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Family Guy - Volume Seven


TITLE: FAMILY GUY - VOLUME SEVEN


Info:

DVD Release Date: June 16, 2009 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Color / 2008-2009
MSRP: $39.98
Number of Discs: 3
Number of Episodes: 13
Running Time: 499 minutes
Runtime of Special Features: Approx. 120 minutes (plus commentaries)
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English; English, Spanish, and French Subtitles; Closed-Captioned
Special Features: Commentary (every episode); Uncensored Episodes; Deleted Scenes; Animatic Episodes with Commentary (3); Featurettes (4)


Introduction:

Family Guy is back, for 13 more episodes on DVD! Family Guy: Volume Seven gives viewers the final four episodes of the 2007-2008 season and the first nine episodes of the 2008-2009 season on a three disc DVD set.

Family Guy, of course, is the animated Fox series that everybody knows and loves for being crude, raucous, and never really afraid to push the envelope on bad taste. Who would have thought such characteristics would lead to a good series? Peter Griffin is the father, a mentally retarded man (seriously) who works at a brewery in this set of episodes. Lois is his wife, of above average intelligence, but that doesn’t stop her from being an idiot at times. Chris is the underachieving son and Meg is the ugly and unpopular daughter. And let’s not forget Brian and Stewie. Brian is the family dog who happens to be smarter and have his life together more than anybody in the household, and Stewie is the demonic and (most likely) homosexual baby who is also pretty smart about some things (but completely naïve about other things).

The series started off with involved plots about happenings in the family, but in recent years has become more about less meaningful plots with hilarious cutaways that are mostly unrelated to the plot (this is prominently made fun of on an episode of South Park which pays respect, well not quite, to Family Guy). Volume Seven brings us many great moments from the series.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

This DVD set gives us the last four episodes of the 2007-2008 season and the first nine episodes of the 2008-2009 episodes. To clarify, it begins with the episode “Back to the Woods” and ends with “The Juice is Loose!”

On Disc 1, we start with “Back to the Woods,” where James Woods comes back and steals Peter’s identity, so how will Peter get revenge? By stealing the identity of James Woods, of course, and needless to say, Woods isn’t happy! Barry Manilow also guest stars. Brian may come between Peter and Lois in “Play it Again, Brian.” Harvey Fierstein plays one of Brian’s ex-girlfriends (yes, a female character) in “The Former Life of Brian,” and she has a surprise for the seven year old mutt--he has a thirteen year old son! Things only get worse when she dumps him onto the Griffin family and he terrorizes them. Ahoy, Peter becomes a pirate in “Long John Peter,” and Chris has a new girlfriend (played by Amanda Bynes). Brian has found the perfect girlfriend that is intelligent and loves dogs in “Love Blactually,” but she also loves black men too--specifically Cleveland! Meredith Baxter gives a brief voice cameo as herself.

Peter has a new friend--Jesus--in “I Dream of Jesus,” but that doesn’t mean that he discovered Jesus by being saved, in fact he discovers him at a record store. It’s time for another Brian and Stewie vacation in “Road to Germany,” but this time it isn’t all fun and games as they go back in time to Germany to save Mort Goldman, on September 1, 1939--the day that the Nazis invaded Poland! Can Brian and Stewie save the Jewish pharmacist? Chris sexually harasses his father at the convenience store where he works (don’t ask) and Peter is offered a coupon for free gasoline for a year to keep quiet in “Baby Not on Board,” so he decides to take a family vacation. They remember to bring everything, except for a certain demonic baby. Johnny Knoxville and Will Sasso appear in “The Man With Two Brians,” where Peter realizes that Brian is getting old and will need a replacement. Everybody loves New Brian except for Stewie, so how will he resolve his hate? Peter wants a key to the executive restroom in “Tales of a Third Grade Nothing,” but first he must go back to the third grade. This episode features a slew of guest voices in unconnected roles, including Frank Sinatra, Jr., Debbie Reynolds, Sinbad, Carrie Fisher, Andy Dick, Bruce Jenner, and even Bob Barker--hosting The Price is Right! Bonnie has been pregnant for over a decade, and finally has her baby girl in “Ocean’s Three and a Half,” but how will Joe pay the $20,000 in medical bills?

Seth Rogen has a brief cameo in “Family Gay,” where Peter buys a retarded and causes damages which he must pay back--which he does by being injected with a gay gene. Will he ever come back to being straight? Peter won a prize in the 80s that he never claimed in “The Juice is Loose!,” but when the prize involves O.J. Simpson coming to Quahog for a while (and becoming Peter’s friend), how will the town react?


