- (The Griffins are sitting watching an episode of The Brady Bunch)
Jan: Mom, Dad, I found cigarettes in Greg's jacket.
Mike: Greg, were you smoking cigarettes?
Greg: No, Dad.
Mike: (to Carol) Well, he's lying, there's no doubt about that. (to Greg) Greg, I'm afraid your punishment will be four hours in the snake pit. (Mike pushes a button revealing a trap door in the floor) Maybe that'll give you some time to think about what you've done.
Greg: Aw, man. (dives in)
Jan: That'll teach him.
Mike: And, Jan, I'm afraid you've earned a day in the chamber of fire for tattling on your brother. (pushes a button and unlocks a steel door with roaring flames behind it)
(cut back to the Griffin living room)
Lois: Uch! Smoking! How does a boy like that go so wrong?
Peter: Well, they live in a crummy neighborhood.
Brian: The Bradys?
Peter: Oh, hell, yeah, they got robbers, thugs, drug dealers, aw, you name it.
(a black woman with a plate full of pancakes appears at the window)
Black Woman: You folks want some pancakes?
Peter: No, thank you. (to his family) See, the worst that we got is Jemima's Witnesses.The first lines of the series.
Airdate: January 31, 1999
The series begins when Peter goes to a stag party. Lois tells Peter to make a promise not to drink, considering the effects of what happens when he drinks.
He drinks 37 cans of beer (partly so that "the Statue of Liberty would take her clothes off") and the next morning, Peter is home waking up on the kitchen table. Lois chastises him for breaking his promise, but Peter insists that its not going to have a negative effect on him. At work, Peter falls asleep at the toy factory and lets dangerous and harmful toys (including drugs, axes and grenades) go past his watch, which gets him fired.
Peter tries many jobs to try and make money, yet all fail. Not wanting Lois to find out and not wanting his finances drained, Peter signs up for welfare checks of $150 a week, but a mistake cause the checks to total $150,000 a week.
Meanwhile, Stewie tries to get a mind control device from the kitchen cabinet, all while trying to kill Lois.
With his new fortune, Peter buys his family many expensive things, like the statue of David (which Peter breaks the penis off of) and Collagen injections for Meg (which she wanted through the episode), breast implants for Chris (actually just the squishy bags) and a jukebox in the bathroom for himself. When a check is delivered, Lois discovers it and scolds Peter believing that all his problems can be solved with money. Wanting to make it up to Lois, Peter and Brian head to Super Bowl XXXIII and give the taxpaying people money from a blimp. The blimp is shot down and the two are arrested for disrupting the big game.
In court, Peter is sentenced to 24 months in jail. Lois sticks up for Peter saying that he wanted to give his family money that they needed, but instead is given jail time with Peter. Not wanting his mother gone and not be killed by him, Stewie hits the judge with his mind control ray, which works. Peter and Lois are released and Peter gets his job back. The episode ends with Peter arguing with his family of other ways they can get rich quick, such as a minority scholarship, a sexual harassment dispute, and a disability claim.
This episode, the series premiere, aired immediately after Super Bowl XXXIII.
"Death Has a Shadow" contains example of:
- Adolf Hitlarious: The very first cutaway of the series.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: In the pilot preview, where Peter and his friends are watching a porn featuring a pizza man.Peter: He is gonna get fired.
Judge: Mr. Griffin, I think your words have touched us all. I'm sentencing you to 24 months in prison.
- After Peter's heartfelt speech in court, it briefly looks like he will be released:
- Bratty Teenage Daughter: Meg, a far cry from her current status as a Butt-Monkey and disturbed teen who's one hair away from killing herself.
- Characterization Marches On: Brian says that Peter's welfare mistake is the reason why he doesn't vote. Later episodes, he'd be a Straw Liberal and explicitly call Peter out on what he's doing, to the point that the episode would be Anvilicious.
- Chekhov's Gun: Stewie's mind control ray.
- Curse Cut Short: In the final product, when Peter is annoyed that he lost the talent to The Von Trapp Family Singers, a musical instrument plays in place. Averted in the preview pilot.
- Deadpan Snarker: Brian."Yeah, who would've thought welfare fraud would be one of her buttons?"
- Disproportionate Retribution: In the Brady Bunch episode the family sees, Greg is made to spend four hours in a snaake pit for smoking while Janet gets a day in a room of fire for tattling.
- Dude, Not Funny!: The cutaway of the Griffins watching Philadelphia has the rest of the moviegoers glaring at Peter when he laughs at Tom Hanks' character for saying he has AIDS.
- Dynamic Entry: The Kool Aid Man bursting through the courtroom wall.Kool Aid Man: OH YEAH!!!
- Early Installment Weirdness: A lot of things from the first season, including this episode, will feel really odd to people who are used to seeing the post-2005 revival episodes. The jokes are not totally tasteless, but they are still better suited to [adult swim] than to FOX. Most of the cutaways are flashbacks and What If? spots, rather than totally "random" gags that add nothing to the plot. The characters act very differently, too:
- Meg is a sympathetic Bratty Teenage Daughter who just wants to be accepted and, while relatively luckless, is not the victim of constant abuse. In fact, Peter and especially Lois both try to be real parents to her.
