And Then There Were Fewer
|"And Then There Were Fewer"|
|Family Guy episode|
|Episode no.||Season 9
|Directed by||Dominic Polcino|
|Written by||Cherry Chevapravatdumrong|
|Original air date||September 26, 2010|
"And Then There Were Fewer" is the first episode of the ninth season of the animated comedy series Family Guy. This and all the other Season 9 episodes were produced for the eighth production season. It originally aired on Fox in the United States on September 26, 2010. The episode follows the citizens of Quahog after they are invited by actor James Woods to his stately mansion on a remote island. While there, a series of murders occurs, and the group struggles to determine who committed the mysterious acts, before ultimately attempting to escape from the island, and avoid being murdered themselves. The name of the episode is a parody of Agatha Christie's iconic murder mystery, And Then There Were None.
The episode was written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and directed by Dominic Polcino. It received critical acclaim from critics, praising its storyline and many cultural references. According to Nielsen ratings, it was viewed in 9.41 million homes in its original airing. The episode features guest performances by Drew Barrymore, H. Jon Benjamin, Max Burkholder, Colin Ford, Patrick Stewart, Ashley Tisdale and James Woods, along with several recurring guest voice actors for the series. It was the first Family Guy episode to air in 720p high definition. The episode was nominated for Outstanding Music Composition for a Series at the 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards. "And Then There Were Fewer" was released on DVD along with two other episodes from the season on December 13, 2011. The show confirmed afterwards that it was part of the show's "real" canon and those characters who died (i.e. Diane Simmons, Muriel Goldman) would not be rebooted in the future. However, James Woods is seen in the thirteenth episode of season 10, "Tom Tucker: The Man and His Dream", in which he tells Peter and Tom that paramedics brought him to a secret science lab and revived him. In the same episode, he hires Peter as his agent after he fired Tucker, but later also fires Peter.
The Griffin family, Joe, Quagmire and other residents of Quahog are sent an anonymous letter inviting them to a party in each of their honor. When they get to the address they find that they are at the isolated island mansion of James Woods, who wants to make amends with them for various wrongdoings. While they are having a drink, Woods tells them he has become a born-again Christian thanks to the persuasion of his girlfriend, Priscilla. When he and Priscilla leave to check on dinner, Quagmire's girlfriend Stephanie sits in Woods' chair and is mysteriously shot to death. The guests panic, believing Woods intends to kill them all. They try to leave, but lightning causes a tree to fall across the bridge, the only way off the island. When Woods comes back, the guests accuse him of Stephanie's murder, which he denies. A sudden blackout occurs, and when the lights come back on a few seconds later, Woods has been stabbed to death with one of the dinner knives. Priscilla faints and is laid on a couch, and Stephanie's body is missing. The guests discover none of them can get reception to call for help from their cell phones.
While the guests search for more clues, a plate suddenly smashes, revealing a gun with a silencer connected to a timer. The gun was pointed toward Woods's chair, indicating that Stephanie was killed accidentally. Tension ensues, with many of the guests blaming each other for the murder; however, they all have motives for killing Woods: Peter and Lois hate him for terrorizing the family, Tom Tucker hates him as he was the one who convinced Tom to turn down the role of Freddy Krueger in the Nightmare on Elm Street series, Quagmire hates Woods for stealing Cheryl Tiegs from him, Diane Simmons hates him for introducing her to Danny Bonaduce when he promised her that he'd introduce her to Dan Rather, Brian hates him for ruining his TV show pilot, Seamus hates him for his role in Seamus's current physical condition (he initially claims that Woods brought him to life by wishing only half of his body to be real in a reference to Pinocchio, but later claims that actually Woods cut him up during an acid trip), Mayor West hates him for stealing his Twitter account name, Herbert hates him for replacing his cialis with meth, Dr. Hartman hates him for mixing up the Skeleton in his office, Consuela holds Woods responsible for the suicide of her 14-year-old nephew after Woods molested him, and Joe and Bonnie hate Woods for punching Bonnie in the throat because of how her voice sounds. Mort's wife Muriel disappears after it is discovered that she was providing Woods with prescription Oxycotin from her husband's pharmacy and was being blackmailed by Woods when she got suspicious, causing everyone to then suspect her as the killer. (Mort is initially appalled but forgives her when she says she overcharged him.)
