The Best Queerish Animation to Watch Today
American Dad: Volume 7 ($18.19, Fox)
It may be treated by Fox like the ugly stepson of Family Guy, but many think this is the queerest animated TV series on air now. From the disturbed comic minds of Mike Barker, Matt Weitzman, and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, the show follows Stan, a hyper-Republican CIA agent, and his family, which includes a crunchy feminist daughter, a geeky son, a bisexual wife, and a queer, fey, pansexual, and frequently cross-dressed alien named Roger, who sounds like late TV legend Paul Lynde and compares himself to Andy Dick. Oh, and the next-door neighbors are Greg and Terry, a gay couple with a kid, who are also the local TV anchors. (They aren't mere tourists either: In earlier episodes, Stan steals Greg and Terry's newborn to save her from life with homosexuals; in another he "chooses" to be gay, tells Terry he's a power top, and the two end up in bed so that the Log Cabin Republicans will let Stan into their group.) This DVD set has deleted scenes, episode commentary, and an ode to occasional guest Patrick Stewart (who plays Stan's coke-snorting boss, Avery Bullock. This season's best episode, "The Worst Stan," has Stan planning a wedding for Steve's principal, who, turns out, is already married to another man, while Roger falls for Ricky Martin while on vacation and the two eventually share a startling secret.
Wouldn't you know it, the best animated show that isn't part of that Sunday night Fox comedy block is from its sister network FX. If you haven't seen the acclaimed Archer, which returns for its fourth season January 17, then take a day and watch season 3 on DVD when it hits stores January 8. Archer revolves around the International Secret Intelligence Service and the lives of its employees, including creator Adam Reed's gay voice of reason, Ray Gillette.The real stars in this game of espionage, reconnaissance missions, undercover surveillance, and bitchy backstabbing are H. Jon Benjamin (as the vain master spy Sterling Archer), Aisha Tyler as Archer’s fellow agent and ex-girlfriend Lana, and Arrested Development's Jessica Walter as Archer’s domineering mother and the director of ISIS, Malory Archer. And if Archer sounds familiar to you Fox fans, that's because Benjamin does double duty as the voice of Bob on Bob's Burgers.
The suits at Fox never "got" Futurama, the animated sci-fi comedy from Matt Groening, the creator of The Simpsons, so when they canceled it, Comedy Central picked it up and brought it back to life for some of its best episodes yet. This DVD set is jam-packed with a extras not shown on TV and 13 bizarre and brilliant episodes involving ancient prophecies, presidents' heads, robot gangsters, angry butterflies, and, of course, sausage-making. While queer characters (Frye's bisexual grandfather Enos, two gay guys in an ark, and a hilarious episode in which prissy blowhard space captain Zapp Brannigan falls in love with a fellow soldier who, much to his relief turns ouot to be a girl in drag) come and go (except the queer robot Hedonism Bot, who shows up every few epsisodes), there are always themes that touch on LGBT issues. The best, an episode called "Propositio Infinity," a parody of Proposition 8 about fighting a ban on robosexuality (human-robot relationships). This season there was a send-up of everything from the Mayan prophecy of doom to the practical application of the Matrix, fox hunting, and the plight of the salmon, topics that don't sound funny but are in the hands of Groening and crew. Best episode in volume 7: "The Butterjunk Effect," in which Leela and Amy begin competing in a butterfly derby (think roller but with wings) and taking a nutritional supplement like testosterone (called Nectar) and see the queering and gendered effects it has on their lives.
In the newest of the Fox comedies, Bob runs a New York burger shop with his wife and kids and unlike all the other comedies (from The Simpsons to The Cleveland Show) this father isn't the lovable bumbling comic foil. In fact, Bob is the straight man around whom all the weirdness and wackiness occurs. The real stars of the show are the kids, Gene, Louis, and Tina, all of whom are queer in some way. Tina, the oldest, looks gay but isn't (she's boy-crazy and "pubing out real bad," according to her sister). Louise, who wears bunny ears year-round, is voiced by 30 Rock's Kristen Schaal, seems disinterested in boys, and is the fearless tomboy who's always up for adventure. The baby of the family, Gene, is clearly a gay kid, since he often says randomly queer things like "I'm a top" and has expressed interest in kissing Tina's crush (the neighbor boy named Jimmy). In another episode, Bob befriends trans sex workers. Fans of Loren Brouchard and H. Jon Benjamin (who teamed up on the very brilliant 1990s comedy Home Movies) will adore the droll, dry humor and lack of gross-out fart comedy on Bob's.
The king of animated comedies, The Simpsons has something for everyone, including a lesbian aunt (Patty), a homosocial relationship two friends (between Bart and Milhouse), great guest stars from Ian McKellen and Tony Blair to Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, and the annual must-see Treehouse of Horror. There are tons of extras, including commentary and storyboards and great episodes like the Evita-inspired "The President Wore Pearls" and "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens, and Gays," in which Marge must defend families after all of those groups protest having to put up with families (and pay property taxes used to teach children) after a riot at a children's concert.
This DVD set offers the kind of uncensored and never-before-seen extended episodes you’d expect from Seth MacFarlane, including the making of an epic octogenarian fight scene, an Adam West celebration, and more. Best reason to buy: the gay episode in which Ryan Reynolds tells Peter he’s not gay but wants to know Peter the way a man knows a woman. Mmm-hmm. In another, Peter moves out of this bed with Lois, so he and Quagmire spend night after night spooning.
You have months before this season hits DVD and Blu-ray, but Amazon is streaming the individual episodes for $1.99 each, which makes it a steal. It revolves around Cleveland Brown, a cable installer, and his chunky, quirky son (Junior), his new wife (Donna), and two stepkids (Rolla and Roberta), in Stoolbend, Va. While the humor is sometimes offensive and unfunny (especially when aimed at an obese neighbor, whose storylines are never as funny as the writers must think they are) and the series is often the least comedic of Fox's animation offerings, it does put out some zingers worthy of attention. Case in point: the episode "All You Can Eat," in which Roberta gives Junior a great makeover, which emboldens him enough to ask out the funky, butchy pink-haired Daisy. While dating Daisy, Junior realizes that she thinks he's also a she, and as he doesn't want to disappoint her, the duo raises schoo officials' ire by planning to go to the prom as a lesbian couple. This queer storyline was the season's best.