- Chris sounds dopier and admires Peter's drunken antics.
- Peter is a likable Bumbling Dad trying to make things right, plus he works at a toy factory run by an Ambiguously Gay man named Mr. Weed.
- Lois is friendlier and more sensible. Additionally, her voice is deeper.
- Stewie has neither homosexual traits nor a hidden nicer side. Instead, he is the Token Evil Teammate who hates everyone in the family. In fact, the family member with whom Stewie has the strongest enmity is Brian.
- Quagmire is just a generic party animal who happens to be promiscuous.
- Brian is limited mostly to the original joke of his character, that in a family of complete dolts, the dog is the smartest one. Personality-side, he's low-key, sophisticated and is best friends with Peter rather than Stewie.
- Firing Day: Peter is fired from his toy factory job after he falls asleep due to a hangover and inadvertently allows dangerous "toys" to slip into the market. Not wanting Lois to find out and blame him, he decides to sign up for welfare and keep her in the dark about it.
- Gilligan Cut: Peter's promise not to drink at the stag party, followed by a cut to Peter and Quagmire playing "Drink the Beer" at said party.
- Good Angel, Bad Angel: Peter frets about telling Lois how he was fired because he was hung over from drinking. A shoulder devil appears to tell him that it's okay to lie to her about it, but the shoulder angel is nowhere to be found; a cutaway shows he's stuck in traffic. Later on, this shoulder angel finally arrives and is asked by Peter for advice. The shoulder angel's even smaller shoulder devil then appears, but the tiny shoulder angel isn't there because, you guessed it, he's stuck in traffic.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: This and the next three episodes featured titles that were done in the style of '40s crime drama/film noir. This practice was soon abandoned when the staff couldn't keep track of the episodes because of vague titles.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Peter outright ignores Lois, drinks his way out of a job, and hides it from her. However, he uses his welfare money to try and give the family a better life, then tries to give the money back during Superbowl Sunday.
- Lampshade Wearing: Surprisingly, a non-drunk example. Peter posed as a lamp while lying to Lois that he was still working.
- Failed a Spot Check: Lois apparently never noticed this (though Brian warned she would eventually).
- My Little Panzer: The defective "toys" sold by the factory include a fire-breathing doll, a case of drugs, and an axe.
- Never Trust a Title: Most of the titles in season one (not just this one) have titles that don't match the plot. According to Seth MacFarlane, he did it as an homage to old-time radio.
- No Product Safety Standards: Peter falls asleep on the job at the toy factory, allowing for dangerous products to make it into shipping, such as a bottle of pills inside a "Pound Poochie" box, a "silly ball" being a throwing hatchet, and a girl's doll being built in with a flamethrower.
- Off-Model: Every so often there are very weird frames where characters' eyes would grow to the size of dinner plates. And there is one weird tongue motion where the tongue seems to stick to the roof of their mouth - exactly what sound that's supposed to represent is a mystery.
- Parallel Porn Titles: At the stag party, Peter and the guys watch Assablanca (but it gets taped over with a documentary about the Statue of Liberty, causing the guys to drink so that the statue "would take her clothes off").
- Pragmatic Villainy: The only reason Stewie doesn't allow Peter and Lois to be hauled away to prison is because he relies on them to survive and they have yet to outlive their usefulness to him.
- Prison Rape: Subverted. When Peter is in prison, he tells Brian that "...those rumors about dropping the soap are true", then tells Brian that all the inmates were making fun of him for not holding on to the soap.
- Reality Ensues: Peter ends up in trouble for not reporting an over-payment of welfare. In court, Peter finally admits guilt for cheating the government and lying to Lois. The judge is moved...but still sentences Peter to 24 months in prison. Peter only gets out because Stewie developed a mind control laser to hypnotize the judge.
- Running Gag: Twice Lois says these instances of Insane Troll Logic.Lois: You see Peter, a hangover is simply nature's way of telling you I was right.
Lois: Well Meg, sagging lips is nature's way of telling you you shouldn't have covered for your father's lie.
- Shot-for-Shot Remake: This episode is basically an extended and repolished version of the pitch pilot, with jokes from Seth MacFarlane's student film, The Life of Larry (though the next episode has the Star Trek: The Original Series scenes, like Captain Kirk splitting his pants, and Ensign Ricky muttering, "Aw, crap!" after Kirk picks him for the landing mission).
- Spoof Aesop: Testifying in court, Peter says he was going to return the money, but he got distracted by the infamous "The Bicycle Man" episode of Diff'rent Strokes. After a cutaway, Peter says everyone learned an important lesson.Judge: Mr. Griffin, have you learned a lesson?
Peter: Oh, yeah, stay the hell away from that bike shop!
- Taped-Over Turmoil: Peter brings a porno named Assablanca to a friend's stag party only for the men to be horrified that it was partially recorded over by a documentary about The Statue of Liberty.