On first glance, American Dad looks like a carbon copy of Seth MacFarlane's "other" show Family Guy. The animation is near identical, the lead character Stan Smith's knuckle headed optimism and in-your-face presentation doesn't so much recall Peter Griffin as grab you by the throat and scream in your face and Roger the alien and Klaus the goldfish work in much the same way Stewie and Brian do in the previous show. So far so very familiar, as though MacFarlane dressed up his fourth FG series with different characters when it was initially cancelled so as to stay on the air but stick with it, and American Dad will eventually reveal itself as a superior cartoon to it's predecessor.
Sure, the humour is once again a mixture of insightful witticisms, biting satire and odd bursts into toilet humour but rather than the chaos of Family Guy where the plot seems to revolve round the jokes, here the opposite is true. The flashbacks are almost totally absent and instead each episode features a structure and character development that is normally missing from the first show. Okay some of the episodes fall a bit flat but nevertheless, there are considerably more hits than there are misses and when it's good, it's brilliant. "A Smith In The Hand" for example is in this writer's humble opinion, the funniest thing MacFarlane and his team have ever produced.
What's more, American Dad is considerably more politically-orientated and everything you could conceive about the USA's current state of fear mongering and distrust is put beneath a microscope and parodied mercilessly. Stan Smith is a boorish depiction of all that paranoia rolled into one and some of his outbursts and overreactions are hilarious. Take the scene where he locks up his new Arab neighbours in his back garden for instance in a moment that scarily recalls the nightmarish conditions of Guantanamo bay yet still manages to be side splittingly funny or any of his numerous conceited one-liners ("only women have emotions son, they come from their ovaries").
Only time will tell if American Dad can outlive the shadow of it's far more successful big brother, but like the relationship between Futurama and the Simpsons beforehand, it's often a far funnier and considerably more focused show that deserves a wider audience.
My Rating 8/10