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- Panty Shot: Francine in "Dirty Merlot Rotten Shame." Roger ties a hot air balloon tow rope to Francine's foot, causing her to hang upside down as the balloon ascends. For a couple of frames we see Francine's panties as her dress plunges to her face.
- Papa Wolf:
- Terry and Greg, perhaps surprisingly.
- Stan, for all his Jerk Ass tendencies, does play this trope straight a fair few times as well. In fact, he's so loyal to his family that he, "a devout, faithful Christian," actually threatened God at gunpoint, ordering God to bring him back to life so he could save his family from freezing to death.
- Even Roger, of all people, is capable of crossing this trope, as in the episode "A Ward Show".
- Paper-Thin Disguise:
- Roger seems to be recognizable as an alien only when he's stark naked. Putting on any kind of clothing seems to render him completely indistinguishable from humans, despite people occasionally mentioning he is not flesh-coloured, doesn't have a nose, and is 'oddly proportioned'. Toshi seems to know but doesn't seem to care, as he refers to Steve's "Uncle Roger" as "alien in a wig." Of course, since no one understands Toshi (because he speaks Japanese), it didn't make any real difference.
- This is toyed with in regards to the Smith family in that they each have one persona of Roger's that they don't recognize. For Stan, it's the jerkass, lazy member of the country club he's desperate to get into. For Francine, it's a Korean kid who plays pool with a giant chopstick. For Hayley, it's her sandal repairman. For Steve, it was Alicia Wilkner, a girl he kissed at a Spin The Bottle party and dated seven times (actually nine, since Roger as Alicia roofied him on two dates and most likely molested him while he was unconscious).
- One episode shows a group of Chinese spies working at the CIA, all wearing only blonde wigs to fool everybody.
- Pants-Positive Safety: CIA man Stan does this every now and then (he usually keeps his pistol inside of his suit jacket). He hasn't shot himself yet, though.Stan: Cold, cold! Yet flattering.
- Paranoia Gambit: In the episode "Surro-Gate", Steve and Roger play a trick on Klaus by throwing him down a waterpark ride while he's sleeping. He swears revenge on them with an incredibly dramatic monologue, and Roger and Steve spend almost an entire year huddled together in the attic, fearing for their lives. They only eat food that they are 100% sure Klaus hasn't tampered with, they take turns sleeping, Steve has completely stopped going to school, and they wear diapers so they never have to go to the bathroom. In the end, though...Steve: Okay, you win. Just do it already!
Klaus: Do what?
Roger: Get your revenge!
Steve: The water slide? The practical joke?
Klaus: Oh, yes. I had forgotten.
Roger: [nervously] Good, good. Us, too.
Klaus: But now that you have reminded me... the humiliation I suffered that day will not go unpunished. My pain is the bubbling caldron of molten steel that will forge the saber of your demise! I shall not be denied my vengeance!
[Roger places a stack of heavy books on top of Klaus' bowl, trapping him inside]
Roger: Huh. Don't know why we didn't think of that nine months ago.
- Parental Incest:
- In "Pulling Double Booty", Hayley dates Bill, her father's identical body double. Her mother Francine is understandably uncomfortable with it, making her feel sick emotionally and physically. Stan and Francine forbid Bill to see Hayley after he makes a move on Francine, but to make sure that Hayley doesn't lose it, Stan pretends to be Bill on the romantic camping trip Hayley had planned for them. Unfortunately for Stan, Hayley decides that they are finally going to have sex, and Stan has to fend off increasingly explicit advances Hayley makes towards him while being disturbed that she would do such things, including a threesome with a waitress.Stan: [crying] You used to watch Sesame Street.
- The episode "Oedipal Panties" focused on Stan's relationship with his mother, which takes on some really Squicky overtones.
- Joked in "Francine's Flashback", Francine loses her memory and runs off with Hayley's boyfriend. Stan suggest that both he and Hayley should get back at them by dating eachother. He quickly reconsiders.
- Steve in "Rubberneckers" literally sings twice about how he would to have sex with Francine if her wasn't his own mother. He also meets an attractive girl in the episode "Mine Struggle", and when she tells him that her name is "Whatever [he wants] it to be," his first thought is "Francine."
- In "Pulling Double Booty", Hayley dates Bill, her father's identical body double. Her mother Francine is understandably uncomfortable with it, making her feel sick emotionally and physically. Stan and Francine forbid Bill to see Hayley after he makes a move on Francine, but to make sure that Hayley doesn't lose it, Stan pretends to be Bill on the romantic camping trip Hayley had planned for them. Unfortunately for Stan, Hayley decides that they are finally going to have sex, and Stan has to fend off increasingly explicit advances Hayley makes towards him while being disturbed that she would do such things, including a threesome with a waitress.
- Parenting the Husband: Without Francine, Stan has been shown to be incapable of putting his shoes away, dressing himself (even something as simple as which socks to wear), and boiling water to make a meal.
- Patriotic Fervor: Stan veers between honorable and despicable, but prides himself on being a true patriot.
- The Password is Always "Swordfish": Subverted, Roger needs to know a password one a split-personality of his set up and tries "password" but it fails. The actual password is "password1"
- Perfectly Cromulent Word: Subverted in the episode "Buck, Wild", in which Steve spends a year living with and raising two baby deer that he orphaned on a hunting trip.Stan: All this time, I thought— you're not a man! You're not even a mammal! You're an anti-mammal! That doesn't roll off the tongue, does it? I'll have to combine all those words, off the cuff, to create a new word. I call you "an-i-mal." That's it! "Animal." It may not be a word, but I know what it means!
- Perky Goth: Steve's girlfriend Debbie has an obsession with death and the dark side but is otherwise friendly and cheerful.
- Periphery Demographic: In "Lincoln Lover", Stan writes a play about Abraham Lincoln's relationship with his bodyguard to try and encourage traditional Republican values, but unwittingly wrote it to look like there was homosexual subtext between the two men, giving it a strong following in the gay community.
- Phony Degree: In "Helping Handis", Francine gets a diploma-mill medical degree and goes to work as a doctor.
- Pimped-Out Dress: A number show up, for various reasons.
- Please Wake Up:
- S3 Ep 10, "Tearjerker", a James Bond spoof, features Roger as the titular villain, in which he tries to take over the world using the ultimate Tear Jerker movie, "Oscar Gold" about a mentally retarded, alcoholic, Jewish boy and his cancer ridden puppy during the Holocaust . After being foiled by Stan, he reveals as he's escaping that he has a backup plan for an ever sadder movie; six hours of a baby chimp trying to revive its dead mother.
- When the mother of the squirrels that lives in their yard dies, the "slow" one thinks she's sleeping/hiding.
- Plot Armor: The main characters of the show have a tendency to not only survive significant injury, but fully recover from it by the end of an episode, either via Deus ex Machina, Reset Button, or being Made of Iron. Stan was paralyzed at one point, Steve and Hayley were both mortally wounded with a knife by an elderly Stan, and Francine had her entire face burned off when Stan's co-worker attacked her with corrosive acid.
- Plot Hole: It's never explained how Toshi can understand English, yet can't actually speak it. In fact, Toshi's mother calls him out on this (even she doesn't speak Japanese). It's implied that Toshi sees speaking English as beneath him.
- Plucky Comic Relief: The Smiths think of both Roger and Klaus in this way. In the episode "Jack's Back", Francine desperately attempts to invoke this trope:Stan: [to Jack] You're still the same selfish bastard who never taught me how to ride that stupid, rusty old bike that's cluttering up my garage!
Francine: [forced smile] I think we need a little comic relief in here. Where's Roger?
Steve: Dad, Grandpa's changed!
Stan: Steve, don't be an idiot! He's conning you!
Francine: Or Klaus! Maybe he can say a funny German word!
Stan: Tomorrow I'm hauling your ass to court and then I want you the hell out of our lives!
Francine: [frantically] KLAUS!
[Steve storms off, disappointed in Stan]
Klaus: [rushes into the scene, panting heavily] Spätzle! [smiles as everyone else is dumbfounded]
- Pluralses: In the episode "A Smith in the Hand", Roger tells Hayley to get her hands out of his "orifices-ees."
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Downplayed. Stan and Klaus aren't villains per se, but they've been portrayed as at least having mildly racist thoughts. In the episode "Familyland", Klaus admits, unapologetically and enthusiastically, that a horribly racist theme park ride about slavery has "caught [his] attention". Likewise, at Hershey Park (in the episode "May The Best Stan Win"), Stan claims that he loved the White World portion of Milk Chocolate World, but "didn't care so much for Dark World".
- Poorly Timed Confession: In Season 10 "Rubbernecker", Roger and Klaus accidentally spill some wine on the new couch and they try to cover it up. Their cover gets blown by an insurance adjuster who's investigating Stan's story and Rogers pins the blame on Klaus. Roger calls Stan to confess that he was the one who spilled the wine on the couch, but he called during the time the insurance adjuster was investigating Stan's car and he finds Stan's phone in his car with photos to prove that Stan has committed insurance fraud.
- Porn Stash: In "Hurricane", Francine and Steve go looking for Hayley after she gets dragged away by a shark. Passing by Steve's room, she notices dozens of porno mags floating in the water. She's not really surprised to see them, more-so curious about his tastes.Francine: Steve, what do you have under your mattress? The girls are all Asian... and pregnant.Steve: She's not in here. We should keep moving.
