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Entertainment Earth

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Entertainment Earth

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"Why are they so mean to Meg?"

- W.J. Flywheel, Webporium Curator

FAMILY GUY

Family Guy is an animated television series created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company centering on the Griffins, a dysfunctional family living in the fictional city of Quahog, Rhode Island, and exhibits much of its humor in the form of cutaway gags that often lampoon popular culture.

The show revolves around the adventures of the family of Peter Griffin, a bumbling blue-collar worker. Peter is an Irish-American Catholic with a prominent Rhode Island and Eastern Massachusetts accent. He is married to Lois, a stay-at-home mother and piano teacher who, as member of the Pewterschmidt family of wealthy socialites, has a distinct New England accent. Peter and Lois have three children: Meg, their teenage daughter, who is awkward and does not fit in at school, and is constantly ridiculed and ignored by the family; Chris, their teenage son, who is overweight, unintelligent and a younger version of his father in many respects; and Stewie, their diabolical infant son of ambiguous sexual orientation who has adult mannerisms, and speaks fluently in a Home Counties accent, using stereotypical archvillain phrases. Living with the family is Brian, the family dog, who is highly anthropomorphized, drinks martinis, and engages in human conversation, though he is still considered a pet in many respects.

Many recurring characters appear alongside the Griffin family. These include the family's neighbors: sex-crazed airline-pilot bachelor Glenn Quagmire, Cleveland Brown, paraplegic police officer Joe Swanson, his wife Bonnie and their baby daughter Susie (Bonnie is pregnant with Susie from the show's beginning until the seventh episode of the seventh season); neurotic Jewish pharmacist Mort Goldman, his wife Muriel, and their geeky and annoying son Neil; and elderly ephebophile Herbert. TV news anchors Tom Tucker and Diane Simmons, Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa, and Blaccu-Weather meteorologist Ollie Williams also make frequent appearances. Actor Adam West voices the part of Mayor Adam West (no relation) and is characterized as an intense, soft-spoken crackpot whose delusions often come at great expense and sometimes danger to citizens of Quahog.

Family Guy has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards and 11 Annie Awards, and has won three of each. It has garnered three Golden Reel Award nominations, winning once. In 2009 it was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series, the first time an animated series was nominated for the award since The Flintstones in 1961. Family Guy has also received criticism, including unfavorable comparisons for its similarities to The Simpsons.

Many tie-in media have been released, including Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, a straight-to-DVD special released in 2005; Family Guy: Live in Vegas, a soundtrack-DVD combo released in 2005, featuring music from the show as well as original music created by MacFarlane and Walter Murphy; a video game and pinball machine, released in 2006 and 2007, respectively; since 2005, six books published by Harper Adult based on the Family Guy universe; and Laugh It Up, Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy (2010), a series of parodies of the original Star Wars trilogy. In 2008 MacFarlane confirmed that the cast was interested in producing a feature film and that he was working on a story for film adaptation. A spin-off series, The Cleveland Show, premiered on September 27, 2009.

MacFarlane initially conceived Family Guy in 1995 while studying animation at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). During college, he created his thesis film entitled The Life of Larry, which was submitted by his professor at RISD to Hanna-Barbera. MacFarlane was hired by the company. In 1996 MacFarlane created a sequel to The Life of Larry entitled Larry and Steve, which featured a middle-aged character named Larry and an intellectual dog, Steve; the short was broadcast in 1997 as one of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons.

Executives at Fox saw the Larry shorts and contracted MacFarlane to create a series, entitled Family Guy, based on the characters. Fox proposed MacFarlane complete a 15-minute short, and gave him a budget of $50,000. Several aspects of Family Guy were inspired by the Larry shorts. While working on the series, the characters of Larry and his dog Steve slowly evolved into Peter and Brian. MacFarlane stated that the difference between The Life of Larry and Family Guy was that "Life of Larry was shown primarily in my dorm room and Family Guy was shown after the Super Bowl." After the pilot aired, the series was given the green light. MacFarlane drew inspiration from several sitcoms such as The Simpsons and All in the Family. Premises were drawn from several 1980s Saturday morning cartoons he watched as a child, such as The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang and Rubik, the Amazing Cube.

The Griffin family first appeared on the demo that MacFarlane pitched to Fox on May 15, 1998. Family Guy was originally planned to start out as short movies for the sketch show MADtv, but the plan changed because MADtv's budget was not large enough to support animation production. MacFarlane noted that he then wanted to pitch it to Fox, as he thought that that was the place to create a prime-time animation show. Family Guy was originally pitched to Fox in the same year as King of the Hill, but the show was not bought until years later, when King of the Hill became successful. Fox ordered 13 episodes of Family Guy to air in midseason after MacFarlane impressed executives with a seven-minute demo.

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Family Guy officially premiered after Fox's broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIII on January 31, 1999, with "Death Has a Shadow". The show debuted to 22 million viewers, and immediately generated controversy regarding the show's adult content. The show returned on April 11, 1999, with "I Never Met the Dead Man". The show garnered decent ratings in Fox's 8:30 p.m. slot on Sunday, nestled between The Simpsons and The X-Files. At the end of its first season, the show was #33 in the Nielsen ratings, with 12.8 million households tuning in. The show launched its second season in a new time slot, Thursday at 9 p.m., on September 23, 1999. Family Guy was pitted against NBC's Frasier, and the series' ratings declined sharply. Fox removed Family Guy from the network's permanent schedule, and began airing episodes irregularly. The show returned on March 7, 2000, at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, but was constantly beaten in the ratings by the new breakout hit Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, coming in at #114 in the Nielsen Ratings. Fox announced that the show had been canceled in 2000, at the end of the second season. However, following a last-minute reprieve, Fox announced on July 24, 2000, its intention to order 13 additional episodes of Family Guy to form a third season.

