I’m tempted to say ”Stewie Griffin, Stewie Griffin, Stewie Griffin …” but that would be too easy. Here’s my top 10 reasons.
1. Stewie Griffin: an absurdist one-year old who speaks like a louche 35-year-old, is smarter than anyone in his home town of Quahog (bar Brian), dreams of world domination, a butch gay teddy bear Rupert and killing his mother, yet is simultaneously also a naive child – will this work as a character? You betcha.
2. Brian Griffin: likewise, a talking dog with a drink problem, who has never got round to finishing his novel and lusts unrequitedly after Lois. Treated both as a normal member of the family sitting down for coffee at breakfast, and yet against his better judgement barks at Hoovers and chases sticks. Plus a great singing voice. Which allows for number 3.
3. Musical numbers: when most shows flirt occasionally with musical numbers – I recall a great Scrubs episode where the whole thing was what Lloyd Webber would pretentiously call a singspiel – Family Guy uses these as a regular feature. Highlight being a tap sequence with Gene Kelly, which acted as down-payment on a helicopter to get them to Denver. (And set up the line after they crashed: “think of the number we’ll have to do to get our deposit back”.)
4. It’s not PC: primarily embodied and enacted by Peter Griffin, this plays out jokes which make liberal sentiments turn flip-flops, simultaneously enjoying and being alienated by the humour. “Is it OK to laugh at these jokes?”, you ask as you find yourself laughing at them. There’s probably a good composite German word for this – “liberalenlachenschuld” or some such.
5. It’s PC: a regular show that features blacks, whites, asians, wheelchair users, mentally ill, old, young, vast range of sexual preferences, etc. Could you get more inclusive? Happily it’s just a good excuse for being non-PC (see 4)
6. “Boy, this is worse than the time when …”: thought of a great gag which doesn’t fit the narrative? Use this flashback formula and work it unscrupulously. Key words here being “great gag” which they occasionally need to remind themselves of.
7. It’s not the Simpsons: superficially the same set up, and yet continually breaking that family model apart. It has virtually no redeeming features – and avoids any saccharine pulling of punches. George Bush famously asked for America to be more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons, and was rightly laughed out of office. I fear in many places they’re probably closer to being the Griffins.
8. Glenn Quagmire: a monstrous parody of unremitting sexual innuendo taken to and beyond the limit. Giggity.
9. Being set in Rhode Island: most shows are either set nowhere(Springfield), somewhere cool (NY, LA), or somewhere grittily real (Baltimore, Chicago). This show has the balls to be set in Rhode Island. And I’ve got cousins there.
10. Lois Griffin: some people have said she should be featured in pauseliveaction’s Lustbox. I couldn’t possibly comment.
Oh, and I’ve not managed to include the Evil Monkey, Adam West, the boy with the upside down face, the fact that Fox kept cancelling it, Star Wars parodies …