The near-clone shows from same creator fare differently in quality.
By ROB OWEN
Fox finally returns "Family Guy" to its schedule with original episodes, and the first scene of Sunday's season premiere puts the network in its place for canceling the animated comedy three years ago.
"Everybody, I've got bad news," says "Family Guy" patriarch Peter Griffin (voice of series creator Seth MacFarlane). "We've been canceled.
"Unfortunately, there's not more room on the schedule. We've just got to accept the fact that Fox has to make room for terrific shows like 'Dark Angel,' 'Titus,' 'Undeclared,' 'Action,' 'That '80s Show'..."
Peter goes on to name an additional two dozen Fox series that came and went quickly.
"But I suppose if all those shows go down the tubes," Peter says, "we might have a shot."
They did and "Family Guy" does.
Always an acquired taste -- one most likely to be acquired by the politically incorrect -- this new "Guy" is just as rude, attention-deficit disordered and funny as past episodes that continue to win over new fans in reruns on Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" and on DVD.
Tonight's 9 o'clock premiere finds Peter and wife Lois (Alex Borstein) going on a second honeymoon, where they find a copy of Mel Gibson's latest film, a sequel-turned-buddy cop film, "Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This."
The episode pokes fun at Gibson, apes "North by Northwest," denigrates British pornography and mocks George Lopez. All in a day's work for "Family Guy," which hasn't lost any of its bite despite being out of production for such an extended period.
Its new companion comedy, MacFarlane's "American Dad," isn't as funny.
Previewed after the Super Bowl with a much stronger episode, a new installment airs at 9:30 tonight. To call "Dad" derivative of "Family Guy" would be an understatement. It's almost as if Fox commissioned "Dad" to fill the "Guy" niche before deciding to re-activate "Guy."
There are subtle differences between the two series, but both feature a dumb daddy with a smarter, more sympathetic wife; in "Dad," a talking goldfish (and alien) stand in for "Guy's" talking dog. Both series use similar styles of animation and humor.
The "Dad" patriarch is ultra-conservative Stan Smith (MacFarlane), a CIA agent based in Virginia who is willing to go to any extremes to keep his homeland secure.
In today's episode, wife Francine (Wendy Schaal) makes Stan insecure by getting a real-estate job and making more money than he does. He considers assassinating her but instead gets a second job staging bum fights.
Where "Family Guy" depicts local newscasters as blow-dried morons, on "Dad," viewers are introduced to two gay anchors, who are also domestic partners.
When they move into Stan's neighborhood, he objects, not because they're gay (Stan seems to be oblivious to this), but because they're "members of the liberal media." Neither news-anchor depiction is realistic, but darn if they aren't both funny to watch.
The rest of "American Dad" is less amusing. At least in this episode, it's neither as inventive nor as outrageous as "Family Guy" and instead comes off as a lackluster imitation.