Family Guy: Season Ten

A talking dog? A murderous baby? A million pop-culture gags? It must be a new Family Guy DVD

Family Guy's tenth season provides another 15 episodes of animated chaos featuring the misadventures of the Peter Griffin and his family. Highlights this time around include abortion-themed Partial Terms of Endearment (which was initially banned from broadcast in the US and ended up making its worldwide TV debut on BBC Three last June), the 150th episode special Brian & Stewie (a smart two-hander featuring the popular dog and baby pairing trapped in a bank vault) and the surprisingly dramatic 55min murder-mystery special And Then There Were Fewer (which actually kills off some of the supporting cast). Like always, the show's mix of gross-out gags, gross stupidity, desire to offend and pop culture spoofs make it an acquired taste - but if you've stuck with the show this far then you won't be disappointed.

Picture: Family Guy certainly has come on a long way since those first few DVD boxsets and their transfers plagued by 'jaggies' due to some unfortunate aliasing issues. These days the 4:3 picture quality has been pretty impressive, with crisp linework and stable colours. And the same is true of the twelve episodes spread across the first two discs in this latest box. And then you get to Disc Three and things take another leap forward. Because this is where Family Guy finally made the jump to being made and broadcast in 16:9 HD. The three episodes here are, naturally, standard definition, but the increase in clarity in the source material is evident immediately, while the wider image is automatically much more pleasing to the eyes.

But this point out a problem with 20th Century Fox's Family Guy DVD releases here in the UK. While the DVD volume may be called Season Ten on the sleeve and menus, the set actually features the last 12 episodes from Season Eight and the first three from Season Nine as they were broadcast. If Fox had followed the TV broadcast seasons then next up should have been a complete set of the first year's worth of episodes produced in widescreen, quite possibly presented on Blu-ray thanks to its hi-def origins. But following the UK DVD release template, even if the show does now move to Blu-ray as well with what will undoubtedly be called Season Eleven, there's the distinct possibility that trio of episodes featured in this set will not get the hi-def disc treatment they deserve.
Picture rating: 4/5

Audio: Ever since its earliest seasons, Family Guy has been one of the most musically accomplished animated shows around, a fact that has continually been hammered home by the beautiful audio mixes on the DVD releases. As expected, it's in these music moments (of which there are plenty) where Season Ten's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack really gets a chance to shine. MacFarlane's insistence that the score for every episode is recorded live by an orchestra definitely pays dividends on And Then There Were Fewer, with the expansive range and tonality in the mix giving this episode in particular a suitably cinematic feel. On top of this musicality the episode soundtracks also highlight excellent vocal presence for the dialogue and a good stereo spread across the front speakers to support the on-screen action.
Audio rating: 4/5

Extras: This latest three-disc set comes packed with the usual mix of extras that fans have come to expect from the series. Disc One features a solitary episode commentary, but it's a good one, with Seth MacFarlane, writer Danny Smith, director Joseph Lee and actress Alex Borstein chiming in with their thoughts on the controversy-baiting Partial Terms of Endearment. Also included on the disc is a seven-minute reel of deleted scenes from the first five episodes.

Things pick up considerably with Disc Two, kicking off with a quartet of episode commentaries. Actor Alec Sulkin, producer Shannon Smith, writer Spencer Porter and director Jerry Langford do the duties on Brian Griffin's House of Payne, executive producer David A Goodman, producer Kara Vallow, writer Gary Janetti and director Dominic Bianchi do the same on Brian & Stewie, things get a little crowded in the recording booth as producer Chris Sheridan, Danny Smith, writer Tom Devanney, director Pete Michels and assistant directors Bao Nguyen and Deborah Cone all squeeze in to discuss Quagmire's Dad, finally writer Mark Hentemann, Danny Smith, Shannon Smith and supervising director Peter Shin chat about The Splendid Source. The disc also includes a trio of short animatic reels for Brian Griffin's House of Payne, Brian & Stewie and Quagmire's Dad, an additional scene from Brian & Stewie in comic book form (with audio) called The Comical Adventures of Family Guy - Brian & Stewie: The Lost Phone Call, plus a four-minute reel of deleted scenes from three of the episodes.

Disc Three gets under way with a commentary for And Then There Were Fewer featuring Mark Hentemann, writer Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, animation director Dominic Polcino and composer Walter Murphy. That episode also gets its very own 13min behind-the-scenes featurette - Who Done It? The Making of And Then There Were Fewer - which looks at the development of the story, the complexities of making a coherent murder-mystery and the move to broadcasting in widescreen. The History of the World According to Family Guy is a cute 21min compilation of historical gags from across the series, while Seth and the gang chat to the fans in the 30min Family Guy at Comic-Con 2010 panel discussion. Rounding out the set is a bonus episode from American Dad! - the season three James Bonds spoof, Tearjerker.
Extras rating: 3/5

We say: Another fan-pleasing DVD release, but the move to widescreen HD production begs for Blu-ray treatment in the future.

20th Century Fox, R2 DVD, £28 approx, On sale now