According to the A.V. Club Comedy Showrunners Week interview with American Dad co-creators Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman and writer Jordan Blum, the eighth season of the show started development in fall 2010, ending production around August 2011. So this batch of episodes sat on the shelf for at least an entire year before the premiere of “Love, AD Style” tonight. That’s an even longer layoff than FOX’s burgeoning Bob’s Burgers or ABC’s Don’t Trust the B—— In Apartment 23, both of which had their seasons cut short and held over into an artificially designated third and second season, respectively, both beginning this fall.
That time delay forces American Dad to be the anti-South Park, avoiding topical comedy entirely and instead shooting for evergreen, wacky character-based plotlines. And that approach is certainly true of this premiere, which divides times between a Roger/Hayley A-plot and a Stan B-plot with Steve, Francine, and Klaus supporting here and there as needed.
Roger decides to open up a crooner bar in the attic and hires Hayley to be his lounge singer—since she needs something to do while Jeff is off filming a season of Deadliest Catch (a show that requires far too much mental focus and physical fortitude for Jeff)—and promptly falls in love with her. Well, Roger doesn’t fall in love with Hayley as much as he becomes wildly and psychotically obsessed with her. After taking Steve’s advice and admitting his crush, Hayley rebuffs Roger’s advances, and he “freaks out” and shoots her in the stomach, which is where the episode moves into violence.
Elsewhere in that same interview, Weitzman and Barker noted that Roger can function as a different guest star every week, depending on what costume the writers need him to put on in each episode. That cuts out a lot of guest voice roles and instead relies upon voice acting chameleon Seth MacFarlane… okay that stretches the limits of credulity. MacFarlane clearly has fun busting loose with whatever scheme Roger cooks up every week to keep himself busy, and the crooner bar manager-turned-Kathy Bates in Misery romantic obsessive fits the character’s manic and angry tendencies. But to simply use Roger (and, by extension, MacFarlane’s performance) as the guest every episode is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it consistently builds more facets of Roger’s character, but it also limits the potential benefit of well-written side characters.
In the B-plot, Stan wants to buy a giant SUV, not-so-subtly dubbed the “Hummie COK Guzzler” because it uses carbon, oxygen, and potassium for fuel. (Francine suggests that the “Hummie” should consume more carbon, adding an extra “C” to its name. Okay, American Dad, you don’t have to gild the lily, everyone gets the penis joke.) To afford the car, Stan attempts to sell the old one for $15,000, what he thinks the car is worth, but the car dealership and other potential buyers only want to pay $10,000. Stan’s increasingly ridiculous gimmicks to try and sell the car—the best of which is the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Man that beats him up. But eventually he gets too bold, using a live lion and a girl in a bikini to drum up interest, which doesn’t end well at all.
I didn’t really stick with the episode as it turned down a violent path and just kept going, since it only rarely made me laugh. It seemed that once both plots hit a wall, the quick response was to use violence to overblow everything and then back away like Stan does after the car lights on fire and the bikini girl crawls out, followed by the lion, who eats her just before flames engulf the whole scene. That’s a mighty fine distraction, but it’s not really an ending, just a flash and a cut to black, which is also how the Roger/Hayley plot ends. Jeff returns to save his wife, Roger attempts one last disturbingly grotesque idea to get Hayley to reciprocate his feelings, and then he gives up his crush. That’s the show.
As a premiere, this is a reasonably successful reintroduction to the show, featuring one of the more violently disturbing moments I've ever seen in the entire run as Jeff lifts one bloody, skinned hand out of the tub. That went off the deep end, but there is enough material in the first two acts to laugh at to tip the scales to success.
- Steve Smith is ripped. That’s a surprise.
- “Everybody shoots everybody, it’s how we communicate in this family.”
- Hayley's singing voice was actually great.
- Okay the Red Man Group joke: Was it funny because Roger hired them or because it was on American Dad instead of Family Guy?