Family Guy: The DVD Miracle

Family Guy is often cited as the series that was rescued by DVD sales. The show was canceled–twice–by Fox after failing to grab a big audience during its first two seasons. Subsequent DVD sales went through the roof, and Fox ordered the series back into production a year and a half after it was halted.
One hundred episodes later, it is solid on Sundays for Fox and especially for Global in Canada, where it drew a million viewers two weeks ago.
Today, Oct. 21, is the street date for the Family Guy Volume Six DVD collection. It contains 12 episodes (including that 100th show), over 50 deleted scenes and several other extras, including this peek at how the show often pushes the Fox censors to the wall.

Last July in Los Angeles, critics howled when the Family Guy cast sat on stage in a performance/table read of the original 100th episode script. It was filthy and litigious and really out there–and most of it somehow made it to air.
I sometimes think the show is too referential, too rat-a-tat jokey and too derivative for its own good. All those dream or fantasy sequences make me dizzy. That South Park swipe–which featured manatees in underwater cages pushing word balls around to form a Family Guy script–was funny because it was true. The Simpsons nailed it, too, when they once had Homer fall into a photo copier. One of the copies was Family Guy dad Peter Griffin.
For me, Family Guy is Leno to The Simpsons’ Letterman. People tend to like one more than the other.
At the same press tour, Family Guy creator (and versatile voice cast lead) Seth MacFarlane traced his inspiration back to The Flintstones, which seemed about right. For MacFarlane, TV animation all started with Fred and Barney and that copycat Hanna-Barbera humor mill. The Flintstones were The Honeymooners in loin cloths. Top Cat was Bilko with kitties. Joe Barbera knew from derivative, and only stole from the best. Same with MacFarlane–although he keeps stealing from himself with clone shows like American Dad and The Clevelands.
While MacFarlane paid homage to The Flintstones, Simpsons‘ creator Matt Groening sat silent on that same Fox showrunner TCA panel. I could almost hear his inner voice saying, “Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” As he has suggested in the past, his ‘toon roots run more toward Rocky & Bullwinkle, a show that, like The Simpsons, was smart and original, both of its time and ahead of its time (and–chronologically and in every other way–ahead of The Flintstones). Still, jokes are good and Family Guy is often laugh out loud funny. If Volume Six sells through the roof and helps the series last as long as The Simpsons, that’s a freakin’ good thing.

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