Posts Tagged ‘Family Guy


On the Family Guy Thing

A Star is Burns18

“And if you ever want to visit my show…” – Jay Sherman
“Nah, we’re not gonna be doing that.” – Bart Simpson

Family Guy has been a raw nerved subject for Simpsons fans pretty much since it began.  This owes in part to the fact that no less a person than Harry Shearer has said that it was cooked up by FOX for the express purposes of squeezing the underpaid voice actors on The Simpsons.  (I don’t know if that’s actually true or not, but it certainly sounds like something FOX would do and Shearer is orders of magnitude more trustworthy than they are.)  Whatever the initial motivation, however, the fact remains that Family Guy came on air right as The Simpsons was crumbling, on the same network, and with the same basic setup, and that’s more than enough to put the word “rip-off” on the tip of people’s tongues.

Chasing the white rabbit of “who copied who” and “how closely” can be fun, but questions of creative influence and credit slip down bottomless holes when you try to pin them down.  There’s no doubt that Family Guy wouldn’t have existed without the success of The Simpsons, but there’s also no doubt that Family Guy is a different show with a different sense of humor and a different creative core.  Flame wars and exhausting discussions can rage in the borderlands between those two certainties, but, like most rabbit chases, they rarely produce any tangible insights or results.

Further complicating matters is the way that Family Guy itself has fallen into the same kind of comedic mediocrity as Zombie Simpsons.  It fell from a much (much) lower height, but, like it’s elder, it’s been reduced to going through the motions for years now.

Being cartoons, both shows are immunized against the inevitable aging that kills even successful live action comedies after a few years.  But critical attention and media interest have mostly moved on, and here in 2014, both shows are kept alive by habit and routine, on the part of the audiences and the staffs.  The people watching know what they want to see (Homer get hurt, Stewie say something evil, etc.), and the people making the show know how to meet those minimal expectations.  Both have become rote and safe entertainment, the kind of dull monotone that keeps enough people tuning in not because they want to see something new and exciting, but because they want something familiar and predicable.

That is the context in which the crossover episode must be understood, and the irony that a show long criticized for mindlessly copying The Simpsons has blithely followed it into senility is easily the most amusing thing about its bloated, double-episode runtime.  Family Guy, long a show that will happily acknowledge criticism even as it ignores the substance of said criticism, basically said so itself on Sunday:

Chris: Yay!  A crossover always brings out the best in each show!  It certainly doesn’t smack of desperation.  The priorities are always creative and not driven by marketing or-
Stewie: Okay, that’s enough.

As a one off joke or deflection, that’s not bad.  But the rest of the episode is a long, drawn out exercise in proving Chris’s sarcasm right.  The episode is laden with one-note crossover jokes about how this or that is slightly different on one show or the other.  Each character gets matched up with their rough equivalent (Peter and Homer, Lois and Marge, Lisa and Meg, Bart and Stewie), and things plow forward from there.  Homer and Peter are both irresponsible jerks, so let’s watch them be so in their slightly different ways: animate, rinse, repeat.

When they announced this ploy last summer, my official reaction was “meh“.  Having now sat through the thing, I don’t have much more to add.  The godmother of this kind of crossover is The Jetsons Meet the Flintsones, where, you guessed it, George and company go back in time to Bedrock while Fred and his family go into the future.  Each family member has to deal with living their life in the other time, fish out of water hilarity ensues (<- not really), and then everyone gets back at the end.  “The Simpsons Guy” is pretty much that.

It’ll be a curious little footnote in the history of both shows, but nothing that happened in the episode was particularly memorable or even really risque (at least by Family Guy standards).  Meg cuts herself, there’s a pointless rape threat (shock comedy is weak and often not even comedy), a waste of time music video, cameos from other FOX shows, and then Peter and Homer engage in one of Family Guy‘s trademark “chicken fights” before it ends.

The repetitiveness and lack of imagination on display are the real reason so many people said this was a bad idea.  Both sets of characters are long since played out, and watching them go through their motions with each other isn’t any more entertaining than when they do it a half hour apart.  Mostly, it’s just boring.


Yeah, They Copied “Family Guy”

“Look Maggie, they have a baby too.” – Homer Simpson
“It’s like they saw our lives and put it right up on screen!” – Bart Simpson

I have no real use for the perpetual “Simpsons vs. Family Guy” debate for the obvious reason that I don’t consider The Simpsons and Zombie Simpsons to be the same program.  Nor do I know whether or not Family Guy was originally intended as a low cost replacement for The Simpsons.  I do know that the format of Family Guy resembles that of The Simpsons pretty closely.  I also know that Zombie Simpsons sucks for a lot of reasons and, as of this week, we can officially add aping Family Guy to the list.

