What the deuce has happened to Family Guy?

Matthew Wood fears it's like that time Fonzie jumped the shark...

I’ve been a long-time fan of Family Guy, which has produced consistently brilliant episodes full of truly fantastic moments – at least in the first six seasons.

However, in the last two series, the show has been in steady decline, and after seeing the show fight back from cancellation, it is heartbreaking to see it destroy itself.  The reason for the slump is simple: the signature cutaway gags that make – or rather made – Family Guy so funny and unique.

How can one aspect of a show lead to the demise of the whole brand? It’s because about 85 per cent of jokes are delivered in this way, and in recent seasons  they have become far too random in a bid to cater to a mainstream audience.

The cutaways of the first six seasons used to be relevant to a plot, fitting the situation in which they were used and how the character behaved. They referenced real-life events, such as the cutaway in which baby Stewie says that getting hit the face with a gun is more unpleasant than a birthday telegram from Zinedine Zidane, and then proceeds show Zidane head-butting an old lady with a cake in his hand saying ‘Bon Anniversaire’.

However, in a more recent cutaway, Peter says: ‘When we're done with him, he'll be more of an outcast than a seagull at a Adam Sandler movie.’ That can’t be translated in to real life; it’s not reflective of the situation that Peter has found himself in.

With these more random jokes, you don’t have to be aware of pop culture, events and people to get the references that made the gags in the early series so sharp. It seems the writers no longer want to risk alienating some viewers, so they have turned to surreal humour that everyone could recognise.

This is why the show is declining; chosing easy jokes rather than thinking about cutaways that would reflect the situations in the show. The odd random joke is hilarious, but with episodes packed full of these lazy jokes, the show has become stale, and much less fun to watch. They still do include the odd good cutaway, but, for me, the magic has gone.

Please, Seth MacFarlane, sort out your show and return it to the splendour to which we became accustomed.

The Zidane clip from series five:

The seagull clip from series seven:

Published: 29 Jun 2010

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