From: 'Peter Griffin's Guide to Parenting' (artwork by an artist team of 17 people)

Seth MacFarlane is an American producer and comedy filmmaker, best-known for creating two of the most popular contemporary animated comedy shows for an adult audience: 'Family Guy' (1999-2003, 2005-...) and 'American Dad!' (2005-...). The humour in both series shows a sharp satirical and sometimes crude view of U.S. society and culture. The cutaway gags regularly poke fun at controversial subjects like AIDS, domestic violence, terrorism and rape. The shows' use of profanity, (animated) nudity and violence has drawn criticism from several organizations, while the shows' originality has also been questioned, as some consider it a rip-off of Matt Groening's 'The Simpsons' and/or mere plagiarism of other franchises with more references than actual jokes. Be that as it may, the general public loves the uncompromising humour of the Griffin and Smith families, and both shows have been regularly nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards and Annie Awards. Since the 2010s Seth MacFarlane has emerged as one of the most recognizable animators in the world. He's hosted televised shows, such as the 2013 Oscar ceremony, and made himself notable in other media as well. He created the popular comedy film, 'Ted' (2012) and the unexpected hit SF TV series 'The Orville' (2017-...). The artist is furthermore active as an accomplished singer.

Walter Crouton
'Walter Crouton'.

Early life and influences
Seth MacFarlane was born in 1973 in Kent, Connecticut. His father was a teacher and his mother a college guidance counsellor. He had already showcased his sense of humor and talent for drawing while he was still a kid. The boy was only nine years old when he published a weekly comic strip, 'Walter Crouton' (1982) in the local newspaper The Kent Good Times. He was paid five dollars a week for it. At age 11 he came in third in a cartoon contest of the Museum of Cartoon Art. MacFarlane's graphic influences are Gary Larson, Matt Groening and Looney Tunes cartoons. As a comedian he looked up to Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Monty Python, Abrahams & The Zucker Brothers, 'All In The Family' and various popular sitcoms and comedy pictures of the 1980s. His musical taste is older, harking back to popular crooners like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, etc.

Cartoon at age 11
Comic strip drawn by MacFarlane at age 11.

Early animation career
MacFarlane studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he created an animated film named 'Life of Larry' (1995) for his thesis. It featured prototypical versions of the characters who'd eventually become Peter and Brian Griffin. In his spare time he also tried out stand-up comedy. After graduation MacFarlane considered going to the Boston Conservatory of Music to study musical theater, but his art teacher at Rhode Island School submitted his animated cartoon to Hanna-Barbera, where he was hired as a writer. The college graduate worked on animated series like 'Dexter's Laboratory', 'Cow and Chicken', 'I Am Weasel' and 'Johnny Bravo', all on Cartoon Network. He did some freelance work for the Walt Disney Studios and Nelvana as well.

Family Guy
At age 25, MacFarlane was TV's youngest executive producer, when his series about the dysfunctional Griffin family premiered on Fox Television on 31 January 1999. The series centers on the overweight, stupid and infantile blue-collar worker Peter Griffin, his nasal wife Lois, their brain-dead son Chris, utterly miserable and disliked daughter Meg and the tyrannic and intellectual baby Stewie (who might be secretly gay). Their dog, Brian, is no normal mutt, but a brilliant anthropomorphic animal with left-wing opinions and an odd craving for human women. This set-up already hints at the fact that the world of 'Family Guy' is not set in plausible reality. Many jokes are deliberately absurd and involve anthropomorphic animals, plants, objects, physically impossible gags and sudden cameos from celebrities and characters from different franchises. The most unusual aspect about 'Family Guy' is its use of cutaway gags, an idea inspired by Gary Larson's 'The Far Side'. During a scene characters will sometimes mention something, which is then depicted in an unrelated scene, usually making a pop culture reference. Other scenes make heavy use of parody. Thanks to these pop culture references and abrasive black comedy 'Family Guy' quickly gained a loyal fanbase. Unfortunately the show tended to be broadcast at irregular hours, sometimes positioned in bad time slots. In 2002 it was therefore cancelled. Yet strong DVD sales and reruns on Adult Swim eventually caused its comeback. In 2005 the series started a new season and remained a ratings hit ever since.

