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Western Animation / Family Dog

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In 1987, the anthology series Amazing Stories premiered an episode entitled Family Dog. Created by Brad Bird, it told the story of a dog owned by the Binsfords, a very dysfunctional family consisting of Skip and Bev, the frustrated, careless parents; Billy, the destruction-loving son; and Buffy, the young daughter.

Fast forward six years later, when a primetime series based on the episode premiered to capitalize on the success of The Simpsons alongside Fish Police, and Capitol Critters. The series was produced by Nelvana, Amblin Television, Universal, and Warner Bros., and aired on CBS.

13 episodes were planned; however, only 10 were aired, and after that the show got cancelled.

Not to be confused with Family Guy. Or Brian Griffin, for that matter.

The Amazing Stories episode and the series provide examples of:

  • A Dog Named "Dog": The titular canine is never referred to by anything other than "The Dog". Even his Christmas stocking just says "Dog" on it! Though Word of God has stated that the dog's name is Jonah, the Binsfords don't call him Jonah likely out of apathy.
  • The Ace: The Binsfords' neighbors, the Mahoneys are a far more perfect family than the Binsfords could ever be. Martin and Trish are in more happily married than Skip and Bev, Martin has a better job than Skip, Trish is a better cook than Bev, the Mahoney twins are more well behaved than Billy and Buffy, even their new dog, K-10, a former police dog, is more impressive than the Binsfords' own dog. Which is why the Binsfords resent the Mahoneys.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The last act of the Amazing Stories episode has the dog being trained to become one. It works too well, as it follows the burglars to their lair and becomes their Attack Animal.
  • Big Budget Beef-Up: Inverted. The quality of the show's animation and scripts dropped compared to the Amazing Stories episode it came from.
  • Black Comedy Animal Cruelty: Downplayed example, as the abuse isn't that bad, but some of the show's humor was derived from the Binsfords failing to care for their dog properly. Heck, the first episode alone was more or less built around this trope, as its premise was that the dog was thirsty, but constantly failed to get even a single drop of water.
  • Brand X: Averted. The brands mentioned in the series are real-life brands.
    • However, there is a sequence near the end of "Party Animal" where the Binsfords visit "Insurance World", "World Bank", "Architect World", "E-Z Chair World", and "World 'O Carpets".
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Buffy. As seen in the original episode, all it takes is a single growl from the Dog to get her to start screaming her head off.
  • Bumbling Dad: Skip, when he's not being a Jerkass.
  • Butt-Monkey: The dog is constantly neglected by his owners, terrorized by the kids, and generally put through a world of hurt.
  • Catchphrase: "Stupid dog!" Skip usually says this, but the other Binsfords have said it as well.
  • Cats Are Mean: The dog gets attacked by a cat in one episode.
  • Disney Death: A bird that Billy kills turns out to be fine... only to die again, followed by it turning out to be alive again.
  • Dysfunctional Family: The Binsfords. Ye gods.
  • Gilligan Cut: Skip says he is not going to take the dog to the beach. Cue immediate cut to the Binsfords on the beach with their dog.
  • Girlish Pigtails: Buffy has large pigtails.
  • Hartman Hips: Bev has quite prominent hips. This is lampshaded in "Eye on the Sparrow" when Billy refers to his mother as "Thunder Thighs".
  • Hilarity in Zoos: The entirety of the episode "Hot Dog at the Zoo".
  • Incompetent Guard Animal: In the Amazing Stories episode, the dog fails to stop burglars twice; the first time because he had eaten too much, the second because he overslept. His owner takes him to be trained to be a more vicious guard dog, and the third time he succeeds in chasing away the burglars. In fact, it works too well, as the dog has followed them to their hideout, and when it attacks a cop who came to arrest them, they decide to use him as an accomplice in their crimes. Eventually, the dog turns on the burglars and he returns home... where it attacks his master after he gets locked out of the house and has to sneak in through a window.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Binsford family as a whole. Despite their constant bickering and their mistreatment of their pet, deep down, they really do care about him and each other.
  • Jerkass: Billy Binsford is clearly the worst of the family. He loves violence and destruction, is mean to his sister Buffy, disrespects his parents, and would go out of his way to do mean things to the dog.
  • Love at First Sight: The dog immediately falls in love with a female dog in the episode "Doggone Girl is Mine".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Billy kills a bird in one episode and feels bad about it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Done by the dog constantly. It's practically his default facial expression!
  • Peking Duck Christmas: As the Binsfords watch a home movie of last Christmas, Skip recalls that they had to go out for pizza for Christmas dinner because the dog ate the ham.
  • Precision F-Strike: A TV-friendly version. In the Amazing Stories episode, Skip blames his wife for buying "cheap damn dog food" which gives the dog gas.
  • Sick Episode: The dog gets ill in "Family Dog Gets Good and Sick" due to a mosquito sucking on poison and injecting it on him. He gets better after he has a dream about seeing his crush, which does happen in the end.
  • Skewed Priorities: In "Party Animal", Skip and Bev are more concerned about saving their chair and carpet, respectively, than escaping the burning house.
  • Status Quo Is God: In "Party Animal", Billy's newfound obsession with playing with fire results in a house fire immediately following the Binsfords' block party. The whole family escapes in time (the dog very narrowly), but the house burns and collapses to the ground. This is immediately followed by a montage where the Binsfords pick up and cash an insurance check, have the house rebuilt and furnished exactly as before, and have a family portrait taken that looks just like one that perished in the blaze. The reboot works just a little too well, as the episode ends with a housewarming party at which not only is Bev wearing the exact same outfit as at the first party, but Billy is shown not to have learned his lesson at all, being caught by his mother and the dog playing with matches again!note 
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: Ms. Lestrange promises to turn the dog into "a quivering, snarling, white-hot ball of canine terror." Later, when the dog attacks burglars, one exclaims, "He's turned into a quivering, snarling, white-hot ball of canine terror!"
  • Short-Runner: The series ran for only 10 episodes.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: In "Hot Dog at the Zoo", Skip loses his ring and goes looking for it, unbeknownst to him that it was accidentally eaten by the dog after it was flung into his food bowl. When the dog locates it in the backyard (how it wound up there should be no mystery) and brings it to his owner, Skip is delighted at first only for him and Bev to suddenly and angrily accuse the dog of taking it, finger-pointing and all, even though the dog helped his owner in his eyes by finding what he was looking for and as a result became shocked and saddened by the accusation.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Billy, if the flashback in "Dog Days of Summer" is any indication.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: It was mostly a lighthearted series about a dog and the dysfunctional family he lived with, but the episode "Dog Days of Summer" introduced a trio of callous teens and their vicious dog that nearly killed the titular family dog.