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Fox packages animation creations

The network fills a two-hour portion of tonight's schedule with a milestone episode, the return of a previously canceled show and the premiere of a third cartoon series.

Published May 1, 2005

Fans of Family Guy rejoice - no more endless cable replays, no more DVDs - the animated Fox television series is back, tonight, after a three-year "hiatus."

The return is part of a Fox festival of cartoons that opens with the 350th episode of The Simpsons, setting up a pair of shows by animator Seth MacFarlane.

Technically for Family Guy, the big night is more of a resurrection than return from a hiatus. Fox outright canceled the animated series in 2002, but after a string of failed new shows - while Family Guy grew an audience in cable reruns and home DVD (3.5-million DVDs sold) - the network brought it back, teaming it with new entry American Dad.

For Family Guy fans, here's the best part: American Dad is pretty much the same show. (Oh, except Family Guy is funny.)

MacFarlane's shows come from the same mind, share the same cartoon style, and bat around the same family issues.

Family Guy: oversized, bumbling, well-meaning dad with no chin; good-hearted mom; dopey, 13-year-old son; liberal daughter; smart-aleck baby with a funny, foreign-sounding accent; and a sarcastic dog.

American Dad: oversized, bumbling, well-meaning dad with big chin; good-hearted mom; dopey, 13-year-old son; liberal daughter; smart-aleck fish with a funny, foreign-sounding accent; and a sarcastic space alien.

For its debut (actually, American Dad premiered as a "preview" after the Super Bowl Feb. 6), father Stan Smith is a CIA agent struggling to cope with a world that's not as black and white as he'd like. Lots of jokes about homosexuality here, as well as gags about homelessness and the novel topic of women who work outside the home.

There are moments of humor (Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan gets bitten in the crotch by a dog - don't see that every day), but the show struggles. The humor feels dated, like watching a Maude rerun.

The evening's Simpsons 350th episode is certainly notable as a landmark, but as episodes go, it's nothing special. It's a half-hour long, it has guest stars (Ray Romano and Stephen Hawking), and gags (nail-gun fight!). Yep, show's still good.

Family Guy scores highest, with an episode that begins with mom and dad trying to rekindle their romance and ends with a spoof of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller North by Northwest. Parents be warned: for an animated show with the name "family" in the title, there are an awful lot of sexual situations.

MacFarlane makes sure to get the first laugh at the network in the opening lines of Family Guy, having dad Peter Griffin (MacFarlane's voice) note, the show never would have returned unless a slew of other "terrific shows" on Fox tanked.

(For the record, MacFarlane rattles off 29 shows, including Titus, Undeclared, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, Wanda at Large, American Embassy and a bunch of other stuff apparently nobody watched.)

While a stream of offerings crashed and burned, Fox publicity notes Family Guy became the fourth bestselling television show ever released on DVD.

That pretty much explains bringing it back . . . twice, if you count American Dad.


A night of animated high jinks tonight on WTVT-Ch. 13 starts with The Simpsons 350th episode at 8 p.m., another new Simpsons at 8:30 p.m., the return of Seth MacFarlane's Family Guy at 9 p.m. followed by MacFarlane's new American Dad at 9:30 p.m.

[Last modified April 28, 2005, 09:14:03]

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