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American Dad! faces "Virtual In-Stanity"

American Dad! poster

Written by : published Tuesday 22nd November 2011

     "Virtual In-Stanity," FOX's latest installment of American Dad!, finds Stan (Seth MacFarlane) coming to the realization that he has missed almost all of Steve's (Scott Grimes) major milestones. But Steve is past wanting Stan to make up for it, only being interested in pretty girls. Thus, Stan decides to use a busty blond avatar named Phyllis ((Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ringer) to get close to Steve. This works, until, annoyed by Phyllis's lack of physical intimacy, Steve's head is turned by an interested geeky redhead (Alyson Hannigan, How I Met Your Mother), and Stan must contemplate unspeakable acts to win his son back.

     "Virtual In-Stanity" reunites two of the stars of the hit series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In that series, Gellar plays a tough, hot blond, while Hannigan is a geeky redhead. Sound familiar? While the two are rivals, rather than friends, in American Dad!, that doesn't lessen the casting coup's enjoyment. Because of the dork-appeal of both the goofy vampire drama, that could be quite serious at times, and this animated sitcom, it is likely that more than a few fans are immensely gratified by the show using both women in the same episode.

     A lot of American Dad!'s plots revolve around Stan trying to be a good father. It seems that, as he ages and settles into family life more agreeably, Stan wants to be there for his children more than previously. Unlike other animated series, the characters in American Dad! do age and go through life changes, albeit much more slowly than in reality. For instance, Stan's daughter gets married, and it sticks in future episodes. So it seems American Dad! will chronicle much of Stan's growth as a father over a couple of years, giving a slightly deeper meaning to a show that mostly banks on humor.

     Given that American Dad! is created by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane, it does often venture into gross and offensive territory. "Virtual In-Stanity" crosses a lot of lines when Stan-as-Phyllis decides to have sex with Steve so that they can bond and keep spending time together. Set aside the severe, permanent emotional damage Steve will undergo when he finds out this ruse, which, if they had gone through with the intercourse, he eventually would have had to, the fact that Stan is willing to do this is highly disturbing. No parent should ever agree to such acts with a child, no matter the circumstances. Yes, it is a female body, but Stan would experience everything that "Phyllis" does.

     Luckily, Francine (Wendy Schaal) has the wisdom to realize all of this, and is as repulsed by the idea as viewers surely are. Valiantly, she takes up an armored suit and fights Phyllis, a la Avatar, before "she" can sleep with Steve. Thus, disaster and a yawning chasm between son and father is avoided. As long as Steve never finds out the truth, and he probably won't at this point, given how things end.

     It may be a silly conceit that would not hold up in real life, but Stan playing with CIA technology is always fun. The fact that his boss (Patrick Stewart) can be just as giddy about it is wonderful. Stan is a very relatable character when he takes out the government toys and uses them for his personal goals. Despite the weird stuff in "Virtual In-Stanity," no one can blame him for this aspect of himself.

     The big regret here is that Hannigan's character likely won't show up again. She could make a great, recurring love interest for Steve! True, Hannigan already stars in a sitcom on TV, but surely she could make time to voice a handful of episodes a year. It's unfortunate that this seems a very remote possibility.

     Also, Roger (MacFarlane, too) goes on a killing spree to get even with some frat guys who don't pay for his limo service. Watching a limosuine stalk a jerk into the bathroom is freaking hilarious. The subplot even manages to get creepy at times, despite its absurd nature. A+!

     American Dad! airs Sundays on FOX as part of Animation Domination, usually at 9:30 p.m. ET, but check listings, as the shows within the block sometimes shift.

     If you like my reviews, please follow me on Twitter! Click here to read all of my reviews of American Dad!

     Please click here to purchase DVDs and streaming episodes of American Dad!

Article first published as TV Review: American Dad! - "Virtual In-Stanity" on Blogcritics.

About the author JeromeWetzelTV


Jerome Wetzel is a huge fan of stories, in both books and television. He writes TV reviews and fiction. He currently posts articles for TheTVKing, Seat42F, and BlogCritics, as well as his own personal blog, as well as writing fiction. His website is www.jeromewetzel.com Follow him on twitter @JeromeWetzelTV

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