Packaging:

It was inevitable that it would happen: Fox finally screwed us over on the packaging. They decided to take the “cheap and efficient” route and give us a plastic Amaray style case that holds three discs rather than the standard slimcases that we have gotten used to since Volume 1. It really makes the set feel cheap, even if the quality of the content on the discs is not cheap. On the outside of the case, we have a cardboard sleeve which shows the family standing in front of the front door (which is open, an the set has a plastic window so that we can see in), and then inside the case (and through the window), we see strange occurrences and characters from the episodes contained within the set. Inside our case, we find the discs themselves, with Disc 1 and Disc 2 on a panel inside and Disc 3 on the back of the case. The disc artwork consists of screenshots from episodes, with Disc 1 showing Chris, Brian, Brian’s son, and the Evil Monkey from the episode “The Former Life of Brian,” Disc 2 showing Meg and New Brian from the episode “The Man With Two Brians,” and Disc 3 showing Brian and Stewie from the episode “Road to Germany.” Disc 1 contains five episodes, Disc 2 contains six episodes, and Disc 3 contains two episodes, as well as a bulk of the special features.

Now here is where Fox REALLY dropped the ball this time. In previous sets, we had, on the back of each slimcase, complete episode descriptions, original airdates, and snapshots from the episode. This time, we have a listing of episode titles. This is an incredibly disappointment, but then again, most true fans know these episodes inside and out anyway. What would have been really nice would have been a complete episode booklet, as is done with the DVD sets of The Simpsons.


Menu Design and Navigation:

As always, the set has nice menus, but at the same time, we have the typical Fox “maze of menus” as I like to call it--it seems like it takes so much effort to just play the episode. The main menu on each disc has the closing theme music from the first two seasons playing in the background with video from episodes on the specific disc playing inside of the Family Guy series logo. The main menu lists the episodes on the disc, as well as a Play All and Special Features option (Disc 3 only). When you select an episode, you get another menu, which allows you to play the episode (the uncensored and unaired version), Scene Selection, Language Selection, and Special Features. Language Selection allows you to turn on the commentary or to select subtitles (English, Spanish and French). Special Features gives you another chance to turn on the commentary, as well as an option to watch the edited TV version of the episode. Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell where you are on the menu, as the menu options are in different colors--for example, on the Special Features menu on Disc 3, your highlighted option will be in green, the Disc Main Menu option will be in yellow, and everything else is blue. Why not keep just two colors on the menu listings?

I seriously wish that Fox would look into a way of simplifying the menus a little bit without really changing the quality of the set. It just seems like a lot of trouble to get to each of these menu options, when other comparable DVD sets in quality (such as Lionsgate’s releases of the TV series Weeds) have managed to significantly simplify the menus.


Video and Audio Quality:

There really isn’t anything to complain about here. The series is presented in full-screen (just as it is on TV, it hasn’t gone high definition yet) and has a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound audio track that is more than adequate. Closed-captioning, as well as English, Spanish, and French subtitles can be found on the set.

The episodes themselves come in two forms, and fans will definitely appreciate what this means. When you select an episode and play it directly from the episode menu, you will get an unedited and uncensored version of the episode that is unlike what you have seen on TV. These versions run as long as 25 minutes in one instance! Of course, if you just want the “unedited” version as in the aired version that aired on Fox, you can access that through the Special Features option on the episode menu. Those run around 21:50 per episode. Original music is all intact, and as far as I can tell, nothing is missing at all in these episodes. Runtimes, for both the unaired and aired versions, are as follows.

Disc 1:
Back to the Woods (24:30/21:53)
Play it Again, Brian (24:38/21:52)
The Former Life of Brian (23:56/21:55)
Long John Peter (22:06/21:52)
Love Blactually (21:50/21:49)

Disc 2:
I Dream of Jesus (24:46/21:52)
Road to Germany (25:09/21:54)
Baby Not on Board (23:26/21:50)
The Man With Two Brians (24:00/21:51)
Tales of a Third Grade Nothing (24:01/21:50)
Ocean’s Three and a Half (22:39/21:53)

Disc 3:
Family Gay (22:51/21:19)
The Juice is Loose! (22:01/21:55)


Special Features:

As previously mentioned, the set allows you to watch episodes either unedited or as the original broadcast version. You can find the original broadcast versions by using the special features option on the individual episode menu.

We also have commentaries again, on each and every episode. These are always interesting to watch. Episodes and commentators are as follows:

Disc 1:
Back to the Woods- Executive Producers David A. Goodman and Danny Smith, Producer Kara Vallow, Writer Tom Devanney, Director Brian Iles and Actor Seth Green
Play It Again, Brian - Executive Producer David A. Goodman, Executive Producer/Writer Danny Smith, Consulting Producer Tom Devanney, Production Supervisor Charles Song, Director John Holmquist and Actor Seth Green
The Former Life of Brian - Executive Producers Seth MacFarlane, David A. Goodman and Danny Smith, Director Pete Michels and Actor Mike Henry
Long John Peter - Executive Producers David A. Goodman and Danny Smith, Consulting Producer Tom Devanney, Co-Producer Kim Fertman, Director Dominic Polcino and Actor Seth Green
Love Blactually - Executive Producer Danny Smith, Producer Kara Vallow, Animation Producer Shannon Smith, Writer/Actor Mike Henry and Director Cyndi Tang