- In the episode "Honey, I'm Homeland", Stan uses the word "betraitor."note
- Roger sometimes calls Stan "Staniel"note and on one occasion called Francine "Franiel".
- The Power of Hate:
- Played with. Apparently Roger's "bitchiness" is an actual physical element of his species that will convert into a poisonous bile unless he expresses this trope in full throttle. Naturally The Power of Love is toxic to them.
- One episode features Simon the cat, who, after being horribly injured from a car accident, painfully limps his way all around town to find Steve, and claw his face in.
- In "Ninety North, Zero West", when Humbaba is resurrected and the Smiths try to escape from him on a train powered by Christmas love, Steve's newfound hatred of Christmas causes the train to go into reverse and hit Humbaba's slit throat hard enough to knock his head off.
- The Power of Rock: Stan becomes more in touch with emotions beyond anger and outrage when he is exposed to the music of My Morning Jacket during "My Morning Straitjacket".
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Stan loves these, and they usually come in some form of a pun or a play on words.
- In "All About Steve", when Stan prepares to arrest cyber terrorist Dan Vebber at a sci-fi convention:Stan: Sorry, Vebber. You're going away for a long time, so pack your baggins.
- From "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever", in which Stan goes on a tear through Heaven (yes, THE Heaven) in a quest to save his family:Stan: Heaven gun... time for you to preach to the choir.
- From "Daesong Heavy Industries", in which Stan thinks that God has appointed him as a modern-day Noah, and he has to fight off the entire crew on a large ship:Stan: Time to do some bible thumping.
- In "All About Steve", when Stan prepares to arrest cyber terrorist Dan Vebber at a sci-fi convention:
- Precious Puppies: There are TWO episodes involving a puppy. One named Fussy, and one named Kisses.
- Precision F-Strike: "Blond Ambition", the first episode to air on TBS, has Hayley saying "Shit" and Stan saying "Goddamn". The writers were clearly taking advantage of TBS's laxer standards when it comes to harsh langauge.
- In "Morning Mimosa", Steve shouts "F**K YOU!" at Francine when she unplugs his game before it saves.
- Pretty in Mink: Stan buys Francine a mink stole in one episode. Hayley's avatar in Dragonscuffle has a white fur collar. Greg Corbin has a white fur coat and hat he wears in one of the Christmas episodes.
- Primal Scene: In "I Am the Walrus" Stan tricks Steve into catching him and Francine having sex so he can re-establish alpha male dominance of the household.
- Product Placement:
- Mr Pibb (now known as Pibb Xtra) is given centre stage as the B-plot of "A.T.: The Abusive Terrestrial" and is mentioned in several other episodes as well. Other references to real life products or shows are also in abundance (some even in the form of Running Gag. Pecan Sandies, anyone?).
- Also parodied in "Black Mystery Month" when for no reason at all Stan and Steve discuss their plan in a Burger King and Steve asks why they had to go there. Stan procceeds to tell him that "The economics of television have changed" before giving a fake smile to the camera and saying in a pained voice "Have it... YOUR way".
- Actually, this is an incredible throw-back to the pilot. The first commercial that aired after the theme song was for Burger King, who was the main sponsor of the show when it first aired.
- The episode "Red October Sky" is filled with a number of product placements relations to capitalism.
- They had an entire episode dedicated to nothing but Stan becoming obsessed with the band My Morning Jacket, with a bunch of their songs being played, and the lead singer making a guest appearance.
- Properly Paranoid: Stan has been proven right at least half of the time, which is just enough times to continue being this way.
- Proud Beauty: In "The Magnificent Steven", Roger push this button with Hayley and Francine. He declares Hayley to be the "prettiest one in the house" and Francine suddenly becomes insanely jealous, so she tries to seduce Roger with a more revealing dress and succeeds in drawing his attention away from Hayley. However, Hayley soon retaliates and end in a Cat Fight. Turn out that Roger has manpulated them to make a video and sends it into a website that exchanges mother-daughter catfights for free T-shirts.
- Psychopathic Manchild: The Antichrist in "Rapture's Delight". Stan and Roger also qualify at times.
- Public Exposure: Hayley does this, making a big deal on how it's totally not scandalous. Then she has a Naked Freak-Out when she sees that Roger is in the class. And then Roger sells his painting to Steve without telling him it's of his sister.
- To say the creators of American Dad love to use puns would be a massive understatement. Hardly an episode can go by without at least one play on words. Some examples below:[Smith is being briefed in Japan; he and Bullock are Geisha girls]
Smith: Why are we dressed up like this?
Bullock: Because I thought we could be "Secret Asians".
Stan: A 16-hour flight for a bad pun? [grins] Yes. Yes.
- In "A Ward Show":Principal Lewis: Is that what you intended to say, Superintendent?!
Superintendent: It's what I super-intended to say.
- In A Bully For Steve, when Roger plans to photograph Steve's fight:
- Lampshaded at least once as being torturous to listen to when they're abused. In "Wife Insurance", after a Hurricane of Puns, Klaus agrees to divulge the information that Steve and Roger want from him.Klaus: Enough! I confess. Just, please, no more puns.
- To say the creators of American Dad love to use puns would be a massive understatement. Hardly an episode can go by without at least one play on words. Some examples below:
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
- Steve in "Son of Stan":Francine: Steve will find his way.
Steve: Shut! Up! Mom! Get! Me! CHIPS! [farts and belches simultaneously and then falls asleep]
- Roger in "Stan's Food Restaurant".Roger: Here's my home number, my cell, and the women's shelter where I'm either volunteering or dropping off my stupid whore wife. Soup! Is Not! A meal! Vera!
- Also Played Literally in "A Piñata Named Desire"
- Steve in "Son of Stan":
- Punny Name: S3 Ep 10, "Tearjerker", a James Bond spoof, features Francine as a Bond girl spoof named Sexpun T'Come.
- Rage Breaking Point: Stan at the end of "Bullocks to Stan".
- Raised Hand of Survival: Used and subverted in the "Tearjerker" episode - the caption says "The End," Tearjerker's hand comes out of the lava and the caption says "The End ?", then the hand falls and the question mark disappears.
- Random Passerby Advice: Stan is the adviser during a flashback—as a teenager he gatecrashed a popular kid's party and was chased around the house as they tried to get rid of him. He escapes out a window and crashes right next to two popular girls, one of whom is crying and saying "I don't know what to do!" Stan immediately tells her to "keep it, life begins at conception!" before sprinting away.
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: Stan, during a CIA telethon:Stan: Welcome back to the CIA telethon. Folks, we still have a long way to go to reach our goal, so we need your pledges. Smile and look to Camera B.
- Reality Ensues:
- When Francine discovers that the fireman who supposedly sacrificed his life to rescue her from a well when she was a child was still alive, she tries to readjust him to normal civilization, but he just can't handle it and dives back into the well. The narrator then explains that Francine was completely unaware that he died on impact due to diving head first into the well.
- After Roy Family locked up the Smiths and hundreds of others inside Familyland Theme Park, the people were divided into factions based on the part of the park that they enjoyed the most, with Stan, Steve, Roger, and Hayley being the leaders of those factions. War and chaos broke out among all of them, with many people being slaughtered and killed left and right. When Francine was finally able to set the people free, they sued the hell out of the park and turned it into a memorial for the dead.
- One episode had Terry's homophobic father disown him after learning of his marriage and surrogate child to Greg. Stan, who was homophobic but grew past it after meeting the couple, ran the gamut of finding out why he's homophobic, ranging from Freudian Excuse to Armored Closet Gay. At the end of the episode, nothing happens. Terry's father is straight, manly, and is just a bigot because he's just a bigot, and refuses to change his ways or take back his disowning of Terry despite the explanations Stan and Greg give him.
- In another episode, Stan crashes his car while rubbernecking, since he doesn't want to admit it to Francine he claims that he swerved to miss a cat, which he also puts on his insurance claim. However, the insurance agent investigates and finds evidence that Stan was girl-watching and he's arrested for insurance fraud. At his trial, Stan manages to convince everyone that rubbernecking is normal and win back Francine. And then the judge sentences him to six years in prison, since Stan not only failed to defend himself for insurance fraud, he also tacitly admitted to it while apologising to his wife. Of course, everything's back to normal by the next episode.
- Similar to the Archer example, the Tap on the Head doesn't work in one episode. In fact, not only were the victims not knocked unconscious, they were also clearly injured and needed to be sent to the hospital. Strangely, this trope has been played straight in other episodes.
- In one episode Francine fakes a kidnapping of Roger to prove that Stan really cares for him. Stan knew the whole time since he has Caller ID, and Francine called from her cell phone.
- In "The Shrink", Stan, in an effort to save his family, crashes the toy train he created along into a mini dam that he also built. The train falls apart once it hits the dam, since, again, it's a toy train.
- Subverted in "The Magnificent Steven". After Stan's actions throughout the episode cause 100,000 head of cattle to be tainted, the judge at the "beef safety hearing" is prepared to declare him guilty as charged, but Steve, Barry, and Snot step in and defend Stan. They claim that even though Stan almost got them killed, he taught them how to be men, and that's why they were ultimately able to survive the incident itself. Toshi, however, claims, in Japanese, "Stan Smith is a dangerous menace. He nearly killed us. The harshest punishment is required for his twisted actions." The judge has no idea what Toshi said, and relieves Stan of his crimes based on the other kids' testimony.
