Chris’ classmates tease him about his shoes, and resorts to stealing from Lois’ purse to buy new ones. Stewie discovers the music of Anne Murray and becomes obsessed with her song “Snowbird.”
It was kind of nice to get one of the rare Chris-centric episodes. It’s been quite a long while, so long, in fact I think even Meg of all people gets more stories centered around her than poor ol’ Chrissy-pants. It even works much better than the usual Family Guy fare, with less of the random cutaways and more emphasis on plot being driven by character.
Meg catches Chris in his act of thievery and, like any sister worth her salt, blackmails him into being her slave for a while and gives him a list of tasks. Almost all of them are pretty amusing, like Chris’ attempt to put Meg’s contact lenses in for her, causing her eyes to roll up while the poor girl panics. Then there’s the reveal that she has her own PO Box where she receives mail from friends in the Netherlands.
Eventually, Chris has had enough and runs away from home, right on over to Herbert’s house. The aged pervert is of course more than happy to have Chris stay with him.
A character like Herbert is a fine line to walk. He doesn’t exist as a fully-rounded person in his own right, not really. He’s a one-joke pony. You’re kind of limited to just how much and how often you can use a character like that. Herbert, when used right, and sparingly, can be utterly hilarious. Too much of him and his one joke begins to wear thin because it’s simply been stretched too far. This is one of the latter cases.
They’ve tried to avert the inevitable by having Herbert get more and more tired of Chris’ teenage behavior intruding on his old-man lifestyle, but there’s just not enough material with Herbert to make it work over such an extended sequence. It starts out okay, with Herbert and Chris in separate beds, and each time Chris turns off his lamp, he scooches his bed closer. By the end of it, it’s just as tired and worn out as Herbert’s dog.
Stewie, meanwhile, gets most of the good stuff. His love of Anne Murray is adorable, and entirely within character. Part of the appeal of this storyline for me is the lampooning of typical music fan arguments. People get awfully darn invested in their taste in music and they seem to enjoy bickering with one another over everything. Now, I don’t listen to a ton of music. It’s usually just something to listen to while I pedal away on the stationary bike, weeping silently and cursing myself for eating that third cheeseburger. So, I’m usually mystified by the vehemence of the musical mud-slinging.
That sort of behavior is rampant throughout “Chris Cross”: Stewie’s dislike of the hilariously generic rap song Lois plays, Brian playing the jaded music critic and dismissing any artistic value in Murray’s songs, and Brian and Stewie becoming co-Murray fans and even then, still managing to argue over what “Snowbird” is actually about, man. They drive up to Canada to ask the woman herself.
There’s a really sweet little sequence where Stewie sings to Brian and breaks down his snobbish refusal to enjoy Anne Murray. Stewie’s singing moves him so much that he has a flashback to being a puppy and playing with his brothers and sisters, then snuggling up with Mom to sleep in front of the fire. That is fucking cute as anything, let me tell you. I like puppies and it made me feels and just let me have this, okay?
Anne Murray’s guest appearance itself is a lot of fun. She’s not the greatest actor in the world, but she’s just so darn pleasant and reasonable towards Brian and Stewie I couldn’t help but enjoy her. There’s also shades of Trailer Park Boys‘ “Closer to the Heart” once Stewie realized Anne doesn’t actually write her own songs and ties her up in a fit of rage (Trailer Park Boys had one of the characters taking Alex Lifeson of Rush hostage).
Pleasant is probably the best word to describe the bulk of the episode. Most of Chris’ storyline works well enough. Who hasn’t been picked on at school over their attire, or been blackmailed by a sibling who threatens to tattle? He and Meg have a nice brother/sister dynamic I think I’d like to see more of. They play off each other nicely, especially since Peter and Lois are largely MIA this week. Not that I’m complaining about a break from them. Stewie and Brian’s story is just cute. We all have our guilty-pleasure music and the two of them being so in love with Anne Murray of all things is really rather precious. “Chris Cross” doesn’t quite excel on all points, but it goes down nice n’ easy.