Peter, having accidentally knocked Joe unconscious after falling down the stairs wearing a suit of armor and causing a vase to fall from a shelf and hit Joe in the head, organizes several groups to investigate different parts of the mansion; Tom and Meg are separated from their teams due to secret passages. Brian and Stewie hear a scream and discover Muriel dead, having been stabbed in the back with the same knife that killed Woods. The guests reunite and discover Priscilla missing from the couch where she was laid after fainting. Jillian's husband Derek points out that he is getting a very faint signal on his cell phone and goes to a balcony to get better reception in order to contact the police. As he dials the police, he is murdered and sent reeling over the veranda. As the guests find Derek dead, Dr. Hartman points out a large skull fracture on Derek's forehead, indicating that he was knocked dead with a blunt object before the fall. While the guests panic, Consuela points out that one of Woods' Golden Globe Awards is missing; this turns out to be the blunt object used to kill Derek. Joe and Peter declare that they will band together in a huddle while searching all the rooms, and if anyone attempts to leave the huddle, he or she will become the chief suspect. They search Tom Tucker's guest room and Meg locates the bloodstained award under his bed. Tom denies he ever murdered anyone, and suggests that Priscilla planted the award there to frame him since she was the only one not there. Drops of blood start dripping from the ceiling, and Priscilla's dead body is discovered inside the ventilation shaft over Tom's room, her throat slit. Tom is implicated as the murderer and chased by most of the men of the group as he tries to escape. After one failed attempt to chase him around the room the group successfully catches him from the left side (when Peter suggests the group split up to cover both sides of the table).
The next day, Tom is arrested by the police. Workmen repair the damaged bridge, which allows the guests to return home. Everyone is shocked and some are devastated over the night's events. Lois goes to comfort Diane over the arrest of her co-worker, but a comment Diane makes about her mother packing a blouse for her first solo broadcast — something she couldn't have known about unless she knew what was going to happen — causes Lois to realize that Diane is the killer. Diane reveals that she once dated Woods until he dumped her on her fortieth birthday, during which Tom arranged for Diane to be replaced by an attractive younger news anchor. Seeking revenge, Diane bribed Priscilla, a news intern at the time, to talk Woods into becoming a born-again Christian and throw the dinner party so she could get revenge on both men by killing James Woods and framing Tom for it.
Diane was forced to kill the other guests after her plan went awry upon Stephanie's accidental death. During the power outage, she stabbed Woods. Priscilla woke up when she was removing the knife, due to Joe pointing out that the killer's fingerprints would be on it, so Diane killed Priscilla. While hiding Priscilla's body and planting the knife in Tom's room, Muriel Goldman saw her and Diane killed her, as well. Diane killed Derek with the Golden Globe Award to stop the police from arriving too soon, and planted it in Tom's room. Lois is still unsure of what happened to Stephanie's body, to which Diane responds that it's the only thing she has no knowledge of (it turns out that Quagmire stowed Stephanie's corpse in the trunk of his car and is taking it home to gratify himself sexually.) Diane takes Lois outside at gunpoint, intending to shoot her. A shot is heard, but it is Diane who is shot; she loses her balance and falls down a cliff. The mysterious shooter uses a suppressed sniper rifle. Lois shouts out a thank you to the mysterious assassin for saving her life before joining the caravan of guests preparing to leave. It is then revealed that the shooter is Stewie, sitting in the mansion tower — he states: "If anybody's gonna take that bitch down, it's gonna be me". The episode ends with the camera zooming out of the mansion, while the guests leave. Seth MacFarlane later stated on Twitter that the people who died in this episode are "canon," which means that Diane, Derek, Muriel, etc. will not be returning in any later episodes. However, James Woods would make a future appearance, explaining that he was revived by Hollywood doctors (available to him because of his celebrity status).
Production and development
The episode was first announced at the 2009 San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California, on July 25, 2009, by series creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane. It was directed by series regular Dominic Polcino and written by series regular Cherry Chevapravatdumrong shortly after the conclusion of the eighth production season, which completed its airing on television on June 20, 2010. The episode takes its title from the Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None, and was largely based on the 1985 comedy film Clue. Series regulars Peter Shin and James Purdum served as supervising director, with Andrew Goldberg, Alex Carter, Elaine Ko and Spencer Porter serving as staff writers for the episode. Composer Walter Murphy, who has worked on the series since its inception, returned to compose the music for "And Then There Were Fewer". "And Then There Were Fewer" was the first episode of Family Guy to be broadcast in high-definition, with series showrunners Mark Hentemann and Steve Callaghan overseeing the transition.
The episode was dedicated to series creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane's mother, Ann Perry MacFarlane, following her death from cancer on July 16, 2010. The original idea of the episode was sent to series showrunner and executive producer Mark Hentemann in a text from Seth MacFarlane simply stating "murder mystery."
"And Then There Were Fewer", along with the two other episodes from Family Guy 's ninth season, was released on a three-disc DVD set in the United States on December 13, 2011. The sets include brief audio commentaries by various crew and cast members for several episodes, a collection of deleted scenes and animatics, a special mini-feature which discussed the process behind animating "And Then There Were Fewer", a mini-feature entitled "The Comical Adventures of Family Guy – Brian & Stewie: The Lost Phone Call", and footage of the Family Guy panel at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con International.