- Reality Warper: Explored in "Toy Whorey", when Steve disappears into his imagination and as does Stan later. Taken to the extreme with Roger in the same episode; when fetching wine, Roger goes into the attic and somehow goes through to a wine cellar, before exiting the cellar to his garage in the mountains, where he picks one of his vintage cars, where he drives over a precipice immediately outside, causing an explosion.
- Really Gets Around:
- Almost every reference to Francine's past indicates that she was the loosest woman in Langley Falls, revealing to Stan that she actually has North America's largest sex garden, with one rosebush for each of her partners in "When A Stan Loves A Woman".
- Hayley is also stated to be like this, but she has a monogamous relationship with Jeff for most of the series and is now married to him.
- A Real Man Is a Killer: When it is revealed that Stan has never actually killed anyone before, everyone is either disgusted or severely disappointed in him. Everyone except Hayley, that is... and the newfound respect she gains for Stan because of this is treated in-show as a bad thing.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Stan gives Roger a pretty brutal one:Stan: You're nothing but a worthless sack of fatass!Roger: [gasps in horror]Stan: You're lazy, you're a chubbo, you lie, you cheat, you eat all our food, you're a drunk, you never wash your wigs, but you strut around like you're Mary Queen of Scots, Brangelina, and Jesus all rolled into one. Well, you're not! You're a big fat nothing!
- Recursive Reality: In "American Stepdad", Stan's Mom rushes into marriage with Roger's persona; when Stan and Francine are invited over for dinner, Stan sees the only pictures his Mom has of her incredibly brief relationship are of a recent flashback, the preparation of the meal they're about to eat, and an already framed photo of Stan looking at the photos.
- Reference Overdosed: Just without the excessive Cutaway Gags found on Family Guy.
- Religion Is Magic: Christianity is parodied in this fashion; nowhere is this more obvious than in "Dope & Faith".
- Replacement Goldfish: In the tenth season episode “Holy S***, Jeff’s Back”, it’s revealed a race of aliens nicknamed The Collectors/Dissectors, well, dissected Jeff to study him. However, after seeing how distraught Hayley is at his death, one of their members who had gone to Earth impersonating Jeff offers to sacrifice himself and implant Jeff’s brain into his new, humanoid body. He does, and the rest of the aliens erase his, Hayley’s, and Stan’s memories of the transition.
- Retconning the Wiki: Steve once wrote an article about "Truth of peanut butter" using the crazy conspiracy plot he learned throughout the episode "Black Mystery Month". Wikipedia actually did lock the articles on peanut butter and Mary Todd Lincoln in order to deter idiot viewers from doing this.
- Reusable Lighter Toss: Steve tosses one on a line of gas to replicate a scene from Back to the Future in season 4 episode Delorean Story-An.
- Revenge Myopia: In "Escape from Pearl Bailey", the popular kids swear revenge on Steve and his friends for Steve's revenge plot against Lisa Silver and her friends for Debbie's class presidential campaign getting sabotaged, and persist even after Steve realizes it was his friends who did it, and apologizes for it.
- Rewatch Bonus:
- In "Spelling Bee My Baby", a second viewing of the episode may have allowed some to notice that the note (supposedly) left for Steve by Akiko was written in the same handwriting as the flash cards Francine made earlier in the episode, because it was actually Francine who wrote the note.
- In the episode "Choosy Wives Choose Smith", Stan plants "hidden cameras" throughout the house to monitor Francine while he and Roger hide out on a remote island. At the end, it's revealed that the cameras are actually in plain view and easily visible if one is looking for them. Incidentally, the cameras are actually there throughout the entire episode, not just during the reveal, but are easy to miss since none of the scenes focus on them.
- During "Stanny Tendergrass", Stan and Vanderhill hit golf balls repeatedly during a montage after agreeing to a match, but it turns out that the dozen or so shots shown were all just on Hole 1 ("After the first hole, the score is... 35 to 36. You both suck."); a sharp-eyed viewer might notice, while re-watching the episode, that only Stan and Vanderhill's respective first shots were hit off of tees. The rest were hit off the grass, meaning that none of the shots shown were on the start of a new hole.
- Ridiculously Long Phone Hold: Roger and Steve call a company to complain about a shoddy novelty product they bought. They are left on hold for what is implied to be days, only to be transferred to voice mail.
- Right Way/Wrong Way Pair: Done a few times with Stan and Francine in terms of providing for the family, with Stan's overzealous extremist (and occasionally psychotic) approach pretty much always making him the Wrong Way guy. Deconstructed a handful of instances Francine's calmer approach also falls short (eg. Stan creates two clones of Steve for each of them to raise separately, Stan's clone goes insane from his overbearing treatment, while Francine's coddling devolves the other into a spoiled lazy bum).
- Rip Van Tinkle: This trope isn't mentioned or implied when a "statue" of a Walt Disney expy turns out to be the actual man, frozen. But when he refreezes himself at the end, he realizes at the last second that he forgot to go to the bathroom. The new "statue" is holding its crotch in agony, implying that this trope will come into play if he is ever unfrozen again.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
- Steve goes on a non-lethal one after Lisa Silver and her friends humiliate Debbie with an embarrassing website and cost her the school election. It turns out that Lisa and her friends were innocent. It was Snot, Toshi, and Barry who set the website up because they were sick of Steve spending all his time with Debbie.
- Hayley goes on one whenever a guy dumps her. It's gotten so bad that she will face jailtime if the cops catch her again.
- Robot Girl: Steve's somewhat unnerving gradual conversion of a vacuum cleaner into an artificial mate during Stannie Slickers II to the point where it can perform... well, it's Steve so you can probably figure out the rest.Steve: Last night I got a dusty pinky.
- Rock Me, Asmodeus!: Stan's new friend (who's an atheist) proves he went to hell, and came back, with a guitar made of a goat skull.
- Roger Rabbit Effect: In "Return of the Bling", Roger is spliced into some live-action stock photos from the 1980's Olympic Hockey game to prove to Stan that yes, he was a member of the U.S. Team.
- Roswell That Ends Well: Roger claims that his arrival on Earth was responsible for the Roswell incident.
- RPG Episode: "Dungeons and Wagon".
- Rube Goldberg Device: One of Roger's plans to steal Greg and Terry's wine in "Toy Whorey". It's such an Overly Long Gag even Francine lampshades it:Francine: [muttering] Goddamn Rube Goldberg... family of flies... 600 bucks of dominoes...
- Running Gag:
- The writers get their fill with the many vagina jokes that pop up (so much so that one episode broke from the plot to have a "1000th Vagina Joke" celebration). They try to go for the Once per Episode approach.
- One of the more subtle ones involves Francine's habit of using a lamp whenever she hits someone. It got to the point of possible self-parody when Francine hit Stan with a lamp while she was locked in a makeshift jail cell that Stan had set up in the basement (the cell itself was completely empty, save for two conspicuously-placed lamps):Stan: Go ahead. Punch me in the face. I deserve it.
Francine: Oh, Stan... [reaches off-screen and grabs lamp, then hits Stan with it]
Stan: Ow! I said "punch," not "lamp"!
- Another involves the humorously infantile nature of the C.I.A (they have a "Show and Tell" day, nap time, the agents frequently prank each other, etc.):Bullock: Duper, the President will be coming to your house for dinner!
Stan: No! It's not fair!
Bullock: Stan, go to the quiet area.
Stan: [walks over to the corner of the room, and grabs a mini carton of milk from a table]
Bullock: It's not milk time!
Stan: [sits in the stool facing the corner, folds arms angrily]
- Roger and Steve taking cases as Wheels and The Leg-Man, complete with theme music and opening sequence.
- Stan being in a scene reading a book with a title that describes what he is doing or whatever he will do next. "Reading With One Hand" and "Nude From the Waist Down" are examples.
- Stan randomly pulling out his gun to scare people.
- In the later seasons, Stan would start sending picture messages on his cell phone to two black employees working at an airport terminal, and them commenting on each one.
- Character x saying they can't believe character y had done whatever, only to be reminded that it's totally in-character for them.
- Toshi insulting his friends in Japanese behind their backs.
- Usually no-one responds, but a running gag, within that running gag, Steve tends to assume that Toshi is saying something kind or heartfelt.Steve: (Paraphrasing) Here's a shotgun, with a silver bullet. When I become a werewolf, I want you guys to kill me.Toshi: (In Japanese) You have granted my life's wish.Steve: I'll miss you too buddy!
- Usually no-one responds, but a running gag, within that running gag, Steve tends to assume that Toshi is saying something kind or heartfelt.
- Russia Takes Over the World: In "The Most Adequate Christmas Ever", Stan goes back in time believing that killing Jane Fonda will prevent the liberalization of the holiday season. When Stan came back to the present, he found that his efforts caused Ronald Reagan to lose the presidential election to Walter Mondale, who just "gave" America to the Soviets.
- Sadist Show:
- While not quite as prominent an example as Seth's other shows, there's some frequent Black Comedy and the majority of the cast are less than morally sound to say the least.
- An in-universe example is shown in "Morning Mimosa" with the titular Show Within a Show. The entire show is dedicated to humiliating its guests on live TV, with the hosts even going so far as to get their entire audience drunk on mimosas and provoke them into physically attacking said guests. Not even kids like Steve are safe.
