The world is full of idiots, and someone needs to point it out to them or they will never know.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why I Hate Family Guy: Part 1

(Part 2 here and Part 3 here)

I've bitched about Twilight. Complained about Underbelly. Analysed Stargate Universe. Torn The Cleveland Show to shreds before a single episode aired. Now, it's time for a rant that I've had brewing for a very long time: my rant against Family Guy.

Why do I hate Family Guy? It's difficult to know where to begin, but let's start by looking at this clip from season four (don't let the date fool you, it's quite typical of the show):

UPDATE (September 2015): Hulu has since made their Family Guy and Simpsons clips private (clearly they were getting too much bad press from my blog). Hopefully they'll return some day. Sorry, but that's the web for ya! I would upload them myself, but that would mean watching more Family Guy, something I always try to avoid. The rant should still make sense even without the clips... hopefully.

 Incredibly, this video has over five million views on YouTube (at the time of writing). But anyway, here's another clip where the humour is derived from drug use, this time from season seven of The Simpsons:

Both shows identify the humour in the situation (that people act bizarrely and do annoying things under the influence of drugs), but while The Simpsons saved the best joke for last (the fact that Burns was so drugged up he was willing to commit murder), the Family Guy clip doesn't really have a punchline, does it? Instead, it goes for the old and tired gag of getting Peter naked. Yup, nothing funnier than a naked fat guy, right?

See folks, this is my main gripe about Family Guy - for a comedy show, it doesn't seem to know how to tell a joke. A joke should be build up your expectations, then defy them. Take any newspaper comic, for example. Look at this classic Calvin and Hobbes strip:

You see how it works? The first three panels build up the expectation (that we're in space) and the final panel reveals it's all a fantasy of Calvin's. Family Guy ignores this, it's so excited about the gag that it blurts it out right away (PETER'S ON DRUGS LOL!) , leaving a minute or so for us to sit around and watch essentially the same joke, with no punchline at the end. (For further examples of this lazy writing see here and here, as you can see, this is merely the tip of the iceberg).

Now, a punchline should be the strongest part of your gag. That's why it's called a punch-line. You deliver it and run. You do not hang around and repeat the punchline for the next minute. Essentially: leave with the audience laughing! Am I wrong in thinking this is how a joke should be structured?

Apparently so. Whenever I criticise the humour in Family Guy I'm shot down by people who yell "WHO CARES IT'S FUNNY LOL!" Now, I realise humour can be very subjective, but if you find Family Guy funny you are categorically wrong. Far too often Family Guy goes for:
  • Shock humour (violence, rape, vomit or other bodily fluids)
  • Pop-culture references (the freakin' Star Wars specials being the worst example)
Now, admittedly, there is humour to be found in shock value, but in the internet age it's getting a lot harder to shock your audience. Like it or not, people are desensitised to much of the bad stuff in the world. So what do the Family Guy writers do? Make a rape joke. A rape joke, for Christ's sake. I wouldn't have minded if it was just dark humour ("What do nine out of ten people enjoy?" "Gang rape!") because at least a joke like that is subverting my expectations. Again, there's no punchline in the gag, just: 1. Naked fat man (again, naked fat people are funny, right?). 2. Woman rapes a man. Whoa, hold on to your sides to stop them from splitting!

I'm not objecting to dark humour or shock value, just how Family Guy tries to do it. For example, if you take the joke, "What's the difference between a Ferrari and 1000 dead babies? A Ferrari's not in my garage", the Family Guy writers would probably put that on screen as, "Why do I have 1000 dead babies in my garage? BECAUSE DEAD BABIES ARE FUNNY LOL!" Then Peter would get naked for some reason.

And, of course, we have the pop-culture references. Now, I enjoy references to books, films, art, video games, politics etc. in works of fiction, but if you're going to do it, there has to be a point to it. Have a look at this clip from The Simpsons, parodying 2001: A Space Odyssey:

Now look at this clip from Family Guy, parodying Dukes of Hazzard:

I swear, I'm not even trying to come up with examples that end with the gag "Peter naked", it seems that every single Family Guy video on YouTube ends this way. But anyway, see the difference here? Much of the humour in the Simpsons clip comes from Homer eating in zero gravity, the ants talking amongst themselves and Buzz Aldrin's comment, not explicit references to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Family Guy, on the other hand, just has Stewie say, "That's more disgusting than when Peter went through that Daisy Dukes phase", then show us Peter in women's clothing (cross-dressing jokes? Seriously?). What is the humour in this joke? Is it parodying a scene in Dukes of Hazzard? A cliche of the show, a plot hole even? Nope, it's just name dropping. I haven't seen a single episode of Dukes of Hazzard, but even if I'd seen all 145 episodes plus the movie, I sincerely doubt I would have enjoyed that clip any more.

Oy vey. We're over eight hundred words and I've barely scratched the surface. Coming up in Part 2: the characters.

© 2011 by The Free Man


  1. The Simpsons > Family Guy


  2. Family Guy is ignorant!!! Not funny at all, and just knowing that there are so many (all of the people I talk to think I'm crazy not to enjoy it) that do find this type of humor worth watching and making light of just scares me!

  3. I can't believe people spend time embedding FG videos, talk about no punch line, and don't even share the punch line "it looks like a walrus flossing" If you don't like it don't watch it, your references to the show only exemplify your familiarity with it. You know you like it. LOL that's what that dude said when he was RAPING me.

    1. Corrine, you obviously didn't read my FAQ in Part 3. I say in the FAQ that I used to watch the show, but I don't watch it anymore. The reason I wrote this was that I am sick and tired of people telling me that Family Guy is a clever show, when it is in fact one of the worst. I have written this in the hopes that others may realise the show's shortcomings. And I should add, of course I'm familiar with the show, how else am I supposed to criticise something without watching it first?

  4. I couldn't agree more with all the anti-family guy content written above. Let's not forget how stupid it is to have a lemon-headed baby and a dog who both can talk like adults. That is another thing I can't get past.

  5. The thing I hate and despise about Seth MacFarlene and the other writers is their idea that being sadistic and degrading to Meg for not being physically perfect is funny, and that we should also find it funny. Their unblinking message, which they practically say in so many words, is that if you're not perfect as a girl, you Deserve to be beaten, humiliated and degraded. Just what every 14 year-old girl needs to see and hear. And they do it over and over again in every episode. I don't think they care if we find it funny. THEY find it funny to degrade girls that way, and that's good enough for them.
    The audience is to blame for watching it and keeping them in business. You have to wonder what these dweebs went through in high school to have this kind of hate for girls?

    1. You know Mr or Ms Anonymous, I never realised what it was that unsettled me most about the abuse Meg suffered. I guess it goes beyond just not being funny - it sends out a pretty awful message!