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"Family Guy: Partial Terms of Endearment": Buy It for the Extra Bits

Family Guy is a show that has made a name for itself by crossing every line imaginable, so an episode that apparently finally went too far and got itself banned from US television (or at least from FOX) is going to attract some attention. In a masterful money-making maneuver, the controversial episode in question, Partial Terms of Endearment, has now been released exclusively on DVD, and the “too hot for TV” aspect is getting milked for all it’s worth (according to Amazon, about ten dollars per DVD).

The episode itself is surprisingly… inoffensive. It has its outrageous moments – there’s a disgusting gag involving Meg Griffin and The Count from Sesame Street that’s too good to spoil, and Peter’s arguments against abortion include such gems as “If God wanted us to kill babies, he would have made them all Chinese girls!”—but there’s nothing here that’s any more vulgar or shocking then any given joke in any other episode of the show. The abortion issue is not treated very even-handedly—the arguments presented against abortion, even the ones not given by Peter, are so exaggeratedly stupid that the word “straw man” doesn’t even begin to describe them—but this is neither surprising or particularly offensive, unless you’re either dead-set against abortion (in which case you really shouldn’t be watching this) or one of those strange people who get enraged when a person dares to express a viewpoint through their work.

This disappointing lack of controversy is countered by enough genuinely funny gags to make the episode worth watching. The list of people who would have been born if it weren’t for abortion is a personal favorite (Did you know there were supposed to be four stooges? It was gonna be hilarious.), and there’s a great reference to Wile E. Coyote halfway through, complete with an attractive desert background. There are a few duds mixed in—in one of the extras even MacFarlane himself admits that a gag about a retarded cat in the “Special Animal Olympics” isn’t so much a joke as just “us being bad people”—but on the whole this is a solid Family Guy episode.

…however, it’s not the show at its best, and it’s certainly not something I’d be willing to pay ten dollars for, which, luckily, is where the extras come in. We start off with a rather boring commentary on the episode, but everything after that is a gem. First, there’s a full animatic for the episode (which is interesting less for aesthetic reasons then for seeing which gags got cut out of the finished product). Then there’s a live table read of the episode, which is fun to watch if only for the novelty of seeing a group of very talented voice-actors do their bits.

There’s also a collection of nine musical numbers from the show, but by far the best extra is “Seth and Alex’s Almost-Live Comedy Show”, a hysterical live-action piece that’s basically just MacFarlane and Borstein—to steal a line from Borstein herself—”singing songs and cussing a lot”. There are more laughs-per-minute here then there are in the centerpiece episode, and MacFarlane and Borstein have great chemistry. I can’t say much about the show without spoiling some really great jokes, but I will say that it’s a live-action version of the best that Family Guy has to offer—gleeful vulgarity coupled with a genuinely great comedic sensibility.

The episode itself is fun but unimpressive; the extras, however, make this a must-buy for anyone who likes the series.

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