Disc 2:
I Dream of Jesus - Executive Producer Danny Smith, Co-Executive Producer/Actor Alec Sulkin, Co-Producer Kim Fertman, Writer Brian Scully and Assistant to Seth MacFarlane Spencer Porter
Road to Germany - Executive Producers Seth MacFarlane and Chris Sheridan, Writer Patrick Meighan, Director Greg Colton and Composer Walter Murphy
Baby Not On Board - Executive Producers Chris Sheridan and Danny Smith, Co-Executive Producer/Writer Mark Hentemann, Director Julius Wu and Actor Alex Borstein
The Man with Two Brians - Executive Producers David A. Goodman and Danny Smith, Co-Executive Producer Alec Sulkin, Writer/Actor John Viener and Director Dominic Bianchi
Tales of a Third Grade Nothing - Executive Producer Seth MacFarlane, Writer Alex Carter, Director Jerry Langford, Actor Frank Sinatra Jr. and Composer Walter Murphy
Oceans Three and a Half - Executive Producers Chris Sheridan and Danny Smith, Co-Executive Producer Mark Hentemann, Animation Producer Shannon Smith and Writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong

Disc 3:
Family Gay - Executive Producers Seth MacFarlane and Danny Smith, Co-Executive Producer Mark Hentemann, Writer Richard Appel and Director Brian Iles
The Juice is Loose! - Executive Producers David A. Goodman and Chris Sheridan, Director Cyndi Tang, Writer and Drew Goldberg and Actor Mike Henry

The remaining special features can be found on Disc 3, beginning with Deleted Scenes (11:14). These are simply more deleted scenes that aren’t even in the unedited versions presented on the set, presumably because they either didn’t fit in at all or (as can be seen in many cases) they were not fully produced. There are 28 of these.

Next, we have animatic episodes, which give us a behind the scenes look at the animatics (the early production animation) for three episodes on the set. But like the say in those infomercials, “but wait, there’s more!” These full episode animatics have additional commentaries from the animation staff members of the series! You won’t hear Seth MacFarlane or Alex Borstein in any of these, but you will hear voices such as Robert Schulbaum or Karin Perrotta. Episodes and commentaries are as follows:

“Love, Blactually” (21:33) – Karin Perrota, Cyndi Tang, Anjel Shhigian, Patrick Clark, Greg Lovell
“Long John Peter” (24:06) – Shannon Smith, Dominic Polcino, Joseph Lee, Robert Schulbaum, Spencer Porter
“The Man With Two Brians” (22:32) – Dominic Blanchi, Joe Vaux, Raul Guerra, Brad Winters

“Take Me Out to pLace Tonight” (12:02) is a behind the scenes look at the series from Frank Sinatra, Jr., who guest voiced on the episode “Tales of a Third Grade Nothing” (as well as an episode on a previous release). This featurette talks a lot about the episode in particular and how Frank Sinatra, Jr.’s appearance was a part of the “B-story” for the episode. It is interesting to watch, although it is not incredibly insightful.

“Family Guy Cribz” (16:33) is a look at the Family Guy studios. This isn’t the first time that we’ve seen one of these, but this is probably one of the better ones that we’ve had so far. We get a lot of useless information about the studios and a complete tour by executive producer Danny Smith.

“Comic-Con 2008” (23:16) takes us back to Comic-Con for a talk about the series (mostly from the production staff, but we do have Seth MacFarlane, Seth Green, and others) and what is “coming up” for the series (although much of it has already happened). They talk about the upcoming spinoff, The Cleveland Show and take some questions from the audience. In the past, they have included a table read from a script at this convention, but there is not one this time.

Finally, “Family Guy Art Show” (4:54) is a short featurette which gives us a look at various art forms that the series has inspired. Apparently, there is an art show that takes place on a regular basis where artists create art work related to the series, and profits made from the art show go to the Children’s Miracle Network. I really enjoyed seeing some of the creative artwork on this featurette--it isn’t just merely the typical stock photos rushed together with family portraits! There is some incredibly creative art work to be found here.


Final Comments:

I love this series, but the way that Fox has been releasing it has been incredibly annoying. Putting out a set with 13 episodes and still putting a $40 MSRP on it is a bit excessive, but then again, they know that viewers will buy these DVDs anyway. After all, it is one of the top selling series on DVD. It doesn’t help that the packaging has been changed and been cheapened from previous sets either.

However, with those obligatory complaints out of the way, the fact is that this is a great DVD set with great episodes and great special features, and that is the one thing that truly important for any series. You just can’t help but to love this series and the ridiculous things that happen, no matter how tasteless it may be or no matter how non-existent a true coherent plot is in many episodes. The series is essentially just a way to make us laugh without putting up boundaries, and that is the key to the success that it has been able to maintain. The DVD sets improve upon that by bringing us unedited (and uncensored) episodes, commentaries on every episode, deleted scenes, and a nice handful of featurettes. The bottom line is that fans are going to love and appreciate this set. It may not physically look and feel as “freakin’ sweet” as past sets, but the episodes and special features are definitely “freakin’ sweet.”


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 4.5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 06/20/09

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B001VFM0ZG/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=248658


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