Review/Rant: Family Guy

Brace yourselves: AniB digs into an overrated popular show.

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The Lowdown:

Show: Family Guy

Network/Years aired: Fox, 1999-2003, 2005-

 

AniB’s thoughts: A long time ago, in a certain English class at my first university, a professor decided an episode of this show was worth showing to get people analyzing storytelling elements and humor. Needless to say, he made a bad pick. This review may prove be highly unpopular with some people, but the reality is that Family Guy never has been and certainly isn’t now a standout show; rather, it is symptomatic of the worst parts of Western animation and the “lowest common denominator audience” that many a network executive aims to shoot for, and so my disdain for the show has an entirely different basis than earlier review/rant pieces that I did; while Fanboy and Chum Chum, as well as Breadwinners were simply poor concept with terrible execution, they were still more niche in the sense that they were Nicktoons; Family Guy is a different animal entirely. It is a mainstream show that is globally known, and it’s had an impact that goes far beyond most animated shows for better or worse. However, I’m not here to debate the size of its pop culture impact, but rather, the show itself, and that, I’m sorry to say, is not good.

The reality about Family Guy is that it comes down to whether or not one thinks the characters are engaging in the show. Sure, they’ve gained a sort of iconic pop culture status in some circles, but that’s not the question. It’s whether they are good characters. Suffice to say, the show comes up woefully short in that regard, despite the few moments it managed to use its cast well over its long run. To start with, Seth McFarlane’s shows all stick to the “ensemble” format- a main cast that follows set roles and rarely strays from them. That’s not inherently bad on its own, but Family Guy just so happens to have an insufferable main cast, from Peter Griffin’s mind-numbing idiocy and bigotry to the abuse of Meg Griffin, down to the family dog, Brian- who despite his ironic reputation as a “voice of reason” is in face more akin to the condescending jerk nobody likes. Whatever its other failures and shortcomings as a show, it falls squarely at the cast’s feet- and seldom has there been a more boring, one dimensional, rude and boorish cast in the history of animation.

That scathing critique aside, I understand the why of Family Guy‘s continued existence: It makes money and its aforementioned director has been a major influence in Fox’s animation block for the better part of 2 decades, for better or worse. It’s a prime example of a “lowest common denominator” template that has proven to work in the sense that it draws viewers and is easily syndicated, and it’s in many ways to many people an “edgier” version of the Simpsons (but really, it was never anywhere near as smart or charming.) That said, understanding its success is also why it’s vital to be honest about the show we received, because it is a case example of why Western animation (and the entirety of animation on the whole) does not reach potential audiences with the sort of depth and critical acclaim their live-action counterparts do. If your casual viewer is spoonfed a diet of low-calorie junk like Family Guy, they will never develop a palette for something better, believing it to be the only sort of animated show for adults out there. As I’ve proven time and again, there are fantastic animated shows no matter where you look, from Disney XD to the Toonami block. Obviously, there’s still overlap for some people and that’s to be expected, but the demise of crude, cruel shows like this one would go a long way in legitimizing the short-form TV format for many a casual viewer, while spurning on a burst of quality that also makes money.

(Finally, one last note: Spare me the excuses about this show; I’ve explained my bit about why it’s simply not up to par, and frankly, I’m being too kind, both in my words and the grade I’ve come to assign it. That said, onwards to grading!)

 


Animation Quality: Traditional 2-D animation, done in a signature style of Seth MacFarlane. It’s got a pleasing color palette, pops visually, and overall is pretty solid, though not perfect. 4/5 points.

 
Characterization: Needless to say, while my thoughts expressed a clear level of disdain… This might be the most annoying troupe of characters I’ve ever had to deal with watching a show, especially when you discount the pop culture significance of said individuals. On top of that, they’re damn unlikable for a variety of reasons. Peter is an imbecile with loose lips and a looser moral code; Stewie is an unnaturally unnervering presence, and the show’s treatment of Meg is downright shameful. Mean-spirited and downright morally reprehensible beyond any sense of humor, these fools get no credit from me. 0/5 points.

 
Story quality: Episodic, with some loose canon elements, though not really. This show’s storytelling is the equivalent of the mystery box- you have no idea what you’re going to get, and most of the time, it descends down a rabbit hole of insulting anything and everything in the name of “creative humor.” Some folks find this fun. It’s likely more insulting than anything. That said, there’s the occasional clever moment. 0.5/5 points.

 
Themes: Based on the above categories, do you really think Family Guy has any themes worth mentioning, let alone worth following? No, it doesn’t. It’s worse at social commentary than South Park, lacks anything nutritive unlike other shows with family ensembles, and while all of this might be excusable if it was entertaining…it’s really a matter of taste, which in this case was not a very good one.  0/5 points.

 

 

Don’t insult the viewer: Family Guy is a mean social critique and satire of anything and everything. It makes me cringe almost constantly, which no cartoon should do. But it’s an adult show! some say. It’s still highly questionable even with a higher tolerance levels for such attributes. Finally, it was canceled twice. What does that tell you? 0/5 points.

