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  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects:
    • Roger's Mushroom Samba sequence in "In Country... Club" is rendered in 3D, also doubles as an Art Shift.
    • The HD seasons increase the use of CGI per episode, with some instances like the storm clouds in "Poltergasm" not even attempting a cel-shaded appearance.

  • Absentee Actor:
    • Hayley has been absent in many episodes. Most of them have been explained, for instance. She temporarily left the show after the episode "Son of Stan" and didn't return "There Will be bad Blood" four episodes later. However, she was absent in the episodes "Fartbreak Hotel"note , "Flirting with Disaster", "A Ward Show", "The Wrestler", "The Full Congnitive Redaction of Avery Bullock by the Coward Stan Smith" and "Introducing the Naughty Stewardesses" for no explained reason.
    • Klaus also didn't appear in the episodes "G-String Circus", "The Full Congnitive Redaction of Avery Bullock by the Coward Stan Smith" and "Manhattan Magical Mystery Tour".
    • Klaus and Hayley lampshade this in "Ricky Spanish", when they suddenly appear halfway through the episode solely to claim that they showed up in it and are therefore entitled to payment. They are both otherwise entirely absent from the episode.
    • In "Escape from Pearl Bailey" the episode almost explicitly references this, with all main characters besides Steve not appearing in any part of the episode except a brief segmentnote . Steve briefly greets the Smith family, to which Stan responds, "It was nice of Steve to acknowledge us this week, even if it was only this once."
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Francine and Stan have shown minor abusive tendencies, but usually in offhand/throwaway jokes such as in "The Life Aquatic with Steve Smith", when Francine apparently starts to favor Steve and neglect Hayley because of the former's success at water polo.
      Francine: [serving Steve breakfast] This is just a little thank-you for turning me into one of the cool jock parents. [...] I never thought I'd be part of their world because you and Hayley have always sucked at everything.
      Hayley: Hey. What's for breakfast?
      Francine: Nothin'. Beat it.
    • Akiko and Toshi's mother, Hiko is so obsessed with ensuring her children a high-quality college education that she forces them to learn skills such as violin playing and spelling, and rarely, if ever, allows them to socialize outside of school.
    • Stan's father abandoned his family when Stan was eight years old, which traumatized Stan and all but ruined his childhood.
    • Francine's biological parents (who briefly appeared in Season 4 but have since been Put on a Bus) completely abandoned their daughter (they simply gave her to one of the airport employees and then boarded), just because their flight didn't allow children on first class.
  • Acquired Situational Narcissism: Stan, whenever his boss is around, usually followed by a side-order of vanity. Francine will also put him up to it every so often.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • Any time the writers can get Avery Bullock to say something Picard-esque, they will. Best highlighted by his references to "Number One" in One Little Word.
      • There are also several low-key visual gags which serve as allusions, such as Picard's distinctive fish tank showing up in Bullock's home.
      • On the flip side, they also rely upon this when Bullock is doing or saying something completely ridiculous simply because the mental image of Captain Picard doing or saying something ridiculous is part of the hilarity.
      • In one episode, Avery Bullock shows off a device exactly like a Star Trek holodeck. When Stan makes the obvious comparison, Avery angrily remarks that he doesn't even know what Star Trek is.
    • In one episode, Klaus tries to get Stan to put him back in a human body and says he'll get a job making animal sounds. "Making animal sounds" is pretty much Dee Bradley Baker's entire job description (though Baker does human voices as well; he's even announced game shows).
    • There was an episode in which Roger disguised as Stan, but found that he's unable to mimic Stan's voice. Another episode had Stan do an equally-terrible impression of Roger. Both characters are voiced by Seth MacFarlane.
    • In one episode, Steve sings Scott Grimes' hit song, Sunset Blvd. He also says that two movies Scott Grimes was in, Critters and Critters 2: The Main Course, are crappy.
    • Snot's name could be considered this: his voice actor played Dudley "Booger" Dawson. His appearance also resembles a younger version of Booger.
    Steve: We nerds have a long history of making our dream girls fall for us. Like that kid in "Revenge of the Nerds," who finally won the heart of that cheerleader!
    Snot: Eh, never saw it.
    • In one episode, Hector Elizondo appears as a concierge, mimicking his famous role in Pretty Woman. It's even lampshaded to all hell and back.
    • In the episode Virtual In-Stanity, Stan controls an avatar voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar to get back into Steve's life. At the same time, a kinky-haired ginger girl, voiced by Gellar's Buffy co-star Alyson Hannigan, gains an interest in Steve.
    • In "Boring Identity", the doctor that tells Francince of Stan's amnesia looks and sounds like Archie Morris, a character that Scott Grimes played in ER. (Obviously, Grimes voices him here as well.)
    • In the episode "Next Of Pin" Richard Belzer cameos as a detective who drafts Steve for his mystery solving skills, Richard Belzer's most famous role is detective John Munch from Homicide: Life on the Street and later Law & Order: SVU.
  • Adam Westing: At times, it seems like the writers are competing to find the silliest words to shove into Patrick Stewart's mouth. Not that they should stop, of course.
    • Hector Elizondo also does this in "Fart-Break Hotel."
  • Aesop Amnesia:
    • Stan has an inherent resistance to learning lessons, which has been lampshaded more than once. Sometimes he'll forget just part of the lesson as the plot requires, as in "Surro-Gate".
    • Lampshaded beautifully by the man himself in "Phantom of the Telethon": "Lying is wrong! I'd know that if only I'd paid attention to anything that's ever happened to me before."
    • Lampshaded even earlier (and more directly) in "Rough Trade":
      Stan: Roger, there's something you should know about me: I don't learn lessons.
    • Cyborg Stan from the future Lampshaded to Francine that the present Stan will keep letting her down as a husband again and again.
    • Mostly averted regarding gays, as Stan has come to accept the gay lifestyle (though only by being convinced, first-hand, that it's not a choice), gay Republicans, and gays adopting children. However, he had to learn each and every part of that lesson separately.
    • Lampshaded AGAIN at the end of "Hurricane!", where Stan realizes that he failed to protect his family in a crisis after all his plans failed. Francine tells him the lesson that he should just do nothing, and that way he would be protecting his family. Stan, of course, bluntly and defiantly says that they both know he's not going to do that.
    • Every happy memory that Stan has of his father is either the result of herculean levels of self-denial or he just doesn’t have to full facts. Yet every time he comes back into his life Steve tries to get Stan to confront it. Simply because he needs to know.
  • The Afterafterlife: Stan's guardian angel is replaced by a new guy, who explains his old angel died, and went to Super-Heaven.
  • Alien Abduction: At the end of "Naked to the Limit, One More Time", Roger shoves Jeff into the tractor beam of the ship sent to rescue him. His fate was shown in the episode "Lost in Space".
  • Alien Among Us: And he's really needy. And drunk. And on every single drug in the world, including Euphoria, the fictional drug from Beverly Hills, 90210.
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Roger, so very much. However, it is later revealed that this is justified, as his species needs to "let their bitchiness out," or else it will turn to bile and poison them to death.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Zig-zagged. Roger speaks English as well as any character in the show, but having been on the planet for almost 70 years (he was the alien who crashed in Roswell, New Mexico), he's better equipped to know the language than the people around him. However, other aliens (including members of Roger's species), who were presumably raised on a non-Earth planet, speak English in the episode "Lost in Space". Also, during "Blagsnarst: A Love Story", Bullock attempts to communicate with an alien (named "Qurchhhh" according to IMDB) who has crashed on Earth, but appears to be surprised when the alien does indeed speak English.
    Bullock: Attention, alien creature! Do you speak English?
    Qurchhhh: Yes!
    Bullock: Really? Wow! That's weird!
  • All Germans Are Nazis: Klaus plays this trope straight mostly, but subverts it in one episode:
    Francine: Klaus, you got the train to work!
    Klaus: [riding in a toy locomotive] Ja! It's in my blood. My grandfather was a conductor at Auschwitz. [Francine, Hayley, and Steve gasp] No, no, no! He ran the kiddie train at the zoo. [sighs] You know, it's a big town! There's other stuff there!
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys:
    • One episode has Stan teach Jeff to be more assertive, causing the normally docile Jeff to take the pants in the relationship and treat Hayley more like a servant than a partner. She's more than thrilled with this breakthrough and excitedly wonders if he'll turn physically abusive.
    • The episode "The Boring Identity" features Francine using Stan's amnesia to her advantage by telling Stan that he's sensitive, a great listener, and loves to give her foot massages. Unfortunately, the plan backfires, and Stan leaves Francine (at that point, she had become the jerk in their marriage, and the newly-sensitive Stan was turned off). In Francine's own words:
      Francine: This song goes out to a man who, deep down inside, is an insensitive son of a bitch. And he's the only man I ever wanted.
    • A variation with Roger in "Con Heir". When Jack Smith meets Roger, Jack orders Roger to get him a glass of Bourbon. Roger appears to be offended and mentions that Jack didn't say "please," but then he runs off with a smile. Throughout the rest of the episode, Roger begins to fall for him, and Jack's brash, impertinent attitude apparently attracted Roger initially.
  • All Guys Want Cheerleaders:
    • With the exception of his sometimes girlfriend Debbie, Steve directs pretty much all of his attention to scoring dates with the acknowledged popular girls at his school. Most notably, Lindsey Coolidge and Lisa Silver.
    • Played with in "The American Dad After School Special". After Steve tells his family about his new girlfriend (the aforementioned Debbie), Stan immediately assumes Steve is dating a cheerleader, and refuses to believe the truth when he is told otherwise.
  • All Just a Dream:
    • Spoofed in "Haylias". Wacky hijinks and various forms of Hilarity were involved, and in the end Hayley assumes it was this trope, which the others happily allow her to believe.
    • Played straight in "Irregarding Steve". The beginning of the episode features most of the family being gunned down while Klaus leads Francine to safety in an over-the-top action sequence featuring Mexican vampires and a car chase underwater. It's all Klaus's dream, of course.
    • Basically the driving force behind the plot of "Vacation Goo".
    • "An Incident at Owl Creek" hints at the AJAD ending via its name (an homage to the short story and later The Twilight Zone (1959) episode "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge").
    • Subverted in "Rapture's Delight", despite being set up in such a way that it would pretty much be the only way to undo the Rapture by the end of the episode. The actual ending is that Stan's personal Heaven is exactly identical to the real world the night before the rapture. With the exception of Klaus being dead.
    • Played with in "Merlot Down Dirty Shame". It's shown that Steve has trained himself to recognize when he's having a lucid dream by setting up a mental signal (namely, a red ball). He mentions this to Klaus, and then harshly refuses to teach him how to do it. Klaus gets his revenge by making Steve think that he's in a dream using said red ball. It ends up with Steve at school in his underwear, with several broken bones, and the girl he has a crush on impaled on a pipe.
  • All Periods Are PMS: In S4 Ep01, "1600 Candles", Stan and Francine recall Hayley's first period, in which they are cowering against the wall with Stan holding up a fork in defense, as Hayley screams, "What do you mean 'every month'?!"
  • All Take and No Give:
    • It turns out Stan’s and Francine’s sex life is like this. Stan has spent years mastering the art of pleasuring Francine. When he found out that it wasn’t enough he had Hayley show him how to pleasure women in general and not just Francine specifically. When that still proved to be not enough, she finally told him that she wanted to spend more time on foreplay; something she has neglected in the past two years.
    • When Roger marries Stan's mother, he mentions (at the dinner table) that she's a great lover, and that "Her give-to-take ratio is 3:1 at worst."
    • The entire family is this with respects to Stan to the point where one of the most recycled scripts Stan trying to spend time for himself and learning that such a thing is completely heartless and selfish and will only lead to the ruination of his family.
  • Alpha Bitch: A morning talk show for middle-aged women has the hosts constantly drinking and insulting their guests. They are perfectly okay with crossing into violent territory and harass their guests. The audience is just as bad as they are.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees:
    • While it has a seemingly fantastical name, the colossal squid Francine devotes her newly-found free time to finding is a real-life cephalopod.
    • In the same episode as above, Stan gets into an argument with Dick as to whether turkeys can fly. Wild turkeys actually can fly for brief periods.
    • Given the nature of the typical American Dad! Christmas episode, it's understandable that a number of fans were surprised to learn that the Christmas demon Krampus was not a creation of the show.
    • Roger's Ortolan in "In Country...Club" is a real bird, and the means of preparing it is correct as well. Yes, even the napkin bit.
    • "Black Mystery Month" is correct in stating that George Washington Carver did not actually invent peanut butter.
    • "Shell Game" features an organization devoted to illegal egg collection - both poaching the eggs of endangered species and stealing pre-collected eggs from established collections. Which sounds absurd, but was a thing in the UK from the 50s to the 90s.
  • Alternate History: When Stan ruins Christmas, it starts a chain-reaction leading to Mondale handing over control of the United States to the communists.
  • Ambiguous Gender:
    • Despite his name, Roger's mannerisms, bodily functions, and sexual preferences veer between masculine and feminine, sometimes within an episode.
    • Lampshaded in an episode where it's revealed that all of Roger's wigs are female except for one "Owen Wilson/Ellen DeGeneres" wig. Also in an episode where Roger goes to great lengths to win an ice skating competition. The prize? A set of female wigs.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • Roger, especially on "Roger 'N Me" where he "probes" Stan while the two are having a guys' night out, the episode "Family Affair" where Roger reunites with the family who abandoned him and is shocked and turned on by how cute the family's son has become, and in "Rapture's Delight," where he points out how "hung" the homeless man at the bus station is as he, Francine, and Stan watch everyone ascend into Heaven, then adding "but I knew that".
    • On the other hand, Roger did have a crush on Steve's chubby Perky Goth girlfriend, Debbie, as seen in "The American Dad After School Special" and in "The One That Got Away," Roger's split personality Sidney was set to be wed to a young woman before his duel personas clashed, though it was revealed at the end that the young woman had a penis. That being said, Roger could just be Ambiguously Bisexual, though later episodes are kinda phasing out the "bisexual" part and focusing on the gay part, though Roger clearly had a girlfriend (whom he couldn't stand) in "Hurricane!".
    • On the episode that had the subplot of Roger and Klaus vacationing in Europe and joining a group of blonde German girls, Roger openly asks, "Do I even like girls?"
    • It could be similar to Single-Target Sexuality. He does seem to like girls with occasional interest in guys (he follows up the above question with "I must like girls"), but for the most part, the only guy he seems to have been truly interested in is Stan. He's never actively tried to go for a full relationship with a male, while he did so with Debbie and a girl who worked in a department store (who turned out to be intersexed).
    • In "Bar Mitzvah Hustle," Roger's plan during Steve's bar mitzvah scam was to sneak off to the bathroom to share a doobie and "an angry handy-J" with the busboy.
    • In "Jenny Fomdabloc", Roger has sex with Snot, though it turned out he was faking it via a hole in his "Sons of Tucson" stress ball.
    • In "You Debt Your Life," Roger referred to himself as "fey and pansexual" (much like Andy Dick). Also in that episode, he stays at a YMCA men's locker room (though this was because he thought the place was still renting out rooms) and suggestively comments on a man's genitals after using his towel to wipe the tears from his eyes.
    • In "An Incident at Owl Creek", Roger tries to solicit gay sex at a truck stop restroom twice (and gets punched in the eyes for it) and compliments a blind prostitute on his "expert blowjowski" Of course, this whole episode is a fantasy Stan is having, so that might just be how he perceives Roger's Ambiguous Gay-ness.
    • In "Stanny Tendergrass":
      Steve: I don't like the last half, it's not as effervescent. Nope, the bottom's not for me; I'm what they call a top.
      ''[Roger's eyes widen]''
      Steve: [...] Sorry, I didn't know you wanted [that soda]. Here, my fingers are still sticky, you can suck on them if you want.
      Roger: [staring at Steve's fingers] Well, I'll be upstairs melting pearls on my tummy if you need me.
      • Alluded to again in the same episode:
        Roger: Everyone in the family has one persona they can't see through. [...] And remember that spin the bottle party you went to?
        [cut to Steve about to kiss a girl, only for her to turn into Roger]
        Steve: [...] YOU were Alicia Wilkner?! We went on seven dates!
        Roger: Nine. I roofied you on two of them, nothing happened. Wink wink.
    • A non-Roger example is Dill, the senator's son Stan tried to arrange Hayley into marrying in "Haylias". At the wedding, he gave a stirring poem dedicated to his best man, which caused him to go into tears, and when asked to kiss Hayley, his response was "Is it mandatory?"
  • American Title: Type 2
  • America Saves the Day: Stan believes this, even misquoting history to make America look better. In Tearjerker, there is a subversion when he jumps in to save a British secret agent on a snowmobile shouting "Nobody needs America's help... until they need it!" And then said snowmobile crushes the British agent while he's parachuting from a cliff.
  • Amusing Alien: Roger.
  • Anachronism Stew: The episode "The Kidney Stays in the Picture" is this for the 1990s. Stan and Francine go back to 1996 to see who Hayley's real father is. The episode takes place in 2012, and Hayley is older than 16. It also makes reference to Elian Gonzales and shows Roger trying to create MDMA which has been around since the 1970s. The characters are dressed like it's the late 1980s though.
    • In "The Best Christmas Story Never," an Alternate History shows Walter Mondale surrendering the United States to Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, identified from his characteristic squarish face, Chest of Medals, and bushy eyebrows. However, Brezhnev died in 1982, two years before the 1984 election which Mondale is shown to win. Of course, the point of divergence in this timeline is the 1976 release of Taxi Driver, so that doesn't necessarily rule out the Butterfly Effect.
  • Anal Probing: Roger's alien race can acquire a person's memories through probing.
  • Analogy Backfire: The show loves these. Most main characters have had one at this point.
