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Family Guy (1999)
A Very Bad Show
The success of "Family Guy" is further proof, as if any was needed, that quality is not always rewarded and bad work often meets with success. Seth MacFarlane, a polymath of no particular distinction (he does everything, but badly), created a show composed of various ripoffs: Stewie is a ripoff of the Brain from "Pinky and the Brain," Meg is basically Daria, Chris is Ajax from "Duckman," Peter is equal parts Archie Bunker and Homer Simpson.
The show is second-rate in every way: bad writing, bad animation, bad voice acting (Seth MacFarlane does many voices, but they're all monotonous and indifferently acted), bad stories, bad characters. The so-called "jokes" are just references to various TV shows, movies and commercials; real comedy writing requires some characterization or a satirical gloss on what is being referred to, but Family Guy presents everything in dumbed-down form: it's a cultural reference, or a sex joke, therefore it must be funny There were some good episodes, mostly toward the end of the most recent season, but basically it's a not-very-good show for youngish viewers who think that a penis joke is "cutting edge." And that's the point: Family Guy is not very popular with people over, say, 30 -- hence its failure on Fox (and the show got terrible ratings everywhere Fox put it, except the indestructible post-Simpsons slot). But it has succeeded based on its appeal to teenagers and twentysomethings; it is, as someone said, a kiddie show for older kids, crummy comedy for frat-boys, about as cutting-edge as a Bob Hope special.
The comparison has been made to "geezer TV," in that some bad shows succeed because they appeal to elderly viewers -- Family Guy is a bad show that succeeds on the basis of pushing all the right buttons for twentysomething viewers. But at least Diagnosis Murder was fairly well written. Family Guy is considerably worse than any episode of "Murder She Wrote." So next time you scoff at your grandmother for liking the Lawrence Welk Show, desist, and scoff at your college-age cousin for liking "Family Guy," one of the worst shows ever made.