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Recap: American Dad – ‘The Life and Times of Stan Smith’

This week on American Dad, the family comes together to hear the results of Stan’s annual physical, and it’s not surprising to find out he needs to take better care of himself. Even less surprising, Stan is not so quick to go along with leading a healthy lifestyle. Probably because he can afford decent healthcare. (Remember when American Dad made political jokes, often about the hypocrisy of Stan and the rigidity of his beliefs? Me too.)

Roger and Francine conspire to give Stan the shock he needs to live a better life, quite literally. It’s revealed that Roger has the power to stop and start hearts. They give Stan a fake heart attack, bringing him back to life and making a monster in the process. Stan becomes addicted to the near-death experience and continues to seek out the thrill it gave him.

As the episode progresses, Stan has to get more daring in his methods of stopping and restarting his heart. It’s as convoluted as it sounds, although the fact that Stan was acting this way to reconnect with old memories and avoid struggling with the fear of getting older makes it seem more plausible. Certainly more believable than the Klaus and Steve side story in this episode.

Roger teams up with Stan to offer him the high he needs from nearly killing himself. Every time Stan’s heart stops, he’s able to go to a ‘video store’ that plays his memories as films. Stan eventually becomes so unwilling to change his lifestyle habits and so addicted to his old life, that when Francine takes him to a healthy restaurant to eat, he runs to the bathroom to call Roger for more near-death experiences. Obviously, Roger was already there in the next stall, working at the glory hole.

Roger eventually stops giving Stan his fix, realizing that Stan has a problem. Stan doesn’t think so, and he invents a ‘death machine’ to both electrocute and revive himself. What could go wrong here? Unsurprisingly, Francine comes along and stops the machine from working properly, killing both Stan and herself in the process.

American Dad then returns to heaven and hell, like it’s done in past episodes. When Stan went to heaven for ‘The Most Adequate Christmas Ever,’ he learned a lesson, and it felt a lot less ridiculous and a lot more funny. ‘The Life and Times of Stan Smith’ condensed the heaven scenes and made them more convoluted. Stan and Francine argue at the gates of heaven, with him trying to convince her that heaven was a nice place for them to be with Shamrock Shakes… and by growing a tail (??!) He also creates fake ‘cloud versions’ of Steve and Hayley, although Steve’s is just Turtle from Entourage. It seems like even American Dad doesn’t like Steve and Klaus anymore.

When Francine leaves Stan, upset that she won’t get to see her children grow up, Stan goes to hell to make a deal with the devil that the next time he dies, his soul will go to hell. It’s hard to even take stock in this deal, because American Dad loves killing Stan and getting him out of it in a twenty minute timespan. Hopefully, the lifestyle changes Stan makes at the end of the episode end up working out and giving him a long life, because every time American Dad goes to the depths of hell, or gets religious like it’s ‘Rapture’s Delight’ episode, things tend to get more cringe/preachy than funny.

Speaking of unfunny cringe, any scene with Steve and Klaus was just awful for this episode. Klaus takes Steve to Arizona State University for a tour of the campus. The most surprising part of the episode came when it’s revealed that Klaus is the head of a fraternity on campus, and that he’s cool. I guess somewhere in the universe, Klaus has to be liked. He’s certainly not bringing about any laughs in reality.

The entire side story was more ridiculous than the main plot, with all of Arizona State University being nothing but a frat-party school, where Steve is quickly pledged and hazed. As the side-story trudges and plods through, making one unfunny joke after another, it eventually ends with Steve graduating with a PhD, despite not taking classes. The entire thing is just so bad that it seems to mimic a lot of animated shows that were cancelled long before American Dad. Is the show sounding its own death knell?

This episode of American Dad performed at its best when it brought humor and wackiness to something viewers could easily relate to, but it reached new lows with its frat-boy humor that missed the mark at every chance. After hitting it out of the park with last episode, ‘Julia Rogerts,’ it’s not surprising that American Dad took a lull in its storyline, but it would’ve been nice for it to have used that momentum to make the show even better.

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Written by Sam Bennett

Sam Bennett is the creator and editor of POParazzi. He works primarily in Washington, DC. You can contact him at sam@poparazzi.org and visit his portfolio at sam-bennett.com.

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