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.