In addition to the regular cast, actress Drew Barrymore reprised her role as Jillian Russell, the former girlfriend of Brian; actor James Woods, in his fifth appearance in the series, reprised his role as the overly exaggerated version of himself; actress Ashley Tisdale (who is known for playing Candace Flynn on Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb, the show created by former Family Guy alumnus Dan Povenmire) made her first official appearance on Family Guy as James Woods's girlfriend, Priscilla; and voice actor H. Jon Benjamin reprised his role as Quahog Market owner Carl. Additionally, actors Max Burkholder, Colin Ford and Patrick Stewart also guest starred in the episode in minor roles. Recurring guest voice actors Lori Alan, John G. Brennan, Nicole Sullivan, Jennifer Tilly, and John Viener reprised their roles as news reporter Diane Simmons, Quahog pharmacist Mort Goldman, Muriel Goldman, Griffin family neighbor Bonnie Swanson, and Jillian's husband, Derek Wilcox, respectively. A minor appearance was also made by Family Guy writer and regular voice artist Danny Smith.
The episode borrows heavily from the 1985 comedy film Clue, which itself was based on the 1976 comedy film "Murder by Death," and is largely based upon the 1939 Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None. In the opening scene of the episode, once the Griffin family arrives at the mansion, Lois remarks on the estate's beauty, wondering if television host Jeff Probst has a similar home. As they walk into the mansion, Sir John Everett Millais's Ophelia is seen. As dinner commences, Carl begins conversing with Tom Tucker, and discusses the plot of the 1986 fantasy film Labyrinth, directed by Jim Henson.
After Tucker is accused of murdering James Woods, he reveals that Woods talked him out of auditioning for the lead role in the 1984 hit horror film A Nightmare on Elm Street. The finger is then pointed at Mayor West, who tells the group of his hardships on the social networking service Twitter, after Woods stole his originally intended username. Diane Simmons also goes on to state that Woods had promised to introduce her to former CBS news anchor Dan Rather, but ultimately ended up introducing her to actor and comedian Danny Bonaduce instead.
While searching for Muriel Goldman throughout the mansion, Brian and Stewie begin humming and singing the theme song to several television shows, including the CBS science fiction series Lost in Space, the CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, and the ABC soap opera Dynasty. After discovering the Golden Globe Award underneath Tom Tucker's bed, Tucker begins to profess his innocence, with Peter then instructing him to "tell it to Mike Judge."
In the scene where Diane tells Lois her conspiracy, Picasso's painting Le Rêve can be seen on the wall behind Diane.
"And Then There Were Fewer" was broadcast on September 26, 2010, as a part of an animated television night on Fox, and was preceded by the season premiere of The Simpsons, and Family Guy creator and executive producer Seth MacFarlane's spin-off, The Cleveland Show. It was watched by 8.85 million viewers in its first half hour, and concluded with a total 9.41 million viewers in its second half hour, according to Nielsen ratings, despite airing simultaneously with the season premiere of Desperate Housewives on ABC, the season premiere of The Amazing Race on CBS and Sunday Night Football on NBC. The episode also acquired a 4.3 and 4.7 rating in the 18–49 demographic, beating The Simpsons and The Cleveland Show in addition to significantly edging out both shows in total viewership. The episode's ratings were Family Guy 's highest since the airing of the season eight episode "Family Goy".
"And Then There Were Fewer" received critical acclaim, calling the storyline "solidly funny, well-plotted, and nearly perfectly executed." In a simultaneous review of the episodes of The Simpsons and The Cleveland Show that preceded the episode, The A.V. Club's Todd VanDerWerff commented that he enjoyed "the 'a bunch of people go to an isolated place and start getting killed' murder mystery subgenre", and that the episode "made fun of the conceits of the genre". In the conclusion of his review VanDerWerff called the episode "excellent and fun," and "full of surprisingly gorgeous animation and a nicely creepy feel that hung over all of the jokes" and rated it as a B+, the best rating between The Simpsons episode "Elementary School Musical" and The Cleveland Show episode "Harder, Better, Faster, Browner". Jason Hughes of TV Squad also praised the episode's writers for doing a "solid job of creating a genuine mystery throughout the hour, keeping us guessing as to who did it and what their motive may have been." Hughes went on to comment positively on the episode's numerous guest stars, and compared its portrayal of Diane Simmons to that of The Simpsons character Sideshow Bob. Natalie Zutter of Ology also praised the episode, calling it, "Surprisingly, the best of the evening." In the summary of her review, Zutter wrote that it was a "fun murder mystery that lets us see all our favorite Quahog folks," while continuing to wonder whether the characters who were killed off would remain dead.
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