Roger Smith

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 changes.  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, 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 – “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu”

AMERICAN DAD – “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu” (Episode 20, season 14)

Ever since the debut of Rogu earlier this season, American Dad fans have eagerly anticipated his next starring appearance.  This was saved for the season finale, “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu”.  Rogu, if you recall, is Roger’s homunculus, birthed from a tumor.  He has Roger’s ability to disguise himself as anyone he desires, but also has the temperament of a small child.  He needs to be watched and cared for like a child, despite his alien nature.

It’s Rogu’s childlike nature that makes him a perfect candidate for the schemes of Steve Smith.  Steve needs money, so he can afford the curly fries in the school cafeteria instead of the boring old straight kind.  The solution:  babysitting.  Mom doesn’t think he’s ready.  Roger, however, thinks he’s up to the task.  Roger leaves Steve to take care of Rogu, while he does one of his many jobs (a female prostitute).  If Steve does well, his mom will have to admit he’s ready to babysit.

Ominously, taking care of Rogu has three rules (shades of Gremlins):

  1. No candy.
  2. No screen time.
  3. Don’t let Rogu look at the ant farm.  (He won’t chip in for it, so he shouldn’t enjoy it.)

Predictably, within minutes, Rogu’s eaten some licorice.  When he starts barfing up little balls of Rogu that turn into fully-grown Rogus, Steve knows he’s in way over his head.  One turns into three, and three turns into dozens.  It only gets worse when Klaus the goldfish tries to contain the situation by giving the Rogus a little screen time….

Season 14 produced at least three exceptionally good American Dad episodes, and two of them centered around Rogu.  The bizarre alien offspring has quirks (a love of innocent jokes for example) and abilities far different from his father Roger.  American Dad felt rejuvenated this season and Rogu was a key part of that.

If you only watch two episodes this season, make ’em Rogus.

4.5/5 stars

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie’s Gold”

AMERICAN DAD – “Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie’s Gold” (Episode 15, season 3)

As we review our way through significant American Dad episodes, several outstanding musical numbers emerge.  When it comes to memorable TV tunes, there’s the Simpsons and then there’s American Dad.  A highlight of the earlier seasons was the song “Ollie North”, sung for one of Stan Smith’s heroes, the scandal-ridden Colonel Oliver North.  Done in an after-school-special style, the song is meant to educate!

As a kid I remember a summer of waiting through Oliver North hearings just to watch an episode of The Transformers.

Stan’s tune succinctly summed up the entire scandal.

In the 80s there was Cold War drama,
We fought the Commies inside Nicaragua,
Our friends were the Contras, Freedom was their mantra,
So we sent them lots of money for guns, and landmines.

But Congress stopped the Contra money flow,
Just ’cause they moved a teeny bit of blow.
But then a hero came forth, His name was Oliver North,
He and Reagan went around the sissy Congress.

OLLIE NORTH! OLLIE NORTH!

(Spoken) You see, North secretly sold missiles to a harmless country called Iran who would always be a grateful ally. Then he gave the profits to the Contras. Genius!

But the sales were uncovered by the press,
Reagan and North began to stress,
‘Cause what they did was technically high treason! (But it was totally justified.)

North volunteered to take the blame,
To save Reagan from prison rape shame,
The truth he did bury with his hot secretary,
Thanks to her shredder, he got off totally scot-free!

OLLIE NORTH! OLLIE NORTH!

He’s a soldier!
And a hero!
And a novelist!
And now he’s on Fox News!

But that’s not the story here.  Working for the CIA, Stan Smith has access to information.  He knows that North had a secret cache of gold, and he buried it somewhere on his property. The very house that the Smiths live in today! Ollie North’s gold has long been an obsession for Stan.  He named his first child “Hayley Dreamsmasher” because having kids meant giving up his quest for the gold.  Now, Stan thinks he has decoded secret messages left by North. When Stan begins actively pursuing Ollie’s gold again, the family grows concerned. Then a giant pit mine is dug in their living room.

In a separate storyline, Roger the alien tries to prove that he is sexually harassable.  So he invents two new characters (Laura Vanderbooben and Luke Fondleberg) to make that happen.

Will Stan find Ollie’s gold?  Will Roger win a cash settlement?  It doesn’t matter because that Ollie North song is so damn catchy!

5/5 stars

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

 

 

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Persona Assistant”

AMERICAN DAD – “Persona Assistant” (Episode 16, season 13)

For fans of Roger the alien, the13th season of American Dad really delivered this time.  It was a special episode:  #250 of the long-running animated series.  The best episodes usually focus on Roger and his many personas.  This instalment was one of them.

We get a glimpse of Roger’s daily life.  He’s busy for an alien.  He has so many personas to live, and only 24 hours in a day.  The workload must be getting to him.  He’s feeling sickly and has a strange lump growing on his ample forehead.

Roger is resistant but the Smith family take him to see Dr. Kalgary, the show’s resident master of the dark sciences.  Kalgary removes the lump, a large tumour, and Roger is sent for rest and rehabilitation.  Taking a jar with his tumour sealed inside, Roger goes on vacation.  So who will handle all his personas while he’s away?

Stan steps up for the recovering Roger, only to find that living the lives of his all personas is hard work!  Of course he mucks it all up.  To his shock, Roger’s personas were so important that their absences causes the city to descend into chaos and anarchy.  When Roger finally returns, he is not alone.  It turns out that his species have a way of handling stress.  That tumour was not a tumour at all, but a little homunculus named Rogu!  With Rogu’s help, Roger can fix the damage that Stan has done.  But not before the return of one of American Dad’s most requested personas:  Ricky Spanish!  The most hated man in town!  Only Rogu can stop him.

