The return of creator Seth MacFarlane's once-cancelled "Family Guy" last year was joined by a new offspring - "American Dad". The series, which doesn't stray too far from the "Family Guy" formula but adds its own spin, focuses on ultra conservative CIA agent Stan Smith (voiced by MacFarlane), who constantly thinks that potential security threats are lurking everywhere (in the pilot, he waves a security wand over his daughter when she gets home and then throws her gum down the block as a precaution.)
However, Stan's family doesn't exactly share his world views. Wife Francine (Wendy Schaal) endures a lot and manages to get dragged along in Stan's plans, yet keeps a bright outlook and stands by her man. Son Steve (Steve Grimes) isn't as calm, cool, strong or...pretty much anything like his father, but the geeky kid remains Stan's favorite, as daughter Hayley (Rachel MacFarlane) is a left-wing hippie, which Stan finds horrifying. Rounding out the oddball family are alien Roger (who saved Stan at Area 51) and talking goldfish Klaus (who has the brain of a former German athlete thanks to a CIA experiment), who constantly lusts after Francine from his fish tank.
While the show's family has quite a few similarities to "Family Guy"'s, the show rarely jumps into the kind of flashbacks and surreal dream sequences that "Guy" does, but still does offer quite a few amusing pop culture references. "Dad" took a few episodes to find its footing, but still had a few issues, such as the fact that Francine was a character without much depth or detail. Later in the first season and onwards, she gets a bit more to do, such as the amusing "Not So Desperate Housewives" (a dig at the show's competition) where Francine joins a popular group of wives who turn out to be much more secretive than she thought - and not willing to let her leave the group without a fight.)
Steve also gets some spotlight episodes (Steve's sudden rise in "Star Trek" to the kind of fame where one can talk like Robert Evans or Steve's rule over his online gaming friends in "Dungeons and Wagons"), but Roger and Klaus - while improving - still seem like a lesser version of "Family Guy"'s Stewie and Brian. McFarlane and the show's writers still can't seem to entirely figure out what to do with Haley, whose sole trait of being the complete and utter opposite of her ultra-conservative father still isn't quite getting the kind of laughs it should.
The bits centered around Stan's workplace often fare best, as the writers are able to find quite a bit of humor in Stan's day-to-day work issues. Additionally, these scenes also offer a terrific performance from Patrick Stewart ("X-Men"), who gets some of the show's biggest laughs as Stan's boss.
Volume 2 of the series includes the final episodes of the first season, as well as the first 9 of the second season. This chunk of episodes includes some of the show's best moments, such as the bizarre recreation of "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" via a family of squirrels living outside the Smith household in "Irregarding Steve", "The Best Christmas Story Never" (Stan is taken back in time by the Ghost of Christmas Past but screws things up and when he returns, the US is under Russian rule), "Camp Refoogee" (Stan tries to get Steve to go to Summer camp, but accidentially sends him to a refugee camp in Africa) and "Finances With Wolves" (Francine opens a muffin shop, while Klaus tries to win her heart after having his brain put back in a human body.)
14. 1-14 20 Nov 05 Stannie Get Your Gun
15. 1-15 27 Nov 05 Star Trek
16. 1-16 18 Dec 05 Not Particularly Desperate Housewives
17. 1-17 8 Jan 06 Rough Trade
18. 1-18 29 Jan 06 Finances With Wolves
19. 1-19 26 Feb 06 It's Good to be the Queen
20. 1-20 23 Apr 06 Roger 'n Me
21. 1-21 30 Apr 06 Helping Handis
22. 1-22 7 May 06 With Friends Like Steve's
23. 1-23 14 May 06 Tears of a Clooney
24. 2- 1 10 Sep 06 Camp Refoogee
25. 2- 2 17 Sep 06 The American Dad After School Special
26. 2- 3 24 Sep 06 Failure is Not a Factory-installed Option
27. 2- 4 5 Nov 06 Lincoln Lover
28. 2- 5 12 Nov 06 Dungeons and Wagons
29. 2- 6 19 Nov 06 Iced, Iced Babies
30. 2- 7 26 Nov 06 Of Ice and Men
31. 2- 8 10 Dec 06 Irregarding Steve
32. 2- 9 17 Dec 06 The Best Christmas Story Never
VIDEO: "American Dad" is presented by Fox in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. The presentations here look as good as they do during broadcast, with sharpness and detail looking terrific throughout the shows. A few minor traces of pixelation were spotted on a couple of occasions, but the picture otherwise appeared crisp, clean and clear. Colors remain bright and vibrant, with no smearing or other issues.
SOUND: The episodes are presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The show's audio comes largely from the front speakers, but there are infrequent instances of surround use for voices or minor effects. Audio quality is excellent, as dialogue, music and effects sounded crisp and clear. A small note: the score during the opening credits seems much lower in the mix on the DVD than it does on the DVD.
EXTRAS: The episodes offer commentary with creator Seth MacFarlane - who doesn't participate on all tracks - and members of the voice and animation staff. Those familiar with the "Family Guy" commentaries will know what to expect here as the participants make cracks about each other, chat about the animation process, talk about who came up with what and discuss any problems (such as objections from the network about material) that came up during the development of the episode.
On the last disc of the set, we get a series of additional features, including: a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the animated fantasy sequences in the "Dungeons and Wagons" episode, "Favorite Scenes" (cast and crew discuss their favorite moments) and finally, over 100 (!) deleted/extended scenes. Some of the deleted scenes are extremely short, but most are quite funny and I'm guessing some had to be dropped due to the material being a bit too much for network censors.
Final Thoughts: "American Dad"'s supporting characters still aren't all as developed or consistently funny as the MacFarlane-voiced Stan Smith, but the series continues to get better and better as the first season ends and the second season begins on this DVD set. While the series seemed like a carbon copy of "Family Guy" with some twists at first, it has really started to stand on its own. The DVD offers tons of extras, as well as fine audio/video quality. Recommended.