Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Rock On, Roger of "American Dad"


Today’s entry is a bit less macho than yesterday’s, but there’s no denying it celebrates a raucous party animal (who has even hosted a massive, and eventually fatal, spring break party on MTV): yes, the gay, disguise-wearing alien Roger from American Dad.

But first a more blatantly rock-related note: As it happens, the last thing I watched in its entirety on June 12th before the great digital conversion silence fell on my TV set was, fittingly, the Simpsons episode in which Homer and Marge’s history is revised to make them Gen Xers who went to college, grunge-rocked, and nearly deconstructed in the 90s. So it was like having my TV-watching life flashing before my eyes before the end came.

And it is the end — despite Ali Kokmen offering to set me up with a digital converter (similarly, my TV viewing nearly ended way back in 2001 when a set I’d had for thirteen years died, but a succession of friends, with uncanny timing, sold me super-cheap sets as each predecessor kicked the bucket, each set with aerial reception: Scott Nybakken, Meredith Kapushion, and Kyle Smith — and Kyle’s set still lives, but my antennae will not be receiving, and that’s fine).

If I were still watching, though, I’d be looking to the ongoing evolution of American Dad with optimism. Initially a somewhat awkward Family Guy wannabe, the show has really come into its own since they realized that Roger is the key and that the more insanely and selfishly he behaves, the better, with his love of costumes and role-playing now essential to his m.o. My favorite episode of the series — and not just for political reasons, though it is a good primer in the pettiness of politics — is the one where Roger disguises himself as cowboy Roy Rogers McFreely to take over the local homeowners association just to harass Stan.

Of course, there are Rogerless AD moment I’ve liked: Dad (Stan) peers into his mind’s eye, imagines his teenage son’s activities, and asks: “What do you think Steve’s doing at the party? …debating whether or not to hook up with that black chick?” then adds more quietly, with determined, squinting eyes: “Do it, Steve — do it for both of us.” All the characters on the show seem to be getting a bit more intense and nuts.

In one episode repeated recently, there is an extended Ocean’s Eleven-parodying sequence narrated in voiceover by teenaged Steve, scheming to steal another kid’s bar mitzvah presents at a restaurant. Logical enough in its way — but at the end of the bit, we suddenly cut to Roger, disguised as a waiter with a large fake nose, uselessly thinking to himself in very satisfied-sounding voiceover narration: “And what Steve won’t know is that I have my own plan…I’ll be headed to the bathroom to share a doobie with the busboy in return for an angry handy-j.” Magnificent.

But if instead of a parody of Ocean’s Eleven, you’d rather see Ocean’s Twelve perfectly fused with The Royal Tenenbaums — and if that doesn’t sound alarmingly precious — I recommend The Brothers Bloom. The only thing more twee is — well, the Twee as Fuck night of twee bands at Cake Shop on Ludlow St. tomorrow night, which is where you’ll find me, Katherine Taylor and her fella, and possibly Michael Malice, as dangerous an agent provocateur as Roger in his way.