    • One of the best examples is done by Stan to himself in the episode "Bullocks to Stan", where Bullock dates Hayley:
      Stan: [Bullock] rode me like an animal for three hours! Do you have any idea what that's like?
      Hayley: [raises eyebrows]
      Stan: And now I'm not hungry.
  • And I Must Scream: Played for Laughs in "Familyland," when Roy Family reveals that, 30 years ago, he froze his body but not his mind so that he could watch over his amusement park.
    Francine: You were conscious that whole time?
    Roy: Oh yeah. It was awful.
  • And Then What?:
    • You have to wonder what Hayley’s overall plan is. On one end she seems to be trying to completely ruin Stan’s livelihood, dating and breaking up with his boss, stealing his life savings. Yet at the same time she relies on him completely.
    • Steve as well as a lot of his plans revolves around Insane Troll Logic. You have to ask yourself what would he have done if Stan’s fears in Chimdale were proven correct.
  • And This Is for...: We have this exchange from "Bullocks to Stan":
    Stan: This is for treating me like a errand boy! This is for delaying my promotion! This is for disrespecting my daughter! And this is for not letting me stop at the creek for a drink!
  • Animal Chick Magnet: Steve tries this with a weak, elderly dog, and it works in that a girl notices him - to make fun of him.
  • Animals Hate Him: Steve's luck with animals is horrible, even when he's trying to be nice to them.
    Steve: Why crow why?!
    • Except for Klaus of course, but he arguably doesn't count, since he has the brain of a human.
    • In one episode, Steve tries to help a stray cat on three separate occasions, and each time the cat attacks him.
  • The Anti-Christ:
    • He appeared in the 2009 Christmas episode. It turns out that he's really the exact opposite of Jesus, looks like the Riddler from Batman Forever, has No Indoor Voice, and is annoying as Hell. He strives to be the exact opposite of Jesus, including being a horrible carpenter (which helps the characters escape), and even says the opposite of his quotes
      The Anti Christ: Condemn them, Mother! For they know exactly what they are doing! ...You know? It's the opposite of "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do"?
      "Thou shalt not not kill!"
    • He returns as Jeff's adopted son in the 2011 Christmas episode, only this time, he really is straight up evil. Killing him is the best way for Stan to prove his devotion to the Christian faith again after he got excommunicated. Unfortunately, Nemo ends up getting shipped off to live with Sarah Palin in Alaska, and the only reason Stan got back in the church was because Roger's pimp cup was actually the Holy Grail.
      • The Anti-Christ in "Seasons Beatings" still has the same annoying-as-hell voice as his adult form.
  • Anti-Interference Lock Up:
    • In "Merlot Down Dirty Shame", Roger buries Francine alive to keep her from telling Stan that he kissed her when they were both drunk. Near the end, when Roger decides to tell Stan himself, he buries him alive to keep him from attacking him.
    • In "Spelling Bee My Baby" Francine locks Akiko in the basement to ensure that Steve would win the spelling bee. She later lets her out after realizing that Steve truly loves her.
  • Anti-Villain: Cyborg Stan from "May the Best Stan Win". All he wanted was Francine because she had been dead for 1000 years in his time, and he is far nicer to her than the present Stan in this episode.
  • Apple of Discord: The Golden Turd.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Devices that Stan procures from or uses at work to resolve plots that would be nearly impossible without it.
  • A Rare Sentence: Courtesy of Roger.
    I dropped my meatball in the pool!
  • Area 51: Roger was initially being detained by the government there, but came to live with the Smith family after saving Stan's life while trying to escape.
  • Aren't You Going to Ravish Me?: Played with. In the episode "Stannie Get Your Gun", Stan sets up a fake robbery to force Hayley into saving the family by using a gun, so that she'd change her opinion on them.. Afterwards, Francine is offended when (she thinks) Hayley implies that the robber wouldn't have raped her.
  • Armoured Closet Gay: Subverted in the episode where Terry's homophobic father, pro football player Tank Bates, come to visit and finds out his son is gay. Stan, no longer homophobic at this point in the series, tries to find the motivation for Tank's homophobia by running through every gay trope one could find on TV finding that Bates subverts them all. Stan ends by claiming in front of a football stadium full of Tank's fans that Tank is a homosexual. It turns out that he isn't.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: A common American Dad! gag.
    • When Roger's life flashes before his eyes in "You Debt Your Life", he remembers three moments from his life: protesting the integration of The University of Alabama in the 1960s by knocking the books out of Vivian Malone's hands in front of her military escort, getting Joseph Hazelwood — the captain of the Exxon Valdez — drunk at the helm by making him do a beer bong, and having his Jar-Jar Binks character approved by George Lucas. He remarks afterwards that he did everything perfectly.
    • Stan says in "My Morning Straitjacket" that rock music is the number one cause of teenage pregnancy, school violence, and leather pants.
    • A short list of some horrible things Roger has done in his "Ricky Spanish" persona, as shown in interspersed flashbacks: leaving Principal Lewis in Tijuana without ID, murdering Bullock's wife with a Japanese sword for no reason, making a friend serve life in prison, kicking an old lady in the groin, setting fire to a petting zoo, taking upskirt (up-habit?) photos of a nun, defecating into a patient during surgery, literally stealing candy from a baby, and not holding the elevator for someone.
    • In the above-mentioned episode, Roger shares some of his other misdeeds as Ricky Spanish:
      Roger: Carol, I robbed. Eduardo, I stabbed. Tina, I taught how to kiss. Gave her some bad information, never corrected it. She's out there darting her tongue like this. [quickly flicks his own tongue in an out of his mouth repeatedly]
    • From the Crossover between this show, The Cleveland Show and Family Guy in the final scene of "Hurricane!":
      Stan: [draws a gun on Cleveland] Looter!
      Cleveland: [draws a gun on Stan] Self defense!
      Peter: [out of nowhere, draws two guns on both] A black and a white talking as if it's normal!
    • In the episode "Killer Vacation", when Francine tries to team up with Stan and take down a dangerous war criminal disguised as the resort's activities director:
      Francine: [hitting him repeatedly with a tennis racket] You're Goran the Mutilator! You've killed thousands of innocent people! And you're SCREWING UP MY VACATION!
  • The Artifact: Hayley, to an extent. The show was initially envisioned as a modern-day animated version of All in the Family, with ultra-conservative Stan constantly butting heads with ultra-liberal Hayley. The Hayley/Stan conflicts are there in some later episodes, but Hayley's role on the show isn't as strong as it used to be (even though she's now married to her on-again/off-again boyfriend, Jeff, and the two are now living with the Smiths). Lampshaded by Hayley and Klaus in one episode.
    Klaus: Ha ha! I made it into the episode. PAY ME, BITCHES!
    Hayley: Ha ha! Me too!
  • Artifact of Attraction / Artifact of Death: Roger's golden turd. Two men discover it, and one kills the other so he can keep it for himself. He then kills himself by driving his car onto railroad tracks after he finds out his wife is cheating on him. Later, a cop investigating it steals the turd and takes it home, but regrets it and decides to turn it in because he's going to retire in a week and is afraid he'll be found out. His wife then poisons him to prevent him from doing this.
  • Art Evolution: The pilot episode looks remarkably crude to the rest of the first season, and the first season looks crude until "Stan of Arabia, Parts I and II", which have a similar look to the rest of the series.
  • Art Shift: The B-story of "Dungeons and Wagons" features Steve, Hayley, and Jeff playing an MMORPG. The in-game segments of this story are done in an elaborate (and very expensive) Animesque animation style.
    • The season 5 opener "In Country... Club" featured two art shifts: one for Roger's Barbra Streisand-gasm (computer animation) and the other for Steve's flashback.
    • The season 5 Christmas episode "Rapture's Delight," where the post-Apocalyptic world looks like something from "Heavy Metal" (or a 1980s fantasy action cartoon with better animation and art).
    • That song about Oliver North drawn like a Schoolhouse Rock! short.
    • Stan's hallucination song that he started singing after going crazy by eating Mad Cow jerky resulted in Disney style animals and environments.
    • The Thanksgiving episode "There Will Be Bad Blood" has one when Stan tells his own version of the story of Thanksgiving modeled after the Rankin-Bass animated Christmas specials.
    • Reginald the Koala's debut and backstory in "Family Affair" has this, combined with Technicolor Explosion, in spades.
    • In "An apocalypse to remember," Steve gets addicted to poisonous berries and has hallucinations at the end of the episode, resulting in a colorful distorted picture.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: In "Black Mystery Month," Steve says that Io, "the ice moon of Jupiter," is his favorite thing in the solar system. Europa is Jupiter's famous ice moon, while Io is covered with volcanoes.
  • Artistic License – Geography: In "Meter Made," Stan claims that his half-brother lives on a lake in New Glarus, Wisconsin. In real life, there aren't any lakes in New Glarus.
    • Likewise, in "Widowmaker", after Stan goes to Laos on a mission, a Split-Screen Phone Call shows him on a beach. Except Laos is landlocked. (Unless the writers meant it to be the Mekong River.)
  • Artistic License – Military: Stan is a CIA operative and regularly reminds friends, neighbors, and even random people of that fact. In real life, that would be a major no-no. Real life CIA personnel aren't allowed to tell others what they do; the only people aware of what they do (besides their coworkers) is their family and even they're in the dark sometimes.
    • Finally played straight in the episode "Permanent Record Wrecker", where Stan loses his job at the CIA. Upon telling a man who's interviewing him, and a random man in the grocery store he later works at about his former job, both are shot in the head by a sniper who apparently follows Stan around.
    Sniper: You really gotta put a sock in it, Stan!
  • As Himself: Travel writer Rick Steves and survivalist Bear Grylls appear as themselves in "The Bitchin' Race."
  • Ascended Extra: Jeff, who for the first few seasons was a minor recurring character who was just Hayley's on-again-off-again lover. By marrying into the family he is now a main character living in the house.
  • Ascended Meme: This video in "I Am The Walrus".
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Roger has passed himself off for being able to speak Vietnamese, Laotian, Chinese, and Thai by spouting the same Asian-sounding gibberish every time.
  • Aspect Ratio Switch: Whenever the show switches to the story arc involving Roger's golden turd, black bars appear above and below the screen to give it a cinematic widescreen feel (this was before the show switched to HD).
  • As You Know: Played for Laughs
    Roger: I can't believe the bullet completely missed Randy and hit Bad Larry who was on the other side. (Stan gives Roger a dirty look) What? Just trying to make sure we're all clear on that!
    • Also in "You Debt Your Life", Hayley mentions Roger's life debt to Stan. Francine says that she knows what it is, but asks Hayley to explain it anyway because she likes hearing about it.
    • And again in "Stan's Night Out": Stan and his CIA co-workers realize their car was stolen and sold to a powerful crime lord. They all express shock at this.
    Stan: Good, we all know who he is, so we don't have to waste any time explaining it to each other.
    Custodian: (appearing) I don't know who he is.
    Stan: Oh, well let me explain it to you.
    • Played straight in the pilot, where Roger's first lines are him explaining to Stan why he's living with them. However, the way he says it sounds less like As You Know and more like guilt-tripping Stan into letting him borrow his car. However, Stan's answer is pretty As You Know. Klaus also As You Knows his own situation.
  • Asian and Nerdy: Toshi.
  • Asian Rudeness: Francine's adopted parents. Subverted slightly when we find out that they are glad Francine married Stan because they know he will look after her. It was also why they didn't give her as much money or help compared to her sister - they knew she didn't need it compared to her sister, who was constantly getting into trouble.
  • Asian Speekee Engrish: In "Rough Trade", Roger pretends to be Japanese and actually uses the word "aglee" in place of "agree" when selling a car to an Asian couple.
  • An Ass-Kicking Christmas: Thus far they've included Armageddon, with Stan and Jesus battling the Antichrist, Stan storming heaven to demand God bring him back to life, and Santa Claus swearing revenge on them all for almost killing him and attacking with an army of elves. And promising to do so again next year.
  • A-Team Firing: A variation. In the episode "Pinata Man", Stan goes undercover during a CIA sting, disguised as a waiter. When he's found out by the bad guys, a massive shootout ensues, and Stan is caught in the crossfire. Everyone in the scene is killed, but not one bullet hits Stan, despite the fact that he was standing in the open, and the fact that the water pitcher he was holding got shot as well.
  • Author Appeal: Some of the writers' come to light in the show. This is made more obvious because they've also turned up in different situations on their other show.
  • Author Tract: The show was meant to be one to demonize "patriots" and conservatives, but it became much less blatant as the years went on.
    • And of course, according to the first law of irony, the liberals are actually shown to be far worse. Jeff is rather amicable, but Hayley expects her father to support her despite not having anything in the way of a job.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: A father/daughter version occurs with Stan and Hayley on various occasions.
  • Ax-Crazy: Roger shows traits of his, especially in his "Ricky Spanish" persona.
    • Barry, when not medicated.
    • Subversion with Klaus. He might not pose a major threat to the rest of the family, but he threatened Steve and Roger to the point where they hid in the attic for nine months going completely insane, all because they made a practical joke on him. Most of his craziness is however rather harmless.
    • Another episode suggests he spent time touring Italy after college "y'know, stabbing students."
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Reinforced in the episode "Irregarding Steve". Steve and Roger might be the smartest pair in the Smith household, and thus capable of using their intellect to manipulate those less intelligent than them, but when they try to apply their knowledge to the outside world, there is always someone smarter, more clever, and more cruel who will take advantage of their level of intelligence.

  • Babies Make Everything Better:
    • Roger alludes to this during Finances With Wolves when he states, "It's true, the love is instantaneous and unconditional!" while holding a camcorder to video tape his baby sea monkeys in his attic with a sign in the background stating "Maternity Ward"
    • In "One Little Word", Bullock's wife who turned Muslim and hates the West turns her back on fundamentalist Islam when she discovers she has a son. This is also beautifully lampshaded by Francine.
    • In "Tearjerker", Tearjerker!Roger's plan is foiled by Stan streaming video of celebrity babies worldwide.
    • Jeff basically uses the trope name when trying to convince Hayley to adopt a kid in "Season's Beatings":
      Jeff: Sometimes, I feel broken inside, and having a baby fixes everything!
  • Back-Alley Doctor: Francine in "Helping Handis". Her assistant is Dr. Bearington, a teddy bear. His specialty is hugs.
  • Backstory: The episode "Mine Struggle" features flashbacks that serve to explain several character traits, such as why Steve feels such an emotional connection to his backyard (and why he owns the mineral rights of the yard), and also why Hayley wears a headband (Stan off-handedly claimed that her forehead was "shiny" when she was younger, and she took offense).
  • Badass Boast: Klaus delivers one so great at Steve and Roger after they pranked him, it scares them into hiding...Until they remember that he's just a goldfish, so they just put a stack of books atop his bowl to stop him.
    Klaus: Allow me to impress upon you the severe mistake you have made. For years my conduct has been largely benign. And yet, without provocation, you have severed our détente and forced me to unleash upon you the vengeful flames of a thousand suns. You shall curse your mothers for the day of your birth. So, go now, go, and begin your life of fear, knowing that when you least expect it, the looming sword of Damocles will crash down upon you, cleaving you in twain and as you gaze upon the smoking wreckage that was once your life, you will regret the day you crossed the WRONG FISH!
  • Bad "Bad Acting":
    • Inverted with Roger in "Vacation Goo". Normally, he is an excellent actor when donning his Paper-Thin Disguise, but when trying to apply for an actual acting job, the only thing that doesn't convince the directors is the fact that Roger cannot shed an actual tear.
    • One episode shows that Stan is such a terrible actor that he can't even pull off being a waiter properly ("It sounds like you're offering me water, but I'm just not buying it."). He asks Roger for help and ends up so good that he edges Roger out for a role in a play that he wanted really badly.
  • Bad Santa: The plot twist in Minstrel Krampus arrives when it turns out the seemingly benevolent Santa is in fact corrupting children while the seemingly evil Krampus is in fact punishing children so that they'll learn to behave themselves instead of sadism.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Stan describes the movie Boys Don't Cry as the film where Hilary Swank got what she deserved... an Oscar. And brutally sodomized... in a review by Derek Simms of the Detroit Free Press.
    • Subverted in "Star Trek." After Steve receives a failing grade in English, Stan says he's going to pay his teacher a little visit, all while menacingly cracking his knuckles. It then cuts to Stan finishing a pleasant lunch with the teacher and his family. As he starts to leave, Stan takes out his gun, puts it to the teacher's head, and demands to know why he gave Steve an "F."
    • In "American Fung" when Fung Wah solves a problem just by opening a previously non-existant door and finding the solution, Klaus speaks up and it looks like he's going to point out that the door didn't exist before, but it turns out he was just speaking up to join everyone in praising Fung.
    • In "Iced, Iced Babies," Stan gets a vasectomy and begins having round-the-clock sex with Francine to satisfy her hope of getting pregnant. At one point, we see an occupied toilet on an airplane, suggesting that they are partaking in the "mile-high club," before zooming out to show Stan is actually watching the plane with binoculars from the bedroom.
  • Banana Republic:
    • The small island nation of Isla. When Roger starts running the place, he changes the country's name to Bananarama and decrees the entire island be painted yellow.
    • Daniel, a partner-in-crime of Roger's Ricky Spanish persona, has connections to "The Plantain Republic."
  • Bare Your Midriff:
    • Hayley's standard outfit.
    • Strangely, Snot in the beginning of the series.
    • The cheerleaders at Steve's school also play this trope straight.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • In the episode "Failure Is Not a Factory-Installed Option", after a car salesman messes with Stan's head to make him buy a car he doesn't want, Stan goes insane and starts living on the streets, depriving his family of their sole source of income (his paycheck). This forces them to shop at the same discount grocery store as the car salesman. Seeing the devastation his aggressive negotiations have caused, the salesman is shamed into giving Stan a much better deal on a car. Stan then whips off his crazy homeless guy clothes and reveals this sequence of events was all part of his master plan to get the better of the salesman. The fact that this plan led to his family nearly starving and his daughter prostituting herself for grocery money doesn't seem to concern him.
