This week’s Family Guy, "The Old Man and the Big 'C'," had plenty going for it in theory: goofy moments, some funny lines and a selection of amusing cutaways, but it left me questioning the way episodes like these tend to be structured.
The setup has been seen before. It starts with a subplot that sets up the episode, but then abandons it entirely in order to deal with the main plot. It’s just that the connection seen here was entirely tangential and had very little to do with each other: there merely needed to be some excuse to get to the hospital, and and then the whole cancer affair kicked off.
The Quagmire plot of him losing his hair wasn’t returned to at all, it could have been edited out entirely and the cure for cancer plot would have been unaffected. Heck, it would have been possible to substitute in any other episode where a character winds up at the hospital and the rest would still work. It just seems like lazy writing to tell the story that actually was going to be told.
Of course, considering that there was a more serious note to be played with Carter’s cancer, maybe separating out the two plots entirely was for the best. But this is a trick that the various writing staffs have pulled before; in fact in the episode that aired right before this one, “Ratings Guy.”
Granted, other animated shows are guilty of this as well – Futurama certainly does it from time to time – and maybe in some cases it’s the best way to move things along by presenting an extended funny setup that doesn’t really need to connect to anything else being done. But there could at least be some kind of natural progression, not just a random coincidence as causes.
Even the cancer cure plot seemed half-baked. It was the typical glazing over of a message that was to be presented: just a top-level message that rich corporations would rather make money by treating cancer rather than curing it. A simple one, and handled by the show in the way that it usually does, like in the “legalize pot” episode: present the point and change nothing. They just kind of say it and let it hang out there in the wind. I suppose there’s nothing that they really could do about the issue than making viewers aware, and there’s even the comic point of “nothing’s going to change and we’re going to forget about it” made at the end.
So much like the “Quagmire is bald, changes personalities, then gets a hair transplant and is himself again” opening story, nothing really happened. A few funny Family Guy quotes made, we all had a good laugh, and we move on with our lives. So we shall do just that.
See you next week for the big 200th episode, a time-travelling expedition with Brian and Stewie that usually winds up working out pretty well thanks to their fantastic chemistry, which was itself the strongest element of this half-hour.