The MacFarlane clans

By Kylee Dawson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 28, 2005

'American Dad' joins forces with 'Family Guy'

Before you go to bed tonight, pat yourself on the back for being a college student. Seth MacFarlane, creator and vocal star of "Family Guy" is in your debt ever since Fox resurrected the show this season.

"To me, the biggest audiences are colleges," MacFarlane said. "As far as the show being brought back, it was the adult 18-to-34 audience that did it and that's really the audience that we write for."

MacFarlane's next animated venture, "American Dad" has yet to create the same following as "Family Guy," but new episodes of both shows will air on Fox Sunday evening, when the ratings games will begin.

Though "Family Guy's" resurrection might be attributed to the show's horde of college-aged fans, age ain't nothing but a number considering younger viewers have also taken an interest in the show, according to MacFarlane.

"I can't imagine they possibly would get it, but as far as fart jokes, I think those are for anyone," he said. "You hear a fart and you can't help but laugh, and I think that's totally honest. I don't think there's anything wrong with that."

As a youngster, MacFarlane recalls his 40-something father being interested in much more than farts.

"I remember him bringing home this audiotape of a guy taking the biggest, longest shit you've ever heard in your life and he was just laughing his ass off," MacFarlane said. "This is a guy who is one of the most intellectual, socially-conscious people I think I've ever known and I figure, if he can laugh at a fart joke, we're probably OK."

Towards the end of the new season of "Family Guy," which includes 35 new episodes, MacFarlane said a lot of "sex jokes and shit jokes" are the result of a fatigued staff (Unfortunately, many won't make it onto the air).

Thanks to DVD sales and airings on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim and TBS, MacFarlane assures us that the show will be a "restoration to its original form" once it returns to Fox.

So, rather than moping over the fact that "Family Guy" may have lost its cult classic appeal, MacFarlane hopes fans understand the show could not be what it is without the financial backing of a major network.

With 17 writers, all over age 30, a live orchestra and loads of animators, a cable channel budget just couldn't produce the same show. However, both shows will air on Cartoon Network and TBS, MacFarlane said.

"For the fans, in order to give them the exact same show, it ideally has to be on a network. The audience is much larger," he said. "We haven't changed our writing style at all."

For now, the Smiths - the "American Dad" family - are no match for the Griffins, but only time (and, unfortunately, ratings) will produce a victor.

Because "Family Guy" fans will always compare and contrast MacFarlane's old work with the new "American Dad" poses a new problem for him, especially because he is not writing for both.

"Most of my time is spent on 'Family Guy,'" he said. "'American Dad' is run by Mike Barker and Matt Weisman, who are as seasoned as you can get as far as 'Family Guy' writers."

As a full-time executive producer of both shows, MacFarlane admits they have more experience than he does.

"They have taken that show in its own direction and I think that's good," MacFarlane said. "I don't know that you're going to see the same type of visual jokes that you see on 'Family Guy.' I do know that there are very different types of visual jokes that they have established."

Inspired by "All in the Family," which MacFarlane considers the "greatest sitcom ever," he said he created 'American Dad' with the hopes of not duplicating 'Family Guy.'

"'Family Guy' was created during the Clinton years. Obviously, this is a much more polarized political climate that we're in now and it just seemed like the right time to do a show like this," he said. "'All in the Family' worked so well in the '70s, during what was I think a very similarly polarized political climate."

MacFarlane said the key to making "American Dad" work is the familial stories, not necessarily the political aspect that serves as merely a backdrop.

"At the end of the day, if the stories were about politics, it would make it less character driven and we don't want it do be preachy in any way," he said.

Later this year, fans can also look forward to "Family Guy: The Movie," which is about Stewie's quest to find his "real" father.

Though it will be released on DVD and VHS, the animated film might not be as vulgar or naughty as you'd expect.

"The only thing that will be different on the racier version is language," MacFarlane said. "The show is what it is. We're not 'South Park.' We don't get that racy. We don't want the show to change. I think the biggest mistake, oftentimes, animated series make with features is making it too different."

Having never experienced the benefits or burdens of being on hiatus, "The Simpsons" has not produced a film version of the show due to a lack of time, MacFarlane said.

His team was able to produce the "Family Guy" movie because it was simply added to their episode order.

"If it were a theatrical release, it would be very different from the way we were able to do it," he said. "But (it's) direct to video release, so it was essentially the production process of three episodes that are actually a movie."

Also in the pipeline for MacFarlane is the "Family Guy Live In Las Vegas" CD/DVD package, which meant working with a 75-piece orchestra.

"I, and Walter Murphy who wrote the 'Family Guy' theme, wanted to do something big and splashy and edgy, but definitely old-fashioned," MacFarlane said. "We put as much work into this as we have in any episode and perhaps more."

Having endured the pain of cancellation, MacFarlane is prepared now more than ever for either show to tank.

"Nothing lasts forever. People will get tired of it at some point," he said.