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Family Guy Takes On 9/11

Last night's Family Guy took the show's enthusiasm for taboo topics to new levels, with Stewie and Brian traveling back in time and stopping 9/11 — then later traveling back to make sure they don't stop it, owing to the horrendous butterfly-effect consequences (civil war, nuclear disaster, George W. Bush becoming president of the confederacy). It was also a strangely ambitious unraveling of the series' (flimsy) internal mythology: The time travel had Stewie and Brian revisiting the show's pilot episode, discussing how their characters and the series generally had changed, and giving a sort of in-show commentary to what's not usually a particularly self-reflective series. There were a few galling moments, like the sportscaster announcing, "Pat Tillman tackled by his own team," but that's sort of the show's M.O. Maybe the most surprising thing was that "Back to the Pilot" wasn't just an all-out orgy of tastelessness but was instead an exorcism of patriotic fantasies, as told through time-travel tropes and meta-humor. Plus, hey, the Kool-Aid guy was there.