FOX Kicked The Wrong McFarlane Show
Recently, the FOX network revamped its Sunday night lineup. Once dominated by animation, they once again offer live-action shows alongside the network's champion The Simpsons, relative newcomer Bob's Burgers and the show that dares to go there, Family Guy.
I started watching Family Guy when it first came out in 1999. It was a decent show with a standard sitcom formula; I liked it enough to follow it but wasn't exactly devastated when it was cancelled. I only became a big fan when I bought the first DVD sets in the mid-2000s, appreciating the base humor and stupidity but enjoying how the Griffins could be a loving family underneath it. Back then, Lois and Peter were a fairly good couple who had problems due to Peter being like an overgrown kid. Chris got storylines. Meg was picked on but you knew her parents cared for her. Stewie was delightfully evil, and Brian was the true voice of reason with the occasional moment of weakness.
A lot of people say the show went downhill when it was un-cancelled. I think it depends on your threshold for sadistic humor myself; I'm not sure when it went downhill for me, but at some point it went from a show I honestly loved to a guilty pleasure to bile fascination. These days, I think a lot of fans are just so done with the show and its disgusting idea of "funny", me included. The TVTropes Wall Banger and Dethroning Moment of Suck pages had to give this show its own subpages divided into folders by season. People are getting fed up with Family Guy's sociopathy, it's gone way over the line of "it's funny because it crosses the line twice" and into "dear God, how can anyone think this is okay?" territory.
Unfortunately, not enough people felt this way for it to be kicked to cable. Instead, that "honor" was given to Seth McFarlane's other long-runner, American Dad. Call me biased, but that's unfair.
I didn't get into American Dad right away, but over time it's become a series I love. It has some of the same tasteless humor and stupidity as Family Guy, but unlike Peter Griffin being lauded and treated as the hero despite everyone calling him out on his crap, Stan Smith is intended to be wrong about a lot of things. This is the animated All In The Family analog people once thought of South Park's Eric Cartman as, right down to the adult daughter marrying a guy her father can't stand. The characters are terrible people in some ways, but there's more humanity underneath. The people of Quahog became unfunny caricatures over time, but the people of Langley Falls skirt that line in a way that makes them entertaining, not tiresome.
What started out as a political satire has become more of a typical animated sitcom with a mild political bent. Stan Smith is a repressed, uptight, prudish Republican who thinks he knows best but underneath he's a loser with poor self-esteem. Francine started as a parody of the pretty submissive housewife, but she holds more of the power than she lets on. Hayley opposes her father while sharing some of his more negative traits, including the way she mistreats and takes her husband for granted until much later in the series. Steve longs to impress his father, while in turn his father wants better for him than the tortured high school existence he himself led. Klaus is a talking pet with a sad backstory who's more a chew toy than a voice of reason.
And then of course, there's Roger. The other characters are great, but Roger is the show-stealer. The ensemble darkhorse. The sociopathic bastard of a thousand personas we love to hate yet still feel sorry for when he has a moment of weakness. (The episode where he's afraid to commit to being a Smith due to past abandonment issues is genuinely touching.) He spreads himself around, sharing a bond with every member of the family. Roger is a big part of the reason I became such a fan of this show.
American Dad can be sadistic. Steve is never allowed to win when it comes to girlfriends and sex. Hayley's a raging hypocrite. Stan and Francine's marriage has had more ups and downs than an escalator and Stan's had to learn the same lessons twice. Stereotypes run rampant, it's heavy on political issues, violence is a reccuring theme and Roger is...Roger. And yes, the stories are often ridiculous and unrealistic and silly. The characters are more human but often wildly exaggerated.
But overall, the show is less in your face with its ridiculousness. It doesn't rely on toilet humor and pop culture references, flashbacks are used for a reason and not just randomness. Don't get me wrong, I love random monkey-cheese humor as much as the next person, but sometimes it's nice to just follow a story from beginning to end without endless manatee gags.
Thoughts and Feelings
Objectively, I understand why Family Guy is still part of FOX's Sunday night lineup. It's been a staple since the 2000s and clearly enough people are still watching, be it out of genuine enjoyment or to make fun of it or whatever reason. It's become almost as iconic as The Simpsons, they've even done a crossover episode between the two. Sometimes, things we dislike are popular because other people like them. That's the way it is, and the only way around it is to ignore what you hate and focus on what you love.
But I still think American Dad was unfairly shafted. Even if it's not as iconic as Family Guy, it's still a good show and it still deserved to be part of the lineup. Granted, FOX may have wanted to end the domination of McFarlane's shows, but Family Guy's got more presence on other networks than FOX. Adult Swim and TBS run it regularly, Pix 11 still runs it late at night. It's popular enough that it wouldn't lose anything not being on FOX anymore, while American Dad could use a little more exposure.
And I just like it better. There, I said it. Biased reasoning, but I'm just being honest.
I don't hate Family Guy. I still have affection for the older seasons, the Brian and Stewie road trips are always fun, their songs are catchy. I understand why people like it, some have a higher threshold for sociopathic humor and squick. And the Star Wars takeoffs were genius, I'll give it that. This isn't a slam on Family Guy. I just like American Dad better and think it should have stayed on FOX while Family Guy made the move to TBS. Or even Adult Swim, given it's more prone to material FOX won't show.
Maybe FOX will reverse the positions at some point, maybe Family Guy will start losing steam, maybe American Dad will simply become a cult hit. But I know I'm not the only one who wishes it had stayed on the Sunday night lineup.