- Samurai: Toshi becomes one for Halloween and tries to kill Steve for not bringing his sister home in time. He then quickly kills five armed escaped serial killers proving Katanas Are Just Better.
- Sanity Slippage: Stan suffers from this once his neighbors and family made fun of him in "I Can't Stan You".
- Sapient Cetaceans: The show portrayed a program that both trained dolphins to help on missions and taught humans to speak dolphin, but it turns out all they want to do is talk about fish. Even after the titular CIA agent's son is rescued by them at the end of the episode he just ends up getting pissed off because the dolphins won't shut up about mackerel.
- Say My Name: Exasperatedly shouting Roger's name whenever he screws something up (add "what the hell?!" when he's a Jerk Ass for no reason) seems to be the entire family's Catch Phrase.
- Scandalgate: Parodied in the the episode title "Surro-Gate".
- Scenery Censor: In G-String Circus, Stan covers up the strippers nudity just so that we won't see it.
- Schoolyard Bully All Grown Up: Stelio! Stelio Kontos!
- Screaming at Squick: Stan after he learns that Hayley was sleeping with Bullock.
- Screw the Electric Bill!: Lampshaded in some of the audio commentaries of the DVDs, where members of the production staff complain about a table lamp that seems to be left on permanently during the day. Remember, this is an animated show we're talking about.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
I was depending on that money! I can't go back to work now, I took a deuce on my desk! *rips off his suit and flips everyone off* FUUUUUUUCK! Y'ALL!
- In the episode "Live and Let Fry", Deputy Director Bullock walks in on Stan eating his lunch in the bathroom:Bullock: [bursts through the door of Stan's bathroom stall, where he finds Stan sitting on the toilet with a fork in his hand] Why do you have a fork?
Stan: ... it's not a pretty story, sir.
Bullock: Withdrawn. [leaves stall]
- Principal Lewis was depending on the 50 grand reward money for finding Haley when she ran away to get married to Jeff. When he finds out that the reward has been claimed, he leaves with this line.
- In the episode "Francine's Flashback", Steve needs a wingman so he can hook up with a hot classmate, and uses Roger.Lindsey: Hey, Steve. Is this your friend?
Steve: Yeah. This is Roger.
Lindsey: And this is Jewel.
Jewel: [to Roger] Your date. [smiles]
Roger: Oh, God! OH, GOD! I'm out! I'm out! Oh! Ewwwwwwww!
- In "Naked to the Limit, One More Time", Steve becomes self-conscious about his flat butt, and Francine offers to help. As she's shoving hams in the back of his pants, Stan walks into the room, sees what's happening, and immediately walks back out.
- In the episode "Live and Let Fry", Deputy Director Bullock walks in on Stan eating his lunch in the bathroom:
- Sdrawkcab Name:
- In "Dungeons and Wagons", Steve's friends get tired of him lording his stronger MMORPG character over them, and learn that they can kill him instantly just by saying his name backwards.
- Later that same episode, Hayley and Jeff go on a quest to find a way to bring Steve's character back. They arrive at Castle Roodpart. Hayley initially assumes it's just the developers making a crude joke and Jeff starts musing if it's explained in the World Building, only for Hayley to interrupt: "Crap, it's 'trapdoor' spelled backwards." No points for guessing what happens next.
- Seamless Spontaneous Lie: Roger frequently manages to utilise one of these (given his multiple dress up personas, he is likely come to be accustomed to it).
- Second Place Is for Losers: Zigzagged in one episode where Stan is happy that Francine was the homecoming queen at her school, where she only won by one vote. The classmate who lost by one vote had become so upset that she left the prom to eat, becoming fat and miserable over the years as a result. But at the high school reunion, the ballot box for voting was among the items in a time capsule, and two uncounted votes for the other classmate are found in it, meaning that the other classmate is the true winner. Francine is okay with this and happily gives her the homecoming queen tiara, while Stan is now unhappy with the discovery that he technically didn't marry the homecoming queen, and later goes to the reunion with the true winner as his date.
- Secret Test of Character:
- Francine attempts one in "Shallow Vows", and it backfires spectacularly. When Stan says that they married for looks, she stops doing her daily exercise and beauty regimens for the two weeks before their vow renewal ceremony, and show up overweight, hairy, and gap-toothed, causing Stan to flee. Stan tells Klaus that he does love Francine but can't get past her appearance, so he has the CIA detach his retinas so he can be with her again. Things are great for a while (he becomes much more attentive and considerate), but Francine admits that she can't get over the blindness and accepts that she's just as shallow as Stan, so they both go back to normal at the end of the episode.
- Parodied in Bullocks to Stan. Bullock dates Hayley and puts Stan through hell; when Stan finally snaps and nearly kills him, Bullock congratulates Stan and says that the whole ordeal was a test he was putting him through to see if Stan would stand up to him. However, it is clear from the context that the whole "test" explanation is a face- and life-saving lie.Avery: My only regret is that I didn't get to jump through this pane of break-away glass! *Running leap! Smack! Avery pulls out his gun and shoots the glass a few times, then manages to jump through it.*
- Self-Abuse: in one episode. Stan shows his son, Steve, an admittedly hilarious anti-masturbation propaganda film that ends with a boy screaming "NOOOOO!" as he's growing hair on his palms and his eyes melting out. The kid turns up (in a deleted scene) later in Stan's head and says something along the lines of "It was worth it."
- Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:
- Principal Lewis crashes into Stan's SUV and claims that it wasn't his fault because he was texting. Stan then gets a text from Principal Lewis that says "Imma crash into U".
- In "Vision: Impossible", Hayley's pet raccoon Cuddles somehow gains Roger's ability to see the future. He sees himself dead, being buried in the Smiths' backyard, and flees the house in fear. When he does, he runs into a loose electrical wire, and the shock kills him. This leads to, you guessed it, his body being buried in the Smiths' backyard.
- Self Plagiarism: Frequently accused of being this to Family Guy, mostly thanks to the near-identical premise and animation style.
- Self-Serving Memory:
- A flashback-less example occurs in the episode "Family Affair". Roger once explains that the reason for his lack of commitment to the Smith family is due to being abandoned by his initial adoptive family. When we finally meet said family, it is revealed their abandonment was in fact due to Roger's already established obnoxious and abusive treatment of them. Just for good measure, he is also hinted at having a crush on their son now that he's teen aged.
- Another example without a flashback comes up in "Now and Gwen". When Francine's adoptive sister Gwen comes to visit, she forces Francine to help her commit various crimes, including running a sweatshop in the Smith's garage and selling human organs to shady buyers. Hayley finally gets tired of it and kicks Gwen out, knowing that Francine won't do it. Below is (first) the actual conversation between Gwen and Hayley, and (second) Hayley's retelling of the incident to Francine:Hayley: Gwen, I am sick of this, and so is my mom. She has spent her whole life helping you, and you have never once done anything for her.
Gwen: She told you that?
Hayley: Yeah, she's just too nice to tell you. So it's time for you to go.
Gwen: Fine, I'm gone. But you tell your mom that someday she'll understand how I felt all these years. Some day soon. Some day today.
Francine: Where's Gwen?
Hayley: Gone. I knew you couldn't do it, so I kicked her out.
Francine: How did she react to that?
Hayley: It was hard to know what she was reacting to 'cause I was opening up both barrels on her! You know, I was like, "Never come back or you're gonna get a face full of knuckles!" And then she whined like a little bitch. [high-pitched] "Maybe one day your mom will see how I feel. Maybe today." [normal voice] She wasn't making any sense. [smugly] Probably because she was so scared.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Son/father example with Steve and Stan.
- Series Continuity Error: Happens a lot but can be dismissed with the Rule of Funny.
- In "42-Year-Old Virgin", Stan claims to have never killed anyone. But "Stan of Arabia" he breaks Jay Leno's neck; he kills Jackson's double at the beginning of "It's Good to Be Queen"; he accidentally disintegrates one of his co-workers in "I Can't Stan You"; in "An Apocalypse to Remember", Stan shoots down someone who was hang gliding; in "Con Heir" he shoots a painter. In the initial sequence for this joke, the funny background events show that he has never personally killed people (ie pulled the trigger on a gun) however he has been responsible for the deaths of others through accidents or what have you.
- However, the episode "Haylias" ends with Stan having suffered evident selective memory loss, which could explain his assertion that he has never killed anyone.
- Another possibility is that Stan has never killed anyone he was assigned to kill, only erroneous or accidental targets.
- Also the first season develops Roger's experience with the outside world and learning to use disguise. Later episodes feature flashbacks that show Roger has utilized costumes to live a plausible social life since the fifties.
- Also, Roger doesn't know what happened to Stan's skating partner in "Of Ice and Men", but he learned all of Stan's memories in "Roger 'N' Me".
- Or he just doesn't care, which is par for his character.
- In the pilot episode, Roger (after getting sneezed on) says he's supposed to bring pneumonia back to his planet, but in the second episode, Roger claims that his species is immune to all human ailments (except for an unexplained cold sore). On top of that, "Weiner of Our Discontent" reveals that Roger was the crash test dummy for a new model spaceship and possibly died upon impact, meaning that his planet doesn't want him back.
- He was being sarcastic saying he was bringing back pneumonia, and was probably lying about his immunity.
