“On the 6th day of Christmas (because that’s how he roles),
Your Screen Squinty gave to thee…”
Family Guy “Road to the North Pole 1 & 2”
In this two-parter from way back in the 9th season of Family Guy, Stewie is pissed when he is blown off by Santa at the Quahog Mall and decides to head to the North Pole, dragging a reluctant Brian along for the ride.
It is only fitting that one of the best Family Guy Christmas episodes center around Stewie and Brian. Despite the decline the show has taken over the years, it is safe to say that most episodes surrounding just these two characters tend to be their strongest. The two have a great dialogue together, which is doubly amusing when you realize that they are voiced by the same voice actor and series creator Seth MacFarlene, and the adventures they get into tend to be highly creative and even touching here and there (as much as the show is able to be anyway).
What impresses in this special is the scope that went into it, the animation team going all out in really giving the world of Family Guy, particularly Quahog, actual size and visual depth, expressed particularly well with some great overhead shots and animated angle shots, and the colour palate just popped.
There were numerous guests such as Drew Barrymore, H. Jon Benjamin, David Boreanaz (whose appearance as a glowing face in the sky was a clever little word play gag on his name) , Carrie Fisher, Karley Scott Collins, and Ron MacFarlene, Seth’s father who did a mildly decent job as the jolly apathetic narrator (and actually does have a surprisingly good voice for the work), with some decent references to other Christmas films without overtaking the overall narrative, even keeping their cutaway gags to a minimum which was appreciated in this type of episode, and also showed that they don’t always need their cutaway crutch (sadly not a sentiment strongly utilized in later seasons).
The strongest element of the show though had to be the music.
Damn the music! I don’t think that anyone who watched the episode will likely forget Santa’s number “Christmas time is Killing Us” composed by Ron Jones, it had that near epic quality that one would find at home in a good musical. It is unsurprising that it was nominated for an Emmy. Bruce McGill voiced Santa (howdy can he really exercise those vocals!) had a strong clear base that just puts the right amount of dark tones in the song and works well with the background singers and Stewie’s lighter tones.
The story itself holds up as well with the humour mostly decent to eliciting some laughs here and there, though the home invasion scene raised an eyebrow or two. What was more impressive about the story is that at the time of its release the whole anti-Christmas sentiment was really kicking off, if it hadn’t already, and this special very cleverly balances that anti-holiday sentiment, the pro-holiday sentiment, and the don’t give a crap either way sentiment quite well.
Overall, this is a Christmas special I would recommend giving a glance to for the sheer visual, musical, and narrative spectacle that it is and the obvious effort that went into its production.