Family Guy is an animated American television sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane that airs on Fox and regularly on other television networks in syndication. The show centers on a semi-dysfunctional family that lives in the fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island. The show uses frequent "cutaway gags", jokes in the form of tangent vignettes.
Family Guy was canceled once in 2000 and again in 2002, but strong DVD sales and the large viewership of reruns on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim convinced Fox to resume the show in 2005. It is the first cancelled show to be resurrected based on DVD sales, and the only one to be resurrected twice on that basis.
is a show originally created in 1999 after the Larry shorts
(its predecessor) caught the attention of the Fox Broadcasting Company
during the 1999 Super Bowl
commercial. Its cancellation was announced, but then a shift in power at Fox and outcry from the fans led to a reversal of that decision and the making of a third season after which it was cancelled again. Reruns on Adult Swim
drove interest in the show up, and the DVD releases did quite well, selling over 2.2 million copies in one year, which renewed network interest. Family Guy
returned to production in 2004, making three more seasons (for a total of six) and a straight-to-DVD
movie, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
. The show celebrated its official 100th episode
during its sixth season in autumn of 2007, resulting in the show's syndication
. Season 7 began airing Sunday, September 28, 2008. The show is contracted to continue producing episodes until 2012.
The show revolves around the adventures of Peter Griffin
, a bumbling but well-intentioned blue-collar worker
. Peter is an Irish American Catholic
with a thick Rhode Island
/ Eastern Massachusetts accent
. His wife Lois
is generally a stay-at-home mother and piano teacher, and has a distinct New York accent
from being a member of the Pewterschmidt family
of wealthy socialites
. Peter and Lois have three children: teenage daughter Meg
, who is frequently the butt of jokes due to her homeliness and lack of popularity; teenage son Chris
, who is overweight, unintelligent and, in many respects, a younger version of his father; infant son Stewie
, a diabolical infant of ambiguous sexual orientation who has adult mannerisms and speaks fluently with an affected upper-class, mid-Atlantic English accent and stereotypical archvillain
phrases. Living with the family is Brian
, the family dog, who is highly anthropomorphized
, walks on two legs, drinks Martinis
, smokes cigarettes
and engages in human conversation, though he is still considered a pet in many respects.
There are many recurring characters on the show who appear alongside the Griffin family on a regular basis. These include the family's colorful neighbors: sex-crazed airline-pilot bachelor Glenn Quagmire; mild-mannered deli owner Cleveland Brown and his wife (ex-wife as of the fourth-season episode "The Cleveland–Loretta Quagmire") Loretta Brown with their hyperactive son, Cleveland Jr.; paraplegic police officer Joe Swanson, his perpetually pregnant wife Bonnie, and their athletic son Kevin; paranoid Jewish pharmacist Mort Goldman, his wife Muriel Goldman and their geeky and annoying son Neil; and creepy old ephebophile Herbert. TV news anchors Tom Tucker and Diane Simmons also make regular appearances (along with Asian Reporter Tricia Takanawa and Blaccu-Weather meteorologist Ollie Williams), as well as mentally disturbed celebrity Mayor Adam West (voiced by and named after the real Adam West).
For its first three seasons Family Guy did not use an especially large cast of recurring minor characters. Since returning from cancellation many one-shot characters from prior episodes have reappeared in new episodes, although most of the plotlines center on the exploits of the Griffin family.
The majority of events on the show take place in Quahog, Rhode Island, a fictional suburb of Providence. Seth MacFarlane, the show's creator, resided in Providence when he was a student at Rhode Island School of Design, and leaves unequivocal Rhode Island landmarks from which one may infer intended real-world locations for events. MacFarlane also often borrows the names of Rhode Island locations and icons such as Pawtucket and Buddy Cianci for use in the show. MacFarlane, in an interview with local WNAC Fox 64 News, has stated that the town is modeled after Cranston, Rhode Island.
Several times every episode, the actual Providence skyline can be seen in the distance. The three buildings that are depicted are, from left to right and furthest to closest, One Financial Center, 50 Kennedy Plaza, and the Bank of America Tower. This ordering of buildings and the angle at which they are viewed (see figure at right) indicates that Quahog is primarily west of downtown Providence if it is to have a real-world counterpart. However, in a few episodes Quahog is shown to have a coastline (see "Fifteen Minutes of Shame", "Fore Father" and "The Perfect Castaway"), which only Cranston and Providence possess. This is supported by the fact that the real-world "31 Spooner Street" is located in Providence , immediately west of Roger Williams Park. This could be a coincidence, as MacFarlane has said in a DVD commentary that the street was named after Spooner Hill Road, along which is his boyhood home. In "E. Peterbus Unum", a map of Rhode Island is shown with Quahog shown in red with Quahog appearing to be in the vicinity of Tiverton.
