First bleeding out of our screens in 1999, Family Guy scabbed and scarred its way to becoming a permanent fixture. With a surfeit of catchphrases and more importantly ‘cut-away’ jokes, Family Guy was safely making its mark as a cult hit. With a sneaky jab at cartoon kingpin ‘The Simpsons’ by mimicking their entire family structure, Family Guy had cleverly utilised the controversy of taking a ‘pop at the champ’ to draw in the massive. It had secured itself a good amount of viewers from the off. The strategy was admirable.
A snowball effect ensued. Thirteen years later its presence is still enormous, but over the years Family Guy has mustered up audiences so large that it appears to have collapsed in on itself. Like a dog riddled with rabies, Family Guy is foaming at the mouth but with fans as opposed saliva. Regardless the situation is just as sticky. Typically a strong fan base is a good thing; however the infection had made the show delirious and entitled itself to something of a carte blanche mentality in terms of quality. Endlessly churning out gag after gag with each being more irrelevant to the plot than the last, the flavour has begun to fade.
What really cocked the 12 gauge shotgun to the show’s greedy temple was what put it in the limelight in the first place: the cut-away gags. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, they are almost like a flashback with a twist. In this instance however the only twist here is absence of pertinent information brought to the plot. Family Guy uses them as ‘comic relief’ from the ‘comic relief’ already happening, an illogical move that was enjoyable at first.. Lasting up to five minutes at a time, they offer nothing but filler and have been known to take away a whopping quarter of some episodes. This is all in the name of an enormous safety net covering for lacking episodes. Enjoyable at first, but these drawn out musical numbers, chicken fights or prolonged scenes of Peter hurting his knee grow stale after the first minute when you realise there isn’t actually any substance to it. With each viewing we find ourselves driving out to the middle of nowhere leaving the plot line further and further in the distance.
Don’t get me wrong the show is still watchable. Unfortunately however, ‘watchable’ doesn’t equate to good. Knowing that it has brought the laughs in the past inspires hope that one day it will recover the lost ground. Sister show American Dad on the other hand has appeared to go from strength to strength. There is a remarkably different writing style at play here. It delves into much darker areas of comedy such as dismembered dogs and cannibalistic mice fully equipped with necrophilia tendencies to name just a few examples. With some actual story structure at work, we realise it is not creations of Seth McFarlane on the whole that are to blame, just Family Guy in particular. It is a tumour growing on the franchise, we can’t help but ask does Family Guy need some extra T.L.C. or does it deserve to be blasted into oblivion with an overwhelming glut of radiation?
As their target audience and knowing that I am not the only person I know who feels this way, it’s hard to not pass comment on the car crash unfolding in front of us. It’s burning to death. With no sugar or sorbitol in sight, I think it’s time we spit the gum, before we choke on it.