FOX’s American Dad! finished its seventh season Sunday (May 22, 2011) with “Gorillas in the Mist.” In the episode, Stan (Seth MacFarlane) discovers it’s much more fun to be a friend to his son, Steve (Scott Grimes), than a father. But after Steve gets into a gorilla pen at the zoo, it is the gorilla’s dad that teaches Stan what it truly means to be a father.
At the same time, Roger (MacFarlane) thinks it is easy to write a country song. After failing miserably in his first attempt, Roger marries a woman living in a trailer park with a lot of kids. He finds this lifestyle not to his liking at all, but his new family keeps him home at gunpoint. Roger fakes spousal abuse, and shows no remorse as the children are carted off to be split up into foster homes. Then Roger sees a very ugly woman, and he has his hit song.
American Dad! does a number of big, special episodes, including a handful this year, but this is not one of them. Perhaps feeling they have already met their quota for memorable gems this season, the writers instead deliver a standard installment, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as American Dad! is a fairly consistent show with good humor. Almost every week is a treat to watch, and it is probably the most consistently good of Seth MacFarlane’s shows currently running. It is with laughter, not disappointment, then, that this episode can be viewed.
Stan is always struggling to grow as a person. Steve has been shown to need boundaries. The two elements collide in this surprisingly heartwarming story. What starts out as a goofy, drunken adventure winds up teaching father and son a lesson about love and relationships. The fact that a gorilla serves as the educator is only slightly ridiculous. It might not be a stand-out story, but it is one worth telling.
Roger’s plot is a lot more shocking. Even for Roger, his callousness at destroying a family seems overly cruel. Roger’s new wife and kids have more than their share of problems before he even arrives, and rather than be inconvenienced, he allows them all to be locked up so he can escape. While they do pull firearms on him, and so Roger is sort of a captive, he does make a commitment, and they have every right to expect him to honor it.
Frequent viewers know Roger is not the dedicated type, but that doesn’t mean he can be forgiven for so utterly destroying so many lives. With luck, this may come back to haunt him some day. Probably not, but one can hope.
American Dad! will return for an eighth season next fall on FOX.