According to Mayor Adam West in "Fifteen Minutes of Shame", the town was founded by a sailor of a New York colony-bound boat who was thrown overboard for his loquaciousness. A magical clam rescued him and brought him to shore. Together the two founded a new town named Quahog, a quahog being a type of clam. On MacFarlane's part, the choice of name is a nod to the state's characteristic staple. Although quahogs are common throughout New England, the small state of Rhode Island produces one quarter of the country's catch.
The main cast and their main parts are as follows: Seth MacFarlane
, who voices Peter Griffin, Stewie Griffin, Brian Griffin, Glenn Quagmire, and Tom Tucker; Alex Borstein
as Lois Griffin, Loretta Brown (until the character was retired in season four), and Trisha Takanawa; Seth Green
as Chris Griffin; and Mila Kunis
as Meg Griffin. The main cast do voices for several recurring characters other than those listed, as well as impersonate celebrities and pop-culture icons.
Recurring cast members include: Patrick Warburton as Joe Swanson; Mike Henry as Cleveland Brown; Adam West as the mayor Adam West; Jennifer Tilly as Bonnie Swanson; John G. Brennan as Mort Goldman; Nicole Sullivan as Muriel Goldman; Carlos Alazraqui as Jonathan Weed (until the character was killed off in season three); Adam Carolla as Death (excluding Death's first appearance, during which the character was voiced by Norm MacDonald); Lori Alan as Diane Simmons.
Lacey Chabert voiced Meg Griffin for the first production season (15 episodes); however, because of a contractual agreement, she was never credited. She was eventually credited at the end of The Family Guy 100th Episode Special, which featured clips of her voice work on the show.
For the first half of the first season, the writers tried to work the words "murder" or "death" into the title of every episode to make the titles resemble those of old-fashioned
radio mystery shows. On the DVD commentary for "Death Has a Shadow
", creator Seth MacFarlane says that the writers stopped doing this when they realized they were beginning to get the titles confused. Beginning with "A Hero Sits Next Door
", the episodes feature titles descriptive of their plots.
Some episodes are not aired in full in their initial broadcast because of profanity or cultural references. Scenes are either re-edited or removed entirely from the episode. Some cut material is restored for later broadcast on other venues, such as Adult Swim. DVD releases also contain the uncensored material.
Entire episodes can be streamed online on two VOD websites. The first one is Hulu, a jointly owned site between Fox and NBC. The second site is Adult Swim Video, the broadband video section of AdultSwim.com
Crossovers with American Dad!
The show has periodically featured the inclusion of certain elements from American Dad!
, another animated comedy series created and produced by Seth MacFarlane. Appearances include:
- "Meet the Quagmires" – Roger, the alien who lives with the Smiths, makes a last-minute cameo in this episode, asking the Griffins, "Who ate all the Pecan Sandies?". His line is a reference to a line he said early in the American Dad! pilot episode, asking Francine if she bought Pecan Sandies while she was out shopping. He was voiced by Seth MacFarlane, who also voices him in American Dad!.
- "Blue Harvest" – Roger can be spotted conversing with one of the alien bar patrons while holding a glass of wine during the cantina scene.
- "Lois Kills Stewie" – CIA agent Stan Smith, the main character of American Dad!, as well as his supervisor Avery Bullock and the CIA Headquarters, are featured in this episode. Though the story is non-canon, these elements play a more prominent role in this episode, thus making it feel more like a real crossover. Stan and Bullock were voiced by their usual American Dad! voice actors, Seth MacFarlane and Patrick Stewart, respectively.
Currently, there has never been an official crossover between the two. However, Seth MacFarlane said there will be one during the upcoming seventh season of Family Guy.
Feature length productions
Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
Originally released as a direct-to-DVD
movie, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
comprises three episode length segments with a wraparound story. Different edits, both adding and deleting material, were eventually televised as the three-part season four finale ("Stewie B. Goode
", "Bango Was His Name Oh!
" and "Stu and Stewie's Excellent Adventure
In an interview with TV Week on July 18, 2008
, Seth MacFarlane announced plans to produce a theatrically-released Family Guy
movie sometime "within the next year". He recently came up with an idea for the story, "something that you could not do on the show, which [to him] is the only reason to do a movie."
Music and music video
The show often incorporates musical numbers in Broadway
style as part of its episode technique, either as tangential vignettes or to advance the plotline. On April 26, 2005 Family Guy: Live in Vegas
was released and was a collaboration between composer Walter Murphy
and Seth MacFarlane. It features a show tune theme. Only one song is related to the show, the theme song. Also included was the music video "Sexy Party".
