Inside the Tube: “Family Guy” Edition – “Livin’ On A Prayer” – (Season 10, Episode 12)

If you’ve ever actually sat through an entire episode of Family Guy you may have noticed that the show is basically written and performed by a bunch of sacrilegious and/or fallen Catholics and Jews. Mostly Jews. A lotta Jews. I think there was a line once in an episode of Will & Grace where Karen and Jack referenced a list of sitcom writers whose names they found typed out on a piece of paper: “Just look at those names, Jackie,” Karen says. “It’s like Schindler’s List.”

Which is sort of the same spirit in which this week’s episode of Family Guy was conceived: religion for comedy’s sake and comedy for a well-disguised punching mat against which to fling all things religious and superstitious. The show openly celebrates it hatred of religious figures like Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and George W. Bush; it also makes no bones about the fact that any mainstream organized religion is no more logical than an episode of Family Guy. Only a lot less funny. Usually.

But it took religion for the show to really and finally shine this season: after a dozen so-so episodes (including a couple that were downright godawful) the show got its groove back by reverting to its old formula for success: Peter, Lois, and Stewie starring in an episode satirizing a segment of American culture that takes itself far more seriously than it probably should. In this case, that segment was the idea of religious parents who eschew medical treatments in deference to spiritual healing, even in cases where their child is dying from cancer.

Stewie, you see, has a new little bud . . . who is dying from cancer. I’m not entirely sure what was stranger: the little boy having a secret cancer or the fact that Stewie managed to befriend another infant without any inkling to annihilate him with a weapon of his choice.

When the little boy faints during his play date with Stewie, Lois takes him to the hospital where she discovers that he has cancer. She tells his parents, who already know and who neglected to tell Lois, not out of shame, but out of the fact that they prefer he not receive any medical treatment for his condition.

Lois, being the good but kinky mom that she is, kidnaps the boy with Peter’s help and tries to save the boy’s life. It all ends very, well . . . you decide. I’m still not entirely sure what the writers were trying to do in the end but I guess it was some sort of compromise to appease their own sensibilities, Fox, and advertisers who don’t know what demographic Family Guy appeals to.

All I know is that I laughed all the way through, though never quite as hard as reading that Jenna Elfman was going to play the Old Prospector. Brava!