Monday, May 02, 2005

A Dichotomy of Hilarity

As I'm sure you're all aware, the funniest cartoon not named South Park has been resurrected (although, this was a spectacularly mediocre season of South Park, so its title may be in jeopardy).  The first new Family Guy in three years aired last night.  Not a spectacular episode to be sure, but it picks up right where they left off before they were canceled.  However, that's not what I'm here to talk about.

Family Guy was followed by a second cartoon by the same creator, Seth MacFarlane.  This show is called American Dad, and the pilot aired following this year's Super Bowl.  At the time, I found it to be a painfully unfunny experience.  But I figured it was only a pilot and I was pretty drunk at the time, so maybe I misjudged it (faulty reasoning, I know . . . Family Guy improves as a direct relationship to blood-alcohol content).  So I watched the new episode last night.  To pretty much the same verdict.

So I've been trying to figure out just how the same guy can make a show that is soooo funny, then follow it up with one that draws more cringes than laughs.  And what I've come up with is this:  American Dad is supposed to be a parody of sit-com stereotypes.  The too conservative dad, the hippie daughter, the nerdy son, the repressed mother, the effeminate alien (ok, maybe that one's not a common stereotype).  But it takes everything so far to the extreme that it goes beyond parody into caricature.  Saturday Night Live does this all the time, but they deal with 3 minute sketches, not half hour episodes.

What makes Family Guy so funny is that the come out of left field with so much random and absurd stuff that you can't help but laugh.  But when the super-conservative American Dad acts like a misogynist, it's not strange or absurd, its just playing to a stereotype.  Just because you push it so far that its ridiculous, doesn't necessarily make it funny.

I guess I'll keep watching since it does come right after Family Guy, and maybe they'll be able to right the ship.  Let's pray for that, at any rate.


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