Brian and Stewie discover that Carter Pewterschmidt discovered the cure for cancer well over a decade ago and has sat on the news because treating cancer is more profitable than selling it. The pair decide to expose the truth to the world and embark on a rather humdrum quest for answers.
Well, Family Guy‘s penchant for cutaways is back in full force, unfortunately. The vast majority of them weren’t very funny, and they took up far too much screen time. About the only one I actually enjoyed was the cutaway of Stewie getting more and more frustrated waiting for Lois to get off the phone and take him to the beach. That one worked for me simply because my own mother used to do the very same thing, and not for any comedic or narrative value.
Speaking of narrative, this episode changes stories faster than Seth MacFarlane changes his voice. First we’re on about baseball. Then we have a good portion of the episode devoted to Quagmire’s embracing of his baldness and subsequent personality change, before Quagmire decides to get a hair transplant and goes back to normal. That whole thread is then dropped completely and never really mentioned again, before things finally settle down on the Carter story.
The Simpsons often does this too; it’s common practice for animated sitcoms these days to open with a smaller, silly vignette which then leads into the story proper. I don’t really have a problem with that, as long as it’s relatively short, and bonus points if it’s referenced or somehow ties back into the story. Family Guy does neither of these things. We spend nearly ten minutes on Quagmire being bald before we drop it like a thing you should probably drop. That might not sound too bad, but keep in mind, when your program runs around 22 minutes without commercials, ten minutes is a huge amount of time to spend dicking around.
Brian and Stewie usually make for a good pair, but I found their chemistry to be lacking this week, and the whole affair feels as though MacFarlane and pals are simply going through the motions. There’s some fun stuff with the two of them infiltrating Carter’s company: tomfoolery with the inept security and a nice little exchange between Carter and Brian:
CARTER: Breathe a word of this and you’re fired:
BRIAN: I don’t work here.
CARTER: I’ll have you killed.
BRIAN: I want to die.
An enjoyable few minutes doesn’t really save the episode as a whole, though. It’s just lifeless, by and large. It doesn’t have anything remotely close to the brilliant spark of “Ratings Guy.” The concept of the cure for cancer being kept secret is kind of interesting, if rather paranoid. Honestly, this plot would have been more at home in an X Files script. Come to think of it, it kind of was, when the shadow government cured Scully’s cancer…..
See? Look how far off track I’m getting. I was that bored. “The Old Man and the Big C” is one of those episodes that lends the notion of Family Guy running on empty a lot of credence. I was initially hopeful about Season 11, given that “Into Fat Air” wasn’t bad and “Ratings Guy” was fantastic, but this one takes a sewing needle to my hope-balloon. Every great series has some real clunkers to its name, and with any luck “The Old Man and the Big C” is a small hiccup in an otherwise solid year. But given Family Guy‘s performance over the last few seasons, it may be time to grit your teeth and prepare for the worst.