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American Dad 

It only took two episodes of American Dad to dismiss the show as a Family Guy re-hash. But it's long since surpassed its predecessor.

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It only took two episodes of American Dad for the whole of America to dismiss the show. It was a pale rip-off of the Family Guy formula (boorish dad, nymphomaniac wife, dorky kids, talking pet). Its political views (those stupid, wacky right-wingers!) were heavy-handed (Stan’s a fl ag-waving, gun-waving neocon) and predictable. It was a derivative of a derivative show.

But then — as the constant decline of The Simpsons and Family Guy continued — American Dad became Fox’s best cartoon comedy.

Part of that’s because it ditched Family Guy’s Mad Lib pop-culture cutaways (“You think that’s bad, what about the time Optimus Prime got a Beanie Baby at Denny’s?”) Part of it was that it dropped the clunky political satire. But mainly it was because, unlike so many TV shows, American Dad takes really big, sorta-idiotic risks.

A recent American Dad episode, “Rapture’s Delight,” starts out like any other generic Seth McFarlane show — with Roger the atheist alien mocking religion and dad Stan Smith’s belief in the Rapture. (Those stupid, wacky dispensationalists!)

But then, it gets weird: The Rapture actually happens. Naked people across the world float to the heavens.

It gets weirder. Stan’s wife, angry at him for his selfishness, leaves him and starts dating, well, Jesus.

It gets weirder. There’s a seven-years-later transition, revealing the rubble and rabble of a post-Armageddon world — a mash-up of Mad Max and Escape from New York. With a hook for a hand and an eye- TiVo-Worthy patch, Stan’s become a grizzled Snake Plisskin homage.

He growls B-movie one-liners: “I guess I just picked a whole bouquet of Oopsie-Daisies.”

It gets weirder. Stan and Jesus have a climactic gun battle with the Antichrist (outfitted in a red suit and upside-down crosses, like an Adam West Batman villain) in the bowels of his United Nations headquarters. In the end, Stan takes a bullet for Jesus, so his ex-wife can be with the one she loved — Jesus.

Blasphemous? Sure. But it’s the nave slightly sweet kind of blasphemy, not the vicious kind you’d fi nd on Family Guy.

The best part? It’s not a fantasy or dream sequence. It’s canon. That’s the beauty of the animated sitcom. It can go places. It’s not bound by the house-bar-offi ce set choice of a live show.

American Dad, along with The Venture Bros., pushes the possibilities of animated comedy to apocalypse and beyond.


TIVO-WORTHY

A Christmas Story Marathon

TBS loves the Christmas classic A Christmas Story. It loves the leg lamp, the frozen tongue, and the Red Ryder BB Gun. It loves A Christmas Story so much it’s running it over and over again for 24 hours straight. By the 11th time through, you’ll want to shoot your eye out. (Dec. 24, 8 pm on TBS)

Brothers

Michael Strahan is a lot of things. Football star. Subway spokesman. Dental punchline. And now he’s a sitcom star. Granted, the sitcom got bad ratings and a worse critical reaction, but think of the product placement opportunities. (Sundays, 7 pm, FOX)

Doctor Who

Everybody loves a Time Lord. At least they do in Britain. The day after Christmas, days of the hyperactive David Tennant playing the quirky time-traveling doctor begin to draw to a close. Outgoing show runner Russell T. Davies is known for fi nales with huge stakes — last year, the very fabric of the universe was at stake — but can he give his last episode a suitable emotional core as well? Who knows. (“The End of Time Part One,” Saturday, Dec. 26, 9 pm, BBC America)

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