    • In a later episode, "Widowmaker", Francine wishes Stan was more open with her like her neighbor Julie did with her husband Craig, who has been missing for three weeks. After some "therapy" with Roger, Stan becomes very open with Francine, including the fact that he killed Julie's husband for being a blabber-mouth by order of the CIA (and going into graphic detail). Then Francine accidentally tells Julie and has to knock her out so the CIA doesn't decide to kill Stan for the same reason as Craig. Then it all turns out this a plan by Stan and Craig so Francine will quit bothering Stan, and so Craig can get away from having to talk to Julie by moving to a tropical island and taking a new wife.
    • In "The Scarlett Getter", Stan meets an old flame from his CIA training academy and he starts to re-develop feelings for her and ignore Francine. Francine is so irritated by this hookup, she tells Roger to put on a disguise to steal Scarlett from Stan. This works, but Stan wants to break up Roger and Scarlett and hires an alien hunter to capture Roger. Stan and the hunter arrive at the cabin where Roger and Scarlett are planning to have sex, where it turns out that Scarlett is an alien hunter herself. She knew Stan had an alien in his house before their "chance" encounter each other and used Stan to get to Roger and dissect him.
    • "Bar Mitzvah Hustle" shows what happens when one goes awry. Steve plans out a very Ocean's Eleven-esque present heist in order to discredit the guy who stole his girlfriend. Things go smoothly, as he is able to use a decoy heist in order to get his target's attention off his real goal: the money he's been receiving for his bar mitzvah (Steve is trying to cause his target to become paranoid and reveal he's just a greedy little boy for being so concerned with his presents). His plan is to use Snot as an unknowing patsy to get the money out of the party by slipping it in his coat and provoking him to leave by spilling juice on his shirt. This almost works but Snot comes back right at the critical moment and unintentionally reveals he was carrying the money. Steve even notes how his plan is almost foolproof unless that exact thing happens.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For:
    • Discussed in the episode "Vision: Impossible", after Roger gains psychic powers, and his desire for the family to take him seriously come to fruition.
      Roger: Well, I wanted them to listen to me. Didn't work out so well, though, did it? No, sir. There might be a lesson to learn from this if I were the kind of guy who could learn lessons.
    • In "The Bitchin' Race," Stan and Hayley are the determined halves of their respective teams with Francine and Steve. Both wish for their partners to take the race seriously and agree to change teams. However, Stan and Hayley's drive to win leads to them misreading a clue and ending up in a Thai rebel camp.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • A bear teams up with a shark and they attack the Smith family in "Hurricane!"
      Steve: They're working in tandem!! They're brothers in arms!!
    • In "You Debt Your Life", Stan gets his legs eaten by a polar bear at the zoo.
  • Becoming the Mask:
    • Eventually, one of Roger's disguises takes on a life of its own. Roger, unaware of this, finds out he's been making withdrawals from his account, and sets out to ruin his life. And they're still the same guy, so that gets interesting.
    • Lampshaded in another episode when Stan and Roger are in trouble.
      Roger: Luckily, I know a guy who may be able to help us! Let's just pray that for once, when we get there, he doesn't turn out to be me. (cut to next scene, inside a house) Aw, crap. (camera pans over, Roger is suddenly sitting behind the desk in a completely different disguise) Can I help you?
      Stan: (glances over to the side, seeing Roger isn't there anymore.) I... had an appointment with the horse whisperer?
      Roger: Oh, yes, he'll be right with you. (cut back to Stan. Roger is there again in the same disguise from before.) Thank God I'm just his secretary. (immediate cut back to the desk. Roger is behind it in the new disguise again.) I'm an associate!
    • While parodying thief movies, Roger's shown at Snot's Bar Mitzvah in one disguise, the camera cuts to him in another disguise in a car across the street...
      Roger: Wait, how did I get here?
    • Another example:
      Stan: You're a real actor, I'm not. ... How did you get to be so good?
      Roger: I had a great teacher. (pulls out a card and hands it to Stan) You should look him up, tell him I sent you.
      Stan: "Irwin Beyer, Jr., Acting Coach". ...This-this is you, isn't it? I'm gonna get down there and it's gonna be you.
      Roger: Strong possibility.
    • Roger also has a wedding planner personality, Jeannie Gold, who has two adult sons.
    • Roger's rich alter ego Max Jets, who has been in prison for six years, is about to be released, so Roger actually sneaks into the prison to be let out.
    • Another episode takes the parody to ridiculous lengths. Francine takes a plane down to Patagonia to meet up with a master chef who will teach her how to cook better. Roger follows her along the way, spending the whole trip telling her that this master chef is just going to be him in another disguise, even outright noting how weird it must be "to find me around every corner in your life". Sure enough, they arrive, say their goodbyes, Francine turns around and Roger is immediately there in a new disguise. Then she turns back around, to see Roger in his first disguise is somehow already on the plane back home - and then she turns around again, and Roger in the new disguise is still there, panting and telling her "that's enough turning around".
    • By later seasons, Roger has so many alter-egos and disguises that when a new character shows up who isn't one of Roger's disguises, not only is the family surprised, but so is Roger.
      Hayley: Roger, I'm surprised. I thought Reynolds Jaspertarian was gonna be you.
      Roger: I gotta tell you, I did too.
    • Invoked by Klaus, with Roger becoming the mask, in the episode "Dr. Klaustus". When Roger refuses to change personas at Klaus' behest, Klaus dresses Roger up, while he's asleep, into the character of "Dr. Penguin." When Roger awakens and looks in the mirror, his tendency to become the mask is so great that he doesn't question the fact that he was an army recruit stationed in Iraq the day before.
  • Bee Bee Gun: Steve tries to use this tactic on Hayley. Needless to say it doesn't go well for him.
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • According to the episode "Seizures Suit Stanny", Stan at one point used a time machine owned by the CIA to Time Travel into the past, as he had forgotten his and Francine's wedding anniversary. In doing so, he altered the timeline, creating Israel.
    • During the episode "Brains, Brains, and Autombobiles", Stan explores Roger's subconscious and views a memory of his from 1997; turns out the reason Biggie Smalls was shot and killed is because Roger was driving with Biggie as a passenger, and Roger yelled at a driver who cut them off.
    • It's revealed in "The Best Christmas Story Never Told" that Roger was the alien who crashed in Roswell.
  • Befriending the Enemy: In the episode "Bully For Steve" Stan takes the role of a childhood bully in an egregious attempt to make Steve stand up for himself. An oblivious Francine suggests Steve try to make friends with his new bully. When he attempts to do so, Stan goes along with it...and then continues beating him up, scolding him for not getting the point yet ("You can't reason with a bully!").
  • Behind the Black:
    • Done in "Stan's Night Out" when, upon establishing everyone knows what's happening, a janitor is revealed to have been listening just out of frame, and requires an explanation.
    • Also lampshaded in "In Country... Club" when Stan criticizes Steve's singing:
      [sudden cut to Francine]
      Francine: I thought it was great.
      [long shot reveals Francine is at the opposite end of the room]
      Stan: Have you been standing there the whole time?
      Francine: Mmhm.
      Stan: That's weird. I had no idea you were there...
  • Beige Prose: In "An Incident at Owl Creek", Francine talks in short sentences at a pool party because Stan has limited her to 100 words, since she "runs her mouth at these things".
    Francine: Welcome neighborhood, Shari. [clicks counter three times] Glad not in woods anymore? [clicks counter five times]
  • Berserk Button:
    • Francine went to a strict Catholic school as a child, and the nun despised left-handed people ("LEFTIES ARE THE DEVIL'S MINIONS!!!"), so she forced Francine to become right-handed and Frannie ended up developing the same attitude. By the end of the episode, Steve and Haley help get her over this.
    • In earlier seasons, just being in Barry's presence set Stan off for no apparent reason. This is even addressed by Stan.
    • Bullock has several of these, ranging from people kissing his ass to stealing his lunch.
      Bullock:Where. The Hell. Is my SANDWICH?!
    • Anytime Hayley is dumped, a rampage ensues.
    • Among the more rabid members of the fandom, calling this show a Family Guy clone (despite being made by the same guy and coming off as a warped take on The Simpsons and Wait Til Your Father Gets Home) typically gets this reaction.
  • Better Than Sex: In "All About Steve", Snot holds up a magazine for nerds called "Wizards and Shut-ins". A section on the cover claimed "500 reasons why Krull is better than sex!"
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Francine, usually closer to Earth and more moralistic than the rest of her family, can snap in rather random and disturbing manners.
    Francine: [calmly] I don't do anything Monday nights...
    Klaus: Well, you clean my bowl on Monday nights.
    Francine: HUMANS ARE TALKING!!! [pushes Klaus' bowl off the kitchen counter and onto the floor]
  • Bigger on the Inside: The Smith's backyard has been shown many times to be a standard-sized pool, a tool shed, and Steve's treehouse— three things not out of place for a standard American household to have. Roger somehow managed to turn it into a small amusement park featuring beer rides that send you through a mountain cave, a large lazy river of booze, a large Tiki idol that spouts beer, henna tattoo stands, 3 porta-potties, a crane for bungee jumping, a pyramid of beer kegs with Donkey Kong on the top, a full-sized performance stage built into the back porch, and numerous tents and chairs.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Steve invites "sexually curious home-schooled girl" Lolo Fuentes to a party he's throwing for unpopular kids. When she shows up, she shows her gratitude with a kiss so epic that they fall into, and destroy, several objects. The trope is discussed later:
    Lolo: Steve, come downstairs so we can keep making out and breaking things.
  • Big Eater: Debbie Hyman and Barry.
  • Big "NEVER!":
    Hayley: It's not my fault the job market sucks. I didn't vote for Bush!
    Roger: Let it go, Hayley.
    Hayley: NEVER!!!
    • In S1 Ep14, "Stannie Get Your Gun", when Bobby the Bullet is fired and told to give up his costume.
  • Big "NO!":
    • Steve, usually. The voice-actor who plays him (Scott Grimes) can get a laugh with one of these alone.
    • Stan does the Skyward Scream bit in "All About Steve".
    • In "Not Particularly Desperate Housewives":
    Francine: Roger, no! [sound of a vacuum exploding] Rooooooooooogggeeeerrrr! [the sound of a timer] My rooooooaaaassssst!
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Roger in "The One That Got Away" to his persona Sidney when he questioned his plan to steal a $10 pair of gloves, involving buying a $700 necklace to give to his "girlfriend" Judi.
  • Big "WHY?!": Steve shouts a mournful one whenever attacked by a vindictive crow in one episode:
    Steve: Why, crow? Why?
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • The Korean writing on the nail salon sign in "The People Versus Martin Sugar" is a Korean transliteration of the English "Nail Salon."
    • During "The Worst Stan", there's a sign in a Chinese restaurant that says "mother" or "parent". When does this appear? When a character reveals that they only want be married to have kids.
    • In the episode "Delorean Story-An", Roger and Francine decide to crash a French masquerade ball, and have something of a short conversation in French. Roger speaks gibberish that he tries to make sound like French, but Francine tells him (regarding Hayley) "Elle est dérangée avec nous", which is a literal translation of "She is upset with us."
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Francine in later seasons.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Played for laughs; apparently, Roger's heart is in his butt, and his genitals are in his armpit. Also, in the episode "Buck, Wild", a doctor tells Roger "All your organs are wrong and scary to me. You might want to have that looked at." Additionally, Roger is very oddly proportioned. His arms are so long (and his legs so short) that he has to hold up his forearms constantly to keep his hands from dragging on the floor (speaking of his hands, they're pretty big— larger than any other character's). The shape of his body has been compared to that of a pear or a bowling pin, and his pants size is 48/12. In the episode "The Adventures of Twill Ongenbone and His Boy Jabari", Stan notes that Roger's "legs are shorter than his feet."

    Roger also has no nose (but still has a sense of smell), and has a set of orifices on the sides of his torso and head (from which he occasionally expels green protoplasm). The aforementioned head is huge and bulbous, much like the archetypal Greys, with no ears and large, almond-shaped eyes, According to the episode "Next of Pin", he is capable of moulting.
    • In one episode, Roger takes Hayley's fake ID and puts it in a pocket seemingly made of his own skin. When Hayley dives in after it, she pulls her hand out clutching what is apparently Roger's pancreas - it has a mouth with sharp teeth, and sprouts tiny legs and scuttles off. Roger complains that he will now have to spend all night "setting pancreas traps."
  • Black Comedy: Makes use of this trope from time to time. A great example occurs throughout the episode "Four Little Words". To avoid hearing Francine tell him "I told you so," Stan frames her for murder. At one point in the third act, he uses a wood chipper to get rid of the evidence:
    Stan: [while a clearly terrified Francine is sitting on the ground in the fetal position] Trust me, honey! This is the best way! We have to destroy the body so you won't be implicated! [smiles and throws the victim's shoe into the wood chipper like he's shooting a basketball]
  • Black Comedy Cannibalism: In "The Vacation Goo" the Smiths were taking a cruise ship vacation, things went wrong and they, along with Becky (a girl from the ship that Steve was attracted), to ended up stranded on a remote island where some rich guys declared that they'd hunt them. After hiding in a cave a cave-in killed Becky and trapped the Smiths there. Starving the Smiths decided to eat the body. Then they found out the hunters had paintball guns and they'd stumbled across a themed resort.
  • Black Is Bigger in Bed: In one episode, Klaus's mind is put into the body of a black man, and he is shown buying condoms. He walks past the small, medium, and large sizes and grabs a garbage bag instead... then starts filling it with boxes of medium-sized condoms.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • Used often, usually in offhand shots, throughout the series. Examples (with the real-life product noted in parentheses) include Klinko's (Kinko's), CostGo (CostCo), Verizin' (Verizon) Wireless, and Joe Daniel's (Jack Daniels).
    • One scene in the episode "Bahama Mama" was basically an Overly Long Gag version of this trope.
    Klaus: Steve, you're giving away all your popular, trademarked toys?
    Steve: Yup. My G.I. Joels, my Transchangers, my My Tiny Baby Horse, Warm Wheels (Hot Wheels), Lettuce Field Gang doll, my Pre-Teen Radiated Judo Bullfrogs, Giggle Me Elmer (Tickle Me Elmo), Theo Ruxberg, and even my Smorfs.
    Klaus: All classics. So why are you getting rid of them?
    Steve: Well, I'm gonna be an uncle, so it's time to put away my childish things. Things such as Leegos, Malibu Barbara, Affection Bears... plus of course there's the matter of my board games. Slides and Stepstools (Chutes and Ladders), Connect Three (Connect Four), Starving Starving Rhinos (Hungry Hungry Hippos), Scrapple (Scrabble), Guess Whom (Guess Who), Frontgammon (Backgammon), Unincorporated Candy Township (Candyland)...
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Stan gets a jump on this trope as early as the pilot episode. When Steve is having trouble with women, Stan tries to help him out:
      Hayley: Oh, my God... Dad, why is Hilary Duff in our house?
      Stan: Hilary is here of her own free will because she wants to have dinner with Steve.
      Steve: Hilary, could you pass the salt?
      Stan: [points gun at Hilary's head] Pass him the salt.
    • Stan spies on the neighbors in a truck with "Surveillance Pizza" on the side.
    • In the episode "The Kidney Stays in the Picture", Stan and Francine time-travel to the 1990s, and they knock on the apartment door where Roger was living at the time. He's on the other side with a large net and a comically oversized envelope addressed to Fidel Castro in Cuba:
      Roger: Elian? Is that you, baby? Come on in; you're safe here. I will not send you back to Coo-ba.
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten: Francine, although mainly through her association with Stan. Although she's actually a brunette. She dyes her hair.
  • Blue-and-Orange Morality: One possible explanation for Roger's general behavior.
  • Blunder-Correcting Impulse: Stan tries to give a rousing speech to the recently disbanded neighborhood watch committee, who have formed a rebel alliance against Roger after he took over the home owner's association . However, he keeps stumbling over his words until he's reduced to awkwardly repeating the word "bosom." Hayley then takes over for him out of pity.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: "Escape from Pearl Bailey" ends with Steve and his friends rallying at the mob they were running away from. From what is heard, it doesn't end well.
  • Bond Gun Barrel: One-off parody in "Tearjerker". Stan actually gets shot by the barrel and confesses that he always thought that it was a camera or an eyeball or something.
  • Book-Ends:
    • The theme song begins and ends with the words "Good morning, USA."
    • "The Long March" begins and ends with Hayley working at Sub Hub, only that one of her co-workers doesn't commit suicide.
  • A Boy and His X:
    • In this case, Barry and his pet calf Rosie. Later causes a massive dose of horror for Barry when Stan makes him slaughter the poor animal to prove his manhood ("A man kills what he loves before it weakens him!") The examples where Steve has pets actually count as something of an inversion - not only are they spectacular failures but they actually serve to keep him away from manhood.
    • Many of the Steve/Roger subplots can be considered "A Boy and His Alien" (Or "An Alien and His Boy"), especially "A.T. - The Abusive Terrestrial".
    • Not to mention a whole side story was devoted to Steve's relationship with a cat that was only abusive to him.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
    • Greg and Terry have this conversation while they're documenting Stan's hunt for Oliver North's gold.
    Terry: We are a lock for an Oscar if there isn't a documentary about penguins or genocide this year!
    Greg: Or penguin genocide.
    Greg and Terry: Oooooooooh.
    Terry: I know.
    • A visual example happens in the episode "Surro-gate", where Francine imagines what Stan's reaction will be when she tells him that she is going to be the surrogate mother for Greg and Terry's baby. In this sequence, once she tells him, Stan attacks her with an array of various weapons. Including a chainsaw, a leopard, and finally a leopard holding a chainsaw.
