15 Times American Dad Went Too Far

Roger stands in the middle with arms stretched. Behind on the left, Stan stands over his daughter with tools preparing for cosmetic surgery. On the right, Stan is seen driving and smiling.

There was initially skepticism around American Dad. Now, more than 20 seasons later and with nearly 350 episodes, it’s emerged as one of the most prolific animated series of its generation. American Dad’s success is extremely rare, and it still has a healthy life ahead with a renewal for at least two more seasons.

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American Dad’swell-defined characters and the heightened and unpredictable storytelling has helped it become an evergreen animation juggernaut. Although, American Dad can occasionally push the envelope too far. American Dad prides itself in its intense and absurd humor, yet some gags can leave the audience haunted more than amused.

Updated March 26, 2023 by Daniel Kurland: American Dad has turned into one of this generation’s most iconic animated comedies. American Dad has carefully honed its voice over time and cut out what doesn’t work from the equation, and it has even thrived in its later years following its transition from Fox to TBS. American Dad Season 20 released in early 2023 and the Smith family will surely get up to even more misguided mayhem, which makes it the perfect time to revisit some of the series’ most outrageous moments.



15 “The Grounch”

Season 17, Episode 22

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Christmas-based episodes are a regular tradition in American Dad, but it’s taken the series a surprisingly long time to provide its own take on the iconic tale, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In “The Grounch,” the family finds Snot’s ranked list of the best-looking family members, and Roger is sad to find out he places last.

Roger’s initial attempt to shift toward a life of celibacy goes wildly off course when he finds out his wife wants to attend Tuttle’s Christmas-themed sex party. With this jealousy, Roger transforms into a monstrous Grinch-like figure, the Grounch, an erotic monster who thoroughly perverts Christmas.

14 “Steve’s Franken Out”

Season 16, Episode 22

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Steve and Billy raid a graveyard for bodies in American Dad

American Dad is no stranger to heightened Halloween installments that still exist within the series’ proper continuity. “Steve’s Franken Out” maintains a lighter tone, but its subject matter is truly ghoulish. Steve constructs a Frankenstein’s Monster-like version of Principal Lewis that involves a ton of grave-robbing and the desecration of bodies.

It’s entertaining to see this Principal Lewis doppelgänger go loose, but it’s hard to get past the morbid conditions of all of this. To make matters worse, “Steve’s Franken Out” also deals with a formaldehyde leak in Langley’s water supply, which has catastrophic consequences.

13 “A Song Of Knives & Fire”

Season 17, Episode 8

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Francine gets lost in the fire during a pyromania act in American Dad

Some of American Dad‘s most fascinating and emotional episodes put Stan and Francine’s relationship under scrutiny. “A Song of Knives and Fire” begins with Stan ecstatic over his recent turn as a firefighter. Francine becomes the scourge of the fire department after she becomes a budding pyromaniac and starts debilitating fires all over Langley.

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“A Song of Knives and Fire” attempts to create an “opposites attract” energy here where Stan’s love is also the bane of his firefighting career. However, an episode all about Francine’s fascination with starting fires and the rush that it gives her is problematic territory.

12 “The Wondercabinet”

Season 16, Episode 6

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Roger drives his van while production films in American Dad

Steve heads down an eye-opening path of enlightenment in “The Wondercabinet,” an American Dad episode that puts New Age mysticism in its crosshair as the young boy begins to dread adulthood. Steve’s soul-searching reaches a cynical climax that might be difficult for fans to accept.

However, the more offensive component of “The Wondercabinet” involves Roger’s desire to get a low-budget adult entertainment video series up and running because he’s acquired a van. All of Roger’s “Bang Van” antics are hard to watch and feel like they’re a decade too late.

11 “Russian Doll”

Season 16, Episode 2

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The B-12 serial killer watches over Steve in American Dad

“Russian Doll” is an entertaining American Dad episode that largely revolves around Stan’s unhealthy obsession with a doll, which reveals haunting details about the character’s past. Stan’s doll crusade and Klaus’ desire to help Roger with his taxes aren’t necessarily shocking digressions.

However, “Russian Doll” incorporates a disturbing piece of continuity that involves a serial killer who’s hungry for boy band vengeance. This murderer sets out to execute all of the members of Steve’s former boy band, B-12, which includes copious deaths of teenagers while Steve also fights for his life.

10 “Cops & Roger”

Season 6, Episode 14

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Roger delivers an elbow drop to a criminal in American Dad

Random absurdity is a double-edged sword, and nonsensical writing shouldn’t be a storytelling substitute. However, American Dad has developed an uncanny ability to allow touches of surrealness to take over in inspired ways.

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“Cops and Roger” chronicles Roger’s speedy corruption as a police officer and provides the most violent moment in American Dad’s history. Roger delivers an innocuous elbow drop to his opponent, but it hits at just the right angle that the victim’s head explodes in an exaggerated fashion, which is detailed in slow-motion from multiple angles.

9 “Kloger”

Season 12, Episode 19

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Roger and Klaus kiss in American Dad

Unexpected romantic pairings are usually a telltale sign that a long-running series is starting to spin its wheels. It takes American Dad 12 seasons, but eventually, Roger engages in a misguided relationship with Klaus.