- In an episode where Stan is putting together a DeLorean, he says that he doesn't like time travel movies, so much so that he has never even heard of Back to the Future and built the DeLorean so he can model his life after John DeLorean. In another episode, where he actually travels back in time and he tries to explain time travel to his past self, they both conclude that it would be easier to just say that it was like Back to the Future.
- "Every Which Way But Lose" shows that Stan has never lost at anything before. Prior episodes (such as the skating flashback in "Of Ice and Men") say otherwise, and he didn't kill himself over it in "Of Ice and Men" either.
- On the episode "Stan's Best Friend," Stan bars Steve from adopting a dog because his mom forced him to shoot his dog because he thought the dog was dying, yet, as Francine mentioned, the Smiths had two dogs before: the 19-year-old (133 in human years) walking corpse Stan shot in the pilot episode and the cutesy dog named Fussy on "Not Particularly Desperate Housewives". Stan dismisses Francine's claim as dreams.
- Series Fauxnale: The first episode of season seven, "Hot Water", was made when the producers were afraid the show wouldn't be renewed, and intended it to be the finale. Since the show was renewed, they decided to make it a season premiere that was non-canon.
- Serious Business: In one episode, Stan is going for jury duty and asks Francine to manage his fantasy basketball team. After they have a minor quibble over his line-up, he says "You know what, just have Steve do it." When he gets back, Francine tells him that Steve only understood the "fantasy" part and tried to add three griffins and an ogre. Stan grumbles "Fucking nerd," and later Francine tells Steve that his actions have made the family weaker as a unit.
- Sex Equals Love:
Francine: It wasn't making love. It was sex! Mechanical, degrading, pulling-gravel-from-my-knees sex! It meant nothing!
- In "When a Stan Loves a Woman", Francine argues that her past averts this trope, and that her former extreme promiscuity doesn't mean she loves Stan any less. She goes as far as to have Stan find another woman to have sex with so that he can see that she's right. Unfortunately, Stan ends up playing this trope straight.
- Two different women (kinda... one was an alien) become attached to Roger because he had sex with them, much to his displeasure.
- Sexy Santa Dress: Two teenage orphan girls were forced to wear them when Steve and Roger were using orphans as slave labor.
- Sexy Shirt Switch:
- Roger wakes up wearing Stan's shirt in "Roger 'N' Me"
- The episode "Hurricane!" features Roger's one-night-stand partner wearing his sweatshirt after sex (and refusing to give it back)
- Also happens with Bullock and Hayley in "Bullocks to Stan", with Hayley wearing Bullock's clothes as well as vice versa in a later scene.
- In "Jenny Fromdabloc", Roger comes home from spending time with Snot, and he's wearing the sleeveless denim jacket Snot is always seen in.
- Sexy Stewardess: A group of these feature prominently in the episode "Introducing The Naughty Stewardesses".
- Sexy Whatever Outfit: In an Halloween Episode, Francine complained about this very trope and Stan assured her she could defy it by wearing a non-sexy nun outfit. She does, only to find that the "Cowardly Lion" outfit Stan is wearing is actually a "Sexy Lion" outfit - complete with fishnet hose instead of pants.
- Shaggy Dog Story:
- The subplot for "Gorillas in the Mist" of Roger's journey to get the country life experience so he could write a genuine country song. He married the first white trash redneck he met, found out she had three kids, a trailer car and no macchiato, so he left immediately. Then she tracked him down and forced him to come back with a shotgun. After a while of living a life of fear, he pretended to be abused, sent his wife to jail, and found out that her kids would all be sent to a foster home, where they would likely never see each other again, if they even found new foster parents. Also, their dog got run over by a police car. Then he sees a really ugly woman, and just wrote his country song about how ugly she was.
- "Spelling Bee My Baby" has Steve once again trying to hook up with Akiko. He succeeds... Only for the aforementioned to disappear from the show with no explanation after this episode and have Steve being single ever since.
- Shaggy Frog Story: From "White Rice":Francine: Are you sure about all this?
Roger: Remember when Rudy from The Cosby Show got old and stopped being cute? I brought them Raven-Symone! Saw her on a Philadephia playground and knew she was a star, snatched her right up! Six months later, her parents saw her on TV and realized she was still alive... did some time for that. So, you ask, am I sure about this? I dunno.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Hayley of all people in "Every Which Way But Lose" where it's revealed in the subplot for that episode that she's a very competent professional baker who goes under the name of Carlotta Monterrey!
- Sheet of Glass: Subverted, mocked, roughed up and down thoroughly in one single scene in "The Wrestler". Two workers carrying the sheet decide to hold it horizontally instead of vertically, so that nobody crashes through it. Then someone runs into it anyway and gets bifurcated down the waist. Then a legless man takes the severed legs and puts them on himself.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Played for laughs in S4 Ep 01, "In Country... Club", where Steve develops PTSD after participating in a Vietnam War reenactment.
- Shout-Out: Has its own page.
- Show Some Leg: Francine is a practiced expert at this. In the episode "My Morning Straitjacket", to help Stan get backstage to meet the lead singer of My Morning Jacket, she pulls this against several security staff, including flashing her breasts and making out with another woman.
- She attempts it (and fails) in another episode, trying to get something out of some CIA agents. Lowering the straps of her dress doesn't work, giving him her panties (taken off right in front of him) doesn't work, but the second she mentions her brownies his partner charges over in a Humongous Mecha and takes them. "He makes it hard to negotiate," the first scientist remarks.
- Shown Their Work: In "Red October Sky," Roger and Klaus get lost in the Alps while trying to find Winterthur and instead go to Schaffhausen. Both are real neighboring towns in Switzerland.
- Side-Effects Include...: Featured in the fake medical commercial for crack in A Jones for a Smith.
- Single-Episode Handicap: In "Stannie Get Your Gun", Stan is shot in the spine and becomes a quadriplegic. At the end of the episode, he gets shot again and the second bullet pushes the first one out.
- Single Mom Stripper: Parodied when Steve distracts some strippers by telling them their kids that they left in their cars has gotten into their stash. Naturally, every one of them runs off.
- Sitcom Archnemesis: Chuck White is this to Stan in "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man".
- Skewed Priorities: Implemented a fair few times for laughs:
- In "Great Space Roaster" when attacked by a murderous Roger, Stan is self-preservational enough to ditch his family and run to the only escape pod, before heading back for fresh underwear.
- In "Bullocks To Stan" Francine is outraged at Hayley dating an elderly man, but is encouraging towards her dating an overbearing (and potentially abusive) boy of the same age.
- Skyward Scream: "Why, crow, WHY?!"
- Soap Box Sadie: Hayley, even in the later episodes when she actually has a role.
- And of course, Stan literally gets up on a soap box in Camp Refoogee and preaches about America's ignorance of Africa's strife.
- SoCalization: At least two episodes feature characters buying Chocodiles at the store. Since the mid-90s, Chocodiles have only been available on the West Coast (the show is set in Virginia).
- The Sociopath:
- In a Season 6 episode, Roger acknowledges that he is one.
- All of the Smiths have shades of this Depending on the Writer. Most notably all of them have murdered someone in cold blood.
- Solid Gold Poop: Roger's solid-gold, diamond-encrusted turd.
- Something Completely Different: American Dad has a lot of episodes that go outside the normal family sitcom mold (moreso than Family Guy). Some examples include:
- Tearjerker and For Black Eyes Only, full episode James Bond parodies
- Rapture's Delight, a post-apocalyptic Christmas episode.
- Hot Water, a Musical Episode featuring a murderous hot tub played by Cee Lo Green originally written as the last episode of the series due to worries that FOX may cancel it without a proper ending.
- Blood Crieth Unto Heaven, an episode set up as a parody of the play August: Osage County, featuring a live-action appearance by the voice of Avery Bullock himself, Patrick Stewart.
- Lost in Space, a space adventure featuring Jeff Fischer (while the rest of the main cast are either not there or only appear in flashbacks).
- Of Ice and Men: Told Princess Bride-style as a fairy tale by a human Klaus years after he spent life as a goldfish.
- "Steve and Snot's Test-Tubular Adventure" to an extent. The third act becomes an homage to Blade Runner with a prom that decorated to look like the dystopian future depicted in the movie and Stan putting on a coat like the one Rick Deckhart wore and chasing and killing clones.
- "Rubberneckers", another Musical Episode
- "Minstrel Krampus": A musical Christmas fantasy episode
- "Introducing the Naughty Stewardesses": The B-story is pretty much a whole episode parody of Charlie's Angels.
- "Familyland": A Hunger Games-meets-Game Of Thrones-style fantasy story that's one big Take That! against Walt Disney, his cartoons, and his theme parks.
- "Blagsnarst, A Love Story": Focuses on Roger mostly and is revealed at the end to be Stan reading the family a story about how Kim Kardashian was born.
- SORAS: Toshi's little sister, Akiko, was depicted as an 8-year-old in her first appearance ("American Dream Factory"). Two seasons later, she's shown as being around the same age as Steve and Toshi in her next appearance ("Weiner of Our Discontent").
- Left the Background Music On: When Francine gets mixed up with a secret society of housewives known as the Ladybugs, she's introduced to an asian member who has an oriental theme play whenever she enters the scene. When she becomes enticed by Francine's involvements that lead her to become a member of their society, she gives a long smile and just freezes for a minute while the music plays. Francine begins to check her watch, wondering when the music will finally end. Said music also plays when she farts.
