CARTOON CRACKDOWN: Family Guy Is Back! Yay…?

Edmund Poliks

Welcome to Cartoon Crackdown: wherein I obsess over cartoons and you debate whether to agree with me or call the nearest professional help to provide me with the ol’ padded cell therapy.

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Returning after eleven seasons and over two hundred episodes, Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy is a series that refuses to disappear and flat out defies the haters and critics with its very presence. While I admire the zeal and determination to pump out more content while maintaining its popularity, the twelfth season premiere, “Finders Keepers,” leaves me wondering whether the whole thing should be put out to pasture once and for all.

After a series of sight gags involving Peter obliviously torturing his family with middle-aged “dad breath,” the Griffins dine at a colonial-themed restaurant called The Founding Father: wherein Peter believes that Stewie’s place mat is a real-life treasure map. Haphazardly following a string of clues, Peter unwisely broadcasts his findings to all of Quahog and ignites a frenzied treasure hunt that involves the entire populace tearing itself apart to get their hands on the fabled riches of Miles “Chatterbox” Musket.

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It’s a bit of a daunting task to critique a cartoon steeped so heavily in opposite strengths as Family Guy. On the one hand Family Guy is a wacky show at heart, and much of the enjoyment comes from the seemingly random and off-the-wall cutaways that spew from the endearingly demented writing staff. But at other times, such as in Brian and Stewie from Season Eight, the show can narrow its focus to an almost minimalist scale and pursue character-driven stories that elevate Family Guy to unprecedented levels of poignancy.

Much like the greed-crazed citizens of Quahog on the treasure hunt though, “Finders Keepers” makes mad grabs at everything but succeeds in grasping nothing. The cutaway gags miss more often than they hit, producing only a handful of genuine laughs that stem more as a reaction to their audacity than as a response to something honestly funny. I’ll give credit to a couple of them (particularly the Back To The Future joke featuring film cast member Lea Thompson) for precipitating some earnest chuckles, but the rest were pretty mediocre at best and left me confused as to how the writers could see them as potentially hilarious.

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As for the actual plot of the episode, “Finders Keepers” comes off as a formulaic mess that fails to do anything new or interesting with his characters. It was to the point that I was calling plot point after lackluster plot point, and found some tropes that I used to enjoy (such as “everyone hates Meg” and “hey look Herbert’s a pedophile) become increasingly tiresome whenever they cropped up. I’ll admit that it’s true that Family Guy has been able to get away with some borrowed or recycled plots in the past, but usually the execution was entertaining enough to where you didn’t really care because you were laughing with it and felt along for the ride. This episode in contrast is just a botched paint-by-numbers job stemming more from laziness than anything truly inspiring or even inclusive to a comedy-seeking audience.

I’ll just finish up by saying that I’m not outright suggesting that Family Guy should be canceled or anything. I’m still a big fan of the show and I truly hope things pick up this season. But if “Finders Keepers” is any indication, perhaps Seth MacFarlane should think a little more deeply about what’s best for the series and its fans before giving an automatic go-ahead towards any season renewals.

Don’t agree? Well check out the Season Twelve Trailer below and decide for yourself.

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