By Mitchell Warren
Don’t get me wrong, I lost faith in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences many years ago, right about the time that overrated, cliche-ridden farce Frasier was repeatedly triumphing over far-superior TV fare like The Larry Sanders Show and Seinfeld. However, the Academy’s recent decision to nominate Family Guy as Best Comedy just struck a nerve. Understand that not only is Family Guy one of the worst TV shows ever put on the air, it is a shameless and retarded knock-off of The Simpsons and always has been. Peter Griffin is a half baked clone of Homer Simpson, while Lois is a whiter version of stay-at-home mom Marge, Chris is the left over adolescent sauce of Bart and Meg is Lisa without the intelligence or any apparent reason for being. Stewie, the infant is Maggie’s genes bizarrely spliced with Mr. Burns, and remains the show’s only somewhat creative knock-off.
Seth McFarlane’s half-wit show is one of those rare achievements in television: an animated program that dares to be unfunny, nonsensical, childish, badly drawn and utterly tasteless in an age where forced humor is ubiquitous. Family Guy aspires to be offensive and satirically biting, but the best it can come up with is making cracks at dying celebrities and linking together historical names with a barrage of fart jokes.
Perhaps Family Guy is the true achievement of an American dream. It teaches new artists of today that you don’t have to be original to be rewarded by your peers. It teaches comedians of today that you don’t have to be strategically funny as long as you can scream gratuitous pop culture references. How comforting to know that children in class today are surrounded by brain-dead contemporaries so starved of genuine imagination that they are dying to laugh at any cantankerous noise, as long as it’s clearly heard and not as intellectually challenging as the schoolwork they dread.
Indeed, you don’t have to trail blazer in America so as long as you command industry respect by controlling a portion of the consumer market. Family Guy’s only claim to fame is that it gives mentally deficient 12-year olds something to point at, and that is pushes millions of dollars of Stewie, Peter and Giant Chicken merchandise around the country.
To be honest, at first I wasn’t exactly sure who this rant should be directed at. I could fault the writers of Family Guy, who in the words of South Park’s Cartman, are actually manatees who take ‘idea balls’ and send them down a shaft so that the jumbled collection of ideas becomes a Family Guy Joke. Example: idea balls about “Mexico”, “Gary Coleman” and “date” become a joke about Peter going on a date with Coleman in Mexico.
I could fault the stupidity of today’s television audiences who have regressed so far beyond great literature (or hell, even those retro 90s television shows that were actually funny) that they crave incongruous references, incoherent plots and random swear words as an adrenaline rush.
I could definitely fault the entire association of network television who regularly produces unwatchable, derivative sass and sap, the likes of which only used to be only cable channels, and then stuffs the artifice in between 25 minutes of brainwashing commercials. Ironically, the cable programming of today is far superior to anything on network TV, which explains why so much of the population doesn’t have those overpriced digital tuners—and why so few of them care. What’s truly sad is that I used to think surfing YouTube.com was a sad reflection of American society. Unfortunately, I have discovered that YouTube’s collection of amateur comedy, drunken blathering, snuff videos and dog fights are actually meritorious compared to 90% of the fall lineup. Excuse me while I shed a tear for art.
In the end, I’m going to fault the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. I’m not going to get into a debate on how The Simpsons and South Park (one of which is revolutionary television, the other of which is political commentary savvy enough to be in a newspaper column) were snubbed in favor of Family Guy. Instead, I’m going to suggest that the Emmy judges should be criticized (no, more like lizard-whipped) because they are congratulating the most lazy and untalented general on the fort. Seth McFarlane controls a medium-sized population of teenagers with the most basic shepherding techniques, lashing them into zombie-ism and consumerism with lethargic drawings and underdeveloped humor. Make no mistake: Family Guy’s Emmy nomination (and apparently all other Emmy nominations) is not about rewarding art, nor is it a bizarre coincidence. It’s about congratulating the show’s ratings and demographical success—a show that the whole industry knows is ludicrous but one that still helps to keep their paychecks fat and wide in the midst of a recession.
Some may argue that Family Guy inherited the spot that should have gone to The Simpsons, the latter of which isn’t that funny anymore. This only skirts the issue that watching a 500 pound man bathe himself in butter (while being molested by Gary Coleman) is still funnier than any given episode of Family Guy.
Perhaps the Emmy judges just wanted to out-fumble the Oscar judges, who recently passed an inane rule to nominate 10 Best Pictures instead of five. Honestly, when did award ceremonies stop being about popularity and start becoming about rewarding consumerism? If the Emmy judges can’t even reward the most subversive show for its consumerism (as opposed to the most dilatory) then they deserve to be shut down and discontinued. No, the nomination of Family Guy makes me think that the Emmy headquarters deserve to be invaded by Che Guevara’s army and beaten into bloody remains. Say, that sounds like a good skit. Don’t let the manatees see it!