Family Guy might be the first show to be cancelled and then brought back to television a few years later. Shows have gone off the air and come back in different forms or as a sequel series but I don’t know many that were outright cancelled and then brought back really without any changes. The story of Family Guy’s unwillingness to die is probably more interesting than the show itself. When people complain to me about how bad The Simpsons have become I like to point out just how long that show was good and how quickly a show like Family Guy went down the toilet.
The post cancellation seasons for Family Guy seem to get worse each year. Outside of the Simpsons cross-over I really haven’t watched it much over the past few years because it’s just not funny. The first three seasons, however, were pretty damn good. They sustained themselves mostly because the show’s gags had not become overdone just yet and the cut-away bits just felt like a random piece of humor. One of the standout episodes of season 3 is “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas” in which the show is able to tell a Christmas tale without betraying the show’s tone of voice.
The episode has a few different plots intertwining with each other. There’s Lois, who’s just trying to make sure her family has a great Christmas (this was before her character was changed to an unlikable, terrible, mother) by doing all of the heavy lifting mothers so often get stuck with. Stewie is trying to wrap his head around the concept of Santa Claus and seems to regard him as a foe, though one who could potentially provide him plutonium. And Peter, who’s just trying to catch his favorite Christmas specials on television (in particular, “Kiss Saves Santa”) but keeps getting roped into doing things he doesn’t want to do. Peter, and the kids, are basically blind to Lois’s plight and take her for granted. When Brian nearly burns the house down (in part due to Peter’s negligence) she snaps and has a nervous breakdown that makes her act like some kind of cross between an ape and The Incredible Hulk. This leads to the climactic scene at the Christmas pageant where Stewie’s Linus moment thaws Lois’s heart, and the police fill her with a bunch of tranquilizers.
Stewie is, of course, acting in his own self interest to get on Santa’s good side and is rewarded in the end. The Griffen family ends up having a merry Christmas in a very Family Guy sort of way. “A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas” has enough heart but not at the expense of the laughs. This is a comedy special first and foremost. It’s a bit surprising the show didn’t go into full-on cynic mode with its special, but it’s also probably for the better considering how mean-spirited the show has become in recent years. This special is Family Guy at its best. Peter is a boob but not overly so, Stewie still has some edge, Lois is a good person, and Brian provides some dry humor.
“A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas” will probably be shown multiple times on television this year, either on TBS or Cartoon Network. Fox will probably show a more recent, and inferior, Christmas special from the show. The episode is also readily available on DVD as part of Season 3 and as a stand-alone release.