Read this JUST as you’re watching a brand-new episode of American Dad!
Previously an afterthought in the Seth MacFarlane-verse, American Dad! is now going strong in the cream of the animated crop at a count 13 seasons. A big part of its longevity is that lovable extraterrestrial rapscallion, Roger Smith. Far and away the best character in Seth MacFarlane’s vocal repertoire, Roger has endured primarily through his endless supply of disguises to blend in with humanity (the joke always being that his alien anatomy is never convincingly covered up).
With the Season 13 episode “The Two Hundred” (in which all of Roger’s personae are split apart by a hadron collider) fresh in our minds, here is a list celebrating the best of Roger Smith’s best disguises. The two major criteria were physical attributes and depth of personality. Since most of his disguises make quick and efficient appearances, this list favors those with multiple appearances or episodes built around them, or those with rather striking looks.
7. Jeannie Gold (First Appearance: “Shallow Vows”)
Roger busts out this wedding planner persona to help Stan and Francine out with their vow renewal. She is decked out in big orange hair, gaudy jewelry, and a loud purple pantsuit (complete with shoulder pads). Her menu planning includes light beer that is “hot to the touch” and Chips Ahoy! soaked with cooler water. She demonstrates Roger’s penchant to effortlessly recalibrate his relationships with the other Smiths when in disguise (sensing, outrageously, that Stan is hitting on her, she whips out a latex glove to give him a “handy J” to keep him out of trouble).
6. Clip Clop (First Appearance: “Widowmaker”)
Now, time for a disguise that’s not convincing at all! Or maybe it is convincing, at least for the purpose that it serves. Clip Clop is just Roger in a raggedy outfit that looks like a cross between a horse and a giraffe. This one’s for the kids, or the inner child in us all. Roger is playing therapist to Stan and Francine, and Clip Clop is a tool to get Stan to open up. Instead, his resistance is just an excuse for some delightfully destructive physical comedy from Clip Clop.
5. The Legman (First Apperance: “Haylias”)
This is the rare Roger disguise that really has nothing to do with blending in. (To be real, though, after a certain point, every disguise has been less about blending in and more about Roger acting out his fantasies. Legman is one half of the private detective duo Wheels and the Legman (with Steve as Wheels). Inevitably, the entire time spent as these aliases is filled with bickering over the proper way to be detectives. Their cases are more or less impenetrable, as they tend to be convoluted by an ancillary Roger disguise.
4. Ricky Spanish (First Appearance: “Ricky Spanish”)
The only disguise that is also an episode title obviously earns a spot on this list. His reputation precedes him. (As does his theme song … er, theme whisper.) He is Ricky Spanish, the most hated man in town. The impact of Ricky is all in the power of suggestion. The plot in the “Ricky Spanish” episode is plenty insane, but no more so than an average half-hour of AD! It is those freeze frames giving hints of his past that make it clear that he strikes Keyser Soze-level fear in the hearts of others.
3. Dr. Penguin (First Appearance: “Man in the Moonbounce”)
Roger’s most durable disguise is the Smiths’ de facto in-house psychologist. While most of his characters are entertaining but profoundly unhelpful, Dr. Penguin actually provides useful head shrinking. He gets Stan and Haley in touch with their inner children, and prompts them upon some adventures that would probably be dangerous in real life, but are only the right thing to do in the AD! universe. The joke of Dr. Penguin gradually becomes how matter-of-fact the family is around him – he simply is their psychologist, there whenever they need to talk to someone.
2. Genevieve Vavance (First Appearance: “News Glance with Genevieve Vavance)”
“News Glance with Genevieve Vavance” demonstrates the legitimate consequences wrought by Roger and a world that accepts his presumably unconvincing disguises. Hayley is a plucky recruit at a broadcast news station, working under Roger’s Nancy Grace-esque anchorwoman. Genevieve being Roger, she is concerned less about justice and more about ratings, and she is willing to sacrifice the whole Smith clan in pursuit of riveting TV. When her guilt is revealed, she of course escapes unscathed thanks to a silly distraction. This is what Earth looks like with Roger Smith living among us.
1. Meredith Fields (First Appearance: “The Dentist’s Wife”)
It is no surprise that American Dad! has now revealed that all of Roger’s disguises are created in a persona factory, but it is a little shocking that it took 13 seasons for that reveal to happen. The visit to the factory is prompted by Roger’s inability to craft a persona impressive enough for socialite Meredith Fields. (AD!’s continuity is a little funky, but it feels meaningful that “The Dentist’s Wife” aired just a couple of episodes after the one in which all his personae were split apart.) To solve this conundrum, he succumbs to mimicking Meredith and taking over her life. And in true American Dad! style, the Single White Female-style episode ends in a wholesome life lesson about self-respect.
Did we miss your favorite disguise? Maybe you love ’em all? Sound off in the comments!