    • In "Dungeons and Wagons", Jeff's character chisels an epithet on the grave of Steve's character, Agathor. It reads "Here Lies Agathor: Friend, Warrior. Warrior-Friend."
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • An early episode has Francine's friend Julie lamenting over her missing husband:
      Julie: He was always there for me, whether I was laughing, crying or having an especially heavy period.
    • In "1600 Candles", Stan and Francine try to convince Steve that puberty is an experience worth going through and that he should look forward to it:
      Stan: There's stuff you don't want to miss. Your first school dance, getting your driver's license, going over to your best friend's house and finding his mother OD'ed in the tub, or however you cop your first feel.
  • Breaking In Old Habits: Surprisingly inverted. Steve's hand is rendered numb, and the standard implication is that he would try to give himself a stranger. However, he is robbed of the sexual experience of getting to second base, because he can't feel anything.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The occasional aside, usually. Except in one rare case when just over half a minute was spent pulling the animated walls away for the sake of a single gag: a mock celebration in "Widowmaker" for the show's 1000th vagina joke.
  • Breakout Character: Klaus was the intended breakout character, but it was Roger and Steve that ultimately won the fanbase.
  • Breast Attack:
    • A stripper accidentally gets her breasts pierced by hypodermic needles, causing her implants to deflate. As soon as that happens, her mind clears and she realizes that she should be working as a civil engineer.
    • Also happens to Francine when she and Roger attempt to spice up their mundane lives by attending a party at the French consulate.
    "Roger, that was terrible. We were the only people in period dress and your gibberish got me punched in the boob."
    • And again in a brief bit in one episode where Stan accidentally elbows Francine's boobie.
  • Breast Expansion: In the episode "Tearjerker", a James Bond parody, when Stan and Sexpun (Francine) are tied, Stan remembers that Sexpun has a ring in her pocket that was given to him by "S" (Steve), whose gadgets only make womens' breasts grow. He urges her to put it on, which causes Sexpun's breasts to swell so large that they break the ropes, allowing her to set herself and Stan free.
  • Brick Joke:
    • At one point, Roger expels a lot of xenoplasm on the couch, prompting Francine to flip the couch cushions. About half a season later, when Stan's father comes to visit, Stan says "Steve, I hope you scotch-guarded. We can't flip those cushions again."
    • When the family spends the night in the Arizona desert during "There Will Be Bad Blood", there's a shot of the moon. A second later, an excited cow pole-vaults over the moon and starts celebrating... before drifting off into space. At the end of the episode, the same cow plummets through the atmosphere and lands on Jeff's van, before rolling off and limping away.
    • In the first episode, Steve is elected student body president, goes crazy and declares all acts of affection to result in expulsion. The scene cuts to a science teacher telling a frog that it is too dangerous at the moment. In a later episode in season two, Francine is searching for Stan in a motel and walks in on the same teacher and frog.
    • In the episode where Roger hires Hayley as an intern, he mentions that he also hired a small child to watch cartoons for him, but that he was imaginary. At the end of the episode, when Hayley tricks Roger into releasing her from her internship, he looks over his shoulder to see the child shaking his head in disappointment. The boy picks up the TV and slowly walks away and Roger yells out "Hey, wait! That TV's real, I bought that!" as the boy and TV slowly fade away.
    • In one episode, Roger (while high off of marijuana fumes) insists on holding a large bag of cat food because he thinks he'll float away otherwise. A couple of minutes later, some policemen tell him to put his hands in the air; when he does, he drops the cat food and really does float away. Then at the end of the episode, after Stan and Jeff walk off, Roger falls back to Earth.
    • In one episode, after Stan has a near-death experience, he mentions that "epiphany isn't just a name that black people give their daughters." Later, after he's begun digging for Oliver North's gold, Greg and Terry arrive to make a documentary on it, stating that journalism is "a young black woman's game" and that they "can't compete with Epiphany Lorenz."
    • In one episode, Stan has real estate agent (and hand model) Barb Hanson sent to Guantanamo so Francine can take her job. Two inmates mention they'll "cut off her pretty hands" that night. In a later episode, we see Barb again during a game show, with a hook where her right hand used to be.
    • When the family goes on vacation, the CIA orders Stan to kill a wanted criminal who's been hiding himself as the activities director at the resort. Things go bad and the criminal gets a gun and shoots Francine. She's saved by the giant blinged-out "HOODRAT" chain she was wearing underneath. Stan once again thanks Hip Hop music.
    • In the episode "With Friends Like Steve's", Stan says that there are certain things you either know or you don't "like sexing a chicken". While this seems like a simple poultry fornication joke, a later episode has Steve winning a job in a factory because of his rare, innate ability to identify the gender of baby chicks.
    • Steve's backup dancing in various episodes after he declares it to be his dream in the third season - "Good, but doesn't draw focus."
    • In "The Adventures of Twill Ongenbone And His Boy Jabari Francine", at the start of the episode Stan rants at Roger about why Roger doesn't deserve his Oscar (mostly because it's Cuba Gooding Jr.'s, who Stan deeply respects, and Roger just bought it off eBay). When Cuba Gooding Jr. is killed during the events of the episode's A-plot, Stan can somehow sense what just happened despite being nowhere near the area. And at the end of the episode he steals the Oscar back from Roger and returns it to Cuba during his funeral.
    • In "May the Best Stan Win", Stan adopts the martial arts mantra "Sweep low, Rob Lowe, Chad Lowe!" after messing up his future self's "Sweep low, block low, punch low." At the end of the episode when the two fight, Stan attacks while shouting "Chad Lowe!", and the camera cuts to show Lowe working a nearby concession stand and asking "Yes?"
    • In one episode Stan uses a grappling-hook gun a couple times throughout to escape/creep around. Near the end he swings in on-camera in a Dynamic Entry that ends with him trashing the gun, casually noting "only three shots".
    • In "The Long Bomb," Stan finds a terrorist wearing the costume of the Bazooka Sharks' mascot, and says the suit is usually worn by an Asian woman named Lee Tran. At the very end of the episode, a Bound and Gagged Asian woman hops out onto the field, and a relieved Hayley identifies her as Lee Tran.
    • In "Stan Time," Stan laments that he has never had the time to read The Hunt for Red October, falling asleep at only the second sentence. Later when he's on the CIA pills, he finishes reading the book and promptly throws it in a waste bin.
    • In "The 42-Year-Old Virgin," Ray reminisces about what he ate after his first kill. At the end of the episode, after Stan accidentally kills Bad Larry, he gives him a corn dog, saying he will never forget it.
  • Broken Aesop: Done deliberately and played for laughs. Often results in massive hilarity.
    • One example exists in "Lincoln Lover", which has Stan arguing gays deserve equal treatment, and any prejudice and hatred should be redirected at people such as Democrats.
  • Broad Strokes: Several episodes hint at the series taking place in the same universe as Family Guy, as characters from both sitcoms have interacted on occasion. However, there are contradicting elements that make for continuity errors; most notably the shows' respective portrayals of Santa Claus: In Family Guy, he is the benevolent folkloric figure; while the American Dad incarnation is a recurring antagonist bent on world domination.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • In "Stannie Get Your Gun", Roger tricks Steve into believing he's adopted. One of the first things he does is deep kiss a very surprised and repulsed Hayley.
      Hayley: Steve, what are you doing?
      Steve: Something we've both wanted to do for years... "sis." [kisses Hayley passionately]
      ** Brought up in "Killer Vacation". After Steve goes through hell to reach a nude beach, the first thing he sees are his parents. Repulsed, his companion suggests looking at another couple: it's Hayley and Jeff. At first somewhat repulsed, he quickly takes interest.
    • The episode "Faking Bad" shows us that Steve has Hayley's number in his cell phone, and the picture he has to go with it is of Hayley in the shower (clearly unhappy with the circumstances of the photo).
  • Brown Note: The kid Roger introduces to Steve, Freddie, is capable of causing a person's eyeball to pop out of the socket with his scream.
  • Buddy Cop Show:
  • Buffy Speak: Hayley, in "Dungeons and Wagons":
    Hayley: [to Jeff's video game character, designed in the vein of the Greek god Pan] Okay... you're the goat... man... thingy...
  • Bungled Hypnotism:
    • In "Stan Knows Best", Stan reveals he hypnotized Hayley when she was younger to kill Walter Mondale when she heard the word "Rhubarb". When he says it, she doesn't respond, while Steve appears in the background carrying an assault rifle.
    • In one episode, Hayley realizes that the last time she was happy and carefree was when she was six. Roger offers to hypnotize her so that she will temporarily revert to her six-year-old self. Unfortunately, Roger gets interrupted before he can snap her out of it, making the change permanent.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Stan's idiosyncrasies aside, he's frequently portrayed as fairly competent at his job (or at least no more incompetent than anyone else).
  • Buried Alive:
    • In "Bullocks to Stan", Stan tried to help Jeff toughen up to win Hayley back after she broke up with him. Part of this involved burying him in the backyard.
      Jeff: I can't breathe!
      Stan: Plenty of air out here, Jeff. I'm filling my lungs with it now.
      Jeff: Mr. Smith, please!
      Stan: Real men stay calm under pressure, Jeff. By the way, you only have five more minutes to learn that lesson. Two if you panic.
    • In "With Friends Like Steve's", Barry buries a sleeping Francine under the Smiths' yard when he turns Faux Affably Evil from not taking his medication.
    • In "Merlot Down Dirty Shame", Roger buries Francine alive because they had an Accidental Kiss and he doesn't want Stan finding out out of fear that it'll ruin their newfound friendship. Later on, he ends up burying Stan; needless to say, as soon as Stan gets out he is beyond pissed.
  • Busman's Holiday: Roger goes on a date with a bartender... at the same bar she works at... and makes her serve the drinks. She is visibly annoyed by it.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Stan occasionally displays this attitude involving some of his CIA duties. Both Roger and Francine also rather nonchalently fumble over past events where they have destroyed (or taken) other people's lives as something of a running gag.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Klaus seems to have become increasingly pitiful as the show has progressed. The episode "Hurricane!" featured the entire family yelling "Shut up, Klaus!" in unison (unprovoked), followed by Roger punting Klaus, bowl and all, out the door, and another instance sees Francine randomly belittle Klaus by screaming "HUMANS ARE TALKING!" before pushing his bowl off the counter. However, it should be noted he is still treated with a lot more respect and dignity by the family, the writers and the fans in comparison to say, Meg Griffin.
    • Steve seems to have it almost as bad as Klaus.
    • The show itself seems to have become this as there are a number of jokes at its expense on Family Guy and The Cleveland Show. In fact, the Stephen King episode of Family Guy ends with Peter saying, "Well that's it for our show, stay tuned for whatever Fox is limpin' to the barn with..."
    • In later seasons, Dick becomes this amongst his CIA co-workers.
      Stan: You know how I've always said Bullock determines the rooming list? He doesn't. I do. I have a point system where I reward you whenever you're nice to me or say something thought-provoking, and the winner gets to room with me, and I make sure Dick never rooms with me.
  • By "No", I Mean "Yes": When Roger and Stan are competing as restaurateurs, Roger tries to steal customers from Stan by wearing a sandwich board that reads "Free refills on everything, food and drink excluded".

  • Call-Back:
    • Lots of them. An especially clever one takes place in "Rough Trade" when Stan unconsciously duplicates much of Roger's behavior from the first episode.
      Stan: ... pretty sure I asked for Pecan Sandies.
    • The plot of "Tears of a Clooney" is a call back to "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", where we learn that Francine's "one free kill" is George Clooney. However, in the former she seems solely angry at Clooney for not getting married, while in the latter her main beef with him is that he ruined her big break into showbiz. Anger at his lack of marriage is still a factor, though - her plan is centered around getting together with him so she can break his heart, and she even outright says she's angry that he doesn't have a family who constantly depends on him at the end of the episode.
    • One episode has Stan's half-brother suddenly show up on his doorstep because of a dramatic reason, which may be a call back to Meter Made, where Stan, who is talking to his half-brother on the phone, says they'll stay estranged until his half-brother can come up with a dramatic enough reason to show up.
    • In "Roger Codger", Stan saves Roger by convincing the CIA that an elderly woman is the alien they're looking for. Five seasons later in "You Debt Your Life", Stan and Roger have to go back to Area 51, and the old woman can be seen in a tube of green goo.
      • A two-fer, as what she's in is the vacation goo from the season 3 episode of the same name.
    • In "Season's Beatings" it turns out Nemo is not only an evil child, but he's the Antichrist from "Rapture's Delight", right down to the pajamas and irritating voice.
    • Langley Falls dedicated a huge statue to "The Great Bus Crash of 2010" from the 100th episode, "100 A.D." It depicts the bus at it's initial moment of impact while the people inside are screaming and flailing out of the windows.
    • In "Stan of Arabia Pt.1", Stan says that Bullock is an "Asian chubby chaser"; in "One Little Word", the girlfriend Bullock has Stan look after is an overweight Asian.
    • "Dr. Klaustus" calls back to "Francine's Flashback" (indirectly) in that it is revealed that Jeff doesn't get sexually excited by Hayley but rather by Francine.
    • In "Stan's Best Friend", Stan claims that he has never had a dog since he was a kid. Francine mentions that the family has had two dogs, from two previous episodes. Stan promptly tells her she must have been dreaming.
    • In "Failure is not a Factory-Installed Option", a car salesman manages to get in Stan's head by noting he shaves against the grain. In "The Kidney Stays In The Picture", Stan offers to donate his kidney to Hayley, asking for someone to shave his groin for the operation and noting that he likes shaving against the grain.
    • Principal Lewis's mispronunciation of "cocaine" as "kyou-caine" first comes up in "Jenny Fromdablc", and is later referenced by Superintendent Riggs in "The Worst Stan".
    • In "The Boring Identity" a raccoon that says "remember" appears when Stan regains his memory. The same thing happened in "Francine's Flashback" when she regained her memory.
    • In "The 42-Year-Old Virgin," Roger off-handedly mentions that he fought for the Viet Cong in the 60s. He later played a Viet Cong torturer during a reenactment in "In Country...Club."
    • In "Star Trek", Francine claims that while giving birth to Steve, she "tore from [her] V to [her] A." Later, in "I am the Walrus", she uses that exact phrase during a flashback that depicts Steve's birth.
    • In "Meter Made" Hayley is posing nude for an art class which Roger attends. When she disrobes he asks the rest of the room if anyone had any extra "Areola Pink" as he doesn't think one tube would be enough. In "Finger Lenting Good" Roger insults Hayley about having breasts that are "90% nips" (and is confirmed by Jeff, so this can also be considered a Brick Joke as well, since it's clearly not just Roger being his usual jerk self).
  • Calling Your Attacks:
    • Stan has "Meat slap", "Groin Punch", and a lot from "May the best Stan win".
      • From "Stanny Boy and Frantastic":
        Stan: I'm so sorry... NUT PUNCH!
        Stage performer: Block! Counter nut punch! [does so]
      • From "Season's Beatings":
        Stan: [runs across screen and snatches Nemo (Hayley and Jeff's child; also the Anti-Christ) out of Hayley's arms]: Demon grab!
    • Principal Lewis has "Shoulder tap," and "Bitch slap, slappity slap."
    • Hayley uses "Punch in the face!" on Klaus towards the end of "Da Flippity Flop".
  • Cannot Keep a Secret: Jeff, whether it be a surprise birthday party, a birthday present, a movie summary, Roger being an Alien. If Jeff was a Doctor, he could have his license revoked.
  • Captain Obvious:
    • This one:
    Hayley: They think you're Kevin Bacon!
    Roger: Yes, Hayley, I understand things that happen around me.
    • And in another episode:
    Steve: It's the last clue!
    Stan: DUH! REALLY?! Sorry, it's been a really long night.
    • From "Toy Whorey", when the wheels from Stan's SUV have been stolen
    A guy in a car: You can't drive with no wheels.
    Stan: Thank you, genius.
  • Card-Carrying Jerkass: Roger openly takes great delight in messing with others for his own enjoyment, although his antics often go well beyond "Jerkass" and well into some pretty extreme sociopathy played for laughs. He's even gone so far as to bury Francine alive and take a dump into someone's open chest cavity during a surgery.
  • Cat Fight: "The Magnificent Steven" has Roger manipulates Hayley and Francine into one-upping each other until a cat-fight inevitably breaks out, all so he can film it and win a t-shirt from a website devoted to mother-daughter cat-fights.
  • Catchphrase: One of the few animated shows of its kind that don't rely on these. A few phrases pop up multiple times, but they're almost always appropriate to the situation.
    • The early seasons have Avery exclaiming "Capital idea, Smith!" a few times - this is about as close as it gets.
    • Klaus does say "wunderbar" (German for "wonderful") a lot.
    • Can a sound be a catch phrase? If so, Stan's two over-the-top screams count. He has an AAAAAGH!! for pain and an OOOOOOH!! for surprise. The writers actually have names for them in the same vein as the Wilhelm Scream.
    • In one episode Stan said he once tried making a new catchphrase, but it was unpopular (except for with Klaus, at least).
      • "Nuh-uh to your uh-huh!"
    • Another episode has Francine trying to leave a mark on the world, and thus tries out catchphrases on Klaus. After coming up with "Things are getting too spicy for the pepper!", it's revealed that it was a Mexican advertising slogan for a pepper and chili company.
    • "Roger, what the HELL?!?" also seems to recur a few times, as does "Dammit, Roger!", though these aren't catchphrases so much as natural responses to how maddening Roger can be.
    • Hayley has "Oh. My. God!" She also uses the phrase "This isn't over" numerous times, when a character impedes her progress towards whatever cause she's supporting.
    • Steve sure says "Awesome!" a lot, usually with same enunciation.
