I'm gonna come out and say it, Family Guy's been awful lately. I mean, until recently we had mostly crap with a few gems or decent moments, but lately? No. Just...no.
I fell in love with the show after watching the first seasons on DVD. It wasn't perfect, but you could tell they were trying. It had its charm, the characters were cliche but likeable, and the situations were typical sitcom fare. And yeah, the cutaway gags could get old, but they had some legit funny ones.
Now I'm gonna admit something else: For a long time, I did the fanfic thing for this show. I wrote a series of fics where Meg got to be awesome and have adventures, I wrote about Stewie being creepy, I wrote about the kids surviving a zombie apocalypse after their parents got eaten, I even came up with a superhero-verse concept with the Griffin kids and a few extras saving the world.
I still have a soft spot for those days, and those concepts, even if I'm more or less so done with the show. And it's because of episodes like the ten I'm about to discuss. You've heard of Genwunners in Pokemon fandom, this is me being the same way about Family Guy.
10) Chris Cross.
Yes, this is a later-seasons episode, but it had moments I genuinely liked. Mainly, the one at the end where Meg and Chris make up and speak the truth about their rotten family situation: they kind of need to trust in and lean on each other if they're gonna survive Peter and Lois. That wasn't necessarily true once upon a time, but these days? Yes, Peter and Lois are horrible parents. This is part of what inspired my whole fanfic-verse where Peter and Lois get eaten or blown up and the kids make it on their own. And Brian, since they need SOMEONE who can legally rent a car.
I also did like the "Stewie and Brian get into Anne Murray" subplot (save for the ending which was unnecessarily cruel), mainly because I like Anne Murray-type music. And it was kind of a throwback to the classic Brian-and-Stewie Road To episodes. I'll get to those later.
Overall, this episode wasn't anything epic, but it had moments I really liked.
9) Dial Meg for Murder.
This one was just a delicious catharsis, watching Meg get her revenge on everyone who dumped on her for so many years. Including Connie, whom she also got to make out with. And unlike Seahorse Seashell Party, this restored status quo without bringing a ton of rage and disgusting morals. Meg DID end up going too far, she wasn't just calling people out, she was being outright dangerous. And her family actually seemed worried about her. This episode wasn't Meg rightfully trying to change a bad situation and backing down because she felt bad, she got her revenge but Brian stopped her before she went too far. Granted SSP still happened, but if you ignore the rest of the series? Not too bad an ending.
8) Death Lives.
Remember when Lois and Peter actually loved each other? Peter could be a shitty husband, but he'd always come around and learn his lesson even if he kept forgetting. Death is funny as always, we get some good jokes (Chris intelligently explaining fulcrums before smashing his head into the pole, the mutant goldfish), and Peter realizes that it's actually really selfish to lie and go golfing on his and Lois's anniversary. They're no Homer and Marge even back then, but they had some genuinely sweet moments.
7) Da Boom.
Quahog undergoes a mini-apocalypse thanks to the Y2K bug that was still a big deal at the time, and hilarity ensues. The Randy Newman bit is one of my favorites, and it's the first Giant Chicken fight so it's actually funny instead of "oh, this again?". (Though to be fair, the chicken fights aren't that annoying compared to some of Family Guy's recent gags.) Joe fights a giant rat while stuck in the driveway, Cleveland and Quagmire get fused together, Peter messes everything up because he's Peter, and Stewie becomes an octopus. Who lays eggs. And it's actually funny and not gross like a certain recent episode.
6) Death is a Bitch.
Peter discovers a lump in his chest isn't fatal, but doesn't want to pay his bill, so Death comes for him. He sprains his ankle, is laid up and HILARITY ENSUES. No one can die! People do all sorts of crazy thingsuntil Peter realizes they kinda NEED death. This episode had some good jokes and gags, Stewie being a Death fanboy was adorable, and the squid made me laugh.
5) I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar.
Another one where the episode itself wasn't perfect, but I like it for one key moment: Lois telling a Straw Feminist that feminism is about choice. See, this is back when Lois was actually LIKEABLE and had some semblance of character and decency. She was tough, but she loved her family. She was a lady, but she didn't let people step all over her. And yes, being a wife and mother was her CHOICE and when Gloria Ironbachs couldn't get it through her thick skull, made a nasty remark and got schooled for it, we cheered for Lois.
I have a lot of feelings about feminism and the way it's represented in media and in real life, but if I tried to go into it we'd be here all day. Bottom line, Lois sent a clear message without preaching and it was related to the episode's plot! And yeah, we get the whole status quo is God thing at the end, Peter's back to being a pig, but oh well. It could be worse...scratch that, it HAS been worse.
4) The Son Also Draws.
Chris has a hobby Peter doesn't understand, but it's not annoying like Hank's constant fantasy-forbidding crap on King of the Hill. It's funny, but it's also got some genuine moments. Peter doesn't get Chris's love of drawing and wants him to be in Scouts, but he has a spiritual vison of The Fonz who tells him to listen. So Peter does, because this is back when he actually TRIED to be a good dad. The PSA parody at the end was actually funny, too. The writers actually cared about not being racist...except against Canada. And that's chalked up to Peter being Peter.
3) Love Thy Trophy.
This is an example of why old Brian is best Brian, because in this episode he calls out the adults and delivers a message, but HE ACTUALLY HAS A REASON TO DO SO. See, the adults are acting like spoiled children over a trophy and while they were obsessed with their escalating war, Stewie got taken away by child services because of the B Plot with Meg lying to get tips at a pancake house. She claimed he was her crack-addicted baby and a child services rep believed the lie and well, things turned ugly.
So Brian calls them on their bratty behavior and he's right, they ARE being idiots. So they come to their senses and focus on getting Stewie back. Later, we find out Brian's the one who stole the trophy and buried it, because guess what, the early episodes remembered he's a dog! And dogs like to bury things! So it's funny!
2&1) Road to Rhode Island and Road to Europe.
I put these two together because THE OLD ROAD TO EPISODES ARE THE BEST. This is the Brian and Stewie I love, hell, this is the BRIAN I love. The actually smart guy with issues you could feel a little sorry for because he wasn't a preachy idiot or a selfish whiner. Plus, THE MUSICAL NUMBERS. I'll say this about Family Guy on the whole, old or current, they do a hell of a musical number.
Road to Rhode Island deals with Brian's abandonment issues in a way that's actually sympathetic. He doesn't whine constantly (though he does get drunk) and even though it's not exactly convenient he goes back to the farm where he was born to confront those issues. It doesn't go as planned, Stewie's a smartass but they have some genuine moments when they're not picking on each other. It's actually sweet. And the Lois and Peter subplot isn't too bad either, Peter's a jerk and those "communication tapes" are just expensive porn, but they work it out in the end in a brief and believable way.
Road to Europe shows a side of Stewie rarely seen in those days: an innocent little boy who loves a TV show so much he thinks it's real and wants to live on the fictional Jolly Farm. He runs away, Brian tracks him down and...well, it's basically around the world in just a few days. Somehow. And when Stewie's dream is crushed, Brian actually tries to help him.
Another Lois and Peter subplot here, involving KISS fandom and Lois lying and Peter being mad until he finds out she had a thing with Gene Simmons before he hit it big. The kicker? HE'S IMPRESSED. Like, this is the guy who threw a tantrum when she went for coffee with her old boyfriend (who was married at that point) and because she slept with Gene Simmons, he's proud of her. It's kind of sweet in a weird sort of way.