During the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike
, official production of the show was halted for most of December 2007 and various periods afterwards. Fox continued producing episodes without creator Seth MacFarlane's final approval, which he termed "a colossal dick move" in an interview with Variety.
Though MacFarlane refused to work on the show, his contract under Fox required him to contribute to any episodes it would subsequently produce. Production officially resumed after the end of the strike, with episodes airing regularly from February 17, 2008, onward.
In the United States, 28 episode podcasts
were released on iTunes
, and are also made available on the official site. These are audio-only promos where cast members talk about upcoming episodes and joke amongst themselves.
Lyrically, the normal title sequence in Family Guy
parodies TV programs like All in the Family
with its nostalgic longing for values of days past. The sequence has had only small changes since the first episode in 1999:
- Stewie, Meg, and Chris' pictures in the background originally contained simple outlines, but beginning with "A Picture Is Worth a 1,000 Bucks", the pictures have shown the actual characters.
- Because so many people thought Stewie sang "effin' cry!" instead of "laugh and cry" in the opening sequence (to the extent that UK broadcaster Channel 4 would edit the line so Stewie would only be heard saying "cry", and some versions of subtitles stating "F-in' cry!"), Seth MacFarlane resang that line to make it clearly "laugh and cry" halfway through Season 3.
- Also during Season 3, all the main characters' vocals during the "he's a family guy!" part of the opening song were significantly reduced in volume.
The new "laugh and cry" and "he's a family guy" lines were used throughout the second half of Season 3, starting from "The Kiss Seen Around the World" up until "Family Guy Viewer Mail#1", except for the episodes "A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas" (which used the original versions of the lines) and "Road to Europe" (which had a custom intro). The final episode of Season 3, "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein", used the original lines.
In Season 4, the original opening sequence was used for the first episode ("North by North Quahog". The second episode ("Fast Times at Buddy Cianci, Jr. High") had a custom intro and episode 3 ("Blind Ambition") used the new opening sequence. Starting from episode 4 ("Don't Make Me Over"), the original "laugh and cry" line was restored but the new "he's a family guy" line, with the almost silent main cast, was kept. As of Season 7, this opening sequence remains.
Also, in earlier episodes, the song is sung significantly slower than in later episodes.
Unique title sequences
Some title sequences are unique to select episodes. They are as follows:
- The three "Road Trip" episodes ("Road to Rhode Island", "Road to Europe", "Road to Rupert") have instead a sequence of still drawings representing that episode's road trip over an introductory musical fanfare taken from Road to Morocco.
- "Fast Times at Buddy Cianci Jr. High" – title sequence replaced with a parody of the series Law & Order.
- "PTV" – title sequence replaced with Osama Bin Laden going through various bloopers while trying to record a terrorist video before being beaten up by Stewie, as part of a Naked Gun parody going through familiar movie scenes, and finishing with a parody of The Simpsons title ending.
- "Stu and Stewie's Excellent Adventure" – title sequence replaced with a parody of the series 24 recapping events from the previous two episodes along with an unrelated clip from The Chevy Chase Show. This opening is only featured in the edited-for-television version of the episode.
- "Whistle While Your Wife Works" – same as the normal title sequence until the "musical stage" sequence, where Peter trips and falls down the stairs, rolling over Lois and Meg and crushing one of the dancers. Peter, oblivious to the suffocating dancer, complains he will have a swollen foot. Stewie then pops up in front of the camera, awkwardly suggesting to the operator that he should turn it off.
- "Blue Harvest" – title sequence replaced with a parody of the opening crawl of Star Wars IV: A New Hope, utilizing the same fonts and music as that of the original film.
and its cast have been nominated for 8 Emmy Awards
, with three wins:
- 2000: Outstanding Voice-Over Performance – Seth MacFarlane for "Stewie Griffin"
- 2002: Outstanding Music and Lyrics – Walter Murphy (composer), Seth MacFarlane (lyricist)
- 2007: Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation – Steve Fonti (storyboard artist)
The show has also been nominated for ten Annies, and won three times, twice in 2006 and once in 2008. The show has also been nominated for a Golden Reel Award three times, winning once.
poses as a typical sitcom in many respects; however at other times, characters will make it very clear that they are aware they're on a television show. Many times, characters are seen breaking the fourth wall
to address the audience directly. For example, when Vern and Johnny, the Vaudeville duo, appear for the fifth time on the show in the episode "Saving Private Brian
", Stewie steps into frame and kills them before saying to the viewer, "OK, they're dead. All right? We're not going to be seeing them again" (On the contrary, Vern appears in "Back to the Woods
" as a ghost while Johnny resides in Hell
because he, according to Vern, "liked little boys
Another example of the show's self-awareness happens in that same episode. When Stewie learns that Brian intends on deserting the army, he tells him that "they'll come after you, like Peter went after that hockey coach." After a pause during which nothing happens, he says, "Oh... No clip? Huh. Thought we had a clip." and the action continues.