    • Roger plays with this during an episode in which he sells his "dive bar" and appears in a commercial advertising it as such. His catchphrase for the commercial is "Dive on in," said with an Australian accent. It turns into a running gag, with Roger unable to keep from saying it in everyday life:
      Roger: [to Francine] Hey, look at you sittin' there on the couch, lookin' all fetching. Makes me wanna [accent] dive on in!
      Francine: Roger, you're home now. You don't have to say "Dive on in."
      Roger: Sorry. After 300 ribbon-cuttings, it's a little hard to turn off. [accent] Diveonin.
      Francine: Roger, it was one thing when you were working yourself to death for the bar you loved, but now you're just wearing yourself out promoting something that you don't even believe in!
      Roger: Francine, relax. Have a drink. [accent] Dive on in! [horn honks outside] That's my limo now. Different from the one that dropped me off. Nicer. More promiscuous driver. Oh, and Francine?
      Francine: Don't say it!
      Roger: [narrows eyes, slowly leaves and closes door behind him]
      [Francine turns around and walks towards the kitchen— Roger appears in front of her]
      Roger: [accent] Diveonin.

      [Roger is giving a speech]
      Audience member: Do "Dive on in"!
      Roger: No! No, I won't do [accent] "Dive on in"! ... [accent] Diveonin.
  • Category Traitor: Terry is angered that Greg is a Republican (and voted for "He who shall not be named").
  • Cats Are Mean: The sub-plot of episode "Choosy Wives Choose Smith". Steve finds a cat who proceeds to torture only Steve for the rest of the episode.
    • Taken to extreme levels in "Stan's Best Friend" when the family gets a new dog. Stan is sure that he couldn't possibly be involved in another dog-related accident. This seems supported by the fact that Kisses narrowly dodges a car accident, only for Kisses to be crushed by a random hot-air balloon manned by pirate cats.
    • "Brains, Brains and Automobiles" has this with Osama Bin Laden's cat, Buffy. When Bullock finds she hates him without reason, he finds out she thinks he smells weird; after changing his body wash, however, she still avoids him:
      Bullock: [throws Buffy's bed through a nearby window, and grabs her face] YOU THINK YOU'RE BETTER THAN ME?! YOU'RE NOT BETTER THAN ME!
  • Cattle Drive: Through city streets, no less. With Stan swatting at invisible owls. In his underwear.
  • Caught on Tape:
    • Roger running someone over while dressed as Kevin Bacon. It's Bacon who gets arrested 20 minutes later across the country in Los Angeles.
      Bacon: I don't remember doing it, but it's clearly me on that tape!
    • Stan bullying Steve in "A Bully For Steve" (Also Principal Lewis drinking a 12-pack of beer and then urinating on the basketball court).
  • Caught with Your Pants Down: The trope around which " Smith in the Hand" is based.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • An interesting example occurs in "American Dream Factory" with Steve's band Steve and the Asstones. Since the songs they play ("Livin' On The Run" and "Sunset Blvd.") were minor hits written and performed by Scott Grimes who voices Steve, it is implied that in-universe, Steve wrote them and therefore they are not hits.
    • "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven" starts with Patrick Stewart himself introducing the episode- written as a theatrical play, and the only one of the 12 cocaine-fueled scripts that he found in a dead writer's New York hotel room that he didn't eat in jealousy. Written pretty much in-character as something Bullock himself would do, with him being one of the actors in the aforementioned play.
    • A more straightforward example occurs in "I Ain’t No Holodeck Boy." Bullock unveils a new room the CIA has that can holographically simulate any environment.
    Dick: Oh, so it's like the holodeck!
    Bullock: The what?
    Stan: From Star Trek.
  • Character Development: In the quest to devise better storylines, this has been a necessity. All of the characters have become more complex and multi-faceted as the series has gone along.
    • For example, Klaus seems to have toned down his Jerkass demeanor to an extent, having dropped his affections for Francine and gained a more friendly relationship towards Stan and Roger. He also seems to have become somewhat of a Butt-Monkey, developing a more pitiful tone as a result of the family's occasional neglect or mistreatment of him.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Roger's people-shy ways in earlier episodes seem strange in light of the surprisingly full life he is later able to lead outside the Smith house thanks to his many disguises and alternate personas. This can actually happen between episodes. The B-plot of "Helping Handis" involves Roger going complete neat freak and attempting to make the entire house spotless. The very next episode has him quit a fraternity because he's asked to clean. At all. "Roger Codger" also shows him willing to sacrifice his life for the well being of the Smiths, in contrast to the Comedic Sociopath whose Lack of Empathy is one of his key traits. This was the start of Roger's Flanderization, being the first episode where he leaves the house without his alienbeingness being an issue.
    • Though it overlaps with Character Development more than with Roger, Stan gets this too. For example, a Season One episode has him casually go a strip club with his co-workers, emphasizing some hypocrisy in his conservative persona. A more recent episode shows him being embarrassed when his co-workers basically force him to go along and advising the strippers to get other jobs.
      • In the same episode, Stan complains that Hayley is playing rap music. In later episodes it's revealed that Stan is a fan of hip-hop.
    • In the older episodes, Stan used to talk about his political views a lot, as well as blaming liberals for every problem in the world. In the recent seasons, he hardly ever does this. In fact, the whole premise of the show became The Artifact.
    • Also Stan was more of a Jerkass in earlier seasons, later seasons have him toned down to Jerk with a Heart of Gold while in the past, Stan's self-righteous and large ego would lead him to commit extreme acts of callousness. He seems to have become more aware of the effect of his actions on the family and more willing to lay down his pride to apologize. For example, a season two episode had him drive the whole family to poverty just to take a few dollars off a car payment which he admitted thought would take two years and was amazed when it ended early. The episode ends with him in his new car, bragging about how easy it was, oblivious to or uncaring about the hardships he put his family through. In a season five episode, Stan spends the mortgage on a new SUV, risking the family house and homelessness. He later overhears Francine complaining about him prioritizing a car over his family, and unlike in the former episode, Stan is reduced to tears by this realization of his selfishness showing how his character has evolved
    • In season one, Steve was an easily impressionable kid who listened and followed Stan's words to the letter, parroting his words blindly. Not so much these days.
      • Not to mention in the first episode, Steve was even more geekier and gawkier than he would be later on. In fact, looking at his initial incarnation in the un-aired test pilot suggests that he wasn't even originally planned to be a cool kid to begin with.
  • Character Title: "American Dad" refers to Stan, the father.
  • Chekhov's Classroom: Subverted in the episode "Stan's Night Out". Stan watches a television show about gardening, where the host says that you can start a lawnmower with the first pull, if you stand on the back wheels. Later, when he's trapped by a ruthless crime lord in a shed, he sees a lawnmower, and proposes a wager; if he can start it ten times in a row, the bad guy will let him go. So, he stands on the wheels, pulls the rope... and the lawnmower doesn't start. Stan makes it out okay, but at the end of the episode he calls the show and threatens the host on air because his advice didn't work.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • In the episode "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man", Stan mentions that Francine's one free kill is George Clooney. This becomes the plot for the finale of that season, "Tears of a Clooney"
    • In "Hot Water" the can of Spa Down is set up as if it's going to be one of these, but it's subverted when Stan doesn't get to use it.
    • In "Hurricane!" Stan makes a couple of very forced references early on to his "old college javelin", complete with getting a close-up when he says it. Sure enough, later in the episode he tries to use the javelin to save his family from a bear and shark, the key word being tries; he ends up hitting Francine with the javelin instead.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • The beginning of "With Friends Like Steve's" features Stan showing a variety of CIA maneuvers to a thoroughly bored Steve. The main purpose of the scene being to show the growing disconnect between Stan and Steve, the viewer attaches no additional importance to it, making the episode's climax even more satisfying when Steve is called upon to use practically every skill Stan demonstrated to him earlier in the episode.
    • "My Morning Straitjacket" gives us this bit from Francine (which later becomes relevant):
    Francine: Oh yeah, I used to get backstage all the time. Of course, back then you had to work for it. Not like these sissy giveaways. Oh, you're the 97th caller. Bravo! Hmph. Fit that entire phone in your mouth and you might have been able to run with my crew...
  • Christmas Episode: Each one more outlandish then the last.
    • The first deals with time travel where Stan screws up history which results in Walter Mondale beating Reagan in the presidential election and turning the United States over to the Soviet Union.
    • The second takes place in the afterlife, where Stan is put on trial to determine if he's worthy of a second chance at life. He eventually takes his lawyer hostage and pulls a gun on God.
    • The third depicts the Rapture and Armageddon, where the Anti-Christ literally is everything opposite of what Jesus was, right down to saying the exact opposite of what he would say. Also, he's a piss-poor carpenter.
    • The fourth involving Steve accidentally killing Santa (under Stan's goading) and the whole family tries to bury the body in the woods. Santa gets better and declares all-out war on the family. The ensuing battle between Santa's elven army and the Smiths is nothing short of EPIC!
      • The absurdity of each Christmas story even gets lampshaded at the end.
        Jeff: Does your family always have such messed-up Christmases?
        Stan: Yeah, Jeff. And now you do, too.
    • The fifth one involves Jeff adopting the Antichrist.
    • The sixth one involves Steve getting kidnapped by The Krampus to get back at Stan's father, who sealed him away for 50 years and Stan's ensuing efforts to rescue Steve.
    • The seventh one is a It's a Wonderful Plot, in which Stan wishes to have Principal Lewis' swinging bachelor life, but soon regrets the wish when he finds out that Francine is married to Principal Lewis in an alternate reality.
    • The eighth shows that Santa is a complete maniac. He kidnaps children to use as forced labor in order to dig out a hug mine so he can summon Humbaba and become all powerful. Jack takes over Santa's palace while the Smiths leave with the surviving children and Santa crawls out of the ruins.
    • The ninth one is a loose sequel to the eighth, and it deals with Roger (upset that no one in the family will pay attention to him) befriending Snot (who's upset over not celebrating Christmas because of his religion) and converting to Judaism. Then, he finds the corpse of Santa Claus and becomes Schmanta, a Santa Claus with the power to make Hanukkah more popular than Christmas.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Almost any time someone is foolish enough to trust Roger, it will turn out that Roger is lying or being dishonest in some manner. It would be far easier to list the times Roger averts the trope than the times he plays it straight.
  • Clark Kenting: Roger and his various disguises; ties in with Wig, Dress, Accent.
  • Cleavage Window:
    • Francine ice dance dress in the episode "Of Ice and Men" has an heart-shaped opening in the chest area.
    • One of Hayley's friends outfit in "Faking Bad".
  • Clock Discrepancy:
    • "The American Dad After School Special": Stan puts an Exploding Collar on his son, set to go off if he doesn't ask a girl out in 24 minutes. As he's running down the street, he remarks that his Timex watch shows he still has 5 minutes left, then immediately sees a newspaper with the headline "Timex Recalls Watches For Being Four Minutes Slow."
    • In an early episode, Stan accidentally exposes the whole family to a deadly virus, and they are diagnosed with 24 hours to live. They decide to make the most of their time by watching the complete first season of 24. When the time is finally up, they say their goodbyes and wait for the clock to strike the new hour, as if expecting to just drop dead without question. The clock rings, but Roger tells them that clock is always a little fast. Better give it another minute. The virus was inert, so they weren't in any real danger in the first place.
  • Cloning Blues:
    • Stan uses CIA technology to make a clone of Steve so he could prove to Francine that his way of raising teenagers is the right way.
    • Played in a more depressingly serious manner for Steven and Snot themselves, who went to perverted lengths to acquire the DNA of the two girls they wanted to take to the prom and clone them, only to find that they started off as babies and quickly grew up over the next few days. When Stan learns what they did, he has to kill them off. Even if he hadn't shot them, Steve quickly learned that their bodies begin to shut down once they reach the age of the girls they were cloned from, and his own "daughter" dies before him. Stan caps her anyways just to be sure.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
  • Code Name: In "Francine's Flashback", Stan and Hayley have the code names "Upstanding Conservative" and "Dirty Liberal" respectively. Wonder who thought of those.
    • Another episode reveals that Hayley was brainwashed to be a sleeper agent, and if activated, Stan has 7 days to say the deactivation phrase or the agent will turn on their handler. When Stan says the activation phrase, they reveal the code name Agent Small Wonder. The plan predictably backfires, as Stan doesn't say the deactivation phrase in time in order to ensure Hayley marries the man he selected and hopefully cement a series of decisions he made for her without her consent.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Klaus' most recognizable form, a goldfish, is orange. Thus, to make it easy to remember who he is, almost any non-fish form he takes will either have red (read: orange) hair, or will be wearing something orange. Averted in "Of Ice and Men", however.
  • Color Me Black: In "Old Stan of the Mountain", Stan is transformed into an elderly man when his general rudeness towards senior citizens gets him cursed by one. At the end of the episode, Stan's curse is lifted, but he becomes a black man.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Francine. Technically she's a Retired Badass, and in the past she has participated in a fight club (where she pulled out the knife her opponent had stabbed her with and used it to kill her), and been in jail (where she sharpened a plastic fork into a shiv in order to kill someone). And if Stan pisses her off, she will use everything from lamps to cars to beat him up. He does not look good afterwards.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Everyone. Showing concern for someone who has been seriously injured right before one's eyes is a rarity in the American Dad! world.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • Stan, on a number of occasions:
      • In "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man":
        Roger: Anyway, last night I ate all of your potato salad, and I tried to make more, but there was no mayo, so instead I used... well, pull my finger.
        [Francine does so, Roger sprays milk from his breasts; everyone but Stan gags]
        Stan: (beat) I don't get it, what's the secret ingredient?
      • In Lincoln Lover, after the Logcabin Republicans perform a two-minute musical piece that explains how gays don't have to be Democrats:
        Stan: [realization] My God. Where did you get this confetti?
      • In "Threat Levels", when Stan discovers gay couple Greg and Terry are the new neighbors, and Stan reveals his prejudice:
        Stan: We don't want their kind in this neighborhood.
        Francine: You're overreacting.
        Stan: Overreacting? Overreacting? Do you know what those two are? Reporters! That's right, Francine, members of the liberal media!
      • In "The Great Space Roaster":
        [power cuts out, before a warning siren sounds and emergency lights start flashing]
        Francine: [distressed] Stan, what's happening?!
        Stan: [indifferent] Not much. What's happening with you?
    • In "Finances With Wolves":
      [camera pans to stand with "AIDS HOTCAKES" sign]
      Jimmy: How come no-one is buying your hot cakes, Mr. Aids?
      Mr. Aids: Because I'm Irish, Jimmy. Because I'm Irish.
    • In "Phantom of the Telethon":
      Terrorist: When you are forbidden to drink, dance or touch yourself, your afternoons are pretty much free.
      Roger: You can't touch yourself? How do you masturbate?
      • In the same episode, a flashback reveals Roger is sabotaging Stan's telethon as he stole the idea from him:
        Roger: I WILL BE AVENGED! [leaves, then re-enters] PLEASE CALL ME WHEN DINNER IS READY!
        [flashback ends]
        Stan: Of course, it's Roger! He's trying to ruin the telethon because I didn't call him when dinner was ready!
    • In "Ricky Spanish", when Roger wants Daniel to knock Steve out:
      Roger: Now it's time to say goodnight, Steve! Daniel?
      Daniel: [beat] Oh? Goodnight, Steve.
      Roger: Daniel... [sighs] no. [nods towards Steve].
      Daniel: Oh! Where are my manners? [kisses Steve on the forehead] Goodnight, puddin'.
    • As The Ditz, Hayley's boyfriend Jeff is susceptible to this trope:
      Bullock: Jeff, we haven't been entirely forthright with you. You see, we're actually out here to hunt the most cunning prey of all.
      Jeff: An otter?
      Bullock: Bigger.
      Jeff: A dolphin? No, that's stupid. We're in the woods. ... a land dolphin?
      Stan: It's you! We're gonna kill YOU! [to Bullock] I'm sorry, but it was gonna take him forever.
  • Comic-Book Time: In "Stan and Francine and Connie and Ted", Barry refers to the events of "With Friends Like Steve's" (which aired over a decade prior) as happening only "a few months" ago.
  • Companion Cube: Stan's beloved SIG P220 pistol. Stan loves his sidearm (at least as much as Jayne in Firefly), especially if he gets to use it irresponsibly. He even plays with it like it's some kind of pet in "Roger Codger", and isn't at all alarmed when it goes off.
    Stan: Ha-ha!! Made ya laugh!!
  • Conspiracy Placement: "Black Mystery Month" parodies The Da Vinci Code's use of these.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Roger's Solid Gold Poop incident from the episode "Homeland Insecurity" comes up again in later episodes, eventually spinning off into its own side story.
    • In an early episode Stan makes a small offhand Suspiciously Specific Denial about brainwashing Hayley when she was 5. A few seasons later they get around to having a whole episode about this.
    • On occasion, one of the later-season Couch Gags would use one of Roger's disguises from the previously aired episode. Case in point, the Couch Gag for the episode "Jack's Back" had Roger wearing the disguise he wore during the episode "Roy Rogers McFreely".
    • A season one episode had Francine living out her dream to run a muffin kiosk at a mall. A few episodes later when she has an outburst about giving up her dreams, Stan wonders when it changed.
    • In "Killer Vacation", Stan says "Thanks again, hip hop!" in reference to a Noodle Incident that he mentions in "Finances With Wolves".
    • In only the second episode, Jackson off-handedly mentions that he wishes he had a vagina. Later seasons confirm that he's into transsexual women.
    • During the episode "Widowmaker", in the scenes that take place in the Smiths' basement, one of Stan's "holiday cele-bear-tions" teddy bears can be seen in the background (first introduced in "The American Dream Factory").
    • In the episode "Francine's Flashback", Stan tells Hayley a story of how, on his wedding day, he placed a single yellow flower in a white bouquet, symbolizing Francine's sunshine in his cloudy world, and he shows Hayley the flower. In "Wife Insurance", Francine looks longingly at a picture from their wedding day, in which she's holding the very same flower.
