Plot: What’s it about?
Stan Smith is a CIA agent and he loves freedom, democracy, and America in general. Well, at least the parts of America that agree with his ideals, the rest he would rather see carted off to a prison camp, or worse. He is married to the beautiful Francine, a loyal wife who does her best not to raise the household’s threat levels. The couple have two children, the rather uncool son named Steve and the rebellious Hayley, neither of whom are a source of pride for Stan. He is a conservative, Hayley is a liberal and while Stan is an athlete and ladies’ man, his son is a dork and hapless with the females. Also in the home is Klaus, a German fascist trapped in the body of a goldfish and Roger, an alien who escaped from Area 51. Stan would normally turn over an escaped alien, but Roger saved his life, so he hides and protects him in return. So as if Stan’s stressful job as protector of freedom wasn’t enough, his homelife is just as hectic. But Stan just wants to live free and be the best dad he can be, an American Dad.
The first thing you’ll notice about American Dad is that shares a lot of elements with another animated series, the popular Family Guy. This is with good cause, as both shows were created by and feature Seth McFarlane. The animation has the same basic look, some of the voice talent is shared, and even the overall tone is on the same foundation. But whereas Family Guy is more about pop culture references and chaos, American Dad is more about pop culture references and politics. I found American Dad to be a fun show, but Family Guy is more my cup of tea. The humor is frequent, but not as consistent in this series, with fewer big laughs and more misses with the jokes. I’m not really a fan of all the political satire either, as I’d rather have jokes about random stuff, as seen in Family Guy. But if you like Family Guy, American Dad offers some of the same elements, just with a different twist. So while I wasn’t as impressed with American Dad as I expected, I still enjoyed these episodes, and Volume 1 is recommended.
Video: How does it look?
The episodes are presented in full frame, as intended. The episodes look as good as we could want, with clean and bright presentations. The animation is rather simple, so depth isn’t remarkable, but given the style involved, these transfers are impressive. The colors are bold, so hues have a lot of vivid presence, though no oversaturation can be seen. The black levels are simple, as complex shading isn’t an issue here, but contrast performs well throughout. So all in all, a great looking set of episodes that come across much better here than they did in original broadcast.
Audio: How does it sound?
I didn’t expect much in this department, but the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks come through with some unexpected presence. Not presence as in raw power, but for an animated series like this, the soundtrack is more dynamic than I anticipated. There is frequent directional presence and very creative use of the surrounds, so the audio design wasn’t an afterthought for this series. The music has good life and sound effects are well handled, while dialogue is crisp and clean with no problems. This release also includes subtitles in English, French, and Spanish.
Supplements: What are the extras?
All but one of the episodes sports an audio commentary track, with assorted cast and crew members on each one. McFarlane isn’t present on all the tracks, which is kind of a let down, but the tracks still warrant a listen, even the weaker ones. You can also check out an animatics to final animation comparison on some scenes, as well as a table read version of an episode. But that’s not at all, as we also have a live read of an episode, some deleted scenes, and a couple of behind the scenes featurettes.