Yesterday Fox announced that American Dad, the second show from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, will return for a seventh season. Barring any surprise cancellations, this will leave Fox with five regular animated shows on Sunday nights.
American Dad got its start back in 2005, a year after Family Guy's fans convinced Fox to return it to the lineup. While the initial seasons did well with The Simpsons and Family Guy serving as lead-ins, the last two years have seen the ratings slip for Seth's middle child. Season 6 has averaged just over 5 million viewers an episode, down significantly from last year.
Many speculated that Fox's midseason newcomer Bob's Burgers was intended to replace American Dad. However, the new Loren Bouchard (Home Movies) show has fared only slightly better since its pilot. Both shows are regularly beaten by The Simpsons, Family Guy and MacFarlane's third project, The Cleveland Show.
No one could blame viewers for thinking that American Dad is just a mindless spin-off of Family Guy. But in the last few years the show has really come into its own, developing its own style and humor. The biggest departure from its progenitor is the lack of cut-away gags, for which Family Guy has earned the adulation of fans and (at times) the ire of critics.
American Dad began as a simple satire of ultra-conservative Americans, with dad Stan (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) regularly being taught the error of his ways by his progressive daughter Hayley (MacFarlane's sister Rachel). Characters like Stan's Stepford housewife Francine, Roger the alien, nerdy son Steve and talking fish Klaus were largely filler, serving as a backdrop to the morality play arcs of the first two seasons.
But in a strange reversal, American Dad has become far less political than Family Guy, focusing on organic situational and character-based humor that the latter show has long since abandoned. As a cohesive and funny story from start to finish, American Dad resembles early episodes of The Simpsons and South Park far more than Fox's other Sunday night comedies.
I'm a big fan of American Dad, and I've found it's only getting better while Family Guy and The Cleveland Show stagnate. Here's hoping that next season viewers give Fox reason to keep it around.
American Dad airs Sunday nights at 7:30 PM, during Fox's "Animation Domination" programming block.