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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Family Guy comes down with "Lottery Fever"

     To start the tenth season of FOX's Family Guy, the series presents "Lottery Fever." Peter (Seth MacFarlane) decides it's worth spending all of the family's savings on a LOT of lottery tickets. He wins, quits his job, and begins treating his friends like slaves. Naturally, they no longer want to hang out with Peter, so he is left alone. Which is fine, because he's having fun with a bunch of ridiculous purchases. Until the family runs out of money. Then he goes to his friends for help.

     Does this premise sound stale to you? Because it really is. There isn't much in the main story of "Lottery Fever" that hasn't been done on television in a dozen other sitcoms over the years. Perhaps that is why Family Guy goes after the story, as the show has always been fond of parody, especially 1980's comedies. In that regard, "Lottery Fever" might be construed as a homage to those forefathers, rather than recycling old material.

      Now, just because the idea is old, doesn't mean the episode isn't funny. For instance, Peter has the family spend days checking 200,000 lottery tickets to see if they are winners, only to reveal that they are all fake, and he's "testing" them. Testing them for what, who knows? But then Brian (also MacFarlane) figures out the next batch are fakes right off the bat, and Peter finally hands over the real 200,000 tickets that he bought. Of course, Brian identifies the winning ticket immediately, saving them a whole host of trouble.

     Also amusing is the singing montage as the family checks the tickets. The lyrics are needlessly explaining what is happening on screen, and that's the joke. The fact that the exact same bit is used in the episode of American Dad, a series by the same creator, immediately after "Lottery Fever" only deepens the impact for fans watching both shows.

     So, once again, Family Guy has taken a dead horse and beat it until it is funny again. It's a concept that Seth MacFarlane gets as almost no one else does. While not every episode of Family Guy is the comedy gold it once was, the series continues to deliver entertainment week after week because of its willingness to poke fun at itself and its industry. For that, we can all be grateful to Seth MacFarlane.

      Family Guy airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on FOX.

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