Family Guy’s “Send in Stewie, Please”: An Ambitious Attempt that Falls Right on its Face

It’s been about three years since I did a review of Family Guy because, let’s face it, despite its brilliance in its early years, the show is hot toxic garbage now, desperately trying to offend someone in a bid to stay relevant.  I still watch it occasionally because, yes, I like swimming in hot toxic garbage even though it burns my skin and has probably given birth to several small cancers in my body.   I will give Family Guy credit, though, it knows what it is and doesn’t apologize… but every now and then, they at least try something different.

Every now and then they try to do a special episode and, most of the time, it’s not only hot toxic garbage, but it’s hot toxic garbage with AIDs infected syringes thrown in for good measure.   Remember that “very special episode” when Quagmire’s sister was revealed to be the victim of spousal abuse?   Yeah, that was not only not good, it was very not good.   It was probably the worst episode of Family Guy ever and that’s really saying something when the bar is set so low.   That episode didn’t just go under that bar, it buried itself in the earth where it now lays dormant waiting for the day it awakens and destroys Tokyo.

But, then again, they did another episode called “Brian and Stewie” that was actually pretty good.   Sure, it had a horrendous scene where Brian ate poop out of Stewie’s diaper, but it was also a very in-depth  study into the two characters.  The episode had limited musical scoring, it had none of the show’s signature cutaway gags, and it felt better than the show’s normal fare.   Not greatness, but goodness and something different and welcome.

I suppose that “Send in Stewie, Please” is supposed to be a quasi sequel as it follows the same formula of no cutaways and limited music.   In it, Stewie speaks to a psychiatrist after he pushes a little boy down some stairs and… that’s about it.   That’s the plot.  Stewie and a psychiatrist talk. 

To the episode’s credit, they got Ian McKellan to be the psychiatrist, so there’s that.

There are some revelations about Stewie’s accent, his insecurities, and his sexuality, none of them really feeling that important or heavy.   To be honest, this episode was hard to watch… not because of the subject matter, but because it just felt so unneeded.   When Brian revealed that he had contemplated suicide in “Stewie and Brian”, it was a surprise.   When Stewie told Brian how much he loved him as a brother, it felt important.   Here, Stewie reveals that his accent is fake and it just feels like a joke and not a very good one.   I don’t think it was meant to be a joke.   I think it was meant to be… sad?   The problem is, everything resets at the end and Stewie’s admissions are safe again… in “Stewie and Brian”, the words were said and could never be unsaid.   “Send in Stewie, Please” ends and nothing feels different.   Nothing’s changed.   Stewie’s learned nothing.

On top of that, it was not that exciting.   Sure, Stewie’s monologue where he deconstructed the shrink based on a photograph was fun… at first, but then it kept on going basically killing the joke and that serves as the most apt metaphor for this episode I can think of… it just keeps going and never stops.  It never becomes bad enough to change the channel, but it’s never good enough to completely hold your attention.

I credit Family Guy with trying something new.  You don’t normally see a show this old doing that sort of thing, but this episode was a failure… an ambitious failure and, believe me, I respect ambitious failures more than I respect conservative successes. 

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