Ever since its third release, the first after the reboot, Family Guy has shied away from releasing complete seasons, always giving batches of episodes instead, frequently with less than a year’s worth at a time. That changes with the latest DVD, Volume Eleven, which is actually the complete 10th season. These installments aired from September 2011 through May 2012, so it’s not the most recent season that passed, but the one before it, with 23 episodes on three discs.
Now, overall, the quality of Family Guy has declined over the seasons. However, there are a handful of installments in Volume Eleven that really stand out as memorable. Among the highlights of this disc:
- “Lottery Fever” – Peter (Seth MacFarlane) buys over 200,000 lottery tickets, winning a jackpot. Of course, he gets too big for his britches, in a homage to many a classic tale, and there are wonderful bits like a signed-song and Peter making his brood check fake tickets.
- “Seahorse Seashell Party” – The middle of a three-part Animation Domination crossover, in which a hurricane threatens the trio of FOX animated comedies created by MacFarlane, all airing on the same night. Meg (Mila Kunis) finally stands up for herself, but the family can’t survive without a scapegoat, and thus she throws off the dynamics of the show. Temporarily, obviously.
- “Thanksgiving” – Kevin Swanson (Scott Grimes), who was presumed dead by his family and friends, returns home from Iraq.
- “Meg and Quagmire” – Meg turns eighteen and Quagmire (MacFarlane) sees an opportunity. This sends Peter through the roof. As lecherous as Quagmire is, this episode is the one where Peter and Lois (Alex Borstein) finally pay attention to, and look out for, their daughter.
- “Tom Tucker: A Man and His Dream” – Peter becomes Tom Tucker’s (MacFarlane again) agent, and the two go to Hollywood. There’s a great callback when they learn James Woods (himself) is somehow still alive, but even better is the subplot in which Chris (Seth Green) begins dating a girl (Juno‘s Ellen Page) who looks like his mother.
- “Leggo My Meg-O” – A parody of Taken, with Brian and Stewie heading to Europe to rescue a kidnapped Meg.
- “Tea Peter” – Peter joins the Tea Party, they successfully shut down the local government and all hell breaks loose. Current Congressman and women: pay attention!
- “Internal Affairs” – Peter has another epic fight with the giant chicken. Plus, Joe (Patrick Warburton) considers a one-night stand with a co-worker (Anna Kendrick, Pitch Perfect) to get even with his wife for her own infidelity.
- (the best of the set) “Back to the Pilot” – Stewie (MacFarlane) takes Brian (also MacFarlane) back in time to find his lost tennis ball, and they relive the events of the first episode of the series, complete with inferior animation, a different actress voicing Meg (Lacey Chabert), and altered character personalities. However, Brian, in his arrogance, can’t resist preventing 9/11, which means that when they return to the future, America has changed and is in the midst of a Civil War. Hilarity ensues as they attempt to fix everything that is wrong and just keep making things worse. Awesome for being a tribute to the show’s origins, and a fun time-travel twist, as well as yet another journey for the series’ best couple.
And there are 14 additional episodes, mostly typical, stand-alone comedic entries with a few good jokes, but not being particularly memorable even only a couple of years after they air. Is it time for Family Guy to retire? Probably. Though, I’m glad to have the installments mentioned above, some of which will definitely make the short list of must-see episodes.
As far a special features go, there are audio commentaries on some of the half-hours, as well as select scene animatics and deleted scenes. The episodes are “uncensored,” but that doesn’t make a big difference. Some outtakes with Ricky Gervais from his guest role are amusing, and Ron MacFarlane reads some viewer mail. My favorite inclusion is “Looking Back to the Pilot,” something that seems appropriate to do ten years in, especially with the tribute episode included in this set.
Overall, I would rank Volume Eleven as better than the Volume Ten release (and Nine and Eight…), though not as good as some of the earlier ones. If you’re a Family Guy fan who doesn’t regularly watch anymore, this might be a good set to catch up casually with a taste of what it’s being made now.
Family Guy: Volume Eleven is available now.