Can the adventures of Family Guy eclipse the run of Springfield’s first family? Max explores the evolution of the Griffin Family!
Family Guy is often known as the usurper of the classic The Simpsons, which premiered in 1987. It precedes Family Guy by over 10 years. And due to its similarities, many viewers thought Family Guy was a crude rip-off. And enough people felt that way, leading it to be canceled TWICE! Yet, it proved to be a phoenix (or maybe a zombie) and came back, stronger than ever. Then without warning, but also slowly, it began to replace The Simpsons in the hearts of fans of comedic cartoons.
By Season 20, Family Guy had become more popular than The Simpsons because many felt the show just wasn’t funny anymore. Some even more jaded individuals also said Family Guy wasn’t funny anymore. But in my opinion, it has its good episodes and bad ones. Regardless, of how you feel about its quality, there is no doubt that its evolution is quite remarkable to believe. The characters do not age, but everything around them does. And it’s amazing to see the characters using landlines, answering machines, and VCRs in the early episodes to then using smartphones and Ubers in the more recent episodes.
Even the animation is incredibly different! 20’s family has the characters generated in clearer lines and more “colorful” pixels. While 99’s Griffin Family looks like something a child would draw. I have decided to cut up the series into its respective eras, much like in history, with the Renaissance, Dark Ages, Industrial Revolution. OR like the Blue and Red periods of Pablo Picasso’s art career.
THE EARLY YEARS
The first era I have dubbed simply, “Early Family Guy” and is from Season 1 to Season 4. Two cancellations mark this era, and a lot of episodes contain nauseating amounts of cutaway gags, which the series is best known for. Cutaway gags are scenarios and jokes set up by the characters by reminiscing something or comparing something to another more present situation. “I haven’t been this excited since” or “This is more horrible than.” The cutaways have no limits. And they can even “kill” the main characters in the sequence of the joke, with no repercussions on the main storyline.
The early cutaways were frequent and oftentimes very “light” in terms of inappropriate content. Several episodes of this era could theoretically be watched by an 11-year-old and have his parents none the wiser if he copied any of the punchlines. Most of the offensive stuff is very subtle. And it takes me watching re-runs as an adult to get what I didn’t notice as a 13-year old boy.
THE GRIFFIN FAMILY
The characters were also vastly different. Peter, the main character was always a moron, yet his behavior in the early seasons is almost lovable-oaf type stupidity. Peter in the modern era is selfish, violent and displays many traits of being just a horrible person. And his stupid impulses cause more damage than anything any other cartoon character has done!
His wife Lois also degenerated into a horrible person. But unlike Peter, she started as quite ethical and measured. Meg was not the family punching bag that she is today, and Chris was just a dunderhead. Brian was ACTUALLY intelligent, and Stewie was the baby with the super-advanced vocabulary and homicidal, megalomaniacal urges. He still is, but it has mutated into more depth (and sexual fluidity) and Brian has been exposed as someone who appears intelligent, but really has no talent or true intelligence. He is just a pompous, egotistical hack.
I have chosen Season 5 for the cut-off due to the reasons of the characters mutating, and the animation changing, to becoming more advanced.
The next era is Season 5-Season 15 and what I call “Classic Family Guy.” This is the series at its prime, and the contents of these seasons are what the show will likely be remembered decades from now. The characters have fully established their “final” personalities, and the plots are more intricate and the jokes are far more crude and offensive. This is the Family Guy that no pre-pubescent child should watch due to the graphic cartoon violence and extremely demoralizing values.
Next is Season 15- Season 17, particularly up to the episode “Island Adventure”. I will explain why, shortly. This is only 2 seasons, but it depicts the series from a far more “new” feeling. It is the most updated model yet, and regularly references all forms of media and entertainment in the world. Sure, the show still has cutaways, but it has changed to the point where it is far less frequent and some episodes don’t even have one. It’s just 2 seasons, but it’s gotten to the point where the characters are seemingly more aware that they are in a show. As opposed to the realist quality of the early episode. The 4th wall has been demolished and there is no going back.
The cut-off is in the middle of Season 17 because in the episode “Island Adventure”, we are introduced to a new character, for the first time in many seasons. His name is Doug and he may be here to stay. He is a contemporary of Stewie. And one of the few new characters to be created very discreetly and without any reason. This shows one of the few examples of recent evolution in the show’s cast and needs to be documented.
Finally, as of writing this article, the current and final era of Family Guy is “Meta Guy”, from Season 17 ‘Throw it Away’ to the present. This is a brand new organism that bears little resemblance to its 1999 debut. The jokes have become so meta, that it is almost like a spoof on itself. And the cutaways, which formed the basis of its comedy are now largely extinct. I suspect this will be a very long era of Family Guy, (presumably if the series continues to endure), and I am completely at a loss to predict how it will evolve next.
The show has been renewed for Season 21. But will there be a Season 30 or 40 in the distant future? It’s very possible since The Simpsons is in its 30th plus season and Family Guy, as I said in the beginning, has eclipsed that shows popularity. However, Family Guy could end entirely as well and finally be canceled for good. That is a very uncertain and dark time, for us all.
Family Guy Season 20 is now showing on Fox.
Has Family Guy has surpassed the legacy of The Simpsons? Leave a comment in the section below. We love hearing your thoughts.
Max Nocerino is a regular Staff Writer for The Future of the Force. He is a passionate Star Wars fan and loves the literature of the galaxy far, far away. Follow him on Twitter where he shares his love of the Force frequently!