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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Dad: “The Kidney Stays In The Picture”

Illustration for article titled iAmerican Dad/i: “The Kidney Stays In The Picture”
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This time, I think American Dad finally convinced me that the show can indeed do a good job of dealing with legitimate emotions in a straightforward fashion. Sure, Kisses the dog did the trick, but that's something special and personal, I think. “The Kidney Stays In The Picture” is a normal episode of American Dad, but one that struck a chord with me.

That chord came from the idea of trying to recreate lost youth. Francine, via the magic of Facebook, reconnects with one of her old party friends, and they immediately set out to try it again, bringing Haley along for the ride. There’s an obvious sense of desperation here, both with silly jokes like Francine’s friend having an abdominal tattoo that says “EAT OUT MORE OFTEN” and with more serious stuff like Stan being convinced it’s a bad idea and Francine paying no mind. Francine also waxes poetic about the horrible stuff she experienced when she was a party girl. Oh, the places she puked….


And yeah, this had some meaning for me. I’m older than I used to be, as we all are, and I’m less able, let alone willing, to stay out all night drinking. But I see friends doing it, and remember the best parts of it far more than the worst. This is hardly a concern that’s unique to me, and American Dad isn't exactly breaking new ground here. But the pursuit of lost youth is a common theme because it’s so universal.

For once, though, Stan is right to be worried about the girls’ night out. Haley can’t hold the alcohol, and one of her kidneys fails. While the first part of the episode was effective in setting the stage, it wasn’t the funniest American Dad can be. The humor shows up again once Haley’s in the hospital, as Stan has body language issues—“You big whore. I don’t know why I’m holding you like this. It must be very confusing”—and Snot pulls out a puppet for a terrible joke before explaining that his grandmother is dying.


Stan and Francine then get the chance to go back to the past, but they don’t even consider it an opportunity to relive their youth. They’re too busy focusing on finding a fling from Francine’s past, who might be Haley’s father, making him a viable kidney transplant instead of Stan. The hook-up is a total idiot, and Stan steps in initially to prevent the deed from being done. But in order to appease the Gods Of Time Travel Convenience, they have to get everything in order.

So Stan and Francine go to 1996 Stan and Francine, and get them on board. Then they go to Roger, in one of my favorite disguises I’ve seen. All of is this to drug Young Francine in order to get her sleazy suitor to date-rape her (consensually?), and that's so that Haley will exist, regardless of who her true father might be. And back in the present day, they send Roger after a kidney, and “Hip To Be Square,” for once, turns into a bad song to hear. It sounds terrible to write it now, but it seemed both funny and emotionally meaningful at the time. That’s no small feat.


Stray observations:

  • “Up… updating iTunes”
  • “Oh. Right. Look at you understanding time travel!” I like how this is what seemed to break the tension between Stan and Francine after her admission.
  • Nathan Fillion was listed as a guest star, so I was convinced he’d be Francine’s hook-up. Sure sounded like Fillion doing a silly accent. But checking the press release, apparently he was one of the kidneys. Huh.

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