When watching Family Guy Season 12, it’s interesting to think about the order in which the writers decide to show the episodes. Do they write them in order? Or is it in fact a random process controlled by the production company? I mention this because it’s strange how one week an episode can be funny, emotive, entertaining and full of pathos, and the next week, it can be lacklustre, dull and even an unenjoyable watching experience. This week’s episode is an example of the latter.
The episode begins with Chris arriving at school. When Chris gets out of the car, Stewie notices that he’s the target of the school bullies. Trying to be a good brother, Stewie jumps into Chris’s backpack and tells him what to say in order to defend himself.
Meanwhile, Peter is irritated by the fact that his co-worker keeps getting out of important paperwork by taking a smoking break. In order to get out of things, Peter takes up smoking. He uses it to get out of work, to get out of listening to Meg, and even to get out of performing certain duties around the house. Peter becomes addicted to smoking, and this shows in his appearance.
After a visit to the doctor, Peter is approached by a businessman to become the face of an anti-smoking campaign. Peter accepts the position, but the one condition is that he has to keep smoking, much to the dismay of Lois. Peter’s health continues to deteriorate and things are only made worse when he’s dropped from his position.
Back at the high school, Chris is doing so well with Stewie by his side, that he’s inadvertently elected to run for class president. Stewie feels as if Chris has learnt all that he can, but Chris wants to keep up his successful image, so he imprisons Stewie in his backpack. Chris then starts to realise that he’s become the bully that he once tried to protect himself against.
The only part of this episode that I thought was clever came towards the very end of the narrative. It’s great to see the characters acknowledging the format of the show – Peter waits for the Chris/Stewie subplot to end before he starts talking again, and to show that everything is back to normal, Peter mentions a cut to an establishing shot of the house with some upbeat music. Apart from this, Secondhand Spoke contained very few truly good gags and cutaways.
The writers have continued to make the same mistake throughout the series, and that’s focusing too much on an uninspiring story. The show has become generic and conventional with it clear use of the main plot and subplot. I’ve said this on numerous occasions, but I feel that it must be repeated again: the writers need to stick to what they know best. This is in the form of funny gags and great cutaways. Without these two key ingredients, Family Guy is essentially nothing.