Shortly after Creator Seth MacFarlane's "Family Guy" returned to the air, it 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 first season or two of "American Dad" kept a bit too close to the "Family Guy" model, the series suddenly started to go its own way, making substantial improvements in the writing and developing the characters. Now in its fourth season, a funny thing has happened: one can argue that, at least in some ways, "American Dad" has begun to surpass "Family Guy" - "Dad"'s plots have become increasingly clever and the jokes are not only frequent, but connect more often than not.
One of the best examples this season is "Stanny Slickers II: The Legend of Ollie's Gold", where Stan tries to achieve his dream - digging up his house in order to find gold that former homeowner Oliver North hid in the '80's during the Iran-Contra affair. The "Schoolhouse Rock" parody explaining Iran-Contra is quite funny, as is a Bruce Campbell throwaway joke late in the episode.
Although early episodes of the series didn't know what to do with Roger, the alien does have some amusing moments in this season, such as "Office Spaceman", where Roger manages to get his way into a job at the CIA by posing as a photographer named Parker Peters and taking pictures of himself and selling it to local papers. When the CIA ask for his assistance, he finds out that there's an unlimited expense account that he can take advantage of. Other highlights in the volume include: "Tearjerker" (a deeply funny parody of Bond films with Roger as the villain), "Red October Sky" (Stan realizes his neighbor is a former KGB agent who may be turning Steve into a communist), "Escape From Pearl Bailey" (Steve vows revenge after his girlfriend is humiliated during the school's student counsel election) and "Pulling Double Booty" (after a break-up, Hailey falls for Stan's CIA body double.)
Although "American Dad" stumbled a little in its first season, the series has improved remarkably over the course of 4 seasons - there's a few fantastic episodes in this volume, and several very good ones.
This volume includes episodes from season 3 and 4:
16 Dec 07 The Most Adequate Christmas Ever 52. 3-10 13 Jan 08 Tearjerker 53. 3-11 27 Jan 08 Oedipal Panties 54. 3-12 17 Feb 08 Widowmaker 55. 3-13 27 Apr 08 Red October Sky 56. 3-14 4 May 08 Office Spaceman 57. 3-15 11 May 08 Stanny Slickers 2: The Legend of Ollie's Gold 58. 3-16 18 May 08 Spring Break-Up Season 4
59. 4- 1 28 Sep 08 1600 Candles 60. 4- 2 5 Oct 08 The One That Got Away 61. 4- 3 19 Oct 08 One Little Word 62. 4- 4 2 Nov 08 Choosey Wives Choose Smith 63. 4- 5 9 Nov 08 Escape From Pearl Bailey 64. 4- 6 16 Nov 08 Pulling Double Booty
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: All of the episodes offer commentary from various members of the production. 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 final disc are nearly 40 minutes of deleted scenes, "Tearjerker: And Then They Will Cry" featurette, "Roger: Master of Disguise" featurette and a live performance (including McFarlane) of "Pulling Double Booty" at Comic-Con 2008.
Final Thoughts: Although my opinion of "American Dad" was a little mixed early on, the show's writing has improved significantly and some issues (finding more to do for Roger and Klaus, for examples) have been fixed completely. The DVD set offers very good audio/video quality, as well as a nice set of extras. Recommended.