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"Friends of Peter G"

You would never expect a show like Family Guy to get preachy and moralistic. Much less to get preachy and moralistic and then pull its punches at the last second. But here we are.

This will no doubt go down in history as "the alcoholism episode" or "the AA episode." How strange that in its ninth season, the show is leaning more and more towards single-subject episodes. And what strange episodes they choose!

This is also another of those rare (though increasingly less so) Family Guy episodes without a secondary or tertiary plot. It's Peter and Brian all the way, with everyone else essentially being relegated to the role of scenery.

In the first act, Peter and Brian get drunk at a movie theater and act up. It's not surprising when a judge sentences them to spend 30 days regularly attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous. What IS surprising is that it's never happened before, given all the havoc Brian and Peter have wreaked while drunk in the past.

At their first meeting, Brian scoffs at the first mention of a "higher power." But that's it - he scoffs. The show doesn't take it any further than that, which leaves it open to interpretation as just another instance of Brian being a jerk.

The truth is that, regardless of everyone's insistence that you can see "higher power" as anything you like, AA is a religious organization. You can tap dance around and pretend like the "higher power" isn't God, but you're not fooling anyone.

Furthermore, it's a God which requires complete obedience and supplication. The God of AA is a God who thinks you did a poor job with that Free Will business, so It asks you to give it up for a while. "Let go - let God." It completely undercuts any notions of personal responsibility, which many people argue does more harm than good.

I would have liked to see Brian give a speech on this topic, or at least make a relevant comment. Instead he talks some nonsense about religion being responsible for all the world's ills. We get a silly tongue-in-cheek cut-away, and then we're off and running.

The middle portion of the episode features another musical number ripped straight from another movie, a classic Peter Griffin Bad Idea, and then a post-death sequence oddly reminiscent of "It's A Wonderful Life." Oh, and a truly outstanding discourse by Peter, questioning the dreadful physics of CatDog.

Then we get a smarmy message about drinking alcohol in responsible moderation. Say wha? If there's any show on the air which could be called "immoderate," it's Family Guy. This turnabout is so counter to the characters and the show that it came off like a clear case of the writers using the script like a big hand puppet.

If you're going to criticize Alcoholics Anonymous, just do it already. (Penn and Teller have a pretty good critique in the AA episode of their show Bullsh*t.) AA has a preferential role with the courts, is a religious cult in all but name, and has recidivism rates which are the same OR WORSE than those of alcoholics who decide to go it alone.

Instead of broaching any of these issues - although it clearly wants to - the show backs off and gives us another stale Rosie O'Donnell joke. Um, okay. Sure.