  • Conveniently Timed Distraction: In season 6, "There Will Be Bad Blood", Rusty, Stan's half-brother, finds Stan and his family in the desert and threatens to shoot Stan for still being on his land. But Rusty gets startled by a mangled helicopter pilot who went out to get help and shoots him instead, allowing Stan to topple him onto the pilot's corpse and the family escapes.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: During "In Country... Club", one of Roger's methods to get Stan to cough up the Pay-Per-View code is to read the first draft of the Sex and the City movie script.
  • Cooldown Hug: In "Frannie 911", Francine sings "I See The Moon" to Roger whenever he starts to freak out (which is often).
  • Cool Guns: Very popular in the first season. There's even "Stannie Get Your Gun" which shows both sides of the American gun law debate, albeit ending with a "guns are good" stance.
  • Corrupt Politician: The season 10 continuation of the Golden Turd mini arc sees the old woman being put to death for the murder of her husband, while her son watches. The son eventually finds the golden turd, choosing to ignore his own son's pleas for help outside as he is in trouble himself. He then makes a phone call to someone who has political aspirations to make him president.
  • Couch Gag:
    • A spoof topical newspaper headline. It was once even used to kick-start the episode's plot.
    • Replaced by Roger's alternating hairstyles/costumes from season four onwards.
    • Lampshaded in a Family Guy episode where Joe Swanson takes Stan's place in the first opening and the newspaper reads "Newspaper Gag Fails To Live Up To Expectations".
  • "Could Have Avoided This!" Plot:
    • In "White Rice", Stan is so desperate to avoid discussing difficult issues with Francine that he hires a hypnotist mess with Francine's memories every year. Naturally she's infuriated when she finds out, and to win her back Stan tries out some of the things she mentioned (painting the kitchen, him wearing shorts). However, Francine says that all she really wanted was to actually talk about these things with him; the kitchen looks terrible and the shorts make Stan look boxy. The episode ends with her bringing up the idea of her father moving to town when he retires (which kicked off the episode); Stan agrees to discuss it, Francine says it's a terrible idea, and all is well.
    • "Poltergasm" shows us that American Dad! can take even legitimate tropes and transform it into The Unfair Sex. In a spoof of the movie Poltergeist, the Smith home is haunted by Francine's unsatisfied sexual drive, so it is up to Roger - as medium Ruby Zeldastein - to eliminate the ghost. The problem is that Francine's unsatisfied sexual drive had nothing to do with Stan, in fact Stan had spent years mastering all of Francine’s likes based on what she told him and her reactions. Literally at the last possible second Francine informed Stan that she wanted to spend more time on foreplay, something he neglected in his previous efforts to please her.
  • Country Matters: In "Threat Levels", Roger is supposed to be working, but is instead talking with a friend on the phone. When Francine reminds Roger to get back to work, Roger tells the person on the phone that his boss is being a real catch you next Tuesday.
    • In the commentary for said episode, Wendy Schall (Francine's VA) was shocked that they got away with that on network TV.
    • The table read special featuring this episode on the volume one DVD of American Dad! reveals that the original line was supposed to be "See you next Tuesday" and was changed because the "see" made it painfully obvious that the word "cunt" was being spelled in code.
  • Counting Bullets: Barry counts the number of bullets when the boys and Principal Lewis are taking cover from gunfire. Only he deliberately gets the principle shot by saying they're out...but they have one bullet left.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Stan keeps a huge assortment of guns everywhere and has a panic room and an investigation room, among other things. Mainly a jab at Stan's paranoia (and therefore that of the perceived "average patriot" in a post-9/11 world) but it often comes in handy when resolving plots.
  • Creepy Monotone: In "Anchorfran", Roger falls in love with a boy, Dylan, from a board game called Dream Phone. When he tracks him down and realizes not only that his name isn't actually Dylan, but that he's actually nothing like the character he portrayed for the board game, the next scene is Roger driving Steve, Hayley, and Klaus home (all of whom are visibly disturbed by whatever Roger did).
    Klaus: So, um.... what happened back there?
    Roger: [monotone] We went to the mall and had pizza, because that's what Dylan likes.
    Hayley: Why is there blood on the dream phone?
    Roger: [monotone] He likes malls and pizza. And me.
    Steve: [looks inside a brown paper bag] Roger? What's in this jar?
    Roger: [monotone] Dylan was being bad. And now we have the jar. [turns on the radio, which plays "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters]
  • Crippling the Competition: In "Next of Pin", Stan shivs Steve in the ankle to prevent him from beating him in a bowling competition.
  • Crossover:
    • The end of "Hurricane!" brings both Cleveland and Peter (and their flooded houses) together next to Stan and his home.
    • The end of "The Unbrave One" shows that Quagmire was the Internet doctor Dr. Vadgers.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass:
    • Roger, once.
    • Barry when not medicated - taken to epic super villain proportions.
    • Also Francine has her moments... let's just say Stan goes to epic extents to stay out of her way when he pisses her off (for very good reasons)
    • Arguably Stan himself; when he drops his attitude and starts to focus he is almost unbeatable in a fight.
  • Crowded Cast Shot: The episode "Phantom of the Telethon" shows numerous characters (both recurring and otherwise) in the crowd of a CIA telethon. Included are Ma Ma and Bah Bah (Francine's adoptive parents), Officer Turlington, Clifford (the knight who protects Stan's lair in "Of Ice and Men"), Chuck and Christie White, the three founding members of the Ladybugs, Betty Sue (the homecoming queen from "It's Good to Be the Queen"), Bob and Linda Memari, Brett Morris (Stan's newfound best friend from the episode "Dope & Faith"), Henry Fischer (Jeff Fischer's father), Betty Smith (Stan's mother), Travis Bowe (Francine's ex-fiance), Judy Panawitz (the love interest of Sidney from the episode "The One That Got Away"), and Dill Sheppard (Hayley's ex-husband from the episode "Haylias").
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Apparently, Mary Todd Lincoln created peanut butter which her husband disregarded as one of her "lunatic concoctions for warding off evil spirits". She also predicted a man would walk on the moon, but got his name mixed up: "Army Neilstrong".
  • Cursed With Awesome: Reginald being transformed into a Koala note  made his life a million times better, as he has a high paying job, is a badass secret agent, and is freaking adorable. (As opposed to before where he was a skill-less homeless bum who would have probably starved to death) Klaus is the opposite, as he is almost completely immobile, being stuck inside a cramped little bowl 24/7.
  • Cute Bruiser: Reginald Koala. He even has a theme song.
  • Cut Himself Shaving: Used straight and then subverted in "Rough Trade". Roger accidentaly hits Francine and gives her a black eye; to cover, she uses the "walked into a door" excuse. Later, when the police are there investigating a domestic disturbance call (a series of coincidences having led the neighbors to believe Stan is beating Francine), Francine actually does walk into a door (after tripping on the mop) and gives herself another black eye, but the police do not believe her and arrest Stan.
    Francine: I deserved it for leaving the mop out.
  • Cutting Back to Reality: In "The American Dad After School Special", Stan becomes worried that he's gaining weight and hooks up with an abusive trainer named Zack. A little later, it's revealed that Stan is actually suffering from anorexia, and a cut to reality shows him totally emaciated and talking to thin air.
  • Cyborg: A cyborg version of Stan from a thousand years in the future competes with present-day Stan for Francine in "May The Best Stan Win".

  • Damsel out of Distress: Francine has on more than one occasion been kidnapped and tied up, more often in the earlier seasons. She even comes across, Depending on the Writer, as sweet and caring like the archetype is known for. It generally doesn't stop her from being quite awesome in other areas though.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • The focus of "A Smith in The Hand".
    • After Stan and Francine appoint Roger as Steve's legal guardian (in "A Ward Show"), Roger hugs Stan and notices that he's erect. Rogers tells him to go take care of it, so Stan and Francine begin to leave the attic. Stan tells Francine that he's got it covered.
    • In a deleted scene from the episode "The 42-Year-Old Virgin", after Francine immediately shuts down her Ready for Lovemaking scenario (pours out her wine, extinguishes the candles, throws on a frumpy nightgown, and throws the covers over herself) when Stan comes home and tells her he hasn't killed anyone yet, then the viewer hears a vibrator and Francine tells Stan that it's her pencil sharpenernote . The scene doesn't appear on the TV version for obvious reasons, but is on the DVD.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates:
    • A large part of the reason Hayley goes out with and marries Jeff.
    • Hayley dates a Mexican boy just to tick off Stan, but Stan later hires him and a bunch of other Mexicans to make teddy bears for him, in revenge Haley rats him to the police because they were illegals.
      • After having second thoughts about marrying Jeff she changed her mind only after finding out that her parents were offering a $50,000 to anyone who stops the marriage.
    • Stan hates fat people, and Steve starts dating Debbie, a Goth, overweight girl. It causes Stan to diet to the point of anorexia.
  • A Day in the Limelight: Most episodes feature Stan as the main character, but occasionally someone like Roger or Steve will be given the lead role for variety. The best example is probably "Escape from Pearl Bailey", in which the plot is driven entirely by Steve's actions while the rest of the family hardly appears at all. Klaus has by far the fewest of these episodes, with Hayley bringing up the rear (pun intended).
    • "Stan's Night Out" focuses on Stan spending time with his CIA co-workers outside of work. Up until that episode they had just been satellite characters. The episode in question showed that Stan's friends are an irresponsible group of morons with Stan being the Only Sane Man. They do whatever they feel like doing with no consideration for others, and they stoop as low as to lock people in the trunks of their cars when they interrupt their fun.
      • The fact that Stan, the ultra-conservative gun-toting super-patriotic moron is the Only Sane Man should speak leagues about his friends.
    • "Lost In Space" focuses exclusively on Jeff's abduction by Roger's species, and his attempt to escape back to Earth. None of the other characters except Hayley and Roger even appear in the episode.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Stan, at times.
      Steve: Dad, can we go to Graceland?
      Stan: Steve, if you want to pay your respects to a fat man who died on the toilet, we can visit your Aunt Mary's grave.
    • Roger and Hayley as well.
    • As well as Steve, when he's disappointed, his dreams have been crushed, or he is not happy with the current situation.
    • Along with Klaus:
      Stan: This is what Roger does? He just sits here and watches this crap all day? What am I missing?
      Klaus: An elevated blood-alcohol content.
  • Death Is Cheap: Klaus in "Buck, Wild" and Duper in "100 A.D." and "The Kidney Stays In The Picture".
  • Deconstructor Fleet: Another animated show by Seth MacFarlane that enjoys messing with tropes and using them with shades on.
  • Delayed Reaction: Happens in "Francine's Flashback".
  • Deep-Immersion Gaming: The characters playing the MMORPG Dragonscuffle, which even gives Hayley's player character a Chainmail Bikini.
  • Demoted to Extra:
    • Arguably with Hayley. Stan and Hayley were the first two characters created when the show was being planned as an updated All in the Family. Since the second season onward, as characterization and story took precedence over politics, Hayley has been used less and less, especially compared with Steve and Roger. In many episodes, she is lucky if she has similar screen time and lines as Klaus.
    • Since Hayley married Jeff Fischer, the writers seem to be making an effort to include her more along with Jeff, but even then the subplots don't rely on Hayley's leftist views as much as they focus on problems with their marriage. There have been at leat a few sub-plots on Hayley and Jeff's lack of a satisfying sex life.
    • Since the show moved to TBS, more attention has been put onto Hayley (and to a lesser degree Klaus) when compared to the last few years of the show's run on FOX. An example being that the first TBS season had her playing some pivotal role in 7 of it's 15 episodes whether it was the main plot or the subplot.
    • Incidentially, in "Escape from Pearl Bailey" (S4 Ep 05), the episode was mostly focused on Steve being cornered by the Jerk Jocks and Alpha Bitches at Pearl Bailey High, and the other Smiths are seen only once. Not counting Stan and Roger's lines in the new intro introduced for this season, only Stan and Francine each get one line. This is lampshaded in the following exchange.
    Steve: [appearing in a Hopi Indian revenge mask] Got my revenge!
    Francine: That's great, honey.
    Stan: Well, it was nice of Steve to acknowledge us this week, even if it was only this once.
    • Most of the supporting characters from the first few seasons fell victim to this around the time the series began phasing out its political edge (late 2008/early 2009). Notable ones like Linda Memari and Chuck White haven't spoken or had any relevance since Season 4.
    • Longtime supporting characters Greg Corbin & Terry Bates fell victim to this in Season 11 due to Mike Barker's (showrunner and the voice of Terry) departure from the series due to creative differences. Whether they will continue to no longer be supporting characters is currently uncertain.
  • Department of Redundancy Department:
    • The "Mountaintop Spa on top of a Mountaintop" from "Tears of a Clooney".
    • Also, Francine's "creative" simile skills in "The Scarlett Getter":
      Francine: Those two are stuck on each other like gum on a hot summer sidewalk on a summer afternoon. (beat) I'm sorry, I'm taking a creative writing class and I can't turn it off. Like a fire hydrant... gushing onto a hot summer sidewalk... my words cascading like water onto a hot summer sidewalk. A cat skitters by! Each step a relief... cooling it's paws from the hot summer sidewalk. [...] Just hearing his name makes me hot. a hot summer sidewalk. An ice-cream man saunters—
      Roger: Okay.
    • In "My Affair Lady", the company Hayley gets a job with is called "Businesscorp Industries Corp Incorporated".
    • During the episode "When a Stan Loves a Woman", Hayley drinks a beverage called Cougar Boost, which, according to what Steve reads on the can, "May lead to extreme extremeness."
    • "Moon Over Isla Island" gives us two: The fictional nation known as "Isla Island," which translates to "Island Island," and its leader, Juanito Pequeno, or "Little Juan Little."
  • Depending on the Writer:
    • Is Stan a huge Jerkass whose main priority is himself, or is he merely a stubborn individual who nonetheless genuinely cares about his family? There are episodes supporting both viewpoints.
    • Similarly, in some episodes, Hayley is portrayed as genuinely caring and sincere in her beliefs, while in others, she's a huge hypocrite. In both cases, it could be less a case of Depending on the Writer and more "depending on what suits the plot."
    • The commentary for one episode said that the main rules for Stan is that "he tries to keep his country and his family safe" and "he can't be unlikable". How far the writers think "likable" goes does vary a lot.
    • Roger to a similar extent can either be a Jerk with a Heart of Gold who truthfully appreciates his adoptive family deep down, or a borderline sociopath PsychopathicManchild that near literally lacks the ability to feel for anyone but himself, at least not without severe consequences to his state of mind.
    • Steve is portrayed as physically weak in some episodes, in others he is shown to beat people within an inch of their life. It has to be said that he becomes very focused when he is angry about something/wants to take revenge. Additionally, in the later seasons some episodes will portray him as a mostly sweet kid, while others make him act like an obnoxiously bratty jackass. Some will also have him being mostly nice, while still being a total asshole to at least one character.
    • Is Francine incredibly dull, unintelligent, and incapable of understanding the simplest concepts, or is she a woman of average intelligence who can surprise people with moments of genius? Additionally, since the show's move to TBS where she's been Flanderized into a clone of Lois Griffin in regards to her bitchy attitude, she acts this way more in episodes where she isn't a main character likely so that she doesn't come off as being Unintentionally Unsympathetic.
  • Deserted Island: Appears in "Choosey Wives Choose Smith" and turns from Castaway to Palm Tree type within seconds.
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Roger, which would explain his penchant for role-playing.
  • Deus ex Machina: The ending of "Adventures in Hayleysitting".
  • Did Not Get the Girl:
    • Poor old Steve. Even when he does succeed, something happens to sabotage it. "Spring Breakup" when he gets Carmen Selectra wanting him big-time just before she's crushed by a falling scaffold, and "Big Trouble in Little Langley" where a popular girl lets him grope her breast, but his hand is numb from anesthetic so he says "I can't feel anything" and she thinks he's insulting her by saying she has small breasts.
    • Done rather cruelly in the Halloween episode. Steve and Toshi's sister, Akiko, hang out on Halloween night. The chemistry between them increases, and when Steve finally get's Toshi's blessing after being persistent, Akiko ditches Steve for a nine-year-old kid who appeared with no foreshadowing.
    • Just about as bad is "A Jones for a Smith", where Steve meets a hot new girl at school who is completely horny for him, and her father is totally fine with it (as long as they use protection). Unfortunately, when the families get together for dinner, Stan is freaking out due to a crack addiction and manages to offend the father, who refuses to let Steve anywhere near the girl ever again. Steve spends the rest of the episode glaring at Stan and saying things like "I had a sure thing, old man!" and "I will hate you until the day I die."
    • Lampshaded in "The Vacation Goo". Francine is having trouble distinguishing real life from artificial fantasy sequences, and she deduces that the vacation she's on isn't real because an attractive girl likes Steve.
    • Inverted in "Spelling Bee My Baby" where he and Akiko get together at the end. However, in later episodes, it seems both of them broke the relationship.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Stan name-drops this trope in S1 Ep 04, "Francine's Flashback", when Francine, suffering from Laser-Guided Amnesia, thinks she's back in college and steals Jeff away from Hayley, resulting in this exchange.
    Hayley: My mother stole my boyfriend!
    Stan: Your boyfriend stole my wife! Let's get back at them by dating each other!... Wait a minute....Daddy didn't think that one through.
    • Another example comes from Roger, in the Halloween episode. Stan flies in the most dangerous serial killers the CIA had in custody in order to make his haunted house scary, but they really don't do anything in their containers. So Roger, after already provoking the killers by tempting them with Francine, decides to let them out. Roger sadly admits that he doesn't think things through after the Smiths point out that he let loose SERIAL KILLERS.