Family Guy, “Love Thy Trophy” (Broadcast 14 March 2000):

Peter's Brain

Zombie Simpsons, “The Blue and the Gray” (Broadcast 13 February 2011):

Zombie Homer's Brain

It’s funny because they’re exactly the same.


Does Seth MacFarlane have feelings?

I’ll give the writers of Zombie Simpsons credit where credit is due: when they want to go out on a formulaic note, they don’t hold back. To say that Sunday’s ending was supremely schmaltzy is an understatement, as Krusty and Penelope lovingly floated away on the Seine under a starry sky to an acoustic version of “Moon River.” As if that weren’t enough, the writers took an additional opportunity to blanket the audience with warm fuzzies in the form of a passive aggressive “fuck you” to the haters (i.e., us.):

Right. Ignoring the self-delusion in the second line, it’s interesting to note that an alternate, almost funny ending was screened to journalists earlier. Whatever you think of the Family Guy/Simpsons rivalry/non-rivalry, you have to admit the snarkier text is worth a chuckle:

I suspect we’ll never know why one version aired over another, but Gawker and the New York Times have half-heartedly speculated the latter was axed to spare Seth MacFarlane’s feelings. Then again, does a wealthy man like Seth even care what others think about him? Highly unlikely.


Seth MacFarlane Gets It

I’ve said many times that I find the Family Guy versus The Simpsons arguments unbelievably stupid and pointless.  I maintain that stance.  Wherever you are on that one though, this interview with Seth MacFarlane speaks truth:

“I don’t want to go 20 years like The Simpsons,” MacFarlane told Sun Media. “Ideally we would go another couple of years and then wrap it up. That would be my perfect scenario.

“I mean, I can already see it coming. I can already see the … we’re in season eight, and it gets harder, it gets harder and harder to do new stuff. I mean, every show starts to suck after a certain point. And we could already be there for all I know, I don’t know.”

Zombie Simpsons is not The Simpsons.  That show, the one the Dead Homer Society loves, went off the air years ago after succumbing to precisely the effect MacFarlane describes here.


Pointless Show Comparisons

When I was taking that quiz Dave put up yesterday I noticed that there were links to quizzes for Family Guy, South Park and Futurama as well.  Rather than add to internet’s already vast archive of arguments over the relative merits of these shows, I’m simply going to point out a telling numerical discrepancy.

In raw numbers The Simpsons quiz had 63 characters, the South Park and Family Guy quizzes had 42 each and the Futurama quiz had 30.  But the Simpsons quiz doesn’t have more characters because it’s been on longer.  In fact, all of the 63 characters were on the show by Season 9 (nary a Zombie Simpsons creation in the bunch).  But that doesn’t tell the whole tale because there are, by my count, only six characters in the quiz that weren’t already on the show by Season 3.  (Cletus didn’t show up until Season 5, Brandine, Disco Stu and Homer’s Mom appeared in Season 7, and Duffman and the Cat Lady showed up in Season 9.)  In other words, it took The Simpsons less than sixty episodes to have 57 characters memorable enough to be on an internet quiz.

Note: No Crazy Noises this week as Mad Jon is moving to Cypress Creek.


I Can’t Imagine Why Fox Didn’t Like This

I have no insight into why this little musical number from Family Guy wasn’t broadcast.  (It looks like it was to have been part of the fall ’07 episode “Lois Kills Stewie”.)  The Entertainment Weekly post where I found it thinks it was the network censors, but other than the original YouTube uploader calling it “banned” I don’t see any evidence of that, it may just have not made the final cut.  Of course, saying something was “banned” or implying that it’s somehow too “think of the children” for broadcast television certainly makes it more appealing than saying it just didn’t fit in the episode. 

That said, I doubt that the joke at about 2:15 pleased any network higher ups:
I could quibble with the particulars, but really I just like seeing other people say that Simpsons isn’t funny any longer.  
Unsurprisingly, the always tedious “Simpsons Sucks/no it doesn’t Family Guy sucks” back and forth breaks out in the comments section of both the Entertainment Weekly post and the originating YouTube link.  

I’d Rather Watch the Dryer Channel

“I lost to Channel Ocho?  What the hell is that?” – Krusty the Klown
Good news everybody, that abortion last Sunday was the least watched Zombie Simpsons ever:

An extended mid-season break has bitten The Simpsons dearly in the ratings, with Sundays episode ‘Lisa The Drama Queen’ fetching just 5.75 million viewers at 8:00pm, a new all time low for the show.

Huzzah.  But wait, there’s more!  How about some insult to go with that injury?

a new American Dad scored 5.73 million viewers at 9.30.

American Dad?  A first run Simpsons episode is just as interesting to people as Family Guy‘s recycled afterbirth?  It’s too bad that the people keeping Zombie Simpsons on the air have no remaining shame or they might be embarrassed.  
Ah well, a good sign nevertheless.  Unprofitability here we come!  


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