It does not seem that long ago that Family Guy was making its well-deserved return to the air after a 3 year hiatus. MacFarlane followed that up with American Dad and more recently The Cleveland Show. So what happened? The guy’s still bringing in the big bucks with 3 shows on Fox, but the quality that once was very high has dropped away drastically since his long awaited and triumphant return.
I sit down and watch an episode of Family Guy and I can’t help thinking that ‘damn this show used to be better than this’. It is understandable, in many ways your shtick is going to become old if you have made 210 episodes, if you then add in 152 American Dad’s and 88 Cleveland Show’s (really 88? You’re joking right?). That’s a total of 350 episodes of television, 350 episodes of what is basically the same style of show, written by the same guy. It is just stale (the ratings agree).
It is harsh to single out Seth MacFarlane for producing an inferior product to what he originally created; you don’t hear many people talking about how the 7th season of Scrubs for instance was so much better than the first few seasons. Animated shows like the Simpsons and South Park have also fallen into the trap of producing an inferior product in comparison to their initial seasons (although both had a longer life span than MacFarlane shows).
Animated shows always seem to struggle with short term memories, where one season Stan doesn’t have a brother and the next season he has a Native American brother quite simply because they thought of a story idea and decided that they would fabricate one out of thin air, or in Family Guy how Joe’s kid Kevin just disappeared all of a sudden and was explained away about 5 seasons later that he was dead, then a few seasons after this he miraculously comes back. It is just poor short term writing which has occurred because MacFarlane has spread himself too thin.
You watch a season of a MacFarlane show and about 3 episodes out of the season are of a high quality, but that means around 20 are of an average or below quality. A good example of this is the episode ‘Be Careful what you Fish for’ which stars the immense Ricky Gervais, giving hope that the episode is not going to be another let down, but inevitably it falls to being another poorly written same old thing episode that I have seen too many times before. It is worse when Gervais himself (playing a dolphin for some reason) performance and jokes are just awful, when he should be so much better than that.
If you ask me which one of the MacFarlane shows I currently prefer the most it is sad that I am edging towards the Cleveland Show (88 episodes….really?). I don’t think overall it is his best show I just think that it feels slightly more fresh than the other two. On the Cleveland Show, I don’t understand why MacFarlane even made the show other than Fox were throwing money at him, because it isn’t that good. It feels like he thought “I like Family Guy and I like American Dad…..why don’t I make a black hybrid and call it the Cleveland Show!”
For the legacy of his shows I really hope that Seth MacFarlane decides to finish them, give them a hiatus and bring them back at a later date or cancel two of the shows and concentrate on just the one. I really hope he does one of the latter options, because I know it may not seem like it but I did once really enjoy Macfarlane’s shows and I’d once again like to enjoy them. Sadly I can’t see it happening any time soon but you can only hope.
So what do you think? Is Seth MacFarlane killing his once great cartoons by bleeding them dry for all the money that is going? Or am I way off the mark? All comments are appreciated.