American Dad has hit a rough patch yet again with ‘The Bitchin’ Race.’ Last week’s episode, ‘The Life and Times of Stan Smith,’ lacked the right amount of laughs, giving Klaus and Steve too much screen time. This week’s episode delegates Klaus to cutscene duty, as he’s sitting on the couch watching The Bitchin’ Race, an Amazing Race parody that the rest of the family is currently on.
At face value, this episode had potential to be a standout, but American Dad plays it safe and reliable. The way TBS has been staggering episodes of this season throughout the year and the decline in quality would lead one to believe the network was phasing the show out, but it’s already been renewed for a 2018 season. Maybe by next year the show will get better? It seems unlikely, and the show that once bested an aging Family Guy is now beginning to show its age as well.
Episodes like ‘The Bitchin’ Race’ are a tiny step in the right direction for the series that would benefit from getting back to its roots. Today more than ever, American Dad would do well to play up the political humor that once made it so hilarious. Nowadays, the show is reduced to parodying other awful TV shows…and not even doing it with humor.
The episode begins in Tunisia, with the ‘finale’ of The Bitchin’ Race impending. The teams are reintroduced, with Stan and Francine competing against Hayley and Steve. Another team is made up of a ‘fame whore’ named Johnny Bananas with Roger as Yeager Chillax. A mother-son team is also competing, with mother Meredith trying to reign in her cocky son Justin, who went to heaven and came back, and an ‘expert’ team made up of Rick and Bear, two typical Amazing Race contestants.
Unsurprisingly, as the final race begins, the Smith family is at odds with their partners as well as the teams they’re competing against. Stan and Hayley both feel they have carried their teams, while Francine and Steve are more content just going along for the ride. At home, Klaus watches the events unfold, eventually even putting a revolver to his head and playing Russian Roulette. I can’t stand Klaus, but I can agree with him wanting this all to end.
The race gets heated, managing to play by the numbers and never leave a lasting impression. If it was the intention of the writers to prove how insufferable Amazing Race can be, they could’ve done it without making the episode insufferable as well.
Scenes with Roger as Yeager Chillax are minimal, and they aren’t missed, either. Roger is at his best when he’s dressed up as a woman and getting into trouble. Yeager Chillax is the reality show’s typical douchebag character, and like last week’s episode showed, American Dad suffers when it relies on that kind of frat boy humor. Especially when it reduces its breakout character to such nonsense.
Stan eventually plays a wild card common on these reality shows, allowing him to ditch Francine and team up with Hayley. No one on the two teams minds. Steve and Francine are now able to relax and enjoy a much needed vacation from their old partners. Being able to get away and truly relax does them both a world of good. The ultra-competitive Stan and Hayley have a fire ignited in them and become even more determined to win the race.
Meanwhile, the race’s superfluous characters go through the paces. Rick and Bear are so forgettable that it’s hard to remember much of them past their trip to the airport. Roger and his partner go partying and essentially leave the race. Meredith and Justin get some more screen time as American Dad plays up the archetypal pity contestants, with Justin being a one-note joke about how he died and came back.
Stan and Hayley are their own downfall as their greediness to cross the finish line takes over, causing them to get trapped in a dictatorial prison camp when they misread one of the final clues. They have to adjust to being ‘tortured’ before Francine and Steve come to their rescue in the end.
With everyone in the race disqualified, American Dad declares Klaus the winner, and he floats off in a hot air balloon. It’s safe to say ‘The Bitchin Race’ should be cancelled, and if Klaus never returns, it won’t be the worst thing, either. If American Dad doesn’t want to follow the same path as its parody show, it’ll act quickly to do some course correction and get back to making us laugh.