The Daily Stream: 'A Bully For Steve' Is American Dad's Finest Hour

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The Show and Episode: "American Dad," specifically season 5 and the episode "A Bully for Steve."

Where You Can Stream It: Hulu

The Pitch: Seth McFarlane became known to Hollywood, and the world at large, through "Family Guy," one of the longest-running and most successful animated shows of all time, right up there with the likes of "South Park" and "The Simpsons." After Fox revived "Family Guy," McFarlane had the opportunity to bring another show to the airwaves in the form of "American Dad," which debuted in 2005 and has also been going strong ever since. While "Family Guy" almost certainly remains the show with the larger pop culture footprint, it could (easily I might add) be argued that "American Dad" is the superior series. And if that show has one, shining, bright moment to cement that argument, it is "A Bully for Steve."

The episode aired in 2010 towards the end of the show's fifth season. By then, "American Dad" had truly found its footing and was on a roll. Though I am by no means as well-versed in TV as I am with movies, adult animation has always been a soft spot for me and I'd argue that "American Dad" season 5, on the whole, is about as strong as any season in the genre. But this particular episode cranked it out of the park so hard on just about every level that it is truly something to be in awe of. I don't want to overstate things, but this may be the "Die Hard" of half-hour network adult-oriented animated comedy. It is utter, over-the-top, madcap perfection.

Why It's Essential Viewing

Even for those not overly familiar with "American Dad," I feel relatively confident in recommending this, as I saw the episode for the first time after having only seen a handful of episodes here or there. This is the episode that made me a fan and turned it into a regular part of my viewing habits.

The episode sees Steve, the son of the family, displaying some of his soft, kinder tendencies. Stan, the dad of the family, feels that he needs to toughen up his boy and, as a unique means of doing so, he decides to take it upon himself to become Steve's bully. Yes, a father decides to make it his life's mission to create a new persona and bully, rather viciously (and hilariously) his own son. As someone who was bullied quite mercilessly in junior high, I can understand how that may sound insensitive but, fear not, as the way it all comes back around is a real chef's kiss.

This absolutely ridiculous premise paves the way for all sorts of comedic brilliance, such as Francine, the mom of the family, becoming pissed off when she discovers the truth, only to take it upon herself to try and train Steve to become a fighter. There are also some wild and memorable gags that have nothing to do with the story here, one of which involves a werewolf and the phrase "desk sandwich." It also may have the best use of the song "Drops of Jupiter" by Train in any media, for whatever that may be worth.

One thing that animated TV such as this does well is incorporating a good B plot to support the main story. That is one of the areas that "A Bully for Steve" exceeds, as the secondary storyline of Reggie — a talking Koala who is embodied by a person thanks to a CIA experiment — romancing Hayley, the daughter of the family, provides some hilarious fuel. Not to give it away, but Reggie gets a brief musical number toward the end of the episode that is another gold medal moment.

From the genius of incorporating Stan's childhood bully Stelio Kontos (who is as mean as he is Greek), to one of the best random, seemingly disconnected payoff gags in McFarlane's career, all while incorporating a kind of poignant lesson about the dangers of bullying and the need to accept other's ways of getting through life, this is a perfect episode of TV, top to bottom. Do yourself a favor and bring some laughs to your day and partake in some brilliant comedy.