- Spiritual Successor: After people got over the "It's a Family Guy knockoff" phase, it's generally been agreed upon by fans to be the spiritual successor to the older episodes of Family Guy in terms of writing quality, character development, and storyline depth (in the days before it started pandering to the Lowest Common Denominator). According to Seth MacFarlane, American Dad! is actually supposed to be the spiritual successor to All in the Family (even though All In The Family already has one in the form of the short-lived animated sitcom Wait Till Your Father Gets Home, though, these days, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home is seen as either a dry-run version of The Simpsons or a dry-run version of Family Guy, sans the flashback and cutaway humor, with some character dynamics of King of the Hill in its early days).
- Split Personality: Roger develops one in The One That Got Away.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Steve and Roger. Compare the first season to the more recent ones and you'll notice that those two have been getting more and more focus over the years. Though unlike Family Guy, the writers have still been able to maintain a healthy balance between the cast.
- Stacy's Mom: Snot appears to have at least a small crush on Francine ever since the Season-6 episode "Moon Over Isla Island". While acting out a scene from The Little Mermaid, Snot appears to be drowning, and Francine jumps in to save him, giving him a face full of her cleavage in the process. Snot proceeds to gloat about it at school. Also, in the episode "The Adventures of Twill Ongenbone And His Boy Jabari", Francine moons Steve in their kitchen to prove to him that she does not have a tattoo on her butt that reads "I hate Steve". Snot watches the incident from outside, through the window:Snot: [smiling] Uh... the bus is here?
Steve: Get outta here, Snot!
Snot: [quickly leaves the scene, still smiling]
- Staging an Intervention: Parodied when Steve becomes addicted to an energy drink, and ultimately starts conning his friends out of money to pay for it. They appear in his room to talk, Steve is touched they want to stage an intervention after all the things he done, but in fact they're just there to violently confront him for cheating them.
- Status Quo Is God:
- Taken to such ridiculous extremes that the show is practically parodying this trope. To cite one example: In "Stannie Get Your Gun", Hayley unintentionally shoots Stan and paralyzes him; later in the episode, Stan is shot again, and the second bullet fixes his condition by dislodging the first bullet.
- To the point that when Stan dies and gets raptured, he gets his own personal heaven...an eternity with his family. This is possibly the one show to take it as far as it possibly can.
- Some instances are incredibly blatant, without even an attempt at an explanation or so much as a Hand Wave. Jeff's van, Stan's SUV, and Francine's car have all been destroyed on different occasions. Stan has lost a finger in at least two episodes, the Smith house gets obliterated more than once throughout the series, and in "Rubberneckers", the episode ends with Stan being sentenced to six years in prison for a crime he clearly committed in the episode. In all the aforementioned instances, everything is inexplicably back to normal in the following episode.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Stan is often shown as having chauvinistic attitudes towards women, which is why he's so frequently at odds with Hayley, why he loved being transferred to Saudi Arabia in "Stan of Arabia", and why he loves Francine so much, as this is her fate, which often leads to a breakout episode/moment for her character, much to Stan's dismay.
- Stealth Pun: The Whole Plot Reference to What's Eating Gilbert Grape in "Irrigarding Steve": it's an abridged version of the story, as reenacted by squirrels. So it's Gilbert Grape "in a nutshell."
- Stop Being Stereotypical:
- In the Halloween episode, Toshi's mother got him a Samurai costume to "respect his heritage". He refuses to wear it, shouting "I will not be a cliché!" He ends up donning the costume to hunt Steve down for breaking a promise to bring Toshi's sister home by sunset.
- Inverted in "Big Trouble in Little Langley". When Baba tells Stan that Gwen is "a moron", pointing to the fact that she failed math as evidence ("Imagine Chinese girl can't do math"), Stan comments "It's embarrassing when children don't adhere to stereotypes."
- Stopped Reading Too Soon: A guy stopped reading Carrie, literally in the middle of a sentence. Thus, he dropped pigs from the ceiling onto Stan at the prom instead of pigs' blood.
- Straw Character: American Dad is a particularly notorious example of this. Stan Smith is repeatedly presented as in the wrong with many episodes giving him attributes he’s never shown before, such as being bad with money, or having a wandering eye.
- Strawman Political:
- Anything vaguely political is usually guilty of this, but in a good way.
- Some episode are worse than others. In one episode, Stan sees some example of a Democrat welfare program from Obama, which he says is bad because throwing money at everyone will make them lazy. Roger them substantiates this point, by mentioning he and his adopted babies are abusing welfare and being lazy. Obvious point, it's wasteful for people to take taxed money they don't need. Stan then decides this means helping people in any way is evil. The episode spends the next 30 minutes showing how stupid this is and it is highly frustrating seeing Stan continually lose all common sense and almost let his daughter die over an obviously wrong principle that Republicans don't actually believe. At no point are any successful government welfare programs mentioned after the initial bad example, so, though this clearly wasn't their intention, Obama loses this round
- Still, the show is considerably more balanced and bipartisan with its humor than Family Guy.
- Strictly Formula: The vast majority of episodes of the show, particularly in later seasons, revolve around Stan doing something callous to a family member (usually in some ill devised attempt to improve their lives after observing some supposed defect about them) and, after causing an escalating amount of chaos in his stubborn goals, eventually learning a lesson about being more considerate and tolerant. On rarer occasions another Smith member gets an Aesop, usually Steve revolving around his own formula of gaining popularity or impressing a girl.
Klaus: You pick some boring case, you bicker, then you solve it. The solution usually being that Roger is the culprit.
- All of the "Wheels and the Legman" plots go like this:
- Suicide Dare: Roger briefly implied Steve had to kill himself after unknowingly pleasuring himself with a nude painting of Hayley.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Comes up often.
Francine: Has your boss called to offer you your job back yet?Stan: Nope, he didn't call me an hour ago. Or maybe it wasn't more like an hour and a half ago.
- In "Stan Of Arabia: Part 2":
Steve: I went online and found out there's a cure for Ich. You can buy it at any pet store.
- "Oedipal Panties" has:
Klaus: A cure! Hooray! I had no idea. That is something of which I am just now learning.
Steve: Oh, my God. You knew.
Klaus: What? That— that's crazy! Why would I infect you and not tell you there's a cure? So— so your friends would shun you and you'd be forced to come home early and spend time with me for a change? How absurd! Listen to how crazy absurd you sound!
Francine: [after Linda passionately makes out with her in front of the Ladybugs] And that fake lesbian kiss? What a great idea!
- Inverted in the episode "Not Particularly Desperate Housewives":
Linda: Fake? Oh, yeah. Of course. Fake.
[Stan enters scene]
Linda: Oh, there's your husband. I better get home to my husband, because I love him, and I'm so sexually attracted to him! [nervous laugh] Oh yeah! He's got the good stuff! [walks away awkwardly]
Driver: Sorry! I'm not trying to kill you. I'm just a drunk driver.
- Also inverted and combined with Bait and Switch in "Black Mystery Month", when Steve learned of a conspiracy and was warned that he was being watched, followed by a car ramming into the telephone booth moments after Steve leaped out:
- In "Can I Be Frank With You?", Francine disguises herself as a man to infiltrate the CIA's "chill zone" (where the agents hang out together outside of work). She tells the other guys that "As a man and not a woman, I feel really comfortable here."
- "Poltergasm" sees the ghost of Francine's repressed sex drive manifesting in the Smith house. When Steve, Roger, and Francine tell him about it, Stan nervously proclaims "Please... as if a pizza guy has ever been murdered here and buried under the foundation. But nobody's gone to the cops, right?"
- In "Rubbernecking", Stan learns the titular "art" of checking out attractive women without being noticed. When he sees a good-looking female jogger while driving, he has this monologue with himself while taking pictures on his phone:Stan: Not doing anything wrong. Just looking for a signal. Definitely not zooming in to see if you're wearing underpants.
- "Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas": When Stan wishes away his family on Christmas, he goes through an entire lesson-learning process that compels the powers that be to give him his family back. His original family. The one he wished away long ago, before the series even started. Stan is confused when his wife, Mary, and their kids greet him:Stan: Yes, son and... sister of son. It's not weird that I'm your father.
- Throughout the series, Stan shows flashes of paranoia about the CIA finding out that he's harboring an alien. The episode "The Scarlett Getter" opens as such:Bullock: As you all know, there has been an alien on the loose for quite some time now.Stan: I've checked my house! He's not in my house!
- From "Now and Gwen":Gwen: [about Roger] Seriously, who is this guy?!
Francine: [nervously] He lives in the attic. He's human.
- The opening of the episode "A Star is Reborn", featuring "Rockin' Ronnie" on his radio show:Ronnie: Alright, I've got a six-day, five-night Hollywood getaway for two and it's going out to our tenth caller. Caller 10, holla at ya boy!
Caller: Oh, my God, I'm the tenth caller? [static]
Stan: Hello, this is Stan Smith, caller 10. Not that man.
Caller: No, wait! Wait, wait, I'm caller 10!
Stan: Rockin' Ronnie, is he implying I used CIA technology to hack into the phone lines and win these tickets?
- Swapped Roles: The focus of S1 Ep 17, "Rough Trade". Stan is under house arrest for DUI (thanks to Roger) so Roger gets a job at a car dealership while Stan stays home and drinks while watching TV.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Victor/B8 from Boyz 12 the boy band that Steve, Snot, Toshi, and Barry join in "Can I Be Frank (With You)".
