Fox’s other long-running animated sitcom celebrates its 200th episode almost exactly the same way it celebrated its 150th: A Brian and Stewie joint. Brian uses Stewie’s time machine to impress the ladies without permission and when he turns back the “Years Travelled” meter, it causes a quantum shockwave that makes time run in reverse. Now Brian and Stewie must find a way to resort the normal flow of time before it’s too
Playing with time, despite its inherent science fiction-ness, makes for surprisingly good comedy. Family Guy isn’t the first show to make use of this kind of thing. Red Dwarf’s classic “Backwards” comes to mind, as well as “The Betrayal” from Seinfeld, though in that story time itself, wasn’t going backwards; we were just being told the story in reverse.
“Yug Ylmiaf” works on a number of levels, and to be honest, most of its success hinges on the use of the time gimmick to take us back through the show’s memorable moments and usual bag of tricks from a fresh angle. A good number of Family Guy‘s standard tropes serve only to annoy me by now, but they really made it work here. We see one of the over-long chicken fights in reverse, Peter leaving for the hospital with the “You’ve Got the AIDS” barbershop quartet, the origin of Greased-Up Deaf Guy, being shown a cutaway before Brian made whatever reference it was, and most hilarious of all, the now-infamous vomiting scene from Season 4 being done backwards, with Brian and Stewie being subjected to vomit flying back up into their mouths.
In a way these things serve as a bit of a greatest hits reel, and when it’s the 200th episode, I think that sort of thing is well deserved. The attention to detail and acknowledgement of where the series has been gives it a feeling of being something quite special. Hell, once we’d gone far enough backwards in time, Meg was once again voiced by her original actress, Lacy Chabert. Things like that give me some hope that someone working on this show still gives a fuck.
We get a glimpse even farther back in time, before the pilot, to Stewie’s birth. Indeed, this drives most of the third act, as Stewie continues to regress towards being a newborn, drawing ever-nearer to being un-born, and Brian is left to solve the problem on his own. Sure, just doing what he did to cause the problem in the opposite direction might be a little too easy, but it makes a good deal of sense within the plot’s internal logic. It’s interesting to note that when Brian solves the problem and restores the direction of time, we don’t get any sort of snap-back to the present, we, and Brian, remain where we were, back to before the pilot.
It would be an intriguing idea to use this as a sort of continuity reboot for a while, with Brian having knowledge of the future, but being able to kind of clear the slate, as it were. I’m sure they won’t, especially given the presence of the time machine, but it’s food for thought. What we’re left with, instead, is a scene that kind of feels like the genesis of Family Guy: Stewie’s birth, and the Griffins leaving the hospital together to take him home. Chris asks if anyone else heard the new baby talking, and Peter tells him to shut up because it’s ridiculous.
Unlike the 150th episode, “Brian & Stewie,” this episode is much more of a light-hearted adventure and a hilarious trip down memory lane rather than 150’s attempt at a semi-serious character piece. Family Guyisn’t exactly known for sentimentality. In fact, some would argue that its defining feature is heartlessness. But that’s okay. I tuned in to laugh, and Family Guy, for once, delivered. Despite last episode’s hiccup, Family Guy was the most fun I’d had with a TV show all week, and between this and “Ratings Guy,” we might just have a pulse. Here’s to 200……..well, maybe like 20 more.
Ya know. If they’re actually any good.