‘Family Guy’ Boss Says Some Early Episodes Couldn’t Be Made Today, But Not Because ‘Some Finger Will Wag at Us’

The ‘Family Guy’ showrunners aren’t afraid of being canceled — they just know that tastes change
‘Family Guy’ Boss Says Some Early Episodes Couldn’t Be Made Today, But Not Because ‘Some Finger Will Wag at Us’

The Family Guy bigwigs believe that many of the jokes made on the show during its earlier seasons wouldn’t fly in a contemporary comedy climate, and it’s easy to see why — we’re all pretty tired of Conway Twitty at this point.

Seth MacFarlane’s animated comedy mega hit turned 25 years old earlier this year, and the last quarter century has taught the Family Guy movers and shakers some important lessons. Chief among them: trust Seth. After suffering an early speed bump when Fox mistakenly canceled the show just three years into its original run, MacFarlane and his writing staff came roaring back to bring 19 consecutive seasons of hit TV that brought a punchier, more pop culture-oriented counterpart to the other animated comedies about middle-class white families on the network. Compared to The Simpsons and King of the HillFamily Guy was more likely to ruffle feathers and push boundaries on topical subject matter.

The current Family Guy showrunners, Richard Appel and Alec Sulkin, spoke to The Wrap about the show’s evolution over the last 25 years. And looking back at the early seasons of Family Guy, Appel admitted, “I would readily say that there are many episodes our show did in the first five years that we wouldn’t do today, not because we think some finger will wag at us, but because it maybe just doesn’t seem as funny anymore.” 

Speaking on MacFarlane’s impeccable performance steering the Family Guy ship through dicey waters, Appel commented, “He’s a pretty fearless person in terms of principles in life and comedy as well. So I don’t think that the changing times dictate the kind of stories we do.” Appel added this caveat, however, “But I do think that the culture changes.” Somehow, it’s hard to see today’s Fox executives biting on a character like Quagmire in their new original shows.

That doesn’t mean, though, Appel and Sulkin think that the current Family Guy writers’ room shies away from sensitive topics. “I think we’re still looking for ways to push the envelope and not be afraid of potentially offending someone,” Appel continued. In fact, Appel finds that potential to push boundaries to be one of the medium’s greatest strengths, saying, “There’s a freedom that you get in animation (where) people allow edgy humor more readily when the characters on these shows are not, in fact, real people. I think it’s easier to take the ribbing and the wild stories that we all tell.”

Ultimately, however, some of that edgy humor will, inevitably, show its age once the show’s been on the air long enough to rent a car. And while certain jokes will fall out of fashion, the real miracle of Family Guy is that the show itself hasn’t. “I think we all realize on this show how incredibly lucky we are and what a unicorn we are riding at this point, because shows do not last two seasons, let alone 20,” Sulkin explained. “I think there’s just an immense feeling of gratitude, and we’re happy to be here.”


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