The series introduced many popular side characters, such as the oversexed aviator Glen Quagmire, macho police officer and wheelchair patient Joe Swanson, utterly bizarre major Adam West, creepy old pedophile Herbert the Pervert, imperturable Hispanic housemaid Consuela and Ernie the Giant Chicken, with whom Peter has an ungoing rivalry. Some recurring characters have been portrayed by celebrity actors, such as Mila Kunis (Meg Griffin), Carrie Fisher (Angela), Drew Barrymore (Jillian), Phyllis Diller (Thelma Griffin), Jennifer Tilly (Bonnie Swanson) and Adam West (Major West). Among the many celebrities who've regularly voiced characters or themselves in the series have been Patrick Stewart, James Woods, Bill Maher, Hugh Laurie, Rush Limbaugh and Helen Reddy. Other notable guest stars have been Kiss ('A Very Special Family Guy Freakin' Christmas' 2001, 'Road to Europe', 2002), Robert Downey Jr. ('The Fat Guy Strangler', 2005), Gore Vidal ('Mother Tucker', 2006), Ben Stiller ('No Meals On Wheels', 2007), Barry Manilow ('Back to the Woods', 2008), Caitlyn Jenner ('Tales Of A Third Grade Nothing', 2008), Bruce Willis ('Brian's Got A Brand New Bag', 2009), Elijah Wood, Charlie Sheen ('Brian Griffin's House of Payne', 2010), Ricky Gervais ('Be Careful What You Fish For', 2012), Cate Blanchett ('Mr. and Mrs. Stewie', 2012), Johnny Depp ('Lois Comes Out of Her Shell', 2012), Liam Neeson ('Brian's a Bad Father', 2014), Lauren Bacall, Ariana Grande (both in 'Mom's the Word', 2014) and the entire cast of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' (Not All Dogs Go To Heaven', 2009). Fellow cartoonists have also appeared, such as Hugh Hefner ('Airport '07', 2007), David Lynch ('The Splendid Source', 2010), Mike Judge ('Bigfat', 2013) and Butch Harman (of 'Fairly OddParents' fame) in various roles. One of the people who worked as a storyboard artist on 'Family Guy' is Art Mawhinney.


From: '100 Ways to Kill Lois Hosted by Stewie Griffin' (artwork by Ben Phillips and Rich Koslowski).

Popularity
'Family Guy' became popular at a time when the previous best-watched animated sitcom 'The Simpsons' by  Matt Groening started to lose much of its edge and hilarity. While 'The Simpsons' held on to a believable realistic world 'Family Guy' took full advantage of the fact that it's a cartoon. The creators care little about realism or overall continuity, which opened doors to far wilder gags. Since 'Family Guy' is strictly an adults show it didn't have to worry about younger viewers either. By the mid 2000s they dethroned 'The Simpsons' from their number one-spot in the ratings. At the time only 'South Park' was equally absurd and audacious in terms of black, surreal comedy. Yet compared to them MacFarlane has always been more of a crowdpleaser. In his opinion there need to be more shows which are just plain out funny. As such 'Family Guy' features more straightforward, non-intellectual and inviting comedy which gained a mass audience. 

