I’m always finding some new artifact of pop culture to become a fan of, it’s my curse, I suppose, and one that I’ve acquired over the last several months is the cartoon “Family Guy”. I’ve never gotten into the Simpsons, and while I’d watch King of the Hill, it wasn’t deserving of cult status. Probably Beavis and Butthead was the last cartoon I would seek out, although South Park is usually pretty reliable. So awhile back Wizard magazine had an article on the 10 greatest cartoons, which for Wizard means the 10 greatest still being produced, since no one there is old enough to remember anything from before that. Some of the choices were more than a bit lame (Super Robot Monkey Team Hyper Force, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends), which may be inventive but aren’t really that entertaining to anyone over the age of 8. But Family Guy was also on the list, and Adult Swim started showing it around that same time, so I caught a few episodes and I was a fan, and now I’ve got the first 2 seasons on DVD. Unforunately in spite of all the different times its shown (on Fox, Adult Swim and even TBS) they seem to focus on the same subset of episodes, so there were a bunch on the DVD I’d never seen, and some of them have commentary tracks, which can be enlightening but contain a disproportionate number of extended pauses where no one says anything and they just watch the show, which can be very annoying.
What I like about Family Guy is you never know what anyone is going to say next, while every episode has a plot, most of the jokes are non-sequiturs that primarily come from pop culture, and a lot of ’70’s/’80’s pop culture at that, such that the younger crowd couldn’t possibly get all the references. This formula of random jokes is the running gag in a South Park episode about Family Guy (the one where they wouldn’t show an image of Muhammed), where it is revealed that the writers of the show are really a group of manatees that just take a bunch of balls with different words written on them and line them up in some random order to make the jokes. As one of the grownups from that South Park episode says, “At least Family Guy isn’t all preachy and have its head up its ass like that other show.”
The same guy who created Family Guy later did another show called American Dad, which downplays the free association in favor of more interaction between the title character, a rabid conservative G-man, and his somewhat more liberal family. I’ve got that one on DVD also. While Adult Swim, the 11pm to 6am time slot on Cartoon Network, is the primary source of old episodes of both of these, I can’t stay up late enough to see much of them. They show a lot of other original stuff that’s downright hilarious, like Robot Chicken, Venture Brothers, Harvey Birdman. There’s plenty of other shows that are popular but I can’t get into (like Aqua Teen Hunger Force), and some are just crap (like Squidbillies), and then once in a while they have the bizarre idea to go retro with some non-cartoons, like Saved by the Bell, and most recently Peewee’s Playhouse, which I avoided when it was on the first time, so not everything sticks, but there’s more than enough worth watching to eat into my already scant free time. Probably just as well it doesn’t start until 11pm.
The best thing about Family Guy is the mayor of the town is Adam West, and he’s actually voiced by Adam West. Which reminds me, when are the old Batman tv shows coming to DVD? Creighton would have it that King of Queens is the greatest show on tv, but I don’t see it. It’s not even a cartoon.