Last month, American Dad! aired its final episode on Fox after being part of the Animation Domination lineup for nine seasons. While the show will be brought back on TBS this fall, it still feels like the end of an era. With that in mind, here are ten of the finest American Dad! episodes to air during the show’s network era.
10. Haylias (Airdate: November 11, 2007)
Stan and Hayley have basically been at odds for the entire run of the series, and this a fine example of that. Hayley wants run off to France and have a string of affairs, while Stan wants her to be a typical suburban housewife, just like Francine. Naturally, his solution is to say her activation code, turning her into a sleeper agent (“I’m getting fed up with this orgasm!”) and have her already be married by the time she’s deactivated. Stan attempts to marry her off to a rich senator’s son, who just happens to be flamboyantly gay (he gets some of the best lines of the episode – “These are for me. They’re my walkin’ petunias”). Of course, it backfires and Hayley attempts to kill Stan. It would be nice to see the two became closer at the end, but really, this is just a flat-out hilarious episode where we don’t learn anything, and we don’t have to.
9. Finger Lenting Good (Original Airdate: January 6, 2013)
A wonderful episode for Patrick Stewart, as we get to see Bullock at his most evil. When each member of the Smith family makes a promise for Lent, Bullock sets out to take the finger of the first one to screw up. In fairness to him, the family signed a contract agreeing to this, but they were drunk at the time, and it’s pretty damn clear that Bullock just really really wants to cut someone’s finger off. The scenes in which each Smith tries to get one of the others to slip up is hilarious, particularly when Stan and Hayley try to make Steve cry by singing “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which the rest of the family winds up joining in on. The subplot where Roger falls in love at his Mardi Gras party and has to find her by finding the owner of the stripper pasty he finds the morning after also works pretty well. (Spoiler alert: it was a cow.) But Bullock’s demented lust to chop off some fingers is easily the main attraction here.
8. Great Space Roaster (Original Airdate: May 18, 2010)
Roger is basically a complete psycopath who will do literally any evil deed without feeling the faintest sense of guilt over it, and this episode is more or less a tribute to that part of his personality. When the family’s attempt to roast Roger for his birthday goes awry (they hurt his feelings!), Roger sets out to destroy the Smith family at all costs. The roasting scenes are hilarious (“You have the sex appeal of the cancer ward in a pediatric hospital!”), but Roger completely owns this episode. Particularly brilliant is when Roger is trapped in a Bangkok prison with seemingly no possible escape, and the very next line is “Oh my God, breaking news out of Asia!” which is pretty much all we need to know.
7. Lincoln Lover (Original Airdate: November 5, 2006)
As the show slowly morphed from a satire of post 9/11 America to a more character-driven sitcom, the writers must have realized they had a problem: whether we agree with Stan’s politics or not, we still should probably like him. And for that to happen, they couldn’t have him be a raging homophobe. So, in this episode, Stan becomes enlightened on the topic of homosexuality (or at least as enlightened as a far-right conservative can be), and of course, the way we get there is hilarious. The fact that Stan writes a ridiculously homoerotic play about Abe Lincoln without even realizing it is genius in its own right (“I was his bodyguard. He was my everything”), but Stan’s encounter with the Log Cabin Republicans works perfectly, too, with “We’re Red and We’re Gay” ranking as one of the series’ better musical numbers. As with the “Homer’s Phobia” episode of The Simpsons, this episode has a little fun with gay stereotypes in order to make a larger point about the idiocy of homophobia. One of the show’s best political episodes, and a sure sign that things were headed in the right direction.
6. Roy Rogers McFreely (Original Airdate: March 8, 2009)
If the recurring bit about Cilamtro, the Mexican folk-singer who sings “El Perro” had been the only joke in this episode, it would still be pretty damn hilarious, but thankfully, there’s a ton of other great gags. Roger decides to get revenge on Stan for not buying grenadine to make a Roy Rogers, so he takes it out on the entire neighborhood by becoming Roy Rogers McFreely, head of the home-owners association. Naturally, his only evil deeds are merely the type of things that people who get to live in upper-middle-class neighborhoods with tons of regulations have to worry about, but it drives Stan – and the rest of the neighborhood – insane just the same. Also, it’s nice to see Stan and Hayley find some common ground when Stan winds up being part of the resistance. But really, this episode is about one thing:
El perro, el perro
Es mi corazon
El gato, el gato
El gato no es bueno
Cilantro es cantante
Cilantro es muy famoso
Cilantro es el hombre con el queso del diablo!