Another reason why 'Family Guy' became such a hit was the rise of DVDs. In earlier decades VHS videos weren't suitable for collecting entire TV seasons on one cassette, but from 1997 on DVDs could compile an entire season on one disc at an affordable prize. By the time 'Family Guy' was cancelled in 2002 the series was kept in memory thanks to strong DVD sales. Many people who were unfamiliar with the show or missed certain episodes due to the bad time slot could now catch up. Eventually Fox Television was convinced that a comeback would be a lucrative idea. In 2005 'Family Guy' returned to the airwaves, the first cancelled TV show to be revived thanks to DVDs and the Internet. Its return happened to coincide with the popularity of YouTube, which helped many online users (re)discover it. Fans shared many cutaway gags and funny scenes online. Due to their short length many people easily clicked on them. Since 'Family Guy' referenced other franchises so much, fans of these media frequently stumbled upon their parodies. Many people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s enjoyed MacFarlane's frequent nods to movies, TV shows, advertisements from these decades, since he is from the same generation. While these fans loved the nostalgia younger generations had the chance to look up the source material on YouTube and understand the "joke" better. Thanks to this online promotion ratings for new episodes kept high, ensuring that 'Family Guy' wouldn't be cancelled again soon. 

The show is particularly popular in Europe, where most of the stuff considered controversial in the United States is viewed in a more favorable light. Even the abortion episode 'Partial Terms of Endearment' (2010), which has never been broadcast on U.S. television, aired with little outrage on European channels. As of 2018 'Family Guy' has won 8 Emmy Awards and 3 Annie Awards. Celebrity fans of 'Family Guy' are Lauren Conrad, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Stephan Pastis (who had featured Stewie in a 2008 gag of 'Pearls Before Swine'), Beairdo, Pitshou Mampa and Terry Gilliam. Another huge fan was Motörhead frontman Lemmy, though in an April 2010 interview with Sarah L. Myers for Stay Thirsty Media he did add that he only watched 'Family Guy', never 'American Dad''. In 2013, 'Family Guy' background designer Mick Cassidy gave Lemmy a still from an episode in which Motörhead is seated on the Griffins' family sofa. 

Family GuyFamily Guy
Two of the 'Family Guy' comic books by Devil's Due.

Family Guy in books and comics
'Family Guy' inspired some humor books too, such as 'Family Guy: Stewie's Guide to World Domination' (2005), written by producer Steve Callahan. 'Family Guy: It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One' (Orion Books, 2007) was written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong and Alex Borstein, and presented a biographical monologue by the character Lois Griffin. Stills from the TV series episodes 'Death Is a Bitch' and 'I Am Peter, Hear Me Roar' were reformatted into a "cinemanga" published by Tokyopop in 2004. Three issues of a 'Family Guy' limited comic book series were published by Devil's Due Publishing in 2006. They were written by one of the show's scriptwriters, Matt Fleckenstein. Ben Phillips and Rich Koslowski were the pencillers and Clayton Brown and Robert Grabe the inkers for the first issue, while the art of the second and third issue is credited to no less than 17 artists. Each issue focused on one of the star characters and their views on life, respectively '100 Ways to Kill Lois Hosted by Stewie Griffin', 'Peter Griffin's Guide to Parenting' and 'Books Don't Taste Very Good by Chris Griffin'. In 2011 another 'Family Guy' comic book series was announced by Titan Comics, but it never appeared. It was to be written by the show's producers and illustrated by Anthony Williams and S.L. Gallant. None of MacFarlane's other animated series have received any comic book versions so far.

American Dad
Meanwhile MacFarlane received more creative control to pursue other projects. In 2005 he, Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman released another animated series, 'American Dad' (2005-...) about the life of overly patriotic, ultra-conservative and draconic CIA agent Stan Smith, his nagging and moralistic wife Francine, feisty left-wing teenage daughter Hayley and geeky son Steve. Due to Stan's job the series features more outspoken political satire without cutaway gags. Some fans therefore prefer 'American Dad' since the writing is tighter, sharper and more poignant than 'Family Guy'. However, this doesn't mean the show hasn't got its fair share of wacky comedy. The family's goldfish, Klaus, has the transplanted mind of an East-German Olympic ski-jumper, though is clearly a closet Nazi at the same time. Stan also hides a malicious extraterrestrial alien, Roger, inside his house. MacFarlane voices both Stan as well as Roger. While never as popular as 'Family Guy' 'American Dad' is still the artist's second longest-running TV series. One of the animators on 'American Dad' is Robert Goodin

American Dad by Seth MacFarlane
'American Dad!'

