The lighter side of murder

Back in 1999, Fox launched Family Guy, an animated sitcom, in the hopes of duplicating the success the network enjoyed with The Simpsons and King of the Hill. Despite the network’s best marketing efforts, this little-known series disappeared, seemingly gone forever. After the show was cancelled, the DVD sales of the first three seasons were so strong that they inspired a movie. Family Guy was resurrected and now it’s set to air its 100th episode Sunday, Nov. 4.

Appropriately enough, this highly anticipated episode will center on Stewie Griffin, the matricidal 1-year-old bent on world domination. Since the beginning of the series, Stewie has vowed to eliminate his mother Lois and escape her “estrogenical tyranny.” In the aptly titled “Stewie Kills Lois,” he decides to finally act on his murderous rage.

Since the show’s rebirth, Stewie has become its most recognizable character, even serving as the show’s mascot in most advertisements. In this respect, the fact that creator Seth McFarlane – who also provides the voice of Stewie, among other characters – decided to focus this episode on him is unsurprising. However, one must wonder if the events of this episode – which may result in matriarch Lois Griffin’s death – will have a permanent effect on the series, or if the writers will somehow find a way to pretend it never happened.

Yet regardless of the hype surrounding “Stewie Kills Lois,” the resulting episode is sadly not worthy of much anticipation. While the plot is among the series’ strongest, most of the jokes fall flat. One of Family Guy’s trademarks is its reliance on cutaway gags – random jokes with no effect on the plot – to increase its laugh quotient. Sadly, this episode’s non sequitur segments are among the weakest in the series.

Clearly the writers put extra effort into crafting a plot worthy of this landmark episode, but it still pales in comparison to classics like “Road to Rhode Island,” “Lethal Weapons,” and “PTV.” Since “Stewie Kills Lois” ends on an intriguing cliffhanger, hope remains that the second part of this story will redeem its initial half. For now, though, this Family Guy fan is somewhat disappointed that the creators of one of the sharpest shows on television failed to deliver the mind-blowing episode fans were hoping for.

With several episodes remaining this season, another Star Wars parody episode on the way and a feature film in development, Family Guy’s legions of fans should be have plenty to celebrate. After all, the show rose from the grave because of the devoted following it had mustered. The occasional weak episode is understandable – I just wish it hadn’t been for such an important occasion.

Grade: C+