You know, it’s kind of remarkable how much we as viewers take for granted how much more they can get away with on TV these days than they could back in the day. I mean, there actually was a time in which I could be legitimately shocked by something I saw on “Family Guy” or “South Park” or what have you. Nowadays, having a sense of perverse humor is its own genre. If video rental stores, you know, actually existed anymore, they could, like, totally have a section for it or something.
(Side note: If you’re reading this in the future and don’t even know what that is, congratulations, you’re not old! I just got a flash of someone, like, looking it up on Wikipedia or something.mom, what’s a video rental store? Is it like Redbox? Younger sister: Mom, what’s a Redbox? But I digress..)
Call it shock comedy or whatever, but it truly is a thing, as sure as I’m sitting here. If anything, it’s been around long enough that, say, Kevin Smith is able to make a living talking about it alone- not making movies in that genre, mind you, but talking about stuff in a shocking manner via his small army of podcasts. (Or should I say, Garmy?) In fact, podcasts of a certain stripe have become like the new stand-up comedy for people who prefer never to leave the house and go to the hassle of going to an actual, you know, show. (Ask me what stand-up comedy is, and I will hit you.)
Fox, home to “Family Guy“- again- should know. They have been building an empire of the stuff for ages, right from the get-go with “Married With Children” and “The Simpsons,” the latter of which used to pass enough for racy back in the day for my sister not to let her kids watch it at the time. Now they have a straight block of it on Sundays, not to mention a bunch of reality shows that are bleeped out up the wazoo.
Within minutes of the opening on the premiere of “Family Guy” entitled “Into Fat Air,” they dropped a pedophilia joke and a domestic abuse debate-baiting crack about Chris Brown. Before the night ended, they’d also tackled old-school casual racism (“It’s okay, Sammy’s in on it.”) and cannibalism.
The funny thing wasn’t that I laughed here and there but that the off-color and questionable jokes didn’t faze me much at the time. It’s crazy how this sort of humor has slowly been accepted enough that even a seemingly innocuous romantic comedy can casually drop the F-bomb with near-alarming regularity. It’s kind of like techno- it took half my life to happen, but damned if it hasn’t finally happened. I do feel like people should be paying Smith residuals for all this, though, so he can go on making podcasts for the rest of his daze. The guy’s earned it, okay?
Ditto Seth MacFarlane. I mean, the guy’s show was cancelled and mercilessly torn apart by critics, and not only is he still standing, but damned if he didn’t make the sort of comeback everybody can get behind. To wit, The Man didn’t get his humor- even if the Man was freaking FOX, in this case- and they fired him. So, Seth took his wares elsewhere, where he could be amongst his own like-minded brethren, and he flourished. Then, he gets the ultimate reward. The Man wants him back, with a raise and the promise of more shows: a virtual kingdom at his disposal. Indeed, practically an entire night to himself, shared only with his proper godfather, Matt Groening. Ah, sweet revenge! Gotta love it.
And it’s not as if the guy comes off like a douche. He seems to be having the time of his life, in fact. He almost single-handedly saved a recent typically hit-or-miss “SNL” episode (How great was that monologue?), and “Ted” was a hoot- and a big hit. Hell, even my mom knows who he is, and she wouldn’t watch an episode of “Family Guy” in a million years. Okay, there was that unfortunate Sinatra-style CD he put out, but show-biz types do that sort of thing all the time and get away clean with it, so we’ll let it slide. Everyone’s entitled to one misstep.
“Into Fat Air” may have been business as usual, but it’s not quite “make the jokes, collect the paycheck” time yet for MacFarlane and company just yet. Indeed, there does seem to be some vague growth here, in that the show didn’t seem to lean on the easy in-joke references like it used to. There was a time in which it seemed like he was getting perilously close to making a reference just to make a reference-territory, but on the premiere, at least, he managed to avoid doing much of it, instead focusing on the plot and the family. Hell, he even forewent the opportunity to do a quick “Alive” joke, and by that point, I would have almost allowed it just for the restraint shown. By “Family Guy” standards, that’s growth.
- The random joke about the donkey with sunglasses on for no reason- “You’ve got it.” What can I say, it made me laugh. And it wasn’t even a dirty joke! Ditto the weed-whacker cutaway. Jokes even a mom could love!
- An emotional SIRI joke was bound to happen but it was cute, and I thought the “stages of drunkenness”-bit was the type of joke you feel like you’ve heard before- perhaps on a t-shirt- and laugh anyway because there’s some truth there and the delivery was spot-on.
- The two icicle-themed visual gags were also amusing; as was the bit with the rock- and I liked the “marking the territory” call-back. “No way!”
- Best line: “My gut tells me he’ll be squeezing himself out of a crevice very soon.” Runner-up: “Tell me again why we ate a human before a dog?”
What do you think? Do you think we’ve become a bit too accepting of raunchy humor? What were your funniest moments? Where do you rank “Family Guy” on the hierarchy of MacFarlane shows? Is it the least of the bunch, or still the best? Or should FOX have quit while they were ahead and stuck with “Simpsons”-style animation? Let me know in the comments!