The TV Weekly #195: Why Doesn’t Family Guy Hold Up As Well As It Used To?


As I’ve talked about in the past, The Simpsons has more than overstayed its’ welcome but it still manages to deliver entertaining episodes every once in a while, not quite what it has done in the past but still, it’s a Sunday tradition almost as much as football and church is.

But then, you have a show like Family Guy, a show that started off just as promising and just as funny as The Simpsons did and had numerous years of very funny episodes to its’ name but like with most shows that ran for many years, the series hasn’t held up as well in past years.

So, what happened? Well, let’s find out…

Family Guy is an American adult animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series centers on the Griffins, a family consisting of parents Peter and Lois; their children Meg, Chris, and Stewie; and their anthropomorphic pet dog Brian. The show is set in the fictional city of Quahog, Rhode Island, and exhibits much of its humor in the form of cutaway gags that often lampoon American culture.

The family was conceived by MacFarlane after developing two animated films, The Life of Larry and Larry & Steve. MacFarlane redesigned the films’ protagonist, Larry, and his dog, Steve, and renamed them Peter and Brian, respectively. MacFarlane pitched a seven-minute pilot to Fox in 1998, and the show was greenlit and began production. Shortly after the third season of Family Guy had aired in 2002, Fox canceled the series, with one episode left unaired. Adult Swim burned off the episode in 2003, finishing the series’ original run. However, favorable DVD sales and high ratings for syndicated reruns on Adult Swim convinced the network to renew the show in 2004 for a fourth season, which began airing on May 1, 2005.

Family Guy has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards and 11 Annie Awards, and has won three of each. In 2009, it was nominated for an Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, the first time an animated series was nominated for the award since The Flintstones in 1961. Family Guy has also received criticism, including unfavorable comparisons to The Simpsons.

Many tie-in media have been released, including Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, a straight-to-DVD special released in 2005; Family Guy: Live in Vegas, a soundtrack-DVD combo released in 2005, featuring music from the show as well as original music created by MacFarlane and Walter Murphy; a video game and pinball machine, released in 2006 and 2007, respectively; since 2005, six books published by Harper Adult based on the Family Guy universe; and Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy (2010), a series of parodies of the original Star Wars trilogy. In 2008, MacFarlane confirmed that the cast was interested in producing a feature film and that he was working on a story for a film adaptation.

A spin-off series, The Cleveland Show, featuring Cleveland Brown, aired from September 27, 2009, to May 19, 2013. “The Simpsons Guy”, a crossover episode with The Simpsons, aired on September 28, 2014. Family Guy is a joint production by Fuzzy Door Productions and 20th Century Fox Television and syndicated by 20th Television. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Family Guy the ninth Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time.

As of May 15, 2016, Family Guy was renewed for a fifteenth season.

So, yeah, fifteen seasons this show has been on and unlike a long running show like The Simpsons, the novelty of Family Guy wore off pretty quickly in its’ revival stance.

Between 2005 and 2012, the series still managed to provide a ton of really solid laughs and pretty good episodes all throughout, couple of misfires here and there but overall, still enjoyable.

What ended up happening? Well, 2013 came around and the people behind Family Guy decided to boost ratings by announcing that it was going to kill off a character of their show. And that character ended up being Brian, arguably the best character on the show. And yes, I fully agree, it was a shocking move on their part. And there were three episodes after Brian died where he was replaced by Vinny, voiced by Tony Sirico, and nobody was saying anything about whether or not Brian would ever come back or not, most people thought that was literally the last time we’d ever see Brian on the series ever again. And then, the Christmas episode came about and half of the episode started off as normal as you’d expect for a Family Guy Christmas episode but then, Stewie tells a mall Santa that all he wants for Christmas is the return of Brian and then, the second half of the episode is Stewie trying to reverse time travel to go save Brian from the car crash that would kill him, Stewie does so and thus, on Christmas Day, Brian is alive and well and thus the whole month of wondering whether or not Brian would be back or not feels pointless because the whole storyline that started off as an “we’re super serious about killing off this beloved character” event has now essentially become nothing but a cheap ploy to get ratings because believe it or not, ratings for Family Guy improved significantly because many people were wondering what was going to happen to the series from that point on because nobody behind the scenes was saying anything about where the direction of the show was going so you had no choice but to tune in to find out.

And then after that, the show really began to show off its’ gimmicky side and a sense that they only cared about producing episodes to have quantity for syndication value than actual quality, right down to a crossover with The Simpsons, which was hyped at the time and I’ve also looked at in the past. And honestly, that’s the last time I really paid attention to Family Guy was that crossover episode.

For a number of years, Fox’s entire Sunday lineup was my Sunday night, I would watch The Simpsons, Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad, Bob’s Burgers, and Futurama as new episodes were airing, that was my Sunday night for many, many years but in the years since, the lineup has definitely taken a change from its’ traditional animated format and more live-action comedies such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Last Man On Earth, and this year’s new Son Of Zorn. But nowadays, my Sunday night usually consists of Bob’s Burgers, The Simpsons, and Sunday Night Football…yeah, after The Simpsons is done, I switch over to Sunday Night Football because I really don’t find myself getting so attached to the rest of the Fox lineup as I used to.

Now, don’t get me wrong, nothing against Son Of Zorn or Last Man On Earth, I friggin love both shows but we have DVRs and On Demand services to catch up on both shows.

But, let’s honestly talk about what is wrong with Family Guy nowadays, a couple of things to point out right off the bat.

First off, the comedy is very much struggling to resonate. Back when the show first started, much like The Simpsons, Family Guy was very clever and very funny about its’ jokes whether they would lead to something stupidly funny or something smartly funny. For example, the episode where Brian bets money on a Celebrity Boxing matchup with Stewie and Stewie spends a majority of the first half of the show trying to get Brian to pay up and it’s comical and amusing at first…and then, Stewie literally beats the living daylight out of Brian not once but twice and BRUTALLY does it too, it’s funny because you never see it coming on any level and it’s the perfect example of the element of surprise.

Nowadays, the jokes come out of the blue too often and you can easily predict a joke coming miles away and there’s nothing funny when you can obviously see the joke coming and it doesn’t pay off.

Another problem is that the characters aren’t as memorable as we remember them. After a number of years with the same characters, the series tries way too hard to change the characters’ personalities and motivations too many times.

Probably the biggest problem with the overall series is that it tries too hard to be too trendy and topical with everything that happens. Just recently, with the Donald Trump Access Hollywood tape, they literally created a video with Seth MacFarlene’s Peter adding voiceover like he was in the bus with Trump and Billy Bush and none of it really comes off as funny, just kind of pointless. They would do this kind of stuff to be too relatable to the people who’d be watching the show today and a lot of it just doesn’t work.

Now to be perfectly fair, the animation on Family Guy still works very well, the voice acting still works, and occasionally, you’ll get those one off laughs but again, they are very few and far between. Family Guy doesn’t hold up as well because a lot of the stories and comedy provided never really comes together as well as it should.

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Posted in The TV Weekly
One comment on “The TV Weekly #195: Why Doesn’t Family Guy Hold Up As Well As It Used To?
  1. […] Last week, we talked about why Family Guy, an animated series that has been on the air for a very long time, has not held up as well as it used to. So, why not look at another animated series that has been on for a very long time that has also overstayed its’ welcome, SpongeBob Squarepants. […]

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