  • Diner Brawl: Stan vs. Bullock.
  • The Dinnermobile: In one episode, Roger starts working in a hot dog company. His company car, naturally, is a huge hot dog.
  • Disappeared Dad: The Smiths' neighbor Lisa Collins is a single mother to her two children.
  • Disability as an Excuse for Jerkassery: Inverted in the episode "Stannie Get Your Gun". After Stan is paralyzed from the neck down by a stray bullet fired by Hayley, he's not bitter at her at all, nor does he act like a jerk towards anyone. If anything, his demeanor becomes more pleasant overall after the accident. He plays the trope straight during one scene, using his disability to guilt-trip Hayley into being a pro-gun spokesperson with him.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The entire plot of "Hurricane!" is based on Stan playing this trope straight. It begins with his decision (many years prior, in-universe) to seal the house as tightly possible. This causes the flood roaring across Langley Falls to lift the house from the foundation, causing the house and everyone in it to float across the neighborhood. In response, Stan uses Roger's wine fridge as an anchor to stop the house. It works... until the anchor turns out to be too weak, and the rushing waters cause the house to flip completely upside down. His next idea, since they're now stuck on the top story of the house, is to open a window and flood the entire floor, so that the water will carry them to higher ground. Hayley opens a window and a shark immediately finds its way in and severely wounds her.

    To get rid of the shark, Stan decides to let a bear into the house, as "they're natural sworn enemies since the dawn of time." The bear and shark proceed to work together to hunt down the Smiths, so Stan tries to use a broken wire to electrocute them. Before he can, the shark swims underneath him and makes him lose his balance. This causes him to drop the wires on Roger, burning him to a crisp.

    Stan's final idea is to use his college javelin to spear the bear, whose blood, he claims, will distract the shark. He misses badly, and harpoons Francine through the shoulder. The only thing that stops Stan from killing his entire family is Buckle barging in and tranquilizing the shark, the bear, and then Stan.

    Then, at the end of the episode, Peter Griffin and Cleveland Brown are in a Mexican Standoff with Stan. When Francine enters the scene, she startles Stan, who shoots her in the shoulder.
  • Discriminate and Switch:
    • Stan is upset when Greg and Terry move in next door. Turns out that Stan doesn't even know they're gay; he's upset because they're quote "members of the liberal media".
    • Francine gets one too: Steve and Hayley think she's racist for her aversion to Steve's black lab partner, only to find out her hatred is toward left-handed people.
  • Disney Creatures of the Farce: It's obvious that when Francine sings with the bird in "In Country... Club", it's a sendup of classic Snow White and Sleeping Beauty moments. Then she drowns the bird, with a creepily apathetic look on her face.
  • Disposable Vagrant: Reginald was little more than an unwanted, unloved homeless man before volunteering for a CIA experiment that switched his mind with that of a koala bear. The procedure was a success and he was hired by the CIA as an operative due to the distracting nature of his new form.
  • Disproportionate Restitution: A lot of the cast, especially Stan and Roger, commit atrocious, sociopathic acts, and when seeing the error of their ways, expect a simple Aesop and an apology to make for a Happy Ending. Counts as Moral Myopia since most of the time they are slighted it leads to...
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Roger IS this trope to the point where it could easily be named "Roger Smithing."
    • In "Stannie Get Your Gun", when Steve eats Roger's cookie and tells him "You snooze, you lose," Roger goes on an elaborate Zany Scheme to convince Steve that he's adopted, dress up in a sailor suit with a blond wig and introduce himself to his "real parents." At the end of the episode, Hayley steals Roger's seat, tells him "The early bird gets the worm," and Roger implies (through his dark reprise) that he's about to do something similar to her.
    • Subverted in "Surro-Gate". After Steve and Roger throw Klaus down a water slide, Klaus acts like he is going to unleash one of these, but it ends up being an accidental Paranoia Gambit (accidental in that Klaus merely forgot about it until he was later reminded).
    • In "Great Space Roaster", Roger tries to kill the rest of the family, because they insulted him... on the roast he asked for his birthday.
      • Roger is arguably the master of this trope, along with some of the above examples he has falsely labeled Francine as a former mental patient for compromising his dress-up act, destroyed a stranger's life in every manner possible for buying something off of his credit account and tried to destroy the Earth over a verbal insult from Stan though he didn't get very far with this one. And of course when Stan confronted him over the extremes he took against an individual a BABY that had broken one of his collectible ornaments:
    Roger: He started it.
    Stan: So you were going to drown him in the river?!?
    Roger: Well how do you kill a baby?
    • "The Unincludeds" had this as the subplot concerning Roger. Roger gets incredibly offended when a waitress doesn't compliment his complex order. Roger forces Hayley to switch orders, he still doesn't get complimented, and sets out to get revenge. He stalks the waitress on her date, poses as a waiter, and highly compliments her date's dinner order and dares her to top it. She asks to get the same thing. Roger scalps her.
    • A non-Roger example comes from the CIA receptionist Lorraine in "Flirting With Disaster"; when Francine gets Lorraine's old receptionist job after the latter becomes Bullock's personal assistant, Francine also takes the role of flirting with the men, much to Stan and Lorraine's chagrin. They then team up to get her fired by hatching a plan - before Stan can frame Francine for stealing Bullock's lunch, however, Lorraine throws acid in Francine's face. Even Stan calls her out on this.
    • In "Merlot Down Dirty Shame", Steve boasts that he's trained himself to recognize lucid dreams and then insults Klaus when he asks Steve to teach him the trick (he's also a jerk to Hayley). They make Steve think that he's lucid dreaming when he's really awake, which results in his ultimately jumping out the window with a girl in an attempt to fly, breaking several of Steve's bones and getting the girl impaled on a fence post, him later mentioning that her parents are going to press charges for attempted murder. In fairness to Klaus and Hayley, they didn't encourage Steve to do any of this, and Hayley started questioning if the prank was going too far.
    • Roger hunts down five frat guys and kills each one for not paying him the twenty dollars they owed him for driving them to their house in his limo. When Klaus mentions the absurdity of it, Roger retorts "Are you really asking that to the guy who, just last week, killed six people over nineteen dollars?"
    • In "Lincoln Lover", Stan loses the chance to speak at a conservative convention to competitor Nancy Calliope. Near the end, when Stan attends the convention:
    Man 1: Stan, Nancy Calliope has been kicked out of The Langley Conservatives.
    Stan: What? Why?
    Man 1:We just found out her second car is a Prius!
    [everyone nearby gasps]
    Man 2: Terrorist!
    • When Stan is talking about embarrassing things from his childhood in "I Can't Stan You", he says: "When my parents wouldn't let me have a fourth cupcake, I burned down their summer home. When caught, I framed my favorite grandfather. I don't know why I did it."
    • In "Office Spaceman", Roger threatens to "destroy" Stan if he eats so much as one of the jellybeans in the jar full of them that he keeps on his work desk.
    • In "Cock Of The Sleepwalk" after Stan's conscience begins taking over his body in his sleep, and starts tanking his assassination missions costing him his job, Stan and Roger deduce that Stan needs to kill one person so he can keep his conscience from further interfering, and so Roger feeds Stan this story about a drug pedaling, child porn producer who's evaded the police and justice for years and when they get to the guy it turns he's completely innocent and Roger wanted Stan to kill him because about two weeks prior the guy got the the last pretzel at a pretzel joint and Roger wanted it, naturally after hearing this Stan refuses.
  • Disproportionate Reward: In "Holy Shit, Jeff's Back!", the alien disguised as Jeff sacrifices his life so Jeff can live, and he does this because Stan and his friends taught him the value of sacrifice by sharing their frozen yogurt with him when he finished his. Stan lampshades the idea:
    Stan: Whoa, whoa. Let's slow down there. It was just a little Fro-Yo.
    Alien Jeff: No... the gestures are equal. The universe is in balance.
  • Disrupting The Theater: While at the movies with Steve, Stan annoys another movie goer with his talking. This escalates into a fight, in which Stan gets beaten badly. He's saved when the usher comes to his rescue, but she then starts attacking other random movie goers.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • In the James Bond parody, Stan can't stop looking at Francine's chest after she undergoes Breast Expansion.
    • Roger ended up finding a pair of magical shorts sewn together by an elderly, ambiguously Romani fortune-teller, and it made him attractive to "Famous Homosexual Ricky Martin". Rogers eventually tells him the truth about the pants, and Ricky confesses that the same woman made him his shirt. When he took it off, he lost his sexy body and gained a beer gut. Roger steals the shirt and runs off. While walking down the streets of Miami with both the shorts and shirt on, he's causing EVERYONE around him to be distracted, causing multi-car pile-ups, causing helicopters to crash into buildings, causing birds to fly into airplane engines, which causes the planes to crash...
    • Two more Roger examples:
      • "Family Affair": When Roger is telling off the family that left him at the gas station, the parents' son, Tyler, comes home. Roger goes to tell him off — and can't get over the fact that Tyler grew up to be cute.
      • "You Debt Your Life": Roger (who's staying at a YMCA men's locker room) cries over Stan replacing him with Andy Dick. He reaches for something to wipe his tears — and gets the end of a towel worn by the faceless man next to him. Roger immediately stops crying as he stares at the man's genitals and suggestively comments, "Good for you."
  • The Ditz:
    • Jeff's most defining character trait.
    Steve: [on a home movie the whole family, including Jeff, is watching] Hi. I'm Steve Smith. I'm sitting right over there. [points to where Steve is sitting— the Steve watching the film waves]
    Jeff: [wide eyed, does a double-take from the film to Steve's seat across the room] ... what?
    • Barry also has flashes of ditziness, such as seeing Snot, Steve, and Toshi passing out after eating cheeseburgers Stan bought them. Barry stays conscious and tells Stan "Mine's not working" and Stan implores him to have more, which he presumably does, as he wakes up in the next scene with the others.
  • Do Wrong, Right: In "Crotchwalkers", Francine is furious with Steve when he gets caught shoplifting; she isn't upset he was shoplifting, she's upset he got caught.
  • Does Not Understand Sarcasm:
    • Stan, usually with Hayley dishing the sarcasm.
    Stan: [after he's kidnapped by members of an occupy rally while attempting an undercover sting] Why are you doing this? I thought we were coolio.
    Female member: Yeah, we know you work for the CIA. Only a narc would wear those mirrored shades.
    Stan: But my daughter told me they would make me look really cool, and — oh, I get it. She set me up. I'm stupid.

    Francine: I was being sarcastic! Or don't you get sarcasm, genius?
    Stan: Oh, I think I get sarcasm. And I'm hardly a genius, but still, thank you.
  • Does That Sound Like Fun to You?: In S1 Ep 13, "Stan of Arabia Part 2", while in Saudi Arabia, Hayley is chased by the Saudi police of vice and virtue for being in public unaccompanied by a man. She's saved by a man named Kazim, who pretends to be her brother and tells her about getting stoned. Hayley thinks he's talking about marijuana, resulting in this exchange.
    Kazim: You should be more careful around the police of vice and virtue. Do you want to get stoned?
    Hayley: Yes! Oh, my God! It's been, like, forever.
    Kazim:You would like to be buried up to your neck and have a crowd of angry men throw rocks at your head?
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: In "Deacon Stan, Jesus Man":
    Stan: Oh, I'll tell you what, Francine, why don't you just grab this broom here? I'll bend over and grab my ankles, you can lube up the handle real good and just sweep me out the door!
    • Steve's angst over not developing a "big boy butt", his stuffing the seat of his pants to compensate for the lack of shape, and popular members of the opposite sex making dumb jokes about his flat butt? Sounds like the male equivalent of A-Cup Angst doesn't it?
    • When Cyborg Stan and Francine go through a "Chocolate Tunnel of Love" in "May the Best Stan Win", Francine says "I was scared at first, but once I relaxed, I was surprised how much I liked it!"
  • The Doll Episode: The B-story of "Stan's Food Restaurant". Steve dates a girl who owns a doll she believes to be a living person. Naturally, this interferes with all of Steve's attempts to score with her.
  • Don't Explain the Joke:
    • Roger and Stan have the following exchange in the episode "Rough Trade":
      Roger: Cops already? What are we, next door to a freakin' Krispy Kreme?
      Stan: You're thinking about doughnuts now?!
      Roger: No, I'm just sayin' the cops got here fast!
      Stan: What the hell do fast cops have to do with a Krispy Kreme?!
      Roger: Because cops love doughnuts!
      Stan: You are not making any sense!
    • In "Stanny Slickers II", after Stan discovers Oliver North's gold beneath the Smith house, he stages the event on film for posterity, but can't think of the right one-liner to use. His first try is below:
      Stan: ["discovers" treasure chest] 'Ey, you... get it? AU. That's the chemical symbol for gold.
  • Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That
  • Donut Mess with a Cop: In "Rough Trade", Roger wonders if there's a donut shop nearby when a bunch of cops appear. Stan doesn't get it.
  • Double Entendre: S3 Ep 10, "Tearjerker", a James Bond spoof, features Francine as a Bond girl spoof named Sexpun T'Come.
  • Double Standard: The high majority of Aesops are directed to Stan, and at times Steve (Roger rarely learns but that's more intentional). Francine and Hayley often prove sociopathic, self serving and hypocritical, but are almost always designated as long suffering Straight Men for putting up with Stan, with similar plots even having their agenda flip flopped solely so they are right. This is especially prominent in later seasons, where Stan borders Straw Loser territory.
    • In the episode "Don't Look a Smith Horse in the Mouth" Stan bets fifty grand on a horse to keep his car. While that's not a good reason, at least it was an actual reason. Francine is allowed to be totally angry about it. But in an earlier episode, she did the exact same thing. She bet fifty grand (and lost it) in a street race. Yet she is treated with complete sympathy, while when Stan does it, he's an awful person. In addition, she was betting it for the thrill.
    • Another example is the fact that when Francine's memory was erased Stan spent the entire episode trying to win back her affection. Yet when Stan gets amnesia Francine spent the entire episode brainwashing him to be her ideal husband. Their relationship with their parents could also be considered this. Francine is considered normal and Stan is seen as a huge jerk for not putting up with it. However Stan's relationship with his mother is considered freaky and the audience is meant to sympathize with Francine for having to deal with it.
    • Both have fell victim to the same Aesop about spending time with the family over themselves on separate occasions, however while Stan's case ended with him sacrificing his entire means of alone time to please Francine, Francine's ended with her still getting granted some form of compromise, complete with mock-You Go, Girl! monologue.
    • When Francine finds out that Stan plans to marry his dentist if she dies before him because he read that men in happy marriages remarry quickly when widowed. She gets upset and despite Stan trying act reasonably Francine gets upset decides to find a backup of her own as revenge even pettily openingly flirting with him causing Stan to dissolve his agreement with the dentist. Despite episode acknowledging that Freancine went over board it makes both her and Stan in the wrong. However when their situation is reversed in “Portrait of Francine's Genitals” when discovers that an abstract painting of Francine's genitalia is displayed in a public museum Francine ignores Stan’s frustration of this as she was moved by how much people loved it but it made Stan more in the wrong by not only stealing the painting but sell. It also doesn’t help that Francine and the painter’s relationship was sexual (he was blind and painted by feel, while Stan’s relationship with the dentist (at least on his end) was completely platonic.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Francine was seen beating Stan for forgetting their anniversary in "Francine's Flashback", Roger even keeps a recording of the precious moment as it appeared on "COPS: Langley Falls".
    • Bullock was shot in the kneecap by his wife for cheating on her. Hayley has shown abusive behavior towards Jeff as well, thought it's not meant to be portrayed as okay, as much as it is meant to show what a doormat Jeff is.
      • Actually, the abuse from Bullock's wife was not technically shown as okay since the joke was that Bullock really needed to go to the hospital and Francine was even telling Stan he could. Stan just decided to pick the worst time to stop being the Yes-Man.
  • Double Subversion: Roger likes these.
    Roger: You're going to jail, kid. They're going to take your cherry. Jell-O. Away. In the lunch line. After you're raped. In the shower.
  • Downer Ending: In "Jack's Back", Steve bonds with Stan's estranged criminal father Jack, and Stan is resentful mostly because Jack never taught him how to ride a bike. But when Stan's rusty bike gets fixed up by Jack, he tries to make it to the courthouse to prove his father's innocence, only to get injured and lose consciousness, leading to Jack being hauled off to jail.
    • In "Hot Water", Stan buys a hot tub that not only talks to him, but seduces him in a way to keep him in the tub and have him choose the tub over his family. Eventually, the hot tub grows jealous with rage when Francine shows up to take Stan back and sucks Francine into the tub to kill her when she refused to step into it. Stan comes to save her but literally gets thrown out of the house and lands next to the can of Spa Down. Stan tries to get up so he can stop the hot tub with the Spa Down, but collapses and dies. Cut away to Cee Lo Green (the voice of the hot tub) basically saying Stan's dead, the end. Word of God states that the production staff wasn't sure if the show was going to be renewed for another season, so they planned to have "Hot Water" be the series finale.
    • All of the Steve subplots end this way, either with him Did Not Get the Girl, ending up in a horrible painful situation, or both.
  • Draw Sword, Draw Blood: In "Best Little Horror House in Langley Falls", once Steve fails to bring back Akiko from trick or treating before sundown like he promised, Toshi dons his Samurai costume and swears that his sword will taste blood. Steve manages to talk Toshi into not killing him and to stop being so overprotective. Instead, Toshi slaughters a bunch of Serial Killers set loose during the A plotline to satisfy the oath.
    Toshi: [subtitled] Once this sword is drawn, it must taste blood.
  • Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: In the episode "Stan Time", Stan plays a competitive game of Beet Man, an in-universe video game. His opponent is an Asian man, and when we see footage of the game being played, Stan's beet character is wearing an American-flag bandana, and his opponent's is wearing a stereotypical Chinese fisherman's hat.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • In the episode "The Adventures of Twill Ongenbone And His Boy Jabari", Steve's teacher Mr. Brink kills himself by jumping out of the window after hearing Stan's monologue of wanting to kill himself.
