When American Dad runs on all cylinders—plots that don’t simply beget great jokes but also tie together nicely, notable guest stars playing memorable bit parts, using the entire Smith family and most major supporting characters—it’s a thing of beauty. “Ad-ventures In Hayleysitting” is easily my favorite episode since “Virtual In-Stanity” (which I slightly preferred over “The Scarlett Getter”) and a near flawless spin on the Adventures In Babysitting/The Sitter plot structure, transposed into the Smith’s universe.
It starts with Lindsay (voiced by Alison Brie, the first sign that we’re in for a good one), Steve’s usual babysitter, who, while scoring the winning goal for her soccer team at Our Lady in the Water Catholic School, is on the receiving end of a brutal tackle that breaks her leg. The Smiths have a special date to a horse show planned—Francine hires Roger to drive a horse-drawn carriage and Stan reserved a hotel room for special sex—but with no babysitter, the night is ruined. Hayley volunteers, and after mocking and some deliberation, she gets the job. Stan and Francine set out, Jeff eats a couple special brownies, and Steve resolves to prove himself a wild child after Hayley scoffs at him his friends cooking an Italian meal with fresh ingredients.
Going through my notes, I can’t even name a single scene that doesn’t work. Every scene has a laugh; any dud moments are balanced out by another joke or by the brisk pacing. Once Stan sneaks out, Hayley has to go after him, and every little throwaway pays off. Hayley’s innate irresponsibility is the reason she forgets to gas up her mom’s car, which allows Steve and his friends to hop a bus in search of a popular kid’s party. So there’s even a little bit of Superbad thrown in there with the quest for liquor and a wild night of partying. But “Ad-ventures In Haleysitting” doesn’t stick to any one influence too heavily, shifting around the characters throughout the night.
Though my favorite track is Steve and Hayley locked in a battle to prove their mettle to the other, Stan and Francine’s date is just as hilarious, with Roger playing the same kind of supporting jester role that Jeff plays in the other plot. Every character has funny moments: Jeff baked out of his mind, Steve and his friends attempting to buy liquor, Roger urging the carriage down a busy freeway, Stan and Francine in a remote barn at an impromptu horse performance on a pile of hay.
And let’s not forget the great guest stars. In addition to Brie, both Sarah Michelle Gellar (who last provided a voice in “Virtual In-Stanity”) and Charlie Day show up, the latter as a hilarious meth head who really wants to keep track of his receipts for bulk Sudafed purchases. If there was ever a character on American Dad well-suited for Charlie Day, it would be a meth cook with an OCD accounting streak. American Dad even finds a way to weave in its shocking violence thread when Day’s character “rescues” Steve, Hayley, and the rest from a cop and forces them to track down the receipt.
Punctuating the parallel plots every so often is Lindsay’s turmoil in the hospital. Normally this kind of misery-as-humor schtick doesn’t work for me, but as a way of pacing the episode, it sits right on the line, barely still appropriate—yet another lesson to Family Guy on how to effectively execute this material. First it’s just a broken leg and a potential lost soccer scholarship, then it’s a staph infection and amputation, then an infection spreading to her heart, and finally sudden death. All the while it seems as though this has absolutely no connection to Hayley and Steve running around town or Stan and Francine’s date.
Hayley and Steve make up after having the stereotypical “one crazy night” realization that they could both learn something from the other, and then the trademark time crunch kicks in. Stan and Francine are galloping home on their horses, and with the car out of gas, there’s no way they’ll make it without getting caught—that is, unless the ghost of Alison Brie’s dead soccer star doesn’t materialize out of thin air to push the car and kick it into the garage, followed by the disembodied head of Charlie Day’s meth addict shouting “GOOOOOOAL!” It’s a perfect surreal capstone to a hilariously inventive twist on a cult-classic movie plot.
“Ad-ventures” is credited to Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson, who both co-wrote “The Scarlett Getter” last season. Fusfeld in particular is notable simply because he’s been on the American Dad staff since season one, rising from an executive assistant all the way up to a staff writer (and he’s also received credits on Community and Ben And Kate). It’s clear he and Cutherbertson know the show’s world and its characters intricately, and they’ve crafted two of the best episodes to grace the Fox animation lineup in the past few years.
- Two small demerits: Snot’s remark about Toshi’s suggestion the guys go find some whores, and Steve’s explanation to his dad that the noisy party is just him and Hayley playing “Black Restaurant.” Other than those less-than-stellar jokes, it was all laughs for me.