The show returned November 8, 2001, once again in a tough time slot: Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. ET. This slot brought it into competition with Survivor and Friends. (This situation was later referenced in Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story). During its second and third season runs, Fox frequently moved the show around to different days and time slots with little or no notice and, consequently, the show's ratings suffered. Upon Fox's annual unveiling of its 2002 fall line-up on May 15, 2002, Family Guy was absent. Fox announced that the show had been officially canceled shortly thereafter.

Fox attempted to sell the rights for reruns of the show, but it was difficult to find networks that were interested; Cartoon Network eventually bought the rights, "...basically for free", according to the president of 20th Century Fox Television. Family Guy premiered in reruns on Adult Swim on April 20, 2003, and immediately became the block's top-rated program, dominating late night viewing in its time period versus cable and broadcast competition, and boosting viewership by 239 percent. The complete first and second seasons were released on DVD the same week as the show premiered on Adult Swim, and the show became a cult phenomenon, selling 400,000 copies within one month. Sales of the DVD set reached 2.2 million copies, becoming the best-selling television DVD of 2003 and the second highest-selling television DVD ever, behind the first season of Comedy Central's Chappelle's Show. The third season DVD release also sold more than a million copies. The show's popularity in DVD sales and reruns rekindled Fox's interest, and, on May 20, 2004, Fox ordered 35 new episodes of Family Guy, marking the first revival of a television show based on DVD sales.

"North by North Quahog", which premiered May 1, 2005, was the first episode to be broadcast after the show's cancellation. It was written by MacFarlane and directed by Peter Shin. MacFarlane believed the show's three-year hiatus was beneficial because animated shows do not normally have hiatuses, and towards the end of their seasons, "... you see a lot more sex jokes and (bodily function) jokes and signs of a fatigued staff that their brains are just fried". With "North by North Quahog", the writing staff tried to keep the show "... exactly as it was" before its cancellation, and did not "... have the desire to make it any slicker" than it already was. The episode was watched by 11.85 million viewers.

MacFarlane voices three of the show's main characters: Peter Griffin, Brian Griffin, and Stewie Griffin. Since MacFarlane had a strong vision for these characters, he chose to voice them himself, believing it would be easier than for someone else to attempt it. MacFarlane drew inspiration for the voice of Peter from a security guard he overheard talking while attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Stewie's voice was based on the voice of English actor Rex Harrison, especially his performance in the 1964 musical drama film My Fair Lady. MacFarlane uses his regular speaking voice when playing Brian. MacFarlane also provides the voices for various other recurring and one-time-only characters, most prominently those of the Griffins' neighbor Glenn Quagmire, news anchor Tom Tucker, and Lois' father, Carter Pewterschmidt.

Alex Borstein voices Lois Griffin, Asian correspondent Tricia Takanawa, Cleveland's ex-wife Loretta Brown, and Lois' mother Barbara Pewterschmidt. Borstein was asked to provide a voice for the pilot while she was working on MADtv. She had not met MacFarlane or seen any of his artwork, and said it was "really sight unseen". At the time, Borstein was performing in a stage show in Los Angeles. She played a redheaded mother whose voice she had based on one of her cousins.

Seth Green primarily plays Chris Griffin and Neil Goldman. Mila Kunis and Lacey Chabert have both provided the voice of Meg Griffin. Chabert left the series because of time conflicts with schoolwork and her role on Party of Five.

Mike Henry voices Cleveland Brown (who has since spun-off with his moustashed face to his own show) and Herbert, as well as some minor recurring characters, like Bruce the performance artist and The Greased-up Deaf Guy. Henry met MacFarlane at the Rhode Island School of Design, and kept in touch with him after they graduated. A few years later, MacFarlane contacted him about being part of the show; he agreed and came on as a writer and voice actor. During the show's first four seasons, he was credited as a guest star, but beginning with season five's "Prick Up Your Ears", he has been credited as a main cast member.

Other recurring cast members include Patrick Warburton as Joe Swanson; Adam West as the eponymous Mayor Adam West; Jennifer Tilly as Bonnie Swanson; John G. Brennan as Mort Goldman and Horace the bartender; Carlos Alazraqui as Jonathan Weed; Adam Carolla and Norm Macdonald as Death; Lori Alan as Diane Simmons; and Phil LaMarr as Ollie Williams and the judge. Fellow cartoonist Butch Hartman has made guest voice appearances in many episodes as various characters. Also, writer Danny Smith voices various recurring characters, such as Ernie the Giant Chicken.

Episodes often feature guest voices from a wide range of professions, including actors, athletes, authors, bands, musicians, and scientists. Many guest voices such as James Woods star as themselves. Leslie Uggams was the first to appear as herself, in the fourth episode of the first season, "Mind Over Murder". The episode "Not All Dogs Go to Heaven" guest starred the entire cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Michael Dorn, Wil Wheaton, Marina Sirtis, and even Denise Crosby, playing themselves; this is the episode with the most guest stars of the seventh season.


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