    • In "Da Flippity Flop", after Stan refuses to give Klaus his human body, Klaus attempts to commit suicide numerous times throughout the episode, each failing hilariously, mostly because he's a fish.
    • "Every Which Way But Lose" sees Stan, who is so accustomed to succeeding at everything he tries, attempting suicide when his youth football team loses in a major upset to Roger's team. He then does the same thing at a carnival when he fails to win one of the carny games.
  • Drunk with Power: Everyone who's in charge of making announcements over the intercom eventually gets drunk with power, including Steve... and they always forget that it's on when they go on an insulting rant. Especially when Barry gets a turn.
    • And of course, this exchange.
    Snot: He's become drunk with power!
    Barry: The drunker he gets, the better I look.
  • Duck Season, Rabbit Season: Hayley is working for Roger and trying to get him to sign a form saying she completed her internship for a class. They both end up switching into Roger's various disguises and battling each other, in-persona, until Roger dresses as Hayley and tries to say none of this matters, it was All Just a Dream. Then Hayley dresses as Roger and says she'll never sign the release, causing Roger to forge his own signature on the form.
    Roger: What just happened? Did I win?
  • Dumb Blonde: Judi in "The One That Got Away". Francine from time to time.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Hilariously invoked by Stan towards himself on at least two occasions.
    • In the episode "One Little Word":
      Bullock: What the hell happened to [my wife]?
      Stan: Well, after three years in captivity... she kind of went Shia.
      Bullock: Brainwashed?
      Stan: And conditioned! ... I'm sorry, I shouldn't be doing shtick. Your wife is crazy.
    • In "The Longest Distance Relationship" (after Stan accidentally burns down the house, hospitalizing Hayley in the process):
      Stan: Hayley, when they told you to feel the burn, I think they were talking about exercise!
      [beat as Francine gives Stan a Death Glare]
      Stan: I shouldn't joke about this. I did this. [walks away]
  • Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!:
    • In the episode "Escape From Pearl Bailey", before Janet receives a liposuction operation, she has this conversation with the doctor:
      Janet: Thanks for seeing me on such short notice, doc. Last week, I accidentally ate a cookie.
      Doctor: Well, any excuse to put you under and chew on your feet.
      Janet: Oh, you're funny!
      Doctor: [dryly] Yes... I'm funny...
    • Stan goes to the dentist in the episode "All About Steve", and a sign on the front of the office reads "Taking pride in not molesting unconscious patients since 1978."
  • Dumb Dodo Bird: "Steve and Snot's Test-Tubular Adventure" introduces one-time character Darren, a dodo bird cloned by the CIA in who has to be constantly kept from getting itself killed. At the end he's struck by lightning and incinerated.
  • Dustbin School: In the episode "Stan-Dan Deliver" Steve is forced to join a class of deprived kids because of Roger's actions. Then Roger becomes a Cool Teacher for this class only to prove at Steve that he is not completely immoral.
  • Dystopia: Steve and Snot's school prom had a Cyberpunk "Dystopian Nights" theme to it, complete with flaming barrels for warmth scattered among the dark, dingy streets. It was a scene right out of Blade Runner.

  • Eagleland: The writers have no problem poking fun at their own country especially if it serves the plot.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The pilot episode relied heavily on Family Guy's trademarked cutaway humor, which would fortunately be dropped very quickly. Also, Stan was much more overt in his paranoia towards Hayley, such as subjecting her to a full body pat-down when she enters the house, and Roger's "clockwork" discharge of protoplasm was rarely mentioned again.
    • Toshi's mom also looked very different than she would in later seasons, in which she became a semi-regular.
    • A viewer of later seasons would never know that at the beginning, a bigger deal was made of keeping Roger secret and he wasn't allowed to leave the house, to the point that an early episode had the family bring him to a sci-fi convention as one of the few places he would have a social outlet.
  • Easily Forgiven: Sometimes played straight, but just as often subverted or parodied.
  • Easy Evangelism:
    • Played with in "Lincoln Lover". Stan is easily able to convince Steve that gays are evil, using only a few sentences, but after Stan changes his opinions of gays, Steve is now hard-wired into believing gays are evil and Stan is unable to convince him otherwise.
    • Again in "Red October Sky". Steve is more than willing to join the Red Menace thanks to a little goading from Sergei, but it takes a full day of capitalism complete with thousands of dollars to win him back.
  • Eco-Terrorist: One episode had Hayley falling in with an environmentalist group whose leader insists that he's a "tree born in a man's body" and "wears" nothing but a potted plant. He also tries to blow up the new mall, but only succeeds in destroying Francine's muffin kiosk and Klaus' human body from the main plot. When he does this, Haley rejects him, shoving him over and breaking his pot, causing him to desperately heap dirt around his body while acting like he's suffocating.
  • The '80s: This bit from "A Boy Named Michael"
    Roger: Please tell me we got pizza poppers.
    Stan: Pizza poppers?!
    [cut to Stan and Francine dancing behind a background with a bunch of pizza poppers]
    Stan and Francine: Puh-puh-puh-pizza popper Pizza popper Pizza popper dance!
    Stan: Make mine puh-puh-pepperoni!
    Francine: Make mine puh-puh-puh-pineapple!
    Roger: Make mine puh-puh-puh-Vicodin!
  • Elseworlds: "Hot Water" can be considered one, and "Blood Crieth Unto Heaven" certainly counts.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Schmuely "Snot" Lonstein.
  • Embarrassing Middle Name:
    • Hayley Dreamsmasher Smith.
    • Steven Anita Smith.
  • Embarrassing Relative Teacher: Subverted in an episode where Francine becomes the school's guidance counselor. Steve notes how awkward it will be to go to his mom for counseling, but Francine tells him she's fine with it. This causes Steve to put aside his reservations and ask her for advice.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Haley's gamer avatar is revealed this way.
  • Endearingly Dorky: Despite failing miserably for the most part in the romance department, some girls throughout the series find Steve's nerdy/dorky nature to be charming.
  • Engineered Public Confession: FIVE times in one episode.
  • Epic Fail:
    • "Hurricane!" (the third part of the Seth MacFarlane cartoon-crossover trilogy) has Stan performing one after another of these. The house gets flooded and turned upside down, Hayley's attacked by a shark, Roger's electrocuted, Stan punches Jeff out for no reason, Steve is mauled by a bear that Stan let into the house to kill the shark, and it ends with Stan harpooning Francine with his college javelin in an effort to kill the bear. The bear even stops and gives Stan a look that says "dude, really?" It isn't until Buckle bursts into the house and shoots the shark, the bear, and Stan, with tranquilizer darts, that things get better. Buckle shot all three because he couldn't tell who was doing the most damage. Just when you think things are finally over, Stan ends up shooting Francine in her other arm with a gun thanks to a Mexican Standoff with Peter and Cleveland at the end of the episode.
    • Stan does this again in "Shallow Vows", when Francine stops her beauty regiment so Stan will have to renew his vows to the real Francine; after deciding she's too ugly and he's too shallow, Stan tries to sneak out before Francine notices, only to make things worse by charging though seated guests, trampling the band playing music and getting a harp stuck on his foot trying to reach the car. Once in the car, he then gets the harp caught on the underside of the car and smashes through the seated guests, hitting several people.
    • In "Stanny-Boy and Frantastic", Stan and Francine make friends with Tom and Cami, a couple in their 20s whose idea of fun is late-night partying, drinking, and extreme sports. When all four get together for a "nice, easy jog", it actually turns out that Tom and Cami wanted to "freerun" from the roof of a large building. They leap gracefully from one roof to the next, as does Francine. Stan, however, crashes through a window when he doesn't get enough distance on his jump, falls flat on his back when he tries to tuck and roll after jumping back down to the ground, limps around in pain for a couple seconds, awkwardly scales a fire escape, barely makes the jump from the fire escape through an open window, and finally gets his head stuck in a banister while trying to race down a flight of stairs. The whole thing ends with Stan bleeding on the floor, covered in bruises, his shirt ripped, shards of glass sticking out of his skin, his shin bone completely broken, and his bottle of sunscreen busted open from the fall.
  • Epiphany Therapy:
    • Most commonly used when Stan needs to learn a lesson in tolerance - it will dawn on him in the closing moments, usually causing him to launch into a short Whoopi Epiphany Speech on behalf of the oppressed/misunderstood group he was once prejudiced against.
    • An excellent one occurs in "American Dream Factory" when The Power of Rock convinces Stan that immigrants from Mexico can be just as patriotic about America as he is.
  • Erotic Eating:
    • Parodied when Roger declares that he's going to teach Stan's mother to please a man, then swallows a whole banana. When he notices Francine staring, he explains that he wasn't making a point, he was just low on potassium.
    • Played for laughs in "For Whom The Sleigh Bell Tolls". Francine and Hayley invoke this trope and Hayley does better than her mother, resulting in Francine being offended.
      Roger: [produces three large candy canes] We can sharpen them with our mouths and make swords. Here. Just suck it till it's pointy.
      [all three do so, and Hayley finishes sharpening her candy cane first]
      Roger: Wow, Hayley— brand new respect for you. Francine, give Hayley your candy cane.
      Francine: Shut up. I can do it. [continues sucking on the candy cane]
  • Escalating Punchline: In "Stanny Tendergrass" Roger marries and kills a woman offscreen, then meets her vengeful, crossbow-wielding daughter:
    Roger: Oh, Pamela. Good. I was just looking for you. You have the same scowl your mother had. When I banged her. After I pulled the plug. (Pamela fires a bolt at him) God, I was kidding! Looks like someone pulled the plug on your sense of humor.
  • Eskimos Aren't Real:
    • When Stan tries searching for Oliver North's gold, Francine tells him it's just a myth, "Like unicorns or speed-reading".
    • In the episode "Ricky Spanish", Stan and Francine meet an African child whom they sponsored years prior. Stan is shocked to discover that he's real, and thus, Africa is real.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • While not really evil per se, both Stan and Hayley are fanatical in their political views. They are either self-righteous fanatics at best and hypocrites at their worst. But Stan is appalled when it's revealed that Francine's biological parents left her at the airport because their flight didn't allow children (even Klaus — who lived in Germany during its Nazi regime — is disgusted that a couple would just abandon their baby and not feel any remorse) and Hayley herself was shocked when the group of environmentalists she joined were planning to blow up a mall (with Hayley backing out because she doesn't want to kill innocent people just to further her cause).
    • Stan also got another one with Jeff's father. Stan despises Jeff through and through, but even he is shocked that Jeff's own father not only openly mocks him all the time but also plans to FRAME him for drug smuggling just for the reward money.
    • Parodied in one episode, when Hayley and Roger got into a battle of making up new personae. Roger claims to be a hitman for the Armenian Mafia and kills Hayley's character; she responds by pretending to be the Armenian matriarch, who coldly informs him that their group doesn't kill women and throws him out.
    • In one episode, Roger's persona split in two just of because how bad he become.
    • The eponymous character of the episode "Ricky Spanish" subverts the trope. When Steve, Ricky, and Daniel are running from police, Steve lags behind and doesn't make the jump from one crate (they're at the docks) to another. Ricky turns around and grabs Steve's arm just as he falls, then steals his wallet and lets him drop to the ground, where he's beaten by police officers and arrested.
    • Discussed on multiple occasions, about Stan. Either someone will point out that Stan may be a jerk who often treats Francine like crap, but he'd never cross the line of cheating on her, or Stan himself will show disgust at being accused of cheating or having someone try to talk him into cheating.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: A man assumes Stan's "funny story" about losing his passport involves one, since monkeys are funny.
  • Everything Is Racist: Subverted in the episode "Max Jets":
    Max Jets: [in a restaurant with the Smiths] I'm not a young man anymore, and I just want to spend my money on the only people in my life. You people.
    Black man: [in a separate restaurant booth, having overheard] "You people"?! Who are you calling "You people"?!
    Max: Them. [points to Smiths]
    Black man: Oh, sorry. I thought you meant the letter U, as in the "U People." I've been looking for them for a long time. They live underground, you see. That's where the "U" comes from. They're hard to find, but if you find one, it is tasty.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    • Roger is a living embodiment of this trope. Examples include convincing Steve he was adopted for eating his cookie, trying to blow up the Earth just because Stan insulted him, and trying to kill the entire family when they gave him a birthday roast that he himself asked for.
    • Santa doesn't forget and never forgives, he's dedicated to killing the Smith family just for accidentally killing him in his first appearance.
  • Evil Twin:
    • Inverted with Stan's CIA body double. Technically, Stan would be the evil twin, although Bill begins to reveal an evil nature of his own during his second appearance on the show.
    • One episode featured Stan from the future acting as a foil to present Stan. Both served as the others evil twin up until the climax of the episode. And the whole reason they were fighting was because present Stan didn't appreciate Francine as much as future Stan.
    • Subverted with Steve, who Stan made a clone of in order to test out whether his or Francine's form of parenting was better. Stan's All-Work-And-No-Play parenting style turned the clone evil... An evil clone who juggled the heads of 3 dead cats while taking a bite out of them each time. Stan lampshades the situation.
    Stan: "Why is it that every time I help someone strengthen their core, it turns right back around to bite me!?"
  • Eviler Than Thou: In "Decon Stan, Jesus Man", Stan tries to do better than his rival, who presented as so conservative, he makes Stan look sane by comparison.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: In the episode "Blonde Ambition", Hayley realizes that the blonde girls receive more attention from men (even if they are Dumb Blonde) and so she decides to dye her hair blonde. She receives a good success, but at the end of the episode returns to the usual herself.
    • It Runs in the Family. Everyone has found Francine attractive or admitted she being hot. Howewer she is not a natural blond but a brunette, which most likely explains why her son Steve is a light brunette, and daughter Hayley is a darker brunette who seems to have more of Stan's hair color. Before she got a new hairdresser in "Star Trek", her dark roots were visible.
  • Exactly What I Aimed At: Francine invokes this trope in "Iced Iced Babies".
  • Exact Words:
    Francine: Guns are too dangerous for Steve. Promise you won't get him one for Christmas!
    Stan: I promise I won't get Steve a gun for Christmas!
    [cut to Steve's room; Stan hands Steve a machine gun]
    Stan: Merry Wednesday, son!
    • This is also what sets off the main plot for "Morning Mimosa"; Francine and Steve get into an argument while Steve is playing a video game when he should be setting the table for dinner. Steve says "I didn't ask you to cook for me", and after things escalate, Francine throws it back in his face at dinnertime, refusing to cook anything for Steve as punishment.
  • Excited Show Title!: The show is officially titled American Dad!, with the exclamation mark.
  • Expansion Pack Past: Roger. Especially after we find out he's actually been on Earth for over sixty years (he was the alien that crashed in Roswell).
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: From the episode "A Jones For a Smith":
    Roger: You gonna share that crack you're doing, or what?
    Stan: Crack? This is cold medicine!
    Roger: No, sir, it's crack.
    Stan: It's not crack! I bought it on a park bench outside a soup kitchen from a guy in a lime-green suit... oh, my God, it's crack.
  • Exposed Extraterrestrials: Roger, when he isn't playing dress-up.
  • Exposed to the Elements: A one-time character in an episode is a cheerleader in the appropriate outfit asking Steve why he stopped rummaging through her trash. Note how the rest of characters are dressed for winter but not her.
  • Exposition: Lampooned often.
    • In the series' second episode (entitled "Threat Levels"), Stan and Francine meet a real estate agent after the Smiths survive exposure to a deadly, but inert, virus:
      Francine: What's going on?
      Real estate agent: Hi, Barb Hanson, Exposition Realty. Let me bring you up to speed. Your virus scare prompted these folks to put their house on the market. Any questions?
      Francine: No, that was very concise.
    • From the episode "Meter Made":
      Francine: [on the phone]...I didn't know what to do, sis! [pause] What? I've never called you 'sis' before? [pause] You're right, it is oddly clunky and expositional! I mean, I know you're my sister, so who am I saying it for? Weird. [later, in the same conversation] So, what's going on with you, sis? Are you enjoying being three years younger than me?
      Stan: [later, in the same episode, also on the phone] You should've heard Francine on the phone. She thinks she married a nobody. [pause] I appreciate you saying that, bro. [pause] I've called you "bro" before. That's what we are, we're half brothers. [pause] Well, I don't care how they say it in New Glarus, Wisconsin, where you live on a lake and have nothing in common with me. [pause] Well, then, maybe we should just stay estranged until you can find a dramatic enough reason to show up on my doorstep unannounced!
  • Expy:
    • Snot is a younger and less crude version of Dudley "Booger" Dawson from Revenge of the Nerds. He is even voiced by the same actor, Curtis Armstrong.
    • The Golden Turd sequences might be one to the Giant Chicken fights from Family Guy. They bare no relation to the plot whatsoever, they last at least two-five minutes long depending on the episode, and they both consist of a continuing saga.
    • Judi from "The One That Got Away" is basically Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors, except that Judi isn't as bright and is a Hermaphrodite.
    • With his rotund stomach, white shirt, and green pants, Barry bares at least a passing resemblance to Seth's own Peter Griffin.
    • Roy Family, with his family-oriented theme park and mascot with an alliterative name, is basically a knock-off Walt Disney. Lampshaded by Klaus when Steve describes him.
      Steve: I heard he was cryogenically frozen somewhere in the park and that he used to have two tamed caterpillars as a mustache
      Klause: Are you sure you're not talking about Walt Disney?
      Steve: Who?
  • External Combustion: How Roger gets back at the trio of teachers who beat Steve up in "A Ward Show". Only the first two teachers detonate their bombs; the third tries to run away, but suddenly he explodes and leaves his flaming legs behind.


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