15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Family Guy’
Family Guy is the animated sitcom that has witnessed as many groundbreaking firsts as it has controversies. It was the first show to be brought back by popular demand thanks to its reruns on Adult Swim and the subsequent explosion of DVD sales, and the sitcom’s debut in 1999 made Seth MacFarlane (then just 24 years old) the youngest executive producer in network television. The series has also been hated on, sued and even banned by its own network for its often controversial takes and subject matter, and that’s just the tip of the behind-the-scenes iceberg…
Brian Griffin Was Once Named Stoner of the Year
In 2009, the Stony Awards bestowed the honor of “Stoner of the Year” upon the show’s smug Labrador retriever, who smokes weed, drinks and dabbles in a lot of other drugs, and is a struggling writer, respectively. He shares the award with folks like Bill Murray (2005), Seth Rogen (2007) and Snoop Dogg (2002, 2012).
The Janet Jackson Super Bowl Saga Influenced the Show More Than 9/11
While discussing the show’s dealings with the FCC, MacFarlane revealed how the real world influenced what they could and could not do. “There’s a lot of stuff now, where we hear the phrase, ‘in this new environment,’” MacFarlane explained. “Which means post-Janet Jackson. We hear that frankly more than ‘post 9/11’ at our office. There’s a lot of things that we just used to be able to do that we can’t do. So with the success of the DVDs, it’s getting so we’re making two cuts of the show. One for television, then one for DVD release.”
MacFarlane Hasn’t Written for the Show Since 2010
MacFarlane revealed in a Reddit AMA that he stepped back from his writing duties in 2010 to instead focus on acting and producing. It was around that time he started doing a string of other projects, including Ted, A Million Ways to Die in the West, and in 2017, The Orville.
Carol Burnett Sued the Show
In 2007, the actress and comedian sued the Fox sitcom over the “exclusive rights to her name and likeness” following the show’s use of her character without her consent. The judge ruled that, even though the segment was distasteful, parodies were protected by freedom of speech under the First Amendment.
The Episode That Got Banned
“Partial Terms of Endearment” was supposed to be part of Season Eight, but Fox ended up pulling it from the air because it dealt with abortion. “The pitch was something that came up in the writers’ room, I don’t remember exactly from whom,” MacFarlane recalled to the New York Times. “But Danny (Smith) wrote the episode and really did a very deft job. He referred to probably the best essay on abortion that I’ve ever read, from Carl Sagan’s book Billions and Billions, and he referenced that periodically throughout the course of the episode. And we pitched it to Fox. In open-minded, characteristic Fox fashion, they said, ‘Okay, you can make this episode; we reserve the right not to air it.’“
The episode did air overseas in 2010, and has been released on DVD.
MacFarlane Started His Career at Hanna-Barbera
The actor, animator and comedian started his animation career at the famous animation studio that gave us classics like The Jetsons and Scooby-Doo. While MacFarlane was studying at Rhode Island School of Design, his professor submitted his thesis film, “The Life of Larry,” to the studio’s student film competition (without MacFarlane knowing about it). He won, Hanna-Barbera offered him a writing position and he ended up working on Dexter's Laboratory, Cow and Chicken and Johnny Bravo.
The Conway Twitty Running Gag Wasn’t MacFarlane’ s Idea
The show would often cut away to a clip featuring the late country singer performing a song. MacFarlane admitted that he wasn’t even in the writers’ room when the idea came up. He did, however, like the bit when he was made aware of it, explaining, “He’s just the most astonishingly uncharismatic performer in the history of the business.”
Chris’ Voice Is Based on a Fictional Serial Killer
Seth Green’s friend Charlie Korsmo dared him to do his impression of The Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill as an 11-year-old for his Chris Griffin audition, and it worked. MacFarlane has said that all the actors who auditioned for Chris envisioned him as this kind of surfer dude, but not Green, who once joked, “I was the only jerk that walked in and said, ‘Put the lotion in the basket!’”
William H. Macy Auditioned for Brian
Yes, the stoner dog would’ve had a way different voice if Fox ended up picking Macy’s audition tape. MacFarlane theorized that the studio was simply used to hearing him do the dog at that point and chose to stick with the familiar.
The Inspiration Behind Tom Tucker
MacFarlane told IGN that the show’s news guy was “sort of modeled after the cigarette spokesman from the 1940s commercials.”
Mila Kunis Brought New Life to Meg
Meg Griffin was originally voiced by Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls), who left the show after Season One to focus on school and her role in Party of Five. Enter Kunis, who came in to audition and instantly changed Meg’s character. “There was another thing that I remember when Mila came in to audition,” MacFarlane told IGN in 2012. “There was this line that she read – I can’t remember what it was, it’s something where Meg calls Pete an idiot — she read it, it just made us all laugh, and it sort of made us think, ‘Well, wait a minute.’ We hadn’t been able to figure out really who Meg was prior to that. We were thinking maybe she is — the character’s a loser, but maybe this is another aspect of her character that she’s just kind of blunt with her parents, you know, that she’ll call her dad an idiot, which he most certainly is. So when Mila did that part, Meg definitely got a little more bite to her.”
The Director Was Given a Lot of Creative Freedom
According to MacFarlane, Dan Povenmire was so good at just about everything that they ended up giving him the freedom to do whatever the hell he wanted with the scripts. “There were a lot of sequences where it used to be that we had to write these things out,” MacFarlane said during a panel discussion. “And now we’ll just hand them to Dan, who is an extremely gifted animation writer in his own right, and he’ll just make it sing on screen. We joke about how we’ll put in scripts, ’Dan shows something funny here.’”
Alex Borstein Had to Re-Audition for the Voice of Lois Griffin
During the show’s panel at the 2006 Paley Festival, Borstein claimed that following the success of the pilot, the studio wanted to get rid of her. “So I had to fight to keep my job,” she remembered. “I had to re-audition for it, along with every female that ever stepped off a bus in Hollywood.”
The Unfortunate Timing of the Robin Williams Episode
On August 11, 2014, the BBC aired the Family Guy episode, “Family Guy Viewer Mail 2.” It was an episode that told three stories, including “Fatman and Robin,” that saw Peter Griffin acquire the “Midas Touch” that turns everyone and everything he touches into Robin Williams. Driven by madness, Peter then attempts to kill himself, twice, without success. Minutes after the episode aired on BBC Three, Williams’ death was announced by Reuters, and the world over. The BBC promptly canceled its repeat of the show that was scheduled for later that week.
’Family Guy’ Released a Health PSA During the Pandemic
Even Stewie and Brian came out to urge folks to get the COVID-19 vaccination. In September 2021, the show teamed up with the Ad Council’s Covid-19 Vaccine Education Initiative and released a three-minute clip explaining to adults how vaccines work because no one paid any attention during biology class.