- Take That!:
- Took a shot at its own sister show in one episode, showing how unnatural the setups for Family Guy's cutaway gags would sound in context:Roger: (responding to an odd statement made by Francine) Well, that was about as obvious as the setup for the sequel at the end of Batman Begins.
Stan: What are you talking about?
Roger: You know, when Inspector Gordon gives him that Joker playing card?
Stan: Well, what does that have to do with Francine?
Roger: What about her?
Stan: You sounded like you were going to say something important about Francine.
Roger: Ummm... no. Nope, don't think so.
Stan: Oh... okay.
- One episode involves Roger dressing up as a girl and tricking Snot into thinking they're having sex. He does this by substituting a stress ball with a hole in it. After the ball has been violated multiple times throughout the episode, we learn that it's a promotional item for Sons of Tuscon, a sitcom that replaced American Dad on the Fox schedule in 2010. The writers add insult to injury by having Roger remark that he doesn't remember Sons of Tuscon at all, a reference to the fact that the show was canceled after only a month. Don't mess with American Dad's time slot.
As a final bit of rubbing in, there's a scene where Roger puts the "used" stress ball in the dishwasher, then walks away while whistling the American Dad theme song.
- When Roger and Stan go visit a Horse Whisperer, there are nothing but pictures of famous horses who he has spoken with in the past adorning his office walls, including an autographed picture of Hillary Swank.
- One episode has Steve receive a bunch of fireworks from Francine's parents and lights one off in the house, prompting the following line from Francine's dad:Baba: This one is called The English Patient: It looks beautiful, but takes a long time for an unsatisfying payoff.
- In "American Stepdad", Steve and his friends find the lost screenplay for Fast and Furious 7 and, reading through it, discover massive amounts of homo-eroticism. After then cutting the script to eight pages to remove all gay undertones, they hand it in to a producer, only to be told it's a fake as it lacks all the gay sex scenes and undertones that they usually have to edit out.
- At least two episodes feature a shot at Nicolas Cage's acting skill:
- From "Son of Stan", in which Stan clones Steve so that he and Francine can compete on who can raise a child better:Stan: Steve, your mother will be raising you, which, unfortunately, means that your life will suck worse than Nicolas Cage in Ghost Rider.
- From "Hurricane!":Klaus: Look, Stan... everyone makes bad decisions, but it's a numbers game. Eventually, you're bound to make the right call.
Stan: I am?
Klaus: Sure. Look at Nicolas Cage. He made many horrible movies. Snake Eyes, 8mm, Gone In Sixty Seconds, Captain Corelli's Mandolin, Windtalkers... [takes a breath] Ghost Rider, Family Man, Weather Man, Wicker Man, Bangkok Dangerous... but then he nailed it, Stan, with National Treasure 2, the greatest movie of all time!
- From "Son of Stan", in which Stan clones Steve so that he and Francine can compete on who can raise a child better:
- In the episode "One Little Word", Stan is ordered by Bullock to provide cigarettes to Bullock's mistress, Coco, at a lakeside cabin.Coco: I'm bored. Get me a movie. [...] Something with Matthew Perry.
Stan: Got it. Fools Rush In.
Coco: Something good.
Stan: Got it. Nothing.
- Sometimes, the shots are as blatant and as obvious as they could possibly be. In the episode "Stan's Night Out", Francine implores Stan to go out and have fun with his friends, assuring him that she can entertain herself. She decides to write a song, comes up with the melody, and then thinks on it:Francine: Who could sing this...? [happily] Avril Lavigne! She sucks!
- Took a shot at its own sister show in one episode, showing how unnatural the setups for Family Guy's cutaway gags would sound in context:
- Taking You with Me: When Principal Lewis loses his job, his house, and all his friends thanks to Roger's meddling as a legal guardian, Lewis decides to take Steve to Arizona... to die together in suicide by driving off the Grand Canyon.
- The Talk: "You see, Steve, when a man and a woman are in love (or very drunk), they..."
- Talking in Your Sleep: At least twice. From "A Star Is Reborn" and "May The Best Stan Win" respectively:Stan: Thank you for electing me the mayor of Circuit City... I will not disappoint you...
Francine: Marinate it with the marinade... that's not enough marinade... that's too much marinade...
- Talking Is a Free Action: Stan lampshades this. He coaches Roger to finally beat Barry so he doesn't lose his high school wrestling record. Barry had Roger pinned and the referee counted to two. Stan told him to start using his incredibly powerful legs and to escape before the referee politely waits for their conversation to be over before he counts to three.
- A Taste of Defeat: In "Every Which Way But Lose", Stan's football team loses due to some intervening from Steve and Roger. The taste proves very bitter...
- Teens Are Monsters: The Flashback Cut portrayal of puberty for the Smith family children in 1600 Candles. Steve had done some questionable things before too - he completely loses it when he grows Gag Boobs in "Helping Handis" and pushes a bookcase onto his wheelchair-bound father in "Stannie Get Your Gun".
- Teens Are Short: The "nerdy" teens at least, as well as Hayley and Jeff (who are college aged). Steve, his friends, and other nerdy students are all only about up to the chests of the adults, appearing to be barely 5 feet tall; the shortest of them, Toshi, seems to only be about 4 feet tall. This is especially strange for Steve and Hayley in particular; both Francine and Stan are clearly rather tall, so you'd think their two kids would be tall as well. This trope is averted, however, when it comes to other teens who are all about as tall as the adults.
- Temporary Bulk Change:
- After discovering that Roger's milk tastes good in a salad, can be produced in greater amounts when Roger eats during his mating cycle, and needing said milk for a church event, Stan and Francine tie Roger down to a machine where he is force-fed food all day and lactates his milk because of it. Predictably, Roger becomes very fat from all the force-feeding and his bulk eventually breaks the machine. He spontaneously drops all of the excess weight a few scenes later.
- Francine herself also gains weight after letting herself go when she tests Stan's true love for her. Naturally, Stan is repulsed by Francine's horrible appearance and she drops the weight by the end of the episode.
- Tempting Fate: In Finances With Wolves, when Greg and Terry are in their yard:Greg: Well, another successful trip to Brad's Cactus Shack!
Terry: Can you believe they were giving away razor blades?
Greg: I'll just turn on our new lemon juice waterfall!
[Stan hits the cacti, bounces off of the razor blade pile and then lands in the lemon juice fountain]
- That Didn't Happen: Stan and Roger have a one-sided version of this in Roger 'N' Me; Roger wants to tell about how he and Stan "became best buddies", but Stan doesn't.
- That Makes Me Feel Angry: Apparently, anger is the only emotion Stan is capable of expressing.
- The Complainer Is Always Wrong: The basic premise of the show has become that Stan is always wrong not matter what, and like a certain fire wielding Planeteer even when the aesope is subverted Stan is still presented as in the wrong. In fact this trope is the main reason for Stan’s Badass Decay because in many episodes in order for Stan to be in the wrong he will have to either inexplicably gain a new flaw or lose a prominent skill. For example being good with money has always been a prominent skill of Stan’s it has even been a plot point in numerous episodes such as “Man in the Moonbounce” and “A.Y. the Abusive Terrestrial” however this is all lost in “Less Money, Mo Problems”.
- This trope is most prominent (to the point of taking it to the most ludicrous degree) anytime Stan has to deal his family. When his father is first introduced Stan is treated as an idiot for trusting the man. But when Jack was introduce a second time Stan was treated as irredeemable for not instantly forgiving him. He is treated as Drill Sergeant Nasty when it comes to disciplining his kids yet anytime he spend even five minutes for himself he’s treated as selfish and neglectful. Not to mention he has to repeatedly give up his dreams simply because his family can’t be bothered to do anything for themselves. His relationship with his mother is depicted as incredibly freaky and he is a jerkass for making Francine have to deal with it. At the same time he is a jerkass for not wanting to deal with her parents
- The End... Or Is It?: Spoofed in Tearjerker. The last shot is of a volcano, and as "THE END" is displayed, the title character's hand comes out of the crater and a question mark appears. A few seconds later, he falls back into the volcano and the question mark disappears.
- Happens at the end of the sequel, For Black Eyes Only, where Tearjerker wakes up on a beach, still impaled by a marlin. Just as he begins to crawl away, "To be continued..." appears on screen, but then the fish and Tearjerker are dragged away by an orca whale into the sea, and the message changes to "Scratch that."
- Theme Music Powerup: Not that he needed it, but Stelio Kantos beats up Stan while a nearby stereo plays the Ominous Latinchanting of his name in the background. He hits the Stop button when Steve motions to him that his job was done.
- There's No Kill Like Overkill: When Stan tries to set up Principal Lewis with a wife and get him to settle down, Lewis brings up his old prison bitch Tracy in a conversation. When setting up his wedding, Stan reintroduces Tracy, and Tracy reveals that he's already married to Lewis, according to prison rules. Stan tries to handle the situation by taking Tracy to Lewis' home one night, then shooting him in the back. He takes the body to a cliff and throws it off the edge, then drives down and runs it over back and forth repeatedly, then letting an alligator eat the corpse, then shooting the gator and making a gatorskin handbag out of it. Too bad for Stan, that Tracy survived the whole ordeal.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Used by Roger a lot.
- Also used once by Klaus: "Fabulous Thunderbirds, bitches!".
