By Fabrizio Olivares
The animated comedy from Fox known as “Family Guy” has no doubt had its fair share of controversial moments. Many jokes have been cut from airing on television. In fact, Fox even refused to air an episode once.
That episode is “Partial Terms of Endearment.” There’s no doubt that the episode was banned due to its controversial nature – after all, the episode is pretty much about abortion. As most people probably know, abortion is a very controversial and/or hot-button issue, which would explain the controversy.
Before you keep reading this review, you should know that there are spoilers; so if you don’t want it to be spoiled, go watch the episode first.
The episode starts off with Peter and Lois Griffin attending Lois’ college reunion. Lois finds an old friend, Naomi, who ends up asking Lois to be a surrogate mother. Naomi says she is unable to conceive with her husband, Dale. Lois ends up agreeing. Peter is furious; but, despite his protests, Lois ends up going to get in-vitro fertilization.
Unfortunately, Naomi and Dale are revealed to have suddenly and unexpectedly died in a car crash, and Lois doesn’t know what to do with the baby. Peter suggests an abortion, so they end up going to see if they can get one. Peter and Lois both agree to have the abortion until Peter goes outside and finds a bunch of anti-abortion protestors.
Now convinced that abortion would be the wrong thing to do, Peter attempts to stop Lois from getting the abortion. Lois argues that she has the right to choose, but Peter says that the life of the baby is more important. By the end of the episode, it seems like Peter and Lois agreed not to have the abortion, when Peter suddenly goes in front of the camera and says “we had the abortion.” The episode then ends.
If the purpose of this episode was to incite controversy, it sure succeeded. This episode was banned from airing on television in the United States; and, even today, the only way to watch the episode is to buy it on DVD or purchase it from Amazon.
“Family Guy” is known as a fairly offensive show in terms of the content. If the whole abortion controversy is ignored, this episode somehow seems more normal. All the shock humor is still there, and, aside from the fact that it was banned, “Partial Terms of Endearment” is no different from most other “Family Guy” episodes.
A good thing about the episode is that there are a lot of comedic moments. In my opinion, one of the better parts of the episode is the scene where Peter lures Lois to the desert and attempts to cause a miscarriage in a Wile E. Coyote-styled gag. I personally thought this was the best joke in the episode, and moments like these are why I liked it.
There are a lot of gags that definitely had even more shock value, though.
In the beginning of the episode, Peter tries to seduce Lois, Naomi and Dale because of a misunderstanding about why they were visiting. To make this episode even more controversial than it already is, he dresses up as a Nazi soldier in this scene.
This episode’s pacing is definitely slow, because about half the episode is about Peter trying to stop Lois until the sudden death of Naomi and Dale. This is one area that could be improved.
It’s obvious that the only reason this episode was banned is because the topic of abortion is a major theme in the episode. Again, if that is ignored, then it seems more like a normal episode. But, even for “Family Guy,” it’s still surprising to see this level of controversy, as there have only been a few episodes that have been equally controversial.
For example, “When You Wish Upon A Weinstein” was another very controversial episode from the series. It involved Peter wanting to convert his son, Chris, to Judaism because he thinks it will make him financially successful. Fox also refused to air this, but Adult Swim actually did. In fact, them airing that episode and other reruns of “Family Guy” have been attributed to the renewal of the show on Fox.
It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been 10 years since this episode was first released. Even today, abortion is definitely still a topic that you wouldn’t want to cover in a show like that. “Partial Terms of Endearment” is unique because it did exactly that – and, while it may not be the best “Family Guy” episode, it is definitely one of the better ones.
Featured image (at the top of this post): This is a “Partial Terms of Endearment” DVD cover. PHOTO CREDIT: Ludie Cochrane / Flickr