The Griffin family. L-r; Brian, Lois, Peter, Stewie, Chris, Meg.


Original medium: TV animation
Produced by: Fuzzy Door Productions
First appeared: 1999
Creator: Seth MacFarlane
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The idea of holding up Peter Griffin, who is stupid, irresponsible and often a spectacularly lousy parent, as an exemplar of the "family guy" concept, may seem more than a little on the …

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… ridiculous side. But a "family guy" is not only what he's said to be in the animated sitcom where he's the star — it's actually the title of the sitcom!

But that's far from only way this show veers beyond the range of a little ridiculous. For example, the family dog, Brian, goes a step or two beyond funny animals like Tennessee Tuxedo, who interacts freely, on an equal basis, with the human-shaped toons around him. Brian has actually fathered at least one child with a human woman.

Peter and Brian are both part of the central family of Family Guy, The Griffins. Also part of the family are Peter's wife Lois, their teenage son Chris, teenage daughter Meg, and baby, Stewie, whose head is shaped like Arnold's. Lois's mom and dad, the Pewterschmidts, are ancillary family members. Their neighbors (and Peter's drinking buddies) include Cleveland Brown, Glenn Quagmire and Joe Swanson. They and their wives are most of the family's social life, which also includes the Goldman Family, who function as handy Jews whenever that demographic is needed for a story. In 2009, Cleveland was dropped from the cast, and the character spun off into The Cleveland Show.

The family's adventures take place in Quahog, Rhode Island, a suburban town that is apparently located near Providence (the skyline of which is frequently seen in backgrounds). The show's creator, Seth MacFarlane, grew up in nearby Connecticut. MacFarlane got into professional animation through Hanna-Barbera, where he worked on Johnny Bravo, Cow & Chicken; and Dexter's Laboratory, and was later responsible for American Dad.

Peter's voice is provided by MacFarlane himself, who also does voices for Brian. Stewie and Quagmire. Lois is Alex Borstein (Wonder Woman in Robot Chicken). Chris is Seth Green (Todo in Star Wars: The Clone Wars). Meg is Mila Kunis, who is mostly a face actress. Cleveland is Mike Henry, another mostly-face actor. Joe is Patrick Warburton (The Tick). The mayor of Quahog is actor Adam West (Batman), who plays himself.

Family Guy started as as The Life of Larry, which MacFarlane produced while still a student at The Rhode Island School of Design. In 1996, he continued the characters, who strongly resembled those that later became regulars in Family Guy, in a pair or short cartoons for Cartoon Network's Cartoon Cartoon Show. But those were made for a juvenile audience, and while the characters were similar, the cartoons as a whole were aimed at an entirely different demographic. Larry became Peter and his dog, Steve, became Brian, while the rest were altered accordingly.

Later, MacFarlane pitched the revised show to the Fox TV Network, whose prior animated offerings included King of the Hill and the Saturday morning kids' show Mad Jack the Pirate. Fox bought it, and it debuted there on January 31, 1999, as a special, following that year's Super Bowl. It became a regular part of the schedule during April.

During its first few seasons, Family Guy was moved around the schedule a lot, and ratings suffered as a result. In fact, Fox actually cancelled it after the second season. But it had very vocal fans, who organized a letter-writing campaign to save it. Ultimately, it was renewed for a third season, but while that season was airing, Fox announced that after it was over, the show was gone for good. They made good on that promise, at least temporarily, despite an online petition with over 100,000 signatures.

In 2003, it was picked up by Canada's Teletoon Network (The Boondocks, Futurama), where its popularity soared. Also, it began airing on Cartoon Network's late-night programming block, Adult Swim (Squidbillies, Sealab 2021). Also, it enjoyed very healthy DVD sales. As a result, it returned to Fox in 2005. Three episodes were compiled into Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, released directly to home video as a feature on September 27, 2005. A video game version was released September 10, 2006.

Now the second-longest running animated show on primetime TV (after The Simpsons), Family Guy isn't in danger of being cancelled again soon. In fact, it's currently assured of running at least through 2012.


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Text ©2009-11 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Fuzzy Door Productions.