It seems like everyone loves Family Guy. The animated comedy took TV by storm and has a devoted fan base. It’s a funny satire but it’s not the only sarcastic cartoon in town. American Dad seems pretty similar from a distance but there are some differences once you take a closer look. That being said, there are a few things that American Dad just does better. We’ve compared both shows side-by-side, and in some areas, American Dad just comes out on top. If you aren’t convinced, read on. You might just find you have a new favorite show. Family Guy isn’t going anywhere but maybe American Dad can get the credit it deserves.
Family Guy is a show about characters. The hilarity really boils down to three funny personalities and the characters they make fun of. Stewie, Brian, and Peter are funny — everyone else is a target. American Dad, on the other hand, takes a different approach. The entire cast is funny and the best jokes come from the character dialogue and rich relationships developed between them. The family dynamic is much more defined and central to the show. The Griffins are over the top, but the Smiths feel real.
Callback humor can be hilarious and help a fanbase bond. When done well, they give us the best memes of our favorite shows. Family Guy beats its callbacks over the head with a stick. Peter skinning his knee is only funny so many times. The jokes feel forced and carry on long after they’re stale. American Dad doesn’t have this problem, however. Call-acks on this show are so well done that a few have become regular characters, like Reggie the Koala.
Both the Smiths and the Griffins have a non-human family member who plays a huge role on the show. Brian is one of the best characters on Family Guy. He’s smart, funny, and charming. But as fantastic as Brian is, he doesn’t hold a candle to Roger. Fans tune into American Dad for a lot of reasons, but Roger is a big one. He’s dynamic, hilarious and a bit of a sociopath. Do you think Brian could pull off Ricky Spanish?
Family Guy has long relied on shock factor and low hanging fruit. Anyone can write an offensive joke about current events. It’s not hard to get a reaction when you’re purposefully offensive. American Dad takes a more intelligent and subtle approach, however. Instead of pulling out the most shocking content first, they lure the viewer in with deeper, and somewhat more disturbing jokes that can take whole episodes to land. Just because Family Guy tends to go for low hanging fruit, that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. It’s just a little bit on the nose.
A holiday special is a big deal. Fans wait all year to see their favorite shows pull out all the stops. Giving the fans what they want, the Smith family has a running feud with the big man himself. On American Dad, Santa is a recurring villain. That’s pretty much the best Christmas plot since Die Hard. If that’s not enough to trump Family Guy, how about Krampus voiced by Danny Glover? The epic specials knock it out of the park year after year.
Family Guy isn’t exactly nice to its female characters. Lois is expected to hold down the fort while her husband is a train wreck. Her opinions are ignored and she’s left to pick up the pieces. Meg is the show’s whipping boy and is the butt of too many cruel jokes to count. American Dad, though, is much kinder to the female characters on the show. Hayley and Francine both add a ton of value to the series. They have plot lines that matter, talents that get featured, and they get to do some of the dirty work, too.
Both shows focus on a dysfunctional family but only one of them delves deeply into the relationships between characters. Peter Griffin isn’t exactly father of the year yet his family sings his praises. The Smith family's issues are practically another character. The show isn’t afraid to face the rough spots head-on. The bonds between characters are fleshed out and feel real. No one gets a free pass on American Dad. Everyone is held accountable for each other.
Every character is well developed, well rounded, and ready to carry their own episode. You can’t say the same for Family Guy. When Chris or Meg is the primary focus of an entire episode, you feel the lack of Stewie. You feel it hard. On American Dad, however, every side-character episode is the same quality as a core-character episode. There are no flat characters on the show, unlike Family Guy which hosts a staggering number of two-dimensional figures.
If you’ve ever watch Family Guy and felt like there’s no point, you’re not wrong. There’s usually no moral to the story — you’re just there for laughs. American Dad can be enjoyed the same way but if you’re looking for more, there’s always a moral to the story. Having a lesson to learn isn’t a deal breaker, plenty of shows don’t have that much structure and are still great. When it comes to comparing these two shows, that structure gives American Dad an edge.
The worst thing that can happen to a show is becoming stale and predictable. Family Guy may have jumped the shark after a few years; the jokes have become really predictable. Each season seems to get more formulaic. American Dad doesn’t rely on the same character causing a catastrophe every episode, then following along as the rest of the cast scramble. The Smiths have their fair share of shenanigans but many episodes follow unique structures. That variety keeps the show from feeling played out.