Seth MacFarlane's Calvacade of Cartoon Comedy
In 2008 MacFarlane launched a series of animated shorts on YouTube, most less than two minutes long: 'Seth MacFarlane's Calvacade of Cartoon Comedy'. Episodes generated a lot of video clicks, though some critics felt it often came across as a bunch of leftover cutaway gags which could've easily be put in any regular 'Family Guy' episode. One of the people who worked as a storyboard artist on 'Seth MacFarlane's Calvacade of Cartoon Comedy' was Liz Climo.

The Cleveland Show
In 2009 a spin-off of 'Family Guy' was launched named 'The Cleveland Show' (2009-2013), co-created by MacFarlane, Richard Appel and Mike Henry. It starred Peter's African-American friend Cleveland Brown and his obese nerdy son moving into a new neigbourhood, where he starts a relationship with divorced secretary Donna Tubbs, who has two children from a previous relationship: teenage daughter Roberta and toddler son Rallo. Once again there is an anthropomorphic animal, the Christian bear Tim, which is MacFarlane's only recurring voice role. Highly unpopular from the start, most critics and viewers regarded 'The Cleveland Show' as a rehash of 'Family Guy' - complete with cutaway gags - only with the gimmick that it starred an African-American family. It still managed to last four seasons before it was eventually cancelled. 

Criticism
As popular as his shows tend to be, MacFarlane's work has received considerable criticism since the start. His animated series have tackled many taboo subjects, including the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. MacFarlane was nearly a victim himself as he was set to be a passenger on one of the flights which would eventually be hijacked and crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. Luckily for him, he arrived ten minutes too late at the airport. However, this frightening experience hasn't prevented the 'Family Guy' creator from holding back in terms of black comedy. Many of his shows have jokes about people's physical features, religion, minorities, diseases, death, murder, rape, abortion, pedophilia, celebrity scandals, Hitler, terrorism,...In the episode 'Friends Without Benefits' (2012) a joke was made about Adrien Brody's nose, which the actor himself didn't find funny at all. He even confronted MacFarlane about it. Another episode, 'Extra Large Medium' (2010), features a mentally handicapped girl (voiced by Andrea Fay Friedman who has Down syndrome herself) joking about U.S. politician Sarah Palin's brother - who also suffers from Down. The throwaway line offended many viewers, including Palin herself who called the show's creators "cruel, cold-hearted people."

MacFarlane's outspoken atheist, pro-LGBT and left-wing opinions have frequently outraged opponents of such ideas. In one of Jack Chick 's paranoid fundamentalist comics, 'Still No Revival' (2011),  'Family Guy' was condemned for "advocating homosexuality among children" through Stewie Griffin. In some countries like Russia, Egypt, Iran, South Africa, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines the entire series is banned. In 2009 'Family Guy' was taken off the air in Venezuela because of the episode '420' which advocates the legalization of marijuana.  It is, of course, predictable that soft-skinned viewers will find MacFarlane's shows to be in bad taste. Yet even his fans, and/or people who share his viewpoints, have sometimes felt he crosses the line between being daring and just doing things for shock's sake. Some of his supporters consider his comedy to be too simple-minded and one-dimensional in its messages. They accuse the show's creators of confirming many stereotypical prejudices, rather than use them in a clever satirical way. 

Another common criticism is MacFarlane's lack of originality. All his animated TV series follow the same format, centering around similar families with different names, only with slightly different designs. The animation itself rehashes many similar character poses and actions. Particularly 'Family Guy' has often been dubbed "the poor man's version of 'The Simpsons'", because much of its overall cast, designs and style are directly derived from it, minus the sophistication. All his shows often feature scenes which come across as uninspired filler distracting from the overall storyline, particularly his cutaway jokes. Certain gags tend to be stretched out, sometimes several minutes on end, with the sheer length being the joke. MacFarlane often recreates entire scenes from movies, TV series, music videos or commercials frame by frame. While presented as parodies they often feel closer to plagiarism, merely retracing the main characters from these media with some of his own creations, without any punchline other than a lazy reference. The same can be said about the random appearances of celebrities or fictional characters from different media. 