“Kloger” treats this romance like an oddity. It’s clear that it’s not supposed to last, instead, their romance is intended to provoke strong feelings in the characters and audience. American Dad knows that it might only have one opportunity to put Klaus and Roger together, so it doesn’t hold back with uncomfortable scenes featuring romantic communication.

8 “Flirting With Disaster”

Season 7, Episode 18

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Francine smiles at Stan with a face that's been melted by acid in American Dad

Stan’s approaches to problem-solving often leave a lot to be desired. He exhibits some especially poor judgment after Francine begins to work at the CIA and Stan feels like his workspace is being invaded. Stan’s brilliant idea to return things to the status quo involves throwing beaker of acid at Francine’s face.

American Dad carefully avoids showing Francine’s wounded face for the duration of “Flirting With Disaster,” which tricks the audience into thinking that they’ll never see it. In the closing moments, fans see Francine’s face, and it’s a gruesome sight.

7 “Virtual In-Stanity”

Season 8, Episode 5

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Roger murders someone who owes him money with his limo in American Dad

American Dad has found a real freedom in using less important B-stories to contain the strongest and strangest material. One supporting storyline looks at Roger’s vindictive mission to take out five guys over the 20 dollars they owe him for a limo ride.

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“Virtual In-Stanity” turns into a slasher film when a limo-bound Roger starts taking out the partygoers. The graphic nature in all of their deaths, especially the one that occurs at one of the victim’s funerals, is just too much.

6 “Shark?!”

Season 14, Episode 7

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Steve gets him art bitten off by a shark in American Dad

Steve is one of the frailest characters in American Dad, and he can frequently seem like a lightning rod for unusual pain. Steve undergoes a major change in personality after he loses an arm during a vicious shark attack.

This injury would be traumatizing under any circumstances, but in “Shark?!,”Steve loses his arm to an apex predator while Roger’s shark persona merely functions as messy misdirection until a shark mauls him, too. “Shark?!” acts as a chilling reminder of just how much Steve has had to endure throughout American Dad’s run.

5 “The Mural Of The Story”

Season 13, Episode 5

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Stan begins reconstructive surgery on Hayley in American Dad

The relationship between Stan and Hayley is one of American Dad’s most fascinating dynamics. It’s not often that these two are aligned, but they have a lot more in common than they’re willing to admit. Stan truly wants the best for Hayley, but his good intentions can often lead to traumatic consequences.

Stan opts to help Hayley out with some cosmetic surgery in “The Mural of the Story,” but he’s wildly out of his depth. Every moment of this torturous sequence is hard to endure, and the sound design brings it up to another level. The glimpses of Hayley’s face, both during and after Stan’s DIY treatment, are awful.

4 “Love, AD Style”

Season 8, Episode 1

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Stan commands a lion to attack near his SUV in American Dad

American Dad knows how to turn a non-story into comedic gold, and some of the best ideas come from obstacles that could be easily resolved with a level head. Stan creates a lavish celebration to help him pawn his recent automobile purchase.

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The theatrics of “Love, AD Style”involve Stan releasing a lion, which advances on a show model for the car. The model panics and crashes into a tree, which leads to the car’s explosion. The model crawls out of the wreckage while on fire, just before the flaming lion tackles her, and the two immolate into nothingness together.

3 “Plot Heavy”

Season 16, Episode 16

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The Smith family examines a table full of corpses in their kitchen in American Dad

The Smith family is no stranger to poor ideas, especially when it comes to ludicrous get-rich-quick schemes. American Dad’s latest season divides the family when Stan loses their funeral plots, so they decide to open up their own funeral in their backyard.

Not only does this subject matter get exceptionally morbid, but “Plot Heavy” uses several corpses as props and treats them like visual gags. There’s no malice intended here, but it’s still an American Dad episode that’s predicated on a risky premise.

2 “Dammmm, Stan!”

Season 15, Episode 19

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Francine takes on a martial arts stance with her fishing rod in American Dad

There’s a lot of mileage in an elaborate fight scene that comes out of nowhere. American Dad is a comedy, first and foremost, but there are plenty of aggressive acts of violence that are used to punctuate the show’s humor.

“Dammmm, Stan!” looks at the tension that exists between Stan and Francine on an innocent fly-fishing trip, but it culminates in a bloody and meticulously choreographed battle. The episode uses fishing rods in inspired and painful ways during the fight, and “Dammmm, Stan!” induces a lot of cringing in the audience.

1 “Virtual In-Stanity”

Season 8, Episode 5

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Stan poses alongside his robotic avatar in American Dad

Stan’s work at the CIA allows American Dad to indulge in more heightened and science fiction-centric storytelling thanks to the advanced technology at Stan’s work. “Virtual In-Stanity” get dark with Roger’s murderous B-plot, but it deserves another mention for Stan’s objectionable experiment.

“Virtual In-Stanity” is the perfect example of how Stan’s efforts to grow closer with his family can result in exceedingly weird story developments. The CIA’s powerful VR technology allows Stan to inhabit a teenage avatar, which he wants to use to connect with Steve. Steve becomes attracted to this fake teenager, which pushes Stan into very tricky, uncomfortable territory.

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