mattress infested with bed bugs and a giant, ancient television.  The Smith family are not amused, especially when Roger steals their attention as his latest persona:  a non-verbal newborn baby.  Then it gets weirder.

Sequestered in the basement with his mattress and television set, Stan sets up the antenna and gets nothing but static.  Then suddenly, Stan is woken from his slumber by the sweet sound of jazz, as a show finally comes in: “Nighthawks Hideaway”.

“Nighthawks Hideaway” intro with Alistair Covax

“Weclome Nighthawks, we’ve been expecting you.  The hour is late but the party is just getting started.  I’m Alistair Covax, your host for a sophistical little soirée with jazz, stimulating conversation, beautiful ladies…and more jazz.”

“What IS this show?” asks Stan.  It’s in black and white and clearly from the 1960s.

“Charlie, play some of those notes you know I like,” says Alistair to the jazz pianist.

Nothing on Google.  No record of the host Alistair Covax (Star Trek‘s Chris Pine) either.  Even TV Guide magazine says the show does never existed…but they know of a support group for people who claim to have seen Nighthawks Hideaway!  A show that does not exist…but multiple people have seen it.  Shades of Shazam/Kazaam!

Investigating the support group, Stan finds only one other attendee:  neighbour Al Tuttle (Richard Kind).

“There used to be more people, but one by one, they stopped coming,” explains Tuttle.

But what about the show?  “There’s only one episode!  And it re-runs over and over and over on channel 36!”

It’s even stranger than that.  “There’s only one episode…but it changes!  Little…differences in the show!  I keep track of them!”

That night, Stan notices something different on Nighthawks Hideaway.  Tuttle is in the show!  Not believeing his eyes, he knows further investigation is required.  Tuttle’s house is empty, but Stan finds his TV and notebook.  Here, Tuttle tracked differences from night to night.  The last page has the ominous note “I MUST GO IN.”

Stan studies the book and tracks the changes, night after night, in the basement on the old TV and finally discovers what happened to Al Tuttle.  And that’s when things get really Twilight Zone, and to go further would get into spoiler territory.

This episode “Rabbit Ears” was a truly fresh spin on a classic science fiction / horror theme.  Perhaps this style of storytelling is coming back into vogue.  There is a rebooted Twilight Zone now, hosted by Jordan Peele.  Regardless of trends, American Dad are still the masters of a specific type of surreal animated comedy.  The show is its own genre now, and “Rabbit Ears” is a clear indicator that its potential remains wide open.  Keep ’em coming.

5/5 stars