- Tickertape Parade: Roger threw himself a ticker tape parade because a deli named a sandwich after him.
- Time Travel: In '"May The Best Stan Win" a Cyborg version of Stan from a thousand years in the future travels back in time to woo Francine.
- In "Fartbreak Hotel" Steve falls in love with a painting of a girl by Patrick Nagel and travels back to 1981 using the same method Christopher Reeve used in Somewhere in Time to find her. He soon discovers to his horror that Nagel drugged him and painted him nude and that he is the girl in the painting! Later in the episode Francine takes a new identity and becomes a successful businesswoman ten years in the future but she is unhappy and misses her family. She travels to the past like Steve and warns her younger self not to leave them.
- In the first Christmas episode, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Stan back to the 1970s where he gets Martin Scorsese to give up drugs, leading to America being taken over by the Soviet Union. The only way to get things back to normal is for Stan to go back to the 80's and shoot Ronald Reagan.
- In "The Kidney Stays in the Picture" Hayley's kidneys fail and Francine reveals that Stan might not be a match for a proper transplant since she cheated on him back in the 90s, so they time-travel to get the kidney of the guy who might match.
- Title Drop:
- In "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", Stan introduces himself as such while running for the vacant church deacon position.
- Stan declares himself "Stan of Arabia" in the episode of the same title.
- The plot of "Tears of a Clooney" centers around Francine's attempts to break George Clooney's heart, with the operation given the same name as the episode.
- Token Minority: Greg and Terry, the local gay couple. Their token-ness is blatantly poked fun of in various episodes.Terry: Why are we always holding hands?Greg: How else will everyone know we're gay?
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: Daughter/mother example with Hayley and Francine.
- Tonight, Someone Dies
- The 100th episode, "100 A.D." The episode starts off with a message that says 100 characters will die. The final body count: 1 dog, 98 one shot characters from previous episode (96 of them killed in the same bus crash) and the manager of a motel that appeared earlier in the episode.
- Except Agent Duper, who was a recurring character earlier, suddenly killed and is brought back as a clone directly after "100 A.D." to set up the premise of the episode.
- Too Dumb to Live:
- Stan frequently. Also a case of Status Quo Is God, since his mistakes are rarely brought up again. Also worth noting Stan is quite capable physically and (most of the time) mentally, but could be charitably called inept when it comes to his family.
- Steve is also this way at times. This is especially zigzagged in the episode "Killer Vacation" where he openly criticizes and deconstructs Liam's idiotic decisions, but still goes along with them despite the pain and injuries he receives because Liam's accent is "convincing".
- The CIA's pet cloned Dodo bird spends the entire 10th-season premiere demonstrating why Dodos went extinct. Ironically, it survives a whole bunch of suicidally stupid stunts only to be struck by lightning at the end of the episode.
- Took a Level in Badass:
- In the post-apocalyptic world of "Rapture's Delight", Stan becomes a one-armed, hook-handed bounty hunter. It's even more awesome than it sounds.
- The Anti-Christ himself in his second appearance. In his first episode, he was a laughably pathetic villain. In his second? He was a voiceless evil baby who was actually pretty scary.
- Toshi in "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls". He becomes a samurai for Halloween and tries to kill Steve because he didn't bring his sister Akiko home in time. Then he kills five escaped serial killers before they murder Stan, Francine and Roger.
- Jeff in "For Whom The Sleighbell Tolls". During the assault on the Smiths, Santa offers Jeff the Golden Compass bear helmet he wanted for Christmas in exchange for joining him and betraying the Smiths. He walks over to him and appears to have accepted, but then proceeds to headbutt the spiked helmet into Santa's back. Jeff then drags an injured Stan to safety, and says to him that he did it for his wife Hayley. He then joins the family in battle with Santa's elf army, until Santa is forced to call off the attack because the sun comes up, and he only had until sunrise to accomplish his goal.
- Took a Level in Kindness: During the course of the show, Stan went from a Strawman Political Jerkass to a Jerk with a Heart of Gold.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Roger, however, went from a somewhat obnoxious sloth to an apathetic psychopath (with a later in-universe explanation that Roger has to be a jerkass in order to biologically survive).
- Steve and Francine also lean this way at times, Depending on the Writer.
- Too Much Information: In one episode, Francine talks about how strippers will do anything for money.Francine: And then sometimes when you're rolling around on the floor making out with another girl, some guys will throw out money, then pick it back up and throw out the same singles again! Like I'm blind! Like I don't have peripheral vision!
[cut to Roger and Klaus, wide-eyed and silent]
- Tortured Monster: Post-surgery Kisses in "Stan's Best Friend."
- In "Kung Pao Turkey", FOX creates a living turducken which the announcer says verbatim that its every waking moment is agony.
- Tracking Device: Stan planted a tracking device in both Hayley and Steve when they were both born.
- Translation by Volume: In "Failure is Not a Factory-installed Option", after Stan goes insane and abandons his family, Francine and Hayley are forced to work dead-end jobs to make ends meet. A woman named Judy assumes that the two of them are from a Spanish-speaking country just because they're cleaning her house.Judy: Bue-nos di-as! I am Ju-dy!
- Transparent Closet: Roger switches between this, Camp Gay, and Depraved Homosexual. It all depends on the episode. However, we can probably say by this point that if there is still a closet, it is pretty damn imaginary.
- Trigger Happy:
- Stan has guns all over the house, carries his pistol at all times, and rarely comes across a problem that he doesn't think can be solved with bullets; in the episode "Not Particularly Desperate Housewife", he pulls a gun on the dish that Francine prepared for dinner (not on Francine— on the food itself), and as early as the pilot, he destroys the family's toaster by shooting it repeatedly when it startles him. In general, Francine often has to scold Stan into not trying to shoot people (including herself) when he's annoyed or in trouble, and during the episode "Jack's Back", the only thing he can think of when Steve gets a bite on his fishing rod is to fire his pistol repeatedly at the surface of the lake. On top of all this, Stan is extremely nonchalant about shooting people or being shot, and finds guns/gunplay erotic.Francine: Stan! Hayley's been shot!
Stan: So what? She shot me before. I've shot you a couple times. Everybody shoots everybody. It's how we communicate in this family.
- From the episode "Homeland Insecurity":Francine: [with Stan at gunpoint] Let 'em go, Stan! It's been a fun ride, but it's over.
Stan: Come on, Francine. Not this old routine. You pull a gun, I pretend I'm gonna do what you want, then I pull out my gun... [does so] ... we do our little John-Woo stand-off, inevitably your arm gets tired... [Francine's arm begins to shake] ... you drop your gun, and we have "nobody got shot" sex. [Francine drops her gun and storms off] Hey! Hey, where are you goi—? Francine? Well, why'd you pull a gun on me if you didn't want to have sex?!
- Stan has guns all over the house, carries his pistol at all times, and rarely comes across a problem that he doesn't think can be solved with bullets; in the episode "Not Particularly Desperate Housewife", he pulls a gun on the dish that Francine prepared for dinner (not on Francine— on the food itself), and as early as the pilot, he destroys the family's toaster by shooting it repeatedly when it startles him. In general, Francine often has to scold Stan into not trying to shoot people (including herself) when he's annoyed or in trouble, and during the episode "Jack's Back", the only thing he can think of when Steve gets a bite on his fishing rod is to fire his pistol repeatedly at the surface of the lake. On top of all this, Stan is extremely nonchalant about shooting people or being shot, and finds guns/gunplay erotic.
- Troll: Roger. How much varies from episode to episode.
- Turn the Other Cheek: Jesus tries this on Stan after he hits him in Rapture's Delight, only to be hit again."Ow! My other cheek!"
- Twin Switch: Stan's double Bill begins dating Hayley, but then poses as Stan in order to try to sleep with Francine. After removing Bill from the picture, Stan must then pose as Bill in order to keep Hayley's heart from being broken.
- Twist Ending: many of the better episodes use improbable plot resolutions that are much more amusing with repeated viewings.
- 100 A.D. has one.
- Naked To The Limit has one when the aliens from Roger's home planet come to the Smith's to pick him up, Roger shoves Jeff inside the transport beam instead and they take him away.
- Two Lines, No Waiting: Typically when this trope is used, the A story will focus on Stan and the B story will focus on either Steve or Roger.
- Five Lines, No Waiting: The initial premise of Finances With Wolves, where Francine, Steve, Hayley, Roger, and Klaus each have their own plots that intersect at various points. Stan is prominent, but doesn't have his own actual plot.
- Two-Person Pool Party: Stan and Roger in S2 Ep 20, "Roger 'n' Me".
- Stan and Francine in "Hot Tub."Steve: Gee, I'd love to use the hot tub, but I'm pretty sure my parents fucked in it last night!
- Stan and Francine in "Hot Tub."
- Two-Timer Date: Stan attempts to pull off one of these in One Little Word. While he and Francine are trying to enjoy a romantic weekend in one lakeside cabin, Stan must keep Coco, his boss's mistress, supplied with cigarettes in the cabin across the lake. In order to get away from Francine and deliver cigarettes to Coco, he repeatedly tells his wife that he's going to get firewood, and a mix-up almost blows his cover.Stan: Hey, you know what we need?Francine: [annoyed] Firewood.Stan: [simultaneously with Francine's above comment] Cigarettes. No, right, right, you're firewood.