Creepypasta has long since grown from murmurs and memes on the internet to mainstream popular culture the last several years. Slenderman is a household name and some creepypasta tales are set to be adapted to the big screen. And last night with the latest episode of American Dad, a similar format has been used for one extremely clever horror comedy!
The originally FOX and now TBS Animated sit-com from Seth McFarlene essentially follows Stan Smith, an All-American CIA agent and his quirky family. The show has since shifted to a more absurdist, if surrealist comedy most prominently featuring Roger The Alien’s numerous character personas as plot points, and the weirdness has only strengthens the series. Last night’s episode entitled ‘Rabbit Ears’ felt like something from The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. Stan finds an old school big TV set for the dump and decides to install it in the basement despite his family’s disinterest and attention focused on Roger who’s latest persona is a baby. He manages to find a show to watch after fiddling with the ‘rabbit ears’ of the television, an old 1960’s late night variety show called Nighthawks Hideaway hosted by a charming socialite named Alistair Covax (Voiced by Chris Pine).
Stan soon becomes obsessed with the show, which features Covax having politically incorrect conversations with guests, drinking, and listening to smooth jazz. The same episode plays repeatedly with minor shifts and differences with every viewing such as different people playing the same characters. When Stan seeks information from TV Guide headquarters, they tell him the show has never existed and the only other person who knows about it is Stan’s neighbor, Tuttle. Only for Tuttle to disappear and show up on Nighthawks Hideout! Stan’s investigation leads to him going through projected static and into the TV show itself. Only to discover, to his horror, he now cannot leave!
The episode plays like many Creepypastas and SCP Foundation entries about similar accursed cases of media that can absorb its viewers. In the episode itself, the horror of Nighthawks Hideout and its sinister hot are played all but completely straight. Despite his smooth exterior, Covax is a menacing monster with no origin and only motivated to keep his show on track. Anyone who tries to escape, he disposes of during the commercial break. Including an unfortunate Back To The Future fan voiced by Fred Savage in a cameo. And worst yet, with every repeat of the episode, the people stuck inside like Stan and Tuttle lose more and more of their memory! It’s a story with a genuinely creepy hook that on its own could stand as a good horror story. Of course, with Stan and Tuttle as the protagonists, it handles the job of balancing the horror to the comedy by having the horror treated deadly serious and simply having them react in funny ways.
This is an episode well worth checking out if you’re looking for some animated weirdness. It’s also kind of ironic considering one of the most popular creepypasta sub-genres is ‘cursed/lost episodes’ of popular shows. Looks like American Dad beat them to the punch on their own show!