09.18.09

A Groundbreaking Family

A gay toddler with a British accent; a novelist dog; a blowhard dad—meet the Family Guy clan.

You’d think that, after all the struggling that prime-time animated series producers have endured over the years trying to get their shows considered for comedy series Emmys, the fun-loving writers of Fox’s Family Guy might show a little reverence, having finally achieved this lofty goal.

On second thought, who are we kidding?

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“We peaked three years ago—by your logic, we deserve an Emmy!” read the copy that Family Guy producers sent in along with their screeners to TV Academy voters recently.

Biting Emmy’s oft-stodgy hand is exactly what’s expected from Seth MacFarlane’s show, which has never given sacred-cow status to anything in pop culture and isn’t about to start now.

And like lot of things in comedy, it’s funny because it’s true.

While their collective taste has come a long way in recent years, Emmy voters can still come across as behind the times. What were they thinking all of those years when they confined The Simpsons to the Best Animated Series ghetto, even though it had the best comedy writing on television?

And what was going through their heads last year, when they once again made The Simpsons king of said ghetto, even though Family Guy had clearly usurped its aging Sunday-night running mate as broadcast TV’s leading biting-satire supplier?

Certainly, the TV Academy might have looked really cool had it tapped Family Guy back in 2005, its Lazarus season, when its hot DVD sales and strong Adult Swim ratings convinced Fox officials to put the series—in oblivion since 2002—back on the schedule.

That season, which featured, among other highlights, boorish Peter (voiced by MacFarlane himself) and long-suffering Lois trying to get it on in Mel Gibson’s hotel room, featured perhaps Family Guy’s most incendiary comic writing.

A decade from Family Guy’s 1999 launch, creator MacFarlane has somehow managed to not max out characters including Stewie, the Machiavellian infant who preternaturally (supernaturally?) speaks with the tongue of an indignant English royal—and apparently, at a frequency all too high for the rest of his family to actually hear.

As it was, Season 7 probably did come three years after this creative peak. Still, as evidenced by the show’s much-ballyhooed Star Wars spoof in the season premiere, even if MacFarlane and his merry men have lost a step, they’re still moving as fast—or faster—than nearly every other show on television.

And better late than never.

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Daniel Frankel is a Los Angeles-based entertainment writer whose work regularly appears in the entertainment news site The Wrap, as well as the Comcast television portal Fancast. He has also served on the editorial staffs of Variety, Mediaweek and E! Online.