5. Delorean Story-an (Original Airdate: April 19, 2009)
We can talk about how this is probably the best Stan/Steve bonding episode ever, but more importantly, it’s just really freaking funny. The episode focuses on Stan and Steve’s hunt for a door to a Delorean – the last piece Stan needs to complete his $60,000 project, and every part of their journey is fantastic. The entire scene in the convenience store where Stan and Steve attempt to emulate a father and son have a much stronger relationship is hilarious. Stan’s expression when Steve spills cottage cheese on him is perfect – one of the better animation gags the show has ever done. Then, they knock over a huge row of motorcycles, and a fiercely intimidating biker decides it was his fault for parking them too close together, while an Asian man won’t let them off the hook for “askewing” his mirror. Oh, and there’s the Tortoise and the Hare bit, which is as fine a piece of dark comedy as you’ll ever see (“I wanted to win BUT NOT LIKE THIS!”). OK, I could go on listing every great joke in this episode, but that would take far too long. Just watch it.
4. Hot Water (Original Airdate: September 25, 2011)
If you ever want to convince your friends that American Dad! is actually very different from Family Guy, show them this episode. Admittedly, having Cee-Lo pay a homicidal hot tub is kind of in FG‘s wheelhouse, but there’s no way the episode would be this emotionally engaging. We watch Stan slowly become detached from the family, as all he wants to do is spend time in the hot tub. It’s actually pretty sad to watch the family realize they’re losing him and eventually leave him (if Steve’s performance of “Daddy’s Gone” doesn’t choke you up a little bit, you may not have a soul). But while the emotion is great, really it’s just fun to watch Cee-Lo ham it up as the evil tub, and of course, sing a few songs. The debut of Marguerite, an effeminate hot-tub salesman who happens to look a lot like Prince, is great fun, too.
3. Blood Crieth Unto Heaven (Original Airdate: January 27, 2013)
Stan’s fraught relationship with his father is one of the recurring themes of the series, and it was never more fleshed out than in this episode, which is ironically a non-canon affair. Presented as a stage play and narrated by a live-action Patrick Stewart, it’s Stan’s birthday party, and Francine wants to invite his father over. Stan won’t have it, as he’s still angry at him for abandoning his family as a child. What transpires is easily the darkest episode of AD ever — I won’t give away the ending, so I’ll just say that Futurama‘s “Jurassic Bark” is child’s play compared to this. There’s also a subplot in which Hayley and Bullock’s brief romance is revisited. That also ends horrifically. This episodes essentially acts as a tribute to the Shakesperian tragedy, and it pulls it off brilliantly. If all we’re going by is the number of laughs, there are funnier episodes. But in terms of presentation, this is American Dad! at its peak.
2. My Morning Straitjacket (Original Airdate: November 22, 2009)
Okay, your tolerance for My Morning Jacket’s music will probably play some role in determining how much you like this episode (note: I’m a reasonably big fan), but even if you’ve never heard of them, there’s still a lot to love about this episode. After years of being – as Francine describes it – an emotional tight-ass (and a literal one) Stan becomes obsessed with My Morning Jacket, and more or less abandons every other aspect of his life. While there are tons of great gags here (Stan dressing up as a giant spider to scare Hayley kills me every time), there’s also a solid emotional core. Stan never experienced the joy of really caring about music that most people experience as a teenager. And when he experiences it at 42, it nearly destroys him. Everyone who was ever completely certain their favorite band was singing about them should have a deep connection to this episode.
1. Rapture’s Delight (Original Airdate: December 13, 2009)
All of AD‘s Christmas episodes are classics, and honestly, I could have copped out and put all of them in a tie for the top spot, but that wouldn’t have been very nice. That being said, there is a clear favorite. Pretty much everything here is fantastic, from the second coming of Christ being a mega-hunk who “turned water into fine,” to Stan turning into a Road Warrior-esque outlaw after being left behind for the rapture. But this episode also does the best job of exploring Stan and Francine’s relationship. We all know Stan is an insensitive jerk who has no idea how good he’s got it (it’s the subject of about three episodes per season), but in this one, we actually see Stan change. After all that time without Francine (she leaves him for Jesus), he realizes how much she meant to him. When Stan is about to die, he tells her, “You…deserve…Fancy Feast,” and it’s the kind of moment where you’re laughing and crying simultaneously. Really, the whole episode is like that. It’s a near-flawless mix of emotion and humor, and as such, it stands out as the best episode of the entire series.