Not many thought that the show would survive past infancy, but American Dad did more than that. Now in its thirteenth season, the two hundredth episode of the animated comedy–aptly titled “The Two Hundred”–airs this Sunday night on TBS.
When it first aired over ten years ago, in the winter of 2005, a month to the right of when shows normally debut in January, most people dismissed it as imitation Family Guy. After all, the bones of the show seemed to make up the body of American Dad as well–both are shows about a patriarch, his adoring but strong wife, his nerdy and odd children, and an anthropomorphic pet-humanoid duo (whether it be a talking dog and a baby or a talking fish and a brain-matter-gray alien). In both shows as well, creator Seth McFarlane voices the lead male as well as several other main characters. At first, it didn’t really seem like McFarlane was breaking any new ground in animation with American Dad–if anything, maybe it was just some cartoon to fiddle around with when he became bored with Family Guy.
Those pessimistic voices survived throughout the years and only grew louder when its first parent, Fox, all but left American Dad to wither away last year, despite its productive decade on the air. When TBS swiftly picked it up like Tarzan on the vine, the people behind the show felt like they had been renewed for the first time.
“It felt like a relaunch when we went over,” says Rachel McFarlane, sister to Seth McFarlane and the voice of the daughter in the show, Hayley, to Yahoo News. “All of a sudden we had people that were excited about us and interested, and the show started to get a lot of attention, and it was really exciting for us.”
One of the head producers of the show also makes it clear that American Dad‘s goal is to become more than Family Guy is and was. ” In the very beginning we had a few more cutaways and flashbacks and soon figured out that wasn’t going to work, otherwise we’d be a carbon copy,” says Matt Weitzman, also one of the show’s founders, to Variety. “So then we were focusing on stories and characters and realized that was going to be our bread and butter. We’re telling a story, it gets a little bit weird, and then we come back to it.”
Whereas a vast majority of American Dad‘s episodes firmly grasp the 21st century as its setting, the creators wanted to try something different to mark the special date. For the 200th episode, CIA agent and father Stan Smith (Seth McFarlane) will find himself heavily tattooed and stranded in the future. The tattoos, much like those in Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man, all contain their own stories and will aid Stan in rescuing his family from a cannibalistic gang called “the 200.”
“I like the idea we’re this weird show that does weird stories but always has that emotional core,” says Weitzman. “Oftentimes we’ll start with very relatable stories and then get bigger and crazier, but always come back around to who our people are and what they mean to each other.”
The 200th episode will air at 8:30pm ET on March 28th on TBS.