Reviews of Family Guy (1999) and related work
- Spin-off: Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (2005)
Family Guy (1999)
Review refers to the first four seasons and somewhat scattered episodes thereafter, up to season 10.
A family of five lives in modern Rhode Island. The father is a 42-year-old TV addict who eventually loses his job at an assembly line and becomes a fisherman. The mother, a slut at heart but a model wife, comes from a very rich family. Their seventeen-year-old daughter is remarkably normal and treated with disgust, whereas their pubescent son is shaping up to be just as fat and idiotic as his old man. The youngest child turns 1 in an early episode but was still somehow chosen as the show’s C. M. Burns ripoff after several episodes of dull attempted reverse-Oedipal matricide. He and the dog can talk and are both very intelligent, but struggle against their natures.
A nihilistic clone of The Simpsons (1989), a bit heavier on pop-culture references—particularly old sitcoms—and musical numbers. A lot of the humour courts and mocks controversy, as in South Park (1997) but with even less sympathetic characters. Family Guy sometimes goes too far in plagiarism, for example when Lois develops Marge’s gambling problem. Much of the intertextuality routinely rehashes postmodernism à la Baudrillard; in episode 14 of the second season, the father uses the mythology of John Hughes movies to infiltrate “real” youth culture, succeeding totally, in a cartoon popular with a young real-world audience.
Brian is a shining example of appropriate incongruity at work. More ugly grotesquerie, absent in Disney, is traditionally used to mark American cartoons that aren’t just for children. Family Guy is fairly light on this at first. There are even lengthy action sequences that imply a joy of animation, but somewhere around the eighth season (e.g. episode 17), sadistic depictions of violence become fairly common, as if to brand the show’s gross-out humour with a specifically adult seriousness, which I find incompatible with the previous style. In the tenth season, this is combined with serious treatment of habitual domestic abuse (episode 3) and similar themes.
‣ Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story (2005)
More of the same and some swearing. Hardly coherent.