In this fan’s opinion, no episode of American Dad! can be truly great if the plot is too heavily skewed to favor only one of the show’s main characters, which is the case in “Steve and Snot’s Test-Tubular Adventure.” The premise leaves Roger and Hayley in diminished roles, with little Francine, and, unsurprisingly, no Klaus at all. Disappointing character representation aside, this episode is ultimately satisfying. The tiring, hackneyed plot device of Steve aiming to lose his virginity after prom opens the story in a frustrating way, but the concept redeems itself pleasantly, starting with a failed-expectations twist and ending with an encouraging moral.
There are numerous episodes of American Dad! that center around the idea of “making Steve popular” or “getting Steve a girlfriend” or “getting Steve laid,” which is why I may have grimaced slightly at the show’s opening scene: Steve and Snot getting bullied at school. I actively began to prepare myself for a letdown when Steve and Snot asked Hayley how to convince girls to go to the prom, inciting the obvious “girls are not objects; every girl is someone’s daughter” speech from Hayley. We’ve seen this play out in episodes previous. Groan.
Jokes on me, because it’s specifically the expectation that the episode would be a sexist repeat that makes the twist so gratifying. Steve and Snot plan to manufacture clones of hot girls (through special CIA technology in typical American Dad! fashion) to take to the prom, but to their dismay, the machine produces the clones as infants. Though the girls grow at a rapid pace, just in time for prom, Steve and Snot have already “raised” the girls as their own daughters, with a little bit of help from Roger, who of course runs a daycare in the attic. Hayley’s message is absorbed when the boys no longer want to take their pseudo-daughters to prom, let alone have sex with them.
But hey, this is American Dad! after all, so things don’t get too pontifical. The episode arguably represents a stab at cartoon patriarchy, but it definitely didn’t have anything important to say about the morality of cloning. Stan’s cold-hearted murders of the clones when he realizes that he may get in trouble at work brings the viewer right back to classic, insensitive American Dad!, effectively balancing out the possibly perceived preachiness of the rest of the episode in an amusing way.
I would lastly like to reference the refreshing use of the dodo bird. I feared that Darren the dodo would get his joke in some pop culture aside, or through a grisly act of animated violence. His fate fortunately did not go down either of these paths. The simple, collective joke of humanity that dodos were too stupid to survive was funny enough on its own, as Darren repeatedly put himself in near-death situations until his untimely end. Simple, yet effective.
It’s hard for me to personally embrace an American Dad! episode that doesn’t have more of Roger, but for this season premiere, I think I can make an exception.
What did you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.