American Dad! (also known as American Dad) is an American animated comedy series on TBS (originally it was on Fox) created by Seth MacFarlane. It centers on Stan Smith, a neocon CIA agent who lives with his family — doting housewife Francine, awkward teen son Steve, leftist teen daughter Haley, flamboyant alien Roger, and German talking goldfish Klaus — in the red-blooded American town of Langley Falls, Virginia. Together, the family gets involved in various political shindigs, adventures, and exploits.
Though it started off with a rough first season, American Dad! has since garnered widespread acclaim and popularity for its clever storytelling, original characters, and commitment to being an equal-opportunity offender. It has won numerous accolades, including two Freedom Awards, two Patriot Awards, one Grand Old Elephant Award, and one ASCAP (American Society of Conservatives, Authoritarians, and Pundits) Award.
Stan Smith is a lantern-jawed, patriotic Republican "family man" and agent of the CIA. His wife Francine and his son Steve support his politics, though his daughter Hayley is a liberal hippie who tends to clash with her father. Living with the family are Klaus, an often-neglected goldfish with the exchanged brain of a German man, and Roger, an ambiguously bisexual alien with a voice and mannerisms patterned after late comedian Paul Lynde. Secondary characters include Avery Bollock, Stan's boss who happens to be voiced by the ever-awesome Patrick Stewart, and Jeff Fischer, Haley's stoner hippie husband who is banished into space but then comes back but is an alien now through a convoluted storyarc.
Being a Seth MacFarlane show, American Dad! tended to take a liberal bent in its first season. In one episode, for example, Stan unwittingly becomes involved with Log Cabin Republicans, and over time comes to support the inclusion of homosexuals in the Republican Party, while in another he supports the claimed "right" for fruitcakes to adopt children, and in another supports the immigration of mooching Mexicans into the United States. Later seasons, made following MacFarlane's departure from the show, generally toned down these messages in favor of apolitical comedy.
- Stan Smith (Seth MacFarlane) – The main protagonist of the show. Stan is the descendant of Family Guy's Joe Swanson, noticed by their large chins, muscularity, and love for America. He is a well-groomed paranoid maniac who was hired to work for the CIA, and now works tirelessly to eliminate terrorists, spies, werewolves, and other threats to American civilization.
- Francine Smith (Stevie Nicks) – Stan's wife who cooks, cleans, and goes on outlandish vacations to places like Pikachusetts or MegaTexas. She's pretty boring in the eyes of most fans, although other fans appreciate her attractiveness.
- Steve Smith (Eddie Deezen) – Stan's son, a stereotypical geeky white boy who can fluently speak Klingon. He is kind of a Clark Kent/Superman-type character, being a stereotypical geeky high-voiced white boy in day-to-day life, but able to transform himself into a suave deep-voiced boyband singer.
- Hayley Smith (Hillary Duff) – Stan's stoned hippie daughter, who he doesn't trust because he hates hippies. Her long trips away from home are to cover up for her multiple pregnancies with unknown fathers. She has hypocritically given her illegitimate children to foster care, not aborting them despite her incredibly liberal views.
- Roger Smith (Johnny Depp) – An alien Stan found at Area 51, Roger is E.T.'s super-catty, pathological lying, extremely fabulously flamboyantly bisexual cousin. He was sent on a mission to Earth to collect tobacco and bring it back to his planet for consumption. He can be very cynical at times and is fluent in bullshit.
- Klaus Smith (Arnold Schwarzenegger) – A talking German goldfish. He has an unrequited sexual desire for Francine much like the dog in Family Guy, only he used to be a person before using the CIA brain-swapping machine. Klaus is the most depressing thing on earth, and makes even Hunter S. Thompson seem gingerly.
- Avery Bollock (Patrick Stewart) – Stan's boss. He became bald from a nuclear reaction caused by a terrorist attack on a hot dog stand. Since that fateful day after losing both his hair and his lunch, he decided to run the CIA in hopes of making America a better place, but is only making it worse. He always sends Stan on these phony wild goose chases, while the other agents get the real missions.
- Jeff Fischer (Seth MacFarlane) – Another stoned hippie who became Hayley's love interest. For the first few seasons, they did stuff. Then they ran away, did more stuff, and got married. Then when Jeff found out about Roger, he was banished into the outer reaches of space, and is currently on his way back to earth to kick some alien ass.
In the first season, most episodes chronicled Stan having to deal with those pesky liberals, including liberal civil rights activists, the liberal media, his liberal daughter, liberal homosexuals, and liberal affirmative action African-Americans. He usually "deals" with said liberals either through the use of a firearm, or by completely misrepresenting the position of the liberals and annoying them to the point at which they give up and leave him alone.
From the second season onward, the show dropped the political dogma in favor of creative, surprisingly clever, even sometimes mind-blowing storylines.
The concept for American Dad! came about in the mid-2000s, during the interim where Incessant Hit-or-Miss Cutaway Gag Clipshow was canceled. Adult Swim had gained rights to reruns of the show, and were scoring surprisingly huge ratings with college fratboy audiences (despite them being too young to understand most of the '70s and '80s pop culture references). AS felt Fox had made a huge blunder in canning the show, and took the opportunity to rub in their bean-counting glasses-wearing faces. They called creator Seth MacFarlane up, and offered him a handsome sum of money in exchange for new seasons of Family Guy without Fox's involvement. Seth nearly agreed until Fox, realizing their mistake at the last minute, offered to not just revive Family Guy but also give him backrubs and a higher sum of money than AS, which was ultimately enough to push him back in their direction.
However, feeling that his genius could scarcely be contained in only one primetime television slot, Seth amended his contract by demanding that Fox give him two shows instead of one, to which they agreed. Assembling a crack team of Ivy League graduates ("The only people capable of writing good fart jokes," MacFarlane believed), he managed to produce the pilot episode of American Dad! in only four days. The result received piss-poor reactions from audiences; MacFarlane, however, was pleased with the pilot, and responded to the wave of criticism by laughing to himself in his vast piles of money.
After the revival episodes of Family Guy scored much more popularity than was anticipated, however, MacFarlane thought there was no point left in staying with American Dad!, so he departed from the show midway through the first season. Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman, two writers from the pre-cancellation seasons of Family Guy (aka "Back when the show was good," according to some hardcore fans), took over production of American Dad! and steered it in a bold new direction, one which placed emphasis on story and characters over Seth's liberal preaching.
The first eleven seasons were broadcast on the good, wholesome, fair and balanced Fox network. From season twelve onward, the show moved to TBS.
American Dad!'s pilot, and its first season in general, was poorly received by audiences and critics alike. During the first season, critics and fans felt the show was basically the same as Seth MacFarlane's first show, Family Guy. There's a stupid man, his hot wife who does all the house work, two kids of opposite gender, a talking pet, and many background characters based off of numerous stereotypes. The difference is that the main character is not a fat lazy drunk guy, but rather a neocon working for the CIA. Also, instead of an evil genius baby and a talking dog, there's a gay alien who constantly disguises himself to hide from the troops who are out to get him and a German talking goldfish who nobody likes.
However, MacFarlane's departure from the show strangely (or not) lead to an increase in the quality of AD!'s writing in the eyes of numerous fans and critics. It managed to escape the faux-Family Guy characterizations and overtly-political themes in favor of tightly-written storylines and subtle wittier humor, perhaps even making it better than post-season 9 Simpsons. However, some people believe the show turned into a parody of itself after moving to TBS, despite some decent episodes, and now it's going back downhill to the depths of season 1.