‘Family Guy’: Seth MacFarlane Reveals How Lucky Timing Played Into the Show’s Success

The mind behind the hit-animated series Family Guy, Seth MacFarlane, ran with his success. He put a lot of hard work into the popular television show, but there was more at play for it to earn its spot in Fox’s programming lineup. MacFarlane explained how lucky timing was certainly a factor in Family Guy getting the distribution that allowed it to become a phenomenon.

‘Family Guy’ grew thanks to cult success

'Family Guy' creator Seth MacFarlane wearing a green shirt talking into a microphone at Comic-Con with a name card in front of him on the table.
Seth MacFarlane | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

MacFarlane first brought Family Guy to the air in 1999, which gained attention for its crude humor and boundary-pushing throwback gags. However, Fox continued to move its time slot, pitting it against the likes of Fraiser, Survivor, and Friends. As a result, Family Guy‘s ratings dropped sharply, and they canceled it.

Fox saw the MacFarlane animated show as an opportunity to sell the rights for its reruns, but they couldn’t find many takers. Family Guy saw massive success on Adult Swim and home video, fully proving the show’s cult success. However, the controversy surrounding the show’s cancelation ultimately allowed it to come back bigger and better than ever.

Family Guy is still on the air, entering season 21 in Sept. 2022.

Seth MacFarlane pitched ‘Family Guy’ at just the right time

According to Peacock’s Hart to Heart, MacFarlane revealed what went into making Family Guy such a massive success. The journey wasn’t so easy, but he worked hard to get a studio interested in picking it up. However, he acknowledged that there was a bit of luck that went into the timing of his pitch. Host Kevin Hart brought up similar animated shows, such as Beavis and Butt-Head, asking him what shows opened the door for him.

“That show was underrated, well not underrated, I think at this point, people do acknowledge it for how stealthily groundbreaking it was,” MacFarlane said about Beavis and Butt-Head. “It was really something, that show.”

However, MacFarlane attributed the success of other animated shows to allowing Family Guy to become what it is.

“Again, not to sound like a broken record, The Simpsons changed the playing fields,” MacFarlane said. “I don’t think I ever pitch Family Guy, obviously later King of the Hill, I don’t think I could have pitched that show if that complete reset of that industry had not taken place. You know, when I came to Fox to pitch Family Guy, King of the Hill was sort of just getting off the ground. It was pretty new.”

MacFarlane came onto the scene at just the right time with Family Guy, which might not have had the success that it had without other big players.

“I did bust my ass, I worked really hard,” MacFarlane explained. “It was also [that] timing was a little bit in play there. I was pitching Family Guy at exactly the time that everyone wanted animation. I mean, that was all anyone would buy. The Simpsons had just exploded, King of the Hill was doing great, everybody wanted animation. So, I happened to be selling exactly what they were buying.”

Seth MacFarlane had no problem working as both a creative and talent

Hart brought up how MacFarlane pitched Family Guy as both a creative and talent. He voiced some of the show’s main characters, including Peter, Brian, and Stewie Griffin. However, Hart explained how difficult that must be to wear so many hats on a show that MacFarlane was also the creator of. Nevertheless, he explained that he thinks the life of a live-action actor must be much more difficult.

“Part of that was, I’d done voices and impressions since I was a kid,” MacFarlane said. “It’s interesting because … I’m always in awe of actors who can go on camera and do something, take such command of the scene. They say, ‘Oh boy, voice-over, that must be really hard.’ It’s like, ‘God, it’s really not. To me, it’s not. It’s what you guys do on camera headlining a movie, that’s tough.”

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