I found myself with some spare time to kill recently and took to watching some recent Family Guy episodes online. While I knew it was going downhill, it surprised me at how much the quality has declined recently. It was a noteworthy moment in any episode when I actually laughed. I think that at some point the makers of this show sat down and thought “hmm, we’re running short on jokes, so let’s just play something random for shock value,” which isn’t comedy. It may make you stare at the screen and make you ask “what the fuck just happened?” that’s not funny. And, of course, people who know me will know that one of the ways to make me go postal is to mention one name to me.
That name is Conway Twitty. Let’s get something straight here. I do not bear a grudge against the late Mr Twitty, even if I don’t like his style of music. But what I can’t let go is the fact that they use his live appearances as filler in place of jokes. In one of the latest episodes, they introduced him again. I emitted a small scream and died a little inside, but sat it out, expecting it to cut away about halfway through the song. But no, they didn’t. They sacrificed three and a half minutes of material to make us watch a dead singer from the Seventies?!
They are up to Season 8 now and it is starting to show earlier than it did for The Simpsons. It took them until about Season 14 to stop being truly funny. There is an overuse of political satire within the show, as evidenced by the line within the “Brian & Stewie: Nazi Road Trip” episode. The somewhat rage-inducing exchange goes like this:
Stewie: “Wow, a secret laboratory building weapons of mass destruction in Germany. Why didn’t America know about this?”
Brian: “Maybe because they didn’t have any oil…” (he turns his head for a slow look at the camera)
Stewie: “Ohh, clap clap clap clap!”
This is bad enough as it is, but it gets worse when you realise that the same person voices both of them. He is also the creator of the show. So he is effectively backing up his own opinions in the voice acting he does. If I ever get into show business, I make it my solemn vow to make this man my nemesis of comedy. But that’s Family Guy, it’s always been heavy-handed in the lessons that the viewer must learn, such as: holding any belief other than Atheism is stupid and wrong.
Family Guy was good, back in the day. I remember seeing some of the earlier seasons on dvd and being amazed by the comedy in it. But when it got uncancelled, it got far too political and went downhill as a result. And while I’m on the subject of dvds, why do they charge more than a pound per episode for the boxsets? They sell about thirteen episodes at a time, and they’re forced to change the season labelling so that the customers feel they’re getting a whole season, as opposed to half of one. On top of that, we’re forced to wait a year for a small boxset to come out. I’d rather just wait the two years and get the full series.
The reason that the Family Guy Star Wars special worked so well is because they didn’t overuse cutaways, and the staff got to show off their humour-writing skills as opposed to upping the ‘what the fuck’ quotient. They loved their subject matter and it showed. I think they should cut down their reliance on cutaways and concentrate more on writing the actual jokes, while keeping more of a narrative structure.
Maybe if they stuck to this formula, it may work for them and people (especially the people with their own blogs) may stop complaining about the decline in quality. Of course, you would get the dumb fanboys who would complain that it’s not the same old Family Guy and that they will boycott it. No, it wouldn’t be the same. It would be funnier, and better as a result.