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S1E1: "Death Has A Shadow"

There are several reasons why I decided to re-watch Family Guy starting at the very beginning. The new season is so disappointing, I thought it would be good to reconnect with the earlier episodes. And I have seen every episode in reruns so many times over the last 13 years, I have honestly lost track of any kind of timeline for the show.

And thus, the very first Family Guy episode. The biggest surprise is how good this episode was. You can drop it anywhere in the show's timeline and it wouldn't seem out of place. Contrast that with the earliest episodes of most shows. (King of the Hill, Simpsons… have you watched the X-Files pilot recently? Pee-yew!)

Although Chris' voice is a little unformed in this episode, the only real "tell" is that it features Old Meg. Meg was originally voiced by Lacey Chabert, who was replaced by Mila Kunis at the end of the first season due to scheduling conflicts.

Actually, there is a second way you can date this episode: it has a Bill Clinton joke. Yeah, remember him? I was so startled by this that I had to pause the Netflix player and look up the episode on Wikipedia. It originally aired on January 31, 1999, and doesn't that seem about a million years ago?

The episode opens with the first of many Brady Family jokes, then rattles out a surprisingly inoffensive Aunt Jemima joke. ("You folks want some pancakes?" "See? All we got in this neighborhood is Jemima's Witnesses.") This sets the pace of rapid-fire jokes, many of which make no real sense, thus doubly setting precedent for the show's future.

I was impressed by how much we learned about the Griffins in this episode, in the cracks and gutters in between all the jokes. Stewie is in high bombast mode, trotting out both "Victory is mine!" and "Damn you all!" We learn that they are Catholic, that Peter has a drinking problem, that everyone hates Meg (Brian asks, "Can we put her out in the yard for a little while?"), and that Lois is the one who keeps the family running.

Plot-wise, Peter promises Lois that he won't drink at a stag party. Then he drinks, and has to go to work (at the Happy-Go-Lucky Toy Factory) hung-over, and gets fired.

When Peter signs up for welfare, he accidentally gets on the rolls for $150,000 a week. He goes on a mad shopping spree in which he rents the statue of David, orders 6,000 chicken fajitas (pronouncing the "j" in "fajitas"), hires Jerry Seinfeld (remember him?) to be the family jester, gets collagen injections for Meg's lips, and builds a moat.

This episode also plays it surprisingly low-key as far as the offensive stuff goes. Maybe they wanted to test the waters first. The worst thing in the episode is the devil on Peter's shoulder who tells him, "It's okay to lie to women. They're not people, like us!"

In the end, Lois finds out, and insists that he gives back the money. I was surprised - because perhaps I had forgotten - that this episode got so emotionally overwrought at the end, when Peter argues in court for his freedom. Luckily Stewie's mind control laser convinces the judge to let both Peter and Lois free, and everything goes back to normal.