Also, there has been some debate over the course of the series as to whether or not people can understand Stewie, which is pointed by the characters occasionally. In "E. Peterbus Unum", which turned out to be a historical and video being watched in a school in the future, one student asks if the adults can understand him. Also, in "Love Blactually", Brian and Stewie debate whether or not the character "Loretta could understand him, as she is no longer a recurring character as of now but, being the ex-wife of Cleveland, she has more of a connection to the main cast, so they conclude she'd only "get the jist" of what he's saying (a filming crew member also shouts, "We're filming!", from off-screen, another knock at the fourth wall).
has been panned by certain television critics, most notably from Entertainment Weekly
, which was in turn attacked by MacFarlane with a scene in "There's Something About Paulie
" in which Peter uses a copy of the magazine as toilet paper, and another scene Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
whereStewie snaps the neck of a reporter for the magazine.
The show is criticized for using story premises and humor similar to those used in episodes of The Simpsons. The Simpsons depicts Peter Griffin as a "clone" of Homer Simpson in a Halloween special, and as a fugitive accused of "Plagiarismo" (faux-Italian for plagiarism) in the episode "The Italian Bob".
Family Guy is also mocked in a two-part episode "Cartoon Wars" of South Park, in which characters call the show's jokes interchangeable and unrelated to storylines; the writers of Family Guy are portrayed as manatees who write by pushing rubber "idea balls" inscribed with random topics into a bin. Seth MacFarlane responded to the criticism on the Volume 4 box set DVD commentary, saying it was completely founded and true, even giving reference to many skits and jokes that were meant for previously scripted episodes and later cut and recycled in future episodes.
Other cartoonists who have publicly criticized Family Guy include John Kricfalusi, creator of Ren and Stimpy: "If you're a kid wanting to be a cartoonist today, and you're looking at Family Guy, you do not have to aim very high. You can draw Family Guy when you're ten years old. You do not have to get any better than that to become a professional cartoonist. The standards are extremely low.
The show's penchant for irreverent humor led to a controversy over a sequence in which Peter Griffin dances, in musical revue fashion, around the bed of a man with end-stage AIDS, delivering the patient's diagnosis in song.
The Hollywood Reporter
recently announced that there are plans to produce a spin-off
of Family Guy
to be focused on Cleveland Brown
. The project is named The Cleveland Show
and will be created by Seth MacFarlane, Mike Henry (the voice of Cleveland) and American Dad!
showrunner Rich Appel.
In March 2007, famed comedian Carol Burnett
filed a lawsuit against 20th century Fox, claiming that it was a copyright infringement for her Charwoman
cleaning character to be portrayed on the show without her permission. Besides that, Burnett stated that Fox violated her publicity rights. She was asking for $6 million in damages. On June 4, 2007, U.S. District Judge Dean Pregerson rejected the lawsuit, stating that the parody was protected under the First Amendment, using Hustler v. Falwell
as a precedent.
"I Need a Jew"
On October 3, 2007, Bourne Co. Music Publishers
filed a lawsuit accusing the show of copyright infringement upon the song "When You Wish Upon a Star"
by a parody song entitled "I Need a Jew"
, from the episode When You Wish Upon a Weinstein
. Bourne Co., the sole U.S. copyright owner of the song, alleges the parody pairs a "thinly veiled" copy of their music with antisemitic
lyrics. Named in the suit are Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., Fox Broadcasting Co., Cartoon Network
, Seth MacFarlane
, and composer Walter Murphy
; the suit seeks to stop the program's distribution, and unspecified damages.
Because "I Need a Jew" uses the copyrighted melody without commenting on that song, it may not be a First Amendment–protected parody per the Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. ruling.
In December 2007, actor/comedian Art Metrano
filed a lawsuit accusing the show of copyright infringement
over a scene in Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
in which Jesus
performs Metrano's signature "magic" act which involved absurd faux
magical hand gestures (such as making a finger "jump" from one hand to the other) while humming the distinctive tune "Fine and Dandy"
. Metrano's suit claims this performance is protected under terms of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976
. Named in the suit are 20th Century Fox, show creator Seth MacFarlane, and collaborators Steve Callaghan and Alex Borstein
. Metrano performed this routine on programs such as The Tonight Show
, where he made several appearances.