This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Beverly Hills, Calif. • If a TV show is funny, that makes up for a lot. Like being crude, stupid, offensive and disturbing.
If the show isn't funny and the Christmas episode of "American Dad" (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Fox/Ch. 13) is not all you're left with is crude, stupid, offensive and disturbing.
And it's a cartoon. Which means that it's going to attract kids who shouldn't be watching.
In the episode, titled "For Whom the Sleighbell Tolls," CIA agent Stan Smith gets his 14-year-old son, Steve, a machine gun for Christmas.
He offers this family-friendly advice: "Steve, shooting a gun is like being intimate with a woman. First, you inspect it to make sure it's clean. Then, you grab it on the butt and jam the magazine in. If it doesn't fit, make it."
From that hilarity, we move to the shooting. And young Steve accidentally shoots and kills a mall Santa.
Being responsible parents, Stan and Francine decide to bury the body in the woods.
But it turns out that wasn't a mall Santa. That was the real Santa, who returns with his deadly elves to kill all the Smiths.
Shortly thereafter, it's animated mayhem as the Smiths battle Santa, his reindeer and his elves with a variety of weapons as the blood flows. Lots of blood.
"Everybody in the [writing] room kind of was talking about making it as bloody as possible, I think," said Erik Durbin, who wrote the episode. "It was just which movie were we going to model it after.
"I think '300' got thrown around the most, talking about trying to make it as bloody and cool as '300.' "
Bloody? Yes. Cool? Nope.
As is generally the case with "American Dad," it's just derivative trash.
It's not that the subject of Santa is necessarily sacred. Everything from "Bad Santa" to the evil Santabot episode of "Futurama" has taken the concept and twisted it. With "twisted" being the operative word.
But, as usual, "American Dad's" Seth MacFarlane and his minions have done uninspired, unoriginal work that somehow mistakes crude for funny.
This holiday episode includes gay slurs, profanity and jokes about vibrators. Santa is referred to as "that fat testicle tickler," "that fat turd" and worse.
And MacFarlane and Co. know darn well that kids will be watching.
"We have a TV-14 rating on this," said executive producer Matt Weitzman.
"So no kids will ever see it," MacFarlane added sarcastically. "They follow those [content ratings] like the f-ing Bible."
We're supposed to feel better because "American Dad" will tell kids Santa actually exists.
"Except that he's a crazed murderer," McFarlane said. "But as long as the tradition is upheld, then I guess that's all that's important."
Gee, everybody, it's a big merry Christmas from Fox!
Scott D. Pierce's column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. He can be reached at email@example.com or 801-257-8603.