Parody
Issue #458 (October 2005) of Mad Magazine satirized 'Family Guy' on its front cover, illustrated by Jack Syracuse. The image shows Peter, Lois, Meg and Chris Griffin with 'Simpsons' style yellow skins and haircuts. In the same issue the article 'Selected Scenes from Trading Spouses' has the Simpsons and Griffin family visit one another. The story was written by Charlie Kadau and illustrated by Gary Hallgren. In a case of art imitates art both TV shows would eventually have a real crossover in the episode 'Simpsons Guy' (2014). This didn't mean that the creators of 'The Simpsons' were necessarily fond of 'Family Guy'. Both shows have frequently mocked one another in sometimes biting ways. However, the most vicious attack on 'Family Guy' was made by 'South Park' creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. In their two-parter episode 'Cartoon Wars' (2006) the duo parodied the show's lack of story structure, over-reliance on pop culture references and overall unfunnyness by linking it to manatees in a fish tank picking out random phrases to think up gags. Another celebrity critic of 'Family Guy' is Chris Ware who feels that Stewie Griffin is a copy of his own character: 'Jimmy Corrigan'. MacFarlane replied that he understands why Ware would reach that conclusion, but otherwise never saw the series before.

Musical career
In the 2010s MacFarlane became more recognizable to general audiences. In 2011 he signed a record contract with Universal Republic and released various albums where he covers old jazz and big band songs. His Christmas album 'Holiday for Swing' (2014) featured collaborations with Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles. MacFarlane sang a duet with Barbra Streisand, 'Pure Imagination', on her album 'Encore' (2016). He was also a guest singer during the 2009 and 2015 BBC Proms concerts, where he respectively performed music from MGM musicals and Frank Sinatra songs. He became more visible as an actor, director and TV host too. The versatile artist played Ensign Rivers in the 'Star Trek' episode 'The Forgotten' (2006), sang the opening theme in the 'Futurama' film 'Into the Wild Green Yonder' (2009) and was special guest voice in the Futurama episode 'Game of Tones' (2013) and 'The Simpsons' episodes 'Dangers on a Train' (2013) and  'Simpsons Guy' (2014).

Movie career
In the 2010s MacFarlane made a move to live-action by writing and directing the comedy film 'Ted' (2012). The story of a man, John (Mark Wahlberg), and his cute-looking but lewd teddy bear received good reviews and was a huge blockbuster. MacFarlane voiced Ted, while Mila Kunis (voice of Meg in 'Family Guy') played the part of John's girlfriend. His western parody 'A Million Ways To Die in the West' (2014) and the sequel 'Ted 2' (2015) on the other hand were box office disasters, which seems to have put his movie career on hold for a while. 

Live-action TV career
MacFarlane is furthermore active as executive producer. He produced the quickly cancelled TV sitcoms 'The Winner' (2007), 'Dads' (2013-2014), 'Blunt Talk' (2015-2016) and the animated TV series 'Bordertown' (2016). More well-received was the science documentary TV series 'Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey' (2011) hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. In 2017 MacFarlane created a tragicomical sciencefiction TV series named 'The Orville'. Despite hostile critical reviews it went on to become a surprising ratings hit, even pulling in more viewers than the recent 'Star Trek' series reboot at times. Most of it has to do with the fact that 'The Orville' appeals more to Trekkies since it mimicks the general atmosphere of old 'Star Trek' seasons, while the modern 'Star Trek' films and TV shows feel more needlessly action-packed and dumbed down.

Seth MacFarlane
Peter Griffin, Seth MacFarlane and Stan Smith.

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