As I’m sure all self-deprecating social commentary warriors are aware, Fox’s animated sitcom Family Guy turned twenty this year. The show centers on the Griffin family who live in the fictional city of Quahog, Rhode Island. As South Park‘s younger sibling (by fifty-ish episodes) it has offered us many a politically incorrect glimpse into the mind of its creator, Seth MacFarlane—glimpses outlined by the endearing nature of Saturday morning cartoons. Except the first episode didn’t air on a Saturday…it aired on a Sunday: January 31st, 1999.
Since then, the show’s outlandish success has given Seth MacFarlane the type of creative freedom and voice that is usually only recognizable in the work of Hollywood’s greatest monarchs; people like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. And yes, I used the word monarch on purpose—for some reason I’ve always associated Hollywood’s hierarchy with that of a Monarchy. Accomplished old men inhabiting the position of king, while Beyonce rules as Queen, naturally.
Not only does MacFarlane serve as the adult cartoon’s creator, but he is also an animator, voice actor, and writer for the series. His ambition and comedic fortitude have led to the creation of various Family Guy-like spin-offs, a sub-par Star Trek parody, and brilliant films such as Ted and Ted 2 (the latter being less brilliant). Despite whatever critical response his work may have received MacFarlane has never lost his sense of mockery, insight, and charm that seems to universally resonate with all of the overworked and underpaid “every man/woman” who retreats to their couch after a long day of not writing for network television. One can’t help but respect a man who has navigated the kingdom of overtly dramatic awards shows, self-obsessed talk shows, and aimless red carpet events with enough humility to lampoon popular culture admirably—and often.
The upcoming book (set to be published on May 14th), Inside Family Guy: An Illustrated History by Frazier Moore maps the development of the show before and after its first fateful Sunday. The book will feature a “full-color visual guide honoring [the show’s reign—from storyboard’s to character sketch to script excerpts to cast and crew interviews.” The product’s most intriguing inclusion (in my opinion) is the forward written by Seth MacFarlane himself. It can be read below, so no need to ever purchase this book—you’re welcome.
If you’re holding this book, I assume you’re in line at the airport gift shop and just realized you forgot to buy something for your nephew with the Adderall thing. Well, luckily for you, Fox figured, “In this digital world, what’s better than a heavy, cumbersome coffee-table book that also destroys our quickly vanishing forests?”
It’s hard to believe Family Guy has been on the air for 20 years. And that’s because it technically hasn’t. The show was cancelled multiple times by different people, all of whom have long since been fired. The last cancellation occurred in 2001, which historians agree was the worst thing to happen that year. Fortunately, Family Guy was revived in response to massive sales of DVDs, which, I assume, stands for “Dick Van Dyke.”
When the show first aired in 1999, Bill Clinton was president, Roseanne had to express her racist thoughts to one person at a time and the quickest way to become a millionaire was to burn your balls with McDonald’s coffee. Yes, a lot has changed since then. But one thing that hasn’t changed are the jokes. We put the same ones in every week.
Few shows are lucky enough to last so long that their writers die of natural causes. As of this printing, Family Guy has aired more than 300 episodes and shows few signs of slowing down, having received a variety of awards printed on surfboards and a handful of positive reviews. Uhp, I’m now being forced to mention the Family Guy mobile game, Family Guy: The Quest for Stuff. Relive the fun of the show with hilarious in-app purchases. It’s “freakin’ sweet. (TM)
In all seriousness, I am truly grateful to everyone who has made this show possible. What started as the student project of a bespectacled RISD geek grew and flourished thanks to the tireless work and enormous contributions of a hugely talented collection of writers, producers, artists, cast and crew. But most of all, I’d like to thank the devoted fans, who literally brought Family Guy back from the dead and allowed us to continue working on this show we all love.
Featured Image Via Rollingstone.com