When I saw Rogu, I had tears in my eyes from laughing so hard.  The same thing happened the next day when I watched again.  For whatever reason, Rogu has tickled my funnybone in a serious way.  Roger has, over time, become almost a normal character.  There’s little he can do that surprises you anymore.  Rogu?  That’s a whole new ballgame.  The show can get even weirder now.  (Rogu is absolutely certain to return, considering an upcoming episode is called “The Hand that Rocks the Rogu“.)

In the second storyline, Steve’s joined the jazz club at school.  Playing on the old stereotype of drugged out jazzbos, Steve takes performance enhancing drugs to take his scat singing to the next level!  The finals are coming, and Steve brings his scatting to the extreme.  Only morphine can stop him.

Fuck yeah, American Dad.  I thought maybe the best years were behind.  Apparently not.  Carry on!

5/5 Rogus

Sunday Chuckle: Jeopardy!

Just something cute for this week.  If you’re a fan of Jeopardy, perhaps you remember this one from the April 30 episode.  I was so excited I had to take a picture of the screen.

Regular readers at mikeladano.com know the question.  What is American Dad?

In Getting More Tale #606, we discussed five reasons why Roger the Alien is the greatest character on television today.  “Roger the Alien is responsible for many historical events that you didn’t know about,” I wrote.   “He helped the US hockey team win the gold in the 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’. He did this on steroids as his hockey player persona, Chex LeMeneux.”

Great to see good ol’ Chex as a question on Jeopardy!

#606: Why Roger Smith is the Greatest Character on Television

GETTING MORE TALE #606:
Why Roger Smith is the Greatest Character on Television

Roger Smith from American Dad is an alien. He’s grey, squat, with a big bulbous head and no visible nose. He thinks he looks like Lena Dunham. “It’s nice to see someone with my exact body type succeed.” But he has several amazing abilities that allow him to blend in with modern society. Some of these abilities are musical. If you want to know how an alien can impact the world we live in, even musically, then check out some of Roger’s amazing traits and accomplishments below.

Parker Peters

1. Master of Disguise

Roger can disguise himself as anyone.  Even his own family can’t recognise him in certain outfits. A wig and some clothes are all that’s necessary. In disguise as Kevin Bacon, he even successfully framed the actor for a car accident when the real Bacon was 2000 miles away.  “I didn’t think I did it,” said the real Kevin, “but it’s clearly me on the tape!”

Some of Roger’s most incredible disguises include “alien hunter” Parker Peters, and his mentally handicapped bodybuilder persona, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Max Jets

2. Incredible Speed

Using his ability to move really fast when he wants to, Roger can appear to be in multiple places simultaneously. This has allowed him to live multiple lives under different personas. As wedding planner Jeanie Gold, he raised a family. As Roslyn Jenkins, he has been married for eight years to business mogul Ax Jenkins, in a long running plot to trick Ax into breaking his pre-nup agreement. It is revealed that even though he lives “full time” with the Smith family, he also seemingly lives with dozens of other families all at the same time. Meanwhile, his old man millionaire persona Max Jets languishes away in jail. Roger’s ability to manage these multiple lives simultaneously is unparalleled in television.

Kripsy Kreme McDonalds

3. Musical Ability

Roger is also drummer Krispy Kream McDonalds, percussionist for Steve and the Ass-Tones. Because he has no bones, his drumming ability is unparalleled. That’s not all.  As hipster guitar player Donald, he acquired his great skill due to a deal with a devil. When he makes a bet with another guitarist, the stakes being “the cost of his lessons”, Donald wins and passes the soul debt on to the loser.  He is also known as country singer Cuss Mustard, and even seduced Ricky Martin and stole his shirt.

Roger can be heard singing a number of original songs on the show. His best include “The Confi-dance” and “You’ve Got a Kink”. Roger is naturally drawn to artists such as Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion. In order to watch the Barbra Does Celine pay-per-view TV special, Roger disguises himself as a Viet Cong and kidnaps Stan in a makeshift POW camp, all for the pay-per-view password.

Roger even “invented” Disco music. In a time travel snafu, Stan Smith left a Best of Disco cassette in the 1970s. The tape is found by Roger, who strikes it mega-rich, until Disco is declared dead in 1981.

The Prophecy

4. He is Somehow Connected to the End of Days

Early in season one, Roger reveals he can poop out jewel-encrusted golden turds. As the series unfolds, one of his turds inspires great evil and murderous cover-ups over the years, moving all the way up to the White House. In the season 14 opener, it is revealed that Pope Francis and all the world’s religious leaders are aware of a secret prophecy involving the discovery of the golden turd. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics show that the only way to destroy the golden turd is to return it to its source – Roger’s anus.

Chex LeMeneux

5. He Impacted History in Remarkable and Unexpected Ways

Roger the Alien is responsible for many historical events that you didn’t know about. Yes, he “invented” Disco. How about Jar Jar Binks? Also invented by Roger. The killing of the Notorious B.I.G.? Caused by his driver Roger aka MC Raw G, when he went all road-rage on another vehicle. “No one cuts off Biggie Smalls!” Whoops. He also got a sober George W. Bush back on the booze, and helped the US hockey team win the gold in the 1980 “Miracle on Ice”. He did this on steroids as his hockey player persona, Chex LeMeneux.

As if all this wasn’t enough, he can fart toxic gas! Just feed him okra. He is fireproof and can float. Stan Smith used him as a floatation device when stranded on a desert island.

If these reasons are not enough to convince you that Roger Smith is the greatest television character of the modern era, then nothing will. My advice is to just watch American Dad and see for yourself.