Jeffrey Malone’s 50 Favorite TV Shows of All Time

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You can learn a lot about people from their favorite television programs. TV viewing involves spending a lot of time with fictional characters and more or less forming relationships with them. Who we choose to spend our time with says a lot about our own personalities. With that in mind, here are the current standings for my 50 favorite shows of all time.

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Best Episode of the Season: American Dad! Season 10

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Season Analysis: American Dad! is getting to the point in its run when it is starting to repeat itself a little too often, but it still has enough awesome episodes every year to make you realize there is nothing else quite like it on television.

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“Familyland”
Nearly 50 years after his death, Walt Disney continues to be a fruitful source of satire, as demonstrated by American Dad! with Roy Family, the founder of the theme park Familyland, who had been frozen upon his death so that he could one day return to life should the denizens of his park no longer deserve to enjoy his creation.  But this episode wasn’t really about exposing the prejudices of one of America’s most beloved figures, at least not entirely.  “Familyland” was mostly an excuse for American Dad! to indulge its apocalyptic side, which is its best side.  A week after Mr. Family has sealed off all the exits, each section of the park has become a kingdom ruled by one of the Smiths.  The details of Cartoon City (ruled by Steve), Wild Wild Wild West World (ruled by Stan), Fairy Tale Land (ruled by Haley railing against the princess role model), and Outer Space Land (ruled by Roger, who inexplicably notes that this cheesy attraction got everything right) are thoroughly impressive.  American Dad! is one of the best animated shows ever in terms of understanding that it is a cartoon, and knowing that that means it can destroy its status quo whenever it feels like it and pretend like nothing happened the very next episode, and “Familyland” was the best example of that in Season 10.

Best Episode of the Season: American Dad! Season 9

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Season Analysis: AD! Season 9 was never in danger of being a season to forget, but it wasn’t one to remember either until it brought things together with a character shakeup at the end of the season that really went places.

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“Lost in Space”
If there was any episode of television this season that illustrated the virtue of mixing up the routine, it was “Lost in Space.”  It does not feature any members of the Smith family proper, instead focusing entirely on Haley’s husband Jeff, a hitherto basically inoffensive but unmemorable character.  The story of Jeff working as a slave on a spaceship from Roger’s home planet is a richly realized, visually engrossing sci-fi mini epic.  His journey to prove his love of Haley at the risk of losing his genitals was a lot sweeter and more romantic than I would have ever expected a Jeff-centric episode to be.  Jeff’s disposition is plenty sweet (when he has enough presence of mind to be sweet, or anything, on purpose), but he has never been known to go above and beyond in his devotion.  So it was heartening to see him actually step up to the plate and show who he really is.  The twist revealing that Emperor Zing long ago had his heart broken by Roger was wholly appropriate.  Plus, Sinbad stopped by to voice himself and remind us how awesome Good Burger is.

Best Episode of the Season: American Dad! Season 8

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Season Analysis: For a few years now, American Dad! has been the best of Fox’s animated Sunday block (although Bob’s Burgers appears to be taking over in that area); any subpar efforts are at least interesting, and rarely annoying.

“Virtual In-Stanity”

Worried that he has not been a big enough part of Steve’s life, Stan uses the CIA’s avatar program to create a busty blond bombshell avatar (voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar) as a way of bonding with Steve … and then when a love triangle forms, things get a little too close for comfort.  So, basically, there was no way “Virtual In-Stanity” was going to win American Dad! any new fans.  But for the fans already there, it was Dad’s patented wrong humor done just right.  It was also a geeks’ delight, as there were, in addition to Avatar, references to Aliens (Francine fights Stan’s avatar while in a power lift mecha suit) and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the real girl who Steve actually wanted to take to the dance was voiced by Alyson Hannigan).  And the main plot was not even the most disturbing part of the episode.  The B-plot was American Dad! at its most nihilistic, with Roger hunting down a group of frat brothers who did a “drive and dash” after using Roger’s limo service (a service he began upon stealing a limo).  It ultimately comes to Roger blowing up a plane that the last surviving bro was on (and also killing a stewardess who had managed to escape on a parachute).  Dad! was actually demonstrating some restraint by not making that the A-plot.

Best Episode of the Season: American Dad! Season 7

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“A Piñata Named Desire”

The great thing about bad acting is when it is presented as such.  It takes talent to be a bad actor on purpose, and when that talent is present, hilarity ensues.  As this is a plain truth, it is fun when it is presented in an unusual way, as was the case in the best episode of this season of American Dad!  Stan is a bad actor, and this has made him a liability when he is undercover for the CIA.  This bad acting manifests itself in – of all things – the way in which he carries a glass of water.  Thus, bad acting is presented in an unusual context and rendered absurd.  As the story develops with Roger helping Stan with his acting, American Dad! becomes further and further involved in its strange little self, which is what the best episodes of this strange little show tend to do.  It is ridiculous that Stan and Roger are playing parts in “Piñata Man” that really do not fit them, let alone the persistently ridiculously fact that Roger is an alien who looks clearly different than the humans he is surrounded by, and the ridiculousness is amped up by Stan and Roger’s one-upmanship game of sexual acts, but that is the world of American Dad! for you.

Next up: The Simpsons

Best Episode of the Season: American Dad!

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“Rapture’s Delight”

Stan and Francine have sex in the church closet during Christmas Day Mass, causing them to be left behind during the Rapture.  When Francine realizes that Stan cares more about ascending into heaven than being with her, she leaves him for Jesus, who has appeared for his second coming.  Fast-forward seven years to the real meat of this episode – the post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-esque future brought on by the war between Jesus and the Antichrist.
While watching this episode, it was one of those times in which I was getting some work done while watching TV, so for a good portion, I was not paying complete attention.  But about halfway through the post-apocalyptic part, I said to myself, “What the hell is going on right now on American Dad!, the wackiest and most unbridled show on television?”  At that moment, I surrendered and put down my work.  Where had this portrayal of the Anti-Christ (as voiced by Andy Samberg) sprung from?  The ways in which he is the opposite of Jesus are conveyed via shtick (“Condemn them, Mother, for they know exactly what they do!”)  An elaborate and absurd battle provides the climax, highlighted by a trap built by the Anti-Christ falling apart (“You were a carpenter!  I’m not handy at all!”).  Ultimately, and unsurprisingly, the most immortally memorable moment comes from Roger, when he drops his meatball in the pool.

Next up: Dollhouse