 

 

Total Score: 4.5/25 (18%). Good animation aside, Seth MacFarlane’s most well known work is ultimately a terrible show disregarding its significant pop culture influence and unlikely 16 year run (not counting its short cancellation period) on TV. It has ultimately lost its fundamental comic heart and soul; it is not funny, and serves more to take a dump on just about everybody. It makes a true animation fan cringe and shake their head. There’s nothing against trying new things in the medium, but when it’s pushed in such a way as here, there’s nothing but a cold husk of cold “humor.” Some people like nasty. I find it tends to ruin the show. And so it goes.

Author: anibproductions

I am the founder and writer of AniB Productions, currently a fledgling blog with a focus on animated shows from both the East and the West. Love Buffalo sports, good political discussion, and an interesting conversation wherever I go.

9 thoughts on “Review/Rant: Family Guy”

  1. I like this show. :3
    Haha. I liked the first seasons, from before it as first cancelled because it is different from the other shows released back then. The cut away gags were revolutionary at the time, but it did grow worse overtime. Family Guy would use shock and controversy as a way to keep viewers on guard at first, but they eventually use it for cheap heat. Back in the day, the “you’ve got AIDS” song was a such a clever joke.
    The show went downhill went gore and cheap shock was soon employed. You can tell McFarlane as full of himself and his idea well has run dry back then.
    Earlier seasons was a love letter to his childhood. He would parody movies he clearly loved like My Fair Lady and King of Siam. I still remember dance sequence Stewie had where he was put in frame by frame. There is genius in Family Guy, but it did fade away.
    I recently saw that episode with a down syndrome girl, and it was just tasteless. No sign of cleverness, just cheap shock, and they even went low and referenced Sarah Palin’s own child. It was disgusting. I don’t defend this show, but I really did like the earlier seasons. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting. I honestly knew this was gonna be a tough show to go after, but when you consider the entire body of work, the first 3 seasons out of 16 don’t constitute the whole. Do I think it had moments? Sure, especially during the time you noted. However, I think now especially it deserves every bit of the scathing criticism leveled at it, and a lot of that I think is both creator and network dragging on a production that should have ended years ago. You said it yourself- when an show goes really low to the point of tastelessness, it’s probably best to put it out to pasture. Always enjoy when you drop by again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree. three seasons out of 16 doesn’t really make the series good, but I stlll recommend the good seasons. Family Guy actually had a steady decline, you can tell it was well past its shelf life.
        I don’t see it being canceled anytime though,since it’s become a staple like the simpsons now. if simpsons goes out, then I think the McFarlane shows will fall afterwards.
        I don’t watch both anymore. I stick to Bob’s Burgers. Haha.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s really the adult cartoon version of SpongeBob in the sense that it’s too big of a moneymaker/cultural touchstone to the point Fox won’t drop it for a long time unless something changes. Honestly, Fox’s whole animation block need a healthy overhaul, and that’s not just a criticism leveled at this show, but when you look at other networks airing animated shows, they constantly seem to be trying more innovation than Fox at the moment. Good insight!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I think the reason shows like Family Guy, or The Simpsons, or South Park are still on air, is because all 3 are the main draws to their respective networks. If Family Guy and The Simpsons weren’t on TV, no one would watch Fox. Same with South Park. In fact, if there was no South Park, Comedy Central would have shut down 20 years ago. During the “Trapped In The Closet” controversy 10 years ago, Parker and Stone issued CC (Comedy Central) an ultimatum. Re-air the episode, or we move to Fox. CC realized they had no choice and to avoid giving Fox the animation monopoly, they caved in, and Parker and Stone cashed in. That’s how much leverage these shows have.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely. It’s a catch-22 for the parent network in which they’ve become dependent on these shows- a relationship they only hold because of the profit and influence those shows now wield. There’s a bunch of politics and business interests that go into the “why” of a show like Family Guy, but it’s another discussion worth having entirely out of the context of the review itself, which simply looks at the creative and story aspects of the show.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never given much thought or time to the adult animated shows on Fox or anywhere else, but I’ve recently started to appreciate the wit and humor of The Simpsons and Futurama. From what little I’ve seen, Family Guy doesn’t have much of that (a few iconic moments aside) and uses its “adult” cartoon status in the cheapest, laziest way, so I won’t be giving it any of my time. Love the rant!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, S.G.! I’ve been wanting to do this piece for a while, so it was very satisfying to finally put this show in its rightful place- which is a highly overrated excuse of a show. Being an “adult” show really doesn’t grant a show favors to be lazy (or shouldn’t anyways), and Family Guy really is either a) derivative or b) lazy in mostly everything it does. Glad you enjoyed the piece!

      Like

  4. I don’t really much to say about family guy since I only ever watched it a little. I broadly agree with what you say, but because I don’t really have strong feelings this show (or its genre brethren) this review came across as little overly harsh to me. This show doesn’t really feel like it deserves this level of attention and honestly the rating system you use (with characters and story being a big part of it) seems ill suited for judging these kinds of shows.

    That being said I’ve always been fascinated by the common criticism of the shows cutaway gags. While most shows don’t have it to nearly as bad as Family Guy, but the idea of “I need to get a joke in regardless of pacing or if it even makes sense” is a pretty common problem in a lot of cartoons, even in ones that aspire to tell a serious story.

    Liked by 1 person

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