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Monday, November 14, 2011

Family Guy travels "Back to the Pilot"

     This week's episode of FOX's Family Guy, "Back to the Pilot," finds Brian (Seth MacFarlane) sad over a lost tennis ball. Stewie (also MacFarlane) takes Brian back in time to find it, and they end up seeing a handful of events from Family Guy's very first episode, "Death Has a Shadow," which aired in the coveted post-Superbowl slot. Unfortunately, Brian cannot pass up the opportunity to prevent 9/11, casting himself as a hero. The pair discover, when they get back to the present, that this means that America is in the midst of a Civil War and life is horrible. So they must fix their mistake, which takes many tries.

     Ten years in, it's a fun, nostalgic device to revisit the very first episode. Staying true to the original pilot, the animation is crude, and presented in 4:3 instead of 16:9 aspect ratio. Brian and Stewie retain their 2011 look, providing contrast, and even comment on their earlier selves. Although how Stewie remains one year old for a decade is not addressed, it's fun to remember that Stewie used to be obsessed with killing Lois (Alex Borstein), and has gadgets to accomplish this task, which Stewie gives up on long before "Back to the Pilot." Also, great joke about the different sounding Meg, as the charcter is voiced by Lacey Chabert (Party of Five, The Wild Thornberrys) in "Death Has a Shadow," but Mila Kunis takes over the role by episode thirteen. Equally hilarious: Stewie and Brian watching cut scenes from the outside.

     Brian and Stewie episodes are always a bit fun. The two characters have fantastic chemistry, and "Back to the Pilot" expands on that once more. Stewie has grown less set in his ways over the years, being adaptable, and no longer psychiotic. Brian does the opposite, definitely much more stubbon, pretentious liberal than in the beginning. Yet, their partnership works just as well as it did previously, and watching their rapport is very entertaining. Seeing Brian paint himself as a 9/11 hero is fun, if a bit over the top.

     In reference to the slight controversry this episode garnered with Stewie and Brian high fiving for saving 9/11, it's unfair to get upset. The characters even mention that, take out of context, their celebration will seem strange. And it surely does. But in the context of the Family Guy story, restoring 9/11 means saving America from being led into a second civil war by one-term president George W. Bush, so they are only happy that a very bad thing was preserved in lieu of something much worse.

     Perhaps because Brian and Stewie have messed with the past before, "Back to the Pilot" seeks to address time paradox with many Brian and Stewies ending up all together outside the pilot-era house. It's a confusing, zany scene that gets worse and worse, until finally Stewie calls for a halt and makes everyone leave. Then he uses a gun to force the original time travelers to never meddle. It's really the only solution. Though on question is never answered: does Brian get his tennis ball?

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