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Why American Dad Got Less Political After Early Seasons

american dad stan bearded conspiracy theorist
(Image credit: tbs press)

Now one of the 25 longest-running scripted TV shows of all time, American Dad has come a long way since its seven-episode first season debuted on Fox in 2005, when it was heavily touted as the next big co-creation from Seth MacFarlane. For one thing, it's on a completely different network now, with TBS taking over in 2014. For another thing, Roger has well over 200 different personas now. And for yet another thing, American Dad long ago stepped back from leaning on politically angled storylines.

Granted, not everything about American Dad shifted away from politics and government, considering Stan is still a CIA employee. (Though one who spends a ton of time outside the office.) CinemaBlend recently spoke with co-creator and co-showrunner Matt Weitzman ahead of Episode 300 airing and gracing fans with the next chapter in the Golden Turd Saga, and before the conversation turned to cursed poop, I asked him about the thought process behind shifting away from political stories. Here's how he explained it (and note that these quotes were given weeks before the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg):

I think we discovered really early on that maintaining that political edge was not necessarily doing us the biggest service. Because if you end up doing a joke about Supreme Court justices when you're in the writing phase, and then the show is airing a year and a half later, people are like, 'Oh, was that a thing? I guess that was a thing once upon a time.' So we decided that, you know, fairly early on in the early seasons that we were going to focus more on stories about the family. Obviously, it would still have to be colored by Stan's conservatism and Haley's liberalism and seeing how those would affect stories, while not necessarily hanging a complete lantern on the fact that the whole story has to be about politics.

While many pop culture references used in Seth MacFarlane shows will remain at least somewhat relevant throughout time, politics is a completely different subject area. Those who haven't been glued to daily headlines for the past 17 years might be completely unaware of certain situations and politicians, even in the days of headline-heavy social media shares. Monty Python's Flying Circus is my favorite TV show of all time, but there are a ridiculous number of political jokes and sketches that require research to get their complete context.

Had American Dad only existed during one specific U.S. President's reign, it might have worked as a time capsule of sorts, sort of like That's My Bush or Our Cartoon President. But for a scripted show that could very well go over two decades on the air, American Dad's writers were smart to use political storylines sparingly as time went on, so that eps can be as rewatchable as possible. Everything should be as timeless as "Daddy's Gone" or Jeff's space-faring adventures with Sinbad's ghost.

american dad smith family in their car

In Matt Weitzman's eyes, even the political stances that remain inherent to Stan and Haley's personalities end up working in the show's favor, as it continuously sets up the notion that family members with different viewpoints can co-exist without relationships falling apart. In his words:

I think that the world that we live in, you know, is completely insane and terribly divisive. But at the same time, I think that American Dad, you know, because Haley and Stan still live in the same house kind of shows that it is possible to continue to live together with love. But I also think that people still have to figure that out for themselves a little bit more clearly. But we're always giving hope.

Now, I'm sure there are people in the real world who would have completely disavowed both Stan and Haley for some of the shit they've pulled over the past 17 seasons. But if we're being completely honest, Roger and Klaus would have also been booted out the door pretty early on. I mean, Episode 300 started off by talking about just how often Roger ruins everything. Nothing political about wanting to avoid some of his more destructive personas, though Ricky Spanish should be embraced by all.

American Dad Season 17 appears to be finished on TBS at this point, but you can stream episodes on TBS' app, and you can also stream earlier seasons on Hulu, so you'll never have to worry about being completely out of American Dad episodes to throw on. At least not yet. While waiting for new episodes to get here, head to our 2020 Fall TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.