American Dad! didn't seem destined for 200 episodes when it premiered on Fox in 2005. Even as recently as earlier this year, that seemed in doubt. But at Wednesday's table read and cake cutting at the Fox Television Animation studio, the show had all the vitality of its early days and the swagger of a show that's been around for nearly ten years.
Even now, the animated comedy is finding new ways to push the boundaries of weirdness. No spoilers, but the 200th episode (which will air next year) features cannibalism, a particle accelerator, the return of more than 40 past characters, and Patrick Stewart rapping.
How is 200 different from 100? "More money, bitches!" crows Wendy Schaal, who plays Francine. A little more seriously, she says that she remembers the struggle to make it to 100 (traditionally, that's when a show can be syndicated and bring in a lot more money), but making it to 200, "we're so well-entrenched now — instead of just getting accepted to the club, now you're a gold star member. That's what it feels like."
Some of that gold star treatment is coming from TBS, the network that took the show in when Fox left it to quietly die last season. "It felt like a relaunch when we went over," says Rachael MacFarlane, who voices Hayley. "All of a sudden we had people that were excited about us and interested, and the show started to get a lot of attention, and it was really exciting for us. ... It seems like it's been a really good partnership so far."
The move has allowed a little more latitude in terms of swearing: "two s--ts and a douchebag" per episode, in the words of co-creator Matt Weitzman. And though they've been asked to pull back on the violence, "we have set precedent; we are arguing cases," he says in lawyerly tones.
The show structure has altered slightly, too. TBS shows have a cold open, so they need a front-loaded gag. But executive producer Brian Boyle says that, long ago, they discovered the key to the show and they rarely stray: "A story is someone's an a--hole, someone's feelings get hurt, and then they work it out. That's been our formula for ten years, and that's still our formula."
New episodes of American Dad! return February 2015 on TBS.