The Rare, Unaired, Garbage-Quality ‘American Dad’ Pilot Still Has Fans Wondering What Happened to Steve

The original Steve Smith was basically just one long neck with the voice of an insecure donkey
The Rare, Unaired, Garbage-Quality ‘American Dad’ Pilot Still Has Fans Wondering What Happened to Steve

Seth MacFarlane really stuck his neck out creating such an overt satire of the American intelligence community at the height of the War on Terror after Family Guy fell on its face the first time around – but not as far as the original Steve Smith did.

MacFarlane’s second most prolific series has had incredible staying power for a spin-off(ish) project. Unlike Matt Groening’s FuturamaAmerican Dad has enjoyed nearly 20 years of (almost) uninterrupted adult animation airtime, and many of MacFarlane’s fans consider this side project to be superior to his flagship franchise Family Guy. As opposed to the fast-paced, cutaway style of comedy that Family Guy puts forth, American Dad is comparably “weightier,” and it’s supported by a more grounded focus on the show’s characters and their relationships to each other. One such character, however, wasn’t quite fleshed out enough in MacFarlane’s first attempt at bringing American Dad to life — like, literally, he didn’t look like he had any flesh at all, just an elongated spine with spindly spider limbs sprouting out of the sides.

A reformatted version of the original, unaired American Dad pilot from 2004 recently hit the front page of the American Dad subreddit, where fans gawked at the geeky, gangly, grotesque figure the rest of the cast confusingly calls “Steve” while the real Steve must have taken the pilot off. 

When MacFarlane first started developing American Dad, the original Family Guy had just been canceled and cleared from Fox’s schedule. With a waiting void in the network’s Animation Domination lineup, MacFarlane offered up a series that was, essentially, a creative packaging of his qualms with the Bush administration and the CIA during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However, after MacFarlane and his team revealed their pilot presentation, they decided to go back to the drawing board — quite literally — when it came to Steve Smith. Originally, Family Guy writer Ricky Blitt voiced Steve with a nasally, nebbishy affectation, and the character’s design closely resembled Family Guy nerd Neil Goldman. MacFarlane and his team reworked Steve into a less-giraffe-like creature using American Dad! co-creator Mike Barker as their model, and they also brought in actor Scott Grimes to replace Blitt and bring a slightly more mid-pubescent tone to the character.

Besides the changes made to Steve, the rest of the unaired pilot pretty much made it word-for-word into the eventual broadcast version of the show’s first episode. Grimes did a good enough job to stick around through the inaugural season, and, 19 seasons later, he is one of MacFarlane’s most consistent collaborators, appearing in both The Orville and the Ted TV adaptation. “When you put something on the page, they know exactly how you’re hearing it in your head. He is one of those actors,” MacFarlane recently told Vulture about Grimes. “Every word that I write, he knows how I’m hearing it, because he’s hearing it exactly the same way.” 

It’s a shame we’ll never hear anything half as nice said about Steve Smith in MacFarlane’s Stan voice.


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